Theo Chocolate

27 04 2009

Two weekends ago, Molly went to a college friend’s wedding, so my mom and my brother flew in as reinforcements to help take care of Alex and Patrick. I’d foolishly thought I’d be able to watch both kids on my own for the weekend. I’m glad Molly talked me out of that plan! My mom and my brother helped me keep my sanity, and it was also a great excuse to go out and see some of the city sights that are too easy to overlook.

One of our adventures was to the Theo Chocolate factory in Fremont for the factory tour. Theo Chocolate is the only 100% organic & fair trade chocolate maker in the United States. It’s a pretty small operation, well-known in the area for their non-traditional chocolate bar flavors (like Chai and Coconut Curry).

Fair Trade Chocolate

The original plan was to take the tour on Saturday, but it turns out the website isn’t joking about calling ahead for reservations: When I called on Friday, the first available tour was Monday. All eight tours on the weekend were booked.

We took the last tour of the day on Monday. We brought Alex with us but left Patrick at daycare. This was not one of my better parenting decisions, and I think it really shows my stubborn streak. I really wanted to bring Alex on an “adventure” with us, thought this would be fun, and I persisted in the plan even though I knew that we’d have to pay the full $6 for Alex to go on the tour, the tour was 90 minutes long, and you needed closed-toe shoes and no strollers. The nice folks at Theo dropped every subtle hint they could that this is not a great idea for a three-year-old! But I persisted.

What really makes this a bad idea for a three-year-old is the same thing that makes the tour a great idea for an adult, and makes the tour well worth the $6. This is a Chocolate Factory, and they pass out lots and lots of samples of chocolate. It seems like every three minutes of the 90 minute tour, there was some new kind of chocolate to nibble on. Hazelnut crunch. Orange chocolate. 91% cacao single-origin Venezuela chocolate. Chocolate nibs. Curry chocolate. As the afternoon progressed, you could see Alex get more and more hyper. Luckily, a good portion of the “tour” is spent sitting in a room that has a door opening directly outside. When the squirming got out of control, I took Alex outside and let him run around. Alex had a great time, and we had a great time, and I don’t think Alex spoiled the tour for anyone else (if anything, I think he may have added to their enjoyment). By those measures, the tour was a success. But I still wouldn’t do it again with a kid that young.

And did I mention that the two times in his life that Alex has had any significant amount of dark chocolate to eat, he has not been able to fall asleep until 10:30 P.M.? Yup, as I said, not one of my best parenting decisions.

On the plus side, we did get to all wear fashionable hair nets, even Alex.

Alex in a Hair NetTake Off the Hair Net

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Kindle: Buyer Beware

15 04 2009

A letter I wrote earlier this week to Amazon:

Dear Sir or Madam,

My Amazon Kindle 1, which I have owned for about 10 months, is broken. The screen won’t refresh. Instead, all I see are horizontal lines across the screen. I called customer service on Saturday. The customer service representative was helpful and walked me through how to reset the device, both through the keyboard and through the pinhole in the back. Unfortunately, neither step worked, and I’m left with a broken Kindle.

Here’s where I’m mad at myself and frustrated with Amazon. I told the customer service representative the truth: My kindle had fallen off my nightstand earlier in the day. My son had jostled some other items on the nightstand, the Kindle slid, and it fell 27 inches to the floor. It wasn’t flung across the room carelessly, there was no velocity other than 27 inches of free-fall. My wife, who saw this happen, didn’t think anything of it at all and just put the Kindle back on the nightstand.

I’m mad at myself because your customer service representative told me, after we’d exhausted the options for resetting the Kindle, that the Kindle’s warranty doesn’t cover drops or falls, and my only remaining service option was spending $180 for a replacement Kindle. Part of me wishes I’d told a white lie and didn’t mention the fall — after all, I didn’t see it happen…

But most of all, I’m disappointed in Amazon for building and shipping a product that cannot withstand normal use. My wife was quite surprised that there was any problem with the Kindle at all. I doubt the device experienced much more impact than it would when jostled around in a backpack or a carry-on bag. You must have expected that the Kindle would be frequently left on tables, nightstands, or desks (all common areas where books accumulate), and that sometimes Kindles, like books, would fall. Unlike Kindles, though, books aren’t rendered useless when they fall two feet.

Fortunately, we’re a two-Kindle family. Before this incident, I’d been happy enough with my Kindle to buy one for my wife so we could share ebooks with no conflict over the device. Now that I better understand the shoddy construction of these devices, I’m not going to spend $180 for a replacement Kindle. I view this as throwing good money after bad. I’ll read my remaining ebooks when I manage to borrow my wife’s device, and I’ll wait patiently for ereader technology to mature to at least cell phone ruggedness. Amazon, please build a better device and win me back as a customer.

