Weekend Wrap

I remember when Mondays used to be my blog catch up day. That’s when I’d drop a buncha words on ya’ll about what had gone down in our house, and with our family, over the previous 72 hours.

But Mondays have, strangely, become my busiest day of the week. Time just seems to fly by and suddenly it’s school pickup time, we have a practice and/or game to get to, and I still haven’t had a chance to sit down and do a weekend summary.

So, a belated one on a Tuesday. Again.

This past weekend was pretty good. Mostly because, as I shared on Friday, we were watching one of our young nephews for the weekend. And Friday daytime was reserved for just me and little M. He’s a really good, sweet kid and we had a lot of fun. We see him about once a week, so he was comfortable with all of us to begin with. He loved playing with the girls when they were around. He and I had a lot of fun together, but it took until Friday evening for him to start climbing up on me and getting right into my face, wanting to mimic the noises I made or try to grab my nose, glasses, or lips. I felt that’s like when I was really Uncle D, someone who is fun and makes him feel safe. We had a stretch each day over the weekend where he would spend about 15 minutes getting right up in my face and messing with me. A couple times he had me laughing so hard I was crying.

The funniest part of the weekend came when we had to deal with his hair. He is African American, and S and I have never had to deal with black baby hair. My sister-in-law left us a detailed list of what products to use, in what order, and how to manage it. I think we did a halfway decent job, the key being halfway. We didn’t make him look like a lunatic or anything, but neither was it as neat as his mom can do.

(As an aside, my sister-in-law too struggled for while figuring out the best way to deal with his hair. One of S’s patient’s mothers is a black woman who was raised by white parents. When she heard my s-i-l was struggling, she put together a care package of products to use, a place to take little M for haircuts, etc. It was a really nice gesture. As the mom told S, “I love my parents, but they had no idea what to do with my hair. It didn’t look right until I got to college and was around some other black folks.” Seems like there should be a whole support network for white people who adopt black kids to teach them how to deal with the hair issues.)

He took a two-hour nap for me Friday, which was awesome. He slept perfectly three of the four nights we had him, and that fourth night he just woke up wet and needed to be changed then went back to sleep. He’s working on his two top teeth, so he was a little cranky at times, but nothing that Motrin didn’t help with.

All-in-all, it was a really good weekend. He’s a lot of fun to be around and it reminded me how that stage was one of my favorites with our girls. The times when they are crawling and interactive, but not yet walking so you can still pin them in a confined area of the house when you need to. It was also a reminder of how having a little one around just destroys your house. Not that our house is always neat, necessarily, but we were dodging baby toys and binkies and books on the floor all weekend. And stepping in wet spots from his teething drool. Yuck! Saturday night the girls and I were looking at some old pictures from when they were little and we laughed when pretty much every picture of the living room showed a floor that was just littered with their messes.

As fun as the weekend was, it was nice to pass him back to his mom when she got home. I’m glad we’re well past the diapers and making bottles and screaming kids at bedtime stages. We just have to deal with two pre-teens who are shitty to each other about 75% of the time, girls who burst into tears for no reason, and rooms that are complete disasters. No biggie.

Oh yeah, we also had a couple other kids stay over on Thursday. We were helping out some friends who both had to be out of town Thursday. So we had six in our house for one night. S said we just needed to add one more and it would have been like her house when she was growing up. Yikes!

Bonus Video

“Starfish and Coffee” – Prince

A year ago I was watching this video – one of the few Prince videos available on YouTube at the time – in tears. Still can’t believe he’s gone, especially as we learned about how troubled his final days/years were.

I’ve read a couple retrospective pieces about Prince today, and one of them included this video. Which was ironic because, in prep for my nephew’s morning nap, we listened to the song together three times: two times through the Prince version, and once through Renee Stahl and Maya Rudolph’s version. I guess Prince was on my mind already, I was tired of singing “Wheels on the Bus,” and figured who better than Uncle D to introduce him to some Prince?

The version I saw last year didn’t have the lead into the song, or the segment after. Seeing those just make this piece even greater.

