Life in 2015

These are my stories about day to day life as a business man and father of two little ones.

Sibling bonding

One of the coolest moments of parenting is seeing your kids showing affection towards each other. Priya is fairly stingy with her hugs and kisses. However, I caught her one morning really loving her little brother.

This is one of the first times I ever saw Priya give Remy a hug on her own.

Priya hugging Remy

So precious

Sous chef

Jen decided Priya should start pulling her own weight around the house. So Jen got Priya a stand so she can help out in the kitchen prepping vegetables and trimming meat.

Priya in her kitchen stand

She’s handy with a pairing knife. Would you like your beef sliced or diced?

Priya is also really good at putting dishes away from the dishwasher. No broken plates—yet!

Business calls

Priya loves talking on the phone, mostly to no one. But she goes on and on.

Priya on a business call

Serious negotiations

Priya after a business call

She’s happy. It looks like she got the deal.

Remy is 4 months

Just added Remy’s 4 month picture. He seems to be growing at a much faster rate than Priya.

Kitchen goggles

Priya really likes her eye wear. She has about 10 pairs of sunglasses and various goggles for every occasion.

We just put up some really bright white LED lights in the kitchen. It’s like Willy Wonka’s TV room up in there.

Priya wearing goggles by dishwasher

Priya wearing goggles by dishwasher

Priya wearing goggles in bright kitchen

Damn, it’s bright in here!

Our first attempt at potty training

Priya potty training Priya potty training Priya potty training Priya potty training

I drank a gallon of water. Now it’s a waiting game.

Priya’s marker masterpiece

Priya went to town on a color marker project. As I approached her table, I saw she had laid down some color. I was so proud of her. But as I looked more closely, I became concerned. I noticed she colored the eyes so hard she wore through the canvas—not to mention what looks like blood draining from the eye sockets.

Priya wearing goggles by dishwasher

Beautiful yet freaky

I think she may have watched too much Dexter while growing up. We’ll have to keep an “eye” on this one. Maybe she’ll need some psychoanalysis if this behavior persists.

Let me take that. Thank you!

Priya and Remy are starting to interact during playtime now that Remy can knowingly grab things. The problem is, all of these toys are Priya’s, so she thinks.

When Remy grabs a toy, Priya gets upset and aggressively takes it from him whether she was playing with it or not. So I attempted to explain the concept of sharing. I told her she had to be nice.

So during the next playtime, Remy grabs a toy. Priya sees it and without getting upset, very nicely snatches it out of his hands and says, “thank youuuu!”

The vacuum monster

The vacuum cleaner is either loved or hated in this house.

First, I hate it because cleaning sucks ass. Our beloved Lexi absolutely hated it and would run and hide as soon as it came out of the closet.

Priya is like Lexi; very scared. If she sees it, she gets a terrified look, points at it and says “scared”, then heads to another room.

Remy loves it. If he’s fussing, cranking on the vacuum will calm him and he’ll eventually fall asleep.

Priya and her umbrella

Priya really likes her umbrella and tries to use it in the house all the time. I’m not sure she understood what its purpose was until we got some rain this winter. We don’t get rain often, but when we do, she loves to be in it.

Priya holding her umbrella in the rain

Where’s the rain?

Here are a few more pics of us in the rain.

50mm f/1.4G

A few shots at the park on my new, but broken in, 50mm lens.


Ta da!

Jen and Remy posing by tree

Simone taking it easy on the grass

Jen and Priya sitting in a "sepia" tree

A mother and daughter classic

We got a jumper

Since Remy stopped sleeping the days away and developed some tremendous leg strength, we started putting him in Priya’s old jumper. It’s a jungle jumper so you know it’s really cool.

Remy in his jumper

Remy fell asleep in his jumper

Jumping is tiring work

Remy loves it and can jump for over an hour sometimes. He’s so rough on the equipment too. He jumps really high then holds his feet up and bottoms out the suspension.

It’s one of the only things that keeps him quiet so we just kind of forget we put him in there sometimes. Next thing you know, it’s pretty quiet in the house. Oh, Remy jumped himself to sleep again. What an amazing invention!

200mm f/4D micro

I finally got my Nikon 200mm lens this month. It has been on back order since early December. It is an amazing lens but weighs about 15 pounds. I was excited to try it out. My first trial was shooting my beautiful woman.

Jennifer headshot

Jennifer headshot

Jennifer headshot

Jennifer headshot

Remy is 5 months

Remy is starting to be a pain in mine, Priya, and Jen’s ass. He’s not sleeping the day away like he used to. Instead, he’s always being a cry baby. I think he sees us interacting with Priya and he just wants to be a part of the action. If we all walk away and go into another room, that really pisses him off.

The worst is that he is so loud. Priya is always telling him to be quiet because she can’t hear her “show.” I wear ear plugs because his high pitch makes my ears ring. It’s crazy!

Nonetheless, he is a handsome little guy. His 5 month picture proves it.

Out from behind the camera

I’m always the guy behind the camera so I’m rarely in any family photos. I bribed Jen to take a few shots of me with my little guys.

Priya giving dad a kiss

Story time with Priya and Remy

Kisses and story time with the little stinkers

Mushing up Remy

I love giving the little man kisses, but he always gets whisker burns. Too bad for him.

February Christmas cards

It’s been about two months since Christmas, but that hasn’t stopped Priya from making a few Christmas cards on the iPad. Maybe she’s getting a jump start on Christmas 2015?

To make the card, you drag and drop cookies, jelly beans, candy canes, etc. Priya composed a really good gingerbread man. What really surprised me is that she gave her ginger-man a tie and actually placed it in the correct position. Nobody here wears a tie, but apparently she knows what a tie is—she must have learned this on YouTube. Plus, she personalized her card with a self-portrait and even placed the stamp.

Priya made a holiday card on the iPad

Priya made a holiday card on the iPad

Priya’s gingerbread man holiday card on the iPad

Priya is getting very handy on the iPad. She can almost enter Jen’s security code to unlock it all by herself. But once she’s in, she can open all of her games, learning apps, and most importantly, YouTube—that’s where she finds Elmo, Barbie, and Peppa Pig.

Go fly a kite

It was a bit windy today so we were finally able to fly a kite. Before today, Priya would just drag the kite down the sidewalk. I don’t think she actually knew it went up in the sky. But for Priya, it’s about as much fun dragging it on the sidewalk as it is flying it in the sky.

Once she saw it sailing for a minute or two, she was bored. She just wanted to blow some soap bubbles from her bubble stick.

Jen and Priya flying a kite

Jen flying a kite

Jen: master kiter, nickname “Turbulence”

Anyway, it was kind of cool to fly a kite. I hadn’t done it since I was a kid, maybe 11 or 12. Jen was an old pro. She was power kiting that thing in the lower stratosphere like all day.

All in all, it was a success—no power lines—unlike our quad-copter test flight. Oops. My bad.

Invisible green birds

Priya has been pretending quite a bit lately. One thing she’s been doing regularly is grabbing green birds right out of thin air. She really exerts herself while doing it too. She jumps and grunts and reaches way up high.

When she finally grabs one, she holds it in her hand and says, “gween burd.” Then what do you think this sweet 2 year old does next? That’s right—she bites its head off and says “Hmmmm! Good!” followed by a very animated lip smacking.

Family hat collection

Because of Priya, lots of stuff ends up on our heads, not just hats. It’s become a regular family activity. We get lots of laughs putting crap on our heads. Check out our hat collection.

Remy with a cup on his head

While I was in the shower

I was in the middle of a shower when I heard a baby rattle. I yelled, “Priya, is that you?” Priya yelled back, “No!”

Then ten seconds later she knocks on my glass shower door and says, “Hellooooo! Let me in {gibberish} door {more gibberish} open.

Toddler elbow

I had a blast tonight throwing Priya onto the bed into a pile of pillows. We call this airplane. It’s almost a nightly activity. I fly her around like an airplane, swing her upside down by the ankles, and flip her head over heels. She loves it and just can’t get enough. She’s laughing, screaming, and having fun. After she lands in the pile of pillows, she gets up with a huge smile and says, “Airplane. Again.”

We did this for about 40 minutes tonight, which was quite workout for me. My arms are usually dead, but this was the first time my elbows hurt. I’m calling this phenomenon toddler elbow.

What’s funny is not too long ago Priya wasn’t fond of airplane. When I’d throw her around her eyes would get huge and bug out of her head. Her mouth would open wide like she was going to scream or cry, but she was silent and stiff as a board. She was basically in shock like she just saw a ghost. I’d laugh and after a few seconds she would pull herself together, stand up, and say “Freak. Freak!” I never knew if she was calling me a freak or if she was freaked out. Probably both.

Hissies are for sissies

There has been a lot of annoying and unnecessary tantrums lately, or as I like to call them, “hissy fits.” The boy is the worst violator by far—damn can he wail. He’s worse than a little girl with his shrieky, develish-sounding, loud ass voice. But Priya has started fake crying recently, which has really been annoying Jen.

If Priya can’t describe in English what she wants, she just wines about it. We’ve been using the classic go-to, “use your words.” If she still doesn’t know how to communicate with us like a human, she’s allowed to point, which she is doing great at. For instance, if she wants to breast feed, she very sternly points at Jen’s boobs, then points at the chair, which means: get your butt in that chair mom so I can eat. She knows how to say “booboo” and “chair,” but I think she just likes directing people around.

Anyway, I told Priya, “no more hissies.” A second later, Jen punctuated my scolding with, “Yeah! Hissies are for sissies.”

I love that! I officially made hissies are for sissies our new family motto. I told Priya to make sure her brother gets the memo.

Remy has teeth

Remy has is first two baby teeth coming in on the bottom. They are hard to see, but they are just below the gum. So Jen started feeding him baby food for the first time. He had no clue as to what to do about the mush in his mouth. He just spits it out. But after a few times, he’s finally getting the idea.

Remy's first teeth

Remy’s first 2 baby teeth

Jen gives him what looks like a doggy treat. He gnaws on that and loves it.

Remy is eating solid food now

Remy is eating solid food now

Remy is eating solid food now and exhilarated about it!

What’s really funny is that Priya points and laughs at Remy when he eats. He gets so messy. She aims her little finger at him and says, “Oh! Mess.”


After Priya’s bath today, she was allowed to run free, or as Jen likes to say, “noody booty.” Well, Jen hit the sack and I had to make some fudge. When I got back, I noticed Priya made a little fudge too. She was really quiet. She had brown smears on the insides of her legs and ankles. I was like, “oh crap”—pardon the pun.

