Sunday, May 29, 2011

friday photos

Genghis crawls!

Here's a snapshot of the intensive training program his father put him through while I was out of town. The first video highlights not only his growing mobility but also his range of vocal expression.

(Note here how efficient Genghis is. He crawls just far enough to get the banana in range and then lunges for it. No wasted energy.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

like sands through the hourglass

I live in fear of playing one of those get-to-know-you games and having to answer the question "What's one of your most embarrassing moments?" When in the rational comfort of my own home, I realize this fear is largely unfounded. Most people creating those ice-breaker exercises have enough foresight to know this is a truly awful question for creating an atmosphere of comfort and safety.

Still, during times of low mental activity - on bus rides, in the shower - my thoughts will place me in this unlikely social situation and suddenly my heart is racing as I relive my truly most embarrassing experiences, trying to think of one that is embarrassing in theory but that I don't mind sharing with others (essentially, one that isn't really embarrassing at all). I feel a compulsion to lock on to some story, so I may have it at the ready. No hesitation. No doubt. I could whip out an embarrassing anecdote that leaves me endeared to others, perhaps even more respected.

Luckily, this week I had a wonderfully embarrassing experience that I've now emotionally distanced myself from. Perhaps it can be my go-to story and I can finally set my mind at ease.

I was in Houston yesterday giving a presentation at a conference. I was on a panel, and one of the panel discussants was the past Poet Laureate for a southern state. Through his presentation, I couldn't help noticing his subtle southern accent. It was beautiful to listen to - I pretty much didn't hear a word he said although I listened to every word he said.

After the presentation we were doing the compulsory shaking hands, congratulations, job well done. Before I could stop myself, I was blabbering on and on to this Poet Laureate about how much I enjoyed listening to his accent. Really, who goes on and on about that on a first meeting? The more I talked, the more desperate the situation became. Grasping for a way out, I heard myself saying, "No, really, listening to your southern accent was like riding on the waves of the ocean."

Where did that come from? Did I really just invoke a metaphor on a poet? And one that involved the waves of the ocean?

He gracefully took his exit by saying "Okay" with distracted finality and turning away.

I swam through seas of tears and ended up at a seafood restaurant to drown my sorrows in a salmon pasta dish. I felt better afterward.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

friday photos

I call these, A Study in Red.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

friday photos

Practicing using a Didymos wrap to carry Genghis on my back.

After finger-painting Mothers' Day cards, Genghis decided to take a little soak in the sink.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day: And Now for Something, A Little Different

Remember when it was Easter?*

I did, this year. Which is saying something because I usually forget until I walk into church and the organist is playing "He Is Ris'n" for the opening hymn.

I am deeply religious, but Easter has always seemed like the forgotten holiday. A Christmas afterthought. But, considering my beliefs, Easter is a big deal. Christmas doesn't mean much without an Easter to follow.

So this year we decided to really celebrate, in the hopes that we'd really remember. As we considered our celebratory plans, I found it somewhat exciting to start from a blank slate. No expectations, no traditions, and - compared to Christmas - not even a lot of input from millions of marketing dollars.

Our number one priority was to keep things simple. After all, we were starting from zero festivities. We couldn't institute a thousand new traditions in one year. Plus, we didn't want to end up doing so much to remember the occasion that we forgot to actually remember the occasion. In the end, we decided on the following format. We started on the Sunday before Easter. Each night, we would do one activity, one spiritual thought and one hymn. They would relate to something from that day in Christ's last week.

My sister got me the book "A Christ-Centered Easter" which is full of ideas and follows our chosen format pretty closely. It was a useful resource to have. It had a good balance of giving specific ideas and scaffolding without being overly prescriptive or structured. It also had some great recipes for a Jerusalem style foods.

I already threw away our outline of events that Abe and I made during a family council a week before the festivities started**, but here's what I can re-create from memory. I've also included comparison notes on what actually happened.

Spiritual thought: Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem
Activity: Nature walk
Hymn: Joy to the World
Actual: It was 40 degrees and rainy so we put 2 plants in the middle of the living room floor and marched Genghis around them (read: tried to keep him from eating them).

Spiritual thought: Christ cleanses the temple.
Activity: Blitz clean the house - under 15 minutes.
Hymn: We Love Thy House, O Lord.
Actual: We cleaned with Genghis in tow for about 10 minutes and got a surprising amount done.

Spiritual thought: Christ teaches parables
Activity: Share a favorite parable
Hymn: (don't remember)
Actual: I shared the parable of the widow's mite.

Spiritual thought: Nothing is recorded specifically about what Christ did this day.
Activity: Take a treat to someone.
Hymn: (don't remember)
Actual: We made Red Velvet Cake and decorated as my family's traditional Easter Bunny Cake. We took cupcakes to a few friends nearby.

Spiritual thought: The last supper.
Activity: Jerusalem-style dinner, loosely similar to what would have been eaten in Christ's time.
Hymn: As Now We Take the Sacrament
Actual: We had invited friends over for dinner on Friday night. If you skip ahead you'll see that Friday was planned to be our Night of Darkness, when we wouldn't use electric lights. That seemed like it may be a little odd with guests, so we did the Jerusalem dinner on Friday instead. Thursday was a very hectic night for us so we actually didn't do anything.

