Tuesday, October 31, 2006

So cute you might puke

or, a Halloween Retrospective:

I'm a court jester
Little pumpkin with a little pumpkin (2002)

Let's get rolling!
My duckling and Julie's ladybug (2003)

Quack or treat
There's that duck again (2004)

Hey, that princess fairy turned my baby into a lion! (2005)

We're all about the recycling
Dancing fairy and zeee-ba (2006)

And one puking pumpkin. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2006

In which we go a little bit (more) country

Yesterday we made our third annual pilgrimage to a local farm that pulls out all the stops during the fall harvest season. They have a corn maze, hayrides, pick-your-own apples, a pumpkin patch, a petting zoo (Jo: "I don't want to feed the animals because I don't like how that stuff [antibacterial gel] tastes on my thumb"), a playground, and two shops.

I don't think this is such a good idea
Opie wasn't too sure about the hayride

Dunk your head, Mom! There's a branch coming!
But Jo liked it

Headin' out to the back 40
And they both gave a "yee-ha" to the fake wooden tractor.

Princess Haybale
Jo was the queen of all she surveyed

Sunny boy
But a sunflower was more Opie's speed.

Now for the important part: Lunch!
Boy with brat Girl with brat
Brats with brats! (That joke just never gets old.)

And the dessert course.

On our way home, we passed this fine establishment.
See her latest post--she's crazy, not crabby
Maybe there's a Rocky Mountain franchise coming soon?

This post brought to you by Izzy's Blogging Declaration of Independence (especially item #2). Because what's more all-American than caramel apples and freedom of blogging?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Love Thursday: Sister Sue

I consider it a great blessing, or stroke of luck, or credit to my parents, or all of the above, that my brother and sister and I get along very well and enjoy each other's company. I mentioned this in my 100 things (in the top 10, no less) but I thought Love Thursday merited a little more detail. So I'll talk about my sister this week (ladies first) and my brother next.

She is four years younger than me and at a totally different place in her life--she's single, no kids, and just finished getting her second bachelor's degree because she finally found a career that's perfect for her (horticulture and gardening ... I, on the other hand, have not one single plant in my house because I can't keep them alive). She's lived in the San Francisco Bay area for many years, but just moved cross-country for a year-long internship at a prestigious botanical garden. She's a vegetarian, driver of a biodiesel-powered Volkswagen, and an avid environmentalist. She can knit (and has made lovely hats and sweaters for my kids). We have pretty much none of the above in common but we are still very close.

She adores my children (who wouldn't, duh) and has made many a 3,000- (when we lived in NYC) or 2,000-mile trip to see them, including spending a week of spring break here in Mayberry when she could've been on a beach or a mountain somewhere relaxing (the idea was for her to be here when Opie was born, but he didn't cooperate). She finds the coolest kids' books you've never heard of at used book stores, and when we all vacationed together in San Diego last spring, she made a special trip to the library to stock up on stories for the kids. She is gifted at flower arranging (she worked Napa Valley weddings for the past few years) and did all the flowers for my brother's wedding and Jo's baptism.

So she is talented and smart and caring and I wish she didn't live so far away. And she's hott, to boot.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My own personal genius

I don’t remember when or why I learned this, but as a child my IQ was tested and found to be quite high. As in technically, I am a genius (and I certainly don’t mean “technically” as in “I could configure a LAN in 2 minutes flat” or “code my own pages using nothing but Javascript? No problem!”--I mean “based on the numeric scale assigned to my score”).

Now of course this was a test administered more than two decades ago (umm, probably more like three) and it was designed to measure only book-larnin’, or at least the aptitude for it. And it’s true, I found school easy, right up through college. I was a dutiful student, always did my homework--hello, goody-two-shoes oldest child--and stayed organized. I never pulled an all-nighter. I always got As and Bs without too much effort. (I also knew my limits. I was supposed to take calculus my senior year in high school, but managed to substitute Spanish instead.)

But I often wonder how much any of that, and especially my so-called genius status, has helped me in the real world. Shouldn’t I be some hotshot lawyer, billing $1000 an hour? Or a Pulitzer-winning novelist? Or an entrepreneur brimming with fantastically marketable ideas? Or a diplomat who could broker world peace?

The problem is I don’t have the ambition to match the brains. Which begs the question: Is that really a problem? I’m happy with my mommy-tracked, part-time career and its attendant (i.e., low) salary. I’m proud of what I do even if it isn’t important or life-saving or lucrative. But am I shirking some kind of duty by living this way? Is it my responsibility as a Smart Person to use my powers for the greater good? Am I wasting my brain?

