Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What's in a blog?

After my last rant on this site, I got an e-mail message from Kristi: "quit posting that crap on our family blog." That led invariably to discussions about what exactly this blog is for. I was under the impression that it was about who we are - personality, opinions and just goofy things that interest us. But Kristi reminded me that it was originally intended just to be a way for our family and friends, who are scattered literally across the world, to keep up with us, to see what's going on in our lives and to help keep in touch. She asked me to please start my own blog if I wanted to post geeky advertising stuff and opinion.

I thought about it quite a bit. At first I was dead set against it. This is partially my blog, after all. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Kristi was right. This should be an innocent place about family. It should be G-rated, and it should be about family. The beauty of the internet is that I can have my own little space where I can rant about everything - and nothing - until my heart is content. In my own little world I can post to geeky things like typography and new logos. And people can read it if they want - or not.

So, today I'm announcing the creation of my own little blog, Destructoville, at www.destructoville.jamespharaon.com. You won't get the posts in e-mail like you do with the Pharaon Family blog, but I will post a link here when I've posted something that might be interesting. And this space will be reserved solely for family matters.

That being said, I think I should take the time here to clear up what exactly the Pharaon Family blog isn't. It isn't meant to be a day-by-day recounting of our lives. In no way can we possibly post every picture we take on the blog or relay every story. There just isn't time. We'll continue to post the highlights as we have time. There are a lot of things that, while they are notable and cute, just don't make it to the blog, and we're sorry for that. Kristi has her hands absolutely full with a baby who thinks that sleep is for the weak (and trying to get any actual work done for her job, to say nothing of running the house.) I've got a day job that keeps me busy and I try to find time to be a good Dad in the evenings. And then there's the mountain of freelance work I try to get done late at night and in the morning.

Not whining here, just trying to illustrate that we've got actual lives going on. The blog is our way of letting the world into our lives when we can slow down long enough to share. There's so much that we could put on the blog if that's all we did. I've got a great post in draft - for someday - about the Pharaon Boarding House. And Soccer practice. And backyard camping. And so on...

All that being said, we've discovered that we really like this whole blogging thing. And we especially like the feedback we get from family and friends. So keep it coming, and we will, too.

Portrait of us...

I just noticed something funny that nobody's commented on. In the pictures with Great Grandma Hagler--taken August 31, I believe--she's opening her CHRISTMAS gift from us. You guys didn't even say anything! And Johnny just got his/their Christmas gifts the night of the Tom Petty concert...Christmas '07, folks. 8 months later. Now that's a record, even for us!

My friend Paula is almost done with her Christmas shopping, by the way. I admire her. Hate her a bit...nah, just kidding. But seriously, know what I'm doing today? 2007 taxes, my friends. I think I've taken procrastination to a new level--if we don't get the stuff to our accountant tomorrow, he can't turn it around to make our 10/15 extension deadline. Our goal--every stinkin' year--is to do better, be more organized. The hope? We'll finish 2007 today and then get caught up on 2008 details before, you know, 2009. It'll be a first for us, but that's our goal.

Oh, that, and I want to complete one scrapbook before Christmas. And oh, I don't know, teach a class, coordinate a cycle, keep the PPCD teachers happy...that's a tall order for 2 naps a day, man.

All that because I sat down to check my e-mail before Noble and I run to the store. I made bruschetta for lunch (was so proud of myself that I had lunch made at 8 AM!!). But don't get too excited, because then I realized I forgot basil, and if I take what's on our plant outside, I'll decimate it.

These are the days of our lives...


Thanks to Ike and the craziness that's followed, my house hasn't been CLEANED in two weeks. Sure, we've picked it up, but it wasn't CLEAN. I went to sleep Sunday with messes--big and small--in every room, and it completely stressed me out. So yesterday we got up at 4:30 and I finished my work so I could clean during Noble's naps (I usually work). My evil plan worked, although the soundtrack yesterday had a lot more crying than normal, guess he knew I needed to get things done!

When we walked in the house yesterday afternoon, Kayci said "what's that smell?" :) It was just the new Swiffer wets, but James and I both cracked up and joked that it was CLEAN she was smelling, finally. And the feeling has lasted...I'm sitting here working (on the couch, I'm tired) and when I look up my kitchen floor is actually shining. Seriously folks, that never happens!

Of course, I just realized that I cleaned yesterday but didn't grocery shop, so now I need to sit here in my clean house and figure out what Kayci's taking for lunch today. Oh, for a kid who'd eat pb&j...

Monday, September 29, 2008


I hate fundraisers. Don't mind buying from your kid (usually feel too guilty to say no, by the way), but hate to ask for $$ for my kids. So, if you're like me...quit reading NOW.

Kayci's school fundraiser is going on now, through October 10th. If you're interested in Sally Foster (gift wrap, kitchen gadgets, some food, etc.), you can go online, buy what you like & use Kayci's seller number so she'll get credit. I'm not going to lie--I'm not stressed about selling X number of items so she can win cr- -stuff she doesn't need anyway. If you're interested and/or able to make a purchase, check out the website. When you get to the checkout, Kayci's seller number is 338401.

Thanks in advance!


You guys already know I'm biased--I think Katie is gorgeous. Angus sent us this pic that he took at Kayci's birthday party, and I just had to share it!

Saturday, September 27, 2008


It's begun.

We went to Gracie's birthday party this afternoon. It was a tumble party at the Y, way fun. The kids were supposed to wear shorts & t-shirts, comfy stuff for tumbling. This morning, I walked in on a debate between Kayci and Daddy as he attempted to help her get ready for the day. She was very grumpy, saying she couldn't find anything to wear...

...wait for it...

...because too much of her stuff was too little girlie.

And there's the sigh.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Odds and Ends

I've gotten a few e-mails asking for pictures from certain days...rather than play catch-up, I've opted to just throw a bunch of pics together. Here's what we've been up to for the past month--enjoy!

