Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Proud English Major Moment

Yesterday I had a very proud (yet incredibly nerdy) English major moment. Munchkin offered us her first pun. I can't be sure it was intentional, but I can dream, can't I?

Munchkin is obsessed with crocodiles getting her. If she is up on the bed, couch, or even a blanket, she always warns us to watch out so the crocodiles don't get us.

After coming into our room in the morning with her amazing bed head, she climbed up on the bed. Instead of the usual warning, she told Wifey that she was the mommy crocodile. Then she proceeded to tell us that she was hungry, and that we needed to get out of bed.

And then it came.

"Come on mommy crocodile! Snap, snap!"

I cracked up pretty hard, and it got me laughing throughout the day as I thought about it. I can only hope that there will be more to come.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Time Is Here

I have kind of a love-hate relationship with Christmas. The saccharin music that plays on the radio doesn't seem to hold the spirit of Christmas to me, and by the time the holiday actually comes around, it seems as if there should have been more meaningful things to celebrate the reason for the season.

The difficult thing is that Wifey's family are Christmas-aholics. Anything that they can do to celebrate Christmas is encouraged. I do my best to play along, but I often feel a bit empty by the end of the season.

This year, Christmas was different. I was able to see one of my sisters that I don't get an opportunity to see very often. We had Christmas a week early with my parents, but the best gift was the time I got to spend with her. She has had a rough go for the past couple of years, but while she was here with her family, all we heard was laughter and all we saw were smiles. She is moving on with her life, as are her kids.

While she was here, my father-in-law was hospitalized for some bleeding in his brain. He had a sub-arachnoid hemorrhage, which resulted in a few trips to the emergency room and a couple of different stays in the hospital.

Having both of these experiences sure gave me a different perspective on the holiday season. I found I spent more time thinking of the people I spent the holidays with than all the crazy people rushing to buy the latest and greatest new widget. My Christmas shopping was completed in about two and a half hours, and since we were on a strict budget this year, it was easy not to pick up just one more thing.

In short, I experienced old wounds healing, and new wounds starting this Christmas. It helped to help me forget about some of my own wounds, and helped me to make the holidays meaningful this year. What is a good story without a little bit of struggle?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My S Walk

Yesterday I went for a walk (as I often do) during my lunch break. I generally stay within the same mile and a half radius, but take different streets through downtown. The same road takes me from my building, and I was surprised to see a previously unnoticed statue within a block of my building. The monument was a space shuttle, probably to honor Barbara Morgan, the Idahoan and backup teacher/astronaut to Christa McAuliffe from the Challenger tragedy. I could tell it was not new, as a bird had decided to leave its own mark across the nose of the shuttle.

As I started walking, I took a lazy route that loosely resembled the letter S. The first thing I realized was the space shuttle, so I started listing all the things that started with S that I saw. Here goes:
  • A spaceship
  • Steeples (four of them)
  • Surreptitious smokers (near the local high school)
  • Sycophants (at the same location)
  • A solitary sentry (waiting for a ride at the school)
  • A serpent (actually an awesome red stone dragon, but it was the Chinese kind that are long and skinny)
  • Skeletons (of trees)
  • Sea of leaves (the wind pushed them around like waves lapping at my shoes)
  • Scarves
  • Street vendors (selling hotdogs)
  • State capitol building
  • Sewer grates
After about 20 minutes, I decided that I had better head back to my office. I forgot a hat, and the wind was cutting through the streets of the city. The wind began gnawing at my ears, and the dull ache that comes from semi-frozen ears became more powerful than my desire to hunt for S things.

It occurred to me just how quickly winter can move in. The briskness of autumn had left the air, replaced by the biting chill of winter. The previous day had been very pleasant, although brisk, and the sun warmed me through my coat. But today was not yesterday. Instead, I found my balled fists in my coat pockets and my hunched shoulders trying to keep my scarf firmly in place in hopes that my cocoon of warmth would keep me going until I got back to my building.

As I got within a block of my building, I realized that the wind had died down. The building I work in is not directly against the street. During the summer months, there are staff members sprawled out on the grass having a picnic or reading a book. I have a sneaking suspicion that the wind is always calm around our building because it isn't a tall building next to another tall building. I think the extra space gives the air a more natural movement, yet the surrounding buildings (which are significantly smaller than my building) offer a refuge from the wind.

Or the wind is calm because it knows about all the dervishes within the building and figures that it would rather escape the drama.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How to Completely Engage a Four and a Half Month Old

One of my brothers mozied his way up to my parents house with his family during his Thanksgiving break. We were able to spend time with them on Saturday night. In the words of Junie B. Jones, Munchkenna "got all jazzied up."

Munchkenna is starting to become quite interactive. She smiles and sticks out her standard issue chameleon tongue (yes, it seems that long) when someone she recognizes talks to her. She coos and talks to you as well. When she gets really excited, her fists ball up and lose some of the limited control she has mustered. Her leg often starts pistoning up and down as well. But there is something that completely entranced her that my brother's family brought—a chiwawa.

I don't know if it was the fact that there was something smaller than her that was highly mobile, or jingle from his tags, but Munchkenna was GLUED to Mojo for a good 30 minutes. Her eyes would enlarge when she spotted him, then she would hold still as a statue until Mojo moved.

Once Mojo moved, everything in Munchkenna's power came to life. To tell you the truth, I'm a bit surprised she didn't break a sweat. Her arms waved, her feet stamped in the air like Thumper, and she started to try to sing her siren song to get Mojo's attention. I guess husky voices just don't work as an irresistible siren's call for a tiny dog. Every once in a while the treble range would come out in the form of a squeal, but other than that, Mojo was aloof.

She sure got everyone else's attention though. Next time you are looking for something to get your baby engaged, try a chiwawa. And pull out the video camera.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Nice Try, Wifey

It is no secret, but this time of year is not exactly my favorite. With the holiday season approaching, it comes as no surprise that the stores start to market their wares in preparation for Black Friday and Cyber Monday (read Christmas). I understand consumer spending was up more than expected, but there is one important bump in the road before the jolly old elf comes—Thanksgiving.

It seems to me that stores attempt to bump Christmas up a bit every year. I am already seeing snowscapes painted on storefront windows. One if the local radio stations has been playing Christmas music since November 12th. I even saw some Christmas decor before Halloween this year in a non-specialty store.

I have a rule for myself that I don't listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. We should be thankful and celebrate what we have before we start asking for more. And don't try to pull the "But I'm thankful for Christmas" stunt. Wait until it gets here to be thankful.

Wifey knows about my rule, generally adhering to it when I am around. Tonight, she tried to pull a fast one on me though. Don't think I didn't notice, Wifey.

On our ride home from my parents, she told me that she wanted to tell me something. She then proceeded to turn the radio dial to the obscene station that won't stop playing Christmas music. In an appeal to let her listen, she informed me that Munchkin loved listening to the music.

All I have to say is that there is a reason one of the eight famous reindeer is named Vixen...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Golden Retriever Mastermind

At work recently, my boss has been having us do some personality tests. I have taken some before, but I ran across one that I haven't done before. The test results listed you as a type of animal. My strongest trait was a golden retrieve, followed closely by a beaver and otter, then a large gap for the last classification (lion). My supervisor charted the scores of everyone on our team, and I realized that I was the most straight line out of anyone, as well as the the one with the lowest overall scores. I found that quite interesting with my recent blog post about engaging with people that I was the one that had the lowest overall scores. It didn't bother me that I was the lowest score, but I thought it noteworthy. We also took the Meyers-Briggs. I had taken this one before, and got the spread of INTJ. The bucket they stuck me in was Mastermind. I thought it sounded a bit nefarious, and that was supported when one of the famous people I was lumped in with by having this personality was Ghengis Khan. I was happy to be lumped in with C.S. Lewis, Sir Issac Newton, Nicola Tesla, and Gandalf. Okay, so the last one isn't a real person, but he is pretty cool anyway. I had to laugh when it said that my personality type makes up 1-3% of the population. Wifey has always told me that I am Type B, and this supports her observation.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


With the recent flood of work that has been coming my way, I have had no hope in keeping up. Someone asked me how I was doing yesterday, so I told her that I felt trapped between Scylla and Charybdis.