I guess by making the choices I’ve made I’ve answered my own question. And it’s probably one that everyone struggles with from time to time, “genius” or no.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Super surprising

In a recent, rigorously controlled, peer-reviewed, double-blind study (OK fine, it was a poll on People.com), more than 35,000 people revealed which of five superpowers they would want. They chose among the following abilities:
  1. Stopping time
  2. Reading minds
  3. Flying
  4. Painting the future (apparently you have to watch the show Heroes to know what this means)
  5. Cheating death

The winner by far was: mind-reading (36%). Huh? I cannot think of anything I would want less. Have these people not heard of a chick named Pandora? If someone has something good to say, they'll probably say it out loud. If they have something not-so-good to say, why would I want to know? Yes, I'm as voyeuristic as the next person (why else would I read so many blogs?) so I can see the appeal of reading random strangers' minds. But knowing other people's unfiltered thoughts about me is a huge downside.

But stopping time? Now that's something I can get behind. The possibility of a month--even a week or a day--in which I don't have to prioritize, to decide which of the 5 or 10 or 20 things on my list (both fun and not-fun) will have to be set aside for later? That sounds pretty incredible to me.

What would you pick?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

It's a matter of natural security

JO: At school we were drawing pictures about fall. So I drew leaves with chlorophyll coming out. Because that is what happens in the fall.

ME: Wow, that is interesting. What does chlorophyll look like?

JO: Well, It’s green. And that’s all I can say about that.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Three is the magic number

1. Earlier today I realized that my VPN is finally working on my laptop. Excellent news because now I can work (the real, money-earning job) from anywhere in the house. Even better, I do not have to haggle with the impatient, heavily sighing IT support guy who has told me in the past: "We don't support personal computers" (Dude. It stands for virtual private network. That means everyone who has one is putting it on her personal computer.) and "You'll just have to bring it into the office" (Again, dude: I live 1000 miles away. Will you be sending a private jet to fetch me and my problematic laptop?).

2. This morning I ate four breakfasts (smallish, but fergod'ssake) between 5:30 and 10:30 a.m. and was still ravenous by 12:30. If that is what one 45-minute Pilates class does for me then it's a good thing I have no interest in running a marathon (or even a 5K).

3. I had my performance review today and my boss told me that our big boss, who recently called me "Kathleen," agreed with all the nice things she said about me, "and he was particularly impressed that you took the initiative to go to BlogHer." So thanks for planting that seed, Julie! You can take credit for my $1200 raise (yes that's gross, and it's for the whole year).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sometimes grown-ups are boring

I started writing a "post" recapping our grown-ups' weekend in Chicago, but I was so bored writing it that I decided you would not want to read it, and I deleted it (because adults always know what's best and get to make the rules).

So we had a good time. It turned out to be "no big deal" leaving the kids for the first time since Jo was 21 months old (and Opie not yet "with us"). I wasn't really gone long enough (like 36 hours) to miss them. My mother, who had three kids in less than four years and was until recently the president of a large state university, was totally nervous about being "in charge." She came armed with new clothes and books for each child, enough stickers to completely recover my couch, and a special "badge" for Jo to mark her status as Grandma's Very Important Helper. But everything was fine including Opie who "slept through the night" two nights in a row which he never does any other time.

Our hotel room was one of the "smallest" I've ever seen. All it needed was an ice sculpture and some shuffleboard courts = instant cruise ship. Everything was mounted on the walls to conserve "space," and the "bed" was so small that my (average-sized) husband couldn't stretch out all the way without his feet hanging off the end.

First stop: Japanese food, something we can't "exactly" get much of in Mayberry. We soaked up the scene and the sake. Next stop, back to the "cruise ship." The sleep was "blissful," it's true, but our neighbors' TV blaring at 7:30 a.m. wasn't, so much. After brunch with some "friends" it was all about the shopping. My final haul was two pairs of shoes, a bunch of socks, a necklace, and a fall coat with a (fake) fur-trimmed hood (because if I am going to live in the frozen North I might as well look the part). We also bought the world's heaviest wedding gift which we will probably have to "hand-deliver" to the recipients in Washington, DC because that will be cheaper than UPS.

Saturday night we had dinner with one of my "oldest" and dearest friends and her husband at a fancy restaurant* that was definitely not "family-friendly." Mostly because you would not want to drop $20 on an "appetizer" that no kid would touch with a ten-foot chopstick.

Sunday morning I split early to get home in time for Grandma to jetset off to D.C. ("dammit! why didn't I give her that gift to drop off?!") for some dinner meeting. Even though I had to leave at 8 a.m., driving solo (chai tea latte) in hand, was the final luxury in a weekend of same.

