Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Morning Debris (Abandoned)

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Saturday, February 24, 2007

When I grow up...

Madison’s long-range career plans continue to evolve. This is a dialogue that began during our Aruba trip, when she first expressed an interest in a job making casino chips, then stuffed animals and, by the end of the vacation, Play-Doh. Since we’ve returned home, what Madison wants to do when she grows up has been a frequent topic of conversation around here, particularly when I’m tucking her into bed and she asks if we can spend a few minutes “talking about our day,” which is clearly a delaying tactic, but one I can rarely resist.

We have had extended and evolved conversations about factories, how many distinct items one factory could produce, what kind of machinery she would need, how she might be able to learn to make the various items currently on her list, and whether or not it would be necessary to employ other people on her assembly line. Most of my responses are highly uninformed, but all fall under the broad heading of “you can do anything,” which seems a good place to be.

In addition to her manufacturing aspirations, Madison talks about wanting to be a teacher, and also an author, but she very specifically plans to produce the books she writes in her own factory, along with Play-Doh, markers, erasers and Post-It Notes. Her expanding inventory isn’t entirely random, basically anything that is capturing her attention at the moment soon becomes something she wants to make, mainly because that means she wouldn’t ever have to go to a store to buy it.

We maintain a running inventory, in a notebook she keeps in her room, and here are the things Madison is currently planning to make in her factory when she grows up (I confirmed this with her immediately prior to posting):

All Crayola products

All different “types and kinds of stuffed animals”

Sharpie markers


Pipe cleaners

Ribbon, tape, and glue sticks

Highlighters, colored markers, “sparkly” markers


Kids’ clay

Pens and pencils (all colors)

All kinds of hair bands and clips

All different colors and sizes of foamy paper, especially the kind with peel-off adhesive on the back that can be cut into stickers

Paint chips (paint store samples)


All different kinds of erasers

To be continued…

"Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."

In honor of Steve Jobs' 52nd birthday (today), I decided to post a link to the terrific and inspiring commencement address he delivered at Stanford University in 2005. I hope anyone who finds their way to my site and this post will enjoy it as much as I have.

If Steve objects to the reference I will remove it, immediately after genuflecting and asking for a status report on Leopard and the iPhone.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Aruba Braid

This morning Gwen finally convinced Ava to let her take out the lone hair braid she got on the beach in Aruba, 36 days after we returned home from the trip.

Madison's is still in.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Tucking Ava into bed the other night. I get her settled under the covers and quickly run downstairs to fill a sippy cup with ice and water, which has become a nightly request.

I hand her the cup, give her one more kiss and hug, and as she snuggles into her pillows say, "Ava, who's more adorable than you? Nobody."

As soon as she hears the line I can see her mind working, a little mischievous glint in her eye. I'm walking out of the room and she says, "Daddy, who's more adorable than you?"

She lets the question sit for about a half a second and then my 4-year-old completes the thought, accompanied by giggles... "Somebody!"

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Priorities In Order

We spent much of the weekend with my parents and assorted other family members celebrating my mother’s birthday, which was yesterday. Turned into something of a two-day event this year – we all went into the city on Sunday for brunch and a little walking around, using my sister’s apartment as a base of operations. Yesterday everyone came to our house for another meal and more cake. My parents took the girls and their cousin Jack for a sleepover Sunday night, so Gwen and I were able to hang around Manhattan, have a great leisurely meal at one of our favorite restaurants (Rosa Mexicano), and then sleep off the tequila in relative peace the next morning before the gang reconvened.

I have to confess I was mildly annoyed at my mother, a real person from our actual lives, having a birthday that required celebrating right in the middle of the wall-to-wall television coverage surrounding Anna Nicole Smith’s death and whatever it is that is happening these days with Britney Spears.

I saw this conflict coming about a week ago, and called Mom to suggest that we postpone her party for at least a few months so some of the tabloid dust could settle and we could all focus on her Big Day with clear heads and our priories in order. “We’ll still get you just as nice a gift,” I promised. She wasn’t having it. Mom’s selfish like that, so we soldiered on, smiling through gritted teeth as our family matriarch opened her presents and forced the rest of us to wonder what “bombshell development,” or “shocking new revelation,” related to people we didn't know and would never meet we might be missing as a result of this frivolous calendar-bound tradition.

