Saturday, May 30, 2009

Life is good

After picking Wifey up at the Metro station this evening we took a trip out to IKEA, picked up a few things, were surprised when DBCandJ came by to have dinner with us there, stopped by Cold Stone for some ice cream, then went up to Laurel and played some very exciting (read - chaotic) minigolf with all 9 of us in action. Well, some of us were in action playing, and Wifey and B were chasing Pudge and J (and sometimes Red) around the place. A great time was had by all.

Then, as if things weren't happy enough, I got home and was presented with the cherry on top... After looking at this picture, I wonder if you'll be able to guess what it was.

Catching up again

Been having a lot of fun with the kids lately, and that feels good. In the past few weeks I've felt like I've been too much out of the picture, between working most of their waking hours, then having so many things to do over the weekend. It pretty much stunk. So I've been very happy these last few days because I've been able to spend a lot more time with my babies.

First, Wifey got to be a big-wig and go to an advanced screening of a new movie - Away We Go - on Wednesday night. While she was off playing with the other special people I took the kids to Lake Artemesia for a walk, a picnic dinner, and hopefully we would see some ducks to feed. We were in luck, because we saw some ducks, geese, turtles, and even a beaver as it swam by. Everyone was so excited when a family of geese came over and enjoyed a TON of white bread for dinner.

And if those pictures didn't do enough to really bring you the whole experience...

Moving on... I had an amazing experience yesterday that allowed me to see a little bit of JAM in his natural environment. :) He invited me to speak at his school's career day and I loved it. I collected some pictures to show the kids some of what we do, then I had this cool activity planned where they were going to build soda straw rockets. We do quite a bit of rocketry work at the Lab so I thought it would be fun if the kids got to experience a little bit of that. I borrowed the activity from a course that we bring to the Lab once in a while, where actual budding rocket scientists take a course on missile design, then they have some fun and build rockets out of straws and shoot them off using this cool launcher connected to a compressor.

I did the activity with the first of the three classes I spoke to, but I quickly found out that there were some problems - the teacher was not ready for such free-wheeling activity in her classroom, she wasn't ready to actually help all that much so it took far longer to complete than it should have, and she had not prepared her students to work cooperatively in pairs because these kids had no idea how to work together at all. Her response? "These aren't really 'sharing' kids." Nice. After that, I realized that we would need a lot more time to do the activity well in the second and third classes (including JAM's), so I bagged it and asked to be invited back where I'll run them through it without such a time crunch. Normally JAM would have been crushed at not having things go according to plan but he had built a couple missiles with me the night before so he took it really well. Without that previous experience, and with his expectation being built up all morning, it would have been a bad situation had we not been able to work together the night before. I was proud of him though, he was great and it was wonderful seeing him in class.

After I was done at his school, I came home and hooked up with Wifey and the two little ones at Wifey's new playgroup at the new playground just down the street. D, C and J actually joined us (which was a great surprise for me as it gave me someone to talk to :) ) and we had lunch and the kids played really well. There was one issue with a swing where a local kid had wrapped it up around the pole on the swingset. Usually you just swing it back the other way and it is all fine again but this one was tied in a knot of some kind. So, D picked me up on his shoulders (yeah, all 215+ pounds of me) and I somehow clambered up onto the top bar where I tried to unwrap this thing without falling and breaking a wrist or a leg.


Yup, that's silly 'ol me hoisted 10' above the ground trying to fix the swing. In work clothes nonetheless. *shaking head* Really, it seemed like a good idea at the time. You want to know the kicker of it all though? It didn't work. Turns out it would have required two hands to unknot it and there was no way I was letting go with both hands to make that happen. So, it'll stay that way until the HOA comes to fix it.

Finally, today was fantastic so far. Wifey had another opportunity to go out, this time to a writing workshop down in D.C. so I borrowed the Dab's bike and two wheel bike trailer, we packed a lunch and JAM's bike, and we went back to Lake Artemesia for a bike ride, some playground time, and a picnic lunch. So much fun...

I forgot to pack the camera though so these were all taken with my phone then I emailed them to myself. Don't tell Wifey though, we're one of the few people left in the country without a texting plan so those cost us like $0.25 each. :) But, DAMN! Don't they look amazing together? I hope our friends don't get too mad that our kids are so much cuter than anyone else's. I'm sure they've come to grips with it by now. lol

Off to pick up Wifey from the Metro for a quick trip to IKEA, then some meatballs for dinner, then, maybe if one of them haven't ruined it all with a tantrum of some kind, maybe some Rita's for (as Red would call it) a'zert.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

No reason to throw them out

I was walking from my front door to my car a few weeks ago on a trash pickup day when I saw that our neighbor had put out an old computer monitor in their pile of other trash. Then I saw another neighbor had put out this gigantic plastic container that held cooking oil - the kind you use to fill a turkey fryer. Although I felt a little weird about it, I scooped up the plastic container and brought it back to my house to put in our recycling, but even though I felt bad about it I didn't do anything with the computer monitor. Even though I'd researched what to do with old equipment before, in that moment I couldn't quite figure out what I should do, if anything. Guess I might want to wake up a little bit more before going out to drive to work huh?

