Monday, September 29, 2008

Yo, ho ho!

(the best pirates are always in motion, making it hard to get a decent photo)

Pirate sightings are normal during the Halloween season, but the impending holiday is not the only reason that these sea-going outlaws are currently taking front and center stage. As a matter of fact, for the past couple of weeks I have heard numerous stories about these pillaging, plundering, and debaucherizing characters.
It started a few days before September 19th, which just happended to be "Talk Like a Pirate Day". This has to be one of the most unusual, albiet fun, days of the year! My office maties started every sentence with "arrgh" and were shivering their timbers all day. Phil over at 'A Family Runs Through it' actually put out a pretty cool podcast of pirate songs in honor of this holiday. Check it out for some afternoon jigging on the deck.
Here, in our own pirate den, Lukas isn't exactly talking like a pirate yet. But, if he were he'd probably be demanding "surrender the booby!" We have heard all the stories of babies who "seem to lose interest" in nursing at around a year old, but that is definitely not the case with our little pirate. He is still going strong at 15 months and the running joke at home is that we will have to eventually drag him away, kicking and screaming. He gives no indication of slowing down! Mrs. LIAYF plans to allow him to nurse until he is 2 years old . . . I'm sure he will make it.
I am also closely following the news story of modern day pirates off the coast of Somalia who have hijacked a ship filled with Russian made tanks. They are asking, no demanding (like any self-respecting pirates), that they be paid a $35 million ransom (in gold boullion and jewels I presume). Last I read, the pirates lowered the demand to only $5 million. How can they look in their plundered mirrors in the morning and still call themselves pirates? U.S. and Russian warships are closely monitoring the situation. It could be a fierce battle. Stay tuned.
There was also the recent story of a Canadian father who built his son a Pirate Ship treehouse. The kid was the envy of every other child in the neighborhood. However, after a complaint from a neighbor the father was given the option by the city of Vancouver to either tear it down, or walk the plank. Turns out he gave in without drawing his sword. He auctioned off the dismantled ship for charity. BlueBeard would be turning in his watery grave.
And I probably don't have to mention the recent attempts at pilaging and plundering the American taxpayers to the tune of $700 billion. The bailout will happen, I am sure. And, while we have all heard that our financial system must be preserved, it doesn't make the result any easier to swallow. I'm sure a good portion of my retirement plan is now buried in some Wall Street executive's back yard only to be located by some crudly drawn map. I can see myself pulling an oar under the blistering sun well into my 80's, with only a small portion of grog to warm me insides.

All this talk of pirates reminds me of my favorite pirate read, The Pirate Hunter, by Richard Zacks. It is a fantastic book! It bills itself as the true biography of Captain Kidd, who started out as a state-sponsored pirate hunter. Unfortunately, after some treachery, he became wanted as a dreaded pirate himself. If you are looking for a good seasonal read for Halloween, pick up this book and enjoy. It's a real treasure!

Aaargggh! Enjoy your trick-o-treating, and keep a dead eye out for the candy prize!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Looks Like We Have a Jumper!"

Mrs. LIAYF and I had one of those "God, we are terrible parents, aren't we?" moments yesterday. Let me set the scene. Lukas loves to climb. In fact, he is constantly in motion, looking for something to do, or climb up on. Yesterday afternoon while preparing a late lunch both of us were preoccupied with getting some part of this task complete while Lukas roamed and played in our sitting area off the kitchen. We have a sofa there and Luke decided to climb up onto it, stand up and run back and forth.

Normally, we would have rushed over and set him down onto the sofa or onto the floor, telling him he needs to be careful. But this time we didn't, and he was just fine. Next, Lukas decided it would be an interesting experiment in gravity to (standing up) step off the sofa to the floor about 18 inches below. He did this with a knowing smile. The landing, as can be expected, wasn't pretty (think - Wide World of Sports and The agony of defeat) but Luke was just fine. In fact, he popped up with a big smile and immediately climbed back up onto the sofa for another attempt.

Yes, after the first step-off we had quickly went to him to see that he was ok, which as I mentioned he was. This time we glanced at each other with "this boy is fearless" looks, sighs, and raised eyebrows. Again, we are constantly grabbing him before he hurts himself. We have to keep an ever-present eye on what he is doing.

At the point when he climbed up and, with a smile stepped to the edge of the couch for that second 'leap' off, our conversation went something like "Look he's going right back to do that again!, he doesn't seem to worry at all about hurting himself" "That's because we are always there to grab him. Maybe he needs to fall a few times to understand why it's dangerous."

