Sunday, December 29, 2013

Another Year Soon Done

Unbelievably, we are done with another Christmas and soon we will meet another New Year.  It's been awhile since I last posted.  Weird how some things change in importance.
We decorated the tree and the house.

We spent the days leading up to Christmas cleaning the house in a way it hasn't been cleaned for quite some time.  We did not overdo it, but we made good progress each day.
The annual dog torture was inflicted.

We chased down Santa Claus and his roving Christmas Trucks...

We baked cookies...well, Cora and Chloe did...

but we ALL decorated them!

We were able to spend Christmas Eve with the in-laws celebrating Cora's sisters' birthday and Christmas.

Then we had a nice quiet Christmas morning at home and then Papa and Nana came over for Christmas dinner.  We spent a couple lazy days not doing much, apart from taking in a movie with Chloe. 

We went and saw Frozen!  She really liked it.  Among my favorite parts was when the heroine got frozen, Chloe's reaction was visible and audible.  It was proof she was invested in the movie.  Then, once, when she had to use the bathroom she was full of anguish because she did not want to miss the movie and said so, quite audibly!  I loved it when she asked if she was being good, when Cora confirmed it, she then asked if we could take her to another movie.

We spent Friday at home with an official Pajama Day.

Finally, Yesterday, we cleaned a little and then went to celebrate our Christmas with my family.  We bought the Pixar Planes DVD for my Nephews and then we got each of the boys a Planes' character.  They were a real hit.

Apparently, the pinnacle of Chloe's night was getting to hold her youngest cousin.  Isaac, born in November!
Cora took the week off from work and I, of course, have it off because of school.  It has been really nice being home as a family.  Cora goes back to work tomorrow and I know it won't be nearly as fun as it has been.  I'll probably try to get some work done on the accursed bathroom.

That will be my New Year's Resolution.  To finally finish that damned bathroom.  Considering I started in march, it's kind of a joke.  My re-modelling abilities, that is.  I suppose it isn't so much that I'm not able to do it, but more of a "Do I want to spend the next couple hours doing something that will be easily cleaned up, or do I want to make one tiny step in that damned bathroom and home I can clean up before I have to leave again?"  There is also the fun value.  It's much more fun to take Chloe to the park than to bury myself in the bathroom.  So, we know which decision gets made more often than not.

As the New Year closes in, many people like to look back.  I like that, but that will be for another post.  Today, I'm looking forward.  I'm proud to be a member of a most wonderful family.  Every day is a magical mystery tour, and I love every one of them.  I wish time would slow down so I could appreciate them more.  Instead, time seems to be speeding up.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


I had the honor of enjoying three Thanksgivings.  One was at my parents, one was just the three of us, and the last was with my in-laws.  All three gave us time to be with the family and things to be thankful for.

Today, I have to look toward the coming week and finding jobs.  We are also going to dig out our decorations and start decorating.

Given a few minutes to reflect, I am thankful for many things.  Top most on my list of things I am thankful for are as follows:

1.  I am thankful for the opportunity to be father to the most amazing little girl the world has seen.  She tackles life at full speed with an optimism and compassion that is intriguing in one so young.  Her great intelligence and desire to learn is joyous.  I continue to fall in love with this little girl every day.  Every time she runs to me and hugs me my heart melts.

2.  I am thankful for my exceptionally caring and lovely wife.  She works every day and despite being away from home considerably longer than me each day, she manages to spend quality time with her daughter, and even me, each day.  She is generous and caring.  Sometimes she cares too much and does more for others and forgets to do things for herself.  She is truly a wonderful person and I can not think of anyone I would rather share my life with.  She encourages me when I am down and is sometimes what keeps me going.  I am in love with this gorgeous creature and cannot believe my good fortune.

3.  Our small family is not only the best family I have ever been in, it is simply the best!

The rest just falls into place, and, for that, I am thankful too.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fast Weekend and a Bleak Outlook for "The Project"

The weekend seemed to absolutely fly by.  We began it with a very nice evening Friday, and followed that up with a good day meeting my newest nephew and then doing a little shopping in the Tri-Cities' area.  None of us was really too into shopping, though, and we only came home with some tea.

