embrace the geek… mom

Chinese New Year trip to Malaysia Pt. 1

The Trip There

I’d fly Cathay Pacific again. And leaving on a Thursday was a good idea – the plane was half empty, and we were able to spread out comfortably. Joey was good – but his little friend behind us was not. She was maybe a year older, and stayed up way too late and ended up having a huge freak-out episode where she just sat there screaming at her mother and hitting her.

Her poor mom was traveling alone – and at one point when I looked over the seat at her she was looking desperately for a flight attendant while holding an empty bottle – she was very thankful when I offered to take the bottle and hunt down some milk for her little girl. You could feel the relief throughout the cabin when her daughter finally got tired of screaming after about 45 minutes and fell asleep.

We stayed at the HK Marriot near the airport during our 12 hour layover – where I of course had a nice bout of fever. Thank goodness for the comfortable room and bed and heavenly shower. A nice hotel – definitely recommended.

Next morning, back to the HK International Airport. I have to say, it’s HUGE. HUUUUGE. Did I mention HUGE? And a HUGE pain in the ass for someone in a walking cast.

Our flight out was at Gate 64. There were 150 gates, if I remember the signs correctly. It wasn’t immediately obvious that the gates were actually downstairs. We’d follow a sign that pointed right, get there and then see a sign that pointed left, all along passing shops and restaurants. It took some frustrating moments trying to figure out where to go before we realized we had to take an escalator/elevator down to get to our gate.

Arriving in Malaysia

Customs, immigration, luggage retrieval were all blessedly uneventful – except Joey got fidgety while waiting in line for immigration. It was wonderful to see Mo and Dad’s faces and finally relax for a bit.

When we got to Mo’s car Tom’s face looked somewhat concerned when he popped the trunk on the Myvi – until Mo laughed and told him they’d brought Dad’s car too. There was no way the luggage would have fit in Mo’s car with us.

More later…


Books of note: Kylie Chan’s Dark Heavens and Journey to Wudang series

White Tiger (Dark Heavens, #1)White Tiger by Kylie Chan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just blew through all six books. This is the first fantasy series I’ve come across that incorporates Chinese mythology – it was really nice to learn a little more about it than I already know.

I have to say I’m not so sure about the writing style – seems very minimalist – but the story/plot was pretty good. Looking forward to her third trilogy.

View all my reviews

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Minifying CSS vs playing nice with Safari


Please note: if you’re minifying your css, Safari doesn’t like it if you have multiple “@charset” declarations in the minified css file.


Choo choos and Godzilla Dialogs

We went to the 22nd Greatest Ferret Show on Earth a few weeks ago. Tom thought Joey would like seeing ferrets – I think he just wanted to tempt me into getting ferrets again. Or maybe it was a little of both. However, I think our side trip to the Choo Choo Restaurant out in Des Plaines outshone the ferret fun.

It was a good thing we got there when we did – 30 minutes later the place was packed. The food delivery train only served the people at the counter, so families who had to take the booths often had to perch their kids at an empty counter seat – temporarily – just to get in on the excitement of the train going by. No wonder there was a big sign saying asking patrons not to switch tables…

Joey loved it, of course.

And then there’s a video I captured because I was highly amused:

His vocabulary expands every day – and it’s wonderful to watch.

August was a busy month – a road trip to Ghost Ranch, New Mexico with a stop for a wonderful visit with Shell and her family (pics here), a visit to the Shedd Aquarium (pics here) and then off to the Renaissance Faire (pics here) a week later!



Haircuts and summer

We recently found a Geek Parents Network meet-up group (there’s all kinds of meet-up groups) and – well – met up with some other parents with common interests in geeky things like gaming, sci-fi/fantasy, anime… and were introduced to a place nearby called Pickles’ Playroom in Lincoln Square. It features a play area, cafeteria and a kids’ salon – and we decided to let a professional take care of Joey’s hair for a change. Here’s the result:


I kind of mourned the loss of his mop on top of his head but at least everything was cut mostly straight and more-or-less even in length – and it’ll grow out pretty fast anyway. The lady was impressive – she sat him on this toy car barber chair, handed him two toys, let us pick out a dvd and popped it in the player, and before he knew what was going on she was combing and snipping at his hair. I should’ve taken a video but I wasn’t fast enough! I did manage to grab a shot of her at work though:


That was a few weeks back.

We’ve since been to a picnic at the park with the Geek Parents and also had our first grill-out at Kevin and April’s newly re-done backyard.

