Month: January 2009 (Page 1 of 2)

Wrapping Up The Week

It was a busy week here. Let’s try to catch-up.

First, we had the sixth biggest snowstorm in Indianapolis history. They measured 12.5″ at the airport. I had 10.5″ at our front door, although I think we might have had another inch on top of that based on how things looked away from the house. Of course it hit during a week when S. was on the day shift, so there was no sleeping in and letting the snow fall. I got the driveway cleared out just in time for the plows to come do our street. They saw me and did a good job of keeping our drive entrance clear, and S. had no trouble getting out of the neighborhood or to work. I’m just glad the previously flat tire on the snowblower held air. Shoveling that much would not have been cool.

We had a snow day on Wednesday, then school was delayed today. On top of that, S. got called into work (for the first time ever) Wednesday night because of an illness. So the girls and I had some quality time together. We reached the point where they got to watch whatever they wanted on TV as long as they left the baby and I alone for awhile. I was able to get the big sisters out in the snow Wednesday afternoon. They loved it, although C. seemed to think that since there was so much, she needed to swim through it. She kept getting down on her stomach and crawling through it. Perhaps she’s part penguin?

While we were busy hunkering down under the snow, the Royals went out and did a good thing. They signed Zack Greinke for four years. Others have written more and better than I can about the contract, and there is a little debate about how good a deal it is for the Royals, but I think it’s a great move. Sure, there is a lot of risk in the deal, but I think both sides enter it with some risk. Given the recent history of the Royals, they have to accept a little extra risk in order to get deals like this done. Now, if Gordon and Butler can round into form, Crisp rediscover his Cleveland persona, and the top prospects in the minors continue to develop, this is a franchise that has every chance of competing in the division in two years. A couple of Dayton Moore’s moves this off-season have been curious, at best. But getting Greinke signed makes up for a lot.

Of course, since these are the Royals, something is sure to go wrong.

Super Bowl: Don’t like either team, don’t know who to pull for or against. I have a feeling things are going to get ugly, though. The Steelers might kill old man Warner, which would bring on the high comedy of seeing Matt Leinart on the field in the Super Bowl.

You may have noticed something missing from the blog this month: no Reader’s Notebooks. I’ve been struggling so far. Part of it is out of a desire to read more lengthy books this year. I only read one or two books than were longer than 300 pages last year. But I think I also needed a break after doing 54 books in 52 weeks last year. Anyway, I’ve read one book so far, but it took forever to get through. I’m working on a bigger one that requires more effort, and am just getting a few pages a night knocked out.

And with that, happy weekend.

Happiest Baby Ever

I’m going to throw caution to the wind and declare that L. is the happiest baby ever. This comes with some risk, since each time for the past 2.5 years I’ve praised C. for sleeping through the night, she would immediately go back to her old ways. But I’m confident L. can shake the curse of the blog.

L. just went through that hyperspace mode of development where, before Christmas, she was just starting to look around and gurgle a bit and now suddenly she’s laughing, chatting, and trying to get your attention. I forgot how fun it is when they get in this mode and sit there watching you, waiting for you to notice them.

Today I had her in her bouncy seat in the kitchen so I could collect the dirty dishes and attempt to straighten up a bit. Every time I walked by her and glanced her way, she had a big, stupid baby grin on her face, would bat her eyes at me, and giggle. Of course, then I played with her for a moment, which just reinforces that behavior. If only directing the behavior of your kids was always that easy! While her big sisters are increasing my blood pressure and taking away IQ points, it’s nice to have one kid who just wants you to look at her.

When she’s awake, it seems like she’s smiling about 75% of the time. She smiles when you give her a bath, change her clothes, get her a new diaper, or just hold her. It’s always a little funny when you have to do the quick clothes change at 2:00 a.m. and she goes from being asleep to wiggling around and flirting with you on the changing table as soon as you remove all her clothes.

