Monday, May 18, 2015

Four Weeks Down

So Raylan is a month old.  In some ways it seems like he's been with us longer than that, and in other ways it feels like the time has just flown by.  He's doing well.  He's a good baby.  Mostly only cries when he's hungry or wet (which seems fair), and the rest of the time he's pretty even natured (knock on wood).  When he's awake, he's often really awake.  Mostly he does baby stuff.  He seems to like baths and his play mat and faces.  He also likes being on people.   

"If you're too slow or clumsy when you change me, I'm gonna pee everywhere.
No pressure."
"But I'm not going to let my age define me."

We had some visitors this weekend.  On Saturday Mary and Chad came by with Truett, Mandy came over and brought us a tasty dinner casserole, and Ryan and Jamie stopped by, bearing gifts from Hawaii.  It was fun to have people come by, for sure.  We spend a lot of time at the house these days (we're not totally trapped, but the doc says Raylan won't really be ready for crowds until he hits six weeks), so visitors are awesome.
On Sunday my mom and dad came by after church, and they did some babysitting while we grabbed lunch and did some grocery shopping.  It's so very nice to have them around to help watch Raylan!  We even napped for a few minutes when we got back from the store.  So very nice...
And that's been about it.

It's great to finally see sun trying to break through the clouds after rain for more than a week.  We needed the rain, but my soul can only handle the gloom for so long.

I'm starting my second week back at work.  It'll be our first week of my being back at work without Jean or anyone else around to help Amy and I with some of the late night feeding/diaper stuff.  I'm sure we'll be a little tired, but it'll be fine. 

Not too much else to report.
We're all caught up on Game of Thrones.  It seems like the pace has picked up a bit this season.  It's been pretty good.  Best moment of the season so far has been Daenerys feeding one of her potential enemies to her dragons on the simple suspicion that they were part of a plot against her.  Dragons are the WMD pets of the GOT universe.  I want one.

Well, that's it.  Our veterans court crew is taking part in a joint graduation tonight for all of the Travis County treatment courts.  Apparently the governor's office is sending a representative to speak.  Sounds like a big to-do.  Treatment courts are the wave of the future.  In general, I'm in favor of them, but with a list of caveats.
But that's another post for another time....

Hope everyone is having a good week!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Raylan is Born

So, it's been a little quiet lately on the blog. 
Amy gave birth to Raylan Davis Steans on April 20, 2015, at 11:57 p.m.
He was born at St. David's hospital.  Amy was in labor for over 20 hours and then gave birth to Raylan by way of ceasarean section just before midnight.  He was 7 lbs. and 2 oz. at his birth.  I can't remember exactly how many inches, but twenty something.  The nurses commented that he might end up being tall because his hands and feet were a little on the bigger side (although with me standing there, they didn't have to go too far out on a limb to hazard a guess that he might have a tall gene somewhere in there). 
Raylan spent his first few days after birth in the NICU to address some issues related to labored breathing right after his birth.  Amy spent a few nights at the hospital recovering from her C section.  With the help of some breathing assistance, though, Raylan improved rapidly and was ready to come home by Friday.  Amy recovered pretty quickly, also, and has been doing very well since she got home.

Raylan's arrival has been one of the biggest, best moments in my life.  Aside from getting married to Amy, there haven't been many events that have made me as profoundly happy.  I'm sleep deprived, I spend lots of time changing diapers, feeding, and burping, and I couldn't be happier.  As I told one of my friends in an email, having the baby hasn't always been easy at every moment, but it's always been really good.
The family seem to really love Raylan, and he seems to love them right back.  It's been great having so much support from both sides of our family.  Jean was out here for Raylan's birth and then stayed for almost a week.  She's back here again now, helping out as I transition back to work and Amy is at home with the baby.  My mom, Karen, spent several nights with us as well, and has been coming over almost every day.  Dad (Rick) has been coming to visit, too, and has helped out.  We also stayed comfortably with Mom and Dad for a couple of nights while we got some foundation repair work done at our house (under the assumption that babies and jackhammers don't mix).  Ryan and Jamie met Raylan and spent a little time with him before jetting off to Hawaii for a week.  Susan and Ciara also stopped by to meet him.  Amy has been talking to Heidi, getting parenting tips from Arizona and Skyping with her so that Raylan and Joanna could meet (baby teleconference!).

