Aloha, as you all know, is a very versatile word. My intended meaning in this case is: check back over the next couple of weeks for postings and photos from Maui.

The three of us are flying out tomorrow morning. I'm admittedly apprehensive about flying all that way with a 5 month old. I don't expect to get anyone's sympathy (especially from our friends Derek and Kath who flew with their crawling one year old to Australia and back). No matter how it goes, I imagine I'll have a story or two to tell, and hopefully some pictures to go along with it.

Aloha (this time I choose for it to mean Happy New Year).

RMM (Random Mouth Movement)

One of my new favorite things to do with Simeon nowadays is feed him rice cereal. Over the last month we have both gotten a little better at it with practice, just like anything else, I suppose (although I never seem to get any better at Guitar Hero, returning phone calls from friends in a timely manner, or Excel spreadsheets).

The best time I had feeding Simeon was the first, maybe the second time. I couldn't quite get the food to him fast enough, and he wasn't totally sure what to do with it once I did. If I didn't get the spoonful to his lips quickly enough, he would jam his fists (both of them) into his mouth. I honestly believe that he thought he was helping me. And I guess he was. He was helping me make a mess Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs host), or Marc Summers (Double Dare host) would be proud of.

I spooned cereal in, Simeon swallowed half, and scooped the rest of it out with his hands and smeared it on any surface within a fathom. Surfaces included: His Bumbo, his pants, his shirt, his hair, my hair, my arm, and my face. I had no control — and it was a blast!

Recently, Sarah brought it to my attention that while I am feeding Simeon, I make interesting mouth movements, myself. She laughed at me, and justifiably so — I could tell I looked ridiculous. I tried stopping, but couldn't. The movements were completely involuntary, I thought.

But, I'm not so sure it is involuntary. I think it comes from that part of me that wants Simeon to do well, to learn, to get better. At least that's what I keep telling myself. You be the judge. A father willing his son to cereal-eating success or a doofus who can't properly control his own face?


Very Merry

May this Christmas be filled with less fruitcake and more ... ooooh …  fudge.


Ryan, Sarah and Simeon


A Christmas at the Zoo Haiku

Strings light up the way
Simeon’s a platybear
Good night at the zoo


Mu Shu, the nearly forgotten family pet

I've spent the last few minutes reflecting on my informal and completely undocumented goal of writing at least 4 web log entries per month. So far so-so.

As I was looking back at my entries, I noticed that I had not blogged about, or even mentioned our Shih Tzu (pronounced sheets•zoo, so stop snickering), Mu Shu.

Mu Shu doesn't read my blog — she's illiterate — so I don't think there are any damaged feelings. However, I'm certain she would be crushed if she knew I had written about my friend, Alfred the bat, but not a syllable about her. I can't take that risk.

Compounding my guilt is Mu Shu having to take a back seat since Simeon's birth. It was bound to happen, but I don't think she could have predicted how little we would be throwing her squeaky toy.

I'm going to try and make it up to her by telling you, and whomever happens to read this, what Mu Shu has reminded me of in recent months.

Be less predictable.
It didn't take long for Mu Shu to have my tracks sniffed out. She usually knows where I'm going and what I'm going to do before I do. In the morning, she waits by the stairs when she hears my electric toothbrush, because she knows I will turn my closet light off next and head downstairs. She stops at the threshold below and cranes her neck back as if to encourage me in the steps she knows I will make. She almost always knows where I'm going before I'm there. My paths are so well worn and Mu Shu knows it. While I am a creature of habit, she's inspired me to change some things up. Now, I occasionally mix yogurt into my cereal on occasion, instead of milk; and sometimes I read after Sarah goes to bed instead of watching television; and when I'm feeling crazy, I get the newspaper before I pour my cereal into the bowl.

Family is worth protecting.
Mu Shu stands proud with Napoleonic stature and is in the same weight class as other common watch dogs — the bullying Bichon Frise, the loathsome Llasa Apso, and the malicious Maltese.

If she hears the whine of our front or back gate, she lets the whole neighborhood know our family force field has been breached. (I often have to explain to her that these are invited guests, at which point she is wagged by her tail to the point of dizziness and she snorts like a pig — perhaps because we named her after a Chinese pork dish.)