Spiritual thought: The crucifixion.
Activity: An evening of darkness - using only candles for light.
Hymn: Oh Savior Thou That Wearest A Crown.
Actual: We had our Jerusalem dinner, shared with friends. Lamb and barley, unleavened bread, bulgur & onion pilaf, tomato cucumber salad with lemon tahini dressing. We also talked about the Passover and had a few of the symbolic foods - unleavened bread, lamb, bitter herbs, grape juice.

Spiritual thought: Christ teaches in the spirit world.
Activity: Play a game.
Hymn: Come Follow Me
Actual: We had planned on moving the Night of Darkness to Saturday night, but when the time came we realized that Genghis would be sound asleep by the time it would be dark enough to get the effect. So we played a game instead.

Spiritual thought: Resurrection
Activity: Celebratory breakfast
Hymn: Christ The Lord is Risen Today
Actual: Abe made a delicious omelet breakfast. Genghis liked the mushrooms most of all.

My favorite times during our celebrations were Monday night, Thursday during the day, and Friday night. Monday was our blitz cleaning, related to Christ cleansing the temple. When we were done cleaning and sat down to enjoy the rest of the evening, there was a wonderful feeling of peace and joy in our home.

Thursday, although we didn't end up doing an activity that evening, I couldn't help but feel reflective, and a little heavy-hearted, all day. I kept thinking about how the Savior must have felt on his Thursday, knowing the events of that evening and the next day were so close at hand. It was during this time that I felt I truly remembered and celebrated Easter - perhaps for the first time in my life.

Friday, it was just really fun to try the Jerusalem dinner, to share it with friends, and to reflect on some of the symbolism of the meal. Also, Genghis loves bulgur. Who knew?

Well, that's more religion than I usually put on this forum. But Easter, as I've been learning, is really a special occasion. Thanks for indulging me.

*I know, I'm way behind. I usually don't blog about holidays. I have nothing to say about Mother's Day. But I do have something to say about Easter, so here goes.

**We actually sat down and had a family council, complete with butcher paper and markers for planning. It was pretty fun. I felt like a real grown up. We had another one this week to coordinate upcoming crazy travel schedules. I preferred to call that a "Council of War" in tribute to Amelia Peabody, a favorite detective series of mine.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

friday photos

It's Tuesday. Should I even bother? (Yes! Genghis's adoring public cries out.)

Okay, but first I have to show you our Easter Bunny Cake. The Easter Bunny Cake is my family's long-standing tradition that I have heretofore eschewed. Usually because I forget when Easter is each year. This year we ramped up our celebrations (more to come on that in a later post) and I threw in the Bunny Cake partly because of nostalgia, partly because I was afraid my sister would disown me if I didn't at least make an effort.

Historically, the Easter Bunny Cake is a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and bunnies crafted from marshmallows lining the sides like little sugary soldiers. But I made a red velvet cake with white cream cheese frosting, so we had to dip our bunny marshmallows in chocolate, which is a lot harder than it looks, so we only had the energy for 2 bunnies laying down on top.

As a nod to authenticity, I put the bunnies on a bed of coconut died green (tradition has the bed of coconut on top with jelly beans in it, like Easter eggs in grass).

This had the unintended and unfortunate consequence of making our bunnies look like they were just laid to rest in a Bunny Graveyard. Oh well.

And now on to Genghis. Playing with plants in the morning sunlight.

Monday, May 2, 2011

orange fingers

Remember how I talked about using this software called Drupal to design my awesome interactive website so I don't have to write any actual computer code?

Well, turns out there were some pretty specific things I needed my website to do that could only be done by writing code in Drupal. Which seems to defeat the whole purpose of using Drupal to not write code. (I don't really need to go into all this detail. I just like saying the word Drupal in my head. ... (drupal) ...).

So I have abandoned my Drupal project and now have 3 text files on my hard drive: .html, .css, and .js. Html and css aren't strictly code, more like Microsoft Word for the internet - ways of displaying text in pretty ways. Okay, maybe Microsoft Word is a bad example. Can you ever get images and tables in Word to display how you want them to?

But .js is really code. Nothing hard core, a kind of simple man's code. My particular code makes an accordion menu (see example - not mine, someone else's that looks prettier). Now I'm just a bag of Cheetos, a Coke, and an oversized black T-shirt printed with my favorite WOW avatar away from being a real programmer. I'd probably have to turn off the lights in my room and just work from the glow of this laptop, too.

(My apologies for blatantly stereotyping coders. After trying to dive into your world, I have deep respect for what you do. And I like Cheetos.)

After spending a few weeks building this site, I have to admit that web design is really quite fun. And in my opinion, you only need three things to get started.

1. bookmarked on your browser. This is my absolute go-to guide for learning the basics of web design. Their tutorials are quick and teach you the essential scaffolding of whatever language you're using (html, css, etc) so you can build up from there very easily.

2. A starter template (downloadable html and css files) created by someone else. Go to for a simple, clean beginning. Check out this somewhat dated but useful article for a list of more interested and slightly more complicated templates.

3. A real person who you can go to with questions when you're tired of trying to find answers from computers. Abe has been this person for me. I can try to be this person to you, but may actually get my answers from Abe and then relay them back to you. Really, the answers aren't nearly as important as the human contact. I cannot stress this enough.