In short, everyone has been great.  We truly, genuinely appreciate the support.  We look forward to having Raylan grow up in the company of such great people.

It's hard to know what to say about the birth of your first child without the sentiments sounding sort of clich├ęd.  I guess it's bound to be that way.  Every person on earth pretty much arrives here the same way, and still the experience is unique and personal and critically important to the people involved each and every time.

I've been really amazed and impressed by Amy as she's gone through this whole process.  Once again, having a baby hasn't always been easy, I know, but it's been really good, and Amy's handled everything really well.  I'm reminded how lucky I am to be married to her, and slowly Raylan will come to realize how lucky he is to have her as his mother.

And Raylan is amazing.  I still can't get over all of his facial expressions and the way that he looks around, studying the world.  His eyes scan around, taking in faces, shadows, shapes, light and darkness.  He loves to be held, and he loves the voices of the people in his life.  They say he can't really control his smiles yet, but he smiles when he's happy, and so that's quite a bit.  He sleeps a fair amount, but when he's awake, he's wide awake.  So far he doesn't cry all that much, other than when he's hungry.  He makes grunting and chirping noises, but he doesn't cry very often.  (knock on wood)

So we're happy and healthy.

I'm gonna keep this post pretty short, mostly just because I don't have much time to write a longer one at the moment, but I'll update it down the road.  Having a child in the family is a big event.  I'm not sure I've even processed it all yet, let alone gained the perspective to do it justice through a blog post.

At any rate, I'm not particularly religious, but I feel blessed these days.  God, the universe, karma, or life in general has been good to me, and I do not take it for granted.  I'm extremely thankful.

Hopefully I can pay back some of the good things that have come my way by doing some good things for other people.
Seems like the least I can do. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


We're good.  Spent the weekend laying low.  We had dinner at Hyde Oark with Mom and Dad on Saturday.  Ryan and Jamie stopped by on Sunday, and I got to wish Ryan a happy 40th birthday in person.  Sunday night I had band practice with just Reed.  It was good.  Mostly we're just WAITING FOR THE BABY!!!!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015


So now we're mostly just hanging in there and waiting for the baby to arrive.  We're excited and nervous and trying to wrap our heads around what's happening.  It's a big deal.  We're happy to have friends and family to support us!
On Friday night I don't think we did too much.  We ordered pizza, and we watched The Hunt for Red October.  Amy had never seen it before, and she said that she enjoyed it.  I've seen it a number of times, but it's always fun.  With a cast that includes Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, James Earl Jones, San Neill, Tim Curry, Courtney B. Vance, Peter Firth, and Fred Thompson all competing to chew up scenery, it's a movie that's easy to find entertaining.  I grew up watching Hunt for Red October.  We quoted lines from that movie to one another in high school.
Upon our most recent viewing, the movie's still really enjoyable to watch as an action thriller, but it's also a sort of fascinating glimpse into the later cold war era.  The cast is made up almost entirely of men- a fact that seemed entirely plausible when the movie depicted the upper echelons of the military and intelligence community ranks in 1990.  Nowadays, of course, audiences might find an entire film about an epic naval misadventure to be a little lacking without the appearance of an occasional female officer, spy, or politician.
Maybe more interesting is the simple fact that wars in 2015 just aren't playing out in the same way that they played out in 1990.  The cold war was about a face off between two superpowers- a constant chess match between two wealthy, powerful countries.  The threats that the U.S. and the Soviet Union posed to each other were somewhat balanced and bilateral.  Each country was developing technology at breakneck speed in order to try to outperform the other, and each country was constantly improving upon tactics and strategy in order to try to gain an advantage.  All of this stuff was, of course, incredibly expensive and could really only occur within the context of two extremely powerful nations duking it out.
Our current enemies wage a war of fear and terror, more typically relying upon relatively primitive weapons to attack vulnerable populations.  Our most recent wars have been counter insurgencies- our troops tasked with hunting down guerrillas and ferreting out terrorists who are hidden amongst native populations.  Without an enemy as powerful as ourselves to directly challenge us in battle, our warfare no longer involves a race against our enemies to develop expensive, advanced vehicles and weapons.  Perhaps more accurately, the U.S. still continues to develop advanced weapons, but we're frequently developing them for use against an enemy who fights back with homemade roadside explosives and surplus military weapons left over from previous wars.
To a large degree, the nature of our conflicts has changed.
Annnyway, the movie was interesting on a number of levels- at least one of those being the sense of historical perspective that's now offered by what was a simple popcorn flick from my youth.

