Saturday, December 31, 2005

Goodbye 2005 - Welcome 2006

Hello, I'm Lovable
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Another year is over. A New Year's just begun ...

The twins feature here because - well they are cute and they have grown SO much in the past year!

This time last year the twins had ear infections. They weren't talking or walking. They still woke up in the night with regularity and mostly drank bottles and ate mushy baby food.

We were also packing to move. I was wished several times today that my 2006 would be a better year. I hope so, but the fact is 2005 has been one of the best years I have had in a long time.

In 2005:
  • I got to start sleeping through the night (well MOST of the time!) for the first time since becoming a parent in 1999!
  • I got back to playing cello again: both on my own and in an orchestra
  • I've recovered physically from the bedrest, anemia, and C-section and lost all but 2 lbs of the weight gained with the twins pregnancy
  • Melissa (our resident chatterbox) learned to read!
  • In 2005 we moved out of a basement apartment and into a townhouse with WINDOWS and 2 bathrooms!
  • In 2005 Maddy potty trained, ending 18 months of 3 children in diapers!
  • In 2005 Allan and I rediscovered personal pre-kids hobbies and in doing so found each other to be much more interesting people
  • In 2005 we climbed real mountains, saw the sunset many times over the ocean, swam in lakes, splashed in streams, camped with our children, and forayed into the very edge of the backcountry.
  • In 2005 we were blessed with many visits with relatives from afar: Allan and Michael went to the Philipines; many of my family came visiting here ..
Those were the highlights of 2005, but now comes the inevitable question: what about 2006? So here goes, my resolutions for the coming year:
  • pay off the bills from the wonderful year 2005 (Ha ha!!)
  • Make an effort to form and maintain IRL friendships at our church and in our community
  • To continue the quest for fitness and health of both body and mind. I will climb mountains. I will ride my bike up big hills. I will get the kids outside more - even if it is raining
  • In 2006, I will teach Michael to read
  • In 2006 I will attempt to potty train the twins. It would be pretty cool to be done with diapers by 2007!
  • In 2006 I will be more organized. I will declutter and cleanout (especially the garage and office!)
  • In 2006 I will break free of both emotional eating and emotional shopping .. (o.k. I'll work on it!)
Best wishes for a Happy New Year to Everyone!

Friday, December 30, 2005

All in the name of art

Promising young artist MelissaE has taken a new direction into the post-modern, with her latest avante guarde art projects. Our art critic was given a sneak preview of these new works:

Twin Trouble - An impressionist pair of paintings done in oil-based paint on live twin toddlers wearing all pink matching outfits. These bold pieces allude to a darker side of pink and call for a rejection of the consumerism of our day. We wonder, does this foreshadow a move away from the pinks that have defined Miss Melissa's work for so long?

Hairs to Heaven - Model and Comedienne Madeleine sports a new cutting edge haircut: long and flowing on the sides, with a 1 inch short section right at the top. The hair here points directly up at the sky, drawing one's attention heavenward. This has proved to be a risky career move, as our sources indicate that Miss Madeleine is launching legal procedings seeking punitive damages.

The Gummies Last Stand - Another unique creation, this time in collaboration with fellow artist Megan. Melissa chose a medium of partially-chewed gummy bears on a canvas of beige carpet. Depicted is a sad scene of fallen gummies and the stains of those brave gummies gone before. It was a losing battle, but they fought bravely.

Stabbed Sofa - rage and ruin are alluded to in this eccentric work by promising young artist Melissa with her new apprentice Michael. At first glance the rips, tears, and holes in the uphosterly appear to be caused by ageing but closer insepction shows these wounds were deliberatly inflicted. Whole handfuls of stuffing have been removed. The pain of the couch is palpable. Then as your eyes are drawn to the back of the piece, a large pair of kitchen shears remains stabbed into the couch. The torment is clearly evident. Our art critic was moved by powerful emotions while viewing this piece. It is a must-see on your next visit.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Rest of the Story

When I was a kid, dad used to drive us to and from school, and from time to time we would get to hear Paul Harvey on the radio. Sometimes we would arrive at school or home and I wouldn't get to hear him say, "and now, the rest of the story."

You would think that David's memorial, where people are sharing their stories about him, would be one place to hear the whole story. But how can you sum up a life, and a very full life with the number of people there giving testimony, in just an evening?

