Monday, December 28, 2009

One of these things is not like the others

Jacob was pretty hilarious at dinner tonight. We had a wokful of shrimp fried rice for dinner. It had all the typical ingredients: eggs, soy sauce, peas, carrots, scallions, shrimp and rice. Jacob has maintained a "no veggie" attitude for quite some time now, so it seems rather obvious that he would object to the peas, carrots and scallions. Except that the scallions were too small to be recognized as vegetables, so they were eaten. He did remove carrots from his fork several times (though some slipped in behind a piece of egg or a pile of rice). He even evicted the peas, except for one pea. He took it in his fingers and said, "Jacob no like green peppers." The obvious thing to do after that would be to return yet another vegetable to his bowl. Jacob was not obvious, because the second after he finished speaking, he put the pea in his mouth and ate it. I was reduced to tears. Tears of laughter.

Writing the incident out now, it doesn't seem so hilarious. Maybe the best humor really is unexplainable.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Scariest Thing at the Library Part II

Like any good sequel, we up the ante for this post about Jacob's visit to a holiday themed library program for pre-schoolers. Last time, the second-billed star was Frosty the Snowman, now we have that jolly old elf, Santa Claus, visiting the Savage branch of the Howard County public library. How did it turn out? Read on....

This trip to the library was like most others. Getting the kids ready meant one last diaper change before leaving (and one last opportunity to adjust outfits, e.g. Jacob was still in his pajamas up to that point). We packed up in the van and daddy remembered almost everything. The forgotten item was the presents for the Marshalls, whom we were going to visit after the library. Whoops! We'll see them again soon.

Arriving at the library. we went in and headed to the children's desk to sign in for the program. The nice lady looked up Jacob's name and checked him off. She offered to stamp his hand which he adamantly refused to accept. The nice lady (who must have experienced this sort of reaction before) kindly said it was alright and to have a good time at the program. Jacob's behavior did not bode well, in my opinion. We walked over to the play area where Jacob played and I picked out new puzzles to replace the ones we returned. Then the bell rang, signaling the time to gather for stories.

We walked into the meeting room. Before Jacob could sit down, the story lady (someone different from the lady at the desk) started handing out jingle bells and a song. Jacob actually stood for the song and did a little bit of the dancing and other choreography that she was leading. He turned around; he rang the bells high and low. This did bode well, in my opinion. She continued with the usual blend of stories, songs and activities. Once Jacob sat in my lap, however, that was the end of his visible participation in the program. He did enjoy it though.

Then craft time came. This week's craft was pretty simple: each child received a set of stickers (with gingerbread men and such) and a red cardboard square with a ribbon through it. The child put the stickers on the ornament. I've come to the conclusion that the only problem is that Jacob thinks the word "craft" is a four-letter word of the unrepeatable variety. He had no interested in an extremely simple craft, the like of which he has done at home. He protested with his usual, "No, no, No, NOOOO!" with a "want to go back to car!" thrown in for good measure.

I told him Santa was coming, so he waited for a little bit. Santa waited a little bit longer to show up, so we were already out the door and back in the main library before he went into the meeting room. Luckily, he did his bit pretty quickly and then went to another room for pictures with the kids. Jacob, Lucy and I were first in line (everyone else was still crafting, I guess). So in we went. Jacob was unsure of what to do. I told him to give Santa a high five before I was ready with the camera, so this was the result:

The children's desk librarian was there and offered to take a picture of all three of us with Santa. By this point Jacob was done with this activity too, chiming in with his "No, no, No, NOOOO! Want to go back to car!" I wrestled him into position and we got this shot:

Just in case you can't see it, here is the look of consternation at lack of immediate departure:

Once I told him we were leaving, Jacob did say goodbye to Santa and high fived him again. All in all, I thought it was a pretty good visit to the library. If only we could have been good Santas and delivered our presents to the Marshalls, the would have been an even greater success.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lucy's latest accomplishment

Lucy is almost six months old and is beginning to show a new talent: grabbing things with her hands.

At first she just flailed them around as if they were merely endings on those two jointed sticks that Mommy and Daddy call arms. Now she has enough coordination to work her fingers into vise grips. She has demonstrated this power repeatedly on women's jewelry (while the women are wearing it, lest you think Lucy is some sort of cat burglar), Mommy's hair and Daddy's beard. She is also good at grabbing onto skin and getting a good hold.

Yesterday, though, she brought a smile to my face. I was feeding her from a bottle (she is only just starting on rice cereal and oatmeal cereal) and she reached up with one hand and then with the other and grabbed the bottle. She held onto it and held it in place for about 15 seconds. Hopefully she will build on this success and give Daddy a chance to do more while she eats. Maybe I could even blog with her eating in my lap. That may be too much to hope for.

I'm looking forward to future talents.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Scariest Thing at the Library

Jacob and Lucy attended a holiday program at the Savage branch of the Howard County Library on Friday. Frosty the Snowman was the theme for the program that included stories, songs, a craft and a special visit from the snowman himself.

Lucy was very attentive during the program and seemed to enjoy herself quite a bit. Jacob went into his usual passive mode. The librarian handed out colored scarves that the kids used as snowflakes. Most of the rest of the kids swirled the scarves in the air like snowflakes in wind and let them fall to the ground. Jacob just held on to his scarf. I helped him to wave it around. He enjoyed the stories and the sing alongs but would not stand up and dance around. He never has before, so I guess it was no surprise.

Then came time for the craft. Everyone who registered had one craft set to put together. The craft was pretty simple: glue a snowman to a stick, then glue a snowflake to a Styrofoam cup, then stick the stick into the top of the cup. The librarian handed me Jacob's kit. When I asked him if he wanted to do the craft, Jacob said, "No, no, no, no, No, NO, NOOO!!" After about 30 seconds of this, I asked Jacob if we should give the craft to one of the other children who weren't registered. Jacob just said, "No craft, no, No, NOOO!!" So I gave the craft to another child while trying to keep Jacob from bolting from the room before Lucy left.

We headed towards the door when Frosty came in. He waved to us. Jacob went up to him and gave him a high five, which made the librarian escort for Frosty (celebrities never go around with an entourage) laugh. Frosty then left to another room, where Jacob reenacted the high five and I was lucky enough to get the picture:

You would think that Frosty would be the scariest part of the program for kids, but they all loved him. Next week is Santa, so we will see how Jacob and the rest of the kids will do.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jacob's Jealousy Reaches New Depths Today

When Lucy was first born, Jacob was not too jealous of her. Angie and I had heard the typical story. An older sibling tells mom and dad after a week of living with a new bundle of joy that the infant can go back now. Jacob never said that to us and has always been very good and affectionate with Lucy, for example:

What could be more affectionate? Things have changed this week, however. It started with Jacob taking toys and books out of Lucy's room and putting them in his room. To be fair, some of them were Jacob's previously (though Lucy did receive her own copy of Goodnight Moon, and it's unclear to me why Jacob needs two copies; nevertheless, he took both). Lately, Jacob has been asking to get into Lucy's crib and into her playpen, as for example:

Today was the biggest move yet by him. We had gone shopping to the local grocery store. I've developed this system where Jacob rides in the shopping cart and I pull Lucy's stroller behind me. Sounds awkward? It is, but it is much easier than going through the process of putting Lucy in a carrier and taking her out again. The stroller also has a handle at the front so I don't have to pull the stroller backwards through the store. We are like a little train in the store, with Jacob as the engine (even though I provide all the power) and Lucy as the caboose.

But enough of this digression, the important facts are Jacob was sitting in the cart and Lucy in her stroller. We got back to the van. The parking spot on the passenger side was empty, so I pulled the cart by the side door with Lucy in the stroller by the back wheel. I opened the front passenger door and loaded a couple of bags. As I turned back to the cart, I saw Jacob finishing a kick at Lucy's stroller which sent it slowly rolling away from the van and into the traffic lane. My heart leaped almost as fast as the rest of me did. Another van came by at the same time. The women rolled down her window and said how she was scared to see the stroller come out. Yikes, Jacob! Have you been playing nice all this time, only waiting for this opportunity?

