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The Sunday Somethings, 10oct10

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Something that makes me happy: It makes me happy to watch my kids having fun.

Something I’m thinking: I’m thinking it’s about time for bed. I’m so tired, but what else is new?

Something happening around the house: The cleaners came on Friday morning, and then we went out of town for the weekend. It was nice to come home to a clean house!

Something I’m reading: I finished The Unseen and can’t decide what I want to read next.

Something I’m watching: Gabe and I went to see The Social Network which we thought was interesting. I was definitely curious about how much of the movie was true.

Something I’m playing: Angry Birds. I’m still playing Carcassonne as well, though I missed some of my turns this week. Ooh, we also played a little Spades last night in the mountains. It had been a while since I have played Spades!

Something tasty: We had tasty chili in the mountains.

Something Maddie is doing (31 months old): She’s been asking me to do the whole bedtime routine more and more. She loves for me to lay down with her and wants me to sing to her. This weekend, we didn’t even attempt naps on Saturday and Sunday since we were too busy having fun in the mountains. She was a bit whiny in the evenings, so I think she still needs to take that afternoon nap most days!

Something Cullen is doing (37 weeks old): It’s been a big week for Cullen!!! I took him back to the doctor on Monday since he continued to have rough nights and had developed new cold symptoms. Fortunately, he did not have another ear infection. He did have a very bad cold that still has a lingering cough. We’ve had a rough time getting him healthy! He starts his regular, maintenance dose of antibiotic tomorrow. We would have started it this weekend, but since we were out of town and nowhere near hospitals, we decided to wait until we got back. We didn’t want him to have a strange reaction and not be near a doctor! This week, I wondered whether Cullen had cruised at all (thinking he hasn’t been given too many opportunities) and whether he is capable of getting himself into a sitting position. Whether or not he did these things before this week, he did them both this week! He pulled himself to a standing position at his piano and cruised around to the opposite side. As for the sitting, I think this might be a new skill as well because he’s doing it frequently. He even sat up in the pack-n-play this weekend when he woke in the middle of the night. If it isn’t a brand new skill, it is one that we can definitely say he has now mastered. This weekend, he added clapping to his list of talents. It’s so cute! Once this weekend, he pulled himself up to a standing position. When we said, “yay!!!!” he started clapping (and fell after a few seconds of that). I love the clapping!!! As if this wasn’t enough, he cut his first tooth this morning. I guess he did have a good reason for being extra fussy this morning. Oh! One more thing! He got his first pair of shoes this week – a soft pair of Robeez Mini Shoez. We figured they will help keep his socks on for the fall and winter. It’s a bonus that they are quite cute! EDIT: I forgot to mention…he also had his first taste of (dairy free) pancake this weekend!

Something I learned: I learned a few things about the history of Facebook.

Something I’m looking forward to: We’re going to the museum with friends next weekend. I’m thinking we should go to a pumpkin patch soon and carve some pumpkins! We might do that this week as well.

Something captured: The kiddos at school just before heading to the mountains on Friday.

Others writing The Sunday Somethings: Audrey

The Sunday Somethings, 01nov09

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Something that made me happy this week: A wonderful weekend with great friends!

Something I’m thinking: The weekend really should be at least 3 days.

Something I’m hoping: To finish the cruise photobook sometime soon. I started on it this week and have made quite a bit of progress.

Something happening around the house: I did a little more work on the mural this weekend. Slowly but surely, I’m going to finish this thing. Then we will have to work on the big transition from Maddie’s crib to the big girl bed.

Something I’m reading: I don’t think that I did any reading this week. The Help has been postponed for book club until March. I’ll hopefully get back to reading Loving Frank this week. Loving Frank is the book club selection for November/December.

Something tasty I ate this week: I made Ginger Snaps for the Halloween festivities this weekend. YUM!!!

Something Maddie did this week: She started calling Gabe, “Daddy.” She also went trick-or-treating for the first time, though she didn’t quite seem to understand what we were doing. She’s talking more than ever and using complete sentences fairly often now.

Something happening with the pregnancy: I’m officially in my third trimester, wow!

Something I struggled with this week: We had some struggles this week with what to name the new baby. We’ll figure it out eventually (hopefully before the baby is born!!!).

