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Saturday, January 31st

I got home yesterday afternoon, went to get Caden some milk from the fridge and about fell on my arse when I opened the door.  It was 106 degrees inside.  Literally.  All of the butter and cheese had melted and there was putrid goo everywhere.  Every jar and bottle was swollen up like fresh road kill on a hot day.  It was pretty freaky because you don't expect to open your fridge and encounter an oven.  We think the compressor failed or something and perhaps overheated.  Thank God it didn't burn our shack down.


You don't appreciate how much food you have and how much your refrigerator holds until you have to throw everything away.  Thankfully, we have a second small fridge in our garage that we can use temporarily until we figure out what it's going to cost to fix.  They say if it's a failed compressor, you'd might as well invest in a whole new enchilada. 


It wasn't a bad fridge; we bought it when we bought the house five years and five months ago.  And you guessed it ... the warranty was good for five years.  Geez.  Whatever happened to fine American workmanship?  I won't lay blame or name names, but let's just say the company that made the fridge has the initials "G.E."  I was kind of expecting that a major appliance like this would last at least until Caden was old enough to start sneaking beer out of it.

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Wednesday, January 28th

My friends and I used to make movies like this in elementary school with my dad's old 16mm film camera.  If I can ever get one converted to digital, I'll post it. 


Of course, they were never quite this good.

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Monday, January 26th

Is there really that much difference between a kid getting a new toy and a grown-up getting a new toy?  Probably not.  I just used some Christmas money to buy a new external flash for my camera.  I've wanted it for a long time so finally getting it felt like, well, Christmas.  And when the UPS guy delivered it the other day I practically jumped up and down and said "wow" like Caden does when he gets something new.  It is cool though.  And it will help me take even better photos; I just need to learn how to really use it!  The photos below are a comparison: can you tell which one was taken with the new flash?  I think it makes a huge difference.



If you have a couple of minutes, watch this.  It shows all 44 presidents pictures morphing from one into another.  It's pretty cool (thanks BB for sending it!).

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Saturday, January 24th

You really should be able to buy a toy for your kid and not have to worry about it exposing your child to profanity, for Christ's sake. 

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Friday, January 23rd
Caden finished his semester of Little Gym yesterday.  He's graduating up to the next level and starts a new class next week.  He's been going to these classes long enough that he swaggers around the gym like he owns the place.  He's gotten pretty good at some of the skills and exercises.  He's a little bit of a showman and I'm sure the other parents probably think he's showing off.  Oh well, he's got lots of enthusiasm and always a big smile.  There's nothing wrong with confidence as long as you still teach humility.  Our sense already is that Caden's aptitudes are probably going to lean toward physical coordination and sports anyway.  His motor skills are definitely stronger than his language skills right now and he's always unafraid of trying anything new or physical.  And nothing that will stop him dead in his tracks more than to see some kind of game on TV.  It doesn't matter what it is: football, baseball, hockey, soccer.  He loves to watch sports and imitates the athletes kicking or throwing. 

Click to play Little Gym Jan 09


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Wednesday, January 21st
Listen to the independence in his voice.  Usually when the defiance sets in, we can still get him to laugh somehow.

Maybe it's because I love photography and also love politics, but I thought this was cool.  Oh, and this is funny and worth watching if you have time.

Our kid likes to sit in interesting places.  But it can sometimes backfire (and literally burn). 

We took Caden to a new local park on Monday when John was off work for the holiday.  There's a weird phenomenon that occurs on these play structures with the build-up of static electricity.  It can get quite amusing.

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Tuesday, January 20th
The words got a little bungled.  It's understandable.  The weight of the moment must have been immense.  It will no doubt prove to be a momentous juncture in our generation's history.  The inauguration of a new president, a new generation of political leadership, a new sense of pride in our nation, and the first black president.  What a great day. 

Two things struck me about how much has changed already.  First, we have a president who will once again lead based on hope instead of fear.  In his inaugural address, President Obama said to "choose hope over fear."  Seeing former President Bush fly away back to Texas made me feel like we can finally put this nightmarish era of fear behind us.  What a relief.  And second, I'm excited about the potential for real and meaningful change happening soon.  Take a look at the White House website, which changed dramatically at exactly noon Eastern time.  The plan for change is all laid out and I can't help but be very excited by certain parts of it.  As Caden likes to say, "Gobama."  I completely agree.

