28 November 2009

Christmas Shopping

Should it be taken as a hint when your 1 year old leaves the toy catalog open to the page with the wooden trucks?

- Corinne, Mike, and Anders Rocket
Date: November 28, 2009

22 November 2009

Good Mornings

Scenes from a couple of good mornings.

A neighbor calling on us one frosty morning

Father and son "reading" the paper

- Corinne, Mike, and Anders Rocket
Date: November 22, 2009

Our Radioactive Cat

Max was due for his annual checkup in October, so I brought him in to Dr. Dave (our vet) for the usual vaccination updates and worm checks. But right off the bat it turned out to be more than we had anticipated. When Dr. Dave put him on the scale, we discovered that he had dropped 2 pounds in the previous year, going from eleven pounds to around nine. Something was definitely wrong.

We hadn't noticed anything different about his behavior, or even noticed his weight loss. But we probably had become used to picking up Anders, and as he kept growing our perception of Max's weight became a bit skewed.

Dave and I briefly discussed the most likely causes, then he drew some blood and sent it to the lab for analysis. A few days later the results came back: Max had feline hyperthyroidism. His thyroid glands were overproducing - probably as a result of a tumor of some sort - resulting in increased metabolism and thus weight loss. The condition is one of the most common diseases in otherwise healthy (i.e. not overweight) cats. We were presented with several options for treatment.
Option 1: Twice-a-day medication to control the thyroid activity, given daily in perpetuity.
Option 2: Surgical removal of the overactive thyroid tissue.
Option 3: A one-time injection of radioiodine that destroys the overactive cells and should return the cat to normal functioning.
After doing some research online and talking to Dave, we chose the radioactive cat.

Since radioactive substances are involved, there are a limited number of veterinary facilities that are qualified to administer the treatment. The actual procedure is simply an injection under the skin which takes no more than 5 minutes, but the resulting radioactivity requires that the cat be in a controlled, secured environment for a period of time so that the terrorists can't get hold of him. (Or something like that anyway.) We contacted VDIC, the facility in Portland that Dave recommended, and a few weeks later I dropped Max off on a Tuesday morning to start his recovery.

Since he was going to be "behind bars" for 4 days, we brought some of his food and one of his fleece blankets from home so that he might feel more at home. During his stay, we were able to view him on their cat-cams:

Virtually every time we looked at the camera, Max was sitting on that upper ledge, just staring down at the blanket that we brought for him. And since the blanket would be irradiated, we wouldn't be getting it back. Oh well. We did find him sitting on it once, so I guess that makes it worthwhile.

On Thursday I drove back into Portland to pick him up. He had done fine at the facility but was definitely glad to be heading back home. Little did he know that things wouldn't be returning to normal quite so quickly.

When administering radioiodine to cats, many facilities keep the cat for 3-6 weeks until the radiation levels were reduced enough to return him to the owners. While VDIC only kept him for 4 days, he was, in fact, still radioactive. So we had some specific instructions to follow when we brought him home.
  1. For the first two weeks, wear latex gloves when handling any of your cat's waste products and bodily fluids and when cleaning the litter pan.
  2. The litter pan should be cleaned twice daily, placing all contents in a double-lined container. After two weeks, the container should be closed and stored for 3 months in a remote location, away from children and other animals.
  3. Due to the radiation, we ask that minors (<18 years of age) and pregnant women should avoid any contact with your cat or its waste products for 5 weeks following release.

So, not exactly back to normal. We lock Max out of our bedroom at night so that he can't sleep on the bed; we've moved his litter box; and we monitor Max and Anders to minimize any significant contact.

Since Anders is still sleeping in his crib on the landing outside of our door, he ends up on the other side of the now closed door at night. To ensure that we can hear him, we set the baby monitor on the floor right outside the door. We quickly discovered a side effect of that setup: the very first night back, Max sat outside the closed door and meowed directly into the monitor.

Soon, though, the two weeks will be up and we can begin to return to normal, though we will have to keep Max and Anders apart for a few more weeks. I guess that can be our Christmas gift to both of them this year!

Oh, and we'll definitely let you know if Max develops any super powers.

