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Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Silent Thanksgiving

We've been hit with our first wave of the cold and flu season these past few days. Noah had ear infection & eye infection, Asha had sinus infection/cough/stomach flu, and I was the lucky recipient of a sore throat and laryngitis. As in, a complete and total loss of my voice.  For those of you who know me and my propensity to uh, "chat", it's proving to be a staggering disability.

The voice is ever so slowly coming back. I went from complete silence, to uttering a squeaky note here and there, to sounding like a young boy right smack in the midst of a pubescent voice change. Awesome. I was hoping that by later today, I would be able to at least hold a conversation with my family members as we share turkey dinner. I may be able to utter a word or two, but certainly won't be able to hold my own with the inevitable volume levels at the table. So alas, I feel I will be at a loss for words. Literally.

So I thought I'd make a list of the things that I won't be able to say on Thanksgiving Day:

"Hey, it's been a while! You look great!"

"Stop eating all the olives before dinner!"

"Ok everyone, squooosh together so I can get you all in the picture."

"Pass the gravy."

"Hey, hit me with some more of that wine."

"Pipe down in there! Are you a bunch of wild monkeys? More eating, less chatting!"

"Pass the lefse."

"Pass the butter."

"Pass the sugar."

"Pass the Tums."

"You cheater, 3 of a kind do too trump a pair of Aces!"

"I am NOT getting up at 4:00 am to wait out in the cold for a 20% discount on a Barbie Minivan. Seriously, I'm not doing it."

"Wake me at 3:00."

"I'm thankful."

Thankful that my dear amazing husband ran to the store 73 times because I forgot ___________. Thankful that he cleaned the basement -- 4 times due to the kids' destruction -- because relatives were coming.

Thankful that my in-laws drove 9 hours in the awful weather to come here to spend this weekend with us.

Thankful that my own family is able to enjoy the holiday gathered together, even though I miss them dearly and wish I could spend it with them.  I am sad to miss out on Mom's home cookin', and especially sad that I won't get to see her trying to prepare her feast all from upon her little scooter! (haha!)  I'm thankful that the long-distance family that can't be with us have somewhere to go to share their day with.

Thankful for my family, by blood, by marriage, or by golly. They are truly wonderful people who make me happy to be alive and enjoy these moments and enjoy the old memories and make wonderful new ones. 

Thankful for a fantastic Auntie who cooks up a storm and manages to feed all 30+ of us a plentiful and delicious feast every year. Thankful for a sister-in-law who "gets me" and helps me deal with the in-laws & outlaws.  Thankful for a mother-in-law who demonstrates to me (and my daughter) what it means to be a "strong woman".

Thankful for 4 furry paws who greet me every day with a wagging tail and an unconditional love.

Thankful for a great, steady job I like, at a company who shows their appreciation to me as an employee and helps put plenty food on my table and warm clothes on my back.

Thankful for my health.  Despite my current lack of voice and the arsenal of antibiotics the family has been on of late, we have been blessed with excellent health.

Thankful for a beautiful, warm home full of nice things. Especially thankful for the 3 healthy, happy, beautiful blonde people to share in wonderful, crazy life with me. Thankful that they make me feel so loved and needed and motivate me to be a better person every day.

So I might not be able to say it very loudly, but I truly say with meaning:

"I AM so very thankful for this life I have been blessed with. Even though I know this every day of my life, I am especially reminded of it on this day of giving thanks."

I am thankful indeed.

Wishing you all the happiest of Thanksgivings!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My New Office Digs

Just a quick little post on this busy week...

Things I love about my new office building:

1.  Look at this view! I know, I know, it's only overlooking a field/parking lot, but still -- an office with a window!! Woohoo! Now I can see all the turkeys wandering around out there.

2.  I have 'floating' computer screens. Ooooh, neeeeat. And a cool 'floating barn door' that I can pull shut so I don't have to listen to Mr. McWindbag at the end of the hall all day long.

3. I'm way closer to the Coffee bar.

One of my many vices.
 4.  Better parking.

5.  They have Choco Tacos in the vending machine!

Things I hate about my new office building:

1.  They have Choco Tacos in the vending machine!

2.  The floors are hollow (to accommodate the wiring and heating systems underneath). Which, when combined with the aforementioned item, makes for that thundering elephant sound when walking. I try to tiptoe when I need to migrate but that just looks ridiculous.

