The real deal

Not quite content to just throw a regular family party, the twins got a surprise on Wednesday. Today was their actual birthday. One year ago today, we all were exhausted after having welcomed them into the world. OK Jenny was the most exhausted. So today we all went to the zoo as a family.

This was their first trip to the zoo and I wasn’t quite sure it would be interesting to them yet or not. Sure enough they actually paid attention to the animals. Caged animals were a little tough for them to spot but the animals out in the open were fun. Lizzy enjoyed listening to the birds and trying to mimic their calls. We discovered Emory does NOT like peacocks walking up to him and screaming in his face. But he did have a really good time in the reptile room looking at snakes and lizards.

Year one is in the bag

The twins celebrated their first birthday in style on Saturday with a family party at the house. It was a jungle theme party… Daddy even snuck some Stranglethorn Vale soundtrack into the iPod to give it some “atmosphere.” Relatives came near and far… some as far away as the Carolinas!

The twins’ Aunt Beth did a great job overseeing the bulk of the decorations and preparations, including this lovely display. The cupcakes were from Sweet Treats and they were a big hit.

The twins of course were the center of attention and they actually seemed to enjoy it. Surprisingly (or not) they didn’t smash their smash cakes with too much gusto and weren’t terribly interested in eating them either. They did of course love the presents… or more importantly, the packaging!

Photo Credit: Bethany Mitchell

After tearing into cake and presents, they had a fun time seeing just how noisy their new toys were. The standout favorite seems to be the collection of ride-on car like toys. More or less able (I think) but not yet quite willing to walk, the toys allow them some mobility. (yikes!) But after an action packed day like this, they soon ran out of steam and mommy and daddy finally got some rest. One down, a whole bunch more to go!

At Walgreens, the customer is always a criminal

With the twins’ birthday coming up, Jennifer and I decided to make some party favors that consist of the twins’ photo in a little mini frame. We needed one last photo of Emory smiling and in the correct size and orientation, so I snapped one Friday night. I uploaded the photos to Snapfish and expected to pick them up the next day at Walgreens as I’ve done many times before.

I realize there are many labs much better than Walgreens, but Walgreens is fast, convenient and located nearby. And although their customer service sometimes leaves something to be desired, they usually don’t totally screw me over. Today was to be different…

What happened when I arrived at the store was quite a shock. The woman behind the photo counter informed me that I could not pick up my photos. Her name was “Heidi” and she claimed to be the “Store Manager” at this Walgreens (Store #6036 in Granite Bay, CA). I noticed (and she noticed and commented) that someone had written “Professional do not release” on the packet of photos, only to scratch it out and write in sharpie, “Not Professional.” She said this was not correct and that the photos were clearly professional and that I was up to no good.

What was my offense? My photos looked, in her words, “a little too good,” and there was no way she could tell if I hadn’t just gotten them, “done at Sears and brought them here to steal extra copies.” Well, that is just insulting. I mean comparing me to the button pushers at Sears? I know I’m not the best photographer, but that is just degrading!

Her assessment was bizarre as the photos are snapshots of the kids on the floor of our house with baby gates, crooked doors, couches, cat trees and speaker stands in the background. Clearly I need to market our clutter as photographic backdrops!

So I offered to sign a liability release form. I’ve had to do this before at another Walgreens. The woman refused and demanded I provide the original media card. I explained that I had already uploaded the files to my computer and edited them, after having wiped the card clean. She was unsympathetic, and more importantly, completely unhelpful. Whatever her responsibilities as “Store Manager” at Walgreens entailed, customer service was not one of Heidi’s concerns.

She even went as far as to tell me it was “Federal Law” that she could not release my photos to me. I told her there was no such Federal Law that prohibited me from printing my own photos to which I owned the copyright. She said she did not believe me.

I went home and now I am just getting off the phone with Walgreens corporate. Their useless customer service rep has just told me there is nothing they can do. She actually stated, “you should get them made somewhere else.” Wow, really Walgreens? You screw over customers and then instruct them to shop elsewhere?

My intellectual property rights have been violated. I licensed those photos to be reproduced for my own purchase at Walgreens, and for NO OTHER PURPOSE. By holding and refusing to release my photos, Walgreens has stolen from me. And they apparently couldn’t care less.

I am posting a letter to Walgreens corporate and copying the store on this matter as soon as I hit Publish on this story.

Update, Saturday, 3:45PM: It seems something may have been effective in communicating my experience to someone higher up. I got a phone call from a Walgreens Executive who agrees with me and has over-ruled Heidi. He stopped short of a full appology, instead insisting it was “open to interpretation.” No it isn’t. My photos are my photos and how DARE anyone say otherwise. Unless they have compelling evidence to the contrary, the photos belong to me. 

Too bad I’ve already posted the letters to Walgreens corporate, the store, Snapfish as well as having Tweeted and Facebooked about this already. Oh well!

