Friday, May 30, 2008

The Real Reason My Job Rocks

As you must already know by now, I love my job. Not only do I get to spend my days in scenic Mission Canyon, I control the universe. I've been with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History for over 13 years, and you might think that kind of power has gone to my head - not everyone comes home from work and says, "Today was rough; the sun burned out, but I fixed it."
But the real reason I enjoy my job so much is the fabulous people I've had the opportunity to work with. That's a long list at this point, and quite a distinguished one. This evening some of my colleagues and I had a great backyard (OK, front yard) BBQ here at the lovely West Campus lawn and it was a blast. Here are some photo highlights from the event. (Dana brought an awesome lawn game with a spinning PVC contraption onto which the players try to throw two balls on a string - think nunchucks with rubber balls at the end - which is featured in several of the photos.)

I Love Technology!

Here is why I absolutely love technology:

A few years ago, I remember putting our home phone number on my work phone speed dial. In the last few years, here's how much it's changed: I can call Kev anytime anywhere because we both have cell phones. But better yet, in the last few months I've done that even less because now we webcam each other. Yes, when I'm at work and I want to "call" home to check in, I just Skype Kevin (and Stellan if he's awake). And let me tell you, it takes a lot of the sting out of being away from them to see that they're doing well and for us to be able to smile and laugh with each other. This is a screenshot of our conversation earlier today. I love technology!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stellan's First Fort

I got home from work yesterday and saw the our "under the stairs" area had been converted to a blanket-laden wonderland for little (and apparently big) boys. It's pretty fun under there!

A Visit From Heather

Heather Greife came to visit on Tuesday night. Since the moms have adopted her as their daughter, that makes her Stellan's "aunt." She moved to San Diego after she graduated and we've really missed her, so it was great to spend some time with her. Here are some photos of her and Stellan playing together.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Our (Nearly) Perfect Day

Monday was the very rare day that we all had off - I didn't go to work and Kevin didn't have class. In the old days, we might have squandered such a day just trying to think of what we wanted to do, but not this time. We took full advantage. Below is the play-by-play.

Morning Fun
We grabbed some burritos to go from La Carreta and headed for Goleta Beach. It was surprisingly busy there with so many people claiming tables and other spots for their Memorial Day picnics, so we found a nice spot on the lawn. Stellan enjoyed scraps from our really tasty burritos and then we let him take a stab at the playground. He spent almost the whole time on the slides, his new passion in life. The photos say it all, but I'm including a video just to be superfluous.

Afternoon Fun
After Stellan's morning nap, we headed to I Madonnari to see the chalk paintings in front of the mission. To make things even better, we were accompanied by Vivian and Levi, who also had the day off. The art was incredible, the crowds were intense and the gelato was pretty decent. Just ask Stellan! (Sorry about the poorer than usual photo quality, I forgot our camera and had to use my cell phone.)

Evening Fun
After Stellan's afternoon nap and some amazing chicken Kevin made for dinner, we went for an evening walk around the complex with Stellan's early birthday present, the Retro Rocket. We got to the outskirts of the complex when he decided he was done riding and wanted to explore on his own. We tried to coax him away from the fascinating dumpsters with limited success.

The Parenthetical Nearly
Upon arriving home after our evening constitutional, Stellan enjoyed a lovely bath. Then we began the nightly ritual of dressing for bed after bathtime. This involves Stellan crawling like a madman all over the bed while we chase him down trying to dress him. He is extremely wriggly when he wants to be, and I know all you parents know the challenge this part of life can be. I had managed to pin him long enough to get a diaper on him, and then we had gotten his head into his pajamas when he bolted for the edge of the bed. Apparently he forgot about gravity in his zeal to escape and he ended up slipping off the bed and smacking his head on the dresser. And that's how our nearly perfect day ended. Oh well, can't blame a girl for trying.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stellan Ball

Stellan has invented a new game (new to him, anyway) this evening while dining at the grandmas'. For your entertainment, a link to the video of the new game appears below. You may not be able to hear him, but he's not only attacking the ball, he's giving it a pretty good raspberry.

For the full video, click on the picture:
Stellan Ball

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Paper or Plastic, and Other Tough Decisions

Stellan and I recently returned from a shopping expedition to Trader Joe's. At the onset of what I hoped would be a quick trip (it's never as fast as you think it'll be), we cruised by the Indian food section and picked up a few boxes of Trader Joe's Indian Fare. If you're not familiar with it, you should be. Inside each box is a packet of yummy Indian food which you pop into some boiling water (while still in the packet) for 5 minutes, then serve. Great as a side with many meals, or just serve it with naan or tortillas for something quick and easy.
As I was loading several of my favorite varieties into the cart, a gentleman passing by said, "Into healthy choices, huh?" He said this in a pretty sarcastic tone and with raised eyebrows, which surprised me; he was older (grandpa age - my grandpa, not Stellan's) and most people in this demographic that I see at TJ's only comment about my cute baby, if they say anything at all. I was taken aback by this remark, and realized I had several choices in my response:

A) I could look at him with exasperation, barely control the urge to raise my voice and say something like this - "Excuse me, but my son has been screaming at me almost nonstop for two hours; I'm doing my best to get in and out quickly while purchasing the food that my family will eat. You have no idea what the rest of my grocery list looks like, and I really resent the judgment you seem to find so easy to pass. If buying this box of Indian Fare means that my husband will eat it instead of popcorn for dinner tonight while I'm at work - yes, I work full-time and take care of this cranky child - then I am more than happy to do it. If you'd like to come over and try to cook something healthier for us, you go right ahead. You can find our house by the sound of the teething baby not quite drowned out by the NBA playoffs."