The first pics: the day after we went to American Girl, we had lunch with Grandma (or Great Grandma) Hagler. This was Noble's first time to meet her, and Kayci's first time to go to her house!

Next you'll see some odds and ends from Ike and our houseguests. :) There's a pic of Kayci talking to the kids on Skype, which is one of our favorite things to do on Saturday mornings.

Then we backtrack to the Sunday of Grandparents' Day weekend, when Nana and Dan came up for lunch. Then it's fast forward again to this past Sunday, when we celebrated Auntie Katie's 21st birthday (boy, do I feel old!). The last pic is just one of Kayci and Noble...cute kids!

See what I mean by odds and ends? :)

Off to wash veggies for our chicken kabobs...hope you're all having a fun Friday night!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Day After

The craziest thing happened yesterday...

Mom and Dad were very disappointed when their power did not come on Monday, as promised. Surprise, right? I agreed to take Mom in yesterday to wipe out the fridge, throw away the little things that were left, etc.--basically, just prepare for when they COULD go home. On our way there, we had to go over to the oncologist's office to pick up some prescriptions for Dad and then to Walgreens to get the medicine (some of his meds you can ONLY get with a written prescription, on special paper, from certain pharmacies...probably why they don't recommend traveling for cancer patients, right?). Anyway, this put us about an hour and a half behind schedule, not that it was a problem. The point is, we had the day planned a certain way--we'd go in, work a little on the house, pick up a couple of things, come back here to wait for power or a hotel room near the hospital, whichever came first.

It was very surreal driving in to Houston; billboards were just shredded, and some of the debris hanging in the electric lines was pretty unbelievable. Once we got into Pasadena, many of the traffic lights were out and the streets seemed to be patchworked...power on, power off, power on...you get it. We drove over the bridge--still not tolls, bonus--and once we got to NorthShore, it was pretty bad. Lots of trees down and way too many trees in houses. Driving down Freeport, things were just OFF...broken signs, closed businesses, buildings damaged...just weird. And then we got to the Woodforest end of Freeport, which just looked like Abiyoyo or one of his friends walked through, smashing trees and houses. It's pretty bad, if you haven't been over there. As we came around the curve on Uvalde, we were very disappointed to see that there was no power at Mr. Gatti's, which meant no power at Mom & Dad's. Not that we were expecting power, mind you, but it was still disheartening to see all of the damage and that things were still so off almost 2 weeks later. We drove into the townhome complex, and sure enough, no power. We parked, and I was looking down taking the key out of the ignition when Mom said, "the light!" And sure enough, their outside light came on...then I noticed that the neighbor's safety lights were on, as well. They were NOT when we drove in. Call it our hurricane miracle--the power came on, literally, as we drove in. If we had not gone to get Dad's medicine, we would have been in and out before the power came on and Dad would have missed more treatment, Mom would have missed more work. We were already feeling very grateful--and blessed--and this was the icing on the cake after a very long two weeks.

The thing is, we had a great time--but it's just like vacation, you can only enjoy an alternate reality for so long before you begin to miss your routine, your space, your life. Would I trade this two weeks? Not for the world--we had a great visit with my parents, and Lynn and Hannah. We spent a lot of time doing plain old family things, and just watching the kids play and grow. Surprisingly, we didn't watch much TV, other than storm coverage. We ate a lot, no surprise there, and we spent a lot of time in the kitchen and at the table. We talked to aunts and uncles and cousins daily, which isn't that unusual but it was nice to feel so connected to the rest of the world. We spent a lot of time thinking about and talking to Ronny's family in Taipei, which again, isn't unusual but we felt really close to them because we had such similar experiences this past 2 weeks. It made the world seem just that much smaller, which is exactly what we all needed. I'm grateful for this time with my parents, and the opportunity they had to be a part of our daily lives--and the kids' lives--for 2 weeks. They saw Kayci's daily routine, Grandpa went to her first soccer practice, they got to hear her read each night. They watched Noble learn to get up on all four and rock...and rock and rock. They saw Noble go from playing on his carpet to scooting over to the bins to select toys...then fuss when the toys didn't do what he wanted them to do. We got to spend time with James' family, too, which was nice...and then there was our week with Lynn and Hannah, which we all enjoyed. So, all in all for us, a great two weeks. Yes, I'm not heartless--so many of our friends are still without power and internet and other basics, and we've been in contact with them almost daily. But I'm not blogging about how horrible Ike was, but instead, the unexpected blessings.

So, it's the day after. We took Grandma and Grandpa home last night, James fixed their satellite and we got them settled. Of course, once we got there we realized we left a big pile of their stuff in the office...oops. We'll be back in this weekend for Gracie's party, so not a total tragedy, but still funny. Luckily, their medicine made it to Houston.

James isn't feeling well (weather change?), so he's home sick from work today. He was miserable yesterday, between the drainage and the headache and the coughing, so I'm glad he's home to rest. And yes, I'm a bad parent because I kept Kayci home from school--I figure a day in bed will be good for all of us. Our day so far? Breakfast in bed, a movie ("Princess Diaries") in bed, then a nap for Noble and Daddy and some board games for Mommy & Kayci. Now she's in the office painting and I'm supposed to be working, but I figured I'd better post an update. :) My personal goal is to stay in PJs until it's time to take Kayci to gymnastics (she's not in gymnastics, but her friend Emily invited her for bring a friend day) and then to soccer practice. By the way, the schedule should be posted ASAP...I'll put that up when I get it. Kayci's team is the Red Hots, if you go to the website on your own.

Alrighty...back to work. And then tomorrow, back to school and work for Kayci and Daddy, back to regularly scheduled programming for Noble and Mommy. Grading for me, growing for him. And yes, because I'm me, cleaning and laundry in between. I may be mellowing in my old age, but I'm still Kristi, after all. :) Hey, I get cool points for having dirty floors for a whole week, man!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lousy Weekend

Yep, pun intended.