Friday Photo

This or That, Fujifilm X-T2, Fujinon XF35mm f/2 lens at f/4.0, 1/1400 sec, ISO 200

I took a walk last week at Holliday Park, which is a big, gorgeous, old park wedged in between a few historic neighborhoods on Indy’s northside. It has a huge playground, some cool trails down to the White River, and other interesting things to take pictures of.

I love the large, stone trail markers that are set throughout the park’s wooded areas. Each time I visit, I take dozens of photos of the various markers, hoping that one or two end up being unique. It was purely by accident, but I caught the light and shadows just perfectly on this attempt.

Friday Playlist

It’s a throwback day around our house today. I’m watching one of my 11-month old nephews for the day. It feels like 2005, 2007, or 2009. So I thought for the Spotify portion of the Friday tunes, I’d pull three songs from those years when I was spending each day with my 11-month-olds. There’s some humorous subtext to at least the title of each song.


“Celebrate” – Little Dragon featuring Agge. Appropriate as we passed the one-year anniversary of Prince’s death yesterday, this song sounds right out of his studio circa 1987. This, easily, could have been something he wrote for Sheena Easton. It’s brand-new, though.

Words With Kids

We’ve reached the point in our parenting lives where the annoying moments begin to pretty closely balance the delightful moments. Our girls are all good, but they’re also getting older and hitting natural stages where they become more challenging, whether they’re good kids or not.

We had a couple truly delightful moments over the past few days, though.

Saturday night we were watching the Royals-Angels game and Albert Pujols came to bat at an important moment in the game. He battled Joakim Soria to a full count with the bases loaded, two outs, tie game, top of the seventh. Soria completely fooled Pujols, who looked at a fastball right down the middle to end the inning. As is my custom on called third strikes, I yelled out, “SIT DOWN, PUJOLS!” There was a moment of profound silence followed by all three girls saying, “PUJOLS?!?!” at the same time and bursting into hysterics. They laughed for like 10 minutes, delighting in “Pujols” over-and-over.

Sunday at our family Easter gathering, after their cousin added “Micah sauce” to our hosts’ whiteboard grocery list,[1] the girls added “Pujols sauce,” which I thought was pretty great.

Even Monday one of them would mutter, “Sit down, Pujols!” and send her sisters into more fits of laughter.

Next, kickball season began last week. Our family is off to a very good start, but more about that another time. When we discuss practices and games at home, S and I have a habit of using the phrase “kicked the crap out of the ball.” As in, “Peggy Sue was really kicking the crap out of the ball at practice today.”

For some reason the girls have started calling us on that. There are gasps and cries of mock outrage that we’ve uttered the word crap in front of them.[2] Granted, we would prefer they not use that word at school for sure, and limit it otherwise. But, still, it’s not like it’s a terrible word.

The best part, though, was when M had to pull the Know It All card and explain to her sisters why it’s a bad word. “It means the same thing as S-H-I-T, guys.”

C and L howled at her audacity. I actually thought it was pretty funny, too. But I also thought there was more than a little jackassery in her thinking her sisters don’t know what a synonym for crap is that they are not allowed to use yet.

I could write a lot more words on the things they’ve done – especially the two older ones – over the past week that have made me question my sanity. But I enjoyed those two moments more.

  1. His name is Micah.  ↩
  2. Seriously, they’ve heard way worse, mostly from their Old Man.  ↩

Friday Playlist

“Dull” – Microwave. Thus crunchy, grungy track sounds a lot like something Manchester Orchestra might have done when they were sussing out their more dramatic sound.

“New” – Family Friends. A strong, mid-90s vibe alt-rock radio vibe here.

“Stars” – Hum. If I’m sharing songs with one-syllable titles and Clinton-era overtones, I might as well go back to the actual age and pull a classic.

“Fix “ – Hazel English. She makes lovely music well suited for spring.

“Aboard My Train” – Kevin Morby. He landed on my ’16 Favorites list on the strength of several strong songs and his Kansas City roots. His newest album is out in June and, based on the early singles, sounds like it will continue his run of charming, slow-building rockers.

