Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Little Abbey Shorts

I was at the daycare picking up Little Abbey on Monday and Little Johnny who always greets me was his usual excited self. After watching her "swim" for a few minutes, I finally pulled Little Abbey out of the pool much to her displeasure and was toweling her off when I heard Johnny grabbing his throat and gasping. My first reaction was that he was choking but before I could react he started crying. From experience, if you are crying, you are getting air into your lungs and thus aren't choking. After about a minute he called down and we learned that the problem was sour milk. I took a whiff of it and almost gagged it was so sour. Mrs. Z's husband went and got him some fresh milk into Johnny's sippee cup and brought it back. Johnny went to raise it to his lips when another daycare charge bumped his elbow and he jabbed the sippee cup spout right into his eye. Sometimes days are like that and I couldn't help but inwardly chuckle.

Last night Little Abbey must have been hungry even though she had eaten a couple cups of cubed watermelon for snack when she got home at four. Since we were having leftover tacos for supper, something harder to eat with only five teeth, we gave her some other leftovers from our weekend with the Kiwis. She had a cup of fresh corn cut off the cob mixed with a cup of rice. Much to our surprise, she ate the entire bowl and as we sat down for our meal, started whining for more. My wife got up and grabbed a handful of some bunny graham crackers and gave to Little Abbey. She ate those and still wanted more so my wife gave her another handful. When still her appetite hadn't been sated, I peeled a banana and gave her half of it. Within thirty seconds it was gone so I gave her the other half. A minute later it too was gone. At this point, we were out of ideas on what to feed her so I gave her half of a hard taco shell, which she nibbled on for the next fifteen minutes until it was gone. I don't know if she was full after all that but we had finished our supper and she wanted to join up instead. That girl is a bottomless pit when it comes to food.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Storm

I had polished off the last of my Lou's Enchiladas, which is a four bean burrito recipe given to me by Lou, a family friend who died about two years ago, and was starting in on a piece of my wife's homemade blueberry pie when the siren filled the house. I walked over to the weather watch radio to silence it and saw that we were under a tornado warning meaning one has been spotted. Immediately I switched the television over to channel 16 just in time to hear that a tornado had been spotted to the northeast of town and was headed our way.

I told my wife to be read to move to our "storm shelter" in the little closet under the stairs in the basement at a moments notice and headed outside. I almost made it to the back deck before I realized that the blueberry pie and ice cream was still sitting on the dining room table. I quickly hurried back and grabbed it to take with me. If tonight was going to be my last night on earth, I might as well go with a belly full of homemade blueberry pie.

When I got outside, the sky to the north was a sickening green hue. Our neighbor to the north was out in the lawn looking up at the sky too so I walked over and chatted for a few minutes as we watched it move closer. Soon the clouds were racing across the sky from the south and east towards the storm approaching us from the north and west. This is always an indicator that the shit is really going to hit the fan weather-wise and we nervously parted company to get closer to our homes and hopefully basement shelters.

Back from the safety of the back deck, the clouds started swirling in a large circle as it approached us and on the north side of town, the tornado sirens started up. I strained this way and that to see an approaching tornado but couldn't see one. I listened for the tell tale sound of an approaching tornado but all I could hear was incoming traffic from the east decelerating as they headed into town fifteen blocks away. The trees were dead calm.

Over the next fifteen minutes, the sirens would silence and then start up again as the swirling mass of clouds slid by my house just to the east. The television was blaring out updates of all the sightings real and Doppler predicted to the north, east and south of us. Still no sign or sound of a tornado. Just as I was beginning to think we were safe, I could hear the wind and heavy rain approaching about thirty seconds before it arrived. I stepped inside the house, grabbed Little Abbey playing at my feet and watched it go ripping by, ready to run for the basement should need arise. Normally I would have gone if the siren had been still sounding because being inside meant my sound and sight identification of an actual tornado would be severely impaired. But the siren had gone off several minutes before the wind actually hit and the tornado watch had moved on to areas south of town.