So the search was on for the big brown log. I noticed what looked like rabbit droppings in our bedroom and down the hall. But the volume of smear evidence indicated there had to be more. I looked and I looked, but nothing. Then, after all hope was lost, I came walking down the hall and glanced up…and what did I find?

Priya pooped on her stool

Priya’s stool!

Priya dropped a stool on her stool!

I was laughing so hard as I was cleaning up this turd and thinking about the situation—I usually don’t laugh while literally cleaning up shit. I’m sure grandma will be happy to know that the stool she gave Priya is being put to good use.

Remy is 6 months old

Remy just turned 6 months old and we have the picture to prove it.

Remy has been an annoying baby the past few months. Me, Jen, and Priya all agree. He is too loud, cries about nothing, and needs too much attention. It’s like he can’t go on living without us. Fortunately, things are starting to change.

He started crawling about a month ago. At first, he didn’t realize how great of an ability this is. We’d lay him on the carpet and he would just cry about it. Now that he realizes he is partially mobile, he has been exploring. He’s a free-range baby and more pleasant because of it. He army-style crawls all over the house discovering things for himself.

He seems very close to walking. He definitely has the strength. His coordination and balance have improved significantly over the last month. He can stand and hold onto things. When you grab him by both hands and lead him, we takes steps. So it won’t be long. Once he starts walking and stops crying about everything, he’ll be much closer to human status. We may allow him into our tribe one day.

Stay out

Priya has been watching iPad since she was about six months old. She loves watching Elmo, ABC songs, Pepa Pig, and Barbie. She has been learning lots of English from these “shows,” as she calls them. She also likes Russian cartoons. So when she repeatedly says words we don’t understand, we are assuming she is uttering Russian.

Now Remy is at that age where he needs to get on the iPad and watch his shows too. The problem is, there is only one iPad and Priya thinks it’s hers. She bogards the pad all the time and poor Remy is left padless. Remy’s only opportunity to catch up on episodes of Sesame or watch his ABCs is when Priya is sleeping. But the moment she wakes up, she snatches it from him. So rude!

Priya doesn’t even like him watching over her shoulder. She always tries to block his view. It’s funny actually. Lately she has been taking the iPad into her princess tent. Remy is not allowed in. But she does allow him to watch from the outside.

Priay watching iPad in her princess tent

Priay watching iPad in her princess tent

Stay out bucko!

I have a feeling that as soon as Priya is able to write, she will be posting a big Keep Out or No Boys Allowed banner on her bedroom door.

Drive-by photography

Today I was in search of the perfect spot to do a Target Meister product photo shoot. One of my objectives is to represent Arizona. So finding a pristine, rugged desert backdrop with saguaro cacti was at the top of the list.

I thought of the perfect spot, but Jen warned me that it may be on the Gila Indian Reservation. She said the rez po-po will track me down like the dirty dog I am, fine me, and then run me off the land like a diseased animal. So I pulled out an old-fashioned paper map—yeah we still carry one in the truck. Sure enough, the spot I was thinking of is just over the border on the south edge of the reservation.

To see what the consequences would be, I called up a Gila Indian official and told her what I had planned. Damn…Jen was right! The lady told me the tribal police would confiscate my camera and escort me off the land. I wasn’t taking any chances.

So I drove around the Sonoran desert for almost four hours looking for the perfect spot. I ended up at Casa Grande Mountain near the gun range south of town. How ironic. It was the best spot I could find. Unfortunately, it was drizzling so I didn’t get any product photos. However, I did take a few shots from inside the truck.

As I was snapping photos, I was reminded how beautiful and tough the desert is. And with the rain, it smelled so clean and fresh.

Sonoran Desert captured by my 200mm Nikon

Saguaro cacti in the Arizona Sonoran desert

Arizona’s Sonoran Desert

Cactus blooms

Sonoran Desert cactus

Wood ribs of dead cactus

Dead cactus resembles a snake

Saguaro cactus spine

Sonoran Desert yellow daisies

Sonoran Desert sunset

Sonoran Desert sky

Mountain peaks in Sonoran Desert

The desert sky dramatically transforms as the sun falls below the horizon.

I was hoping to see some deer at sunset because of all the tracks and trails around the base of the mountains. But all I saw was a coyote and a rabbit. I’ll be heading back out tomorrow.

Printer jam

I was trying to print, but it was jammed. I opened up the printer to see what was going on. I think I found the problem.

Printer jammed with legos

Lego jam

Handsome devil

Remy turned 7 months today. Everyone says that kids grow up so fast. They ain’t shittin’! Remy is already going through puberty. Look out girls! Here comes Mr. Mustache.

Remy is still his cranky old self. He’s not walking yet, but damn can he crawl. He always leads with his left arm and pulls himself on his forearms—feet still drag behind. Hopefully he starts walking soon, which should remedy his cranky attitude. However, he is slightly more happy now that he is motoring around the house on his belly. Rug rat!

If I had to describe Remy in two words, I would say “handsome devil.” He is so cute and I just want to mush him all the time. Thankfully he loves mushes, unlike Priya at this age. But boy can he get on all of our nerves with his nasty, loud, devilish cry. If things don’t go his way for one second, he lets the whole neighborhood know.

Omnibenevolent Grandma

My Grandma K is an all-loving person. The greatest thing about her is that she loves equally and unconditionally. She doesn’t have an ounce of hate in her bones. Someone could treat her unfairly or with rudeness and she would remain positive. She would never look negatively on such a person. In fact, she would justify their behavior and forgive them, perhaps saying, “they are just having a bad day.”


If even a fraction of the world’s population were like my grandma, the planet would be transformed. Her infectious kindness would spread. Soon everyone would be helpful and considerate of others. It would be an amazing and friendly place. If Grandma K prototypes held key and influential governmental positions across the globe, there would be no war and cheating. Instead, populations would unite to help one another.

One of the qualities I love most about her is that she listens, never judges, and will take secrets to her grave. She has always been interested in politics. I think she would have served her people well if she would have taken office. She has definitely served her family well.

My inspiration

Many years ago I read a great piece of advice in a communications book. The author advised that before you say something to someone, ask yourself, “would I say this to my beloved grandma?” If the answer is no, then rethink what you were about to say.

I have used this wisdom over the years in business and in personal life—with my Grandma K on the virtual receiving end. Quickly asking myself this simple question when in difficult or stressful situations has served me well. I’ve had a few pissed off customers over the years who ended up being some of my best and most frequent customers all because I killed them with kindness and treated them as I would my beloved grandma.

But recently I’ve changed my technique a bit. I now ask myself, “how would my grandma react or respond in this situation?” I try to channel her to become a stronger, more pleasant and understanding person. She is my inspiration. I have been and will be a better father and businessman because of her influence on me.

Tranquil fields

I have never heard her project her problems, or beliefs for that matter, on anyone. She seems to have a way of dealing with issues internally, or perhaps with her god, so as not to burden anyone.

When we would spend the summers at her farm, she would disappear from time to time. I later found out that she would take a few hours and walk the fields alone. Apparently she would do this to release her tension, absorb nature, and consult with her maker. My aunt Susie told me this, otherwise I would never have known that she was upset and managing her stresses. She always acted with strength and positivity, never weakness.

Her letters

My Grandma K is a machine! She cranks out about a half dozen hand-written letters to me every year for almost two decades now, despite her arthritic hands. Like clockwork, I get a letter every birthday and Christmas. Jen, Priya, and now Remy get the same treatment. She also writes on other holidays, like Valentine’s Day, or randomly throughout the year.

Her letters almost always include a little “beer” or “candy” money too. She is always giving of herself. As my mom has said, she would give the shirt off her back to help someone, even if it was the last thing she had.

Below is a letter I received from her in February 2015. She usually talks or asks about others with quick mentions of weather, her garden, or what grandpa has been up to. She has a sense of humor too. In a light-hearted way, she tends to call herself an “old clumsy ox” or poke fun at her own handwriting. In fact, on page two of her letter she recounts a funny situation with her doctor.

Grandmas letter, page 1

Grandmas letter, page 2

One of many letters from my dear Grandma K

My Grandma K is unlike anyone I have ever known. She is truly an amazing woman. In her eyes, everyone is an angel. My life has been transformed because of her.

She will always be loved and never forgotten.

The omnibenevolent God, by definition, was unable to withhold forgiveness from his people.

My heart melted

Jen was just putting Priya to bed. Priya asked, “dad hugs?” So Jen carried her out to the kitchen where I was making tea. I got my hug and a whole lot more. She said in the sweetest little voice, “love you dad.” She got an extra big squeeze for that!

Priya is just starting to speak in simple sentences. This was the first time she told me that she loved me, unprompted and so clearly at that. She just melted my heart. I love our little girl so much.

Grandma Harrington turns 86

We packed up the family and headed to Tucson to wish Grandma Harrington a happy 86th birthday. She is still doing well and as lively as ever. If you ask her how she’s doing, she’ll say, “Oh, I’ve got my aches and pains.” But she doesn’t seem to let that get her down; she’s always smiling and laughing.

She is the second oldest of eleven siblings and has now survived the first and third oldest.

The cake

Her son, Mike, and his wife made the cake. It’s seems like every family has an “uncle Mike” who’s always injecting humor into the situation. Just check out that beauty of a cake!

Grandma's 86th birthday


The family

The Harrington family: Sherry, Mike, Donna, Deb

Youngest to oldest: Priya, Jen, Deb, Donna

The Harrington family & four generations of women

The park

Grandma lives directly across the street from a really cool park. Me, Priya, Remy, Jen, and James decided to walk off the cake and ice cream. It was a little windy so there were a few kites, plus lots of people fishing.

Tucson recreational park

Jen, Remy, Priya, and James on landing at park

A walk around the park by Grandma’s

We saw lots of ducks, fish, crayfish, and turtles. Priya chased a couple of ducks through the bushes until they ditched her and headed for water.

One flock of a dozen small ducklings were swimming in synchrony. They would paddle along the surface for about 10 feet, then submerge all at once and swim about 20 feet before popping back up again. They kept doing it. I had never witnessed anything like it before. It was cool! I wish I had that on video.

Keeping busy

Grandma regularly plays games with her neighbors and church friends. They enjoy mahjong. She also solves lots of puzzles and crossword puzzles, which she said keeps her brain going.

