Archive for September, 2006

K. Family Celebrity Look-Alike Collages

Sunday, September 10th, 2006




Look Who’s (almost) Walking!!!!

Saturday, September 9th, 2006

Walking!, originally uploaded by Koog Family.

Well, REALLY walking, with the help of her new Step Start Walk n’ Ride gizmo. She took right to it, and walked all around the living room with it tonight.

Walking with Daddy’s Help

Originally uploaded by Koog Family.

The last few times we’ve practiced walking holding her hands, we could tell that she was almost ready to go independent.

Using the Step Start Walk n’ Ride!

Originally uploaded by Koog Family.

And now she’s moving around of her own power, with the help of the walker.

(I feel so proud!) 

Way to go, sweetheart!!!

Milwaukee Area Treadmill Lonely No More

Friday, September 8th, 2006

-Milwaukee Wire 

Late breaking story.  A local treadmill reports that despite months of neglect after its purchase and installation in a Milwaukee basement, it is finally being used regularly by its family.

The treadmill in question, a Lifespan 1000 SL, was purchased from a Brookfield, Wisconsin¬†2ndWind franchise after prolonged and intense compromise sessions by the treadmill’s now owners, Paul and Kelly K.¬† “I had done a lot of research,” said Kelly, who originally felt¬†that the Pace Master Gold was the right fit for the busy parents.¬† “Paul guilted, I mean talked me into the more basic model, however, after pointing out that our previous exercise equipment gathered a lot of dust,” she explained.

In a stroke of¬†good fortune for the small family, a¬†friend made an unexpected offer, several months ago, to purchase said dusty equipment, a NordicTrack Elliptical machine that Kelly bought on credit¬†and impulse during an evening,¬†holiday-season shopping trip at Crystal City Mall in Arlington, Virginia, some nine years prior.¬†¬†”I called it a ‘Christmas present for Paul’ to justify buying it.¬† Isn’t that terrible?¬† And¬†I overpaid for that one, too.¬† There’s no question,” reported Kelly.¬† “We didn’t recoup that expense when Dean kindly bought it and picked it up from us, but his interest cleared up some space in the basement.”¬†

Right around the time of the NordicTrack transaction, “I thought I’d found the motivation to start working on losing some lingering pregnancy pounds, but knew that with a baby at home, there’d be no time for a gym,” shared Ms. K.¬† “That’s when I realized that an in-home treadmill was the perfect answer.”

The new treadmill was purchased and installed in early¬†Spring, but went largely unused for several months.¬† That is, until the couple¬†returned from a late Summer cruise vacation on which Mr. K spent plenty of time in the ship gym while Ms. K indulged in sedentary reading, the buffet line, and several of what she referred to as “Princess Colada” beverages.¬†

Disagreements and discussions shared by the couple over the apparent divergence of priorities finally resulted in an¬†accord to institute a family exercise schedule.¬† “I typed up a one-week family schedule for us.¬† It shows Paul’s classes, our respective daycare drop off and pick-up obligations, and the fact that Paul exercises on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, while I exercise on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, generally in the evenings” said Ms. K.¬† For the working parents of a busy one-year old, the act of actually scheduling the exercise proves to have been the breakthrough that finally permitted the undertaking of a successful workout routine by both Paul and Kelly.¬† “With the schedule, we now know that our daughter¬†will be cared for by one¬†parent while the other one exercises.”¬† The new routine has resulted in increased family harmony and increased feelings of well-being and fitness for both of the K’s.

The treadmill, asked how it feels about finally being used nearly¬†every day of week after months of stillness, replied, “I don’t really think about it.”¬†

Other household residents, through facial expression and body language, seemed to share a disinterest in the exciting development.¬† “Does this mean¬†I get to go outside!?” queried Jim, the frustrated-to-be-an-indoor-cat cat.¬† “Please, oh please, give me some treats now!” entreated Minnie, the snack-addicted feline.¬†

This reporter wondered whether daughter, Emma, holds any thoughts on the matter.¬† “Look at me¬†walk holding onto Daddy’s hand!” she seemed to squeal, apparently not in direct response to the question.¬†

Paul and Kelly are more clearly pleased with the devlopments, however.  Both report optimism that the indifferent treadmill will be spared the disgrace of neglect for the time being and into the future. 

The Schmooz is On

Thursday, September 7th, 2006

It’s that time of year again.

It’s high “On Campus Interviewing”, a.k.a. OCI, season at law schools across the country.¬†

And things are going well for Paul, so far, in this, his second go at it.  So far this week, he has been invited to, and attended, get-to-know-you events at two large law firms in town.  Today he will attend the first of six interviews scheduled to date Рmostly with good firms with which we would the thrilled for him to have an employment opportunity.   