Before I start, to bring you up-to-date: Lynn & Hannah left on Saturday, got power on Sunday. Go, girls! Despite the circumstances, we really enjoyed our visit--Kayci would be happiest if Hannah would just move on in, and I have to say, having my best friend here made me pretty happy, too! Mom & Dad, poor things, still don't have power. They're handling it like champs, but I think a 2 week break from reality is enough...they're ready to get home, for her to get back to work and him to get back to treatments. Not sure what the break is going to do to Dad's treatment...if he'll still just have one week or what. Will keep you posted! Grandpa gave us a wonderful gift--he had our deck pressure washed and sealed and had the spa cover painted, then the guy liked Grandpa so much (must have been the sandwiches!) that he painted our back door trim and left the paint so we could paint the window trim out back. Between that and the yard work we did this weekend, we have a whole new backyard!! Thanks, Grandpa--that is one gift we will enjoy for a long, long time to come!

So, that's mostly what's been going on: Hurricane Ike, following the aftermath, watching and waiting every day to see when things will go back to "normal." GPISD is closed through this week, so I hope to go back to work there next week. Region 4 came back online this past weekend, so now I'm trying to get caught up and get back on track there (I've been a Coordinator all summer...kind of hard to step back into my Instructor shoes!). The good news is, the June cycle I'm coordinating ends this weekend, then I have 2 weeks to instruct before I get a break from that to start coordinating the October cycle. Sounds crazy, but it keeps me sane. :) James has been very busy with freelance lately...won't go into details as I probably don't understand the details, but I know he's busy, busy.

The kids are fine...which brings me to my ACTUAL post...

Last Thursday we were talking to some people we love dearly but haven't seen in a while. They mentioned that they'd found lice. We said the right things--after some teasing of course--everyone gets lice at some point, yada yada. Well, neither James nor I ever had lice as kids, so we were really just being nice. Later that night, I got to thinking: for a couple of days, I'd been telling Kayci "don't scratch your head at the table!" I thought it was just some weird thing she was doing. You know where I'm going...Thursday night and Friday morning I checked, nothing. Friday I went and had lunch at school with her and checked her out early so we could enjoy a last afternoon with Hannah. At lunch, there was what looked like a gnat near her ear. I thought it was weird, but having never seen lice (I thought I had, heaven knows my students had it enough!), I didn't know what it was. When it was time to leave, I told the teacher that some friends of ours we hadn't seen in a while had lice, she reassured me that there's no way Kayci could have had lice for that long but if it would make me feel better, go ahead and go by the nurse. So, we did...and yep, Kayci had LICE! You guys know I'm a clean freak, and this really threw me for a loop. For me, this was kind of worst case scenario, lice with guests...and every blanket and quilt we own out on the floor for people to sleep on. Yes, I was stressed. We went ahead and treated Hannah just in case, and Lynn and Grandma were very helpful...we managed to knock everything out Friday night. Kayci went to school on Monday with the all clear...but I'm still paranoid that they're coming back. So, keep your fingers crossed.

What we learned from this: anyone can get lice. We also learned that there's no way she could have gotten lice from our friends, and LUCKILY their lice experience made us think to check her, or we may have had a serious infestation. As it is, we're so lucky that nobody else got it--namely, me...we're always sharing pillows, etc. The nurse said that we really got lucky and caught it quick...the only thing we can figure out is that maybe she picked it up from a fair ride last week. We'll never know, and that's okay. I have to say, it was embarrassing to tell Paula and other people that we'd come in contact with that Kayci had lice, to check the kids...but you know, that's one of the reasons I wanted to put this on my blog. All those things we were telling our friends are true...anyone can get lice, and everyone who goes to public school probably WILL get lice. We got lucky this time, and Kayci was the only kid in her class to have it. It didn't spread to the Headleys (thank God!) or anyone else, so we're glad for that.

Maybe if we, as parents, talk about it more, it won't be such a negative thing. We think of lice and automatically think of dirty, and yes, poor people. Well, I know 6 kids who can disprove that theory...and I suspect, if we were being really honest, many more of our friends have had it but just have kept quiet because it's embarrassing. Let's not be embarrassed, and let our kids know that it happens. Maybe then there'll be a few less tears when it happens to YOU. And us, but next time, we'll know what to look for, heaven help us!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Noble sitting up playing

Noble can now officially sit up.  He's kinda been able to for awhile, but would usually fall over if you didn't support him.  But now he can sit up on his own for quite a while by himself.  He can't get to a sitting up position by himself yet, but he tries really hard.

The past couple of days he's also been using his voice quite a bit.  He says "da de da de da" and really sounds like he's trying to "talk."  He's just experimenting with sounds, but it's still really sweet.

Here's a clip from this morning that managed to capture both of Noble's new accomplishments.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Man

It's been such a wild week, in so many ways. I would say we're recovered from the storm...but we have a houseful of evacuees and any time we leave the house the chaos, etc. in the stores, gas stations, restaurants out here just remind us that something horrible has happened down the road. When Rita hit, we went to New Braunfels and basically had a vacation away from the mess and stress. There's no getting away from Ike, and the reminders of the damage he's inflicted. But enough about Ike--frankly, I'm tired of him.

Kayci is out of school today for the fair (life in a small town, folks), but she went to school as usual Monday & Tuesday. Monday evening, we were working on her homework. Each week they learn a new letter & sound. So far, they've learned /i/ and /t/, this week is /p/. Part of their homework is to find a picture of something that starts with that sound, glue it on the little paper and write the word. The first week, she used a color copy of Hannah's birthday invitation. Last week, she used the picture of her on top of the new table. So this week, I said, instead of using a picture of something from our house, take the magazine I gave you last week and find something in there that begins with p.