On Saturday we mostly laid low.  We did a little shopping and took care of a few chores.  I went and tried out our new gym, LA Fitness that we joined over on South Lamar.  We joined the gym because we're hoping that we can get some good use out of it after the kiddo comes (it has a daycare inside it that we can use once bebe is about 6 months old).  The gym was pretty nice.  I got a good workout.
Saturday night we had dinner with Ryan and Jamie at Thai Passion.  Dinner was good.   The food was good, and it was nice to have a chance to hang out and talk to Ryan and Jamie.  We hung out at their house for a little while after dinner.  It was really pleasant.
Sunday morning I got up and went to church with Mom and Dad for Easter.  Amy was feeling really tired and a little uncomfortable (back pain, mostly), so she sat this year out.
Church was nice.  Mom and Dad's church did a good Easter service.

The rest of the day was pretty laid back.  We did some reading and a few chores.  We finished listening the the Serial podcast (I still think the convicted guy did it).  Ryan and Jamie popped in for a few minutes in the evening, dropping off some leftovers from a dinner that they had attended at my parents' house and chatting with us for a bit.

It was a good weekend.  Pretty mellow.  We got some rest.
Baby is coming...

Monday, March 30, 2015


So our weekend was pretty good.  The weather was beautiful!!

On Friday night we watched the Roger Ebert documentary, Life Itself.  The documentary was pretty good, for the most part.  I learned a lot about Roger Ebert's background, his approach to film criticism, and about the background behind At the Movies, the film review show that Ebert hosted with Gene Siskel.
I watched At the Movies quite a bit when I was growing up.  Back then, of course, you couldn't just pull up film trailers on the internet, so I liked watching At the Movies to get a sense of what was going to be coming out.  I also liked At the Movies because I loved watching Siskel and Ebert argue.  I was fascinated by the fact that two intelligent men who each had such a great amount of knowledge in their subject area could frequently disagree so profoundly about the value of various movies.  I loved the fact that you could tell, as an audience member, that these two guys were really passionate about their arguments, and were genuinely annoyed with one another when they didn't see eye-to-eye.  I liked the fact that they both really wanted to prove the other person wrong, but they agreed (mostly) to stick to a common language of reason and logical analysis as being the confines of their battlefield.  Long before I ever even thought about going to law school, I remember watching Siskel and Ebert go at it, and I sort of realized that a good amount of fun could be had by trying to win a debate against an opponent in front of an audience.  In addition, the show made me realize that, ultimately, being right or wrong in an argument about film (or art- or a great many other topics) is decided by supporting personal opinions with reason.  You can have pretty different viewpoints about a film, and each person can still be right insofar as he can present a compelling, logical argument and explain why a thing is good or bad.
Anyway, At the Movies had a special place in my childhood.
The one drawback of Life Itself, I felt, was that it spent a little too much time focusing on Ebert's health difficulties at the very end of his life.  I don't mean to take anything away from Roger Ebert and the courage that he and his family showed during his illness and ultimate death, but I feel like the thing that made Roger Ebert remarkable was the life that he led- not the way that he died. 
And he had a very interesting life.

Saturday we went out to breakfast, ran an errand or two, and then spent much of the day around the house doing chores.  I trimmed hedges and did a little yard work, and the weather was so beautiful that it felt sort of fun.  We went for some walks, got a little exercise, and had a very pleasant day.  Saturday night I went to Ryan and Jamie's 40th birthday party.  It was fun!  I got to catch up with some folks, eat some good food, and relax.  Amy stayed home due to an achy back and some general pregnancy-related fatigue.    I hung out at the party for a little while and then headed home.  It was a good time.
(Ryan leads the tour of his comic collection and toasts his birthday)

Happy birthday, Ryan and Jamie!!

