Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas preview

All my posts to date have discussed with the past, so here's a curveball: a preview of the upcoming Christmas holiday.

Let's begin with the setting. For the first time in my adulthood, we are the hosts. So we need a tree, right? Since Clara has no self control, we planned to wait until Christmas eve to set up a tree. But today we find that no store in our neighborhood has any more real trees. Rather than decorating the evergreen in our front yard, we plan to buy a fake tree. I worry about the commitment to storing and caring for it.

10 people will be in our house for a week (though one is still in the womb). Now that we have multiple bedrooms and baths, our house won't feel overstuffed. Anyone else want to join us? We're out of rooms and beds, but couches are available.

I bought Jill's Christmas present over a month ago. I think it's a nice gift, so I hope she really likes it. Confession: I find the giving of gifts stressful, even to my wife of 10 years. After Thanksgiving, my former professor said that he enjoys Thanksgiving more than Christmas for just this reason. So I'm not alone.

I'm really enjoying singing Christmas carols during this advent season (exception: Angels we have heard on high). I'm quite excited about our church's Christmas eve service for one more chance to sing. I feel a mix of nostalgia (hay ride caroling in CA) and excitement for the upcoming Christmases when Clara and Janny understand what's going on.

On Christmas day, we'll eat Pop Tarts for breakfast (broiled in the over since we haven't replaced our toaster that died in Abq) and a ham for lunch. Stockings are opened during breakfast, and big presents after that. Nothing too big for us this year since we already got the house.

... and the guests are here. I leave the rest to your imagination. Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2 winter treks

Miserable weather came our way this weekend. Despite 5" of snow remaining on the ground and rather cold temps recently, we watched rainfall all day long as the temp hovered around 35 degrees. I kept hoping that it would slow if not stop, but at 3:30pm no end was in sight.

Needing to get some 'fresh air' to avoid stir craziness, I dressed in rain gear and hopped on my just-finished-up blue Trek. Observe the new fenders and front rack from Velo Orange. Very shiny! I worked extra hard to install them with uniform space from the tire.
I was comfortable for the entire 1 1/2 hour ride, except that my feet got soaked and chilly. Somehow, my garage door opener fell from my pocket on Main Street between High Cross Rd and Cottage Grove. I looked for about 5 minutes, but couldn't find it due to nightfall and a very wet road with snowy banks. Let me know if you find it.

Overnight, the temp dropped to low 20s, and we got a few inches of snow. The wind has been howling all day. Why not try another bike ride? This time, I rode the gray Trek with Innova studded tires. The roads were quite sketchy but I stayed upright.
Conclusion: I love Trek's sport touring bikes from the 80's. There is lots of room for fenders or studded tires, and they ride beautifully. However, if it keeps snowing like crazy this winter, I'll put a Surly Puglsey on my Christmas list.
Clara's spirits aren't dampened a bit by the dodgy weather.

A big change this week is that she now drinks milk on her own. We delayed empowering her for this because milk drinking was a rare opportunity to hold her. Nothing else makes her sit still for long.

Monday, December 6, 2010

snow storm

Winter has struck with a vengeance, so we're working to keep our spirits warm. One good way is to bring lots of people over to literally warm the house.

For the first time this semester, we had all of our adopt-a-students over for dinner. Less than 2 weeks before finals start, and then they head home. So sad and happy -- like the end of a Harry Potter book.
Much snow fell on Friday night and Saturday morning. We all bundled up to either play (the gals) or shovel the driveway (me).

Jill's 13 very brave students came to our house despite temps in the teens for a pot-luck dinner on Saturday night. After the 1" storm earlier in the week, one of her middle eastern students concluded that he hated snow upon his first encounter. Maybe now that he's seen so much more he changed his mind?
Finally, some bike content. I shod my gray Trek with studded tires and went in search of ice and snow on Sunday afternoon. The best snow to be found was the arboretum park area of campus. Because of the very cold temps, riding through the powder with 35 mm tires was no problem. So fun!

Monday, November 29, 2010

local events

On the weekend before Thanksgiving, we dropped Clara off at a friend's apartment and went to Jim's birthday party. Jim roasted a glam pig and invited co-workers (Jill is one), friends from church, and neighbors (he went door-to-door inviting them). Some 50 people came and ate and much was left over (12 baskets full?). I played some corn hole and lost to local champ Peter. Clara also had a good time.
On my way to work this morning, I was rudely and abruptly sent flying over the handlebars. Thankfully, I was only going about 10 mph at the time, so no injuries were sustained. As best I as I deduce, this is what happened. Coming out of a sharp turn on a dirt path, my foot pushed my fender onto the tire, which got stuck on the tire and crumpled. Nothing was jammed in the fender.

