Friday, December 25, 2009

Wishing You...

On behalf of Familia Cook, Stellan wishes you a merry Christmas and hopes yours is just as delicious as his has been!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Mother Land

Katie, I hope that last post was enough to distract you from your holiday relocation. Speaking of, we'll be in the motherland, or more appropriately, the mother-in-law land, for the holidays. Will any of you be in that three-word town that starts with Salt and ends with City and has a Lake in the middle during the holidays? We already know of some friends we're looking forward to seeing there. If you'd like to join that list, call me or email me ( We leave on the morrow and return on the fifth.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Punch Line

"A South African tarot-reading concierge, a half naked 7/8 naked flamboyantly gay senior citizen and a high school Spanish teacher from Central Washington walk into my living room."

This is the view we had of the street outside our house on Friday morning. Yep, it started raining on Thursday afternoon and didn't stop for about 24 hours. We got so much rain the street flooded. The driveway flooded. Our car almost flooded. Our home did not flood.
Many were not as lucky as we were. In fact, by about 7:30 PM Thursday night, we gave up all other less effective forms of entertainment and turned off all the lights in our house to watch the lightning storm and the cars trying to make it down the street. Oh so many drivers were unsuccessful. Our street is still littered with cars that stalled out, despite the fervent coaching we were yelling out from the couch.
Did I mention we had company? That's right, one of my mission companions, Janae, was visiting from Washington. She's not from the rainy part of Washington, so this was quite a thrill. At first. When we realized we might get flooded in and she would be trapped in our home instead of going to her teaching workshop the next day, some of the buzz wore off.
We all tramped in the torrential downpour several times that evening to help stranded travelers. We were all dry and tuckered out by 11 and had said our goodnights when we heard something outside. To be honest, it sounded like one of those canister-shaped mooing cow toys. But it wasn't. When I peeked my head out to see what was going on, I saw a woman yelling from her stalled car in front of our house. I couldn't understand what she was saying, so I had to change into not-pajamas (again) and wade across the street; the water was thigh-high by this point.
We couldn't do a thing for her car, but we invited her and her passenger into our house to make calls, get dry, etc.
So they did. The driver was a South African woman who works as a concierge. Her passenger was a sextagenarian gay man ("I'm an Aries, so you know I'm very energetic! I'm sure this is all one big cosmic convergence," he lisped as he came in.) who immediately stripped down to his briefs upon entering our home. He repeatedly refused the bathrobe we offered; I don't think he realized it wasn't for his comfort but for ours.
Fast forward 2 hours. It's a little past 1:30 AM. We've heard Bob (our Aries stripper) tell us all about his 24,000 past lives, the places he's lived, the jobs he's done and we've even met his boyfriend in Montreal via Skype. We know what kind of cocoa Carol prefers, how many kids she has and how she has no solid plan for what to do with her car. As they (finally!) leave, Bob says, "The universe will reward you a million times over for your kindness!" Just then, Stellan started yelling. When I go in, he's actively puking. Some reward, universe!
We did get to reunite with Carol and Bob the next morning. They came to try to see if the car would start (it still hasn't), and to pick up the rest of the stuff they left at our house. They had to wade over from Bob's apartment half a block away, and were delighted to watch Stellan busy at work pulling his wagon through the proverbial mire. We're still flooded, I even had to miss my last day of seminary, which I was really bummed about. But the photos of Stellan turned out so cute, it almost makes up for it. Almost.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What's The Punch Line?

A South African tarot-reading concierge, a half-naked 7/8 naked flamboyantly gay senior citizen and a high-school Spanish teacher from Central Washington walk into my living room.

Punch line tomorrow.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Who Won The Pool?

Yes, that's right. At the age of 2 years and 5 months exactly, Stellan took his first trip to the emergency room. If that was the age you guessed, you're the winner! If you guessed he would get his first stitches, you're not a winner. We thought he might need stitches, but it turns out that they dabbed on some Dermabond and we were on our merry way.
What happened? Precisely what you're imagining. He was jumping on the bed and he smacked his head on the window sill. Don't worry, he's fine now. He hardly even notices, except for the part where he's really dirty and stinky because we can't give him a bath for 48 hours. Can't wait for that to come to an end!

Friday, December 4, 2009

What the French Toast?

An actual email I received from Kevin today:

"I am listening to Adam Sandler's Channukah song as sung by Neil Diamond. What the French toast is happening in this world?"

In case your world needs some shaking up, here it is:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Microquasar Discovered!

No, I didn't post this to the wrong blog. In fact, this news is so exciting I thought everyone would want to know about it. NASA has announced that its Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope made the first measurement of strong gamma rays emitted from this binary star system. The image is very exciting. I've posted it here at decent resolution, but you should click to see the close-up. No, really. Click on the image and inspect it carefully. For reals. You'll thank me.

For more information, click here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's That Season Again!

That's right, people. It's the time of year when you can get a gallon of Florida fresh orange juice for less than a gallon milk. It really is the most wonderful time of the year!

Friday, November 27, 2009

We Are Thankful

We are thankful for lots of things in our lives. One of the people we are thankful for is our friend Jenae, our talented friend who also takes photos. Oh, and she has amazing cape-sewing skills. When we were in Santa Barbara most recently, she took some pictures of Stellan wearing her cape (and a few of our family too). They turned out great, and we're very grateful she did that for us.
And of course we're thankful for you, all our friends and family. As a way of showing our thanks, we're going to give you what you want most: cute pictures of Stellan, courtesy of Jenae. (And grandparents, there's plenty more where these came from.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

While I'm Catching Up...

