Saturday, December 30, 2006

We Survived Christmas!

Norah and her DaddyI mean no offense to any of the wonderful family and friends with whom we have visited this holiday season…but Moonshot and I propped our feet up Tuesday night and breathed the sigh of content relief that comes upon surviving another Christmas.

I don’t mean that to sound as grinchy as if might be read. We loved our time with our dispersed families and it was wonderful to gather round the various trees and bask in the warmth of friendship and love. But, having treasured that, the welcome embrace of familiar routine is a sweet, sweet embrace indeed.

On Saturday we traveled north, to Iowa. We arrived at Husker and Panache’s wonderful old farm house just in time to unload, feed Norah and rush back out the door sans child to meet Elsa and Talap in Cedar Rapids, about an hour away. They were visiting family in northern Iowa so we had arranged to meet them half-way for dinner. We spent the first half of the trip to Cedar Rapids convincing ourselves that leaving Norah with the grandparents was very relaxing…not stressful in the least…no, very relaxing. By the time we passed through Coralville, we were starting to believe it.

We were only a little late to dinner and since that’s actually early for us, we felt pretty good about the whole thing. We spent a wonderful evening chatting with our Minnesotan friends between venue hops. Seems everything in Cedar Rapids closes early: restaurants, coffee shops, gas stations (but that didn’t vex us until the return trip), so the “party” kept moving around until we settled into a 24-hour Tippins.

We only called to check on the baby once and we really did relax and have a great time with our far away friends. All in all, it was a great evening and excellent practice for our bed and breakfast coming up in January as a delayed anniversary treat. Baby steps to leaving baby.

After a fitful night of sleep, Norah and I went to church with the grandparents and let Moonshot sleep in. She had not enjoyed the thrill of a truly quiet house to sleep in for months and I was happy to give her the chance. Norah slept through the service and I was thankful for her presence in my arms. She gave me something to focus on while I was conspicuously not responding to the call and answer devotionals. Husker did his best to keep reminding me that I didn’t have to sing, didn’t have to respond, and didn’t have to feel awkward…but you just can’t help but feel a bit out of place when a room full of people are professing in unison a belief that you don’t share. No matter how kind they may be…you’re still the odd man out. But after the service, Grandma and Grandpa beamed proudly as we introduced Norah to the truly friendly folks and drank coffee from Styrofoam cups. One nice lady even pulled me aside to let me know that she thought I write very well. What? Oh right…this blog. I tend to forget that real people other than the ones who post comments read these ramblings from time to time. Obviously, pictures of Norah were the draw for Nice Church Lady, but it was nice to know she liked the words as well. So, if you’re reading this, Nice Church Lady…thanks for making me feel welcome.

RimeAnyway, when all was said and done, church really was a pleasant time. Norah got coo’d at, I got to play both the proud father and the randomly complemented blogger, and Moonshot got to sleep in. Plus, it gave me the opportunity to get out and see the freezing fog (which I now know is called rime) on all the trees. Hauntingly beautiful. (Click to see the finer details)

Later that afternoon, Mouse and FreddyJ arrived and shortly after them came Moonshot’s Grandmother from Nebraska.

Festive NorahThe rest of the weekend went smoothly. We lounged. We ate. We opened gifts and then listened to newly received cds, watched newly received movies, and read newly recieved books. Arlo played with Hobbes and we all played with Norah. And then, on Tuesday morning we packed up Zazu the Outback and headed back home. Both our exhausted munchkins slept nearly the whole 5 hours.

And that brings us back to where you found us when you joined…our feet propped up and toasting the successful completion of a wonderful Christmas. With Norah dreaming peacefully in her own bed, we drank our Scotch as we snuggled under our blanket and watched our Battlestar Galactica.

Ah, blessed routine.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Maintaining Christmas

My Christmas spirit has been lagging this week…thrown for a loop by the power of my own imagination. Normally at this time of the year, I am rushing madly about in a festive but last-minute effort to get all my shopping done as I whistle jolly tunes to myself. This year has been different.

Moonshot and I have, for the last several years, alternated Thanksgiving and Christmas between my family and hers. It’s a typical arrangement, I think, for married folk with no kids. This year we spent the Day o’ the Turkey with MoMa while Husker and Panache get us for Christmas in Iowa.

The problem with my holiday mood begins with the fact that MoMa and Jet are Christmas nuts. Actually, they’re nuts about any excuse for a family get-together, but Christmas really gets them going. They revel in the pageantry of the season and stack huge assortments of gifts under the trees. They cook apple cider and invite friends and family over to sing carols on Christmas Eve. They stuff stockings for each other and wear festive hats while unwrapping the presents. They cheer for good gifts and call out “Next! Next!” to Jet as he serves his role as Santa and fetches the next package. The Iowa folks, on the other hand, are more subdued. Holidays with them are more relaxed affairs focused primarily on quiet time together. They go to candlelight church service enjoy the peace that is Christmas morning.

Now, I really do love both of these approaches and it’s wonderful to have one of each style of Christmas each year. I grew up with the rowdy paper-shredding festivity of my family so it feels natural to join in the chaos. Conversely, the time to prop up my feet and breathe in Iowa is always a welcome rest during the stressful holidays. However, there was a tradition I had not even been aware of until this year. No matter where we were on the 25th, the Iowa Christmas has always come first. This year, however, we switched the order. And it has doomed me to a Scrooge-like denial of the upcoming holiday.

Last Saturday night found Jet sleeping in our living room and MoMa in the guestroom. We did everything we could to convince ourselves that it was Christmas Eve so that we could wake in the morning and really feel that electric charge. The problem is…I think it worked too well. As the last tattered bits of brightly colored wrapping paper had settled to the floor and Norah sat surrounded by the piles of new toys she had aquired, some trigger deep in the recesses of my mind switched off the Christmas lights and declared the holiday season complete.

And to compound the issue, we’ve got all the shopping done…something that has NEVER happened this early. Can it be Christmas without hectic, last-minute mall runs? And it certainly doesn’t help that the weather has been rainy and depressing. It’s just not the kind of weather that makes you want to whistle “Sleigh Ride.” All these factors have added up to a mental state in which I am looking forward to going up to Iowa, but have to keep reminding myself that we’re going there to celebrate Christmas. The radio announces that there are shopping days left and I am shocked every time. I walk around our decorated house and in the back of my mind I’m thinking about taking it all down. I’m fighting the good fight here, but I think I’ll need some help. I’m hoping Husker and Panache have cider and carols…otherwise I may just stare at them with confusion when they hand me a present.

Jolly Green, Rollin’ Along

As a belated update on Norah’s continued development, I am pleased to announce that Norah has displayed her skills at the tummy-to-back roll maneuver. While there were three witnesses to this wonderful achievement, it almost occurred that I alone saw it.

MoMa had planned on heading back home Sunday afternoon but was convinced at the last minute to stick around until Monday morning. “You’re the owner of a business that can operate one day without you. What better reason to take advantage of that than to spend Christmas with your granddaughter?” I said as Moonshot sang, “Cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,” in the background. Quite an effective double-team.

That evening, MoMa and I were playing with the Little Miss; watching her thrash contentedly about during her tummy-time while Moonshot played the piano. As Norah’s attempts got closer and closer to the tipping point, I called Moonshot over.

“She’s been that close all week,” she replied calmly. She kept playing for about half a minute before strolling leisurely into the living room. Not ten seconds after she arrived, Norah crested the rolling point and flopped onto her back with a huge grin. We cheered so loudly that Norah started to cry. Nothing like a little positive reinforcement, eh? Not wanting her only roll-over experience to end in terror, we promptly flipped her back over and she once again flopped herself right back onto her back. We cheered again…but more softly and with big, silly happy faces that made her smile back at us.

Since that time, Norah has decided not to showcase her new talent again. Having witnessed this pattern in her development before, I am not surprised. The child delights in teasing us with these advances and then taking them away while she ponders the deep implications of her newfound power. However, the fact remains…the days in which our daughter will stay where you put her are numbered.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Story Behind the Stuff

I was sitting on the couch a few nights ago. Moonshot was putting the already sleeping Norah into her crib for the night and Arlo was nestled beside me as I sipped from a glass of whiskey. As I often do when I sit in this particular seat, I took a moment to reflect on how much I really do like our little house. From the archways, to the colors we’ve painted and to most of the little details…I really love our home.

“I should take a picture of this and share it on the blog,” I thought. But then I started looking more carefully about the room. I’d have to straighten up the room a bit, put away a few things that would probably bug Moonshot or me when we looked at the photo later. Not much…but more than I wanted to do with a whiskey warm working in my belly. But then, I started thinking that maybe all the little oddities where actually the important part of the proposed photo. Every little thing sitting around was placed there at some point by the typical goings-on in the Gren household. And then I started thinking about all the stuff in the room. Where did that come from? Ah yes. How about that? Oh, yeah, I remember now. And I realized that the stuff around me, both the random items lying around and the intentionally placed items like decorations and furniture, comprised a tapestry that told alot about us and our life in the house

So I took the picture. And I’ll try to wade through all the stuff that shows up.

Christmas Trees – Three pre-lit we bought together in an after-Christmas sale. They used to live out in the sunroom each year, and the big tree would sit right about where I’m sitting in this picture. However, earlier in the year we moved a TV into the living room and there is no longer space enough for the tree. So, the big tree headed for the sunroom and the woodsy trees with the rustic Santa came to the front rooms.

Train – A Christmas present from Moonshot last year. I look forward to expanding the collection…but have no idea where we’ll set it up as it grows. I grew up listening to Ol’ Salvo’s stories about training hopping in his youth, so there has always been an allure about trains for me. However, since I had never really thought about getting a model train, this is an example of my wife knowing me better than I know myself, because I love that model train.