Still, knowing that another one could pop up in severe storms like this, I nervously kept an eye on the window to the north. About that time during the heaviest of the rain, my wife started screaming for me to come to the living room. Fearing that a tornado had formed on the south side of the house, I tore across the living room and looked out the window to see what she was pointing at. Outside in the midst of this storm, a barefoot woman in her late twenties wearing a skimpy two-piece black bikini went running by down the middle of the street. Now I have truly seen everything.

I resumed my watch, pausing once in awhile to check out the radar screen on my wife's laptop that was wirelessly grabbing it off the Internet. Isn't technology wonderful? The rain turned into hail and then back to rain, finally tapering off with the heavy winds. The worst was over and we had dodged the bullet. The calm returned as the last of the evening light disappeared from the skies. Looking back I am thankful that all this happened during daylight hours because normally these storms crop up in the late evening when darkness has rules. When it is dark, you have but no choice to go huddle in the basement with only your fears to occupy your mind and hope for the best. At least in the daylight I can finish off a slice of homemade blueberry pie and watch the sights go running by in a skimpy bikini.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Datun

Datun (pronounced Da toon) was from Nigeria and I had the privilege of being a roommate of his for eight months. I met Datun later in the evening when he walked into the apartment with my other roommate George. Since they had been there a week and had each staked out one of the two bedrooms, I had no choice but to bunk with one of them. Since Datun's room was bigger and already had two beds in it (the apartment had been furnished by my employer), I opted for his room. The first night after a restless four hours of listening to what sounded like a horse struggling for its dying breath, I spent the rest of the night on the couch in the living room. The next morning I politely asked Datun if he would be offended if I bunked with George instead and after telling him it was because of his very serious snoring problem, he good-naturedly told me to go ahead.

That had been a Friday and so I spent the weekend getting to know Datun and George better. Datun had lived in a huge city of millions in Nigeria and had witnessed the worst of humanity already in his life, including a man drug out onto the streets, tires piled on top of him and lit on fire. When he came to America, he was let off in Fargo, North Dakota and almost got thrown in jail for fighting with airport security because he thought he had been left in the middle of nowhere instead of the United States where he had been heading. Living in a town of 15,000 in central Minnesota was just a little village where he came from and took quite a bit of adjustment. But for someone who has seen so much violence, I thought he was well adjusted. But as time wore on, our cultural differences just seemed to get in the way.

To start off, he volunteered to cook an authentic Nigerian dinner for us that first weekend. It involved taken a frozen chicken and putting it in a sink full of hot water early in the morning and leaving it there until late that evening. By the time he got to it, the water was a bloody putrid smelling slop and I was sure bacteria counts would be through the roof. Both George and I professed to not being very hungry and just eating enough to be polite and hopefully just make us seriously ill without killing us! We both suffered abdominal discomforts that night and never again ate Datun's food. Instead we just said that we would just all cook our own meals separately.

Being still college students, we were all dirt poor. Every penny counted. So when Datun kept setting the thermostat really high during the winter to the point I would instantly break out in sweat after getting home from work, I chalked it down as result of living with someone from a tropical country. I eventually solved the problem by setting the thermostat to a desired temperature while Datun was gone and then pulling out the bimetallic coil. In effect, Datun could change the setting all he wanted without ever changing the temperature, except in his mind. It worked and we survived until summer.

In the spring, I had to sneak the coil back in before the air conditioner was called for so that it could be turned on without giving Datun opportunity to suspect what had been done. I hadn't been too worried since I assumed that his warm tendencies would carry over to summer. Man was I wrong. He did the opposite, cranking down the temperature to bone chilling temperatures where a coat was needed to remain comfortable. George and I bid our time until Datun was gone one afternoon and then repeated our thermostat tampering process.

At night, George and I put a fan in the doorway or our room to blow the air from the window air conditioner from the living room into our room. Datun however decided that he would just drag his mattress into the living room and sleep in there. This was a problem since my morning routine consists of getting up early to read the morning paper and watch the news headlines over breakfast before going to work at 6:30. Datun didn't start work until 8:00 and thus saw no reason for getting up that early. After one morning of tripping over him and his mattress several times while getting ready and then reading the newspaper by the stove light, I decided that this was ridiculous. After all, he had a master suite all to his own and I paid good money for my third of the rent to enjoy the living room. So the next morning I just turned on the lights and went about my routine as usual, including watching the morning news on television just a couple feet from where he was sleeping. It took two weeks before he finally asked me to keep the lights off and not watch television while he was sleeping. I told him that if he paid my portion of the rent, I would. He went back to sleeping in his bedroom from then on.