At that point Lukas stepped off the sofa once again with a big smile, landing with a noticeable thud onto the floor below. He didn't cry, but seemed appropriately startled. Mrs. LIAYF and I looked at each other, both understanding at once that it was a bad idea to allow that to happen. "Man, we are bad parents sometimes!" Mrs. LIAYF exclaimed after we had rushed over and picked him up. Luke may be limber at 15 months but he still doesn't know how to properly land when he does fall. No, he wasn't hurt, but we had decided that it was not a good idea to knowingly allow a lesson to be taught to him by allowing him to experience unexpected pain. I mean, what if he had cracked his head open or left some sort of scar? How would we explain that to him later? "Yeah, we remember that. And, by God, you didn't try that trick again!" I don't think he would be amused.

On his third attempt at the sofa (only moments later), we were right there, and told him authoritatively to sit on his bottom while we gently set him down, content once again to leave the hard lessons to those unfortunate bumps that come when we are NOT watching. Thankfully no scars, or trips to the ER this time to remind us of our brief foray into bad parenting!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Think Out Loud Thursday

Lukas continues to amaze me everyday. I'm sure many of you have been here already, but this being my first child, seeing him develop at this age often leaves me wondering, "How can he do that at 15 months old?" A couple of his latest developments include:

  • Pointing endlessly at things around him wanting to know what they are, saying 'dis'? 'dis'? 'dis'? Again and again.
  • Looking through a farm animal book of his and making the corresponding animal sounds for dogs, cats, sheep, horses, rabbits, cows, ect...
  • Tapping on the glass of a window, then turning with recognition to tap on his mother's glasses as well.
  • Adding even more ASL signs to his previous repertoire, including 'please', 'blanket', and 'shoes'.
  • Stacking blocks that only connect one way, three high, and then when finished, pushing a button on the top block to make all three spin in unison.
  • Being able to point out when asked, where his (or ours) various body parts are located. He can immediately point to his hands, head, eyes, ears, toes, feet, nose, hair, fingers, knees upon being asked "Lukas, where is your...?"

I have always been a huge baseball fan, but have not closely followed my hometown Seattle Mariners this year mainly because I don't have television. Of all years to leave the TV off, this one paid big dividends in not having to suffer through one of the most miserable seasons in recent baseball memory. The Mariners, with a 100 plus Million dollar payroll, just hit the dubious 100 loss mark last night at the hands of the LA Angels. I was never particularly good at complicated math problems, but I am pretty sure that translates to close to paying the dogs we have playing for us, 1000 Large, each time they lose a game. Eeesh!. Webster will be redefining futility in his next edition.

After I got home from work yesterday about 5:15, helped Mrs. LIAYF finish up a terrific dinner she made, cleared the table, took Lukas up for his bath, got him to bed, washed dishes, packed lunches for today, and cleaned up all the toys scattered everywhere, I realized it was already 9:45. I wanted to write a post, but instead just went to bed. Seriously, how do you people with multiple kids get anything else done?!

Lukas cracked me across the bridge of the nose with a hard plastic toy cutting board last night. Damn that hurt! It immediately puffed up and looked terrible but thankfully after some ice, it only left a small bruise.
And finally, no word yet from Bernard Cornwell on an advance copy of his upcoming book Azincourt to review here on Luke, I am Your Father. However, I sent him a second email with a link to my last post, hoping that he would take me seriously and check out my blog. As William at Poop and Boogies points out, it is a fine line between fan and stalker. I'll need to be careful I don't cross that line!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hey, it could happen...

(Shameless attempt to influence author, showing cute kid in author's local Red Sox Beannie)

I was inspired last week. More specifically I was inspired by William over at Poop and Boogies. After reading the story of how he received an advance copy of The Book of Lies from his favorite author Brad Meltzer, then did a review on his blog , I was inspired to send an email to my own favorite Best-Selling author Bernard Cornwell, asking for an advanced copy of his upcoming novel Azincourt so I could review it on 'Luke, I am your Father'.

I am not holding out much hope that this will happen, since Cornwell is adored worldwide. But it would be a historic event for me to have this happen. This is the only author for whom I eagerly await a new release and would pay full price for a new hardcover.

If you have never read a Bernard Cornwell novel before, I suggest you do so. Now! If you don't think you have time for a good read, it would be worth it to give one of his novels 25 pages. I guarantee you will be hooked! I started a couple of year ago with The Archer's Tale, and have since read nearly 20 of his books. I'll leave more details of his stories to a future post (hopefully the one where I review Azincourt), but will say that Cornwell's books are filled with history, rich period detail, adventure, courage, battles, complex characters, and fast-paced action. In short, even though they can be enjoyed by members of the female persuasion, these are books for GUYS.