All I got back was a quizzical stare.

Because of that incident, along with other random words I throw out there, we got a new whiteboard in our cube. The heading matches the title of this post, which happens to be Words That We Don't Know That John Knows. Not the most straight forward writing I've ever seen in my life, but I'm not about to correct their acronym.

The new girl to the cube called up her husband after the board was up and going with a few words. She quizzed her husband on them, and after he threatened to hang up on her because he didn't know the first one, she explained that the word (Scylla) was from the Odessy, then asked him if he remembered reading it in high school. His retort was something along the lines of, "I won't read the Odessy because it will never get me anywhere."

What a pity.

My retort to him comes from the introduction to Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. "Fiction, because it is not about somebody who actually lived in the real world, always has the possibility of being about ourself.

We recently saw the final Harry Potter movie, and it kind of bothered me that I was a lot more emotionally invested in the characters in a book written for young adults than I was with many of the people in my life who are friends or acquaintances. Thanks to Mr. Card, I now have my answer.

I feel a bit bad for my co-worker's husband who won't know the thrill of living a thousand lives and making a million vicarious mistakes through books. I have hope to eke past my own personal Scyllas and Charybdii in my life because someone has already blazes that trail for me and shown me that it can be done.

Keep making friends you'll never talk to, and keep imagining places you'll never see. You might be surprised one day to realize just how familiar your situation might be...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Impaired by Hearing

The girlies have been sick the past few days. We had to cancel Wifey's birthday party because Munchkin was coughing up a storm and Munchkenna was too hoarse to cry. I think they are both on the mend, but we'll see.

Wifey and I didn't get much sleep last night. Munchkenna kicked me out of our bed so Wifey could take care of her. I took Munchkin duty.

Since we were both pretty tired tonight, Munchkenna decided to wake up about 10:00 to disrupt a good night's sleep from happening. Knowing that most of the local tv stations had news on, I sought something more entertaining on PBS.

Independent Lens had a program on tonight about deaf poetry slams. I've never been to a poetry slam, and I don't know that I would ever go. Poetry feels too contrived to me. I would be interested in seeing a deaf poetry slam though.

The first thing that struck me was how emotive the poets were. Their poetry was like dance, but with concrete meaning. I didn't feel like someone was looking down on me because I didn't understand their poem--instead, I felt like someone being told a story These high school kids were passionately showing emotion and engaging in a way that most adults could not do today. They wanted their voice to be heard.

This message resounded in me. I have felt stifled at work lately. I give feedback in hopes that things will change, but instead I get to repeat myself as my workload mounts. I want my voice to be heard--not only because I am trying to make things easier for everyone around, but also because I believe what I have to say.

It was a bit odd for me to find my voice tonight through a female high school senior from Israel who spoke only one word I could understand, but I did. Now I just need to keep letting my voice be heard and using it with a hint of the same fervor that she had.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

You Might Have Missed...

Since I have been so quiet here lately, I thought that I needed to stage a return. Instead of trying to relive all the events of the past three months, I decided just to give you some of the highlights. I can state the following happened during these months:
  • Munchkenna is now three months and tries to do situps. She can sit (supported) by herself, but prefers to be held (facing out to take in the wonders of the world).
  • I'm getting really good at bouncing Munchkenna to sleep in my own particular way.
  • Munchkin is now 2 years old. Some days, she acts every bit of it. In honor of her two year old birthday, her binkies sailed away like a dirigible on a pink balloon with white polka dots that was about 2.5 feet in diameter. I hope that some other baby finds them so that I don't become a liar.
  • Munchkin talked about birthday cake on an almost daily basis for at least a month.
  • Munchkin is trying to comprehend that not every birthday party is for her.
  • I turned 30.
  • Wifey threw a surprise 30th birthday party for me two weeks early, so I was surprised. It was fun to see a lot of past and present friends.
  • I now own an iPhone and an iPad.
  • I've frivolously lost many hours of sleep by playing with my iPhone.
  • I joined Instagram (jawkneew8, if you want to join me there).
  • I work at a job I don't love. 
  • I work at a job I don't hate. I just have been getting dumped on recently, which is never a good thing. Such is life as the low man on the totem pole.
  • I cut down half a tree today that is older than I am. The other half will be cut down next Saturday when we have a truck to haul all the wood.
  • I got sick.
  • Wifey got sick.
  • Both the girls got sick.
  • We're all better now.
  • I saw the final Harry Potter movie. It was just as good as I expected it to be.
  • I gave a guest lecture at Boise State University in a technical editing class and loved every minute of it. I was able to do this last year as well, and was just as thoroughly pleased.
  • I've felt a longing to write again.
  • I've felt a longing to make music again.
  • I've felt a longing to learn to draw.
  • I'm addicted to The Singoff.
  • I'm intrigued to see what the EP with Ben Folds and Sara Bareilles sounds like. 
  • I've bought Wifey a birthday present.
  • I'm searching for a great dessert recipe for her birthday. I've made some contacts to see if I can't come up with something different and exciting.
  • Some good friends from college are in the process of getting a divorce and I feel sorry for them.
What have you been up to?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mowing the lawn

My in-laws have been out of town for the past week or so. They had a family vacation planned to take a trip to the Oregon coast. We were invited to go, but respectfully declined many months ago when we found out that Munchkenna’s birthday was going to coencide pretty closely with the vacation. A two-week old and traveling long hours in a car for mommy don’t really add up all that well.

Knowing that they would be gone for the week, and knowing that my father-in-law likes to meticulously manicure his yard, I hatched an idea. He would probably get up early the morning after they returned to mow the lawn, putting off the remainder of the unpacking process. I decided to mow the lawn for him the night before they got home to make life a bit easier for them.

Wifey planned to bring the kids over there so I could get clipping. When I got there, Munchkin ran up to me without any pants on. I learned that she had been a bit of a stinker that day—waking up shortly after 6:00 AM, having a couple of meltdowns, messing her pants a couple of times, taking a short nap, after undies had run out at the in-laws place, deciding to go on the floor. I could tell it had been a rough day all around.

Wifey suggested that I bring Munchkin out with me to mow the lawn, at least in the back yard. It is all fenced in, so there is no way that Munchkin could get out, so I was fine with that. She loves the trampoline, so we put her up on the trampoline to bounce around for a bit as I started getting the far side of the yard done while Wifey was still out there to watch her.
Wifey went in once I had mowed all the parts where I couldn’t see Munchkin, and I kept mowing.

After about one round, Munchkin stopped me and told me that she was done with the trampoline. Knowing that Wifey was feeding Munchkenna, and knowing that Munchkin had been a pill that day, and knowing that Wifey didn’t need any more creative “assistance” from Munchkin, I decided to see if she wanted to help me mow the lawn.

And this is what we came up with:

Munchkin loved it. The rest of the time I mowed the lawn, she held on to (read pulled) my hair as I completed the mowing. She was completely quiet and well mannered, even though it was hot and sticky out there. I think she was just happy to have a grown-up’s undivided attention.
Munchkin is still getting used to the idea of a little sister, and I’m glad that she doesn’t manifest her frustrations by poking Munchkenna or throwing things at her. That could make for a very unhappy family all around. In the mean time, I’ll continue to try to find ways to get Munchkin occupied once I get home so that Wifey gets a breather.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Yesterday morning I was going through some morning rituals with Munchkin. We had just finished the morning potty ritual, and Munchkin was headed on her way to tell Wifey that she had successfully gone. Realizing that she didn't have her binky, she turned around to come claim it. It was sitting on the counter next to the sink. As she ran to grab it, she fumbled the binky and it ended up falling right into the toilet as the final swish was leaving our view.

And thus ended binky.

Munchkin asked for it a bit after it was gone because she likes to have it in the morning after she gets up for a bit. Then she goes and throws it on her bed until nap time, when she gets it again. After naps, she generally just throws it on her bed when she gets up and doesn't think twice about it until bedtime.