Another thing I failed to report earlier is that we went camping in the Florida Keys in October. Kevin works with the local Boy Scout troop, and I had been asked to teach an astronomy merit badge class, so we had no choice but to drag the whole family down to the Keys for 3 days. Rough.
We got there nice and early, a couple of hours before anyone else. So we had the whole camp, including quite of bit of beachfront, all to ourselves. It was an amazing way to spent an afternoon. Stellan devolved into his native feral state, and wandered and explored to his heart's content. It was very breezy, so Kev's diving didn't go as well as he hoped.
The next day I spent pretty much the whole day, and a good chunk of the night, teaching astronomy. It was super fun, although a bit taxing by the end. (Where are my Quasar assistants when I need them?) The boys seemed to like it and to learn something, and I've gotten positive feedback from their parents since our return, so I'm going to count it as a success. Although there's some weirdness to being the only female in an entire, pretty full, campsite. I have a new appreciation for my husband's participation at Girls Camp.
Here are some photos to help you enjoy the trip vicariously.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We Really Did Celebrate It...

I promise, we did Halloween this year. I am just behind in blogging it. So here is a wrap-up slideshow that hits the highlights of our Halloween season. I promise to post Thanksgiving before the new year.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Chuncle Matt!

Today is my "littlest" brother's birthday. (That's in quotes because, despite his status as youngest, he towers over the rest of us.) Matt is 21 years old today. It's a little crazy to imagine he is that old, especially because Stellan looks so much like him that I keep envisioning Matt as a two year old.
Matt is far away. He is a missionary for the LDS Church in Indiana, and I'm not allowed to call him on his birthday. However, he does get emails, and he does get this blog. So Matt, Happy Birthday! We love you, we miss you, we wish you the best birthday ever! Oh, and we had homemade pizza for dinner and drank (root) beer with it in your honor.

A photo of Stellan the last time we celebrated Chuncle's birthday with him.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sign Of The Apocalypse?

My mother got a Facebook account before me. That's not to say I have one. Just that she does.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Any Given Day

Krissie took this video on her phone while she and Stellan were eating lunch together a few days ago. It's a pretty fair sampling of what life with this kid is like at any given moment. Also, please note the complete lack of food consumption.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Future Prospects

If things don't work out at least Stellan will be able to run away and join the circus.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It Worked!

Since our last post, daring all readers to consider a trip to Florida if for no other reason than fresh-caught lobster, we have confirmed one visitor (plane tickets purchased) and another considering the trip seriously enough to inquire about scheduling. I will promise lobster caught by Kevin himself to anyone else who visits us. I cannot, however, promise the amazing surf and turf we enjoyed last Thursday night. Those were our last steaks. Sorry.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Will you visit us now?

Here is a little incentive for all of you who want to visit and just need a little push. There are some perks to living in Florida.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Coming Soon To Stairs Near You?

Can they do that with my laundry, too? Because that would make folding it much more fun.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Which Do You Want First?

The good news or the bad news?

We'll start with the bad news. We went kayaking on the beach. I know, it doesn't seem bad. But if you consider that Kevin had his cell phone and our car's keyless entry in his pocket when his foot slipped into the water, you might see things our way.

This caused our car alarm to start and not turn off for way too long, Kev's cell phone to completely die and also for us to miss the first part of the Saturday session of General Conference (a semiannual series of discourses by leaders of the LDS Church). Most people would be OK with missing the first part of one session, since there are 5 over the weekend. But we missed a big one.

You see, President Monson announced that 5 new temples would be built around the world in Japan, Brazil, Utah, Chile and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Yes, that's right, here in our own stake - literally minutes away from our home! Right now the closest temple is in Orlando. That's about 4 hours away. This is huge news around here. All the members of the Church are abuzz, my seminary students can't stop talking about it; friends who are not members mention it; the local news outlets carried the story.

In addition to this conference news, we got to watch the last session with friends while we ate a practice turkey. In the grand tradition of dinner at the moms', we stuffed and roasted a turkey. Why? Because Thanksgiving dinner is just too good to only have once a year. We all had a great time, especially Stellan, who got to play with his new buddy Kirk. Kirk's mom and I do Girls Camp together and she has adopted us into her playgroup. The two boys are about 3 months apart and look so much alike they could be brothers.

So obviously that's all part of the good news. The rest? I spent an evening being a grown up doing semi-grown up things! Maybe I should say being a person doing person things, as opposed to being a mommy doing mommy things. As a birthday gift, my friend Rosanna got us tickets to see Paula Cole. Yep, I went to a concert! It was in a small theater and was very intimate. She was great, very personal and very warm. Oh, and pretty darn talented. We got to meet her after the show. Here's a photo taken on my cell phone:

What? Not convinced that's really her? How about this?

Oh, and in further developments, Kev and I both got fancy new phones. Our contract was up, so we traded up to phones that are far cooler than we can afford to fully utilize at this time. However, we hope to not be poor forever and we hope to put these new exciting features to use eventually. Our phone numbers remain the same, so you can still feel free to call us if you miss us. Wink, wink.

Friday, October 2, 2009

You Were Right

While we were in CA, my good friends Vivian, Jerry and Levi came to the moms' house for dinner. One of the topics of conversation was a book Vivian had been reading. She described it this way: "It's about this guy who decides he wants to know everything so he reads the entire Encyclopaedia Brittanica. It's called 'The Know-It-All' or something like that."
She then proceeds to say, "Krissie, you'd really like it."
As I sat a little stunned to be called out like that, I had to admit that sometimes I am a know-it-all, but I wasn't ready to publicly concede it. So instead I half-pretended to be offended and tried to defend myself. It was pretty weak.
Lo and behold, right around my birthday, guess which book arrives in the mail. And again, Vivian was right; I did enjoy the book very much.

My only consolation in all of this is to point out that while I may be a know-it-all, Vivian was the one who knew more than the know-it-all. Well played, Viv.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Feeling the Love

I recently completed another orbit around the sun, and although all my family and many of my friends were far away, I felt like they were right here with me.

Exhibit A:

Happy Birthday, Krissie! from Krissie Cook on Vimeo.