(Luke likes a good Cornwell novel)

If you can't stand, ready to face certain death, in a Shield Wall of your own (and frankly, who would really want to?), these novels are the next best thing. Period.

Best of all though, Cornwell's novels are all based on actual historical events. For me, that is what makes the reads that much more engrossing. They transport me to an exciting time in history, one in which I couldn't have come close to imagining as fully and completely as the author's depictions.

How about you? Have you read any Bernard Cornwell novels? If not, who is your favorite author, and why?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

4 AM Automatic!

The first cries came at about 3:50 actually. I'm not sure exactly what precipitated them. Perhaps a bad dream, or a stomach ache. It might have even been triggered by my 3:20 trip to the bathroom, but whatever it was Lukas was upset and letting us know it.

After a few minutes of semi-upset crying where we were in a half awake state hoping he would go back to sleep (we usually give him 10 minutes to put himself back to sleep if he wakes in the night) Luke began to call out "da"...."da-da"...."DA-DA". So I went into his room, finding him sitting up in his crib clutching his blanket and sobbing. I hugged him, told him it was 'night-night time', spread out his fleece blanket, laid him back down, and covered him up. I then sat there rubbing his back for a couple more minutes before finally heading back to bed.

He was quiet for a few minutes, but we ended up repeating this cycle another time before Lukas finally put himself to sleep a while later. It took me longer to get back to sleep, however. I just lay there, thinking about everything under the sun, waiting to make sure he was really out for good. I was thinking about how far we have come from only a few months earlier when anything could (and would) happen during those 4 AM wake ups. As it turned out, I eventually slept soundly last night, but only after drifting in and out of sleep several times. During that sporatic sleep, I had a couple of short dreams which I remember only bits and pieces of. One where I woke to a group of people releasing a flock of bird from a non-existant balcony off my bedroom and another where I tried to turn off my alarm and dropped it on the floor with a loud thud, breaking it into several pieces.

Lukas didn't stir.

As time has passed it has become much easier to understand what our son needs during those late night bumps. Although we can usually figure it out, I look forward to the day when he can talk to us and tell us what sorts of things are bothering him, especially in the middle of the night.

I don't know why he woke last night but what he needed was reassurance, a hug, and to know we were still close by when he needed us. Mrs. LIAYF and I are always happy to oblige.

Don't get me wrong. I am glad nights like these are getting fewer and further between, but knowing that I have a child in the next room who needs me and is comforted by my presence when something is not right in the middle of the night...well that is golden. I know that I won't always be needed like I am now.

How about you? How do you comfort your young children when they wake in the middle of the night? Does it become more likely that they will want to come to bed with you after they are out of a crib, even if you never brought them to bed with you before that? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Easy Rider!

This weekend, while out on a bike ride, Mrs. LIAYF, Lukas, and I passed by our local bike, snowboarding and skateboarding shop - "Alki Bike and Board." This is the store where we got all our snowboard supplies, before we got pregnant and had a baby, and where we now shop for bike gear. We stopped to pick up a few essential biking supplies, including fenders and a front basket for mom, and a rearview mirror for me. I've found that it's difficult to check traffic behind me while balancing Lukas on the front of my bike in his Wee Ride.

While Mrs. LIAYF and I perused the store goods, Lukas immediately gravitated to a shiny red Schwinn Roadster tricycle sitting in one of the isles. Although it had a bit of rust and was missing a seat, it still looked very cool amongst the stylish and expensive adult models. A hip young salesman named Apples (no kidding) told us that a store employee had found it along side of the a road one day and that they were in the midst of restoring it as a store project. It was next to a box containing a new model with a lofty $120 price tag.

Even without the seat and a flat tire, Lukas loved this trike. He hopped on and pushed it around the store with a huge grin the whole time we were shopping. He seemed to enjoy it so much, exclaiming "da-da-da!" at the cool tassled handlebars and patting the chrome fenders, that we soon realized it would be difficult to separate him from his new love. He couldn't reach the peddles, but it didn't matter - it was cool!

Lukas's enthusiasm for the trike was catching - he made the store employees smile as he wheeled his red trophy around, wearing his enormous dinosaur bike helmet. Lukas then noticed the little bike bell on the Schwinn. As I showed Lukas how to use the bell, I jokingly asked Apples if they sold cowbells. He said "yes, you can never have too much cowbell!" We both laughed, and I then made a comment that we would have to look on Craig's List for this trike, since Lukas seemed to love it so and we rarely buy anything new for him. Apples responded, without hesitation, "He can have this one." When I asked how much it would cost, he said he was GIVING it to Lukas - for free. All we had to do was find it a new seat!