I'm sure it really was an accident but you can be assured, I'll never load groceries first again.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Long week since Thanksgiving...

Last week is definitely the sorest I have been in quite a long while. It all started on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, when I took my brother-in-law, his wife and one of their friends on a high ropes adventure course at Terrapin Adventures. It was an awesome experience (videos will be posted soon on YouTube), with all sorts of climbing and walking challenges (traversing rickety bridges, walking on two wires, climbing cargo nets, balancing across logs, etc.). We had lots of fun but I was pretty worn out afterwards.

Everyone flew home by Sunday afternoon, which left a golden opportunity (since the sun was shining and the air was warm) to rake leaves. I started by myself while Jacob and Lucy napped inside. Eventually, everyone else came out later. We filled about eight bags, which may not sound like much, but I'm the sort to mash down the leaves and squeeze as much as possible into the bags. It was a full day's work in a couple of hours. My soreness from the day before was just beginning to kick in; leaf raking and bagging only added more.

Monday had no major exercise. Tuesday was Tae Kwon Do night with my friend David. We do about 1.5 to 2 hours of martial arts, followed by hanging out (playing board or video games, watching movies, etc.). I was not recovered from the weekend, so this workout definitely prolonged the agony.

Wednesday was Angie's birthday. I ran around to get a bunch of things done. No heavy lifting happened, but I did get a lot of chores done at home so that we could have a fun evening of nothing in particular to do.

Thursday was the big moving out day for my sister Rosemary. I helped load the truck with all her stuff that was stored here for the past half year or so. Only a couple of heavy items were a challenge for lifting. She has a piano, but it is a digital one that is moveable by two. On the other hand, many trips from the basement had to be made for all the boxes, etc., that were stored down there. After dinner, I went to her new place to help unload. I was very glad to help her out, and by this point being sore was becoming the natural state of things.

Yesterday, we had a beautiful snowfall of about three inches. Since it's the first snow of the year, not much stayed except on grass and trees. Jacob and I sledded and threw snowballs in the back yard (see proof on Facebook). Not really a hard work out, but fun.

Also, Angie received Wii Fit Plus for her birthday. We tried it out yesterday and today. The new games are fun and challenging. I look forward to future soreness from this!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jacob's new skills

Sorry it's been a while since there's been a posting, but things have been really busy. Hopefully things will be less chaotic now that Christmas is coming. Yeah, right!

Anyway, Jacob's latest amazing activity is creating new song lyrics. He started with "Old MacDonald," where the farm had all sorts of new and interesting items: a coal car (with a chug chug here...), a drum stick (with a drum-drum here...), a tambourine (with a tambourine here...), etc. He goes through his toy box and imagines everything is on old MacDonald's farm.

Recently, he's started rewriting "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" In case you haven't read it, the basic structure of the book is like this: "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? I see a yellow duck looking at me. Yellow duck, yellow duck, what do you see? I see a red bird" etc. etc. Jacob started rewriting it with his puzzles, specifically the Cat and the Fiddle puzzle from the library, which features the cat with fiddle and the cow jumping over the moon. Jacob started saying, "Fiddle, fiddle, what do you see? I see feet looking at me. Cat feet, cat feet, what do you see? I see a moon looking at me. Moon, moon, what do you see? I see a cow butt looking at me." Jacob went on while Angie and I looked at each other. Both of us deny that we taught him that one of the puzzle pieces was the cow's rear end. Who could have taught him such a thing?

We just finished a Thanksgiving visit with Angie's family, and our suspicions immediately fell upon Grandpa. He's had a whole history of either Jacob or he misbehaving which has so far gone undocumented. Hopefully Grandpa will read this post and set the record straight.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Scientific Experimentation with Jacob

Jacob had a fun day on his birthday at the park riding on his favorite slide. He also discovered the new property of static electricity and began to experiment with it. You will notice the effect of the slide on Jacob in the next picture:

Getting charged up as he slid down the slide definitely had a shocking result on his hair. Luckily, he knew how to expend his excess charge, as documented in the next picture. It is difficult to see, but he is touching a small metal bolt with his right hand.

He also tested the bolts on the other side of the slide to see if he could achieve the same effect:

Lest you think that we have merely doctored the photos in order to give Jacob an undeserved reputation for scientific genius, here is a video clip of one of his many experiments that day:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jacob's latest development

Jacob and I were playing with his puzzles today. He loves the wooden puzzles with pieces that fit in just the right spot. Like this.

Sometimes he works on them and doesn't want anything from me. I will come up to him to check out how he is doing and maybe help out. He responds, without even looking up from his puzzle, with, "Bye-bye, daddy. Bye-bye." I take comfort in the fact that he does this to his mom too.

But today something different happened. He let me help out (which is not the something different). Sometimes we work together to get a piece in and I say, "Good teamwork!" He even repeats "good teamwork" back occasionally. I might also throw in a request for a high-five and he'll slap me five in celebration. Today, we put the last piece in one of the puzzles and Jacob asked for the high five. I was more excited than him for once.

Tomorrow we're having a birthday party for Jacob with some friends. Hopefully it will generate some interesting stories. The still camera and the video camera are plugged in. With any luck, we won't forget to use them.

Friday, September 25, 2009

It was the naughtiest of times, it was the nicest of times...

The week has been full of ups and downs for Jacob.

On Thursday, we went to the playground at the Mall in Columbia so he could get out and run around (it's been rainy here for the past couple of nights, so neighborhood parks have been pretty wet in the mornings). He, Lucy and I went almost right at 10 a.m. when the mall opens, thus there weren't many other children when we got there. Jacob was ecstatic to climb and run all over. I kept Lucy in her car seat (which detaches from the stroller) and I sat on the perimeter bench and cheered on Jacob. He was enjoying himself a little too much on the fruit slide. The slide is a large vinyl slide made to look like a pile of large pieces of fruit. It's about four feet tall and I became really nervous when he started climbing over the top to the steep side where he could fall and hurt himself. Coming to encourage him to get down, Jacob kept telling me to stay with Lucy, i.e. leave him alone. Alas, Lucy did start to get upset, so I went to check on her. After a minute of calming her, I turned around and he was not on the fruit slide anymore.

I looked around and didn't spot him until I saw him climbing the stairs outside of the play area up to the mall's second level. I ran and got him and dragged him back, ignoring his protests. We got back to Lucy and I put him down. He wanted to go back to the stairs, so I grabbed the car seat. Lucy and I followed him, leaving the stroller behind. We walked up the stairs, which I thought was his final destination. Then he started off down the hall, passing store after store. I was afraid he remembered either the pet store (about two thirds of the way down the mall) or the carousel (all the way down the mall). He stopped about half way and decided he was done walking. Which meant that daddy had to carry him in one arm and Lucy in her car seat with the other arm. It was a long walk back.

He made up for his naughtiness at Friday's library story time. Jacob was rather sedate during songs and such as usual. When the scarves came out for peek-a-boo, he actually waited for the lady to come and then get his scarf. He even played peek-a-boo with it just like the lady showed us. When it was time to give them back, he walked up and put it back in the basket. Later, little egg shakers were handed out. Jacob was extra cooperative with that as well. He was even quite polite during the play time with the toys. While he didn't really share any of his toys, he was willing to trade or get a new toy.

After story time was over, Jacob wanted to go upstairs. I told him we couldn't take the stairs because of Lucy's stroller so we'd have to take the elevator. He made a beeline for elevator. We went up and walked around for a bit and then came back downstairs. As we left, Jacob asked for a puzzle. So we walked back in and got a puzzle. He waited patiently on the checkout line. It was a very satisfying trip to the library.