At some point yesterday, between dinner and dessert, I was able to slip away to the basement long enough to turn on a television and hear MSNBC breathlessly teasing the “exclusive first live interview” with the owner of the salon where Spears had recently cut off all of her hair. Unsure how I would be able to proceed in my life without the benefit of this rare and valuable eyewitness account, I raced back upstairs, grabbed the coffee out of my grandmother’s hand – it always makes her jittery anyway – and told everyone it was time to go.

Luckily enough, this is all just beginning. Spears, if she finds a way to survive, may be able to provide us with decades of tabloid and mainstream media coverage. Smith is the “celebrity news” gift that keeps on giving. Editors must truly be pinching themselves as they look out over the horizon and see an endless parade of anticipated “newsworthy” and material developments on the way, to go along with an apparently unlimited supply of buxom blonde b-roll footage.

We’ve had full media saturation on Smith for more than a week and we haven’t even gotten to the funeral – actually, we don’t even know at this point who specifically gets to plan the funeral. That’s a good 5 to 7 days right there, with ample opportunities for live network coverage, then cut to the continuing battle over the late-husband’s money, the eventual paternity test, the father rejoining (or, more likely, meeting) his infant daughter, and who knows what else. Chances are excellent that at least one or two of the prospective “Daddies” have already signed on with E! for a “Bringing Up Anna's Baby” reality series.

Maybe Mom was right to forge ahead with this year’s birthday celebration, we could be tied up here for a while.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"Don't Forget"

Ava this morning, lounging on the couch, watching TV and drinking her milk. Madison nearby. I enter the room to say goodbye before leaving for work and Ava says, "Daddy, I want to go to Aruba on Saturday."


"I want to go to Aruba on Saturday, OK?"

"Well, I... I'm not sure... I mean, I don't think we..." I reply, quickly making my retreat. And as I leave the room, our 4-year-old calls out behind me...

"Don't forget, Dad. OK?"

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Valentine's Day

Came home last night to find these great Valentine's Day creations hanging above the window in our kitchen, courtesy of the girls, we're all ready for the holiday this year. Madison has a concert at her school this morning, I'm planning to slip out of work for an hour or so (one of the major advantages of working so close to home) to experience the performance and, notably, to use various digital devices to capture it for all posterity.

And I actually planned ahead and got something for Gwen this year, too. My typical Valentine's Day drill is remembering I have no gift or card as I'm driving home from work, and then scrambling to find a florist that is still open and has something left to bundle up that doesn't look like it fell off a truck three days ago. A card at that point is a total nonstarter, so I'm forced to quickly develop messaging along the lines of: "You know I love you, right? No real reason to pay Hallmark five dollars for a place to write it down, is there? I just want to make sure we're on the same page with this... I'm really talking about fiscal responsibility here. No? Not working for you? OK, I think I have a pen, hand me that napkin."

At some point someone sent me a link to a terrific Web site called Planet Mom that sells "Mommy" shirts, sweats, and other items. Nice high-quality stuff and some well-placed humor, mostly self-deprecating, which is the finest kind. I got Gwen a "Chicken Nuggets or Pizza?" T-Shirt and a pair of yoga pants with the words "Kids Are My Workout" embroidered in a fairly, umm, interesting spot. I also got her a cool necklace from this great jewelry designer. Here's a link to the actual piece.

I can write about these things on here a day early because Gwen doesn't read this blog, has no idea how to find this blog and her encounters with my brilliant pith are limited to the moments when I print out a post, hand it to her and say, "what do you think?" And, since she has no way of knowing that I'm speaking for her, I'm pleased to report that her reviews are always overwhelmingly positive.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Madison's List

Got home from work late last night to find Gwen waiting with a plate of two-hour-old dinner and some great news - a relatively wide-open and uncommitted weekend. Only command performance was a Saturday morning birthday party for one of Madison's classmates and Gwen was going to take her, Ava and I planned to use the time to go food shopping.

As soon as the Peet's was done brewing this morning, Gwen ran out to catch an early spin class, the girls and I had eggs and toast for breakfast and watched "Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!" We were playing with Play-Doh when the wife got back from class, only about a half hour to work with before she and Madison had to leave for the party. Running upstairs for a quick rinse off, Gwen asked Madison if she wanted to help keep things moving by writing out our grocery list - she'd verbally tick off the items while she was in the shower and Madison would practice s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g out the words and writing them down, without being told which letters to use.

Turned out to be a great little exercise, the list she produced appears below. Believe it or not, with a little help from our 5-year-old stenographer on her way out the door, I actually was able to decipher it.

