Friday, July 24, 2015

Pandorica- Doctor Who Cafe

On our way home from our vacation we made a detour and stopped in Beacon, NY at "Pandorica" a Doctor Who themed cafe. You can see The painting "the Pandorica Opens" behind us.

The menu features lots of Doctor Who inspired appetizers which they call "spoilers" like Fish Fingers and Custard (French Toast and Custard), K9s (Mini hotdogs and mustard), and Big Bang (Bangers/Sausages flamed with Stroh's Rum). And on the kid's menu Henry got the Bowties are Cool (Mac and Cheese with bowtie pasta). And they have a great selection of teas!

And of course they play Doctor Who at the restaurant while you eat. We watched "Night Terrors." 

They have some original Doctor Who inspired art for sale, that I wasn't allowed to take pictures of.

And they have some props from the show like River's journal, Tardis keys, and a gas mask from "The Empty Child."

The door to the bathroom is the TARDIS.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

 Frank Loesser and Lynn Garland

 The older I get Christmas is less and less about presents and more about, family, friends, a long road trip home, that hopeful feeling which accompanies the season, the cold winter weather, snow, hot chocolate, and of course Christmas music.

Christmas music means different things to different people. For me the only kind of Christmas music is old Christmas music. Give me some Bing Crosby or Perry Como or Burl Ives. I don’t want to hear any of the new stuff.

On Pandora, I’ve got a station called White Christmas Radio and I can put that on and hear great Christmas tunes whenever I want.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” There is just something about it that I find irresistible. Maybe it’s because it sounds like something out of an old musical or maybe it’s because of the “innocence” of the seduction. It’s a song from a simpler time, untouched by modern sensibilities.

The score of the music lists the two people in this duet as Wolf and Mouse. The Wolf, usually the male part, wants the woman to stay overnight while the Mouse, usually the female part, despite partly wanting to stay worries what people would think of her if she stayed.

I mean let’s all be adults here the Wolf is trying to sleep with the Mouse, but we know that he isn’t going to push her, but merely tempt her. Like I said simpler times. Today the sequel to the song might be “Baby, What’s With This Restraining Order?”  

“Baby it’s Cold Outside” was written by Frank Loesser, who wrote the music and lyrics for such Broadway shows as “Guys and Doll” and “How to Succeed at Business Without Really Trying.”

Loesser wrote “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in 1944 and performed it at his parties with his wife, Lynn Garland. She considered it “their song” and was furious with him when he sold the rights of the song to MGM in 1949. That year it was featured in the movie “Neptune’s Daughter.” The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

In addition to the version of the song in the movie, 7 other renditions of the song were recorded in 1949. 5 of those versions charted on Billboard that year. Ironically the film version didn’t chart.

So which version of the song is the definitive version? Well, that’s the real question, isn’t it? Lots of versions of the song are great for different reasons. Some versions of the song are not so great. Here’s a look at several versions, but it is definitely not an attempt to look at every version just the ones that interested me.

Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting’s 1949 version is probably one of the first versions people think of. I think Whiting sounds excellent her voice has a youthful innocence, but Mercer sounds a bit too rehearsed and his crying during the line “How can you do this to me” is really awkwardly bad.

Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark (1949) this is one of the best versions the singers sound really good together. Shore lacks the innocence she instead sounds commanding and sure of herself, but it works for her. And Clark meshes with her well. The only thing is the song's pace seems really quick.

Don Cornell and Laura Leslie’s version (1949) has the backing of the Sammy Kaye Orchestra. Which make it feel more like a piece in a musical rather than the versions of the song with less instruments that feel more intimate, like we are looking in on a couple’s private moments. But I think this version works well. However instead of the normally ambiguous ending this version end with the Mouse telling the Wolf that she’s staying.

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan (1949) is sort of unbalance because Fitzgerald is one of the greatest singers of the 20th century and Jordan just can’t begin to compete with her so I just keep wondering why she’d be at all interested in this guy that can’t sing as well as her.