We busted out the exersaucer last week, figuring it was time to slowly introduce her to it. For most of the last week, she’s been able to do five minutes or so in it before she tires out. She’d just sit there with wide eyes, trying to figure out if her new environment was safe or not. Over the past two days, though, she’s started to relax and gain some more strength, so she can now spend as long as 15 minutes it in. It’s funny to watch her tentatively put her hand on some of the toys and accidentally make something turn or chirp or squeak. Most of the time she just sits there, looking at me with a big grin on her face. It won’t be long before she can spend half an hour in it, giving us some freedom during the day.

Oh, and I at least continue to be a little freaked out by how much she resembles M. at the same age. I told S. last week we could skip the six month pictures that we have in our hallway and just reuse one of M.’s in L.’s reserved spot.

Our Long Wait Is Over

In case you missed it, and <a href=”http://popwatch.ew.com/popwatch/2009/01/miss-america-do.html”>chances are you did</a>, Indiana is now home to Miss America, ending our embarrassing 77-year drought. Now I no longer have to hang my head when I return to Kansas City and hear from friends who live both in Kansas and Missouri, “What kind of state can’t even claim a Miss America title?”

We’re off the shnide. Suck it, <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Miss_America_winners_by_state”>Iowa</a>.

And, more importantly, my daughters finally have a real role model to pattern their lives after.

How Geeky Is Too Geeky?

A long-winded attempt to steer you towards a cool television channel and speculate on whether weird hobbies could derail a budding relationship.

I spend a little time each day watching Current TV. If you’ve never seen Current, it is a citizen journalism outlet that lets pretty much anyone submit small videos, which they call pods, of 2-5 minutes about just about any issue. Some pods are about serious matters like the economy, the war on terror, or child labor while others focus on cultural or technology issues. Check your local listings to see if it’s available in your area.

Last week I came across a feature on Geek magazine. The reporter interviewed the magazine’s publisher, some employees, and some people who have been seen in the pages of the magazine. They also followed one of the editors out as she was doing research for a story about a maid cafe. Maid cafes are an Americanized version of Japanese bars where the waitresses dress up as their favorite anime characters.

The young lady the editor interviewed explained that she got connected with the maid cafe from her other hobby: dressing up as Disney princesses. If you watch the clip, you’ll see that they display a photo of the young lady dressed up as Belle from Beauty And The Beast.* While it is a bit shocking to see a 20-something woman dressed up like a cartoon princess, here’s the thing: she’s kind of hot.**

(* I know 800% more about Disney princesses now than I did a year ago. I had no idea who Belle was this time last year.)

The maid get-up didn’t do much for me, but the Belle dress did. What does that say about me?

”What did you think of that Dorothy girl?”
”The whole Judy Garland thing kind of turned me on. That doesn’t make me some kind of fag, does it?”
No, baby, you’re money.”

All this got me thinking. What if, back in my swinging single days of my 20s***, I had met a young lady at a party, a bar, or other social gathering. We talk, we get along, hit it off a little bit, and make arrangements to see each other again. Somewhere along the way, whether during date one or sixteen, she admits that on weekends she likes to dress up as a Disney character and go to parties. I wondered if I would be embarrassed to introduce her or talk about her to my friends.

(Please, friends who knew me in my 20s, keep your comments to yourself.)

“So, tell me about this new girl.”
“Well, she’s smart, she’s funny, she seems to like my jokes. She’s into art and going to interesting places. And she’s kind of hot.”
“Very cool, when do I get to meet her?”
“Well, here’s the thing….”

We’re talking about the early days of a relationship, here. Not someone you’ve fallen in love with and decided to accept, no matter how many warts, odd hobbies, or strange habits they might have.

Dressing up like a Disney princess would be a deal breaker, at least for me.**** I had a hard enough time finding women to date and then trying not to screw it up without having to deal with baggage like that. Of course, the fact that I wouldn’t be able to get over something like a Disney princess dress says a lot about why it took me so long to have a relationship that lasted more than two weeks.

