Saturday, November 28, 2009

broken english....

Sure signs that the email you received from the "Credit Union Australia" requires immediate attention:

"During our regualry scheduled accounts maintenance....

.... the Web Banker Billing Deptartment."

Why can't my bank have a deptartment? Or was that outlawed?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

... hope you know how glad i am

What I'm thankful for these days

I never dreamed I'd be a father, nor that I'd enjoy it as much as I am. A big part of that has to do with having waited. If not more mature, I'm less immature than, say, 15 years ago. Another huge aspect of my satisfaction relates to M and the balance, humor and patience she brings to our relationship and to the challenges of parenting. Thanks y'all!

* from my favorite verse of Spring Wind by Greg Brown

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

'scuse me while i kiss the sky

It's a pain in the ass, being so open-minded and nonjudgmental.

Right now I'm about half-way through this novel that, for lack of a better word, is, well, a romance novel. It says so right on the spine. Actually, it says "Historical Romance" which seems even worse somehow.

I'm enjoying it. It's reasonably well written, it's funny, and the plot has hooked me. I wouldn't say it's great writing, but it's certainly better than some things I've read, and it's keeping me entertained. I picked it up after reading the author's web site bio blurb. I also got to wondering if perhaps maybe I could write something similar. But I'm not so sure about that. She's funny, and that is what makes it work for me. I'm more curmudgeonly, and that's a little harder sell when it comes to romance novels.

But here's the thing: the cover is purple. And when I say purple, I mean PURPLE. Or maybe violet? (the protagonist's eyes are regularly described as violet, so that would be a nice tie-in I suppose) Which means it looks so.... romance-y, damn it! I have to open it surreptitiously to read on the bus and find ways to slip it back into my bag before getting out, because, ehem, Mr. Businessman in the next seat, I'm a guy too, and er, Ms. Banker/Lawyer/suited woman, I'm a man. And it's purple!

In case anyone is as open-minded as I am, it's called Splendid (amazon link), by Julia Quinn. Her personal blurb from her web site gives you a taste of her sense of humor and maybe helps you understand why I decided to give the book a chance. That and I'm open minded and nonjudgmental.

And "holy gosh," in grabbing that amazon link I just saw a couple of other versions of the cover, and I'm now grateful for the one I have. What it's got: a lot of purple flowers (I think) and a small picture of a carriage. What it's not got: a Fabio-style shirtless man with the pecs of a surfer, kneeling behind a Stevie Nicks-haired woman who's sitting overcome on the ground.... I think I'll keep my purple version, thankyouverymuch!

* To shore up my "cred" I'd like to mention that I'm also reading A.J. Liebling's World War II Writings. Oh, and Frog and Toad Are Friends. Neither of which has a purple cover or a shirtless man on it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm a going fishin'

Here's one of those work situations I never know exactly how to handle:

You walk into the shared kitchen, which is empty, and am assaulted by the smell of someone's fishy lunch. You can't tell if it's sitting in the microwave waiting to be picked up, or if someone has come and gone, leaving just the perfume behind. You get your coffee and, because you're a good Seattlite, fill your water bottle, thinking how no one should ever bring/reheat fish at work. Then you turn to go, and you pass someone coming into the room.

Do you:
  1. nod and smile and walk on, leaving them to think the same thoughts about the fish, but associated forever with you?
  2. say "get ready, someone reheated fish for lunch, and pee-yew!" preparing them whilst simultaneously letting them know that you wasn't responsible, and risking offending them because in fact it was their fish and their lunch?
  3. scuttle away without making eye contact to write a quick blog post?

Monday, November 23, 2009

born to be wild....

I came into work late today because I needed to take L into the doctor.

She'd been running a spikey fever for several days but was over it, yet still didn't seem herself. And then yesterday she started complaining about her ear. We decided it was better to be safe than sorry. That and, if we can get her feeling better again, we have a chance in hell of getting our bed back to ourselves.

So, I took her in and she did great while the doc peered into one and then the other ear, muttering to herself that there was "a lot a wax in there." L did great even when the doc pulled out a long chopstick-like ... stick and dug around in her (L's, not the doc's) ears. L did great when the nurse then wrapped her in cellophane and a overlarge gown. And then she'd had enough.

