07 June 2009

"Hi Jack, I'm Annette . .

. . You're doing it wrong."

For some reason, that line from the '80s classic Mr. Mom is what came to mind this evening when I spied this dapper young male Goldfinch investigating my hummingbird feeder.

I'm sure he's thinking to himself, "Those hyper little hummingbirds sure seem to like this stuff, I wonder what all the fuss is about?"

"Pretty sure this is how it works . . damn, what am I doing wrong?"

06 June 2009

Best photo I've ever taken

I was chasing a few juvenile Northern Mockingbirds around my back yard tonight, trying to catch an interesting moment or two. Check this out.

Perhaps that's his way of saying, "Hey, that's close enough buddy, unless you've got something I can eat."

There were a few other signs of summer around the yard.

A few plums on the plum tree. If they somehow escape the girls' wrath until they're ripe, it'll be my pleasure to munch on fresh plums from the yard.

My gardenia bush is approaching unmanageable size. The upside there is the hundreds of blooms it pushes out twice a year. The entire patio is engulfed in their scent for a few good weeks.

The butterfly bushes are starting to bloom too. This one, in the kids' "play area", is only about 3 feet tall. One of the two on the side of the house is approaching 6 feet now.

And of course, the Easter lilies. These same 5 lily plants we got for Lily's baby shower now push out at least 2 dozen blooms a year. They were so crowded that last fall I moved about half of the bulbs to other spots in the yard, where they're doing just as well. Another few days and the Asiatic lilies will be in bloom (and so too will my allergies be).

23 May 2009

Curlew Sandpiper

This was by far the most interesting (and rare) bird anyone at the recent Cape May Spring Weekend saw. It is a very rare Eurasian bird that is not often seen in the US. I got to see two.

This is what the crowds looked like all weekend trying to get a good long look at this beauty and his presumed mate.


22 April 2009

A Fun Milestone

This is just too good to pass up.  A couple of weeks ago Mason learned to roll from his back to his belly.  

1.  Grab feet.
2.  Pull feet to mouth.
3.  Let gravity pull now-elevated chunky thighs down to one side or the other.
4.  Let go of feet.
5.  Sprawl out and find solid ground, using the belly as a fulcrum.

Then, a few days ago, he learned to roll back over from his belly onto his back.  

1.  Crane neck back as far as it will go.  
2.  Turn head to one side or the other and look at the ceiling.
3.  Roll onto the "down" shoulder.
4.  Complete the maneuver and give a big satisfied grin!

Today, for the first time, he put the whole act together and learned how the combination of these two new maneuvers could produce a mode of ambulation he'd never experienced without the help of a big person.  

07 April 2009

My Bad

Sometimes an innocent mistake turns into a really funny story.

This morning when I was picking out Lily's outfit, I remembered the bright red pair of tennis shoes she's been begging me to wear lately. I figured I'd pick her out something that would go with the red shoes, even though I knew she'd only leave the shoes on for like 5 minutes. So I rifled through her drawers, picked out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt with a red football on it, grabbed some socks and the matching red shoes, and off I went. When I pulled the jeans on her I noticed that they were sort of a 3/4 length pant . . almost a culottes. Well, whatever, that'd be cute too. Put the t-shirt on, convince her it's cute, surprise her with the shoes . . voila, we're good!

Or so I thought. Fast forward to dinner time, and Lily of course has to run to the potty. Just as an aside, she's been in a real "numbers" phase lately. "What time is it Daddy?", "What size are my jammies Daddy?", and the like. So she comes back from the potty and says "Daddy, my jeans are a size 9."

"Umm, no, they're certainly not a size 9."

"YES, they are! I read it on the tag!"

"Baloney! Show me!"

So she promptly marches over to me, turns around and flips out the waistband on the jeans to show me the tag.

Yeah. Remember how I said a simple mistake can lead to a funny story? Apparently I was a little bleary the last time I did laundry and I accidentally put a pair of Mason's jeans away in Lily's drawer. Simple mistake really . . isn't it? I think I certainly would have realized my mistake had the pants not looked so convincingly like a cute little pair of "short pants". Honestly, tell me you wouldn't have let her wear this outfit? She looks cute as a button!