Old dog

Simone turned 14 today. Unfortunately her beloved sister, Lexi, passed 7 months ago. But Simone is doing pretty well for an old dog despite her back legs being a little weak and stiff some days. Although she is a hearty eater, she is loosing muscle mass at a rapid pace now—spine and ribs are very visible. The more she eats the bigger her belly gets; she just can’t seem to build muscle anymore.

She still gets out on ½ to ¾-mile walks several times a week, but is slowing down considerably. It’s sad: the dog I used to have to hold back with all my force is now the dog I have to drag behind me. Getting old sucks big time.

Simone, Clint & Priya walking on Simone's 14th 

In her old age, she likes to take lots of pit stops during her walks. Simone and Lexi always loved stopping to eat and roll in the cool green grass at the church.

Priya & Simone

Priya really loves Simone, especially when she was about one year old. She just wouldn’t leave poor Simone alone—climbing on her, digging in her mouth, taking her food, reading her story books, etc. But Simone didn’t seem to mind; she just lays there. She would have been a playful dog for the kids about ten years ago. Damn! That seems like a lifetime ago already.

Guard dog

Simone has been a great dog. She was the guard dog with a ferocious bark and strong square stance. Nothing could get past her. The slightest little noise outside would set her off. I felt safe with her sleeping at the edge of our bed. Unfortunately around Christmas I noticed Simone wasn’t responding to my calls. Now months later she is completely deaf. I can vacuum beside her and she will be completely unaware. She is now the retired guard dog.

Wagging tail

When I come home, or just go in the garage for a few minutes, Simone will greet me with a wagging tail and do her best to jump with just her front legs and show her joy. It’s amazing how excited and loyal she has been towards me. I love her so much.

Gettin’ along

Priya and Remy are really starting to play together more. It’s great to see them interact. They do a surprising amount of laughing together. Neither one speaks the other’s language, but I guess they have the same sense of humor.

Remy is always on the move, crawling as fast as he can to keep up with his big sister. The poor little guy’s elbows are always red and raw. Every chance he gets, he’s pulling himself up onto his feet. The little guy cannot wait to walk. Then the fun will begin!

We were putting the kids to sleep. I already had Remy in his crib. Priya asked if she could go in the crib too. I figured this would be a Kodak moment …

Remy and Priya sitting in crib

Remy and Priya hugging in crib

Priya just wanted a goodnight hug

Jen found these two watching the boob tube together. It was probably Sesame Street. Priya started to love Elmo when she was Remy’s age. Now Remy seems to pay attention to Elmo too. There is something about that high pitch voice that attracts them.

Priya and Remy watching TV

Watching their “show” together

Remy did!

Priya has really taken charge in disciplining Remy.

Water bowl incident

Recently, Simone’s water bowl has been a fun spot for them to play. They were both caught messing in the water and scolded.

After that, Priya would point at the bowl and say “Mone’s wader?” It was as if she was checking her bounds? I told her no and that her and Remy need to stay out. She seemed to acknowledge. She would do this several times per day over the next few days.

Remy doesn’t quite understand English yet—my discipline has no effect on him. So he continued heading for the water bowl every chance he got. The water is in the laundry room so we just close the door to keep him out.

The problem is: Simone actually needs that water. So we kept the door open when Remy wasn’t around. However, that little guy is a quick crawler. Before you know it, he’s in the damn water again.

I think our frustration inspired Priya to take action.

I was cooking and didn’t see that Remy was in the kitchen headed for trouble again. Priya was watching her iPad in the dining room. However, she noticed what Remy was up to. She immediately zipped past him and slammed the laundry door in his face. Denied!

To top it off, she yelled at him too.

Remy no!
No Remy!
No Remy!

She tends to shadow over him in a dominating way and point her little finger right in his face while she berates him.

Toy possession incident

Tonight, I was working on my computer in the office when I heard Priya screaming at the top of her lungs in the back room. She told Remy no about ten times. Then she comes running into the office out of breath. In a concerned voice she says, “Dad! Dad! Remy did!”

I said, “what did Remy do?” She runs out of the room to show me. Apparently Remy took a toy that she had—she thinks all the toys are hers.

Priya is efficient at managing her little brother. But if she can’t handle the situation under her own power and authority, she is quick to raise the issue with upper management to get the problem resolved quickly.

Dirty Harry destruction

I’ve been shooting new product photos for Target Meister. But one thing that I’ve never showed is how much destruction our Dirty Harry Target Stand can withstand and yet continue to function properly. I decided to create some visual proof.

Ironically, I haven’t shot a gun in a couple of years at least. So I dusted off the old .243, packed up the sacrificial Dirty Harry, and headed out to the desert for some destruction.


The stand is literally built like a tank. Exploiting geometry gives this stand an advantage against 3,000+ fps projectiles. It is amazing how much abuse the Dirty Harry can endure. I blasted a dozen rounds into this stand and I didn’t bring it to failure.

The first shot to the Dirty Harry Stand

The Dirty Harry Stand after 10 shots

One shot or ten—the Dirty Harry holds up like a champ.

The group of 4 shots at the bottom of the shield created an opening so that the ninth bullet had enough energy to penetrate the second shield. However, it didn’t have enough energy left to even scratch the powder coat on the auto-brace (component being protected). No big!

The Dirty Harry Stand after a dozen direct hits

After taking 12 direct hits, all of which were concentrated on one-half of one base, the Dirty Harry is still a perfectly functional target stand ready to provide decades of service.


Ten shots were aimed at the shields and two into the bottom base (black end cap) from 10 yards. The shot that hit the top left corner of the base fragmented and sprayed the shields, chipping the powder coat.

Also, fragments from the two rightmost shots on the shields exited the right side and caused some damage to the 1x2 wood cross member (grey area).

For reference, I put my thirteenth, and last, shot through the right side of the 1x2 for comparison with the entrance holes in the shields. It’s more than a 500% difference.


Everything works as designed.

The 1x2 cross member provides structural support to create a solid target frame yet bullets can pass through it, causing minimal damage.

On the other hand, the shields absorb and deflect energy before it gets a chance to cause damage to the core components: the Auto-brace and X-brace.

Mother’s Day money shot

We spent the day at Desert Breeze Park in Chandler to celebrate Mother’s Day. Papa James and “drama” (the way Priya says grandma) also came. The weather was absolutely gorgeous—84 with a light breeze and sunny.

Family portrait

Jen has been bugging me for a family picture for more than two years now. So I packed up my Nikon with the 200 mm lens, tripod, remote shutter release, and an empty SD card. The first thing I did was scout the perfect photo location. I wasn’t going to leave empty handed and Jen disappointed—again.

Mother's Day family portrait

All of us

Our first official family portrait

The money shot!

Remy is an uncooperative subject. He’s always flailing his limbs or sucking on something. At least in these two photos he looks as if he’s pondering a thought—finger on mouth; hand on head.

Bottom line: Jen finally got the family photo she’s been asking for. Happy Mother’s Day Jenny!


Priya loves playing in water. She couldn’t wait to get on the splash pad. She bolted right in, dress and all. She was shivering and her diaper soaked up 10 pounds of cold water, but she was still having fun.

Priya at the splash pad

Priya on the elephant at the splash pad

While talking out of the side of her mouth, Priya still calls the elephant, “fant.”


A few ducks passed through our picnic on their way to the lake. They are always looking for hand outs.

Ducks passing through our picnic

Ducks ready to dive into the lake

Ducks landing on lake

Ready! Set! Dive!

Priya was quacking at them. I wonder if they understood her? They did quack back.

More fun stuff

We took the relaxing train ride around the park again. By this time, the kids were beat. Remy was in and out of conciousness with heavy eye lids. Priya was quiet and looking for a place to lay down.

But before calling it a day, Priya of course had to ride the horse carousel. She wanted the “white horse with purple saddle.”

Remy rode for his first time. He was freaked initially, but seemed to enjoy it after the first few rotations.

Standing tall

Remy turned 8 months. He is a rowdy and noisy little guy. He’s been pulling himself up and standing every chance he gets. In doing so, he usually puts himself in a predicament and then screams for help.

Improved time-to-shut-eye

Putting Remy down to sleep has always been a fight. He just cries and cries and kicks and screams. He really fights it.

When I first started dumping him off in his crib, he would cry for 45 minutes. Sometimes I would have to draw the line—he wasn’t going down by himself. I’d have to turn on white noise, bounce him in his bed or lay him over my arm and walk around. Anything to calm him, then reset.

But over the last six weeks he has reduced his time-to-shut-eye numbers significantly. He was in the 20 minute range for quite awhile. Then about 3 weeks ago he broke the 10-minute mark. In the last week, he’s now down to 1–3 minutes of crying before he’s out. But today, he delighted me.

I took him into his room. At this point, he gets a sense of what’s about to happen and begins to cry. But not today. I lowered him into his crib, expecting a big outburst at any second. Instead, he took a big breath, rolled over, and closed his eyes. I was in disbelief, yet joyed! I slowly tip toed out of his room and gently shut the door.

Finally, progress!

But we’re not out of the woods yet.

Moon surprise

The moon looked kind of cool tonight so I thought I’d get a shot. I already had my 200 mm lens attached because I just returned from a Target Meister shoot.

I took about 10 shots with 6–20-second exposure times and various apertures.
Upon reviewing the photos, I got a surprise. I caught a distant planet just above the moon! It was not visible at the time with the naked eye.

Moon on May 21, 2015 with Venus

The moon and a distant planet

(Exposure: 8s, f/6.3, -0.3EV, ISO 200, 200 mm FL)

In my first shots, the planet was positioned in the bottom right of the frame. By the end of my 10-minute shoot it was in the top left of the frame. I just happened to capture this photo opportunity by accident!

When I zoomed in and enhanced the color, I determined the planet is definitely red. So I thought it’s probably Mars. But the Google knowledge graph said otherwise:

Tonight - May 21, 2015 - the dazzling star-like point of light near the waxing crescent moon is the planet Venus. This world ranks as the third-brightest celestial object in all the heavens, after the sun and moon. Enjoy watching the brightest and second-brightest orbs of nighttime - the moon and Venus, respectively - as they pair up together in your western sky on this evening.


I photographed Venus!

Unfortunately, the image is a bit blurry because of the 8-second exposure and the fact that the 20-MPH wind was moving the camera with an open shutter—that reminds me, I need a sturdier tripod. Plus I shot in the neighborhood with all kinds of ambient light.