Something I’m doing towards my goals: Other than the usual ongoing stuff, nothing much.

Something I learned this week: I learned that scone pans are difficult to clean. This fact will prevent Gabe from ever letting me own one.

Something I’m looking forward to next week: The Mothers & More open house, dinner with friends, and Maddie’s swimming lesson.

Something random: Gabe and I have been playing too much Cafe World on Facebook.

Something I captured: Maddie and Mommy while trick-or-treating.

Others writing The Sunday Somethings: Audrey

My most popular blog posts

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I love Google Analytics. I had prevented my site from being in the search engines for a while, but I couldn’t resist finding out how people would find me. I allowed my site back into the search engines and installed Google Analytics nearly a year ago.

I check it almost every day, though I’m most interested in seeing what searches land strangers on my page. These searches have resulted in a ton of hits for some posts. I’m not saying that these are my best posts by any means…just the ones that get the most hits.

Here’s the top 10 blog posts (from least popular to most popular):
10. Changes in Girl Scout Cookies – I received a good number of searches around Girl Scout cookie time for things like “changed tagalongs” and “did the girl scouts change the recipe for tagalongs” and other similar searches. I wonder whether I’ll have similar searches around Girl Scout cookie time next year.

9. Maddie’s cute little feet – I’m not sure why I waited so long to write a post about Maddie’s underdeveloped left foot. I know that I personally spent HOURS searching the internet in the hopes that I would find similar abnormalities in other children to help me understand. I did not find much. I get searches for this one at random times for things like “underdeveloped feet baby,” “child with different sized feet,” “underdeveloped feet in young babies,” and “will different sized child feet even out.” I hope that some other parents can find a little of what they are looking for in this post.

8. How many of these children’s books can you name? – I created a quiz for my friend Melisa’s book themed baby shower. It turned out nicely! I get some searches like “book quiz with answer.” I don’t see a ton of obvious searches that would land people on this page, so it is surprising that it was so popular. I think I had more of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers following the blog link than usual, perhaps.

7. Maddie’s Birthday Party at Daycare photos – For some reason, I get a lot of hits for “daycare birthday party” and similar. I guess that people are looking for ideas of what they can do at daycare for their child’s birthdays? At any rate, I get a good number of these searches, making this post the 7th most popular one.

6. My first big lesson in parenting: never say never – I get some searches for this one about co-sleeping, but I think most of my traffic came from my friend Ann‘s blog when she referred to my post. This is the post where I admitted that I was NEVER going to have my baby in the bed with me. How wrong I was! The weirdest search that landed someone on this page was “dairy-free breaded chicken.”

5. Concert Review: Mannheim Steamroller – I decided to do something different and post a review of the Mannheim Steamroller show that I saw as part of my annual Christmas date with Audrey. I had no idea that so many people were interested in it! Around Christmastime, I had sometimes a dozen searches with people looking for reviews on Mannheim Steamroller shows. I’m wondering if this post will be just as popular around December this year.

4. Maddie’s Hives – This one could end up being the most popular post ever, considering how recent it is and how high it ranks already. I get numerous searches involving hives, including things like “102 fever and hives,” “hives in the morning,” “hives with fever,” “penicillin allergy hives pictures,” and “pictures of penicillin allergy hives.” A few searches on “cefdinar” show up in the logs as well.

3. Melisa’s Baby Shower photos – This one is a bit surprising. Many people find it with generic searches such as “baby shower photos,” “my baby shower photos,” and “friend’s baby shower photos.” Maybe these people are potential shower hosts and are looking for ideas. I’m really surprised, however, by the number of people that have searches containing Melisa’s name (considering the unique spelling). I have seen searches such as “melisa shower” and “melisa baby.” The funniest that I have seen are “melisa archives” (they were probably disappointed considering that it is probably not the archives they were looking for), “melisa babe” (I’m starting to think she has a secret admirer), and my personal favorite “melisa in the shower” (now I KNOW she has a stalker).

2. Animal Crossing: City Folk – These searches have been getting less lately, but for a while I had a flurry of activity with people wanting to know all sorts of things about Animal Crossing. I’m planning to write a separate post eventually to serve as a sort of resource (mostly linking to legitimate resources). People want to know tips and tricks with the game, but my post was more or less a review.