Nap time came and went without incident. She asked for binky once, and I reminded her that she had flushed it down the toilet. She didn't fuss or ask again, just wiggled a bit more before falling asleep.

So tonight we tried just putting her to bed without binky. She asked for binky when we laid her down to sleep, and we reminded her again that it had been flushed. As soon as we left the room, she started crying a bit. This is not uncommon for her to cry for a minute or two as she expresses her disgust that we are going to be doing something without her. But her crying continued, so Wifey went up to try to console her.

All was quiet through the monitor, but as soon as Wifey left the room, she started crying again. So then I gave it a try. I got her calmed down, but once again, right after I had left the room (after singing her two songs and telling her one impromptu story about a girl who happens to share her name who went to school), she started crying again. And hard.

We (like any sane parents) have backup binkies for emergencies. Last night was an emergency. We gave her the binky, and she informed us that her "purple binky flushed down the potty." Right after that, she rolled over and fell asleep.

Even though Munchkin is growing up, I still have to remember that she isn't a kid yet. She is still a toddler who understands a lot, but not everything. She will still have problems dealing with small changes. And I am willing to let her have her binky while she is handling the substantial change of being a big sister incredibly well.

I'll know next time not to set the binky so close to the toilet when she runs out of the room, and I'm sure that she'll make sure not to fumble it so easily next time she tries to grab her binky.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Bit of Validation

I recently put up a page on Facebook representing this blog. It was mainly because I was applying for a position that required some business Facebook use. If I created a page, I could legitimately say that I had done some promotion on Facebook for something besides myself.

A week or so ago, I got an email notification stating that someone liked the blog. A bit surprised (mainly because the name wasn't familiar), I went over to Facebook to investigate if I had any connections. There was no connection.

And even more surprising to me was the fact that there was not only one person, but three people with whom I've have no personal connection. It feels good to know that other people are interested in what I have to say, but more importantly, that you like what you see enough to claim it publicly.

So, to encourage some interaction, head on over to my Facebook page and let me know if there is something you want me to write about. This not only includes those three people who have publicly liked my page, but also anyone else who happens to post there. Or here in the comments, for that matter.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Family Reunions

My parents got unofficially done with their volunteer position a couple of weeks ago. July 9th, to be exact. On the 10th, one of my brothers came up with his family to visit my parents. He stayed one week, leaving on Sunday morning. That afternoon, my other brother came to visit, and wil be leaving tomorrow. My parents have had someone staying with them for aboutnthe past two weeks straigt.

Not that they haven't loved it. They haven't had the opportunity to play with their grandkids this much in quite a few years. Even though it makes them a bit tired, they wouldn't trade it for the world.

On a sad note, we are missing a family reunion for Wifey's side of the family. She has been a bit sad that we are missing the opportunity to dabble our toes in the ocean along the Oregon coast, munchkin would have loved being there and playing in the water, but we will go another time.

I'm faring much better than Wifey is. I think this is the first family reunion that she has missed in her 27 years in the family. Good thing she has Gilmore Girls to keep her occupied. Oh, and a little thing I like to call Munchkenna. She is slumbering peacefully right next to our bed right now, so I think I'll follow suit.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Hello again. It has been a while, hasn't it? Things e starting to settle down again after some momentous occasions. The new job started getting busy, but it is still going well. I had the opportunity to start doing some things that I hadn't done before, but also done some things that I haven't done in quite some time. It has been a good challenge. I overheard from a colleague that my boss was worried that I didn't have enough to do. So far I have only had to ask him for more work once.

We also had a baby! Well, not me (naturally). We had the greatest nurse ever known to a woman in labor who was greater than I would have ever expected a nurse to be. I felt good that I only almost fainted twice.

The funny thing is, I didn't have the urge to faint with the parts that I thought might make me queasy. I inherited a bit of queasiness around blood from my father. But I was able to do fine with all of that. The things that got me were all the surgical tools. When they came in to give Wifey her epidural, I just stared at the contraction monitor, knowing that the big needle made me a bit light-headed last time. I didn't look, but started feeling my hands tingle after hearing the conversation about placing the needle. This guy did great, and wo Wifey's epidural didn't wear off this time.

The next time I got woozy was after Munchkenna (Munchkin II's official name on this blog) was born. I took a peek over at all the unused medical tools sitting out in case of emergency, and that got me again.

We had a pleasant surprise when a girl I sang with in high school choir came in to help out with Munchkenna after she was born.

All in all, Wifey had an exponentially better experience this time when compared to Munchkin's delivery. It was half as long, and much more enjoyable for all parties involved, despite my queasiness.

Munchkin has been doing great being a big sister also. There have been some very minor jealousy issues that quickly get resolved. You can see how much they like each other, take a peek at this picture.

I should be making more frequent appearances here, but if you don't find me here, know that I am busy holding a sweet little girl.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Wondering where I’ve been? I’ve been doing things. First off, vacation was wonderful. It was nice to be completely untethered (meaning that I left all my technology at home, except for my iPod, which was only used as background music as we played games with other people. And also for portions of the car ride). It was nice to be liberated from computers, phones, and any other way people could contact me. 

That euphoria was quickly dispelled on Monday when I returned to work. There was plenty waiting for me. But I got caught up quickly.

We have also been potty training Munchkin. Wifey found an eBook that does a pretty good job at getting a kid potty trained in three days. This weekend had a few bumps along the way, but we found out that she had toilet paper rash (as opposed to diaper rash) from being wipes so often. Her fair skin is so sensitive that any little thing could set it off. We got that cleared up last night (after staying awake with her until about 1:30), and Wifey reports that today she has been accident-free. Go Munchkin!

Because of some of the potty training activities, Wifey tweaked her back a bit. A woman who is 8 months pregnant generally shouldn’t be lifting a lot, but potty training requires it. And Wifey faced the consequence. Luckily she got better quite quickly.

We also had our second annual Nacho Party with the gang. We don’t often get together with all our old friends, but we had all but one of the couples there. It was great to see them all and catch up a bit.

Meridian celebrated Dairy Days. They have a carnival that comes to town, complete with petting zoo, fair rides, and parades. We only made it to the parade, but Munchkin was in heaven. When the trucks came down the street, she would exclaim, “Beeg one!” When the horses came down the street, she would point and yell, “Horsies,” followed by a whinny. When there was any music, she would start bopping and bouncing. She loved being around all the people, and we were proud that she kept her pants dry for the three hours we were there.

Father’s Day also came and went. It was good for me, as I got a new pair of work pants that fit quite well. Wifey started mocking me because she bought me some brand name pants, and they actually fit. Normally, I have a hard time getting pants to fit because of my slender waist and long legs. If I could reverse my proportions, I would be able to find pants galore. But unfortunately, fewer stores are selling pants that have a 30 waist that have more than a 32 inseam. When you need a 30x36, you are kind of out of luck.

But these pants fit. When I asked her how she could tell if they were long enough, she told me that she held them up, and they came up to her chest, so she figured they would be long enough. I had to laugh, because I know that she doesn’t come up to my belly button. We aren’t that disproportionate!
We also found out that the foreign exchange student from Brazil that lived with my brother for a year is coming up with her dad for a visit. It will be fun to see her, since last time we saw her was about four or five years ago. July will be a busy time.

We are unsure whether or not Wifey will have the baby by then. She had an appointment with her doctor last week that told her that he would probably induce her since he was going to be gone the week of her due date. Wifey is fine with that, because Munchkin was relatively large (8 lbs, 8 oz) for Wifey’s petite frame. If the new babe comes a bit early, we are hoping that she will be a skosh smaller. She is already measuring larger than normal, but then again, so did Munchkin.