3.  It's FREEZING in here. As in, it's so cold my "mouse-hand" (aka, "the one I'm not sitting on") is cramping up and I can't feel my toes. Maybe it's due to the windows? [Meh, I still like 'em.] So I'm gettin' a Snuggie. I don't care what you say about them, I need one. And dammit, I will look awesome in my Snuggie while tiptoeing through the building, with a Choco Taco in one hand and a 16-oz latte in the other...

My new "home away from home".  It's still tidy, I haven't really had a chance to mess it up yet.

T-minus 7 days to Turkey Day! Wishing you all a very happy holiday, and safe travels for those of you venturing out and about.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Kitten Kaboodle Klub Grows Up

Last week I bragged about how wonderful my little Princess was at the Texas wedding. In keeping with my promise for Part Deux of the Texas Wedding Extravaganza, this week I'm gonna brag about how wonderful my entire family and extended family is!!

To preface the big event, I should tell you a little bit about this family of mine. The Veeder family gatherings have always a lot like Thanksgiving dinner itself: everyone looks forward to it, it's pure bliss while you're in the moment, and in the end it's kindof exhausting and sometimes just a little "too much". A lot of food, a lot of booze, a lot of laughs, a lot of noise, a whooooole lot of crazy. But mostly, a lot of love and memories shared between us. I don't think any of us knew it at the time, but we had something rare in these gatherings. Rare and incredibly special. Because the get-togethers built relationships that have withstood miles and changes and the test of time. We have been this way since I can remember, and will very likely never change. The gatherings usually consisted of my Grandparents (Pete & Edie Veeder), their children (Kerry, Gene & Wade and their spouses), and grandchildren (Lindsay, Shanna, Seth, Marni, Jessie, Ashley, Alex & Shad) and of course generally occurred during holidays or big life events (weddings, baptisms, funerals, etc.) but were often spontaneous. One thing they have always been: extremely FUN.

The whole crew, taken (I'm guessing) about 1991.  Note the
massive bangs, biker shorts, and fanny pack.  Good times.
When the glue that held us all together was suddenly and unexpectedly taken away from us, we found a way to keep on keepin' on. The older I get the more I realize how lucky we were to have this bond with my cousins and aunts & uncles, as I have found in my adult life that people like these are extremely hard to come by. They are a rare breed who are truly good people to their core. They put a tremendous importance on the value of family and support each other no matter what. They love, unconditionally, and respect each other. As our family grows and moves on the gatherings have changed. When our spouses/significant others came into the family, they were often bewildered and probably a little terrified about the whole clan. We have this intense connection that falls somewhere between the Griswalds and the Clampetts, with a little Cleavers mixed in for good measure.

One of the last times ALL eight of us were together (our wedding in June 2003)
As we have all gradually turned into "grown-ups", the gatherings have become fewer and further-between. They include a more diverse audience (diversity in this case generally means there are more boys present, which frankly would have come in handy when we'd needed an extra boy or two to play "groom" when we put on our pretend weddings… but I digress). Of course we've outgrown the Kids' Table, and are far less likely to perform Christmas pageants in the living room for a small fee, but in many ways it's still the same. We just pick up right where we left off. So when we get together we give each other crap mercilessly for our leotard-legwarmers/ mall bangs/Zubaz phase, for "that one time when…" [fill in the blank] and for our [lack of] athletic ability. Because we have shared so many memories together (many of which are rather embarrassing and recorded for posterity) it's so incredible to just spend time with people you feel so comfortable with. People who are uncannily like you in many ways. We are dramatic and passionate and talk way too loud and use huge sweeping gestures to emphasize. So we seize the opportunity to stay up until the wee hours to chat about our lives, our dreams, share inside jokes, and reminisce about the times we've shared together over the years. And thus more priceless memories are made!
Baby there's no other superstar you know that I'll be...your pa-pa-paparazzi
So when our not-so-little anymore cousin Ashley ("Pee-Pants") got hitched in Dallas this October, we all flew in from far and wide: from Fargo to Miami and everywhere in-between, to celebrate the big occasion. The only cousin not in attendance was Lindsay. And she had a pretty valid excuse: she gave birth to her son Sylas the night before we left! Everyone was a little travel-shy after our last trip to Texas (for Marni's wedding), as we had all run into bad weather and nightmarish travel stories began to emerge. But we all arrived without any travel incidents and piled into the hotel where we shared hugs and smiles and those "oh, you look fantastic" or "It's been ages" and "my, how you've grown" and other obvious exchanges of pleasantries that all families tend to do when reuniting.  Then we promptly planned out our weekend (starting with a trip to the liquor store, of course.  Cuz it's sometimes sortof hard to tolerate family without booze.)
Beth and Seth, stocking up for the weekend. And being the
good North Dakootans they are, wear plaid to the liquor store.
We began our weekend with an adventure, as per usual. The first night started with a GPS-related near-disaster when we were unable to find the groom's dinner location. But Uncle Gene and I, like a modern-day Lewis & Clark, managed to navigate the minivan to the correct location (ok, with guidance from Wade on the cell). We let Jessie & Alex out of the trunk and headed in… to the breathtakingly lovely riverside dinner.
The lovely rehearsal dinner site.
 The food. OH dear Lord the food! It was ahhh-mazing.

