The (mis) adventures of our (sort of) young family


It’s a Girl!

Well, by now, if you’re following us on Facebook, you already know that we ‘ve just added a new member to our family.

On Sunday night at 10 pm Cheryl had a contraction. Then 20 minutes, another. A few hours and a high speed trip across town through several red lights to Riverside Hospital and Alyssa Smith was born at 3:47 am on a Monday morning. She weighed 7 pounds 1 ounce and was 19 inches long.

Alyssa Madeline

What Jordan is Reading: The Moon and the Moon and the Moon

One of the first non-food, non-parent objects that Jordan learned to identify was the moon.  Yeah, you heard me,…the moon. You may not have noticed, but the moon appears rather frequently in children’s books. A kid like Jordan, who has a bizarre talent for finding the smallest and most detailed part of any object, can’t help but notice the omnipresence of the moon.

When he says it, he says “AND the moon.” Sometimes he starts saying it over and over and over. It sounds something like “and the moon and the moon and the moon and the moon.”

So you can imagine what happened when his Grandparents bought him Eric Carle’s Papa Please Buy the Moon for Me.

Eric Carle's Papa Please Get the Moon for Me

Eric Carle's Papa Please Get the Moon for Me

Basically, he went moon crazy. Once again, Eric Carle has produced a book that Jordan finds fascinating. The book is about a young girl named Monica who, taken by the beauty of the moon, decides she wants to play with it. Unable to reach the moon on her own, she asks her father to “please get the moon for me.” And he does it.

As far as I can tell Eric Carle’s books seem to have some gimmick that makes the book more engaging for the kids. In this case the book has large fold out pages to exaggerate the effect of papa getting a ladder to reach the moon. I think this makes the book seem much larger than it is.

Here’s a very interesting animated version of the book. I’ll have to show it to Jordan some day soon.


Jordan loves this book, for now, and I recommend it.

What Jordan is Reading.

Actually, the title of this should be, what Jordan is making me read to him over and over again. This week’s hit is Eric Carle‘s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Eric Carle

Right now, we’re stuck reading the section where the caterpillar eats through the food.  I guess I have to read the book something on the order of 4 to 5 times before I have to pry it from his hands and move on to something else.  At the end of the book, the caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly and every time it happens, Jordan softly exclaims “wooow.” Now as far as I know, Jordan has never seen a real butterfly, but he certainly is impressed by Eric Carle’s rendition of one.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the book.


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Vacationer’s Lament.

I only have two problems with this vacation.

  • First, it was too short.
  • Second, our responsibilities somehow figured out how to follow us from Columbus to Bonita Springs.

Jordan had a blast and I’ll be posting a bunch of pictures. For now, we lament the perceived shortness of our stay and the responsibilities that have weighed us down like an anchor—as is always the case when you become an adult.

I remember when I was footloose and fancy free and I know Cheryl does too. But it’s a good trade to make to have the family that we’re blessed with.

More to follow.

Music Review: Chugga, Psssht. Chugga, Ahhh. It’s Choo Choo Soul, With Genevieve!

Walter Elias Disney
Image by dbking via Flickr

Playhouse Disney seems to have a great line up for parents who aren’t too adverse to the “Disney machine” reaching out and grabbing their kids (see Walt to the right).

The next bit of music that won’t drive parents crazy is from a group called Choo Choo Soul featuring Genevieve Goins, a cute spunky train conductor, and DC, the train’s amped beatbox engineer, doing real hip-hop songs for preschoolers.

Choo Choo Soul got our attention as an interstitial before OOH and AAH, Disney’s comedy monkeys.

Now I liked Choo, Choo Soul straight away because it was fresh and interesting as far as kid’s music goes and reminded me of an old friend. One of my favorite songs is Jump. What you’ll see in the clip below is music that uses a straight forward hip hop arrangement–vocals along with a moderately complex percussive rhythm track. What’s novel about it to me is that they didn’t dumb it down like a bland Barney theme song.


Another great track that has a bit more instrumentation in it is Bullet Train, which tells kids about the Japanese bullet train called the Shinkansen.

This song has got tight rhythms, incredible hooks and a sweet bass interlude/bridge near the end that takes us back home. For a kid’s song, there seems to be a lot going on.


Now here’s the downside of the Disney Machine. When they hit upon something unique and special–like Choo Choo Soul–they mass reproduce it and turn it into a “product.” This conversion causes it to lose everything that makes it unique. See the Italian version of Choo Choo Soul below right down to the scratching DJ.