Priya has been asking for strawberries all week.

“Strawbureez dad! Strawbureez dad!”

Despite eating watermelon everyday, she still needs her strawberry fix.

Priya and I headed to the store tonight. She wore her Ariel mermaid dress with a 3D starfish on the front and her pink watermelon sandals. She looks so damn cute.

I’m always excited to take her shopping. She is such a delight.

What’s so amazing about Priya is she puts smiles on everyones’ faces. Half the people stop and say, “oh my god, she is so cute.” The rest just smile or laugh with content.

She is so polite, aways saying “thank you dad,” “sorry Remy,” “more please mom.” You can sense she is a cheerful and kind soul. That is what attracts so many to her.

She will bring smiles and joy to millions in her lifetime.

We arrive

We walk into Safeway and I tell her, “let’s find those strawberries.” She says, “Yes dad. Strawbureeeez! Where are you strawbureeeez?” I don’t always know what she will say, but I can almost always count on it being funny.

I have to let her put the strawberries in the cart and the apples in the bag, etc. She insists on helping with everything, otherwise, she gets upset.

She also imitates me, which can be good or bad. I picked up a box of strawberries that had a leak and was sticky. I said, “dang it!” and rubbed my hands together. Priya, without hesitation, says “dang it!” and rubs her hands as I did. She also spits when I spit, but with more animation and volume.


Priya must say hi and wave to every new face we meet as we motor around the store. I just watch the reactions of each person as we encounter them. First they stare at Priya and smile. Priya notices them looking and that’s when she responds with her sweet little hello and feminine little wave. Thats when the person’s face lights up with joy. It’s an inevitable pattern.

However, kids get special attention. We passed a mother and five of her kids, aged from about 5–13. As soon as Priya spotted them, she points directly at them and shouts with excitement, “Kids! Kids! Hi Kids.” They didn’t know what to think. They just smiled and chuckled. As we walked away, Priya yells “Bye kids!” and waves to them.

Because she is always stopping to greet everyone, I have to keep telling her, let’s go. She always responds, “Yes dad.” Then she runs past me with a bounce and pointing straight ahead, “This way. This way!” She seems to repeat at least twice when she’s giving orders.

The entire time we cruised around the store she was laughing and repeatedly saying “excited dad.” She was so happy.

This is why I love taking her out—and this is just a trip to the grocery store. We are so lucky to have such a delightful little girl.

Final stop, desert department

We were aiming for the peanut butter chunk cookies, but unfortunately they were out. So I let Priya pick the desert. At first, she picked up an apple pie, but then settled for a delicious fruit pie with a yogurt cream cheese filling and a thin crispy crust lined with a thin layer of chocolate. It was topped with kiwis, oranges, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and of course strawbureez!

Hell to pay

It’s 11:30 PM and I’m in the shower. As I’m finishing up, I hear Priya begin to play around in our room—screaming and yelling. I say, “Priya, that doesn’t sound like sleeping to me.” She replies, “Yes dad.” But she continues on with her noise making.

So I say, “If you’re not sleeping by the time I get out of this shower, there will be hell to pay.” She ignores me and her fun continues.

Maybe she doesn’t understand my English. So I reword my threat. I say, “If you’re not sleeping by the time I count to three, there will be hell to pay.” I start counting loudly and slowly. What does Priya do? She starts counting with me!

One … two … and as soon as we get to three, she starts snoring!

I quickly peek my head out of the shower and see that she’s standing on my bed. She immediately raises her hands, shrugs her shoulders, and says “look, I’m on the bed!”

Threats turn into fun and games with this one. Kind of reminds me of someone.

Love letter

I was cleaning up the garage, preparing for the next garage sale. We have tons of books—probably the best selection any garage sale has ever seen. I organized todos libros by topic, from UNIX programming to Stephen King novels.

While I was removing the bookmarks and notes left between the pages of many books, I came across a blast from the past in one novel. A very early love letter I wrote Jen back in 2003. We had only known each other for about 3 weeks at that time. I was a real Casanova.

My love letter to Jenny in 2003

The time-tested love letter

Twelve years and two kids later, our love is still burning out of control. There is no stopping it! Just let it burn and watch in awe.

What’s wrong with Remy?

Remy is always crying about something. Today was no different.

We were all sitting around the table trying to enjoy our eggs and bacon while we stared at him wailing about something. I’m wondering to myself, why in the hell does this kid cry so damn much?

So I ask Priya, “do you know what is wrong with your brother?” Priya replies with an affirmative “yes!”

Maybe they talk and I’m not in the loop. So I ask her, “what does he say?” She quickly spouts “WAAAAHHHH!!! WAAAAHHHH!!!”

Jurassic Expletive

Tonight we watched an “early release” of Jurassic World. It’s extremely graphic and violent. The movie features a genetically modified T-Rex; basically bigger and more fierce. What could go wrong?

So everything is going well on the dinosaur exhibit island until it’s not. Soon the dinosaurs are running wild on the island ripping everyone apart—it’s a total blood bath!

Apparently the movie stressed Priya out because all of a sudden she runs up to the screen in a panic with her arms flailing and starts screaming repeatedly.

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

These aren’t no Dinosaur Train dinosaurs.

Remy turns 9

Months that is. He has now been on this Earth for as long as he was in the oven. That’s a big life accomplishment for the boy.

I am convinced he is going to walk any day now. I’ve been thinking that for 3 months. Damn it takes humans a long time to learn and do stuff. He is crawling around like an ape though. That’s something.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

But seriously, it won’t be long. I have faith.

We actually had a new development during his nine month picture.

We stood him behind a toy so he could hold on to it and balance himself. Then Jen prepared the ritual tie. As always, he rips it off and starts eating it. He got so involved in eating his tie it soon required two hands. He let go of his toy and was free-standing for the first time ever! He was completely unaware that he was standing by himself as he was going to town on his tie!

There’s hope for this boy. I have a feeling he will be standing in his 10-month picture. Stay tuned.

Babies fucking suck

It is 3:52 AM.

It is truly a miracle that the human race survived—so helpless, fragile, sensitive, and confused. Maybe there is a god after all perpetuating his creation.

All I can say is that I will not miss the baby stages.

I guess this is the payback my mom always warned me about.

Family tradition

I was home alone today with the kids. Jen was showing real estate. So I was in charge of the feedings.

Feeding Remy is such a chore. He is usually so messy and fussy and hates to get cleaned up. It’s never fun. However, Priya is such a great little helper when it comes to Remy. We all know she is great at telling him “no” and tattling. But she is also great at entertaining him—and me—and reducing my stress level.

Remy is only patient for a few minutes in his highchair, then he wants out.
Today was no different. He was pissed and was trying to escape before I was finished eating. Thanks to Priya, I was able to relax a bit and finish my food.
She changed the mood with her usual antics. It was so cute, I ran for the camera.

It never fails. Priya always brightens my day. And notice how she had to stop the action and point out that Remy “spit.”

Many of the fun and games begin around the dinner table. Coincidentally, this happened when I was a kid as well.

Back in the day

When I was a youngster, I don’t think we could get through a meal without belly laughing and someone spitting out their food or liquids exiting a nose. It usually ended with me bent over my plate, laughing uncontrollably, barely able to contain my mouthful of food. Then all of a sudden, WHACK! The old man slaps me in the back of the head, himself laughing and saying, “suck it up boy!” That only perpetuated the situation—chuckles turned into snorting which turned into another slap and more food going in the opposite direction and you get the picture.

Meanwhile, my mom is across the table trying to hold back her laughs for safety’s sake telling the old man to knock it off, “the boy’s gonna choke!” That only makes the rebellious old man want to slap me more. By the end, mom had packed up her plate and headed for the kitchen. She usually finished her meal on the counter, far away from the table and completely disgusted.

What a great time!

I have a feeling that that same tradition will carry on in this Pachl household as well.

Way back in the day

Only two generations ago, mealtime was about respect, prayer, thankfulness, and silence.

My parents told me stories about how when they were kids they weren’t allowed to sit at the table until their father was fully seated. Only then could they be seated. They would begin with a prayer and say thanks. Then everybody would dig in and not much was said. I can imaging the only noise coming from those tables were forks clanking on the plates, cups hitting the table, and the occasional “please pass the mashed potatoes and gravy.”

What the hell happened to the reality I live in? I don’t know, but I’m glad I broke the mold.

Pitter-pattering of little footsteps!

I was practice walking with Remy. We were doing the usual one-hand hold. We’ve been practicing this way for a few weeks now. Prior to that, he required both hands or he wouldn’t budge.

Something’s different

Remy was cruising around the house with the support of my one finger in his sweaty little palm. But something was different this time.

I noticed he was trying to leave me in the dust. He was acting like he didn’t want to hold my finger for support. So I let him go. He collapsed—right to his butt for safety. He does this when he’s not confident and can’t find anything to hold on to. But I noticed he was hesitant to go down. He really seemed like he wanted to take that first step without any support. He just wasn’t quite sure how he was going to do it.

The test

I stood him about two feet in front of me and held out my arms. I cheered him on. He stuck out his tongue and spit and sputtered for about 4–5 seconds. He was probably thinking, “how the hell am I going to do this?” He attempted one step and fell over.

Reset! “Try again,” as Priya would say.

He was so excited he almost couldn’t concentrate. He was ready to go again. I think he knew he was going to do this all by himself. Sure enough! Two steps and he fell into my lap. I threw him into the air with excitement. The little fella was excited too. He had a huge smile. He knew he accomplished something epic.

We tried about ten more times. He was able to walk on his own to me with about a fifty-percent success rate. His personal best was six steps. He also had a couple of four-steppers and a five-stepper.

He walked toward me with his arms out every time, ready to latch on. As soon as he got close enough to me, he would bear hug me and grab on for dear life. It must have been a scary event for him. The fear of tipping over from 10 inches up is nothing to snicker at.

Maybe it was so scary he didn’t want to think about it anymore because after the tenth walk, he crawled right passed me and headed to his room to play toys.

The roster

Remy is just 3 days shy of ten months. He is about the same age as Priya when she started walking.

Next up, who’s going to win the potty training competition?

Ten moons

Remy turned 10 months today. Not a lot has changed. For instance, it is 3:25 AM as I write this and he is in his crib fussing about something. He probably shit himself. It’s hard to believe that we are the most advanced species in this galaxy.

