Friday, August 31, 2007

Little Abbey At 15 Months

When I sat down to write this months Little Abbey update, I almost didn't know where to begin. It's not that so much has changed, though there have been a few significant ones, but because if feels as if she has been that way almost forever. Time spent with Little Abbey is a slow fast time. Comfortably slow when you spend it as when compared to the next day, everything is about the same. But terribly fast when I look back at pictures or past blogs and see how different she is today than back then. It just seems terribly confusing so I hope you all can figure it out as I sort through them in no particular order.

But there is no mistaking why I write about her learning to walk as the first topic. SHE CAN WALK! About two weeks ago, while we were enjoying the evening, she turned around from the couch and walked two thirds of the way across the living room. She did it a couple more times and then it was bedtime. The next day we went down to my parent's place for the afternoon and all she did was walk, including clear across the driveway and up the long sidewalk to the house. From that moment on, she has done nothing but walk everywhere. The first few days were in some sort of half sideways crablike shuffle with lots of spills but she has progressed rapidly to where she rarely falls down and walks in a straightforward E.T. kind of waddle. Even that look is quickly disappearing as she gains confidence and experience. Last weekend on our impromptu trip, she would have been unhappy sitting in her stroller for that long so we just popped her out and let her roam around. We spent a couple hours touring that steamer and she has never been happier exploring her world. Many, many people told us life would change and that she would be into everything once she learned to walk. Well because she learned to walk later than most, she had been into everything for a long, long time. Perhaps once she gets a little faster, I might whistle a little different tune but for now, things are the same except she walks everywhere.

As I've mentioned before, she babbles all the time but struggle as I might, I fail to make any sense of it other than to know that she uses the same babble for certain object. My scientifically wired brain just can't grasp the abstract sounding tones and make them into some common word. But what I have come to realize recently is that she knows lots and lots of words even if she can't say them in a way I can make sense of them. For example:
1. She knows how to throw something away in the kitchen trashcan when told no matter what part of the house she is in.
2. She can go get a book when you ask her by name.
3. She can go get her trike when you ask her by name.
4. She can go get a diaper when you ask her by name.
5. She can point to her nose, belly, and mouth by name.
6. She can go get her shoes and attempt to put them on.
7. She can put objects back as long as she recently got them from some kitchen drawer.
8. She knows what I mean when I say it is time to eat.
And these are just some of them off the top of my head that I realized. Even if these objects aren't even in the same room, you just mention their name and she is off to retrieve them. This is really handy when I need my sandals and she goes and gets them for me wherever I may have left them. So after coming to realize that she does have a large vocabulary already even if she doesn't speak it in a way I can understand, I'm happy.

One little thing that she once used to do a long, long time ago but then lost the ability and recently regained it these last couple months was the ability to wave goodbye or hello. Now she does it all the time once again, even if I am just a foot or two across the dinner table.

Another cute little things Little Abbey does is brush her teeth when asked. Mom of course loads the toothbrush up with a spot of toothpaste and hands it to her and she will walk around brushing her teeth, all six of them with the seventh poking at the gums. After she has finished, we will lift her up to the sink where she will hold the toothbrush under the water and then tap the water out on the edge of the sink just like mom and dad does. Every time I see her do that I can't help but lose myself in the cuteness.

Geri mentioned this about Evan in her blog but Little Abbey is the pro of tantrums and has been for some time. Since she was about 12 months old, she would kneel down and put her forehead on the floor whenever she was upset with us. As the months go by, she has added to this act. For example, if mom took away her empty snack bowl so she wouldn't play with it and break it, she would go find me and after making sure that I was watching proceed to kneel down and howl. If I don’t respond in a quick enough time, which is normal since I let her cry it out, she will look up now and then to make sure I am still watching her. Sometimes if she feels that this isn't working, she will fling her arms over her head and let herself fall over backwards. Fortunately she has learned only to do this when she is on the couch or other soft object.

