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.