Archive for April, 2006

Mom and Daughter – 6 months old

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

Mom and Daughter – 6 months oldOriginally uploaded by Koog Family.

“Six Month” studio portraits of me (left) and Emma (right), separated by approximately 33 years and 9 months (the difference in our ages. My father pointed out that this was also the exact age at which my grandmother had her first child [him]).

So far, Emma has my eyes, something of my upper cheeks, my hands and feet, and my quiet focus [she’s great at entertaning herself with toys].

The rest (dimples when she smiles, head shape, mouth shape, having less hair and earlier teeth) is all Paul…

Like me as a baby (and very unlike colicky baby Paul), Emma hardly ever cries. But unlike me, there’s more of a drama queen element going on here. When she does cry, watch out Рshe means it. The shrieks are short-lived, but shrill, and enormous tears well up immediately. These have to be wiped away, usually always after she’s calm and happy again, because she settles down again so quickly.

She shares a birthday with Napolean and a couple of German Kaisers. So far all indications are that she shares with her birth-date-fellows the desire and great ability to command attention. (While being MUCH cuter, of course!)

Welcome to cheese.rox!

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Welcome to the new location for Cheesehead Living, now also known as cheese.rox

I’ll be posting my future entries here! I hope you’ll visit now and again.

In response to my earlier frustration about my previous blogging home, Editor B kindly offered me a blogging home on a little corner of the vast media conglomerate known as I wrote a little about that site near the bottom of this earlier post.

Now I’ll be able to sort my blog entries into categories, keep my beloved random Flickr badge, AND breach the borders of China, which are tightly sealed to anyone blogging on!

Hello, Shanghai!!

Remembering Dahab

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

It’s a damn shame, all those bombs going off everywhere in the middle east.

Earlier this week, Dahab, a resort town in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, was in the news, then the latest site of the carnage.

It made me remember my visit to Dahab in 1996.

I had fun there. I was relaxed. I certainly wasn’t worried about any bombs going off, and it’s sad that noone else will have that luxury there for a long time to come.

In Dahab, I only paid $1.50 per night for lodging, so I felt alright about spending a little more than that for some food, some drink, some local sheesa, and some snorkeling.

From there I also traveled off to a wonderful adventure.

It seems that the thing to do near Dahab is to climb up Mount Sinai (a.k.a. the mountain on which some believe Moses received the 10 commandments) starting around 2:00 a.m.

I went along with the plan. I made myself stay up late, then catch a midnight van in Dahab that drove out into the dessert.

I have a vivid memory of walking in the dark, shortly after climbing out of the van that took us to the base of the mountain. We didn’t have flashlights, and it was a very dark night. I was walking along on the rocky desert sand, trying not to get separated altogether from my fellow stranger tourists. Suddenly, a sense of quiet panic flushed through me as my vision adjusted to the darkness just enough to finally realize that I was – and had been, for several minutes- walking through a pack of sitting camels. Sitting up against and among the camels were Bedouin men, smoking. Noiselessly. I had suddenly made sense of the small red dots of their cigarette tips. And I recognized that the other noises I’d heard were not only the tourist climbers’ collective footsteps on the earth, but also the camels soft snortings and sighs.

Walking, not knowing where I was going, at night, in the desert, among smoking nomads and their camels. I felt totally disoriented. I felt that I shouldn’t be there.

But it turns out that those Bedouins and camels just played it cool. Turns out they were there for hire – for people who wanted to ride a camel up the mountain, as described in this article. I didn’t know then that the Bedouins were businessmen, and not merely an ancient, anxiety-inducing presence. But I passed them soon enough, and began the ascent up the mount.

Just about as dawn was threatening to break, we reached to top of the mountain. We rested for a while. We took pictures, and had a couple of refreshments (did you know that there’s a concession stand on the top of Mt. Sinai? – there’s also a small church), and we headed down again.

I love the pictures that I took, and that were taken of me that morning. On no sleep, and on hours of hiking, many of those in the dark, I was exhausted, but exhilarated. You can see it in my face. The steep rocky grooves of the landscape there are so unique, so alien; but, at the time, so familiar to me from my grad school studies of Byzantine manuscripts. Until I saw the landscape there with my own eyes, I had assumed that the craggy cliffs depicted in the manuscripts was stylized and invented. Now I saw that they merely attempted to depict this beautiful place.

As we descended down, almost to the valley again, I began to catch sight of a place I had known was nearby – somewhere. I wasn’t sure if I would find it, but from up high, it was hard to miss.

It was St. Catherine’s Monastery – a place I had studied in grad school just around that time. As I got closer and closer, the emotional and physical anticipation of reaching it became almost overwhelming for me. St. Catherine’s is a beautiful Byzantine Monastery built under the authority of Emperor Justinian in the 6th Century. Finally, I made it there. The Byzantine Icons there are breathtaking and among the most beautiful in the world. There are a few moments, or series of moments, in my life that stand out in my memory as nearly perfectly distilled, pure occasions of contentment. Getting to and being in that monastery was one of them. I couldn’t have been any happier, and couldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else for that little section of time.

