Monday, October 31, 2011

Boo


Our trio of jack-o-lanterns.


Genevie's goofy grin.


Davis's evil smile.


Addison's Darth Maul.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Boo Bounce


Last Thursday Trey and I took the kids to a local Bounce U for their "Boo Bounce".


It included pumpkin painting,




massive slides,




lots of jumping,


glow in the dark necklaces,



pink cheeks,


and plenty of smiles.

Atmospheric Irony


In 24 hours I went from this...



...to this...


Can't wait to show you more from my trip to Phoenix. I think I may be in love with the desert.

Rebuilding the Tree Belt


One of the pleasures of home ownership for me has been all the gardening and yard work that it entails. It was our unfortunate distinction to inherit a rather lack-luster front and back lawn. Most atrocious was the tree belt -- that strip of grass between the street and sidewalk -- which was, quite frankly, a lush patch of crab grass.


From all the research I've done online, autumn is the most ideal time to plant grass seed. So a couple of weeks ago, Trey and I began the project of ripping up the tree belt and then planting new seed.


This is what it looked like one week ago.


Just dirt.


 This is what it looked like 3 days later.


A little green fuzz.


And this is what it looked like this morning, exactly one week after planting.


We're sporting a thin, albeit promising, green carpet.


I did not expect for these blades to support snow for at least another two months.


But you just never know around these parts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The View from the 37th Floor

 

Today was a glorious autumn day in Philly and I had to snag a few photos from my new building to share on here. I wish I had snagged pictures this morning with the mist on the Delaware River and a golden haze over NJ. Another time I promise I will. This is the view looking dead east. The river you see is the Delaware River, the dividing line between NJ and Philadelphia. The blue bridge is the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, which my train goes over every day. The white building to the right of the photo is City Hall, and the statue on the top is none other than our beloved Billy Penn, known to the rest of the nation as William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. I've written before about the Philly skyline. You can refresh here.


Here is a zoomed in view of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.


A closer view of City Hall, which is right across the street from my old building.


This is the view north of my building. I am now right across the street from the Comcast building, which is now the tallest building in Philly. I love how its glass reflects Liberty One and Liberty Two.


This is the view facing north of the ground. The green dome is the peak of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church.


This is the view west of the city. The river you see snaking along is called the Schuylkill River (pronounced SKOO-kuhl). If you look very closely you'll spot the Art Museum, forever immortalized by Sylvester Stallone in Rocky.
 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Music Class


A friend of mine from church is in the process of getting her PhD from Rutgers focusing on parent/child musical interaction. As part of her research she has set up an "active group", which participates in a 10-week 40-minute music class. Instead of attending the class, the "passive group" gets weekly newsletter information about ways to engage your children musically.

To qualify the parents had to be non-music majors who had never attended a parent/child music class before with children 4 or under. Before the 10-week program began, each participating parent had to answer survey questions that assessed their feelings and attitudes towards music and their own musical ability. We'll do this again at the conclusion of the program. It was a really fascinating exercise, and thankfully we were selected to be part of the active group.

We're now three weeks in and both Genevie and Davis love it. Davis is definitely more reluctant to participate openly, but I know he's getting a lot out of it by what he retains and brings home. The picture above was taken this past Monday during a time when everyone got to "make music" with different instruments to fit the rhythms of the musical recording that was playing. We explore beats, speeds, highs and lows, classical expression, singing, rhythms, and vocal imitation among other things. You should check out the blog which has a wealth of information about how to engage your child musically and dispels many of the myths around musical ability.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupy Philly


My old office is right across the street from City Hall where Occupy Philly is camped out. My new office is two blocks away and I happened to walk by on Monday and snapped this photo. Click on the picture to enlarge and read the signs.