I personally don’t think that this translates very well.  The DJ in the Italian version looks like a nerd who should be working in the accounting department of Choo Choo Soul instead of the train. The rhythms of the Italian language don’t have a natural fit with the music and the conductor looks like she’s phoning in her performance to Telecom Italia.

Despite their “one-size-fits-all” approach to their content, the people over at Disney are building up a respectable collection of musical acts that can keep kids entertained without making parents pull their hair out.


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Q2 Sonogram (Oh Yeah, There IS a Baby in There.)

Today we got to see the baby in the full anatomy sonogram. Wow. So there’s actually a baby in there. It still boggles the mind to think that out of two little cells, Cheryl’s body can MAKE, and I literally mean MANUFACTURE at the cellular level, a person. A living, breathing person who will eventually develop their own will and desires and their own dreams and ideas.

We’ve been told that the second kid will get fewer pictures and blogging, but I find this process just as amazing the second time as the first. Soon a new person will become part of our family,forever. They will, by their simple presence, change the trajectory of our lives thanks to a choice that we have made.

Here are the pictures of Q2. We know you won’t enjoy them as much as we did, but we’d like to share them with you just the same. And no, we didn’t find out the gender. Cheryl will add an update later, but she’s asleep on the couch. It was a long day for her.

[flickr album=72157616183413113 num=20 size=Thumbnail]

Jordan Versus the Conveyable Sticker

Jordan has his first foray into sticker physics. Reviews? He’s better than a cat but there’s still room for improvement. I know these little banal clips are just funny for parents and maybe even just me, but I got a real kick out of this one. There’s so much adults take for granted about the physical world–which I guess is a good thing. But I think we forget just how low a level our assumptions go.


Quick Overdue Apology

David, I would just like to take a moment to apologize for cutting your hair all the time when we were kids. Really, I’m kind of surprised in hindsight that I didn’t get caught much sooner in the process – Mom must not have been hyper-alert to those types of things yet. But I saw a photo today of a friend’s son who had cut his own hair and thought, “Wow. At least he cut his own and not his brothers’!”

So there. A long overdue apology. I promise I always strove to make you look as beautiful as my Barbies. Maybe G-d made you bald for your first couple years of life to keep me from getting to you earlier!


See? You always looked fine from the front. I always stuck to the back.

See? You always looked fine from the front. I always stuck to the back.

It’s Not a Problem. It’s an Idea Emergency.

Continuing on the theme of finding music that Jordan loves and that we like, we’ve found a great Disney show called Imagination Movers.

Jordan loves the Imagination Movers. And so do we.


Imagination Movers is a New Orleans band composed of Scott Durbin, Rich Collins, Dave Poche, and Scott “Smitty” Smith. The Movers work in the Idea Warehouse with their friend Warehouse Mouse looking for new customers that need help solving problems–which they call Idea Emergencies. Despite their efforts to get new customers they mostly wind up solving their own problems. In the process they annoy their beige leisure suit wearing, dull-as-dishwater neighbor, Knit Knots and get help from his niece Nina.

Not only do these guys play their own instruments, they write their own songs and are incredibly versatile. Playing styles that include ska, alternative rock, disco, rap, funk and country, they never fail to give a convincing and credible performance.  Sometimes its Red Hot Chilli Peppers meets Mr. Rogers. Other times its Tower of Power meets Captain Kangaroo. No matter what though they never “talk down” to kids with their comedy or music and they don’t forget about the parents who are listening as well.


The quartet started out small as a local garage band with each of the band members maintaining full time jobs. That all changed when Hurricane Katrina came along and destroyed the homes, possessions and jobs of three of the band’s members. Mover Smitty, a fireman by profession, was involved in search and rescue operations immediately following the disaster.

The group had a very strong local following that helped keep the group together and moving forward despite the setback that Katrina had dealt them by destroying all of their instruments and much of what they had created until that point. A local charity dedicated to rescuing the music culture of the gulf coast, Music Rising, provided instruments to replace what was destroyed by Katrina.

Disney, who had been working on a deal to bring the Movers to their roster, concluded their deal after the hurricane. The Movers convinced Disney that the show should be produced in New Orleans which helped to provide about 75  jobs for the local economy. With the exception of Rich, all of the other movers have been able to return to New Orleans.


