jmadigan.net

30Apr/06Off

Sam’s Story: Week 118

Wow, what a week. The majority of it, though, was spent sans Samantha as Geralyn and I trekked halfway across the continent with our last carload of possessions while Sam stayed safely stuffed away at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Spending six days without Sam was kind of weird after all this time, and it struck me odd every time I'd omit a request for a high chair at a restaurant or shout a question to Geralyn in another room after 8:00 p.m. I was still able, however, to learn something new about my daughter despite the great gulf between us: She's not a phone person. We'd call almost every night, and most conversations with Sam went like this:

GRANDMA: Here, I'll put Sam on the line.

ME: Hi, Sammy!

[A loud "Ker-THUNK" sound from the other end]

GRANDMA: Well, she dropped the phone. Now she's in the other room.

ME: Oh. Well, how many times has she pooped since we left?

Still, once we arrived at the end of our six day absence, I had the camera ready and Sam's reaction was heartfelt and gleeful. It was kind of funny, really. She just kept saying "It's Mommy! It's Daddy!" between bouts of bubbling laughter. Soon we were all doing it together.

Here's some pictures:





Even in the small amount of time we were apart, I swear Sam has grown and changed noticeably. For one, she's much more loquacious. I was just sitting with her while she did her business in the bathroom and she erupted into this huge, rambling talk about the toy train Ger's parents had dug up from the basement for her.

"It has a red train and a blue train and a red train and a green train," she said, staring me right in the eyes and furrowing her brow like she was imparting vital information necessary for the safety of all mankind. Then, as an afterthought, she added "The train goes 'Toot Toot' when I press the button."

"Wow," I said. "Is there a yellow train car, too?"

Sam looked at me like I had just asked the stupidest question imaginable. "NO. It has a red train and a blue train and a red train and a blue train. And green train." Again, she was making direct eye contact throughout, but this time I just decided to sit there and listen to her thesis while nodding at what I hoped were the appropriate points.

Finally after repeating all this about five times, she fixed me with one more stern look and said. "It goes 'Toot toot' when I press it." That was good enough for me.

So, excited as we are to encourage Sam's verbal development, there are times when we wish she'd keep it down a little. To wit: in church. We went to the grandparents' church this morning. It's nice place cut out of stone with lots of marble and other hard surfaces that produce an impressive echo chamber (yes, I'm aware of the irony here, thank you). In an effort to keep Sam quiet, we had brought her one of her new favorite books, How Mother Animals Love their Babies. Each page has a different animal and the baby creatures talk about how their mommies take care of them.

Thing is, Sam has gotten to the point where she's memorizing the words for each page, and will say them out loud, often at the highest volume her diminutive frame will allow. So we had the following impromptu exchange during the church service:

PRIEST: As we prepare to contemplate the divine mystery, let us call to mind our sins...

SAMANTHA: MY MOMMY IS A BEAVER!

Honestly, I wasn't aware that such a thing was really a sin, but I grew up Southern Baptist and they berated me for stranger things, so what the heck.

Filed under: Parenting, Samantha 3 Comments
24Apr/06Off

Sam’s Story: Week 117

So, anyway ...have I mentioned that we're moving? Leaving sunny Southern California? Trekking over halfway across the country to take a great new job, be closer to family, and stay one step ahead of all the stalkers* out there on the Internet? No? Well, I've been meaning to mention it but just haven't had time with all the commotion. It'd be kind of hard, however, to talk about Week #117 without letting that cat out of the bag.

We spent the whole week, in fact, house hunting in our soon-to-be-new home town. We decided to make things endlessly easier on ourselves by stopping off en route to our new destination and dropping Sam off with Ger's parents, who were more than happy to keep her safe. Furthermore, Sam remained there when her parental units made the jaunt back to San Diego to oversee the packers and movers, then stuff our their remaining possessions into a 2005 Honda Odyssee minivan that they will drive across many hundreds of miles. At some point we're going to have to stop by and pick up Sam, but it won't be until near the end of the trip. I love my little girl dearly, but strapping her into a car seat for the better part of four days is the kind of exercise in masochism that I think everyone would just as soon avoid.

So we're going to miss Southern California. In many ways I associate this place with Samantha. It's where she was conceived, where she was born, and where she has lived her whole life. So many of my thoughts and memories about Ger's pregnancy, Sam's birth, and Sam's first 2+ years are inexorably tied to memories of palm trees, beaches, beautiful weather, cheap avocados (three for a dollar!), and everything else that California is. It's hard to think of one without thinking of the other. She's my California girl.