Exhibit B:

In addition, I got lots of calls and cards and even some gifts, including some serious Jaxson's loving. Thanks, guys! Love you too!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

There Goes The Neighborhood: Part 1

Now that you know a little about our general area, time for you to meet our street. One block away from our street are some HUD megapartment complexes. One block away on the other side are some super seedy apartments, around which we see squad cars approximately 3 nights a week.
Then there's our block, which is divided right down the middle. One side of the street has homes, which are owned by people who are here for good and really want to keep things clean. They have erected "Kids At Play" roadblocks so their kids can safely play on the sidestreet. They nag the local police force to put in speed humps. One particularly vigilant neighbor, Jim, lives across the street from us and is the type to actually chase after cars he thinks are endangering the 'hood.
The other side of the street, our side, is full of duplexes, which are rented by mostly families. With times such as they are, there's a pretty fluid movement in and out, as people move here from larger places, or worse, have to leave our humble neighborhood. We lost our awesome next door neighbor a few months ago (he lived there for 10 years!) when the economy did him wrong. We miss you, Tony! Luckily, this really nice Ecuadorian family moved in a few months later, and they have three kids who love to play with Stellan.
On our other side, things have not been as steady. A couple moved in around the beginning of the year; they were loud, drunk and attracted the police at a quicker rate than we like to see on our street. They lasted about a month and moved on. Then we got another set of neighbors, this time a family. The mom seemed nice, two kids, kept to themselves. In fact, they never really were outside. Pretty much all I knew about them was that they had some fun outside toys that just sat on the side of the house and that they liked ice cream, which I surmised from the fact that the ice cream truck always stopped at their house on its way through the neighborhood. During Stellan's nap no less; I have no doubt he dreamed of weasels popping and yankee doodles riding on ponies for months.
And that's our street. In our next episode, all Provo will break loose. Don't miss it!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

There Goes The Neighborhood: An Introduction

As you, my faithful readers, have requested, I have a story to relate about our cute little neighborhood here in Florida. I want all of you to promise, promise, that no matter what you read here, it will not dissuade you from coming to visit us.
Before I begin our tale, let me give you a feel for the area. We have been warned that although it seems calm and peaceful on our section of the block, if we cross the major street two blocks over, we will be entering the second worst area for crime in South Florida. (I don't know if this is true, this is just the warning we received from someone who works for the City of Dania Beach.)
If you're looking for a more specific example, here's one for you. Not too long ago, we were on our way to the laundromat for our Saturday morning cleansing ritual and we heard sirens close to us. Very close to us. We didn't see exactly where the ambulance went, but we knew it was near our home. Later that day, to our surprise, the news reported the event. It turns out that some heroin addict left his gun out, and his seven-year-old son shot his two-year-old sister. Although they didn't say exactly where this family lived, they did tell us the little girl was in critical care after losing a finger and taking a second bullet to the abdomen.
After hearing this report, and I angrily yelled at the TV to tell me where they lived so that Stellan would never ever ever play anywhere near their house, and possibly never on their street. The TV did not respond, but Kevin was quick to remind me that we were a few streets over and that we live by home owners and not just all renters, so we're probably much safer.
This is where we live. More to come in our second episode.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Something Tacky This Way Comes

A sad thing happened to our stroller. As the photo above indicates, the nylon has started to tear, no - shred, next to one of the seams. We got this baby for $20 on Craigslist, and I'm committed to making it work for the duration of our stay in Florida. So I gave the matter some thought, and came up with what I hope proves to be, if not a solution, then at least a delaying of the inevitable.

I have not only duct taped over the tear, but I have in fact stitched the duct tape in place on both sides of the tear. Not a pretty solution. I think I might actually be embarrassed using this in public, especially when we cruise to our Mommy & Me class. The other parents roll up in Mercedes Benz SUVs and the like. They regard us and our non-automotive ways with aloof curiosity. And some disdain, but I think that's just because of my prolific sweating after walking a mile and half during the heat of the day.

Here's a close up of my workmanship. I think I'll hold off on auditioning for Project Runway until at least next season. Mostly because I keep hearing Tim Gunn in my head; he says things like "I'm very concerned about the taste level on this. You really need to wow the judges. Don't bore Nina." Bore her? I think "offend" might be a better word.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

You May Have Been Wondering

How is seminary going? I have been getting that question quite a bit, especially from my students' parents. It has been going very well, from a teaching perspective. Since I don't think my kids read this, I can feel free to say that they are super awesome and make my life much more enjoyable. From a living perspective, the 4:30 AM wake-up has been kicking my trash. On the plus side, it's nice to feel like, no matter what happens during the rest of the day, it started off really well and it's only 6:20 AM. On the downside, I am tired all the time. It turns out that I am getting old and just don't bounce back from seminary like I did when I was in high school, or even when I was in my twenties and teaching seminary.
So if you've been saddened by a sudden decline in my posts, console yourself with the fact that my team teacher (and beloved friend) is on duty for this week and I'll be making an effort at catching up on the blog. And some sleep.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Decision Made

After long and serious deliberation, we have decided on a license plate. Well, actually, Kevin decided it before I even knew we had to make a decision. He went with the Broward County plate, also known as "El Cheapo." You see, most of those cool license plates cost money; we don't have much of that. But if we did, it would have been a tough call between the shark and the diver. Or maybe, just maybe, the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches; because you need a place to herd all those juvenile delinquents before you put them out to stud.

Interestingly enough, Florida has recently made the move to only give out one license plate, to be affixed on your rear bumper. We have been given a spiffy Dania Beach plate to put on the front of our car. What do you think, should we show our Dania pride or just leave it bare?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hooray For Science!