A toast to the couple, to family, to love.
We did a lot of catching-up, drank some champagne, got teary-eyed over the beautiful slideshow that Luke (the groom) put together and spent a perfectly lovely evening enjoying each others' company! The rest of the weekend went by in a flurry of activity. Chatted over coffee. Bought new shoes. Fought off locusts and fire ants. Went for a white-knuckles ride with scary Drivers' Ed as he peeled out at the stoplight with the rented Minivan. "Observed" artwork. Watched our beautiful cousin marry a wonderful man, their new life together beginning right there in front of us all. Laughed, snorted, toasted, teased, prayed, cried, sang, danced, ate, drank, sat by the campfire and took pictures. 948 pictures, to be exact, between only 2 people (albeit 2 people who permanently had their cameras attached to their faces the entire time) which sufficiently captured most of the big moments of the weekend.

Goin' to the chapel.

The beautiful couple, Ashley and Luke, saying their "I do's".
Sisters, sharing a 'moment' before the ceremony.
Our "elders" (snicker, snicker)

The "Singles dance"

The "Little Kids", showing how badass they are now that they've turned 21. 

Mom & Pops, cutting a rug

Two words: Shopping. Cart.

"Shhhhh!  You'll wake the baby!"
Jason has only been an "official" member of the family
for about 4 years, but he certainly fits right in. 
We happen love his passion for shopping cart races.

As we filed out one by one to head back home to Miami, Watford City, Lemmon, Brookings, Austin, Little Elm, and Fargo, we hugged and said our goodbyes with heavy hearts. Because we had so much fun, and because we're never sure how long it will be until we're all together again. Every time we get together, we say "we really should do this more often" and "let's plan a trip". And we really DO have the best intentions to do so. But work and houses and bank accounts and spouses and kids and life, unfortunately, often prevents us from doing that. 
Planning our next trip in the airport on our way back home.
Here's hoping that we'll be able to get together more often than once every 4 years. I know these family ties that bind will stay strong through the years so that, just maybe, we can create these same kinds of memories with our children, and their children, and so on. It's totally worth the driving in the snow, and flying through tornadic activity, and dealing with puke on the airplane to get there.

Studying the artwork, like the intellectuals we are.
So here's to you, my fellow charter members of the Kitten Kaboodle Klub. Thank you for giving me so many memories to cherish and look back on with joy and affection for each one of you. Thank you for the heaps of photographs and the plethora of video footage to laugh at, and to cry at, and to relive those moments.  Thank you to my parents and uncles and aunts and grandparents for giving me a family full of people who just so happen to double as some of my best friends.

Don't ask...

In tribute to our ancestral roots, a Norwegian Blessing, until we meet again:

May da ruts always fit da wheels of yur pickup.

May yur ear muffs always keep out da nort wind.

May da sun shine varm on yur lefse.

May da rain fall soft on yur lutefisk.

