Sunday, December 7, 2008

Playing in the kitchen

More post later, but for the moment: thanks Gram and Grandpa!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Block Towers

It is a great deal of fun to watch Dalton progress in various skills. Something I recently realized is that he has become quite adept at putting block castles together. The building on the left was pretty much his creation.
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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Sales

I've never really gotten into the Black Friday thing. This Christmas, however, there was something I wanted that was going on deep discount (a little cheaper than ebay) at Michael's.

Carol and Jim bought me a Cricut for my birthday this year. It's essentially a programmable machine that cuts shapes out of card stock. We've been cutting out letters and shapes, giving them to Dalton with a glue stick, and he has been making cards for the grandparents. For Dalton, it's mostly about the glue, but he enjoys the letters and shapes as well.

Given how much Dalton enjoys arts and crafts, I was thinking that we would have him make our holiday cards this year. Cricut has a couple of different cartridges that facilitate the cutting of holiday shapes. I wanted to acquire one of these for our card making experience.

So Cricut has a real racket going. First they charge you an arm and a leg for the original machine. Then they continue to hit you up for pricey accessories and consumables. The worst of these are the font and shape cartridges. These things are basically software upgrades for the machine. They list for $90 each. The sell for $90 at Michael's most of the time and they are excluded from most sales and coupons. They run $65 at Walmart and $30-35 on ebay. I'd been dusting off my ebay account to purchase a holiday cartridge, but hadn't yet put in any bids when Cathy suggested that Michael's would have some sort of sale for Thanksgiving.

It turns out that Michael's first sale was on Thanksgiving with the doors opening at 6pm. The cartridges were running $30 each. I arrived at 5:50pm and was 7th in line behind young to middle aged women all talking about Cricut cartridges. Over the next ten minutes, the line extended behind me into the parking lot. This led to a building nervousness that I might not get that holiday cartridge. I was definately wondering how orderly the entire process would be.

As it turned out, everyone was good natured and friendly. While I did end up with a bloody nose, it didn't bleed all that long. They had plenty of the cartridges and I did get one with holiday shapes as well as one that does animals and one that has a font with lower case letters for teaching Dalty.

If you read this post, you're likely to recieve a card hand made by Dalty (with some help) in the near future.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

No comments?

So one of our "numerous" readers told me today that she'd tried to make a comment on the blog and had gotten an error message. I've changed the blog settings for comments, although honestly, not having to deal with random errors is part of why we moved the blog over to Blogger, so I don't know what to say. In any case, her email has me wondering - are we getting no comments because (1) no one is reading, or (2) no one cares to comment (not even "aww, cute!"), or (3) everyone who has tried to leave a comment has concluded that it is broken.

So which is it? Use the comments section to answer, ok? ;)

Dressed like a traffic cone...

Dalton and I were in Joann fabric yesterday, mostly to look for paper for making cards, which is a current popular activity. (Mostly he likes applying the glue, but sometimes he even puts some Cricut cut letters in the glue. You'll get to enjoy his output when it comes time for us to send Christmas cards, some time in mid January.)

They had fleece and patterns on sale. We were admiring some cute fleece that I thought would make a cute sweatshirt. We bought a pattern (I wasn't sure I could do a hood freeform) that included a pattern for overalls. So then Dalton wanted overalls. OK, I said, let's pick out some fleece for making overalls. He chose orange. Really really really orange. The label said "tangerine", but tangerines aren't this eye popping bright.

You can tell that we live right nextdoor to Hokieburg. There were no issues whatsoever in finding bright orange thread to match it, nor in finding bright orange buttons, nor in finding bright orange seam binding.

I made the overalls in a 3T size. Brought them upstairs for Dalton to try on before I did the finishing and discovered that (1) they were too long (no surprise), (2) they were much too wide, and (3) our son is all torso, as evidenced by snugness in the crotch.. If I make him another pair, I'm going to use the 2T pattern and just extend the torso part a bunch. I took this pair in a bit (and extended the straps) before finishing them, but Dalton is going to have to eat quite a bit more pie before he'll be in any danger of outgrowing these overalls in width before height.