The truly scary part of this story is that they fit her. And well. I'm pretty sure the last time Mason wore them they were tight around his waist, and I'm sure I had a bear of a time getting them over his big chunker thighs.

Sorry, I couldn't get her to put the red shoes back on for the picture . . hell, you're lucky she even kept the outfit on, by this time she'd been begging me to put her jammies on for the night for like twenty minutes.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share my little funny. When I realized what I did, I laughed out loud at myself and just knew I had to post it. I can't wait to hear how much fun Mandi makes of me for this one.

03 April 2009

Slack ass

I am, I know. I feel bad for the 6 or 8 people who include this blog on their blogroll, I've disappointed you for more than two weeks. For some reason I hear Randy Travis singing in my head right now . . .

You've been too gone for too long,
now it's too late to come back home.
It's been so long since you walked out my door,
now you're just an old song nobody sings anymore.

I've got a new love and she's a true love,
but darlin' how could you have known.
You've been too gone for too long,
now it's too late to come back home.

I don't have a new love, per se, unless you want to count Facebook. Or my Crackberry. I have enjoyed sharing my life through this page in more ways than I ever would have imagined. There are far too many reasons (real reasons, not Facebook) that it's just become a low priority for me lately. Reasons I don't have the energy or, frankly, the inclination to go into right here right now.

Suffice it to say, I have over-extended myself in a number of ways, and the blog is suffering for it. I go birding MAYBE once a month now, and when I do there just doesn't seem to be "extra" time to sit and blog about them. Plus, I'm not doing the Big Year list this year, so there's no real drive to get out and "acquire" new birds, and as such no great stories of accomplishment. This is about what I've been getting in the way of bird photos left. A mockingbird eating my compost pile . . how picturesque.

Then there's the whole "3 kids is really no harder than 2" fallacy. Whomever spun that bullshit yarn should get a swift kick in the nertz. Toting 3 kids to the park in my compact grocery-getter with sub-par air conditioning ain't what I'd call easy. We still do it, but by the time I get them all home I'm ready for a beer and a nap . . the computer just doesn't crawl high enough up on the list. I do take pictures at the park, I haven't completely slacked off, I am just not as good at sharing them. Here's one from about a week ago.

I will not make the "nothing worth writing about" excuse. These kids are a laugh an hour, and sometimes a lot more. If only I still had that video camera I lost in the Kansas City airport when Lily was a baby . . if you all could watch her play Disney "Sing It" on the Wii, or listen to the crazy songs she makes up when she's driving around the block on her tricycle, you'd double over laughing. But really, with Mason in the stroller, Avery piloting her scooter into the middle of traffic, and making sure Lily's "Look ma no hands" routine doesn't result in 2 skinned knees, who the hell has time to try to remember the funny stories? I don't.

You've missed out on visits from Meema.

Treats at the St. Patrick's Day festival.

Lily's first soccer practice (of what I'm convinced will be a long and storied career).

And other milestones. Mason's eating some solids now (yippee, I know, how exciting). It is for him though, kid can eat like a champ.

He can also put his feet in his mouth and roll himself over from back to tummy (difficult to capture, so here's the foot thing).

I've given all of my excuses, and I don't know if I actually like any of them enough to give them "primary reason" status. But, as is the popular thing to say nowadays, it is what it is. While I have no intention of removing this blog from its rightful place here on Blogger, I also do not forsee much of a future for it. I'm not guaranteeing that this will be my last post, but the frequency is something you might consider getting used to. I'm just over-extended right now, and something's gotta give (this paragraph counts major points toward the "How many cliches can you use in one paragraph" contest I entered). If you read occasionally and enjoy the photos, I encourage you to seek me out on Facebook. It's not quite as personal, but its what's been getting the attention lately. I suppose this is my way of always striving to under-promise and over-deliver. I always hated "promises a filet mignon and serves you a hotdog" guy, and I refuse to be that guy.