With that being said, Wifey might have the baby while my brother is up here with his family. The next week, my other brother is coming for a visit with his family. I have a feeling that my parents will be pretty tired after all the company leaves. But they love being able to see their kids and grandkids. In short, summer is beginning officially tomorrow, and I believe that mine will be quite the busy one.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Recent Things I Enjoy

  • The muted squeals I hear through the window as Munchkin finds I'm home.
  • The faces Munchkin makes as she is squealing (big eyes, wide mouth, slightly rosy cheeks).
  • Snuggles from Munchkin.
  • Walking/jumping in a circle in our house with Munchkin as she held my hand for a half an hour tonight while dinner was simmering.
  • Wifey's yummy new recipies.
  • Wifey's new boldness to try new recipies.
  • Wifey's enjoyment at finding a new hobby (sewing).
  • The idea of a new addition to our family in July.
  • A new job where I'm treated like an adult instead of a second-class citizen.
  • The prospect of real insurance for a reasonable cost (come on August).
  • Going out to dinner and seeing a movie for our anniversary.
  • Change.
  • Perspective.
  • New things to learn.
  • Helping people by making their jobs easier.
  • Healthy raspberry plants.
  • The fact that my mom picked out some fabric to make a baby quilt, only later to find out that Wifey had almost purchased that same fabric to make something for the baby herself.
  • Relatively healthy bonsai trees.
  • Flowering pots.
  • Rain.
  • Going 370 miles on one gas tank before the light came on (my previous record was 340 in this car).
  • A nice hot shower.
  • Walking to the library to check out books.
  • Spinach.
  • Waking up to a quiet house.
  • Eating an apple for breakfast.
  • Motivation.
  • Helping my parents with yard work.
  • Helping my in-laws garden.
  • Trying to understand people.
  • Trying to encourage people.
  • Sharing books.
  • The upcoming four-day vacation in the Sawtooths at Lake Alturus (starting tomorrow).
  • The fact that part of this vacation is paid time off.
Your turn. Leave your post in the comments so I can enjoy them too.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A New Instrument?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to fill in for the church organist that normally plays. She called me on Saturday night and told me that she wasn't feeling well. I have played the piano for quite a few years, so I happily obliged.

Recently I have become more interested in the organ as an instrument. I have heard it called the king of instruments, and I can understand why. It has so many different stops that it could sound like a lot of different things—bells, woodwinds, trumpets, strings, and voices. There are a lot of possibilities that it has, and I think I want to start exploring them.

As with a lot of organ players, I'll probably start out with some religious works. The music coordinator in church asked me a couple of weeks ago if I would try learning an organ solo. She told me that she had heard many different types of musical numbers at church, but that she had never really heard an organ solo. I think I'll take her up on that offer.

I'll probably go pick up an organ book or two when I get a chance. I want to find one that would be hard enough to keep my interest, but easy enough with the pedals to keep my interested without overwhelming me. Maybe the library will have some music. I know the libraries in Finland did, so hopefully the ones in Idaho will follow suit...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Wall

Some days it seems that writing just oozes out of my pores. I think of plenty of things to write about, interesting connections, and ways I can express what I'm thinking.

Lately, I've been hitting a wall.

I don't know what it is, but since I have started my new job, I have been feeling less creative. I enjoy what I do for work, and I am learning and growing in a lot of ways, but instead of finding time to think about life and who I want to be, I find my mind being filled with things to do for work—how to create a new document, the next piece of technology I need to learn, or a new design for a flyer that I'm creating.

And I'm not sure why that is. Generally I am pretty good about turning off work when I leave for the day and turn it back on during my commute in to work. This position has been different so far.

So, dear Internet, please post something that inspires you in the comments. It can be anything—a website, a book you have recently enjoyed, a picture, or a quote. Heck, it could even be a cool cake or something.

Hopefully it will pull me from my creative void and help me be a more productive (and sharing) blogger. Blogging is something I enjoy, but it has been hard for me lately.

Another thing I am hoping will help out is I am taking a vacation this week. We are heading up to the mountains for a few days with Wifey's family. I hope to take lots of pictures and have time to sit and think in the forest. While we won't be away from civilization completely (we are staying in cabins), I'm hoping that there will be some time to curl up with a good book, take a stroll through a forest, or just sit by the water and think.

I need to stop by the library and find a good book to read. I'm feeling a bit bored with the ones on our shelves as of late. I'll probably try to find something completely out of character for myself to see if that provokes some inspiration. If not, I'll try something else until I get some hints from the Internet.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Not So Neeky

Munchkin decided to be not so neeky today. Or maybe she was super neeky. After we got home from my parents' house tonight, I happened to peek over at the couch to find this:
Munchkin is to the point where she loves coloring. If there are pens, pencils, crayons, markers, or other writing implements around, she wants to color.

Wifey told me that she caught Munchkin with a pen today sitting on the stair, but didn't think that she had tagged anything. She is just too neeky.

If the end of the world would have come on Saturday like some were predicting, then I could have officially said that Munchkin was the perfect child. Her reputation is slightly tarnished, but how can I be mad at this:
"You're not mad, are you Daddy?"

On a not-so-random tangent, my nephews decided to celebrate last Saturday by making this awesome video. Hopefully they will make more.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Last year we decided to get some plants for our house. The thing that I was most excited about was the raspberry bushes from my parents' place. We planted them late in the year, and they didn't get enough water, so they ended up dying. I was able to keep one limping along through to the fall, and hoped that it would enjoy life again when the spring came.

Now it is a champ. And we got it some friends (who will hopefully fare better than their predecessors). We got them in a bit earlier than the ones last year, and this spring has been quite cool and rainy here in the valley, so I am hopeful.

Can you guess which one is the champ? The one on the right is actually a start from the one on the left.
Some raspberry friends

The lilacs we planted last year also have been doing well this year. They were just twigs really (as my dad decided that they didn't need any leaves in order to be transplanted), but now they have leaves. No lilacs this year, but I have faith that they'll come around next year.
Munchkin showing off where the proliferation of lilacs will be next year
Here are a few other things that we have got this year. Some look better than others, but I'm hopeful for a lot of them.

Our most surprising entry goes to this ground cover. I'm not sure what it is, and I know that it generally flowers each year in the spring. I didn't expect it to flower this year because it had a few buds on it when we transplanted it. I thought all the strength would go to the roots and kill off the flowers. Boy, was I wrong!
Surprise! I'm healthy and flowering.
A close-up of the flowers.
The chives took quite well to their new environment as well. My mom always had some over on the east side of our house, and I always wanted to see more purple flowers. Whenever she would send me out to get some, I would always leave some of the more mature ones in hopes that we would get more flowers.
Chives look happy (and taste good).
We have a couple of lavender starts as well, so you only get to see the best one. It is about on par with the one at my parent's house that was started last year, so I think both of them will be champs by next year.
Even though it isn't blooming, you still can smell it.
The mums are starting to perk up also. I can be patient with them, since they are more of a fall plant. We got three different colors, but we'll see if they cross-pollinate and become one color. I think yellow was the dominant color at my parents' place.

Mums getting ready for the fall.
There is an asparagus plant somewhere in here. I promise.
A lonely sprig of asparagus. We'll have to let it go to seed so that we get more.
And here is another ground cover that we got. It gets little purple flowers, and the leaves are kind of a milky green.

Another mystery ground cover.
We also got some grape hyacinths, but they are past their prime, so you don't get to see them until next year. They only had three blooms on them anyway, so they weren't that exciting this year. It is hard to pull up bulbs (especially really small ones) after they have already flowered.

What's in your garden this year? Any blooms you want to share?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lil' Sprouts

Since I have a few bonsais sitting in the back yard, I am happy to report that they are actually getting leaves on them this year. HOORAY! Wifey accused me of growing sticks last year, so hopefully the leaves will stay on better this year.

I realized that I was just watering them last year. They never got any plant food, and if they did, it was only once in a blue moon (if that often). I gave them a dose a week or so ago, and so far they look pretty happy. Take a look yourself.
A smaller version of a nicely shaped tree we have in our yard

If you are a bit confused that my trees don't look like the ones I have posted before, that is because some have changed. My dad had some trees that I have been wanting to get my hands on, so I sacrificed trees that I wasn't as excited about for flowering trees. My goal is to have some trees that will flower in the spring, so I am going to try keeping them happy this year so that next year they might come out and bloom.

Cherry and little crab apple
I think part of my obsession with this is the fact that when I was growing up I had two windows in my room. In the spring, I would see white cherry blossoms out one, and pink crab apple blossoms out the other. Now I have a small crab apple and a small cherry. I just got the cherry last night, so I hope that it will do okay. It is actually a succor from the same tree that was outside my window, and was probably receiving some food from the mother tree. There were some offshoot roots that were well established, so I'm hoping that it will keep on establishing its own root system and do well.

