Growing Pains

Lily & Jen as the coast
Lily & Jen at the windy coast

A week from today Lily will be seven months old.  It’s hard to believe that much time has gone by already.  That was one of the many things people would say to us before she was born.  “You won’t believe how much time flys when you have kids.”  Well, they were right.  And we haven’t even gotten to the real big stuff yet, like walking and talking.  She isn’t crawling yet, but she still manages to get around a little bit by rolling and scooting around on her back.  She jabbers up a storm and, fortunately, the novelty of screaming seems to have worn off.  Yesterday she was in her crib, supposedly napping, and I crept into her room and laid on the floor and just listened to her jabber and coo.  It almost sounds like she’s singing sometimes. 

This week starts a period of transition in the house of Ando.  Tomorrow Jen officially goes back to work as an elementary school teacher.  Before and after Lily was born we tried to come up with some way for Jen to be able to stay at home with the baby as much as possible, whether that would be working from home or working different hours.  We knew she would have to work doing something.  That’s part of the price for living in the most perfect weather anywhere.  It ain’t cheap.  Not without sadness, Jen signed on to teach this next year and tomorrow she has to officially report for duty.

It’s been hard for her, these last few weeks, as she prepares for school, takes care of the baby, and prepares to have to leave her in someone elses hands for most of every weekday for the next nine months.  There have been tears and anxiety, but also a realization that this is part of God’s plan.  We’ve been trying to focus on the positives of it, rather than the negatives.  Maybe the biggest positive is that we’ll be able to pay our bills.  But as the baby related stuff goes, it will be good for Lily to learn to interact with other kids and she’ll get to have some fun and make some friends besides mommy and daddy.

As hard as the transition is going to be for Jen, the blow will be softened by the fact that Lily will actually be right on campus with Jen.  The Lord has provided through Jen’s school childcare for most of the day, up until 1:30.  We’ve enlisted the grandmothers and great-grandmother to fill in those last couple hours of each day, a task they were only too eager to volunteer for.  I was able to change my work schedule around so that I’ll be able to get off work at noon on Fridays and pick Lily up on my way home and have some nice father-daughter afternoons.

On the whole, while it might not be the schedule that would be our first choice, God has been good and provided us with pretty much the next best thing.

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Homecoming, Home Depot Signage, and Other Nonsense

Lily on the plane with her aunt Doreen, aka NanaI’m happy to report that Jen and baby have returned from Colorado safe and sound.  By all accounts a good time was had by all  They enjoyed their time with the family there and while they were away I only missed two baby milestones; Lily’s first foray into semi-solid foods and an honest-to-goodness laugh.  Oh well, I was bound to miss something anyway due to my jet-setting, rat race lifestyle.  Oh right, I’m home by five everyday and never work weekends.  But honestly, I’m not bitter.  Lily brings plenty of joy to be shared with the whole family, so it was nice that those who live far away got to experience some of it too.  Hopefully she’ll have an amazing first left for my sister and her husband when they come up to visit in a month of so.  Thankfully, Lily was a very cooperative addition to the friendly skies, as she slept on the plane pretty much the whole time they were in the air, both coming and going (Is it bad form to use the slogan of a different airline [ie. “the friendly skies”] than the one you flew when talking about it to others, especially if the experience was mostly pleasent?  Is that robbing them of the good word-of-mouth advertising they’re entitled to?  Just in case it is, let me rephrase that last bit.  Lily was an excellent airline passenger making it easy on Jen to be free to move about the country.  There, I feel better.)  I’m glad to have them home.