After gathering my wits, I de-jammed the fender and rode the rest of the way to work. Here's how it looks now.
Since I've been riding this setup for about 3 years, I'm going to assume this was a freak event. On the other hand, I might make a change or 2 (maybe switch from 177.5 to 172.5 cranks). Maybe I'll get a Boulder Bicycle (okay, not soon).

a happy thanksgiving

For thanksgiving, we joined the Smith family at Jill's parent's freshly moved-in-house in Nashville, TN. The 3+ of us drove down there and back without incident. Clara slept large chunks of the ride and managed to entertain herself with either food or toys for most of the remaining time.

Grandpa and grandpa hosted a good time for kids of all ages.
As a bonus, the cousins from MI drove down to join us. Clara loves to play with cousin Josh!
We have decided to name the next baby Janet, or Janny for short, after Jill's Aun Jan, shown managing the mayhem here.
Indeed there was much mayhem when the whole gang was in the house. Clara was in awe of the big kids. We decided to not put her on the top of the people stack.
Most of our time was spent hanging out with the family, but we also managed to watch the new Harry P. movie and visit JPP reservior and the Opreyland hotel.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

lull before the storm

Probably our readers don't expect to be overwhelmed by the excitement that is our lives, but I hope to bring more action to the blog soon. Recently, when we've not been organizing the house, we have been forgetting to bring the camera to mini-events (like going to a park, walking to the grocery store (we switched from Schnucks to County Market because it's a handy 6 minute walk away), and Thanksgiving dinner with the adopt-a-students at church).

Clara continues to improve her walking. I expected that we would point to a specific moment when she started walking, but it was quite gradual. She walked behind her push toys. She stood up on her own. She took steps, but was clearly falling. Now she's toddling all over, and it blows my mind.
Wood floors, baby, and a blanket means lots of fun. No one was hurt during this stunt. Or when I pulled her.
Occasionally, Clara can put food into her mouth with a spoon.
A final interesting Clara note. Very, very late last night, Jill sneaked a peak into Clara's room and saw her sitting up and playing with her bunny blanket. Jill was quiet as a mouse, so Clara didn't notice. Both gals went back to sleep without making a peep. We wonder if she does this often.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

getting settled

We're starting to feel settled in the new place, now that we've been here for nearly 2 weeks.

We had our first overnight visitors already. Mom and friend Monica were in the state to check out Chicago and took the train south to say hello. During their brief stay, they babysat Clara and unpacked and organized our kitchen. We vote that they come back any time!
On Sunday, we had our first Bible study group meeting in the conservatory. To mark the occasion, Maggie served tea (in the British manner). Yummy!
Clara couldn't be happier about the presence of the dishwasher. We're happy because more than 4 of our large plates fit on the bottom rack.
Today, our latest piece of furniture arrived: a very long used couch.
True, the rug doesn't match, so it will be swapped out soon. On the right side, you can see one of the chairs that we bought through craigslist. The seller turned out to be a fellow ISGS employee that I hadn't met. Next time I visit the big building, I'll say hello.

We've met a handful of our neighbors. The neighbors to our backyard called to fill in all the scoop about everyone else. She also mentioned that she can see inside our house quite easily. Noted! Our westerly neighbor is a toffee maker. I enjoyed many pieces today.

Finally, Clara is walking! I'd guess that she is crawling 2/3 of the time and walking 1/3 for now.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

new home

Whew! The whirlwind month is over for us. We sold our townhouse in New Mexico and bought a house in Urbana and moved into it. Or mostly moved into it. All of our stuff is here, but much remains in boxes.

Since we have moved so many times in the last 5 years, I didn't think this would be too big a deal. However, our one year old greatly increased the difficulty. Not only do we have more stuff, but it's rare that we can work at the same time because someone has to keep an eye on the kid.

I should say that it's not for lack of trying that Clara didn't help much. Here she helps daddy take the guest bed apart.
Here's the view from the south grounds.
The house is ranch-style and much bigger than the last several places we lived.