Piano – Tucked behind the trees is Moonshot’s Yamaha U-1 upright piano. She and her students sit there in our dining room every Monday and Wednesday evening while Norah and I hide upstairs. The piano was our first major purchase together, bought right after she moved in with me. She had long dreamed of owning this precise piano and I was overjoyed to be able to buy it with her. Moonshot plays more often around the holidays because she loves the Christmas music…and I love that because I get to hear her play.

China Cabinet – I have no idea how old that secretary-style china hutch is, but it’s a family heirloom. It was passed through our family to my Dad’s sister DeeAnn. When she finally decided that she was never going to restore it, she passed it along, blackened with age, to Dad. The condition it’s in today is a testament to his hard work on this piece. There is an old skeleton key that locks each door and drawer on it. I remember locking and unlocking the whole set repetitively as a child. If you look closely enough, you can see my Dad’s brassed baby shoes in the nook next to the holiday greenery. There is also a glass angel standing at the lower right corner of the hutch’s mirror. It was a gift from the choir teacher for whom Moonshot played piano accompaniment last year. Usually, angel-themed decorations don’t get displayed in our house…but Moonshot puts this one out. While I know she does not miss that teacher…I’m pretty sure she misses accompanying the choir.

Baby Gate – Leaning against the wall next to the china cabinet you’ll see a baby gate that has been forgotten there for a couple weeks…ever since Duke and Pinky came over with their boys and we needed to protect them from the basement steps. I really should put that away.

Dad’s Photos – On the wall over the piano, just barely peaking out from behind the trees, there are three black and white photos that my Dad took years ago. Of the countless pictures he developed back when he was an amateur photographer with a basement darkroom, these are the only three I have. There is one of train tracks that is just beautiful…won him an award of some sort. One of a teepee with skyscrapers in the background. Great subject matter…only pretty good as a picture. The last is of the snow-covered back yard of the house in Kansas City where they lived when I was born. Not a great picture, but since I’ve only got three…it’s on the wall.

Grandfather Clock – An heirloom from my Grandma Norma, MoMa’s mother. It doesn’t work. I need to get some piece for it, but have never got around to tracking down the missing piece. The clock had lived at Uncle Norman's for years until he realized that I liked antiques. And just that quickly, I was the proud keeper of a broken clock. It speaks volumes about my attachment to heirlooms and to my procrastination. Have to keep it, probably not ever going to fix it.

TV Tray – Next to the 2-Seater couch, you’ll see a TV tray piled with miscellaneous stuff. This tray is a new addition to the living room, brought out in the early days of sitting with Norah. We have no end tables in the living room so this one TV tray migrated in from the sun room. We make our peace with it by telling ourselves that it’s not really a piece of’s just a temporary thing. And yet it has not left this room for over four months now. You can see Christmas cards that Moonshot has been working on piled on it.

Baby Swing – This is one of the many things that were passed on to us from the O’Fallon crew. Both Superfly and Mr. Chubbers had outgrown this, so their aunt Dolly donated it to Norah. We never turn it on since the swinging annoys the little miss, but she loves to sit there and keep an eye on things. We appreciate her conservation of batteries and are still very thankful for all the cool swag we got from our friends.

Rug – This is a remnant from my cash-flush past. Long before Norah and even before Moonshot, I was fool enough to spend enough money to get hand-woven area rugs for the living and dining room. It’s absolutely stunning and I still love it…but what a horrible rug for a household with child. We can’t use cleaners on it and since the cash rich days of my youth are gone…we can’t afford to have them cleaned. So we try to be as careful as we can and dream of the day when we can pay someone to come make them sparkle again.

Dog Food Bowl – Look carefully at the floor next to the baby swing and you’ll see evidence of two things. A) Arlo does not like to eat alone. He will, in fact, go without eating if he is not given the opportunity to feast while close to Moonshot or me. And B) that I’ve come along way from the days when I was paranoid about protecting the rug.

Chew Ring – Arlo is a toy destroyer. I have seen him destroy in five minutes a toy that a dog five times his size had been working on for weeks. He is small…but woe to any toys he comes across. So, the only toys we get him are durable Kongs or Nylabone material. The ring you see is one of his favorites. The shape allows him to get his paws in the hoop to hold it steady whilst he attempts to shred the resin-like substance.

Blue Elephant – You can see part of a bright blue, stuffed elephant that Ol’ Salvo and Peanuts got Norah for Christmas last week. The floor on the other side of the coffee table is where Norah spends a lot of her down time. There’s usually a blanket and a few of her toys down there. This also brings up just how lucky we are that our dog seems to understand the difference between his toys and Norah’s. Cuz really…baby and dog toys have enough similarities that we never would have dreamed that we were going to be able to leave her stuffed toys lying about. Such a great dog.

Coffee Table – This is a new family heirloom. The marble comes from a coffee table my Dad had before I was born. It was just a big slab of marble on spindly, little legs. My folks loved that table until I started walking and head-butting the hard marble edges. Eventually, they realized that I was not going to learn to stop hurting myself, so they traded coffee tables with my Grandma Lu (Dad’s mom) since she had a more forgiving piece of furniture.

About 6 years ago, Grandma moved into a retirement home and had no more need of the marble. She passed it back to me. At this point, Ol’ Salvo was in a marathon woodworking session in which he wanted to make something for each of his 13 grand kids. I turned the marble over to him and explained that a more substantial table built around the marble would be very cool. He delivered it himself on the day I moved into this, my first house. You can only see the edge of the piece from this angle, but believe me when I say that it is beautiful. It’s a hand-made piece made by my Mom’s dad from marble of my Dad’s that I remember from his mom’s house. There’s all kinds of nostalgia wrapped up in this coffee table.

Spit-Rag – The lower right corner of the picture is evidence that you are looking at the home of a spitter. Spit rags can be found in nearly every room of the house. I’m notoriously bad about just leaving one behind, forgetting where I left it, and grabbing another one.

I think that about covers everything in the room. Feel free to play I-Spy with the picture and ask about anything else you see poking around corners.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Depressing Calculation of Time

The posting of this blog seems even more appropriate after a week-and-a-half absence from posting. Oh, how the time gets away from me. And while I could list all the events of the past week or so that have kept me from my blog…I prefer to blame the graphs below

“Every year seems to fly by a little faster.”
“When I was young, summer lasted forever!”

Go ahead and fill in your own similar sentiment, it’s a common enough theme. How is it that one minute you’re a ten-ten-year-old counting the agonizing days until Christmas, and the next you’re a thirty-year-old parent wondering where all your holiday prep time escaped to?

I’ve heard many an explanation for this time warp phenomenon. I’ve read a doomsday prophet claiming that time itself is speeding up and will soon spiral away into incoherence in these final days. I’ve heard others say that as we get older, we just get busier so it just feels like time is speeding up. Both arguments have their points. I mean…time is a slippery thing. As the only dimension that appears to just have one direction, it generally just hurts your head to think about it too much. However, since it makes my headache worse when I start imagining that the very structure of time and space itself is changing just so I can explain why my summer vacation zipped by so fast, I think I’ll stick to the idea that our perception of time is changing.

So, I present to you a little theory I like to explain to people at inappropriate times…birthdays, busy Christmas seasons and the like.

The mind measures the passing of time in relation to the amount of time that it has previously experienced.

That’s it. The rest of this post is just me explaining what I’m talking about with that sentence. So, if you’ve already got it…you can go ahead and jump down to the comments section. However, while it seems like a simple statement, there are some sobering results.

Here’s an example of the above statement in action. To a ten-year-old, one year is 10% of his life. To a 20-year-old, it’s only 5%. So, having previously experienced only half as much time, a day in the life of a ten-year-old is perceived by that ten-year old to be twice as long as that same day perceived by a 20-year-old.

Therefore, each day really IS shorter than the one before it.

This means that the bulk of your life as you experience it is front-loaded in your childhood. By the time you get around to wondering where all the time went, you’ve probably already passed the halfway point of your perceived life.

Depressed yet? No? Ok, then…let’s look at some graphs!

Note for the Geeks really interested in the math here:

I’ve been toying with this idea since college, but had never really sat down and tried to crunch the numbers. When I did, the immediate problem I found was that those first four years constitute a HUGE portion of your life since every minute to a newborn seems like an eternity. At first I tried to reconcile that...change my equation to fix the apparent flaw. However, I realized that there need not be an error at all since we can’t remember those years properly.

For the first few years of our lives, we are unable to string together our memories into sequential events. An infant has yet to learn the magic of turning past, present, and future into a cascading story. When we DO learn this, we redesign our memory filing system and thus are unable to access all the old stuff that was filed in some different manner. Our infant memories may still be floating around in our brains, and we may even remember snippets or scenes…but the cohesive flow of memory doesn’t set in until we learn how to file them correctly. Therefore, maybe that first year DID pass at an outrageously slow pace…we wouldn’t remember it. And since we’re dealing with perception of time…I chose to discard the periods of time that we can no longer perceive. Plus…it makes the percentage chart below much less disturbing.

Also, all the number crunching assumes a life span of 80 years.

Graph of the year's percieved lengthThis chart shows how long each year feels to the person living it. Notice they get faster at an exponential rate. (click to bigify it)

Sure, sure, so the years keep getting faster...that's somewhat depressing. However, the real kicker comes when you start asking, "How much of my life have I already experienced?" Since the "long" years are probably behind you and you really only have the fast years to look forward's not a pretty picture. We reach the half-way point of our experienced life right around 19.