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Monday, January 19th
In his letter from Birmingham City Jail in April 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King wrote about the need for change.  He was in jail at the time for participating in a civil rights demonstration.  Several prominent white clergymen had just accused him of being an extremist.  He wrote, "One may well ask, "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just and there are unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all."   He went on to say, "Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist-"This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist-"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love?"

There is far too much hate in our country and in our communities.  Hate is promoted by people and organizations that are ignorant, intolerant and - frankly - undeserving to live in a place where people (like MLK) sacrificed so much to bring more equality to so many.  People willing to be extremists for love instead of hate.  If we're going to truly honor someone like Dr. Martin Luther King for the sacrifices and accomplishments of his time, we must do more than pay lip service to his cause.  We need to actually speak up and say something.  We need to put our thoughts into actions.  We need to be an extremist too: overpower the intolerance and hate that sullies our country.

How?  Buy a can of soup.  This is just a small example of the kind of thing we can do to fight back against organized hate.  Let me explain: The Campbell Soup Company recently placed an ad in a gay magazine featuring two lesbian moms serving soup to their kid.   Well, the American Family Association is objecting to this ad by trying to boycott Campbell's and undermine their education-funding soup label program.  (The name of this organization is the biggest misnomer on the face of the earth; based on their actions, they apparently see it as their job to actually undermine as many families as possible).  They’re asking likeminded haters to find out if their kids’ schools participate in a thirty-year-old program in which Campbell’s makes donations of educational equipment in exchange for soup labels.  If schools participate in the program, the AFA says, parents should ask them to stop, thereby causing good schools to lose out on the potential for funding and new equipment.  So there they go again.  Supporting kids and families!  You go AFA

Be an extremist against hate and the next time you're in the grocery store, pick up a can of soup.  Better yet, write to Campbell's to tell them about your support. 


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Sunday, January 18th
The most popular baby names of 2008 were announced on a couple of Internet sites recently. In one poll, Caden came in at number 5!  It's apparently most popular in the states of Montana and South Dakota.  One website says that the origin of the name "Caden" is English and means "spirited."  That's the first I've heard of that.  I think they make half this crap up, although I'm not necessarily in disagreement with the "spirited" part.  We'd always read that it had a Welsh origin and meant "fighter."  Agree with that too, especially lately (Caden is having a time-out as I type this).

It looks like the name "Caden" is dropping back off the charts again and losing popularity so maybe there won't be millions of Caden's in the world after all? 

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Saturday, January 17th
This is hilarious.  You've got to admit he's given us some great laughs in the past eight years.  It doesn't make up for the incredible tragedies, but I think this video pretty much sums up the man and his presidency.  He's leaving with a 22% approval rating; the lowest of any president since they began collecting the data.  I'm sure he doesn't feel too bad about it: Dick Cheney's is even lower at 13%.

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Friday, January 16th
I think one of the keys to effective parenting is effective bribery.  Child psychologists might call it a reward system, but I call it effective bribery.  Promising your kid an ice cream cone or a new toy whenever they clean up their room - to me - is not effective bribery.  It has to be more sophisticated than that.  It has to be something that, in the end, makes the kid feel good for doing the task whether they get a dumb prize or not.  Tricky, I know.  Therefore, the prize has to be smaller than the feeling of accomplishment.  A new bicycle or live pony probably confuses things.

So with this in mind, I thought it might be fun to up the ante on our potty training experiment.  I could very well be crazy that we're starting all of this way too early, but he does meet some of the criteria on a few readiness checklists.  And since we already have the potty and he seems intrigued with using it, I thought it would be fun to create a bribery system for any of his successful "trips" to the frog

Introducing "Caden's Potty Prize Chart."  Anytime he pee's or poops in the potty, he gets a sticker on the chart, as well as a sticker for himself (usually to maul, mangle or eat).  I'm amazed how much he's responded to this form of bribery so far.  He loves to just stand there and admire his chart.  "Wow" and "Oooo" he exclaims as he gazes proudly at it.  Of course this idea is nothing new - except to Caden.  He LOVES it.

We'll see if this system gets him any closer to leaving behind his diapers.  I had a vision the other day of me still putting stickers on this chart in two years while I pleaded with him to poop in the potty in exchange for getting a new bike or pony.

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Thursday, January 15th
Have you felt it yet?  If you haven't, I bet you will within the next few days.  The feeling of relief.  No matter what you think of our president-elect, I'm certain that vast portions of our country will take a huge, cleansing sigh of relief this Tuesday at noon Eastern time.  In case you've somehow suppressed all the reasons you should feel relief, just click here and here for two brief examples of the nightmare we'll be leaving behind.  Pretty soon we can stop waking up every morning wondering what our vice president is up to. 

