Month: May 2007 (Page 1 of 2)

Occupational Hazard

The potty training had been going really well this week.  Then, today, poop on the floor.  Not a top five moment in my parenting life.

Family News

No, not that kind of family news. A couple big events over the last two weeks in my extended family. First, one of S.’s sisters got engaged. So far, we’re the only married folks in the family, so it will be cool to have another guy around on holidays and whatnot. He’s a really good guy and we get along great whenever we’ve been together, and the sister-in-law seems happy, so that’s all good. Of particular interest to my Denver readers, this means we’ll finally be visiting, since the wedding will be out there. Potentially as early as the end of the year.

The other big news was that my step-dad sold his house and moved. I had been lobbying for that ever since my mom died nine years ago, but at first it was understandably difficult for him to make the move. There were a couple times when he came close to putting it on the market, but he could never take the full plunge. In the interim years, he added a couple more sets of bad memories on top of all the memories of my mom, and it really became a health issue, I think, to get him out of there. Thankfully, he finally came around, put it on the market last summer, and waited out the market until he got an offer in March. They closed May 1, all the money came through, and the house now belongs to someone else and he’s happily holed up in an apartment in the Northland.

It’s crazy to think that he lived there almost 20 years. We moved in the week of Thanksgiving, 1987, during my junior year of high school. So I really only lived there a little less than two years before I headed off to college. I spent parts of the next five summers there, along with holidays, a week in 1997 when I was moving back from Lawrence, and then a little over a year there after my mom died. I guess that’s why it doesn’t seem like 20 years, since I really didn’t spend a great deal of time there. For being a home my parents had for so long, it didn’t feel like the house I grew up in, or anything like that.

I remember my first night in the house. We had driven back from California over the course of a week, with a long weekend at my grandparents’ in western Kansas along the way. We got into KC Sunday afternoon (the day of the infamous Chiefs game when there were something like 8000 people in Arrowhead, the true nadir of the franchise) and went straight to our new, empty house. My parents were staying with friends that night, but the cat and I, along with a small TV we had brought along, camped out in my new bedroom. At first, it was kind of cool, running through this big empty house and discovering all its spaces, making calls to old friends to let them I know I was back in town again. But right around bedtime, it became kind of spooky. I remember closing my door, locking it, and putting my sleeping bag part-way into a closet, just to be safe.

The last time I was there was last July, when my step-dad had his bypass surgery. That was the same week he put it onto the market, so I knew it might be my last time there. As the week wore on, the emotional strain of what he was going through wore me down, and on Sunday, after spending the previous two nights with friends, I just wanted to get all my stuff out of there and get back to Indy. Had I had a proper final moment in the house, I don’t know what I would have done. I’m obviously a big memory guy, and the exchange of property won’t do anything to dilute all the memories I have of that house. But it is a little strange to not have that as a destination anymore: on our next trip to KC this summer, we’ll be staying in a hotel rather than with family. Maybe if I somehow get famous, ten or 20 years from now I’ll be able to knock on the door and say, “I used to live here. Would you mind me looking around for a minute or two?”

A Day At The Races

It was a, how shall I put this, fast paced Saturday for us. First, I ran my second 5K of the year in the morning. The last race I ran was longer than 3.1 miles, and this one might have been shorter because I came in at less than 27 minutes, and I wasn’t running hard enough to clock that good of a time. Oh, and I’ve been running like once a week, so it’s not like I’m on some great training regimen that cut my time down. It was a fundraiser for a local middle school, so I think there were more kids running than adults, which ended up being mildly annoying. I had at least three kids stop right in front of me and turn around to see where their friends were. One girl did it four times, and if she hadn’t been like 4’4”, I thought about plowing her over to teach her a lesson the fourth time.

Then, in the big excitement of the day, I finally made it to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. S.’s hospital had an event that they gave us tickets to, so we got a sitter and headed out to the track. I’ve been by the Speedway once or twice, but never actually in it. When we drove under the track and into the infield, I was amazed at how big the facility is. From watching the race, you know it’s about a mile from one end to the other, but when you’re actually in the middle of it and can sense the space, it’s pretty amazing. We got to the track just as it was opening for practice and qualifying, so right away we could hear a car zooming around us, taking 40-odd seconds to travel the same distance it took me about 20 minutes to run earlier in the morning.

When we got over to the pit area, this year’s Flavor of the Month, <a href=”http://www.sports-wired.com/women/Milka_Dunno.html”>Milka Dunno</a>, had just emerged to talk to the press after her qualifying run. She was all smiles and waved to everyone. We were probably 30 feet away from her, but behind two rails that kept the riff-raff out, and about 30 media people who were crowded around her. I got a couple poor pictures of her. A sister-in-law had gone to Friday’s practice session and said Milka was hugging people and taking pictures. I was really hoping for a hug.