The goal to justify all of the madness is that coveted of all law student assignments Рa 2007 summer associate position with a law firm for which one might not mind working after graduation. 

So good luck, Paul! 

We’ll find out in a few weeks/months how it all¬†shakes out!

Wednesday Night Kitchen Help

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

Mommy’s Little Helper

Originally uploaded by Koog Family.

I got a lot of help in the kitchen tonight. First, Emma helped inventory the food supply while I prepared her dinner.


Snacks – for Baby and Cat

Originally uploaded by Koog Family.

Next, Jim helped to tidy the floor after the incident I think of as the “meat chunk rebellion.”

One Minute Cruise Log – Day 2

Monday, September 4th, 2006

The Princess Patter delivered to our room the night before let us know that the sun rose at 5:45 a.m. on day two of our vacation.

And the ship’s log later informed us that we passed “At 0600hrs . . . abeam of Coghill Point entering the southern section of College Fjord. We started to experience moderate ice conditions south of College Point, arriving off Harvard Glacier at 0658hrs. We remained on station swinging the ship around by our thrusters viewing the glaciers until 0756hrs. At 0800hrs we began retracing our steps outbound for Prince William Sound.”

I rose before 0700hrs (thanks to the alarm clock I had set) to a wonderful view of the smoothed, snow-covered mountain peaks and glaciers of College Fjord gliding slowly by.

Early Morning in College Fjord

Early Morning in College Fjord ,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.

Shortly after I discovered the lovely view, I realized that the ship’s delightful naturalist, Barbara Bennett, was providing live commentary about the Fjord over the PA system. I turned on the in-house TV channel (which also transmitted the view from the live camera at the front of the ship) and listened to her commentary while taking in the scenery out the window; a guided-tour in the privacy of our own room!

We were slowly assimilating the nautical culture in which we were immersed. I reminded myself that both “port” and “left” have four letters, and made a point of observing that our cabin, to the right of the ship’s stern, was on the starboard side.

We discovered that the cruise staff had left two “Happy Anniversary” baloons outside our door. We brought them inside the cabin to give them a proper home.

As soon as Paul returned and clean up from his run at the gym, we headed off for our second encounter with the Horizon Court Buffet. We had opted for “personal choice” dining, so weren’t required to eat at specified times or tables.

Breakfast in College Fjord

Breakfast in College Fjord ,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.

We sat at the very front of the restaurant at the stern of the ship. Our seat for breakfast that morning afforded us a lovely 15th-story perspective of our trip out of Prince William Sound.

After we finished eating, it was time to tackle planned on-board activities. Paul headed for the Casino to participate in free 10:30 table lessons. I headed to the aft part of the ship, to the Universe Lounge, for my first Morning Jackpot Bingo session.

Free Casino Lessons

Free Casino Lessons ,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.

To kill time before the Bingo game began, I continued reading the cruise-related essay I had started the day before, on the flight to Alaska. When a writer recommends another writer to me, I figure it’s worth a try. So I was indulging in the enjoyable title essay of a recommended David Foster Wallace book called, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” (Thanks, John.) The cynical essay recounts a journalists experience on a 7-day cruise ship and often caused me to laugh out loud in public. The journalist mentioned becoming “strung out” on Snowball Jackpot Bingo on his cruise, and that was part of what inspired me to try the game.

While reading my essay in the Universe Lounge, I was aware that those seated, also waiting, near me were mostly retired ladies. They engaged in conversation about the fact that, back at their retirement communities, there just aren’t enough Bingo games offered.

And then, I was corrupted. I put down my book to chat with the ladies around me. One of them confided in a conspiring tone that I should really try the “Chocolate Banana Drink.” That was an alcoholic drink, mind you. A light bulb went off for me. I was on vacation. I was about to play a trivial game like Bingo. Why not treat myself to a little alcoholic beverage while doing so? So I ordered a “Princess Colada” and my relationship to the game of Bingo changed and improved forever.

Before the Bingo game ended, Paul arrived to discover me mid-Colada. Bad never felt so good.

He had earned a $5.00 Casino chip for participating in the table lessons (he ended up learning about 3-card poker, roulette, and “let it ride”). Naturally, we had to stop by the casino, after Bingo, to use the chip. I hadn’t packed my purse to be prepared for gambling. But Paul gave me $10.00. Somehow, luck was with us, and in under 10 minutes, we left the casino $64.00 dollars richer! I had turned Paul’s $10.00 into $32.00 in some $.25 slots, and Paul had won $44.00 at a table.

The temperature at noon was 57F.