Here’s Finn checking out Joey’s Thomas (which of course came along – the miracle is that he let Finn play with it).

Hi Thomas!

And a happy Finn with the grill in the background:

Happy Finn

Meanwhile Joey’s checking out Finn’s Legos:

Yay Legos!

His hair is thankfully growing out already… Oh and this is a shot we had Kevin take for us for a history book that Farmer City is putting out:


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Chinese language class

We checked out a toddler Chinese language class last weekend down by Lincoln Park. I don’t remember what prompted me to sign us up for this, but the upshot is I found three competing language “schools” that offered toddler language classes. This place was the first to respond, and we set up a free “come-check-us-out!” session.

We got there in perfect time, and were introduced to Winnie from Taiwan – a high-energy girl who encouraged us to participate with/for Joey during the class. There were I think five other toddlers, all there with just their dads (which I found amusing for some reason).

It was interesting to see how the lesson was structured. She basically had bags of toys/activities which she would whip out and introduce. One bag was tambourines, and she went to each child and queued them on how to say “please give me the tambourine” in Chinese – and would cheer if the child said it, but also accepted if the parent said it in lieu of the toddler (who was either too young or too shy). Then she’d give them the tambourine. Then when everyone got a tambourine we’d sing “tambourine tambourine tambourine” in Chinese. Then we would all say “goodbye tambourine” in Chinese, and move on to the next bag.

There was also a segment where all the toddlers were asked to sit around a little table, parents were told to sniff their hands and say stinky, then everyone took turns asking for a clean wipe, and then took turns asking for a plate, then either some cheerios or goldfish crackers.

Tom’s comment today when we talked about it: “He is sooo my child. All the kids were done eating and he was still popping cheerios one by one.”

I’d say that we would definitely be up for something like that – except I think the classes are $40 per hour which is a little steep. The plan is to check out the other two competitors and see what’s what. At the very least, I’ll get some ideas on how to teach it myself at home.

Why wouldn’t I do that anyway? Well, I think it helps if people other than just Mom (and a bit of Dad) is babbling at him in Chinese. Already he seems less stubborn about repeating things to me in Chinese – he seems to like counting in both English and Chinese since we came away from the class. So… we’ll see!

I’m usually full of plans but my follow through record isn’t the greatest…

Here’s a pic taken on the way to the class:

Tired in the car after Chinese lessons

Meanwhile, snapshot of the latest “meal” I came up with:

pasta dinner

Pasta sauce is from the World’s Best Lasagna sauce, cooked up and saved in containers. Added yellow bell peppers and rotini and macaroni pasta. I tried it with angelhair and he gets frustrated with it.


New environment for Joey – and serious attachment to Thomas

We got a phone call Sunday night – and it turned out to be our daycare lady.

“Hi, I have a surprise for you tomorrow!

“Oh? What is it?”

“You will have to bring Joey to our new place!”

“Oh! When did you buy a new house?”

“Oh about eleven months ago – I didn’t tell you?”


Turns out she thought she had told us about it. “I guess I am getting old!” So we brought Joey to her new place Monday morning – a much bigger, nicer, newer place just two minutes from the old one. While the old basement was functional, this one was bright and airy, and the backyard comparable.

Joey was a little hesitant but the ladies were distraction experts and he was caught up with something to play with immediately.

Meanwhile he appears to have developed a habit of having to go to bed with at least Thomas in hand, preferably Toby too. He must have dropped Thomas sometime earlier in the evening as he started calling for Thomas in his sleep around 11 p.m last night. I tried putting Neville in his hand – his eyes were still shut, mind you – and even that didn’t work. I eventually found him sitting up in the crib calling for Thomas, and ended up grabbing a flash light and finding Thomas for him behind his crib. All was well after that.

Tom’s pondering getting him a plush Thomas. I’m not sure about the idea. He already has four “guardian” plushies in each corner of his crib! Two bolsters, three baby blankets and a baby quilt make his crib a total nest – I’m not sure it can take a plushie Thomas… and how does that help with his attachment?


Aside from that, we appear to have found a meet-up group made up of geek parents. We met them for the first time last week and everyone enjoyed being able to talk shop while our kids played in this great place that has a cafe, huge play area (complete with a huge Thomas table), and a little kids’ salon.

We’ll be trying a picnic in the park with them next week if the weather cooperates. And if all goes well and all my stuff arrives in time, I will bring my new camera (yes, a birthday present to myself) and put it through its paces! Can’t wait!