You may recall a post last week and my mention in that post of a project I was beginning while the girls were away.  Jen reads my blog somewhere in the neighborhood of only once a year, so I felt fairly confident that I could talk about the project here with little fear of her getting wind of it.  However, just to be safe I didn’t mention what the project actually was.  This was a wise decision on my part, because wouldn’t you know it, Jen happened to access Life of Ando the very next day.  Not to read it, mind you, but only to find a link to Ask a Ninja of all things.  When I talked to her on the phone later that evening, she questioned what my project was.  I was able to downplay it, I’m pretty sure without compromising my integrity, and not let on that I was actually installing the dishwasher that had been sitting in our garage for the past year.  Leave it to a woman to try to spoil the surprise.  Fortunately, she never figured it out, and doubly fortunate that I didn’t burn down or flood the house in my attempt at home improvement.  She was genuinly shocked when she walked through the kitchen after getting home Saturday night and saw an installed dishwasher and she was probably even more shocked that it actually worked, though she was good enough not to say so.  What a wife I have.  More on this at a later date.  I video documented the whole procedure so look for that soon on a YouTube Friday near you.

During the installation process I made a couple runs to Home Depot where I noticed two signs there I thought were interesting.  Thanks to the greatest invention of the past 50 years, the cell phone camera, I was able to capture these signs of the times and share them here with you.

Has political correctness gotten so out of hand in this country that it even effects our fowl.  We can’t just call chicken wire chicken wire anymore?  Were the turkeys getting their feelings hurt?  What’s next, poultry nuggets?  Mmmmm, doesn’t that sound good?

Now, I’m no marketing expert but I always thought advertising increased savings would be a better tool for attracting customers.  Or maybe they just need a comma.

And for the “other nonsense” I offer this bad, yet relevant joke:  what has four arms, four legs, and is all wet?  My old dishwasher.  Ba-dum-cheeeeee!

One last thing, if I was a celebrity I’d be sweating it right about now.  With Tim Russert and George Carlin kicking the bucket in the last week and the well known and documented fact of public figures always dying in threes, I’ve never been more relieved to be a nobody.

Let’s Play Two!

As weekends go this past one is hard to beat.  On Friday night I went to the Angels-A’s game in Oakland with my buddy Jon the Green Beret, who was home on leave, and a few other friends.  It was good to see Jon.  It had been probably close to two years the last time he was in Santa Rosa and in the meantime had been to Germany, Afghanistan, and other undisclosed exotic locations.  Even though I hadn’t seen him face to face in a long time, we had communicated fairly frequently via email.  I was thinking about how much different communication with military personel is now than how it used to be not all that long ago.  Can you imagine trying to communicate with someone stationed way out in the Afghan boondocs 15, maybe even 10 years ago?  It would’ve been exceedingly slow, if even possible at all.  But email has changed all that.  In fact its so much easier that not only were Jon and I able to have the kind of correspondense usually commonplace between those in the field and those at home in any era (“how are you”, “be safe”, “everyone back here is thinking about you guys”, “went on patrol today”, that kind of stuff), but I even got a few forwarded email jokes and chainletters.  When I really think about that it kind of blows my mind.  Here’s my buddy in a combat zone (which, I told him, still weirds me out a little) with the time and ability to forward a joke about giraffes.  What an interesting time we live in.

Anyway, back to the game.  It was good to spend time with Jon and the other guys that came along, and also Jon’s wife and parents, and retell the stories from the old days and get a little glimpse of what Afghanistan was like.  I would’ve loved to talk about that with him more, but there wasn’t time and I’m sure that wasn’t the first thing he would want to relive after just getting home.  We had awesome seats, field level 1st base side 23 rows back, and the Angels won so I was a happy camper all around.

The next night Jen, Lily, and I again returned to Oak-town for game two of the series.  This was my early Father’s Day present and I think Jen has set the future bar a little high for herself.  This one will be hard to top.  The seats were even better than the night before, same general area but a section closer to home plate and row 14.  The Angels were again victorious, though Frankie Rodriguez made things a little interesting in the bottom of the ninth.  Lily was a champ all night and I think she enjoyed her first ball game.

