And you thought nothing good could come from writing about poop

Blogging Baby, one of the websites I read regularly, had a contest to give away some really nice diaper bags from Skip Hop. All you had to do was tell a story about a particularly horrendous diaper change. With such a fertile (ha ha) subject, I had to give it a shot. Well, I won one of the ten bags they gave away! Apparently there are people who appreciate life’s better moments, like having your daughter fill her car seat an inch deep while on a three hour flight.

If you’re so inclined, you can read the whole story here.

Sam’s Story: Week 44

BIG week this week. The kind that make for great mini-series on the Lifetime network if they’d ever return my calls. As I mentioned last week, we took Sam on a three city World Tour this week, covering San Diego, Houston, and Tulsa.

The first leg was the easiest, even if it happen on the busiest travel day of the year when only CRAZY people would take a 10-month old on a three hour ride in a metal tube with two hundred other people. Fortunately, we arrived at the airport like 98 hours ahead of time and only suffered a slight delay due to weather. Allow me to point something out for other travelers, though: if you suddenly lean your chair back all the way back, drilling the person behind you in the head with the little tray table latch, then you deserve to have a baby position herself behind your right ear and play with a toy that goes CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK. For an hour. Jerk.

Sam actually did pretty well on the flight, even though she’s at the age where sitting still is anathema to the entire Platonic idea of a 10-month old baby. She entertained herself mostly by standing up in my lap and grabbing at the toupe belonging to the guy in front of us. We had to change her diaper twice in the tiny airplane bathroom, but it wasn’t too bad. At first I was concerned that she would fall off the changing table, but I quickly realized that the worst that she could do would be to kind of lean. Slightly.

When we arrived in Houston we were greeted by my sister Shawn and brother-in-law Nicholas Cage. Sorry, I mean Bent. I must pause here to say that just between you and me, their house is frickin’ awesome. They have designer squirrels in the back yard and everything. We were stationed in the East Wing, with Sam in her own room for the night. This worked out well, as she had skipped her afternoon nap in favor of shouting at tray tables and grabbing at strangers’ hair.

The stay was a short one, though, as we went to bed and got up to drive to Tulsa so that we could spend Thanksgiving with my parents. I repeatedly explained to my sister that scientific research has shown that merely having a baby in the car adds 20% to the time it takes to make a trip. It’s like they warp space or something. I think I saw a nerd in a wheelchair talk about it once and there were neat 3-D graphs. Shawn refused to believe me at first, but in the end it took us about 10 hours in the car to make the 8-hour drive. Call M.I.T. if you need help with the math.

Upon arriving in Tulsa, we immediately had to go shopping for diapers, having depleted our meager reserves. Ger and I stood under the buzzing, halogen lights at Tulsa’s finest grocery store and argued over how big a bag we should buy with our limited luggage space. We eventually decided to get the big bag and at the end of the trip shove the leftovers into whatever cavities we could find like the cocaine mules we always hear about on the San Diego evening news. There’s some great irony at work there, but I can’t put my finger on it.

Sam’s sleep schedule wasn’t thrown off too badly by the travel and new time zones, though it didn’t go perfectly smoothly, either. I’ve heard weird tales of synchronization where if you put two cells from a human heart next to each other, they’ll begin pulsing in time. And we’ve all heard the one about women living in the same house getting on the same schedule, if you know what I mean (Sam, if you’re reading this twelve years later in life and in fact don’t know what I’m talking about, ask your mother; I only agreed to talk to you about not smoking or smuggling crack cocaine). In this instance, this larger phenomenon manifested itself when my Dad and Sam got on almost the same exact sleep schedules. Get up at the same time, morning nap at the same time, afternoon nap at the same time, go to bed at the same time. It was kind of eerie.

Nap times were easy, but going to bed at night was complicated by having to share a room with Sam. Outside of trips like this, Sam hasn’t slept in the same room as us since we came home from the hospital, so none of us was used to it. The result was that when we came in to go to bed, we woke Sam up. She’d go back to sleep, but every time we’d shift around in bed, Sam would hear us and think “HEY! People! It’s time to rock and roll!” and she’d be up. When neither rocking nor rolling ensued, she’d just get pissed and shout at us. So we learned to freeze in mid-motion like giant, shaved possums whenever we heard her move around. One morning I opened my sleepy eyes to see her sitting up in her pack-n-play, staring at me intensely as if to will my eyelids opened. It had apparently worked, and now I’m frightened of the baby with the psychic powers should she ever try to make my head explode.