One story that sticks in my mind was told of a patron that was visiting the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. This patron had apparently given a generous donation to the museum, so he was being given an exclusive tour of one of the hangars by one of the museum guides. David was already there with a group of his cadets. The problem for the guide was that David's knowledge of the planes, where they fit into aviation history, and instruction to the cadets was so detailed, animated, and enthusiastic, that his guest was continually sidling away from his (dry) commentary towards David and the cadets on the other side of the hangar! After a while the guide just gave up and escorted the patron out of the hangar to another exhibit.

Of course, the stories told were just the highlights. It will take time to write even just a few of them down. For now, there are pictures on Flickr.

Monday, December 26, 2005

All Aboard!!

Eddie the Engine
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Taking the kids to ride on a Christmas train at Christmas has been a tradition since Melissa's first Christmas. Stanley Park's Christmas train is way nicer than Bear Creek Park's, but this year and last year we have ended up at Bear Creek park simply for its proximity. I wasn't up to taking the kids solo to Stanley Park today.

The kids were so excited to go on an outing! We've been cooped up in the house sick for a week now so it was a welcome change to get out and do something.

This was the twins second train ride, but last year they were too little AND had ear infections. This year they were in awe and kept saying, "Twain!! Twain!!" over and over again. Then, "Going. Twain going!!" once it started up. They actually sat on the train really well compared to the older M's at that age.

Michael and Melissa helped me get photos of the evening.

I want to put photos up into this post - but Flickr is SO slow right now that I'm going to have to leave that for later! More photos of the kids are on Flickr though!

What Christmas Tree are you?

You Are a Minimal Christmas Tree

You're not a total Scrooge, but you feel no need to go overboard at Christmas.
Less is more, and your Christmas reflects refined quality.

Christmas Journey

Surreal. It's not a word that one generally associates with Christmas, but all day yesterday it kept floating around my conciousness.

I'm sure the day was surreal partly because of my sleep-deprived state and partly because I was fighting off yet-another-illness from the kids. Cheryl and I talked until 2 am and then I got up at 4:30 am to be ready in time for Dad to come by and take me to the airport. Most of the day my bowels felt scrambled, but thankfully nothing came undone due to a dose of immodium before I got on first flight at YVR.

The rest of the feeling was because of the object of my trip.

The mood first overtook me as I stood in line waiting to speak to the customs officer. They always ask you where you are going and why, and I really did not want to dwell on why I was leaving Cheryl and the kids and getting on a plane on Christmas day. I felt badly for her, for as soon as I explained that I was coming here for my brother-in-law's funeral, she replied that lung cancer had taken her dad as well. We exchanged "Merry Christmas"'es and I went to wait for my flight.

The rest of the day was a blur. I slept fitfully on the plane, ignoring my bowels and drinking as often as I could manage. I looked out the window and tried not to think of David and his love of flying. Texas and New Jersey are both pretty unexciting places to fly into and out of in the best of circumstances. On this trip they were absolutely monochromatic (well, except for sunset over the gulf coast).

About the only adrenaline rush I got during the whole day was when I arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC. The bus dropped us off on the top level and I had to make my way down 4 or 5 stories to the ground floor where the various bus lines had their ticketing counters. I felt utterly conspicuous as the obvious out-of-towner carrying around a laptop case and who knew what else. I bought my bus ticket and found out I would have to wait for about 90 minutes before the next bus. I used up 10 minutes wandering around the station aimlessly before I decided that was a good way to get myself mugged in some quiet hallway. I stepped into a coffee shop, bought a sandwich, and literally "ate" up another 30 minutes until the shop closed.

Reluctantly I went down to the gate where the bus was to leave from and found a young father there with his one year old son. His English wasn't so good, and my Spanish was worse, but I figured out that he had 3 children with the woman he was with and that she was leaving him in a month and taking the children with her. He just shook his head when I told him, "tengo cinco hijos" - I have 5 children. Later when he and his wife and sister-in-law got off the bus I wished him luck.

The bus ride from NYC here to Pennsylvania was relatively uneventful. While I dozed, the names of villages and places like Panther Valley, and Delaware Water Gap passed by. Some of them I recognized from David and Gail's writings. Some were new to me.

