In a galaxy close, close by, the Saga continues…

As some point during the 4 years we worked together, one of my graduate school mentors, a woman similar to me in voluptuous shape, suddenly began to play adult indoor soccer with gusto. Why? Because of the shock of her 6-year old son declaring that she wasn’t cool because “she didn’t have a sport.”

Now that Will is 5, I am up late some nights wondering, “will my son suddenly find me uncool because I don’t have a sport?”

I’ve made extra effort to teach him how to swim in the ocean and snorkel in the surf. I’ve gone outside to throw a ball with him. I’ve danced and done yoga. But do these count as having a sport? Am I close to losing Cool Mommy points for something that doesn’t involve forcing him to eat lima beans or wiping? Because that would be terrible.

Paul and I have had many discussions about wanting to do more exercise as a family, but things (aka: the fact that we are independently renovating our 100+ year old foreclosed home for the 4th year running) tend to get in the way. In our ‘non-work’ hours, Paul works on the house and I entertain the kids. I do my best to take them to the park for exercise, but a runny nose, a need for the bathroom, my forgetting to pack snacks, or a fall over a twist tree root can bring even the best plans to a crying, whining, fussing halt. Sure, we do yoga together, more a practice in laughter than actual stretching, but we have not found our exercise-together-niche.

The battle of the bulge looms greater as the pressure for a household video game player has been mounting. Will played his first video game while visiting my brother and sister-in-law last summer, which spurred my Dad to get an Xbox so that he and Will could play when we visit them.

And Paul? Oh, my, poor Paul.  When we met, Paul was a GAME GUY.  He did side work as a pinball machine programmer.  He collected and restored classic pinball machine and video games; games that with each move, he’s had to leave more and more of behind.  In short, Paul is foaming at the mouth for a console, but knew I was completely against them, hating the idea of our kids sitting on a couch staring at a screen.

Then I learned of the Wii and in particular, the Wii Fit.

It was Melanie who turned my head.  Melanie made a commitment to being more fit a few years ago and has become one of my exercise heros — and she says that the Wii Fit is a great exercise tool.  She made me believe it would work for us, too. So I emailed her for Wii information last month and started to plot how I would manage a Wii for us for Christmas. I began to believe it was something that could put us all in better shape simply by making it easy for us to include fitness into our day as a family.

Then Paul caught on. First he started on the “we have no money for Christmas” route, which I ignored. Then he flat out figured my plan, which I blogged about in a huff. Finally, he sat me down to look at Quicken in detail. Yowza. We closed up our holiday wallets for the long winter.

But we still want a Wii, specifically because of the Wii Fit.

And even more than I could dream of wanting it, the other three in the household are dreaming of it.

Especially Will.

Inspired by his recent viewing of Star Wars for the first time, Will made this video for Magpie Musings, who is giving away a Wii Fit this coming Monday.

It’s based on Leia’s plea to Obi Wan to help her fight the Empire.  (I’m trying to ignore the implication that I could be the Evil Empire in this scenario.)

“Help us Magpie Kenobi,” says Will, “you’re our only hope.” I can only add to the plea that maybe, with us playing sport and fitness games as a family, I may avoid the loss of Cool Mommy points in the future.

Will’s plea for a Wii Fit to Magpie Kenobi from Cold Spaghetti on Vimeo.

Mi Familia

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I did it?

Everyday I blogged for the 30 day month of November.

I like that I was forced to think of something to write each day.

It did take me away from my research in the sense that it was time not committed to translating or considering codes.  But it made me think about writing, and the things I like to write about.  Even if I didn’t get a chance to finish what I wanted to say — more than a few days I just filled what I could.

After reading Alejna’s post about the event, I am realizing that there is a lot more I could have done and gotten out of the experience.  I didn’t log-on to the website at all, didn’t participate.  Maybe I should do it again and see what happens?  Or maybe my family will commit me?

UPDATE: I’m doin’ it for December.  What the hell?


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Photohunt: Metal

Motorcycles and mototaxis, Iquitos, Peru.  Taken late afternoon in the main square.

