29 September 2008

Thank You for the LadyBug

Trinhity has had a subscription to BabyBug Magazine for some time now. BabyBug is great -- it's the magazine equivalent of a boardbook and is targeted to children 0-2yrs. She loves it. We used to check them out at the library and she loved them so much that we got her a subscription.

Well, shortly after her 3rd birthday, she started receiving LadyBug Magazine. This is the next level up, and she loves it as well.

Problem is...we don't know who gave her the subscription! We suspect that the perpetrators might be among the regular readers of this blog. Was it you?

Fess up, now! We'd like to say thanks. But should you wish to remain anonymous, then enjoy the warm, happy feeling of sincere gratitude....uh, expressed to you in a very public and entirely impersonal way.

But hey, it could be worse. When we feel a warm, happy feeling these days, it's usually because a diaper leaked...

The United States of Antarctica

Three things in Trinhity's current repertoire converged tonight at dinner:
  • Penguins (from Happy Feet)
  • The Pledge of Allegiance (from school)
  • World Geography (partially courtesy of a World Map puzzle gifted to us from The Neighbors We Love, partially because Daddy's obsessed with geography)
So obsessed, in fact, that today I bought her a World Map placemat for the dinner table. She immediately found Antarctica, because that's where the penguins live. Also because her plates and bowls were covering up the rest of the map.

Then she launched into the Pledge: "I pledge allegiance...to the flag...of the United States of Antarctica..."

The Boogie Wonderland Rhumba

Trinhity's been obsessed with Happy Feet lately, and Daddy made the mistake (?) of breaking down and buying the soundtrack. It gets played CONSTANTLY.

Honestly, we mostly dig it. I mean, they've got penguins singing old Queen songs -- ya gotta admit, that rocks. Trinhity's favorite tune is a disco number: Boogie Wonderland.

She's been tap dancing almost non-stop for weeks now. Here's a little taste in a fancy new slideshow format that will be almost entirely unlike the video I'm hoping to post soon...

28 September 2008

Fried Rice, Hold the Veggies

Yesterday I had both kiddos at Chợ Viet Hoa, a big Asian grocery store here in Houston. Huong was getting her hair cut, and after 10 minutes of checking out the frogs and fish and crabs, Trinhity was hungry. She wanted cơm chiên, fried rice.

We headed to the deli and got a to-go pack, then sat down. About halfway through, she looked up and said, "Daddy, why does the cơm chiên have rau (vegetables)?"

I said, "Well, cơm chiên always has vegetables. It's just sorta how it is."

She thought for a moment, then replied, "Daddy, when I get big and have kids, I'm going to make them fried rice with NO vegetables!"

17 September 2008

Questions Adults Never Think to Ask

"Does a penguin's breath stink?"
-- Trinh, after breakfast on 17th September 2008, age 3.25 years

Sobering Retrospective: Galveston

Back in mid-August we posted some pictures (here, here, here, and here) of our most recent beach vacation to Galveston. It's a bit sobering to look back on these photos now, after Ike has wreaked so much destruction on the island.

We actually didn't stay on Galveston Island itself on our last trip; we stayed in Hunt's Treasure, a VRBO rental in the Treasure Island subdivision on Follett's Island, just across San Luis Pass from the southern tip of Galveston Island. This area was also very heavily hit by Ike.

We've heard from the owners -- their house survived, although their garage was washed away. But as this aerial photo shows, some of the surrounding houses didn't fare well:

Here's the source page for that photo, it's interesting: Post-Ike NOAA Image Index.

Enlarge the photo above, then scroll to the area almost in the very center, just below where the houses end. Now take a look at this picture of Trinhity...



The house behind her is still there, but barely. Where she's standing is now completely submerged. For contrast, here's a Google Map of what it looked like before Ike:

View Larger Map

Here's another one -- same area, different house in the background:

That's the house on the squared-off tip, and it looks like its seawall was breached. Can't be good.

Hard to tell from this shot, but there's a wooden dune walk-over behind Trinh. There's no trace of it whatsoever in the aerial photo above, and the dune itself seems to be gone.
These beach rentals in Galveston have been our vacation retreats for the last few years. In fact, we seriously considered buying one earlier this year -- thank goodness we didn't. But we do have fond memories of those trips....


Ike: Before & After

Found a couple more shots that I hadn't yet posted...


This was from the night before. We got some great sunsets outta the deal. Trinh's hiding, but it's a cute shot of Camilla & Sofia...

This was the stop sign at the entrance / exit of our neighborhood.

15 September 2008

Ikey Ikey (sing to the tune of Iko Iko)

My back fence and your back fence
Ikey Ikey uh-nay
Betcha we'll get no recompense
Ikey Ikey uh-nay...

Daddy here again. Well, we survived. The storm was...impressive. We didn't catch the brunt of it -- we were on the more gentle 'backside' of the eye, meaning less wind and rain. Still, this one was just about as serious as I need to see up-close-and-personal, and I don't envy the folks farther east.



We lost two small trees entirely, plus some large branches off our bigger trees. It shredded our fences, but most of those were nearly rotten anyway. Here's the aftermath:
Other folks got it much worse. This was only a few streets away...

The big news for our neighborhood is that four electrical poles went down: threes snapped in half, one snapped off at the ground. I've driven by it a couple times now, just marveling at the force required to snap a power pole in half...



Yes, he drove across the wires. No, he didn't die. Apparently, Darwin misses occasionally.


Thus, we might not have power for awhile, and my office might be closed for a week. On the flipside, I've discovered that the Nestle Toll House Cookie Factory has free wireless internet access. This could be a fattening week....