So for now, I bid you all a fond farewell, and I look forward to reconnecting elsewhere.


18 March 2009


Technically, there's nothing the Grammar Police can say about this one . .

Sent from my BlackBerry Smartphone provided by Alltel

15 March 2009

What A Kid Hears

When you say "Put that in the trash", a kid hears "Put that in the general area where we keep the trash can, but don't sweat the details . . In, on, around . . Whatever's convenient."

12 March 2009

Thursday Morning Birds

Shhh . . don't tell anyone. I took the morning off of work today to go birding. I should be ashamed of myself, what with all of those last minute requests and changes I needed to be making at the office. Meh, they can wait.

March isn't all that exciting in the birding world. None of the really interesting neotropical migrants have arrived in the Central Piedmont yet, and many of our winter resident birds have already started to depart. Some nests are active by now (I saw some Canada Goose babies on a local lake yesterday), but in general it's considered the calm before the April/May storm of Spring migration. The only month I'm less interested in birding is August, and that's because it's just too damned hot to be outside.

Today I went with a group from the local Audubon Society to Four Mile Creek Greenway, in South Charlotte. We got a ho-hum 43 species, highlighted by some Wood Ducks, an adult male Cooper's Hawk, a Rusty Blackbird, and a Pileated Woodpecker. A few of the birds were considerate enough to pose for pictures.

Mr. Mallard. There were probably 2 dozen or so in various places. One pair was seen, ahem, fighting in a marsh. At least that's how my birding friends described it.

This squirrel was giving one of the field trip leaders the stink eye. "You'll pry this acorn from my cold dead hands mister!"

Probably the crappiest picture I've ever posted . . but it at least offers proof of the Pileated Woodpecker.

There were more than enough Northern Cardinals to go around. She had her choice of 4 or 5 males that were all singing from different perches.

There were Yellow-rumped Warblers galore, as well. This little guy was happy to pose for a few snaps.
And while it's not the greatest shot of one, this picture really shows off the golden crown on this Golden-crowned Kinglet. He, too, was happy to pose for the camera.

It was undoubtedly a nice break from office life. The drive down there was BRUTAL . . I can't stand morning-drive traffic on I-485 going Southbound. But in the end, well worth the time spent.

11 March 2009

Discount Clothing

I'm not sure, but I think Mandi must have gotten this outfit for Mason on a mark-down rack somewhere.  Don't get me wrong, its plenty cute, but they quite clearly left the "C" off at the beginning of his nickname.  What a bargain!

20 February 2009


I am going to make some changes to the blog today, just in the spirit of staying up-to-date.  I'll be taking down my Big Year list, as certainly enough time has passed for anyone who's interested to perouse it.  I may add some photos to the sidebar to take up space, and perhaps some other gadgets (if the good folks at Blogger have gotten them up and running yet).  That is all.

The Age of Unaccountability

Today when Avery was supposed to be coming home from school, at around 2:00, Mason was just waking up from a nap. We were just chilling out on the couch, waiting for Avery to walk in, and then my mom called. As at least some of you know, my mom has what we like to call "The Gift of the Gab". Anyway, so I suppose I lost track of time and when we finally hung up it was like 20 after 2. I'm cool to give the bus 5, 6, even 10 minutes after it's scheduled arrival time without really blinking. Stuff happens, even in the block and a half between our house and the school (shut it, Avery likes to ride the bus, she'll be buying carbon credits with her allowance money so none of you greenies send her (or me) any hate mail).  

So I head outside, look around to see if there are any parents still waiting at the bus stop for the other kids, and there's nobody to be found. OK, maybe the school called Mandi to tell us what was going on and she just didn't let me know. Unlikely, but I checked nonetheless. Big negative there, Mandi hasn't heard from them. My next step, and I'll admit that this was probably where I made my mistake (I am admonishing others in this note for their lack of accountability, figure I better not be a hypocrite), was to call a neighbor whose daughter also rides Avery's bus. She told me that the bus had broken down, and that we needed to go to the school to sign the kids out, and that no one except those previously authorized to do so could sign them out (read: no asking the neighbor to pick her up). Great.  