B) I could take a moment and reflect on the nutritional choices I make for myself. Obviously the Indian Fare isn't for Stellan; he will be having the rice cakes, frozen fruit and yogurt I bought later on the expedition. I go to some trouble to ensure that my baby eats a healthy and balanced diet. I puree a variety of fresh (and sometimes frozen) vegetables and keep big batches of them in the freezer; I feed him unsweetened applesauce and salt-free rice cakes; his bagels are whole-wheat; and he gets the best part of any piece of chicken I'm eating. But maybe I should take the time to feed myself food that nutritious. I'm somebody's child too, and I'm sure my mom would be grateful if I dedicated some of my time to taking care the body she so carefully fed and maintained for all those years. Maybe it's time to reconsider that Indian Fare and substitute it with what I would be feeding Stellan if he ate grown-up food.

C) I could give him my best "I can be polite even if you're crazy" smile. (You may have seen this look if you've been around me when someone finds out I'm an astronomer and asks me to read their palm or tell them about their horoscope for tomorrow.) Then I could simply respond, "We're all just doing the best we can."

D) I could stare at him blankly for a second and pretend I don't speak English.

What would you say? Any bets on the response I gave?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I Accept No Credit

Some of the best photos we have of Stellan have been taken by Vivian, our neighbor, friend and childcare suplementer. She is also the mother of Stellan's pal for life, Levi. Periodically she passes some of these amazing photos on to me. Don't get me wrong, I love the photos; but what I usually end up loving more are the subject lines of the emails. I will include them here as captions for the photos.


Too bad Stellan and Levi hate each other so much...

I'm too sexy for this shirt

Lewis and Clark
(This was the day Stellan "discovered" the baby-sized cave on top of the basket behind the La-Z-Boy.)

Just Clark

Won't you push a little faster, Jeeves?

Mohawk Madness

As I was getting Stellan ready for one of our many swim adventures this week (it's been warm and we've been very aquatic), I had a little too much fun with the sunscreen. As you can see here below.



Friday, May 16, 2008

"Take On Me" As Never Before

This is from Stephie's recital. It was the grand finale. I hope you enjoy - we all did!

Take On Me
Arranged by Nate "Rattlesnake" Harris
Performed by the Bassoonanators

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Stellan's Big Day at the Museum

I had a meeting at the Museum yesterday, but I also had Stellan. So I brought him along. He was very good through the meeting, making mostly cute noises and eating lots of Cheerios. He made a couple of mad dashes for the door when the opportunity presented itself, caused my coworkers to think I was a bit of negligent mother because of how little I stopped him from playing with cables and even sampled his first (diluted) apple juice.
After, he got to play with his favorite canine companion, Lily. Here is the slideshow.

Then, Lily had to go back to work with her mommy, and Stellan entertained himself by the pond. Interesting story: do you see the little footprints just to the side of Stellan?

How about now?

Anyway, those are his footprints! They wanted to make the pond seem accessible to everyone, so they put some bird tracks, some raccoon tracks and they wanted some kid tracks. So I jumped at the chance to immortalize my son at the Museum and we used his tiny feet. Now I get to walk by "Stellan's Pond" every day I'm at work.

Then he headed off for more fun and games. One small boy with one big world to explore.

National Astronomy Day

Saturday was National Astronomy Day. And Night. Whoo hoo! After months of preparation and planning, the day finally came. We had crafts, we had activities, we had demonstrations, exhibits, samples and more. The kids came and made edible Mars rovers.

They also checked to make sure our claim of edibility was accurate.

And many people talked a lot about astronomy. Here's a photo of me in my full nerdiness explaining the finer points of the Diet Coke and Mentos rocket.

Many people won fabulous prizes in our raffle, and one lucky kid went home with this brand new telescope!

We had a great time, as did all 600 other people in attendance that day.

In the evening, we had a star party with many many telescopes, binoculars, hands-on activities and even more fun. Of course my personal highlight was a visit from Momfa, Joe, Krista, Riley (peacefully asleep in her carrier), KK and Alex. Thanks for coming, y'all! In addition to them, another 250 people came and enjoyed a lovely evening of skywatching.

For your final viewing pleasure, here are some time-lapse photos of a Diet Coke and Mentos rocket launch. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day - or is that Mothers' Day?