The fog was thick as pea soup and which lent itself to the dreamlike mood. Because of the visibility, it took the taxi driver a few minutes longer than usual to find the house - a fact for which he apologized. I stepped out of the car, my journey over, and wondered at how I had arrived here.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Paper Shredding is over

It's amazing how little time it takes to remove wrappings that took an entire evening to apply. There are scads of photos posted on Flickr for those who have been waiting. No time to send the videos though. You'll get to hear all the "oohs", "ahhs!", and "Thank-you"'s when we do.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Keep Out! (Until Christmas)

Teeny Tree
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Which isn't really saying much since we're doing Christmas tomorrow because Allan has to get on an airplane early Sunday morning - when everyone else will be unwrapping their presents.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Gingerbread houses

All the houses
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

There's sticky candy everywhere
Frosting on shirts and in their hair

there are Gummy reindeer, candy canes
and M & M's to line the lanes

More that fell upon the roofs
waiting for gummy reindeer hoofs

Gumdrops lined up left and the right
of cracker board houses - what a sight

But sticky hugs and a frosting-ed smile
Make all the cleaning up worthwhile

Review: Compass Lightweight Tandem Umbrella Stroller

The twins like it
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.
Our new double stroller: Compass Lightweight Tandem Umbrella stroller.

Purchased: online from

Price: $149 CAD, not incl. shipping and duties.

I couldn't find many reviews on it before purchasing - so figured I should write one.

  • This stroller weights only 21 lbs! Very lightweight! Lighter than a lot of single strollers.
  • Tight turning circle. It turns as tightly as standard single strollers and way tighter than any double I've tried. This is going to be really useful for stores, library, doctors appointments.
  • Shorter lengeth - again it makes it easier to take into offices, appointments and stores where longer double strollers are very difficult to manover.
  • 5 point harness - with lots of adjustment room. With our little monkeys - this is a big plus. However the buckles are a bit difficult to work.
  • It has a basket! The Transit Tandem, another a similar stroller we considered, didn't.
  • Cupholder for parent - I'm looking forward to that one, there also are pocket bottle/sippy cup holders on the sides for the babies.
  • It folds compactly and reasonable easily - like an umbrella stroller. In fact - it's as compact or more compact than 2 umbrella strollers.
  • Backseat reclines and the recline angle is adjustable with webbing/buckles like adjusting a backpack - none of this suddenly dropping business or either all the way flat or all the way up.
  • The price point was good for us - $149 usd. I didn't want to spend over $200 on a double stroller at this stage.
  • The handles - they feel flimsy (especially when turning) and they are higher than your average umbrella stroller. They are also slightly higher than I would like - though, if you are tall this would be a plus. I would be happier with a crossbar like other double strollers I've pushed. I think that would help with turning.
  • The front seat doesn't recline and for an older toddler the head might be above the seat .. Maribeth is still short enough she probably could nap in the front seat, but not very comfortably.
  • Access to basket -- a diaper bag or anything round or bulky is not going in there and for short grocery runs I'll have to hook a bag onto the back of the stroller from the handlebars. There's only about 4 inches of clearance to get things in/out. It'll hold libarary books, diapers, wipes and snacks though. Access through the side is better than from the back.
  • Seat depth - the seats depth is only about 6 inches and only about 4.5 inches to the crotch strap. The front seat is shallower than the back - which is why I've got my skinny little (20 lbs @ 22 months) Maribeth up front and Megan in the back. For those with a toddler and a younger baby that's not going to be an option as the back seat is where a carseat would go. Another inch or two of depth would make things more comfortable.
  • Seat comfort - the seats also have something solid in them. They aren't the cloth umbrella style (despite this being billed as a tandem umbrella stroller). I think the umbrella style would be more comfortable than the solid seat with very light padding.
  • Weight limit of 40 lbs per seat and that's probably optimistic. I couldn't see putting 4 year old 40 lb Maddy in this stroller.
  • Durability - this stroller is not going off the road. The frame doesn't allow for popping the front wheels of the stroller up and over curbs and such. (Allan points out doing stuff like that is what contributed to the demise of our previous THREE double strollers .. all purchased used.) This is a city/sidewalk stroller only. For off-road, on trails, at the beach - we'll be using backpacks or our wagon.
  • It's not yet available in Canada - I ordered it from the USA. So be warned about duties & taxes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Auntie Gail's gift to the twins

From Auntie Gail
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

It probably was meant for either Christmas or their birthday. But I did not get a chance to ask. The big M's ripped open the package as soon as it was signed for. (They claimed, after getting lectured, that they thought it was the new stroller I had ordered.) At any rate, once Megan saw the toy there was no going back! The new toy and Megan's enthusiasm even managed to rouse a sick Maribeth off the couch to come play!