Reader’s Notebook, 4/13/17

Book catch-up time.

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini.
As I mentioned in my last Reader’s Notebook post, somehow I never read this book. I know my wife read it. In fact, I bet there’s a copy tucked away somewhere around our house. Several friends read it and raved. I know it was on my list of books to read for ages, but for some reason I dropped it a few years back. I finally cracked when I added one of Hosseini’s newer books to my list and wanted to go back and start with his first big novel.

Man, what was I thinking putting this off so long? What an amazing book. It’s beautiful and powerful, filled with a wide range of emotions, hit on both the history of Afghanistan at a time when the US was actively fighting a war there and the immigrant experience in America. It deals with fathers and sons, lost mothers, and how sometimes we can’t help but hurt the ones who love us the most. It has brutal twists and turns and a closing scene made for the movies.

Sometimes you read a book that was lavishly praised and the process of reading it doesn’t measure up to the hype. In this case, every ounce of the hype was accurate. Shame on me for not getting to this a decade sooner.

The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
Speaking of books with a barrage of praise, this was, arguably, the most praised book of last year. Earlier this week it added the Pulitzer prize to its haul of hardware. And like The Kite Runner, it delivers.

Whitehead’s tale takes place in the era before the US Civil War, and focuses on Cora, a slave seeking to escape her plantation in Georgia as her mother had done before her. As some of you have likely heard, Whitehead’s Underground Railroad is literal: a network of abolitionists have somehow secretly built a sprawling system of railroad tracks buried deep beneath the US that assists in carrying escaped slaves toward freedom in the north and Canada.

Cora’s path to freedom is long and full of peril. She kills a white teenager who is part of a party attempting to capture her. She lands in a seemingly safe community in South Carolina that turns out to be more interested in making sure no more blacks are born in the US than actually helping former slaves find freedom. She is pursued by the most notorious slave-catcher in the country, caught twice, but in each case manages to slip away. She sees a farming community built by freemen and escaped slaves in Indiana overrun by white farmers who feel threatened by them and duped by their leader, a light-skinned black man they took for white.

Her travels are difficult, but she is constantly driven by the urge to never return to Georgia, or slavery, again. Despite the times she lives in, and the horrors she experiences, Cora remains a hopeful person.

This book has a lot going on. Whether you read just for an interesting story, or want to dig deeper into allegories and metaphors for deeper meanings, you should be very much rewarded for your efforts.

Ahead of the Curve – Brian Kenny
My first baseball book of the year. And it was a fine read as well. Kenny was a longtime ESPN host and has been on MLB Network for several years now. He’s become an outspoken proponent of advanced stats on his various shows. This book is like so many of the advanced stats books out there: he lays out how he came to embrace the modern approach to baseball’s numbers, talks about why they’re important and how they help to explain the game better, and then uses them to explore issues from who should be in the Hall of Fame, how MVP voters have been very wrong often through history, whether Alex Gordon is a superstar, and breaking down the epic summer of 1941, in which both Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio had legendary seasons.

I’ve always liked Kenny’s TV persona, and it comes through on the page as well. He’s combative, but not dismissive of other viewpoints. He never forgets that baseball is a game meant for our enjoyment. He allows that the casual fan is free to ignore modern stats if they want to. But throughout the book he rips baseball writers who refuse to dedicate the time and effort to understand them and instead write whiny columns about how advanced stats are ruining the game. Recommended whether you’re down with the new stats, or need convincing that they add to the game.

Breaking It

We stuck close to home over our spring break last week. Doesn’t mean we didn’t do fun stuff. As is tradition, a quick recounting of the past 10-ish days.

The girls’ final day of school, March 30, was an all-school day of service, a first-time attempt at St. P’s. There were some minor hiccups but, all-in-all, it was a good day. I was supposed to help out with C’s class, but they got rerouted and I ended up at the same place as both C and L, the Down Syndrome Society. They learned about Downs Syndrome and made Mother’s Day cards for women who are involved with their programs.