Almost without trying, we weaned Little Abbey of the pacifier. Although we had said that she could keep it until she voluntarily gave it up so to prevent teeth alignment ruining thumb sucking, we still secretly hoped that it would be sooner rather than later. There are still some kids in our circle that are only just being weaned of it at almost three years of age. I don't know about you but I just find it kind of disturbing in a way to see a three-year-old kid with a pacifier in his mouth running around. Kind of reminds me of Hannibal Lector. So anyway, we forgot to pack her pacifier in her daycare bag one day a couple weeks ago. She only used it anyway during her nap at daycare and at night at home and Mrs. Z said she did just fine taking the nap. So we purposely forgot to give it to her that evening when we put her to bed and she has done without it ever since. Most importantly, she hasn't replaced it with thumb sucking. So the bottle and pacifier are now history and I hope next up are the diapers.

Along that line, we've already started the potty training with the purchase of a brand new kiddy potty at a garage sale for a couple dollars. Right now she still thinks of it as a cool chair that her parents put her on whenever they take her diaper off but in time, I'm hoping she will learn. A Russian friend of ours said that in her country, they typically start training them by one year old or as soon as they can walk to be potty trained. I don't know why Americans are so different in this aspect as Mrs. Z is still working on potty training some three year olds and I think all of the two year olds are still learning. I can't wait to get out of putting on diapers, even if my wife seems to do change the lion’s share of them.

Well I'm sure there is more that I'm missing but this is turning into a Phil length blog post and I don't want to get into that happen. Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Truth About Hog Confinements

Once again, a farmer trying to save his farm in our county is trying to improve his financial bottom line by diversification into livestock. To do so, he has to file a plan under the Department of Natural Resources who them rate him on a point scale that the farmer passed with flying colors. In recent years however, it seems as if the public seems to have a say on what this farmer does with his own private property when he has already proven that pollution will not be an issue. The county board of supervisors held an open meeting to allow the public to comment on the issue and as usual, 95% of them have no earthly idea what actually happens on a confinement and feeding operation or CAFO, which they call it in a snide tone of voice.

A local hog farmer set things straight over a year ago in a letter to the editor and our local rag fortunately had the guts to reprint it again. It is one of the best letters on the subject I have found and I wish to reprint it here. Enjoy and learn something.

From Fords to Hogs, 30 Years Changes Most Things
By Doug Johnson, Fairfield livestock farmer and member of Jefferson County Pork Producers and the Iowa Cattleman's Association.

Thirty years ago (1975), a new top-of-the-line Ford car cost $6,000. Now (2005), a new top-of-the-line Ford car costs $30,000. Thirty years ago, almost everyone who farmed raised hogs. Farrow (when pigs are born) to finish (sold). Thirty years ago, pigs were farrowed outside in the summer. The pigs were raised in the wind, rain, sun and predators. Newborn pigs could die from too much sun (sunburn), from rain by drowning and getting a cold from the wind while they were wet and predators that would kill and eat the pigs. Winter pigs were farrowed inside in unheated lamps. The pigs would be born and work their way to the sow's (mother pig) belly for food and warmth. If the pig went the wrong way, it could get chilled, then be sick or freeze to death. The pigs also could be crushed by the sow. In 1975, when pigs were farrowed, they were left with the sow until they were 50 pounds. One to two times while the pigs were with the sow, they would get scours (a form of diarrhea that could be fatal). When the pigs got scours, they required much medication.

Today's hog business, sows are farrowed and the S.E.W. (segregated early weaning) pigs are weaned at 10 days of age to protect the babies from bad germs natural to the sow. The pigs are moved to an off-site nursery for special care and nutrition: this step eliminates the scours. When the pigs weigh 50 pounds they are moved to a finishing building and raised to market weight. The farrowing, nursery and the finishing building are computer climate controlled. To the pigs, a desired temperature of 65 to 80 degrees for comfort depending on their size. When the buildings are empty of hogs, the buildings are pressure washed and disinfected. By raising hogs this way, much less medication is used per pig than in the old days. Better for the pigs and better for the consumer.

