Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Chair

This is one those chairs from Ikea which we've had for many years as a reading chair -- quite comfortable. Hikaru has now claimed it as "his" chair. He's discovering the "third dimension" (height), and likes to climbs up and down by himself.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Formula for Growth

We saved these empty cans of baby formula, so we could visually show how much formula Hikaru consumed during his first year after birth. The baby formula comes a dry powered form; you just scoop it out, and mix it with water. Pretty simple.

During the first eight months, Hikaru fed primarily on a breast milk supplemented with formula. Then we added some solid food of rice cereal, avocados, bananas, apple sauce to his diet, but formula was still the main course.

We had an established routine of mixing in the baby formula powder with water before every meal. We got pretty good at it, even when our eyes were half closed with sleep deprivation. Sometimes, though, we couldn't mix the formula fast enough when Hikaru was "really" hungry. He would gulp down 8 ounces of formula in a few minutes. It's amazing how much a little baby can eat. (And the stuff really didn't taste so great. We tried it.)

Fortunately, Hikaru is now off the formula and off the bottle. We switched him over to whole cow's milk after being one year old, and he drinks from a cup. He now eats pretty much what we eat.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Light of the Mmm

The other evening, the sky was clear. There was a quarter moon and brilliant stars. Hikaru looks toward the moon, points his finger, and says "Mmm" (moon). We both look at the moon together, and contemplate it for a while. I ask him, "Which planet did you come from?" He points to the stars in the direction of Orion. When you have a 16 month old baby, it's fun to ask all kinds of questions. It makes you wonder, though, when we first start having some kind of consciousness of the greater universe.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Life is a Tunnel

Sometimes by walking through a tunnel one can view life with a whole different perspective on the other side. For Hikaru, it's just fun!

"Wish on everything. Pink cars are good, especially old ones. And stars of course, first stars and shooting stars. Planes will do if they are the first light in the sky and look like stars. Wish in tunnels, holding your breath and lifting your feet off the ground. Birthday candles. Baby teeth."

-- Francesca Lia Block

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Insurance Quotations

This is an uninspiring item, but perhaps helpful. On some days, I'm not sure what "insurance" really does. It feels like we're insuring that the insurance companies make a profit. We mail them a big check every year for something we hope to never use, and it seems a little crazy.

Well, our homeowner insurance premium went up again by another couple hundred dollars. Yes, just when we're trying harder to "save" due to our baby expenses, etc.. We called our insurance agent (Farmers Insurance) to see what we could do to lower our premium. One surprise was that if you're an "engineer", it's possible to get a discount up to 20%. Is this something new? They request a copy of your college diploma.

As of January 2007, some insurance companies have cut their rates by as much as 18%. The press release announcing this can be found here. Also, check the California Department of Insurance website has additional information.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007


"Ume" or the "Japanese apricot" (plum) trees are blooming this time of year. Quite beautiful. By the way, this is the tree where umeboshi comes from. Click on the photo for a larger image...

In the photo below, we pose for a "family" picture. A slight wind brings down a shower of flower pedals.

Here's another perspective looking up through the tree branches and flowers with the deep blue sky as a backdrop.

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Hikaru the Hammer

Hikaru might be pretty good at pounding mochi, even at 16 months old. My parents sent Hikaru a "hammer and peg" toy. He's enjoying it quite a bit. The box, though, indicated that it was for children ages "2+ years", so don't believe everything you read.

When we first took the toy out of the box, Hikaru was very excited. You would think he would he would just grab the hammer and start hammering away, but that's not quite what happened.

At first, he liked the box a great deal. He also didn't know what to make of the "hammer". The "pounding end" of the tool made a convenient handle to grasp the "stick". He walked around and carried the hammer (or rather the "stick") to poke at things.

Then he pushed in the pegs in with his hands. Is that considered cheating? He also uses the "stick" vertically to push out the pegs. Oh well... It goes to show our preconceived adult notions on how to use this toy. There's always more than one way to do something.

However, now that we've showed him the "right way" to hold and use a hammer, he's pretty good at pounding in the pegs. He pounds away with enthusiasm, and maybe a good release for any baby frustrations. He even knows how to flip the toy over, and pound the other side.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Date on Olvera Street

Yesterday, I had a lunch date with my wife on Olvera Street at La Luz del Dia -- which as some great Mexican food, especially the corn tortillas and carnitas. It might be like the food grandma used to make (if I was Mexican), and it probably hasn't changed much over the many years. We sat at a table outside, and enjoyed the warm sunny day after a week of some "freezing" temperatures here in LA-LA-land.

For the people reading this blog who don't know Los Angeles, Olvera Street, it is the oldest part of downtown. The oldest standing adobe house in LA (built in 1818) is located here. It is somewhat touristy. But all generations of LA school kids have probably visited this place. It's a nice gathering place. Olvera Street is adjacent to Chinatown, and within walking distance from Little Tokyo and many downtown city and county government office buildings.