As a concrete example of what I'm talking about, I got up this morning and went into Sam's nursery to begin the systematic obliteration of every trace of her from the room. All the pictures and the wooden cutouts of her initials came off the walls. I pulled down her yellow and pink curtains. I disassembled her mobile and folded up her quilt. Later, when the movers arrived, all her stuffed animals, clothes, books, and toys went into ugly little cardboard boxes. Then, as a final act of nullification, I laid down a tarp and painted over the lavender and yellow walls with a pure, neutral white.

This made me kind of sad. That's the only room I've ever known Sam to have. With it gone --and with her gone at the moment-- it's kind of like she's without a home, without an anchor, without a familiar place where she can feel safe and absolutely sure of herself. And worse yet' I'm the one who has taken it away from her. It's not just me, is it? Isn't that a little sad?

Still, we'll make new memories. Ones just as good. And we'll have a new home ...one with a 52-inch high definition TV. And maybe guard towers with rocket launchers and a big button on the top that when you press it it says "COBRA is attacking the base! Battle stations! BRRRAAAA-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT!"

Cool.

Oh, before I forget, here's a few pictures. Not many given the circumstances, and I'm not sure how many I'll be able to snap for next week's update, but we'll see.





*If you are an Internet stalker and want to get our new home address and a schedule of our comings and goings, just, uh, e-mail me with your name, phone number, address, and the name of your parole officer. I'll get in touch.

Filed under: Parenting, Samantha 2 Comments
16Apr/06Off

Sam’s Story: Week 116

Happy Easter! This morning we learned an important lesson about this most blessed of all holidays: Don't let your toddler eat her weight in chocolate as soon as she wakes up. Actually, we didn't mean to, but she was just so fast. We set Sam down in front of her Easter basket and in the few seconds it took me to get the camera ready she shrieked "Ooh, candy!" had completely mauled her collection of chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and malted milk balls. As I write this she's running around downstairs, completely strung out on sugar and yammering nonstop at her entourage of stuffed bunnies about how much "Sammy likes candy."

Last week I mentioned that Sam had started to sing songs. This week I got some audio for you. It is, in fact, the first single from her debut album, Incoherent Babblings Sparsely Punctuated by Cute Songs. Also, she talks about Snakes on a Plane. Enjoy:

AudioI'm a Little Tea Pot
AudioSnakes on a Plane

Here's some pictures:











As you can see, Sam seems to have had a pretty good time at her Easter egg hunt, though she took time out to pose for a group picture with friends Risa, Sabrina, and Renna. I also like this picture, which suggests that Sam is preparing for a life of lounging around all day, then getting all dressed up to grab a drink and go clubbing late into the night (which, for her, is like 7:15 p.m.).

Finally, my continuing research has discovered another thing that Samantha is scared of: snails. We've recently had a lot of rain here, and yesterday Sam and I were playing in the back yard when I noticed an abundance of the slimy little invertebrates. We made a game of it where I found as many as I could (which ended up being 15 or so), picked them up, and put them up on the wooden fence. Once they started coming back out of their shells and waving their eye stalks around in a kind of "What the heck just happened?" way, Sam got a good look at them and started whimpering. So add snails to the list of things that scare her, which already includes dolphins, piggy banks, the Pacific Ocean, and The Wal-Mart Picture Studio.

That's it for this week. Fair warning for next week: the update may be a little bit late due to some unavoidable circumstances, but it'll get up eventually. Just keep clicking the Refresh button on your browser until it does.

Filed under: Parenting, Samantha 1 Comment
14Apr/06Off

The First Foundation Trilogy

Isaac Asimov's Foundation series is often cited amongst the nerdegalian as the best sci-fi series evar. It's set, as you may guess, far into the future where a man discovers that Rome ...uh, I mean The Galactic Empire is fated to collapse and bring about 30,000 years of barbarism unless certain actions are taken to start a long chain of events, the first of which is to create a kind of galactic Wikipedia. I'm not normally a fan of hard science fiction, and reading this trilogy kind of reminds me of why.

It actually has a lot of what I DO like about sci-fi: insightful ideas about human nature, epic plots, and heroes who solve problems through logic, science, and good old-fashioned wits. I also like the idea of Asimov's psychohistory, which is like what the "soft" sciences of psychology, sociology, and economics would be if they were advanced over thousands of years and distilled down to almost pure mathematics to the point where they could predict the actions of entire societies over hundreds or even thousands of years. That's a pretty dang cool idea.