1. 25 Random Things About Me – And the winner goes to…the Facebook viral activity. Around the time that the list was really popular, I got tons of hits daily. Interestingly my follow-up post didn’t receive quite as many hits. These searches started the day after I posted it and continued strongly for a few weeks. It tapered off gradually after that. I would expect this post to fall in the ranks eventually, but for now it has been the most popular post on the blog. The searches in this case were quite obvious, all variations on “25 random things about me.”

Many ways you can help fight MS!

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

I will continue to advocate for our team until we meet our goals! Below is a message that I recently sent to family and friends.

We are nearing the date of the Triangle MS Walk, and Team B-Patrol is attempting to raise $5,000 for the National MS Society. We need your help. This year, we have many ways that you can support our team! I know that times are tough financially, and we appreciate anything that you can do to help our efforts. Donating money is just one of many ways that you can benefit our team.

  1. Make a donation: Help a team member make their goals or donate directly to our team. Visit our team’s website:
    http://www.nationalmssociety.org/goto/team_bpatrol

  2. Join our team: We welcome new team members, especially the furry four-footed type. You can choose your fundraising goals and can walk with us on April 25th or join us as a virtual member to raise money and awareness for the National MS Society.
  3. Purchase products from our partners: This year, we have a brand new way that you can help Team B-Patrol. Several small businesses have joined us in the fight against MS. See links at the bottom of this message. Please consider the special offers from Catherine Keene Photography, Whimsical Cookies, or ShambroLa Wood Art.
  4. Forward this message to your friends and family. Spread the word. Help us make our goals!
  5. Blog about our team, and I’ll post a blurb about your blog on my site.
  6. Donate your Facebook status to our cause. A sample status: “wants you to help Team B-Patrol fight MS: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/goto/team_bpatrol
  7. Do you own a small business? Consider offering some specials and donate proceeds to our cause. Please talk to me if you can help, and I will feature you on the blog and spread the word.

My sister was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2007. We feel that she was diagnosed early in the course of the disease, and we are optimistic for a cure. We are committed to raising money for the National MS Society to fund research and help other people diagnosed with the disease.

Catherine Keene Photography:
http://www.kerryandgabe.com/blog/2009/04/02/give-back-with-catherine-keene-photography/

Whimsical Cookies:
http://www.kerryandgabe.com/blog/2009/04/07/whimsical-cookies-cookies-for-a-cause/

ShambroLa Wood Art:
http://www.kerryandgabe.com/blog/2009/04/06/shambrola-wood-art-and-the-national-ms-society/

The Sunday Somethings, March 29

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

It’s time again for The Sunday Somethings! Let us know if you want to join us, and we’ll to link to you. Be sure to check out Audrey‘s blog for her installment this week.

Something that made me smile this week: This morning when we had our friends visit spur of the moment for pancakes and a playdate! Fun!

Something I’m thinking: I’m thinking about some of my answers to the Facebook “Pick 5″ questions…

Something I am hoping: That Maddie’s sleep issues earlier this week were related to her new second tooth! The tooth finally broke through the skin yesterday. I think it has been bothering her for almost 2 weeks.

Something happening around the house: Maddie is napping, Gabe is getting ready to watch some basketball, and I need to pay the bills.

Something I’m reading: I’ve been reading board books mostly this week. Maddie has been showing a greater interest in books this week! Favorites include Guess How Much I Love You, That’s Not My Lion…, That’s Not My Puppy…, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I might have read a few pages of The Book Thief for book club.

Something tasty I ate this week: I treated myself to some yummy mint Premium M&Ms. I tried some of the other flavors, but mint chocolate is still my favorite.

Something Maddie did this week: While I was getting ready for work one morning, Maddie fell and bonked her head on a door frame. Daddy picked her up and comforted her. Usually she wants Mommy in these situations, and I went over to comfort her and she held on tight to Daddy! This is the first time that she shunned me to prefer her Daddy. It hurt my feelings a little bit, but it’s good for her to want her Daddy sometimes, too! She continues to call him “dada” but almost never calls me “mama.” Lately, she has been waking up and saying, “dada!” with a huge smile. It’s no secret that she still prefers me most of the time, but she sure loves her Daddy.