After lunch and a little relaxing, it was time for our treatments at the Lotus Spa.

Dinner that evening was a “formal night.” So we cleaned up into some spiffy duds after our massages and ate at a lovely table for two in the Bordeaux Dining Room.

At dinner, we submitted our certificates for a free bottle of wine (courtesy of our travel agent) and for a special anniversary dessert (provided by the cruise line), and settled in for a romantic meal.

That’s just when the Annoyingly Bilingual Couple arrived and was seated right next to us – just a few inches away. I couldn’t believe our bad luck. We spent the next several minutes listening to the mystery-language and English used in maddeningly rapid succession.

Then our anniversary dessert arrived. The waiters rearranged the table to make room for the cake and to position our hands, one on the another, just in time to loudly sing Happy Anniversary to us. It was a little embarrassing. But at that moment, I made sympathetic eye contact with the woman of the Annoyingly Bilingual Couple. Suddenly, she wasn’t as annoying anymore.

After dinner, still in formal dress, we headed for the Princess Theatre to catch a very funny comedy performance.

Comedy Shotwime

Comedy Shotwime ,
originally uploaded by Koog Family.

Relaxed from the wine and the good laughs at the show, and still heady with confidence from our casino wins that morning, we headed back for some some gambling. I had even started to feel better, by that hour, about having spent the money on the expensive algae-detox powder Regina had sold me. It occurred to me that by the end of the week, I could win enough in the casino to cover the cost. That was not destined to happen, however. Although Paul continued to do well at the tables, the losing streak that would haunt me for the rest of the night began that evening. I soon switched to the $.01 slots to lesson the pain.

Sunset was at 10:02 p.m. that night.

“Throughout the evening we set a course of 109 degrees as we crossed the northern part of the Gulf of Alaska.”

Our very own Hoochie Mama on A&E!

Monday, September 4th, 2006

The house diagonally across the street from us has been quite the focus of neighborhood concern and curiosity over the past year or so.

Most of the houses on our street in our working- to middle-class neighborhood are well-maintained with nicely groomed yards. As neighbors, we have a mixture of retired people and younger teachers, policemen, and others who are required by their work to live within��the Milwaukee city limits.

When we first moved in, two and a half years ago, we quickly surmised that the house in question was occupied by a somewhat frail,��elderly woman with failing memory, and her deadbeat nephew.  The nephew seemed to be an alcoholic, who was always either falling asleep in a lawn chair in the yard or making his next run, in his truck, to pick up fast food or more booze.

Occasionally, we would wake in the night to the flashing lights of police cars and/or fire trucks at their house. The officers would spend some time in the house and then leave again.

About a year later, the nephew’s social and business life seemed to pick up considerably.  Although his truck had been impounded (and returned) several times, he started driving up in any number of other vehicles.

Where did he get the cars?, we wondered. Did he have a friend in the used car business? One neighbor kept a running log of the various license plates on the cars.

Meanwhile, traffic to the house began to increase.  A strange mixture of people began to drop by for very short visits. We feared that the nephew was selling drugs from the home.

Luckily, our observant neighbors weren’t content to just sit by. They reported not only the possible drug activity, but also notified the city of the deteriorating condition of the house and of the suspicious automobiles.

Things got even more interesting when he seemed to make a lady friend. Like the nephew, she would arrive at the house in various cars – usually occupied by men. She would make out with the men (different men) before going into the house.

We weren’t sure if she was there, ostensibly, to take care of the older woman (was she a relative?), or if she was only there to spend time with the nephew. It seemed quite possible that she was a prostitute, and we nicknamed her the Hoochie Mama. She wasn’t an unattractive gal, but the goings on over there were strange, strange, strange.

I had the chance to observe the house, and the frequent comings and goings of the nephew, the Hoochie Mama, and others, during my maternity leave last fall.

One day, Paul heard the nephew and Hoochie Mama talking about getting the old lady to sign a trust over to them.

They were clearly up to no good. Somebody reported the situation to the city’s elder-abuse hotline.

Finally, one day, the elderly woman’s family arrived from Colorado. They convinced her to go back there with them. They also changed the locks, and we learned that the nephew didn’t actually live in the house, at all! It turned out that the nephew had already gone through over $60,000 of her assets.

Suddenly, the nephew couldn’t get into the house anymore, although I saw him come back and try the door a few times.

The Hoochie Mama and her companions stopped showing up.

And the variety of cars parked on our street returned to a normal number again.

One day, Paul and I were intrigued to see a couple of cameramen with impressive-looking cameras filming the house.