And after all that, we drove back to Houston on Sunday. I think Sam was getting pretty annoyed with the whole “go to sleep, wake up in another state” thing, and it finally reached a boiling point with the plane trip back. She squirmed and shouted the whole way back, until 10 minutes before we landed in San Diego when she promptly went to sleep. Only to scream bloody blue murder when we woke her up to get off the damn plane. Now she’s all screwed up from the time zones and not napping at all today, so we just decided to put her to bed at 6:00 and live with the consequences. I’m typing this up now because I need to go to bed in preparation for getting woken up at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow. If I’m lucky.

I’ve got a ton of pictures, but here’s a few of the better ones featuring Samantha:

Sam’s Story: Week 43

This week I finally managed to catch Sam in the act of standing up. She actually stood there for like 30 seconds, just kind of looking at me like “Hey, check me out, I’m a biped!” while I snapped pictures like a gibbering idiot. I shouted for Geralyn to come downstairs and she came on the run, thinking the Sam had fallen into the garbage disposal by the way I was screaming. Of course, Ger started clapping and whooping, which startled Sam so much she let go of her death grip on the chair, twisted around, and did a face plant into the carpet. Sorry, I didn’t take a picture of that part.

One thing you may notice from the that pic of Samantha in upright mode is that she’s getting bigger. She weighed 18 pounds around a week ago. This is, no doubt, due to the fact that she has decided that eating is the most important thing in the world, a recurring quest worthy of her gastrointestinal fanaticism. I mentioned this a while back, but she’s only been shoveling the food in faster and sometimes, I swear, with three hands. Yesterday, she ate three and a half pounds of mixed vegetables in 45 seconds and then shoved a whole avocado up her nose. Lately, a typical day for her involves eating rice cereal, banana, Cheerios, mixed vegetables, pureed fruit, pureed vegetables, cooked apple, avacado, cheddar cheese, and about six ounces of watered-down juice.

The funny thing is that she’s still not a chubby baby by any measure. I think she burns it all off, because unless she’s asleep or literally strapped down into a chair she’s on the move –crawling, shaking things, trying to pull up, cornering the cat, trying to break my DVD player, crawling some more. I’m never giving her coffee.

And now, pictures:

In all likelihood, Sam’s next update, including pictures, will be delayed as we take Sam’s Story on the road for a three-city World Tour. The three of us are flying to Houston, Texas to meet up with my sister. Then the four of us are driving up to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to spend Thanksgiving with my parents. This will be great, as we haven’t seen them in a while. So while Sam’s Story will probably be delayed, her most hardcore fans will get to see her live and on stage.

Shouldn’t two Half-Lifes make a whole life?

So Half-Life 2 came out yesterday. For those of you who are not PC gamers, all you need to know about this event is that the only thing that would have made it more momentous would have been if Jesus Himself had hand-delivered it to you, saying “Well, I was in town for my second coming anyway so I thought I’d just drop it off. Love you, see you later.”

I ran down to Fry’s over lunch and bought a retail copy. When I got home, Geralyn was feeding Sam dinner and we had this exchange:

“Look what I have. Half-Life 2!”


“It’s so good, I’m going to put it down my pants. Mmmmmm!”

“No! Do not do that. That’s gross!”

“Oh, yeah. I’ve got Half-Life in my pants. Ooh. Yeah.”

“Jamie! Stop it! I mean it! Do not do that in front of your daughter!”

Sam, actually, seemed to think it was kind of funny. But Ger seemed pretty horrified, so I quit. (Apologies to Penny-Arcade for borrowing their joke.)

The game is also a big deal because it’s the first AAA game to also be released via a digital download/subscription system called “Steam.” So you can download the game through Steam, getting it directly onto your computer without ever having to face the horrors of the outside world. I considered doing this, because I hate salespeople, but I did some research and found that there’s no true “offline” mode for the game. Steam always phones home like a retarded E.T. to check that your account is in good standing. I decided that the price break ($5 cheaper for the Steam version) wasn’t enough and I didn’t like the idea of relying on the developers’ keeping the Steam servers up and active so I could play my game. Same for if my ‘net connection were to go down. Even if I misunderstood how it works, I didn’t want to risk it.

Well, turns out that even the retail version requires a Steam account and a nigh-nightmarish authentification process. Here’s how I went about installing Half-Life 2:

  1. Insert Disk 1. A solid opening move.
  2. I need to create a Steam account? Spend 10 minutes fumbling through this and reading mind-numbing EULAs.
  3. Stare at screen for a couple of minutes while my new Steam account validates.
  4. Now the game is ready to install. Okay! Go through the installation wizard, read another mind-numbing EULA.
  5. Type in my CD-Key.
  6. “The CD-Key you entered is not valid. Please try again.” Type it in again, getting it right this time.
  7. Remove Disk 1, insert Disk 2.
  8. Remove Disk 2, insert Disk 3.
  9. Remove Disk 3, insert Disk 4.
  10. Remove Disk 4, insert Disk 5. Yes, FIVE.
  11. “The Steam servers are currently down, so we can’t complete your subscription. But we’ll let you play the game you just paid $55 for anyway.” How nice of them.
  12. “Please wait while we ‘unlock’ the game you’ve just paid $55 for.” Stare at little progress bar for 25 minutes as it inches towards 100%.
  13. Files unlocked! How nice of them. Click “Play Half-Life 2”
  14. “Wrong disk in drive! Please insert Disk 1” The hell? I went through all that and I still have to have the disk in the drive? Remove Disk 5, reinsert Disk 1.
  15. Click “Play Half-Life 2.”
  16. Wait like 3 or 4 minutes for the game to load.
  17. Hrm. It doesn’t seem to like my dual monitor setup. Not too unusual, so hit Alt-Tab to get back to the desktop and disable the second monitor.
  18. Computer locks up hard. Punch the power button and reboot.
  19. Disable second monitor after waiting for computer to reboot.
  20. Steam opens and pops up an advertisement: “Attention Steam users! Half-Life 2 is now available! Click here to buy the game you just paid $55 for!” Dangit! Close the ad.
  21. Click “Play Half-Life 2.”
  22. Wait like 3 or 4 minutes for the game to load.
  23. Click “Start New Game”
  24. Wait another 3 or 4 minutes for new game to load.
  25. Spend 20 minutes fiddling with video options to achieve zen-like balance between eye candy and framerate.
  26. Finally play the mother clucking game.

With a simple 26-point installation like this, I just don’t understand why people prefer consoles where you can pop in the DVD and be playing within 60 seconds.

Of course, once I actually started to play the game all that was forgiven and forgotten. It’s that good.

Sam’s Story: Week 42

Not a particularly busy week this time. Sam’s only got one new trick for the week, but it’s a big one: she’s starting to pull up. For non-parents this may evoke images of Sam blasting her lats on the chinup bar while a drill sergeant yells at her, but everyone else will know what I’m talking about. We tried desperately to snap a picture of Sam while she was actually standing up on both feet, but she refused to cooperate, always falling back on her padded ass by the time our camera completed its ten-minute startup.

Since falling down on her rump doesn’t seem to hurt, we thought we had finished our baby proofing duties short of filling the whole house eight inches deep with styrofoam packing material. But, alas, we had our first “boo boo” last night. We had given Sam free reign of the dining room, watching her with one eye while she made her way over to the china cabinet (we just call it that; we don’t actually have any Chinese people in it). I hadn’t put locks on the lower drawers since they aren’t filled with poisoned thumbtacks like most other things in our house. As soon as Sam opened one of the drawers, I thought “Hrm, she could pinch her fingers if she clo–” WHAM! Drawer closed on fingers and oh the screaming. The screaming. Then Sam started to scream. I scooped her up, did the owie dance, and sang the alphabet song three times. It’s the only song I know other than AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” which I’ve been forbidden to perform. But don’t worry. Sam’s fine and will still be able to count to ten without taking off her shoes.

Here’s the pictures for the week:

You can see in some of those pictures that Sam still isn’t playing games with Dad like some kids, but I was glad to see her developing a healthy interest in geekery this week. She’s still new at video games, though, and whenever she tries to do Triangle, Circle, Down, she ends up doing Circle, Circle, Circle, Cram Controller In Mouth. But she’s learning.

Painkiller: Battle out of Hell

Or should I say “Battle out of Heck?” No, come to think of it I shouldn’t. But at any rate, my review of this expansion pack is up at Scribbled the quote monkey:

When Painkiller came out earlier this year, it surprised a lot of people. On its rugged, stubble-covered face it appeared to be a simple throwback to outdated first-person shooter designs — limited story, simplistic gameplay, and single-minded focus on blowing the bejeezus out of everything in sight. But many gamers (including us) gobbled it up because it was intense, beautifully presented, and absurdly fun.

Painkiller’s expansion pack, titled Battle Out of Hell (BOoH), also borrows from expansion packs in earlier times. It doesn’t add anything that really changes the game — just new levels, new enemies, new multiplayer modes, and a couple of new weapons. But the good news is that everything is just as wonderfully crafted, over-the-top crazy, and mouse-crushingly intense as it was in the full game. It’s more Painkiller, and that’s what you’d expect from an expansion, right?

It was fun. I’m just glad I got to review a game that didn’t suck.

Other kids apparently have stories, too

I love doing Samantha’s weekly updates. In fact, I often consider ditching the rest of this site and just making it a blog about Sam, but I always come back to the fact that it’s nice to have a clearing house for anything else I might want to post.

