The Boy Turns One

Here's our Little Man

Here’s our Little Man

A year ago today, we welcomed Calvin into the world.  And what a year it’s been.

Granted, the last half of this past year blew by incredibly quickly because of Life Changes for the whole family.  I barely remember what we did 4 months ago, as most of our time was spent packing and cleaning and looking into buying houses.

Through all that time, though, Calvin kept getting bigger!  It’s amazing how much progress he’s made, especially in comparison with his big sister.  Due to ear infections, it took her a bit longer to be mobile.  Perhaps Calvin is more motivated to follow Meg around though, because he’s been crawling for a few months now and late last week started to try taking a few steps for the first time.  He’s routinely standing up from a squat all by himself, standing for nearly a minute at a time before sitting back down again.  He’s ready to walk, but hasn’t quite taken the plunge yet.

Within the last month or so, he’s also finally, finally, slept consistently through the night.  He’ll cry out occasionally but can usually get himself back to sleep.  I’m thinking the creepy peacock wallpaper in his room has something to do with it, but it seems like shortly after the move to the new house in Marshall, his sleeping situation (and ours…) improved dramatically.

Now that he’s a year old, we’re also in the process of weaning him off of Brooke faster than we were before.  Meg was on a bottle long before this point in her life, but Brooke’s been able to keep feeding Calvin.  Generally, she’s only doing it first thing in the morning and right before bedtime.  We don’t even have to do it at naptime anymore to calm him down.  She’ll slowly scale it back, but at this point, it seems like he can make it pretty well without needing that particular form of comfort.  Big boy finally growing up a bit!

Other than his progress, life has been busy for the rest of us.  They say your first semester is the hardest and they aren’t kidding.  I’m frequently working 12 hr days during the week in order to stay ahead, but I don’t mind it so far.  Brooke’s still getting settled with her job in Sedalia, but things are starting to look up on that front, too.  I’ll post more about the house later, but we’ve got half of the electrical system done, some important plumbing done, some new appliances, and we re-did the bathroom upstairs by ourselves in a little over a week (there will definitely be a post on that one).  Long-story short, we’re making progress with the house and are nearly “settled.”

Because of that, we were able to have a birthday party for Calvin this past weekend at the house.  We had around 16 people over and, as the weather was gorgeous, we set things up outside.  Grilled burgers, had many sides, and of course, birthday cake.  Calvin napped through half the party and wasn’t exactly “smiley” after he woke up, but I think he still had a fun time, and definitely got some fun toys.

Regardless, Calvin’s done well this past year and, though his sleeping schedule was terrible for, oh, 10 months of his life, I think we’re finally past it.  At least we’re to the point when he and Meg can play together in their room(s) by themselves, giving us a few extra moments of peace.

It’s worth something, for sure.

Oh, it’s been awhile…

So, it’s been quite awhile since I last posted something.  There’s a lot I could delve into, but for now, I’m going to bullet a few points of “updates” to get you a cross-section of how things have been going.

1). We closed on our house on August 6th, and there’s a whole story behind how that went down, but suffice to say, we successfully closed and got everything moved in.  The house is doing pretty well, but we’ve got some long-term projects in process that prevent us from unpacking all the boxes.  I’ll go into this in a later post, but for now, know that we had some plumbing done, getting me all squared away for brewing and getting us a new (more functional) toilet installed upstairs.  Hopefully tomorrow, we will have electrical work done, where our house is going to be effectively re-wired.  This is stuff that needs to get done and we’re glad we can get it moving within a month of moving in!

2). Brooke’s new job (with the same company) is going well, but she has her work cut out for her.  Lots of things to get done, so she’s been busy incorporating her old duties at Bridges CSS (St. Louis) into her new duties at Bridges of Missouri (Sedalia).  She’s enjoying it and things have been steadily improving this past month, but there’s lots more to do!

3). My job is going well so far, but this is only the second week of school.  Our first exams will start late next week and continue into the following week, so while I’m trying to keep ahead on lectures for three separate classes, I’ve also got to do the “in the present” kinds of stuff like grading and test design.  It’s work, but I’m enjoying it so far!