June Carter made a parody version of the song with a comedy duo Homer and Jethro (1949). This version is a humorous country western version of the song that is played for laughs and over 60 years later the humor is hit and miss.

The versions in “Neptune’s Daughter” itself are quite good. Richardo Montalban and Esther Williams give a fantastic performance and then Red Skelton and Betty Garrat do a hilarious role reversal in their version of the song in which Skelton is the Mouse trying to get away and Garrat is the Wolf. I don’t understand how the Montalban/Williams version wasn’t ever on the Billboard chart. I guess it was somehow ignored because of all the other versions.

The Pearl Bailey and Hot Lips Page version (1949) just doesn’t sound right to my ear. I can hear in their voices that these two don’t think much of the material. To them this is a corny song, so they just sort of try to get through it. They also change the ending, in this version Bailey sees another woman out there and she says Page wants her to leave cause he’s got another woman coming over and Page admits it’s true so Bailey stays just to spite him.

Louis Armstrong and Velma Middleton did a hilarious version of the song in 1949, but their version quickly goes off the rails and becomes more of a comedy routine than a real version of the song. It’s really amusing to listen to though.

There is also other 1949 version that I haven’t been able to find. Bing Crosby sang the song with Jimmy Stewart on Bing’s radio show. I’m sure it was either hilarious or painfully awkward. I’d love to hear it though.

Sammy Davis, Jr. and Carmen McRae did a great version of the song in 1957 on their duet album Boy Meets Girl. This is my personal favorite version. Davis does some funny ad-libs and McRae is clearly laughing sometimes, but it doesn’t detract from the song.

Dean Martin did a version of the song in 1959. In this version the Mouse part is played by a chorus of women. Leave it to Dino to up the ante and seduce not one woman but a whole chorus. Despite that one bit of strangeness, I like this version, maybe because Martin is really believable in his role of the Wolf.

James Taylor and Natalie Cole did a version in 2006 and Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton did a version in 2004. I’m lumping these versions together because they are both horrible for the same reason. They forgot or didn’t care that the beauty of the song is the battle of wills that the couple is having. In addition to being a song it’s a scene. In these versions the song is just a duet. I mean the Wolf is not much of a Wolf if he’s more interested in hitting his notes than seducing the Mouse. But the very worst version I’ve heard is Norah Jones and Willie Nelson. Luckily they sing the song like a duet too, so we are spared the truly horrifying mental picture of Nelson attempting to seduce Jones. But their voices are like oil and water or more accurately water and sandpaper. They just don’t mesh in any way that is pleasing to the ears.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Going the Distance ( 90's Music Fun 001)

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This is the first of a new series where I am going to share music that I like organized by decade.

The Distance

The Toadies
Possum Kingdom

Harvey Danger
Flagpole Sitta

Movie Star

Song 2

Smashing Pumpkins
Bullet With Butterfly Wings

Israel’s Son

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Time Flies When You're Having Fun...

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Wow, I can't believe it's been four months since I last did one of these Henry blogs. I assure you I wasn't consciously being lazy or anything. It's just like the cliché title of the article says, times flies when you're having fun. Henry is getting older and he's a lot of fun to just hang out with.

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I think Henry might have a future in modeling just look at how he naturally strikes a pose in the picture on the left. 

There’s a park about 5 blocks away. On the weekends if I feel like I need a little exercise I put him the stroller and take him over there. Or if I’m lazy I’ll drive him over there. The park has swings and two big play areas with lots of slides (see the lead picture of this article), some of them are double slides and Henry constantly wants me to slide next to him. Must be a funny sight, me going down a kid’s slide.