Any They Might Be Giants fans out there? Because I am. And you should be too, especially with their new kid-friendly (I refuse to think of it as a kids' album) release, Here Comes Science. Songs include Why Does the Sun Shine, Roy G. Biv and Meet the Elements. Here's a little taste of its awesomeness:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Big Decision

Right on the heels of our trip to California was big drama for our family. You see, our vehicle's CA registration was expiring and needed a smog test to re-register. Unfortunately, Florida does not do California smog tests. So we had to register here in Florida.
This is no simple matter here. It turns out that the state of Florida has 179 different license plates to choose from. Which one was right for us? With so many choices, the wrong plate could be disastrous to our final act of Floridian assimilation.
Which one should we pick? You can vote for your choice in the comments section. Below is a slideshow of just a few selections we liked, loved and laughed at.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

In Case You Missed It

I've been getting all our posts up from the trip to Santa Barbara, and I'm proud to say that I'm all updated. However, unless you've been sorting through the couple pages on the blog (or you're using an RSS reader), you may have missed one or two posts. So, here is a listing of all the SB posts, starting with my favorite, and then in chronological order:

Bromance - if you read only one post this week, make it this post.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that we had a great time, and wish we could have crammed more into two weeks, but I think it would have broken the laws of physics. I don't know when we'll be back, but we've got some good memories to carry us through until then. Here is the final round of photos that didn't fit into other slideshows but were too good to leave out.

The Debate Rages On

Monday, August 31, 2009

Red Eye MacGyver

In an attempt to improve the quality of our cross-country flight experience, I decided to book Stellan and I on a red-eye flight for the return trip. It was a big gamble: either he would sleep the whole time, or he wouldn't. I felt a pretty big responsibility, since I was gambling with several hundred people's sanity.
I'm pleased to say that he did try to sleep the whole flight. That is much better than a day time flight, which he generally tries to stay awake for the whole flight. However, there was a technical glitch on the plane that ended up driving everyone crazy anyway, even though Stellan wasn't keeping them awake.
This was one of those new-fangled planes with touchscreens on the back of every seat. These touch screens offer on-demand viewing as well as other on board entertainment. They also control the overhead lights and the call buttons. Unfortunately, the screens were all broken. They just flashed through a looping slideshow of Delta propaganda. Even more unfortunately, Stellan's overhead light was on when we boarded, and we couldn't turn it off.
Stellan did manage to sleep most of the flight, despite the spotlight shining in his face. I, however, was more than annoyed with it, because it spilled onto my face quite a bit as well. In addition, when I gave up on sleep and tried to read, I realized that all the overhead lights that were on would turn off intermitently for an indeterminate amount of time before turning on again. So I took a close look at the lights and took a mental inventory of the items in the diaper bag. I quickly realized that a playing card would be just the right size to fit in the panel and cover the bulb.
Sure enough, it was perfect. As I was putting my card in and passing another to the man sitting behind me, the flight attendant passing out beverages to a very cranky plane full of people noticed and asked if she might borrow a few cards for anyone interested. I quickly agreed and started to pull out the deck, but the other crankier flight attendant got wind of it and decided it was a health risk as the bulbs were hot and people might burn themselves installing the cards.
So I reluctantly removed mine and the man behind me handed his back. As I sat there in the bright lights, I did something a little uncharacteristic. I'm generally pretty respectful of authority, particularly when I feel bad for authorities who are dealing with situations beyond their control. But since I hadn't burned my fingers and neither had the guy behind me, I waited until the flight attendants passed us by and put my card back in. I handed one to the man behind me and winked; he accepted gratefully and silently.
I spent the rest of the flight in darkness and relative sanity. Stellan and I returned very tired but glad to be home.

We're Back!

Stellan and I got back from SB this morning, and we're pooped! I'll be jumping right on the blogwagon again to fully document our fabulous trip, but until I do, here's a collage of photos taken by Stellan during the trip. So enjoy seeing the last two weeks through the eyes of a child - literally. (Hint to the less tech savvy: click on the image to see it bigger.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Part of the reason for the timing of our trip was to celebrate my mom's birthday with her. I love my mom. One of her more fun qualities is the extreme math geekiness she exhibits. For example, two years ago, she celebrated her special birthday - she turned 53 years old the same day Stellan turned 53 days old. (Who keeps track of that? I hadn't!) The next year was her golden birthday - she was born in 1954 and turned 54. This year was her magical birthday - she turned 55, which is a five and a five. I thought about planning a five-themed party for her, but gave up because I knew the only person who could really do the theme justice would be her.

However, this year we had a particularly awesome present planned for her. She recently purchased an electronic drum kit, which I have been coveting ever since. At the time of purchase, she didn't realize it needed an external amp, and so she's been playing it with headphones. But what's the point of drums, the loudest of instruments, if no one else can hear you and complain about the noise? So we got her an amp. A really sweet amp. That I'm sure the neighbors have been appreciating ever since. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Do You Do The Zoo?

Stellan did. He sweet talked Grandma and Grandpa Steward into taking the morning off so they could spend time at the zoo. We had an extremely good time, even though we only saw a small fraction of the animals, if you don't include Stellan. I'd say he was the number one attraction for a certain pair of doting grandparents in the vicinity. I don't blame them, he's always been my favorite little monkey.


While in SB, Stellan has had a wonderful time reuniting with his lifetime pal, Levi. In honor of their friendship, I submit this video.

Pomp And An Unusual Circumstance

As reported by the The Jervian, Stellan and I were pleased to attend the unofficial hooding ceremony for our newly Dr.'ed friend Jerry at Taffy's Pizza. I was even recruited to create the all-important "Pomp and Circumstance" musical ensemble. Claire and Rachel (Jerry's sisters-in-law) volunteered to join the band, and before you know it, we were a trio of highly skilled musicians playing the guitar, recorder and melodica. (We looked for a cowbell, but could not find one.)
We rehearsed and sounded amazing, but the world will never know since we forgot the sheet music and found ourselves sitting in the parking lot re-creating our masterpiece from scratch. We ended up with some chords abbreviated on a napkin, and did our very best. I'd like to think that it was the best live version of the graduation classic ever played at Taffy's Pizza. Congratulations, Dr. J!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Jumping Climbing Over Under Place