Photographs weren’t allowed in the monastery. But I do have some other nice photos from that trip.

The bombing this week was terrible. But the mention of Dahab in the news brought to mind for me some pleasant memories. I’ll have to scan some of those photos and add them to my Flickr collection when I have time.

(I never looked for any information on the Mt. Sinai hike on the Internet before, but there are some good summaries out there. I’m storing some of those that I find, like here, here, here, here, and here, so that I can make time to read them, and remember more, in the future.)

(And, yes, I cancelled the first date that Paul and I had ever planned to go on this trip. Before I left, I had told him that I couldn’t turn down riding a camel to St. Catherine’s Monastery. Turns out I never rode a camel. But we worked it all out, later.)

Take Your Work to Bird

Monday, April 24th, 2006

We’ve all heard of ‘take your child to work’ day.

Now I’ve run into someone who’s living a variation on that concept.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spoken on the phone a few times at work with a benefits consultant who has been hired by a client. The consultant is retired and works part-time from home. I hear her pets – especially a squawking bird – in the background when we talk on the phone.

It’s odd. We’re trying to conduct serious business. And we each present ourselves very professionally as we discuss the various taxation implications of alternate benefit designs.

So I ignore the bird (and the occasional barking dog), and pretend that I don’t hear it. I presume that she’s privately cringing at her animals’ noises, and hoping that, in fact, I don’t hear it.

One day recently, I arrived at my desk in the morning to find a voice mail from her on a serious matter. During the message, the bird (it sounds like some kind of parrot or cockatiel) made its presence very well known. After she finished her message and was hanging up the phone – I KNOW she didn’t want me to hear this part – she yelled “BIRD….!” in a tone of reproach and mild correction (tempered with affection). I bet Bird got in big trouble for that one.

The next time she called, the signal kept cutting in and out. There was no bird in the background. I’m imagining that she went to the back yard, or the basement, and called me on a cell phone to escape the sound of the bird. It was hard to communicate over the weak signal.

I’d rather have the bird.

Weekend Pictures

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

Playing in the Exersaucer
Originally uploaded by Koog Family.

Paul was out of town on a golf overnight with some friends. So, after we woke up from “morning naptime,” Emma and I had some quality Mom-Daughter time.


Fun! Fun!
Originally uploaded by Koog Family.

We ate lunch and played. . .

At the Plant Nursery
Originally uploaded by Koog Family.

. . . And then headed out for some errands, including to the nursery, where we picked up some plants to plant on the side of the house to fill in for the poor plant souls that didn’t survive the Wisconsin winter.

Emma likes to sit in grocery carts like a “big girl,” now, and has fun in her brightly colored “floppy seat” that has a pocket for her bottle, and loops onto which we can clip a favorite toy (to prevent it from landing on the ground at the mercy of a little girl who likes to see what happens when she drops things).

Dream Blog Synthesis

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

Unlike the essayist in the previous post, I DO keep up with a few friends’ blogs, as evidenced by a strange dream I had this morning when I joined Emma for “morning naptime.”

In the dream, a camera crew came to film a documentary about a controversy that had somehow roiled up around me. The controversy: that I’ve started ordering pre-made (but uncooked, mind you) dinners from the local Dinner By Design and Dinner Solution outfits, to save time in my busy working Mommy life. (I blogged about the wonderful world of pick-up and heat-up dinners before.) But in the dream, instead of dinners the “problem” was that I was ordering and eating desserts.

It seems that a Muslim man living in Canada caught wind of my
time-saving meal purchases. It wasn’t clear, in the dream, if he had
learned about it through my blog, but that’s a reasonable conclusion for purposes of filling the narrative gap. Apparently he felt slighted and angry that I got to have desserts without taking the time to truly prepare them myself. I didn’t understand why this bothered him, but I had the opportunity to read a newspaper article about his complaints on the subject.

And the camera crew was most interested in capturing my take in the situation, although I didn’t HAVE much of a take, other then a sense of vague confusion and anxiety.

This dream of having a camera crew in my house appears to me to be directly inspired by the occurrence of just that very event for a blogging friend, who recently described some of the experience here and here. (The main page of his very interesting blog is right here).

And now that I’m recounting one of my dreams on my blog, I’m following in the footsteps of another of the bloggers I follow, who did the same recently, here, on her blog. (Here’s her main page; it’s cool. She lives in China.).

Note that both of these particular blogs that inspired my dream, and my online account of it, are both hosted on the unique and inestimable, which was domiciled for a while in Bloomington, Indiana, but has since moved elsewhere, just like the three bloggers that came together, sort of, in my dream: Editor B, MF, and ME.