- Mike, Corinne, Anders Rocket, and Glowing Max

21 November 2009

Okay, Okay, Okay!

Taryn is starting to send us "hate" mail; Becky thinks Anders is "slow" because she's reading about him sitting up when he should be walking.

Yes, we're still way behind on our blog. To appease the masses, we are going to start posting a mix of current and old posts until we are caught up.

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket

Haircut #2

The first time Anders got his haircut, we didn't cut his bangs so that he still had the baby look. But like the rest of him, Anders's hair is growing quickly. His bangs have now gotten quite long and have started hanging in his eyes. So it was time to head back to Tifani for another cut. Like last time, Anders didn't mind the process but he was much more wiggly this time. He came away with an official little boy hair cut and looks quite handsome.

But somehow we don't have any good photos that really show it off.

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket

November 21, 2009

20 November 2009


Mike went on a business trip back in September and so Anders and I invited Nikki and her son Bridger over for a slumber party. We were loading up the car getting ready to head out for a hike when I noticed a beautiful spider in the garage. Big, black, and so shiny. "Nikki, come check out this spider!" As we were admiring her, we noticed the red hourglass. Yikes, a black widow! And a big one too. Her abdomen was at least the diameter of a dime. As we were checking her out, she quickly ducked out of sight.

I'm generally pretty tolerant of bugs as long as they aren't crawling on me, but black widows are a whole different story. We store things in the garage. I would hate to accidentally threaten a black widow or bring one into the house. Time to call in the exterminator.

We love our exterminator. We had him out a couple of years ago when carpenter ants had decided that a log house seemed like a good place to live. We contacted him on a Saturday, thinking that we could at least leave a message so that we could schedule an appointment for the following week. Instead, he returned our call within about an hour and a half and said he would be "super excited" to come out right then to help us out. He is such a bug geek and even recites findings from academic papers on spiders. He had so much fun finding the ant trail, following the ants from the house back to the forest, and explaining to us how carpenter ant colonies work. On top of all that, he uses the least toxic substances he can. The ants were gone the next day.

So, back to our spiders. We decided to have the exterminator do his thing while Max was away at radioactive camp. Meanwhile, Anders and I would head over to Nikki's while the exterminator did his work. The exterminator came out and I gave him a tour of the trouble spots. He got started in the garage while Anders and I packed up. Shortly thereafter, he came running back to the house: "Corinne! Corinne! I found a black widow!" And he has a live black widow hanging from his equipment - pretty cool. I just love that this guy gets so excited about finding the bugs. Mind you, this was a different (smaller) spider than the one that I saw, so there was more than one in there! I'm glad I called him.

While the exterminator worked, we had a lovely afternoon in Underwood. Nikki made us a delicious lunch and then we all went on a hike with Bridger and Anders in the stroller together. In this photo, they have traded toy cell phones. Looks like gadget envy starts early in these two boys.

- Corinne, Mike, and Anders Rocket

19 November 2009

Swimming Lessons

Anders took "Minnows I" swimming lessons at the Hood River pool this month. With a little help from mom, Anders sang songs, swam on his stomach and on his back, learned to hold on to the side of the pool, and had fun throwing and fetching toys in the pool.

The goal of the class was to acclimate him to water. At the first class, he was quite clingy and cried when I dunked him under water. In later classes I had to put effort into holding on to Anders as he wiggled around in the water, and there was no crying after going under.

In the video, it takes a little longer that usual for Anders to recover from the dunk. He must have been distracted by Dad with the camera.

He is now more tolerant of getting his hair washed in the bathtub as well. Class goal achieved.

- Corinne, Mike, and Anders Rocket

16 November 2009

Weekend in Portland

As a mini-vacation, we decided to spend a long weekend in Portland. So we booked a room in a nice hotel and treated ourselves to a relaxing time in the city - or at least as relaxing as you can get with a one year old. To help, we paid for a train ticket from Seattle for Grandma Ilvedson and made sure to get a room big enough for the four of us. Donna would get to spend "quality Grandma time" with Anders at the hotel while we puttered about the city.

