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.