A pair of Twins games

Because my job is The Best, I got free tickets from our CEO to attend a couple of games at Target Field this year. And because Jenna's mom is the best, Natalie got to play with grandma while we got some rare time alone together. The new stadium is great and we had perfect weather for outside baseball.

The first set of tickets were for a night game. We met at the MOA and rode the light rail--after figuring out where the bafflingly unmarked station was located, and where to park--all the way up to downtown. I ate some walleye fingers and fries, washed down with a plastic cup of Grain Belt. The seats are 16 rows behind home plate. It was glorious. Foul balls were popping up over the net all around us. The game dragged on and we left after the seventh inning, which was a good decision, because the Twins lost anyway after 3 1/2 hours. Through some bizarre coincidence, my MIX-planning partner Sarah and her boyfriend were sitting just three rows behind us.

The second game started at noon so we got the full sun-baked summer baseball experience. On the menu this time were the veggie stir-fry (not that great) and a couple of beers, followed by a shared soft-serve ice cream cone (so perfect). One of my work colleagues happened to be there with his dad, so we met for a drink and chat. To cap it off, Twins stomped the Indians 6-0 and we got to enjoy the celebratory fireworks at the end. BASEBALL!

Roller Coaster

Dueling Dragons, originally uploaded by brownek909

Negotiating the sale of our house was a long, nauseating ride, and not fun at all. Well, it was a little bit fun at first when we put the house on the market and got it clean and were all excited. And then getting the offer was great. It all went downhill after that, though, through a series of loops and drops that made us almost physically ill.

I was exceedingly glad to get off that roller coaster when we finally closed on our new home. There was a bit of stress around the move. And we've been busy with projects around the house ever since. But compared to the drama of buying and selling, my overall feeling has been one of incredible calm.

Has it really only been two months? In that short amount of time we've done much to make the house our home. And I haven't missed living in the city for even a second. That's a ride I don't want to get on again for a very long time.


Shogi Game, originally uploaded by Erik Anderson

My dad taught me chess at a young age. I haven't played a full game for many years, but I recently brought a board to work to set up endgame problems on my desk. I like to puzzle through them when I need a break, and a few of my coworkers have taken a crack at the solutions too.

Once I got my chess skills dusted off again, I learned to play Shogi, or "Japanese Chess." After a few games, I actually prefer it to chess for a few reasons, including:
  1. Promotion rules: nearly all pieces can be "upgraded," which makes promotion a major part of the strategy.
  2. Capture and drop: pieces you capture, instead of being permanently removed from play, can be returned to the board under your control.
  3. Quick endgame: it is much easier to put the king into checkmate, which can be one of the most frustrating and drawn-out parts of playing chess.
There's a free applet to play Shogi online here. After watching a few videos from Hidetchi's "How to Play Shogi" series on YouTube, I can reliably win in games against the server. The next step is to find some real live opponents to play against. Who wants to give it a try?

Manual Labor

Natalie helped me bury the pole for our bird house. She was really good at digging. She watched what I was doing very carefully and copied mostly everything. The only thing she couldn't do was lift the dirt up into the wheelbarrow. What a great helper!


There was a golden era of bath times when Natalie was old enough not to instantly drown herself but young enough not to pay much attention to what I was doing. It was a wonderful time. I could read a book, play the DS, or make a phone call if I wanted. Sadly, that time is no more.

Last night I grabbed my copy of Back to Basics and settled down on my reading chair (toilet) to learn about traditional cheesemaking, when suddenly Natalie piped up. "Daddy, stop. No book," she said. "Step up" (which means "get off your butt and come over here"). I set the book down and sat by the side of the tub. "Play," she demanded. So we played.

Our toddler has become very demanding (I'm sure you're as shocked as I am). I guess it goes along with her discovery of verbs. I started listing all the action words she uses, to give examples, and I was surprised when I realized how much her vocabulary has grown.

Whether she wants us to "pushyou" in one of her many cart toys or "carry you" when she wants to be picked up, she can clearly articulate her desires most of the time. "Buckle," "ride," and "wash hands" are commands I hear on a daily basis. Although she gets opposites confused, she frequently uses "Up/Down", "Open/Doot", and "In" (I've never heard her use "out" but she does say "outside"). She pulls us by the hand and announces "let's go" when she's ready to leave. And we know when she's really angry because she will tell us huffily to "go 'way!"

But she can also use her words to be sweet and endearing when she wants to. After the forced play time in the tub last night, I dried her off and put her in a fresh diaper and pajama shirt. She lay still in her crib for a while after I sang her usual lullabies ("Twinkle Twinkle" and "Rockabye Baby") and then she abruptly sat up. "Oh great, what is it now," I thought to myself. I bent over the crib to try to get her to sleep.

