Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher In Flight (5 of 5), originally uploaded by mcaliens

Ashley is jonesing for a change of pace. She is getting bored with the toys we set in front of her, and she is so over the ExerSaucer. I think she is learning what it means to be detained, and she is losing her patience with it. Strapped into the high chair, no; on the floor pulling it around by the legs, yes.

She is on the verge of crawling and you can tell just by watching her, she's ready, she wants so badly to spread her wings and fly. That's very exciting and a little bit sad at the same time.


upos, originally uploaded by Farl

Today is Ash Wednesday in the Christian tradition. It's the first day of Lent, a forty-day period of fasting and prayer, leading up to Easter. I have decided to observe Lent this year for the first time.

Traditionally, the fasting during Lent has been practiced in many different ways. Modern folks seem to either abstain from meat or give up a "vice" like sweets or wine. I already don't eat meat, so I will attempt to eat vegan and abstain from alcohol for the next five and a half weeks.

The way I see it, restricting your diet can have many of the same benefits as uncluttering your home. You become more thankful for what you have, and you learn what is truly essential and what is not. That's how I became a vegetarian in the first place. I didn't eat meat for a while, and I learned that I could survive without it. I don't plan on sticking with this diet after Lent ends--maybe not even for that long--but it should be an interesting experiment.

UPDATE: I'm twitting meals on the right sidebar. No photos, because I don't want to be that guy. This way you can follow if you're interested, or else ignore it.

Vasectomy? Vasect-a-you!

I chivalrously volunteered to have the boys snipped when we decide to stop having children. But that was before reading this terrifying tale of testicular trauma. Extremely painful-looking photograph behind that link, btw.

Suddenly condoms don't seem like such a bad idea!


OK, I haven't posted in a bit because I do my pictures from Flickr and it's not talking with Blogger right now. But I don't have time to wait for those two to kiss and make up, my baby is quickly turning into a little person, and I have a lot to report. She is eight months old and I just turned 28.

First of all, and most recently, Ashley learned to wave. This is incredible to me. She watches us doing something with our hands and she can repeat it.

She's also playing games, like peek-a-boo, holding a sheet over her face and pulling it down quickly. Another favorite is throw-the-toy-on-the-floor. I pick it up, she hurls it down again, we can do that for hours. Not only is she capable of this, but she enjoys doing it, and that's the best part of all.

Eating from a spoon is old news. We have moved on to exciting different puree flavors and even tiny dissolvable snacks. The new hotness is sweet potato puffs. She can feed herself these, though mostly they go to the dog.

She's also scooting all over the place and getting ready to stand or walk. She can crawl backwards great, scuttle sideways, and spin like a record. Lots of push-ups. We finally realized it was time to baby-proof the house, soon she will be everywhere.

Giving her baths is still like sitting in the Splash Zone. Lately there's less splashing with her legs and more playing with toys. She fills up the plastic tub that seemed almost too big when we first brought her home. Now she can pull herself right out of it!

La Machina

robot in the kitchen (day 6), originally uploaded by aboemonster

I am so proud of my wife. She's a stay-at-home mom who works a full-time job. Yet she somehow makes time to prepare fresh baby food, sew cloth diapers, and be a good wife, to boot!

How does she do it? During weekends I can take care of the baby, put her down for naps, and give her a bath... but that's like my entire day. I hardly have energy to feed myself, let alone do any creative projects or housework. She does this every day.

So, I just want to say thanks, honey. You're amazing. I love you and you are appreciated.


ekoin, originally uploaded by dazzzmien

While living in Japan, I visited the big touristy temples along with everyone else. They were pretty and I took photos and bought little trinkets and charms. But the city was crowded, loud, and claustrophobic to a country boy like me, and sometimes I needed an escape. For as much as I enjoyed the excitement of modern Japan, I was most happy in its ancient, secret places.

What I truly loved were the small, quiet temples and gardens. Unfamous buildings tucked into the woods. Mysterious stone statues. Abandoned shrines were the best. They were pockets of calm tucked into forgotten corners of a busy island.

When I returned to America, I took some of that silence back with me. I don't visit Zen temples much, but I can find serenity in the routines of daily life. Driving to work with the radio off, early morning shaves when nobody else is awake, meditation, nap time. Now more than ever, I cherish the quiet moments in my life.

