Our Christmas letter

Here's what we sent as paper mail to some folks. This begins to fill you in on how 2008 went, since I ignored this blog for about half of it. :-)

Dear friends and family,

Greetings from the Carreiro/Tidwell family! Our Christmas epistle may be less exciting this year, as our life finally starts to settle into a more predictable pattern.

Matthew is two this year -- and he's [i]very[/i] two, as we like to joke. Never one to do things halfway, he is a chattering, running, giggling, climbing, protesting little tornado inside our house. Fortunately for his parents, he adores his "school," where he gets lots of art, music, and playtime, and where he’s made it his personal project to learn every other child’s name (and then give them shout-outs at night, when he should be sleeping). He is an absolute joy.

For a while, we were concerned that he wasn't talking. But it turned out that his hearing was off -- he needed tubes in his ears, and once he got those, his hearing became normal. He talks well now. He loves songs, books, puzzles, being outside, and "helping" in stores and the kitchen. And recently he surprised everyone by learning his ABCs and numbers!

Meanwhile, Rich and I both changed jobs. (What better time to do so than right before a recession?) Rich went to a software company named Imprivata, where he has much more interesting work than he had at Saba. He's far happier there, too.

I am still working part-time, but the home-based consulting wasn’t quite as enjoyable as I thought it might be. So in July, I started as a user interface designer for Google. This is my dream job! I work on a variety of projects, including social networking, online books, and mobile devices. The recently announced Google Friend Connect is one of my products -- in their introductory video, in fact, you can see my face and one of my Nepal photos, if you squint at the screen and don’t blink.

Our past hobbies really have taken a back seat to child-raising. Football games are out of the question for a while, though we still watch the away games with our Nashua friends. I want to get back to hiking; we took take Matthew up to the White Mountains this fall, and he loved it! We fervently hope that he’ll like snow better this winter than last, so maybe he'll learn to ski or sled this year. And though he seems to have outgrown his dairy allergy, I still relearned how to cook -- this time with local "off-the-grid" food wherever reasonable. That became a hobby in its own right (and lately, my way of coping with the economy badness). But I still do write sometimes, and a second edition of my book may be in the making. Stay tuned...

Have a wonderful and blessed holiday season! With love,

- Jenifer (and Rich and Matthew)

The Years of Saturdays draw to a close

I'm going to work for Google!

Consulting was fun, but it's gotten slow lately, and I think I'd like to once again have (1) colleagues, and (2) a workplace. Some of you know that I've been talking to Google on and off for some time, but things finally aligned correctly. The Cambridge office is up and running; they have numerous projects that need UI attention, and they're ready to hire someone on a part-time basis to do this.

So here are the details. I'll be working until midafternoon each day, when I leave to get Matthew at his 3:00 daycare pickup time. (Matthew won't see bit of difference, except that Mommy will be busier on nights and weekends.) I'll be working in Kendall Square, which is a reasonable commute. Occasionally I'll fly out to Mountain View -- in fact, the first trip will be fairly soon! (Chris, CJ, Rob, Robin, etc.... that's your cue.) I don't know which project I'll work on first, but mostly I'll be doing UI work, with occasional coding. It seems I can't get away from that. :-) I'm not sure I want to, anyway.

I'm thrilled about this! So far, it looks like everything I wanted in a job -- exciting company, far-reaching projects, so much to learn, and I even get to keep my afternoons with Matthew. :-)
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Recent Matthew slideshows

I haven't posted these here in a few months! Of course, I am posting them over on along with the rest of the various Matthew news tidbits, so go read that if you want more. :-)

Wow. These go back a long time -- all the way to October.

Housecleaning report, week 3

Once again, I was sick for most of the week, so not a huge amount got done. But I'm better now; thanks for asking. :-) This week we got some of the sweet payoff for the earlier work:

* Finished decluttering the back of the kitchen (yay!). The bay window is clear for the first time in... um, maybe since it was installed? Heh. Now I want to get a cushion made for it, so we can sit there. That'll be really nice once spring comes, when we can gaze out upon the daffodils and lilacs and lilies-of-the-valley in the back yard. Matthew already thinks it's pretty cool to stand in there and watch the squirrels.