So I leave you to ponder the depressing graph below. You're welcome to argue the finer points of my theory. I'll even send you my spreadsheet if you'd like so we can haggle over the numbers. You're also welcome to just roll your eyes and wonder why someone would spend so much time making charts like these.

Anyway, I don't claim that everything is correct here...but it sure feels about right, doesn't it?
Graph of the year's percieved length

Friday, December 01, 2006

It's Beginning to Look Alot Like....

We’ve had our first snow of the season in St Louis. Unfortunately, it came in the form of “the worst winter storm since 1973.” Granted, I have no way of verifying that claim, but it’s been all over the TV here so I figured I’d report it as fact. Only four months after the last great blackout in St Louis, again hundreds of thousands of people are out of power. While Casa de Gren has stayed warm and well lit, we’re hoping for a speedy recovery of power to those who are even now huddled in shelters across the metro area.

However, when I got up this morning…I didn’t know anything about all the people without power. I only knew the first snow had fallen and that it was Norah’s first snow and that it was beautiful.

The Gren HomesteadNorah and Moksha in the SunroomArlo plays in the snow

A Totally Unrelated and Insignificant Exchange

About 15 minutes ago, Moonshot called a new Thai restaurant and placed our order for delivery. Now, I didn’t hear the other side of the conversation, but I did hear Moonshot repeating all her information over and over again. She gave the address at least four times. About five minutes after hanging up, the phone rang.

Woman: Hello, this Thai Kitchen.
Moksha: Oh, hi.
Woman: Did you just place order?
Moksha: Yes, yes we did.
Woman: Yes. What is your phone number?
Moksha: [stunned silence]
Woman moving on from her absurd question: What is your address?
Moksha: 1625…
Woman interrupting: yeah, yeah, yeah…did you want to pay by credit card?
Moksha getting nervous: Yes. I DID pay with a credit card.
Woman: Yes, yes and that card is xxxx…
Moksha: Ma’am...[woman continues to read card number] Ma’am [reading continues] Ma’am
Woman: That your number?
Moksha: Well I don’t have it in front of me…but that sounds kinda like our card.
Woman: OK. Thank you for ordering
Moksha: Sure

Hang up.

Not really sure what that accomplished. She literally didn’t confirm even ONE of the details. I hope we get our food

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Set Moksha's Nonsense to Music

My blog pal Mark put out an interesting post. He copied it from one of his friends and now I’m going to copy it from him…it is indeed a world wide web. I find this interesting because I still labor under the college-age assumption that a person’s musical taste can tell you a lot about them. Maybe, maybe not…but it’s fun to think so and certainly a lot less problematic than other criteria. So…here’ the game:

Put your music player on shuffle.Press forward for each question.Use the song title as the answer to the question.No cheating! Who cares if it doesn’t make sense. (And it doesn’t.)
Here are mine:

How am I feeling today?
Don't Shoot Me Down - Old Crow Medicine Show

Will I get far in life?
Tango 'til They're Sore - Tom Waits

How do my friends see me?
Miles Davis' Funeral - Morphine

Where will I get Married?
Astronaut Dreams - Peter Mayer

What is my best friend’s theme song?
The Wild Rumpus - Jerry Douglas

What is the story of my life?
On the Radio - Gary Reynolds

What is/was highschool like?
Ballad of a Teenage Queen - Johnny Cash

How can I get ahead in life?
The World at Large - Modest Mouse

What is the best thing about me?
Porcelain - Moby

How is today going to be?
Where the Wild Roses Grow - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

What is in store for this weekend?
Room to Move - John Mayall

What song describes my parents?
My Good Gal - Old Crow Medicine Show

To describe my grandparents?
Raining Again - Moby

How is my life going?
Sound Check (Gravity Mix) - Gorillaz

What song will they play at my funeral?
Hail to Whatever You Found in the Sunlight That Surrounds You - Rilo Kiley

How does the world see me?
2001 - Kid Dakota

Will I have a Happy Life?
Train Home (Live) - Chris Smither

What do my friends really think of me?
Before My Time - Johnny Cash

Do people secretly lust after me?
Run Devil Run - Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins

How can I make myself happy?
Souljacker Part 1 - Eels

What should I do with my life?
Furnace Room Lullaby - Neko Case

Will I ever have children?
The Mary Martin Show - The New Pornographers

What is some good advice for me?
Dancing Song - Peter Mayer

How Will I be Remembered?
Your Heart is an Empty Room - Death Cab for Cutie

What do I think my current theme song is?
Raga Nat Bhariav - Harry Manx

What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
The Medication is Wearing Off - Eels

What type of men/women do you like?
Fannin Street - John Hammond

What Does Your Man/Woman love about you?
Aristocrats - Kingdom Flying Club

What Song do you secretly love?
Dead on You -Mark Lanegan

What do you want to do tomorrow?
Dead Horse Trampoline - Justin Roth

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Here’s to the Dreamers

I’m a fan of anyone who’s willing to push past their fear to pursue their dreams. In keeping with yesterday’s post, I know how easy it is to stay on the couch, how easy it is to keep putting off that first step. So, I wanted to take a moment to say how proud I am of my brother. Last night he took the stage for the first time in pursuit of his long-time dream of stand-up comedy. While I didn’t get to see the show, he was on cloud nine when he called me afterward to tell me that the crowd really responded well. I’ll catch his second show next Wednesday and was thrilled to see some cool pictures of the show. He actually looks like a stand-up comedian.

Way to go, Jet!!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I Am A Wartime General

Over the last few years, I have come to realize that I am an excellent wartime general…but a fairly mediocre one in peacetime.

I have only the most vague sense of a job description. This lack of clarity leads to stammering and pauses when asked what it is, exactly, that I do. Well…the best way to put it is that I’m the right-hand-man of the CEO of a multi-state consumer loan company that often dabbles in other industries. While I tend to focus on our technology needs, I do whatever needs to be done. Some days that may mean overseeing the development of our proprietary software or perhaps zipping around the country to open and manage 13 or so eBay drop-off stores. Other days it may mean rafter-walking an additional CAT-5 cable from the D-Mark to our servers so we can access our newest T-1. Some days it means teaching a class to our store managers so they know how to use some new feature of our software. Other days it means planning layouts for our webpage or hiring an electrician to fix the parking lights or meeting with the heads of state financial agencies to discuss regulations. The list goes on because in a company that runs as lean as we do, the upper management wear many hats. Generally, I like this variety. Each day is a bit different than the last and for the most part, I get to choose which situation I’m handling and which situation I’m delegating. On most days, I like my job.

In addition to being a nice situation on a daily basis, it has also afforded me the opportunity to see what sort of situations I gravitate toward. I can look back over six years of work and can now see a fairly obvious trend in the sorts of tasks I chose, the sorts of tasks I excelled at, and the sorts of tasks on which I did less than stellar. And what I see is that I am a wartime general.

I like a short-deadline crisis. My mind snaps into focus amidst the crossfire chaos of high-stress multitasking. Got a time critical project that requires work from varied groups within the company and an understanding of how those groups relate? No problem. Just drop me behind enemy lines with a survival knife and a ball of string and you’ll have your product on time. I like making fast decisions and seeing the results of those decisions spin off in real time.

Conversely, long-term projects will never fail to make my mind wander. When the gunfire stops and the general is asked to cease building emergency triage units and instead put his mind to designing a well-thought out hospital that will serve the community for years to come…this general stumbles.

In fact, give me a long-term project and I’ll meander away from it and find crisis. I’ll tackle any and all unrelated problems that flow in until I’ve turned the long-term project I was supposed to be working on into a crisis…THEN I get interested.

And don’t get me wrong. I’m good as a consultant on the long-term projects. Let me swing by and take a quick overview of the project…I’ll make good observations and recommend useful changes. But don’t put the whole thing in my hands…it will flounder.

In retrospect it all seems very obvious that I would be this way. You see, I’m a procrastinator. I come by it naturally as my father was a procrastinator as well. Nature? Nurture? No idea. But he certainly passed it along. And as a procrastinator, I will inevitably put off a project until the last minute. Fortunately (or unfortunately since it has lead me to continue this trend) I am very good in those last few moments right before the bell. I remember being asked to get up in front of my Research Writing class during my sophomore year of college. Seems no one else had met the profs expectations and she felt certain that an explanation of the prep work that I had done on the project would help prove her point about the long process that is research writing.

“Well,” I said. “I did some research on Sunday morning. Started writing Sunday evening around 7 but got pulled away for a card game. Got back to writing around 11 or so. In the morning I ran spell check and read back through it once. Printed it up ten minutes before class and stapled it together as I was running across campus.” She never asked me about my prep work again.

And so, years later, I’m still that same guy. I cannot bring myself to do the prep work. I cannot keep up the energy needed to tackle such long-term projects. I need the adrenaline of chaos.
In the end, I guess what this means is that outside of my children I’m probably never going to create something truly amazing. Truly amazing takes either a) planning or b) enough prior dedication to craft that inspiration seems natural. I have neither. However, I have a niche. When the shit really hits the fan and you’re no longer even trying for truly amazing…when time constraints and disorder mean reaching pretty damned good would be a miracle…I’m your wartime general.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Red Letter Day

It’s sort of a dreary day here in St. Louis, but I’m eating my lunch of Thanksgiving leftovers and feeling pretty lucky to be me. You see, November 27th is a pretty important day to me.