We did lots of window shopping and enjoyed good food at various eateries such as Saucebox (disappointing food, good drinks), Clyde Common (excellent), Jam on Hawthorne (best corned beef hash ever), Barista, Cupcake Jones, Nicholas Restaurant, and Besaw's.

Barista is an interesting coffee shop where rather than serving coffee from only one roaster, they feature roasters from around the country. So not only do you choose your drink, you choose the roast as well. Yum.

Donna's proud accomplishment for the weekend was teaching Anders that cows moo.

A fun weekend for all!

- Corinne, Mike, and Anders Rocket
Date: November 16, 2009

11 November 2009

More Scenes From Daycare

We really can't overstate how lucky we feel to have our daycare situation. Anders receives lots of love and attention, and there's always a host of visitors who drop by. It's really like he has a second family! He likes it so much that he is never upset when we drop him off in the morning.

Below are some typical scenes from daycare.

Storytime with Grandpa Herm

Zak and Anders (wearing Zak's old boots)


- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket
Date: November 11, 2009

08 November 2009

Pie Party 2

It had been too long since our last food-related party, so we decided that it was time for us to host another Pie Party!

We used the same rules as our last Pie Party, namely that everyone is required to bring a homemade pie, preferably one that is homemade by them.

A pie is a baked dish which is usually made of a pastry dough shell that covers or completely contains a filling of various sweet or savoury ingredients. (Wikipedia)

Another characteristic of the party is that we make no attempt to coordinate what people will be bringing. This adds an element of surprise, and I think it encourages people to try something different so that they are less likely to bring the same thing as anyone else. Last time we had no duplicate dishes, and we managed to repeat that feat this time around as well.

I did mention in the invite that we had quite a few more sweet pies at the last party than savory. And guess what? This time we had many more savory than sweet. I think next time (and there will be a next time!) I'm going to ask people to RSVP whether they plan to bring sweet or savory.

  • Artichoke Pie
  • Sweet Potato, Onion and Fontina Tart
  • Curry Chicken Pot Pie
  • Broccoli Quiche
  • Egg Cup Pies1
  • Two-Bean Tamale Pie
  • Sausage and Sauerkraut Pie
  • Spinach and Feta Pie
  • Very Unhealthy Quiche
  • Pork Pot Pie
  • Drunk Shepherd's Pie (lamb/potato/tomato)
  • Rhubarb Pie
  • Mincemeat
  • Chocolate Mousse Pie
  • Hawai'i Pai'i
  • Green Tomato Pie
  • Canadian Pecan Pie

There aren't many types of food that can result in that kind of variety, and also give people the ability to just make it up. That's what makes a pie party so great!

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket

1AKA Deviled Eggs. Technically these are not pies as defined above, but how can you tell that to a 9 year old who was so excited to make and bring them?

Date: November 8, 2009

07 November 2009

Anders Walks 13 Feet

Over the past few weeks, Anders has been getting more bold about trying to walk. He'll pull himself up on something - chair, stool, Mom, Dad - and take a step or two towards one of us. We weren't really sure whether we could call it truly "walking", but it was pretty clear that his days of having to scoot himself across the floor were coming to an end.

Then he removed all ambiguity by walking 13 feet across the room. We didn't catch that particular jaunt on video, but here he is on the same evening.

And yes, we actually used a tape measure to determine that it was 13 feet. What kind of type-A engineers would we be if we didn't?

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket
Date: November 7, 2009

04 November 2009

Soccer at Daycare

The video below is from early November of Anders playing 'soccer' while at daycare. While the cinematography may not be the best, we like the video because it is a good demonstration of several things:

  1. How fast Anders has gotten with his "scooting"
  2. The fun atmosphere at daycare
  3. How much fun everyone has, and how excited Anders is to be there

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket

03 November 2009

Vacation in the Ozarks

We don't get to see Corinne's family in Tulsa very often, so we took a vacation to visit them this fall. The trip wasn't quite as relaxing as we had hoped as a result of the horrible travel experience we had getting there, but we still enjoyed ourselves. We had planned to split our time between Tulsa and an outdoor resort near Branson, MO, but since we arrived a day later than originally planned, we only spent one day in Tulsa before embarking on the 4 hour drive to the resort.