Nonetheless, Remy is slightly more pleasant to be around. Thankfully, he is crying less, but we’re not out of the woods yet. I think he will be a much more likable little guy in the next two to four months.

He does play well with Priya though. Jen and I were watching “American Sniper” one night while the kids played for over an hour in their room together without any outrage. Once when I peeked in to check on them, Priya was reading an animal book to Remy. It was so damn cute! And just tonight when I peeked around the corner, they were both sitting on Priya’s bed. She was telling him stories about mermaids. Remy actually seemed interested.

They enjoy each other’s company with a few exceptions. For example, when they both want the same toy. It truly is amazing how social proof is encoded into our genetics.

Kids at this age are easy to persuade: just want something and soon they will want it too. Here are two real life examples:

  1. A dumb toy, like a wooden block, is sitting there. Neither kid has touched it all day. Then one of the kids just happens to grab it. Boom! The other one wants it madly. All of a sudden it has become the most desirable toy in the room. In fact, cool toys will literally be dropped so a fight can ensue over the stupid wooden block.

  2. Priya will have a plate full of crispy bacon. She won’t eat it. When I try to get her to take even one bite, she says, “all done” and pushes her plate away. Then I say, “I’m hungry. I’m going to eat all of your bacon Priya.” All of a sudden, she yanks her plate back, tells me no, and starts eating her bacon.

Adults continue to act this way, they just do it in different or more subtle ways—so don’t laugh. It is in our genes to conform and take cues from the group and our leaders. I thought it was interesting to witness this first hand with these little kids. I will continue to use psychological techniques to keep the upper hand. It is time to reread “The Psychology of Persuasion”.

Speaking of bacon

Damn can Remy eat. That little shit ate a full slice of extra-large mega-meat pizza from Barro’s this weekend. I told Jenny, it won’t be long before we have to buy two extra-larges: one for us and Priya and one for Remy.

He also eats a couple of eggs and a slice or two of bacon for breakfast. Then he has a four ounce fruit pouch and a little boob juice for desert.

Laughing in the face of fear

Remy is a crazy little guy. He will cry about the smallest things, like just turning your back on him. However, I can rough him up and torture him and he will just laugh in my face.

For instance, if Priya gets in trouble, like she throws a toy at Remy, I can yell at her and she will cower down, cover her eyes with her hands, run off crying, and hide under the table. But if I direct my loudest, deepest, most pissed off voice at Remy, it will simply give him joy. At first, he’ll just stare me in the eyes with a blank look. After a moment of silence, he’ll just start chuckling like I told him “a priest walks into a bar” joke.

The worst part is, after he’s finished laughing in my face, he’ll continue on with his trouble making. Complete disregard for authority. Kids these days.

I can see it in his eyes. Remy won’t be taking shit from anyone. He will be making his own games and playing by his own rules. It’s going to make our job as parents a living hell. However, I have a feeling he will be blazing trails and creating an amazing life once he is unleashed on the world.

Remy loves attention and affection, much more so than Priya. He has a ruggedness about him, yet he’s a loveable little guy with a soft heart. He will definitely blossom into an interesting character.

The other thing he absolutely loves is hanging upside down. You have to be careful when you’re holding him. You must always have a tight grip because without notice, he will decide he wants to be upside down and launch himself backwards.

One of the torture treatments he gets is being swung upside down by his ankles and slammed into the furniture. He just loves that shit and can’t get enough.
Oh, and of course, he will cry when the torture stops.

Standing tall

Remy’s not quite walking on his own yet. He’s still only taking a half dozen steps before he topples over. He loves trying to walk though, no matter how much it hurts.

He’s really good at just standing there and looking cool. He will pull himself up and free stand. The balance and coordination just hasn’t been thoroughly wired in his brain yet. Ten more days and I think he will be a cruising, wobbly bi-pod.

In his 10-month picture, he is actually free standing, even though it looks like he’s leaning on the rock.

Rice evasion

Priya eats like a bird. She takes the smallest little nibbles. I’m talking two millimeters off the corner of a cracker. Minuscule!

At dinner, I’m trying to get her to eat her rice. She won’t. She says, “oh, uck!” I’m holding her head against the chair trying to force her jaw open so I can shovel it in. It’s not working.

This is where I made my first mistake: I eased up and gave her room to think and act.

She immediately redirects attention to the smallest little scratch on her leg. She says, “oh no, scratch” and puts on a frowny face. She’s going after sympathy but I’m not falling for her trick.

Again, I try to force the rice, but it’s futile.

Priya has another trick. She exclaims, “be right back dad!” She casually gets down off her chair and walks to the living room, acting like nothing is going on. When she’s far enough away, she turns to me and says with a smile, “bye bye dad!” and runs off to play with her toys.

She may have won this battle, but she hasn’t won the war. I’ll be better prepared for her trickery next time. Lesson learned: give her an inch and she’ll take a mile.

Remy unloads a dishwasher

I can’t do anything without Remy getting in the way. He must slap everything and put all loose parts in his mouth. The sucky thing is he mostly likes to go after gross stuff, like soggy toilet paper directly from the toilet.

The dishwasher is no different, clean or not. I have to sneakily load or unload it when he isn’t around. If I’m not careful and I clank plates or glasses, his radar locks onto the signal and he beelines to the kitchen.

Today I slipped up. I was unloading the dishwasher and didn’t protect my area. Remy got between me and the dishwasher and attached himself to rack. I couldn’t pull him off without ripping the rack out. I decide to just put dishes away as fast as I can and minimize the damage.

I grab several plates and turn my back. A second later he is holding a heavy glass plate twice the size of his head right over the hard tile floor with one hand! We were about to be plates minus one. I quickly grab it from his hand. As I do, just as quickly he grabs the next plate, another plate, a third plate, two lids, and finally a bowl. I was stuck holding all of this in my two hands.

He then proceeds to crawl into the dishwasher. I am screwed. I call for backup. Jenny!

I’m thinking, those little hinges on the dishwasher door were not designed to leverage a 20 pound kid three feet out. So to protect the hinges while I wait for backup to arrive, I reduce the stress by closing the dishwasher door … with Remy inside. He was actually upside down in the bottom rack.

By the time Jen arrives he had managed to get on his feet. I’m balancing on one foot, arms full of dishes, and the other foot holding the dishwasher closed with Remy pinned halfway inside.

I’m pissed.

He’s having a blast.

But he did look kind of cute. I told Jen, “what the hell, you might as well take a picture.”

Remy inside the dishwasher after he unloads it

He realizes he’s one step closer to his final destination: the counter top

From quadruped to biped

Remy has upgraded his slow and clunky quadruped transport system to a faster, more efficient, though wobbly, biped system. He is becoming more human every day.

He makes lots of noise while he walks: screaming, grunting, groaning. He also spits and sputters like a poorly maintained engine.

Last weekend he really seemed like he wanted to be on two feet—always pulling himself up and practicing that first step. Even though he was tumbling like a house of cards in a hurricane, that didn’t keep him down. I had a feeling he would be getting around on two feet by the end of the next weekend. Today is Wednesday and he’s already spanning entire rooms in an upright fashion.

I wonder what’s next for the crazy little man?

Good job George

What would Priya do without her iPad?

She’s been addicted since she was 6 months old. Back then, she was just hanging out in her baby bouncer, staring at the ceiling. I thought, why don’t I put the iPad in front of her; maybe she’ll learn something. So I tied the pad to the side of the printer in my office at the perfect angle so she could just lay back, relax, and enjoy some YouTube.

This was the best thing I ever did. Jen initially thought it wasn’t a good idea. But I’m a new parent, so I’m testing stuff out and at the same time trying to make my life manageable.

I figured, we’ll start off with some nursery rhymes. They were OK, but she would quickly lose interest. Then I discovered the “ABC Kids TV” channel. It was an instant hit. They have a 50 minute video in which they spend about 2 minutes per letter associating objects and singing songs.

Priya would sit there for the entire 50 minutes, completely engaged. It was awesome. I have to give props to “ABC Kids TV” for teaching Priya the alphabet.

Priya has since mastered the alphabet and moved on to bigger and better things: Peppa Pig.

It’s a great show about a family of British pigs. Priya has drawn a parallel between her family and Peppa’s. There is of course daddy and mommy pig, which is me and Jen, respectively. The little girl and star of the show is Peppa and her baby brother is George. Priya is such a huge fan of the show. I’m surprised she hasn’t picked up a British accent.

Priya has a great imagination. She likes to pretend we are the pigs. The first time she called me daddy pig I laughed my ass off. Jen gets the mommy pig label, which could be offensive if it was coming from someone other than a 2-year old. And of course Remy is “George.”

Remy has a few nicknames already: Bubs, little man, and George. But Priya almost exclusively calls him George now. These are a few of her popular phrases:

George coming. Go! Go! Go!

Oh no. George crying.

No George!

Come on George. This way!

Go away George!

Remy is now making about 10–20 paces before tumbling over. He’s been really persistent with his walking since he became a biped a couple of days ago.

So anyway, I just came home from Target Meister, open the door, and hear, “Good job George!”

It was Priya cheering on her little baby pig brother as he was attempting a practice walk. It was so damn cute.

Priya on the iPad, as usual

Priya watching iPad with goggles

Priya has watched her iPad every which way: in pajamas until 3 AM, naked with goggles, you name it …

Mad iPad skills

She knows how to unlock the iPad, launch YouTube, and play her favorites, like Peppa Pig, Barbie, and more recently, anything mermaid. When she finally finds the perfect show, she taps the super small full-screen button and tunes out the rest of the world—you can’t get her attention when she’s watching. But she has learned so much all by herself.

She even knows how to skip the YouTube ads so she can get right to her show. She sits there with her little finger hovering over the area where the “Skip Ad” button will appear, just waiting for it to pop up. YouTube gets gypped out of every cent of ad revenue when Priya’s at the controls.

I guess the real question is, what would I do if she didn’t have the iPad and the Internet?

Technology is truly amazing. What the hell would we do without it? Thank you Internet for making it all possible!

T minus 1

Remy turned 11 months today. One more month to go and he’ll have a year under his belt.

As well all know, he has been a pain in our asses with his crying about everything. But I think that is starting to change. Since he has been walking now for about a month he has been much more pleasant and just a happier little guy in general—same behavior we saw in Priya. He does a lot of smiling and laughing now.

But we have a new problem. He gets into everything!