Because I still have some super awesome connections at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, I convinced my good friend (and nature evangelist) Elaine Gibson to give us a sneak peek of their soon-to-open outdoor play space. Most people are familiar with the Museum's many excellent exhibit halls, as well as its superlative planetarium. However, I would say that probably 98% of visitors do not fully appreciate or utilize the 40 acres of open land the Museum owns. This land runs along both sides of Mission Creek, and is one of Santa Barbara's greatest unknown treasures.
To remedy the growing (and alarming) trend of children being underexposed to actual nature in real life, the Museum has created a play space for all ages. It features an entrance through Boulder Alley; a stream with rocks for climbing, moving, jumping on and even throwing (as long as you don't throw at people or animals, Stellan!); a long log perfect for walking on top of; a big dirt hill in which they'll be putting a clear tunnel so you can see what's under the dirt; and a circle of stumps for sitting or hopping on. The Museum will use this for its outdoor field trip programs, and it will be available to all Museum visitors for open exploration.
Stellan loved it. Luh-uh-uhved it. The title of the post pretty accurately explains what we did. Elaine was the perfect hostess, and didn't have too much trouble encouraging Stellan to literally jump in with both feet. We spent almost three hours there. Yes, my two-year-old spent three hours in one place. It was idyllic and extremely engaging, and I'm sure it's going to become a local favorite. The official opening is September 20th, and if you're in the area, go! Admission is free that day, so no excuses.
The following slideshow is somewhat lengthy, as I put included all the best photos from the day and uploaded them in case the Museum wants to use any of them for press purposes. You'll get a feel for how beautiful it is (and how much I still miss working at a place like the Museum) in just a couple of slides. If you make it to the end, you'll see the cutest Stellan photos.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Trip To Grandpa's Park

We went on a walk through the Arroyo Burro Restoration Area, otherwise known as "that new path below the Wilcox property next to Hendry's Beach." If you aren't familiar with it, the area used to be a cesspool of nastiness, choked with invasive plants and terrible for the local watershed. However, it was restored to a more native state and was designed, in part, by my dad Craig Steward (a civil engineer). The finished project was awarded "Santa Barbara Beautiful" honors, and Dad received was personally recognized nationally by the Flood Plain Management Association.
Stellan was very impressed with the whole thing, but he especially liked the "wocks," the "bidge" and the "wa-a." Obviously he has a little of his grandfather in him; he may have enjoyed the landscaping, the well-organized path and interpretive signage, but it was rocks, a bridge and the water that really made him happy. Just look how happy he is, and proud!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

You Won't Believe This

Unless you live in Santa Barbara and already heard the story, that is.

We were driving back from a friend's house when we noticed the freeway was very slow. So we took an alternate route, and then another as we saw the first was getting clogged with likeminded freeway avoiders. As we wound our away around US 101, we noticed people biking and walking over to the side of the road to take photos and ogle. What could be so interesting that it attracted a crowd of pedestrians?

An airplane on the freeway. I took the photo below as the airplane was being loaded onto a tow truck.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

From Scratch - And I Mean It

Tonight we made dinner with my Auntie Beeb and Uncle Bob, and it was from scratch. By that, I mean that we picked most of the ingredients that afternoon from their garden. We made tamales, roasted cheese peppers and citrus chili glazed shrimp with homemade guacamole. I wish you could taste how amazing it was; oh wait, then I'd have to share. Good thing blogs don't come with scratch-and-sniff.

Friday, August 21, 2009


One of the families I could not live without seeing on our trip was the Spattersons: Kathy, Cheri and the two boys I babysat for most of their lives, Mikey and Pat. We got together for a pool party, and it was definitely a blast. The boys brought their buddy Addie, and they were glad that I brought the perfect pool party accessory, Kevin. He is the master of fancy dives and jumps. He inspired a session of some very spirited jumps, to the slight chagrine of their mother.

Kids, don't try this at home.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Family We Don't See Enough Of

First of all, that's all our family. Every last one of you. Secondly, I know some of you are sticklers enough to notice my poor grammar in the title of this post. Sorry.

This is just a collection of some of my favorite photos of family members we were very excited to visit with. Not pictured are the already-much-documented cousins and my brother Joe and his wife Krista. I don't know why we never got a picture of you guys, I guess we were just too busy snapping shots of your adorable progeny. My bad.

Finally, to those not pictured because you were not present, we miss you a lot. We're so sorry we didn't get to see you, and we hope to soon.

Did I mention I really really love my family? Because I do.

California Cousin Lovin'

Pretty much the first thing we did when we got to Santa Barbara was to see some cousins. Because, for Stellan, cousins are the best most awesome thing ever invented, even better than doggies. His youngest cousin, Chase, is on the verge of 1, and did her best to keep up with Stellan's bustling two-year-oldness. Riley, who is just a month younger than Stellan, did an admirable job of ensuring that Stellan took plenty of turns following. What a great way to kick off two weeks of awesomeness!

We're Here!

Stellan and I are in Santa Barbara now, and we are having a lot of fun. We've been busy visiting with grandparents, cousins and siblings. I've also given some shows in the planetarium, gone to Trader Joe's and cruised town with some girlfriends in a brand new Cooper Mini convertible. It's safe to say that life is good. Look forward to some fun pics, coming soon!
Oh, and if you want to come by the Museum to see one of my upcoming planetarium presentations, I'll be there for the 1PM, 2PM and 3PM shows on Saturday the 22nd and also Thursday the 27th. The 1PM show is great for families with small children, the rest are for general audiences (tough for the under five crowd). Stop by and see the butterflies while you're there!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Getting Excited!

We are all starting to get excited for our trip to Santa Barbara in less than a week.* It's going to be so nice to cool off and relax for a bit. Also, we're looking forward to seeing lots of friends and family. (If you're one or both of those and you want to see us, call!) In the meantime, we'll continue to soak our clothes in sweat while we dust off pants and sweatshirts for those "chilly" SB evenings.