When the nurse shot 4 separate syringes of water into her left ears (one that the doc said had a hard ball of black wax in it that she suspected was hiding an ear infection), L said "F#@$ this" (more or less) and started to cry, even though I told her to squeeze my thumb (she was already holding onto it tightly).

But, the hard black ball o' wax came out into the cup I was holding under L's ear (making me complicit in the evil deed I imagine).

And then the doc came back and looked into her ear one more time and said, "Yup, there's an infection there, and it isn't pretty. It's bulging in there."

I liked that. I like this doc. She looks about 23 and is casual and willing to say "it's a perfect time for ear infections, right after you've had all that snot." And I like that she said L's ear infection "isn't pretty." I think she's older than 23, but I still like her.

Home again, home again, after a stop at the bagel shop. And then on to work.

Which brings me back to the point of this. I drove in because I was going to be working late, and means dealing with parking. I parked and paid for 2 hours, then moved and parked and paid for another 2 hours. Which takes me to 5.46pm. But pay parking runs until 6pm.

Am I going to move/park/pay again?

Nope. Because I'm one bad-a@# dude. And because we've been running on little sleep for over 2 weeks now (first K had a week of high temps, and now L) and that increases my bad-a@$ness and my dudeness. And because I'm lazy.

I never don't pay for parking. But I'm doing it this afternoon. We'll see in a few hours if I regret my wild&craziness ....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

village, people....

I've been thinking about how we attempt to persuade people to do (or not do) things. This morning the thought is fresh in my mind because I'm a parent and most of my time is spent persuading my little people to do (or not do) things.

And also because someone at work sent out a company-wide message with the subject line "It takes a village..." and a body that continues:

to keep a kitchen clean.

Please note that we don't employee a Kitchen clean-up crew but we do employee a number of people that use the shared Kitchens....

Besides possibly belonging on a site like this one, the message struck me as largely counter-productive. I doubt anyone will change their habits in any way, due to the message. I suspect the more likely result will be exactly the opposite of what is desired.

I once worked with a manager who made a suggestion when one of her employees complained that others on the team weren't doing their share: Lift a little less. By that she meant, if you're carrying the load, others won't bother, and they may not even be aware that they aren't doing their share. From their point of view, everything is getting done, so obviously things are good. I think that lesson could apply here.

As a parent, my daily need to persuade is only going to increase as my girls get older and more definite in their own opinions.

Right now we persuade using humor and redirection and ignoring and sometimes by putting our feet down and insisting that K&L do things as we're asking.

Redirection will become less effective as their awareness increases. Putting our feet down even more so (less so?). Humor though, can continue to work, when applied properly. That and a foundation of trust and respect.

I hope we're building that foundation of respect with the girls. I suppose we won't know for years, if at all. But luckily M is a fantastic role model, and with luck the girls will continue to listen to us and to take our suggestions/recommendations/requests seriously. If not, we'll start posting photos on the refrigerator, letting them know what they're supposed to do.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

do ya, don't ya?

A hypothetical question:

You've waited weeks to get a hard-to-find immunization. Now, the morning of your appointment, you're feeling slightly stuffed up, you've begun sneezing and it's getting hard to hear through cotton-y ears.

Do you go ahead and get the shot?

Friday, November 20, 2009

can't you hear the music?

This weekend, while solo-parenting, I had one of those transcendent moments in which everything seems to come together, and the world is wonderful. What happened is that, tired of the playlist I'd created for K&L, I switched the iPod to some live Bruce Springsteen (Live in Dublin, if you're interested), and started singing along with Erie Canal. (amazon link)

"I've got a mule and her name is Sal....

Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge, we're comin' to a town
You'll always know your neighbor
And you'll always know your pal
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal"

K: That a man singing.
L: Man thinging.
me: Yeah, that's Bruce Springsteen. 'The Boss.' He sings "Froggy Went a Courtin'" (something on their playlist)
K: K like his voice.
L: Like hith voith.
me: (no words, just a happy smile.)

We wandered through the rest of the weekend singing this to each other.