I'm honestly not sure how I feel about all this. The reporting I have seen and the signs I've read, seem to indicate a panoply of discontent from lack of jobs to corporate greed. Some of these issues I'm very sympathetic with, but I also know that capitalism is neither the devil nor the answer. Capitalism, like everything else, can be very good or very bad. If I know anything about human nature, it's that people are radically selfish, and so when you apply that to large corporations it often means that a handful of people make decisions out of enlightened self-interest, negatively impacting others. Think Enron, think Arthur Anderson, think BP, think Haliburton, think Fannie Mae. But however imperfect, this is the world we live in. Corporations are not going away. Capitalism is not going away. Shouldn't these protesters be pouring their efforts into making sure Washington does its job to protect the little guy from the unbridled greed and corruption of corporations? Or better yet, why not infiltrate? I'm by no means at the top of the food chain in corporate America, but some day maybe I will be. Some day my decisions may directly impact corporate policy. Not to be all Gandhi, but I can be the change I want to see in the world. I guarantee that is more effective than bumming it night after night with signs on a Philly street. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jersey Tomatoes

Exhibit A
See Exhibit A, a completely untouched photograph taken Sunday on my iPhone of a sliced tomato from the "big plant" in my garden just before being added to BLTs. Yes, this slow-to-produce plant has finally started yielding some significant bounty in...get this...October? And I have fallen in love all over again with Jersey tomatoes. Remember how much I missed them in Aberdeen? I bet you dollars to doughnuts that if you do not like tomatoes but then had a bite of a Jersey tomato, you would change your mind. Jersey is to tomatoes what Georgia is to peaches.

They are the reddest, juiciest, most delicious tomatoes in the world. See Exhibit A. I rest my case.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pre-K


I had the best intentions to post this last Monday, Columbus Day, but, alas, it didn't happen. As with all transitions, right now with my new job I'm finding that I have to let certain things go until I really get the hang of the new routine. Blogging is one of those expendable items right now.

Davis made this Columbus hat in his Pre-K class the Friday before the holiday. I thought it was very funny.


He also came home this week one day as a knight with a shield that read "For the battle is the Lord's." I'm not a big one for crafts and always get a chuckle out of what he comes home with.


Trey and I have been really pleased with all that he is learning in Pre-K this year and how it seems to have spurred an eagerness to learn to read along with his brother. I also know that it's been really good for him to get out of his comfort zone and away from the protective reach of Addison. Davis's innate shyness sometimes needs a little push, and I believe this is a really important step for him before going to school full-time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sleeping Babies


Recently a friend posed the question on Facebook, "Need to hear some more positive thinking...what makes you happy? Don't say money, sex or kids."

I guess I kind of broke the rules because my answer was watching my children sleep. For me it is one of the simple pleasures of parenting that has only grown sweeter with time, and no matter my mood or the rigors of the day, it always makes me feel content and happy inside. I recently read the book Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, and in it he includes this beautiful reflection on sleep: "It's a purposeful irony of life, I suppose, that we never get to see ourselves in that state. We can only pay witness to our waking reflection, which to one degree or another is always fretting or afraid. Maybe that's why young parents find it so beguiling to spy on their children when they're fast asleep."

There is something so peaceful and innocent in childhood slumber. The rosy cheek, the even breath, the relaxed fingers. In fact, the older they get and the more active and chatty they become, the contrasting repose of deep rest is inspires all the more nostalgia for the infantile memory it whispers. When they sleep, they are like babies again.

Genevie has developed some peculiar sleep habits lately. She has become obsessed with turning the light on and then falling asleep with it on. Most nights when Trey and I turn in, it is on, and she may be fast asleep in her bed or, just as likely, sprawled out on the floor with her pillow and blanket. We invariably rearrange her back in bed, turn off the light, but it is not uncommon to wake up in the morning and for it to be back on with her still fast asleep. She's either getting up and turning it on, or light fairies are playing tricks with us.

All of this, however comical, has caused me to reflect again on how much I love this time of day, not just for the quiet it daily restores to our house, but for the rare glimpse back in time to those lovely early newborn days when their needs were so simple and basic.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken & Black Bean Chili



I'm in crockpot heaven these days. With the commencement of a new school year and now a new job, I've made some changes to help streamline our morning and evening routines. One simple change has been showering at night. Wow, has that freed up a good bit of time in the morning (translation: I can sleep a little later)! Second change has been eliminating almost all evening cooking. That doesn't mean we're eating out a lot or going with pre-fab meals. No, instead I've been pinning recipes left and right and then making meals on the weekends to freeze and have during the week or doing crock pot meals the night before and having Trey turn them on for me the next day.

