February 25, 2011

Kari and I packed up the Element on Sunday and headed an hour away to Point Dume State Beach for some hiking, reading and sunset watching. The beauty of the Element is being able to transform the back into a full size bed, which is where the reading, napping and sunset watching took place. With Grandma watching Stella and only six weeks before our second child arrives, it was a really nice way to spend the day.

February 23, 2011

Just up the road from us, some four miles away, is a trailhead that quickly ascents five thousand feet towards Mt Lowe and even deeper into the San Gabriel Mountains. Paul and I climbed the peak on Monday after a big snow weekend. We faced sun and clouds, snow drifts and desert, pine forests and charred landscape and changed multiple times over the fourteen mile hike. Here are some of my favorite photos in chronological order.

February 21, 2011


Stella is two years old today and I'm not sure what is more remarkable, that she is TWO YEARS OLD or that we have somehow miraculously managed to raise her to this point. She did it! We made it!

Every so often, Stella and I sit in front of the Mac, open up photo booth and take pictures for minutes on end. This is a collection of the past two years (if you want to skip the first year, which I posted on her 1st birthday, you can fast forward to minute 2:15). :) Music credit goes to Alexi Murdoch.

February 19, 2011

We were wondering, like most parents, how early we could start potty training. We wondered wishfully if Stella could comprehend and carry out the concept before turning two or at least before our second child arrives. Of course, we expected it to be sometime between thirty months and turning three, after the shock of a new sister had come and gone. This was several months ago, when the idea of Stella pooping in anything but her diaper seemed remote, impossible even, as every milestone seems before it happens.

And then, somewhat to our surprise, at twenty-three months, she woke up one bright morning and asked, as if she had been mentally preparing for this moment as long as we had, “Mommy buy undawear?” We repeated her question back to her, this being the only way it seems we can discern her growing language these days. “You want to wear underwear?”

“Yeah!” she said confidently, coaxing us with her enthusiasm and frantic head bobbing.

We explained that wearing underwear meant not wearing diapers. We described in detail what underwear meant for her life, going over new ideas like the potty and holding it and wiping and the complicated inconsistencies of bowel movements.

“Undawear!” she sang with happy naivete.

Between the research and our accumulated knowledge of our independent toddler, we decided to give the 48 hour potty training method a shot. She has always surprised us with her ability to learn new ideas quickly and we figured it might be easier on her to squeeze several months of back and forth potty training into a nice little weekend package. A diaper intervention.

So we read an eBook, blocked out a weekend, borrowed some cloth underwear for nighttime, purchased a potty and underwear, and decided M&M’s would be a soothing, long lasting reward.

This is my scattered diary of her success, and our efforts, to turn Stella into an underwear clad, prairie dogging machine.

Day 1, Saturday, February 5:

I’m up early to prepare. While she lies in her bed with no knowledge of the coming change, I oscillate between apprehension and confidence. This is not only going to be a long weekend for us, but it’s going to be tough on my little girl, who after several thousand diapers is suddenly going to be thrust into the world of bathrooms. I roll up the rug, crank up the heat on account of her impending nakedness, double check we have enough fluids to keep her peeing all day long, cover the couch, set out the potty and arm myself with M&M’s. She wakes up and I happily declare it to be potty training day. I tell her about the treats and the underwear and remind her that her cousin Evee and best friend Eisley both already go on the potty, something I would repeat a hundred more times over the next week. I strip her down save a sweatshirt and load her up with juice and the day begins in the living room, her playing kitchen, me watching her movements as closely as ever. Thirty minutes in, she begins dancing around and I keep the potty close. She runs excitedly over to a corner, laughing, and starts letting the urine fly. I quickly grab her and set her on the potty where she finishes up with a smile. An hour later we repeat this. The afternoon hours tick by slowly, Kari and I working in shifts, following her around with a plastic potty in hand, words of encouragement spouting forth. She dances around and we calmly make sure her tush and the potty intersect at the right time. M&M. Repeat.

The eBook warned us to not get distracted during this first 48-hour period, stating that the number one reason this method fails is because parents don’t stay close. We learned this the hard way as we cleaned up after dinner, thinking it would be at least another half hour before the next song began playing in her bladder. I look over at her standing in the living room and watch the poop slowly slide out of her rectum and onto the floor. She yells “poooopooo!” and we manage to catch the last half.