One fly in the ointment: I'd been singing it "Blow bridge, everybody down, blow bridge, we're coming to a town" figuring that they were blowing a horn to let the bridge keeper know to raise the bridge. But given the rest of the lyrics, "Low bridge" makes so much more sense. Not that it'll change what we sing in OUR household. It doesn't matter. We like his voith!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

i got you babe...

Another Fisher-Price photo Thursday

self-portrait w/ daughter #2:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

journey through... v1

R.H. "Van" Van Zwaluwenburg, Honolulu, 1929

Reyer Herman Van Zwaluwenburg, "Grandpa Van" to my sisters and me.

Here's what I know about K&L's Great-Grandpa Van:

  • Born 2/5/1891, Kansas City
  • Died 10/22/1970, Honolulu
  • Attended Massachusetts Agricultural College, 1909-1913
  • Worked in Puerto Rico, the US and Mexico before moving to Hawaii in 1924
  • Married Mary Alice Pattyson June 1916 (they met in P.R.)
  • lived in Hawaii from 1924 on (except for 4 years 1958-62 when he retired to Santa Rosa, CA)
  • Worked for Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association Experiment Station from 1924 until he retired in 1956 (as Principal Entomologist)
  • Expert on sugar cane pests and on Hawaiian entomology in general and Elateridae (beetles) in particular
  • Studied and collected insect specimens in Japan (1929), West Africa (1935 - Mediterranean fruit fly parasites for shipment to Honolulu), Canton Island (1940,41), Mexico (1947)
  • Has an insect (beetle?) named after him (I need to dig up the paperwork on it to identify it exactly)
  • Always wore an eye patch and had a Clark Gable mustache when I knew him, making him look a little like a swashbuckling... scientist....
  • Mixed an awesome Shirley Temple (extra cherries!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

pea you....

L has developed some nice shortcuts to speed her requests of us. One of the most often used is "Pea you [insert request]?"

What she means is, "Would you please be so kind as to [request] for me?"

L: (arms lifted) Pea you... pickmeupupup?
me: (lifting her upupup, because, how can I resist?) Umph!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Bonus photo Thursday Saturday:
(taken using K's Fisher Price camera)

L, on an important call and looking less focused than usual:

it might be magical, but not THAT magical....

(note: M is down in LA for the weekend)

It's not yet 7.30a and already we've had several diaper changes. Pooping in our house involves needing "privacy" (or "pwivacy" as L puts it). So the dog goes outside and I say that she "needs privacy too." The girls laugh, then:

K: Lucy need privacy?
me: Yup, she's out there pooping.
L: Lucy need pwivacy?
me: Yup.
K: mommy need privacy in Los Angeles?
L: mommy need pwivacy?
me: Um, yeah, I'm sure she'll need privacy at some point...
K: why?
L: why?
me: Everybody needs privacy. It's a part of being alive.

Friday, November 13, 2009

clown time is.... starting

L seems to never use a word when three or four will do. She's a talker and has been for some time now. Her sentences extend 7 and 9 words in length, and have for some time now, but what we're realizing is that her comprehension isn't quite up to her verbal skills. She can talk beyond her understanding. That's probably relatively normal for 2yo kids, but we've been taken in by her ability to talk.

She'll hear K say something and will take it on as her own. This could be something like "It's really raining outside." That becomes, in L-speak, "Ith really rainin' outthide." Whether or not it actually is. She regularly wants to "Tell you thomthing!" but when we say, "Yes, what is it?" she's frequently stumped and has to fall back on something she's told us before ("One time L fall off windowtheat." "Ith really rainin' outthide.")

"I need pwivathy" she'll tell us when she goes off to poop and wants to be left alone. I'm not sure she knows what "pwivathy" is, but she knows when to use the word. "S" seems to be a stumbling block. "You cwachy" she tells me as she rubs my chin.

Hamthrax? Boardshorts!