She often lays on the the threshold of Simeon's bedroom as if to say, "Nothing to see here. Everything's under control. Move along." She is a constant reminder that family is worth protecting.

Maintain a non-anxious presence.
Simeon is neck-deep in the Grabby Phase. Considering MuShu's deep affection for Simeon, she often positions herself within baby fathom. Simeon yanks, tugs, jerks and tweaks Mu Shu's ears, whiskers, head and tail without mercy; and she just sits there. She doesn't necessarily like it. But she doesn't nip at him — not so much as a yelp; she doesn't even run away; She tolerates it.

While I am neck-deep in the Everything-Simeon-Does-Is-Cute Phase, I know it won't last forever. There will be times when Simeon will push any one of my many buttons, and keep pushing them, in fact. In those red button moments, I'll do my best to remember Mu Shu remaining non-anxious as Simeon mistook her tail for a teething ring.


Tradition is a gift

One of the most wonderful things about the holidays is that it is when so many traditions get started and cared for.

The best thing about being a new parent is the privilege of showing your child so many things (nearly everything) for the first time. I take nothing for granted. "Simeon this is a black key on the piano, and this is a metronome. This – it's a vinyl record of Stevie Wonder's best work, in my opinion, Songs in the Key of Life. This is an orchid, one of the most beautiful flowers and most difficult to keep alive. Oh, and it sits on a plant stand — that's what this is.

This season has given me opportunity to show Simeon his first snowfall, Christmas tree and Red Ryder BB gun. But, I'm most looking forward to Simeon seeing my parents sing O Holy Night for the first time.

I'm not sure when the tradition of my parent's singing O Holy Night on Christmas Day started, but I'm certain that it was my Grandpa Noel who got it going. He would request this song every year, without exception. I'm not even sure he knew what he was starting — which is a common attribute to the best traditions, in my opinion. This is the tradition that keeps my Grandpa Noel alive in my heart. It's what calls on me to remember everything else I loved about him. It inspires me to ask my Grandma to tell me, or retell me about him.

I'm grateful to share the O Holy Night tradition with Simeon 16 days from now, and it will likely mean something completely different to him, and me.


Traditions are for sharing. It's in this spirit that I've included video of what, for me, is a sacred tradition.

What is a favorite holiday tradition for you or your family? Please share.



Please, do yourself a favor and read this story from the Lexington Herald-Leader. The characters from Carlisle, Kentucky seem to have leaped straight out of an abandoned Coen Brothers script. If you're feeling engorged from this past weekend's festivities and too sloth-like to actually click the link and read the story, I'll paraphrase for you:
  • Frances Barton needed to move her trailer.
  • She hires a guy named "Pancake" 200 dollars to move her trailer — with a farm tractor.
  • The trailer breaks down on the Highway, blocking the road for several hours
  • Sheriff Dick Garrett gets involved and tries fruitlessly to move the single-wide off the road — at first.
  • A determined Garrett orders two farmers to tip Barton's trailer into the side ditch.
  • Barton's Trailer disintegrates.
  • Barton's family, "a mishmash of real kin and unofficially adopted kids, teens and young adults" along with a mess of pets are left with no home to spend Thanksgiving.
If you still haven't read the story, well, you're missing out on priceless tidbits like: The Sheriff's campaign slogan in 2006 was "More Dick." Seriously.

Before you go thinkin' that I'm a heartless jerk getting some sick pleasure from Frances' Thanksgiving from hell... the story has a happy ending. A billionaire heard her story and bought her a new house on wheels.

Contributing to my fascination with this story is that I have my own Carlisle, Kentucky story.

Carlisle, as my father-in-law says, is on the way to Nowhere. I disagree with him only slightly. For me, Carlisle was on the way (in an out-of-the-way kind of way) to Morehead, Kentucky where I was to visit Sarah in her home for the first time.

Sarah and I had been dating for a short while when it came time for one of the early important courtship steps — meeting her parents.

My parents' MR2 (it looked something like this) was my chosen and only method of transportation at the time. I affectionately knew that car as Mister Two.

My trip didn't take place before MapQuest, but it was before I had fully adopted its use into my traveling methodology. BMQ (Before MapQuest (I love me some acronyms)(...and parentheses)), I would rely on directions the old-fashioned way; someone would tell me how to get from here to over yonder. I preferred the landmark method. "Take a left at the Suds Car Wash and then a right after you pass the house with the yellow shutters" worked for me. There's a couple problems with this: 1) the landmark method is problematic in the dark (are those yellow or brown shutters?); 2) The person giving the landmark-based directions really needs to be a landmark person too.