All animals create manure. Thirty years ago manure was mostly solid. It was loaded and hauled to the nearest field and spread just to get rid of some of the manure. Usually spread in the same field year after year just because it was close. Today, most manure is used as a liquid fertilizer. The manure is injected into the soil to prevent run-off pollution, help control odor and to capture the full fertilizer value. Today's large confinement buildings need a manure management plan. The plan is on file with the Department of Natural Resources. The plan states as to which fields receive manure fertilization and how much can be applied. For a 1,200 head finishing building, the manure could be applied to 160 to 240 acres, depending on the nutrient needs of the soil. The value of manure can be $30 to $60 per acre. This means no commercial fertilizer is needed for one to two years of crops (corn and soybeans).

The livestock industry creates many jobs not only in production, but in processing and retail. Livestock also generates many byproducts used in other industries. In 2004, 52 percent of an 11.8 billion bushel corn crop was used by U.S. livestock. Hogs consumed 11 percent of the corn crop. In 2004, 54 percent of a 3.1 billion bushel soybean crop was utilized by U.S. livestock. Hogs consumed 13 percent of the U.S. soybean crop. Day in and day out, the investment and expansion in the U.S. livestock production is without financial support of the government. No loan deficiency payments (LDP), counter cyclical payments of conservation reserve payments (CRP) or any other government payments. Agriculture's savior: Ethanol! Ethanol plants being considered, being build for production will use 3.9 billion bushels of corn. That is well short of the 6.1 billion bushels of corn the livestock industry purchases yearly.

Bet you forgot about the Ford car of 1975 for $6,000 and the Ford car of 2005 for $30,000. Thirty years ago, farmers farrowed and then finished the pigs. They could make $20 per head profit for 300 head or $12,000. Today, some farmers only do only farrowing and some other do finishing. A farmer that finished hogs can make $5 to $10 per head of an average of $7.50 profit per head. To have the same money today as 30 years ago, a farmer would have to finish 4,000 hogs per year.

Iowa is an agricultural state! We have large and small farm equipment on roads, grain dryers howling day and night and livestock odors. All animals create odors - dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs and even humans. Pork industry people are experimenting with ways to control odors. Some day someone will come up with a product that you feed to animals and the manure doesn't smell. I just wish I had a chemical background to invent such a product, then I wouldn't have to raise livestock for a living

Meat Filled Vegetarians

I recently received a comment from Woody of Woody's Rocky Ridge blog and as I always do with newcomers to my comment section, I swooped in to check him out. Instantly he struck a chord with me when I read his blog post entitled PETA….Me? and it reminded me of my own dealings with "wanna be hippies born 30 years too late".

I live among a whole flock of such creatures who worship their Hindu Gods and meditate. Part of their brainwashing is to avoid meat so most are vegetarians, at least when around others of their own kind. More on that in a moment. This is also the reason why we have a half dozen strictly vegetarian restaurants in town and why almost all the others offer a selection of vegetarian dishes on their menus. I don't complain because I love my vegetables and there probably isn't another town of 15,000 inhabitants in the world with two French, two Chinese, three Mexican, two Indian, one Thai, one Turkish, one Caribbean, plus more than a dozen assorted normal U.S. fare and assorted fast food restaurants. I've been hunkering for an authentic German restaurant but evidently not many Maharishi hail from Germany.

As I have stated several times before, many of my circle of friends are Maharishi mostly because I am married to a woman native to the Philippines. Many of the Maharishi are from foreign countries and thus tend to congregate together. This circle of friends consist of two parts, those of us who work and live here in town and are Maharishi-lite and those that are students at the University that the Maharishi constructed in the center of the known galaxy which is on the north side of town and are required to follow all his teachings, including vegetarianism.