K's been sick with a fever for 6 days now, and so is somewhat subdued, but L seems as vital and strong as ever, providing humor and distraction for all of us. Last night after I gave the girls their baths, K was having chills and we bundled her into her covers while I picked out some pajamas for her to wear. L went to pick out her own PJs and came back with some pants and boardshorts from K's drawer.

me: "You want to wear those pants?"
K: "This my pajamas!"
me: "Is it ok if she wears them?"
K: "Um... ok."
me (dressing L in her chosen pants): "You need to pick a shirt too."
L: "And thith." (waving the boardshorts)
me: "L, those are boardshorts!" (looking over at K on her bed) "She wants to wear boardshorts."
K (starting to giggle): "Boardshorts!" (more giggling, in which we all join in)
L starts to run circles around the room, wearing pants and waving the boardshorts over her head and yelling nonsense.
K (laughing harder still): "Boardshorts!"

It made me happy to hear K laughing, and I was intrigued watching L clearly playing to the crowd. She's got the makings of a class clown, with all the parenting challenges that suggests. At 12 or 16 she's likely to be a real handful!

(L will also make up words to songs, nonsense words, silly things, and K loves it. "Sing that silly song," she begs her sister, and L will sometimes do so, though as often she'll be contrary just to get a reaction, and sing the original.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

anywhere you hang your head...

(photo Thursday)

Kasteel Zwaluwenburg near Oldebroek, NL

The family name comes from this estate, but this isn't the house our family lived in. Remember, they left to emigrate to the U.S. I suspect my relatives lived in something more like a hovel or barn somewhere nearby.

I took this picture when my older sister and I did a "roots" trip through the Netherlands. It's a flat, wet, cold country, and I'm pretty sure I would have been tempted to emigrate as well, if I'd lived there. In a barn.

According to a memoir from younger brother Jacob, our great-grandfather Reyer emigrated to America with his family (father, step-mother and siblings) in 1850 to avoid military conscription. Reyer was the eldest of the siblings, and at 19, had to step in and care for his brothers and sisters after his father, step-mother and youngest sister died shortly after they all settled in Michigan.

(Note: The story I'd been told was slightly different: when Reyer's mother died and his father remarried, his step-mother had no interest in the children and they emigrated (w/out parents) to the United States. That doesn't seem to fit with the details and facts published elsewhere, so I'm not sure how that story developed among our immediate family, but I'd disregard it as suspect.)

Here's something I found on the web regarding the family name:

"Reyer van Zwaluwenburg who was also one of the Dutch pioneers in Western Michigan gives the following explanation as to the origin of his name. He says that his grandfather's name was recorded originally as Reyer Aartzoon (zoon meaning son). His father's name was Aart Reyerzoon. When the Napoleonic edit went into effect his name, Reyer, was changed to Reyer van Zwaluwenburg because the family lived in Zwaluwenburg, a famous estate in the Netherlands. "

(found here)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

time waits for no one....

Yesterday I had a disconcerting experience: during a quick web search about the Rolling Stones, I came across a current photo of Mick Taylor. Wow.

Mick Taylor, the boyish guitar wonder who joined the Stones at 21yo to replace Brian Jones, and then contributed some of the most recognizable classic guitar parts during their classic period between 1969 and 1974. That would be the period that includes Let it Bleed, Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Goats Head Soup and It's Only Rock 'n' Roll. Sticky Fingers was my go-to album all through high school. The album I played before swim meets to get me worked up. The album I could play in my head in its entirety to pass the time while working in the over-loud pineapple cannery.

In a moment my mental picture of Taylor went from:

to this:

I had to remind myself that, yes, we're all getting older (if we're lucky -- Brian Jones, for example, isn't, but that's a different story). And there's a certain inevitability to getting older, including but not limited to this: we aren't going to look like we did when we were 21 or 25 or even 35. Not Taylor, not me, not my kids.

Why does it matter? It probably doesn't much, beyond the fact that it feeds into a memory I recently had. My sister drove her 15yo son up from Olympia to Seattle to leave him for the day at Bumbershoot, our local, multi-day music festival. She swung by our house on her way back home, and I told her how her willingness to do this reminded me of something our mother had once done for me.

Back in January of 1973, the Rolling Stones played at the HIC in Honolulu. They were headed west on their Pacific Tour, with Hawaii their last U.S. stop. And for some reason, my mother had the confidence and generosity and boldness to allow me, all of 14yo, to attend. I may have browbeat her into it. I'm not sure. That's not a detail I remember.