I took the bike home that day. Mrs. LIAYF called Schwinn and ordered a new seat - less than $12 with tax, shipping and handling. We got the new seat today and, as you can see, could hardly keep Lukas off the bike. This is good, because he had been coveting the neighbor girl's bike (a fetching pink and purple number with "Jazzy Cats" emblazoned on its chain guard).

Thanks Apples and Alki Bike and Board! Lukas will definitely be back when he starts skateboarding - good karma finds its way home.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Old Country for New Men

I discovered a bit more of my heritage over this past weekend. Yes, most of us can count several cultures and peoples of differing backgrounds in our genetic lines, me included. The fact is, if we go back far enough we are all related in some miniscule way, correct?

Well, I, being a man with a surname like most (Prince and Sting not withstanding), have always 'owned' the line of my father, and my grandfather, and my grandfather's father, and my grandfather's father's father, and so on and so on. If you follow the 'Austin' line back far enough, as my Uncle Jack Austin has done for the Austin line I decend from, I can count a member of my ancestral line as being part of the original Plymouth colony. If you go even further back, my ancestors were vassals of Saint Augustus in England in the 1500's. This is most likely where the Austin name originated. I am taking Uncle Jack's word here. I haven't done my own research but he is a decent enough fellow and sounded pretty convincing when we spoke. So, given all this I have identified myself with the English on my Fathers side, and also of German heritage on my Maternal Grandfather's side although I don't know as much about that line. I also know that there is Welsh background in my Maternal Grandmother's line.

Now, as recent developments have made it clear to me, my Paternal Grandmother Retha, who passed away in 2007 rest her soul, was of Swedish Heritage. I hadn't really thought of it until recently, when I learned that a 3rd cousin from Sweden, Magnus Julleryd and his mother Inger had done some of their own genealogy research and found our branch of Grandma's family right here in Washington State. In fact, they were going to be visiting this month. My parents, along with my some of my aunts and uncles decided to host a reunion for that line on my family dairy farm with over 100 of our closest relatives on Gram Cracker's ( as we affectionately called her) side of the family.

That was Sunday. The day turned out beautiful with plenty of fall sunshine, the atmosphere was festive, the people friendly and as one long-lost relative appropriately described: "it was terrific to get people together without it being a funeral." After a hearty feast, cousin Magnus gathered everyone around, and with a megaphone, described the journey of his Great-Great Uncle Henry (my Great Grandfather) and how that led to his own journey, along with his mother, and brought him to our small corner of the world to meet his extended American family.

After Magnus spoke at length about this story, he was kind enough to hand out gifts for many in the crowd of distant relatives. This included handheld Swedish Flags, Soccer (football) jerseys for the kids, and Swedish yellow and blue baseball caps for many of the adults. Lukas received his very own toddler yellow football jersey and a Swedish flag, which he proudly waved about and unwittingly poked people with. After the gifts, it was time for group pictures, desert, and more conversation to round out the afternoon. Magnus was a very nice fellow, and many of us wanted to return the favor by traveling to visit him in Sweden some day!

Now, I along with Lukas, can also proudly identify ourselves to a certain extent as being of Swedish heritage. Who knows, maybe Lukas will even grow up one day join the ranks of famous Swedish Americans - Kirsten Dunst, The Big Train Walter Johnson, Ingrid Bergen, and The Swedish Chef ("borg she borg she bort bort") come immediately to mind. The possibilities are endless!

At the very least, I know I will be watching the Olympics and World Cup Soccer in the future with more of an interest in how my cousins from the Old Country are faring. I will certainly be there in spirit, rooting them on and raising a pint of Nils Oscar in their honor.

However, I am not sure what I'll do when they face the English. Probably raise a pint of Newcastle with my free hand!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Help Wanted!

Young couple (relatively) with small toddler seek energetic person with excessive free time for internship position. Ideal candidate will have previous experience operating digital video camera, or have demonstrated significant aptitude in related area and a willingness to learn. Must be available 24 hours a day, including weekends and holidays. People skills, especially with young children, are a must (note: goofy face making and arm flailing are considered valuable people skills for purposes of this position).

Job duties primarily will consist of following my family around at all times with provided digital video camera, capturing muliple precious, funny, and heartwarming moments on film, making adorable child smile and laugh with above mentioned antics when called upon, and editing said precious moments into sweet, funny, and memorable clips to be archived for later viewing.

