Thursday, April 18, 2013

A post that should probably have been three separate posts


  1. Last Friday I had to take the kids to buy shoes. I also had some things to bring back to the Gap, so I decided to take them to the Stride Rite Mall B instead of in Mall A, my default mall, because the last time I went to Mall A and tried to return something to the Gap I discovered that Mall A no longer has a Gap. I know! I mean, if the Gap isn’t at the mall, where is it? (Incidentally, you know what Mall A now has that it didn’t used to have? Yogurt shop.)

    So anyway, I had to go buy three pairs of very expensive full-priced shoes, because I had managed to put off the shoe-buying until the last minute which unfortunately landed me between sales at Stride Rite. I would have taken them to Marshall’s, but I was buying Ann Marie’s very first pair of real walking shoes, so I needed an actual trained person to measure her feet. I also would have taken them to the shoe store near my mom, but I had to return that stuff to the Gap, so Stride Rite it was.

    I loaded them all into the van, and halfway to the mall Nora needed to use the bathroom. Twenty-minutes-in-a-Dunkin-Donuts-bathroom later, I loaded them all into the van again. We got to the mall and I went straight to the Gap. Halfway through my returns transaction which was complicated because one of the things had been a gift, which included a gift receipt, but they would nevertheless only give me the value towards a purchase right then or else mail me a gift card. Why on earth they couldn’t just hand me a gift card then, I will never know, but there you are. And everything in the store was 30% off, so I wanted to maybe buy something right then. But before I could look, JACK had to use the bathroom. So I took my gift back and off we all schlepped. While Nora, the baby, and I waited outside the men’s room for Jack, I scanned the directory for a Stride Rite. Which, as it turns out, Mall B doesn’t have.

    I wailed and moaned and gnashed my teeth, Jack emerged, and we all schlepped BACK to the Gap where I was going to BUY something for 30% off SO HELP ME. I chose a pair of pants and exchanged my gift for them while noting to the cashier that they were definitely not going to fit, so I was going to have to come back anyway. “Oh, we have a dressing room that the stroller will fit in,” he said. Meanwhile, it was 4:45 pm and my children were race walking (no running allowed!) around the store. “Not worth it,” I told him.

    After a stop at Kids Foot Locker for (full-priced) shoes for the older two, I found myself once again loading three kids into the van for a drive down to the strip mall that is about halfway between my house and Mall B because there is a Stride Rite there. We pulled into the parking lot, and you will never guess what is next door to Stride Rite. Literally next door. Not even at the other end of the strip; it is the storefront immediately to the left of Stride Rite. Yep. The Gap.
  2. Kelly tweeted some time ago about noticing an under-mounted sink on a television show rather than noticing the attractive actor. I can relate to this, because I keep zeroing in on window treatments. My house has a lot of windows, and I lost momentum four rooms in. The problem lies mostly in that window treatments cost a bajillion dollars. You know what television show has some gorgeous window treatments? Parenthood. The oldest brother’s house has, at a conservative estimate, $5,000 worth of window treatments. Valances! Curtains! Tie backs! Fancy hardware! Custom Roman shades! Do you have any idea how much a custom Roman shade costs? ONE BAJILLION DOLLARS.

    But even though I lost momentum, window treatments became an issue when we took over the downstairs apartment. The sheets and towels clamped to the window frame weren’t really working for me. Because we had so many windows to cover, we decided to just buy inexpensive vinyl shades, which don’t feel that inexpensive when you buy them in bulk. Then there were a series of ridiculous problems which resulted in no less than five trips to three different hardware stores, an extra set of useless shades that we can’t return and don’t fit anywhere, and the kids’ room having shades just slightly too narrow. And there are still five windows without shades in the dining room and kitchen!

    I gave up and decided to rehang the blinds that we bought for the windows before we rented the place, but none of them fit. This seems impossible, but it’s because I threw out the blinds that were in the kitchen because they were gross, and the kitchen windows are apparently a quarter inch wider than any other windows in that apartment. Meanwhile, we had the woodwork around the dining room windows replaced, and the new trim is about a quarter inch narrower than the old trim. But that, at least, I thought we could solve by just asking Home Depot to recut them. I figured it would be easy; we had bought them at Home Depot originally. The label even says “Home Depot” right on it.

    Yeah, they wouldn’t cut them. And it’s not because they were just being jerks, it’s because their machines do not cut the plastic blinds, “But, you cut them when I bought them,” I said. “No, we can’t cut those,” he said. “But… they DID,” I insisted. “If they did that,” he said, “they weren’t supposed to. It’s against store policy, and they ruined the blade and destroyed the machine. We can’t cut those.”

    It was the “If” that rankled. “If” they cut them? They cut them. Believe me, 22 7/8 inches is not a standard width for plastic blinds. And that “if” really made me want to get him to admit that they at least USED to cut them, so I asked him how long he’d been working there. “Two years.” So OK, fine. I bought these seven years ago, when they apparently had different machines, because THEY CUT THEM. Which he never admitted. But he did give me some replacement mounting brackets for free, so I forgive him.
  3. This has nothing to do with shopping or home improvement, but here is what I would like to happen on Sunday mornings: First, I want to sleep late. Second, I want to have a leisurely breakfast. Third, I want to go to the early mass so that the rest of the day is free.