After going to China I have a better respect for all things tea.  We had some very good tea and some very bad tea.  We learned that Jasmine tea is very popular and is very good.   We learned that chrysanthemum tea is NOT.  We brought some small tea pots home with us.  They were okay for brewing tea, but often dribbled in places you didn't want them.  Finally, this summer we visited a tea shop in Ocean shores and got a tea pot for loose leaf teas.  No bags for us, thank you!  We also bought some tea.  This was the second time we had visited the shop, and the owner remembered us from two years before...but, Chloe's so danged cute, who wouldn't?  But I digress.

When it was realized we were going to visit the area, I looked up tea shops and came up with one place.  I was worried it might not be as good as the one in Ocean Shores, but I need not have feared.  If anything there were more teas available.  Which was great!  We got to sniff our way through about 40 different varieties, which was not all of them.  We bought a couple black teas, a white tea, and an herbal tea.  Nothing too exiting, but still, for a dyed in the wool coffee drinker, it's a major step to go bagless.

Yesterday went too fast.  I'd discovered a pea coat/mackinaw jacket at Eddie Bauer in Kennewick and found that it made me look...well, better than I am.  So I wanted to see if all pea coats were the same, and alas they are not.  We ended up visiting Costco, Toys R Us and a few other places.  Chloe was great at all but Costco, where I may have overreacted to her squalling.  Still, all-in-all, it was a good day and we came home and set about letting her have a nap and we relaxed a bit.  We made beef jerky again.  It's still drying.

It looks as though I may be working on the bathroom today.  I managed to miss out on a couple jobs, due mostly to not being home to take them, and none have come up in the 5am hour, which is when most teachers seem to realize that are not going to shake the little tickle in their throat or whatever problem they have comes up.  So, while I'm sad not to see the income, it will be nice to make more progress on my project from hell.  My main problem now is to locate a stud that I hope is in the vicinity of where I need it.  You would think that being a carpenter's son, I might have a knack for the skill?  You would be totally wrong.

I can think about it for a long time, but never having put a shower in, I am finding a few things that might have been nice to have known.  For instance, the shower that was already there was pretty heavy-duty compared to what we put back.  And then there is the fact that whoever did the plumbing did not care too much about keeping the pipes all the way IN the walls...that was an awesome discovery.  Oh, and the bastard who put that whole wall together after the sloppy-assed plumber wasn't very familiar with straight lines either, because the whole thing sort of zigs, when there should obviously not be any zigs, or zags, for that matter, in that particular wall.  That is where my dad's spidey senses would come in handy.  He makes shit like that look easy, but I take a lot more time to think it out and second guess myself.

So, that will be my day.  Stand and stare at the project, tap the wall with my hammer...go out and look for a tool in the thirteen places I keep tools only to discover it's in a place I don't usually keep tools, or to discover I actually don't actually own said tool.  I'll have to make a run to the store, then come back and find I should have grabbed something else while at the store.  Then I will yell at the tool for not working like it's supposed to.  Then I'll go on line to see what's wrong with the tool. only to discover that I was what was wrong with the tool.  Then, before going and using said tool in the correct way, I'll check my email, and laugh at a forward, and then I'll check Facebook and then I'll lose an hour of my life that I'll never get back, then I'll get hungry and realize that nothing we have sounds good, so I'll have to make something from scratch and then I'll go stare at the project again, then I'll tap the wall with my hammer, and...I think you see my problem.  I should just never start projects.  It's that whole, "If You Give a Jim a Project" thing all over again.

I hope everyone else enjoys a productive Monday.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Life and Humor

To say that my child has a sense of humor is like saying the Pope is somewhat spiritual.  She has a well-developed sense of what is funny.  She has a classy sense of humor for a four-year-old.