On the first day of spring break, the Mrs. worked a half-day and we decided to go check out the lake house for the first time since November. Since I was last down there to blow leaves away, we’ve had the land surveyed, our dock area dredged out, and two huge, dead trees removed. Most importantly, the day we went down a crew started tearing down our old boat house in preparation for building a new one. Our old one was perfectly fine in most ways, except for it was not built to safely hold a boat lift. So our boat has always been in the water during the three summers we’ve owned it. We have a clean lake, but it’s still good to get the hull and engine up and out of the water if you can. Last week they got most of the framing for the new house up, so we’re hopeful the weather holds and everything is knocked out by Memorial Day weekend.

Last week, we had at least one activity lined up each day.

On Monday the girls got to cook with their aunt, who is a chef. We also mixed in a trip to the library. They borrowed a huge stack of movies and I think they watched one or two of them.

On Tuesday we hit the zoo and a fancy bakery on the way home.

On Wednesday, we went with the cooking aunt to a cool Asian market to help her load up on supplies, then took the girls to a Vietnamese restaurant. They had bubble tea smoothies while I had some tasty Pho.

Thursday each girl had one friend over for a trip to the bowling alley and then a sleep over. It was funny to watch them all separate into their own groups. The sixth graders were far too cool to hang out with the fourth graders, who wanted their own space away from the second graders.

Friday, after returning their friends home, I took our girls to an indoor go-carting place. They had fun, although they were all a little light on the gas pedal. They were racing only against other kids, all of whom were boys who hauled ass. My girls got passed early and often. But they liked it and want to go back again sometime.

Saturday the weather finally turned warm. C had kickball practice, M and L had play dates, and we all went to dinner with friends from St. P’s.

And finally Sunday L had her first soccer game of the year. They lost 5–3. Since severe storms, cold weather, and spring break had wiped out their two scheduled practices, this was the first time they were playing together. And two kids were still on spring break. L struggled a little. She just didn’t seem to have a ton of energy, and was often bent over huffing and puffing. It being the first really warm day of the year may have had something to do with that. After the game, the coach called all the parents over to say he was proud of how the kids played for having zero experience as a team. And he said he really appreciated that his son and L gave it up for the team by playing in goal and sweeper respectively. “And those two HATE to play defense.” She’s played for this coach twice before and I’m glad he hasn’t forgotten homegirl needs to play up front!

Bedtime was not easy last night, at least for the older two, who were loaded with complaints and foot-dragging to get their shit done before lights out. Just seven more weeks of the school year left. And kickball season begins for both M and C Tuesday, so the next three weeks are going to rocket by.

Friday Photo

Old Tools – Fujifilm X-T2 with Fuji XF35 F2, 1/25 second at f/5.6, ISO 3200

Sometimes the old tools are the best. And sometimes you can’t resist the pull of the newest tools. This is one of the first pictures I took with my new camera, a Fuji X-T2. But more about that another time.

Friday Playlist

A different sort of playlist this week. On our lazy spring break, I roared through the Pearl Jam Twenty book that was released as a companion to the documentary of the same name a few years back. When I picked it up at the library, I expected it to be just a collection of photos and other memories of the band’s career, layered with little anecdotes from the band the the people around them.

While the book is loaded with visuals, it also has a much deeper written history of the band than I expected. I thought it would be a book I flipped through casually. Instead it became one that I read maniacally for hours at a time. Especially in the period from 1991-1998, it’s a fantastic read.

As I read, I dove back into the PJ catalog. My plan was to listen to all their albums, front-to-back. Sadly my reading out-paced the music, so I finished the book while still having to get through the 2000’s albums. That’s a project for the weekend.

Anyway…while listening to Vs., I was reminded at how great the last three songs on the album are. If you want to list the best three-song sequence of the band’s career, this trio has to be near the top. I go back-and-forth as to whether Vs. or Vitalogy is the band’s best album. This section is a solid argument for their second album over their third.