Rock-afire Explosion

If you're old like me, then you might remember the heyday of pizza party arcades like Chuck E. Cheese and Showbiz Pizza. Perhaps you even witnessed a live performance of the animatronic animal band from Showbiz, the Rock-afire Explosion. The restaurants went out of business long ago but a small community is programming the robots to perform modern songs, with awesome results.

This isn't just new music being played over random movements. The entire band is fully choreographed, with lip syncing, playing of instruments, and everything. Really takes me back to birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese, back when they had a real arcade, and not just rows of Skee-ball machines and photo booths.

If you enjoyed their rendition of Electric Feel, above, there are several more up on YouTube. I especially recommend you check out the Rock-a-Fire Explosion take on Fergy and The Arcade Fire.

Wake Skills

how she sleeps, originally uploaded by erban

What up, peeps! This is Ashley, come to set things straight around here. I heard my dad was spreading lies and misinformation around about how easy it is to make me nap. Well here's the real poop. All you other babies pay attention, you might learn something; here's how to stay awake despite dad's best efforts:
  1. Thrash. It's not pretty, but it works. Kick, punch, chop, block! If he's foolish enough to put his face within striking distance, rip his glasses off. Show him you mean business right off the bat, with some good old physical resistance.
  2. Tense. If you're getting a bit tired for full-out flailing, or if your dad pins your arms down, it's time for some full-body motion. Arch your back and twist your head around as far as you can. If he's concentrating on just holding you up, he can't focus on putting you to sleep.
  3. Scream. Dad will try to calm you down with soothing noises in a quiet room. Noise is the enemy of sleep! Make as much as possible.
  4. Mumble. Once you're really relaxed, you won't have much energy for screaming or violence. Make some sound anyway.  Shrieking is far better, but grumbling is better than nothing. Be careful though, or you might accidentally mumble yourself to sleep!
  5. Last gasp. OK, here's my secret technique. When I'm just about to drift off, I summon all my energy for one last freakout. Dad thinks I'm more awake than I really am, and sometimes that's enough to make him give up. Except the last few times I tried this, he just kept shushing and bobbling me, and I fell asleep anyway. Crap! I think he's on to me.


The Outdoor Office, originally uploaded by Birdfreak.com

We are off to a good start on our 2009 Things challenge. At the end of the first month, we have already thrown out or donated over 500 things and when I say "we," I mean mostly "my wife." She cleared out her collection of Christmas decorations, lots of old art supplies, and a ton of other detritus.

Sure there's a focus on having less stuff, but really the point is to have more. More space, more time, more happiness. Uncluttering fosters simplicity and a heightened sense of gratitude for the possessions we do keep.

Simplifying can be fun too! Often the simple solution is a better one. We sold our G5 desktop computer (comprised of monitor, box, speakers, subwoofer, mouse, keyboard, and tons of cables and wires) to make room for a nice MacBook Pro (1 thing... or 2 if you count the power cord).

Nap Skills

Mom helps Ashley get to sleep at night, but I take over naptime duty when I'm around during the day. Our baby is devious and very resourceful when it comes to methods for keeping herself awake. In the months I've known her, I have developed some powerful counter-measures for sending her off to dreamland. Here are a few of the best.
  1. The bobble and sway. This is my fundamental technique. I stand, cradling her, and gently bobble her head while rocking from side to side. This has worked ever since she was born.
  2. The lullaby. Ashley loves to hear her parents singing. A soothing song can bring her down from inconsolable to merely mad. Frequently it bridges the gap between grumbly and quiet.
  3. The shush. Another classic. A light, whispering "shh" is hypnotic for babies. Also works to keep her asleep when she begins to stir or is startled by a loud noise.
  4. The ignore. For times when she's fighting sleep just for the sake of being difficult. I've been trying everything else for an hour, I know she's exhausted, but she resists all my attempts to calm her. I hold her, sit at the desk and read some blogs, and she succumbs to her exhaustion all by herself.  Advanced technique; use with caution.
  5. The fake-out. Sometimes if she's been only mildly fussy, I only pretend to ignore her. "Oh, you're not ready to sleep yet? OK, Daddy's just going to check email..." She calms down completely, I bobble her a little, and light's out.