*If you're a would-be thief who is considering breaking into our place while we're gone because we were dumb enough to tell you we're leaving, think again. First of all, if you wait a few months, you can have just about all of it for free on the side of curb - where it came from - when we move. Second of all, you wouldn't get much for it. Finally, Kev and I will be getting there at different times, so good luck finding our place vacated. Plus, our neighbor across the street is a firefighter with a wicked neighborhood protection streak. He singlehandedly took down a gun-wielding heroin addict** a couple of months ago.

**Long story. If there's any demand (like, say, in the comment section of this blog post), I might relate that little adventure.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fun Family Friday

Every Friday during the summer, downtown Hollywood holds "Fun Family Fridays," a free event at a park in the heart of downtown. They have a bounce house, face painting, balloon artists, crafts, a magician and food vendors. We had a great time picking and choosing among those activities (we avoided the crafts - don't pretend to be surprised) and we had a blast. The hit of the night, maybe of the weekend, was the Elmo balloon hat the nice balloon lady made us. She saw his Elmo shirt and took a lucky guess that he night like it. Smart guess, balloon lady!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Breaking News

This just in: our lives are about to change forever. Stellan can open the fridge by himself. Pray for us, our food and our electric bill.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Road Trip: Final Thoughts

Now that we're home and a bit more rested, here are our final notes on our fabulous Let's See More Florida Tour.
First of all, I'm not doing this again until Stellan learns to sleep on a bed. Period. It killed our after-Stellan-goes-to-sleep time, because in order to get him to sleep, Kevin or I had to literally crawl under the covers with him and sing, coax and calm him to sleep. It took about an hour each night. And let's be honest; after laying in bed in a darkened hotel room for an hour, who's ready to jump out of bed and hit the exercise room, the balcony or anywhere that's not bed?
Next, it's hot in Florida during the summer. We're glad we had lots of water-themed activities, plus some indoors destinations. We'd like to go later in the fall and do some camping, canoeing and outdoor adventuring, but we are so glad we didn't in August.
Finally, I'm sad to announce we did suffer a few casualties during our trip. In fact, they biggest three occurred on our last afternoon while at the Kennedy Space Center. First, Stellan ate it really hard while walking on a wall unassisted. He got a huge knot on his eyebrow and a nice scrape/bruise on his cheekbone. Then, Kevin's flip flop broke. This was the only pair of shoes he had, so he had to either go barefoot or drag the broken shoe along all over the Space Center. Finally, and perhaps most embarrassing/entertaining, I ate it really hard and was rewarded with a very lovely bruise that I now wear like an anklet on my leg.
What? You want to hear the whole embarrassing story? I'm such a good sport I'll share it. We were in the cafeteria getting some lunch when Stellan took off. He had been doing this all day in every line we had been in. Since he's so short, he can easily manuever right under any barrier used for crowd control, from the Disneyland-style metal rod barriers to the drooping chains barriers. This one was a drooping chains style line. Anyway, Stellan took off, and Kevin's shoe was broken, so I got to chase him. As he gained further distance with the time it took me to carefully climb over the chain, I realized I was going to have to pick up the pace, and decided to do the "side-hurtle" to get past the next chain. You know what I'm talking about, the way you can lean on the post with one arm and jump sort of sideways over the shortest part of the chain. Well, I didn't clear it 100%. And I ate it. Hard. In front of many many people. I didn't just fall, I got my leg stuck, almost caught myself, then totally lost it, spilling onto the floor. Even Stellan stopped to see the spectacle. I got up, red-faced and grinning goofily, and took a bow. What else can you do?
Anyway, it was a great trip. Who's coming with us next time?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Road Trip: Day Five

Today was the last day of our road trip, and my favorite. Today we went to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. It was amazing. I have to admit that I got a little verklempt as I walked in the doors, it was everything I had hoped for. We all had a good time, and Stellan was a pretty good sport, all things considered. The bus tour was a little much for him, so we cut a couple stops short. Kevin and I took turns on the Shuttle Experience, where they simulate the launch in a Star Tours-esque ride. We went to an IMAX film about the moon; Stellan and I saw most of it.

Day Five Stats:
Start and end: Orange City to Dania Beach
Distance: 278 miles
Sites Visited: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
High Points: Everything. Especially the gift shop. We never even glance at gift shops, but this was one incredible exception. It was like Christmas in August. Also, on the drive home after, Kevin and I had a great time singing along in our loudest and most annoying voices to Disney Classics. I was surprised at how many songs he knew; he wasn't surprised at how many I knew.
Low Points: I got chewed out by a cranky man who told me Stellan was lightning bait wandering around in the rain during a sudden downpour. Really? In the middle of a complex full of huge rockets standing straight up in the air, you think my not-quite-3-feet-tall kid is the most likely target?
Lemonade From Lemons Moment: After all the sleep(less) trauma with Stellan, he made it until 6 PM. When we got him to the car, we had to change his clothes because he had gotten soaked in the downpour. He was so tired he kept falling asleep in my arms while I was actively removing and putting on his clothes. He slept like a baby the entire trip home, even with his parents' obnoxious bellowing. Once we got home, he woke up long enough to request milk. By the time I had poured it, he was out cold again. He's glad to be back in his crib.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Road Trip: Day Four

We crossed back to eastern Florida today. We stayed in Orange City at a pretty seedy motel, our worst of the trip. But we did get to visit Blue Springs State Park, which was a treat. Kevin took his Boys Scouts there a couple of months ago and raved ever since, so we had to stop by. We like springs, and have even talked about taking a springs-only road trip because there are a ton in Central Florida.
We also went to church in Tampa; there was a ward that met right down the road from our motel. They were super friendly and eager to know if we were new to the ward. We had to regretfully inform them that we were just visiting and were leaving right after services. I've never felt I let so many complete strangers down.