We repaired to the suite were the hospital crew was set up, ate some lunch, and kept an eye on the TV to see when full practice, and a track full of cars, would start. Our suite was at track level, and behind pit row, so we couldn’t actually see any action from where we were. When 11 cars hit the track, we raced out (get it, raced out?!?!?) and grabbed some seats to watch. I’m no fan of auto racing, but I have to say it was very impressive both seeing and hearing the cars shoot by at 220 miles per hour. We were sitting just past the start-finish line, and from the time the cars got about one-third of the way down the front stretch, you couldn’t hear the person next to you. I can’t imagine how loud it is when NASCAR racing is going on. I tried to take some pics, but the cars are just too fast to capture with a basic Canon digital camera. Luckily, I got a few vids, low resolution which look pretty crappy when funneled through YouTube. But here’s one.

We watched for about 20 minutes, went back to the suite, then used our garage passes to wander around all the team garages. We timed it wrong, and hardly saw any cars out of the garages or drivers wandering around. There was a constant crowd around Danica Patrick’s garage, but no signs of her. I once heard a woman ask one of the crew members who was hanging around, in a whiny tone, “Is she in there?” And there was Danica gear everywhere. It’s pretty impressive how popular she’s become without ever winning a single IRL race. All day I kept thinking of last week’s The Office and wanting to put Kevin to work on a Danica vs. Milka list. Now there’s a productive use of time!

We headed back to our seats one more time to watch Al Unser Jr. wrap-up his qualifying run. The old timers are very popular, and he got a huge ovation when he qualified. On our way out we went down to track level, just behind pit row to watch from there. With all the people who have pit access, and the flat sight lines, you literally only see the cars for an instant as the shoot by.

It should go without saying that there was excellent people watching. Lots of silicone-filled racing groupies. Lots of women who were dressed like groupies but really should not have exposed any skin. Lots of folks who, well, just come from a different world than a suburban boy like me. Not saying they’re bad people, just very, very different. And everyone was very nice, regardless of how they looked or where they came from.

It was very cool, I will admit. However, I can’t imagine watching that for three hours. You can only see a portion of the track from your seats. I’m sure if you do it enough, you develop a system for figuring out what’s going on, but if something important happens on the half of the track you can’t see (and that’s if you have good seats), you have to rely on the TV screens to figure it out. It’s like only being able to see half the field in a football game. “What? There was a fumble?” Just a strange sensation. And on race day, with 33 cars spread out over the length of the track, I don’t think you could talk to anyone for the entire race, which would be maddening. I would like to go to a NASCAR practice, I’ve always said that, just to experience the sounds of that kind of racing. And I will happily accept if the hospital does this again next year. But I don’t see me sitting at the Speedway for an entire race. But another notch in my famous places in Indiana visited list.

The Birthday Girl

Well, somehow C. turned one today. Was it really a year ago that we dropped M. off at her grandparents’ house and took S. in for a c-section? In some ways it seems like a lot longer than that. In others, the time has really raced by.

The last two or three weeks have been pretty amazing. Not that she was developmentally delayed in any way, but she has suddenly blossomed. The walking, which she now does constantly. She’s progressed from little sounds to constant babbling, with her seven or eight word vocabulary sprinkled in liberally. She’s become a lot more boisterous, and really aggressive towards M. (Who, coincidentally, has turned into a big fraidy cat. I’ve said it before, but C. is going to kick some serious big sister ass as soon as she figures out how). Lots of little things all at once. It’s as if she realized her first birthday was coming up and she decided to master a number of new abilities to celebrate. She makes us laugh a lot, which is fun.

Her birthday celebration was pretty much the usual around here. Grandparents and one aunt over for pizza and then cupcakes. A couple presents. Some balloons. C. made the obligatory mess, which is kind of what first birthdays are all about. She was acting kind of fussy until we slammed a cupcake in front of her, then her mood improved dramatically. She was wound up until bedtime.

The Lure Of The Fancy One

Last week I bought a new cell phone. Not a huge deal, since something like 180 billion cell phones are sold each day. My old phone was actually in fine shape, for the most part. But after almost three years, it took as long as 30 seconds before an out-going call would connect with the network. I spent a ton of time last week scrolling through Verizon’s site, looking at the phones that are available, the discounts I qualify for, and then reading reviews of the phones on about a dozen different sites. Oddly enough, it is hard arriving at consensus on a phone. The phones editors like, users tend to hate, and vice versa.