Something I struggled with this week: Sleep, but what else is new?

Something I’m doing towards my goals: I’ve contacted a few mortgage companies to get quotes for refinancing. Hopefully, we can get this process started soon as I think it will be worth it! I’ve been creating spreadsheets to compare our various options. For the ongoing goal of “make meals for people,” I’m making dinner for friends tonight with a new baby, and I arranged to deliver two more meals to another family this week.

Something I’m looking forward to next week: Our trip to Kentucky to visit Gabe’s family and see some horse racing.

Something I captured: More fun in the sun!

More random things about me

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

I felt inspired to write another list. I am really enjoying reading everyone’s lists on Facebook!!! They keep making me think of more things that I could have written, so I’m going to do it. It’s my blog, and I’ll do what I want. So, I’ve decided to post another 25 Random Things About Me.

  1. I’m excited that Gabe is actually working on his 25 things list. I really didn’t think that he would. I can’t wait to see what he has on his list!
  2. I like dogs…other people’s dogs. I have fond memories of my childhood dogs, and I enjoy my parents and sister’s dogs. I do not want my own dogs. I don’t want the responsibility of a pet. Cats are out of the question as I am allergic.
  3. I could *possibly* be convinced to get a small dog later for my kids, but I’m not planning on it. I know that no matter what they say, I’ll be the one that has to take care of it.
  4. If we get a gerbil, I will make sure that we get ONE gerbil or two same sex gerbils. My sister had gerbils when we were younger. We started with two. We ended up with hundreds of gerbils over the years. At one point, my sister’s room had over 120 gerbils. I’m not exaggerating. True story.
  5. I took art lessons when I was a kid. I wanted to be an artist when I grew up, just like my Aunt Frances. I still have a few pieces of my artwork.
  6. I also thought it would be cool to be an archaeologist. The digs and study of ancient people sounded neat to me. I’m way more fascinated with ancient history than modern history.
  7. Around the time that I was training for the triathlon, I decided to be a vegetarian. It felt healthier. I can’t remember how long this lasted, but I want to say it was around a year or so.
  8. According to the Myers Briggs personality test, I’m always an extreme extrovert – almost 100% on their little scale. This does not mean that I like public speaking or to be put on the spot in any situation unless I’m very prepared and know exactly what I’m going to say. I cringe when everyone has to introduce themselves and say a few words in a large group setting and desperately hope I don’t have to go first.
  9. The only time that I have spent the night in the hospital in my adult life (aside from giving birth to Maddie) was last year for my kidney stone when I was 8 months pregnant. I missed my own baby shower, though I hear it was awesome.
  10. I said multiple times that I would never, ever co-sleep with my child as recently as when Maddie was 4 months old. Maddie spends the majority of the night in our bed. It works great for our family, though I look forward to when Maddie regularly sleeps through the night. For now, I’m enjoying the extra closeness that I have with my daughter.
  11. I started having intermittent night terrors in college. I think that I will save this for a separate post. It’s kinda like a combination between sleep walking, talking in your sleep, and a panic attack.
  12. New Zealand, Greece, Egypt, and Italy are near the top of my travel list. I think it would be neat to go to Antarctica, though I doubt that I will. I would like to see most of Europe. The only countries outside of the US that I have visited are Canada, Bermuda, and Mexico. Mexico barely counts as I only crossed the border into Tijuana.
  13. I want to see the world, but I am a little nervous about visiting non-English speaking countries without some sort of guide or tour. I am also scared to drive a car in a foreign country.
  14. I have a fear of heights especially when there’s an open railing or floor to ceiling glass. Somehow I have always loved rollercoasters, airplanes never bothered me until recently, and I’ve done those really high free fall and swing things that you see at amusement parks. I’ll have to admit that those scared me every time, but it was awesome! After the third time, the falling was not as exciting and not worth the fear and anticipation. I won’t do it again. Somehow, I walked on the glass floor at the CN tower and even laid face down and looked at the tiny people below me. It was a little scary, but I had to trust the engineering. I loved rappelling the few times that I have tried it. I want to try bungee jumping, hot air ballooning, and skydiving, but I might be too chicken. Time will tell.
  15. I laugh easily. I’m not a bad person to have around if you need someone to laugh at your jokes. I might be a bad person to have around if you don’t like people laughing at you now and again. I can’t help it. I find a vast array of things to be funny.
  16. I’m particular about where I need to sit at a table in a restaurant. I think I need to face the majority of the restaurant with special emphasis on the exits. It’s more complicated than that, but I think that’s the general idea. I also have a strong preference for which bed and side of the bed to sleep on in a hotel room. For both, I feel unease if I’m not in the right spot.
  17. Autumn is my favorite season. I love the fall colors and temperature change.
  18. I have never broken any bones. I am a little superstitious about stating this. Guess I better knock on wood.
  19. I will pick up pennies (or any coins, really) that I see on the ground as long as they are showing heads. I admit to occasionally kicking coins until they flip over so that they are safe to pick up.
  20. I make every effort to not walk under ladders or step on cracks, yet I have no issues with the number 13. My birthday is on the 13th. Friday the 13th does not phase me.
  21. I have a hitchhiker’s thumb. My thumbs bend backwards a full 90 degrees. This sometimes creeps people out a little bit. One day, Gabe got very concerned about what had happened to Maddie’s thumbs. Turns out that she also has the hitchhiker’s thumb. Awesome!
  22. I can not only roll my tongue, but I can cloverleaf it as well.
  23. I owned a Galaga classic upright arcade game for almost 6 years. It got to be a bit flaky, and I didn’t know anything about fixing old arcade games. I sold it before we sold the old house. I miss it. I would have kept it much longer if it had functioned properly.
  24. I wrote my first computer programs when I was 6 years old. I wrote programs throughout my grade school years in BASIC, LOGO (go turtle go!), and later Visual Basic. It didn’t occur to me to pursue a career in computer science until I toured the computer science department at NC State’s Open House as a senior in high school.
  25. I met my friend Melissa in 3rd grade. We became friends after I asked her on a bathroom break if she would be my best friend. Life was simple then. Her family brainwashed me into being an NC State fan. Melissa and I decided in 4th grade that we were both going to go to NC State and we were going to be roommates. About nine years later, we did just that. We’ve been friends now for about 25 years!