The other morning she was sitting in front of me not getting dressed in the clothes that were right next to her.  I decided that the least she could do is be put to use, so I asked her to please grab my shoes, as they were out of my reach.  Granted I could have moved, but sometimes all it takes to get her to do what you ask is to ask her to do something completely different.  This morning, though, it backfired.  She got up and picked up my shoes.  Then she RAN down the hall to her bedroom, where she collapsed on the bed snoring in her quick/not asleep, but faking it way.  I followed and retrieved my shoes after giving her a good tickle.

Another morning, another instance of me asking for my shoes, please.  You would think I'd learn, but I am a slow learner when it comes to my daughter.  This time she goes over to the shoes and puts them on.  I assumed, quite wrongly, that she would walk them over to me as she has done in the past.  I allowed my attention to be drawn to the television and when I glanced back at my lovely raven haired daughter, she was marching resolutely down the hallway in outlandishly huge shoes, with a determined humor in her eyes!

Every night we put Chloe to bed.  It is a bit of a process that usually involves both parents and a good deal of intestinal fortitude.  Things like putting on a pull-up before bed can become a game or a battle if approached in the wrong frame of mind.  Sometimes  OFTEN, she asks for a story, like a story that isn't in a book.  Like when Mommy was a little girl, or when Daddy was a little boy.  Sometimes she asks questions that create...turmoil in her parents.  Questions that pertain to her past and cause us to try to think fast so we can answer honestly and yet in such a way that a four-year-old can understand.  Add to that the endless questions about all sorts of things and we have our hands full.  At one point, she was afraid that dentists were going to come for her.  Other questions involve the neighbor, who came over one time with a bad cut and borrowed the phone.  That same neighbor has four daughters very close to Chloe's age, so questions often center on those kids' names.  Or what we might do tomorrow, or Tuesday, or next Halloween.  Bedtime, let's just say, is a process.

Anything we can do to ease that process, is a blessing.  Every night, the cat comes in and wants to be fed.  He likes canned cat food, as dry cat food only gets a sniff and then he follows me back to Chloe's room where he often jumps on her bed... in the middle of her... which just begins the process all over again.  So, I usually give him a small can of cat food.  The other night, I went in to feed him in his room.  As I opened the can, the lid flipped off and flicked a droplet of Ocean White Fish Feast onto my cheek.  I wiped it away and fed him.

I could still smell it and retired to the bathroom where I washed my face and hands.  Still I could smell this delightful fishy smell.  So, I returned to the bedroom and interrupted a conversation between the two of them and asked them to smell me.  They did, and didn't smell anything untoward.  However, this piqued Chloe's curiosity, and she asked why I wanted them to smell me.  So I explained the whole cat food experience, complete with miming the part where I wiped it off my face.  This is the point where my darling comedian daughter lost it.  She started to giggle, and then she started to laugh a belly laugh that was a pleasure to behold.  All three of us were laughing, though I was proclaiming that this was not a laughing matter, which just made her laugh harder.

Finally she calmed down a bit and we seemed to be making progress on sleep, then her body would wrack itself in a paroxysm of hysteria as she giggled to herself about the cat food experience.  Her body just shuddered.  It was cute.  In a "this-kid-really-thinks-this-is-funny" kind of way, not, a "Wow, she's got a really warped sense of humor" way...that remains to be seen, so the jury is still out.  Anyway, we thought it was over.

Then, out of the blue she says, "Mommy?"  Snicker.

"Yes, Dear?"

"I smell cat food."  Snicker, snicker, Laugh!!!!

Wicked child!

The next morning we were sitting drinking coffee, and she was in my lap.  She looked over to her mommy and said, "Mommy?  I smell cat food."



On a different note...

Last night we went out for dinner after doing a little shopping.  We went to a Mexican Taco establishment.  Chloe was great.  The owner (I assume) complemented our daughter on how cute she was and suggested that she should be a model.  I tried to explain that she already was.  Anyway, the establishment seemed to bend over backward to make sure our experience was good.

