Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Happy 5th Birthday Xander!

Xander, this is the story of the day you were born.

Your Mom and Dad checked in at Denton Regional Hospital on the afternoon of August 28, 2002, the day before you were born. It was a beautiful, sunny, hot August day. Flowers were blooming, and cicadas were singing in the trees. Uncle Mike, Uncle Chris, and I drove up to Denton from Dallas at about 9:00 that night; Grandpa Kelly arrived at about 10:30; and a little before midnight, Grandpa Anthony arrived, having driven straight through after leaving Denver at noon the day before. We called Aunt Alex in Chicago, and your Mom and Dad called Airplane in California and even though you weren’t born yet, it was already beginning to feel like a birthday party, there in that room.

In a little while, Grandpa Anthony went back to Dallas to sleep, Grandpa Kelly went to your Mom and Dad’s townhouse to try to sleep (but I think he was too excited to do that) and Uncle Mike and Uncle Chris went out to the hospital parking lot, to try to sleep in their car, beneath the starry summer sky.

I slept in my car for a couple of hours (thank goodness for reclining seats) but I went back upstairs at about 5 in the morning. It was Thursday, August 29, 2002, just a few hours before you were born. Your Mom and Dad hadn’t gotten much sleep, and both were awake. Your Mom asked me to rub her back, and your Dad stretched out on a fold-up bed that was too short for him, to try to get a little sleep. Eventually, your Mom asked if I'd mind just snuggling up with her and trying to get a little sleep, too. Of course, I didn’t mind snuggling up with your Mom at all!

I was curled up in bed with your Mom and you (who were still in her belly) and we were all sound asleep at about 8:00 in the morning when your Mom’s doctor came in to check on her. When he saw us all in bed together, he said,
"I know we have a bed shortage, but this is ridiculous!" The doctor examined your Mom to make sure everything was OK (and it was) then the doctor left for his office.

In a very short time, it was clear to all of us that you were going to be born soon. We were all very excited and couldn’t wait to meet you! You burst into the world at exactly 11:00 AM on August 29, 2002. Your umbilicus (a long cord that connected you to your Mom from your belly button before you were born) was wrapped 3 times around your neck, but that was obviously not causing a problem because you began to cry, very loudly, almost immediately. Your Dad cut the cord and a nurse measured you: you weighed 8 lbs. 9oz, and were 20" tall, about the size of Leo, but a lot better looking.

Uncle Mike, Uncle Chris, and Grandpa Kelly had been pacing back and forth in the hallway while you were being born, but they hurried into the room within about 5 minutes of your birth, to meet you. Everyone took turns holding you. Of course, you were crying, and we were all so happy we all cried too. We called Aunt Alex in Chicago, and your Dad called Airplane in California, and he held the phone next to you as you cried so Aunt Alex and Airplane could hear your voice. At about 12:30, Grandpa Anthony arrived. He kissed your Mom, hugged your Dad, held you, and cried.

Later that afternoon, Grandpa Kelly drove back to his place to take care of his chocolate lab, Jane Doe. Grandpa Anthony, Uncle Mike, Uncle Chris and I had a late lunch together, and then we all drove back to Dallas, where all of us took naps.

That evening, Grandpa Anthony and I drove up to Denton to see again. We took turns holding you while your Mom and Dad ate some dinner. You smelled great, and you snuggled up under my chin and made throaty, snuffly little baby sounds, while I rocked you to sleep.

Happy Birthday, Xander!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Oh, the Places He'll Go!

Yesterday was Xander's first day of Kindergarten. Isn't he a handsome guy? And yeah, that's a purple cast on his right arm, which he broke a couple of weeks ago, after taking a tumble off the slide at the community pool...(no flies on that boy, ever!)...

He turns 5 tomorrow (which doesn't seem possible)...and re his first day of kindergarten, of course, Dr. Seuss comes to mind...

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Congratulations Xander!
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go...

Monday, August 20, 2007

There are worse things than commuting...

One of the MSN headline stories this morning is “America’s Costliest Commutes”. This is a topic that I know a little bit about, because I commute over a hundred miles round trip each day to my job.

Friends ask how I do it, and tell me they’re glad it’s not them doing all that driving. It’s not my favorite thing, I admit, and I also admit to dreaming about having a job I could walk to. But...another story in the news this morning is about the Crandall Canyon miners, and the disastrous, frustrating, heartbreaking search for the six missing men. Three of the rescue workers were killed in another cave in on Thursday, and this morning one of the officials conceded that the missing miners may never be found.

It’s all I can do to look at the pictures of the conditions under which miners go to work each day. The picture above is from a video shot taken by a remote camera that was lowered into the Crandall Canyon mine last week, that shows part of the shaft and some miners tools.

Two summers ago, on my way back from taking Mike to his freshman year at UA, I took a road trip by myself, and stopped at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Carlsbad Caverns is a national park; nothing like the Crandall Canyon mine, except that of course, both places are underground. Like many visitors to Carlsbad, I walked down into the caverns, a soujourn that takes about an hour, and in which one descends approximately 79 stories, from the cave entrance to something called the Big Room. From there, I took the Big Room Trail, and walked around that for another hour or so. By then I was hungry, but although there’s an underground lunchroom where visitors can eat, after being underground for just a couple of hours...and this, admittedly, on lighted trails with high ceilings and lots of other people around...all I wanted was out. I’m not claustrophobic, and yet somehow it felt terribly oppressive to me, being beneath the surface of the earth, and I was grateful for the elevator that whisked me back to the surface...

My heart goes out to those miners and to the families of all those men...

my new toy...