Day 2, Sunday, February 6:

Her happy wake up is turned sour by the news that it’s potty training day again. It appears the novelty has worn off. She doesn’t want to be naked, doesn’t even want a treat and wants little to do with the potty. Oh no, I feel internally. Did we start this too early? Is she going to regress? Will this make it that much harder to potty train her later? We arm ourselves with our eBook knowledge and forge ahead as with day one. She seems to be giving in with each morning urination, though reluctantly and with a certain degree of fuss. By 3pm, the start of the Super Bowl, she is back on target, peeing and pooping on the potty as if she has it down. We are delirious with pride and relief. We head to bed exhausted, knowing it’s been 48 hours, knowing that, at the least, we’re not going to have to quit. She is on her way. No more diapers now. Cancel the Amazon subscription. Tomorrow, day 3, will be her first day with underwear.

Day 6, Thursday, February 10:

One accident per day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, usually when one of us has left her unattended for too much time. We bring the portable potty to the park, out to the yard and everywhere else a potty isn’t close. While Stella isn’t broadcasting verbally that she needs to pee, she is at least dancing around enough that we know it’s time to sit her down. And for the most part, she is learning to hold it in, as much a milestone as actually sitting down and going.

The only fight left in her is when she has to poop. She holds it in as if her life depended on it and cries out, “diaper, wear diaper, wear diaper” when it’s about to come out. Bigger treats, like a bite of a cookie, seem to help the process, as does having her take a deep breath when she sits down on the potty.

She catches me off guard in the evening, when I walk into the laundry room to find her pooping in her underwear. Six days in. I’m visibly frustrated and disappointed with her. I tell her with a few degrees of frustration that poop goes in the potty and carry her into the bathroom for a strip down and bath. I feel sharp pangs of regret as I scoop poop out of her underwear while she stands naked on the bathroom floor crying. I’m so sorry buddy, I gently say to her. Daddy was wrong. Did you have an accident? Yeah, she whimpers. Were you just trying your best sweetie, hoping for quick reconciliation. Yeah, she whispers as we embrace. Lesson learned.

Day 8, Saturday, February 12:

Eight days in and the potty training seems to be over for the most part. She is now loudly announcing her potty needs almost every single time and the poop issue is becoming easier with every fallen log. We resume our normal Saturday and hop on the train to South Pasadena for some cereal, reading and park time. She announces on the train that she has to pee and then manages to hold it until we get to our breakfast destination, where she happily pees on the adult toilet.

She suddenly seems like a kid for the first time.

We are exhausted. Eight days of chasing her around, cleaning up accidents, hoping for her success, attempting to stay calm, nurturing her through bouts of stage fright, carrying toilets on long walks and investing emotionally into every single deposit into the potty has taken it’s toll. We are tired. But we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, getting brighter with each trip to the potty, the bittersweet light signaling the end of our baby and the pending emergence of a little girl.

February 18, 2011

A new daughter is coming soon, Grandma is here and I left town for a day in the mountains. I brought the winter coat for some hiking, the laptop for some writing and The Road for some postapocalyptic reading. The snow is falling here at Jackson Lake, just on the other side of the mountains from my home. After a peaceful hike around the place, I opened up the back of the Element, crawled in my sleeping bag and dozed off.

February 11, 2011

This is the memoir about a single, vegetarian, urban woman who lives in New York City and two years later finds herself married, eating animals and living on a farm in upstate New York. Partly a story about finding love and partly a story about food, what moved me the most was her ability to capture the essence of being a farmer. Reading about the early morning milking and planting seeds and buying equipment and surviving weather and slaughtering animals was intoxicating. And somehow she achieved this without being overly sentimental or cliche.