So as near as I figure, Dalton's ready to go work for VDOT. He's got the overalls, he's got the bright orange, he's ready to go!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Visiting with Gram

Dalton has had a wonderful visit with his Gram. Today they made miniature apple pies, one with a teddy bear on top. All was good until it became time to EAT it, when he became hugely upset because poking it with a spoon caused it to become "broken". Hugely upset. So upset he couldn't eat it. Tim says the title of this post should be "Dalton learns that you can't have your pie and eat it too." He's probably right, but it is too late now. Better luck next time, Tim.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Remembering Sam

Sam joined my household in late summer, 1997. I thought TY (then 1 1/2 years old) was lonely and would enjoy a playmate. I found Sam at the Pasadena pound, where he'd been for 6 weeks already. He was 45 pounds and scrawny. They thought he was a year old and about done growing.

Based on his initial behavior and what little I heard from the pound, I suspect Sam was mostly a lawn ornament for the first year (?) of his life. He certainly didn't seem to be acquainted with the whole idea of living in a house, although he got over that in a hurry. Later in life, he made up for it by refusing to go out in the dark, in the rain, in the cold... In his last winter, he drove us (mostly Tim) just about to the edge by refusing to go out and running away and hiding if it was so much as mentioned. The last few weeks were actually better. Given that Tramadol has some anxiolytic effects, I wonder if last winter might have been easier on all of us if we'd tried treating for anxiety last year.

So Sam came home, and for the next year, every time we went to the vet, he was younger, and bigger. At one point, he tipped the scales at 75 pounds, although more recently we'd been holding his weight at about 60-65 pounds to reduce the wear and tear on his arthritic legs. We went to the vet again and again. Pan osteitis, lumbar sacral something or other, arthritis. Long before Sam got cancer, he had plenty of reasons to limp. He had an awful lot of X-rays, none of which ever showed anything correctable.

Sam was always convinced he was a lap dog. He was also a huge klutz. He'd just about knock you over, trying to get all four of his feet (not to mention the rest of the dog) into your lap. When I had my bed in Altadena against the wall, Sam would wedge himself in between me or Tim and the wall and then PUSH with all four feet against the wall, the better to minimize the possibility of even a single air molecule between himself and the human. Although TY generally liked to sleep on feet, Sam's preference was definitely for full body contact. He was by far the most reliably affectionate of our dogs.

TY and Sam never became the good friends I'd hoped they would. They would play some when it was just the two of them, but once we became a two human and three dog household, they mostly ignored each other.

Sam was always in motion. I vividly remember him and TY running circles around the living room. Sam would take a flying leap and land sideways on the BACK of the futon with his feet, take a few horizonal steps, and then be back on the floor and going for a second lap. In the yard here in Virginia, he'd pick up a tire toy and run nervous circles with it in his mouth while TY played fetch. (Sam never really mastered fetch. Getting the toy was fine, but giving it up, not so much.)

Once, taking the dogs for a walk in Seattle, we walked through a lot where they were getting ready to do some construction. Although TY and Modi managed to jump over the narrow trench (perhaps 12 inches wide), Sam managed to fall into it. He didn't just fall in, either, he managed to fall in and land on his back with all four feet flailing in the air while he tried to right himself. (He was fine.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The end

Today was Sam's last day. Although the Tramadol bought him a few good weeks, he was no longer getting good pain control even on double doses, so I chose to end his life this morning.

There's no good time to make this sort of decision. Sam seemed to enjoy cuddling with both Tim and I last night, but he'd gone from being eager to go for a walk to being willing only to walk a house or a two down the street, limping badly and panting on the return trip. We could have waited longer (days? weeks? a month?), and he would have had some more good times, but it seemed like the bad times were starting to dominate, and it seemed selfish to keep him alive but in pain while we tried to atone for some of the "demotion to dog" that all of our dogs have experienced over the past couple years.

So Tim took Dalton out for a tour of the coffee shop, mall, and pet store, while I made Sam (and TY) scrambled eggs (a favorite) for breakfast, and then took him for his last trip to the vet.

We scattered Modi's ashes in the back yard last week. I expect we'll do the same for Sammy.

I told Dalton last night that Sammy's leg was hurt (which he knew) and that Sammy was going to die. D hasn't asked about Sam at all today. I'm not sure if he hasn't noticed (possible, Sam never came upstairs), or if we're all just avoiding the subject.

It occurs to me as I type this that I haven't said much about Sam's life. That'll have to be the subject of a later post.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

And here we go again!

We had a nice visit with Gail and Walt (a.k.a. Bana and Papa) this weekend. There'll be pictures later. (They're not on my laptop.)