And until ve meet again,

May da good Lord protect ya from any and all unnecessary Uff-Das!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Playing With the Future: Kinect

In the spirit of trying to blog more, and envelop a broader scope of topics than my cute kids, I am hereby starting a new feature: "Techie Thursday"! I'd like it to be an outlet to wane technological, from time to time, about new & exciting things that I geek out about. It will also point out what a giant nerd I am, so prepare yourself to be blown away by my astounding nerdery.
So without further ado, I present the first installment of Techie Thursday…

"Playing with the future"

I suck at keeping secrets. But I just can't hold it in any longer! After being restricted by NDA from blogging/Facebooking/photographing, etc., I can finally speak publicly about the coolest gadget I've seen since putting that Duck Hunt cartridge in the old Nintendo back in 1987-ish… And I wanted to tell the world about it, because I happen to think it's a technology that could really change the world does things, even beyond gaming!

We were given the incredible opportunity to participate in the beta program for testing Microsoft's Kinect for Xbox 360, which just released to the public today.

First let me preface this article by saying that my husband made me sign up for the beta. At that point, I didn't know what a "kinect" was, never mind the fact that it had something to do with that damned Xbox he seems to adore so very much [jealous, much, Shanna?] He very nearly declared that I would be disowned if I did not complete the beta application questionnaire. I mean, how dare I not take advantage of working for this company, who affords so many cool opportunities to test new technologies? So against my better judgment, I signed up. And later got notification that I was accepted. I thought, "Okay, I'm game. Neat!" Then I started to hear some buzz on blogs and magazines & stuff about this new peripheral for the Xbox 360 and I started getting a little excited about it.  Neat!

The sensor finally arrived in our interoffice mail in late July, looking very much like a shiny, beheaded Wall-E. Super futuristic-ey. Neat!

And it only got better from there. We hooked up the Kinect to our Xbox (ok, sidenote: we bought a newer, better, additional Xbox 360 because… well, because Jordan said so, and clearly he knows about these kinds of things. ) The setup process was SUPER DUPER RIDICULOUSLY EASY. Even my Dad could have done it -- and when it comes to technology, trust me, that's saying a lot. We had to download all the game titles we needed to test to the Xbox hard drive (this was only part of the beta, won't be necessary for the public release) and started playing. I won't spoil all the details for you, but suffice it to say that I was fascinated. This device is a small camera that you mount on top of your TV, which captures every movement your body makes… "I am the controller" is the slogan… and it's true. We played dodgeball, plugged leaks in an underwater shark tank, kicked goals, danced to FunkyTown, and whitewater rafted our way into the future of video gaming. FAMILY video gaming.
Cut to 3 hours later, when I finally looked up at the clock to realize I had lost all concept of time and sheepishly turned the thing off and made the kids go to bed. I woke up the next morning, sore and rarin' to beat my high score in Dance Central. That quickly became Asha's favorite game too, and we soon realized that it was a great way to spend some family time together, meanwhile actually getting some good exercise during gameplay!  It was simple enough that even the youngest of kids (the non-readers) could grasp the concepts quickly and play along with close to the same results as the grownups.  Even Bam Bam, at the ripe ol' age of 15 months, got in on the fun. NEAT!

Of course there were some minor bumps & hiccups as the beta release progressed, after all, that's the whole purpose for our testing it out before it hit the shelves.  But it was really fun participating in making something a better product for the world to play with!  Did I mention, NEAT?! 

Some cute footage of the mini-beta testers:

So I share this with you as a suggestion for a fantastic gift (Christmas is right around the corner!!)  that the entire family can enjoy. Moms, kids, the hardcore gamer Dads, teens, the "older" generation -- yep, Grandma & Grandpa loved playing too, even though we couldn't get Gramma to stop calling it "The Nintendo" -- will love it, I promise you it will provide hours of fun for everyone!   Though I fear sounding like a commercial, I truly think this is something that a lot of people are going to love. It will make the Wii look wii-diculous.  If the reactions of the people who have seen the Kinect so far are any indication of how the world will react, it will sell like hotcakes. Though I haven't seen many hotcake sales lately, so… maybe it'll "sell like Tickle-Me-Elmo circa 1995"!