I would be driving at night, and I'm pretty sure it was under a new moon. And, Sarah's Dad sure don't need no stinking landmarks to get from here to there. When he gave me directions, the macho in me couldn't bear to ask if there happened to be a Skyline Chili, or at least a uniquely shaped boulder, when I turn onto KY11. So, I took my notes, and off I went.

I was doing well, by my standards. I made it out of Anderson, down to 74, meandered around Cincinnati, to the Double A Highway. I drove past my first turn, but caught myself; I whipped a U-wee and made my turn at KY11; no harm done. Feeling good. On to KY 32...

Here's where the trip went from care-free to precarious. I was approaching an intersection where the postings said that whether I went left, right, or straight I would still be on 32. I knew didn't want to go west, which was a left turn. But, still I had two options. My left brain, which I use sparingly, told me, "Ryan, the opposite of west is east. West is left, east must be Right." So wrong.

The MR2 handled the midnight-dark serpentine road with aplomb. There were several curvy road signs, none quite as descriptive as the one to the left, but there should have been. For 45 minutes there was nothing but me and the 10 yard halo of the headlights. No landmarks, ner nuthin'. After those 45 minutes, hope beamed in the distance. Had I finally made it to Morehead? Nope. A Shell station, which that night resembled Grand Central.

As lost as I was feeling, a Shell station sighting was a welcome one. You see, BMQ was also BMP (Before Mobile Phone) for me. I might have been the last baby boomer's kid to get a cell phone.

Okay, I swear to you, there were 50 pickup trucks in that Shell station parking lot, every one of them Ford F150s; all were equipped with gigantic muddin' tires, naked lady silhouette mudflaps, gun rack, one of these, and I'm fairly certain a 12 point buck antler mounted on the grill. Mister Two could have fit comfortably in the bed of any one of the beasts. As intimidating as this V8 Convention was, the people in attendance were more frightening; after all, I could only assume they knew how to use the guns on those racks.

I parked in the only spot not occupied by an F150 — in the little gap between an actual parking space and the dumpster. I slinked over to the walkway that hugged the outside walls of the convenience store. Opposite the storefront was a lineup of gentlemen sitting on tailgates. I tried not to look in their direction, but I think I'm safe in saying they all were wearing sleeveless flannel shirts, Wrangler jeans, trucker caps and belt buckles the size of Mister Two's hubcaps.

I made it to the pay phone, conveniently positioned at center stage. I was one banjo string pluck away from running for my life. There was no banjo music, so I dropped my coins in and started dialing.

Sarah answered, "Hello, are you lost?" No sense in denying it. "Here's my Dad."

Sarah's Dad asked me where I was. I had no idea, so I said, "I have no idea."

He replied, "Well, can you ask someone?"

Apparently, he had never been to this Shell station. But the macho in me won again, "Okay."

I turned around and asked anyone that would listen, "where am I?"

Appearing completely put off, the guy directly in front of me slurred, "Caw-laawl." I turned back to the pay phone and told my future Father-In-Law, "The guy told me that I'm in Caw-laawl." I was pretty sure Caw-laawl was a level of Hell. Why didn't I pay more attention to Dante's Inferno in high school?

Sarah's Pop: "What?"

"He said, Caw-laawl."

"Can you ask him again?"

I found out that my macho definitely has limits. I told him that there was no way I was asking again. Thankfully, he had a map of Kentucky handy and perused the neighboring counties for a town that, with the proper Kentucky accent, might sound like "Caw-laawl."

"Carlisle!," he sounded. He went on to tell me exactly how to get from here to over yonder.

It's fitting that Sarah's Dad, now Simeon's Granddad, told me about the trailer debacle story in the Lexington Herald-Leader. After we were done laughing about that one, I got to tell my "Caw-laawl" story again as if neither of us had ever heard it. That's what makes a good personal story, isn't it?

My hope for Ms. Barton is that in the comfort of her new home, she'll be able to one day laugh about the Sheriff who ordered two farmers to tip her single-wide into a ditch and threatened to fine her for the mess he had just made.