More recently, a group of other people arrived at, and stayed in the house for a couple of weeks while they diligently repaired it; they scraped off peeling paint, gave the house a new paint job, and some new windows. They trimmed bushes, and probably cleaned inside. We had heard previously that the interior of the house had been terribly dirty.

And now the house is for sale. It’s a relief. We hope that some nice family who will take good care of the place will move in.

But last night was the real kicker. Some of the neighbors were watching the Intervention show on A&E, and suddenly saw shots of that house and of their own houses and part of our house! The cameramen we had seen had been from A&E!  And the Hoochie Mama (I guess her real name is Tammi) was being treated to an Intervention, courtesy of her family, about her alcoholism.

Call me a voyeur, but I can’t wait to see the show.  I hear one of the neighbors may have taped it. (I believe the episode is #27 from the second season.�� The title is Tammi and Daniel).

I certainly had a chance to see Tammi in action.  And although I hope that the program will help her to change her habits, she seemed pretty happy as a Hoochie Mama.  I don’t know that she’ll be up for leaving that life behind.

I never thought that the Hoochie Mama from across the way would get footage of our street on national TV. But she did. Way to go, and good luck, H.M.

One Minute Cruise Log – Day 1

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006

The date was August 7th. It was also our 7th Anniversary. And although it was a Monday, I didn’t have to go to work. We were leaving for our long-anticipated cruise to Alaska!

I was up at 4:50 a.m. to ready myself for our 6:30 a.m. flight. We live near the airport, and Paul was confident that since “this is Milwaukee!” the airport wouldn’t be very crowded at that hour, and we didn’t really need to be there so early.

After packing our two cats into crates (they would be picked by my mother a couple of hours later, by pre-arrangement, and taken to the vet for boarding), we got our bags into the car and hit the road.

Unfortunately, our time on the road stretched on longer than planned. It took a while to get from the remote lot to the main terminal on the shuttle. When we got to the airline check-in desk at 6:04, we were told that we wouldn’t be allowed to board that 6:30 plane. Too late. Too bad.

After paying to confirm seats on the next available (9:15 a.m.) flight, we headed for the airport Starbucks and I headed for a breakdown.

I had planned every detail of this trip so carefully. I had packed a full two weeks early! I had been counting on a 6:30 a.m. departure to Minneapolis, and the prospect of arriving more than two hours later than scheduled to our ship, despite the most thoughtful planning, struck me as injustice.

I harangued Paul with all manner of impersonations of him saying “this is Milwaukee – we don’t need to be early!” I accused him of having no feelings for me. I even cried.

What amused unshakable Paul throughout all this was the fact that, in our regular, as opposed to our vacation lives, I and I, alone, am the one who causes our collective punctuality problem. During the course of our discussion, it became clear that, while I’m in no hurry to beat the clock in the workaday world, I take vacation very seriously, and want to be early for all recreation activities. Usually-punctual Paul, on the other hand, regards vacation as the only time that he can let go of the clock. To him, it makes sense to be late on vacation – there’s no need to be anywhere, really.

And that’s when I realized… As a couple, we are simply destined for lateness. I’ll make us late 99% of the time. And just when we have the chance to get away and I reform, Paul will step up to execute the tardy tendencies.

In the end, I admit, the delay worked out fine. It gave us a chance to grab some coffee and share a scone. And I even had time to appear productive by reviewing a few documents I’d brought along and sending two or three related e-mails to the office on the blackberry.

The flights from Milwaukee to Minneapolis and from Minneapolis to Anchorage were pleasantly uneventful. Since I was on vacation, even the young toddler boy who cried a horrible cry on the first flight (unfairly, I even wondered just what his parents were doing to him) didn’t bother me. In fact, I enjoyed the crying, because making it stop wasn’t my responsibility. I felt a little sympathy for the parents. But not too much.

We also got an earful from the two southern women who sat directly behind us on the second connection and occupied themselves by filling each other on activities in their shared hometown over the past year. I heard a lot of phrases like “they say they just found him dead,” “now, you know, no one really knew much about how that woman spent her time,” and “you like to knocked me over with a feather.”

That’s all just basically southern dialect for, “yeah, same ol’ same ol’.”

Mostly, we were just happy to finally arrive in Anchorage, Alaska!

It was our first visit to the 49th State. After retrieving our bags, we were escorted by Princess representatives to a holding area where we spent a few minutes waiting for the next bus to take us on the 45-minute drive to Whittier.