Day Four Stats
Start and stop: Tampa to Orange City
Distance: 126 miles
Sites Visited: New Tampa Ward of LDS Church, Blue Springs State Park, Sonic
High Points: The nursery at church was awesome, Stellan loved it; he especially liked the bubble machine they turned on at the end. The springs were cool, about 72˚, I felt genuinely cold for the first time in months. Also, Sonic has really yummy treat-drinks. I love Sonic.
Low Points: Stellan is still having a hard time sleeping in a bed. Getting him to sleep is a real challenge, and then we have to blockade the sides with chairs, luggage and pillows to keep him on it, and it still usually requires one of us becoming the final barrier to the ground in the wee hours.
Lemonade From Lemons Moment: With all the nighttime commotion, Stellan was tired enough to sleep in this morning until a little past 8 AM.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Road Trip: Day Three

Once we got to Tampa, we had way more options than time. My first pick was of course the Museum of Science and Industry. I was very sad Stellan didn't last until the planetarium show I wanted to see, but he was a mess by the afternoon. Three days without a nap or a good night's sleep was wearing on us all.
We also wanted to rent a little boat, but the one place with prices we could swing wouldn't let Stellan aboard, and that was a bit of sticking point. So we thought we'd go on an eco-tour, but when we didn't make it from the hotel to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on time, we decided to hit the beach instead. (Because the one thing people who live within 2 miles of the coast should do on vacation is go to the beach as often as possible.)

Day Three Stats:
Start and stop: wandering around Tampa
Distance: I wouldn't be able to even guess it, but not a lot
Sites Visited: MOSI, Clearwater Beach
High Points: MOSI is huge and pretty cool. Kevin especially like the electric circuit games. The Wildfire Experience is a little too realistice, but cool nonetheless.
Low Points: We lost Stellan at MOSI. Not for long, and in the children's area, but it took us several minutes to find him safe and sound. He never noticed we were gone. Also, he had a huge meltdown at the beach. I chalk it up to the aforementioned naplessness. It was so ugly we almost gave up. In fact, as I took the photo you'll see in the slideshow, I thought to myself, "I better take a picture, it'll last longer." Kevin was a champ and coaxed Stellan back into good spirits. Also, the beach itself was totally packed and very touristy.
Lemonade From Lemons Moment: We stopped by Taco Bell for a quick snack on our way home from the beach. In case you hadn't already considered it, giving a bean burrito to a 2-year-old in a car seat is not a good idea. But we had a great view of Tampa Bay at sunset by the dumpster where we cleaned him and the seat. I've included a couple of shots in the slideshow.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Road Trip: Day Two

After Naples, we headed up to Tampa with a few stops along the way. Of course we visited a museum (because we get free to many museums across the country with our membership at SBMNH), we ate some lunch and made our way to the lovely shore in Sarasota. I wish we had spent more time in Sarasota, but such is the quickie road trip.

Day Two Stats
Start and stop: Naples to Tampa
Distance: 189 miles
Sites Visited: Imaginarium Hands-On Museum and Aquarium, Hardee's, Turtle Beach in Sarasota
High Points: The beach was gorgeous and nearly deserted. Also, the science center was super fun and interesting with many enticing exhibits on various topics.
Low Points: After much anticipation of Hardee's, it wasn't what we hoped for. Even though it's really Carl's Jr., it really isn't. Also, the bed still isn't working for Stellan. To make matters worse, he's not napping, not even in the car. This is getting a bit ugly.
Lemonade From Lemons Moment: Stellan really liked one particular exhibit with balls a lot. I mean a lot. He refused to leave it, no matter how we tried to entice him to pet the sharks or play virtual soccer. But we quickly realized that meant he wasn't going anywhere and one parent could handle him easily. So we took turns visiting the rest of the exhibits at our own pace, a luxury not many parents of toddlers are afforded.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Road Trip: Day One

We decided to take advantage of Kevin's somewhat slow schedule at school to see a little more of Florida. So we hopped in the car with a plan to cross Florida to the southwest coast, go up the west coast, cross back again and come back down the east coast.

Day One Stats
Start and stop: Dania Beach to Naples
Distance: 109 miles
Sites Visited: Naples Zoo
High Points: The receptionist at the Inn at Naples greeted Kevin by name
Low Points: It turns out Cheeseburger Cheeseburger no longer exists. Trust us, we looked. Also, Stellan's bed debut (he's still in his spacious crib at home) didn't go so well.
Lemonade From Lemons Moment: When we couldn't find the aforementioned burger joint, we got some really yummy pizza at Aurelio's.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It May Be Time...

It may be time to lower the thermostat when you notice the soap in the bathroom is melting. So much for my masochistic tendency to pretend 84 degrees is "cool."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Martha Stewart, Eat Your Heart Out

If you came to our house, you might notice Stellan's awesome booster seat. You might ask, "Where did you find such a great Elmo booster seat?"

And I might respond, "Oh, it's cooler than that. It also has Lightning McQueen." And if you took a closer look at the side, you might observe what looks like the binding of a phone book.
Yup, I duct taped our phone book (who needs a hard copy in this day and age?) into a booster seat. Don't ask me to crochet anything, and please don't even use the word decoupage around me; I'm not a crafty person, at least in the conventional sense of the word. But duct tape? Stuff from the recycle bin? Now you're talking my language.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wabbit Season

This is a portrait of my Auntie Beeb, taken during a video chat last week. My dear sweet aunt has a very green thumb, and her house is surrounded by an orchard full of yummy fruits, vegetables and herbs. In fact, I'm really looking forward to enjoying some of the literal fruits of her labor when Stellan and I are in Cali next month.
During a recent Skype session, she mentioned she and my Uncle Bob were having issues with rabbits in the garden. When I asked how she was dealing with the rabbits, well, the picture will save me a thousand words or so. Sorry, little bunnies; Auntie Beeb is on the prowl.

P.S. Her name isn't really Beeb, that's just her family nickname. She wishes her real name to remain unknown and has insisted I blur her face out, as she would like to avoid anyone in the "real" world finding out about her nefarious plans for all members of the leporidan family residing in or near her home. Or maybe it's just the bathrobe.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cemetary Seminary

I'll be teaching seminary* in the fall.