When he’s not on the playground, Henry likes to play with his Duplos. He’s got this set for making car and he’s got a set for making animals so naturally he combines the two and makes an elephant-car. Or, I just put random blocks together on the car piece and stick an animal head-piece on it and let him play with some sort of horse with a sheep’s head that has a gas tank hump. The other thing he loves to do with his Duplos (or Mega Blocks) is to stack them. He’ll find every single piece that’s the same size and just start stacking them on top of each other and when it gets so large that it falls over and breaks apart all over the room, he just laughs and starts over again.

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Henry is also a big fan of rock music. I’ll put on Pandora and rock out to some Rolling Stones or some Led Zeppelin, some Queen, STP, Credence, or whatever, Henry isn’t picky. If he’s digging it he’ll start dancing or he’ll go get his “drums.” He’s got two empty formula tubs that make a great pair of drums or he’ll grab the guitar-hero guitar-controller and start “jamming” with that. One time we were listening to the Beatle’s “Get Back” and Carol and I shouted “Get back Jo Jo.” Well, Henry thought this was hilarious, so to this day if you shout, “Get Back Jo Jo” Henry will shout it too. And it’s only rock music he likes, try to play anything else like classical music or something and he’ll just say “no that” until you turn it off.

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Henry does a lot of running around, I’ve chased him around the living room over and over again until I think to myself, “What am I doing I’ve got to pace myself”. Taking care of him is a marathon not a sprint. So sometime while he’s doing laps, I’ll just get a pillow and lay down on the living room floor. Sometimes Henry will stop running too and say “Night, night” and get another pillow and lay down next to me. Of course he can only stay down for a couple of seconds before he wants to run around again. But he’ll sometimes turn it into a game and he’ll say “down” and lay down and then say “up” and sit up and then if I don’t play along he’ll say “Daddy up” over and over again until I sit up then we’ll go up and down until he gets tired of it.

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We moved at the end of July so a swanky loft apartment a couple of exits north of where we were living. It is a great apartment. It has a beautiful spiral staircase and Henry can walk up it just fine with one of us behind him, but we always carry him down the steps. Anyway when he’s going up the stairs for “bath, bottle, book, and bed time” he shouts to whoever is still downstairs through the spiral staircase “Bye, bye Mommy,” step, “Bye, bye Mommy” step. It’s cute, but I’m always thinking just get up the steps kids. I made up a couple of rhymes like “less squawking and more walking” and “less chitter-chatter and more pitter-patter.” I know they must be good because Carol started using them now too.    

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He's still a messy eater! 

We have a morning routine where Carol wakes him up gets him dressed and brings him into the bathroom and I help him brush his teeth and then he follows me back into our bedroom and he plays with exercise balls and an empty tool box while I get dressed. Then it’s downstairs and he sits in his highchair and has some toast while I make sure Carol and I have some lunch while Carol fixes Henry’s lunch. Then it’s off to work. Henry used to be able to have a bottle of milk or juice in the car, but after the 3rd time he poured the juice all over himself instead of drinking it he lost that privilege, but he stills says “my juice” or “my cup” every time you get him in his car seat

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Daddies are like cars, they have to go from zero (calm) to 60 (screaming) in 3 seconds.

In the Henry is a genius department, Henry already has a job. Every evening he gets the cat bowls from off the floor and brings them to me across the room and I dish out the cat’s kibbles and Henry carefully carries the full bowls back across the room and puts them down by the cat’s water dish so the cats can eat. Every once in a while he’ll dump some kibbles out by accident. But Henry is so thorough when he does this that he will not stop cleaning up the kibbles until the job is done. I was in a hurry to get him upstairs and change his diaper or something and he spilled some kibbles and I was like “come on forget it.” But he was picking all the stray kibbles up and putting them back in Stella’s bowl. And he had spilled them as he was putting the bowl down so Stella is right there trying to eat her dinner and Henry is like stepping on top of her trying to get the loose kibbles. And I’m trying to pick the kid up, but he is wriggling around and shouting “No, Daddy. No, Daddy.” And Spock is about a foot away eating his food and not having any trouble. 

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These two pictures help you see how Henry has grown in four months. The left one is from July 8th and the right photo is October 7th.