*This post's "annoying" punctuation brought to you by said restaurant's menu, which was chockablock with unnecessary quotation marks and "irrational" use of bold and italic type. For example, and I "quote":

Salad of Organic Beets, Heirloom Tomatoes and "Upland" Cress, "Easter Egg" Radishes, Cracked Hazelnuts, Kohlrabi and Great Hill Blue Cheese

Whole Roasted "Dressed" Squab with Black Mission Figs and White Peach "Jam", Cipollini Onions and Crisp Potato Cake

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I am not a cat person

...in any way whatsoever. In fact I'm not even a dog person and there is a dog sitting a few feet away who's been living with me for five and a half years.

But have you seen these two sites I've been wasting time I SO do not have on, whose only link is their catness?

Come Inside, Kitty and Cats That Look Like Hitler (check out Best Kitlers #10 and 17).

Off tomorrow for my first-ever since-kids weekend away with the husband. Also known as Opie's first-ever weekend without Mommy or Daddy. I'm trying not to think about the fact that we're leaving on Friday the 13th. Or that I just accepted a challenging freelance job with a two-week turnaround.

Be back soon... I hope.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Just throw in a walker and some coupons for the Early Bird Special while you're at it

I had my annual eye exam the other day. While there's no actual physical pain involved, I hate these visits almost as much as dental cleanings. First of all, it seems so inefficient. Is asking me 100 times "Is this one better? Or this one?" (when most of the time I want to say "Who the hell knows? They all look exactly the same") really the best way to determine the proper prescription? I can't believe modern technology has not come up with a better way to do this.

Second, I always feel like I am getting ripped off. It's like being at a used-car lot, with all the little extras and special offers and just-in-case ploys. I have decent vision insurance, and still always walk out of there at least $200 poorer—and I haven't bought new frames in 5 years.

At this visit, an additional insult was added to the injury. Apparently my close-up vision has deteriorated to the point where I now need bifocals or at least reading glasses. Naturally I chose the reading glasses because gah! bifocals?! I can't even go there.

And it is your fault, Internet. Apparently spending 8-10 hours a day in front of a computer screen is not so healthy for my baby blues. So from now on, I'll be armed with these. Please don't call me Granny just yet.


The NYC trip went well. The bonus weekend add-on with the in-laws was important to do, but exhausting. Once again I'm so over traveling with kids, though, and am dreading Thanksgiving already. Missed you all—I have 300+ posts to read so I won't be able to comment much. Hope to be caught up soon.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Who says New Yorkers have attitude?

Posted near the mailboxes in the building where I'm staying:

UPS: You rang yesterday, I buzzed you in and then you never showed up with
the package. If you come today deliver to super. I Will Not Chase You

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bon voyage

My brand-new laptop took a nose dive off the tray table during a turbulent moment.

The airline lost one of my bags--the one containing the booster seat I purchased especially for the trip.

I managed to reserve a rental car from the one company that didn't actually have a counter at the airport. We had to be ferried to a "convenient location" "nearby" to get our car.

I forgot all the cute jewelry I wanted to wear (which I rarely take out in Mayberry, because what's the point?).

Women all over SoHo are wearing leggings and skinny jeans.

... But I'm in the city that never sleeps, and I left the boy who never sleeps at home with his daddy. So it's all good.

(I do miss the little punkin. But his sister is a much more relaxing travel companion.)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Blog ads: Here to stay

Ever since advertising on blogs became a possibility for your average blogger instead of just on professional sites, people have been for or against them. However, mostly I found there was an ambivalence until the day that Heather at dooce.com decided to help draw in enough income to support her family by changing her site's design to allow for intense advertising. All of a sudden people spewed forth incredible venom over her ads in particular, but ads on blogs everywhere in general too.

I don't get it.

I run ads on my own blog and I don't even understand how it's bothersome. I'm not like geocities; when you visit my blog you won't be overwhelmed with pop-ups or pop-unders. There's no music or obnoxious audio embedded in my ads. I even currently use a three-column layout for the simple fact that I can have my content on the left, my sidebar info next to the content, and all my ads in the far column. People don't have to really take notice of them if they don't want to. I run Blogads where I can make the choice as to whether I want something shown on my site so if I disagree with the principle behind the product I can veto it. I also use Google Ads and Ad Brite. As soon as I get the papers filled out and sent off, I plan to run the BlogHer network ads.

What's the big deal?