25 Random Things About Me

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

My friend Cindy tagged me on Facebook on her note, 25 Random Things About Me. I have seen these in the past, though I rarely complete them. I always enjoy reading other people’s lists, though! Since I was tagged, I thought I would give it a try, especially after I saw Audrey’s list. As I was writing my list, my friend Robin tagged me on Facebook as well…I’m having fun reading everyone’s lists!

  1. I have always wanted to have kids, ever since I was very young. As it turns out, I absolutely love being a Mommy.
  2. I have one sister, and she is one of my bestest friends. I wish for my kids to have strong sibling relationships.
  3. I’m obsessed with photos. I like having my own to remind me of my life’s moments. I love looking at friends’ photos. I will even spend time looking at other people’s photos (like my friends’ friends’ photos on Facebook, for example).
  4. My daughter will be one next month, and I have taken multiple photos of her each and every day of her life. I plan to put together a book with one photo from each day in her first year. I think it will be neat to see how much she has changed.
  5. Gabe and I were married in Sedona, Arizona with a traditional Native American ceremony conducted by a Havasupai shaman. It was absolutely perfect and a very unique and moving experience.
  6. I love to play gamesboard games, card games, video games, computer games, word games, dice games, casino games, etc etc… I have an extensive board game collection (the list in the link is not complete) and host semi-regular games nights.
  7. I played the trombone for over 10 years in middle school, high school, and college. I loved every minute of it. My high school jazz band experiences and college marching and pep band experiences were some of the best in my life.
  8. I love to travel and wish to visit all the US States (and possibly Canadian provinces/territories). I have visited 36 states (though a few of them almost don’t count), DC, 3 provinces, and 1 territory. I’ll be able to mark off one more state and 2 provinces in September when we go on our cruise.
  9. I did a Sprint Triathlon in 2002. This was quite an accomplishment for me, and it could be the only one I ever do. The training was challenging, but the race was so much fun. I feel entitled to call myself a triathlete.
  10. I don’t cringe when I find myself turning into my parents (as I’m sure I will be doing more and more as Maddie gets older). I think my parents are pretty cool. Becoming more like them is not a bad thing.
  11. I love personal finance and enjoy my complicated budget and asset spreadsheets. I love planning things like when the mortgage will be paid and how I’m going to enjoy a comfortable retirement. I have even considered this to be something I feel I could do as an alternate career.
  12. I actually enjoy doing my taxes. Gabe has been doing taxes for his family for a while, and I enjoy helping him with those now, too. It helps when we get a tax refund, but that’s not the part that makes it fun to me. I just like the process and the organizing of finances.
  13. I graduated from NC State with a degree in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. I decided on my major before I arrived at school and never changed my mind. I directly use my degree in my career.
  14. I took piano lessons for many years, until I was too involved with the band to have time to practice both.
  15. I played in a handbell choir during high school and loved it!
  16. I have an intense fear of spiders. I hate to even think about the word, much less conjure up frightening images. I have to be really careful about what I watch or think, especially close to bedtime, or I have night terrors (note this is not the same thing as a nightmare).
  17. I’m a little bit weird about my snack foods. I tend to lick chips and eat candy bars and such in layers.