No, not THAT kind of toy...

Being Scandinavian, I don't really remember a time when I wasn't interested in coffee. I know that I began to drink it regularly before I knew how to write my name. I remember when I was about 4, sitting on my uncle Rudy's knee while he drank coffee with my Grandma and my aunt Laura in Grandma's kitchen. Everyone I knew drank their coffee black, but Uncle Rudy liked cream and sugar in his. I think I must have spoken up about how I thought it was strange, because I remember Uncle Rudy smiled and offered to let me try a little of his coffee, with cream and sugar, to see what I thought. I tasted it but was disappointed...I thought it was only OK...even at the tender age of 4, I remember thinking that the cream and sugar were simply diluting the rich taste of the coffee. By the time I was 6, I was enjoying coffee on a regular basis, and I have to admit that as much as I enjoyed the aroma and the flavor, I also enjoyed the little jolt that seemed to register with a lot of adults when they saw me downing a cup of the rich, black stuff.

When I was in my teens, many of my friends started their day with a Coke, but I continued to prefer coffee. Eventually, I had my first espresso, and then my first cappuccino...heaven!
I still prefer coffee (or espresso or cappuccino) to any other drink in the morning. I don't drink it all day long...I limit myself to a strong cup or two, and for the most part, that's it (barring, say, an FDA audit at work...). I do love to have coffee after dinner, if I'm out at a home, I don't often indulge in coffee at night.

Anyway, with the commute, my morning coffee has become more important than ever. For a while, I tried stopping by Starbuck's and starting my day with a cappuccino, but that's an expensive habit, plus the quality was very uneven, depending on who was making the drink. I tried resurrecting an old Krups espresso maker that I'd purchased years ago, but it produced an undrinkable cup of sludge. Not surprising, actually, as it was a steam machine (vs. the superior pump machines, read all about it here).

Saturday morning, I went to Starbuck's for a cappuccino and noticed that a number of their espresso machines (all of which extract using pump rather than steam) were on sale. I checked out the prices, and when I got home, I went on the net and did a little research. I went to (great website for coffee drinkers). There, to my surprise, I discovered that Starbuck's Barista machine got rave reviews as a great, "introductory" consumer espresso machine. On sale, it was approximately one-third the price of the other consumer machine I was considering (the Rancilio Silvia and Rocky Grinder - great names, ha!). There were 116 reviews of this machine, almost all of them enthusiastically positive. That did it for me...I went back to my local Starbuck's and made the purchase.

It's Hatch chile time here in Texas, and this afternoon I also went to Central Market where I picked up some sausages stuffed with cheese and Hatch chilies. This evening, I grilled the sausages on the Weber, and served them with stone ground mustard, German potato salad, Hatch chile corn relish and ice cold beer. For dessert I made strawberries pazzo and...of course...cappuccino using my new espresso machine. It's a little noisy when frothing the milk, but other than several of the reviewers said, it's the perfect beginner addict machine.

And speaking of addictions...I'm contemplating buying a margarita maker...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

ah, but I was out for stars, and I wouldn't come in...

Tonight is prime viewing for the Perseid meteor showers...and very shortly, I intend to go out and star gaze.

In 1989 I took all 4 kids with me for this event; Alex was 13, Kath 10, and Mike and Chris were a few days shy of their 4th birthday. I drove to Frisco, now all built up and fancy, back then nothing but empty cottonfields...and I drove out into one of those fields, and parked the car, and the kids and I ate cookies and drank lemonade from a thermos and watched shooting stars until after 2:00 AM. It was a beautiful night.

I love star gazing, and I especially love meteor showers. If you've missed these, don't despair; every November brings the Leonids...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

money matters, or biting the bullet...

Well, I’ve done it. Met with the mortgage broker and discussed the terms of the loan and...*gulp* said OK, lock it in (meaning lock in the rate sheet) he’ll prepare the paperwork, and then we’ll meet and I’ll sign...scary, scary stuff to me. I’ll take sitting in a room and doing a psych eval with a 250 lb guy hearing voices over discussing financial stuff...points...yada yada yada...amortization...yada yada yada...rate trends...yada yada yada...any day of the week.

It’s high time I did this and’s a daunting process. I am so much a duck out of water when it comes to money. Kath recommended the broker, and I have to say, I had misgivings, although no moreso than if she’d recommended a witch doctor. Moneyspeak is as much a foreign tongue to me as anything a witch doctor might utter. I’d agreed to meet the broker, Chris, at Starbuck’s, and I was there 20 minutes early, having done my homework, meaning: I’d read the article on mortgage brokers in the latest issue of Money magazine over and over; I’d gone to the Federal Reserve website to see what they had to say about refinancing; and I’d called a couple of other mortgage brokers (very similar to real estate agents in terms of personality)...all of which left me with the same sort of feeling I had back in college, when I cracked the trig book a couple of days before the semester began to see what I’d be learning, only to think...HUH?!?!? HUH!?!?!? HUH?!?!?! What have I gotten myself into here?!?!?!?!

to be continued...

Monday, August 06, 2007

This 'n that...

Soooooooooo...I’m busy at work, busy at home, including shopping for a new mortgage, which is hardly my idea of fun...

Last year at this time, I'd just returned from a road trip to Colorado, where I took the pic on the left on a hike one afternoon. I wish I were in Colorado right now, that I could walk outside and it'd be cool, with a zillion stars overhead...but I'm in Texas, where Mother Nature has finally remembered what summer means...and yet, I drove home tonight with the top down, and the heat felt good as the sun sank low in the sky, and there were cicadas in the trees as I walked into my's not all bad...