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You can see how Henry has grown with these pictures too. The first photo is from July 30th, the middle one is September 25th and the last one is October 16th.

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Henry loves to see both sets of his grandparents in person. But in-between visits he likes to talk to them on skype. Whenever I get a phone call it is hard to pay attention because Henry will start shouting "Pop-Pop! Pop-Pop!" (that's what he calls all four of his grandparents right now).  But he is used to video chatting. He doesn't know what to make of regular phone calls. He usually stares at the phone and wonders were the picture went. 

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It's hard to explain this photo so I'll just say there's an alternate dimension where Henry is the 15th Doctor and I'm his bumbling but loveable companion and we'll leave it at that. 

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Henry and his Momma. I'm partial, but I think Carol looks great in this picture. :)

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Four months ago Henry (July 11th to be exact). It's funny but when I look at this picture today it almost looks like it's a picture of a different kid already. That kid was July-Henry of little resemblance to the older and wiser October-Henry. And I know February-Henry will be different too, but hopefully I'll do a blog or two before we get there.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Caution: Genius at Play

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Henry is thinking "why won't this train go?"

Henry is getting older so quickly. I know I've been saying he's a genius from day 1, but he really is amazing. He can follow directions if you tell him to clean up your books or throw that tissue in the trash. In fact sometimes you don't even have to tell him. I've seen him clean up his books of his own volition and one time after ripping a tissue into a million pieces he started picking all the pieces up and throwing them in the trash can without me even asking!

Henry's vocabulary is improving. Sometimes he still points at things and says "Daddy, daddy" and we say no, Henry that's a wall or that's a potted plant, that isn't Daddy. But he also says "Mommy," "No!" (his favorite word), "Beep, Beep!", "seat," which unfortunately often sounds like something else, "cat," "nana" (as in banana one of his favorite foods) and just the other day he learned an important one, "eat" which he now says over and over again when he's hungry and like me, he is always hungry.

But what is even more impressive is the number of words he understands. Sometimes he'll just start pointing to things around the room or in his books. He is asking what things are called. He is learning! So eventually, I start quizzing him. He has a book with various farm animals and some of the pages have many different animals on them so I say "which one is the pig?" and he'll point to it, "which one is the cow?" and so on. He's getting really good at this.

One of his books has very simple text about a yellow car, but it also has a lot of various things in the background, so one day I start pointing out everything in the book. I say there's the bicycle, there's the gardenhose, there's the dog, there's the dry cleaning, there's the sky, there's the clouds. And I'm thinking he's going to end up not learning any of this because I bombarded him with too much, but the very next day when I took him outside he was pointing up at the sky and the clouds when he's never been interested in them before. I think the part about the sky and clouds had sunk in.

The other thing that makes me think that Henry is a genius is that often times you only have to teach him about something or show him something once before he gets it. We've taken Henry to a playground with a toddler play area a couple of times. My brother and my parents were with me the last time. And in one part of the playground there is this beam that is sticking out and it is at just the right height that Henry could have run right into it and hit his head. But I showed Henry that he had to duck, I pushed his head down and guided him under it. Well, the next time I let him run by it and sure enough he ducked under the thing all by himself. And I have my brother as a witness. :)

I'm still taking pictures of Henry at his daycare every day. Here are some of the best ones.

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These three are Henry getting into trouble. In the first one he's going behind a cabinet he's not supposed to and he's roping his friend into it too. In the second one he's backing up against the cubbies like a criminal trying to get out of the spotlight. And in the third one he's reaching up onto the white board to get something the teacher was trying to put out of reach.
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Whenever I try and take a picture of Henry it seems like it's meal time. Either I end up taking the picture at the same times each day or they feed this kid a lot! But no matterwhat Henry's doing, I try and get a fun shot. I love how happy the kid is in the above center shot and I love his hair on the upper right one. But of course my favorite is the one below center. It wasn't taken at school but it's still hilarious. It reminds me of one of those shots of a celeb trying to grab the camera.
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I definitely think Henry is going to be a bookworm. I guess there was never really a doubt with two bookworms for parents. 
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He is also going to be musically inclined.