At 17 months, I don’t think that Jordan gets the nuances of the problem solving model that the Movers demonstrate, but he is riveted by the music, the dancing and the Movers. We’re starting to find that Jordan is a very musical child. He’s not talking a lot, but he loves to dance and sing. Surprisingly enough, he’s got a pretty good sense of pitch and rhythm.

I highly recommend that parents introduce their kids–and themselves–to the Imagination Movers.

Thanks, Mardi Gras

I would just like to take a moment and thank Mardi Gras for reminding me of my complete lack of artistic talent.

As I’m sure you all did in your Corporate America jobs last Tuesday, our fun committee celebrated Mardi Gras by bringing together two important Mardi Gras traditions: mask making and ice cream floats. (Okay, like you, I’m not sure where they got the ice cream float part either, but at least they were trying.) In order to get your ice cream float, you first had to pass through mask-making world.

Being both completely inept with crafts and very good with ice cream presented quite a dilemma. I figured with even big ole’ Willie playing along and making a mask, I could suck it up and try. But I have to tell you, my heart was beating like my seventh grade art teacher just asked me to draw something in front of the class. I couldn’t help but empathize with my brother Jeremy, because all I wanted to do was play sick and go to the nurse’s office until mask making was over.

Well, in the end, my mask sucked royally. And I still hate art. I wanted this story to have some redeeming ending where I could say I got over some fear or that a year of design class in college made me a better artist, but nope. I have spent years trying to hide it, trying to overcome it, but I just shouldn’t be allowed near anything fancier than a doodle. My ice cream tasted great though.

I brought the mask home to show Jordan, who threw it behind the couch. I guess Allen is right about him developing an artistic eye early on in life.

Approximation of what my mask looked like since mine is behind the couch.

Approximation of what my mask looked like since mine is behind the couch.

Weave Saves Woman from Bullet. News at 11.

Ok. I’ve been laughing at this since Cheryl told me about it early in the day. I had absolutely no idea that a weave could stop a bullet. Wouldn’t it be nice to think about all of the historical figures who might still be with us today if only they’d had weaves: JFK, MLK, Gangstalicious.

Jordan Meets Pink Floyd. Emerges Unscathed.

If you’re a parent, you know that there is a lot of really bad children’s music out there. If you’re not a parent, just try to watch 5 minutes of an episode of Barney and you’ll get what I mean. What parents will tell you is that bad music has a terrible “multiplier effect” because kids listen to music over and over and over again inserting the lyrics deeply into your brain without your knowledge or permission.

Who among you have been caught at work or in some sensitive situation singing absentmindedly….

I love you. You love me.
We’re a happy family.
With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you,
Won’t you say you love me too.

Don’t lie! You know you parents have all done it at some point.

A bad piece of kids’ music will–and I’m not making this up–melt your brain.

Here’s a secret that no one will tell you about kids’ music. Kids don’t require their music to be crappy in order for it to be enjoyable to them. So we look for music that we can all enjoy as a family and that can begin to give Jordan some idea about the cultural importance of good music. We’ve learned that even the most simple and “juvenile” music can still be really great.

One series that we have found to be generally good is Rockabye Baby! which adapts rock music to children’s lullabies. We’re currently listening to Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Pink Floyd.

Jordan has loved it,..and so have we.

Here’s an excerpt of “Speak to Me/Breathe” from the Rockabye Baby CD.


For those of you who don’t remember what the original of this song sounds like…


Now I know that it might seem a little weird that my kid is now listening to music as a lullaby that was previously used back in the day as the mood creation for some fun but illicit activities. (I know you haven’t forgotten what you used to do to this song.)

But I think that we can all agree that Dark Side of the Moon is one of the greatest albums that has ever been made and to be able to introduce it to Jordan in this way has been great for us.

The Pink Floyd lullaby renditions are rich without being complex. They manage to capture the spirit of the original music without being depressing or too dark (as many of us may recall from our more adult encounters with Pink Floyd).

The Rockabye Baby! series is very big and includes music from Bob Marley, The Cure, The Eagles, Green Day, Radiohead, Coldplay, and The Beatles with future releases of Stevie Wonder, Prince and David Bowie.

They’re not all great and in some cases maybe a bit superfluous. Cheryl makes a great point that you don’t really need a lullaby version of The Beatles. But I think that they are a great way to introduce your kids to the music that really represents the true bedrock of our musical culture without having to suffer dancing purple dinosaurs.

We have also purchased a Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Radiohead recently and will do a review of that when we get a chance.

(The music on the page is owned by the respective copyright holders)

Follow the picture to Amazon if you want to buy.