It was exactly two years ago that Moonshot stopped being my girlfriend and became my wife. And while quite a bit has changed in the last two years…I still feel just as thrilled as I did on that day to have found someone who fits me so well

And it was exactly one year ago that Moonshot and I discovered we would be having a baby. We’d been trying for a few months, but it was November 27th that we first knew. We had booked a night in a local bed and breakfast to celebrate our year together. A bed and breakfast because it felt sufficiently decadent; a local one because we’d just been traveling for Thanksgiving and didn’t want to travel again. We had been eying the Booneslick Trail Inn for years. It’s right across from the Trailhead Brewery, one of our favorite local restaurants, and it looked so inviting. But staying in a B&B that’s less than a mile from our house had always seemed ridiculous…until we wary travelers went looking for a fake getaway. So, we spent our romantic retreat reading newly purchased books on pregnancy, talking to Moonshot’s belly, and generally getting ourselves excited about the future.

We still go to the Trailhead Brewery quite often, but now Norah comes with us too. I look up at the windows of that inn every time and remember our excitement.

Both my wife and my daughter have made me a luckier man than I ever had a right to expect And they both became permanent parts of my life on this date. So you see, November 27th is a pretty important day to me.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Thanksgiving Picture Post

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving. Although we didn’t get to spend as much time with family as we’d like, what we did get was wonderful.

My cousin NoNo from Reno was able to come and meet Norah and I was particularly thankful for that.

NoNo and Norah

I'm also thankful for the impromtu concerts that inevitably break out when we're at MoMa's. Uncle Norman on guitar, MoMa on mountain dulcimer and Jet’s hand on rhythm guitar.

Thanksgiving Concert at MoMa's

No pictures of the meal itself...I was too busy shoveling in food.


Redneck Yacht ClubOk, this is off the subject. But I wanted to post this because I know Mark likes interesting business signage. In addition, this place is about 5 minutes from where I grew there's some element in shame involved here. There are all sorts of jokes I could make about this place, but I’ll leave the wit to you. Sorry about the blurry shot but this was as still as I could hold without a tripod for this lowlight shot.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

So Many Firsts

Little Miss had two major firsts this week. She is not only now an Interstate traveler; she is also a consumer of solid food.

On the first point, we traveled north to Iowa and Moonshot’s parents this past weekend. Four and a half hours there and the same back…nine hours strapped into a car seat for a little girl who had never been in the car longer than half an hour. The potential for frustration (on her part and ours) was high. I’m proud to say, however, that she complained less than her Daddy did. Slept the whole way there and half the way back. And when she did wake up, she gibbered to herself happily as she played with her toys. I hadn’t even dared to wish for such a positive result; would have felt greedy wishing for such a turnout. Luckily, she seems to have higher expectations of herself than I do.

Norah and HobbesShe dealt with the new environment with her usual calm curiosity. She was pleased to look out new windows and thrilled to meet a new doggie. And although she seems genuinely excited to be back in her own home on Sunday night, she never complained as her routine was jostled about for the trip. She was clearly born for the road. And this is a good thing since her grandparents live in opposite directions. The upcoming holiday travel schedule will give her many more opportunities to impress us with her love of the open road…starting this afternoon with a trip down to Grandma MoMa’s.

Norah and the SpoonMonday night brought Norah and rice cereal together for the first time. She’d been having difficulties holding down enough formula to satisfy her for long periods. Because of this, we found ourselves feeding her more often as she got older, a trend we had not expected. She had no problem sleeping through the night, but during her wakeful hours she demanded a bottle every three hours. We’d been trying, in good “first time parent” fashion, to stick to the book for her advancement. We weren’t supposed to start the cereal until after her 4-month check-up in a couple weeks. However, it was clear by her physical development that she was ready for something more substantial and clear from her newfound interest in our food that she would be generally agreeable to a step forward in her diet. We called her pediatrician and were instantly given the go ahead. Silly first timers…we should have called weeks ago.

Since we finally made the decision on a Monday, it meant Uncle Jet could take part in the festivities. He comes over on Mondays to watch Heroes with us. It’s a new tradition these last few weeks…a good excuse for him to show up and spend time with Norah and us and a pretty fun show to boot. Anyway, I was very happy that he was able to be there for the first spoon-fed bite.

Norah Tires of the SpoonNorah greeted the first spoonful with pure joy. She grinned ear to ear as pasty gruel was loaded into her mouth. Having watched Superfly and Mr. Chubbers go through this process, I knew this was unusual and again started wondering just how easy our daughter could possibly make this child rearing thing. However, when it became clear to young Jolly Green that we were going to keep shoveling this stuff at her…she became less enthused. At first she squirmed, then she fussed, then she screamed. However, she quickly learned that this left her mouth open. Within a minute, she had taught herself a new technique…the closed-mouth cry. Her little jaw would open, but her lips would stretch closed to ward off any further attacks by spoon. The cry was muffled and outrageously cute. We decided to call the feeding a success even though she had probably only swallowed half a spoonful of cereal…and even that on accident. We didn’t want to torment the poor girl with the spoon so much that she got upset at the sight of the torture device. She finished her feeding with a bottle that she savored more than usual. Having seen the alternative, her she suddenly stared at her bottle with newfound appreciation “Oh, Bottle, I’ll never take you for granted again!”

Last night was her second experiment with the spoon and she did even better. She swallowed a little over a spoon and a half and never got overly upset. She’ll have this down in no time.

One final update. We had our first meeting with Parent’s As Teachers last night. If you have small children and are unfamiliar with this organization, they are well worth looking up. I know they boast a nationwide presence, but I have no idea how visible they are in other cities. Here in their city of origin, however, they are omnipresent. And well they should be, it’s just a wonderful organization. They are a group of volunteers who make routine visits to your home and just check in on your baby’s progress. Let you know what they should be working on, give you tips for dealing with issues you may be having, and generally serve as an on-the-scene consultant. It’s a free service and I have no idea why someone would opt not to take them up on their offer. Our pediatrician can measure Norah’s physical development, but she’ll probably never see Norah in her home setting. She’s not as interested in our parenting technique or making suggestions for getting Norah to sleep easier. Our pediatrician will never walk our house with us and help us catch baby-proofing concerns that we would have overlooked on our own. Like I said, I think it’s just a great deal and I’m very proud that my city can claim it as something we offered to the country. (Sadly, they don’t seem to have grown into Canada yet…sorry to my northern friends. Hopefully you guys have something similar)

This first meeting was not as informative as I think future meetings will be. At this stage of her growth, Norah doesn’t have any behavioral issues we’re working on; her size and strength means she’s advancing quickly through her physical checkpoints; and her requirements are pretty straightforward for Moonshot and me. Basically, The PAT lady just kept praising Norah and us for doing so well and we were all pleased to receive the praise. She’ll be coming back in two months and I think that meeting will be more informative since Norah will be doing even more by that point. And as she adds versatility and variability to her little arsenal, our range of parental responses must grow accordingly. I, for one, am glad to know that Parents as Teachers will be swinging by periodically to help us beef up our responses. Even if we manage to stay one step ahead of them and all they ever do is come out an tell us how awesome all three of us are…well…I’ll go right ahead and pencil that onto my calendar. I mean, I could listen to people praise my daughter all day.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thanks to All Who Served

I will admit that I got so wrapped up in my daily life that I completely forgot about Veterans Day until Simon and Mark reminded me this morning.

It’s sad to admit, but this is an easy holiday for me to forget since I really don’t have many veterans in my life. My Dad serviced B-52s at Anderson Air Force Base on Guam during Vietnam, but I don’t think he ever really thought of himself as a veteran. He had hearing loss in the high-pitch range from the engine noise and he had a cool black line across the top of the fingers of his right hand from where an engine access hatch swung shut on him and basically tattooed him with grease. But when he talked about veterans, he tended to refer to other people…people he felt had risked more in their service for the country. So, while I’ve always been grateful for our service men and women and their sacrifices…it’s always been rather abstract.

So, while I can’t write any glowing praises for specific veterans…I do want to take a moment and thank a few veterans in the making that are important to me.

JonathanUncle Norman’s eldest son just returned last week from Iraq. He’d been over there for about a year as part of a service crew that kept helicopters in flying condition. Prior to that had been stationed in Korea. For the foreseeable future, he’ll be down at Fort Hood in Texas and our family is thrilled to have him safely back. Uncle Norman and his family just returned from a welcome home ceremony, but the rest of the family will get to hug him for the first time at Thanksgiving. Can’t wait to see you, Jonathan!

IanIan is my cousin on Dad’s side. He was stationed in Iraq for quite some time as part of some sort of special forces. I’ll admit that I’m a bit unclear on the details. He, like Jonathan, has found a reprieve from Iraq recently. He’s currently stationed in Guam which is much better than Iraq from what I understand. Enjoy the island climate, Ian.

Kieran...with fangs!!Duran’s younger brother has recently joined the Marines. He hasn’t left the States just yet, but we don’t see as much of him as we used to since he’s currently training out in San Diego to be a communications guy. His Xbox Gamertag is Khyron42 if you want to buzz in and tell him hello. We missed you at the Halloween party, Kieran.

Thank you to each of you specifically and to the thousands of veterans and soldiers who have risked so much. I know that the only reason I’m able to sit here on a lazy Saturday and watch my daughter joyfully thrash about on her play mat is because of the countless people through the years who have made sacrifices like yours. And thanks to the veterans like my Dad who never thought of themselves as heroes.

Thank you, all.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Bottle Feeding Strategies

By Norah

It is a common misconception, among both infants and adults alike, that bottle-feeding is solely about sustenance. While caloric intake is a vital requirement, to focus on this as the sole purpose behind the bottle will deprive you of a wonderful opportunity to train your adults. And as we all know, missed opportunities at this stage in their development can come back to haunt us in later years. So, it’s important to pay attention to the little details now.