So with Mason in hand, I head upstairs to wake Lily up from her nap, less than 45 minutes after she'd gone to sleep. That in and of itself was enough to make me want to punch a wall, but I kept my cool, rallied the troops, and got in the car. Park at the curb, wrestle the kids out, and trudge inside to an office full of other forlorn parents, all in search of answers. And this is where it gets good. With the two kids in hand, standing there looking distraught and OBVIOUSLY in search of something, one of the women behind the desk asks "How can we help you sir?"  

"I'm here to pick up my daughter, apparently there was an issue with her bus. Her name is Avery."  

"Well let me see if I can still get her off of the bus, the door was broken but they've got another bus now and are fixin' to leave."  

That was when I had to set Mason down, because I felt my muscles begin to twitch involuntarily. "So, when there was an issue with the door, how come nobody called the parents? How were we supposed to know what was going on?" To quote one of my all-time favorite characters, H.I. McDunnough of Raising Arizona . . "and then the roof caved in".  

"Well," I was told, "we didn't call because you weren't supposed to come pick the kids up."  

"But they were supposed to be home over half an hour ago," I said. "Doesn't that warrant a phone call? If your child was half an hour overdue, would you not expect a phone call? This is, after all, my child you're talking about. It's not like the UPS truck was half an hour late or something."  

"Well sir, 30 minutes really isn't all that late if you ask me."  

I think my eyes made the sound of dice on a game board they rolled so fast. It gets worse.  

"Well, you know you could have called the school instead of calling a neighbor." This led to an immediate turning toward her coworkers to complain about the parents who were coming to pick up their half hour late children. "They're calling the neighbors and the neighbors are telling them to come here, but they aren't supposed to come here!" Oblivious to the fact that she's essentially telling us (there were still a few people hanging out, apparently this was a confrontation worth watching) that we're morons for not reading her mind, I will concede this one very small point. Yes, my first call probably should have been to the school, and not to the neighbor. However, my culpability ends there. I was standing in front of her at this point, it's time for her to own her mistakes (the collective "her", I suppose).  

So are you thinking this must be the end? It can't possibly get any worse than that, right? No no . . best for last people. I turned to a different woman behind the counter, one who had not yet insulted or belittled me, and just said "I'd just figure they could call folks and let them know what's going on." Her response?  

"Honestly, we don't really even know which kids are on which bus sometimes." I'm not kidding. I didn't believe what she said either, which is why I asked her to repeat herself. I thought maybe that while I had turned to ask Lily to sit down, that I had mis-heard this woman's statement. "I'm sorry, what was that?", I asked. "Yeah, it's hard to tell which kids are even on which bus sometimes."  

"Ma'am, do you happen to have a scrap of paper?" I asked. She looked at me, puzzled. "Well yeah, here, you can just use this flyer (is it ironic that the title of the flyer she handed me is "Informed Effective Parents"?)." "Thanks, and is there . . oh, there's a pen, nevermind. I'm just going to have to jot some of this down really quick, because there's a real chance that when I try to remember it later, it'll be so ridiculous that I won't even believe my own memory." "Umm, OK," she muttered, and walked off into the office somewhere, undoubtedly to continue trying to convince her coworkers how much of an idiot I was.  

So, I wrote down my notes, folded the paper up and got the hell up outta there. I could hear them snickering and acting all high and mighty as I left, but I couldn't be bothered to stop and listen. What a bunch of nonsense.  

Now I ask you . . is there not at some point an expectation of accountability when it comes to the individuals and institutions with whom we trust our children? Is that the kind of buck passing I can expect the teachers down the hall to be teaching to the students? Is it ever "your fault", or can everything be explained and rationalized away so that nobody's feelings get hurt.  

One of the best managers/executives I've ever worked for was giving a speech at a conference one year, and the main topic of his speech was one that has stuck with me through the years. He said that when you've truly reached a point in your life, career, whatever where you're accepting the responsibility for that life and you're accountable for the things in your charge, one statement can sum up everything that ever goes wrong. One simple, three word statement.  

