Friday, August 17, 2012


I have tried, with varying degrees of success, to get James (and now Anna) interested in the same music as me. I'm not sure if this stems from altruism, a desire to share with the kids what I love, or if it's purely selfish: if they like what I like, then I can listen to what I like without a backdrop of whining. What's been remarkable about this is how James' tastes are so well-defined, even at such a young age. He knows what he likes and what he doesn't like. He likes "loud loud loud rock 'n roll" more than any lullaby or ballad, which isn't all that surprising considering his frenetic personality. His idea of rock 'n roll, however, is wildly unpredictable. For example, see my attempt to get him to appreciate arguably the greatest rock 'n roll album of all time:

Fortunately, we have found some common ground. For a while, James was digging on The Beatles, especially "Hey Jude". We've danced around the house to Andrew Bird and Beirut. At times, he also requested (repeatedly) "Ring the Bells" by his eponymous rock group, James (a song I regularly play and sing to him before bed):

He also enjoyed "No Cars Go" by the Arcade Fire:

This one was interesting because it sparked a conversation about why anyone would want to be in a place where there were no cars. James was incredulous, telling me, "I really like cars, you know."

Our perennial favorite, without a doubt, has been Regina Spektor. James' favorite song this month is "Ne Me Quitte Pas" from her newest album:

This is a great, fun tune. At one point, I had played for him her earlier song, another great, "Hotel Song":

The lyrics to this one, however, prompted a most difficult question from my 3 year-old: "Daddy, what's cocaine?" Oops.

Lately the kids have both been into the Laurie Berkner Band, a group lead by (you guessed) it Laurie Berkner that sings fun and goofy kids' songs. I like the albums and sing along with the songs, but, as James likes to say, "it's not my favorite." This morning on the way to drop the kids off at their "schooly", I was looking for something a bit more excited. Last week, I had picked up the most recent release from my favorite Canadian post-punk art-rock outfit, Do Make Say Think. James requested some rock 'n roll, so I tried out the first track: ten-plus minutes of jaggedy guitar-driven instrumental. Imagine my surprise when both he and Anna sat, in awe, as I danced (as much as one can while driving) and pumped my fist to the guitar line. They LOVED it! And you can too:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summer Vacation

For the second half of July, the family spent a wonderful vacation in South Carolina. James & Anna got to visit with Grandma & Grandpa, play with their cousins Ceci & Caleb, and spend pretty much every day either at the beach or the pool. James was absolutely beside himself to see his beloved older cousins, jumping up and down and yelling "yay!" at the most mundane events. He and Anna both loved the ocean. Anna is fearless: she would just start walking down the beach, into the water, straight out to the sea without hesitation. She was utterly unfazed when the water was too deep for her and she went under, emerging with a huge smile on her face. You can see some of the photographic evidence of the fun here:

Summer Vacation in Charleston!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Good times with Uncle Mark

Uncle Mark came to visit this week. Despite being overwhelmed by the shear amount of energy and patience it takes to handle two toddlers (as I generally feel daily), he was terrific with his niece and nephew. James asked endless questions about pretty much everything his Uncle said and Anna gave her coy smile whenever he made a farting sound.

We spent some time at the pool in this heat wave, where James got to show off his recently-emerged bravery at handling the slide. Uncle Mark caught a few runs on video, along with this very cute photo of a boy in his favorite shark shirt:

The big slide with Uncle Mark

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Fun with James & Anna

Often, we create posts of exceptional things that happen with the kids. Today, I'd like to just post some photos of our normal (well, normal for us) routines: taking a bike ride to the farmer's market, playing outside, and playing inside a tent set up in the garage (don't ask why). Of course, the kids look pretty darn cute in all these situations.

There are also some photos of an unexpected adventure...yesterday Jamie's friend Freddy (and his mom) stopped by to invite us to "see the neighbor's train" out in the country. Having nothing else planned for the day, I immediately agreed, imagining that it was a cool model train layout or maybe an extensive collection of toy trains. It turned out to be both and so much more! Our neighbor, Bob, and his hobbiest/enthusiast friends, have taken a little piece of land out in the country and built a 1:8 scale model train that you can ride! There is a half-mile loop, winding through beautiful prairie and woodlands, and well over a mile of track total. James and I even got to drive the train, a first for both of us! Anna seemed mesmerized by the scenery rolling by (we went around 4 times) as well. James and I both thought how much Poppa would love this!