Before you gasp, grab me by the shoulders and try to shake the crazies out of me, let me explain. I'm only teaching for the first semester (since we're not sure we'll still be here by the second), and I'm team teaching with my good friend Riki. So I'm really only teaching about 9 weeks of seminary. I've subbed more than that in a year. Multiple times.
Also, I'm really excited. I love seminary. I had perfect attendance (not the faker kind where you make up a bunch of days at the end of the year, but the actual "I honestly got out of bed at 5:45 AM every single school day") for all four years of seminary. I had great teachers that inspired me. And I have really enjoyed subbing seminary in the past. Plus, now I'm not working as an astronomer anymore, so the 5:30 start time should feel a little easier. I hope.
And before you wish me luck, think instead about wishing my students luck; they're the ones who I'm going to force into singing hymns in the wee hours of the morning and annoy with my generally chipper teaching style. They have no idea what they're in for.

*Seminary is an early morning scripture study class for LDS high school students. Yup, they seriously get teenagers to show up at church at 5:30 in the morning and participate in lively discussions about religion and faith.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dante's Birthday Party

Stellan got invited to his first birthday party, in honor of his buddy Dante's 3rd birthday. Stellan is very fond of Dante and asks me to take him to Dante's house about every single day. The party was held at Dave and Buster's, which is like Chuck E. Cheese for kids and grown-ups alike. I wasn't sure how Stellan would respond to all the lights, games and craziness; but true to form, he decided the best part of the party was Dante himself. He had fun playing air hockey and a Jurassic Park arcade game with Dante, and also had a great time running around the party room reserved for the occasion with the rest of the pack of wild kids.
Happy birthday, Dante!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

2 Years Old

My baby is two years old. I can't believe it. I just put him to bed, and I'm so pleased to see what amazing and sweet kid he can be. We were eating some watermelon sorbet (which he helped me make), reading some books and singing along with some of them as we cuddled on the couch. Although tonight was more perfect than many other nights, this is the kind of night I want to remember. As I put him to bed, I held on to him extra long because I know when he wakes up, he'll be even older and bigger. He kissed me goodnight and smiled that sweet Stellan smile at me. He's two. Wow.
But now for details on the big day. Stellan was lucky enough to get a lot of awesome presents, but one required some assembly, so we put it together the night before and left it in the living room for him to discover in the morning when he woke up. It was a pretty big hit.

Stellan's Birthday from Krissie Cook on Vimeo.

Once we woke up (ourselves and our neighbors), we celebrated his birthday by going to his favorite museum - in Florida, that is - with Elsa and Elsa's mom and baby brother. Elsa's mom even made Stellan a cake, a banner and blew up a whole bunch of balloons. (She did more for Stellan's birthday than I did - I feel a little like a slacker.)
After the museum, lunch at Elsa's and nap, we had hot dogs for dinner as planned and lit some fireworks. Stellan knows the fireworks drill by now; he grabs his Lightning McQueen lawn chair and his adventure hat (in order to prevent ash falling in his eyes) and goes to the driveway, a safe distance from the launch site.
We came inside and opened presents. Stellan was so excited for all his new clothes, toys and books. We also got to Skype all his grandparents, which is quite a feat for such a busy night and such a great group of enthusiastic fans/grandparents.
And there you have it, the deeds of the day when Stellan turned two. He is such a funny, sweet kid. Whenever you read this, Stellan, remember how much we love you every day, not just on your birthday!

P.S. A birthday shout-out to Stellan's birthday buddy (and my good friend) Leigh!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Party Never Stops

We're in the middle of the Cook family's special time of the year. First is the 4th of July, which we enjoyed quite a bit. Did I mention fireworks are legal in Florida? Because they are. And we've taken full advantage.
Next is our anniversary on the 5th. Yeah for seven years and counting! (Not much to report, we laid low after a very busy 4th; we're choosing to celebrate it when we go to see the new Harry Potter movie.)
Today is the day we get ready for tomorrow, Stellan's birthday. I'm sure there will be much more to report after the "big" event, but for now I'll tell you that we don't have much planned. He'll get to open all the presents and cards that have been arriving by the truckload from many of the people who will read this, we'll try to do something he likes during the day and we'll stick a candle in his favorite meal at dinner, hot dogs.
At one time I thought it would be terrible to have all this good stuff so close together, but now that we're here, it's not. It's really fun to have a reason to light fireworks every day for 4 days in a row. (We use today as a practice day so we don't get rusty in between events.) And it's really fun to have so many reasons to celebrate each other and why we're so glad we're a family.
So check back soon, we'll have fun pictures and moments of gushing pride that our baby boy is two years old.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cousins Rock!

While we were in Utah, Stellan got to play with his cousins. He hadn't seen them since he was six months old, so the concept was new and wonderful to him. They had lots of fun toys and backyards (did I mention Stellan loves yards?), dogs and energy to spare. It was so fun to hear the laughter spilling out of a crowd of cousins, and we all did OK with the occasional pushes, toy stealing and tantrums. They even gave Stellan a birthday party! (He'll be two soon.) Stellan hit it off particularly well with Jocelyn, who is two months older than him.
I ended up taking hundreds of photos of these adorable cousins, but I have managed to keep the posting to a minimum. (If you are one of those relative-types who wants to see more than this slideshow has to offer, I've posted 40 or so here.) The video will give you an idea of just how much giggling there was. Thanks again to all the cousins - and aunts and uncles - who made these good times possible!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Surprise Trip To Utah

With Kevin away, Stellan and I decided to visit his family in Utah. I'm really lucky to have super great in-laws who will let us come and play even without their son. We spent lots of time in the backyard (yards are a rare treat for Stellan), playing with the dogs and of course being spoiled by Grandma and Grandpa.

We did manage to squeeze in a couple of other things between play sessions and fetch sessions. We went to Wheeler* Farm:

We also got to go to the open house of the Oquirrh Mountain LDS temple:

We had a very nice and relaxing weekend. Thanks again, Mom and Dad!

*Much to my dismay, there were no Wheelers at the farm. I looked for you, D, I really did!