"It's your fault."  

When you can look at a negative outcome and think to yourself, "I could have made this better, or it's my fault we didn't succeed", then you've reached the point of being a leader. You can not teach accountability until you ooze accountability, and these women behind this desk are in no way shape or form prepared to teach our children how to be accountable for their actions. Maybe they think that doesn't have to start until middle school. I urge you to look at this as a reminder that while multiplication tables and earthworm anatomy are certainly worthy things being taught in our schools, when it comes to the truly important things in life, we must teach them ourselves.  

We do live in an age of unaccountability, and it floors me that it's getting worse instead of better. 5 million people are out there unemployed, presumably hungry to get a job and bust their ass to keep it. Go 3 months on unemployment and then see if your approach changes. There's no way those women truly value the jobs they have, because if they did they'd certainly be striving to do a better job than the one they did today.

18 February 2009

The "What Is" Phase

Sometimes I think my spotty memory is actually a blessing in disguise.  Sure, I forget to take the trash down every 3rd Thursday or so, but that doesn't really harm anyone, does it?  No, I think that same spotty memory that occasionally leads to overflowing recycling bins also allows us to forget the mental anguish associated with raising kids.  Heck, I've heard the exact same argument made for why women choose to have more children after enduring the pain of child birth with their first.  

OK, so my current example of this phenomenon pales in comparison to that one, but it'll have to do.  Today, out of the blue, Lily started asking me a litany of "What is?" questions. 

Daddy, what's bleach?

Daddy, what's sausage?

Daddy, what's a marker?

Daddy, what's a baby?

Are you freakin' kidding me right now?  How the hell do you tell a 3 year-old what sausage is?  What's worse is that right after the first line of questioning, about 3:00 this afternoon, all of the memories of when Avery hit this stage came flooding back.  I can remember being so frustrated that my eyebrows were tingling when she'd start in with her nonsense . . 

Corey, what's hair?

Corey, what's a house?

Corey, what's pink?

Corey, what's a flower?
Oy.  I can just hear George Costanza screaming in the back of my head . . 
Serenity now!!!!!

15 February 2009

"Daddy, does this match?"

"No, but it matches my sense of humor, so stay right there while I get the camera!"

For the record, I DO NOT ever ask Lily to "pose" for pictures . . apparently it's just her natural reaction to the presence of the camera.

14 February 2009

Valentine's Day(s)

We let Valentine's Day, admittedly one of the most over-blown, commercialized, pointless holidays of the year, leak over into the day before. Friday at work Mandi bought the girls a little dessert called a "pupcake". Essentially it's two cupcakes covered with enough icing to make it look like Paris Hilton's little dog. Needless to say, it was a big hit with the girls. Well, the idea was a big hit with Lily. She'd fallen asleep on the playroom floor before Mandi arrived with the dessert, so she mustered up enough excitment to take a couple of licks of the icing before deciding to save it for tomorrow . . er, today.

In the morning, we passed off the leftover shortcakes from our dessert Friday night as "heart-shaped scones". Lily of course thought we said "heart-shaped stones". Yeah, that's what we said Lily . . dig in!

Apparently, she hated them.

Later on, after an early morning rain shower and some household chores, we decided to head out and participate in this year's Great Backyard Bird Count. I didn't have overly high expectations for our destination of choice, mostly because I'd never birded there before and don't know what to look for where. The girls found some walking sticks right away and were ready for our 2/3 mile trek.

Signs of the impending Spring were all around.

Plenty of opportunity for the girls to get all of that pent-up energy out.

When we got home, Mason hung out in his Exersaucer for a good half hour, just wow'ed by all of the noises and colors. He holds himself up really well, and can just about reach his feet down to the base. He wore his cute new Valentine's Day outfit, and it was the only thing in the room more red than his hair.

Overall, it was a fun holiday. As stupid as it is in the grand scheme of things, it's fun to see the kids "get it" and get excited about something. I hope yours was good as well!