The tiny crab apple
The maple is the champ this year. I was pleased to see all the leaves that were sprouting out of it. It is amazing what a little bit of food will do for a lil' sprout. Hopefully the other trees will catch up shortly, especially the crab apple.


Another possible maple harvested from the flower garden

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Neeky: Part II

Yesterday night, we were over for our weekly meal with my parents. Munchkin has gotten into quite a routine. We get there, we eat, shortly before dessert is served, she gets antsy and reaches for my dad to go play, we tell her to wait and give her a pudding cup (which she devours), she gets antsy again, my dad wolfs down his dessert, we clean her up, she is released and belly laughs/screams with delight that she gets to go play, my dad lays down on the floor while Munchkin plays with the toys and occasionally shows him something that has piqued her interest and we do the dishes.

Rinse, then repeat.

This happens like clockwork, with surprisingly little variation. My mom is secretly a bit jealous that Munchkin doesn't come looking for her, so she was very excited tonight that after dinner Munchkin approached her to give her an unsolicited hug.

Munchkin doesn't just hand out unsolicited hugs. She is to the point where she really doesn't snuggle with you for fear that she will fall asleep (unless she is reading a book with you, where she will be utterly content to sit and turn the pages as you read to her). I was a bit surprised that she would go so far as to come up and give my mom a hug.

Munchkin and Grandma

As she had her arms sweetly wrapped around Grandma's neck and her head resting on Grandma's shoulder, Munchkin quietly repeated one word—treat.

To bribe Munchkin, Grandma gives her m&ms every time she comes. This generally occurs before we leave. Tonight she got some early and came back for seconds about a half an hour later by being neeky. To my surprise, Grandma didn't give in.

But I'm sure it won't stop Munchkin from being neeky and trying again.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Neeky: Part I

As a good father should, I try to teach my daughter some of the finer things in life, like scaring people. When I’m holding her, we walk up to Wifey real quiet—well, Munchkin generally whispers “Neek, neek, neek” as we are walking—and then Munchkin yells, “Boo!” Wifey makes a good show of it, and acts surprised. Munchkin immediately starts saying, “Again! Again!”

Lately, she has started trying to be sneaky on her own. One time, she put her hands on her thighs and started walking like a sumo wrestler preparing for a match. We were cracking up, because her loud footfalls did not match her furtive whispers of “Neek, neek, neek.”

Neek, neek, neek.

Shortly after my alarm went off this morning, I heard Munchkin moving around and moaning in her bed. She had done this a few times before during the night, so I didn’t think much of it and pressed the snooze button again.

Ten minutes later, I heard the door start to creak open. This was followed by the pitter patter of little feet running toward the bed. The footfalls were punctuated by as large of a resounding thud as a 19-month-old can make while jumping and an excited exclamation of, “Boo,” which woke up Wifey (without a scream).

She was so proud of herself that she had snuck into our room. And I have to say that although this was pretty darn funny that she had created this scenario in her mind that she was going to scare us awake, it worries me a skosh at the same time.

Is this going to be the start of Munchkin getting out of bed in the middle of the night? Is she going to start getting out of bed whenever she is awake, regardless of the time? Instead of coming into our room to scare us awake, is she going to start realizing that she can go downstairs and find her toys?

I hope the answer is no, but she is a pretty smart little cookie. I’ll just have to see how neeky she ends up being.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Yesterday evening we went to the park for a family gathering. There were lots of kids there who weren't from our family as well, as the park was packed—packed as in all the reserved spots were full, and the playground is hopping. If I looked around, I could easily imagine that the fair was in town.

I wasn't amazed at how many people were there. What really struck me was the fact that there were so many kids around who were so friendly. At least five kids (all boys) came up to me and said hi and introduced themselves. I was shocked.

I've been told that I was quite the gregarious little kid. I spent a lot of my time talking ears off of women who happened to come to my mom's beauty shop. I even helped them put their coats on as they were leaving in the winter. But I don't think that I would have walked up to a complete stranger and introduced myself.

One of the kids even started following me around as I was helping Munchkin, and he asked that I help him out on the monkey bars. I'm sure that their parents were around somewhere, but I didn't see many parents with these kids. I don't know if they were attention starved, but they seemed bright, capable kids. Their parents had obviously taught them well, but I would have thought that they would introduce themselves to Munchkin instead of me.

So, my question to you is this: have you met kids who introduce themselves to complete adult strangers? If you have met kids like this, what has been your experience with them? Does it weird you out like it did me (I felt a bit like they were trying to create a business relationship)? Am I just being strange myself?

P.S. Wicked was WICKED!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Social Media in Education

Early in my college career, I often sat among my classmates being a bit jealous that many of them had brought some kind of laptop into class. After I was an upper classman, I realized that many of the people who had a laptop spent more time playing solitaire or updating their Facebook status than taking notes or engaging in the lecture.

Today kids in school are even more wired (and I'm not referencing caffeine). They are used to texting, tweeting, updating their status, and jumping from one browser window to the next at alarmingly fast rates. Sometimes it is enough to make my head spin.

I ran across this article in the New York Times today that talks about engaging students through social media. The thought of sitting in an English class talking about an article that we read is pretty interesting to me. One teacher even believes that her class is engaging more students.

I ended up being an English major in college, but I know that some of my high school classes would have been a lot more interesting to me had I had the opportunity to use technology. I fear that people are going to stop printing books in the future, because it is so much cheaper to have a digital copy of things. There is something about holding a book and smelling its musty pages that makes me want to read it. It is inviting.

My parents think it is crazy to have online courses. I participated in some in college, and while they had their unique challenges, I found that I was placed in charge of my education. I couldn't fake reading an assignment and posting something on it. The teacher could see when you were presenting an unsupported argument. And I found that I enjoyed learning more when I could engage myself in something besides a three hour lecture (yes, some of my classes were three hour night classes).

If this actually helps kids learn, what is there to lose? I would be interested to hear from some of you teacher types (I know you are out there) to see if you would be interested in implementing this. Or, tell me how you implement other technologies in your class to save time and money.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Good News! and Good News (Why I'm a Jerk)

Good News! We are going to see Wicked tomorrow night. After years of loving the music to the show, as well as a pirated copy of it on VHS that one of my former roommates picked up somewhere and bequeathed to us, we are going to be able to see it live.

One of the perks of marrying into a large family is the fact that if anything of interest ever comes into town, you can be sure that there is a good chance you can get the group rate. And we did, about a year ago.

Needless to say, we are beside ourselves with excitement. We have had some friends who saw it last week, and we have heard nothing but rave reviews. WHOO HOO!

The other Good News comes because I have been having some tooth pain recently. That isn't good news, you say? Well you are right on that account. But there is a silver lining.

We set me up an appointment with Dr. Waynebow, who just happens to be my brother-in-law. He is the one who took care of Wifey when she had all sorts of problems. I went in, expecting to find a cavity or two, since it has been quite some time since either of us have been to the dentist. I would tell you how long it was, but you would cringe in horror.

I figured that, having never had a cavity in my life, I was getting a cavity because my tooth was starting to bother me. He came in after all my X-rays were taken and started looking through the pictures. He told me that he didn't see any issues from the X-rays, but that he would take a look.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how gentle he was. I don't know if it was because he knows me, or if he is always this gentle with patients, but I was not uncomfortable at all during the poking and prodding. He told me that there was a bit of decay in one tooth on the other side of my mouth, but that the tooth that I thought was giving me problems was completely fine. He said that my gums were a bit inflamed there, so that might have been causing the discomfort.

I left the dentist's office again without any cavities. After I called and told Wifey, she called me a jerk. I can see her side of things—I have never been an avid flosser, I brush my teeth only once a day, and I still don't have any cavities. I blame it on my parents' well water.