Other parents seem to have the same idea. This article describes some of the other baby blogs out there, and loading up some of the sites they reference has already yielded me a few more links for my RSS reader. I’m particularly fond of and The Trixie Update, both of which I had already been reading. The latter’s Trixie Telemetry is particularly great, and I’ve been meaning to steal the “Picture of the Day” idea from both sites (though to be fair we were doing Pics of the Day back on the GameSpy Network before it was cool).

I’m not sure why I like following the lives of strangers on sites like these. It’s not voyeurism –not any more than it’s voyeuristic to listen to someone you just met at a party tell you about their kids. I just like hearing and seeing what other new parents are going through. And it’s amazing how many identical experiences we go through with Sam, be it baby mood swings or an isatiable appetite for Cheerios. And it helps when the stories have a strong undertow of humor.

I’ll tell you one thing, though: somebody needs to tell these people about, as well as Powered By Steam and PlanetTabor.

Sam’s Story: Week 41

Somewhere, right now, Sam is pointing at something. This is her new thing for the week, and she enjoys it immensely. When you bring her into a room she’ll start systematically pointing at everything, including the cat, the ceiling fan, the light, the floor, the sofa, the television, the magazine rack, the coffee table, the carpet, the lamp, the DVD player, her toys, my toys, books, the chair, the vent, the refridgerator, the window, the door, and the cat again. Then she’ll start over. She doesn’t say anything, even when we name everything she gestures towards. She just points. It’s cute, really, and if she learns to point at other people she may have quite a career ahead of her in politics.

But Sam is getting pretty good at using her fingers for things besides pointing, as well. She’s gotten adept at feeding herself bite-sized foods like cheese cubes, Cheerios, vegetables, and just about anything else we give her. Cottage cheese, however, is apparently gross. The rub is that Sam has gotten to where she can shovel the food in faster than her toothless head can chew it up and swallow it. So if I put a pile of Cheerios down in front of her, she’ll use both hands to cram them into her face by the fistful, fast as she can until she looks like the world’s most fiber-rich chipmunk. At which point she’ll open her oat-filled mouth and squawk for more.

Squawking aside, Saturday was fun. Geralyn went down to Tiajuana with her play group and spent most of the day there drinking margaritas and trying to explain to entreprenureal little Mexican kids that no, for the last time, they didn’t want to buy any Chicklets. I didn’t know exactly why one would go to Tiajuana other than being able to buy two and a half gallons of vanilla extract for $1.25, but I was glad to take care of Sam while Ger was out with her friends. We spent a good chunk of the day out as I mentioned yesterday, and the balance was spent with one of us cramming dry cereal into her maw.

When Geralyn returned she had a giant smile and a bag full of greasy churros. Churros, for those of you who don’t know, are these oily ropes of dough, deep fried and caked with sugar. I could tell right away that they would be awesome by the way they had made their brown paper bag almost transparent just by coming in contact with it. I was right and I quickly used them to demonstrate Sam’s recent eating habits.

Sorry, I’m supposed to be talking about Sam, aren’t I? Well, here’s some pictures:

This picture cracks me up. Sam is all decked out in her denim jacket with fuzzy pink collar, and the expression on her face looks like she’s just came back from Vegas where she went on a fabulous, five-day bender involving copious amouns of gin, tranquelizers, and churros. Give me a bottle of baby Tylenol and put me to bed, Dad, I’m all partied out! Note to my mother: Sam did not, of course, go on any such bender. She’s only allowed half a cup of gin per day until she’s a year old.

Also, this picture shows you pretty much exactly what I see whenever I’m home these days. Dang, she’s really looking up to me, isn’t she?

Why San Diego is so expensive

I miss the midwest, I really do. I miss seeing different seasons, I miss the family we have there, and yes I even miss the culture (minus most of the politics). But you know, days like yesterday remind me why San Diego is pretty friggin’ nice, too. It’s the second week in November and I took Sam for a walk wearing just jeans and a tee-shirt. Clear skies and 74 degrees. In November. And it’s not like his is abnormal –it’s pretty much like this year round. It’s why real estate is so expensive, but sometimes I think it’s worth it.

My neighborhood has sidewalks and trails everywhere, linking tons of awesome “pocket parks.” These are small parks with a playground, a pavilion or two, and a field, and they’re all new and nicely maintained. If you start walking in any direction, you’ll hit one about every quarter mile. Below are some pics I snapped while out yesterday, and they serve me as a pretty good reminder of why we pay all those taxes and mella roos.

If you’re friends or family, this is also a good reminder of why you should come out and visit us.

Need to sue anyone in Texas?

Hey, just wanted to tell the Internet some good news: My sister, who lives in Houston Texas and recently graduated from Law School, just found out that she passed the Bar! Woo! On her first try, too, which is not as common as you might think. And don’t think that, because if you do she may sue you. There’s precedence on that, you know.

Anyway, congrats to Shawn!