As you must undoubtedly already know if you know me enough to read this blog, I've got more than my fair share of mothers. So Mother's Day is an extravaganza of mother-lovin' fun. This year we celebrated Maggie by having a picnic at Shoreline Park. We planned this (again with the best laid plans!) before we knew it would be freezing cold, not sunny at all and a bit breezy. Oh well. We came, we barbecued, we conquered.

Later that afternoon, we cooked dinner for the moms , as is the Mothers' Day tradition. The food was good, we gave gifts and best of all, we got to talk to Matt! As an LDS missionary, he gets to call home exactly two times a year - on Mother's Day and on Christmas. It was great to talk to him, we all really miss him. It's funny, though; all the time I wish he were here to talk to because there's so much I want to share with him, but once I was actually on the phone with him today, it was like I couldn't think of anything. I guess that's what email is for. Anyway, Matt - we love you!

And finally, a photographic tribute my three moms (sing along time - it's my three moms, it's my three moms, I have three moms, they're my three moms) who have become excellent and loving grandmas as well.
Grandma Maggie is always conscious to wear some sort of flashy (and sturdy) bling for Stellan to enjoy. He is always grateful.
Here is my mom, Karen, ready to call Matt for his semi-annual phone call. Can you see the excitement in her eyes?
And Granny (Martha) can usually be found enticing Stellan into something calm, his only still waking moment of the day.

I would also like to send a special shout-out to my fourth mom, my amazing and wonderful mother-in-law, Susan. We talked to her today, and hopefully we'll Skype her soon too. She is a very special person in all of our lives, and we miss her lots!

The Fun Never Ends!

Because so many family members were in town for the recital, the moms hosted a star-studded dinner bash that night. I was there for part of the time (on my Astronomy Day dinner break), but reports indicate that a good time was had by all. It was great to see you all!

Stephie's Recital

My sister Stephie had her senior recital yesterday. It was awesome! For those who don't have the honor of knowing her personally, she is a bassoon major at UCSB. And she is really good! I was truly hoping to have an audio clip for you here, but I haven't had a chance to download it from my dad's camera, and Steph won't get the recording for a couple of weeks.
She was fantastic! And she had a pretty full house, too. Many people came to support her and enjoy the lovely music. Stellan came to the recital, and to my delight, he behaved himself extremely well. The only peep he made in the entire first piece was a tiny sneeze between the 6th and 7th movements. His cousin Riley arrived by the second movement, and we mothers quickly retired them to the rear alcove so they could move a bit and yet try to be quiet.
Stellan and Momfa listening intently

Afterwards, we enjoyed some treats, some good company and the satisfaction of knowing that Stephie has completed this huge milestone in her collegiate career. Rock on, Steph - we're all very proud of you!

Stephie, Riley, Krista (AKA mom of Riley) and Caroline

Riley, Joe (AKA father of Riley), Stellan and Stellan's mom*

*You may have noticed my flashy name badge, work polo and general Museum officialness; yesterday was also National Astronomy Day. To be discussed in a future post.

Oh, Longs - When Will I Learn?

On Tuesday, I had to run some errands with Stellan, and Longs was at the end of them. I had everything planned so carefully - as soon as he woke up, I would get him and me dressed quickly, run him downstairs to eat something, we would hit the road and be done in time for his morning nap. You can guess what happened with that carefully laid plan.
By the time we got to Longs, Stellan was pretty antsy. And we were there for a while; our photos were misfiled, we had a large number Mother's Day cards to carefully select for a large number of moms/grandmas/great-grandmas, we were at a different Longs than usual and I was having a hard time finding what I was looking for, etc.
We finally got the the checkout, and by then Stellan had had it with Longs, with sitting in the cart and with life in general. He wouldn't sit down in the seat (no buckles on the cart), he refused to play in the big part of the cart while we waited at the checkout, and even when I picked him up, he kept screaming.
When we walked up to the checkout stand, the woman there promptly walked away. Did I mention we were the only people in line? Yes, she left. I had seen her filling balloons earlier, but I was pretty surprised (and peeved) to see her head back to the helium tank to take care of some more balloons. What was she thinking? There I was, her only customer, with an obviously cranky baby and a cart with not a huge amount of items.
A long minute or two later, she walked back over to the register...and handed Stellan a balloon. With a happy face she had drawn on it. I felt like a piece of scum for all the exasperated energy I had sent her way. She had gone to all that trouble to get my son a present! Sure enough, he loved it. As we left, I experienced one of those moments when you wish you had a personal photographer at your side; Stellan was standing up triumphantly in the cart with the balloon clutched in his hand (and tied to the cart by me), laughing out loud with the delight of it all. Super cute! Instead, you'll have to console yourself with this photo I took once we got home.
Post Script: Stellan was so enthralled that I also managed to make it to the bank before nap time. Oh Longs - when will I learn that you have only my best interests at heart?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

May Day!

Our family has a tradition of all-you-can-eat sundaes on May 1st. There's really no rhyme or reason, it was a tradition we made up ourselves. However, I'd have to say it's one of the best traditions I've ever heard of. What could be better than gathering family and friends, eating lots of ice cream loaded with goopy goodies and enjoying together? OK, maybe a fauxhawk could sweeten the deal...