Priya vs Remy

When we had Priya, everyone warned us that we better child-proof our house. We got gates, fences, cabinet locks, outlet plugs, etc. All of it was completely pointless. She mostly played with what we gave her and never put anything in her mouth. She did get into a few draws and cabinets once in awhile, but quickly got bored and moved on.

Remy on the other hand, is so persistent and puts everything in his mouth. I think we’ve pulled him from Simone’s dog water over 70 times already. He also likes to chew on dirty, sweaty sandals and anything else that’s nasty. It’s just stupid and annoying. And toilets; jeez, what the hell is so great about an old dirty ass toilet?

He inherited my legs

He is a strong little guy with lots of leg strength. He now squats with his butt an inch from the ground to pick up toys. Then he pops right back up. He definitely got the “bend your knees not your back” memo.

We got another music lover

One new thing is that he likes and listens for music. If he hears a song while he’s playing he’ll stop doing what he’s doing and start bouncing to the beat. He especially loves the theme song from the cartoon train show, Chuggington. I hate it. I wake up with that stupid song in my head. “Wheels to the rails! Clackety Clack!”

R.I.P. Lexi & Simone

My heart aches for Lexi and Simone. I’ve cried for many weeks. My eyes burn from my salty tears. Losing my two best friends has been the most difficult time of my life. Lexi left us almost a year ago, but it is now time to say goodbye to Simone.

Simone was always the easy-going pup with a big appetite. I will miss her floppy ears, big belly, and care-free attitude, but most of all, her love and loyalty. She was an amazing friend and will always be remembered and loved.

Strong to the end

Simone stayed strong without her sister. She never failed to greet us at the door with a wagging tail. Even in her old age she would jump with joy to see us.

Lexi and Simone were tough dogs. They played hard right up to the end. It was unfortunate that Lexi suffered during her last two weeks. I wasn’t going to let the same happen to her sister. I decided long ago that Simone was going out with her boots on and her stomach full.

Simone was still walking with us about five to six miles per week. She was eating healthy and never lost her big appetite. But she was almost 14 and a half years old. I saw some signs and decided to plan her a peaceful farewell. It was the most difficult decision of my life. But I don’t regret it. I know she died without suffering—with her boots on. It was the least I could do for her because she gave so much to me.

Simone's last steak dinner

Simone enjoying her final steak dinner.

A peaceful ending

Simone was queen for a week. We gave her a shampoo bath and lots of extra hugs and attention. In her final two days, she enjoyed five and a half pounds of thick-cut, juicy, tender, grilled to medium-rare top-sirloin steak.

Jen and Remy say goodbye to Simone

Priya hugging Simone before she leaves

Our final goodbyes to our beloved Simone, “huggy bear.”

Dr. Lawmaker came to the house at 10:30 AM to euthanize Simone. We all said our final goodbyes and gave her big squeezes and kisses. She died in my arms, soaked with tears. I didn’t want to let her go.

Mermaids and octopuses

This is probably the last time we’ll use the pool this summer. For only $29, it has provided tons of fun, excitement, and relaxation all summer long. The kids just love it. It is definitely a highlight. Tempers usually flare when it’s time to get out.

The best part for me is, after a couple of hours in the pool, the kids sleep like a couple of rocks for hours. It’s amazing how much energy the water and sun suck out of you.

Backyard pool in September

Swimming skills

Priya is finally not scared of water in her ears or on her face. She can relax and float without freaking out. Now I’ve been teaching her to kick her feet. She can actually swim a little! I’ve been holding her under her butt to guide her around the pool. When she really starts kicking she takes off right out of my hand. We do “circles” and she is so proud of herself.

Remy on the other hand has never been freaked by water. He just dives right in, sucks up a bunch of water, struggles under water for awhile, gets huge eyes, and comes out choking. He’s kind of scary with his no-fear attitude. The pool has a max depth of about 20”. But for Remy’s safety, we only inflate two of the three segments and fill it only halfway. He floats well for a one year old. I have a feeling he will be swimming next summer.

The other breakthrough this summer is that Priya can “dunk.” She can hold her breath and go under for about a second. We’re working on it. But at least she thinks it’s fun.

She loves to dunk me though. The first time she dunked me, with her little hand on the back of my head, she slammed my big honker right into the bottom of the pool. She really wanted to make sure I was in there. She does it without warning too! She does a three-count, but always dunks me on two!

Priya in pool

Remy in pool

Priya holding lizard in pool

You can’t not have fun in a pool.

Pretending is fun

Priya loves to pretend in any setting. She usually relates us to some characters of a show or movie she is currently interested in.

This summer, the backyard pool has become “Little Mermaid,” the movie. The pool was the big blue ocean, Priya was Ariel the beautiful mermaid, and Remy was Ursula the evil octopus.

When Remy would get close, Priya would shout, “Oh no! O-pus! O-pus! Swim away!” It was a fun little pretend skit. I don’t think Remy understood the plot line, nonetheless, he loved chasing Priya.

Baby lizard

We found a super small lizard camping out under our pool tarp. It was enjoying the cool damp shade.

We caught it and released it in the pool. It swam like a tadpole. It was amazingly quick. It was a friendly little guy. Priya and I were able to hold it. It would crawl up and down our arms and onto our backs. Priya was truly fascinated by this little creature. I was worried she would crush it.

Blonde highlights

Marcena did it again. Jen doesn’t get her hair did very often (yeah, I said “did”), but when she does, it always looks lovely.

Jen's new hairstyle with highlights

Priya says, “mom pretty.” She also likes mom better without glasses.

The big 1-2

Remy is officially one year old today. What an amazing life he has led.

Remy's birthday card from Aunt Karen and Lauren

He slept the first third of his life away; what a bum. Then he shit and pissed himself constantly and cried nonstop the second third of his days on this Earth. He then spent the last third of his life learning how to use his legs to stand, and eventually walk.

He has moved onto bigger and better things lately, like climbing up slides and discovering every inch of his 1,450 square-foot cage.

Cake smash

It’s Remy’s birthday today! I can’t believe it has already been one year since Jen popped him out of the oven.

Thus far in his one year of life, he has managed to break, smash, and ruin lots of stuff. So Jen thought it would be perfect to let him smash his very own birthday cake.

I thought it was a great idea, as long as Jen agreed to clean up the mess. I figured I would get lots of awesome, nasty pictures of a filthy, happy baby doing what he loves best. Smashing!

Unfortunately, it did not go as we imagined.

Remy attempting to smash his birthday cake

Remy attempting to smash his birthday cake

Remy attempting to smash his birthday cake

Remy attempting to smash his birthday cake

Remy leaving the smashing of his birthday cake

Remy leaving the smashing of his birthday cake

We placed him about 20 feet from the cake. I figured he would have a running start at it and dive right in. Well, he stumbled and fell a couple of times and required some guidance from Jen to get him to the cake.

OK. Rough start, but now he’s finally at the cake.

There’s going to be a huge mess with cake flying everywhere. Right?


Here’s the play-by-play:

I thought, what the fuck! This is a professional smasher we’ve got here. He beats the hell out of everything. He must be having an off day.

We reset a couple of times thinking maybe he would understand what we were trying to do. Nope. He just got increasingly frustrated with this potentially momentous moment. Then Remy was out of there. He headed straight to the playground.

Next up: Priya

Priya was patiently watching this nonevent. We still had a perfectly smashable cake. So we told Priya to get after it. She knew exactly what to do—and this isn’t even her specialty.

Priya diving face first into birthday cake

Priya with birthday cake all over her face

She dives right in for a big bite. No hesitation.

Priya smashing birthday cake

Priya totally messy from smashing birthday cake

She even did a little smashing with her fist and her face.

Thanks to Priya, this lovely—and I’m sure tasty—Cookie Monster cake didn’t go to waste.

Remy’s 1st shindig

Jen planned a great part for Remy’s first birthday. Neighbors, friends, and family all showed up to celebrate his big day. It was nice to see everyone. Remy really loves people: both observing and entertaining them—very opposite of his big sister.

Remy has no problem going around to meet and “inspect” everybody. If you put out your arms, he will head straight to you and expect to be picked up. He’s definitely a fun and outgoing little guy.

Party fit for a monkey

Because Remy is extremely curious and a total monkey, Jen created a Curious George themed party, from balloons and framed pictures, videos and napkins, down to the birthday cake and deserts. It was all Curious George!

And surprise surprise … you could even eat an actual banana!

Remy's Curious George first birthday cake

The cake was articulately designed. The little bananas even had realistic looking dark patches and spots. It was beautiful, heavy, and surprisingly delicious. The cake was gobbled up in no time. I just wished there was more of it.

Just rip it open

Remy did well opening his presents. He loves tearing into things. However, he does tend to get laser focused on one thing, unaware of the slew of unopened gifts. But not to worry, Cameron kept things moving and helped Remy open a few. If there is one thing kids love, it’s the thrill of opening things. Even Cameron loved opening the gift he got for Remy.

That reminds me, my mom used to wrap up our old toys and shoes. Dang that was fun, even the second time.

Hugs and mushes

After gifts, Remy made his rounds to thank everyone.

Grandma Laurie with birthday boy

Grandpa Steve with birthday boy

The grandparents can’t resist the little birthday monkey.

You just want to keep hugging the little guy. But, he doesn’t sit still for very long. He always has places to go and people to see. You have to be quick with your mushes before he’s on to his next target.

Beyond baby

I am excited as Remy transitions from baby to toddler. The interaction we are starting to experience with him puts a smile on my face. He is a total goof ball and our little monkey.

Happy first birthday son! Let the fun begin.

Space Trip

Priya went on her first school field trip to the Challenger Space Center in Peoria. Parents were invited so Jen and I tagged along, as did Remy.

I thought this was going to be a fun and exciting experience for everyone. As usual, things didn’t go as I imagined.

Story time

The first activity was story time. All the kids gathered around an astronaut who told them about the solar system and answered the kids’ questions. Priya refused to join the group. She latched onto Jen. I could tell she was in a downward spiral at this point.

Meanwhile, I was having a difficult time containing Remy. He wanted to join the group and check out (a.k.a. break) the space props.

Our little guys are on opposite ends of the spectrum for sure. Priya wants to sit quietly in the back of the room and hopes nobody notices her. Remy wants to be in the front of the room so he can make a scene and get all eyes on him.

Astronaut helmet

Next, the kids got into smaller groups. They sat at tables to create astronaut helmets.