Then on Sunday night, our baby gate broke. Again. Tonight we pry the knobs off and tomorrow they go back to the company. Meanwhile, we'll be prying the gate open every single time we go up and downstairs, something that is impossible to do without two free hands. Bah.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote Early Vote Often

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Oh Jeebers, what the heck is this stuff?

So I was busy turning off my Amazon Prime free trial today, when I noticed a "what sort of mom are you?" link. And I figured ok, they're going to sell me stuff, but maybe they're selling cool stuff, and my free shipping is still good until Friday, so let's see.

You get several choices. You can be a "green" mom, in which case, Amazon will try to sell you baby bottles. Uh, hello? Green moms breastfeed, thank you very much. Now granted, they were BPA-free bottles (which is good, and there shouldn't be any other kind), but still. There were also crib sheets. Organic cotton crib sheets, but still crib sheets. (We know what cribs are for in our house. Cribs are for drying underwear when the clothesline is full. They're certainly not for housing a baby.) There was a baby wrap/sling as well, but it was way down the list.

Then I tried "intellectual" mom. OK, that sort of fits. I've probably got the only toddler in Christiansburg who declares he's going to college at least once a week. So there were numerous so-called educational (loud and blinky) plastic toys, and then there was a gizmo that you could use to keep the baby on a schedule. Yuck. I mean, yeah, we were sleep deprived, but I remember how it went: nurse (or finger feed) the baby all the time, change when wet, nurse or pump when full, walk around the house when cranky. Schedule? What schedule? What the heck is a schedule?

OK, ok, so I figured I had to be the "classic" mom, right? I mean, nursing and co-sleeping are old as the hills, right? Nope. Classic moms need bouncy seats and car seats and play pens and cribs and other places to put the kiddo, apparently.

Apparently I should stick to shopping for books.


We had an explosion of pretend games this weekend. The focus has mainly been on pretend cooking. It involves putting play food into boxes and shaking it back and forth. In the picture at the right, the bears are helping. The game also involves running around our upstairs and finding imaginary ingredients. One of Dalton's favorite ingredients is bacon. I find this interesting as he has never had bacon as far as I know. In fact, we don't even talk about bacon at home. That is, we didn't talk about it before this weekend when we began cooking with it all the time. I guess it's just one of those bad words that Dalty learned at school.

I've really enjoyed the pretend play time. A parent must also cook and if both Cathy and I are in the room, only Dad will do. It's a great toddler led activity.

When the cooking started, I said to Cathy, "we have to buy him a toy stove". Keep in mind that we currently cook on a table in the top and bottom of a puzzle box. The box is apparently magical. In the last three days it has been a pan, a bathtub, and a boat. Last night Dalton lined three boxes up, placed a bear in each, and declared it a train. He then removed a bear and sat in one box.

I fear the boxes are not long for this world. We'll have to buy some more $30 puzzles to keep a backup supply.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Another picture

I hope you liked the last picture, because apparently we're going to take it over and over again. D has been taking 5-8 "friends" to bed with him most nights, and they also apparently like to pose for photos with him in the playroom. I'm guessing this is a leftover from taking school photos a couple weeks ago?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Sam update

We took Sam in to see our regular vet today. Dr. Jones is an older vet and generally pretty no-nonsense. We've valued his willingness to whip out the staple gun after to patch up injuries from various dog shenanigans in the past, where other vets have insisted on anesthesia and an overnight stay. He also really obviously likes dogs, which should be a no-brainer in a vet, but yet doesn't always seem to be. We'd tried another vet last week (for what ended up being Sam's osteosarcoma diagnosis) mostly because he's been scaling back his hours and we don't like the other vets in his practice nearly as much as we like him.

Faced with the osteosarcoma diagnosis and trying to figure out what to do, we decided we wanted to go back to Dr. Jones for his opinion, and I'm glad we did.

Dr. Jones was far less in favor of doing an amputation or chemo. His definition of dog quality of life, which he shared today, is: Able to get up and move around, able to eat and drink, able to use the bathroom outside. Yes, he said, young dogs with three good legs do fine after amputation, but currently Sam is able to do all three things, and if he has the amputation, that might or might not be true, and the potential gain in survival time from the amputation is not very large, and there's some definite recovery time.

So the current plan for Sam is to continue to medicate for pain and to take things as they come. Dr. Jones certainly didn't think it was time to euthanize Sam now, and his confidence that we'd know when it was time made me feel better about the whole thing.