In preparation for my first garden last year, and in light of the food overhaul that has changed my eating habits, I have been reading books and blogs on food, farming and gardening over the past eighteen months. After reading a piece on NPR about this book, I wondered if it would be a nice companion read to everything else. It ended up being so much more. It captured, in simple terms and forthright language, the story of the farmer behind our food. It's vulnerable and honest and has provoked me to continue to think long and hard about my daily food choices. It also provoked me to think about farming myself one day. For now, though, I'll stick to the vegetable garden in my front yard. :)

"The other day, rummaging for something in the depths of my desk, I found an eight-year-old to-do list scribbled on the back of a receipt: “Reheel black shoes. Pick up dry cleaning. Call super re: sink. Meet P for drinks.” For a minute, I sat there remembering what it was like to be a single woman in Manhattan. Now my to-do list starts with milking eight cows at dawn and ends with closing the laying hens in their coop at dusk. The dry-cleanables wore out a long time ago, and I wear heels so infrequently I’ve forgotten how to walk in them."

-- Kristin Kimball, The Dirty Life

February 7, 2011

No doubt, this photo could probably stand on its own. But since I can't help myself, a brief explanation is required.

This is my partner Kari. She is thirty-two weeks pregnant with our second child. She swims twice a week at the gym, a feat that quietly broadcasts the delicate balance of love and sacrifice in the most unusual of places. This is her outfit, the one she resigns herself to in the locker room and then shows off to the lads flexing their muscles as she walks down the long hallway toward the enormous, echoey swimming pool area. Abandoning her sense of embarrassment, she exhibits black spandex shorts with white trim, a sports bra, a meaningless low cut pregnancy shirt and finally, a full dive mask and snorkel, which may turn as many incredulous heads as her white, prominent belly does.

Her ribs hurt this time around. They feel as if they have been kicked, on repeat, for several months straight. The only nice part about aching ribs is that it steers the pain away from her back, which has methodically worsened with each new pound that adds itself to her chest, legs and belly. When she's not shifting uncomfortably in bed due to muscle soreness and joint pain, she is getting up, on average, six times to pee at night. She is inevitably tired for most of the day, as universal a sensation as there is for a woman with child. Her emotions swell and contract on a weekly basis, depending on the hormonal shifts that tinker and toy with her mood and eating habits and outlook on life, as if she needed something else to push her over the edge. There is also energy inefficient Stella to contend with this time, the little tike that can go from sunrise to sunset without taking a breather, blowing energy on running and talking and getting dirty and always asking us for "two more minutes" to play before nap or bedtime. And all of this while miraculously carrying a little fetus that is developing on auto-pilot just below the surface, whom she shares nutrients and oxygen with through a small, life allowing cord, a feat so primal and beautiful it's hard to even conceive.

I think what I find so breathtaking about this picture is that it completely and utterly embodies who she is in these labor pending days. For in the middle of everything else, my resolute partner climbs aboard her bike and heads to the gym for some laps.

February 2, 2011

I have debated for much of the week whether or not what I'm about to say is as objectively accurate as it can be. And it seems after much thought and deliberation, the following statement holds up: Lonesome Dove is my favorite book of all time.

One of the strongest indicators to this declaration was how sad I felt that my reading of the novel would one day come to an end, even though I first had this notion with some 700 pages to go. With 50 pages left, I literally set the book down, took a deep breath and decided to hold out for a few more days, even though I was aching to read to the end. It's the kind of novel that leaves me wondering how a writer could possibly make up such a beautiful and compelling story. Surely great writers are the rarest folks on earth.

The writing isn't mesmerizing like Chabon's, nor does the plot twist like Foer's, but the main characters, Call and Gus and Lorena, were as memorable as any I've ever come across. The plot is straightforward in it's direction and character development, yet this Western cowboy-and-Indian story pulls you in on so many levels, constantly leaving you wondering where the last hundred pages went. It's also a travelogue, as the story revolves around two men who decide to take a cattle herd up to Montana. The come across Indians and women and sandstorms and everything else that makes up a great traveling tale - except the backdrop is this wild west that I know very little about. I'll be thinking about this one for a long time.

"Evening took a long time getting to Lonesome Dove, but when it came it was a comfort. For most of the hours of the day — and most of the months of the year — the sun had the town trapped deep in dust, far out in the chaparral flats, a heaven for snakes and horned toads, roadrunners and stinging lizards, but a hell for pigs and Tennesseans. There was not even a respectable shade tree within twenty or thirty miles; in fact, the actual location of the nearest decent shade was a matter of vigorous debate in the offices — if you wanted to call a roofless barn and a couple of patched-up corrals offices — of the Hat Creek Cattle Company, half of which Augustus owned."

Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove, Page 1