I don't charge a fee for anyone to read what I write, because frankly, I don't write anything brilliant enough to warrant that, and I wouldn't want to do that even if it were possible. However, I do share my life with strangers on the internet. I post pictures to make my site interesting (and also because I'm like that crazy person at the grocery store who pulls out a wallet full of kid pictures, I just happen to do it in the virtual sense), I try to remember things that will be of interest to write about, and I try to inject my posts with emotion so that people reading it will either laugh, nod with understanding, or maybe even cry.

If I can share that much of myself -- and although there are certainly things you will never read about on my site, I am very open -- I don't think I'm asking too much to expect people to understand that I'm willing to put ads on my blog on the off chance that it will bring in a bit of pocket change for me. People tolerate ads in between segments of their television shows (assuming they're not using tivo or some other PVR), we flip past ads in our magazines, we drive past them on the highway. I don't write my posts with my advertisers in mind. What I write now is still the same thing I wrote about pre-ads. I don't write specific posts in an effort to attract new ads. I haven't actually had anyone use my blogads in quite some time (that just occurred to me now; what's up with that, do I smell?) and that's fine. If I get advertisers, great, if not it doesn't matter.

Personally, I applaud Heather. I doubt my site will ever skyrocket to her level of popularity so I'll never be paying my bills and feeding my family because of the ads that run on my blog, but if she can actually do that? Well, dammit, I say GOOD for her. She deserves it; no one is forcing her readers to click through on the ads, no one is forcing her readers to visit her site at all. They go because they like her writing, because they care about what's going on in her life, and because you can usually count on at least one gut-busting funny entry somewhere on the front page. If she can draw in that amount of readers because of the intimacy she offers to them, then she absolutely deserves to have the compensation for it if advertisers are willing to pay her for it.

If you don't like ads, you don't need to run them on your blog. But I don't think they're going away. People once hated blogs too, saying they were fluffy versions of the old online journals. Blogs are quite obviously more than just a passing fad, and I think the same will be said about ads too. Just avert your eyes to the left when you visit my site and you'll never have to worry about seeing advertisements, because I certainly don't foresee removing them.

---Sherry is a work-at-home mom of two in Canada who does indeed run ads while she blogs about the Chaos Theory in her life, although she will never be able to put a down payment on a house because of the money she makes there.

You can find me at Sherry's place today, taking the opposite side of this debate on blog advertising. For this month's Blog Exchange, we're doing a series of debates on issues that matter. Visit the blogroll to find the rest of these op ed pieces. And if you'd like to participate next month, send an email to kmei26 at yahoo.com.

The blog ad debate

Originally published at Chaos Theory as part of the Blog Exchange; our assignment was to debate opposing sides of a topic with our partner. NB: If I had enough traffic to sell ads, I'd totally do it.

Why do you blog? For hits, for comments, for notoriety, for a steady stream of virtual pats on the back? If so, then bring on the ads. It’s a win-win: You’re even more motivated to bring in visitors, because they bring dollars with them. And your advertisers are happy, because you’re the ideal vehicle for their messages. They don’t care whether you’ve connected with your readers, whether you’ve helped someone by sharing your experiences, whether you’re a damn good writer. Just bring in the eyeballs, that’s all they ask.

But if you’re like most of us—if you blog out of a need to process what’s happening around you, or hone your writing skills, or keep some kind of a grip on your memories of what your children or pets or coworkers do all day—then what’s with the “buy-it-now” business? Yeah, I get that it’s nice to pick up a few bucks for doing something that you’ve been doing for free. I get the whole “If you’re paid to do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” But who are we kidding here? If you calculate the hourly rate, wouldn’t you be better off flipping burgers? Are blog ads any more of a moneymaker than those “make millions stuffing envelopes from home” scams?

Generating enough traffic to attract ads means blogging often, and well enough to convert at least some curious clickers into faithful visitors. And there’s no way I can argue against that. And sure, what’s the harm in a few extra text links, or a promo in your sidebar? Ads are everywhere these days, from eggs to airport luggage carousels; most of us are pretty savvy at tuning them out. No one’s forcing your readers to click. (Although you will have to find extra time to manage your advertising, lest you let slip an ad that you or your readers find insulting or offensive; make sure you factor that in to your net profit.)

But let’s forget the reader and focus on the writer. Because once you’ve taken that step, once you’ve crossed that line into commercialism, what you post is going to change. You will never again write without thinking “I wonder if this will be a popular entry… Is this going to turn off any of my readers? Maybe I should change the title or delete this paragraph or…”

And also: “I haven’t posted yet today. Gotta get something up or my stats will drop. There’s nothing I feel like writing about… I have to come up with something… What am I going to do?” And suddenly your fun hobby, your therapeutic outlet, your means of connecting with like and unlike minds around the world—suddenly it’s just another job.