I hope there's more library trips and better mall trips in our future.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book overload!!!

I was reading Joseph Campbell's "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" and as I finished the first part, I came to a hard realization. I am in the middle of too many books right now. As in, I haven't been reading this many book simultaneously since grad school. Full-time grad school. What am I reading?
  1. The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell. I started reading this because I was interested in reading it in the future and there were three people who had requested the book before me at the library (the library has only two copies; compare to the 131 copies of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, a count which doesn't include the audio book versions and large print editions). Apparently those other people are speed readers because my reserve showed up in less than a month. Since it is from the library, naturally I needed to read it right away before returning it.
  2. Grimm's Fairy Tales, Grimm Brothers. I started reading this over a year ago. It's my bedside reading book. Starting and stopping with this book is pretty easy since it is a compilation of unrelated short stories. I usually read it if I need something during a daytime nap and nothing else is lying around in the bedroom.
  3. Don't Know Much About (R) Mythology, Kenneth C. Davis. This book is an anniversary present from my wife and I'm interested because I'm thinking of starting a mythology podcast (which is also the inspiration for reading Campbell and Grimm Bros.). Since I own the book, reading it has been off and on. And yes, there is a copyright symbol in the middle of the title. The author has written a string of similarly titled books about history, the Bible, science, etc.
  4. Fathering Your Toddler, Armin A. Brott. I've been reading this one for a while too, though I haven't picked it up for a couple of months. I'm trying to stay informed about what to expect with Jacob. Unfortunately, this volume has been taking a back seat lately.
  5. The Thought of Saint Paul, William Most. A book from my Christendom days that I started reading for the year of St. Paul (which ended in June, now we're onto the year of the Priest). The writing is a little dry and academic. He repeats himself a lot. I lost count of how many times he referred to Luther's "Sin boldly but believe more boldly" line from Epistle 501 to Melanchthon.
  6. Mad Scientist Hall of Fame: Muwahahahaha!, Daniel Wilson. I started this book last week when I was playing with Jacob in the living room. He started playing by himself but didn't want me to leave, so I grabbed something off the shelf. The book has short biographies of real and fictional scientists who were crazy with varying levels of genius. The first bio was of Dr. Evil from Austin Powers, followed by a crazy but scientifically idiotic Soviet named Trofim Lysenko.
  7. I'm also reading a couple of different monthly comic books (Hellboy and his spin offs and some Green Lantern stuff).
I also have Steven King's On Writing (recommended by Grammar Girl for anyone who is a writer) from the library. This book is waiting for me to finish J. Campbell. It also was a requested book that I expected not to come for a month or two at the earliest. And Angie has a parenting book from the library she wants me to read but I haven't had the chance to start yet because of all the other demands.

Finishing Part One of Hero Has a Thousand Faces, I've come to the conclusion that I need to finish up some of these books before starting any new ones. To make this easier, I am going to return Campbell and King to the library and put the books on a "too read someday" list. Then I can focus on getting these other books read without the guilt of seeing all the little stacks that are forming all over the house. Wish me luck!

Four shirt day

Yesterday Jacob, Lucy and I went to Columbia Gym for a play date with Jacob's playgroup. It was a lot of fun, but the day was costly with regard to laundry. Specifically, I went through 4 shirts that day. Or more accurately, Lucy went through four of my shirts.

I got up early and showered while Angie was still playing with the children in the pre-dawn hours. I put on a red polo shirt figuring it would be good for the day. After joining the family for breakfast and other fun, I wound up carrying Lucy on my shoulder whose nose has been running on and off for the past couple of days. She ran on my shirt, so before we even left the house, I had to change into another shirt.

We drove off to the gym, which was difficult to find. Columbia is famous for hiding its businesses behind little hills or in office parks. The gym followed this model. Located in a business park, no signs on the street or on the building indicated where the gym is located. So we circled around a little till we were sure we were at the right spot.

Jacob had a grand time at the gym. The toddler program has an obstacle course for the young ones. A couple of balance beams, some padded ramps, a mini-trampoline, some crawling tunnels were arranged on the floor. The children tore through the course, and I mean that literally. The balance beams had little plastic disks to step on which were picked up and scattered. The crawling tunnels were large. light-weight and collapsible. I know because Jacob collapsed one of them. A couple of little traffic cones lined the final stretch of the course, but only for the first couple of course runners. Jacob found a bucket of chalk (the kind gymnasts use to keep their hands dry) and kept trying (and occasionally succeeding) in dunking the cones in the chalk. He also loved the long trampoline which he would just run down again and again. I tried to take some pictures with the cell phone camera. The action was too quick; every picture came out blurry.

Lucy was very patient waiting in her car seat while Jacob played and played. I had to run back and forth between her and Jacob a couple of times when she got a little antsy. So by the time we left I was more than a little moist. I changed into shirt number three when we got home. I downgraded to a t-shirt at this point.

They both went down for naps at the same time. I was quite happy about that. I completed a bunch of chores and was able to take a little nap too. I woke up with a start because I heard one of the children crying out. But then I checked on them and they were still down. I must have had a bad dream.

Eventually they did wake up and Lucy managed to drool and run her nose on my t-shirt. So I had to change shirts again for dinner time. Tomorrow, I'll have to do laundry.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Jacob plays at the park

Columbia is blessed with many park areas for children's amusement. Some are pretty simple with just some swings and a sand box. Others are more elaborate. Over near Savage Mill is the Savage Park, which is entirely unlike its name. You'd expect gladiator arenas and pig-roasting spits. In stead, the park has nice baseball fields, tennis courts, grills, restrooms, and, best of all, a children's playing area. We went on Thursday after dropping off Aunt Rosemary to work. Jacob had a blast, but he definitely showed that he is his father's son.

The play area has plenty of slides to go on:

But after he discovered what he thought was the best slide, he showed no interest at all in the other slides. Even when I tried to encourage him to try the others, he would just go back to the tallest, steepest one he could find. And ride it again and again and again. Here's one of the trips, caught on my cell phone:

So how does this make him like me? Every time we go out for Chinese food or order take out, I almost invariably order cashew chicken, since it is my favorite dish and there was one really good takeout place that had the best cashew chicken I've ever had. So I am pretty loyal and very decisive (which is atypical for Reningers ordering food). Jacob is the same way with his slides. We'll have to go back to the park and see if he still sticks with the same one.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fun and Games at Autumn's Birthday Party

We had great fun last weekend at Autumn's birthday party at her house in West Virginia. One of fun games that we played (actually, all the games were fun, I don't wish to imply there were unfun games) was breaking open a pinata. The pinata was shaped like Spongebob Squarepants, popular kids' TV figure. Personally, I wish they had bashed on Barney, but that's another story. Watching the kids take a whack at the little yellow man made me think of some sage advice to pass on to others.

Typically, when we Americans go after a pinata, we use a baseball bat and we immediately try to port over the associated skills to win victory over our paper mache opponents. Look at this picture as Autumn prepares to take her first swing at Spongebob:

She's ready to start playing for the Yankees, if only they could afford her. So she took a horizontal swing at the cartoon icon and he just went spinning in the air. The rest of the kids all took turns using the same technique with the same results.

I've seen this pretty much every time a pinata is brought out: people pretend it is a baseball and try to knock the cover off the ball. At work once we spent quite a time trying to knock one out of the conference room. Invariably this doesn't work until someone starts to think outside the box. The new inspiration is usually some memory of a samurai flick or Indiana Jones cutting down the rope bridge at the end of Temple of Doom. The over the head chop takes place of the horizontal hammer. Results come up quite quickly, as we can see in this next picture:

I do wish I had pictures from the work pinata, it was truly priceless to see a supervisor's tie swinging in the wind along with the bat. Anyway, Spongebob dropped his load to the delight of the kids. See:

You can insert your own bad joke here. Just in case you were wondering, Jacob did have a crack at the pinata. He needed daddy's help. He also needs to learn the right end of the bat to use. Great way to train your son...where's Uncle Nate when you need him?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Worst of times, best of times

This morning was pretty rough. Jacob woke up early as usual (about 5:15). He stayed lying down for 20-30 minutes when I joined him in his room, but by 5:45 the lights were on in his room and reading had begun. We typically read until he comes to some passage or picture with food or drink in it. This triggers his desire to go downstairs and get some milk or a snack to start the morning right.