    Somehow, I do not think I’m ever going to have all three of those things happen together.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Overly ambitious

This past Tuesday I had a work obligation that kept me out of the house from 7am till 9pm, so when we were planning the week's meals, I told Andrew he could make anything he wanted that day, but maybe he'd like something simple. "Eggs? Cereal? Pasta?" I suggested.

"You're going to be gone, right?" he said. "You don't like lobster. Maybe I'll make lobster thermidore!"

I swear, that is what he suggested. He was going to have all three kids all day long, from breakfast through bedtime, and he wanted to make lobster thermidore. For himself and the children. It's not that I doubted his ability to cook it, it's just... lobster thermidore? Really?

So we looked it up in Julia Child, and she says right up front that lobster thermidore is not difficult, per se, but that there are a lot of steps. "A lot of steps!" I said. "Maybe it's not such a great idea." Happily, Andrew came to his senses and instead of making lobster thermidore, he heated up some Boca burgers. For which he made fresh buns, though. He is quite capable. Just delusional sometimes, I guess.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Frankenbaby

I love it when babies are first starting to walk.


MVI 0323 from Maureen on Vimeo.

MVI 0347 from Maureen on Vimeo.

And here is a bonus video of Ann Marie playing a game she invented, called "Where's the milk?" See, she likes to have a napkin so she can helpfully wipe up her tray, and one dinner she started YELLING YELLING YELLING to get my attention. She HAS to yell, because I tune out the yelling. It's a bit of a catch-22. When I finally realized she was trying to tell me something, I looked over and she had her napkin over her milk cup and was signing "milk" at me. And a game was born.

MVI 0348 from Maureen on Vimeo.

But before you leave me a comment telling me how that is the cutest thing you've ever seen, let me preempt you by telling you that it's only because you didn't see Ann Marie calling us all over to her high chair tonight so she could give us hugs.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

When engineers get mad

Last night Andrew and I got into a fight about fluid dynamics. Yep. See, I had been trying to recreate this weather experiment on cyclones and anti-cyclones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzqvGIAWHOk, but I couldn’t get the dynamic profile to fully develop. If you don’t have time to click on the video, just know that the experimental set up is a can of ice set inside a pan of rheologic fluid which is in turn set inside a larger pan. The entire apparatus is spinning on a turntable, and at the start of the experiment, hot water is poured into the second, larger pan. The setup is a model of the earth: The can of ice models the cold “north pole”, and the hot water warms up the equator (the outside edge of the inner pan).

In the video, you can see three cyclones and three anti-cyclones form, and in between them is a continuous line which is a model for the jet stream. But when I tried to repeat the experiment, I never got steady cyclones or anti-cyclones; I just saw small transient cyclones form at the “north pole.” The video is only a demonstration and therefore doesn’t give a step-by-step methodology, so I wasn’t sure which critical thing I was missing. One of the differences between my set up and the one in the video, however, is that I have a Lazy Susan, and not an electric turntable, so I couldn’t start the rotation until after I had poured in the hot water, but I was pretty sure that wouldn’t matter. I thought I’d ask Andrew what he thought, though. You should note that I had shown Andrew the video the night before, so I thought he was familiar with the setup.

But Andrew said the lack of rotation would make a difference, because the hot water would make hot spots. I blinked. What? Hot spots? In the outer pan? I stared at him, confused. “No it wouldn’t,” I said, lamely.

“Of course it would!” he said. “The hot water would make one part hot before it could get everywhere!”

Again, I was at a loss. Did Andrew not understand that water… flows? “But the water doesn’t just stay in one place!” I said. “How could it make a hot spot?”

I won’t repeat the whole argument word for word, although, actually, I pretty much already did. We basically just kept repeating those two statements back and forth to each other, with growing frustration. “It HAS to create a hot spot!” “But the water doesn’t just stay still!”

Eventually, he said he couldn’t talk to me about it anymore, because he was just too aggravated. I, however, insisted that we continue. “I think you are not understanding something,” I said, “Because it cannot make a hot spot! The water is being poured into an empty pan. It goes all over the pan! It flows!”

“Wait… you’re not pouring the water into the fluid?” Andrew asked.

OH THANK GOODNESS. So here’s what was happening. Andrew thought I was pouring hot water into a cold fluid and failing to understand that this would create a hot spot before the mixture had time to come to thermal equilibrium, something that I should understand very well given my degree in chemical engineering which is basically the study of heat transfer and fluid flow. But to me, it seemed like Andrew was failing to understand that when you pour water into a dish it will not stack up on top of itself but will instead flow into the pan, something that Andrew should understand very well given that he has POURED WATER BEFORE.

I tell you, we argued about this for a good ten minutes. And I think we had such trouble finding different words to explain what we were talking about, because what each of us WANTED to say was, “WHY ARE YOU BEING AN IDIOT?”