While on one of our excursions, I had what is quite possibly my proudest moment as a parent. Turning from the scenery, apropos of nothing, James declared, "Daddy, I wish I were a hobo."

I replied, "Me too, kid. Me too."

Summer Fun with James and Anna

Monday, June 11, 2012

Oh Boy!

Eric was away doing research this weekend - which left me with both kids.  This meant they accompanied me pretty much everywhere I went, including the bathroom.  (I will be really happy when this phase of parenting has passed.)  Here are a few conversations we had...

James:  What's that mommy?
Me:  It's a tampon.
James:  Why did you put the tampon on your penis?
Me (smirking and hoping the derail this line of conversation).  Well James, I have a vagina, not a penis.
James:  Why did you put the tampon on your vagina?
Me:  Because sometimes mommy's need to use tampons.
James:  Why didn't you just use toilet paper?

And later...

James:  Mommy can I have another tampon?
Me:  No James.
James:  Why not?
Me:  Because mommy needs them and that would be wasting them.  Why do you want one?
James:  Because tampons are cool.

Oh boy!  So many conversation I could never have fathomed having before becoming a parent.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Camping with the boy

Since our last camping adventure with friends our few weeks ago, James has been asking to go again pretty much daily. This is, of course, one of those things you dream about as a parent: your kid is begging you to do something that you love to do anyway. Maybe it's like when I go home and say, "Hey dad -- wanna have a beer and watch the hockey game?" Maybe someday James will make that request, too.

During the week, I had been debating if we should go. I was talking with my dad on the phone and mentioned that I was thinking of heading out and he said something about how "I'll never regret the time spent with James." Of course I knew that, but to hear it from my own father and think of all the hours and days he set aside to spend time with me (and probably, to some extend, my brother as well) solidified my decision. James had a rough week at his preschool, including several tantrums and some hard days. I thought that some one-on-one time, away from our normal routines and distractions, would be good for both of us. So we went camping, just for a night, at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenway, a conservation area in the next county south where I'm doing some of my snake research. Of course, it was fantastic.

Here are some photos of James displaying his usual unbound curiosity: handling a giant spider, scooping duckweed from the oxbows (he was really into duckweed, which worked out well since some of the waterways are absolutely choked with the stuff), and of course canoeing. Before we set off, James was in quite the "relaxing" mood, as you can see from the photos of him reclining as we waited for our canoe. I haven't seen the boy so calm and attentive for so long as he was as we paddled (or, rather, I paddled) down the quite waterways. It was a beautiful early summer morning -- warm but not hot, nice little breeze, no mosquitoes just yet -- and we had the place to ourselves. Well almost -- the turtles, snakes, and frogs kept us company which, for boys like us, is certainly good company.

My dad was certainly right. I can't imagine regretting time like this. Next time, Anna comes too.

Camping with the boy

Saturday, June 2, 2012

When Mommy Grows Up

James has gotten very good at using the bathroom and no longer wears any kind of diaper. He does still, however, like company. On a recent visit he told me, "Mommy when you grow up you'll have a penis too." I told him I didn't think so but I guess we can all hope.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rock 'n Roll James

James has been making up his own songs lately, usually about Hot Wheels cars. Enjoy a couple recent examples:
Rock 'n Roll James
The boy has his rock 'n roll moves down!

Camping Fun!

Last week-end, we spent a night and a day camping at Ledges State Park with our good friends from down the street Freddy, Ray, Lisa & Pete (and their dog Inge). James and Freddy are best buddies; even after spending all day every day together in the same room at daycare, it's an evening routine to hear James say, "Hey, I have an idea! Why don't we go to Freddy's house!" As we were parting ways on Saturday evening, after spending 24 consecutive hours with each other, James said, "Can Freddy come over to play tonight?" You can see from these photos that the boys had a great chance to get out their goofies on the camping trip!
Camping at Ledges State Park, May 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

James and Anna have some special wishes to share for Mother's Day!
From Mother's Day Greetings
Please notice James' new haircut -- he sure looks older with his hair trimmed. Becky & I were joking that Anna will need to get hers cut in, oh, maybe 18 months or so. Much love to all our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers! We hope you had a very wonderful day and we only wish that we could've spent it with you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Visiting Denver

For 5 days last week, James and I were back in our old stomping grounds -- Denver, CO. I had some research to do (which involved catching as many snakes as I could at a few sites in the area) and decided it would be fun to bring James along. Several friends of ours graciously allowed James to stay with them while I ran around searching for snakes, so many thank-yous and appreciations to Sarah/Eric, Ann/Ben, and Jen/Kim for taking such great care of James while his daddy was out "working". I was most curious to see how James would react to seeing his old buddies -- especially Benton, Adelaide, and Iris -- after nine months. As I had hoped, it was as if they had just seen each other yesterday and picked up the goofiness and fun right where they had left off. I hope that James can hang on to the memories of these good times with his friends and know that he can always go back and visit again. Unfortunately, I didn't take too many photos on the trip, but there are some here:
Denver Trip April 2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Some things kids need to be taught...