We'd never been to the Ozarks before and were looking forward to a nice fall drive through the country. I guess we were a little late to catch the fall colors, but it was still a nice drive. In order get a flavor for the area, we made several stops on the way. The first stop was at a local bait and hunting shop. We didn't plan to do either on this trip, so this was an informational only visit. Our second stop was at AQ Chicken House for some down-home fried chicken.

We arrived at our destination, Big Cedar Lodge, right around dusk. Tor and Clare have stayed at Big Cedar before; in fact, it was a frequent retreat location for Clare's family when she was growing up. Our 2-bedroom cabin was what I would describe as "upscale rustic": log construction, wood floors, stone fireplace, with windows overlooking the lake below. One rather odd aspect, though, is that our cabin had a Dale Earnhardt, Jr theme. Not NASCAR, mind you, but Dale Earnhardt, Jr. The walls were adorned with photos of him receiving various trophies, etc. And because Dale's sponsor is Budweiser, it was really more of a Bud than Dale theme. Just odd but otherwise lovely.

The campus of Big Cedar provided quite a few amenities, and the weather was perfect for late fall. We didn't get a chance to enjoy the hot tubs, but we did spend some time outside on the shuffleboard court.

Since we were only 10 miles from Branson, we spent a day exploring the "Live Music Show Capital of the World." With two small kids in tow, we decided not to venture to any shows, but we did drive down the main drag and check out the pavilions, Southern plantations, and concert halls that host the performances for which Branson is famous. But for us, a game of mini golf and some Krispie Kreme donuts was about all we could handle.

One of the biggest motivations for the trip was to give Anders more time with his cousin Josephine. During their last meeting, Josephine was fascinated by Anders and all of the things that he could do. She was equally enthralled this time, only she would occasionally get so excited that she would shriek like a velociraptor right in his face. Anders has always been a little sensitive to loud noises so as you might imagine, he didn't like that very much. He did get used to it though. We knew he had made progress when he didn't cry one morning after Josephine veloci-shrieked while simultaneously pulling his hair. Josephine wanted to be with Anders all the time and Anders just wasn't sure what to do with a cute little creature younger than he. I guess he needs to spend some more time with babies.

Other than that, we mostly relaxed at the cabin and just enjoyed being together.

Sunday afternoon we returned to Tulsa, stopping for shakes along the way.

We were originally scheduled to fly back to Portland on Monday, but we decided to extend that by a day so that we could make up some of the time lost at the beginning of the trip.

This trip happened to coincide with Halloween. We had gone out of our way to get a costume for Anders, but since it was stuck in our luggage until late on Halloween night, we didn't actually get to use it. But since we were really looking forward to putting Anders into it, we figured that he wouldn't know the difference if we put his costume on a day late.

As it turns out, he actually didn't like wearing the costume as much as we liked watching him in it.

Josephine was a much more willing participant.

One of the other discoveries of this trip is that Anders loves cellphones. Josephine had a flip-phone style toy cellphone that he immediately knew how to use. He would flip it open, hold it to his shoulder and start talking. He didn't quite get the position of the phone right, but it's close enough. At first we couldn't figure out how he know how to work it; neither of us have flip-style phones. But then we realized that Debbie (daycare provider) has one. It's amazing what they just pick up and learn!

During this trip Anders also started initiating peek-a-boo games and improved his furniture cruising skills to the point where he would "walk" the 2 feet from couch to chair.

Anders and Josephine did have a great time playing next to each other with Clare's makeup. They would take it in and out (repeat) of the crystal bowl Clare keeps it in. Anders's favorite was the silver lipstick tube. He'd keep that safely stashed in his right hand while he played with everything else using his left hand.

One last stop while in Tulsa: a Western store for cowboy boots. Corinne has been trying to get me into Western-wear for some time: boots, big belt buckle, hat, the whole shebang. We've already scoured the stores in Portland but didn't have much luck finding good selections that fit my small and slightly wide feet. We figured that there couldn't be a better place to look than Tulsa. While we shopped, Anders spent most of his time exploring the selection of Radio Flyers in the center of the store.