Chloe was getting tired.  She wasn't particularly pleased with the quesodilla but she was happy with the Spanish rice.  She was slow to eat, while Cora and I finished ours fairly quickly.  She experimented with lying on her side and back.  We greeted this with "Get up!!  You have to eat!!"  Finally, we were ready to go after Chloe's antics and we had eaten.  She still had rice.  She was only eating the rice.  I went and got a lid for her quesodilla and found she wanted to save her rice. So I said, give me your rice and I'll save it. To which she responded by holding it in her hands and standing on a chair.

Cora said, "Give Daddy your rice before you spill it."

You guessed it, the child took a step, from one chair to another, and somehow, gravity took over and she fell spreading delicious Spanish rice across a 9 foot square area.  She then began to cry and scream.

It was only a few minutes later as we escorted her to the car that we discovered that she was worried that the owner would be mad that she spilled her rice.  She REALLY LIKE HER RICE.  So, I asked for some more rice and relayed Chloe's worries that they were mad.  I offered to pay for the extra rice, but they said no and sent me on my way with my rice.  So, if you live in Yakima, Washington and crave some good Mexican food, then go on down to Nino's Mexican Grill.  Awesome service and awesome food!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Full Up

The rest of my week, that is.  I'm set for jobs for the rest of the week and most of next week also. THAT is the way for a year as a sub to be.  I much prefer this to years past when I've been up early in the morning and not gotten a job.  Now I get to pick and choose.

I subbed at a middle school and then at an alternative school today.  The teacher has a split shift.  What i liked was it gave me a chance to have lunch out.  Something I don't usually get.  Admittedly, it was only a Subway sandwich, but it was sustenance that I did not have to cart around in my bag all day.

I have to bight the bullet and try to get up in the next few mornings to see if I can get a clean shot at Comet ISON.  It is in the constellation Leo right now...speeding through it, really.  If you can identify Mars it's supposed to be nearby.  I am not certain whether it is naked eye stuff yet, but many astronomers remain do I.

I have a weird history of fascination with the stars.  I was a dreamer when i was in school...still am, really, but it's something I can control now...well, I kinda have to.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yeah.  I liked space and remember all to keenly the excitement I felt every time one of the Voyagers would come near one of the outer planets.  i still have newspaper clippings from when they sailed by Saturn, Neptune, and, not yours.  I followed the, what seemed to me, endless journeys of craft like Magellan and eagerly awaited Cassini and several other of the probes from the late 80s and 1990s.  I bought astronomy magazines on a semi-regular basis just so i knew what I was looking at.  When Comet Hyakutake shown in the skies I tried to take photos, but it seems that during my college days some of my film got lost and never developed.

I had my dad's 30X telescope for the longest time, then they bought me a 120X telescope for Christmas and I was extremely happy, though i had no idea what I was doing, I was very enthusiastic.  I now know what I probably should have had was a larger objective lens than I had, but, as a kid, more power is more better.  So I missed out on ever observing low light enigmas like nebulae, but at least I got a good look at Saturn and Jupiter's moons.  How many kids today go out and do that?

I eventually inherited my Grandfather's homemade 6 inch reflector, which has, with time, been relegated to an attic somewhere, and I am not even sure where all the parts are.  As a steward of my grandfather's great work and achievement, I was not worthy.  My mother will still remind me, if I ask, how he lovingly ground the glass himself and had it silvered and built the damned thing.  Clearly, Grandpa had a lot more storage room than I do...and I have a lot of crap in storage...but, enough of that.

I remember trying to witness the long awaited crash of a comet into Jupiter.  Of course, I did not have the internet, nor know how to use it to great effect that year, so I was not aware that the event took place BEHIND Jupiter and out of my view, still, I tried.  I've never been one to let lack of know-how and basic reason to get in the way of setting myself up for failure.

I have watched as Hubble made breathtaking pictures and as astronomers have used various forms of interferometry to discern the orbit of extra solar planets.  I have seen the pictures beamed back by the Huygens probe of Titan's surface, with its liquid methane rivers and lakes.  I continue to foolow the progress of the Voyagers and Pioneer 10.  This is a great time to be alive, but, like my Grandfather who turned his eyes skyward, I won't live nearly long enough to see all I want.