I was in the kitchen cooking, and from the office I heard: "Mommy, I'm gonna be the MAN!" I was kind of on to what she meant, but I just said, "you are?" "Yeah! Instead of ONE picture, I'm gonna do THREE! I'm gonna be that man. No, THAT GUY!" Is that my kid or what??

Monday, September 15, 2008

Morons, Idiots and Horrible Parents

For those of you who may not be aware, the Houston/Galveston area over the weekend suffered a direct hit from a strong category 3 hurricane - Ike.  Beginning on Wednesday, people on Galveston Island were given MANDATORY evacuation orders, along with people from areas near the coast, including the Bolivar peninsula.  They were told that this storm had a larger than normal storm surge and that if they stayed that they were on their own.  Early reports were that 90% of the island had evacuated, but on Friday that was amended to 60%.  A full 40% of the island decided to stay.  


Then came the pleading from the government.  The residents that decided to stay in the MANDATORY evacuation area were told that they faced "certain death" if they stayed and that they would be on their own.  And they stayed anyway.  The news was full on Friday of people walking around on the seawall in Galveston taking pictures and watching the giant waves slam against the seawall.  

Then, Friday afternoon the storm surge began and the wind started to pick up.  The water went OVER the seawall, even before the hurricane had gotten there.  And they stayed, even as police went door to door BEGGING people to evacuate.  

There were reports that the reason some didn't evacuate was because they couldn't afford the gas or because they didn't have anyplace to go.  So they rounded up a bunch of buses for people to board which would take them to a shelter.  Some went, but most stayed. 

Then the winds began to howl at hurricane force and the rains began.  And the calls began.  Morons called 911 begging and pleading to come be rescued from their homes because the water was rising or because their roof had already been blown off.  And the police and the Coast Guard put themselves in danger to save as many of the booger-eating morons as they could before it was simply too dangerous.  God bless them for trying, but I don't think they should have.  Those who stayed were given LOTS of opportunities to go.  They can't say they weren't warned, and they thumbed their noses at the same people who ended up saving their sorry butts.  It may sound callous, but at some point there needs to be some accountability.  And yes, even with loss of life.

How many resources were wasted because of such stupidity?  Thank God there were no reports of the first responders suffering any casualties.  

Why did they treat Ike like it was a joke?  So they could have a hurricane party?  Really?  What part of MANDATORY was unclear, exactly?

Because "I survived Carla and Alicia and Rita and I'll be fine this time."  First, Carla was in 1961, and you were a lot younger.  Second, Carla hit further down the coast, sparing Galveston a direct hit.  Alicia (1983) hit square on, so kudos to you for surviving it, but yet being too stupid to remember all the death and destruction that it caused.  Rita (2005) hit the Sabine pass.  Galveston was again spared and was on the good side of the storm.

So now we're treated to their sob stories and "heroic" tales all over the TV and newspapers, as if we're supposed to be proud of them and their remarkable feat of staying alive.  And as the photos of the survivors start to trickle in, what amazes me and yet incenses me at the same time is how many parents decided to to keep their families either on Galveston or on Bolivar.  I saw one guy on the news talking about how he stayed, but had to leave his home during the storm and hopped in his speed boat with his family, including young kids (wearing life jackets, luckily - thanks for that, father-of-the-year) and somehow managed to navigate to the Galvez hotel, where the emergency response teams were holed up.

And then I saw the following photos, which were taken from the Houston Chronicle's web site, showing "parents" with children as young as four months (!!!) who stayed and had be rescued and taken care of after the storm.  Be stupid with your own life if you want to, but PLEASE don't force your kids to stay in harm's way because you think playing chicken with a hurricane is a game.

Just look at the kids.  They're obviously exhausted and, I'm sure, traumatized.  I'm not a big fan of CPS, but I think someone should seriously question the judgement of these "parents."

The caption on the Chronicle's slide show page said that this baby is only four months old.  As a father of a six-month old, I find this kind of irresponsibility unconscionable.
Morons on parade.  Actually, waiting to be spoon-fed.

The caption on this one read that this lady is assessing the damage to her fiance's car.  So, let me get this straight...  you had transportation, obviously fairly new and most probably in good working order, and yet still decided to stay?  And now there will be an insurance claim that will contribute to yet higher insurance premiums.  Thanks, moron.

Old enough to know better.

Again, old enough to know better. Wipe that smirk off your face, lady.  Those guys who are helping you have families that you're keeping them from.

I'll end this little rant by saying that I hope that every last one of these morons gets a bill from the local authorities, itemized with such things as "officer's hazard pay, helicopter fuel, bottled water, etc."    I also think that the next time they call a MANDATORY evacuation, they should wait until the traffic out of town dies out and then go around arresting all the fools who think they know better than anyone else.  Charge them with a felony for disobeying a direct order from the governor, mayor and local officials.  At least in custody, they won't need to be plucked from some rooftop somewhere.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Little Circus That Could

Several weeks ago, we saw a poster up for a circus that was coming to town. We marked the calendar and made a plan to go because none of us had ever been to a circus other than Ringling Brothers. Plus, the poster made it look fun - there was a clown, a tiger jumping through a ring of fire AND a guy getting shot out of a cannon!

So finally the big day arrived, last Friday (September 5), when the circus was coming to Brenham! We had no idea what to expect. Would there be a giant tent? Would there be three rings or just one big one? Would there be a midway? Would there be a strong man and a bearded lady? Hold on - I just described our family reunion. Back to the circus...  I envisioned a small time circus like the one in one of my favorite movies, Big Fish.

So we pull up to the fairgrounds, where the circus would be held. No tent. I was immediately a little disappointed, but we did see an elephant with kids riding on it.  I hoped it wasn't the only one.  The ticket "gate" was a little stand that, had we been the dishonest type, we could have walked right around and gotten in free.  There were no barricades or ropes or anything else except some caution tape laying on the ground that had obviously been trampled either by some kids or someone who IS the dishonest type.  At the gate were three ladies, all wearing red polo shirts and all with very glittery stage makeup, complete with blue eyeshadow.  It didn't occur to us until we went past the gate and saw other "vendors," also with stage makeup, that the booths were actually being run by the performers.  Everyone pulls their weight.  I can respect that.