In the end we did find what we were looking for, but I'll save that for another post.

Alas, our trip came to an end. And thankfully our return trip was much less "eventful".

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket
Date: November 3, 2009

02 November 2009

Worst Travel Experience Ever

At the end of October we took a vacation with some of Corinne's family in Tulsa. In order to separate the travel experience from the vacation, we'll talk about the actual vacation separately. But the traveling experience itself was quite unbelievable and deserves its own story entirely. This is the type of story that no one ever wants to experience, but we did. It's fairly long, but it's 100% true.

Such excitement! Little did we know...

Flight Delays and Mechanical Problems
Our flight to Tulsa was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon flying through Denver, but an October snow storm in Colorado caused a one hour delay in our departure from Portland. When we finally arrived in Denver, we had about 5 minutes to make our scheduled connection time. We checked the status board at the airport, and our connecting flight wasn't even listed - not a good sign. We rushed to the gate, and when we got there we were informed that the plane hadn't even arrived in Denver yet; our connecting flight was therefore delayed, but would still be leaving that night.

After about an hour and a half of waiting at the gate in Denver, our flight was then canceled due to mechanical problems with the plane. When we got to the rebooking counter, there were two airline agents at the desk and a line of about 30 people. By this time it was about 9pm, so there were no more flights to Tulsa that day. We were then informed that there were no seats available to Tulsa on the FOLLOWING day, either; the earliest that we could get there would be Friday morning. Needless to say, this did not make the line happy.

Hotel Shuttle
There were, however, flights to Oklahoma City on Thursday morning, so we decided that was our best option. Loren had agreed that he could pick us up from there, about a one and a half hour drive from Tulsa. Since the flight was canceled due to mechanical problems, the airline provided us with a voucher to a local hotel and some food vouchers and things. All of our bags had been offloaded, so we grabbed our luggage and head out to the hotel pickup area. By this point it was 10pm, and the snow was really coming down. Corinne stayed inside with Anders while I waited outside with all of the bags. Given the weather, I called to make sure that the shuttle was still running, and they said that the shuttle should be there in 30 minutes. So I waited. And waited. Shuttles came and shuttles went - many times - but ours did not. Keep in mind that this whole time I was dressed for Portland and Tulsa weather, not blizzard in Denver. After 45 minutes I called the hotel again, and this time they said that there had been "an accident", but the shuttle should be there in 20 minutes. 45 minutes after that (and two additional phone calls later), our hotel shuttle finally arrived. By this time a good sized group of people had accumulated, waiting for that same shuttle. We were last to board the shuttle, and all of the seats were already full. Someone graciously gave up his seat for Corinne and Anders, and the good Samaritan and I sat in the back on top of the luggage for the 25 minute drive to the hotel. The roads were pretty ugly.

Once at the hotel, we checked in as quickly as possible and all three of us got in bed at about 12:30am. The flight to Oklahoma City left at 7:15am the following morning, which only left us about 4 hours in the hotel before it was on to the shuttle again. (The hotel seemed lovely, so it's too bad we couldn't have spent more time there... but I'll get to that in a moment.)

Oklahoma City? No
We arrived back at the airport the following morning and waited for our flight to Oklahoma City. After about an hour this flight was also canceled, this time due to the continuing weather problems. We managed to get rebooked on a flight to Tulsa leaving that evening, exactly 24 hours after our original flight was to leave. But that still left us 12 hours with no place to go. We had already checked out of our hotel, and the airline was not providing hotel vouchers since this time the cancellation was weather-related. Rather than stay in the airport all day, we found an inexpensive hotel that would let us check-in early. But this time, our luggage didn't get returned, so we would have to make due with our carry-ons.