  18. I have seen They Might Be Giants perform live over 20 times. Pretty much every show has been different.
  19. I love to read and try to read as much as possible. I’m actively part of one book club and contemplating a second. My list of books that I want to read is neverending.
  20. Walter Cronkite and I share a common ancestor, or so I’m told. I’m apparently in possession of a letter from him confirming this fact. Herman Melville is another distant relative. My mom’s side of the family has some extensive genealogy records which are currently residing in my spare bedroom closet.
  21. When I was a kid, I thought it was neat that my first and last names were exactly 5 letters each. I could spell out my first and last names by writing one letter on each fingernail. I’m weird, I know.
  22. My friend Amie and I used to steal paper towels from the bathroom at our church when we were little. I say “steal” because we did not use them to dry our hands but to fold them up and put them into our socks. I think we liked how smooth they would feel at the end of the day. I’m weird, but I wasn’t alone in this one.
  23. I hate the sound of fingernails being clipped. It doesn’t bother me when I clip my own (or my daughter’s – they barely even make a sound anyway).
  24. I was extremely unoriginal in naming my stuffed animals during my childhood. I had a teddy named Teddy, another named Ted E. Bear, a duck named Chickie, an armadillo named Army, a polar bear named Poly, a bunny named Bunny, a blue and white checkered boy doll with orange hair named Boy, and many others. My Cabbage Patch dolls were always called by their “given” names. Care Bears were Birthday Bear and Cheer Bear. Other dolls were called by their package names, such as Jeans Beans and Baby Bath. My child is lucky she’s not “Baby.” We are not doing much better with her stuffed animals, as evidenced by her favorite Lambie.
  25. I love lists.

Best of 2008

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

A few of my friends have written summary posts for 2008, so I thought I might do the same. I’ll start by copying my friend Cindy who posted What Was So Great In 2008? (hey, I like how that rhymes!). I’m even going to use her categories (with a few of her categories from last year).

Best Restaurant: This one is very easy, for two reasons. For obvious reasons, we didn’t eat out as often as we have in the past. I did manage to go to a few good places. The winner in this category is hands down Mo’s Diner in downtown Raleigh. Thanks to suggestions from friends, we decided on Mo’s Diner for our anniversary dinner. It was one of the best meals that either of us had had in a long time. I highly recommend this venue for special occasions!

Best Book: This is a much tougher category. First of all, I’m going to stick to the ones that I read for the first time (Jane Eyre and Pillars of the Earth were repeats). I didn’t read as much as I would have liked this year, again for obvious reasons. I still read 17 books, most of them for book club. I believe that my favorite book was probably The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I read several good ones this year. I had a tough time choosing, but Cindy says I have to pick ONE, so that’s my pick. I reserve the right to change my mind at a later date!

Best Vacation: Normally, this would be an excellent category for me, but this year we only took trips to visit family. Only one of them was to a destination that was not someone’s home. By default, that’s my winner. Our trip to Gatlinburg in July wins the award for “best vacation.”

Best Movie Watched: I would say Juno by far was the best movie I watched the whole year! I loved it! I did feel a bit conspicuous being 8-months pregnant in the theatre when we went to see it. If you haven’t seen it, you definitely should give it a try.