This year, there are at least two comets.  I took a few pictures of Comet Panstarrs.  Now, I am gunning for bigger game.  ISON is expected to be brighter that PANSTARRS by some margin.  It remains to be seen whether it is naked-eye visible in daylight as some had expected, and it doesn't help that the majority of the close pass will take place in our cloudy season.  Still, I am hopeful.  So, in the morning, before the family awakes, I will brave the cold temperatures hoping that clouds do not bar my way.  I suspect they will, but I will look out the window, anyway.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

This Month in Photography...errr, Mine. That Is, My Photography...

 Yesterday we visited a pumpkin patch and did the usual stuff.  Went through the corn maze, had some apple cider, picked a few pumpkins, and went for a ride on a small home-made train.  It was a pretty good morning. Chloe seemed to enjoy most of it with her usual zest.

 I made a few decent pictures.

 After the pumpkin patch we got a bite to eat and went home.  My parents were nice enough to come up and watch Chloe for part of the evening so Cora and I could go out for dinner together without...interruptions.  It was great to get some time with Cora.
 There have been some...developments with my photography.  Forgive the pun.  I recently picked up a piece of welding glass.  The piece of glass welders put in their mask so they don't blind themselves.  It's also a poor man's neutral density filter...except it isn't so neutral.  Neutral means it doesn't favor one particular color...this one seems to favor green.  What it does do, is slow down the light that gets to the sensor.  So much so that it can take up to a whole minute for enough light to reach the sensor for a decent exposure in broad daylight.  Usually a shot in broad daylight will have a shutter speed of less than 1/500th of a second.  That's a big difference.  It allows movement to blur or subtle changes to become obvious.  Blur is a useful tool in photography.  you can see a couple of my examples.

 Another new item in my repertoire is a flash.  They are also called speedlights or strobes.  This was a gift from Cora for our anniversary.  It's a very special flash.  It can do lots of nifty things.  It can communicate with my camera when it is ON camera, and it helps with focus in low-light situations.  It can synchronize with my shutter speed all the way up to the fastest shutter speed I have.  I can also use it off camera, so it can supplement the lighting in the photo or overpower ambient light.  This will add a new dimension to my photography!!
 The above used the flash in a soft box, which spreads out the light and softens the look to the pictures.  Below you can see how it works off camera and how my camera can command it to flash.

 The last one shows the synchronizing ability.  This was with a shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second, the maximum shutter speed of which my camera is capable.  Usually, the on camera flash only synchronizes UP TO 1/200th of a second, any faster than that and you get part of the frame blackened.  Here you can see Chloe's in-flight progress was halted and the scene is fairly evenly lit.
I would say my photo-capabilities have expanded both directions!  I cannot wait to perfect them!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Live the Good Life.

I live the good life.  I am a king among men.  I do not own large parcels...or "Tracts" of land.  I don't own a fast car.  I don't own a boat or an airplane...though, GOD!  that'd be great.  I have a humble home.  Three rooms, that, in most countries might be considered opulent.  We have a messy house.  We try to keep it clean and uncluttered, but that is difficult.

My beautiful wife, whom I do not praise nearly as much as I should, works a very good job.  She is what I should be, the bread winner.  I am, sadly, the one who has the opportunity to spend more time with our wonderful daughter because my job, as it is, allows me to take time off when necessary.  She is a big wig in her company, and I am in awe of her great strength in maintaining her position and even blossoming as an employee for that company.  I have never been sent to another state for my job.  Hell, I am not completely sure anyone remembers my name from year to year, except as the man with the exceptionally cute, adorable, smart daughter.

My wife, wonderful woman that she is, continually dotes on our daughter.  She makes sure she gets baths, dressed, and in all respects all she needs to be a productive member of society.  My wife takes our child to day care, mopst days.  She makes sure there are clothes on her back...let's face it, if they depended on me to put clothes on the kid...she look like one of the kids from "Our Gang."  Probably, Alfalfa.  Suspenders, outsize clothes, stains...Hell...maybe even my shirts if the laundry was a little wanting.