Alter Your Feeding Schedule as Often as Possible
Never fall for your parents’ devious ploys to make you follow a “routine.” Remember, once you fall into a recurring pattern, they will quickly notice whenever small changes occur. This could lead to detection of any future plans you may wish to enact. By keeping your routine mysterious to them, you substantially limit the value of whatever data they are collecting on you.
In addition, if parents are able to assume your pattern, they may perceive this as an ability to schedule some free time…watch TV, read a book, spend some time together alone. And this, of course, is completely unacceptable behavior from our caregivers. They should constantly be concerned that we may need something. Prevent the formation of bad parental habits by keeping them focused.

Fight Your Bottle
I know you want the bottle. We all do. But it is critical to proper parent training that their patience and single-minded focus on our happiness be cultivated in these early months. A parent who is able to daydream while you are feeding is a parent totally unprepared for the whirlwind that we will unleash as toddlers. You must get them used to trying over and over and over again to accomplish a simple task.
Below I have listed some techniques that I am employing on a regular basis with my own parents:

  • Shake your head vigorously from side to side. This will dislodge the bottle and possible sling formula.

  • Push the bottle away. It requires surprisingly little force to remove the nipple from your mouth and the effect is quite impressive. The bonus to this method is that early on, your parents will be so busy marveling at your ability to grasp the bottle, they will be unable to protect against nipple-removal.

  • Push your fingers into your mouth. Suction doesn’t work if you break the nipple seal with your fingers. This technique works well after the parent becomes wise to the bottle shoving technique discussed above. It is wonderfully difficult for a parent to protect against this attack since at least one of their hands will be holding the bottle. With only one free hand, they cannot possibly keep both your hands away from your mouth.

  • Dribble milk down your chin. While effective in its own right, this tactic works very well as a diversion. While the parent is cleaning your chin and attempting to wipe the milk from the folds of your neck…use the time to try any of the methods listed above.

  • Spit up. Even if you parent is able to get the milk into you…nothing says it has to stay there.

  • Poop. That’s right; mealtime is the perfect time to poop. The grunting needed to have a proper bowel movement will necessarily stop your feeding and will often lead to a spit up. In addition, the parent will be tempted, either by concern for you or by the stench, to pause the feeding to change your diaper. This truly is a great strategy.

With a little patience and practice, you can train parents that will be ready to deal with whatever you throw at them down the road. Just keep them on their toes, never let them forget where their attention should be, and make sure they understand that caring for you is hard, frustrating work.

One final note. As you use these methods to train your parents, remember to smile and giggle. These simple things keep them happy and entertained and seem to increasing their willingness to keep trying. Without occasional positive reinforcement, they are likely to run out of patience. Also…the laughter keeps them from guessing that you’re doing it all on purpose.

NEXT CHAPTER: Sleep is the Enemy!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Curse My Antisocial Ways

As previously mentioned, Moonshot and I are big fans of Halloween. Each year our home is overrun by creepy decorations, and each year we put massive amounts of effort into our annual Halloween Party. It’s the one event that motivates my wife and I to open our home to a relatively large number of people. We begin planning next year’s theme almost as soon as one party ends. And while no one can fault us on our theme, and hopefully no one can complain about the fun level of our parties…it is clear that next year we need to spend more time focusing on our guest list.

Our first party was in 2003, the first year Moonshot and I lived together. We had about 25 people in our cute little home and quite frankly, any more would have been too much. We developed a murder mystery for the party and doled out clues throughout the evening. All in all it was a success, but it was overly structured. It was a lot of work to script the evening and in the end what the party needed was more freedom. We took note of this and began work on the next party.

There was no party in 2004 due to an impending wedding that Moonshot and I were planning that November. Much sadness, but everyone seemed to understand.

However, after our hiatus, we returned to form in 2005 armed with our experience from our first party. Our theme this time was Hollywood Horror Movies. Through a series of games, each person was “auditioning” for one of three roles in our film: Killer, Victim, or Hero. Each person decided prior to the party which role they would pursue and came dressed accordingly. We sent out overly fancy, handmade invitations to a slightly smaller group than the year before. Since we were going for more controlled games, we were shooting for around 20 or so. We ended up with slightly less, 14 total if you counted Moonshot and I. That left 12 people to play the games since Moonshot and I couldn’t fairly participate. At first, we were disappointed. Only 12 people we moped. However, 12 divides nicely into teams of 2,3, or 4 and everyone had a really good time. By the end of the evening, we were convinced that 12 was just about the right number for the type of game-based party we threw. We’d take more, don’t get me wrong, but as long as we broke 12 at future parties, we’d be happy. And we were very pleased with the structure vs. freedom level of the party. People roamed, people mingled, but they gathered together and competed fiercely and laughed the whole night. Plus, it was much easier to orchestrate. We had our formula.

This year found us pressed for time. With Norah demanding so much of our attention, we opted not to go as all out on the theme as the previous two parties. We went with this year’s trend and followed Moonshot’s Pirates of the Caribbean obsession to a pirate themed get-together. We sent out about 20 invites with historically researched pirate language on them, realistically expecting around 12 – 14 guests. We designed nautical themed games and purchased generous prizes in keeping with the sea-faring spirit. We juggled our responsibility as parents and did everything we could think of to make sure this year’s party was success. Well, everything that is, except follow up on the invitations. Seems a large number of them got lost in the mail. People who we considered a lock to come to the party assumed we weren’t having one because of our 3-month-old daughter and made other plans. In the waning days of last week, we watched our guest list crumble. Everyone sounded truly sad to miss out and I couldn’t fault anyone for the decisions they made, but when 7:30 Saturday rolled around…we had one guest, Jet, in attendance. We spent a half hour in sullen depression. We stared with slack faces at the impressive collection of fake gold and gems piled around the house. We stared at the poster explaining the point values for the various games. We stared at each other in our full pirate regalia and I’ll be honest…we fought back tears. MoMa, having driven up just to care for Norah through the party, tried to say encouraging things, but there really wasn’t much to say. So we sat there, weighing our desire to even try again next year.

It was 8 before another guest showed up, but luckily it was a carpool of the full O’Fallon Crew: Duke, Pinky, Duran, Dolly, Rack, and Blondie. It made a total of only seven guests, still a depressing total that hardly seemed to justify the effort Moonshot and I had put in, but as good hosts the Grens sucked it up and started the party.

Click here for Details from the Party
By midnight, the games were done, the prizes had been awarded, and everyone was stuffed on snack food and candy. We all lounged around the living room laughing at inappropriate conversation and I have to admit that we all had a good time. Moonshot and I had to get creative and find ways for us to play our own games to make even teams…but even that was kind of nice for a change.

There will be a Halloween party at the Gren homestead next year. We’ll probably send out save the date cards and give follow-up phone calls starting in late August out of paranoia. We’ll definitely shoot for a large crowd next year. However, even if we only get seven people again next year, I think it will be worth all the effort. Because, it’s a nice moment in an odd way, to be on the verge of despair and to be suddenly pulled into revelry by a small group of friends. You can’t help but sit there afterwards, basking in the friendship and crude jokes, and be thankful for each and every one of them.

So, thank you to those of you who came to the party, I hope you had as good a time as Moonshot and I did. And to those of you who were unable to make it, just know that there will almost certainly be a party here next year…go ahead and mark your calendars.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Absent Minded Professor?

I have been working on a post about our Halloween party. I’ve sat down several times over the last few days and attempted to give it the time it deserves. However, daylight savings time has prevented it. A weak excuse, you say? Well…maybe, but hear me out. Ever since Simon reminded me to feel guilty about not working out, I’ve been rising between 5 and 5:15 to go downstairs and work out. Afterwards I either read or work on the blog until 6:30 when Norah typically wakes. Now, this was a great system. I hated getting up so early, but I felt wonderful about having a productive hour and a half every morning to do a few things I really enjoy doing. However, the routine was not to last. About a week and a half after I started, daylight savings time ended and Norah’s 6:30 became 5:30. I try to persuade her that it’s still Daddy’s time and that she should go back to sleep…but thus far, she remains unconvinced. So now I still get up at 5, but it doesn't really add to my productivity.

In addition to my blog time having been invaded, the party blog is a rather time-consuming post since it involves html coding and color glassy photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one is so that they can be used as evidence against us. But…despite all these valid reasons for delay, there sits my stagnant blog with no new update for a week. For shame. I’ve decided, therefore, to beat a temporary retreat from the party story so that I can distract you with a delightful conversation about the real reason you all come here anyway…Norah.

So, enjoy my stalling tactics and I’ll try to get the party pics up a little later this week.

The Absent Minded Professor?

In my continuing reporting on young Norah’s scientific experimentation with motion, communication, and cognition, I feel it only fair to clear up any misconceptions I may be causing about the young scientist’s progress. While I have reported nothing but the truth on this site, a reading of this blog would give the impression of a far more advanced child than Norah is at this moment. As you read of her progress, you undoubtedly assume that she’s stacking one discovery onto another and continually adding to her arsenal of life skills. However, the truth is…she’s a bit forgetful.

Yes, she works diligently on a problem, solves the problem, and even repeats her solution so as to prove that she has, in deed, mastered the challenge. However, it is at this point that her grasp of the scientific method fails her. Logically she would remember this advance so that she could continue to perfect the skill and perhaps expand on its usefulness. Instead she grows bored with it, casts it aside, and begins working on a new task.

She conquered the mystery of the button, pressed the button endlessly for a few days…and has not so much as thought about a button since. Couldn’t care less. She mastered the linguistic hurdle of “L” and even showed interest in “M.” She gibber-jabbered up a storm for a few days…and has made no sound outside the vowels since I reported to you. Ever since, she’s been experimenting with pitch and volume.