Remembering Uncle David

Uncle David at Christmas
Originally uploaded by SyntaxError.
We told the kids a couple days ago about David's passing. Melissa and Michael are taking it pretty hard. Maddy is really too young to understand.

Melissa really wants to go visit Auntie Gail when Allan goes out, but his ticket is already bought, and it's easier for him to travel by himself versus with a small child. We thought it might be too hard on her emotionally to be there and it might not be a good time to have a small child underfoot.

Though I'm still questioning if that was right right decision or not. Melissa is old enough to not only be sad that she won't see Uncle David again but to be sad because Auntie Gail has lost Uncle David.

Michael said something very insightful when he heard the news. "We need to talk about the things that we did with Uncle David so that we can remember". Michael was working on this Christmas picture for Uncle David and he's changed it from "To Uncle David" to "To Auntie Gail - to remind you of Uncle David".

Melissa drew this photo: "Me giving Uncle David his present last year at Christmas".

In remembering we have gone through photos online and on our computer from David's visits here and Melissa's trip out to the wedding earlier this year. We also made some video clips of the kids with some of the things they remember. Allan is putting all this together as a short video montage. It's going to be for both Auntie Gail and for the kids to have and remember with. Because even in the little bit of time they had to spend with David he made an impact on their lives (like Michael's ongoing interest in airplanes).

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

M's try their hand drawing with oil pastels

Night of the Moonjellies - M1
Originally uploaded by SyntaxError.

They loved it BUT they want a bigger set with more shades than the basic Crayola oil pastel set I got them.

Night of the Moonjellies - M2
Originally uploaded by SyntaxError.

These were done for art to go with FIAR book "Night of the Moonjellies".

Sick baby

Sick baby
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Maribeth has a fever and has been throwing up today - all over the rug and almost everything she eats. I had Allan come home from work at noontime bringing Gravol and stuff for rehydration. She's been able to keep small amounts down since the Gravol took affect.

Just keep swimming ..

Gail posted an update this morning. David's memorial service will be a week from tomorrow.


I have blog-envy. Gail moved to her own domain and is using WordPress as her blog software now. One of the nice bits it has is the ability to categorize (tag) posts, so you can group them topically. If we had that, you could filter for Maribeth stories like the one below.


Cheryl misplaced her glasses the other day and was wondering how to find them. In a flash of inspiration, she picked Maribeth up and started walking around the living room.

"Maribeth, do you see mommy's glasses?"

Less than five minutes later Maribeth had located the missing specs.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

He's gone ..

David Lee Fielding -- May 30, 1967 - December 18, 2005. Rest in peace, good and faithful servant.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Update from Gail

Gail just called us with an update on David and herself. You can read the update on her blog.

Thank-you everyone for your prayer and support.

Tattling twin

Megan came to me yesterday and said very clearly "Marbef talking phone!!" Mama - Marbef TALKING PHONE" and pulled on my leg.

I followed Megan and found Maribeth under the table with my cell phone and she HAD dialed someone. There was 15 seconds on the phone call. I just hung up though - I didn't talk to them. I checked the history and there are several numbers there that I do NOT recognize and a few that aren't complete numbers.

In fact a few minutes later some guy just called me wanting to know who I was and what I wanted because I was on his call display. Having temporary memory block - I haven't called anyone and said " who are YOU?". Not giving my name of course. He was insisting someone from my phone had called him. So I finally clued in and told him that my kids were playing with my phone and apologized.

So I'm going to make sure I don't leave my cell phone out in the future or I'm going to have some horrid cell phone bills. I just can't believe Megan told on her.

Our blog is blue

Your Blog Should Be Blue

Your blog is a peaceful, calming force in the blogosphere.

You tend to avoid conflict - you're more likely to share than rant.

From your social causes to cute pet photos, your life is a (mostly) open book.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Candle for David

For those of you who do not know, please go here by way of explanation. You can still go to Gail's blog, but it's in transition to a new location, so a great many of her links to previous posts are gone for now.

This morning I got a message from Gail via Cheryl that David's condition in the last 24 hours has taken a strong turn for the worse. Sometime overnight he slipped into a coma and Gail had to call 911 to get him rushed to the hospital.

As of this afternoon, it was relayed to me that Gail was told that David may not have many weeks left and to contact friends and family who may want to see him while he is still with us.