I kept getting lured in by the fancy phones that, after discounting, checked-in somewhere in the $50-75 range. All those sweet Motorola phones, especially. I’d look at the features list and realize I didn’t need about 2/3 of what those phones offer: I don’t text, don’t surf on a phone, and I’ve got an iPod therefore am fundamentally opposed to music on my phone. But they look so damn sexy! If I whipped one of those bad boys out at a meeting, I’d surely get all kinds of respect, right? (Forgetting the fact I have no meetings to go to in the near future.)

In the end, I picked an $80 Nokia phone that was discounted all the way down to $0 plus a car charger for only $10, $20 off the regular price. First off, it got great reviews on every site. Second, I’m a big fan of the small flip-phones. I tend to park my phone in my pocket and those models work best for that. I had images of a nice, shiny Motorola getting all scratched up in about a week of use. Plus, I like the ability to spin flip-phones on the table. It actually came down to finding a phone that had good sound quality, since I will probably be doing some work on it, that also allowed me to keep using the earpiece I have. All those higher end phones that rock Bluetooth (seriously, I love technology and all, but Bluetooth earpieces are the worst thing ever) lack a jack for my old-school .25mm mini plug earpiece.

All my work paid off when I made my first call on the new phone. The line was ringing before I could even get the phone to my ear. A far cry from the old phone. It might not be sexy, but it works.

Stepping Up

We’re in the midst of having quite a bit of work done around the house. It should all be wrapped up by the end of the week, and then I’ll share what we’ve done and post some pics to Flickr so you can see. So we’re pretty busy and I haven’t had a chance to wrap up a few posts I’ve started. But I did want to share some news on the girls.

C. is now officially walking. Her first steps came three weeks ago, and she’s been teasing us ever since. But this weekend was the first time she really started to do it on her own and quite a bit, rather than only after much coaxing from the parents. She’s hilarious because she gets very excited and either claps for herself, or throws her hands up in the air and literally waves them like she just doesn’t care. She makes me laugh because she takes off, and after three or four steps, both hands are waving around above her head and she’s shrieking.

It has been fascinating to follow her different pace of development. M. walked one day before her 13 month birthday and never looked back. She was a pro on her second day. C. started at 11 months, and has been slowly building up to where she is now, which still isn’t as good as M. was on day two. Soon enough C. will have it mastered, though, and then M. is really going to have to watch out. I think C.’s progress has come out of her intense desire to chase her sister.

The other big developmental news of the day was M. dropping her first deuce in the training potty. She’s been indifferent to potty training, and while we’ve been diligent about making her try, we haven’t pushed it too hard. We have until September, when she starts preschool, and we figure it will happen when it happens. She’s been getting more interested in it though, and now likes to wear the Curious George underwear she picked out. She’ll pee in it maybe once a day, but has been reluctant to do any heavier lifting, if you will. After her nap today, I saw her getting that look on her face and noticed she was sneaking towards the sunroom, a favorite hiding spot. I ran and got the potty, put her on it, and must have just made it in time, because about 30 seconds later I heard her cheering for herself while she looked beneath her into the potty. “You did it M.! I’m so proud of me!” That’s what she said. So I made a big deal out of it, and she was very excited and proud and happy. She got M&#038;Ms and Curious George and was pleased. Now to make it a regular event without prodding from the parents and ditch the diapers for good…

Reader’s Notebook

9 – Not On Our Watch – Don Cheadle and John Prendergast. A book, and I know this will surprise you, about Darfur and activism, written by two of the most notable and active members of the movement. Don Cheadle you should all know. Actor in Boogie Nights, the Oceans movies, and Hotel Rwanda. Prendergast has worked in the White House, Congress, and UN with a focus on African issues and now works with several NGOs that are attempting to end the genocide in Darfur as well as near genocides in Somalia, Uganda, and Congo. They’ve been working together for several years to bring attention to the situation in Darfur. In fact, it was Cheadle who connected his pal George Clooney, who has got far more publicity for his actions for the cause, with the issue.

The book is combination overview of the what’s going on in Darfur, a discussion of what’s being done to change matters, and how Cheadle and Prendergast got involved and what they’ve done. We learn a lot about how Cheadle got connected with the cause, largely because of his role in Hotel Rwanda, and how he transitioned from an interested but slightly reluctant activist into a leader. It’s also a call for people to get involved and provides a blueprint for how people can take action and what governments should do to make a difference.

I’ll highly recommend it, and leave it as the only book in this entry, as part of my effort to spread the word. Part of the proceeds go to the Enough campaign, which is linked over on the right side of this page. The lesson, as I’ve said before, is that regular people can get involved and make a difference. Regular people create political pressure, which results in politicians who otherwise talk a good game actually taking action.