The water growing up was always very hard, but I never thought twice of it. Water was water. Sure, it turned the shower wall orange, and had the slightest hint of sulfur and iron, but it kept me clean, and tasted like water to me. It was only after I had moved out of the house to Finland for two years that I realized that the water had a unique taste to it.

Wifey still won't drink it. Neither will the other two sister-in-laws who joined the family. They don't think it is palatable. It might be the odor, or the taste, but they prefer the normal water.

And maybe Wifey should start drinking it so that she can bolster her teeth to be as hearty as mine.

I know. I'm a jerk.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Whirlwind Continues

Yesterday at work was designed to test me. My boss was working from home since his wife was sick, so I had limited access to him. I also had a couple of pressing deadlines. So when many of the systems started going down, I knew it was going to be a crazy day.

Generally we send out an update once or twice a week to inform people that a system here or there has gone down. Yesterday we had five going down and coming back up throughout the day. It kept me hopping to get notifications out while trying to reach my own deadlines.

And I did it.

There was one thing that I wanted to get done before I left, but it had to wait until I got in this morning. I still consider it a victory.

The nice part about it is the fact that both my boss and my boss' boss went out of their way to let me know that they were pleased with how I handled things yesterday. I haven't juggled that many balls at a time for quite some time, and it is nice to know that my skills are not going unnoticed.

After my boss was settled in today, I approached him with a question. He had offered to help out with some of the things I have on my plate left over from last week, but never got to them because of other things that got added to his own workload. He asked me the status on some of the projects after I was done asking my question, and I was able to tell him that I could handle it. He apologized for not being able to help out. It was a nice gesture, but I'm fine not being coddled by having my work done for me.

As I was lying awake in bed last night looking back on the day, I realized that I am going to be able to learn a lot through this position. My boss encourages me to research and become an expert in software and technologies. And he also encourages experimentation. I thrive on that type of stuff. So today, I spent a bit of time learning a bit more about HTML and CSS while I was getting some of my work done. I used is as a reward for myself after I finished editing an 113 page document of policies. I needed some kind of release.

Good news is, I am keeping up. I don't feel like I am in the eye of the storm, but I can tell that the wind is still whipping around. I'm sure another storm will be rolling in shortly, but for now, I'm going to enjoy having the opportunity to learn a bit more while I get my work done.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Playing Catch Up

The past few weeks have been crazy. And I have missed my blogging. So, I'll do my best to try to catch you up on how everything is going.

Last week I dedicated most of my life to things besides myself. It was new job during the day and Music Week during the nights while trying to squeeze in a bit of Munchkin and Wifey, topped off with sleep.

That's about it.

Just kidding.

Music Week

Music Week ended up taking quite a bit of time. Monday was tech rehearsal. It was arduously slow, and we didn't even get through the whole show. I was worried. None of the sets had been spiked, and none of the lights had been set. But we were on stage, and that was fun (for the meager bit I got to be on stage that evening).

Tuesday night was more of the same. We finished up spiking everything, as well as actually made it through the show. It helped that we had the orchestra there that night. The director couldn't wait on things because she had a bunch more people who were sitting around if she didn't have her act together (which happened more often than not).

Wednesday night rolled around and the show went on. It was kind of like a dress rehearsal, but with an audience. All in all, it ended up pretty well.

And after that the shows just kept on getting better. I was pleasantly surprised that I nailed my part every night (with very slight glitches). I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to hit a G in full voice and hold it out while the others did their thing. If you are a tenor, you understand my nervousness at a G. It is my cracking point, generally. But I am pleased to announce that I never cracked, and I never ran out of breath. HOORAY!

I was very glad when the Saturday night show was done. After doing two shows that day, and having a week away from the family, I was ready to be done with Music Week. Yes, it was fun. But also yes, it was a time waste.

The biggest disappointment came Saturday night. I was walking backstage to go remove my costume and happened to run into the director who was carrying some props to load while the show was wrapping up. She was walking with someone else carrying props and having a great time laughing, so I thought that she might go as far as to thank me for coming and being part of the show.

I was wrong. When I looked at her (with a pleasant smile on my face), she quickly stopped laughing and averted her eyes. But it fit the norm of having her not talk to us. I think I scared her a bit (although I don't understand why). Maybe she was just used to pushing around the teenagers (who were a majority of the cast), or maybe she was hypnotized once and told that if she ever saw me that she was to cower in fear because I hide my pitchfork and horns well with my magical spells.

But I doubt I'll ever know. It is hard to find something out like that when someone won't talk to you.

New Job

New job was pretty stressful last week as well. My trainer had left, and I was on my own. The rest of my team had more work flowing in than they could keep up with for about the tenth week in a row. It was very busy for them, and those things are more pressing than my training at this point, so my supervisor (who is my backup trainer) was not to be found very much because he was busy putting out fires.

As the week went on, I found that I started getting a hold of things. I'm not anywhere near being perfect, but I started to know my way around some of the ten network drives where we keep various things. It was stressful, but only because I didn't have someone there to guide me when I thought I needed it. I felt pretty good by the end of the week that I was catching on quickly. I was able to take care of one major release, and got the documentation done today for tomorrow's release. I'm making it by the skin of my teeth, but I'm making it.

It would also help if people held to the times that they offered. I had a project manager tell me that I would have all the information for this week's release by last Friday. Starting this Monday, I had seven additional documents to create or edit. I have been stressed about it, but I am getting a hang of it as well.

I felt good because when I did have the opportunity to get help from my boss once he said, "You mean you haven't learned everything in a week that [previous tech writer] learned in a year?" It helped me put things into perspective and know that I was getting stuff done that I needed to get done, and that he didn't think I was as big of a failure as I thought I was.

And with that, I will write more frequently. I'm starting to adjust to the new schedules (including fighting traffic and waking up earlier), and I think I'll probably survive. In the mean time, I'll do what I can to pop in here semi-regularly.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


As I spent the past week starting a new position, I found myself smiling and nodding a bunch. I had so many names and faces to learn (which is still in process), as well as tasks, acronyms, and preferences. You never know what people like in their documentation until you work with them for a while.

As my trainer was leaving this week, one of his co-workers told him that he needed to make sure to keep in touch. Mind you, he will still be working with our organization every so often, just in a different capacity. He made friendships while he was there. One of the women came over and told him that he needed to keep in touch. He said that he would, and also offered to give this woman a link to his family blog.

Since she is one of the older people on the floor, she took the time to ask a question: "What is a blog anyway? I just don't get it."

We tried to explain to her that it was a web log, but that many people were using them as personal journals these days. It offered you an opportunity to be a part of someone's life vicariously.

She seemed pleased with that answer, but it got me thinking why I blog. So here is part of my answer.

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to take a creative non fiction course. I had to write all about myself, and even though it was really hard for me to do at first, I really enjoyed it. I didn't mind the writing part of it, but I didn't really care for complete strangers reading these frank internal dialogues that I was penning down. They didn't expose any deep dark secrets, but I felt quite exposed telling people some of the inner workings of my mind.

One of our last assignments was to write an outline for a memoir, should we ever write one. She wanted us to consider using some of the work we had already created during the semester as some of the chapters for this work. We just had to create an outline with a rough sketch of what would be in the chapter to get us thinking about how easy it would be to write a book and hopefully encourage us to do so.

I did find it easy, although I didn't bother typing any of my plan out after that class. While I was doing it though, I thought how cool it would be to have a book from people I admire that was kind of a daily journal that would parallel my life. For example, how fun would it be to have a book written by my dad or father-in-law explaining their struggles when they were relatively new fathers trying to establish themselves in a career. I would welcome their insights and want to learn more about what they went through.

Often times when we meet people, we meet an end product. We know them as they are today, but not the story behind how they got there. If you ask that question, memory fuzzes that quite a bit. The nebula that is our brain is bright in some spots, and pretty dark in other spots. Even the most well-intentioned answer is clouded by years of time that sometimes cannot be brought into focus. And other times, we don't want to relive the answer.

In a world where teens think their parents are too old to understand, or where young parents are struggling with the responsibilities that come with adulthood, don't you think it would be nice to know that those who you look up to have already fought those battles? Instead of seeing just the finished product, you could see the roughly-hewn stone.