George was on an even tighter budget than I was since he was only an accounting co-op student and didn't make the "big bucks" we engineering co-ops did. Plus he had a girlfriend with a baby on the way and needed every penny he could save. One evening Datun was working in the computer room, which was just an alcove off the living room with a light. Datun eventually got up and went into his bedroom where he was doing whatever he did in there. (Towards the end of our experience, we rarely saw him outside his bedroom.) After about an hour, George got up and turned off the light in the alcove. About an hour after that Datun came out to the kitchen for a drink and saw the light had been turned off and made a big display of walking back over there to turn it back on before returning to his bedroom. George again turned off the light and again when Datun came back out he started yelling at us asking why we kept turning off the light. George tried to explain that he was trying to save money and he saw no harm in it since Datun was obviously not using the light in the alcove. Datun just couldn't see the light so to speak and went back to his room and was not seem for probably a week after that.

I must break away to say that although he still used the apartment as evidenced by a bloody chicken growing bacteria in the sink, he got out of bed long after George and I were already at work and came back after we were already in bed. I know this because when ever George's girlfriend was in town, I had to sleep on the couch to give them some privacy, which now that I think of it, was probably the reason she got pregnant.

In Datun's defense, I'm sure we weren't the model roommates for him either. We swept the carpet with a borrowed vacuum cleaner from down the hall when he thought he could do just as good a job on his turn with a hand held broom. We might have been guilty of setting up an eighteen hole golf course during the last throws of winter as we waited for spring to arrive and one of those holes happened to be the pillow of his bed on which he was currently occupying. Alcohol may or may not have been a factor. I also think that when one of us got too drunk from playing Jack Nickolas golf on the computer with "shot a stroke penalties" and puked on a bacteria growing chicken in the sink, it might not have been culturally acceptable. Whatever the case, when Datun left late that summer, George and I didn't shed many tears. We just chalked it up at another learning experience.

George was literally a room mate since we shared a bedroom and he was the best roommate I ever had of all my roommates. I even got to where I enjoyed his quirk of having to have the radio playing all night long and didn't mind the seemingly increasing amount of weekends I spent sleeping on the living room couch. It was definitely better than the dying horse experience in the room down the hall.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Roommates

Over the course of my life, I had the privilege of a very diverse cast of roommates. My first roommate was when I spent three months between my sophomore and junior years in high school taking college level course after winning a competition. One student from each in the states in the Midwest could go and I was Iowa's winner. My roommate had been a black kid from St. Louis and I think it made my mom nervous. After we had unloaded my stuff, she pulled me aside and told me that if he gave me any trouble at all, I was to request a new roommate. After she had left, we found ourselves sitting in our room silently eyeing each other up. So to break the ice, I told him what my mom had told me. He burst out laughing saying his mom had told him the exact same thing. We had a lot of fun that summer probably much to our mother's surprises.

My first roommate in college had been in the dorms and was my neighbor named Bob. Bob had been a year older in high school and his previous roommate from the year before had gotten a different one for the upcoming semester. Because I particularly didn't want to be stuck with a freak and liked the dorm Bob was in, I signed up specifically to have him as my roommate and he did the same. It had one drawback… Bob was a geek.

Bob studied all the time, which in hindsight was probably a pretty good thing considering we were in college, but he even did so on Friday and Saturday nights. He never had a girlfriend in high school and continued his streak in college. I would have guessed he would have been single all his life but he snagged a teacher from a local school a few years back from what I heard. But Bob was predictable and that was worth a lot in a time in my life when I went from being a big fish in a small rural pond to living in the big city. We roomed together for a year and a half.