Sunday we got up and ran to the store.  We got some exercise, and in the afternoon we dropped by a birthday party that our friends Rosa and Nathan were throwing for their children and their family.  It was a nice event.  The weather was sunny and nice, and the company was good.  We ran into the Blooms, Giselle, and Jennifer and David at the party as well.  It was a nice time.

Sunday evening I had band practice.  It was good.  We were all in attendance.  We played some old tunes.  Somehow we pulled off a version of "Bertha" by the Grateful Dead that was much better than we deserved.

(Reed photographs Reed before band practice)
And that was more or less our weekend.  It was pretty nice.  You gotta love Austin in the spring.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Update and SXSW; Whiplash and Jodorowsky's Dune

So things have been good. Busy, but pretty good. Last week was my birthday and South by Southwest. Also, as often happens during SXSW week, spring finally made a legitimate appearance. 

On Tuesday, my actual birthday, we didn't do too much.  Instead, we planned a dinner with family for the weekend.  On Tuesday we stayed home and watched Whiplash, a movie about a student attending school at a prestigious music conservatory in New York.  The film largely focuses on the relationship between an extremely demanding music teacher/conductor, Terence Fletcher- played by J.K. Simmons, and one of his drummers, Andrew Nieman- played by Miles Teller.  Fletcher's demand for excellence in his students lends itself to behavior which becomes abusive.  The musicians, for their part, are eager, but also competitive and egotistical.
The film explores the relationship between single-minded ambition and unhealthy obsession.
I found it really entertaining.  I'm not saying that it was flawless, but it was very good.  We've seen this sort of story before, but it usually plays out in tales about athletes, chess champions, or other obvious competitors.  Music is something that people usually think of as more imaginative, creative, and expressive as opposed to cutthroat.
Anyone who's ever even been in high school band or orchestra, however, knows that music performance has its own world of fierce competition.  Music directors across the country spend tremendous amounts of time and energy training their students not to simply express themselves through their instruments, but to play technical pieces of music correctly.  In an educational environment, music students regular take part in competitions where judges evaluate their performance in very technical terms.
Whiplash sort of takes this idea to the extreme.  The musicians in this movie may love music, but they're primarily competing to be the best at what they do.  They don't just want to make happy music- they want to be remembered as GREAT musicians.
It was a good movie, and pretty intense for a film about people playing instruments.  Recommend.

In terms of SXSW, I escaped from work a little early on a couple of days this week so I could go check out some music.
I saw Ray Wylie Hubbard, Dreamers, American Aquarium, The Mastersons, Bill Carter with Will Sexton, Matthew E. White, The Dodos, Kevin Kinney, Songhoy Blues, and Castle, amongst others.

Unexpected standouts included American Aquarium, playing alt country from North Carolina, and Castle, a heavy metal band from San Francisco who were playing behind a tattoo parlor.  Songhoy Blues were from Mali, Africa, and had an interesting mix of African-influenced music and American blues rock.
I went out and wandered around during the afternoon and early evening and got home by dark to hang out with Amy.  It was fun.

(Ray Wylie Hubbard at Dogwood)

(Bill Carter with Will Sexton)

(American Aquarium)

(The Dodos)

(Songhoy Blues)


(random street performers on South Congress- her card said Cari Quoyeser)