So it is with great private amusement that I watch them gorge on meat every time they come to one of our social gatherings. I say gorge because they will fill up their plate with whatever dish has meat and then go back later for the vegetable dishes… if they have room. Many a time I have been looking forward to a lumpia shanghai (fried shell filled with pork) only to see nothing but a few crumbs left on the plate and a dozen Maharishi students chowing down with a half dozen on their plate.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Unlike some people who feel that America is dead, there is at least one group of people who feels that America is invincible. I would of course be talking about none other than the Maharishi who recently dedicated the Tower of Invincibility!.

What is the Tower of Invincibility? The tower of invincibility is a 45 foot tower covered with marble tiles and topped with a stepped dome and gold-colored kalash. It was dedicated here at the center of the universe in Fairfield, Iowa on July 29th.

Isn't 45 feet kind of small to portray Invincibility? Yes but they ran out of marble and were forced to stop.

What is a kalash? Kalash is an Indian word meaning sacred pot. I have no idea why they added a gold colored sacred pot to the tower but that is what the paper said and so I ran with it.

Who would design such a thing? Obviously it would be Minister of Architecture of the Global Country of World Peace Dr. Eike Hartmann who had to have French doors installed on his office to fit hit title onto the frosted glass. Of course he designed a building where the "city could gather in sufficient number to practise (sic) Yogic flying" but because it is only big enough for maybe a dozen flying people, there must have been some disconnect.

I understand it is for flying people but why? To commemorate the Invincible America Assembly which feels that if they get sufficient people meditating for world peace that they could "create an influence of such intense coherence in the collective consciousness of the nation that the nation will rise immediately to invincibility."

What would this intense coherence in my collective consciousness feel like? "It will be just like when you are very thirsty, and someone gives you a glass of delicious water. When you drink it, you feel relief immediately." I'm guessing a severe ice cream headache is closer to the truth.

I still don't understand. Can you put it in easier terminology? "The youngsters will be serving as a powerful adjunct to the government by virtue of their deep experiences of the Unified Field during their daily routine in their high school, together lifting up, bubbling in bliss in Yogic Flying. Functioning from that level of the fundamental unifying force of creation, the gravitational force, they will stimulate the Unified Field and enrich the whole national consciousness to the point where it is impregnable, invincible, and impenetrable. In the Vedic Tradition, this is called Rashtriya kavach, a national armour of invincibility. This will created by the children of the nation in the Maharishi Tower of Invincibility."

Um…. okay. Now that this is built, what is going to happen? The Prime Minister of the Premier of this country, no idea who this is, will make his office at the top where they can work in an environment of intense coherence.

How many people are needed to create this environment of intense coherence for the Prime Minister of the Premier of the United States? Maharishi has said that to create a nation of invincibility, you need the square root of one per cent of the nation's population or in the case of the United States with 300 million people, only 1730.

How many people do they have already? The Maharishi have had well over 2000 practitioners here in town for the last forty years.

Why aren't we already invincible? Good question.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Maharishi Vedic City Blues

Just a quick update on Maharishi Vedic City (a.k.a. Maharishiville) and their attempted use of eminent domain that I blogged about earlier HERE and HERE. The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors passed a bill stating they were against Maharishiville taking the Palm farm using eminent domain for the purpose of building a city park outside of town. The board later declined to issue another bill stating they were against the Palm's building a hog operation on the farm saying it set a bad precedent for what private citizens could do with their own land. The Maharishi still haven't given up and tried to get the Jefferson County School Board to rule and they rightfully declined to consider the matter since it has nothing to do with running schools other than to eliminate some money from their funds due to the tax exempt status of city parks.

In yesterday's paper, the Palms graciously submitted the legal document for public review that the Maharishi want him to sign basically stating that the Palms give up the right to practice agriculture on their 150 acres of agricultural land for the next 20 years. From the accompanying letter, I don't think they are going to sign it which means that the Maharishi are going to have to take this to court to use eminent domain.