And this is why I blog. I want my kids to know that I was not always the curmudgeon that they see as teenagers. I want them to know why I make the choices I make, and I want them to see how I got there. In short, although I enjoy keeping this blog, it really isn't for me.

So Munchkin (et al), you better appreciate it someday, or else...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Madness for Munchkin

This weekend will be a pretty crazy one. This will be Munchkin's first Easter where she will truly understand what an Easter Egg Hunt will be. So today we are having two.

In about an hour and a half, Wifey's grandma is holding her traditional Easter egg hunt where she invites all her descendants over for a candy hunt. She only has 40 grandchildren, and many of them have families of their own (about 20 great-grandchildren). Most of them live in the valley, so it makes for quite a spectacle. As is prudent with most Easter egg hunts, the kids get released in waves. The littlest ones get help from their parents. This is fortuitous, as I get to hand-pick the candy that Munchkin brings home—I leave the stuff we don't like for the other kids.

Directly after that, we are headed over to my parent's house. My brother from Utah decided to trick his kids. They told them that they were going for doughnuts, but had the car all packed. He took off Friday and they drove up. We are having a turkey with all the fixin's and another Easter egg hunt. There are rumors of a hot dog roast as well. Needless to say, it will be a pretty fun day for Munchkin.

We were hoping that she would sleep in this morning, but she has a tree adjacent to her window where most birds in the neighborhood decide to call out an alarm when the sun comes up. Even though she was asleep a little bit late last night, she woke up right at 7:00 AM. We could tell she was tired, and got her down for an early nap around 10:15. Any sleep is good sleep for her today, especially because she is going to be playing so much.

Tomorrow we are having an Easter dinner with Wifey's family, followed by a community concert that I am singing in tomorrow night. Needless to say, Munchkin will be celebrating Easter all weekend long. A bit crazy, but such are holidays around here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Night Off!

Tonight I feel a bit guilty. There is no reason why I should. I just have a night off of the play, so I have time to do things that I want to do. Like visit the local farm store and look at the baby chicks and rabbits with Munchkin and Wifey.

Before I get any further, I fixed the video from the previous post. It is funny how I can see a video when I'm logged in, and YouTube doesn't want that to happen for anyone else. Scroll down and watch the video now if you would like.

Munchkin was loving the chicks. They had them in watering troughs that were staged on pallets underneath some heat lamps. She just kept making little bird noises, occasionally telling us when they were jumping, running away, or being cute.

I needed a night with the fam. It was good times.

Tomorrow is my trainer's last day. We have pretty much run through everything that I am supposed to do once (and in some cases, twice). After that, I'm on my own.

I learned a new program today, which brings the total up to four new pieces of software. It is kind of baffling to me, but I am really enjoying it. They asked me in the interview if I liked wearing lots of hats. And now I understand why.

One minute, I'm creating an online help manual. Then someone comes up to me and asks me to convert a PDF back to a Word document. Then I get an email asking me to inform the state that a system is down. Then I get to send out a bulletin that tells everyone that a position is opening up in one of the offices. Then I edit some icons to put into a PDF. Then I do some SharePoint administration. Then I start creating a training video.

And then I get a break for lunch and repeat.

And one of the good things is that the people there seem really great. I have only known them for a few days, but everyone has been quite welcoming and gone out of their way to make sure that they appreciate my meager contributions. It is fun to have people come up to me and ask me if I can solve their minor technical emergencies. Well, it is fun when I can solve those emergencies.

All in all, I feel really comfortable there. I feel like I have already come out of my shell a bit to most of my team members, and I feel relaxed, even though there is a lot going on. I'll be transitioning over to the big desk (the think is in an L shape and is about 7 feet both ways) on Monday, and I know I'll have big shoes to fill, but it will be good.

Now to give Wifey a foot massage. She informed me that I would be giving her one earlier tonight before we left to go look at the chicks. She deserves it for taking care of Munchkin all day and night while I've been off waiting for my turn to sing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I'm Not Dead!

You might have thought that I was dead, as I haven't posted in a few days after being a religious blogger. I'm not dead, but consider the following picture of Munchkin from last summer:

Munchkin munching on the hose
Now for the metaphor.

If this picture could be likened to a time in my life, the date you would affix would be April 17, 2011. I was sitting patiently, waiting for a drink after a drought of joblessness. In fact, I was quite excited for it.

Then April 18th came along, and someone turned the hose on full blast.

Don't get me wrong, I am having a good time, but feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment. At my new position I have one week to absorb everything that my trainer knows before he moves on to his next position. There are no other tech writers there, and so I'm the resident expert after one week. Yikes!

In the mean time, I have been relearning a software program that I haven't used in quite some time (about four years), as well as learning two new ones. I enjoy the challenge, and at times (like today in one of my trainings) I didn't really absorb as much as I would have liked to because my brain just kept shutting off. I persevered and kept my lips over the nozzle, but plenty of water leaked out through my cheeks, nostrils, and possibly tear ducts. Any available orifice in my head was gushing water.

I think I'll like the position. All in all, it seems like a good group of people to work with, and I think that I will enjoy the variety of work that will come my way. I just have to remember that I need to keep swallowing and keeping some of the water down.

On top of this, we had a fiasco last night at the Black Hole. We were told to come early to block our scene. We arrived a little bit late (because we had to eat before heading to rehearsal pretty much directly from work), but did not find the director there to block us. The music director decided to rehearse us anyway.

While we were rehearsing, I got to play the piano (instead of singing with the rest of the group) because the music director felt a bit sheepish about her piano skills after hearing the recording I made. It isn't anything special by any means, but evidently she just plays parts, not accompaniment.

(Here is the scratch track I created if you want to listen. I threw one picture of Munchkin on it for some visual interest, but don't expect a lot of fun audio or video here.)

After practicing about an hour, they told us that they were adding more people to the quartet because the director wanted them in the scene. They aren't particularly strong singers, so I'm not quite sure about the reason behind all this. Plus that makes our quartet have a few fifth wheels. That was all fine and dandy, and by this time we had been there about an hour and a half. The musical director told us that she was going to get the director to finally block us.

But evidently the director didn't want to be bothered. She ended up coming out in a huff and told us that she wanted us to stay (after we had stood around for fifteen minutes waiting for her to make an appearance) so that she could block us. One of the people had stepped away to get a drink, so when she didn't see the whole group of us there, she proceeded to curse at the top of her lungs. Munchkin doesn't throw tantrums like that. In fact, I haven't seen a kid throw that bad of a tantrum in a long time. I was astounded that a grown woman would be so childish.

After she had mostly stormed out of the room and returned at the behest of the musical director and assistant director, she begged us to stay for another ten minutes. We acquiesced, and then she started rambling. She said that she was planning to do this after the rehearsal, but since we were all there that she would have to go out of her way and do it. I didn't understand what the big huff was all about since we had told her that we were going to be there an hour and a half ago to take care of the blocking.

And after about two more minutes, I realized why she was so upset—she wasn't prepared. All this fuss was because she hadn't blocked this scene yet in her mind. She just told us to stand there around the bar and sing while the girl sat in the middle. No information on how to enter or exit, no thoughts on how to improve, no direction on where we should be focusing—she just wanted to push the play button. The scene is awkward enough because there is a guy on stage right who is singing to the girl who is in the bar with all of us. We chime in every once in a while to encourage her to talk to him.

If I was the bar going type and I was next to a girl in the bar, I doubt that I would be encouraging the girl to go back to her boyfriend. The scene doesn't make sense in my mind. But then again, I'm not the almighty director.

We left, not knowing when we were supposed to come back. After some prodding, she told me that call time was at 6:30. I told her that I couldn't just hang out all night waiting for my part to come up and asked her if she would be able to give me an estimate on when we might be doing this. She started into a tirade on how she couldn't accomodate an individual's schedule when she had a whole show to run. She had never run Act Two fully (even though the show opens in a little over a week), so she couldn't estimate how long it would take to get to our scene (scene four). So I asked her how long Act Two was supposed to be. She told me that it was 52 minutes.

That was all I needed.