But, come on, dressing like a Disney princess?!?!?

(I tried to think of a corresponding deal-breaking hobby that would be an automatic deal-breaker for women and couldn’t come up with one that seemed to match dressing like Cinderella. Ladies, what would it be? Playing Dungeons &amp; Dragons while dressed like your character, perhaps? Relating every aspect of modern life to The Lord of the Rings? Yelling at the TV during sporting events in the belief that you can affect the action on the court? Help me out here.)

Change Has Come

A post that is (mostly) not about what you might think it is about.

I’ve slowly, over the past three months, been making a very important change in my life, and finally completed that change yesterday. I have ditched my contacts and am wearing glasses exclusively for the first time in 23 years.

Why on earth would I do something like that? If you were at my wedding, you know that my transition to contacts back in 1986 was a big deal (Thanks for bringing that up, Mr. N!).

In a word: Lasik. I want to get my eyes fixed. During my eye exam a year ago, I asked my doctor whether he thought I was a match and what it would take to get prepared. While the Lasik people have final say about who is and is not a candidate, he told me that my combination of eye defects (I’m near sighted and strong astigmatism) can be corrected with surgery. The trick, he warned me, is getting my eyes back to a “normal” state before surgery. Because my prescription is very strong and thus hard on my eyes, it would take as long as four months wearing glasses exclusively to get my corneas to come back into shape before surgery.

So, when I prepared for my eye exam in October, I decided I’d take the plunge and just get glasses this time around. If I needed to spend four months in them, I might as well switch now and if I’m ready for surgery late this year or early next, I’ll be prepared. Plus, glasses are kind of cool these days.

I had my exam the week after L. was born, ordered some new glasses, and began wearing my old glasses more and my contacts less and less. On Halloween the new glasses came in, but the astigmatism correction was incorrect in one lens, so we sent them back. Another two weeks went by, during which I only wore my contacts when I had to work or drive at night, before the updated glasses came in. I wore them for a week, could barely see beyond arm’s length, and went back again.* Two more weeks passed, new glasses arrived, same story; I could read with them but that was about it. I went in just before Christmas for my third exam. My doc said my eyes were at a completely different prescription than what he had read in October. Rather than go through this cycle again, he sent me home for two weeks to see if my eyes had finally settled down. I went back after New Year’s, we got the same prescription as on my last visit, and ordered the lenses. They came in yesterday and finally worked.

(For the record, I only wore these glasses around the house.)

My doc isn’t sure if these issues bode ill for me having surgery. It could just be the normal correction taking place after putting the contacts away. But my prescription did swing around a bit, to use his term, and he’s a little concerned that I may have some areas of weakness in my corneas which would eliminate surgery as an option. I guess we’ll just have to see what the Lasik people say when I go in for an assessment.

Beyond getting the prescription right, it’s been a fairly easy transition. I had been wearing my glasses more over the past year because my eyes had become less tolerant of my contacts anyway. It is annoying to have to clean them off ten times a day, as the smallest streak of spec of dust drives me crazy. I’ve had to learn to get by without sunglasses, which on sunny days with snow-covered ground is very difficult. But I’ll probably get some prescription sunglasses for the summer.

The contacts are still around. I had to put them in last week when I was using the snowblower. With the windchill below zero, I had to wear a ski mask, which meant my glasses were fogging up and freezing over. I’ll keep them around for moments like that, trips to the pool, etc. But I expect the occasions I put them in to be few and far between. Besides, they are really uncomfortable now that I’m not used to them.

I never thought I would make this change. I hope that surgery is indeed an option, because I’d like to be able to see the alarm clock, not worry about breaking glasses or ripping a contact lens, etc. one day.