Things were going fairly normally until he finished eating as much of his oatmeal as he wanted at 6:30. For some unfathomable reason, he decided to be cranky and whine his way through the morning. No amount of playing with toys or puzzles, reading, having fun with Aunt Rosemary, etc., improved the situation. We finally went grocery shopping and he switched from whiny to hyperactive, which lasted till we got home.

He was still pretty hyper at home even after having some muffin and orange for a snack. Nothing seemed to placate him. Finally, Rosemary got him to go down for his nap around 11:30. It only lasted till 12:15 or 12:30, when Angie came home for lunch from work. Jacob was cranky again and it lasted for quite a while. Angie and I think his moodiness is because he is not getting enough sleep. It is certainly driving us crazy and causing us to lose sleep.

After Angie went back to work, Jacob and Lucy and I were hanging out. Lucy drifted off to sleep in the swing in the living room, so I decided to give Jacob a try at a nap around 2:15. We read some stories, laid down and I was singing to him. He had his foot up on the wall while he lay there, which was not a good sign at all. Finally, Lucy started fussing and waking up. Yikes!!! So I told Jacob that I was going to take care of Lucy and he should stay in bed and go to sleep. He always wants us to stay with him to fall asleep, so I thought there was little hope of this working, but Lucy needed me.

I left his room and closed the door. After getting down stairs and starting to soothe Lucy, I waited for Jacob to come out of his room. Ten minutes went by. Fifteen. Twenty. By this time, I accepted that a miracle happened and that Jacob drifted off to sleep on his own! In spite of a really terrible morning, this is a great sign that things may improve. Hopefully Jacob can get himself to sleep more often. Say a prayer.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Another Prequel? Terminator: Restitution

You may look at the above picture and wonder, "Why would Skynet send a toddler back through time?" Well, this photo was part of an early concept for another film in the Terminator franchise. The idea was that Skynet would send a toddler back to the mid-1980's to assassinate John Connor at his daycare. The idea was shot down for several insurmountable complications: (1) The writers couldn't figure out a sensible way to get John Connor into daycare since his mom was on the run with him in Mexico when he was a toddler. (2) The studio couldn't figure out how to advertise the movie--was it a sequel or a prequel? It's a sequel to the first movie but would be a prequel to Terminator 2. Could they call it a "midquel?" The curse of time travel falls heavily here.

Now they've thought of a way to morph the idea to please the fans. Since a good deal of the blame for the terrible atrocity that is Terminator: Salvation has been pinned on director McG, a brilliant idea was brought forward. The producers could make it up to the fans of Terminator with this plot line: What if Skynet sent a toddler terminator to kill McG in daycare, thus wiping out the possibility of the great disappointment of the fourth movie? Revenge fantasy seems to be all the rage (see Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious So-And-Sos, or, better yet, don't). Also it would introduce some moral complexity: who do the fans root for? Normally they'd root against Skynet, but hey, it's a whole new situation here. Filming two alternate endings (one with Skynet winning, one with McG winning) could keep the ambiguity going and would make a great feature for the DVD release. Maybe they could gimmick up the theatrical release and have two different versions of the film showing. The fans could vote with their ticket stubs on which is the one they really want to see.

Maybe it could happen--there is no fate but what we make.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jacob's problem solving prowess

Jacob's problem solving skills have reached new heights lately. He's starting to solve some problems like Alexander solved the Gordian Knot.

We were at play group a couple of weeks ago. Jacob was playing with a shape sorter. Some of the shapes were a little tight going through the appropriate holes in the lid. Jacob came up with an excellent solution for getting the shapes into the sorter. He took the lid off of the shape sorter. Everything fit quite easily then.

Jacob also has a magnetic fishing puzzle from the library. Usually when he plays with it, he uses the magnetic fishing pole (which he calls a drum stick, because everything is either a drum or a drum stick) to pick the fish out of the puzzle and put them on the side. One day he came up with a solution that would make Alexander the Great proud. Jacob picked up the puzzle board and turned it over. Presto! All of the fish were out of the puzzle instantly. He had the quickest time ever solving the puzzle. I wonder if we can submit that for recognition somewhere.

I hope he will apply these skills to other problems, like faster lawn mowing, efficient bill paying, the war on terror.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Toddler homophones

In the continuing effort to parse Jacob's words, we've started to run into some toddler homophones (though they may be homonyms...if only Jacob could spell out what he wants).

The first homophone we discovered is "meh boh." If we are sitting at the dinner table eating spaghetti, when Jacob asks for "meh boh" he wants one (or probably more) meatballs. Sometimes he asks for "meh boh" even when we are eating something else. If we are out for a walk in the neighborhood and Jacob says "meh boh," he's referring to a mailbox. Typically he is pointing vigorously, so interpreting the reference is pretty easy.

Our latest verbal ambiguity is "muh." The first referent for "muh" was Mommy, of course. But then at breakfast the other day he kept pointing at my wife and repeating "muh, muh, muh!" He didn't seem satisfied that Angie acknowledged and was delighted that he wanted to talk to her. Eventually it dawned on us that he was pointing past Angie to the shelf behind her where we keep the banana muffins. It was a bit of a blow to us both that he was asking for a baked treat and not for his own mom. He seemed thoroughly satisfied once he got his treat.

In an attempt at clarity, Jacob has started to add a syllable. Now he says, "muh-fuh." We are sticking to our guns that he is only referring to muffins and that this is not a new homophone (or homonym). Yikes!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Jacob makes scientific progress

Today's breakfast was very exciting. Just Jacob and I were present. He ate some Quaker oatmeal from an envelop that Grandmama left behind. Breakfast wasn't exciting because I watched him eat dry oatmeal from an envelop (as you may have surmised). I did cook the oatmeal for him. It wasn't exciting because we shared the meal--I didn't make anything for myself and Jacob didn't even pretend to offer me any of his oatmeal.

What made it exciting was the conversation or, more precisely, Jacob's monologue. During past meals, if Jacob thought something was too hot we would tell him to drink some milk to cool it off. This morning, Jacob had a bite of oatmeal that made him say, "Too ho'." He reached for his milk and said, "Dri' mi'k coo' off."

I was stunned. I was floored. I was overjoyed. Not only has he learned a valuable skill (dealing with hot food on his own) but he is starting to grasp scientific principles. I am not sure if Jacob has discovered the principle of cause and effect but he is certainly applying it to his breakfast cereal. What more could a father ask for?

Well, I would still like some sort of Star Trek universal translator. I can't always interpret what he is trying to tell me. The statement Angie and I really can't figure out is "Beem uhh." Sometimes he says it repeatedly and vociferously and we just can't parse it. Maybe he is quoting Kirk, "Beam me up, there's no intelligent life down here." I refuse to believe this interpretation is true. I just hope he never gets his hands on a communicator.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Upcoming Firefly Prequel

Exciting news! It looks like they are working on a prequel to Joss Whedon's extremely popular Firefly/Serenity franchise. The story will focus on the younger days of cult favorite character Jayne Cobb and will solve one of the most puzzling mysteries still unexplained about the character: where did he get that hat? Here are some still images with snippets of dialog from the shooting script:

"How do you like my white hat, partner?"

"What, you think my white hat makes me look like a sissy? You hurt my feeling..."

"What? It's sissy because it's white? Now, I'm gonna have to hurt you (and maybe get a different hat)."