Best Movie Released This Year: We saw Juno in the theatre, but technically it was released in 2007. For movies released in 2008, I would pick WALL-E to be my favorite. It wasn’t my favorite Pixar film, but the robots are very cute and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I think that this is one that I appreciate more and more as time passes. This was a tough choice as we went to few movies in 2008 which means we were picky about our selections. I somehow managed to see 6 movies after Maddie was born which is not too shabby considering!

Best Reunion: I almost didn’t use this category from Cindy’s post, but I figured I could come up with something for it. I actually saw many people this year that I had not seen in a while and connected to many through Facebook. I even randomly reconnected with people that I hadn’t seen in a long while at the daycare. My oldest friend (we’ve known each other 30 years!) threw me a baby shower in my hometown, so I saw many friends from the old neighborhood. All of this was great! I was going to change the category a bit to say “Best Reunion Experience” so that I could declare Facebook the winner. Instead, I’m going to declare my visit to my old house as my “best reunion.” My brother-in-law’s parents are friends with the people who bought my parents’ house in Salisbury, and they gave us a tour of the house! It was so neat to see the changes to the old house (and interesting to see the things that were still the same). It brought back great memories, and I loved showing Gabe where I grew up!

Best (Adult) Album: Cindy just had “Best Album,” but I wanted to break it into two categories. I didn’t buy too many albums, but I still had trouble picking one winner. I settled on Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” (the runner-up would be Juno’s Soundtrack which I enjoyed nearly as much as the Garden State soundtrack).

Best (Children’s) Album: Gabe and I tried several kid’s albums that weren’t atrocious for adults. Our favorite so far is the Barenaked Ladies’ album, Snacktime. We are hoping that this will become a family favorite as Maddie gets older.

Twittering in the Sidebar

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Originally, I started posting my tweets to my blog so that I could look back at them for various reasons. I mostly wanted to be able to see when Maddie’s milestones occurred, but I also liked being able to see what kind of things were happening in our lives for a given time. The everyday stuff just doesn’t always end up in a blog post.

I did not like how the blog was cluttered by my daily tweets. Since I was doing this mostly for myself, I recently realized that I should just make these posts private. That way I’m not cluttering up my blog or your RSS feeds. Hooray!

Do you still care to see my tweets? You can follow me on Twitter directly, or you can view my most recent tweets in the blog sidebar. If you’re my friend, all my tweets automatically update my Facebook status. You still have plenty of ways to find out what I had for dinner or how Maddie is doing!

We had a pretty good run, PackRat.

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

Dear PackRat,

I noticed that you have experienced some “upgrades” recently, and I want to personally thank you for the gift that you have given me. The gift of my missing “free” time. When Gabe and I started playing PackRat, we had a great time completing sets! We traded with friends, stole from rats, collected credits and popups, and purchased from your markets (with the credits we collected). Sometimes the challenges were a bit frustrating as we waited days and days to get the right popups we needed to complete our sets. We spent countless hours playing your silly game, especially in the early days. Our interest in you had taken a gradual decline until the last few weeks. You see, we have pretty much completed your current sets and we were doing pretty well trying to keep up with new sets. Sometimes it was even fun to try and find retired cards for a little vaulting, but that was getting harder and harder to do. And then you slowed down and almost stopped releasing new sets for several weeks. Frankly, you almost lost my interest during that period. But I was still willing to return to play some more. I was going to give you another chance.

And this week, you completely changed. You’re just not the same game that we knew and loved in the early days. At least you admit that you’re a different game now. This makes it easier for us to move onto something else…we have plenty of video games, books, and TV to keep us occupied, thankyouverymuch. Oh, and did we mention our “free” time is limited, anyway? You know, baby responsibilities and such.