After the dorms with Bob, my next step was to get an apartment with my brother and a guy by the name of Donny to finish out my college career. Donny hadn't been a geek like Bob and had been a pretty good guy with only one quirk that I saw. We divided up supper cooking duties between the three of us and while my brother and I cooked meals, whenever Donny cooked it was something like hotdogs. It wasn't until the final six months we lived together that things went south. Donny went out and bought a recliner one day. Our very cramped apartment already had two couches and a recliner and there was literally no room at the inn. I watched as Donny pondered the situation looking out at the recliner in his truck and the living room with literally five square feet of unfurnished floor space. When he finally looked stumped, I asked him if he wanted to bring it inside. When he affirmed this, I told him that if he could get rid of the $10 couch that I had throughout my college career, he could move it to its spot.

I had class so I left and when I returned, Donny was just finishing the last saw stroked from cutting my couch in half. Stuffing was everywhere. He got the messed cleaned up and I helped him carry in his recliner. About two weeks later I was neck deep in studying for some test with papers scatters all around me on the nearby couch, kitchen table and coffee table while sitting in Donny's new recliner. He came home from class and asked me to move so he could sit there. I happened to mention that he had been sitting in my furniture, eating off my dishes, using my pots and pans and my computer for three years now and suddenly I couldn't sit in his chair. He said that sized up the situation pretty well. I flipped and banned him from using any of my stuff, which included the microwave even.

For the next six months, Donny cooked and ate out of the one pot he had since he didn't have any dishes. Because the television and stereo was mine too, his sole source of entertainment was sitting in his recliner and playing his virtual fishing game with a hand crank that made a ratcheting sound. I knew he was trying to get me to relent by annoying me but I wasn't about too. This went on for six months until the day the moving van came to move my stuff up to my job up north and I shut the door to the apartment without a word leaving Donny sitting in the middle of an empty apartment sitting on his new recliner and playing that darn fishing game.

Somewhere towards the end of my college career and before Donny bought his new recliner, I got a cooperative education job for eight months up in Minnesota and took a semester off from college. I got paid and college credits for it so it had been a pretty good deal. I moved up right after New Year's Day expecting to be the first one to arrive knowing that two others would be sharing the apartment with me. Despite the recruiter saying that they weren't expected to move in until the following week, they were both there when I arrived, or at least there belongings. I moved my stuff inside and after a few hours, the door opened and in walked George who was studying to be an accountant from North Dakota and a computer engineering intern named Datun, a native fresh from the jungles of Nigeria. It is Datun that I wish to blog about in an upcoming blog post. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Anatomy of Haggling

We had been doing our due diligence for quite some time. We had compared models side by side on Kelly Blue Book's website and even ordered the extensive reports off of Consumer Report's website. This past Saturday however, we were merely going to go window-shopping and perhaps test-drive a couple vehicles and instead we came home with a new Honda Odyssey minivan.

After we had dropped off Little Abbey with a friend, we headed to the Dodge dealer which happened to be the nearest. It had been wiped out by a tornado earlier this year and had evidently not quite recovered. While they had plenty of vehicles on the lot, the office consisted of a trailer and nobody was there. Odd for a Saturday. So we looked at the stickers, compared options and left.

Our next stop was the local Toyota dealer. Amazingly we made it onto the lot unseen and for a while looked through their selection of vehicles. Neither of us are were really interested in spending extra money for such features as power lift gates, navigational equipment, etc. and all the minivans there were fully loaded. They were so loaded that their prices were almost $10,000 more than the base model, which they apparently didn't have in stock. To check we walked inside where we were quickly ambushed by Troy who confirmed our question and then proceeded to convince us to stay and "talk" for a while. We declined saying that we might come back if we didn't find a base model we liked elsewhere.

I had wanted to look at Chrysler Town and Country's since there seems to be many of them on the roads these days but oddly there wasn't a Chrysler dealer in town so we headed to Honda instead. Honda had been our choice for both features and looks so when Jen quickly came out the door and ambushed us before we made it to the minivan section of the lot, we meekly let her take charge. She opened up an LX model and gave us an in depth tour of its features. I must say that I was impressed with what came standard on the Odyssey but required the deluxe touring packages on others.

One of the big reasons I like Honda is that they don't have packages. They put the basics standard and then between models, more are added. So when you look at a certain model such as the LX, all are identical in what they contain and anything extra is considered an accessory and must be added by the consumer one at a time according to a price list. Most American cars have different packages and like models on the lots will have different packages so that no two are the same. It makes it very confusing to do the price haggling, which I explain soon.