Knowing that she had never run Act Two, and understanding how disorganized she was, I figured that I would come about fifteen minutes late tonight. That would give her time to run through some of the other scenes, and allow me time to get there without sacrificing my whole evening.

I should have waited a bit longer to leave though. After all, it only took 45 minutes to get to our scene tonight. And once again, we were directionless. We just did our part with the orchestra and were done with it.

There is a silver lining in all of this though. The orchestra director is a very stern man who doesn't particularly like working with vocalists. I worked with him in a previous show, and he, as a professional musician, acts as if it is below him to direct the amateur vocalists. After running our song once, he actually smiled. I think he was glad that we knew our parts, as well as sounded half decent. We were able to drag the tag-a-longs with us (or drown them out). I never thought I would see this guy smile in a rehearsal, but he did. And for me, that balanced out the hissy fits thrown by the director.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Secret Flattery

I ended up getting an email forwarded to me from my friend whose place I'm taking next week. It was from his boss. I was pretty surprised to see it, but even more surprised to read it. See for yourself.

Note that all the italics are things that I changed to protect identities and such.

Subject: Found: New Technical Writer

John Waite is the name, and technical writing is his game. That's right. Starting Monday, April 18th, John will hit the ground running, starting as SR's new technical writer. He will be filling some rather large shoes left by Friend of mine, as said Friend moves into his new position as a Super Great Promotion starting April 25th. John will be working closely with teams X and Y, as well as with group Z, providing critical documentation, presentation, and communication support for the entire Division. Friend and John will be working closely together for the first week, getting John up to speed in his new role.

John is a technical communication guru, with a Bachelors Degree in English, with a Technical Communication emphasis. His technical writing experience includes contracting or working for businesses such as Motive Power (documenting the process for building cabs on locomotives - cool, right?), Sapidyne Instruments, and most recently, Hewlett-Packard. I would go on, but I think you should really drop-in and meet him yourself! He'll be in the two-man mini-pod where Friend currently spends his working hours.

I'm excited to have John joining our team. Please help me welcome him aboard!

Welcome, John!

Did you know that people did this kind of stuff? I know that there is generally a buzz when someone new starts, but it is has been my experience that people often learn that someone has been hired, and that someone remains a nebulous cloud in everyone's head until they actually meet the person who was hired. You get a very vague outline of them that your mind creates, and you run with it until you can fill in the blanks.

After I got done reeling my tongue back into my mouth and affixing my jaw back into place, I realized that this says a lot about my future boss. Here are some things I can glean from this email:
  • He values tech writers. I already kind of knew this, as my boss graduated with a degree from the same college as a technical writer.
  • He expects a lot from me. This was hinted at in the interview, but there is a lot of volume that comes through this position. I have a week to learn everything from my predecessor. Good thing I know him so that I can bug him after he moves on to his next position...
  • He treats his employees well. If he is taking the time to introduce me to his staff, this tells me that he likes to have a great relationship with his minions. I'll take minion over indentured servant anyday.
  • He encourages friendships in the workplace. To me, this says that there is more to life than just work. He wants people who are a good fit both professionally and personally. I'm relatively private at work, so I'll be interested to see how this one plays out. 
  • He was impressed by my work history. He called me a guru. I almost laughed out loud at this point because I still feel like I have a ways to go, but couldn't because of my tongue and jaw that were busy doing other things (see the paragraph right before this list).
Armed with this knowledge, I am pretty excited to start work on Monday. Now to go grab my social security card and make sure that it is tucked safely in place before I head out to work Monday morning. It is hard to process your paperwork if they don't have that, I hear...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Munchkin + @MindyGledhill = Awesome

We love our Munchkin. We love our Mac. We also love an artist named Mindy Gledhill. Wifey decided to mix them all together and this is what she came up with:

If you are wondering how we found Mindy Gledhill, it was kind of an interesting story. Wifey likes reading a blog about a woman and a man who were burned in a plane crash. She tells her story about all her treatments and how she struggles with her appearance since most of her body was burned. Her husband wasn't burned nearly as badly (although they both still had major reconstructive surgeries, if memory serves me correctly).

Anyway, Mindy Gledhill wrote a song for this blogger that you can listen to on YouTube if you want. And then you can go buy her album because you like her music so much.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Playing in the Dirt

Today I spent pretty much all day at my parent's house. They have needed to get some yard work done, and I am anxiously waiting to start my job on Monday, so they told me to come over and bide my time by doing yard work.

Today consisted of multiple tasks, the first of which was cleaning out the raspberry patch (that I pruned on Monday) of all the dead growth and the decapitated tops that didn't make it out of the patch. I don't think that it had been done as thoroughly as I did it in about five years or so. I was instructed to use the long-handled pruners before my parent headed off to a funeral, but quickly switched to hand pruners so I could get at the stuff I needed to as close to the ground as possible. There were plenty of stalk butts (like cigarette butts, but for the raspberry stalks. There is probably a better word for this, but my mind is ready for bed so this will have to suffice) from previous years that needed to be cut off.

I could tell that this was a favorite eating perch for birds, as I found a couple of starts that I believe were current bushes (my parents have a current bush up by the house), a couple other tree seedlings, some walnut stashes (which the squirrels probably dragged in and forgot about), and one mouse skull. I was most surprised about the skull, but I guess if you are a mouse, you might as well die happy while eating sweet sun-ripened raspberries. I know I would be fine going that way.

After the three hours that it took to clean that out, I started burning the dead growth. Dad was over sitting on a stump of an apple tree we cut down a few weeks ago burning some of those branches. He ended up getting burned on his lip with the wrong end of a hot stick, but I think it will heal pretty quickly. I don't think it even blistered. It just melted the skin a bit. Still not pleasant, but as burns go, probably pretty superficial.

Next we went to start the tractor to till up part of the garden. When I was a kid, Dad would always do the tilling with his hand tiller while the kids did other things like pull weeds where he couldn't till or get the ground ready to plant. Now that he is retired, he had moved to a disc that he pulls behind a small tractor. He still has yet to give in and buy a riding lawn mower, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he just might do it some day. Or maybe he'll just get an attachment for the tractor and mow the lawn that way. It might corrugate the yard, but it never was very level anyway. All my friends informed me of that one day when we were playing croquet. I told them that it added an extra challenge to the game.

After dinner, my in-laws came over to plant a few things in their garden. There wasn't a lot to be planted (they forgot some of their seeds), but on the way down I found some quail scratching at the spinach and lettuce that we had planted for my parents the day before. I fear for the sprouts this year for that reason. My parents have also seen pheasants roaming the garden, so unless my parents are quite vigilant, we might not have much produce this year.

After the in-laws took off, we ended up getting a bunch of starts for our yard from my parents. They gave us five raspberry starts (since all but one died from last year), three chrysanthemums, two lavender starts, some grape hyacinths, and a couple different types of ground cover, along with a bit of chives.

We drove home and got Munchkin to bed, followed by a twilight planting session of all the things we got. It was dark by the time I got the raspberries in, so I lost one of the starts to the darkness. I think it will become mulch for another one of the plants because I couldn't even find it when I brought the pot up onto the deck in the light. We're headed back tomorrow, so I'll just get another start. All that time cleaning out the patch gave me the opportunity to scope out where the really good starts were.

And don't think that Wifey was just twiddling her thumbs the whole time. She ended up completing her first dress made with a pattern for Munchkin. She had made one before with a friend, but they steered clear of the patterns. So my mom took it upon herself to get Wifey using a pattern. It turned out really well, and Munchkin thinks it is fun to get new clothes. When she tried it on, she grabbed the skirt and swished back and forth. In her book, that is a big thumbs up. I'll have to put up some pictures soon.

And Mom informed me that she was going to the store tomorrow with Wifey to look at more patterns. I think that Wifey's new-found love for sewing awoke Mom's long-time love for sewing, so they are feeding off each other right now. I'm just glad that I'm starting a job on Monday (did I mention that I got a job?) so that I can feed Wifey's new addiction. I don't know what it is, but women like to sew things for little girls. My mom did, and I know my sisters did. Now my wife does. I'm guessing that they like it almost as much as I like playing in the dirt.