It all came about through a fluke of luck and timing. The 2 scheduled shows (1/21 8pm and 1/22, 10pm) had quickly sold out, and they added a 3rd, early show on 1/22. I somehow managed to get a nose-bleed ticket to that 6pm show. Up in the last row. The ticket cost me $6.50 and I still have the stub.

Mom dropped me off at the HIC and came back for me 2 hours later. I can't imagine what it must have felt like, dropping her 14yo son off at something like that. The Stones had a reputation, and there was already a long-haired, counterculture crowd gathered. It probably helped a lot that the show was so early. I may have been the only kid dropped off by his mom at the show that night.

Looking back, I'm amazed at my mother's willingness to allow me this experience, and I'm extremely grateful. As a result, I managed to see the Stones play during one of their all-time great tours, managed to see Taylor play in his second-to-last-ever US concert (one bootleg of the late show that same night is called "Mick Taylor's Last U.S. Performance"). For years this concert was my best-ever live show attended. It may still be. Imagine seeing the Stones in their prime! Wow. But even more important to me is the memory of my mother allowing me this opportunity. That, in the end, matters as much as the music.

It's a reminder that being a parent sometimes means giving kids some space, giving them some rope and opportunity and hoping, praying they don't choke themselves. I sat in that nosebleed section, surrounded by older men (mostly), peering through a smoky haze at the far away stage, declining multiple offers of shared joints, watching Mick Jagger prance around the stage in his white jumpsuit, watching Keith and Mick sit facing each other with acoustic guitars to play Sweet Virginia (or was it Dead Flowers?), feeling the crazy intensity of the band and the crowd, chest resonating with the amplified bass and drums, and by the end of the evening, ears ringing, I knew I'd been a part of something special.

My mom provided me many good examples of parenting, and one of the most important things she did was give me a sense that she trusted my judgment (and so, helping me to live up to her expectations). Among other experiences she exposed me to that same year: the Broadway Cast version of Hair (and the Honolulu Symphony Hall) for my 13th birthday and a screening of Woodstock at the Waialai Drive-in Theater (right next to the Jolly Rogers drive-in). She had an open mind and a willingness to give me experiences.

I only hope I'm able to give my own girls a sense of my respect and trust of them, and to allow them to experience things for themselves, to make their own decisions and their own way in this world. After all, how else do we form our sense of ourselves and the world except through experiences? Nothing else has the same impact.

I'm forever grateful for Mom for giving me this opportunity, and hope I can live up to her example.

P.S. It's interesting to read about the show now. To quote from one web page: "[Ben] Fong-Torres characterized this concert as a downer compared to the first show... a somewhat tired, slow performance..." But that didn't (and doesn't) matter to me. As I said, it's more about my mom than about the Stones.

P.P.S. Also interesting is to read that ZZ Top opened for the Stones. If I close my eyes and imagine hard enough, I can imagine that I remember this, but I don't, not really.

And one final note: Here's the set list for the late show that same night, from an audience recording I have ("Mick Taylor's Last...."). The early show, my show, would have been (nearly?) identical:
  • Brown Sugar
  • Bitch
  • Rocks Off
  • Gimme Shelter
  • It's All Over Now
  • Happy
  • Tumbling Dice
  • Sweet Virginia
  • Dead Flowers
  • You Can't Always Get What You Want
  • All Down The Line
  • Midnight Rambler
  • Rip This Joint
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • Street Fighting Man

Sunday, November 8, 2009

definition: ballsheimers

A terrible illness that attacks the memory and gives its victims the balls to attack others for things they themselves made a career of.

Usage: see any post-November 2008 Dick Cheney interview for examples.

(stolen from Jon Stewart)

Friday, November 6, 2009

I can't stand up...

On Tuesday I went to K's school for an "observation." Which, in the manner of West Seattle Montessori School, means I stood around for 30 minutes, something of a distraction, while the kids did their best to continue continuing on. K was definitely distracted by my being there, but I gather that was ok too. She showed me what she'd been working, and the teaching assistant suggested she do some things while I watched (adding glitter to her fish, for example).