You could do worse things than to visit that cool site for a while. There’s a lot to see.

Blog Irreverence

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

Reproduced, below, courtesy of the Blogosphere, and for your entertainment, is the text of an irreverent essay from June 20, 2005 about NOT reading friends’ blogs.

(It’s the title that I really love. )

The source of this essay is JOHO The Blog, which is operated by David Weinberger. I first heard this essay in an embellished, somewhat sassier form when he read it on NPR. Audio version is available here.

No, I’m not keeping up with your blog.

I would like to. I really would. I like it and I like you.

But we’re now well past the point where any of us can keep up with all the blogs worth reading from the people worth keeping up with. Even with an aggregator.

I just can’t do it any more.

I’ve been faking it for a while. Months. Maybe a year. If we’ve met and I look confused about something you told me, and if you said, “I blogged it,” as if that should be explanation enough, I’ve made some excuse as if I read every one of your posts except that one.
The truth is, I probably haven’t read your blog in weeks. Months maybe.

And I don’t expect you to have read mine.

I don’t want to lie any more. I don’t want to feel guilty any more. So let me tell you flat out: There are too many blogs I like and too many people I like to making “keeping up” a reasonable expectation, any more than you should expect me to keep up with Pokemon characters or I should expect you to keep up with Bollywood movies. I’m not going to feel guilty any longer about my failure.

I will read your blog on occasion, either because I’ve been thinking of you or because something reminded me of you. Maybe it’ll be because you sent me an email pointing to a post you think I’ll enjoy. Go ahead! I’d love to hear from you.

But I hereby release you from thinking I expect you to keep up with my blog, and I preemptively release myself from your expectations.

Otherwise reading each other’s blogs will become a joyless duty. And we’re too good friends to do that to each other

(You can click on this picture, too)

Oh, Sweet Weekend…

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

In Honor of Carrots

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006
Several people have noticed, lately, that Emma’s skin has taken on an orangey hue. She’s been getting too many orange vegetables. (Note the use of the passive tense there, so that it’s not really anyone’s fault).¬†

I guess she has carotenemia. We’ve “discovered the power of carrots,” all right.

This all came to our attention last Friday. Since then, every meal that she eats on our watch (I don’t always know what she eats at daycare) is based on green vegetables.

So she should return to her normal, delicate hue soon enough.

We’re just going to have to help her love those sweet potatoes a little less… (They, like squash and a majority [argh!] of blended baby food flavors, also contain loads of beta-carotene, the orange-tinting culprit).

(I really hate to mention this, because, it reveals that I already did it. Against my better judgment, however, I am compelled to recommend that, if you are looking for a couple of minutes of low-level amusement, you check out Mr. Carrothead, a feature of the online World Carrot Museum.)

Hail On A Cold Tin Roof

Sunday, April 16th, 2006

Paul and I were up later than usual (it being a work night and all) last Thursday evening. We were relaxing in the living room when, suddenly, around 11:00 p.m., we heard a crash outside. I ignored it. One loud noise in this neighborhood doesn’t rise to the level of an incident. But then there was another one. And then another pair of them in close succession. And they kept coming more and more frequently in an increasingly riotous rhythm.

Hail - In Our Yard
Hail – In Our Yard,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.

By then, we had moved into “alert” mode, and I mumbled something, of which I can’t recall the exact phrasing, but which I’m sure involved a “what the hell?” We were quickly up on our feet, running to the foyer to switch on the porch light and look outside. And by about that same time, the loud crashing had become so constant and inescapable that we were already starting to guess what it might be.

Hail Everywhere
Hail Everywhere,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.

We turned on the light. Our suspicions were confirmed, and our worries about something more sinister faded away. It was a sudden, powerful hail storm… Hail pellets were banging down unmercifully onto everything in sight – bouncing up again where they found pavement, but alighting snugly onto the lawns. It looked like popcorn everywhere, and arrived at a speed similar to that with which corn pops – all audible, and amplified by our porch’s tin canopy, which was suddenly a musical instrument for the weather and its loud popcorn aria.

Blurry close-up of marble-sized Hail on our porch
Blurry close-up of marble-sized Hail on our porch,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.

The news the next morning was that several local areas were visited by golf-ball-sized-, and even lemon– and grapefruit-sized hail (some car windows were shattered by these, to the west of us). But our hail was marble-sized.

Hail Among the Neighbors' Tulip-Bed
Hail Among the Neighbors’ Tulip-Bed,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.

The hail came on so suddenly and powerfully that it caught ours, and apparently, everyone’s else’s full attention. It lasted only ten minutes, but had quite an impact – including on the Blogosphere. I was entertained, the next day, to find a compilation of online reactions to our local hail, here: And I found a number of photos of local hail tagged on Flickr, like these, HERE and HERE and HERE.