We test drove the minivan and returned to the dealership. Now the fun began. Jen invited us inside to her desk where we could "talk" but first asked us if we wanted a drink. Neither of us did but we both said yes just so we could get a minute to ourselves. I quickly confirmed with my wife that she loved the vehicle and that we should make an offer. When Jen came back, she showed us the sticker price that we already had read on the window earlier. I asked he what their lowest price was not really expecting an answer because normally they make the consumer make the first bid. She went off again and while gone my wife and I discussed our first offer. Jen came back and had a price $2000 less than the sticker price on the car.

Having done due diligence, I new exactly what the dealer had paid for the car. This information can be obtained easily through numerous websites. Taking the dealer invoice price, which is considerably less than the sticker price, you can add the destination charge and other charges like gas-guzzler charges if they apply and come up with a number. This isn't the price the dealer pays to the manufacturer until you add in the dealer holdback. A dealer holdback is a percentage of the manufacturers suggested retail price or MSRP. It benefits the dealer in three ways. Dealers borrow money based upon the higher invoiced amount so the dealer can borrow more. Sales personnel are paid commissions on gross profit of each sale so more money means more commissions and most importantly, it allows dealerships to advertise "invoice price" sales and still sell their vehicles making hundreds of dollars on each transaction. So knowing what the dealer holdback was, I could determine the lowest price in which a dealer would make zero dollars.

Now the dealer deserves a profit as we all do, so I usually start at the bottom range of typical profits that range up to 8% depending on market and demand and offer 4% over the zero dollar point. However, this time I was taken back by having Jen give us $2000 off without even trying and more so that her offer was only $500 more than what I had planned to offer. I told her to take another thousand dollars off and she had a deal. It was now manager time.

The manager approves all transactions on each vehicle that is below some value that only they know. Since we were below that value with our offer, Val the manager needed to be briefed. When Jen came back, she countered offer and took another $400 off her previous offer, now just $100 over what would have been my initial offer. We haggled a bit on various options and gave her another offer $300 less than her last offer. This time Val himself came back and after briefing us on their VIP service which was basically detailing the car and putting a full tank of gas in it which is standard for any new car purchase, he said they couldn't go any lower.

At this point we only had two choices, to accept or walk away. The hope is that if you get up and start to walk away, they will maybe throw out another offer but as we chose to walk away, another offer never came. So we left the dealership and went out for a late lunch. During lunch, I decided it was time to get serious and pulled out the Consumer Reports report on the very minivan we had been haggling on. I highlighted the dealer invoice price, added to it the destination charge, subtracted the dealer holdback and wrote that figure on the back. I then created a scale from 4% to 6% profit on the back and put their last offer in at just over 5.5%. I intentionally left off 7 and 8% so as to give them the impression that they were already at the upper end of the scale when they were not.

After lunch we drove back and Jen again met us out in the parking lot and walked us into her desk. I pulled out my report and showed her, pointing out what Val had paid for that vehicle and stating that he was entitled to a fair 4% profit and I didn't begrudge him of that fact. I made an offer that was $50 more than my last offer and still $250 less than theirs. Once again Jen disappeared to consult with Val and Val came back again going off on a long winded tangent about the VIP service and how we got a free oil change and tank of gas with the van before saying he just couldn't go any lower. At this point I knew that he wouldn't.

We had reached the point where he would rather keep it and sell it tomorrow to someone else willing to pay more than to sell it to us. But call it a manly ego thing, I just couldn't walk back into the dealership and accept the same offer that we had before we had left for lunch. So I said that my wife said that we couldn't accept the offer unless they threw in a cargo net. Val had already gone back to his office so Jen left once again. This time they both came back with smiles and congratulations amid handshakes. We had a deal.

Since we had diligently saved up our money and were going to pay cash, discussing financing was very quick. My insurance company isn't open on Saturdays and since I only have liability on our other two vehicles, driving it home wasn't an option until we had it fully insured. So we made plans to pick it up today. But after getting the insurance straightened out yesterday, we decided to just get it done with and get the vehicle home. So last night after work, we drove up and completed the paperwork and I wrote the biggest check in my life by a few dollars. (The house down payment was just slightly less.) After getting another tour of the features we drove home, me in the new Honda Odyssey.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Shaking Hands With Our Potential Next President

[Author's Note: The preceeding title and following blog are by no means a political endorsement and shouldn't be taken as such.]