 

More On The Brainwashing Of My Kids

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been working hard to get the music of the Beatles deeply ingrained in my daughters’ heads. I figure if they get a solid base of Beatles, even with whatever regrettable music they listen to in their teen years (Hey, I’m just as guilty as the next person), they’ll eventually gravitate towards good music and be better people because of it.

We now have a new lunchtime routine, at least on the days when S. is working or otherwise out of the house. The kids get put into their respective chairs, I hand them their milk, and then I crank up either Revolver or the Blue Album on the stereo. C. just moves her shoulders up-and-down since she’s all latched in. She’s quite the dancer when she’s upright, though, so I know she’d really be shaking her booty if she was out of her chair. M. has a different reaction, though. For any song that doesn’t appear on her Beatles for Kids CD, she asks, “Hey Dad, what’s this liberry yousic?” That’s how she says music most of the time, yousic. When I tell her it’s the Beatles, she smiles and laughs and nods her head while she eats. But, when a song that is also on her CD comes on, her eyebrows raise, her eyes shine, and a smile of recognition slowly forms on her face as she identifies the song. “Hey Dad, is this the Love song?” she asks for “All You Need is Love”. Then she sings along, at least through the first verse and chorus.

Good stuff, seems like my plan is working.

One of the songs she loves most on her CD is “All Together Now.” We have no idea why, but she calls the song “Bowl of Guinness.” I like Guinness, but I haven’t had any in the house for a long time, so I have no idea where she gets that. As soon as the song comes on, she asks, “Hey Dad. Is this One, two, three, four, bowl of guinness, all together now?” “Yes, M., it is.” She laughs and starts clapping along with it. When we listen in the car (and that CD has become our only car music for now), as the song builds in the final chorus, I like to snap my fingers along with the tempo. She screams and kicks her legs and moves her head side-to-side as fast as she can. Occasionally, she’ll walk up to something in the house and say, “Dad, can I do bowl of guinness on this?” and act like she wants to play the drums on a table, couch, whatever. I say sure and she drums with her hands while I sing, she switching from slow to fast tempos. I don’t know if I’ve described that well, but trust me, it makes her happy and is a ton of fun.

You Talking To Me?

Even though it’s been nearly three years, when I hear M. yell out to me, “Daddy!” it still sounds a little strange.  Me, a dad?  But it also sounds magical, magnificent, amazing, etc. etc. etc.

Getting More Official Every Day

I am now in possession of business cards that identify me as a writer and editor. Yikes, that sounds a little strange. More about the process of actually getting the cards in a second. I realized when they were delivered Sunday (Sunday delivery, very nice!) that this was kind of a big deal. I had business cards back when I worked the The Big C Corp. However, those were a bit of a let down. When I first started there, our department did not have an admin, so it was like six months before I realized I was supposed to get them automatically. When I received them it wasn’t that big of a deal because I was no longer a fresh-faced, new-hire. Just to spite the company, I ordered a new box every year even though I did nothing with them. Tree killer! When I switched jobs into a client-facing role, I got some of the super-sexy cards the company was throwing around at the time. I always felt a little embarrassed handing them out, as I thought they were a bit busy, but they fit the image of the company: flashy, cutting-edge, and over-priced. But these new cards, they’re all mine, and rather than just being a traditional item to hand to a client these are going to be tools to help me generate work. In theory.

As for the process, it was interesting. I’d been looking at some on-line sites for several weeks. There is a company called Vista Print that has all kinds of crazy deals for either free or cheap cards. I spent hours looking through it and other similar sites, but everything seemed too generic or cheap. Finally, I randomly found a very sweet site with all kinds of amazing cards. We probably spent two hours on this site on night last week. I picked out a couple I liked, saved them, and then tried to figure out how to contact these people. There is no phone number or address listed on the site. An e-mail I fired off for info wasn’t answered for 48 hours. That seemed a little sketchy, and I grew reluctant to send them my credit card info. Oh, and they were pricey as hell, too, unless you bought insane quantities like 1000. So, with some help from a friend (who is free to identify herself), I got connected with a friend of hers who does printing out of her home. We worked on about eight designs until we got one I liked. I ordered them Friday, she printed them right away, and dropped them off at the house Sunday morning while she was running errands. Pretty cool.

So, other than just a long-winded explanation of how I now have business cards, this is also a friendly reminder to all of you that I’m now in business. If you know people who need stuff written for their businesses, I could be their guy. Or people with websites who need content. Or any other writing/editing gigs out there, don’t be afraid to let me know about them. I haven’t got the whole rate thing figured out yet, so I’ll use the standard disclaimer that my prices are “competitive.”

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