Both nights I was bold and was decked out in full Angels gear.  On Sunday my father-in-law pointed out that I went one night with a Green Beret and one night with a baby to protect myself from getting harassed.  Well, duh.  What am I, an idiot?  Speaking of the baby, she was the hit of our section even though even she was also in full Angels regalia.  Her cuteness overcame the cold, hardened hearts of even the most misguided A’s fans.  A fellow Angel fan told Jen as he passed by, “You’re raising her right.”  There was a postgame fireworks show on Saturday night and we tried to stay for it, but after about three big “BOOMS” Lily had had enough and we headed for home.

It doesn’t get much better than a night at the ballpark.  Unless its back-to-back nights at the ballpark.

The Fiery Furnace & YouTube Friday: Lovely Lily (and Mommy)

I guess I missed the memo, but apparently Sonoma County has been relocated to the surface of the sun.  It was 103 yesterday.  In May!  Unfortunately for Jen, Lily, and I, our house is no refuge from the swelter.  I checked the thermostat when I got home from work and it was literally off the charts.  Our dial doesn’t go up high enough to record the actual temperature but I do know it was over 90.  My poor dog.  Even walking bare foot on the carpet burned my feet.  Walking through the front door was like walking into the fiery furnace.  I felt like Shaddrack, Meshack, and Abenego.  All that was missing was the towering idol of Nebucanezzer.  Today should be nicer.  It’s only supposed to be 99.  Kill me.

In other, less heated news, I made Jen a special video for Mother’s Day.  I had this grandiose vision of approximating a technique used in this Gatorade commercial for all the photos I wanted to use.  Obviously I don’t have the equipment and expertise to replicate it perfectly, but I thought I’d figured out how to fake it pretty well.  However, it required me doing some major photoshopping to about 30 pictures, which of course I did first before actually trying to put the theorehtical effect into practical use.  Imagine my chagrin when at about 1:30AM Mother’s Day morning when I couldn’t get everything to cooperate as I had envisioned.  I ended up having to bite the bullet and just go with the standard-type slideshow, which I finally finished at about 3 AM (what is it with me and late night deadlines).  I did manage to fake the effect I was going for on a few pictures, and looking back now with the clarity of a full nights rest, it was probably best to use it sparingly anyway.  Plus Jen cried while watching the video, so I guess it did its job.  So without further adieu, I give you Lovely Lily (and Mommy).

Thursday Blues: Thoughts From a Sick Blogger

Into the WildI’m home sick today for the second time this week.  I probably would’ve been out for three days if I didn’t force myself to go into work yesterday.  See, I’m taking this ergonomics assessment class and if I were to miss a session I’d have to start all over again, and this is definitely not something you want to repeat.  It is utterly boring.  But I’m back home today, sitting here at my computer, listening to Meatloaf, blogging the random thoughts that are passing through my ill mind this morning.  These are the things you do when you’re sick.

Saw Into the Wild the other day.  Interesting movie.  First of all, its beautiful to look at.  Its shot entirely on location in some of the most striking places in this country; the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, the Northern California coast and Sierra Nevada, and the Alaskan wilderness.  The story is a true one about a just graduated college kid named Christopher McCandless who goes on a two year tramping journey to Alaska.  He sees society as an endless wasteland of materialism and hypocrites, not least of whom are his parents.  There are some interesting themes at work in this movie that I’ve been thinking about.  I’ve had my own cases of itchy feet, wanting to ditch the whole work-a-day thing and striking out on road, though my reasons I don’t exactly share with McCandless.  His idea seems to be to escape humanity altogether, though he does meet and befriend people along the way.  But as he tells one such stranger,  “You don’t need human relationships to be happy, God has placed it all around us.”  Of course, the incongruity of that statement lies in the fact that God has also placed people all around us and placed within us a need for human connection, which is one of His greatest gifts to us.  If I ever had the opportunity to embark on a great, free-wheeling adventure I wouldn’t feel complete unless I had Jen and Lily by my side.