This morning I'm scrolling through my reader and I come across a podcast from Consumer Reports on electronics recycling. After taking the time to listen to it (really short, go ahead - it won't hurt a bit) I went to the site they suggested - the Electronics Industry Association. On their site you can look up no-charge electronics recycling programs for your state. I know I should have grabbed that monitor out of the trash and held it until I figured out what to do with it, and now I'll not have the excuse of ignorance again. And neither will you! :)

In doing a little digging for this post, I was saddened to see that Costco had "temporarily" suspended its electronics recycling program, but was very glad to see that BestBuy still had theirs going strong.

Thinking a bit more on the regular old recycling front - for a long time I've been annoyed/saddened/bewildered by the fact that we are the only house, among the 16 that are in our immediate court in our development, that regularly put out household recycling for pickup. Quite often the five of us use enough recyclable materials to fill two good sized Rubbermaid plastic bins. Yup, no official recycling containers for us, we got these at Target and they've worked out just fine.

As I started thinking about this today I wondered why more of our neighbors don't put out recycling, and I thought that I might be able to start something here. So, I looked up the name of our City's Director of Public Works and send him an email asking if he might be able to provide us with a bin for each house. I promised him I would work with my neighbors to help them understand the rules for our recycling program so it wouldn't be a spray and pray type situation. We'll see where it goes, and I anticipated that he's going to bring up the old City vs. Homeowner's Association argument - as in whose responsible for us - but in my letter to him I made mention to the fact that I was pretty sure we were all City residents, and I was equally sure that I paid City taxes, so hopefully that will nip that argument in the bud.

Here's hoping anyway...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Putting these to rest - long, sorry

Two items on my mind recently. Bloody noses and bug spray. Wow, now there's an example of a sentence I never thought I'd write. Anyhow, these two items have been on my mind tonight and I wanted to do a little bit of research to give me a better understanding and to share what I learn with my adoring public (i.e. - Wifey and maybe one or two other strange, bored people).

First, bloody noses. JAM has been complaining about bloody noses. Not that he's causing them of course. Nope, these are the run of the mill immaculate bloody noses - definitely not the result of a finger or some other foreign body being shoved up any nostrils here buddy. As we were in the car tonight on our way to a fantastic night of Chipotle (super-yum), 5 Guys and a bonfire in DBCJ's back yard, JAM tells us he's got a bloody nose. Not much, from what I could tell, just a little bit. Again, as he assured us, definitely not caused by anything being shoved up there. So I started thinking about it, and he brought it up a few minutes later, what's the best way to deal with a ruptured schnoz?

Wifey contends that the old way was to pinch it closed and lean your head back but the right way is to pinch it, lean forward, and if necessary you can put a cold compress on your neck. So, let's find out shall we?

Oh, I hate it when she's right....
If there was anyone to take seriously, I guess it would have to be the National Institutes of Health huh?

But, I was happy to hear that nosebleeds "can be frightening for some patients, but are rarely life threatening." Oh joy - I most likely won't die from a nosebleed.

One down, one to go - bug spray is next. I guess you can call this little investigation, "To Deet or not to Deet." Or, "What the hell is Picaridin?"

I did look this one up a while back, and from what I remember, Deet is good hooch, but not exactly for little kids. When I went to the local Targé to get this spring's supply of Off, I looked for pure Deet for me, and something less skin-peeling for the little ones. Pure Deet you ask? Oh yes, pure Deet. I had gotten a small bottle of Off Deep Woods a few years back (I'm pretty sure it was a sample attached to another bottle of something) that was 100% Deet. Seriously, this stuff was amazing. Bugs wouldn't come within a hectare of me. I loved it, but I think Wifey was kind of scared we'd ever be able to have kids after this stuff got on me. (Seriously? With my potency? lol)

Anyhow, apparently Target doesn't want to put something so potent back into the untrained hands of suburban backyard warriors anymore, so all I could find was something with 25% Deet for me and something with 5% of something purely natural called Picaridin. I think what we need to do first is figure out what the hell Deet and Picaridin are.

Um... wow. Apparently Deet had a homepage. Yup, That isn't a good sign. If you need to create a web site for a chemical, presumably to either control the spin or counter what I would assume to be negative press, it can't be positive right? That's like water having it's one web site. Oh, wait. Never mind - Not quite the same thing, but I just thought it was funny that someone thought to grab back when the internets were young.