* Continued decluttering the entryway area.

* Moved the drop-leaf table from the back of the kitchen to the entryway area (along with an accompanying Windsor chair). It's now a very pleasant, sunny place to sit and read the paper!

* Rearranged Matthew's play area to accommodate said table in the entryway. We also needed to cover up the builtin bookshelves, as he's decided that the books are quite fun to pull down from shelves en masse. This just took a little bit of creativity with the baby fences and a distracting pile of cardboard bricks. But now it appears that there's more room in there, which can't be right... oh well. It seems less cluttered, anyway.

* Bought a toddler-sized table and chairs for Matthew, and put them into the back of the kitchen where the big table had been. Now he can sit there and eat snacks, or more typically, climb all over the new furniture. :-) Happy baby!

Rant: childbirth choices in the US

You should see the movie "The Business of Being Born." Put it on your Netflix queue, if you have one.

Why? This is why.

It's a statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists against homebirth. What you're seeing here, between this statement and the movie, is a conflict over the cultural framing of childbirth: should it be treated as a normal event, with occasional complications that require medical attention, or should it be treated as a medical procedure even when nothing goes wrong?

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Internet radio idea -- update

I did some poking around, learning about licensing, technology, and other things one would need to know about to run an Internet radio station. Let's say that it's a little daunting. The licensing and tracking alone is a real headache. (See for a little taste of RIAA ugliness. Not that I mind paying honest royalties to artists, mind you -- it's all just, well, complicated. And Internet radio pays full freight on these things, unlike over-the-air or satellite stations.) You need specialized software to do this right. Plus, I'd like to be able to support a wide range of listener technologies -- itunes, Winamp, Windows Media Player, handhelds, TiVo, and others. I don't know how to do all that yet.

So if I built it all myself, it would be a larger capital investment than I'm prepared to gamble on something like this. I don't have any clue yet whether such a radio station could make back its investment, let alone become a steady income stream, which I'd like it to be.

However, Internet radio is growing. According to one site that studies these things (, it reaches a larger audience in total than NPR does. And they'd like you to think that there's money to be made there. I wouldn't doubt it.

Now I'm thinking to myself, I can't be the only person who's looked at the first-tier information and come to these conclusions. Has someone closed the gap on the technology and licensing? Isn't there a turnkey service that can do this for me, and let me focus on content and market?

Enter Live365. (

Yes, there is a way to start a radio "station" with a very small investment. The service leaves a bit to be desired -- they insert their own obnoxious commercials into your sound stream, for instance -- but it's not bad for a few bucks a month. At the cheapest levels of service, they handle all the storage, bandwidth, licensing, reporting, and playback technologies (which are extensive). You can upgrade through many tiers of packages until you reach "pro" level, at which point you can do your own advertising and lots of other things.

I might just do this. I'd like to test the market and see how many listeners are interested in a mix of kid's music and "gentle" grownup music. Stay tuned!

Housecleaning report, week 2

I'm a couple of days late posting this, but...

* Reviewed a stack of old magazines and put them into recycling.

* Cut up a bunch of cardboard boxes into small pieces, and put them into recycling too. Total of 8 bags generated.

* Charged up and cleaned out the Dustbuster, and used it upstairs. I'm trying to get into the habit of regularly Dustbusting the hall and Matthew's room, to keep it from getting too nasty too fast. It's a heck of a lot easier than hauling the vacuum cleaner upstairs.

* Decluttered more of the rear of the kitchen (not done yet). Enough has been cleared that we can now move the antique table from there to somewhere else in the house, thus making room for a playspace for Matthew! Sometime in the next few days, I'll go get a toddler-sized table and a couple of little chairs for him. And a roll of butcher paper, to catch whatever creative messes he makes. :-) But I'm getting ahead of myself.