I grew up on the Rolling Stones. We listened to classic rock pretty much all the time, but it was really the Rolling Stones that were instilled in me as the quintessential rock band by my father. At one point, I was just obsessed with "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Paint it Black" and remember clearly one Easter Sunday being quite upset with my dad for not allowing us to listen to the former tune in the car. Of course, this love for rock 'n roll has stayed with me and, though my tastes have branched out considerably, I can always come back the the Stones, Led Zeppelin, and other classic rock staples.

James, too, loves rock 'n roll and often requests it in the car. He is usually only satisfied if we play it "really really really super loud," which is just fine by me. This morning, he requested some rock 'n roll so I obliged with what is unarguably one of the pinnacle rock albums of the past 50 years: the Stone's "Exile on Main Street." I was quite dismayed as I went through the entire album, track by track, only to have James declare after the first 5 seconds of each song, "This is not rock 'n roll." Oh boy -- I've got some work to do if I'm going to live up the parenting standards set by own father.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What's that Troodon doing there?

Here is one of my favorite recent quotes, whose precocious vocabulary skills continually impress us:

"Hey! What's that Troodon doing there?"

Just in case you weren't sure:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Growing Up is Hard To Do

James seems like such a big boy lately. He's really been into wearing pocket pants (cargo pants) instead of his old favorites "soft pants", he only uses diapers at night, and he has recently given up his pacifiers, aka BBs.

Tonight he was once again stalling going to bed. He wanted a new book and wanted me to lift him up so he could pick one from the high shelf. On one of the top shelves were his BBs. He spotted them and said, "My BBs!". Then he looked at me, put his head on my shoulder and said, "I really love BBs you know."

Friday, February 3, 2012

Jamie Walks, Too!

We recently posted some of Anna's first steps, on her blog here:

So as not to be outdone by his sister's recent walking accomplishments, James wanted us to post this video of his first steps:
Jamie Walks

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Blimp School

A couple weeks ago, James became obsessed with the character Al Oft, the "Light Year" blimp from the "Cars" movies. He did some great things around the house and earned a toy Al Oft (which we had to order over the internet). Since then, he's become more and more interested in blimps. This past week-end, we got some blimp books from the library. We've been looking at these and answering LOTS and LOTS of questions about blimps.

After dinner, James decided that it was time to teach the family a few things about blimps. Here is a short clip of James teaching blimp school:
Blimp School

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Word Play

James has started to notice words and play with language. He enjoys replacing the first letters of words with new letters and has recently taking to noticing words that sound similar, like "car" and "card," or words used in different ways, like "fire" and "fire truck." Today at dinner he and Becky were brainstorming different such connections, such as "juice" and "moose" or "Anna" and "banana." James had some creative combinations, but gave me a good chuckle when he proclaimed, "'Dog' and 'Byron Barton' -- they're the same!"

Note: Byron Barton is one of our favorite authors, writing such classics as "Trains," "Planes," and "Boats." We haven't read any of his books or mentioned his name, however, in at least a month.

Not yet, James...

James is not hesitant to get dirty. In fact, just last week we were at the park and he initiated some good old-fashioned mud play with his friend Freddy. This involved first walking tentatively in a mud patch (easy to find with our spring-like weather), sliding the mud patch, kneeling in the mud patch, and ultimately making mud angels. It comes as some surprise on the occasions when James overreacts to being a bit dirty, as he can do sometimes. Last week at breakfast, he gagged a bit on his bagel and spit up a small glob of half-chewed dough. He freaked out that there was some on his hand, which I immediately wiped off. Then, pointing to a small blob stuck on his lower lip, he exclaimed, "Daddy, Daddy! There's still some on my beard!"

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Everybody is Happy Because the New Race Cars are Here

Below is a video of James singing his second self-composed song, titled "Everybody is Happy Because the New Race Cars are Here." (His first tune, "Jumbo Jet", is yet unrecorded.) Though she is not in the footage, his little sister can be heard singing harmony.

January 3, 2012