Hmm. How Do I Put This…

Mystery Solved? Ok. Let’s go with that.

Cheryl hasn’t been feeling well lately and we’ve been a little concerned. So Cheryl went to the doctor and the OB nurse checked her out and took some blood  to run some tests. They also scheduled a doctor’s appointment a month ago in order to review the blood tests and to look and see what the source of the problem was. 

Well, the actual appointment finally happened today and we have figured out what the problem was…

Q2 Sonogram 1


Q2 Sonogram 2


Q2 Sonogram 3

Hmm. So,…mystery solved.

Our family is growing by one member. Q2 is 11.5 weeks old and is a few days from being out of the first trimester. (We were so far along we figured we go ahead and tell everyone.) Jordan will be a big brother and change is afoot. We’re very excited and are looking forward to this pregnancy. 

Just to be clear, we only found out about this this morning and our surprise has been deep and delightful. And we did fail a pregnancy test.

The only downside so far is that our cruise that we were planning this summer is now off. Cheryl already had a countdown to the cruise on her wall calendar in the office. But that’ll just give us ammunition for when Q2 gets older and we need a good dose of guilt.

Now we’ve got our experience behind us and don’t have to go to diaper changing classes and don’t need bottle warmers.

Stay tuned for the adventure. The arrival date is 08/26/2009.

We’re Back!

It’s been a few months since we’ve posted anything. I know. I know. Normally, that means that the blog is dead. However, we had some technical problems that made it very difficult to post new articles to the site. In any case, we’re back.

Sleep anyone?

I know it’s been a long time since we’ve posted, but now I’m going to post about why it’s been a long time since we’ve posted. Jordan is an exciting, fun kid who makes our lives so much better. He turns one on September 28, and the time has just flown by, as all of you said it would.

So now we’re back for round two of advice and our first “whining post” in awhile. Jordan does not do that sleep thing like babies are “supposed” to. That whole 10 hours they’re supposed to start doing? The six month point where it’s supposed to “turn the corner?” Yeah, not so much.

We have made progress. Jordan has been sleeping in his crib for a few months now (he used to scream bloody murder just seeing his crib), and we can put him down to bed after his story and small bottle. But he just won’t make it through the night. Most nights, he doesn’t even make it past midnight before he wakes up the first time. If we don’t go get him, he either: a) screams until he throws up all over or b) screams until we think the neighbor who shares Jordan’s wall is going to call the cops on us.

He tries to sleep. When we go in to check on him when he starts screaming, he will lie down and try to shut his eyes and sleep. He will try over and over, but especially at the 3am wakeup, he just can’t do it.

HELP!!! We love Jordan and want him to get sleep as much as we desperately need a night or two of sleep ourselves. We have tried Ferber (neighbors make this difficult), we have tried Supernanny. We have even given him Benadryl when he had hives and still had him getting up at 3am.

You all have kids – what do you think? What have you done? Any reasons other than being stubborn or not needing a lot of sleep that he could be doing this?

Breast Cancer 3-Day

This post is way later than I expected it to be, and it’ll probably be shorter than I would’ve liked, but look to the next post for why (someone doesn’t like to sleep).

For those of you who have been hiding in a hole the past few months, I decided to participate in the Cleveland Susan Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day in August. Three days, sixty total miles of walking, and every participant raises $2200 for breast cancer research and support. Thanks to everyone who donated to me and especially to my brother, David, who issued a last minute call-to-arms to all his friends, I finished raising the $2200 the day before the race. Then it was just about making it through the walk.


Chicken Little

Until about two weeks ago, Jordan was not a fan of meats. He didn’t want anything to do with any baby food that had meat in it, even when we tried to hide it under some sweet potatoes or carrots. Relentless in our quest to make our little one a meat-o-saurus, we tried everything. But Jordan was much happier eating garlic rolls at the Damon’s than turkey, rice and vegetables out of the jar.

Then one day, Jordan started taking food off other kids’ high chairs at daycare and eating it. In this feat of tallness, he discovered his best friend Drew’s chicken nuggets and ate them all. Now, I think he’s in danger of becoming a chicken nugget. He eats three a meal, lunch and dinner. If you don’t give him nuggets, he sits there and yells. If you have no chicken nuggets, the only other placating item is Townhouse crackers.

So after all our hard work had no effect whatsoever, Mr. No Meat has become Chicken Little all on his own. There’s probably a lesson in this, but since he’s still not sleeping through the night, we’re too tired to find it.