The "midway" consisted of the aforementioned elephant ride, some circus ponies (which were never actually used in the circus, btw) that were giving rides, a moonwalk, inflatable slide and some concession booths selling such things as soda poured out of 2-liter bottles, snow cones, popcorn and Kayci's personal favorite - cotton candy.  We walked around a little, took a photo of Kayci in front of an elephant, got her some blue cotton candy and then went into the arena to find some seats.

The circus was set up in three rings in the open-air fairgrounds rodeo arena.  Luckily, it was a beautiful evening with a hint of fall in the air.  Otherwise, it might have been a little uncomfortable.  We sat almost dead center in front of the center ring, although at the top of the stands.  Kayci tore immediately into her cotton candy.  Noble was having a great time being outside.

Soon, the circus started.  First up was an animal act.  I was pleasantly surprised that there were no goats with stripes painted on masquerading as tigers, as I had skeptically suspected.  They actually had real tigers, although they looked like they were WELL past their prime.  Unlike some of the big cat acts that I've seen in the past, I never really got any sense of danger.  The tigers sat up and rolled over, but never ONCE tried to eat the tamer.  I guess you have to pay a lot more these days for that kind of action.  Not that I would have wanted to explain that to Kayci...  But my favorite part of the whole act was when the tamer went to light the ring of fire that the tigers were supposed to jump through.  From somewhere in his stretchy pants, he produced a lighter and attempted not once, but TWICE to light the ring.  Over the music and the sounds of all the kids in the stands slurping up their cotton candy, if you listened very closely, you could hear the sounds of tigers snickering.

Another on my list of highlights was seeing a herd of elephants dancing around the center ring.  I was suddenly struck that you just don't see too many elephants in Brenham, Texas -and certainly not as close-up as we were watching them.  Being the sick-minded freak that I am, I had to envision the movie scenario where elephants got loose and ran rampant through downtown.  Now THAT I'd gladly pay $28 to see any day.

There was this sad little clown with a trained dog, as well as what I can only describe as some sort of quasi-acrobatic act.  I was disappointed because I've seen the Sam Houston State cheerleaders do many of the same stunts and, in fact, better.  What was supposed to pass as death-defying and sensational was in reality very basic basket tosses that we used to do when I was a cheerleader back in high school.  Yawn.  I seriously thought about suggesting that we leave at intermission.  Then The Little Circus That Could earned the price of admission...

Two guys wearing what can only be described as the bottom portion of red and blue Superman outfits came out and stood, staring at the crowd.  They were bare chested and - I have to be honest here - really chiseled.  I made a mental note to go to the gym and then focused again on the Ambiguously Gay Duo.  They moved in forced slow motion as they grabbed hands and began forcing themselves into acrobatic positions.  It was nothing short of amazing the acrobatic poses these two guys were able to get into, and the strength and balance it must have taken to not only do this, but to do it in slow motion!  VERY impressive.  After every stunt, they would stop and look at the audience, almost waiting for a reaction.  Actually, waiting for MORE of a reaction.  Someone should have pulled them aside before the show and explained that crowds in Brenham only go freaking nuts for high school football and baseball games.  But this was as close as they could muster without cheerleaders.  It really was amazing, and I managed to get a shot of one of the stunts, along with the sunset.

During intermission, in which all the performers ran back out to the midway to sell concessions and give elephant rides again, I witnessed one of the slickest marketing ploys of all time.  The announcer came on the loudspeaker toward the end of intermission and announced that they had "what they consider to be the official souvenir of the George Carden circus," an oversized coloring book featuring the acts of the circus.  And a select number of the coloring books had a blue coupon at the front that was good for a toy from a table that seemed to magically appear all of a sudden at the front of the bleachers.  And only lucky kid would win the GRAND prize - an inflatable Incredible Hulk on a stick.  Ho-hum.  Wake me up when intermission is over, will ya?  Zzzzz...

BUT WAIT!  The special coloring books were only THREE DOLLARS!  And they would only be on sale for the next FIVE MINUTES.  And that's the point when everyone seemed to lose their minds.  I mean people went clean out of their skulls!  Parents were shoving money into their kids hands and shoving them down the bleachers toward the guys with the books.  Some adults were scrambling down front and pushing kids aside to get a book.  Kristi sent Kayci down to get one to send to the Clarkson kids in Taiwan (I think that's just the excuse she used to get me to buy a coloring book since I had said no souvenirs).  We saw her for awhile before she disappeared in a crowd of impatient, pushy adults.  I went down to make sure she was alright and found her being pushed aside by adults who just HAD to have a coloring book.  There was no sense of order.  She was still holding up her little wad of money toward the coloring book vendor, waiting patiently for her turn that would never come.  So I plucked her out of the crowd, did a little shoving of my own to a couple of adults who had pushed her aside, and got her a coloring book.  There was no blue ticket in it, so no prize. The amazing thing was that the little "five minutes only" sale went on for almost 15 minutes. And to top it off, we got to see the official coloring book of the "Show Beautiful Circus."

The second half of the circus wasn't really much to speak of, so I'll spare you the details.  It consisted of some juggling acts, another clown act and some more acrobat acts.  The circus ended with seven motorcycles riding around inside a steel sphere.  It was interesting because at one point one of the motorcycles stalled, causing the stunt to be started over.  

At the end of the circus, we left feeling like we got our money's worth in entertainment.  It was a slightly surreal experience, but we enjoyed our evening.

The Morning After...

Well, we're still online and definitely safe!  We were up late and through the night, mostly watching and listening to 11's coverage.  The wind kicked up and the rain came, but I don't think we were ever in real danger.  So, we're fine--this morning has brought many phone calls and texts...our friends in Brenham haven't reported anything worse than limbs down and power outages, so we're praying that's the extent of it here.