All the kids were having a blast, except Priya. This is where she completely lost it. She was shaking and started to cry. Jen took her from the room to calm her. Her cries echoed through the halls.

I felt sympathy and a bit of embarrassment. I was torn. Our poor little girl was having a terrible time, not to mention there were still a couple of hours left.

A big little friend

Emma, an older classmate, saw Priya’s fear and consoled her. She held Priya’s hand, talked to her like an old friend, and made her a part of the group. As a parent, it was extremely comforting to see one of Priya’s peers step in and help our little girl in a big way.

Priya's field trip to space center

field trip to Challenger Space Center

A consoling friend

After a few more activities and exhibits, Priya finally started to relax. I would say she had the most fun catching virtual planets with her friend Bella.

Big blue building blocks

The final activity was the building blocks. Of course all the kids were having fun, as was Priya. She was determined to build something.

Priya's first field trip to space museum

Priya & Remy playing blocks at space center

Big building blocks at the Challenger Space Center

I’m not sure if Priya learned anything about space. However, I think she got a lesson in socializing. It was definitely a good character building trip for all.

Gerber baby

Numerous people have told us that we have made beautiful babies. I must have heard “you have a Gerber baby” over a hundred times by now.

Honestly, early on, I didn’t think our offspring were anything to snicker at. In fact, fresh out of the hole and for months after, they were down right ugly. I can’t believe people say babies are so cute. Most are not, including my own. They look like miniature aliens.

However, both of our babies have evolved into beautiful little creatures. This set of pictures I took of Remy has convinced me that he has modeling potential.

Remy modeling picture

Remy modeling picture

Remy modeling picture

Remy modeling picture

Hair combed or bed head. Clothed or naked. Flip flops or boots. It doesn’t matter. It’s actually hard to get a bad picture of him. He’s a natural.

No matter the reaction or expression he projects, it’s always cute; even when he’s crying (minus all the ear-piercing noise).

Jen said he should get a modeling career so he can start paying for all the stuff he breaks around here.

Nice day

It was a beautiful warm day. Mom and Remy were sleeping so Priya and I decided to relax in the pool.

We are lying there in the warm water with no worries in the world, staring off into the sky. No wind, just complete silence. Then, unexpectedly, Priya says calmly, “Nice day. Nice pool too.”

Rainbow edit

The family was in the backyard enjoying the beautiful weather and the recent rain. All of a sudden I heard yelling.


I ran out back. Sure enough; a big colorful rainbow. One end was arched right over the top of the Mormon temple down the street. I figured it would make an awesome picture.

This was a job for the 200mm. I ran quickly inside and swapped out lenses. By the time I got back outside the rainbow had faded quite a bit. I started snapping. They looked like good pictures, but the damn power lines were in frame. I needed a better shot. So I slipped on my sandals and headed out the front door, down the street, and around the corner. It was too late. The rainbow faded away.

I was pissed. All this excitement for nothing. It really sucks when that perfect shot comes and goes and you miss it.

After a bit of ranting, I decided I wasn’t about to let my effort go to waste. Hello photo editing … goodbye power lines!

There was also a dove in the sky on the very edge of the frame, which seemed out of place. So I took the liberty of moving Mr. Bird to a more appropriate location. Now I have the perfect rainbow picture.

Rainbow over the church temple

Photoshop trivia: If you can see where the two sets of power lines were or where the dove was originally, I will give you a cookie.

I once heard a professional photographer say:

After you take the perfect shot, you’re halfway to a perfect picture.

That couldn’t be more true in my case today.

Halloween comes early

First night out

It is was Wednesday, October 28. Jen was getting Priya all dressed up for the awesome Halloween party she found online. They spent an hour just putting on green witch makeup. We are finally ready to go and can’t wait to have a spooktacular time.

We get to the place and it looks dead. Jen double checks the “announcement.” It was for Halloween 2012, which was on a Wednesday! Oops.

Plan B

We’re hungry and go eat at Chili’s. Needless to say, our scary little witch gets lots of attention because it isn’t Halloween. Our waitress even compliments her with a free desert.

Second night out

It was Friday, October 30. Priya dresses up as an angel this time. We head out to some haunted houses and parties that Jen found online. This time they exist; however, the parties don’t look appropriate for a 1 and 3 year old.

We’re hungry and go eat at the Big House. It kind of feels like deja vu.

Priya in witch costume

Priya in angel costume

Priya got to dress up twice this year to go eat for Halloween.

Haunted house

The fire department put on a haunted house, which was right behind the restaurant. We check it out after we eat. Unfortunately, they required cash, which we didn’t have. By the time we returned with cash in hand they had closed the place down. Again, everyone feels disappointment, especially Priya.

Jen gets on Facebook to see if there is anything going on. Yes! Someone setup a haunted house on their private residence. We’re on our way.

At this point, my expectations were pretty low. The kids were starting to get cranky and tired. I just wasn’t feeling it.

To our pleasant surprise, this little haunted house was amazing and freakishly scary. They had Jen and Priya screaming. Remy of course was trying to rip their masks off; no fear.

These guys did an extremely good job; very elaborate. They even added a little humor to their theme. When we walked into the butcher’s, he slams down his chopper—scaring the piss out of everyone. He then very kindly offers us a bloody human hand and leg. He says “finger foods?” “Leg of Larry?” We were laughing and screaming. It was great!

By the end, Priya was scared shitless. However, she cried all the way home because she wanted to go back.

That haunted house restored our Halloween hope!

Third night out

It was Saturday, October 31. It was actually Halloween. The Internet couldn’t lie to us this time.

Priya dresses up as a witch again, but without the scary makeup. Remy slips into his Scooby Doo costume.

Trick or treat

The kids impatiently head out with empty pumpkin buckets. Our first stop was Cleatis and JD’s—it’s sort of a tradition now. The little guys had a blast running from door to door. After an hour around the neighborhood, they return home with overflowing pumpkin buckets.

They are so excited and juiced up on chocolate and lollipops. Priya can’t unwrap and eat her candy fast enough. Remy is so impatient he eats the candy still in the wrapper.

Trick or treating at Cleatis and JD's house

Kids dress up early to test Halloween costumes

Halloween was literally a week long event this year. The kids loved it. It gave them the opportunity to try out all of their costumes.

Out of control

I just woke up. I go out into the dinning room to tell Jen hi. She looks at me with terror on her face and says, “Remy is out of control. We can’t control him.”

We used to be able to stop him when he was smaller and weaker.

A week ago we used to be able to close all doors to a room to contain him. Now he knows how to unlock and open doors, open a series of drawers to create steps to the top of counters, and stack stuff to help him reach new places. He uses whatever he can, like Priya’s fairy wands, to knock stuff down from high places.

He recognizes buttons the first time he sees them. He’s sending faxes and printing test sheets. He’s turning computers, dishwashers, stereos, humidifiers, lights, and phones on and off. He’s unplugging and plugging in everything that has an electrical cord. He’s disconnecting Ethernet cables. The scariest thing I noticed is he is turning on the gas stove burners. I keep telling Jen, “he’s going to blow us all to hell!”

He has broken so much stuff already. I locked him in the backyard the other day to get a break from his madness. But it wasn’t long before I heard a rock slamming into the big pane window in the dining room. I ran as fast as I could to stop him. He chipped it pretty good. Two more hits and I think we would have had a shattered window and probably a bloody little boy.

What is the reason? Soon the why and the reason are gone and all that matters is the feeling. This is the nature of the universe. We struggle against it, we fight to deny it; but it is of course a lie. Beneath our poised appearance we are completely out of control.


The Frenchman from the Matrix nailed it. I only wish Remy had a poised appearance. He is 100 percent out of control.

The feeling Remy gets from “discovering” is powerful and a force to be reckoned with. The challenge will be directing his energy … his curiosity … toward good while minimizing the damage in his wake and quickly correcting mistakes as life comes.

Just this week I was telling a customer stories about Remy. Ironically, he replied, “is this pay back for your youth?” Unfortunately, yes. My mom always warned me this day would come.

Addicted to power

Remy has a total fascination with power outlets. There is nothing we can say or do to keep him from sticking something in them. He just keeps pulling plugs. It’s getting frustrating scolding him repeatedly—literally over a hundred times now. So my thought was: maybe we should just let him learn a shocking lesson once and that will be the end of it, hopefully.

Will Remy learn a lesson?

The suspense is killing me

It has been quite painful to watch him try to electrocute himself. After many failed attempts, I decided to give him a disconnected outlet to practice with. Maybe that will get it out of his system and we can move on with our lives.

Remy practicing with power outlets

Princess turns three

We celebrated Priya’s third birthday at the park on the twenty-second. She was princess for the day. She had fun riding the merry go round and the train.

Priya has tremendous affection for Ariel, the mermaid. She also likes to pretend Remy is Ursula, the evil octopus, trying to steal her voice. So Jen thought a Little Mermaid cake would be apropos.

Priya turns 3 years old

Priya's third birthday cake

Priya was princess for a day with a mermaid-themed birthday party.


Then on the day of Priya’s birthday we went down to Tucson to spend Thanksgiving with great grandma. We of course went to the park across the lake to play and feed the ducks.

The kids feed the ducks

Forty dollars

When I woke up today the first thing I heard out in the living was “forty dollars.”

It was Priya charging Remy for an onion, a pepper, or some fruit or vegetable. It doesn’t matter because every item at Priya’s store is $40 dollars.

Whether I’m buying a hot dog at her concession stand at the park or Remy is buying tea at her tea party, everything is forty dollars.

So bring a fat stack of crisp Jacksons when you shop at any one of Priya’s numerous establishments.

Where did she get her pricing?

Priya has been charging $40 for all of her items for many months now. I could not figure out why. But it just occurred to me this morning when I overheard her proclaim her classic price.

Several months ago I sold a bunch of stuff on Craigslist. Coincidentally, I priced most of the items at $40. As I sold each item, Jen would ask me, “how much did you get?” The answer was usually, “$40!”

I had a few items priced at $45 and $50, but some bargain shoppers would jew me down to—you guessed it—forty dollars. After several $40 sales, Jen would laugh as she asked, “how much?” It was like $40 became this magical price point for everything sold.

I have a feeling Priya has been paying attention to the market and pricing accordingly.

Black and yellow

We first attempted potty training with Priya back in January. Jen and I were of course sick of changing rancid, shit-smeared diapers. We just wanted Priya to make her deposit directly in the big boy toilet, making it the city’s problem, not ours.