The t-shirt may also explain Wash's dinosaur battle reenactment at the beginning of the Firefly pilot. "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Busy day for us

Today has been a busy day here at the Reninger household. We started off the day with Jacob's play date. Caroline and Zahra didn't make it today but everyone else was here and had a good time. We even have pictures to prove it:

Jacob and Justine are reading in the chair. We have tried several times to document how they will sit and read books. Unfortunately the digital camera and the camera operator are both too slow. Here they are posing for the shot which they know is coming. Jacob seems to be trying a Vulcan mind meld on himself.

Chloe loves to ride the horses! She has such a cute smile too.

During the play date, Jacob kept wandering out of the room. I'm not sure if he was trying to lead his friends to other exciting parts of the house or was looking for some alone time. He usually wandered back or was brought back quickly. Lucy was much more cooperative, though she did try to stay awake for as much of the time as she could.

After the play date, Jacob had a nap while we had pizza. After he was up and fed some cheesy bread and peaches, we went to the library for the farmers' market. First we returned some stuff to the library and got even more stuff. I fear that my library account will push past 40 items soon. We definitely need to return rather than renew all the books and toys we take out for Jacob. It's just too easy to go online and renew with Howard County library's web site. The library emails a few days before an item is due and provides a link to the web site for renewing. It's far too easy and convenient. Curse your great customer service, Howard County library!! But I digress.

We bought some corn and a loaf of bread and some treats at the farmers' market (which is out in the parking lot of the library). Jacob did not want to walk around and shop. He liked to wander behind the trucks and vans of the farmers. One fellow offered Jacob a slice of orange watermelon. He took a bite and was unimpressed. I wound up finishing the slice.

After that, we went to Giant to get groceries for the weekend. Since Grandpa is coming, we had to stock up on sour cream and onion potato chips and butter pecan ice cream. I already bought some of his favorite beer earlier in the week, so we should be all set for their visit.

Finally, we got home and got ready to go to the neighborhood pool party. By getting ready, I mean nearly forgetting to bring towels, a bathing suit for Jacob and the tickets to the party. We completely forgot to bring pool toys, a sippy cup for Jacob, and the camera. We were unable to bring swim diapers because we had run out. Luckily, Harris Teeter was on the way to the pool so I ran in and bought some. Unluckily, I bought the Ariel/Little Mermaid swim diapers. No notice was made of the error until Angie was changing Jacob at the pool and another mother said, "He must have a sister." Angie said, "Yes, how do you know?" Good thing we had swim trunks for him!

We all had a great time at the pool. Jacob loved playing in the water, especially with other kids' toys. They didn't seem to mind. The food was okay: hot dogs, chips, soda, and vegetables. It was free, so no complaints. The DJ was fun, which was good because he had to amp up the entertainment value after someone lost bowel control in the main pool. The pool was evacuated and still being cleaned up after we left. The kiddie pool was unaffected.

We finally arrived home a little before 8 p.m. We had a great day. We hope to have as much fun again, though maybe it could be spread out over a couple of days.

Monday, August 3, 2009

One month doctor's visit for Lucy

Lucy had her one month doctor's visit today (even though she is now six weeks old). Everything went well except for the usual wait to be seen. She weighed in at 11 pounds, 4 ounces and was 23.75 inches tall, both of which were off the chart for a month old girl. Her head only measured in the 90th percentile but I am sure it will catch up in no time at all. Angie said we should check the growth charts for a six-week old but I'd rather keep my belief in her exceptionality.

We tried to go to Great Harvest Bread Co. afterwards since it is located near the pediatrician. We failed because they are closed on Mondays. Bummer! We will have to schedule future appointments with more care!

Here is our little girl before the doctor's visit:

Here she is after:

Happy days are here again!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Celebrating the third anniversary

Today is our third anniversary of being married. To celebrate, we decided to adapt the old "pub crawl" idea in a new and glorious way. Last night I said, "We should do a bakery crawl. Since it's our third anniversary, we should go to three bakeries tomorrow for treats." Angie's reaction: "I can't wait for our 50th anniversary!!"

We picked three places here in Howard County and planned our itinerary based on when they opened. Since the first bakery opened at 7 a.m. and the other two at 10 a.m., we decided not to leave by dawn's early light (though Jacob did get us up in time, but that's another story). The first bakery we went to was Touche Touchet which is also the closest to home. Here we had a lemon torte, apple walnut cinnamon roll and vanilla chai:

Next, we went to Oh What A Cake, located in a Columbia strip mall. It was a little disappointing for two reasons: (1) we thought they opened at 9 and it turned out that they really open at 10 and (2) it was strictly take-out, i.e. no tables to sit at (or at which to sit, if you don't want me to end with a preposition). Otherwise, they had a lovely Almond Amaretto cupcake and we also got the plebeian butter cupcake with chocolate icing.

The AA cupcake was much better. We'd like to go back and try the pound cake, but they only sold that by the cake, not the slice, so we'd definitely not be able to continue on the bakery crawl.

Our final destination was Bonaparte's in historic Savage Mill. We have been to this bakery several times, mostly because we go shopping to the Family Game Store, though now that a used book store has opened in the Mill, we may go even more often. Angie had her favorite, the almond croissant, and I tried something new, the banana coconut chocolate concoction. We asked the waitress what it was called and she was unsure. She only knew how to describe it. I know how to describe it too...delicious!!

Since mine was smaller, I was able to finish eating it. I also helped Angie with her croissant.

After we got home and started to feel pastry coma coming on, Angie took back what she said about our 50th anniversary. My sister made the helpful suggestion that we could spread it out over 50 days. Hmmm....or should I say, mmmmm!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Non-Zombie Scientific Experiment

Jacob has developed another scientific interest while going on our morning walks. We've started bringing Jacob's stroller on our walks since he often decides he is tired of walking anytime from one-quarter to three-quarters of the way through our walks. At that point he'd asked to be picked up and carried the rest of the way, which isn't so easy with a toddler in the mid-20s weight range. With the stroller we can push him the rest of the way home.

At the beginning of the walk, he likes to push his stroller himself. Even more than that, he likes to collect specimens of mulch, sticks, leaves, etc. in his stroller. Presumably he wants to take them home for some comparative analysis. From previous walks, we have quite a number of individual specimens by the front door and the garage door (where we ask him to drop the mulch, stick, etc.). Angie just discovered a specimen in the downstairs bathroom on the previously unused cup holder. It's a nice reddish piece of mulch, probably from the neighbor about eight houses down. He always collects a sample from that yard. I wonder how many other samples are scattered throughout the house...

Jacob has not disclosed what he is planning to do with or find out about the collected specimens. Also, his plan is somewhat foiled when we put him in the stroller because we clean out the seat before letting him sit. He still has one specimen in his hand usually, so it is not a complete loss.

We'd like to know what he is planning. It is hard to imagine what it will be, especially in our mentally weakened semi-zombie state. As a side note, Jacob tried to turn his cousin but she didn't stay long enough to succumb to his powers. See the attempt early on the morning of July 4 2009:

Let this be a warning to other friends and relatives who visit! In the words of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, "You're next! You're next!!"

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Poo in Pool

Today was a hot day here in Columbia, Maryland. As early as I could in the morning, I mowed the lawn, which was long overdue (again). I started with the backyard, which means getting the dogs on the back porch and closing them in to keep everyone safe. During the break from the backyard to the front yard, I decided to fill Jacob's pool. So the dogs came off the back porch and we locked out from the porch while I put the hose in the pool. We try to fill it early because the water is cold and will hopefully warm up a little bit by the afternoon.