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Henry really is a happy kid he is constantly excited and screaming "Yeah!!"
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The proud parents and the Kiddo

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An empty diaper genie ring makes a great crown doesn't it?

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Henry had a bad cold this month but his hair was always perfect!

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Carol's mom sent Henry some clothes so I put them all on the boy at once so we could show her right away how grateful we were. I think he looks like a new superhero Raincoat Man.

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Carol taught Henry how to take "Selfies" with my i-phone. I think technically Henry might have taken this picture himself. He's a pretty good photographer isn't he?

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Looking at the ponies with mommy. Henry loves going to the zoo!
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Sometimes you just need to take a good nap. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Short Story of the Week (June 2013)

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Hi! Most of you probably already know who I am and are aware that I am a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy who blogs regularly over at Stainless Steel Droppings.

This is not the first time I've had the pleasure of being featured here on John's blog as host of the Short Story selections for a month.  If you have not taken advantage of the chance to volunteer to pick our weekly short stories, I highly recommend you sign up now.  Slots are open and it is a great deal of fun.

Rather than rehash information from previous posts, let's hit the highlights.  The picture of my wife, Mary, and I posted above was taken last weekend by my future son-in-law while we were out celebrating my daughter's 21st birthday.  A few weeks prior to this Mary and I took a week off to stay in two of our favorite Inns located in Missouri's wine country to celebrate our 24th anniversary.  I know the words "Missouri's wine country" probably sound like an oxymoron, but trust me on this, the landscape is beautiful and the wine is very good.

In addition to celebrating our anniversary, May 2013 was a big month for me on the fan-boy front.  I was able to spend two weekends in a row with Hugo-winning artist John Picacio at conventions he was attending here in Kansas City.  I had the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with some of my long-time idols including Michael Whelan, Gregory Manchess and Charles Vess.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Charles Vess live on stage on the final day of the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 2 event.  I also was able to visit with Cathie and Arnie Fenner, editors of the outstanding, award-winning annual, Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art.  It is a memorable experience to be able to have more than just a few minutes with creative people who are a source of inspiration.

I am a big fan of short stories.  I think there is something special about this particular form of storytelling and when done well the temptation arises to resort to hyperbole and describe them as having a certain sort of "magic"--I know, heresy in a Science Fiction book club.  When an author can use a very limited word count to evoke emotion, inspire debate, provoke deeper thought or simply entertain I believe it is worth celebrating.  It is my pleasure to bring to you the short stories for June 2013.  In an ideal world you would enjoy each and every one.  But this is the real world and we all have different tastes.  At the very least I hope you find something that compels you to offer your thoughts and opinions.  Enjoy.


Week #1- Deus Ex Arcana by Desirina Boskovich.  It was featured in the April issue of Lightspeed.  I reviewed it for SF Signal and wrote:

“This work of original fiction” a story the author wrote “that reflects the essential absurdity of humans interacting with alien technology” and she does this with great aplomb by juxtaposing her own visually absurd images against some that are truly horrific. The protagonist is Jackson Smith who is seven when the story begins though the reader also spends time with him as an adolescent. It was an ordinary June morning when the box arrived in Springfield, Missouri and from the moment Jackson spies, and then touches, it, the town and the people who inhabit it will never be ordinary again. Boskovich writes in an engaging style that compels you to enjoy the words themselves as well as the images they conjure. Jackson is a very likeable character and in the midst of all the chaos he grounds the reader and keeps the story from becoming silly. I couldn’t help but feel that the story reads like a very serious Outer Limits or Twilight Zone episode. Recommended.

