Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas cards come unglued

I have a new level of respect for professional photographers. As an amateur, I figured my lack of experience and technical prowess could be overcome by shooting an enormous number of shots. (Not kidding, the iPhoto count for November photos was 836). Thankfully, my subject was, at times a handful, at others an angel, but ALWAYS entertaining.

It was hard to find the one photo that was worthy of our 2005 Christmas card. And the one we did select might make some wonder whether Christmas stocking hats in Arizona were recently redesigned to be red and blue.

oh well.. here are some of the photos that didn't make the cut for anything other than this pictorial of one wild boy and his unwieldy hat.

photo captions top to bottom:
1) "Nah, nah... my eyes are closed and you can't see me!"
2) "Clap hands, clap hands! Maybe if I signal we've come to the end, she'll get that camera out of my face."

3)"You behind the camera! Go get me a snack! And take this babushka off me!"

4) "Look ma, can't you just take Barry the Bear's picture? Nobody will be able to tell it's not me."

5) "Take me inside, this stinks!"

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

For Amore & Pop

There's no vocabulary
For love within a family, love that's lived in
But not looked at, love within the light of which
All else is seen, the love within which
All other love finds speech.
This love is silent.

- T S Eliot

Be well tomorrow. You are in my prayers.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Arizona named dumbest state in the union

Now there’s a superlative I could live without. To those unaware, Bob and I are in negotiation over where to buy a house and raise our little family. Since I was raised on the east coast and he on the west and our extended families are located accordingly, it’s obvious to see how we might conflict. Thankfully our discussions are usually rationally based, and we consider cost of living, employment opportunities and the like. It’s the subjective quality of life "discussion" where we can get a bit heated. This recent article though may be one of the best arguments in my favor.

I'll be honest, I'm usually the one who goes off on the quality of life rants. For example, I can get past the fact that it’s still too hot here in November to bake cookies. I can get past the fact that scorpions thrive all too close to intimate spaces in our home. And I can even get past the fact that the newscasters here are, at best, amateurish. Call me spoiled but growing up watching NYC news has made me yearn for newscasters who can manage more than 3 syllable words and, more importantly, who don’t seem to be going for the Pam Anderson look.

Now that we have Sam, the education issue is a new salient one for both of us. Bob argues that he went through the public school district in Arizona and he’s reached a level of academic and professional success. Several family members are prominent members of the Tempe public school system, to the benefit of their students. Finally, the public school system has experienced some difficulties in part to two issues that are often extremely localized -- illegal immigration and the explosive rate of growth.

I argue that I’d rather my son be part of a school district where his peers are higher performing, presumably as he is. In this environment, I’d hope he’d be challenged to learn and grow more than one where he’s the brightest. According to my sister in law, the level of challenge for her smart boys in Chandler isn’t adequate. And the immigration and growth issues aren’t going to change anytime soon. I view those as a failure of the local government here to put priority on educating their student population.

For two people who value education and critical thinking, this debate will rage on. In the meantime let me extend my congratulations to the great state of Connecticut. I’ll settle for Salutatorian.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Happy Halloween!

I wonder if everyone has certain superficial things they look forward to with life events like marriage or having kids? For example, when we were registering for our wedding I really looked forward to going to Williams Sonoma and picking: Henkels or Wusthof? Calphalon or All-Clad? I had been preparing for these important decisions since the day I tagged along with Dave and Lee Ann when they registered for their wedding in Albany. When it came time to make those decisions with Deanna- it was a snap! Wusthof. Check. All-Clad. Check.

As we prepared to celebrate Sam's first Halloween, I thought back to my nephew Connor's first Halloween. Kevin's cousin got Connor a Tigger costume that was *so* cute. I thought to myself- "Now this is one thing that is really cool about having kids. When I have kids, I'm going to put them in super-cute costumes for Halloween." A few weeks back, we were at Babies 'R Us and I saw this Winnie the Pooh costume that really suited Sam. I wanted to get it, but decided not to- we already had a little pumpkin onesie that he was going to wear for Halloween. As Halloween drew closer, I kept thinking about the Pooh costume and started pestering Deanna to get it. She finally relented, but when we went to the store, not only were they sold out of the Pooh costume- they were sold out of *all* their costumes!! For the first time I felt like I had failed my guy (as if he cared what he wore for his first Halloween). After some relentless searching on the Internet and calling around to local stores, Deanna found the Pooh costume! And it was half-off, can you beat that?

So, here I share with you Master Samuel Garrison all dressed up for his first Halloween! Gosh- he is so cute...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Flagstaff Trip

Deanna's dad was in town this past weekend and on each of his previous visits we failed to take him to the Grand Canyon. This time we finally managed to get him to the Canyon, but in my book the time spent in Flagstaff was the highlight of the weekend.