Sam is currently taking Tramadol for pain. He seems to feel pretty good. I won't say he's 100% pain free, but he doesn't seem like he's actually worse than he was six months ago, before the tumor and before the Tramadol. He pulls on the leash, spins in circles to go out, carries toys around the house, and occasionally trots around in the yard (if Tim carries him down the stairs or I walk him around from the front), rolls over for more tummy pets if the human sitting next to him gets distracted, and jockeys for position under the high chair when scrambled eggs are falling from the sky. Perfect? No. But good enough. He may not live to next summer, but at the moment, he seems to still be enjoying being a dog in our house, particularly now that his people are lavishing extra attention on him.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Missing the point

A New York Times article about people picking and choosing which prescriptions to fill was interesting.

AHEM. I never give medical advice. I'm not that sort of doctor! If any of this sounds like medical advice, well, it ain't.

Obviously, it really stinks that someone would be forced to choose between needed medicines and groceries, but then I started looking at the specific drugs given as examples. Here's what's specifically listed.

Lipitor is a statin. It is on patent for several more years, and so it is expen$ive. (About $100/month, depending on dose.) But Lipitor is just one of many me-too drugs. A very thoroughly marketed me-too, but not necessarily anything special. There are other options on generic statins, and it isn't hard to find a pharmacy doing $10 for 3 months of generics. (Walmart, Target, others...) And statins are good candidates for pill-splitting, which could lower the cost even further. (Pill-splitting is where the doctor prescribes tablets at twice the strength and then you take half tablets, which means that "90 days" of pills actually lasts 180.)

Provigil is under patent under bizarre circumstances, but I can't reconcile the numbers in the NY Times article. ("costing $1,695 every three months") with what I'm seeing. It is usally taken once daily, and I show a 90 day supply (mail order) running about $750 for the higher of the two available doses. (That means that if it can be split, that $750 could actually buy a 180 day supply if she doesn't need the higher dose, but I'm not sure if this one is actually safely splittable.) $250/month or $125/month (if split) is still a mighty big number, but it doesn't rival $1695 per 3 months!

Unfortunately, all the other examples aren't specific about the drugs involved.

Do I have a point here? Yes, actually I do, and here it is:

Some of what makes prescription drugs ghastly expensive is crappy prescribing habits. Doctors have almost precisely zero motivation to prescribe the cheaper generic, since they don't pay for the prescription. Doctors get hounded by drug reps to prescribe what they're touting as the newest, latest, greatest drug, when often there's something equally good (and with far more safety data) already available off-patent.

Too bad the NY Times missed the opportunity to discuss what patients could actually do if they find themselves on unaffordable drugs, besides not filling prescriptions. The Consumer Reports health site has a bunch of information on cheaper alternatives.

While I'm ranting about the pharmaceutical industry, let me point out this article about sampling, and how it harms patients, and this one about kids and free samples. The basic gist is that free samples are only available for drugs on patent, which means that if your doctor "saves you some money" by giving you some samples today, you're going to be paying much more when you finally do fill the prescription for the drug you've started taking as samples.

I think we ought to have universal health care and real prescription drug benefits (with none of this doughnut hole cra-penguin), but any solution is going to have to address this disconnect where the person who decides what to prescribe has no incentive to keep costs down.

OK, now I'm done ranting. Time to grade some more papers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

He dressed himself...honest!

Dalton has strong opinions about lots of things. I have two general rules for acceptable behavior.

1. The activity must not be inherently dangerous.
2. The activity must not have a high probability of resulting in a claim on our home owner's policy.

If a proposed enterprise meets the two criteria above, I generally go along with it. Of course, there are exceptions. There was the cluster of days where Dalton was throwing fits when Mommy or Daddy mixed yogurt with fruit (our meals, not his). There are also schedule restrictions. We need to get to work and he needs to get to school by a certain time. We also need to get home by a certain time to let dogs out.

The picture above is an example of Dalton getting what he wants. We finished up with a bath that started when he insisted he needed to wash his beach ball. After, I was trying to get him to put some clothes on. I was pleasantly surprised that he was interested in putting on clothes. He was, however, also interested in picking out the clothes on his own. One iteration on the way to this outfit involved putting a shirt over the overalls. Unfortunately, that fashion statement was not long for the world and this is where we ended up before bedtime.