Please pray for David and Gail. And Mona. And if you could, light a candle for each of them as well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

On the first day of Christmas

Once again we present the Great Christmas Gift Hunt. Like the last time we did this, for the next twelve days, until Christmas Day, I will hide a link to a 'gift' somewhere on our blog. Unlike the last time, I will have a prize for the person who finds the most gifts. The winner and prize will be announced on Boxing Day. Good hunting!

on the first day of Christmas / my true love gave to me / a partridge in a pear tree

But where did it go? Somewhere in our blog is a link that will take you to where the 'partridge' is hiding. Here are some clues to help you find the link, and then find the bird.

'Twas the month of leaves of gold
We strolled near a lake quite cold
The partridge did play
On a perch green and gray
And smiles in a purple quite bold

Hmmm .. It's 11 am Pacific and there's no comments. I guess no one has found the partridge yet.

Helpful Hint: The first two lines describe the post where the link to the partridge is hidden. The last three lines tell you where the partridge is hiding in the link destination.

If no one has found the partridge, I will post more hints at 4 pm Pacific.

It's 4 pm Pacific and one person has found the partridge. And there are lots of hints now in the comments.

By the way, please post a comment here if you've found the partridge, but don't say where it is. The winner of the prize is the person who has found the most number of gifts through all Twelve Days of Christmas, so we don't want to give the locations away until Boxing Day.

It's the Fuel Pump

Wow - my gut instinct was right. My first thought was "this is just like when the fuel pump died". While it seems we JUST replaced the fuel pump - in reality - Maddy was a baby so it was 3-4 years ago! Vowing to never again let the van get below half a tank of gas - it''s NOT good for the fuel pump. We are having them take a look at the front shocks while they are in there. This is definately a worth it to fix problem and we hope to have our van back on the road soon.

Art today

Maddy's picture
Originally uploaded by SyntaxError.

Here's Maddy drawing a big poster.

The kids took turns using the easel. Maddy finished hers on the little table.

Monday, December 12, 2005

When it rains - it pours!

Today was one of those days that did not go as planned. For starters all 7 of us woke up sick with a miserable cold. We muddled through the day with that - before the next really bad thing happened.

The van died.

With NO warning. Normally I have a sense that something is wrong before something bad with the van happens. Not this time.

I was headed out to FVS rehearsal with my cello and suddenly just before the 232nd Street exit, I realized nothing was happening when I stepped on the gas and I was going slower and slower and slower in the fast lane. I managed to get over (mostly) into the breakdown lane before rolling to a complete stop. I was straddling the wide line between the lane and the breakdown lane with large trucks and heavy traffic swerving around me.

The van would not start.

Fortunately I HAD a cell phone (thank-you GAIL!) and was able to call BCAA. But I still had to wait a while. Not being able to get the van all the way into the breakdown lane, I decided to vacate the vehicle and wait for the tow-truck off to the side of the road. That was one COLD 45 minuite wait!

I had to get a taxi home from the Dodge dealership, as I had my cello with me (which precluded walking home from Langley - something Allan would have had a fit over anyway) and no change for a bus even if I could have found a bus stop.

The van dying in December right AFTER we both did our Christmas shopping, is bad enough. BUT he was supposed to work on a very urgent work project from home tonight and it appears his computer at work has frozen or been turned off or something bad. He can't connect to it. So he's got an urgent project that he can't DO anything about tonight.

He's been unsuccessful so far in finding a ride in with a co-worker so he is going to have to bike to work in December - in freezing weather and probably icy conditions. Then maybe pull an all-nighter tomorrow night. That combined with the stress of "what if the van is really dead and we have to get new car and a payment and Cheryl has to go work every night for Mcdonalds" has Allan pretty stressed out. For one of the first times in our relationship - Allan is too stressed to sleep or do anything useful. So I put him to work cutting out FIAR story disks for our map.

On my end - this is the 2nd orchestra practice I've missed in a row - I had to skip last week for a co-op general membership meeting to give a financial report. I'm also scheduled to have my gall bladder removed surgically 4 days before the rehearsal with the soloist and only 10 days before the next concert. I'm getting this feeling that I may NOT be able to play in the next orchestra concert.

The double stroller died a sad death last week. So I'm without a stroller of any kind - single or double. I do have the wagon but the belts are broken and the twins try to climb out while it's moving. That will make for a fun day on Wed if I have to walk Melissa AND Maddy to dance class with everyone. Being without a van AND without a stroller is a new one.

But really, I'm too tired and sick to care much at this point. Que sera sera. What will be will be. It'll all work out in the end. or not. But I can't fix any of it tonight.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


We've been waiting for this for a while now.