Unfortunately, this trilogy also has, in spades, many of the things I don't typically like about sci-fi, especially well aged sci-fi: poor characterization, bizarre pacing that skitters forward hundreds of years at a time, and a jarring failure to predict inventions like computers, the Internet, or genetic engineering that would all make several plot points strange at best and inexplicable at worst. The latter really can't be helped, but it is kind of offsetting to see characters stymied by situations a personal computer or cel phone would solve.

There are approximately fifteen thousand other books set in the Foundation universe, but I'm not in any hurry to read them. This was a nice change of pace and the books are short, but it's the kind of thing I have to take in moderate doses.

Filed under: Books No Comments
12Apr/06Off

jmadigan.net: Now with ads, search, and photos

Few quick notes about three changes and enhancements to the site in case you didn't notice.

Item #1: Google Ads. I added some Google Adsense ads to the site, so feel free to click them repeatedly. Or not. They're not really big money makers (I've run them for several months on Selection Matters and only made $25), but if I can make enough to offset the cost of hosting, I'll be happy. It's actually pretty funny to look at what Google comes up with when trying to pick ads based on the content of the page. The individual entry for The Five People You Meet in Heavan in the Books category, for example, is all about dating services. And many of the Sam's Story individual entries have ads for dog food sweet potato recipies. Weird.

Item #2: Search. The "Search the site" tool has been over there on the right since I relaunched v2.0 of this site, but now it's, um, working. So if you want to search for all entries related to World of Warcraft, for example, you can do that.

Item #3: Photographs. I added a photography category to the blog, which contains any posts about pictures of things that aren't Samantha. I also included in this category all of the old "Picture of the Day" posts that I did back when I was doing that. Beware, though, that because Movable Type (stupidly) doesn't do pagination for archives, that's a huge page on the other side of that link. You can always click on the Photos Index from the menu at the top of the page. I just wanted somewhere to stick the Pic of the Days and the blog posts about photography.

That's it. Enjoy!

10Apr/06Off

Sam’s Story: Week 115

I've mentioned before about Sam's possessiveness, and it's a trait that seems intent on persisting. The other night Geralyn was baking a cake for her "Mom's Night Out" club, a delicious cake that Sam and I had been forbidden from even thinking about touching. This didn't prevent Sam from sitting in the living room and repeatedly commenting that "Mommy is making a cake for Sammy." When the oven timer went off, Sam gave a little squeak of joy and shouted "Ooh, my cake is done!" There was much pouting when we weren't given any. Sam was upset, too.

We're trying to kind of go with the flow in regards to this whole independence thing, though. We're leaving the safety gates open and giving the kid free range of the house, but watching her come down the stairs by herself still turns me into a cringing, twitchy ball of apprehension. We've also started giving her time alone in the bath. Before we would practically straddle the ledges of the tub and squat over her, arms curled into protective claws and held ready to snatch her out of the deadly suds if she so much as looked like she was going to tip over. Now we still stay nearby, but check in on her every minute or two while keeping a sharp ear out for thumps, splashes, or gurgles.

Here, I got a lot of pictures this week:























On Saturday we spent the day with The Northcutts in Carlsbad, California. We made a quick stop in The Flower Fields where we took a picture or two, but I've got enough pics from that to do a whole separate post for the photo section. The balance of the day was spent at a nearby beach, which gave us a bunch of great photo ops, too.

Sam had been to the beach once or twice before, but this is pretty much the first time we took her down to the water. She was kind of delighted at first, then apprehensive, then completely untrusting of the giant body of water that is the Pacific Ocean. I think the latter might have happened because one particularly strong wave rushed up around her ankles right as she fell down, soaking her entire left side.

Finally, you may notice the decapitated and scalped rabbit head with green grass brains which was the horrific centerpiece of Sam's Easter egg hunt. Ger put this monstrosity in the laundry closet to get it out of the way while we cleaned house, and I just about had a heart attack when I opened the closet door to find it sitting on the shelf at eye level and staring out at me with its maniac gaze. Still gives me the shivers.

In closing for this week, I'll mention that Sam has hit yet another momentous milestone: she has learned to sing a song. Now, I know about that special brand of insanity that prompts parents to strut and crow about vicarious achievements that the rest of the world sees as banal at best and would-you-just-shut-up-please at worst. It's just that when Sam stands there and sings the entire "I'm a Little Tea Pot" song --complete with hand gestures, I tell you-- I can't keep myself from bursting into moronic laughter of pride and glee. She just has that kind of effect on me.