As you may know, I had the privilege of attend the prestigious (cough, cough) Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Flagstaff is a bit of a mixed bag. Lots of junky motels and fast food restaurants, but there are some redeeming qualities. Further, I think the town is moving in the right direction. That's right- master planned communities have come to Flagstaff!

We got to Flagstaff after a day at the Canyon, and since Sam was a little fussy (and it was late) we got take-out from August Moon. Ahh- good stuff. The Moo Shu was right on target, and not the slightest bit funky. Every bit as good as I remembered it.

For lunch the next day, we considered the Black Bean but ended up choosing to eat at The Flagstaff Brewing Company. What a great atmosphere- eating outside amongst the Aspen trees, the locals with banjos and their dogs, and the charm that is "downtown" Flagstaff.

I asked at the Student Union, "What happened to Central Dining?". The girls at the Information Desk looked at me like I was crazy. The dining hall was inside the student union where Mountain Jacks used to be (previously it was in a separate building), The Atrium was now a coffee house, and Chick-Fil-A had opened where the deli used to be. Everything changed!

I don't want to make you think we spent the whole time eating. We had to check out the bookstore to get the whole family suited up in the latest NAU apparel. The best deal in town was the student discounts offered on iPods! Bring your credit cards next time you visit. The 20GB iPod can be had for only $229.

We hadn't been to Flagstaff in almost a year and a half. I always enjoy visiting a familiar place after being away for a while. This trip was no exception. The town was full of changes, and for the better in my opinion.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

From the mothering frontline

Yesterday was a landmark day here at the Dwyer household. Prince Samuel (he was so dubbed by his father) has, in the last several days, begun crawling. It's amazing how one day he rolled everywhere then the next I noticed him pulling himself along with his arms and now he's actually getting his knees in on the action. Although I'm thrilled to see this development, I'm also frightened by the prospect of a mobile toddler rocketing himself around this place. Despite my efforts, I know microscopic bacteria, tiny spiders, and more typical dangers I haven't yet thought of abound.

In other related news, last week I joined a Yahoo! discussion board for Arizona mommies thinking that might be a good way to meet other like-minded women and potential playdate companions. Boy was I wrong. What I found was a bunch of outspoken and judgmental women anxious to validate one another's hard core parenting philosophies. Although the group was founded as a place to discuss "Attachment Parenting," it supposedly caters today to parents with all views. If that's true, I'd hate to see what it was like when it was more exclusive.

While I like the term "Attachment Parenting" (what mother wouldn't want her child to be attached?) I don't agree with some of the philosophy's tenets. For example, I believe co-sleeping would be divisive for our family and I think vaccinations, although they pose some risks, are ultimately more a benefit than a detriment. It only took me a week but I think it best for all involved if I start looking elsewhere for a discussion group. Although I love a good debate, the mommy in me thinks it best to keep all things in which I immerse myself upbeat and positive. There are plenty of parenting dilemmas to bring me down without subjecting myself to the critique and insensitive comments of the APers. To that end, I offer an uplifting quote for the day, "Women do not have to sacrifice personhood if they are mothers. They do not have to sacrifice motherhood in order to be persons. Liberation was meant to expand women's opportunities, not to limit them. The self-esteem that has been found in new pursuits can also be found in mothering." --Elaine Heffner (thankfully, she is no relation to Hugh)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Whole Foods Market Article

I came across some reading I really enjoyed recently. John Mackey is the CEO of Whole Foods Market. In this interview, he explains how he resolves the conflict between being an environmentalist and a capitalist:


Warning- this article is quite long. Read it when you have some time set aside.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Dance fever

Aunt Diane getting married was the highlight of the summer for us. Sam came with to the reception and danced with two of his favorite ladies. Check out this video and see how to make a baby go from laughing to throwing up in 30 seconds flat.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Searching for a workplace Shangri-La

Some mommies I know willingly gave up their professions to throw their energies into the most worthy project they could-- raising their children. Other super-mommies I know balance their professional endeavors with their children and do so knowing their children will live better lives because food and shelter aren't hard to come by because mommy goes to work. Those kids also have mommies who are personally fulfilled and, are arguably better mommies for it. So, what to do?

The solution that's evolving for me is some working mommy hybrid where I only do work I enjoy and I only do it part-time while Sam is in the best day care available. I think I've actually convinced myself that he'll learn more and become more social if he's exposed to people other than me (they will of course also have to genuinely love Sam and have PHDs in developmental child psychology.) And since I wouldn't leave him unless my new job was perfect, the search is on. So far I've interviewed for two positions that sounded good but in both cases, the employer was looking for someone full-time, not part-time, flexible and subject to cancellation if Sammy gets a cold. The search continues.