Both taken by the 10D with 1/20 shutter speed at f/4.  I wanted to get a slight blur with the taxis in the background, but didn’t have a tripod to risk slower than 1/20 and/or higher than f/4.

Art & Photography

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The start of a masterpiece

“I want to write books and make them all myself.  That’s what I want to do when I grow up.”

So announces Will toward the end of the trip back from Mobile.  He makes the declaration while producing the Ipod touch, where he has been typing for a solid hour… or so it seems.  It did not read like Hamlet, but I’m willing to bet that three monkeys with typewriters could have re-produced it.

“That’s great, Will” we said.  Paul added that I could help him write and make illustrations, that I was in to that sort of thing.

“Yes, Will,” I added, “I’ve kind of been writing a book online for the past 4 years… on The Blog.”

“I’ve been writing a long time, too, Mommy.  Since we left Granna and PapPap’s house… a REALLY long time.”

When we got home, Will asked to start his book.  This is what he wrote and drew.

Not to be left out of the fun, Kate made a picture, too:

Arts & Photography

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Outbuilding Update

We head home tomorrow, after the two days of monsoon rains have moved on.  Will is complaining of sore throat and an ear that hurts when he swallows… we may not be done trading viruses quite yet.  Progress on all fronts continues to painfully crawl forward.

The outbuilding work will continue when we get back.  Here is a video of progress as of the 15th, with a good look at the back of the house, the old outbuilding face, and the huge pile of growing debris.

Be warned that I speak on this video.  I may even laugh.  I apologize and completely understand if the sound compels to you run screaming from the room.

Home and Renovation

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Your powers are weak, Old Mommy.

The combined force of the holiday, the family, and the pending inevitability that Someone Else (aka: my parents) would show it to him first, we did it. We showed The Little Man Star Wars.

Parts were scary. Parts we had to explain. At one point, he asked to turn it off for a little while. It made me feel vindicated, in a way, to have to my point made about why we had wanted to wait in the first place. But at least now he knows, he’s been there, and we can move on. But there are some things that remain difficult to understand.

“Mommy, why did Darth Vader kill Obi Wan?”

“Well, they had a big disagreement and fought over it… but Obi Wan really didn’t die, he became one with the force… you know it’s all pretend anyway.”

“But why did they fight?”

“Sometimes that’s how people handle disagreements, in movies and in life.”

Quiet. Thinking. Squirming.

“You know that Mommy and Daddy believe that fighting is not the best way to solve problems.”


“Well, we just think that fighting hurts people and makes them want to fight back.”

“Then why do people fight?”

“Because… it’s what they know. It’s harder to think of other things to do when you’re upset. It’s easier to just fight.”


(Tentative, in a whisper.) “Mommy, when you yell at me, it’s just like fighting.”

Quick, deep breath. Wipe away sudden tears.

“You’re right Will, it is. Let’s work together so that I can learn a better way, too.”


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Part of the Main

Despite my instinct to hurl whenever I start to feel sappy, I was and am very Thankful for many things today.

I am thankful that my children are asleep without hunger or fear, that we have good health, love for each other, and a community that fills us with friends and opportunities to enrich our lives. What more could we ask?

In a world filled with unspeakable horrors and inhuman poverty, we are beyond blessed: we are among the most privileged on earth. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you are too. The Global Rich List is a quick way to check.

If we, then, are the world’s wealthiest people, do we have any social responsibility to those less fortunate? Any moral directive?

I’ve blogged about my own beliefs on these things before; John Donne still says it better than I ever could.

It’s been floating around for awhile that those in the lowest income brackets tend to give more in terms of total assets than those earning significantly more. The percentage of giving falls dramatically at the household earning level of $100,000 per year and does not rise again until you reach the ultra rich categories ( >$10 million/year).

Here’s another thought. Is giving something that one should do because it makes the giver feel better about them self? Or should one give because it’s something we all have a responsibility to do? Is caring for and about each other a goal to be met, or an aspect of what makes us human?