It's been about three or four months now that Maribeth has had a crib tent, and only a month or so that Megan has had a crib tent. We've known that both Megan and Maribeth were able to climb out, but of the two, it's always been Maribeth who was more likely to, hence she has had the crib tent longer. Maribeth managed to escape her crib tent a month or so ago, and Megan got really aggravated that her sister was out and she wasn't. That's when we decided that they were both going to need crib tents. Anyhow, they hadn't yet managed to bust out of their crib tents, but we knew the day was coming.

Tonight was pretty typical in that we had finally wrapped up the bedtime routine and were sitting, exhausted, on the couch in the living room. As usual, it took about half an hour before Melissa finally settled down and things got quiet upstairs. Then we heard some thumps and bumps. Melissa, again. Grr.

About ten minutes later, we heard crying from upstairs. Not the usual bed-time fussing, but more like the crying that happens day to day when the kids were up. I bounded up the stairs and opened the door to the twins room. Cheryl heard me shout, "Oh!" and she knew something was up.

First of all, the light was on. Scattered on the floor were the wet cloths we used for diaper changes. Our diaper changing station was destroyed. Toys and board books were strewn everywhere. Two fuzzy blue forms stood on the floor in front of me, one of them bawling piteously, the other looking like she had just chomped on her sister. Megan stepped forward, hugged my leg, and stopped crying. I was so shocked at the devastation, that I only dimly noticed Megan letting go of my leg and stepping past me, headed for the top of the stairs.

Fortunately she didn't get very far because Cheryl was coming up the stairs to see what had happened.

"I go watch TV. Bye!" said Megan to her mother.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Good job Michael, Melissa, and Maddy

Le Group Encore
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Our church children's choir was supposed to have sung at her church tonight - but due to a mix-up on timing the only ones there to sing were our children! Melissa, Michael and Maddy got up front and sang anyway, with no accompaniment. Michael was a bit of a clown, "Wait - stop - we need to start over...", and had the audience laughing several times. But I'm very proud of them for going up there in front of several hundred people without the rest of the choir.

The rest of the children's choir, the choir director, AND accompaniment CD arrived after the entire concert was finished! They were 2 hours off on the start time.

We took turns chasing the twins around the foyer during the program. They were SO hyper and wouldn't sit still. At least it was happy, giggling noises they were making and not tantrumming like at church this morning (we left early). It was just one of those days when things don't go as planned.

Notice anything different about the twins in these photos?

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Boar's Head Dinner #2

The Boar's Head Dinner #2
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Tonight was the second of The Boar's Head Dinner/concerts.

This time they had a harpsicord for some of the music instead of just a piano. It really added to the authenticity. I love playing with harpsicords and rarely get the chance to. My cello (being from that era) was made to play with harpiscords, not pianos. I am using modern strings, not gut strings, which do help the sound to carry better, but even so I find that I'm very easily overpowered by a grand piano or even a baby grand. Not so with a harpsicord!

When the string trio was playing we were right out in front of the choir with me getting to be right next to the harpsicord. I was sorry tonight to be done playing!

Though I must say - my wrists & fingers are feeling it! We had a rehearsal, then the string trio played carols for 30 min before the dinner, then playing in the concert!

Still it was a lovely evening and getting paid for it was even better!

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Crunch Time

Have been very busy here at work because it's getting down to year-end. We have over 2 dozen new installations slated to "go-live" over the next 6 week period. The success of quite a few of those implementations are depending on delivery of custom code. Code which has only just now been submitted to my desk for quoting and specifications. There are going to be some looooong nights between now and Epiphany.

It Gets Worse

Around the middle of November the hard-drive on my Dell Inspiron 600m crashed several times in one day. I blue-screened about 3 or 4 times before my computer 'discovered' the hard-drive again and decided to keep going. I spent a long night running Dell's diagnostics programs (no error codes and all tests passed), then running Norton Ghost to create a back-up image of my hard-drive.

On Tuesday morning this week, I came into work and my machine had crashed overnight. No wonder I couldn't RD into it. I booted it up and my drive started to make the crunching noises again (burnt out bearings?) then the whole thing BSOD'd. Fun, fun, fun.