As mentioned, this is an internship position and thus not paid in cash. However, candidate will be provided shelter and food (primarily cheerios and cobbed corn) plus will gain extremely valuable personal experience. Also, this experience will pay dividends at a later time which are far greater than the average internship seeker may initially realize. These include, but are not limited to, the realization that you would be helping a family who now finds it nearly impossible, given time constraints, to be adequately prepared to capture such moments on film, to do just that. And also healthy doses of warmed heart cockles - though employer is currently unsure exactly what those consist of.

Position is expected to be filled soon, so do not delay. Serious candidates can leave a comment my daddy blog "Luke, I am Your Father" to request an in person interview. Strict confidentiality enforced at all times.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Haiku Friday - Birthday Edition

Celebration time!
No milestones surpassed this day
At least...none of mine

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cursed Birds!

It has been a busy week around here so far. Hard to believe it's only Wednesday. As much as I have avoided doing it for various reasons, I finally decided that since the weather was going to be sunny, warm, and beautiful here in Seattle all week I had to seize the days and finish up my back deck/front porch projects before the late Fall rains arrive. Yes, it would have been better to have finished this project early in the Summer, but hey, that is how we roll around here.

Basically, I needed to replace a few more boards, make a few other minor finishing touches, sand those repairs, and then finish them all off with a couple of fresh coats of paint. Had this been a complete rebuild, I may have opted to only stain the beautiful cedar decking. However, the previous owners of our house painted the deck the house colors, so this was my only real option too. Oddly, only about an hour after I finished the project, someone knocked on our door and asked for the paint color, calling it beautiful. Unfortunately though, I came home this evening and a couple opportunistic birds decided to play target practice with my new paint job. Cursed birds!

I know this may sound like a small feat, but this was a full two day day job with most of Sunday spent doing prep work, and Monday dropping Lukas off at daycare before getting the meat of the painting in. I feel a tremendous sense of relief right now, finally having this project behind me before the Fall/Winter season. I also followed up getting this project done with a couple of days concentrating on various other home tasks/projects that have recently fallen by the way side. It's amazing just how good it feels to take a few days to catch up on life's details after focusing on other things (like having a fun Summer) for so long.

In other news, Mrs. LIAYF and I left Lukas with a babysitter Saturday for only the second night in his 14 months with us. We went to a wedding for a very nice couple we met in our PEPS group. We hadn't realized during our PEPS meetings that they were not yet married, so it was a nice surprise to get invited to their wedding. We actually missed the ceremony while getting Lukas to bed, but the reception was a lot of fun with plenty of great food, cold beverages, happy people, and a crowded dance floor. We were surprised that we were the only other PEPS couple from our group to attend, but reasoned to ourselves that it was because we were the other "cool" couple of the group. (Hey, we need only convince ourselves!!))

With all that behind us, its time to enjoy more of the beautiful early Fall weather we are having here in Seattle. Carpe Diem!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Nature abhors a vaccum . . .

(but toddlers love 'em!)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Going Postal!

Ahh, the stories it could tell.

This letter was returned to my office last week. Take a close look at the postage bar. You've gotta love the dedication of the U.S. Postal Service. I can almost picture the countless determined letter carriers trudging through snow, sleet, rain, and blistering heat trying to hand deliver this piece of mail since it went out back in.....

Just to be sure this was not a mistake, I ran out and bought an ACME carbon dating kit at my local drugstore and verified that indeed this was not an elaborate prank. It was the real deal. Yes, this beat-up letter has either been passed back and forth between determined mail handlers for the past 26 years, hidden away in an undetectable crevice somewhere, or perhaps it slipped through some random time portal, ending up instantaniously right here in present day Seattle.
Well we will never know since Uncle Sam's finest postal executives didn't send a representative to our office to explain. They didn't even bother to drop this correspondance off with a note of apology. It just arrived, uncerimoniously, in our inbox looking slightly worse for wear.

My colleagues and I have decided to steam the letter open to see exactly what important communication we were sending out to this poor chap way back in the days of Reganomics and Fantasy Island. Was it a bill that still has not been paid? Perhaps a policy explanation? Or maybe some other friendly reminder? I feel a bit like Geraldo Rivera prior to opening the Capone vault (which incidently happened 4 years after this letter was sent). This could be exciting and big! Or else it could be a huge disappointment.

I'm not holding my breath for exciting, but I will keep you informed.

I'd Like to Thank all the "Little People"

For a few much appreciated, quiet moments to brew my coffee and check my reader this morning while Mrs. LIAYF caught a few extra Z's. It seems that all's quiet on the Blogger front.

Happy Labor Day!