Here's a quick translation for the group, moving down from the upper right-hand corner of the list:

Dried Strawberries
Cream Cheese
Salmon or Tuna
Thin Sliced Chicken
Whole Chicken
Onions / Asparagas
Locatelli / Pineapple
Oranges / Celery

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Favorite Songs/Shows Redux

I’ve been messing around with my template a little bit over the last week or so. Blogger is actually pretty easy to work with if you have a brother-in-law who is a professional Web designer and happens to stop over on a Saturday afternoon in the mood to indulge a series of long-festering questions along the lines of, “how do I get this… to go there?”

The results of this experimentation have included an unjustifiably long and self-indulgent list of links to some of our favorite vendors, basically HTML shout-outs, and a short list of previous posts that are, more or less, finally safe from my obsessive need to continually edit and improve any attempt at the written word. It’s something I can’t resist. I used to carry grade school absentee notices my mother had written for me back home at the end of the day for immediate editing interventions. “Mom, you see here, where you say, ‘I’m writing to inform you that my son stayed home from school yesterday because he was feeling a little under the weather,’ you see that? Mom? Focus. Do you understand that you could have saved 17 words by writing, ‘My son was ill yesterday.’ Do you get that? Doesn’t that seem better? And, now that we’re looking at this, I should also mention that I’m not 100 percent on board with your use of the word ‘weather’ in that context. Hello? Mom?”

Anyway, it occurred to me the other day, as I compiled this list of “better moments,” that things move way too fast around here for topical postings like “Favorite Songs,” and “Favorite Shows” to have any real permanence. They’re great as historical snapshots of the way things were when they were written, both in June, but bear little resemblance to where we are today. So here’s a bit of an update on both fronts.

As the Kelly Clarkson obsession faded, Madison moved right into the High School Musical soundtrack and, later, developed a full-blown Hannah Montana fixation. Ava was also a big Hannah fan, especially the song “If We Were A Movie,” and that disc went on auto-repeat through most of late-summer and fall.

We were able to pretend it was all about the kids until the night the four of us were driving up to Vermont, singing along with Hannah, and at some point Gwen and I realized that both of the girls had fallen asleep. After belting out several songs with no back-seat accompaniment, she turned to me and asked, “Why are we listening to Hannah Montana when they’re both asleep?”

An uncomfortable silence consumed the car. It lasted for a good 15… 20 seconds, until I finally responded, “I don’t know, I kind of like it.”

“Me too,” she said, just as “Pumpin’ Up the Party,” one of her personal favorites, kicked in and we picked up where we’d left off on the sing-along, down two vocalists.

As far as television goes, we’re all about “Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!” at the moment. The girls can’t get enough of it, the show has firmly established itself as a mainstay in our house and in the hard-drive of our DVR. It also has a great companion Web presence on that includes cool games, printables and live video. Ava likes watching it online as much as TV, it seems, and there’s something about sitting across the room and witnessing your 4-year-old use a mouse to navigate her way through a kid-friendly Web environment (printing pages, opening and closing out of games, launching music and video) that’s as astonishing as it is illustrative of the way things have changed in this world. [I'm not talking MySpace or Facebook here. We're happily several years away from the presumably "astonishing and illustrative" parenting challenges associated with those online environments.]

“Higglytown Heroes” is our clear #2 show right now. “Backyardigans” still hang around and make their presence known at times. Disney's attempt at a male Dora, “Handy Manny,” made a very brief appearance in our house, seemed so promising there during the first few episodes, but ultimately he barely stayed long enough to fix anything. We were actually pretty happy to see him go because the ringer on his phone sounded exactly like ours – I’m not making this up, we went scrambling off to find our cordless at least a half dozen times while watching that show, before realizing the call was for Manny. “Pinky Dinky Doo” was big for a couple of months, but her appeal was fleeting. Yes-sir-rooney, pos-it-tooney!

Ava still likes “The Wonder Pets” and we encourage this because she insists on eating celery whenever it’s on and that is about the only time in her life she will willingly consume anything green. We still restrict “SpongeBob SquarePants,” much to the girls’ dismay, because every time we relent and take a chance on it some character is either being physically ripped apart or calling someone else an idiot.

At some point over the last month or so Ava declared Little Einsteins a “baby show,” and tossed it unceremoniously onto the trash heap of former favorites. Luckily enough for this set of friendly animated characters, Barney and Dora were waiting there at the bottom to break the fall, accompanied by Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, Elmo, Oobi, Miffy, Maisy, and the kids from Cyberchase.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Doesn't Include The Wind Chill

Enough said?