(Food note: He also tried hot dogs, but he went so crazy over them that we were worried he’d choke and put them away for another couple of weeks. And I mean crazy, like won-the-lottery crazy or when-he-almost-catches-one-of-the-cats crazy.)



Originally uploaded by Zyka

Look at that face would you?


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Before There Were Three

For Cheryl’s birthday, I made this video for her. Thoughts of life “before there were three.”

The Beauty of Family

Well, it’s 4 am and I’m up again because Jordan is up.

He’s not a particularly good sleeper and I’m afraid that–despite the benefits of daycare–the seemingly endless cycle of colds and sickness that he drags home doesn’t make the situation any better. Every time we get him into a good rhythm, he gets sick and wants to sleep on or with us and then gets more demanding when its time for him to return to his crib as he gets better.

Jordan is particularly sensitive to music and sound. The other night as he literally wrestled to avoid sleeping, I watched Cheryl practically hypnotize him just with the gentle sounds of her voice. It was one of the most beautiful things that I’ve seen.

The love of a mother for a child expressed in the soothing tones of singing and quiet whispers was a powerful thing to witness. It reminded me of the moment that I fell in love with Cheryl. I’d heard her use this voice in a similar way at the beginning of our relationship and I knew that it could only come from someone with a deep and caring soul.

Of course, the moment didn’t last and neither did Jordan’s calm. It was bedtime and I had to take him to his crib so that he could work this sleeping thing out.

I put him in his crib. He clearly didn’t want me to leave. So I kneeled on the floor and we watched pictures of the moon and stars from his night light projector mobile dance across the wall.

We sat in the room together cheek to cheek as the light from the projector softened the darkness in the room and the sounds of twinkle twinkle little star came from the little projector. He would lay his head on my shoulder, then turn back to watch the stars go by.

I remembered thinking how much I loved this little person who couldn’t even talk to me. I remembered thinking that I didn’t want this moment that we were sharing to ever end. I remembered thinking how I would want to protect him from the bad things in life. And I remembered that we would both get older as time went by and that one day our roles might be reversed as I might look to him for comfort.

Then I thought about how beautiful life is now with my family, despite the day to day grind that the routine of it can be and I was thankful for the moments that I had seen and been a part of that night. And I couldn’t imagine that it had ever been any different.

Jordan didn’t sleep well that night either, but it didn’t matter.

Jordan the Netizen Finds Peanut Butter Jelly Time

I know you guys are not necessarily up on (or even interested in) Internet "culture." But there’s this thing that went around the Internet a couple of years ago called "Peanut Butter Jelly Time." Don’t ask me why or how. These things just happen.

Anyway, Jordan overheard this one and no matter what he’s doing, it gets his attention–every time. He bolts upright and starts looking for where the song is coming from.

Anyway, thought that I’d share it with you because it even cracks us up after all this time.

Challenging Conventional Wisdom about Child Carseats

(This is a cross post from our new tech blog called Hacking The Bus. I found this information so surprising that I thought it a useful exercise to show it here as well. )

There’s nothing that fires me up more than someone looking at something from a completely different angle and challenging my assumptions about it. This talk from the TED Conference given by Steven Levitt threw me for a loop.

Why should you listen to this guy?

First, because he’s the award winning economist who co-wrote the New York Times Bestseller Freakonomics. And secondly, because he’s about to tell you that everything you think you know about child carseats is wrong.

Just to be clear, I’m neither advocating or denouncing his findings, but I think you should have this information, especially if you’re a parent of young children.

Still kickin’…

Just wanted to apologize for not having anything super-incredible to post about lately. We are still looking at houses, Jordan is still growing up ridiculously fast and getting over a cold, and work is still work. After surgery and plenty of fantastic friend visits, we are seeking and finding solace in our daily routines. I always thought they were for Jordan, but I’ve learned they are just as much for me.

We are staying away from town this weekend because it’s apparently a bunch of OSU and high school graduations and a track meet. Oy. Maybe we’ll tackle the pile of laundry our tired selves keep letting build up, or maybe we’ll just try to nap after Jordan’s super-hungry attack all last night.

I am training for my 60 mile walk for breast cancer with Allen and Jordan by my side. Some of you have promised donations – “Uncle” Ken and G-ma, you’d better get your tushes over to and donate. Don’t get shown up by Nicole, David and Aleah (and Lucy!), who made a very generous contribution just this week.