After his nap, lunch and a trip to the library (farmers' market day, so we got some good veggies and bread), Jacob and I finally got to enjoy the pool. He loves to take little cups and just pour the pool water. He pours it out on the porch. He pours it in the watering can. He pours it into a bucket in the pool. Meanwhile, I had my feet in the pool to cool off and was reading my book from the library. I heard Jacob pass gas once or twice but didn't think much of it. Then I noticed some discoloration of his swim diaper, and realized that it wasn't just gas. We got out of the pool and it took two parents to get him into clean, dry clothes. And we had to put a load of laundry on.

Jacob didn't seem at all phased by the proceedings. After he went to bed, I dumped out the pool water. Hopefully we'll have better luck tomorrow!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Morning Walk

Angie, Jacob, Lucy and I went for a walk yesterday after breakfast. The most exciting thing about the walk was the street sweeper cleaning up the gutters of our block. We heard it coming from a distance, roaring like a great monstrous machine. Jacob was excited to hear this and started shouting "truck, truck!" He looked in the right direction with a big smile on his face.

The truck finally came into view. The large brushes spun quickly and lights were on in front and in back. A watery trail was left behind as it passed. The street sweeper was on the other side of the street, so it didn't pass too close to us. As it passed, Jacob seemed less excited and slightly apprehensive. We continued to walk and watched the truck vanish down the street. Jacob wanted to follow, so we did.

As we got further down the street, we heard the truck coming back up our side of the street. At first, Jacob was excited again, but as the truck came into view and closer to us, he started getting very nervous and he started tensing up. Luckily, the truck turned down a cul-de-sac about 20 feet in front of us. Jacob was very anxious so we crossed the street (where Angie had already fled to with Lucy). The truck came back for one last viewing. Jacob was still anxious, even being farther away.

So I guess for Jacob, the street sweeper is like a dragon. Seeing it from a distance is cool, but one should be really worried if it gets up close.

On a side note, YouTube is littered with amateur videos of street sweepers doing their thing all across this fine nation of ours. You really can find anything on the Internet.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Playing in the backyard

Jacob and I have invented a new game that we play in the back yard.

We usually go out into the yard one or two times a day to hang out. Jacob typically plays with leaves, sticks and rocks. Or he just wanders around looking at stuff. If a motorcycle goes by in the street or a plane overhead, he'll get excited and talk as much as he can about it. Sometimes he gets tired and asks me to pick him up. "Pi' up, pi' up" is usually what he says.

The other day I picked him up and we accidentally walked through some low-hanging branches. Jacob's head brushed some leaves. I said, "Low leaves, Jacob." He excitedly replied, "Lo' leaf, lo' leaf." His smile is super big and his eyes sparkle. Now we run into leaves on purpose when I'm carrying him around. It's a great game because it requires almost no equipment. We can even play it when we are out on walks and he decides that he has walked enough. I just have to keep an eye out for low branches and try not to duck.

Of course, if people have suggestions of other games to play in the backyard, we are all ears. Jacob still hasn't gotten the idea of balls down yet, so we aren't playing catch or kickball. Hopefully with Uncle Nate's visit, he can inspire Jacob to figure out and play with these big, round air-filled items.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Movie Review: A Cure for Hiccups?

This is clearly the best movie ever made, with the greatest star performance by a female ever. The guy in the movie really drags it down, though. Get some lessons! Study the script! Oh, wait...there wasn't any script. Bummer.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Movie Review: Taken

We all know the famous Klingon proverb quoted by Khan in Star Trek II: "Revenge is a dish best served...cold." I remember seeing that quote on a marquee for Kill Bill. I think it was for Volume 1 because it was quoted during the film. The Bride seemed to think she was dealing cold-hearted revenge on the people who messed up her wedding day. She didn't seem particularly cold as she went about killing a ridiculous amount of people in Vol. 1 or not killing them in Vol. 2. She was fueled by rage and anger and she let it show. And she was hot in Bruce Lee's yellow jumpsuit, no doubt. All the flash and style of Kill Bill seems to be the total opposite of what the Klingons meant.

On the other hand, Taken would make a Klingon proud. In it, Liam Neeson's somewhat estranged 17-year old daughter wants to go to Paris for the summer with a friend to drink in the culture. Neeson's character is an ex-military special ops type who is totally paranoid about her safety. In order to make the story interesting of course, he decides to let her go even though he doesn't think it's safe for two teenage girls to go to a foreign country. They get kidnapped. His daughter is on the phone with him when she is caught, so he gets his first clues and makes his speech about how he is going to get the kidnappers. The story then follows him as he finds more clues and kills whoever he gets the clues from. Some people he just kills because they are in the way or happen to be in the area. The more innocent bystanders only sustain flesh wounds.

Neeson's character and performance are anything but hot. He runs around in a suit most of the time and has a bad haircut throughout. He is definitely not the male counterpart of the Bride. Like her, he is motivated rage and anger at the loss of his daughter, but he isn't vindictive or stylish in offing the bad guys. He just kills 'em dead and moves on. Neeson does no substantial emoting (either negative against the bad guys or positive with his daughter) and is mostly deadpan. Maybe the performance was intentionally that way. It sort of fits the character but doesn't attract any acting accolades.

Also, he is completely indifferent to the fate of other girls who have been kidnapped (including his daughter's friend). He only helps people who can put him closer to his daughter. He becomes a very unlikeable hero. Sure he loves his daughter and will do anything to get her back. But he has absolutely no other redeeming qualities.

The filming style of the movies is also very toned down and bare bones. No flashy or slick editing of scenes. No exotic or imaginative locations. In spite of being set in Paris, no obligatory iconic scenery (Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc.) is shown or incorporated into the story. The action is pretty straightforward and enjoyable if unimaginative and cliched (he hits every one he shoots at while the bad guys can only hit the walls/car/other bad guys around him). So that leaves the viewer pretty cold too.

I do have to say in its defense, I prefer the bare bones grittiness of Taken as compared with the stylish emptiness of Kill Bill or Man on Fire. Neeson's character is an immoral man bent on one thing. There are no distracting visuals or editing or fancy dialogue or acting trying to cover up the near soullessness of the lead character. I appreciate the honesty, but can I honestly say I enjoy it?

What can I say? I would really like this movie, if only I was a Klingon.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A good day with the family

We've started week two of being a family with two children. We ran some errands, got good naps, had some fun and ate well too!

After breakfast we got ready and went on a family excursion to our local Target to get some needed household items. Unfortunately we mislaid our list of things to get. Fortunately sleepless brain syndrome is wearing off (or we are becoming immune) because we remembered everything on our list. The only thing they didn't have was a dehumidifier for the basement. We wound up going to Best Buy nearby to get one. After bringing it home, we realize we might need something bigger for our basement, which is pretty big and has overwhelmed our current dehumidifier.

We also bought gas for the first time for the van. Wow, that was pricey. By the way, Jacob insists that our van is a truck. He keeps calling it "truck" or "re' truck" (since it is red). I think he is trying to reassure me that I won't turn into a soccer mom. Not that there's anything wrong with being a soccer mom, it's just not me.

In the afternoon we took Jacob and Lucy to a local park that Jacob hasn't played in yet. We took a stroller for each child. Jacob started pushing his empty stroller but wound up push Lucy's. He pushed her stroller in Target too. What a nice brother he is! Hopefully, he'll stay that way. So far there hasn't been any sibling violence, intentional or not.

At the park, Jacob rode on a see-saw for the first time. He treated it like a drum. He also rode on a merry-go-round, which he also treated like a drum. The cool thing he did was to get onto the riding panda all by himself a few times. One time he threw his leg over with too much enthusiasm and landed on the other side, but he was okay. And yes, he did use the panda's head for a little drumming.

We come home and mommy and daddy napped in shifts and then we had lovely carbonara for dinner. Jacob loves to feed himself pasta. Watching him stuff his face with noodles and then slowly suck them up is pretty hilarious. We'll have to catch it on video someday. If we can ever tape him without him knowing. He is a ham for the camera.