Despite them finally agreeing to release the photos, I cannot in good conscience continue to patronize Walgreens. The unprofessionalism displayed by Heidi and the unresponsive customer service higher up the chain has soured me on the corporation. “The customer is always right” should not be perverted into “the customer is a criminal.”

Wait for Dial Tone

With all of the moving, unpacking, kids and work, I haven’t had a chance to do much. But today, after a long day at the office, I came home after the kids were asleep (/sad face) and a package awaited. I recently picked up a Western Electric 302 telephone off of eBay for a song. I am embarrassed at how cheap I was able to snag this thing. Fully restored models go in excess of $200-$250. Not a massive sum, but tidy enough to be out of question for a hobby purchase, I mean I have kids. I won’t even say how cheap I got this phone… but it was silly crazy cheap. I wonder if I should just buy them and resell them after fixing them, but I probably just got lucky!

The phone was in very nice condition, though it was not guaranteed to work, thus justifying the steep discount. It did supposedly spend a decade in very light service followed by 60 years in a box. Several things piqued my interest. The brown cloth cords are in exquisite condition, and this is a May 1940 metal phone with matching parts. A little over a year after this phone was made, WWII ushered in an era of thermoplastic phones that would forever overshadow these metal beauties.

Don’t call this a “Lucy phone!” I abhor the term, as it is better suited to the plastic toys made after the war. I jest, but I do much prefer the metal phones. They are more expensive so I was thrilled to find and win one in such great condition for a stupidly low price.

I do not have any personal attachment to the WE-302 beyond liking it. I was born much too recently to have seen them in common use. Growing up in the 80′s I saw the touchtone trimline as the quintessential phone in kitchens at home and around town; though I do recall some relatives owning WE-500 rotary models. Still I appreciate the styling and the timeless elegant functionality of the good old fashioned 302. It’s perfected from the 102-202 but not so sterile as the 500.

I quickly tried my new phone but it did not work. My heart sank, but I was prepared for this. I sat down to work while my wife watched television. After a day of hard work at the office, a creative hobby is an excellent release. She just spent the evening juggling the twins, so she earned some couch time! For me though, the satisfying resolution of fixing something is quite relaxing.

Thankfully the dial was in perfect working order and after some rewiring inside the phone I was finished and ready to test by the time the show was over. The gongs gave out their harmonic ring as my cell phone dialed in. I was very pleased that our phone company’s rotary service functioned over their VOIP box. Kudos to you, Surewest.

The dial card was yellowed with age and possibly original, though I cannot be sure. It included numbers such as a two digit number for the fire brigade and 211 for a long distance operator. I fashioned my own “Wait for dial tone” card and filled in my number. I chose RIverside as my exchange, though of course my number doesn’t fit into an historical exchange, being in Granite Bay using VOIP. I was astonished at how perfectly Brush Script matched up with my expectations on the “Wait” font. It was simple enough to cut it out and place it under the cellulose cover. I retained the existing dial card, just in case I ever pass the phone along.

I made some test dials (actual dialing here!) and those worked as well. I love the sound quality and though some may scoff at this, the inability to cradle the phone against my shoulder due to the triangular shape of the F1 handset. This isn’t a multi-tasking device, it is a telephone. If I am talking to you on it, you have my full and undivided attention.

It may not be in pristine, like new condition, but maybe some day I will research proper restoration of the paint to fill in some minor wear and tear… perhaps replace the suede feet. Some lubrication and cleaning on the inside might not be out of order. I have no plans to sell it and do not care specifically about “ruining” it by cleaning or repairing it. I plan to use and appreciate it! (Also, it looks pretty cool)

Granite Bay Shuffle

We’re moving! Jenny found a newish house close to the high school she teaches at. We definitely need the extra space. The kids will be right at home with their own rooms, though for now we are thinking of setting up one room with cribs and one room for play. The most exciting thing for me is that we will finally have an actual dining room rather than a small corner of a kitchen. So I can at last get to work refinishing our table. We’ll be sure to have folks over really soon.

Time to get packing!



Fun Day the Park

With longer daylight hours, Emory and Elizabeth had a lot of fun with a trip to the park. It was challenging to keep them from snacking on the wood chips… one move at those and we figured out we couldn’t keep them on the ground. But the slide was a blast, they seemed to really enjoy sitting on it. When the wind picked up a bit they looked like they were zooming down together.

Christmas Arrives

Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a season. And we’ve been busy. I’ve never understood the deriding of common Christmas traditions as being “too commercial” or inappropriate for one reason or another. After all, what better tradition in the season of remembering our Savior’s birth, than to gather with family and friends? And how blessed we must be to have so many families to gather around!

First we were welcomed into the Smiths’ fresh new home. Not quite all the way moved in, the exquisite interior was still inviting and friendly as family and friends gathered around the tree. Elizabeth and Emory crashed almost right after our arrival, but I know they will know many fun trips to see their Great Aunt & Uncle!