And Then It Gets Better

To make a long story short: this time the Dell diagnostics came back with error codes. A short (10 minute!) phone call with Dell resulted in their promising to send me a new 60 GB drive. I was able to work the rest of the day on a co-worker's workstation. Dell sent the drive overnight (wow!) from Oakville, ON and I got it Wednesday at noon. I was able to switch the drives in < 5 minutes because Dell sent the new drive already mounted on the slide-in/out chassis. I booted to the Ghost CD and my external USB 2.0 Iomega (courtesy of the OC!) drive restored the 20 GB image in 30 minutes. 10 minutes later I was back-up and running.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Package in the mail

Reindeer twins
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

A package came in the mail today. It was labelled: "To the M's from Auntie Gail and Uncle David".

An enterprising (and reading!) Melissa begged to call Auntie Gail, "to see if we can open it now because it doesn't say 'Don't open until Christmas!'"

Melissa had me dial up both Auntie Gail's cell phone and home numbers and left messages in both places.

When Auntie Gail called back, she said to go ahead and open it. I'm afraid Auntie Gail may have hearing damage from that phone call. M's on multiple extensions demonstrated the full range of their vocal and silliness capabilities!

Included in the package: reindeer antlers, slinky's, a coloring book, stickers, and a new video which I'll be putting on in a few minutes in hopes of calming the chaos!

More photos on Flickr ..

A blog is not a journal...

While at first glace - a blog may seem to be a journal and maybe people use blogs as journals. A blog is not a journal. A blog is public, it can be seen and read by anyone, searched by search engines and even if deleted - it's content may be saved already by someone else - somewhere else. Who knows but what things we post online now - might be found by our children down the road?

I have seen people in online communities whose blog entries are used against them in court in custody battles. I've seen situations online where CPS has been called on people based on blog enteries or posts to message boards. I've read about cases where online threats or the "I really want to hurt so and so" are taken seriously by authorities. When in a personal journal nothing would have come of it.

The interent is a a wonderful way for us to keep in touch with friends and family who are far away. But with that - one loses the annonymity - the ability to vent about those same people. To my extended family and friends at a distance - Don't panic! I don't have specific gripes with any of you right now!! But it would be dis-honest to pretend that at times I haven't wanted to do a vent blog entry or two....but frankly it wouldn't be wortth the emotional fall out of actually putting those thoughts out there.

Also off-limits - workplace commentary. Employees blogging about company business online - a BIG no no! But even beyond that with Google - all we would have to do is mention the company name and our blog might turn up in a google search by a customer or potential customer. This had to be explained to me by Allan as as hurried to edit an entry where I had unthinkingly and quite innocently typed in the name the company he works for.

Then of course there is my relationship with Allan. I've had several really, really good ideas for funny blog posts on married life but I know that Allan would well - not find it so funny. So those have to stay in my head. Not embarrassing ones spouse or one's children (increasingly important as they get older) is another content restriction

I have to admit at times I envy those who put it all out there online - ranting about employers, family members and so forth. But in today's wired and wireless world - that is a luxery many of us don't have. Even those who do these things are living dangerously - even if they are doing so under a different user name on a site they think no one knows them. Because you really just never know and people have had to learn the hard way that blogging is public, people can take the info in your blog and use it against you.

In the end the best policy is to "keep your shit off the web" as one saying goes or to only post online what you don't mind anyone reading and don't throw out your paper journal yet...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

"A Musical Madrigal Feast of Song and Food"

The program
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

One down - one to go! Tonight was the first of two concerts with the Surrey Lyrical Choir that I have the priveledge of participating in.

It was a long program with music in between courses of the feast. I only had to play in a few pieces. The big one being "In Dulci Jubilo" - there was quite of lot of cello continuo with choir.

On other songs they had brass, flute, wooden recorders .. it was just lovely!!
It was great hearing the concert and getting to eat! My only quibble is that I was way in the back behind the choir - so wasn't able to get photos of what they looked like from the front. The choir is much bigger than it looks like - just the front rows couldn't be seen from where I was. When I was playing - it was down in front of the choir.

They actually had roasted a pig on a spit for the feast - AND they had a huge Boar's Head with an apple in its mouth that they had four men carry in while the choir sang. I got some photos of it afterwards.

I'm actually looking forward to the next one this coming Friday night. For the next one - the string trio will be doing a prelude for about 30 min beforehand. There also will be about twice as many people there.

A Kevin Bacon too - a man in the choir was handing out postcards advertising a Christmas concert for another choir he sings in - The Phoenix Chamber Choir! I know someone who sings in that group.

Unfortunately -as much as I would love to attend their concert - a check of the schedule has shown that we have a birthday party to take our children to the ngiht of their concert - so we won't be able to attend. Too bad - it would have made a great date night.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Hi Everybody!