Back on message. I didn't want to get some slanted opinion or collection of carefully chosen "facts" though. So, sorry, you're out. How about the EPA? Yup, found a page there -

End result? "After completing a comprehensive re-assessment of DEET, EPA concluded that, as long as consumers follow label directions and take proper precautions, insect repellents containing DEET do not present a health concern."

The main precautions are pretty easy to follow, and are listed on that page so I'll not waste space putting them here. I was happy to see that contrary to what I'd heard in passing conversation, nothing said specifically that children should not use Deet. Obviously you shouldn't let kids put it on themselves, and you shouldn't put it on young children's hands, or near their eyes or mouth. In fact, they even said "DEET is approved for use on children with no age restriction. There is no restriction on the percentage of DEET in the product for use on children, since data do not show any difference in effects between young animals and adult animals in tests done for product registration."

I know, that was just the EPA. Who can trust those government clowns right? How about the CDC then? Oh, they're feds too huh? Well, let's just see what they have to say first...

According to the CDC, and backed up by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Deet is fine. The basic idea is, the more Deet in the spray, the longer it says effective. Although there have been no definitive studies showing what concentration to use on which age group, the AAP states that parents should determine how long the child will be exposed to the pests (no, not siblings) and choose a level appropriate to that time frame. 10% is good for two hours, 24% is good for up to five hours. The interesting part is that you don't need to reapply, even if you go swimming or sweat a lot - Deet isn't water soluble.

Alright, so Deet is fine. Now what about this Picaridin stuff?

Oh boy. I found a fun filled, six-page fact sheet on 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methyl propyl ester. Oh, right, you don't go around calling things by their scientific names either? Well fine - Picaridin it is. And here's the fact sheet - pdf style - Yuppers, I actually looked at it too! Result? Safe. Even to birds and rainbow trout apparently.

Other than that, and a mention in the previously linked article by the AAP, not much is out there on Picaridin. The general consensus is that it is safe, but nothing long term has been done on any of this stuff.

In the future, I'm going to stick with Deet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Catching up

You ever get to that point where so much has gone on that you're not even sure where to start? Yeah, I'm so there. Looking back, knowing that I didn't even have a chance to post a happy birthday message to my little Red (knowing that Wifey did a fine job made that oversight easier to bear), I haven't posted a thing about her fantastic party, work has been out of control, JAM's baseball coach (and the rest of the team to be honest) is really driving me to drink, Wifey and I actually got to go hang out with real adults at a friend's wedding Saturday night, etc., etc., etc.

A lot (too much?) to really compose a good post, but who would I be if I didn't post a few pictures???

First, my little girl's third birthday was last Friday. We didn't do a whole lot because we originally had her party planned for the next day. I said originally because the forecast for rain forced us to reschedule for Sunday - also Mother's Day (sorry Wifey - you'll get your day next weekend???). We missed a few friends who had Mother's Day things to do, but gained a few who wouldn't have been able to come on Saturday. But, even though we didn't do much of anything we still had to have a birthday treat right?


Once we finally got to the party (after about four weeks of home improvement projects keeping us busy at all hours), the weather was perfect and everyone seemed to have a blast. All in all, a really beautiful and happy day. Thanks to everyone who were able to join us, and we missed the rest of you terribly. :)

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Yes, that is my boy JAM playing chess at a party at a playground. Not sure what that bodes for the future. :)

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Check out another beautiful Wifey cake creation. And no permanent teeth staining icing this time!

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Yes, she's beautiful. And have you ever seen anyone more excited to get a pair of pants before?

We were so happy to be able to have Wifey's parents join us for the weekend. The kids had a blast being with them and we look forward to seeing them again as soon as possible.

Here's Red and Pudge sporting their Pepe's fashionable glasses.

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Is it just me or do you notice a striking resemblance to someone too???

And a few more pics from their visit...
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Moving on, as I mentioned way up above, Wifey and I had the rarely seen night out (sans kids!!!!!) on Sunday when we got to join other friends in welcoming J-Mac and MB into this craziness we call marriage. What an amazing time. It was a beautiful (and beautifully short) service followed by a reception at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club. What a beautiful place! The food was amazing (I felt sorry for Wifey, there were lots of former ocean dwellers to be had), the drinks were flowing (as evidenced by the lap dance Wifey talked me into giving Mr. Enigma - see below), and the friends were the best part. A huge thank you to the bride and groom for allowing us to share with them and for giving us an excuse for getting the hell out of our crazy house.

A big thanks goes to Pam for sharing these pics with me!


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Thanks it! Enough! I'm so tired I could cry at this point. I'll get back to more regular reflections soon, just in time for me to start class #2 of Masters #2. What joy!