Fortunately, a cold front just moved in and dropped temperatures into the reasonable range, so it's not quite so uncomfortable without A/C or fans. But we do have running water, and we're fine on food. Grocery stores are opening again -- and now I know where to find cookies.

The neighborhood has been dramatically more neighborly than at any time since we've lived here. I mean, we're notoriously anti-social, but the last two days everyone has been hanging around outside, leaning on our rakes and comparing notes with folks, loaning tools, musing over when the lights will come on, and generally agreeing that it could've been much, much worse.

Last night the folks across the street grilled all the thawed meat in their freezer and threw a helluva street party. Taison has sensed the break from routine, and I'm convinced that Trinhity will want to do all of this again next weekend -- it's been non-stop fun and games for her.

She made a new friend, too...


Hell, I haven't gotten to climb trees and run around on the roof and play with so many manly tools myself in years. If I were 13, I'd be having the time of my life.

All told, not bad. Frankly, I'm quite pleased to have missed most of the media coverage of this thing. I've listened to the radio a couple times, and it's just out-of-touch and depressing. The silence has been enjoyable -- no power = no drone of air conditioners (or Tejano). I'll be mildly bummed to return to Situation Normal.

OK, that's the scoop. Back to my work e-mail...and my cookies. Thanks for the concern, all the best to you all....

11 September 2008

'Twas the Night Before Ike...

...and all through the house,
only the Daddy was stirring
and scurrying about.

He tended the tree limbs
and the backyard swing set.
Would the roof blow away?
He worries, he frets...

[ahem]

Well, then....quite enough of that. But seriously, Daddy here, with a rambling report from Houston, Texas, on the evening of September 11th, 2008. We're hunkering down for Hurricane Ike, due to arrive tomorrow, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being rather excited.

Of course, I'm also scared silly. At heart, I'm still Colorado Boy, and this is my first really serious tropical storm. Blizzards, wicked high-country thunderstorms, flash floods, even tropical monsoon rains that last for days -- been there, done that. Loved it, mostly. But I'm having trouble conceptualizing what 120mph winds might do to our house.

I can't help feeling a sense of exhilaration and curiosity. It's sheer folly, of course, but I have a morbid desire to witness Mother Nature's Mr. Hyde for myself. I'm honestly bummed that the storm's going to blow through at night.

I notice that the meteorologists are afflicted by this paradoxical sense of dualism, too. In some parallel dimension, there's another me who's a hardcore weather geek, and I channel him every fall -- which mostly means that I read Jeff Masters religiously in September. Here are two excerpts from the WunderBlog tonight:

This change in oceanic heat should also help allow Ike to intensify tonight. The eddy is not ideally positioned, though, for rapid intensification to occur.

We must assume Ike will intensify to a Category 3 hurricane by landfall, which would likely do $20-$30 billion in damage. Ike's storm surge is going to be affect a huge area and be tremendously destructive.

See? He can't make up his mind either. The heat should "help" the storm to intensify, but it's not ideal for rapid intensification. Aww, poor little Ike. But wait, that's a good thing -- right? Because it's already going to be "tremendously destructive". Tremendous, indeed.

I can't blame him, of course. I'm coming to see this sense of dualism everywhere. I've told many of you that parenthood is the most extreme possible expression of the Dickensinian Maxim: it's the very, very best of times, but it's also the very, very worst of times. And it happens all at the SAME time. That's dualism as I'm defining it here.

Take this 'hurricane preparedness' thing, for instance. I made a quick run to the grocery store tonight for matches, batteries and cucumbers (don't ask). As I suppose the media networks are blaring, the shelves of bread, canned goods and drinking water are completely barren. But ya know what they don't mention on the nightly news? The alcohol aisle has been cleaned out, too. Half the city might float away, but half the city will be so plastered that they'll barely notice.

Ironically, hurricanes provide an excuse for outrageous parties. Maybe it's a doomsday mentality? I can't be sure, but the atmosphere in the neighborhood is euphoric anticipation, and there's more camaraderie than I've ever seen.

More evidence for dualism: Trinhity started school two weeks back, and it terrifies her. She bursts into tears when we tell her she has to go. In the car this morning she told me that "School is boring because they don't have markers. And they don't have many toys. And they play bad music. Daddy, puullleeeeze take me home!" But as I handed off this screaming, frantic child to the ever-patient staff today, she told me through her sobs that I should warn Mommy: "When Mommy picks me up, she'd better make a really loud noise to get my attention because I'm going to be ham chơi [absorbed in my play]."

See? She loves school and hates it, all at the same time. I'd give a Taison example too, but he's teething hard and has a head cold, so I think he's pretty much all-around miserable at the moment.

On top of everything, today is 9/11. I noticed an old friend's twitter-on-facebook tonight, "Jeff is recovering from trying to explain 9/11 to his kids." I thought about trying that trick myself this morning with Trinh, but she was too freaked out about school to pay attention. Probably for the best.

But on the way to the office after watching her forlorn, tear-streaked face be carried away from me to her classroom, I listed to Story Corps on the local granola station. One story stuck with me all day: Frankie DeVito, a young boy who lost his beloved grandfather in the Towers. Give that a listen, but grab a tissue first.

And so I find myself ending the day in one of the places where this whole thing started: The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran
Then a woman said, "Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow."
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
[ ... ]
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
May you drink deeply of both your sorrows and your joys, and perhaps give voice to an ironic chuckle when you realize that both have rushed headlong to besiege you like....well, like a hurricane.