Sincerely,

Brian Dewey





Easter 2009

13 04 2009

Easter kind of confused Alex. The weekend before Easter, Alex was convinced that Easter had come. Maybe he wanted candy. Maybe it was when he found the stash of plastic eggs. I don’t remember. Whatever the reason, it was just him and me in the kitchen when I tried to explain that Easter was still a week away, and Alex gave one of his common responses: “But Mama said it’s Easter. Mama said.”

The day before Easter, Alex and Molly dyed eggs. Alex really had fun, and it was surprisingly less messy than we’d feared. The closest thing to a glitch in the plan is we had a hard time convincing Alex that it was okay to take the eggs out of the blue dye. For whatever reason, the blue one was special, and Alex just wanted to keep each egg in there forever. And once again, Alex was confused that we were dyeing eggs but it still wasn’t Easter.

Hard at Work

On Sunday, the Easter Bunny came when Alex was in the potty. We’d just gotten back from church. Molly started whispering to me that maybe I should play with Alex upstairs for a little bit so she could set things up, when Alex came up to me and said, "I have to go poop." I went into the bathroom with him, closed the door, and the Easter Bunny had plenty of time to set out the Easter baskets and hide some eggs in the living room.

Look at my candy!

The Easter basket was a big hit. More specifically, the candy in each egg was a big hit. We had a really hard time distracting Alex from the candy long enough to get him to look for the seven eggs that were "hidden" in plain sight in the living room. We gave up coaxing him through the hunt when there was still one egg left on the windowsill.

Later that day, Alex had two accidents. Maybe he was reluctant to go back to the potty for fear of missing a return visit from the Easter Bunny. Who knows how his mind works…





Today’s Parenting Milestones

9 04 2009

First, Patrick turned 10 months old today. Happy birthday, Patrick!

Wet Kiss

Second, I let Alex play in the backyard by himself for the first time. It’s kind of nice to be in the era of, “Why don’t you go outside and play?”

Alex





Two Patrick updates

8 04 2009

The good news: Patrick pulls himself up quite regularly, both at home and at daycare.

The bad news: He keeps getting ear infections, eye infections, thrush, and he’s definitely the pukiest member of this family.





Dancing King

7 04 2009

I got the idea for this video when Istanbul by They Might Be Giants came on the stereo, and Alex said, “Let’s dance!” and started jumping around like a hyper grasshopper. I got a few clips of him dancing the rest of the day. Enjoy.





First Warm Day of Spring

6 04 2009

It’s been an uncommonly cold and dreary spring. As usual, Cliff Mass from the University of Washington had the numbers. In March, on only 3 days did we reach the normal high. On half of the days, we went below the normal low. The weather was starting to get everybody down. As if Mother Nature realized she’d ground us all down and wanted to break our spirits entirely, she sent us a week of solid gray, wet, cold, dreary weather. Even the ducks looked ready to move to Santa Fe. This was last week.

But then, suddenly, it stopped. Friday afternoon, things cleared up. Saturday and Sunday were dry and warm – probably about 20 degrees warmer than what we’d been used to.

On the one hand, this is the weekend we’d been dreading. Alex didn’t nap either day, a first. We’ve grown used to his two-to-three hour naps on the weekend to give us a break. But with the nice weather, we could forgive his new habit. We had plenty to do both days. We went to the farmer’s market Saturday morning. (Dawn & Eric, if you’re reading this: The first thing Alex said when he realized we were on the way to the farmer’s market was, “I want to see Eric.”) Sunday we headed out to playgrounds and saw the airplanes at Kenmore Air.

Here’s a parenting fact I didn’t need to know when Alex slept for most of the afternoon: The afternoon is a lousy time to try to go to the zoo, especially on the first warm day of spring. Saturday afternoon traffic is worse than Saturday morning traffic, so it took us considerably longer to get to the zoo than I’m used to. Then, once we got there, there was no parking. Imagine trying to explain to a three-year-old that, even after sitting in a car for a half hour, you might not be able to go to the zoo after all. Yeah. We drove from lot to lot until we finally found a spot tucked away in the corner of the north parking lot, which I didn’t even know existed. Then, when we got there, we learned that in spite of the warm weather, the zoo still officially considers this “winter,” and it closes at 4:00. (I think it was 3:15 by the time we got in there.) We buy our tickets anyway. But this north entrance, which I never have used before, is right by the carousel, so I walk in thinking there’s a good likelihood that we won’t see any animals at all… you get an idea of how the trip started.

Streaks of Light

Alex and Dad on the carousel.

But warm weather cures all ills, and we have a great time anyway. The sun was shining, the grass was green, it was great to be outside. And did I mention that Alex learned how to roll down a hill?

Run down the hill