I hope tomorrow is just as good. We'll probably go to the library and maybe some grocery shopping. I should check and see if there is story time tomorrow. It would be Lucy's first!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Happy News (not just that there's a new post)

There's been a substantial delay in posting, but I believe that I have an excuse for my absence.

Last Saturday my wife and I went to a cookout at our friends' home. A couple hours after we got home, Angie said it was time to go to the hospital to deliver the baby. The baby was due the Thursday before, so she wasn't too late in coming. After a long night of not really sleeping, baby Lucy Beatrice Reninger was born at 5:44 a.m.! Everything went very well (much faster than Jacob's birth). I had to wait around to call the family to let them know the good news, because it was Sunday morning and I didn't want to wake them up too early. Angie and I are definitely aware of and respectful towards getting enough sleep.

Plenty of pictures are posted over on Facebook here and here. We need to break out the video camera and get some good footage of our new girl.

The other excuse is that I have an ear infection since last week (it's older than Lucy by a day or two) which is only just starting to clear up. So sleep has definitely been an issue for me in more ways than one.

Well, Jacob just woke up so that is the end of this blog post. More later!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Jacob makes a grilled cheese paradox

Jacob tried a new trick yesterday. At 9 a.m. he asked for a nap, we went through the whole routine and then after a minute of lying down, he got up and started playing with his toys. He eventually did go to sleep at 10:20.

And woke up at 11:00. No amount of singing or soothing would get him back to sleep. Yikes!! Since he did have a snack, I thought we'd go shopping and to the library before eating lunch. The trip went fine and we were home by a little after 1. I had a secret hope that he'd fall asleep during the drive. Unfortunately in the van he sits pretty upright and did not doze off. So I made his lunch and fed him and started a grilled cheese sandwich for me. When he was done eating, he started saying "A nap, a nap!" I flipped the sandwich and turned off the stove and took him upstairs since he was so insistent. We went through the whole routine and then after a minute of lying down, he got up and started playing with his toys. So I decided to bring my lunch up to his room.

The only problem was, by the time I got downstairs, my grilled cheese sandwich was both burnt and cold! I ate it anyway. He did eventually get a good nap from 3 to 5 p.m. Which meant that I finished my lunch at 3. What more sleep experiments can he try?

He did ask for a nap at 9:15 today, but I knew he was faking. He's down for a real nap now. At least, I hope he stays asleep for more than 40 minutes. Say a prayer...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


"I need shoes" is officially Jacob's first sentence. He said it this morning when we were going out to Costco. He repeated it tonight when Aunt Rosemary took him out to see the dogs in the back yard. Hopefully "I love you Mommy" or "I love you Daddy" will come soon.

Getting ready for #2--the minivan

It's been far too long since a post. Things have been busy, but the new child has not arrived yet. We are mostly ready for her to come.

In preparation, we have bought a minivan. It is a 2006 Honda Odyssey with lots of space inside and power side doors. The doors open with a click on the key fob, which is pretty cool. The only bad thing is trying to figure out how it works. Seems like it should be easy, just push the button and the door opens. When we picked the car up at Carmax, the salesman tried to use the clicker to open the driver side sliding door. It wouldn't open! Eventually we figured out that the gas tank door was open so the sliding door must be programmed not to open and tear the gas door off. Then we went to Target and my sister couldn't get the door open. The inside button wouldn't work, the key fob wouldn't work, even the door handle wouldn't work. Then I put the van in park and the door worked. So many safety features we'll have to figure out.

Jacob has enjoyed riding in the minivan. His safety chair is forward facing now. He likes to stare out at the window and identify other vehicles. Mostly just trucks. He even calls the van a truck. Hopefully he'll figure that out soon. We enjoy taking him in and out easily from the vehicle.

We sold the green car to Angie's parents. Her dad was up here over the weekend. He got to play with Jacob and he was gracious enough to help out with some chores. We were sad to see him go. He had a quick trip back to Florida. We'll get to see him again in August. We plan to schedule the baptism then, but have not worked out any details yet.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Movie Review: Drag Me to Hell

It's Saturday night and a full moon is out, so what better thing is there to do than go see a scary movie. I went tonight to see Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell. If I had to sum it up in one word, "awesome!" comes to mind.

The basic plot is a loan officer at a bank refuses to give a third extension to an old gypsy woman for her mortgage, so the gypsy woman curses her to be tormented for three days and then be dragged to Hell (for more of the same ad eternam). Naturally, she wants to get out from the curse and the rest of the movie chronicles her torments and her attempts to get free.

Sam Raimi is quite adept at setting up and paying off the scares throughout the film. He can build up to a scary moment as shadows chase the protagonist across the hall or jump something unexpected and unnerving in an instant. His real brilliance is in mixing humor into the horror, so the audience is at once shouting in fear and laughing at the same time. He did a lot of that in the Evil Dead films, and shows no sign of faltering here. It's an amazing way to build and relieve tension at the same time. And it's a little easier to go home without constantly looking over your shoulder.

He also gives a great fight scene between the gypsy woman and the loan officer, better than any and every fight in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And he gets more terror out of one handkerchief than other directors can get out of buckets of blood and gore. Which is not to say there aren't lots of gooey, gross bits in Drag Me to Hell. Again, these are tempered with humor so that the viewer isn't just grossed out.

The movie is an intense and humorous thrill ride, like a great roller coaster. It's fun to watch with a Saturday night crowd that is laughing, hooting and screaming with you. I would recommend it, though not if you are too squeamish (like my wife, who didn't come with me).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Jacob has more to say...

Jacob is starting to use more words and is becoming more and more cute thereby.

He can count from one to ten when we read counting books, though his pronunciation is not the crispest and cleanest. We are working on that. I was pretty amazing when he first did it on his own, without prompting from us. Now we try to show him off all the time if we can. We really should bring counting books with us wherever we go. One should go in the diaper bag.

The other day about 10:30 in the morning, Jacob laid his head on the family room couch for a minute. Then he lifted it up and came over to me and said (quite clearly this time), "a nap." So he walked up to his room and I followed. We read a story then he crawled into bed and was out after only three verses of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Jacob has also requested many times to go into the basement by saying "bah-men." Of course, he wants to go and play with the cats. He is starting to be more gentle with them but it is a slow process. When he gets a grip on a tail, it is awfully hard to get him to let go. Even when the cat hisses! After two weeks, the cats should probably know better than to go within Jacob's grabbing distance.

He started referring to Aunt Rosemary as "Ah-me." He has lots of fun hanging out with her, too. It seems impossible, but he just gets cuter and cuter every day!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Star Trek Review and Reflection

I saw the new Star Trek movie twice. The first time I was really impressed with the fun and fast pace. The second time I started to notice a couple of things about the movie, now that I wasn't constantly being wowed by J. J. Abrams' masterful direction. He can certainly keep a movie moving.

If you have to pick who was the main character in the movie, the obvious two to choose from are Kirk and Spock. The movie was written by nerdy fan boys, thus Spock is clearly the main character. Consider the evidence: (1) Even though the movie starts with the birth of Kirk (in a brilliantly orchestrated sequence) more time is devoted to Spock's back story. (2) Kirk is legendary for his womanizing, but who really sees the most romantic action in the movie? Spock wins this one hands down. (3) Who is the only character from the "original continuity"? Again, it's Spock (or Spock Prime according to the credits).

I listened to a podcast with the screenwriters (hear it here) which was both enlightening and frustrating. Enlightening was the discussion of what Nero was doing for the 25 years from killing Kirk's dad to going after Spock (Klingons showed up en masse and took him to a prison planet; later his crew frees him and thus Uhura hears about the Klingon fleet being wiped out); why use a Rimbaldi device from Alias (to curry favor with J. J. Abrams); and other fun tidbits. Frustrating was their discussion of why Nero didn't try to save Romulus from the supernova. They had some excuse about how he didn't want to meet his wife as a young woman and he had to wait around for Spock to show up and then it would be too late to save the planet. They seemed to think he only went back 25 years. Of course, the Romulans arrive 25 years earlier than Spock Prime did, but Spock Prime also traveled into the past. If Spock Prime was 125, it seems as though he arrived when his younger self was in his twenties or early thirties. If so, that would leave about 100 years before Romulus's destruction and plenty of time to use the Rimbaldi red matter to turn the supernova star into a black hole, per Spock Prime's original plan.