A group of "senior" musicians often play and hang out here. In addition to Mexican food places, a gallery displays the work of a few artists. There are souvenir stands with Mexican leather bags, shoes, sombreros, key chains, and t-shirts that say things like "Chicano Warrior" or "I'm Mexican, not Hispanic".

As you might guess, we were "Hikaru-less" on this day. Mommy took a day off from work, and dropped Hikaru off at his grandmother's house, so we were "free". Folks who don't have babies probably don't understand all the subtle implications of such moments like this brief hour together, but it felt pretty good -- like we were "single" again!

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Saturday Night Fever

Maybe we should be disco dancing. But from this past Friday through Monday (yes, the entire weekend), Hikaru had a fever reaching a high of 103.9 degrees F on Saturday. Mommy was also sick with the cold, but I seem to be OK. The mysterious thing is that Hikaru didn't have the usual symptoms of a cold virus, like runny nose and congestion. But he was certainly "not" a happy baby.

We gave him some Tylenol, and that seemed to bring the fever down. On Sunday evening, Hikaru was extremely tired, and didn't eat or drink much. He was clingy and cranky, and couldn't go to sleep. So we finally resorted to the "auto method" where we put him in the car, and drove somewhere. It finally worked to put him to sleep. I actually did all our grocery shopping at 8 pm, so it wasn't a waste of our time.

He seems to be ok now. On Monday, we called Dr. Huang, our pediatrician, and he speculated that it could be something called Fifth Disease. It's common in children, and a characteristic sign of the disease is a rash that develops afterwards. I guess, we'll see.

Yes, the wonderful joys of parenthood! Happiness is when a baby is back to normal. We move as an interconnected family unit/network. If the network (or even one server) goes down, it's not a very happy situation until service is restored again.

It wasn't such a bad weekend to be at home with a sick baby, though. The night time temperatures dropped below freezing to around 30 degrees F (which is cold for Los Angeles). There was even some ice on the sidewalk the other morning. But the days were brilliantly sunny, and the air intensely clear. Even the most distant mountains are visible, so this might compensate for any lack of vision (even if our present view of the world is small).

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Sense of Place

This is one of my 5 am walk thoughts that I'm still trying to "place". It's our "sense of place" or "home". There are places where we feel very much at home. There are other places that are alienating and difficult to tolerate, even when it's familiar. It could be geographical and social, but what is it in a "place" that evokes our feelings of belonging?

The photo above is from the San Gabriel mountains in the Angeles National Forest (just slightly north of Los Angeles). For some people who prefer a dense urban environment, it could bring feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and isolation, since there might not be another human for miles around. For me, I enjoy nature and being outdoors, so I could feel "comfortable" here, even though I don't live here. So what provides us these feelings and preferences? Is it our childhood upbringing and memories? Maybe.

This morning while walking down the road, the moon emerged from behind some clouds. I heard the familiar sound of tree branches and dry leaves rustling in the cool winter breeze, the sound of a distant freight train, and a neighborhood dog barking. Memories are associative, and these are the same sounds I've heard all my life growing up in Ohio. Even though this California, and it isn't Ohio (of course), I could feel like it was... it feels "like home".

Choosing where to live isn't always a rational decision, and it's sometimes based on how one feels in a place; how we feel about our neighbors and neighborhood. Our present area of residence is quite nice, but isn't the most tidiest of places -- with a few roaming stray cats and dogs, occasional graffiti, and someone's old shoes hanging by the laces over the power line. Some people keep their yards neatly trimmed, but some have miscellaneous auto parts used for lawn decorations. It's not Beverly Hills, or a planned housing project, but there is diversity. In our neighborhood, people are likely to speak Chinese or Spanish, as well as English.

Our neighbors are the type to hammer away at some home construction projects, dig in their vegetable garden, or work on their cars. There's a drummer down the street who practices every evening, and every morning we hear a rooster crow. During my morning walks, most people will say "hi" or "good morning", even the guy who searches the trash cans looking for recyclables. This is presently "home" for us, and we got used to living here. We probably wouldn't feel so comfortable living in a yuppie upscale area, but we have nothing against yuppies.

Some days after we first moved to our house, I was eating breakfast, and I noticed with surprise that the basic placement of items in our kitchen (stove, sink, refrigerator, cabinets) were in the same locations as in my childhood home. It made me wonder if that preference for our house and home was made in my subconscious mind to mirror something from my past.

I'll probably have to figure this out in some future blog entry... Please excuse the rambling thoughts.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Graceful Rays

These bat rays might have inspired "Stealth" aircraft. Their smooth graceful motion silently sliding through the water is captivating to watch.

These photos were taken at the "touch pool" of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California.

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Tall Ships

Today, we took a brief family stroll around Long Beach, California. I took a few photos below as we watched some tall ships set sail from the dock at the Long Beach Rainbow Harbor Marina. I guess, these ships are mostly for recreational and educational use, and it looks like fun!

(Clicking on the photos will give you larger image.)

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