For our friends and family in Houston, I hope that's all you have to deal with, as well.  We're still waiting to hear about the east side of town; from the reports, it looks like there was a lot of water over there, so we'll see.  I hope all of our Houston friends and family are safe--those of you we've talked to so far have about the same reports as here--limbs down and power outages.

We've taken the tape down and started cleaning up the stuff we had out to prepare...but we're feeling pretty lucky that that's all we're facing today.  We all know from Rita that the power can still go off, but hopefully we won't have to worry about that.

If we haven't talked to you, yet, let us know that you & your home are okay...keeping all of you in Ike's path in our prayers.  

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ike, Ike, and More Ike...

I just logged in for the first time in several hours and saw Ronny's blog--they're facing a typhoon, the Pacific's version of a hurricane, this weekend.  I know that's a bummer for them as they're homebound, but we're just glad they're safe.  :)

Things here have been a little surreal today--I keep forgetting it's STILL Friday, as this day has lasted for-ever already.  It hasn't been bad at all...in some ways, it's felt like vacation.  Well, vacation with that crazy ominous Ike theme in the background--if you're listening, Channel 11, it's just wrong.  And scary!

Have been talking to friends and family off and on and keeping tabs on everyone.  We're actually surprised Mom and Dad are the ONLY ones here...but not unhappy, as our house is teeny tiny.  Although I have to say, it hasn't felt small at all the past 28 hours.  We all have our own space, and although at times we're spread out doing our own thing, we've kind of been following each other around all day.

Hmm...can you tell I've been listening more than talking today?  I ramble.  So, the important stuff:  our house is ready for hurricane, we hope.  We did not board the windows...but we are the only people in the neighborhood who taped and brought everything in (all those terra cotta pots on the front porch...yuck!).  We felt kind of silly, but at the same time, we have a family to think of.  We love our little green house with all of the light and windows--hope that doesn't come back to bite us!  Have I already said that I thought we left hurricanes behind when we moved to Brenham?  Sigh.  

Again, I ramble.  Everyone is doing well; Grandpa has eaten more today than in over a week (yea!) and has been up and around, visiting with everyone and just basically being himself.  It's been such a blessing!  Grandma brought her sewing machine and has decided to make us a fall runner, which of course meant a trip out for fabric which meant that she had to consult with Kayci on a dinner menu (even though we have TONS of food already)...but, that made it feel like a normal day.  Kayci and Noble are fine; we had the Headleys over to play today which was lots of fun...Micah and Lydia showed Kayci some soccer moves, and Noah had a few of his own.  Noble had fun watching the big kids play, and I enjoyed it when Paula came to pick them up and we got to visit for a while.  And it was nice to get out and walk to their house around the corner...but again, I ramble.

Short story way long, we're safe.  We've been bustling around all afternoon getting ready, hoping at the same time that our preparations are in vain.  Time will tell, but for now, we're ready.  Well, we may run out of beer, but that will be the only thing.  Let's just pray we don't need it...hee hee.  

Alrighty, off to shower just in case I can't in the morning.  ugh.  I'm not ready to think about that yet!   Totally off the subject--James is just messing around on the computer, and has pulled up pics of Mike Wright's wedding back in 2002 (James & Kristi trivia:  the day before Kayci was conceived!).  That's the last time I saw Allan and Michelle, which is just hard to believe.  Now he's just taking a trip down memory lane--there are pics of Grandma & Grandpa at the beach in their golf cart...our house in the Heights...baby Buddy...the kittens I found at Teapot Depot...my pregnant belly...yikes, we'll stop there.

Stay safe, wherever you are.  Hopefully we'll be back online tomorrow...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ike Update

I know many of you are wondering and worrying...so here's a quick update:

Grandpa got out of the hospital midday today, and James went into Houston to pick them up.  They took a very scenic route home and got here in about 4 hours which, for those of you who evacuated during Rita know, ain't all that bad.  Yes, Brenham is going to get some high winds but as it stands now Grandma & Grandpa would have been right in Ike's path had they stayed, so we're all relieved that they're out and don't have to worry about it.  

So far, so good--Grandpa is eating and taking his medicine, and now we're all going to get a good night's sleep so we can play tomorrow...James will get off at noon and Kayci's school is closed, so we're looking forward to a relaxing day at home.  :)  

Of course we wish everyone well, but we're still hoping Ike will push out a bit more and Brenham won't get so much of the wind.  We'll keep you posted, but for now, we're all safe and ready for whatever comes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Soundtrack of my life...

As are you all, I'm sure, we've been crazy busy for the past week or so and haven't had--or taken--the time to blog.  Kayci starts soccer tomorrow, so I'm sure we'll post a pic or two of that.  We can't wait!  We also got some fun video tonight of Noble laughing at Kayci, so hopefully James will post that for you (hint, hint!).  We called Grandpa's hospital room (he's back in for the dehydration and lack of nutrition, so they're getting that under control) so he could hear Noble's giggle...I think that may be the only time Grandpa has smiled today.  Oh, that's not true--he got a kick out of Gavin calling to say Happy WiseMan? WisePerson...not sure! Day.  :)  It's a Taiwanese tradition, apparently.  Man, I miss those kids, but with the blog and Skype we're keeping up...but I digress.

Tonight's blog isn't about major life stuff, but about something fun.  In the new version of itunes, there's a Genius feature.  This morning, James said, pick a song, any song.  I chose True Colors, by Cyndi Lauper because it's been in my head lately.  He put it in, and itunes created a playlist of songs that go with it...and it was an AWESOME playlist!!  This morning while I was dealing with a cranky baby (Noble's got an ear infection) and working (new online class started today!) I listened to some of my favorite songs of all time, truly the soundtrack of my life.  I can't name them all...Toy Soldiers, Right Here Waiting, Tears in Heaven, We Didn't Start the Fire...great, great songs that make me remember what it was like to be a teenager.  I thought things were so hard then--what I wouldn't give for my biggest worry today to be a zit!  :)  

Anyway, check it out if you're an itunes fan.  Of course, you only get the songs you've already got plugged in...lucky for me my boy knows me well and keeps us well-stocked with early 80s and 90s songs.  :)  

Friday, September 5, 2008

My eyes! My eyes!!!!!