I work.  Don't get me wrong.  I try to make sure some house chores are done.  I work close to forty hours a week.  I do maintenance around one of the schools during the summer, thanks in no small part to my magnificent boss, and I substitute teach the rest of the year.  I am fairly popular amongst the kids.  I suspect it is due to my artistic talents rather than my pedantic prowess.  I work nearly every day.  I get paid.  I am out of shape though.  I recently discovered HOW out of shape I am when I tried to help a coworker move a sunken tractor.  I may have strained a few muscles in the endeavor.  What I discovered is that I am WAYYY out of shape.  I could totally use some toning...or maybe a good work out.  Either way, my ribs are still sore!

Tonight, just after I picked the kid up from day care, I decided to try out a new purchase.  I purchased a welding glass.  A welding glass is supposed tom protect a welder's eyes.  It also keeps most electrons from entering a specific area.  Photography needs such things, too.  These are "neutral density" filters.  A welders glass leans stropngly into the green realm, making pictures look like you shot them through green jello.  Well, green, mildewed, rotten, fermented jello.  Still, if you have a good enough photo editing program, you can get rid of the green.  I decided to experiment with the glass.  I had my lovely daughter assist.  She likes loking through my camera.

On special occasions I allow her to help me take pictures.  Today, she helped me discover the peculiarities of welder's glass.  Also, I recently happened upon a lens that was being given away, as it were, and decided it might help my photography.  It has no mount for my camera, but photographers are not known for letting little things like attachment points bother them for the sake of art, so I used what is called "free lensing" to accomplish my goal.  I let the daughter push the shutter release while I worked on keeping the lens still and at the right focal length.  what turned out, with my sweet daughter's help, is this:

She helped me with several things tonight.  Then when Mom got home, we left for Gymkids.  She did cartwheels and rolls and lifts and a hundred other skills, while other kids Mom's looked on in awe.  Yeah, that's my kid.  We like to think all she does is thanks to us.  YEAH, RIGHT!!  who could tame such a soul?  No one.  We are but stewards to such a wonderful person.

Tonight, bedtime was not a hassle.  There were no arguments.  All was as easy as could be.  My beloved daughter fell asleep fast and hard.  The wife came out for a few minutes and then announced that she was done and going to bed.  Her sagging head had announced that likelihood minutes before.

I planned to accompany her to bed.  I really did.  When I did finally show, she was out  I got warm and decided to go sit outside on our back porch.  When I arrived, i had a shot of whiskey and a good book.  What i smelled was that lovely, to me, smell of hops and evening.  The sun was down, but the smell of that ever important beer ingredient was all empowering.  It smelled like my youth.  My grand dad worked for a local hop grower.  I remember running through the gantries and catwalks associated with the Hop Kilns.  I was MAYBE five, but they had no problem with me being thirty feet high on a catwalk.  Yeah.  I would not allow MY daughter THAT much freedom, unless I was right there with her.

Something about how difficult it is to obtain kids might have something to do with it.

Still, tonight, I took my Kindle out to the back porch and drank some whiskey, and read a book...and then it occured to me that this is 9/11.  I am a king among men.  I am proud.  I have a family.  All of that is due, in major part to those men that have protected these United States.  I owe them all a thanks.

But, as the smell of hops being dried and harvested settled upon me, it just told me I am home.  I moved to California for two years.  I came back.  Hops, Mint, and grapes are scents that awaken a much younger me.  Reminds me of what was, but also, I impart upon them what IS.  And what IS is so much more awesome than what was.  I am king.  Thanks, mainly, to my queen and my princess. I'm a lucky man.  I live the good life.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Trip to the Beach!!

 Chloe loves the beach.  As you can see.  It was difficult to pry her away.

 A note to those of you unfamiliar with the Pacific Northwest, the beaches are rarely warm, often cold, and usually windy.