Some things that we do like about the changes:

  1. We no longer have to worry about our cards being stolen by rats. Lately, the rats have been quite aggressive, so it was annoying to lock every single card that we wanted to keep safe. Now we don’t have to worry about that. This is good. Sure, we can no longer use inactive players as a holding cell for cards we might need later…but that’s not really a big deal.
  2. The ability to propose trades to your friends is good. Finally – this is essentially what we have been doing, anyway. It’s nice that we have a system now to do it. I have no idea how good this system is…but it does show promise. I like that you can propose both cards and credits.
  3. The “draw bonus” feature that replaced the popup system is great! I love that we no longer have to worry about filling our packs to get precious popups. I also like the twist where sometimes we have the option of picking from specific cards or a random card. I love that we can draw a card when it suits us and when our pack can handle it. Nice.
  4. The ability to trade with people who are not our Facebook friends. While I found it amusing to add a temporary friend to make a trade, it was annoying to let random people into our lives for a moment. True, we could manage friend lists which denied access to the important bits in our profiles, but still…it’s a good thing to be able to trade with anyone. Nice upgrade.
  5. I do like the idea of the credits that appear in shared stashes and in the rats. I haven’t really played too much with the new PackRat, but it seems like that would be nice when you encounter pack issues. I guess that you had to do something since you did away with the locks.
  6. I like the new vault rules. I think it’s neat that you can vault 5 cards from a color family. This makes collecting cards from older sets a lot easier! I had many times where I tried to collect retired cards just so I could vault a few, and I would struggle just to get 5 to vault from one single set. The color family thing makes this much easier. This is a nice feature. Not sure why you removed the ability to vault 5 identical cards, but I guess that’s not a big deal. It was nice to have that option, especially when you keep seeing the same exact card in all the rats or need to vault some cards to reduce the number of cards in your pack.

Things we do not like about the New PackRat:

  1. The number one thing would have to be the added feature incorporating REAL MONEY into the game. I understand a little “donate to the developers if you like this game” button, but you’ve made it a necessary part of the game. This is ridiculous. I was content with this feature when I thought it was only for rare or retired cards, and that there was some other way to get the rare cards. As far as I can tell, some cards are only available by buying tickets with your credit card. Really? I understand that the PackRat Wiki might not be fully updated, so maybe this part is not true…I still don’t like it. Your game is fun, but not THAT fun. $10 for 100 tickets. The price of most cards in the market seem to be between 10 and 50, but I see at least one for 500. $50? For a simple little online trading game? I don’t think so. I think that this would have been a pretty good idea for retired cards that aren’t necessary to current sets. I’m not against the developers making some money…but making it necessary and expensive is not cool. Update: The devs claim that it is not necessary to purchase cards in order to complete sets. It did seem like it could be very difficult to complete sets without it, so I’m not sure how this will unfold.
  2. The swapping mechanism seems flawed to me. First of all, one of the best strategies was taking a small card or useless popup and then trading until you get a big points item. I always kept one or two big points items in my pack in case something big and juicy showed up in my rats. It was great to take something like a worthless Two-Piece and then through a series of trades turn it into a Jackpot. Now you can only swap for items of equal or lesser value? That sucks! That forces you to buy more expensive items in the market in order to have something to trade. Plus, it seems like the shared stashes and rats would get harder and harder to use as the values keep rising. I guess the rats swap out of players’ shared stashes. I haven’t played enough of the new PackRat to see how this is going to work, but I don’t like the inability to “trade up.” Update: The devs are listening, and they put stealing back into the game. This increases the chances that I might play again.
  3. I don’t like the new pack limit. The shared stash is not too shabby, but since you can’t put cards into it yourself, they don’t really count as slots in your pack. It was difficult to manage the 15 card pack for some of the sets in the past. I think that the 10 card pack limit is too limiting. If you’re trying to make one of the top cards in the set, while grabbing rare cards when you see them, it’s really hard to manage this without some pack space. It was already a challenge with 15 slots. I think it would just be aggravating with only 10.
  4. What happened to the progress bars in the market? I could have lived with this change, but the progress bars were a nice feature. If you’re looking for a card that is high in demand and low in quantity, it really helps to know when a slot is about to become available in the market. If all the slots aren’t moving very quickly, then it’s good to know you don’t have to waste your time refreshing the market at this time. This was a convenient feature, and I don’t understand why it was removed.

We had some great times together, PackRat, but I think it’s time for me to move onto other things. It does sound like you are listening to the complaints and making some changes, but I’m just not sure I want to try too hard to get used to the changes. It’s a time waster that I don’t need in my life right now. I have plenty of things to keep me occupied.

We had a lot of fun, thanks! We *may* meet again…