As for the other big event Tuesday, the Inauguration, I obviously loved it. But I always love these things, even if I don’t particularly care for the person taking the oath of office. The <a href=”http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/01/the_inauguration_of_president.html”>scenes</a> on Tuesday were amazing and reaffirming. There is that moment, when the new president is surrounded by all of his supporters, that gives you hope that things will be different for the next four years. That we’ll all get along and the petty political stuff will be pushed aside. That the rhetoric of the day’s speeches will be guideposts for people of all perspectives. Regardless of who is leaving and who is taking over the office, it’s always a fabulous day that reminds us of why our nation is so special. This year just happened to be a little more special, for many reasons.

And now comes the hard part.

The previous occupants left a lot of extraordinary messes that need to be cleaned up. And the fact is the events that define the Obama presidency are probably things we know nothing about today. Who knew about Osama eight years ago? Or the Internet in 1992? Or Saddam in 1988? And so on. I think we have the right guy in there, but he’s facing an unbelievable task simply to right the ship. The good news is this country is at its best when facing the worst of times. And President Obama seems uniquely qualified to lead in times like these. Let’s hope he can deliver.

Kids Can Be Useful

I need to give our four-year-old some credit. As maddening as her behavior has been much of the time since L. was born, she does have her moments of pleasantness. And, apparently, usefulness.

She may be potty-training C..

For a few weeks, any time M. was using the bathroom and, to put it delicately, required a few minutes to complete her work, she would call C. to come in and watch. After she made her “deposit,” she would show C., who would be fascinated by what she saw. This evolved into a new game. Each time M. needs to clear the bowels, she goes in, gets started, then starts yelling, “C.! Come here! I’m going poopy! Come watch!” C. would dutifully go running in and sit on the training potty on the floor and hang out while big sister was doing her work. Some times they would spend ten minutes in there, singing, telling stories, and laughing until M. was ready for an assist in finishing up.* We figured this couldn’t hurt anything, so were happy to let it continue.

(M.’s motives may not have been completely altruistic. Yesterday we heard her say to C. before she went into the bathroom, “Hey C.. Come in the bathroom with me and tell me some jokes.” I’d like to hear some of these jokes.)

C. has been sitting on the potty before bed each night for a couple weeks. She always says she has peed when she’s done, but the actual success rate is around 25%. Hey, at least she’s trying.

Then, one night last week, not only did she pee, but she pooped too. She was very proud of herself, got to wear big girl panties for awhile, and then wore pull-ups a couple times until she decided diapers are ok for the time being. We gave M. lots of credit for showing middle sister how things are done in the potty, and she was quite proud of herself as well.

Now, to complete the mission and get C. to use the toilet all the time so we can stop buying two sizes of diapers.

Terrific Drama

In which a game goes down to the wire.

My high school basketball reporting experience this year has been decidedly one-sided. Other than two games that featured two local teams, and thus had me covering both the winners and losers, just about every game I’ve done this year has been a comfortable win. More often than not, the team I’m writing about has been on the wrong side of the blow-out.

Tuesday night looked like yet another game where I would struggle to put together 400 words about a team that was never in the game. As the third quarter wound down, the W’s, as I’ll call my team, trailed the D’s by 15 points. The W’s were shooting a cool 19% for the game, were under 50% from the line, and couldn’t get a rebound to save their lives. The only thing they could do right was pressure defense. The W’s were forcing turnovers left and right, but couldn’t convert. On the rare possession they did score, they’d let the D’s come right back and score immediately.

Things looked bleak when one of the W’s took a deep three pointer that came up about five feet short. I could sense that the fourth quarter was going to be mind numbing as the airballs piled up and I struggled to track all the missed shots while thinking about what my lede should be.

Then, the W’s started hitting shots.

A three.

Then a two.

Then another three.

The deficit was 12. Then ten. Then seven. Suddenly the game seemed within reach. They kept forcing turnovers, but finally they were running offense and getting clean looks. Another three cut it to four. Traded baskets and free throws had it at three with under a minute to play.