I've recently shared a few great recipe discoveries here. The latest one though was a huge hit with Trey, who some of you may know as the King of Chili. I had no idea how he would receive this one. First of all, it's not a beef-based chili. Second, it's not his master recipe. Throwing caution to the wind, however, I made it anyway, and he LOVED it. Full disclosure, this recipe comes from Sweet Treats & More. It is incredibly easy to make and very healthy. Bon apetit!


adapted from Taste of Home

serves 8 

2-3 whole, boneless skinless chicken breasts (or 4-6 chicken tenders)
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 (14 1/2 oz) cans diced tomatoes with green chiles, un-drained
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
2 tbs of the adobo sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Optional for garnishing: mozzarella or Monterrey jack cheese, sour cream, cilantro, lime wedges. 

Place everything, aside from the chicken in a 4qt slow cooker and stir to combine.  Lay chicken over the top and push down a little to cover with sauce.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until chicken is cooked and tender, or cook on high for 3-4 hours.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Movin' on up

A big change has come to our family and change is always a funny thing. I don't struggle with it or resist it like many do. I love it and embrace it, but it always makes me reflective and introspective.

Friday was my last day with my old company, and as I rode the train home, the dark autumn sky made the Camden streets appear beachcomber white in stark contrast, a rare and strange beauty for that troubled city, which merely served to heighten my inner reflective monologue. As is common in Philadelphia at this time of year, we've had a fairly dramatic shift from summer to fall. It is not just a noticeable drop in temperature or humidity. It's a shift in the quality of light from the cheerful brightness of summer to the more subdued and mellow golden of autumn, creating long, dramatic shadows full of pathos, periodically dappled by warm sunshine. Little wonder then that when I read the words of a friend on Facebook going through a different life transition, they struck a resounding chord.

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.

It made me think of Aberdeen and my last glimpse of her at the airport that early morning in late autumn 2009 following Trey's graduation. I remember the hot tears spilling over and running down my cheeks as I stood at the curb with our luggage and Evie, crying because I didn't know when I'd be back again and knowing that even when I did return it would never be the same. It's like that with the end of an era. There are special times in our lives so profound for their shaping influence that its absence makes the ache unbearably acute. Relationships changed. People moved away. New buildings and roads. Newcomers who didn't live any of those memories with you. The intensity of emotion at these critical junctures lessens with time, bearing its own melancholy. The lessening is both relieving and saddening because it marks an increase in temporal proximity to those lovely days. It may surprise you to know that I miss the emotional intensity of our lives in Aberdeen. Heightened senses. Every memory etched so deeply. Returning to normal life isn't like that. I don't notice everything the way I did there. The smell of the cold morning air. The sounds of native chatter. The beautiful light and the lush green. All that I have described is the quintessence of nostalgia, the wistful longing for the happiness of another time and place.

As of tomorrow I am joining a new company in their marketing department as a Product Marketing Manager, just two blocks away from my previous building. The decision to leave my present employer was a hard one. I was the most senior employee in a small but emerging company and played a pivotal role in a number of areas. As each day drew me closer to my last, comments and encouragements increased about me staying, but in the end this has been the right decision on a number of fronts, not the least of which is financial. In an otherwise deplorable economy, this gracious gift has not been lost on me. It will help refocus my career along the path I wish to take and provide some much-needed breathing room in our budget. To say I feel undeserving is a gross understatement, but I am also a little bit giddy about the opportunity. The talent I will be working with is impressive, and the focus of the company is laser sharp. It is another enterprise software company, like the one I left, and I am full of optimism for what the future holds.

Oh, and I'm 11 floors higher up. Nice view from the Mellon building.