4). Calvin is sleeping through the night.  It started August 23rd, on his 11 month birthday, and has continue on and off.  Some nights are better than others, but aside from a few cries in the middle of the night, he’s staying down from 7:00 pm to 6:00/6:30 am.  Oh, how long we’ve waited for this…and we hope and pray it continues…

5). Meg and Calvin are enjoying their days at the Missouri Valley Lab School.  They started on August 18th and Meg took to it immediately.  Like, I’m surprised just how well she’s done there.  Compared with previous places, where she’d cry for 2-3 weeks as I’d leave her there, she’s been nothing but easy to deal with there.  Calvin, on the other hand, took about a week-and-a-half to get settled where I can leave him with a teacher and not have him scream as I walked away.  Still, that’s been better in recent days, too.

6). I got a new router and a new Linux server, so that’s why the site’s been down recently.  I think I figured it out so it should be working fine, albeit a slight bit slower than it used to be.  We’ll see how it goes…

That’s enough for now!  I’ll expand on some of these points in the future, but this should tide you over for awhile!

Moving On

We posted the news last week on Facebook but I haven’t had much time to write anything here about it.  However, for posterity’s sake, here goes:

We’re leaving St. Louis…again

This time, however, it’s so I can (finally) begin my first “grown up” job as Assistant Professor of Biology at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, MO.  I am charged with teaching Anatomy & Physiology I and II, as well as Principles of Anatomy & Physiology.  That’s going to be 15 credit hours worth of teaching each semester, so I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me.  It will absolutely be challenging, but I’m looking forward to moving off the lab bench for awhile and instead focusing on getting students to appreciate, if not love, physiology as I do.

When we moved to Iowa, Brooke had to leave Bridges CSS and, unfortunately, it took awhile before she was able to find anything comparable (or even acceptable…) doing similar things up north.  Thankfully, unbeknownst to us, Bridges CSS was in the process of buying Bridges of Missouri, their sister company based in Sedalia, MO, which just so happens to be 30 min south of Marshall.  Thus, with a stroke of providence or blind luck, she gets to keep doing what she loves while I begin this new adventure.  She will return to St. Louis once or twice a month to help facilitate the connection between these two arms of the company, but she’s already got her work cut out for her in integrating the workings of the two companies.  She’s excited to mix up what she’s been doing, too!

We’re on a pretty short time table now.  We spent the last few weekends in Sedalia and Marshall investigating houses (more “grown up” things we’re finally doing…) and we think we’ve settled on one that we’re going to make an offer on shortly.  My position officially begins August 1st, but I technically don’t have to be on campus until August 18th (school starts August 25th).  There are all kinds of challenges with pulling that off in a limited period of time, but we think we’re moving in the right direction and can make it happen.

Still, we’ve got a lot of packing to do…

Review: X-Men – Days of Future Past

x-men-days-of-future-past-patrick-stewart-and-james-mcavoy

You could say the X-Men franchise has been “hit or miss.”  The first and second movies were quite good (though I don’t think the first one ages as well…I guess it did come out in 2000…).  The third one was a train wreck.  The spinoff, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was horrible.  The sequel, The Wolverine wasn’t too bad, and the 1960s era reboot, X-Men: First Class, was alright, but I wasn’t floored by it like some people were (despite having some big-name actors, including James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, and Michael Fassbender).  Critically, the direction of the franchise was set with the first two movies, both directed by Bryan Singer.  He moved on after those two films and entrusted the franchise with other folks, many of which didn’t take the care he did with the story and characters.

Which brings us to X-Men: Days of Future Past.  The fact that this movie exists at all is mind-boggling.  Singer returns (and even retains the music and similar opening title sequence he used in the earlier two movies), the cast from the original trilogy of movies returns (including Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry, Shawn Ashmore, Ellen Page, and more), and they merged this cast with the new “first class” from the 60s era reboot, as this film relies heavily on time travel.  With the effects and pedigree of actors (let alone sheer number of them, some without lines, even), it’s a wonder they did it in a $200 million budget.