So I really liked the film, but the more I think about it, the less I enjoy it. Oh well, there are plenty of other blockbusters coming.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Another play date

Jacob and I made it to our Wednesday play date this week. He had a very good time at Sharon and Chloe's. We played at the house for a while until Sharon suggested that we walk over to the park.

The park is much like other parks in Columbia, with swings, wooden climbing structures, riding animals on springs and lots of mulch. Jacob followed his latest modus operandi and played mostly with the mulch. He did ride on the slide a couple of times and climb for a little bit. But mostly he was handing out leaves and sticks to the parents there. The others enjoyed the equipment quite a bit.

We went back to the house for a snack. The children started playing again. We almost ended in tears when they were all playing in the corner of the kitchen and Jacob tripped on something (possibly his own feet). That wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't reached out and grabbed Eddie, who also fell over. Eddie fell into Chloe, who somehow wound up behind the curtain. Justin was smart enough to have evacuated the area before everything went done. Or, more accurately, everyone went down. There were some sobs but the little ones recovered quickly. All were happy when we finally had to leave.

I hope every play date ends so well!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Falling asleep in the car seat: Blessing or Curse?

I'm not sure how much I like Jacob falling asleep in the car seat. Usually it is a great gift for us, but consider what has happened this week.

Wednesday morning, Jacob and I went to play date at Elana's up in Woodstock, Maryland, about half an hour away. We left a little before 9 so we could get there for 9:30. About 9:20, Jacob gave in and fell asleep in his car seat, as he often does. I wondered what to do, because we were just about there and I didn't want to bail out on the play date at the last minute. So I parked in the driveway, got stuff together to take inside and finally bit the bullet and took Jacob out of his car seat. He showed some signs of waking up. After we got inside he started to perk up quite a bit. By the time Elana served yummy pumpkin muffins, Jacob was in full play mode. Having a ten to fifteen minute nap seems to have done him well, because he stayed awake and was chipper the whole time (except when he overflowed his diaper and needed to change everything). We even left without any big conflicts/blow ups with any of the children. It was a great play date.

On the way home, he resisted falling asleep until the very last minute, which was harrowing for me. He didn't quite make it to his bed asleep, so I had to sing him back into sleepiness. I find that singing the same song over and over and over and over helps bore him back to sleep. Luckily, my tolerance for boredom is higher than his.

Today, we were going to the library for story time to be followed by the grocery story for shopping time. We left at 9:40. The library is only ten or fifteen minutes away. Five minutes into the trip, he was out like a broken light bulb. What to do? Should I stay the course and wake him up at the library with another 15 minute nap? Since the babysitter is coming today for her 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. gig, I thought it best to let him continue to sleep in the morning, rather than wake him and have him fall asleep at 12:30 and sleep through the time that the babysitter is here. I hope I made the right choice.

Why has car seat napping become so fraught with peril?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Return of my sister

My sister Rosemary has moved back from Georgia and will be staying with us for a few months. She brings with her two dogs and two cats, so Jacob's world has been infused with new and exciting interactions.

Jacob has seen the dogs before (see this and that video). He is older now, which means that he can do more than ride and point at noses. He has tried to grab on to them and hold on as they walk away. So far, this has only yielded little fistfuls of fur. He must remember that he rode one of them once, because when they lie down he tries to get on their backs. We've been pulling him off before he gets in trouble. Luckily, the dogs are very sweet and patient and put up with a lot that others would not.

The cats are fairly new to Jacob. He's seen them maybe three times before now. They are hanging out in the basement so Jacob doesn't see them too often. When we go down for laundry he gets extremely excited, i.e. he squirms and squirms until he is free to pursue them. The younger cat, Cyclopes, is smart enough to hide under the couch when Jacob is wandering around. Romulus, on the other hand, has been venturing out into the danger zone. Jacob has tried to sit on him as if he was one of the dogs! He has also tried to pet him and drum on him. Romulus has been amazingly patient and keeps coming back for more. I wonder if he will hit a breaking point or not. And if Jacob will ever get to see Cyclopes!

Angie and I are most worried about the possibility that Jacob will want to have a pet after Rosemary is gone. Hopefully he'll be satisfied with a little sister.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Scientific Progess Isn't That Great

Jacob has resumed his experiments in zombie forming this week. He's woken up a few times the past couple of nights and is getting up before 6 a.m. again. When I got home last night from Tae Kwon Do, Angie was dozing on Jacob's floor. She must have been trying to soothe him to sleep and did too good a job. She was her own collateral damage.

Jacob has made some other scientific progress too. Specifically, he has discovered doorknob technology. The first door knob he opened was the bathroom door--not when the bathroom was empty, either. Poor Angie, lucky me. He has not opened other doors yet, but it is only a matter of time and practice. I guess we'll be up for another round of babyproofing. This time, it's door knobs.

Now that he has access to the bathroom, he is making use of the facilities. No, he has not self-potty trained (though that would be totally awesome). He decided some of his little stuffed animals need to be cleaned. No, he didn't use the bath tub or the sink. He put them in the toilet. We've fished out the poor animals (ironically enough, none of them were fish) and run them through the laundry machine. I guess we have to babyproof the toilets too!

I no longer believe that scientific advancements are always a good thing. Someday, I'm sure Jacob will make a helpful discovery. I don't need a cure for cancer or the common cold, I'd be happy for vacuuming or lawn mowing.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monthly Social

Today saw PATH's monthly social at the Savage Park picnic ground/playground area. Jacob and I went to have a good time with other stay-at-home parents and their children.

It was a new park so I was hoping that Jacob would like to try out new things and maybe some old things that were new variations. This park had nice climbing structures, a couple of fun slides and some swings. Instead of mulch, the ground was covered with this new, soft pseudo-concrete that is all the rage with parks these days. Since PATH was hosting the social, members also brought some fun activities: a kiddie miniature golf set with three holes, a bean bag toss, bubble mix and wands, pinwheels, sidewalk chalk, and a treasure hunt table.

Jacob showed no interest at all in the slides, swings and climbers, just like our local parks. Since there was no mulch to pick up and give to people, he decided to hand out pieces of sidewalk chalk to whoever would take them. Most everyone got one or more pieces (except me, even when I begged for it!). He then discovered the treasure hunt table, which was a toddler-height play table with little toys like plastic rings and little plastic animals buried in bird seed. Most of the kids enjoyed searching through for a little bit. Jacob became a permanent fixture of the table. He didn't so much want to find treasure as to spread around the bird seed wherever he could. I tried to get him away once and he had a little fit. I tried to coax him with food and apple juice but he just let me bring those to him at the table. He had a good time, so I guess I can't blame him.

Finally, he tired of the table and walked back over where the chalk and bubble mix were. Once he got hold of a bubble wand, he did not want to let go. He did manage to get some bubbles to form when he frantically waved it in the air. He also managed to spill the bubble mix all over the concrete border of the playground. Luckily, the other kids didn't get soaked. When I took him away from there, he made it clear that he was ready for his nap by pretending that I was the worst parent for taking him away from the bubble mix. Guilt-trip crying is starting to backfire, though; it's only toughing me up, even though I feel a little ashamed in front of the other parents. Until I realize that they are probably on my side!

Jacob got his nap at home and had a fun afternoon of hanging out in the backyard and playing with Mommy when she got home. He even enjoyed some leftover Guinness beef stew for dinner. Now he is sleeping sweetly, hopefully till late tomorrow morning.