My parents are democrats, my brother a republican and I'm summer in the middle. So it was no surprise to get an email from my parents saying that Barack Obama was going to be coming to the town where I live for a rally and they wanted to stop by to see Little Abbey on their way. I told them they were more than welcome and since I had never been to a political rally of any kind, I said that I would join them.

Since I don't live far from the square we opted to carry some of those chairs in a sack and walk. When we arrived, there was a large pie shaped wedge roped off from the center gazebo with several hundred people already crowded inside. On the south side of this wedge, there was an eight-foot space with a second rope strung out and secret service guys walking back and forth. There was a table seat up at the head of the wedge where people heading into the wedge were lined up and filling stuff out. I assumed that maybe you had to be an official Obama member or something to get inside so I asked one of the secret service guys if we could sit on the south side of the two ropes. He didn't have a problem with it and so we did. Within seconds, others saw us and started doing the same and then with people lining the rope on both sides, it hit me what was actually happening. The roped on corridor was the walkway for Obama from the street to the gazebo and we had front row seats.

By the time Obama pulled up, the square was packed with a few thousand people. Obama slowly walked to the stage shaking hands as he went preceded and followed by a flock of secret service. One guy in the lead must have been responsible for checking out all the people on our side of the rope and obviously scanned us from head to toe, one by one as Obama approached us. When he got up near me he shook my hand and said, "how are you doing." Ignoring his question I replied, "thank you for coming," and left it at that.

After his detail had passed, I noticed a pen lying on the ground right on the other side of the rope where I was standing with the words Executive Representative stenciled on the side that I am certain hadn't been there a few seconds ago. So I picked it up and pocketed it. I don't know if it belonged to the secret service, his campaign groupies that were with him or Obama himself, but you can never be sure. Perhaps it might be worth something someday.

The speech itself was pretty much fluff and sounded expensive. If we invest in this, if we invest in that, for every dollar we spent, etc. I made sure that I hung onto my wallet the entire time. My parents had hoped he would answer questions but I knew he wouldn't. The crowd was full of local gurus with thousand mile stares and stumbling walks with no idea what was going on around them and probably not a good time to accept a question. He probably would have instead got lectured about how only half of one percent of the square root of the population hopping in meditation could solve all his problems.

When he finished, he hopped down from the stage and waded into the crowd smiling those very white teeth and shaking hands. We walked home discussing what we had heard and mostly disliked. When we got home, my wife was watching it live on C-Span so it any of you were watching it too, there was about 100% chance that you saw me standing there in the crowd leading up to the gazebo shaking the man's hand and eyeing the pen left on the ground behind him. It was the only real thing I took from the campaign rally, honest.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Little Abbey At 13 Months

I honestly can't believe it has been thirteen months since Little Abbey came into this world a few weeks early. She hadn't put on any baby fat in utero so was very thin and seeing her with all the tubes and wires hooked up made me think of her as so fragile. Yet now she is tall, I struggle to carry her heft and is a real terror around the house. What can you do?

I don't have any height or weight measurements because the pediatrician's office screwed up. They cancelled our appointment and never told us until we called the day of to confirm since they hadn't confirmed it a day in advance as they normally do. We were told that they had tried repeatedly though are answering machine remained with a big zero on the face and my wife studied for her tests at home in silence for many weeks before. Long story short, we had to reschedule and though they want to see her right at 12 months, she won't be seen until well after she is 13 months old. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that she is almost half as tall as mom is and weighs a bunch.

Health wise she appears to be doing great. She has five teeth in now and has made up for lost time. Her hair is growing like a well-fertilized weed and mom has gleefully been putting hair clips on. Other than a summer time cold that she passed on to us, Little Abbey has been free from the runny nose that plagued her most of the winter. Who knew that babies don't know how to blow out their nose until they are two years of age? Already she is wearing clothes for babies 18 months and older, some of which are getting small and in one case, a shirt for three year olds that fits great. With the exception of her thighs, it is mostly the height thing that forces us to get bigger clothes.