We're almost to the end of our first week with tracking our site statistics. I dropped NedStat last Sunday because they now use pop-up advertising to keep themselves going. I would have liked to at least been given the choice to move to a full account or quit, but if notice was sent out, I missed it.

In contrast, StatCounter is refreshingly up front. They explain what the lower limits are of their free service so you have reasonable expectations about how much service you will be getting for free and at what volumes of traffic it would be appropriate to upgrade or quit the free service. I have been very impressed so far because the information they provide for free is much more detailed than with NedStat.

There's quite a few different types of statistics, but here's a good example of what I mean. I can now get statistics on which countries, state / region, cities, and ISP's our visitors are coming from. Nedstat offered continental, country, and some city stats, but that was it.

(With all the talk of visitors from all over, I thought I'd put up some pure Canadiana for you ex-pats.)

This week we've averaged around 50 unique visitors a day. Around 20 of those are return visits. Overall, each day, you loaded our pages up around 80 times. I had no idea we had such a steady following. If the M's were older, they'd be flattered if I told them.

It's no surprise, but most of you are coming from the U.S. and Canada. What is interesting is we've also had visits from Hong Kong, Hungary, Chile, Finland, the UK, Singapore, Australia, and more. The logs show that some of you are Gail's friends who drop in from her blog every so often. However, there are visits from other places with no referring URL, which may indicate that you've bookmarked us.

In the last 30 hours or so, we've had 12 visitors from California, 11 from Maine, 9 from New York, 7 from Ontario (hi Jamie and Melissa!), and the list goes on. There's someone from PEI who has been a regular visitor all week, and I can't for the life of me think of who you are. Hi from the Left Coast!

One of our visitors has their ISP in Reston, VA. I haven't figure out who that is either (I'm betting it's a Harrold relation), but howdy to you too!

Yesterday the 'Came From' list came up with quite a few visitors referred by the December newsletter for I know our blog is listed there, but I wasn't sure what the spike was all about. It turns out that we were randomly picked as one of the 3 blogs highlighted for the month. Looking back through the logs, there's folks who read ChoosingHome in Budapest.

Anyhow, it's getting late, and I've managed to NOT get to bed before midnight every single night this week. For a morning person, that's not a good thing.

One more thought before I go: a few years ago, I ran an online 'treasure hunt' based on the 12 Days of Christmas for family. That was waaaaaay back when we were on dial-up and using GeoCities. I'm planning on doing it again this year. The neat part is that we will have over 400 entries on our blog that I can hide the 'treasures' in. All I can say is, get ready for more silly riddles and cryptic clues.

Happy holidays to you all!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Winter night scene

Winter night scene
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Michael and I went on a snowy night walk to the Safeway after supper. This is my favourite photo.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Holiday Decorating

The lights are up. I got the boxes of decorations, ornaments, and lights out of the garage on Sunday, but I never did get around to putting up more than just a few of them. I put the box in the corner of the dining room and hoped that the twins would not get into it. Thankfully they didn't, but the elder 3 M's have been campaigning with their mother to get the lights on the wall.

Each night since, I managed to avoid looking at the box in the corner, until tonight when Cheryl (very casually) mentioned the kids wanting to know when the lights were going to be up.

So I have been up on the step stool most of this evening with a roll of masking tape, putting up our two strings of lights near the ceiling. This has been my practice for the last 5 years because it's best to minimize the opportunities for small hands to have at the lights. We've probably got another few years before the allure of all the little light-bulbs wears off for the M's. For that reason alone this will probably turn into a tradition which we will all forget the origins of.

After I had the lights up I still had all of our tree ornaments to put up. You've already seen our tree, so you'll understand why that was not an option.

It was more a random thought (and in truth, desperation) than any inspiration that led me to start hanging the ornaments from the lights, but once I got started, the more natural a solution it seemed to be. As Kipling would have said, "And if you think about it, you know it must be so."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Look what Cheryl found!

.. when she went in to use the bathroom! None of the bathroom lights were on except the nightlight and the door to the bathroom was shut.

Maribeth loves all things Dora, so it's not all that surprising she had Madeleine's electric Dora the Explorer toothbrush. It's not every day though that you find your youngest child sitting in the sink with her big sister's toothbrush!

Cheryl notes that Maribeth is quite the climber since there were no step-stools or chairs in the bathroom for her to boost herself up to access the sink.