Filed under: Parenting, Samantha 1 Comment
5Apr/06Off

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

One of the great things about checking out audiobooks from the public library is that I can take a chance on something I normally wouldn't buy, and I end up loving it. And then, of course, there are the times I take a chance on something I wouldn't normally like and end up really hating it as predicted. See if you can guess which is the case here by the end of this post.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven is about Eddie, an amusement park maintenance guy who dies and goes to heaven. Spoiler alert, I guess, though you could probably figure that out from the title. From there he meets five people whose lives touched his and learns why he was such a unique and special little snowflake while on Earth. The book's main shortcoming is that I only get to enjoy seeing something kill Eddie on one occasion. And that was over within the first few pages.

Seriously, this thing is so ham-fisted in its moralizing, so infused with cliches, so sentimental, and so naked in its attempts to manipulate emotions that I only finished it because it was blessedly short. The worst part about this last point is that the audiobook brings up violins --VIOLINS!-- in the background at the most supposedly sentimental parts. Which is to say, constantly.

Oh, and Albom apparently never heard of the "show, don't tell" rule when it comes to establishing character and showing reactions. I guess everyone in Heaven describes their mental processes in flagrant detail. There's also the issue of proclamations that sound wise at first, but crumble under any amount of thought. For example, there's a line to the effect of "Sometimes, when you sacrifice something you don't lose it. You just give it to someone else." Now, I haven't a dictionary in front of me to help me through this moral morass, but I fail to see the difference off the top of my head.

At any rate, I certainly wouldn't recommend this. If you really want to read a good book about the afterlife, pick up Dante's The Divine Comedy, read the first few pages, then throw it down in frustration and decide that there's no good middle ground.

Filed under: Books 4 Comments
4Apr/06Off

Legoland, California

As I mentioned in Sam's last update, we went to Legoland California last weekend. I took roughly a bajillion pictures, but it was overcast and only some of them came out. They're in the Photos Archive, but I'll post them here, too:































Filed under: Photography No Comments
3Apr/06Off

Sam’s Story: Week 114

Here it is at week 114 and Sam's individuality and desire for freedom is definitely starting to shine through. We went to Legoland this last weekend and made the mistake of giving her too much sugar. After consuming her own weight in brownies, ice cream, cookies, and spicy shrimp linguini, Sam took one more look at the vibrant primary colors surrounding her and went completely ballistic. One second she was holding my hand, the next she was shrieking with pure, undulating glee and running full speed while flailing her arms like the pace setter in the 4th Annual Epileptic's 5K Fun Run.

That aside, Legoland was actually pretty neat. I normally loathe theme parks (paying $125 to get in then waiting 45 minutes for a 27-second ride doesn't seem like the best use of a Saturday to me), but we had free passes and the park had a delightful play area for toddlers where you just kind up dump them in there and let them run riot. We also squeezed in a few rides, like an airplane ride ("Oooh, I want to ride in the yellow one!") and a helicopter ride ("Mommy and Sammy go really, really high!"). Legoland's focus on public transportation also included a train ride and a boat ride, but I'll put up pictures of those in a separate post. I got a lot of pictures as it is:














I particularly like this one of Sam inspecting a Lego elf sculpture like she were a distinguished Parisian taking a stroll through the Louvre. I guess that when you're a kid, everything made of brightly colored, interlocking blocks is fine art.

The last thing I thought I'd mention is that while Sam seems pretty adaptive and not prone to having fits when we stumble around outside of her normal routine, she did experience something last night that really upset her. She had taken down this shiny silver piggy bank --the kind actually shaped like a pig-- and was hefting it around while Ger ran her bath. The thing was chock full of quarters and probably weighed two or three pounds, so of course Sam lost control and dropped it. Upon impact, the screw that held the two bank halves together came disengaged and the thing split apart, sending quarters everywhere. The sight of her piggie busting open and spraying its silvery guts all over the bathroom really freaked Sam out and she erupted into burbling, hysterical tears. Like I've said before, she's very particular about her things and this really seemed to upset her. Fortunately, she was easily calmed down when we gathered the coins and fit the bank halves back together. The only lasting effect seemed to be that throughout her bath she would occasionally mutter to herself, "My pig broke. My pig broke. My pig broke." Still, I wouldn't be surprised if someday some psychologist identifies this as the reason she can't use spare change to buy bacon from a vending machine.