Part of this healthiness stems from her eating. No longer do we take any "backup" food with her to daycare because she eats everything the big kids eat. I'm constantly amazed at what she eats. While preparing a stir-fry, she was bugging me so I gave her a whole snow pea that she promptly ate. With her new teeth, she already knows how to whittle things down to size I guess. For meals at home, she gets whatever we eat too. Really the only thing we limit her on is sweet desert like foods. We give her a couple bites for taste but don't let her eat her fill. Most of the time she really doesn't care yet but I'm sure there will come a day…

She is weaned from a bottle, which was a lot easier than I imagined. We started giving her milk to her in sippee cups during the day for about a week only giving her a bottle at night. After a week, that too disappeared. She threw a couple tantrums when she saw her evening milk in a sippee cup but realized we were serious after a few minutes and drank it anyway. Shortly before that she had gone off breast milk and shortly afterwards she went off baby milk altogether. Now she just drinks whole milk and suddenly we have been freed from the shackles of having to take pumps, tubing, bottles, etc. with us whenever we went somewhere more than four hours long.

Due to her height, we graduated her from taking baths in the kitchen sink and she now takes them in the bathtub. The first bath she just cried but after that she has enjoyed them more than her sink baths or the ones in her specialized baby bathtub. In fact, now she crawls into the bathroom and stands beside it trying to get in so that she can get a bath even if she isn't slated to get one. Once inside she splashes around and has a grand ole time. But everything comes with a price. Now instead of my one bottle of shampoo and bar of soap and my wife's ten bottles of shower stuff and two bars of soap, we have another two bottles of stuff and two yellow rubber duckies that add to the clutter. Any surface horizontal is full and if I turn around with a careless elbow, ten heavy bottles of various colored liquid fall onto my toes.

Probably due to her size, it has taken Little Abbey a little while to learn how to walk, something she is just on the verge of doing. She stands up in the middle of the floor with no supports quite often but has yet to take a step. She still prefers to crawl or furniture cruise to get where she is going. The last several weeks she pushed everything around that she can from chairs to her toys while walking along behind them. If I were a betting man, I would say this is the last monthly update that you will hear me say that.

Although she mostly is on her feet these days, she has a new mode of transportation that she is mastering. We bought her a plastic push tricycle for her first birthday complete with plastic like hopper in the middle of the handlebars that makes noise when she moves around. At first she mostly pushed it around because she would get trapped up against an object that she couldn't move. Now however, she gets on it and pushes herself laps through the kitchen, dining room, living room and back again. If she really gets crazy she does laps around the great room too. She still hasn't learned to steer the thing but it is light enough that she can stand and scoot it in the direction she wants to go. As I commented on Geri's blog, besides whatever I happen to have in my hand, it is her favorite toy.

Last week I went over to the daycare to pick Little Abbey up only to find her sitting on the table wrapped in a warm towel with only her wet hair in sight. She had just gotten done swimming. At Mrs. Z's suggestion, she went back in the pool and commenced to splashing around and having a grand ole time. So the next day, I found myself downtown looking for a swimming pool. I wanted one of those hard sided small kiddie pools but those had long since been sold out so I ended up with the only remaining swimming pool for sale until next year, a hard sided but large model complete with a miniature slide wrapped along one side. I threw it upside down on top of my wife's car, cinched it down with a tie down, which didn't do much good on the round and slippery surface, and drove home with one hand out the window holding onto it for dear life. A half hour later I would be back to pick up the hardware package that I had inadvertently left on the sidewalk out in front of the store as I was loading the pool.

This weekend we filled up the pool with a few inches of water and turned her loose. At first she was timid about moving at all but within minutes she was crawling from this end to that in the water and having a great time. Even when she slipped and fell a couple times while trying to use the slide portion. I know I am going to be spending a lot more time watching her swim out on the back deck.

Although I could certainly go on, I won't bore you with more details. I will say that as a father, this is certainly my favorite stage to go through so far. I spend lots of time making my daughter laugh and giggle as I help her play and she showers me back with a lot of affection. Her personality is so deep and personable. I just wish I could bottle it up and save it for rainy days for the rest of my life.