Friday, October 17, 2008

This is not a good year to be a dog in our house

Tim took Sam to the vet today. Sam's been limping worse than usual for a week or so, and his wrist was swollen. I figured it was his arthritis acting up, but the vet's pretty sure it is actually bone cancer. They don't see metatheses on the lung x-ray, but 90% of bone cancers in dogs have already micrometathesized upon diagnosis.

So we're going to get to make some fun decisions about treatment.

We can do nothing about the tumor and put him down in the very near future, since the vet doesn't think she can adequately control his pain without amputating.

We can have the leg amputated, which will resolve the leg pain and may get Sam four good months (average, damn statistics), but won't do anything for the metatheses that are likely already present and will ultimately kill him or lead us to having him euthanized. I have some serious doubts about whether or not he can manage to get around ok on his three other legs, given that he's got some arthritis in what would be the remaining foot. I'm trying to remember as I type this if it is the "good" front foot or the "bad" one that he'd have left. He's babied one leg, I think the one without cancer, for several years now, so he'd have to carry his full front weight on one gimpy front leg if we go this route. What if we put him through the amputation, only to end up deciding that his quality of life is too poor?

We can amputate and do chemo and have a life expectancy of about a year, but with some number of days spent at the vet receiving chemo, and some number of days feeling sick from chemo. Sam is spazzy when we've kenneled him. He's the reason we've always hired pet sitters, ever since the kennel I used to take TY to (when he was an only dog) told me not to bring Sam back. I'm having a hard time picturing him being happy confined at the vet for a whole day and night every few days. We'd also have a hard time schlepping him back and forth to the vet, given the realities of jobs with late hours and a car that doesn't easily hold a toddler and a dog simultaneously. Sam has previously demonstrated just how much damage a dog with intestinal distress can do to a house.

I'm reading this and thinking how shallow it sounds to say chemo's too expensive or I can't be bothered to do the vet appointments and deal with (and clean up after) a neurotic, arthritic dog trying to figure out how to walk on three legs, but regardless of what we do, we're looking at a life expectancy of a year at most.


Monday, October 13, 2008

I may be too jaded and cynical to teach this course

So I'm gearing up to teach two general-interest courses. One, in May, on the drug approval process and pharmaceutical industry. The other, possibly some time next year (but I'm at a workshop to develop it this week) on "medicine in america", or whatever the title morphs into by the time I actually teach it.

Have I mentioned that I don't actually trust doctors a whole heck of a lot? It may be an interesting course. As you might guess from the book list on the left, there's a certain large amount of jaded skepticism going into my course planning - and my copy of "Pushed" hasn't even arrived yet!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Singing the ABCs

So Dalton has become very good at singing the ABCs. Actually, he probably has 30+ songs that he sings, at least half of which we recognize. Since I've been working on uploading the old pictures of him walking, it seemed like time to update our video collection. Here's my first attempt:

And my second attempt:

And then it got really silly (ABCs with the tongue out, while being fed cheerios, anyone?)

Other than totally failing to take any decent video, we had a nice day today. We took the usual Baby Dal whirlwind tour of the coffee shop, playground, and library (on foot, with D in the backpack for most of it), and now D's conked out taking a nap, at least for the moment. Time to grade some chemistry quizzes....

(Want to see those old videos? Click the "multimedia" link at the bottom of the post.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Whoa, what's a boobie shot doing in my WORK mailbox?

I get several magazines at home (Mothering, New Beginnings) that often include pictures of nursing babies, but was surprised to see one in my work mailbox today. C&EN was running a story on breast milk composition as their cover story. I wonder if they'll take flak for the image. Story here:

Aside: it occurs to me as I write this that this isn't an especially little baby, either. Maybe I'm getting my money's worth out of C&EN after all...

Voting Obama, but not a yippie?

A friend just posted this list, of things Obama supporters are supposed to do/like:
Your exercise regimen involves trail running.
You like burgers made from grass-fed local beef.
You use Sugar in the Raw as a sweetener.
Your favorite supermarket cookie is a soft chocolate chip.
Your fast food restaurant of choice is Panera Bread.
You shop at your local farmers' market.
Your shopping cart includes the following products:
  • Bear Naked Granola
  • Lara Bar energy bars
  • Olive Oil
  • IZZE Sparkling Juice drinks
  • Wolfgang Puck All Natural frozen pizza
  • Kettle Chips
We're at 2 for 12 on that list. (Olive oil and Panera.) We might make 3 for 12 if the "local" farmer's market at home weren't 20 minutes away and closed about when we can manage to get moving on Saturday mornings, but since we never make it to the one in Salem, which is blocks from work, I guess we don't get a pass on it.