Just after we sat down to wait, a couple that would later inspire in me both loathing and, eventually, respect sat next to us. We would later secretly dub them the Annoyingly Bilingual Couple. My first impression of the pair was that he was either in the mob or was a shady salesman of some stripe. She seemed friendlier, and was certainly the more talkative of the two. What earned them the annoying adjective was the fact that they constantly switched mid-sentence, in their conversations to one another, from an unidentified mystery language to English, and back again. Now I’m pretty good at guessing what type of foreign language I’m hearing, but these two had me stumped. Maybe it was Farsi. Or Azerbaijani. I’m not sure. But I’ve never heard whatever that was plus English used so fluently. It was maddening to be near, really.

And we were near them on the bus ride and through the three-mile-long one-way tunnel to Whittier, too.

But no matter! It was time to board!!!

As we approached the ship, I knew from my research where our cabin, A209, should be. I got a visual on its balcony as we drove up, and it didn’t look like the other balconies. I wondered if its door was broken.

We entered the check-in hanger. There was hardly a line, and before we knew it, we were on our way into the ship. The whole process took only a few minutes, and I was impressed with the efficiency of the boarding process.

The only unexpected information we were given on our way in was that our room assignment had been changed to B437. In what I recognize and admire as a sign of good customer-relations training, the desk clerk explained the room change as “there must have been an upgrade!” It was an inspired comment. Instead of dealing with any potentially fussy cruise passenger complainers (not that we would be those, but I’m sure they get plenty), this comment encourages the travel-weary vacationer to do what we did – to just wander off, shipward, wondering… did someone upgrade our room? Maybe someone upgraded our room!

And just as our flight fatigue, our confusion about where to go, and the question of whether our room assignment had been altered by a mysterious benefactor were all stewing together to create a dazed look on our faces, a cameraman stopped us to take a picture.

Like 83% of the passenger staterooms on the ship, ours had a balcony. Guided by gracious staff and crew, we soon found our way there. Our room steward, Catherine, was also on the spot to introduce herself to us. Once we picked up the papers waiting for us in the box outside our room, closed, the door, and surveyed the accommodations, there was no denying it. Our vacation was definitely underway!

I knew from my research that the Princess Patter would be our daily guide to onboard events and activities. We set it aside to read later, armed ourselves with a map of the ship, and headed off on a self-guided tour. We checked out, among other things, the Princess Links miniature golf course, the Lotus Spa and Gym, the Universe Lounge and Princess Theater. And we noted how very narrow the ship is from side to side. She was designed to be just narrow enough to traverse the Panama Canal, which she does, repeatedly, during the winter months.

Paul even found time to shoot some hoops on the Sun Deck, Aft, Level 15, before we found our way Рit being dinner time, and all Рto the Horizon Court Buffet.

After a refreshing meal, we headed back to our stateroom to finish unpacking and to start settling in. We waited in our room for the 7:45 p.m. (10:45 p.m. at home) call to the mandatory safety drill. We reported to a specified spot (in the Art Gallery), and practiced putting on life jackets and following orders with a lot of other tired-looking, but festively-dressed people.

As soon as that obligation was out of the way, we repaired for the last time that evening to our room. Before we fell asleep, I perused the Patter, and Paul suddenly noticed that we were moving, so did some video filming from the balcony. And so began the cruise that would transport us, along with more than 1940 fellow passengers and 900 crew members, over a distance of 1551 nautical miles over the next seven days.

The informal ship’s log, a copy of which we received later, recounted that:

“With all passengers on board, we slipped our mooring lines at 21:18 hrs and thrusted off the berth moving ahead. Once clear of the berth, we retraced our courses out of Passage Canal following a north easterly course towards College Fjord.”

Sunset that evening was at 10:14 p.m., local time, but we were already asleep by then.

Tales From the Spa – Part 2

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006

The following is a paraphrase of a conversation Paul had with a woman in the Thermal Suite on day five of our recent cruise: 

Woman: Yeah… I took this trip eight years ago and Marjorie Glacier was a lot larger then.¬† It’s really retreated in that time.¬† The icebergs we saw the other day were tiny, too.¬† They were enormous before.¬† It’s all because of global warming.¬† Greenhouse gas and all that.¬† And not like this government is doing anything about it.

Paul:  Really?  Hmmmm.  Well, what are you going to be doing in Ketchikan tomorrow?

Woman:¬† I’m taking the Hummer excursion.

[Editors note:¬† And that, ladies and gentlemen, falls into the general category of ‘not getting it.’¬†

The Princess Cruise website describes the Hummer excursion, which is available in Ketchikan, Alaska, as follows:

Custom Hummer Adventure

Explore Ketchikan and Revillagigedo Island in rugged luxury as you ride in a fully loaded Hummer H2 with heated leather seats and dual air temperature controls.  Independent front suspension and rear air shock suspension makes the ride of these H2’s smooth and comfortable while cruising through town or climbing a mountainside.]