Natalie looked me in the eye. Her hands sleepily made the ASL sign for "more" that she had learned as a little baby. "More," she whispered. "More song." I patted her pillow, she immediately laid her head back down, and relaxed silently while I rubbed her back and sang her to sleep.

Double Rainbow Song

This is my summer jam.

A typical exchange at our house

Weekend Dispatch

Natalie and I had a very busy Saturday. In the morning, she helped me prepare a batch of pickled eggs for her grandpa's birthday present. I took an image from this online copy of The Little Red Hen and made a custom label for the jar. Then she helped me eat the banana bread I'd prepared before she woke up.

Around 10 we headed up to Minneapolis for the Twin Cities Zinefest, which is organized by MIX co-founder Sarah Morean. I have attended several years, but this was Natalie's first 'fest. She wasn't crazy about the crowd of strangers but she did enjoy the big Li'l Buddha stand-up at Ryan Dow's booth, the graffiti mural outside ("chalk!") and the long empty hallway with the drinking fountain at the end. I did get to see an old friend and meet new people, so it was a worthwhile trip.

After nap time, the whole family loaded into the car and I drove us to a man-made swimming pond in Minnetrista. Natalie had great fun digging in the sand and splashing in the water. They closed the beach for reports of thunder just as we were packing up to leave. Overall, a perfect summer day.

Garden, Day 46 + Aviary Update

Our garden has finally grown to the point where a wide-angle shot does not do it justice. I had to switch to the macro lens to show off this nice, plump, green tomato. All four tomato plants are putting out fruit and this one, unsupported, had bent to the ground under the weight of this one tomato!

Our three experimental corn plants are looking great. They were knee-high by the Fourth of July and now tassels have appeared on one of them, which hopefully means that an ear will appear soon. Also on the menu for late summer: hundreds of pickling cucumbers.

We've had bird feeders out for a few weeks and the local population has caught on. They're a popular place in the morning with a variety of birds fighting for a perch. All our friends from the city are out here: the house finches and sparrows, chickadees, cardinals, and so on. Plus we're feeding goldfinches, woodpeckers, brown-headed cowbirds, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and many others. Time to buy a more detailed field guide.

Love bug

One aspect of our new home that's simultaneously creepy and exciting: increased access to bugs. Unless they're the stinging, biting, or sucking kind, I'm not bugged by bugs outside. But since the move, I've ended up murdering many more indoor insects (and arachnids) at the urgent request of my wife.

On the other hand I truly enjoy the increased variety of critters in the country. Gorgeous big dragonflies buzz around, butterflies are more abundant, and all kinds of bugs perch in plants. The other day I saw a katydid sitting on a flower. I scared it off, and the next morning it was right back in the same place. I geek out about this kind of thing.

After my shower today I pulled down a towel to see an earwig wedged between the shower curtains. Gross, but harmless. I scraped it into a spare jar and threw in some clover and grass shoots. Now it's not a pest, it's a pet!


There's an empty 2.5 acre lot next to our property. Apparently the city will not allow anything to be built there, so it has been sitting vacant for a while, and the driveway and yard have reverted to meadow. What that means for us this time of year is lots of pretty wildflowers!

The owners contacted us about buying the land so I walked over there with Natalie a few times to look at it. It's mostly forested bluff-side that would have to be cleared and leveled for construction, and is not good for much else. Also it turns out their view is worse than ours since they overlook the apartment building that is obscured from our yard by a fence, and they're higher up so they see the big ugly development on top of the next hill over that is mostly covered by trees from our lower altitude.

But if you walk through to the other side, you exit the woods and emerge into a wide swath of tall grass. I lifted Natalie up onto my shoulders and we went tromping through it. We found a shallow gully cut by rain, and a pressed-down oval of grass that must have been the sleeping place for a large animal, like a deer. It was fun exploring the wilderness in our own neighborhood.

4th of July weekend

We had a nice, relaxing weekend over the Fourth of July. On Sunday we went to the airport in Alexandria for the American Barnstormers Flying Circus. They had a bunch of old and replica airplanes sitting around, four antique cars, and two Indian motorcycles. Jenna and I got to ride in an open-cockpit biplane while all the planes were flying around drumming up business for the event! That was fun.

We took Natalie swimming in the lake for the first time. Once she saw her parents and cousin and aunt and uncle all playing in the water, she wanted to do it too. She also spent a lot of time this weekend singing made-up nonsense songs, which is adorable. Otherwise there are only a few things I want to do during vacation and we did all of them:
  1. Relaxing
  2. Playing board games
  3. Eating
  4. Identifying birds and wildflowers
  5. Riding in the boat
On Monday I also took the kayak out at 5:30 AM. I paddled around the serene lake and watched the sun rise. It was my first try kayaking and I quite enjoyed how, like riding a fixed-gear bicycle, the effort I expended was proportional to the speed of the vehicle. It was satisfying and enjoyable, and I have added it to my always-do list for future visits to the lake home.