So as I am thankful for the peace within my household tonight, I think of those who do not have rest. This global recession will impact the most vulnerable the hardest. Even as we tighten our belts and hunker down for an uncertain future, shouldn’t we also be talking about what we can do to take care of others? Next year, I want to be thankful for peace in households outside of my own, in places in the world I’ve never been, with people I’ve never met.


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Turkey with Fungi

We don’t dress up for holiday dinners anymore, so there is no more of the tradition of ruining an outfit playing outside. It was just straight up, regular play.

Kate may have inherited my athletic prowess. Just check out how she throws the football…

(What is that football doing behind her in that picture below? Oops.)

The good news is that the fact she can’t keep pants on (note picture above) may be a sign that she somehow missed the voluptuous gene which has been passed down in my family from Mother to Daughter since time immortal.

Will got into the action, too. He even kicked the ball to me a few times.

There was plenty Daddy-tackling.

At some point, I proposed a walk to find pine cones. I figured we could find something crafty to do with them… somewhere in my head are memories of pine cone turkeys, pine cone people, pine cone bird feeders, pine cone holiday decorations, and more. All that thinking of crafty pine cone projects made me start to think all artsy, and I started to play around with the camera. Note Will, my unwilling muse, holding the pine cone… normal picture:

Then the ZOOOOM into the pinecone! I’m all about playing around with the shutter these days.

I also tried the technique with a Japanese maple in my parents’ front yard. The breeze meant that I needed help keeping the branch steady — so I didn’t get to play for all that long, but here’s a sample:

My contribution to my Mother’s usual spread of veggies, turkey breast, and stuffing was Mushroom Gravy. Randy made this for us one Thanksgiving in Blacksburg. The same Thanksgiving my future in-laws came to visit and I decided to make squash soup ahead of time… only to discover that my allergy to pumpkin innerds extended to squash. It was a brilliant plan, really, since everyone was very willing to help out to make the meal — no one wanted the woman with huge, swollen, hive-covered hands touching the food.

Randy’s gravy became the stuff of legend. The recipe, in nearly direct quotation from Randy, goes like this: “Put a LOT of onions, a LOT of mushrooms, and a LOT of oil into a pot. Add some liquid. Let it cook. Add something to thicken it.”

Which is pretty much what I did this year. It was really good, even if this picture makes it look a little funky?

Art & Photography
Special Family Moments

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Jasmine, Cloves, and Red Silk

I was going to write about my ongoing struggle with video games and handheld electronics… the weight of my son’s interest and inclination to them, my technology and development professional spouse, the heavy use these items get in my parents’ home, and where I sit in all of it.

But my heart is in India right now.

I have never south of Delhi, but the entire country has held my imagination captive for more than 6 years now. The sweet, humid air, the chaos and order, the colors and life. My friends are all in the north and are safe, but their work relies on international travel and interest. It may very well suffer in the months to come. If I were a praying person, I would pray that reaction to the tragedies unfolding involve the recognition of suffering and need rather than bombs and bullets. Please please let this end much more peacefully than it began and all who are under threat right now come through.

Home and Renovation

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Don’t you make me stop writing this post…

During our 140 mile drive from New Orleans to Mobile, I was nostalgic for the way things used to be. Back when we walked uphill 3 miles each way to wait an hour at the bus stop for a ride to school, and had to go to the library and use a card catalog to find books for research papers, and didn’t have a variety of handheld electronics to fight over on car trips. We annoyed our parents with “ARE WE THERE YET,” which is very much preferred over, “I WANT TO PLAY WITH THE GAME THINGY” “NO, IT’S MY TURN” “NO IT IS NOT YOUR TURN” etc.

I tried to explain the joy of simply looking out the window at the dark silhouettes of trees, looking for words and letters in street signs and license plates, listening to the radio, and using your imagination to day dream away the trip. That is how we did it, yessir-ree, and it was character building.

It just goes to show that no matter what you do, what you have, or what you put in front of children during a car ride — they will always annoy you as a point of fact. So save your batteries, Moms and Dads. Don’t worry about the DVD player, the Ipod, or handheld game machine. It won’t matter. They will still make you threaten to pull over that car.

Now that we are in Mobile, here are a few pictures of the kids from January 2007 that I found on my parents’ computer…


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