Week #2- Mono no aware by Ken Liu

I'm very excited about this week's short story, the 2013 Hugo and Locus award nominated story "Mono no aware" by Ken Liu. Without giving away too much detail, this is the story of a generation ship bound for a new home which focuses on one particular Japanese boy who is part of the crew. The story was first published early last year in the anthology, The Future is Japanese, and it was one of my favorite short fiction reads of the year. The story's vibe reminds me of a popular classic work of short fiction that many of us have read and discussed in the past. I won't spoil the story by revealing which classic work that is here, we can talk about it in the discussion posts. Don't miss the author spotlight which talks about his inspirations for the story.

Week #3- The Urashima Effect by E. Lily Yu

E. Lily Yu is one of the hot up and coming authors and I've enjoyed the few stories of hers that I've read. For those interested she was the guest on the latest episode of The Coode Street Podcast. I cannot say much about "The Urashima Effect" without spoiling it. A man wakes up after three years of stasis to continue the rest of his journey to the planet Ryugu-jo where he is to establish a base. As part of an effort to combat loneliness and isolation, his ship contains recordings from family and friends, one of which is his wife telling him the story of Urashima Taro. I like the 'story within a story' element in this short as well as the fact that it is a fantasy story/fairy tale embedded in a science fiction story.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Watching All the Cars Go By...

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Since the weather has been warmer, Henry and I have been going outside every evening before dinner. Most kids would probably run around in the grass or throw a ball around, but do you know what Henry likes to do? He likes to sit on the grass at the edge of the parking lot a wave at the cars as people get home from work. He doesn't often wave at the same people when they get out of their cars. In person he gets a little shy I guess. But, he really enjoys waving at cars. When we read books to him he even waves at pictures of cars. When we take him to get ice cream he barely eats it because the shop is on a main road so Henry gets transfixed with watching all the cars that go by.

The other thing that Henry likes to do is run on the sidewalk around our apartment complex. He likes the sidewalk a lot better than grass, the grass is too uneven and he ends up tripping in each and every divot. There are a lot of kids in the apartment complex and sometimes if they are playing outside Henry will just stand and watch them. He's just soaking it all in.

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This picture was taken by one of Henry's school teachers. And I think she really caught his essence. Henry is looking out a window at who knows what, but he sure seems to be deep in thought.

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I continue to take pictures of Henry everyday at school. In the third one above, Henry has another kid's shoe, but he was in the process of taking it over to the other kid and helping him get it on. Of course Henry can't seem to keep his own shoes on anymore. He's learned how to take them off and he loves to practice things. The embarrassing part is when he takes them off in the car and I don't notice until I'm already at a store or something. I had to stand in a long line at the post office right around tax day. I was the dad whose kid was walking around with one shoe.

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So what new tricks has Henry learned in the last month? He recognizes a lot of words. I say Henry where does your hat go and he pats his head. He can point out his nose, ears, eyes and mouth. And sometimes he'll just randomly want to touch my nose and then he has to touch Carol's nose too.

Every night before Henry's bath time we have clean up time and we clean up his toys and books and Henry has to help us. One night he started cleaning up of his own accord. We're sitting there and he just starts putting his books back on the shelf.

He's very affectionate. Sometimes he hugs Carol and then runs over and hugs me and then goes back and starts over again.

In the last couple of days he's started to really enjoy clapping. He has this toy dog that will talk if you squeeze the paws or feet and if you squeeze a certain paw a couple of times it says "yeah!" and you hear clapping. Well he'll squeeze the paw over and over again because he wants to hear the clapping and join in. But now he doesn't even need the dog because if I say "yeah!" he'll start clapping.    

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Henry loves walking through the woods mostly because he can play with big sticks and try to eat leaves.

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Isn't this a great scenic local. I mean it's so pretty with the creek and the bridge. I think I'd have used it as a Christmas card or something, well except that Henry is screaming!
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Carol set the track up for Henry and then took a series of pictures as he took it apart piece by piece. But when you look at the pictures backwards it looks like he's putting it together himself.