Stranded in Denver
First order of business in the second hotel: sleep. All three of us spent several hours sleeping on the cheap, relatively uncomfortable bed. It wasn't until sometime after noon that we awoke and started to recognize some of our problems:
  • We couldn't go anywhere but the airport. Two feet of snow covered the ground, and we weren't about to trudge through it in our only pair of shoes.
  • We had no food. Anders was still nursing, but he needs solid foods to augment some of the nutrients. And we need solid foods, too.
  • We were quickly running out of diapers. When we packed for our trip, we didn't pack enough diapers in the carry-on for the 24+ hours that we ended up needing.
We could have taken the hotel shuttle back to the airport for food, but there was little chance that we would find diapers at Hudson News. When I went down to the hotel desk to ask about calling a taxi, a former hotel employee happened to be there visiting. He overheard my story and offered to drive me to the grocery store that was just a few miles down the road. This was our second - and much more significant - good Samaritan of the trip!

Brakes On A Plane
At 5pm we were back to the airport for our latest attempt to get out of Denver. It looked like we might not make it this time, either; after boarding and closing the doors, they were unable to depart the gate as the brakes on the plane were apparently frozen. It took at least an hour to free the wheels and de-ice the plane before we departed.

Melting the brakes with a portable heater

Luggage? No
We finally arrived in Tulsa after midnight, and it looked like our trials were finally behind us and we could just enjoy what was left of our vacation. But our journey through hell was not yet complete. Remember when I said that our luggage didn't get returned to us after the last cancellation? Well, it didn't get sent to Tulsa with our flight, either. But the Frontier agent couldn't tell us where they went, because Frontier doesn't scan their bags. We would have to wait until it showed up unclaimed somewhere.

So it's 1am Friday morning, we're extremely travel weary, and we're standing in front of a Frontier ticket counter with no bags but our carry-ons. Suddenly, there's a pool of liquid directly underneath Anders in the stroller. You have got to be kidding me. Damn you, disposables! But I guess that about sums up what we think of Frontier at this point.

Luggage? Still no
Our original plans were to spend 2 days in Tulsa, then drive to a "wilderness resort" near Branson, MO to spend a relaxing weekend with the family. But our delays eliminated most of the time in Tulsa. We would be driving the 4 hours to Big Cedar Lodge later that same day - after getting some much needed sleep, of course. But that meant that our bags needed to be delivered to us on Friday so that we'd have them for the rest of our trip. "That shouldn't be a problem," says the agent.

Yeah, right. We got a call later that day indicating that they had found our bags in Oklahoma City, which is where our second scheduled flight was headed. But here's where the next major screw-up happened. Rather than driving the bags from Oklahoma City to where we were in Tulsa - a 1.5 hour drive - Frontier decided to fly the bags BACK TO DENVER. By the time they arrived, there weren't any more flights from Denver to Tulsa, so now it looked like we would have to wait until Saturday. It also meant that the airline would have to drive our bags from Tulsa all the way to Branson. The airline assured us the bags would be delivered first thing in the morning arriving by 2pm.

Saturday morning we talked to the baggage delivery service who informed us that because of our distance from Tulsa (remember, we're 4 hours away now) we would be at the end of the delivery route and probably wouldn't get them until nighttime. At 8pm on Saturday, we finally received our bags. (Recall that we left home on Wednesday.) And we were returning to Tulsa the following day.

Oh, and did I mention that Saturday was Halloween, and that one of the checked bags contained Anders's costume?

It is worth noting that through all of this Anders was as easy going as could be. I think because he didn't really understand all of the things that went wrong that shouldn't have, it was easier for him to just go with the flow. I think we should all take a lesson from that.

"There's Nothing I Can Do..."
Since the beginning of our trip was so frustrating, we decided to extend our stay in Tulsa by a day. And since the airline caused so many of the problems, they were surely going to change our flight without a problem.

When I called Frontier to change our plans, they made no attempt to make things right. They were initially going to charge me the change fee, any fare difference, and the full baggage cost for the return trip. After a long phone "discussion" with a Frontier agent and her supervisor, I finally got them to eliminate the change fee and allow us to use the free "travel vouchers" we received after the first cancellation to cover the fare difference. (I figured we would never use them anyway, since there's no way that we would willingly choose to fly Frontier again.) When we checked in for our return flight, the ticket agent was sympathetic to our plight and sent our checked bags gratis.

There were a bunch of other Frontier customer service snafus not worth the time it would take to explain them. But now that I've written all of this down, I will never have to think about those experiences again.

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket
Date: November 2, 2009