I was seated right behind the W’s bench. With about 30 seconds left, one of their guards came off a screen right in front of me, got the ball, and unleashed a high arcing shot. It looked about as pure as could be from my view. It dropped through the net; tie game! And then, “TWEET!” I looked down to see the shooter on the ground with a defender on top of her. And one! A free throw to take the lead after being down by 15! Finally, something juicy to write about!

Alas, she missed the free throw. Then, for some strange reason, the W’s point guard decided to foul 60 feet from the basket. In a tie game. With under 30 seconds left. When she had four fouls. Oy! Or WTF, depending on your point of view.

The D’s hit both shots to go up two.

The W’s came back, got the ball to the girl who had just tied the game. She looked down the lane, saw a clear path, and headed towards the hoop. A defender closed and she went up, twisting and flipped a difficult lay-up from five feet.

It rimmed out.

The W’s couldn’t corral the rebound, were forced to foul again, and ended up losing by four.

Sigh.

I made my way back to the locker room and could hear their coach screaming at them. In 15 minutes I went from dreading writing about the game, to being very excited about it, to now dreading talking to the coach after her team blew the game.

When she emerged she looked to be in no mood to talk, so I let her go sit with her assistants and cool off. When I finally talked to her, she had calmed down but still was not pleased with her team.

But the story came together ok, I guess. I built the story around the comeback and the coach’s laments about missing the opportunities to win the game. And I got to watch a hell of a fourth quarter for a change.

Casey’s Coast to Coast

In which I listen to the music of my youth.

Those of you that follow my Facebook status may have caught that I spent Sunday morning listening to a 25 year old American Top 40 rebroadcast. Our local retro hits station began reairing AT40s from the 80s last fall and, life with a newborn and two preschoolers being what it is, this was my first chance to sit down and actually listen to one of the shows. Forget about forcing the girls to do something other than stare at the Disney Channel on a cold Sunday morning, I was excited to chill out, feed L. a bottle, and listen to my boy Casey Kasim for awhile.

This week’s countdown was from the corresponding week in 1984. I caught tracks 20-1, and since the countdown usually lagged a bit behind actual airplay, that meant I was hearing music that I had been listening to in December 1983. Big month, December 1983. That’s the Christmas I got both an Atari 2600 and a sweet boombox. I spent most of that Christmas vacation sitting in front of my TV, working through my pile of new games (I’m pretty sure most of my time was spent playing Pitfall, Q*Bert, and Pole Position) while listening to my tape collection and the latest hits on Q-104 and ZZ99.

As Casey counted down through Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom,” Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield,” Lionel Richie’s double shot of “All Night Long,” and “Running With The Night” at #11 and #10, Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues,” H20’s “Say It Isn’t So,” and Yes’ “Owner Of A Broken Heart,” it was hard not to think of the hours spent playing games while avoiding the bitter cold of that holiday season. I think the only time I left that house that week was to play in a basketball tournament.* Even then, the second I hit the house, I was back in the beanbag, popping in Pitfall, trying to get a high enough score to Polaroid the screen and send it in for the patch or certificate or whatever you got for getting 100,000 points.**

(You think the NFL’s overtime rules are dumb? In the championship game of the tournament, we went to overtime. Still tied after two added minutes, we went to a second overtime, which was sudden freaking death. Sudden death in basketball! I may or may not have missed a shot that would have won the game, the memory is fuzzy, but the other team scored first and we lost. We didn’t lose again until the championship game of our league, in which I played with a broken right hand and couldn’t shoot, pass, dribble.*** So we went 20-2 or something like that, losing only in a tournament title game and our championship game. I was prepared for what KU did in the late 90s, I guess.)

(Pitfall II was a much better game than the original.)

(Some would say I could do none of those basketball skills with a healthy right hand, either.)

The number one song? For the sixth straight week, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson with “Say Say Say.” Two things about that song. First, Paul got over on Michael there. It was on his Pipes Of Peace album, while Michael got “The Girl Is Mine” for Thriller. Say-cubed is a exponentially better song. Second, was that the last time McCartney was culturally significant for his most recent work, rather than as a relic of the greatest band ever? Sure, he did the theme for “Spies Like Us,” but it’s not like that was a mega hit like Say3. That’s what he gets for hanging with a pedophile, I guess.