Come visit us some time!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

girl on the way!

So FB got the scoop, but the news from the doctor is that we're having another girl. Thanks to all who supported the name Otis, which sadly is no longer suitable. I am hard at work dreaming up a middle name. Jill has picked out the first name.

After a blazing hot end of summer, fall has been fantastic. You'd think that after so many sunny, mild days we'd have some nice photos of our park outings, but we don't. So we'll show more Clara!

As you can see to the right of this page, I've been reading a book about railroad history. The biggest surprise is the number people killed during rail construction. The scariest case was the construction of the Panama railroad -- an estimated 6000 workers died. At any time, 2/3 of the workforce was too sick to work.

A personal favorite story was how the 4 owners of the Central Pacific Railroad stole big money during construction of the transcontinental railroad. One of them was Leland Stanford, founder of a small junior university in California. Go BEARS!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

informal cyclocross

Local bike riders have organized some in-town weekday cyclocross races, and I raced tonight. I rode the downtube-friction-shiftered Trek 500 with much aplomb. My troubles were the dismounts, barrier jumps, and remounts. The 3 guys that finished ahead of me gained at least 3 seconds per skill-set-required action. I should practice. And yes, there were more than 4 racers. Maybe 9.

After the race, Luke complained that my collision with a barrier on the last lap left it sitting higher for those after me. There's a positive aspect of lacking finesse.

A great advantage of college town life is that babysitting works fabulously. Let's say you want to go out to a nice restaurant with your true love without having to mind the baby. Just call up a friend and give her some dinner and the baby. Return home and sleep, and then said friend goes to her just beginning party. Perfect!

We ate very well at Silvercreek on Saturday night.
Clara enjoys crawling into her toy box to play.
Clara also enjoys getting into the kitchen drawers, but we disapprove.
Is that the face of repentance or disdain? I say repentance.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

entering the teenage months

Have we discussed Clara enough lately? She turned 13 months today, so let's have a little update.

She still has 6 teeth, 4 uppers that are getting big enough to see when she smiles and 2 lowers.

She says 'dada', 'moma', and 'bye-bye' only when she wants.

She has taken 2 steps on her own, but mostly crawls or walks while holding onto whatever is handy. She loves to climb stairs. Just this week, she walks with us while holding our hands, but only when she wants.
When we're eating something she doesn't like too much, she points toward the counter where we once, maybe three months ago, had put the only package of whipped yogurt snacks that we ever bought. She seems to hope that if she points to that space, they will return.

She likes pasta best, especially mac and cheese (made by us, not kRaft).

We gave her bites of my German chocolate birthday cake, and she bounded around the house for 30 minutes.

We've been watching episodes of Psych recently, and Clara enjoys the theme song very much. Dancing and smiling ensues.

Her favorite activity with mommy is 'buzzy bee,' a tickling game. She holds her fingers just like mommy when she wants mommy to do it. Peak a boo is also fun.

She usually goes to sleep at 9:30p and wakes up around 7:30am. Recently, she's been waking up from being cold or hungry, but generally sleeps through the night. Two daytime naps of about 1 1/2 hours each.

When she's MAD, she jerks her entire body like a fish out of water.

She grabs my stomach flab and mommy's nose hard! We're teaching 'gentle'.

She waves at strangers. We do this every day on the quad while mommy is teaching. When strangers wave back, she does a shrug/hide her face duck before looking at them again.

We love her lots!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

back from the Pitts

I had my first business trip as a daddy this week. Umf, I felt gut pain the first couple nights from missing the kid.

I spent Sun through Wed near the confluence in Pittsburgh at a groundwater protection conference. The conference theme was the water-energy nexus. Did you know that electricity production uses about the same amount of water as agriculture in the US? Did you know that India uses 30% of its electricity generation to pump groundwater? The nexus is an HUGE story.

Bobby Kennedy Jr. was the keynote speaker. He walked within 1 foot of me, but I neither shook his hand or tripped him. He hates coal.

My birthday happened a week ago. We had caramel apples instead of cake. I hope to bake my cake tonight.
Here's some reasons that I missed Clara terribly. What a funny kid!
Clara is a huge star with Jill's students.

The conference was too busy for me to enjoy Pittsburgh. The one tourist thing I did was ride the incline. I would have loved to ride a bike there and climb some of the steepest streets in the country. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Big news to report this week, but let's save it for the end.