I loved being there, seeing what she did for part of her day. She's not been especially forthcoming about what goes on at school, and I'm not sure why that is, but there was something I saw that made a small light bulb go off. Near the end of my 30 minutes they started music, and this meant they all sat in a circle and the woman who teaches them songs came in and they sang.

The first thing they need to do is sit quietly. K did a good job of this, listening to her teacher, even with the distraction of my being nearby. She looked back at me several times, but it was clear she was focused on doing the right thing and on paying attention. Once the music teacher came in and started them on a new song (new month, November, so last month's Halloween song doesn't much apply any longer -- now instead of pumpkins, they're singing about turkeys sitting on a fence), K paid close attention to her. There were hand motions and new words and it seemed clear to me that K didn't catch all of them at first. She watched closely though, so closely that it was hard to catch her attention to wave goodbye and blow her a kiss.

Here's the thing that registered with me: I've always been a watcher, unwilling to really step out and do something when I don't feel I've got it nailed. I've also been good at following directions, at least back before I got to be a stubborn stick-in-the-mud. I think K's inherited both these traits, at least to some degree.

I like the paying attention and following instructions bit. I just hope she doesn't sit too long and is willing to make mistakes and be a fool. That's how we all learn, by falling on our faces. Easy for me to say, right? Here's to falling down!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

no ka best...

It's photo Thursday....

We took a Sunday morning field trip to the canoes so the girls could see what I've been doing.

wait a darn.... couple of hours

It turns out that we went farther (11.22 miles) and longer (1.59 hours) on Tuesday than I'd thought. Well no wonder I was so beat!*

Here, for anyone who cares, is our track:

And here, for even fewer of you, is the detailed breakdown of the workout:

Question: how the heck can we possible gain132 feet of elevation whilst paddling on a small lake?!?

* Of course, this doesn't explain why I was beat at the beginning of the workout!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

cross-eyed and painful

Last night at paddling I got my okole kicked. I'm not sure why, but the practice did me in. I was hurting after 10 minutes, and we went on for nearly 2 hours (it seemed... maybe more like 1 1/2 hours). More than anything else, it reminded me of the few football practices I managed to do before my knee issues forced me to stop.

Have I mentioned that there was nothing, nothing I enjoyed about football practices. Not the running, not the bumping into people, not the sweating, not the painful sucking in of humid air....

We did 10 x 10 minutes, with each 10 minute set a 1-off/9-on combo. So my back started tightening up after the first 10 minutes. And there were 9 more 10s to go.

We had a 4-man crew in the OC6 (the women had 5 in the other boat, DougM steering), Murray in 1, me in 3, Jack in 4 and DougN steering. I'm realizing that I don't particularly like paddling short-handed. Even on the best of days, it just feels like there's not enough power to get the boat moving properly. And we had the boat moving pretty well for a good part of last night. I think we managed on timing rather than on power, but that's ok. It just felt like a grind the whole way.

We paddled down to the Ballard Locks and back and by the time we got out under the Aurora Bridge and into Lake Union, we'd done 4 10s. So another 6 to go... We paddled south along the west side of the lake, rounded the bottom near the Center for Wooden Boats, and started back up north into the breeze. It was cold and dark and somewhat hazy, which meant the full moon was blurred by passing clouds. At one point I glanced up and watched what I thought was a plane flying north. I only realized it was a shooting star when it faded away while I watched.

Out under the I-5 bridge and toward Montlake Cut for our last 2 10s, turning back for the final one and somehow managing to make it back to the beach, where Sabine and DougM were waiting for us and helped us pull the canoe up.

I was so beat I could barely talk, much less say anything intelligent. The entire last set, all I could think about was Thanksgiving. There were dinner smells coming over the water from houseboats and from the Ivar's on the lake. There was emptiness in my stomach. And there was pain and dumbness in my body.

I drove home and shoveled food into my mouth, had a shower, and climbed into bed. The end.

Except that even in my pain and exhaustion I was glad I had the opportunity to paddle, and glad I had the chance to work out like this. M dealt with the girls last night while I was on the water, and made dinner and cleaned up. All of which I'm very grateful for.