I see two primary explanations here. First, she has inherited her father’s jack-of-all-trades / too-many-interests-to-truly-master-any-of-them mentality. It’s possible that she, like me, will find it difficult to finish a book – even a book she is thoroughly enjoying – simply because a new story will catch her eye before completing the first. Or, the second possibility is that she’s just showing off for you fine folks. It may well be that her main goal in all this is to get me to mention her amazing feats in this blog. Having accomplished this on both the above mentioned examples…she felt no need to further pursue the lines of research and instead began work on her next blog-worthy accomplishment.

As mentioned previously on this blog, intent is a notoriously difficult thing to prove when it comes to babies. She’s either the absent minded professor or a deviously clever mad scientist. So, while I have no way of knowing which reason is true, I can’t help but think my Jolly Green has become overly competitive with her Internet peers. She knows there are a lot of cute kids out there vying for your attention…from Samantha to Sarah, and from Tavish to Sebastian. I think she has succumb to the oldest temptation in science…she’s fudging the numbers to meet expectations.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Just Six Words

My good friend, Taltap sent me a link to an interesting challenge put forth by Wired Magazine. Write a science fiction story in six words. It was cool to see what the pros came up with, but I was intrigued enough to try a few myself. I mean, if I plan to start writing fiction again…how much smaller of a baby step can I take than six words?


“Surprisingly sudden,” replied the last human.

Apparently, she could’ve flown all along.

Dying was scarier the second time.


“Now post your story,” said Moksha.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

This Blog Has Been Brought to You By the Letter “L”, the Letter “B” and by the Specter of Death Itself

La La La

Norah at 12 weeksIt was only a few days ago that Norah began stringing together vowels sounds to add a little flavor to her vocalizations. However, she feels that she has adequately explored the possibilities presented by “A”, “E”, “I”, “O, and “U” and has now decided to pepper her speech with a consonant. For this all important first foray letter formation, the young Miss has chosen “L” to be her steppingstone.

With the addition of this extra sound to her vocabulary, she is suddenly in love with talking. She wiggles happily on her play mat, belting out monologues with eerie roller coasters of inflection. You can see by the full concentration on her face that the “L” is quite a tongue twister for her to produce.

She will look you in the eye and proclaim, “Eeeeooolaaa,” with full seriousness.

“Really?” I reply. “And then what happened, Norah?”

She grins and flings her hand about and explains that, “Oooouuulaaaalooo.”

“Uuuooolaaalooo?” I repeat for clarification.Norah Peers Over Aunt Elsa's Shoulder

She shakes her head and laughs at my ridiculousness. “Oooouulaaaloo,” she reiterates.

“Oh, well then, Ooooleeeebaaa,” I explain to her…careful to throw an extra consonant into the mix, just to keep her eyes on the roadmap.

Our conversations continue in this way until she feels she has exhausted the topic and then moves her focus back to her hanging toys.

“Well,” I say, “it’s always nice talking with you, Norah.”

And it really is.

A B-Movie Eulogy

As mentioned previously, Taltap and Elsa made the grueling 10-hour trip down from Minneapolis over the weekend. Although the trip was cut short by Elsa’s need to get back home for work earlier than expected, we had a great time. We rented horrible horror films and laughed when the director seemed to think we should scream. On this list was a beauty of a low budget zombie flick called Zombie Honeymoon. I mean…how can you go wrong? This film is a jewel of a make-your-own-movie type independent horror flick that is made far creepier by watching the Making-of documentary. Seems the writer/director’s sister suffered a horrible tragedy a few years back and he decided to make a horror film about it. The back-story goes like this:

Sister, Denise, falls in love with a wonderful man named Danny who surfs and wears loud shirts. Together they dream of moving to Portugal. Shortly after their wedding, Danny dies in a surfing related accident.

Ok, so imagine that this has happened to you or someone you love. Now imagine that writer/director David Gebroe is your brother and makes the following film:

A woman named Denise (played by a woman who looks a lot like the real Denise) marries a man named Danny (played by a guy who looks a lot like the real Danny) who surfs and wears loud shirts. While surfing on their honeymoon, Danny is attacked by a zombie. Through the course of the film Danny slowly becomes more and more zombie-like with lots of bloody, flesh consuming scenes. Denise’s love for him is so strong that she hides his murders and stands by her man to the very end.


Now, in the “Making of” documentary, the director and all the actors talk about what a wonderful tribute this film is to Danny’s life and to Denise’s strong spirit. But, I couldn’t help but notice that at no point does Denise herself show up. Maybe she found solace in the scene where a gore-drenched Danny devours her best friend on the dining room floor. Maybe she did. But I find it far more likely that such a scene would be terribly difficult for her to watch and quite frankly terribly inappropriate to make. While I’m not going to tell anyone how they should grieve, and while I know that some of the appeal of the zombie genre is its ability to make us look death in the face…I couldn’t help but be slightly weirded out by this particularly blood-soaked eulogy.

And oddly...that made it creepy enough for me to enjoy the whole twisted experience.

Death vs. Zip-Ties

Have I mentioned that Halloween is a big holiday around this house? If not…then I should mention that. I was already a big fan of the spook-fest in my pre-Moonshot years, but my wife borders on obsession. During October she only watches scary movies, reads scary books, and generally tries to keep herself in a state of perpetual fear. We have a big Halloween party each year as our one excuse to pack our house with our friends. So, our place is fairly decked out in creepy ambiance. Every year we have 10 or so jack-o-lanterns strewn about the house, the vast majority of the artwork through out the house is replaced with posters for classic horror films, a headless scarecrow rests in our sunroom rocking chair, the antique six-panel door that we splattered with blood-red paint in a “Help Me” pattern is brought up from the basement, and we set up a graveyard in front yard. We try to set-up at least one new thing each year. This year we decided the graveyard, while eerie in a quite way, needed to really reach out and grab the little trick-or-treaters. So we began dreaming of a 6-foot tall grim reaper who could loom over the tombstones.

As the holiday approached, however, and our attention was so focused on our infant that we were worried that even the Halloween party might not get fully planned, we began to seriously wonder if it was realistic to expect Death to grace our lawn this year. Luckily, Taltap and Elsa would have none of that. Being the wonderful friends they are, they turned our reaper into a group activity.

Click Here for Phot Detail of Death Vs. Zip-TiesAnd so, on Saturday, armed with construction material no more complex than electrical conduit, duct tape, chicken wire, and plastic zip ties…we set forth to conjure the spirit of Death to hover over our plywood cemetery.

Since we never took the time to make plans…or measure…or really think about what we were doing at all, our six-foot goal was overshot. Our monstrosity stands about 8 feet over our lawn. And since our yard is a good three feet above sidewalk, our beastly reaper looms a full 11 feet over the passing children.

Some wizards of the past have attempted to bind Death with complex wards drawn in chicken blood or some such foolishness. If only they had known about the all-powerful binding force that is duck tape and zip-ties. Death didn’t stand a chance.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Rotational Dynamics and the Art of Button Pushing

My daughter has become a full-fledged participant in modern society…she has become a button pusher. I’m not convinced yet that she fully understands her actions…but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s doing it, nor does it distinguish her from the vast majority of button-pushers out there if you think about it.

There are two buttons that Norah has regular contact with. One is on a dangly, little, fish type thing on her play mat. When pressed, this button plays a 5 second clip of various nautical themed tunes. The second button is on her crib fish. This button also elicits music, but longer versions of keyboard rendered classical music with no apparent theme. On Friday, Moonshot announced that Norah had pressed the play mat button during one of her play sessions. However, since Norah’s hands and feet pretty much flail in all directions, my wife was willing to concede that the button pressing could well have been totally random. So we tried again on Saturday with MoMa in attendance. The little girl treated herself to sea-fairing ditties no less than six times in three or four minutes. We came again to the inescapable conclusion that our daughter is a genius.

Following directly on the heals of this button-pushing frenzy, Norah made a second, button-related advance. As parents who sleep with a baby monitor a few feet from our heads, we are used to keeping an ear trained on the faint background noise of the glorified walkie-talkie. We are accustomed to pulling ourselves from slumber upon hearing her small whimpers. We are even used to being jarred awake by the sounds of her electronically amplified wails. However, neither of us was prepared to be startled into wakefulness by poorly synthesized Beethoven at 3:43 AM. As our groggy brains tried to wrap themselves around the situation, we lay there in the dim light, staring at each other with utter confusion on our faces. The crib fish is mounted to the back side of the crib…well outside the reach of our immobile daughter. So even if she had applied her newfound understanding of the play mat button, she had no way of reaching the crib fish button. I will admit that many possibilities went through my imagination. I will further admit that many of them were supernatural. However, I was confident enough that there was some logical explanation for the music that I had no problem letting Moonshot go downstairs to investigate as I rolled back over. In my defense, I did keep an ear on things through the monitor.

Moonshot returned a short while later to explain that Norah had been lying within arms reach of the button and so clearly she was the presser. However, that still let the mystery of the baby rotation that allowed her to swing her arms into pressing position. While we were pretty sure she had somehow found a way to move herself about the crib, we opted instead to blame a newly arrived Nanny Ghost. We were excited at the possibility that we might be able to split the late night soothings three ways instead of two. “Go back to sleep, honey…it’s Nanny Ghost’s turn.” A parent’s dream come true, if you ask me.

A few hours later I awoke to the sounds of an excited Norah. This time, I stumbled down the steps to find her wiggling about the crib. The motion looked much like her past patternless thrashing, but clearly something was different because he had a slow but steady clockwise motion going on. She grinned and pumped her limbs as she sang a happy little song whose lyrics go a little something like this, “aaaaaoooooo ooooooaaaaaaa eeeeeee!!” And as she repeated this pattern, her wee hand moved closer and closer to that button. Alas, though I was thrilled at my daughter’s new talent, I was sad to abandon the wonderful possibilities presented by Nanny Ghost.