Clara's big birthday celebration extended to essentially a full week. Jill's parents stayed with us a couple days and brought birthday presents. Clara is clearly impressed.
Quiet time is not overly common with the ever-active Clara, but grandma is able to get some reading time in.
One difficulty of marrying someone that grew up 2000+ miles away from home (and living near neither place) is that getting both sets of grandparents together is a rare event. We're pleased to report that for the 3rd time ever, both sets of parents were in Urbana albeit for a couple hours. Here's your proof.
Clara loved playing with Grandma's iphone, perhaps her favorite toy to date.
One of Jill's students is quite the photographer. My favorite subject:
Okay, the big news. First the smaller news: it looks like we'll be selling our townhouse in Los Alamos. We accepted an offer from a buyer, and if all goes well we'll close near the end of October. Hurray!

Finally, we're expecting another baby in March! My favorite name for the baby is Otis, but no one else likes it. But that's what we call the kid for now.

Monday, September 6, 2010

first birthday bash

Today actually isn't Clara's birthday, but it was a fine day to celebrate. Last year, in the evening on Labor day, Clara was born. Now she's a whirling dervish with a grand sense of adventure. As for us parent-folk, we're full of joy and gratitude to have her in our family. And sometimes, we're exhausted.

For lunch we went to Clara's favorite Mexican restaurant, where she is adored by the wait staff. First, they gave her a helium filled balloon. After she ate some frijoles and arroz, they put a sombrero on her head, sang a birthday song, and set out a plate with whipped cream and chocolate. All very good!
Now that she has some hair, that's another good place to put whipped cream.
After an afternoon nap, we were joined by some friends at the local park for a picnic and cupcakes. Thanks so much to all for celebrating with us! It has been a joy to have you in Clara's life during the last year.
Clara ate a bunch of sweet potatoes before starting on her cupcake, a white cake with lemon cream cheese frosting made by mommy and daddy. After dipping her hands in the frosting she put some in her mouth and ate with relish.
Will we pay for Clara's excessive eating of sweets eating today? Time will tell...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Stocking up on the 80's

I'm no nostalgist. Though I enjoyed growing up in the 80's, I'm pretty happy with life right now. That said, I seem to be a huge sucker for bikes from the 80's, as evidenced by the photo below. Only one is not ours.
As Clara rapidly approaches her first birthday, moving everything to everywhere else is about the most fun to be had.
Clara needs lots of energy to accomplish her daily tasks. Starting with a jug of milk and a glass of oj gets her off on the right footing.
Jill (and I) survived her first week teaching a reading class at the IEI. Perhaps one reason for the job availability is fellow teacher's sabbatical to jolly old England for the semester. I think Clara will miss her.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A new BOB

Today (Fri) is a day off for daddy, except that he's taking care of the baby who happens to be napping at the moment. I should mention how happy I am about the gorgeous weather we've had lately. Sunny and dry enough that I don't have to mow the lawn often.

In biking news, I've been advising our friend Nina on her road bike acquisition plan. She's been riding a nice hybrid for some years and was hoping to enter the glorious world of road bike riding. Also, she wanted to build up a bike from all the parts.

Some time passed, and ebay auctions were not 'won', before we came across a 1988 Bridgestone RB-1 frameset from the i-BOB list (internet Bridgestone Owners Bunch. Fun fact: Bridgestone has not exported bikes to the US since 1994). I had some spare parts in the garage, so last week we started to put it together. Eddie Merckx looks with approval at the lugged steel frame.
Some 3ish hours later, we had a mostly ridable bike: single speed, single brake, too-wide handlebars. I think Nina is gonna like it.
I'm afraid that Clara is developing a bit of a reputation in the church nursery. Last week she took a pacifier out of another baby's mouth to play with it (she doesn't suck on them). You wouldn't know this bully streak by looking at her.
In other news, our church softball team won the men's B church softball league championship. After finishing the regular season 5-5, we were the 8th seed in the tournament. Of the four tournament games we won, three were by 1 run. And we were the visitors for every game, so we had to hold them off during every last bottom inning. High drama for Jill, Clara, and our other 3 fans!

Finally, Jill is venturing closer to work-a-day life. In addition to her normal rating from home job, she'll be teaching a reading class at the Intensive English Institute. The current plan is for me to watch Clara during class (1-2 M-F) for my lunch break. We're excited about this gig.