But we're voting for Obama, really! Honest! It's just that our grocery store cart contents are weird-looking.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What's in the fridge pasta

Once upon a time there was a blog with recipes. Then there was a wiring project, then an infant who didn't want to be set down, a kitchen remodeling project, then a toddler who could open doors. Lately, there's been a distinct shortage of recipes as a result.

Recipes in our house have morphed somewhat. Here's an example, on the table in less than 30 minutes, or 40 if you have a toddler around to "help".

"What's in the fridge?" pasta
  • Start cooking one box of rotini, or 3/4 box, if that's what's in the cupboard
  • Saute a few crushed cloves of garlic and sometimes part of an onion (chopped) in a splash of olive oil.
  • Add a chopped red or green pepper, saute a few more minutes. Also a cup of fresh tomatoes (chopped), or not.
  • Add salt, pepper, oregano.
  • Add 10 oz of frozen (thawed and squeezed) spinach, or some sad-looking fresh spinach
  • Add some chick peas (1-2 cups, cooked for another recipe the other day, or one drained can, if you eat things from cans, which we mostly don't any more), or not.
  • Add some dried and soaked sundried tomatoes, or some oil-cured sundried tomatoes, or not.
  • Toast some walnuts in the oven, or not. (Don't stir them in until everything else is done cooking.)
  • Cook until the noodles are done, stir in the "sauce", top with walnuts, mozarella cheese (or not), serve with some romano (or parmesan) cheese
In the photo: Dalton enjoys making chopped tomatoes (from our garden) with his Dad.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


So I spent literally 8 hours figuring out how to automatically move the old chezmodi posts into Blogger. Blogger offers no import tool, but it does offer an email to post option. So I figured I just needed a script that would grab the posts, turn them into emails (properly formatted), attach the appropriate figures (with appropriate mime-types), and voila, I'd be done.

That was 8 hours of work ago. Three different ideas for sending. Much gnashing of hair and tearing of teeth.

Then I finally got it working, and wandered downstairs to tell Tim all about it. Then I came back and discovered that although my script was still running (unsurprisingly, since it's a WHOLE lot of posts), my posts were no longer appearing.

Apparently, if you try to make more than about 10 posts in a day, blogger decides you're spamming, and wants a captcha for each one. If you emailed them, you're supposed to have the saved as drafts (awaiting a captcha I guess), but I don't see them anywhere.

So I guess I'm going to run this dratted script every day for the next month. Or get good at captchas. Or both. Have I mentioned that I suck at captchas?

So if you're wondering why there's only a small assortment of 2004 posts in the archive, well, that's why. :P

The good news is that we should no longer be subjected to comment spam. So leave a comment, ok? :)

Update, Tuesday 9/30 - apparently I can get more than 10 posts a day in, but I'm still getting locked out at about 20-30 a day. So maybe it'll only take me TWO weeks.

Achievement Unlocked!

Dalton learned to open closed doors using the doorknob today. He surprised Cathy with it when she had him in the bedroom trying to get him down for a nap. She was so demoralized that he escaped the nap entirely.

He was very excited about it. "I did it!"

I made sure to give him enthusiastic, if not sincere, encouragement on his accomplishment.
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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Modi, 1997-2008

(Originally posted on Sunday, September 7, 2008 by Cathy)

Modi died unexpectedly today. We don't know entirely what happened, but apparently something was preventing him from clotting, and he died of a hemorrhage despite our vet's efforts.

The blog hasn't been much about Modi in recent years, but he's still been around, quietly (or not so quietly) underfoot.

We miss him terribly.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Why 'The First Years' baby gate sucks

(Originally posted on Tuesday, July 8, 2008 by Cathy)

As anyone who has visited us lately knows, we have a "The First Years" "Simple and Secure" baby gate (made by The Learning Curve) at the top of our stairs. We've had it there for a bit over a year. There aren't a whole lot of baby gates that fit across a wide opening that are also safe for stairs, so we thought this one was a find.