But by far the most humorous thing to happen out of all this is that a song has been written about the whole situation and can be listened to via the Internet. The lyrics have been posted below for your enjoyment.

“The Maharishi Vedic City Blues”
By Tony Arnold @
Gray Mortuary Recordings

A hundred years before
The Maharishis came to town,
One family’s farm began to feed
Its neighbors from the ground.
They’re trying to run the family off—
“…and we’ll pay you for your pain,
but if you don’t sell, we’ll steal it.
It’s called eminent domain.”

The cult that came to Iowa
Bought a school, and then the town.
They tried to take a family’s farm
So they could tear it down.
But not a single one had worn
A pair of working shoes…
It’s food for thought, those
Maharishi Vedic City Blues.

There’s too much history, too much at stake:
The farmer needs a living, the farmer needs a break.
There’s no consideration, no common sense:
Just too much fiber, too much incense.

When they started talking Sanskrit
It was more scarier than funny;
Declared themselves all organic,
And even printed their own money.
It didn’t matter the town attorney
Was in bed with the little mayor:
They were all in league to screw the man
With the farm that was already there.

The nuts that came to Iowa
Preached “expansion” and “ideals,”
But all they really seem to do
Is meditate their shady deals.
But peace-nazis don’t ever want
To walk in another’s shoes…
It’s food for thought, these
Maharishi Vedic City Blues.

There’s too much history, too much at stake:
The farmer needs a living, the farmer needs a break.
There’s no consideration, no common sense:
Just too much fiber, too much incense

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

14 Months: A Little Abbey Update

Here is my monthly Little Abbey update and as always, in no particular order:

With ever increasing boundaries both physical and mental, it is becoming hard to keep Little Abbey entertained. She has figured out how to get into about anything under the height of three feet and does so regularly. Why is this spoon in my filing cabinet and how did my tiny metallic St. Francis pendant get all the way downstairs to the living room floor are all questions I find myself asking. Childproof cabinet clips are liberally distributed now around the house to drawers containing chemicals dangerous to humans or simply containing objects that we wish to remain intact. I feel like a prisoner under full lockdown in my own home because I have to spend minutes trying to unlock a cabinet just to get the dishwasher soap or an extra garbage bag.

In the beginning, we had a toy box containing all of Little Abbey's toys and another container for her books. They were stacked neatly against the wall of the living room and for the large part remained there. Now, not only do the boxes move as she pushed them around, but the toys appear to be randomly distributed through the rest of the house as if a huge explosion had happened with bright colored plastic shrapnel that sings nursery songs. No longer can I risk walking down the stairs at night for fear of stepping on something that might imbed into my foot or send my hurling out into space. To compensate I have developed a shuffling gait where my feet never leave the floor and regularly discharge my built up static electricity on anything I touch.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing developments is the arrival of the terrible twos a year early. Tantrums when an object that we value and whom Little Abbey believes is a toy is taken away from her, come now with frequency. When we tried to take a board game away from her full of little game pieces that could choke her, she repeatedly slaps at the game and screams until it is out of reach and then cries to let us know of her displeasure. Fortunately since her mind is still developing, she forgets within minutes and is on to something else.

Another physical boundary she is starting to break into is the outdoors. She has regularly been outdoors on walks in her stroller or sitting in her chair afraid to touch the grass. But in this last month she has overcome her fear of grass and her world has expanded. Just last night as my wife and I were returning from a day away, we drove up to the house where Little Abbey and Grandma were playing out in the front yard. Little Abbey was pushing around her plastic trike when she first spotted us still in the street retrieving the mail. Quick as a wink, she dropped to her hands and knees and was heading for us as fast as she could, deeper into knew territory.

I probably mentioned this one before but Little Abbey really loved to swim and swing. She swims at Mrs. Z's house about once a week and at our house on the weekends. She will splash and roam around exploring this watery world until she is prune skinned and tired. Most of the time she will always complain when it is time to get out but last weekend I decided to wait her out. It took well over an hour before she decided she had enough. Her other great love is to go to the park where they have those child swings. I have yet to find her limit on those as it is always me who tires first of pushing her now and then while she squeals and laughs as she arcs through the air.