Happy Gaming!  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Big Fat Awesome Weding

I'm well aware that I'm a week behind in blogging.  Whoopsy.  I'm gonna blame that one on the new job, plus the fact that last week was Halloween and Mama had the big idea to hand construct someone's costume...  but I digress.

I've got a two-parter in mind, because our trip to Texas for my cousin Ashley's wedding was as big and eventful as they come.  In my first post, I'd like to shout it from the rooftops that Miss Asha was the cutest, sweetest, most polite and well-behaved child on earth for the vast majority of that trip!  (yes, we are talking about the same child who seemingly invented the nuclear level-1 catastrophic meltdown tantrum.)  She was awesome, and I was SO proud of her!  The kid didn't bat an eye when she took her first plane ride.  She didn't shy away when meeting all our faraway relatives for the first time.  She didn't fuss when we drove around longer than we'd intended because our GPS led us to the wrong address.  She withstood a very long weekend full of rehearsal, pictures, boring grownup stuff, hair curling, gown fluffing, ceremony, reception, dancing, etc. and followed her instructions to a "T" for the ceremony.  She didn't melt down despite being overwhelmed, having little sleep, no schedule, and a little run-in with a pissed off fire ant.  I was amazed, and proud, and relieved all at once that I could pull off the illusion that I have a perfect child.  WOOOOT!  Little did I know that she was saving up for later...but first, the pictures:

Before the ceremony, when the hair was still a little curly!
Discussing the fire ant situation with Uncle Wade

She saw everyone getting all teary-eyed and had to join in... how sweet!
Showing off her pretty flowers
Walking down the aisle with her two new adorable pals
(Mom was choking back tears here... my mind fast-forwarding ~20 years from now...)

partying at the dance with her BFF Alex

Chillin' with uncle Seth at the hotel

With her little cousin Addyson, the cutest baby EVER!  The next generation of crazy Veeder kids!

Helping Papa do his rope tricks at the Veeder ranch on Sunday

She played "lifeguard" for a good hour all by herself...

Jackie O meets Lady Gaga?

Having a quiet moment with Grama, reading their school books

Singing "You are My Sunshine" with Uncle Gene and Cousin Jessie by the campfire... melted my heart!!

With my Aunt Judi and Uncle Wade, our wonderful hosts for the weekend. 

We almost made it back home sweet home without incident.  Almost.  As some of you undoubtedly heard, we had a little, uh, mishap on the flight back from Dallas.  Actually, it was the leg of the trip from Minneapolis home, which is about a 40 minute flight.  It was a rather large plane, and we hit some rainy / windy weather and caught a lot of turbulence.  Alex & I had thought it was a wise idea to feed her some Quiznos before taking off, becacuse, well, she looked hungry or something.  Baaaad idea.  No sooner did the wheels go up, then she looked at me with terror in those big blue eyes and said, "I'm gonna puke Mama".   She gave me a whopping three-second warning (which seemed like 30-minutes in slow-mo) in which time I managed to grab a Delta Sky Magazine while I searched frantically for a bag.  No barf bag to be found, omg, omg, omg!  The ol' Sky Mag didn't quite do the trick, but it did prevent our poor neighbor from getting hit by debris.  He was kind enough to ring the flight attendant (a dude, who immediately started gagging.  Pansy.) and was actually very helpful in getting Ash calmed down (she started crying cuz she was so embarrassed, poor baby!)  Cut to 10 agonizing minutes later, and the flight attendant finally let us go back to the teeny tiny bathroom to get her into a clean outfit I had pulled from her carry-on.  Bless Alex's heart, she stood back there crammed into that 2'x2' bathroom with me as we tried our best to get the chunks out of Ash's hair and keep what little dignity the poor kid had left intact.  When the parenting books tell you about how difficult parenting can be, they never mentioned this.  They leave that kind of stuff out so you are left with the real surprise in the moment.  How nice of them. 

But we survived. And Asha seems to be remembering the great parts of the trip, not the bad...
So next week, I'll spare any more puke stories (though I am aware of at least 2 other family members who lost their groceries on that trip as well... I'm not naming names, but you know who you are!) but want to commemorate what a wonderful wedding weekend it truly was.  Tune in next week for Part II of the Texas Wedding Trip!!