....And when that was done, we all got sick with a stomach bug! When we got over that, Matthew and I caught a ferocious cold, which we still have. So no other progress got made last week. We did achieve homeostatis, at least, which means laundry, sweeping, dishes, food cooking and consumption, etc. etc. Hopefully we'll all get healthy again and make some more progress this week.

Housecleaning report, week 1

In the last few days, here's what Rich and I have accomplished, over and above homeostasis (laundry, vacuuming, dealing with food in all its stages, etc.):

* We cleaned up a "clutter corner" by the stereo. We sorted out a pile of random stuff on a TV tray, throwing some of it out, filing some of the rest. We dusted and cleaned all the TV trays and folding chairs that stood in that corner, put them downstairs where Matthew can't knock them over, and vacuumed and cleaned the dusty floor. We also brought an old box of tapes up to the attic. It looks SO much better!

* I bought a set of plastic bins, plus some other storage supplies.

* I emptied every single drawer in the sewing cabinet in Matthew's room, inspected and sorted the contents, went "oooooooh" at the cool 50-year-old steel attachments for the 100-year-old sewing machine, and stored the good stuff into one of the new bins. Matthew can now safely pull the drawers out and play with them. He doesn't know how, yet, but he will someday soon... better not to have pins and needles in there, I think.

* I cleaned out my crafts bin, threw some old junk out, and consolidated some of it with the stuff from the sewing cabinet. There's still too much stuff in there, but at least all the old yarn fits in it now.

* Bagged, labeled, and put out the old paper diapers for people to pick up. Except that no one picked them up. I'll try again when it's not raining outside! (Anyone want diapers of size NB, 1, or 3?)
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Our house is a mess! There's nothing new about that, but it's starting to make me a little crazy.

I've become less and less tolerant of a messy house over the years, but (1) Rich and I are both terrible housekeepers, (2) Rich is still more tolerant of mess than I am, which means he doesn't have the same emotional investment that I do in cleaning (that's not a slight on him!), and (3) Matthew adds an amount of mess completely disproportionate to his size. :-)

Of course, having a child around who can now WALK (!!!) means that we need to get serious about the clutter, because it can become dangerous. We've caught him reaching up to countertops and tables to pull things down, for instance. No disasters yet, but it's just a matter of time.

So we've kind of reached a crisis point. I've concluded that these are the factors that will help us reach a better state:

* Do a serious decluttering. I want to get rid of a lot of stuff, which may involve freecycle, ebay, the local PTO thrift shop, Goodwill, consignment stores, or the curb. For things we want to keep, I want to get yet more big plastic bins, bin stuff up, label it, and move it to the attic or basement. The problem? This takes time, and my time is worth MONEY these days! Literally, since I'm contracting by the hour!

* More storage space, and more intelligent use of the space we already have. We've built an immense bookshelf system -- already mostly full -- which we need to use better. Our closets are small, and we don't use them terribly well either (they need decluttering too). I'm convinced that we three messies can live in this small house -- we just need to be smarter about it.

* We need to get our daily "systems" working better. We tend to leave random stuff lying around, to leave laundry on the couch, to not move recycling out to the storage area, to not break down the boxes we get in the mail, to not clear off the kitchen counters... With enough self-discipline and better daily habits, we can keep the clutter down without having to explicitly "declutter" nearly so often. I'm working on that, habit by habit, but it's maddeningly slow work.

* Dirt! I'm actually not bad at getting rid of dirt -- the clutter is in the way, that's all. :-) When I get on a cleaning kick, Rich knows to stay out of my way, and not a cobweb or speck of food remains after I'm done. We have the tools: a nice new vacuum, a good rag mop, non-chemical cleaners (soap and vinegar), a Dustbuster, etc. But we need to keep the clutter down, and I need to find time to get rid of the dirt more frequently. Only the time issue would be solved with a maid service, not the clutter.

So recordersmith and I are going to keep each other accountable. :-) We'll both post weekly about progress we're making in our respective houses.
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