So here’s the tough thing about gauging infant advances. Though motion can be described, intent is very difficult to determine. Nothing described above was so clear as “Look at button, reach for button, press button, repeat.” Hands wave madly this way and that; eyes dart around from object to object. To a casual observer, she is the picture of random motion. But I have seen her develop…I know what random motion looks like and this is not random. It is frantic experimentation. It is a mad attempt to try everything she thinks might work with a few long shots thrown in for good measure. It is science in action. But the frequency with which she was able to find that small orange button makes it clear that she is in the process of crafting a system by which she can reliably supply herself with electronically produced music.

And that brings me to my final thought on this topic. The night after she first serenaded us with a baby-monitor concert, we were again awoke to baby-fied Beethoven. Again we found that she had rotated herself about the crib. But this time we were faced with the realization that this midnight music session could become a routine. And what to do then? Turn down the monitor to block out the noise but thereby miss her quiet whimpers? Remove the crib fish at night, thus depriving her of what is obviously a great incentive for her personal growth? Just accept the music as pat of our parenting experience? Luckily we get to postpone this decision. After that second time, she seems to have lost interest in rotational dynamics and button pushing of all sorts. She’s decided to work on grasping things instead. Buttons bore her this week. But soon she’ll be rolling about that crib and I’m thinking crib fish will have to sleep in the closet when that happens.

Thanks Simon
I’ve become lazy of late. In popular fashion, I’ve come up with excuse after excuse to explain why I haven’t jogged, lifted a weight, or really done anything more physical than bouncing my daughter in the past year or so. At first it was Moonshot’s pregnancy. She was nauseous through the first trimester and so needed to spend some quality time on the couch. Being the good husband that I am…I of course kept her company and made friends with our TV after years of ignoring it. By the third trimester Moonshot was achy and generally uncomfortable. The pattern of lounging continued. And now there is a baby in the house. I spend vast amounts of time on the couch giving her bottles, burping her, and playing with her. And even when I’m not the one holding her, I stick around my wife for solidarity’s sake. In addition, new parenthood has instilled in me the realization that sleep is priceless. I got used to getting out of bed only once Norah called. And as she slept later and later, I found myself sleeping later and later. Though one rolled out of bed at 5am to jog or lift weights or write in this blog, I now push my snooze button so late that I often find myself skipping breakfast, something I would never have done before.

So yesterday, my blog pal Simon posted on his fitness routine. As a fellow father of young’uns, I could not read his words without asking myself what exactly prevented me from doing the same.
And so, last night I set my alarm for 5am. And when that piercing tone jolted me awake this morning, I wanted nothing more than to roll back over and keep sleeping. But I realized that I really wanted to write in my blog that I got up and worked out. Odd as it sounds, the desire to write these words got me out from under those covers. So I lifted some weights, felt weak and worthless for the huge drop in my strength, and am now writing in this blog. Hopefully, by posting this here…I’ll feel guilted into doing it again on Monday.

A Quick Note on Visitors
MoMa, Moksha and Norah
Uncle Goldwing with Norah
Last weekend found two sets of visitors to the homestead. MoMa made her fourth trip up from Lake of the Ozarks and Uncle Goldwing and his wife Loretta spent all day Sunday with us as part of their weeklong U.S. circuit out of Jersey. This afternoon will find Taltap and Elsa moving into our guest bedroom for the weekend, making the 10-hour trip down from Minneapolis. Though this might not be of particular interest to many of you reading this, I wanted to take a few minutes to express how thankful Moonshot and I to all of you who have traveled so far to ooh and aah over our daughter (and to some small extent, to spend time with us as well). Those listed above are merely the most recent in a long list of people who keep logging many road hours for us.

We love you all.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Jolly Green Norah

Jolly Green Norah

Big NorahI’m beginning to think that Norah’s first words may well be, “Fee Fi Fo Fum.” We visited Duke and Pinky’s last weekend and met a nice lady with a three and a half month old named Avery. This child, nearly twice as old as Norah and described by her mother as being “big for her age,” was positively dwarfed by our ever-expanding daughter. Norah routinely sucks down 6-ounce bottles and at least once a day will even devour an 8-ouncer. Meanwhile, Avery daintily sips on 4-ounce mini-bottles.

Just how big is Lil’ Miss? Well, a statistically average two-month old would weigh right around 10 lbs. Half the kids are bigger than that, half the kids are smaller. However, very few chart in at Norah’s impressive 16 lbs! And remember, folks…that’s 16 lbs of dead weight to heft around. This is not a child who holds on or helps you bounce her. No, all the effort of lugging her around and holding her falls squarely on the holder. Moonshot had planned on starting a light weight-lifting program…she no longer feels the need as her arms get plenty of exercise calming Norah.

Norah Despite the increased efforts in transporting her girth, I have to say I’m much more comfortable with my jumbo shrimp than with a smaller version. For one, the extra size helps protect her against potential weight loss caused by illness, one of the great risks for infants. While a “normal” child might feel the effects of a lost pound or two, Norah would barely notice. Secondly, Moonshot and I are just accustomed to big babies. Superfly and Mr. Chubbers were both monstrously sized children and have pretty much set our images of what a child should be. So, while I have no idea why our circle of friends is producing Jolly Green Babies, it’s nice for Norah to be part of the club.

In addition to her healthy growth, her two-month check-up revealed that she is perfectly healthy. Her weight and height is pretty close to proportional. Her heart, lungs, eyes, ears, etc are perfect. And she’s met or exceeded all her developmental goals for her age. In short, she’s coming along nicely.

Changes Every Day

Norah SmilingWhat’s truly amazing about this whole child rearing thing is the speed at which she changes. I’d heard this from countless parents before me, but it just doesn’t sink in until you’re watching it happen. Moonshot and I watched some video taken just a few weeks ago and the difference was startling. While the pictures show marked growth, they can’t capture the advances in her movement. Where once arms and legs flailed aimlessly, now you can tell they are going in the general direction she is choosing. Where once eyes flitted about with no pattern, attempting to absorb input that made no sense to her, she now tracks objects of interest and clearly has her favorite items. And where once she could not smile, slowly moving to rare smiles at seemingly random times …she now smiles frequently at people she knows and grins widely at her favorite games. Norah FocusesShe loves the Itsy, Bitsy Spider…especially when the sun comes up. Big grin for that. She enjoys it when I make random consonant sounds, “Ba, ba, ba….de, de, de” and such. She has a particular fondness for the letter v, flashing her gums when I hold out an extended “vvvvvva.” She has grown to love bath time and enjoys clumsily splashing water about.
And she is sleeping through the night most nights. She has now abandoned the bed-side cradle and sleeps in her own crib in the nursery.

The basic news here is that she is just a much more pleasant person to be around these days. She’s happier. She reacts to you. She’s evolved into a little person instead of the wailing poop machine she was for the first month-and-a-half. And I'm thrilled.

What’s He Got Under His Skirt?

As the proud caretakers of Arlo, we’ve had to take into consideration certain aspects of his breed and personality. Since he is a non-shedding dog, we have accepted the expense of his monthly hair cut. We have grown accustomed to the fact that he will whine uncontrollably when he sees another dog out the window. We have trained ourselves to make sure to occasionally sit down next to his food bowl so he can eat since he will starve himself before he will eat alone. We are careful of his hind feet and regulate his exercise and walks so as not to injure him. And we have made our peace with the fact we have to give him regular baths since his skirt picks up dirt and leaves, and small twigs. It's this last bit that I want to talk about now...that skirt. We thought the increased baths were the only downside to the skirt. However, Moonshot and I recently discovered that the skirt can also pick up other, more alarming things from the yard…namely bumble bees.

* * *

It is last Sunday. I am sitting on the couch, surfing aimlessly about the Internet as I wait for Norah to drift off to sleep. Moonshot is back in the sunroom waiting for Arlo to finish his business in the back yard. As I meandered the web, I hear the jingle, jingle of Arlo’s collar as he reenters the house. More jingling as he runs around a bit, followed by Moonshot calling out, “I think something’s wrong with Arlo. He’s acting weird.”

I look up from the screen to see our little pooch dart into the dining room and crouch under the table. It’s one of his “safe spots” that he seeks out when he’s scared, so clearly something has upset him. He spins around and then abandons the sanctuary of the table to make a dash for my legs. Once he reaches me, the ultimate safe spot, he spins again, sits down, jumps back up and scampers away.

Very weird, in deed.

I jump up from the couch and try to sooth him as best I can, but he doesn’t seem able to sit still. He’s darting about and acting crazed. Thankfully, Moonshot has a brainstorm.

“Maybe he has something caught in his paws.”

A good idea, I think. Especially in the Fall, he often gets little burs or acorn caps stuck in his front paws. And since he can’t really redistribute his weight given his back feet, these unwelcome hitchhikers hurt and upset him considerably.

I pick him up under his armpits and heft him so Moonshot can check his little paws. She bends over, peeks around a bit, and then jumps back as I become aware of a buzzing noise.

“Oh my God, it’s a bee!”

In an instant, I am rushing through the house toward the back door at top speed with my terrified puppy dangling helplessly in my hands. I have no real plan for how to dislodge a bee from Arlo’s fur, but I know I need to be outside to do it.…I’ll work on Step 2 once I’m there.