I certainly don't think the days and months ahead are going to be a bed of roses for anyone, but I definitely feel excited.  And relief.  I feel relief.  And I think inaugurations are cool!  I'm really looking forward to Tuesday.

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Wednesday, January 14th
We haven't started 2009 yet.  The new year is supposed to be about fresh starts, new goals, better health and renewed ambitions.  I just don't think it's fair for it to start when you have a bunch of Christmas candy left in the house and you're still putting away your dang holiday decorations.  How can you feel prepared to begin new and fresh with pinched and half-eaten See's candy beckoning your call?  So we've decided that when we put the new calendar up is when the new year will start.  We may be half way through the first month, but who cares.  I've got my resolutions written; I just need to start following them.  Soon.  All the do-gooders are clogging up the gym right now anyway. 
2009 might need to start next week.

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Tuesday, January 13th
We have a laundry room in our house where all sorts of laundry room-like things live.  Aside from the usual, there are cleaning supplies, cat boxes, water and food bowls for the felines, and pretty much any other item of crap that doesn't find a natural place to be stuffed elsewhere in the house.  When Caden first started to walk back in July, the laundry room became public enemy #1.  He was constantly sneaking in there to wreak havoc.  He never made it into the litter boxes (well, all the way anyway) but he did sample a little cat food.  Let's just say: he knows what Friskie's Ocean Delight tastes like.  It became a constant battle keeping him out of there.  We could have just closed the door but then the cats wouldn't have been able to do their business 94 times a day like they're used to.  Such perplexing challenges of parenting.

Then something happened and we don't know why.  Caden stopped going into the laundry room.  He won't even cross the threshold or stick his toe over the line.  It's as if there's an invisible toddler force field working.  It's remarkable really.  We could be in there for an hour folding clothes and he'll happily stand at the doorway waiting, never stepping foot inside.  Now some might settle for an explanation that he "just got it" after the hundreds of times we told him he couldn't go in there.  But I have to ask, "why would he start listening now?"  He hasn't listened to anything else we've said in the past 18 months so there has to be something more to this!  I want to know what it is.  If something worked, I want to use it again! 

There are plenty of other places in the house where we'd love to establish another invisible toddler force field.  I just need to figure out the freakin' secret password!

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Monday, January 12th
The next time you're compelled to pick up and throw away that plastic bag blowing around on the street, don't.  It might be a bear.

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Friday, January 9th
It seemed like just yesterday when we put Caden in his crib for the first time looking like a tiny swaddled edamame.  I was cleaning out an old diaper bag the other day and found a couple of newborn size diapers.  Did he really have a butt that small?!  How time flies.  Anyway, we decided it was time to buy a potty for him.  Who knows if he's ready to start potty training, but he sure acts like he has some control.  Whenever we take his diaper off, there's a 97% chance he'll pee on you.  I think it's more likely a sign of a deviant sense of humor than it is of developing potty control, but we thought we'd start trying to train anyway.  They say a toddler can be potty trained in only one day: it's just a matter of which day they choose to do it.

I spent about an hour reading reviews on toddler potties and then suddenly said to myself, "what the hell am I doing?"  It's not like this is rocket science or anything.  Sit. Pee. Poop. That's it.  So we got the Fisher Price Froggy Friend Potty, even though there are plenty others with more bells and whistles.  And I'm being told we'll to need to purchase at least two more anyway.  We apparently need one downstairs and also one for travelling.  Ok then.

Caden thinks it's pretty neat.  He did actually pee in it the other day.  It was a matter of me getting him onto it quickly enough after I took his diaper off and he graced us with his afternoon whizz.  I did a happy dance and jumped up and down in celebration but Caden protested with a loud "DAAaYdEEE!!" as if to tell me I was making an ass of myself by jumping up and down so much.

I think for now we'll just keep things low key.  It's proving to be more of an entertainment item than anything else right now.  Who'd-a-thought a toddler potty would remind me of my own adolescence watching reruns of the Flying Nun?

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Thursday, January 8th
If you're faint of heart, prim and proper, or your name is Judith Martin (aka syndicated columnist Miss Manners), please just take your cursor, move it to the upper right portion of your screen, and click on that little "X" symbol to close this window.  For everyone else (aka all the normal people), feel free to read on! 