I have new thing to add to my list of top ten things I never wanted to see.... Bill Gates shaking his rump.

In case you haven't heard, Microsoft's new pitchman is Jerry Seinfeld.  I'll wait a minute while the irony of that sinks in...   done yet?  no?   ...  okay.  good.

Ad agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky out of Miami was hired to create a $300 million ad campaign to try to rejuvenate Microsoft's image and to complete with Apple's "Get a Mac" campaign.  Their first task was to find a spokeman who just reeks of "fresh" and "hip" and cutting edge."  Naturally, they picked Jerry Seinfeld (for kids in the audience, Jerry Seinfeld is a standup comedian who had a hit TV show that ended in 1998.)  And the collective advertising and internet community said, "huh?" while Apple fanboys everywhere wet themselves with laughter since Seinfeld's apartment frequently had Macintosh computers laying around.

So a few weeks pass and we finally get to see the train wreck we were all waiting for:

I think parts of this ad are really, really funny.  Jerry Seinfeld cruising around the mall eating a churro, for instance.  The irony of Bill Gates shopping at a bargain basement shoe store wasn't lost on me - I just didn't think it was funny. But the best part of the whole spot was Bill Gates' lack of acting ability. And the fact that he's still using his 1977 mop-haired jail mugshot photo on his ID.  That is what makes this spot funny.

Too bad Bill just retired and isn't the "face" of Microsoft anymore.

Where was this spot ten years ago? It would have been timely when Seinfeld's show had just gone off the air, while he was still on the top of everyone's collective mind.  Bill Gates was still the face of Microsoft back then, which was in dire need of some good PR while it was knee-deep in its Internet Explorer anti-trust case.

There's no doubt that Microsoft needs a shot of positive PR.  Following the Vista debacle, it's seen as a bloated, unwieldy giant that is out of touch with the mainstream.  Choosing two aging icons of the '90s was a mistake.  Someone like Jon Stewart would have been better.  That would have also served as a subtle link - a little jab at Apple - because John Hodgman (PC) is a correspondent for the Jon Stewart show.  Using PC's boss to pitch Microsoft would have been classic.  That, and Stewart is still relevant and funny.  Seinfeld ... not so much.

BTW- it should be noted that Bill Gates KNOWS that he's this wooden, dorky figure.  He plays it well, and he's done a good job making fun of it in the past.  Just check out his hilarious retirement video.  He's definitely a better choice than Microsoft's current CEO, the always scary and never loveable Steve Ballmer.  But Seinfeld?  Seriously?

Microsoft continues to make a joke of their brand.  Even though I'm an Apple guy, I still find it sad.

Just a little funny for a Friday morning...

I'm sorry I haven't posted all week...I'll try to catch up this weekend. It's been a busy one here, as I'm sure it has been for all of you. It should be a quiet weekend, though...I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Anyway, last night Kayci and I were laying in her bed after reading her story. (Last night's pick: Kevin Henkes' Wemberley Worried, because she enjoyed Chrysanthemum so much at school. Another funny, but not why I'm writing--she was telling me about reading Chrysanthemum at school, and then was AMAZED that I have the same book.  Come on, kid, where you been?)
Back to the story...after we finished reading, we talked about things we have worried about.  (Another aside, last week we decided she can wear her JA cross necklace every day, and we talked about what the cross means...for her, we focused on how it means that we don't have to worry, God loves us so much He'll take care of us.)  So, this has been kind of an ongoing conversation.  I confessed that I had been worried about her starting school, and how anxious I was waiting for her that first day in car line.  Which is another whole story...

Then Kayci cupped her hands around her mouth, to whisper to me...

Do you want to hear a really, really bad secret that happened at Krause?  A 10-year old girl...she's bigger than me...she didn't hear her name in car line...and she had to spend the WHOLE NIGHT at Krause, all by herself!!

To my credit, I did not laugh, but the kid still doesn't believe me that that couldn't have happened (for one, it would have been on the news, but I don't know that Wayne Dolcefino comes this far west).  Anyway, it just cracked us up that, as Daddy says, Krause has urban legends.   I just reassured Bitty that if she doesn't come out to car line, I'll come in and search every inch of Krause until I find her and take her home.  :)  

Kids these days...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

In a world ... without Don LaFontaine

Don LaFontaine, the man behind the most ubiquitous voice ever, died over the weekend at age 68. While this isn't exactly HUGE news, it is interesting to me because I used to work for a guy named Bill Moffett who had a lot of the same mannerisms and a voice very similar to LaFontaine's. Sometimes, while sitting around with the staff in his office or while cutting a radio spot he would launch into a spontaneous parody of LaFontaine that was always very funny. There's just something funny about hearing one voicever guy mimicking another voiceover guy perfectly.

Also, I got to thinking in the past couple of days... LaFontaine's voice was almost literally EVERYWHERE. Movie trailers, TV show promos, radio ads and on and on will never sound the same again. Let's hope they don't get some imitator that sounds kinda like him to pick up where he left off. Now that their go-to guy is gone, this could be a real chance for the industry to break some new ground. I hope they do.

Monday, September 1, 2008

American Girl...

Can't help but hear Tom Petty singing that in my head...