I arrive at the patio with Moonshot right behind me. The bee is buzzing loudly from Arlo’s nether regions but Arlo is relatively calm, so I have to assume the bee is not stinging him.
“Get a…a…oven mitt,” I say.
Yeah, that makes sense, I think. With the mitt, we can brush the bee out of the fur without getting stung. As Moonshot rushes for the oven mitt, I spin Arlo around as best I can and blow toward where I hear the buzzing…basically Arlo’s crotch. I have just enough time to wonder how this would appear to the neighbors when the bee suddenly gains its freedom and zips into the air. I relax and am about to say something soothing to my traumatized friend when the bee divebombs Arlo’s head. I dodge and look around for the attacker. I can hear it buzz past my ear as I duck, but it’s too dark to find it. I dart back into the sunroom, slipping through the screen door and slamming it behind me just as Moonshot returns with the oven mitt. She looks at my crouched form and at Arlo still suspended by his armpits. “Is he ok?”

I take a moment to breath and set him on the floor, “Yeah, I think so.”

With that, Arlo calmly walks to the living room couch, curls up and goes to sleep…apparently far less upset by the chaos than his parents.

Type, Type, Drip, Sneeze, Type

I have to admit that this blog entry has been exceedingly difficult to write. It seems there’s something in the air has launched an assault on my sinuses. When I sat down, I thought, “Ah, writing. Here’s something that should take my mind off my allergies.” I was wrong. It’s surprisingly difficult to maintain narrative flow when your inner voice is interrupted every few seconds to sneeze. The words reach the page with alarming sluggishness when you have to keep stopping to grab tissues that now feel like sandpaper.
And I’d like to tell you that I now get to lay back and rest. But alas…it’s now time to go out give the hedges their fall trimming so we can put out the Halloween lights. It’s my own fault. I’ve been putting off this trimming until the last possible free weekend so that now I have to drag my sniffling ass out there and get it done. Who knows…maybe the exhaust fumes from the trimmer will counteract whatever has turned me into a snot factory. Come on exhaust fumes…do your stuff.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Angry Little Scientist and Other Stories

Angry Little Scientist

It is truly fascinating to me, the degree to which a two-month-old child can begin to express her personality. She cannot speak, she has very limited control of her motor functions, and even her facial expressions are often red herrings. However, certain aspect of her person are already becoming clear.

In preparation for Norah’s arrival, Moonshot and I read a book called Baby Minds. It walked through the brain development of a newborn and gave helpful games to play with your child that will help them work with whatever it is that their little brains are supposed to be working on at any given moment. The first few months basically consist of a general “talk to them” and “makes faces at them” game. However, the one game that we would not have thought of on our own was to tie a string to her foot. The other side of the string is attached to her mobile. In this fashion, she is given a puzzle to figure out…how to make the mobile dance. And once she has solved the puzzle, she can then work on motor control…how to make the mobile dance in the way I want it to. So, the rules of the game were simple. Tie the string, wait for her to figure it out. Once she figures it out, move the string to the other foot and she will have to relearn the puzzle. Supposedly, this switch-up should delight the baby mind and make the game last much longer.

Norah makes her Pooh mobile danceSo we tied the string on to her left leg and she figured it out in less than a minute. Jiggle once accidentally. Jiggle twice accidentally. Short pause, look of concentration, pump, pump, pump with the left leg. Big smile.

We were thrilled. Our child was obviously a genius and thriving in the scientific realm of experimentation and logic puzzles. We let her play with the left leg for a few minutes, and then moved the string to the right foot. Pump, pump, pump with the left foot. Pump, pump, pump with the left foot. PUMP, PUMP, PUMP with the left foot. Rage!!! Full on rage, I tell you. We reached into the crib and moved her right foot for her, hoping to show her how it was done. The mobile moved and she silenced for a second. Pump with the left foot. Rage!!! We removed the string and called it a day.

The next day, hoping the 24-hour break would reset the circuits and allow her to understand the rather minor variation we had introduced to her string game, we replaced the string on her right foot. Her eyes lit up with a smile…she remembered the string game. Pump, pump, pump with the left foot. Tears of sadness. Feeble pump with the left foot. Rage!!!

It seems our little scientist has no taste for new data. Observation be damned, she knows how this string game works and no amount of new input can convince her that she might need to alter her worldview a bit. There is clearly nothing wrong with her understanding…there is obviously something wrong with the game, her parents, and quite possibly the world itself.

So, despite her limited ability of expression, Norah has clearly told us a very important detail about herself…she has inherited her parents’ stubbornness.

We are mentally preparing for the inevitable consequences.

I Miss You, Sonny

I had prepared myself for parenthood by closely watching my friends and family as they made this jarring transition. And to my credit, I think I entered this deal more prepared than most. However, while my method did allow me to observe the big changes and issues…the smaller ones eluded my notice. And in the end, it’s the multitude of tiny changes that lead to this sense of culture shock within your own home that we call new parenthood.

For instance:

I used to be an instant gratification type of person. A thought would occur to me and I would stop what I was doing and satisfy my craving. If I was watching tv and wanted a glass of water, I simply paused the show and went to quench my thirst. If I wanted desert after dinner I either got up and made myself something or Moonshot and I would stroll down to the frozen custard place and treat ourselves. The list goes on and on, but there was a direct link between what I wanted and what I simply got up and got.

These days it’s more complex. Let’s say I’ve just calmed Norah after a minor spat of fussiness. I am not going to threaten this tenuous calm just to make myself a bowl of ice cream. The calm is precious and must be preserved. If I get thirsty while giving Norah a bottle, I’ll make a mental note to get up and get a glass of water once she is done and has been burped. But then she needs changed and by that point I’ve forgotten that I wanted water in the first place until my throat gets dry. And only then do I stop to ponder…when did getting water become a planned out event that I had to hold in my memory long enough to enact said plan? It’s a glass of water. In this marvelous age of indoor plumbing I should have access to water whenever the urge strikes me. And yet I have noticed my water intake has decreased markedly since Norah arrived.

And I’ve forgotten to get my after-dinner bowl of Cocoa Puffs three nights in a row.

The Five-Minute Stalker

I love data. It’s a very geeky tendency I have, but I love to collect and compile data. As witnessed in the days before Norah’s birth, a good spreadsheet makes me smile. But more than that…the availability of data makes me smile too. Tracking it down prior to compiling it is just good fun. Because of this, Internet searches make me positively giddy. Often, I’m not even all that interested in knowing the information I’m finding…I’m just facintated that the information is there at all.

I love to Google friends, see where and how their lives intersect the grand tapestry that is the Internet. I Google “Moksha Gren” to see how often I show up. I track down old friends from high school to see what I can find. It’s not that I really needed to know that “Lesley” got evicted from her home last year…I’m just astounded that the paperwork is available online and that the paperwork refers to a real, live person I know in the physical realm. It’s sort of surreal in a way that I’ve never been able to express to my satisfaction. The fact that data represents real events in real space…it’s a form of magical transformation that my mind really digs on.

And it fascinates me to no end to know that in five minutes, I can gather more information on a person than his/her stalker could have only 20 years ago.

Case in point.:
(Warning: this will ramble around in a tangent for a little while…but will return to my point…hang in there)

There’s a little white house across the street from us. It usually gets rented out to college students, so it’s a bit dumpier than the other houses on the street, but it's cute in its own way. Anyway, this semester, we’ve noticed a lot of musical instruments going in and coming out of the little white house. “Ah,” we said, “A band…how cool.” Moonshot and I are both music fans in general and fans of young people pursuing music specifically, so we smiled as we watched the young band from our living room window.

And then the practicing began and we began wondering is college kids should be allowed to pursue music. Around 1:30 last Saturday night, we lay awake listening to the muted bass and drums pouring form the little white house and felt old and uncool as we contemplated going over and asking them whipper-snappers to quiet down..

However, the next day, while trimming the grass along our sidewalk, two young guys approached me. Shaggy hair, bushy mutton chops, funny sunglasses…clearly aspiring rock stars. They introduced themselves as Ben and Kevin and I was astounded at their politeness. They asked about the noise level, asked about our normal schedule and what times would be ok for them to practice. I was thrilled. What kind of rock and roll mentality is this? Respecting your neighbors? The Rock Gods would not approve. But I was suitably impressed. I chatted with them about their band and told them that while the really late-night stuff needed to lower the volume a bit, I’d generally rather them practice and become famous so I could later brag about living next to them. I’ll deal with a little noise in the meantime. The band is called Troubadour Dali. Ben sings and Kevin is filling in on the bass…on loan from a band called LaPush.

After my yard work was done, I retreated to my office and began my searches. I downloaded songs by Troubadour Dali from their myspace page and found that their listed influences are Brian Jonestown Massacre, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and the Dandy Warhols. I should have guessed from the cleverly altered artist reference for their band name and from the big ol’ Joel Gion sideburns and glasses. I watched a video of LaPush playing on the Carson Daly Show and read reviews of their cd. I searched for Ben and Kevin to see if they were in any other bands. No, but Kevin teaches guitar lessons, has a big dog names Chuck, and listens to a supprisingly wide array of music for a guy who looks like he stepped right out of Dig!. Ben got good reviews for his roll in the St Charles Community Theater’s production of Angels in America, had a decent record as a high school track athlete and you can find a very cute picture of him with a ring-tailed lemur on his shoulder.

Why does any of this matter? I have no idea…but I was thrilled, and continue to be thrilled, that in five minutes I could find such a wealth of meaningless and trivial details that related to this guy across the street. I’ll never use the data, would probably have forgotten it all had I not found my eccentricities amusing enough to write it down here, but still I enjoyed the search.

I caught up with the band as they were loading up for a show on Wednesday night. I mentioned that I had listened to their music. I mentioned that I love Black Rebel and have been meaning to get more familiar with Brian Jonestown Massacre. I wished them luck on their show. I thought it best not to mention the ring-tailed lemur.