This brings to mind another theme I saw in the film, though perhaps not one intended by the filmmakers, selfishness. There are absolutely times when “getting away from it all” is necessary.  Christ is the perfect example.  There were times in the Gospels when He went out in the wilderness to be alone and refreshed.  But the purpose of that refreshment was to be better able to serve upon return.  McCandless seems to have no other goal than to free himself of his own turbulent past, regardless of the cost to others.  No one can choose his parents and the tragedy of his childhood is one I don’t share or envy, but the extremity with which he travels, telling no one and leaving no trace of where he’s going, smacks of selfishness to me.  Even his sister with whom he was apparently very close and who shared in the trials at home is left in the dark.  I don’t claim that forgiveness is ever easy, especially of parents, because, again, I can’t empathize with McCandless’ home life at all; but I do know that harboring bitterness and anger and running away only leads to more heartache.  I think there is a point in the film where McCandless recognizes this and maybe it takes a monumental life shift for some to come to grips with this stuff.

Overall I enjoyed the film and though I may sound like I’m being hard on McCandless, there is a part of me that understands what he did and is envious.  Though I think this, like most anything, is best when done in moderation, I suppose its only the immoderate who have the gumption to actually do it.  Life is too short to be spent in a cubicle, but its also too short not to forgive.

I think part of the reason some of these themes resonated with me is that I’ve seen some of the same themes at work in an old friend of mine.  He’s had more than his share of difficulties in this life, some of his own creation, some not.  I’ve done what I can to help him, but I think things have gotten to the point where I have to make the distinction between helping and enabling.  It’s not an easy thing to let someone go their own way when you know the outcome almost certainly won’t be good.  But there is a point when you can’t do anything more for a person other than pray.  If they aren’t willing or able to make the right decisions what else can you really do?

Well, to end this post on a more uplifting note, here’s a video of me singing Lily her favorite song, which by the way I couldn’t be happier about.

Houston, We Have A Problem

lily1.jpgRemember that whole control thing I was talking about a while back?  I hope I didn’t give the impression that I actually think I can be in control of everything at all times, and I think I made that pretty clear with the poop story contained within that post.  But just in case you didn’t quite get me…

 Yesterday Jen and Lily made a visit to my work.  There are about 160 people in my office and about 145 of those are women, so I am constantly getting asked about the baby, and to show pictures of the baby, and when is the baby going to come for a visit.  Lily turned two months old on Tuesday and is out and about quite a bit, so we figured this was as good a time as any to expose her to the baby crazed masses.  The girls arrived in the middle of the afternoon and I sent an eMail out announcing Lily’s appearance in the lunch room for the next several minutes (no autograph requests, please).  It didn’t take long for the crowds to gather.  They oohed and ahhed over her beautiful face and several made comments admiring her perfectly round head.  Things were going well.

After the excitement had calmed down, Lily decided it was time for lunch.  The three of us went into my office so Jen could feed her a bottle.  Part way into the feeding, Jen lifted Lily up on her knee to burp her and the gas did indeed escape, only not from the intended end.  At least that’s what we thought.  While I had been the victim of the previous blowout, I was fortunate that Lily was wearing a footed sleeper at the time so the hazardous material was pretty well contained.  Jen had no such luck.  The olive drab milkshake had found an escape route down Lily’s pant legs and ended up on Jen’s jeans, not to mention all over Lily.  Dealing with these explosions at home is one thing, but when you’re away from base camp they take on a whole other dimension.  Fortunately Jen had packed the diaper bag with all the back up essentials:  extra diapers, extra clothes, extra blankets, extra plastic bags to put the extra nasty clothes in, extra everything.  Except for extra pants for herself.  We got Lily reasonably cleaned up and dressed in unnastified clothes, but the best Jen could do was use a few wet wipes to clean up the chunks and then drive home with some newly green striped dungarees.

So, as you can see, I’m totally in control.