Anyway, Saturday was the long-awaited day...Kayci's trip to the American Girl store in Dallas. I'm not sure where to begin this story...maybe from the beginning is best. Aunt Susan and Uncle Phil have, like most of us, been in love with Kayci from the moment they saw her beautiful little face. They're big, big Kayci fans. Aunt Susan wanted to have a special tradition that they could all share, so for Kayci's first birthday Aunt Susan and Uncle Phil sent her a Bitty Baby. For those of you who aren't familiar, one, that's a darn nice gift for a one year old. Two, you can choose from several different Bitty Baby options to "customize" the doll, so they chose a Bitty Baby with brown hair and brown eyes--and yes, she TOTALLY looked like Baby Kayci. Well, when Kayci opened that birthday gift, suffice to say that Daddy and I were a little leery of letting her play with this special toy given her age and tendency to drag toys around. But, Kayci took one look and fell in love so that was that. We named her BeBe--as in B.B., or Bitty's Baby. BeBe slept with Kayci every night (until she got Aero, right before we moved to Brenham) and went everywhere we went (um, Seattle--which is another story in itself, as BeBe got left in the airport and we didn't realize until the plane took off...I don't know who cried more, Kayci or Mommy, also Oregon, San Francisco, Kansas...anywhere we've gone, BeBe's gone). Every birthday and Christmas since, Kayci waits eagerly for the telltale red wrapping paper and white satin ribbon because she knows it'll be something cool for BeBe. They've also broken the bank a couple of times and bought matching outfits for Kayci, which is just something to see. So, that's where our story starts. If you've been watching this summer, you know that Kayci suckered Grandpa into buying her a "big" American Girl doll, Kit. She loves Kit and has also fallen in love with the books about Kit's life during the Depression. We get American Girl catalogs regularly thanks to Aunt Susan and Uncle Phil, so she's been poring over them trying to decide what she wants the VERY most for Kit and BeBe. Because the stuff is pretty pricey, Daddy and I told her a long time ago that we won't buy it for her, she'll have to use her own money or wait for birthdays and Christmas. So...

She saved her birthday money (well, about 3/4 of it) and then earned $$ by sleeping in her own bed (nope, we're not above bribing our child to get a good night's sleep). All in all, she had $100 of her OWN money to spend. It's crass to talk about money, I know, but the point is, if you know Kayci and how long it takes her to spend $1 at the Dollar Store or worse, the Dollar Spot at Target, you can see why this trip was so eagerly anticipated...and maybe just a bit dreaded. Daddy and I had visions of a meltdown when she realized that, though $100 is a LOT of money, it won't go very far in the land of American Girl stuff. As it turns out, there were no meltdowns. A few frowns as she deliberated if she'd rather have, say, Kit's scooter or a cheerleader outfit. But it's Kayci, and she pretty well bought what she went there thinking she would buy. Her haul: 2 dresses for BeBe, an outfit for Kit, Kit's scooter, a hairbrush (a must-have, according to Hannah, so that was the item Kayci wanted the very most and is the most excited about!), a pair of glasses and a hairstyle for Kit at the American Girl salon. (Um, about the hairstyle--Daddy and I are a bit more cynical than most, I know, but seriously, we paid $10 for the nice lady to show Kayci that yes, scissors DO work in Kit's hair and then tie a ribbon in said hair. A ribbon which came out almost as soon as we got to Aunt Susan's house because Kayci wanted to brush Kit's hair with the new brush...argh. So really, we paid $10 for Kayci to have the experience of picking a hairstyle for Kit and reaffirming that yes, her favorite colors at the moment are pink and green.)

I digress--too much going on here now, as Noble's awake, the phone's been ringing (hmm, coincidence?) and I'm trying to put about 3 gazillion pictures in a slideshow so you can see Kayci's visit from start to finish. Anyway, we had a blast at the American Girl store--it's AWESOME. And we hear that Dallas is the second smallest store, so I can't even imagine what a flagship store would be like!! We arrived about 2 to have time to look around before our 3:00 lunch reservation. All of us, I think, walked around with our mouths open at first...it's just something. Kayci was so excited, but also a bit taken aback by the sheer magnitude of her options, I think. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves, but I will say that those 3 hours were well worth the anticipation and yes, the cost. If you know us, you know that Kayci got out of there with well over $100 in merchandise...Aunt Susan and Uncle Phil bought her Kit's school bag, which is just awesome, and Daddy kicked in Kit's school outfit (we gave her Kit Learns a Lesson as a happy Saturday morning--those pictures of her at the table are showing the book, which Kit and BeBe signed, and $100 in $1 bills to further drive home the point that yes, $100 is a lot of $$. And her camera, because she wanted to wear it around her neck like Kit does and take pictures of the store, etc.). Oh, and we also bought Hannah's birthday present, but I can't say it here in case you're reading, Hannah Banana. We can't WAIT to give it to you!!!!

Alright, life calls from the other room. We're hanging out until after lunch today, then we'll head over to College Station so Daddy can use his MS150 gift certificate before it expires, and we also need a few things from Target. Hope you're all having a great and relaxing Labor Day, and that you're not in Gustav's path. We've all been stressing a bit about that for the past few days, worrying about Dad having to travel while he's in pain already. So, we're grateful they can stay put and he can rest and recover.

Friday Night Lights

Sorry to backtrack, guys, but it was a busy weekend! Soundtrack of my life right now: dishwasher, dryer, the whisper of the TV from the living room where Kayci is watching a movie while Noble naps...and ah, the sweet silence of a napping baby. So, QUICK! Time to get the posts up from this weekend...

Friday as you already know, James went to Tom Petty. Noble, Kayci and I had dinner with GoGo, Angus & Jhido, then went to the big ol' Brenham Stadium (read: um, not as nice as I expected for a town who lives and breathes Cub Football) to watch Adam's High School beat Brenham. It was kind of weird sitting on the Visitors side at a Brenham game...maybe that's some sort of metaphor for our life here...

Anyway, here are Kayci's pictures from the evening. I don't edit her slideshows so you can see what's important to her. :)

I'm going to put this up really quick, then get the American Girl slideshow done...I know some of you are waiting on that!