For Christmas Eve morning we arrived on the Janvier’s doorstep bearing gifts of food as we prepared a breakfast complete with homemade cinnamon rolls. It was a big hit indeed, there are no photos of the freshly baked rolls because they were devoured so quickly!

Continue reading

Trigger Flash

Christmas round one is in the can. Jenny and I made our way over to her mother’s house with the twins for some dinner and some nice family time. The twins had a blast opening their first Christmas presents ever. Well, they had some help getting them unwrapped, but they did a lot of smiling on their own!

When I unpacked the camera, expecting to take some quick shots with on camera ETTL + bounce card at 45 degrees (no, I could not have planned to be more lazy!) My wife then informed me she wanted some nicer shots in front of the Christmas tree. I am slowly dreading shots in front of a Christmas tree. My hands are steady, but not that steady. Shutter drag to expose the lights on the tree is taking it’s toll!

I had left my radio triggers at home so I was somewhat dismayed at finding out she wanted something halfway presentable. I was just there for “the moment” and family goodness. Inspiration struck as I realized my LP-160′s make excellent optical slave flashes and happened to be stashed in my bag. How smart was that? (It wasn’t. It was just dumb luck they were in there.)

Why the expensive 580exII doesn’t have optical slave functionality will always mystify me. Anyhow, using the 580 as an on camera trigger into the ceiling, I strategically placed LP-160 flashes around the room also more or less aimed at the ceiling. There is still some direction to the light, but I admit it is very diffused and soft.

The result was an entire room of adequate lighting. No small feat as I’ve yet to see a living room with sufficient lighting. If I ever build a dream house, it is going to have an artificial sun in main gathering areas! Or wireless flash tubes embedded in the ceiling LOL!

Nativity FigurinesI was able to roam around and collect snapshots for the family archives that were pretty good considering I shot on manual and never bothered to change my exposure throughout the night even as I moved around the room. Not very happy with the white balance, but I’m tired and don’t feel like getting that perfect. It’s just a family gathering for pete’s sake!

As an extra, while a diaper changing session was going on, I grabbed this shot of the nativity figurines. Click to explore on Flickr.

Finally, a break from work!

After having to go back to work when the twins were just barely 2 months old, I’ve been longing to spend more than just a weekend with them.  Now the twins are 5 and 1/2 months old and I’m so grateful that this Thanksgiving I got to spend an entire week with them.  They’ve grown so much both physically and mentally.  Emory rolls over (one direction only) and Elizabeth can pivot on her back and stomach a full 360 (very funny to watch!).  They both hold their toys and reach for them too.  They also just started eating solids this week – carrots and peas.  So… here is what we did this week:

  • Sunday - Sunday school at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church.  Later in the day, babies ate some mushed up carrots for the first time!
  • Monday - A visit to my colleague and her husband’s house for coffee (for mommy) and tummy time on the floor at their house.  In the evening, a former student stopped by my house just to visit and play with the babies.
  • Tuesday - Shopping with Grandma Carol at Baby’s R Us for new baby girl Sweet (on her way) and a few Christmas gifts for the twins
  • Wednesday - A day with “GG” (great-grandma Janvier)…  We had lunch at the soda shop in the Eskaton where she stays and we were stopped by every old lady and man that we strolled past.  By the way, babies in a stroller serve as a great walker for any elderly person who might need one.  Babies get pushed around, Great-grandma gets to gaze on them while pushing them and brag about them to her friends, and GG also gets added stability to her walking – a great combination!  We also stopped by Aunt Jean’s on the way to Grandma’s hair appointment.
  • Thursday - Thanksgiving Day!  It began early (as every morning does) with a walk to the nearby park with the twins and Romeo.  It was a cold rainy morning, but I put hats and blankets on the babies and covered the car-seats with rain-jackets.  Then, in the afternoon, we headed to Nana and Grandpa’s house for a family gathering and turkey feast.
  • Friday - A relaxing morning at home followed by a Bible study lunch and movie at cousin Kim’s house.  Babies just loved all the attention!
  • Saturday - A day at home with Mommy.  What a great way to end the week! I honestly don’t remember the last time I spent an entire day in my house… not even a single trip to the grocery.  And, yes, although the babies got dressed, I stayed in my pajamas all day long.  (Yay for me!)

Operation Christmas Child

Today we dropped off Elizabeth & Emory’s christmas boxes at Church. These are filled with Christmas Gifts and are sent to children in need along with the Good News as part of Operation Christmas Child by Samaritan’s Purse, a worthwhile non-denominational international humanitarian organization.

Elizabeth and Emory will be making a box every year, as there is no better time to start teaching them about the importance of giving. Even if it’s just a small thing to do — for a kid, toys/presents/etc are a big deal!

The twins admittedly won’t remember this Christmas’ boxes, but there will be many more to come.