Unfortunately, Priya wasn’t ready to let go of her diapers. It was all she had ever known. We struggled with her many times throughout the year trying to train her. All attempts ended in failure and frustration. She would cry before going to the potty, while on the potty, and even after the potty. She made it very clear that she needed her diaper. She would cry and yell for it.

A wise old pro

My mom once told me many years ago—even before Priya—that every kid is different and there is nothing you can do if the kid is not mentally ready. I wasn’t buying it. I was sure there had to be a way to force, bribe, or coerce the child into going potty.

So what does every good parent do when they are looking for definitive answers?

They turn to the Internet.

I scoured blog posts, user comments, baby-centric forums, and medical sites. I finally came to the conclusion that my mom was right. So we stopped forcing the issue with Priya.

Lesson learned

So what did we do?

We never failed to casually mention that there is a toilet where this stuff can go. In fact, we got her to habitually chant, “no pee pee in the diaper” every time we changed her diaper. This went on for about five months, but those were just words without meaning.

We also made her watch the Elmo Potty Time video. We made it apparent that not everyone wears diapers and that it’s actually fun, freeing, and stylish to wear panties. So we kept talking about this issue, but not forcing it.

Funny side note

Priya likes to help sort the laundry. For instance, she piles up “Remy’s shirts,” “mommy’s socks,” and “daddy’s panties.”

Priya is “ready”

Over the last three weeks Priya started to show less resistance toward the potty and without crying. Our approach hasn’t really changed. She just became “ready.”

The rule was, she tells us when she had to go so we could help her. But all of a sudden just this week, she is running to the bathroom by herself, unannounced, and just doing the deed like a big girl. We told her that she would be a big girl like Princess Elsa and Anna (from Frozen) if she went to the potty by herself—that seemed to resonate with her.

It has been a long time coming for Jen and I, but Priya has been putting pee and poo in her Lil’ Loo Potty with very few accidents. But from our perspective, we have only shifted the dirty issue from diaper to training potty. The next step is to cut out the middlemen (Jen and I) and send these little biological waste packages directly to the city via the big girl toilet.

2 AM accident

Because Priya has been doing so well and wearing her underwear all day, we’ve been forgetting to put a diaper on her overnight. Most of the time she wakes up dry anyway. But at two this morning, Priya comes into my office and says, “go potty.” I rush to help the half-sleeping child, but it was too late. She felt bad about soiling her under britches, but I was still proud of her.

As Elmo famously sings, “accidents happen, and that’s okay.”

What do you call it?

So what do you call shitting and pissing when you’re training a toddler?

Well Jen wanted her to say “push a poo” and “squeeze a pee.” I tried to get her to say “make sausage” and “take a wiz.” But Priya created her own labels: black and yellow. It is simple and descriptive, yet discrete.

It’s also easy to create songs with these two potty words. (Imagine an energized crowd at a high school football game).

Let’s go yellow! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)

We used to do lots of singing during potty time. Now there’s more concentration and less motivational tactics. It’s shit and get off the pot.

Tucson day trip

Priya was invited to Cooper’s birthday at the Tucson zoo. Jen jumped on the opportunity to make a day out of it. She planned, after the late morning party, that we would tour the zoo, go eat, and end the night with a walk through Winterhaven.

Reid Park Zoo

The zoo is a little more cozy than the Phoenix Zoo with a lot less walking.

The family at the Tucson zoo

I think the kids enjoyed the zoo. Priya got to run around with her friend Bella. Remy of course was a handful—always off the path and going in the opposite direction.

Winterhaven Festival of Lights

It was the 66th annual festival. I’m actually surprised I haven’t heard of it before. It was quite spectacular and bigger and brighter than I expected. The kids I know loved it because there was a lot of pointing and oohing and ahhing coming from the decked-out double stroller.

Pimped out stroller

That’s right, Jen pimped out the stroller with super bright LED Christmas lights. She also gave the kids glow sticks. The baby carriage got tons of attention. It was unique and an attraction of its own. It was easy to get lost in the crowd, especially while I was taking pictures. The stroller became my North star.

Double stroller decorated with lights

Dedicated momma

It was a great day but a long one. My Nexus 5 Android says we walked 13,486 steps. I actually felt old and worn out. Now I know how my parents must have felt when I wanted to go go go while they were dragging ass.

Jen was the real workhouse though. At one point she was holding Remy in one arm, breast feeding him, while pushing Priya in the double stroller and keeping tabs on me so I didn’t get lost in the crowd. The best thing is, she did it all covertly in the crowd of people. She’s damn good and gets the job done.

Sugar-coated moments

I just witnessed something so sweet.

Remy tripped and fell.

Priya, being concerned, goes over to him and helps him up. Then she grabs him by both shoulders, bends down to get eye to eye with him, and says “OK sugar?”

Creative Christmas crusade

To celebrate Christmas, Jen planned a very creative winter journey through northern Arizona with three overnight stays at Mayer, Williams, and Pine. She kept the destinations and the activities along the way a surprise.

I drove, but didn’t know where the hell I was going. I was at the mercy of the commander in chief. All I knew was that we were headed north. I was not looking forward to the cold weather we were about to experience.


We embarked on December 22 headed north to the high desert. It was a cold rainy day. We had been driving for about an hour and a half. Then we got on a washed out narrow dirt road for several miles—it felt like a cow trail. Coincidentally, we saw nothing but cows. The road was carved into the steep canyon walls. The edge of the one-lane road dropped straight down hundreds of feet into the canyon. Then off in the distance I saw a strange set of structures. It looked like a prison complex from a futuristic movie. To be honest, I was a little worried.

I asked Jen, does this have anything to do with aliens? She said, “yeah.” All I could think of was anal probes and bovine dissections. I thought, how the hell could this be a Christmas vacation.

Finally, we arrived at Arcosanti. Fortunately, it has nothing to do with aliens or prison. It is an arcology laboratory focused on innovative design, community, and environmental accountability.

Arcosanti visitor's center and cafe

There is a lot to see and do here with many workshops and tours. Because of the cold wet weather and the fact that Bubs was a total pain in the ass, we unfortunately didn’t experience any of it. I have a feeling we will go back someday.

Polar Express

On December 23 we continued north to Williams just west of Flagstaff. Again, I had no idea where we were going. Eventually, we pulled up to a big red Santa Fe caboose. Jen excitedly announced, “this is where we’re staying tonight!”

Priya watches “Dinosaur Train” and instantly recognized our next stay. She absolutely loved it, especially when she saw the big ladder up to the top bunk bed, which she called dad’s bed. Priya and I slept there. Jen and Remy took the bottom bunk. James and Debi joined us and took the bed on the opposite end of the caboose, which is where we snapped a family picture. For the record, Jen forced us to wear the elf suits.

Family picture in our caboose

The caboose was definitely cozy. Jen made Debi open one of her Christmas gifts early. It was Poo Pourri; very convenient.

Spritz the bowl before you go and no one else will ever know!

After rigorous Poo Pourri testing (it actually works), we were off to see Santa at the North Pole via the Polar Express.

Polar Express golden ticket

Polar Express train artwork

Grandma got golden tickets for everyone!

Boarding the Polar Express train

Riding the Polar Express train

The Polar Express

After a trip through the magic tunnel with everyone screaming, we arrived at the North Pole. All the kids had their eyes glued to the windows looking for old Saint Nick. What do you know, there he was, preparing his sleigh. Then all of a sudden he vanished. To our surprise, he boarded our train and paid us a visit. I could tell Priya was simultaneously excited and scared. Santa handed our sweet little girl a magic Christmas bell. She loves Santa and has been talking about him nonstop all week. So this was quite a treat for her.

All in all, there was lots of singing, cookies, hot chocolate, screaming, and of course Santa. I think it is safe to say the kids loved the Polar Express experience.

“The Cabin”

On Christmas Eve morning we headed to Pine to stay at the McDowell Cabin. The first thing we did was head out back to build a snowman. The last time I erected one was about 25 years ago. It was a very nostalgic experience. I felt like a kid again; especially watching my little ones play in the snow.

Priya making her first snowman

Remy kissing his first snowman

The kids make their first snowman!

Priya and Remy were thrilled. Priya was so helpful as usual. She gave the snowman a rock solid smile and pine cone ear muffs. Jen fetched the hat, pipe, and red scarf.

On the other hand, Remy was constantly deconstructing poor Frosty. So I strategically relocated Remy in the garden away from our snowman—the return trip required some heavy-duty navigation for a one-year old. This bought us some time so we could complete Frosty and gave Priya a chance to calm down. She really gets pissed off when Remy breaks stuff.

But I have to say Remy was pretty cute. Once we finished, he bombarded old Frosty with lots of kisses on his stick nose and snowy cheeks.

We also threw a few snow balls. The snow was perfect—sticky, wet, and heavy. These are the kind of snowballs that when properly placed will bring a grown man to his knees.

Last minute decorations

Priya holding her Ariel ornament

Priya and Grandma hanging Ariel on the tree

Priya loves her princesses, especially Ariel. So there must be an Ariel ornament. Grandma helps her place it safely on the tree just out of Remy’s reach.

What we’ve all been waiting for

It was Christmas morning. We knew Santa brought presents because we heard him knock down the stockings hanging from the fireplace mantel at 6 AM—talk about a “clatter.” Once the kids had their morning coffee and got their blood flowing, the wrapping paper was flying. As the kids were opening their presents it started to snow. It was the stereotypical white Christmas morning.

After spending Christmas Eve and Christmas day in Pine we headed home. I’m sure James and Debi were happy to finally get some peace and quiet.

It’s always nice to be home—especially when there are presents under the tree waiting to be opened. The kids tore right in. There were gifts from the Pachl grandparents, mom, dad, and Priya’s teacher Pamela.

Jen assembles Christmas toys

The box is always one of the best gifts

42-step car track assembly and a box of fun.

To be honest, I’m not sure why the kids get so many toys because they rarely play with them; the toys just keep piling up. For instance, the piano box got more play than the actual piano. I’m just saying.

A wise man named Ian Denham once told me:

All the gifts are soon forgotten but the experiences and family trips are what the kids will forever remember.

The crusade part

The Christmas trip was a hit as well as creative. Hats off to Jen as always.

However, with Remy’s blowing chunks just 30 miles into our trip, crying and screaming until 3 AM the first night, constantly breaking everything he touches, it felt like a crusade at times. The baby stage is wonderful!