Do I Suck At Photoshop?

There's a reason behind that title. In case you haven't seen it, just head over to YouTube and search for "I suck at Photoshop" and watch a few of the results. That's not to insinuate that I don't suck at Photoshop, because the reality is that I still probably do. That's not the point here though . . the point is to show off one of the first REAL attempts I've made to substantially edit any of my photos. I've done the "quick fix" on a couple of bird photos just to see what it'd do, but I've yet to really take the time to learn how to use the program. Tonight I was just playing around with some of the snapshots I took today and I really liked how this one turned out. What does everyone think?

11 February 2009

Monk Chin

My girls LOVE their baby brother. Each morning when he wakes up I sit on the couch with him and talk to him while I have my coffee. He is very vocal in the morning, and he gets louder and more excited the more people are around to talk to him. I guess between that and the uncanny physical resemblance there'll be no doubt he's Lily's kin, eh?

The girls both love to hold Mason, although I'm sure if he was given the choice of whether or not to be held (around the neck) multiple times per day, he may decline. For now though, he doesn't object right away, so I give them their shot at him before Avery leaves for school. Does this pose look familiar? I think Lily has a future as a wrestler, and Mason as a survivalist.

When Lily finally gave him up this morning she said, "Daddy, isn't Mason such a cute little monk chin?"

"Yes Lily, yes he is indeed, cutest little monk chin I've ever seen."

Avery does quite a bit better with restraining her instinct to choke Mason into submission, but often it's at the expense of his posture. Lily holds him up, Ave tends to let him slouch a bit. But, since he's not under quite as much duress when Avery holds him, he tends to be a little more photogenic. These are pictures the kids will look back on and treasure . . especially when Avery's 23 and her little punk 14 year-old brother is bugging her to drive him to the mall. Avery will just tell him "Listen buddy, if you don't back off and ask Lily to take you, I'll show all your friends those pictures of her choking you out when you were a baby!" Or something like that . .

10 February 2009

Phil, I Disagree!

With all due respect, Mr. Punxatawney Phil, I am going to have to disagree with your findings. 6 more weeks of Winter might seem like the right prediction to make . . after all, everybody else who gets on the news nowadays seems to want to forecast doom and gloom as well. But I've gotta tell you bro, I've got a sneaking suspicion you whiffed big time on this one. Care to hear my rationale? Good.

Let's start with the weather. I know anomalies happen, and that our current warm spell may be just that. But it's topped 70 degrees here in the Charlotte area for 4 straight days, and I'm not the only one who's noticed. Until recently, Lily had insisted on wearing pants on a daily basis, something that's completely out of character for her. Today, however, was a skirt and sandals kind of day. Well, and a coat in the morning.

Exhibit B? This guy. As I milled around in my room this morning getting my gym bag ready, a familiar song filled the air. Familiar, and yet not quite perfect. I knew it was a Song Sparrow, but there was a lot of variation. My guess is that this little guy is a 1st year bird, just getting the hang of his vocal abilities. He sang from atop my house and in the willow tree, but was too shy to pause there for photos. The small Cedar tree in the neighbor's yard was apparently a good enough alternative, and far enough away from me that he didn't feel the urge to flee.

For Exhibit C, I give you said weeping willow tree. Apparently it's got enough confidence in my point of view that it's decided to start pushing out its tender new leaves. Would a tree as wise as the willow be so foolhardy as to expose its new growth to 6 more weeks of cold and snow? I think not.

And Exhibit D? The Eastern Bluebirds have been spending more and more time investigating the nest boxes these days. According to my records, last year they started nest construction on March 18th, which is a scant 5 weeks away. I'm interested to see if this early warming pushes that date up at all this year.

With that, Mr. Brownhog (a bit of an inside joke, Avery used to call it Brownhog Day), I rest my case. I suppose the jury will need to deliberate until the end of your 6-week period to determine whose prediction was more accurate. I have to tell you though, I believe I am currently the leader in the clubhouse.