I kinda wish they’d explained how they brought back Professor X from the dead after the third movie…but whatever…

The movie begins in the future, with the original X-Men cast fighting a losing battle against the Sentinels, oversized robots designed to seek and destroy mutants and mutant sympathizers.  It’s effectively a post-apocalyptic wasteland, as the Sentinels have destroyed much of civilization in their quest.  Knowing their end is near, they hatch a plan to use Kitty Pride’s powers to send the consciousness of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to a pivotal moment in history, where they believe the Sentinal threat stemmed from.  As Wolverine doesn’t age like “normal” humans, it was a convenient way to have Jackman play both his older and younger self, bridging the gap between the old cast and new cast.  Wolverine does his best to “bring the band back together,” 10 years after the events of X-Men: First Class (so, now 1973), in order to prevent history from continuing on the course we saw in the beginning.

Overall, I thought it was a strong showing: definitely better than many of the other X-Men outings in the last 14 years (though probably not as good as the first two, in my book).  The action sequences were somewhat infrequent, the story slowed a bit in the middle, and I definitely had to suspend my brain from thinking too hard about the consequences of time-travel (…’cause, yeah…it don’t work that way…).  The acting and effects were all quite good, as expected, and I felt like all of the actors (and there were many) fit together remarkably well.  Granted, there were too many actors to keep track of, but I was in enough awe that I was seeing them all up on the same screen that I didn’t care.

Compared with previous X-Men movies, or even other comic book movies, this one got pretty dark at points.  Singer did his best to make “the future” seem bleak, and he succeeded.  Some of the original cast of X-Men were killed off by Sentinels in pretty gruesome ways.  It was just pretty shocking to see it happen time and again, especially after seeing many of these characters in movies for the past 14 years.  It was a bit unsettling, which I didn’t expect going in.

Finally, they ended the movie in such a way that it could serve as a good “swan song” for the original X-Men cast.  I highly doubt they’re going to let Hugh Jackman leave the Wolverine role (as, like Robert Downey, Jr and Iron Man, no one else can play that character), but many of the other actors are showing their age.  I love Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, but they’re getting older and can’t pull these characters off for much longer.  This movie takes place “in the future,” so it was an easy sell this time.  I’m glad the next film, X-Men: Apocalypse, will focus on the younger cast, though I’ll miss the original crew.

Let’s put it this way: I’m glad that this is the last time I see Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, rather than X-Men 3.

 

Review: Godzilla

Godzilla...SMASH...

Godzilla…SMASH…

There’s something about classic monster movies that I like. Can’t really place it, to be honest.  They aren’t particularly scary (just a dude in a large rubber suit, frequently…), but for people at the time these movies were popular 60+ years ago, they were probably terrifying.  Godzilla is perhaps the most enduring of franchises, undergoing multiple evolutions and reinventions over the decades, for better or for worse.

This new interpretation of the franchise was set up to bring us into the summer’s blockbuster season: big cast, big effects, big destruction, the works.  It does a pretty good job of playing off the original movies, where nuclear testing in the South Pacific leads toward ancient monsters waking up from a slumber lasting millenia.  Brian Cranston stars as a scientist running a nuclear power plant in Japan back in 1999, one that is summarily destroyed when some “thing” causes a melt down.  He spends the intervening years between then and now working on his conspiracy theory of what was responsible.  His son, a survivor of the catastrophe, doesn’t believe him, but soon learns the truth as he and the rest of the military chase the beast(s) across the Pacific to San Francisco.  As the previews indicate, Godzilla is not the only monster the movie will deal with, and when they finally fight near the end of the film, the results are pretty spectacular.

Unfortunately, the focus of the film is on the humans and how they deal with the monsters.  The director, Gareth Edwards, is a relative newcomer, yet did a good job “teasing” the reveal of Godzilla until the latter portion of the film.  Though I appreciate that aspect of the movie, it also meant that it took a long time before we really saw Godzilla himself.  We saw the other monster, but not the one headlining the movie.  Once he finally showed up, we got to see monster-on-monster fighting that all too rarily shows up in major motion pictures (aside from the mostly great Pacific Rim last year).

In the end, I enjoyed the movie, but felt it dragged quite a bit in the middle.  It started off pretty good and really “stuck the landing” by the end, yet the middle tried going the route of “character drama” without having any truly compelling characters to care about.  They weren’t bad, per se: I just didn’t care.  So, it’s a good rental, for sure.  I’m not mad I spent money on it in theaters (though I thought the 3D was largely unnecessary…), but I could understand waiting a bit to see it.  Worth seeing, but not worth going out of your way.