Then on Sunday night, the knob broke. Now we can't open it without two hands and some prying. So I called the company up, hoping I could order a replacement piece. Nope. But if I'd give her the date code, she could tell me if they'd replace it, which they might do although it is out of warranty (apparently you only get a 90 day warranty). However, if they do decide they'll replace it anyway, they will only do so AFTER receiving the knobs. So I'm supposed to leave this broken gate at the top of my stairs (where it is a hazard if we needed to leave quickly) or take it down (leaving us with no way to stop D from plunging down the stairs while I wait for the knobs to arrive there, and for them to ship a new gate back to me.

I asked if I could pay now and get a refund after they got the knobs. Nope.

Oddly enough, no one carries this gate locally any more. Do you think they've gotten tired of having broken gates returned. We're certainly not the first people to break this knob in exactly this way, as I discovered last night when I went to see if I could order it from Amazon. says we're not exactly the first to see it break.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dalty and His Reindeer

(Originally posted on Tuesday, April 29, 2008 by Tim)

Well, clearly Cathy has been making me look bad in terms of posting lately. Actually, I've been making me look bad. I've blown all my New Year's Resolutions at this point. Still, it has been a good year to date.

Dalton was in the mood to pose for pictures this evening. Here's a cute one with him and a stuffed reindeer.

Friday, April 25, 2008

BPA listings

(Originally posted on Friday, April 25, 2008 by Cathy)

(I'm sorry, this is a diatribe about plastic, etc, not a cute picture of the toddler.)

Anyone who's been around us lately has probably noticed our "weird" plastic and can using habits. Namely, we don't eat anything out of cans if we can help it, and we look at the labels on all our plastics.

Due to concerns about Bisphenol A, we're avoiding polycarbonate, which is the plastic in some things labeled with recycling code #7. It's a hard, clear plastic, also found in baby bottles (yikes!) and reusable drinking bottles, and many of the plastic glasses found in restaurants.

BPA is also used to line many food cans. So no canned food for us, since no one labels their cans one way or another. We're cooking beans from dried, buying fruit and veggies fresh or frozen, and still trying to figure out what to do about tomatoes.

We also don't think PVC is good to play with or eat from, both because vinyl chloride is nasty, and because some PVC contains either phthalates or lead, neither of which we want. Unfortunately, most PVC is unlabeled (it's #3 when labeled), and it is less easy to spot than polycarbonate is. We use the listings at to tell us if something is PVC, and if it is, we try to keep it out of the kitchen and out of our mouths.

I'm also not nuts about polystyrene, which means no styrofoam and no polystyrene (many drink cups, clear or colored, even the ones that aren't obviously "styrofoam").

So what does that leave? We're willing to eat things out of plastics #1, #2, #4, and #5. We're hesitant to buy any unlabeled unless we can find information on what it is elsewhere.

And given the issues with things coming out of China, I'm not convinced that anything made in China actually conforms to its label, so I'm skeptical about even well-labeled plastics coming out of China.

So now, time for some applause:

  • Rubbermaid lists BPA content (or lack thereof) in all their containers. They also make some of these containers in the USA. Here's the link: This is a bit of an A-, since they do use the website to list of to the pro-industry site ( that claims BPA is no problem under any circumstances.
  • Saran also gives information on plastic ingredients here:

Sorry, maybe next time you'll get a cute picture of the toddler eating out of his polypropylene dishes. :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

And one more photo

(Originally posted on Tuesday, March 11, 2008 by Cathy)

apparently everything is more fun with more tongue...

Hanging in Lorien's Crib

(Originally posted on Tuesday, March 11, 2008 by Cathy)

So you'd think that a baby who refused to hang out in his crib for even a MINUTE while Mom or Dad used the bathroom alone wouldn't become a toddler who LIKED hanging out in someone else's crib, right? You'd be wrong. Dalton's favorite activity this last weekend while we visited with Lorien (and parents) was hanging out in Lorien's crib with her, watching the mobile go round and round.

p.s. Sorry the site has been down (not that we'd been posting anyway)... Chezmodi has been getting hit by link spammers. I ultimately blocked most of China and Russia to fix the problem. Ugh.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Dressing a toddler, redux

(Originally posted on Saturday, January 19, 2008 by Cathy)

Welcome to the end of the first week of classes insanity. Between the /usual/ insanity and the fact that we had a snow day (causing me to miss my first lab meeting), and the fact that we had a job candidate (whose visit coincided with the snow day and whose visit got crammed into one 15 hour Friday as a result), my goal for this morning was to sleep in. I've failed, apparently, although Dalton seems to be having a go of it.