Although Little Abbey is still small in the vocabulary department but I'm beginning to think it is just us. Both of my wife and I have scientific brains incapable of understanding baby talk. Although she can say a few words, most are unrecognizable to me. But lately I have noticed that she uses the same babble for the same object or desired action. Genetics can be a funny thing and although I started speaking normally, my father didn't start speaking until he was four years old, his excuse being that he just didn't have anything he wanted to say. So maybe the "non-speaking until late" gene skipped a generation.

Little Abbey is still crawling though she spends most of her days on her feet. She walks behind as she pushed her toy box, booster seat, rocking chair, trike and about anything light enough to move. I know it is helping her strength because she has a game of pushing me over whenever I am on the floor and clamoring up on top of my chest and bouncing up and down in victory. About once a day, I will see her take a step without hanging on to anything and once I have seen her take two steps. She also has resumed her love of standing up and walking as long as one of us is holding both of her hands. I'm guessing this will be the last time I write about her not walking.

What she makes up in walking she makes up in climbing. That kid is fearless. Since we have a split-level house with two sets of stairs, she frequently climbs up and down them to go where the action is or to just explore on her own. We will be sitting in the living room and suddenly realize that it is quiet… too quiet and have to start searching upstairs or downstairs to see where she is at. She loves to push her chair around to various places and then stand up on it to get a higher perspective. She will climb up onto the couch and then stand on the armrest to get the highest view in her world. She would climb right up on the back of the couch if she could but hasn't been able to date… fortunately. Another favorite is climbing into her toy box where she can spend a couple hours playing on top of a pile of toys. But with the ability of climbing come ouchies and booboos as she occasionally falls, tips over or slips. I don't let her do anything life threatening but I feel as if she has to learn the principle of action and reaction, and she does. I've seen her make an error and after consoling her tears, she has learned and goes about what she had been doing another way or avoids it all together.

One of my fears with having a child was that it would interfere with our love of houseplants. We probably have upwards of forty plants scattered throughout the house, all but a couple of them within arm's reach of a baby. I figured that we would constantly have to battle broken pots, dirt in mouths and uprooted plants for several years. But the amazing thing is that Little Abbey quickly learned that all plants were off limits to her. We could ring her in plants and she would probably cry because she can't think of a way to get through to the other side without touching them. All it took was a couple accidents where she did turn over a plant and a few firms "no's" when she was getting ready to play with them and she learned. Now we could leave her in a room full of plants and she wouldn't harm a leaf on them even if she spent all day among them.

As Little Abbey has grown older, she certainly has developed taste preferences. We first started noticing this a couple months ago when she started picking out meat in any dish and putting it aside. Up until recently I thought that this was because she didn't like the taste or texture of it but now I know it is because there is something better amongst it. If given only meat, she would eat it but given a choice of say meat and pasta, she picks out the pasta and eats it. If she had eaten all the pasta she would then probably eat the meat but by then she is full. I just realized this theory recently because she eats so much in one sitting that we have to give her several different types of foods to fill her up. For example, she loves bananas and she loves watermelon but when we gave them to her both at the same time, she ate all the watermelon first before she even ate one bite of the bananas.

Another slight change in Little Abbey has occurred with her sleeping patterns. She still sleeps all night and is an early riser with her mom and dad, but her naps have changed. If she wasn't as tired or was over tired, she would fuss and holler a while before falling asleep. Now she has picked up the habit of just lying in bed and passing the time away talking to herself. If she is tired she will eventually fall asleep and if she isn't, she will just lie there and talk for a half hour or forty-five minutes before she is ready to come back downstairs. She lets us know by saying, "Da?" (Dad) really loud over and over in a questioning manner until I come to get her.