I got an iPhone for Christmas.  If you're not familiar with the latest cell phones on the market these days, they're capable of running tons of useless programs and applications that do nothing more than waste your valuable time in exchange for mindless entertainment.  Many of these applications can be downloaded for free and others cost under a buck or just a few bucks.  Most tout they'll improve your life in some way, but so far I haven't found any that have gotten me (1) out of bed any earlier, (2) onto our exercise equipment any more often, or (3) eating any healthier.

Millions of people have iPhones and millions of people download these applications every single day.  So naturally I wanted to check out the list of the most popular free and paid applications.  And what I discovered next came as somewhat of a shock: the #1 paid application for the iPhone is not a productivity assistant or an organizing tool or an internet search gadget.  It's a modern day fart machine!  I couldn't believe it at first but then after watching the demo video and seeing how it worked, I knew I had to have it. 

It's provided by iFART mobile and comes with many fabulous features.  You're preloaded with up to 26 different farts, ranging from Jack the Ripper, the Brown Mosquito, the Wipe Out, and my favorite ... the Dirty Raoul.  (By the way, if you're going to click on any of these at work, you might want to turn the volume on your computer down; I don't want to be responsible for any undeserved reputations).

One of the greatest features of the program is that you can set it to go off on a timer.  If you wanted to leave your phone sitting innocently in a room full of people or in a meeting that perhaps isn't going well, you can just pick your "sound," set the timer and leave the room.  Let it work its magic and come back later.  I tried this on John the other night but I think he heard me hyperventilating in laughter on the other side of the door before it actually went off.  Caden thought it was pretty funny too.  And in case you're creative, you can record your own farts.  You can even e-mail them to your friends. 

So there you have it: a 21st century whoppie cushion.  In some ways, I feel so much better about the world - better about mankind - knowing that millions of cell phones out there have fart machines installed at the ready.  If millions of people still have the sense of humor to pay 99 cents to download a fart machine onto their telephone, well, then perhaps the world isn't as depressing and uptight as we all thought.


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Wednesday, January 7th
Other than trying to steal his milk, she's a pretty loyal one.

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Tuesday, January 6th
The next time you feel dorky going down a ski slope, just remember this guy.  And your mother was right ... always wear clean underwear!

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Monday, January 5th
We should all have one of these in our backyard.

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Sunday, January 4th
As they always do, the holidays have flown by too quickly despite our attempt to slow things down and smell the pine needles.  But we sure had some great time spent with family and friends and we indulged more than we should have in so many good and decadent things.  John and Caden and I got plenty of time just hanging out together here at the house, spending quality time as a family.  We couldn't ask for more.  We really are blessed beyond imagination.

The new year brings so much hope for better things.  There's no doubt that the world and our country will continue to face plenty of struggles and pain ahead, perhaps unlike we've seen in some time.  But maybe this might inspire in people an era where attitudes change a little bit about what's really important.  Maybe a mass reprioritization will occur?  There's a great saying that goes, "the most important things in life are not things."   We shall see. 

Get your new year's resolutions written, post them on the refrigerator and take 2009 by the balls and make it your year to remember.

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Saturday, January 3rd
Happy New Year!  We've been gone the past couple of days.  We spent three nights with our good friends, Chris and Patsy.  It's our tradition every year to get together between Christmas and New Year's and just spend a couple of days together eating, drinking, playing games and enjoying some time together.  We've been doing it for almost ten years and we really look forward to it.  Unfortunately, we lost one family this year that used to always join us, but we're still going to carry on the tradition without them (what could they have better to do than spend time with us?  I mean, really).

Anyway, talk about excessive food and beverage.  We ate and drank for four days.  Caden had a blast playing with Chris and Patsy's two kids, Alva and Jane, and we even went to a New Year's Eve party with their neighbors for a little while on Wednesday night.  Caden got lots of attention from all the little tween girls who were there.  Every once in awhile we'd hear one of them scream "THERE'S DROOL COMING OUT!" or "She's hogging Caden!" but other than that, they all had a great time playing together.  He even surprised us all with some of his dance moves.  I wish I'd had our video camera along because he cleared out the middle of their dining room and just started dancing.  Pretty soon he had a crowd watching and then everyone started dancing.  It was pretty funny.  This kid has some jive.

We came home about 11pm and watched Dick Clark's (stroked-out) New Year's Eve party on TV.  Caden went strong all night and probably would have stayed up for hours if we hadn't insisted he go to bed.


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