I did glean a valuable piece of advice on these last two interviews. If you ever end up in the position where you're interviewing a potential employee, avoid at all cost asking the question or rather making the request, "tell me about yourself." I tried not to have the deer in the headlights look but I am always at a loss when that seemingly simple request is made. What does it mean really? Jump right into professional accomplishments? Build some rapport and personalize the interview with a monologue about my family life? Argh! While I lamented this lame-o question, Bob made me feel better by offering the employer's translation... "I'm not an experienced interviewer and I don't have any specific questions prepared so here goes..." A word to the wise interviewer-- be direct when probing for information, please!

Know anyone looking for a business consultant?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Don't Shop at Best Buy!

One thing I've been teaching my little boy is to avoid shopping at Best Buy at all cost. The store puts customer service at the bottom of its priority list. In fact, customer service agents at Best Buy are encouraged and incented to give customers a HARD TIME when returning their products. Please don't shop there. If you have to buy something from a store like Best Buy, go to Circuit City. Or better yet, go to Costco. Costco's return policy is top notch, and their prices are low everyday.

Before Sam was born, a digital camera that we had purchased at Best Buy a couple of years ago (along with a "Performance Service Plan") started behaving badly. I wanted to take a video clip of one of Sam's ultrasounds, but the camera reported "No Memory Stick". I took it in 4 weeks before Deanna's due date and requested them to exchange the camera for a new one since it was the second time I had brought the camera in for service, and I needed to have a camera for Sam's birth. They refused my request and took the camera, telling me it would take 2-3 weeks for the camera to be repaired. 3 weeks went by- no camera. I called the store, visited the store, and finally called Best Buy corporate for some help. Nothing. I eventually got ahold of someone responsive at Best Buy corporate who negotiated a loaner camera from the store that I took the camera to for service. The "Customer Service" manager gave me his word that I could buy an "open-box" camera for the period that I was in need of a camera and return it when my camera came back with NO RESTOCKING FEE. Never mind that the whole concept of a restocking fee is just another way for Best Buy to extract more money from customers. Long story short, when I went to bring the loaner camera back 3 weeks after receiving it they gave me the hardest time. It was absolutely ridiculous. I think every customer that comes to the return desk at Best Buy is seen as the enemy, so the agents are trained to put the screws to each and every one of them.

Please don't shop at Best Buy. I know they have good prices (sometimes) and good stuff. But there's almost always a better place to buy things.


Friday, February 11, 2005

the five books you don't want to read in heaven

I've not read Mitch Albom's book "The Five People You Meet In Heaven". Maybe I should. The books I've read lately have been real stinkers! Here's some books I suggest you NOT read, and why:

1. "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" by Robert Kiyosaki. Although this book has some valid points (in a nutshell, rich people are rich because they buy assets not liabilities) it is marred with typographical errors. This is unacceptable. It's as if the book hasn't gone through spell check. Worst mis-spelled word: "sayig" instead of "saying". Brutal. Will Amazon give me my money back for this kind of defective merchandise?

2. "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger. Who would've thought that a book set partially in South Haven, MI could be so bad? Many of you have read this book, and most agree- it's really hard to get through. It took me almost a year to wade through its lumbering storyline. Nothing really happens! The most annoying thing about this book was the author's trite pop-culture references, and perhaps the picture of the wispy-haired author on the back of the book.

3. "The Warren Buffett Way: Investment Strategies of the World's Greatest Investor" by Robert Hagstrom. After reading "Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist," I was interested in reading more about the man. This book promised that, along with some practical details about how to invest like Warren. The book was just plain boring, following a repetitive format whereby it would review each investment that Berkshire Hathaway has ever made and examine how the investment played against Buffett's fundamental tenets of investing. Zzzzzz. Crickets.

4. "Seabiscuit" by Laura Hillenbrand. Listened to this one on audio CD on the drive out to Arizona. How boring! I never saw the movie, but I'm sure it was much better than the book. The book was way too much about the details of horse racing with no real appreciable storyline. Lame. Nearly made be fall asleep at the wheel in West Texas.

5. "A Beautiful Mind" by Sylvia Nasar. I thought this was a GREAT movie, so I wanted to read the book (the book's always better, right?). What a disapointment. Very hard to get through, with none of the interest the movie had. Reading this book really made me appreciate the efforts of screenwriters. Seriously. How Akiva Goldsman took this book and made it into the incredible story in "A Beautiful Mind" was fascinating. A good example of this is the part in the movie where they visualize John Nash's equilibrium theory by showing how a group of guys in a bar will all be shut out if they simultaneously go for the blonde.

There you have it. Five books that stink.

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