Latest Joey sentences:
“More pissa pees” (more pizza please) – figures my son would insist on having pizza. And his daycare lady succumbs and gives him pizza rather than have him go hungry… Will have to get more specifics on what kind of pizza she gives him. I’m not too worried because I know she cares about all her children and hence their nutritional intake too. But I’ll still have to check.

“Joey hewp Matthew” – aww when did he become such a nice boy? Usually he asks for Mom and Dad’s “hewp! hewp! hewp!” or he’ll just randomly go “ouch! ouch! ouch!” for no real reason we can see. Oh duh, it’s for attention!

Silly boy.

Other new tricks:

  • he knows all his ABCs
  • can count up to 10
  • recognizes blue, red, pink, purple, yellow and green about 90% of the time
  • can sing the happy birthday song (mostly) and recognizably sings other songs like all of the ABC, Twinkle Twinkle (we sing those with him all the time) and Wheels on the Bus (which he must have picked up at daycare).

Is that normal for a 25-month old?


Two birthday boys

We celebrated two birthdays this weekend 🙂 One for Finnegan, who turned one and for whom I don’t have a picture yet, and one for Joey who turned two. There were two sets of tired parents at the end of Sunday. The kids had a nice haul of presents though 🙂

This is Joey’s favorite:

He was also very tired:

And earlier in the weekend I managed to catch him singing, which is harder these days as now he keeps wanting to check himself out in the camera…:


Bank of America Nightmare

We started the refinancing process back in November. The loan officer seemed nice and professional, and we hand delivered all the required documents by December 17. We received an email from loan processor A on December 22 introducing herself to us, and on December 30 she confirmed she had everything she needed – and we never heard from her again.

On Jan 20 – a whole month later – I emailed loan processor A to find out the status of our refinance application. I received a reply that she would be out of the office until Jan 10 – ten days earlier. Her out-of-office email indicated loan processor B as an alternate contact. I contacted loan processor B and received another out-of-office email – this time loan processor B was going to be out of office for THREE MONTHS beginning Jan 18, and her alternate contact was – guess who – loan processor A.

We called the branch office and spoke with the assistant branch manager – and it turns out that our loan officer had LEFT Bank of America – and the next point of contact was her assistant. At this point we had already paid $495 for credit check and appraisal and had the appraisal done – and they asked us where the appraisal was.

After yet another week of the assistant and loan processor C (yes, a third one) fumbling around with our application, they go back and forth about the fact that our loan was an FHA loan and where is our FHA condo approval – and they find out our condo is not yet FHA approved.

Feb 15 I get an email from loan processor C that FHA never received a reply from our condo association (we didn’t even know they would be contacting the association) and that the “condo project” was canceled. I can only assume that it referred to our refinance application.

So now we’re trying to get hold of SOME supervisor to just get our money back and forget refinancing with them – and of course all we get is their voicemail.

update March 3 2011:

Because of the $495 deposit we put down and the fact that interest rates have gone up, we tried to power through the idiocy. Despite being informed by some friends who also work in Bank of America that they contacted the loan processor C – Terry Jordan’s boss and they would contact us – we received nothing except more communication from Mr. Jordan.

The next hurdle was FHA condo approval, and we received a whole list of documents they needed from the condo association. Since ours is a very small condo with a very informal board, we tried to help compile the documents on the list. Which included a FEMA flood map and a Title Report.

We didn’t know then that these documents are typically taken care of by the loan processor – why they asked US for them, I have no idea. They even included a convoluted instruction sheet on how to create the flood map document from the FEMA web site.

Here is a perfect example of the sort of moronic response we get:

Our condo secretary:

Please confirm that the attached addresses your concern number 2600. Once I receive confirmation that it’s completed to your satisfaction I will submit a signed copy.

2600. HOA Cert- HOA representative to complete all sections and resubmit; Project Name as appears on the Declaration must be entered. #2, if N/A, please check N/A; #10 Please give the breakdown of units. Please differentiate between the Commercial and Residential Units.

In response to 2810, there is no management agreement as the HOA is in fact self managed.

And Terry Jordan’s response?

Yes the below is the address

[insert our condo building address here]


update 2011-03-20:

We got them to agree to a refund – only after pointing out that two units in our condo were being listed at a value lower than our loan amount, and that they would save themselves an appraisal fee if they just cut things off now instead of wait until our loan gets denied and then give us the refund.