So I think what we've concluded after Tim's last post is that no one is actually looking at the photos all that closely, or maybe you're all in denial. (Or maybe, you've given up on us ever posting regularly and stopped looking!) Did /no one/ notice that our son is wearing women's underwear (mine, clean at the time, at least) in that last photo? Not one email from a concerned reader. Not one!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

How many Ph.D.s does it take to dress a toddler?

(Originally posted on Sunday, January 13, 2008 by Tim)

So we are going through a new phase in our house. It is the ?I don?t want to wear clothes phase.? This would be a great game for July, but apparently we?re just not that lucky. At the beginning, Cathy was able to convince him to allow himself to be clothed by pointing out all the cool animals and construction equipment that was present on the clothing. ?Look at the septic tank truck, do you want to wear the septic tank truck?? Unfortunately, like many of our devious parental tricks, Dalton developed an immunity in a couple of days. Putting on any clothing is now a monumental effort in distraction combined with advanced judo techniques. It?s so difficult that we were considering putting our yogurt soaked son straight to bed tonight and washing the sheets tomorrow because it would be less effort.

Other than the aversion to apparel, Dalton is doing well. He had his 18 month birthday a couple of days ago. Cathy?s Mom (who is a speech therapist) said that he should have 50 words by that date. I?m happy to report that he?s been learning a word or two a day and probably had 60. We stopped listing them when we had safely hit the 50 mark. Today?s word is ?sit?. I was entertaining him by having a dog sit and then come when called. It?s actually remarkably close to the real word. You would probably understand it without parental translation.

As part of the beginning of a new year, I have kicked off my 2nd annual New Year?s resolution list. I made a list last year, but was so bad about posting that it never made the blog. These lists contain about three items that are reasonably to achieve. They don?t contain items I am going to do anyway, things that I know to be impossible, or both of these. Last year?s list was as follows:

1. Work out three times a week. (I made it through April I think)
2. Do something social at least once a month. (Yes we really are that lame. We did make this one if you count family events, which I do.)
3. Ummmm?I forget.

This year?s list is somewhat similar.

1. Work out three times a week.
2. Write at least one social email per day.
3. Post to the blog at least once every two weeks.

So far, I?m on track for all three resolutions. I?ll have to see if I can keep it up once I?m back to work and the semester gets into full swing.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Holiday Fun

(Originally posted on Sunday, January 6, 2008 by Tim)

We are into our last week off before school starts again. It has been a good break. I have to say I definitely approve of the academic calendar. We gave up on visiting both Florida and Minnesota this year. The new system has us visiting each side of the family every other year. This year was my parent?s turn. They had a good time seeing Dalton. This post?s picture is of him playing their piano.

Since we were in Minnesota, we also visited our good friend Kris. He introduced us to a new (well, we hadn?t seen it before) game called Hex Hex. It was a lot of fun and very fast (about 10 minutes a game). This is perfect for when the baby is asleep and might wake and call for Mom at any minute.

We did our usual thing for Holiday cards this year in that we started them on December 15th. Being on the college schedule, we are insanely busy for the first two weeks of December with writing, giving, and grading exams. I expect that we?re not ever going to manage to get cards out to people before Christmas.

Picking out cards was an interesting exercise this year. I?ve discovered that if you place enough preconditions on your Holiday card selection, that your choice of card is made for you. I had four things that were important in our cards this year.

1. The cards couldn?t say Christmas on them. This allowed us to continue the fiction that they aren?t late every year.

2. The cards need to be big enough to contain a 4? x 6? picture of the cutest toddler on the planet.

3. The cards needed to be printed somewhere other than China (U.S.A. preferred). Call this our little contribution to maintaining the United States status as the world?s only superpower. If you take your heart medicine and have a good imagination, you can believe that this makes a difference.

4. The cards needed to be purchased at Books-A-Million. I bring Dalton to Books-A-Million for his nap on Thursdays and push him in his stroller around the store. That nap time is precious (and I read their comic books without paying) so I try to buy everything I can there. Just imagine what a loyal customer I would be if they were to fix their squeaky, toddler waking, bathroom door.

By the time I finished applying all four conditions, I had one choice left for Holiday cards. They weren?t quite our style, but they had a nice Thomas Kinkade winter scene on them and they met all four of my criteria.