Lily Updates and More

lily.jpgFriday Lily had to go in for her first batch of inoculation shots, four in all.  I don’t like needles when they’re sticking me, and now I really don’t like them when they’re sticking my poor little baby girl.  It was actually less excruciating to watch than I thought it would be.  I had these visions of the doctor plunging a huge needle into my little girl’s arm, and then slowly pushing the plunger down while Lily screamed and  wailed.  She did scream and wail, but the nurse was so quick with the four shots.  She had them all done and the punctures bandaged up in under a minute.  Jen had the displeasure of holding Lily’s arms and shed a few tears.  Oddly enough, I kind of laughed through the whole thing.  It wasn’t a this-is-so-hilarious laugh, more like one of those I’m-nervous-and-if-I don’t-laugh-I-may-cry laughs.  Lily came through it just fine and pretty much slept for the rest of the day.

 She’s really starting to get fun.  She can interact a little bit now and is able to lift her head up on her own for more than half a second, though she still does a pretty good bobblehead impersonation.  She smiles a lot and her incessant grunting is starting to soften into something approximating cooing.  She is sleeping longer at night, occasionally going for seven hours!  Its hard to imagine how we lived so long without her.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, we live on a very busy street.  A highway, really.  Sometimes, on a nice night I like to go out on our front porch, which is on the second story and more like a balcony, and just kind of zone out and watch the traffic, so long as its not careening off the road into trees or the creek.  If I really use my imagination, I can almost believe that its actually the sound of the ocean I’m hearing.  It can be strangely soothing.  That is until one of those monster Harley’s comes up the road with its amplified mufflers.  Last night after I got home from playing basketball I took my dinner out there, sat in the faux wicker chair we have next to the potted Japanese maple tree (its very feng sui) and just relaxed for a couple minutes.  There’s been a lot going on and a lot on my mind, so it was nice just to be still, even for five minutes.  Try it sometime.  Its surprising how even that short amount of relaxing can help.

I had my fantasy baseball draft this past Saturday night.  Probably one of my favorite things to do all year.  Because I’m a huge dork and somehow make the time, the last couple years I’ve scripted out the first several rounds of the draft, trying to predict who everyone is going to take and who I want.  I never end up being close to accurate, though last season I did actually get the first ten players I wanted…and finished dead last.  So what does that tell me?

I’ve recently begun a program that I’m calling Sustenance Intake Reduction.  A diet, to the lay person.  I don’t feel like I’m really overweight, but it is getting to the point where I’m a little self conscious.  Plus, I am 30 now and rumor has it things start to slow down around this point in life.  So rather than wait until things reach a critical mass–emphasis on mass–I figured I’d try to nip this is in the bud.  That and since my 30th birthday in November I pretty much ate anything and everything I saw with little regard for the consequences and drank copious amounts of soda, which resulted in probably 10 to 15 extra pounds.  I’m not limiting myself to celery stalks and bran muffins, I’m just trying to eat less of the stuff I’d eat anyway.  Here are a few other ground rules I’ve laid down for myself:

–One soda per week.

–No bringing candy or cookies to work.  There’s enough around the office as it is, don’t need to have it right on my desk.

–When eating cereal, a major staple in the life of Ando, DO NOT fill the bowl so full that when I pour in the milk a bunch of cereal falls out.  Also, steer clear of sugar cereals.

–No more pop-tarts from the office vending machine for breakfast.

Other than that, I’m just trying not to eat like a hog at the slop trough.  I’ve also started playing basketball again, after about a three month hiatus, and working in the yard, which may not sound like much by way of exercise, but hauling five gallon buckets of gravel up stairs two at a time is a workout, trust me.  Just ask the Kludge.  I haven’t stepped on a scale in months, so I don’t know what I weighed when I started, or if I’ve lost anything.  I go by the looseness of my pants.

So there  you go.  I guess you could call this my State of the Ando address.  Hope I haven’t bored you to tears.  And if I have, well, you could’ve stopped reading a long time ago.  You clearly have nothing better to do with your time.