Also in the top 10 was Olivia Newton-John’s “Twist Of Fate.” I had totally forgotten about it, although I recognized it when I heard it. Turns out it was the theme from the desperately-cast Two Of A Kind, which brought together O N-J and John Travolta in a lame attempt to recapture the magic of Grease. It got horrible reviews bombed at the box office. “Twist Of Fate” ended up being Olivia’s final top 10 hit after having 13 previous ones. So the same top 10 saw the final hits of two giants of the 70s and early 80s. Wacky wild stuff.

If you think you might hear more about some old AT40s if I listen to them, you are correct.

Top Five Funny Thing

I’ve never had a problem changing diapers. It’s part of being a parent, and when I decided to be a stay-at-home parent, I signed myself up for a lot more diapers than the average dad. No worries. My one technique to make the process a little more tolerable, though, has been to pull my shirt up over my nose when changing dirty diapers. It’s not that I can’t handle the smell. It’s just, why not make it a little more tolerable if you can?

So the other night C. brought one of her dolls up to us. She said it had a dirty diaper and she was going to change it. She went and got a new diaper, a wipe, and began taking the doll’s clothes off while she described everything she was doing to us. As she took the diaper off the baby, she paused and pulled her shirt up over her nose, then got back to work. S. and I about lost it. We decided that was one of the five funniest things she’s ever done. I wonder if she tells her preschool teachers to cover their noses when they’re changing her. Clearly she pays attention to what the old man is doing.

Moving Ahead

A few quick updates on little L.

She’s actually not so little anymore. All of a sudden she’s looking big to us. Part of it is because, well, she is getting big like a healthy baby should. But I think some of it is because she’s moved into that second phase of infantdom where she actually keeps her eyes open and interacts a bit. When the personality begins to present itself, they just suddenly seem a lot bigger.

As should happen with a girl who is growing, she’s been sleeping better at night. We’ve been getting one six hour stretch from her more nights than not. Often that stretch is from 9:00 PM to 3:00 AM, of course, so we miss out on some of the benefits. But it is progress. A downside to that is she often wants to play at 3:00 AM, or whenever you go to feed her. Some nights I’ll find myself drifting off only to hear her grunting and whooing at me so we can continue our conversation. She’s also taken a few long naps in her crib during the day.

She has become quite the conversationalist since Christmas. When she locks in on your eyes, she grins and waits for you to kick things off. Once you start talking to her, though, she’s not afraid to jump in and share her own thoughts. And if you look away for a moment, say to scold one of her big sisters for tormenting the other big sister, she’ll protest and insist that you focus on her.

It turns out she’s very ticklish. Barely tickle her belly and she scrunches up, rolls her head around, and grunts. She loves to have her chin tickled as well.

Like her sisters before her, she has excellent head control. She’s reached the point where you can just carry her around with one arm around her body and she’ll do the rest. Of course, you do have to be careful because every so often she either gets tired or loses her balance and suddenly her upper body is tilted 45 degrees away from you, her head lolling way back. But I like how she just chills against me like a baby Koala, secure that I have her and taking in all the sights. Again, there is a downside. With head control comes the ability to whip it around unexpectedly. S. and I have both been conked in the nose, cheeks, and mouth when we get too close and she throws that thing the opposite direction before we can move.

Her final development (at least that I can think of now), is her allowing us to put her down for longer stretches. All our babies have been lucky to have at least one and often two parents around all of the time, so they’ve all been lap babies. And each of them have preferred to be on us at all times, rather than in their cribs, in the bouncy seat, and so on. One day last week I think I had an hour-long stretch where I rotated her from watching her mobile in her crib, to her bouncy seat, to her play mat, to her swing. In about a month, we’ll bust out the exersaucer and really start having some fun.

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