On Friday it was raining, so we stayed home and hunkered down.  We watched Jodorowsky's Dune.  It was a sort of strange documentary about attempts by surrealist director Alexander Jodorowsky to create a version of Dune in the 1970s.  He assembled an all-star cast for the preproduction of the movie, getting work and commitments from people ranging from H.R. Giger to Salvador Dali to Pink Floyd to contribute work to the movie.
The movie was extremely ambitious, and would have been amazing if it had ever been made, but, in the end, I think the magnitude of Jodorowsky's ambition might have been what actually killed the project.  American studios, when asked to fund the project, balked.  Am I surprised?  Not really.  Jodorowsky, in order to get his movie made, was travelling the globe, rounding up an incredible amount of talent, often employing decadent food, expensive drinks, and high quality hallucinogens as part of the recruitment process.  That talent would undoubtedly come at an incredible cost.  Dali was being told that he would be paid $100,000 for every minute that he would appear on screen.  Orson Welles was being told that chefs from New York City would be flown to the set to prepare his meals.  Mick Jagger was going to be cast in a starring role.  Complex special effects would likely be needed, with no real sense of how they could be accomplished or what they would cost.
And all of this was in the service of a director who's two previous films, El Topo and The Holy Mountain, were considered psychedelic classics, but with fairly limited audience appeal.
Alexander Jodowrosky, for his part, even when interviewed for the film in his 80's, is extremely charismatic, gregarious, and engaging.  He's extremely likeable, and you can see why people would want to be part of this project.
But you also get the sense that he's a sort of surrealist Captain Ahab.
If I was a producer, I would have been thoroughly entertained by Jodowrosky, but the idea of trying to reconcile his dogged, relentless artistic vision with the real world constraints of a studio budget would have seemed impossible- especially given the high likelihood that the movie might never have found an audience beyond being a "cult classic".
But I enjoyed the documentary.  It made me want to go out and do something creative.

Saturday we went to dinner with Ryan, Jamie, and Dad (Mom was in Arizona visiting with her friends Barb and Jane).  We went up to North Austin for dinner at Reale's, a pretty good Italian restaurant that I used to eat at when we were growing up.  The location is different now, but the food is still pretty much the same.  It's really good.  The Steans family doesn't really have too many institutions like that which we've returned to over the years, so it felt kinda special.
We had a really nice dinner.  I really enjoyed the birthday time with the family.  Thanks, guys!

Sunday we ran some errands and just hung out.  Sunday night I went to band practice.  Everyone was there but Jim, and it went pretty well. 
Last night Amy made some sort of chicken biscuit bake recipe, and it was really good.  I don't know what witchcraft she uses to make her magical food, but her juju was strong last night.
So that was the week and weekend!  Very good.
Amy is doing well with the pregnancy.  She's doing very well, really.  I'm amazed by how gracefully she handles the whole thing.  She's gonna be a great mom. 
I love you, Amy!

(third trimester Amy!)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Update; Ryan and Jamie's B-Day

The weekend was nice. It felt good to have a couple of days off after having spent all of last weekend in our childbirth classes (which were helpful, but made it feel like we didn't get a weekend).
This weekend went by pretty fast.  On Friday night we walked to Central Market and had some dinner while listening to some pretty decent music.  It was fun. 
On Saturday Amy took me out to Kerbey for a birthday breakfast.  The weather was nice, and we sat outside.  It was good.  Afterwards we went shopping and ran errands and stuff.
Saturday evening my parents took us out for a nice birthday dinner to celebrate Ryan and Jamie's upcoming 40th birthdays.  We went to Perry's Steakhouse down on 7th Street.  We had a really nice time!  It's a cool restaurant.  I had pecan crusted red snapper with crab meat on top and a wine sauce.  Amy and Jamie had steak.  Ryan had a really big pork chop.  Everyone except Amy had some wine.  Jamie, Ryan, Mom, Dad, Susan, Dick, Juan, and Matt were in attendance along with Amy and myself.
(this is the kind of crew that could ruin Perry's reputation for fine dining)

(ladies from my family.  Undoubtedly in the midst of planning something
that will affect me in some way)

(I'm going to start serving my kabobs at home this same way) 
So it was fun to go downtown and have a fancy dinner with everyone. Really nice way to kick off Ryan and Jamie's 40th birthday celebration!
On Sunday we just sort of took care of some more errands and chores.  One of the more fun errands involved running to Costco to pick up a new camera.  We got a Nikkon D3300.  Baby camera!  I'm still in the early stages of figuring out how to use it, but I shot this picture with it...
(I used our new camera to snap a photo of Cassidy
 protecting the front yard)
I have/had an SLR camera that shoots traditional film, and I used to use it quite a bit, but once digital cameras came out, I sort of switched over and haven't used a SLR camera for a while (I started buying point and click digital cameras to use along with my phone, but I've never had a decent digital SLR). 
Anyway, I realized, upon trying to use the camera, that I'm sort of rusty, and I've sort of lost track of some of my basic photography skills.  I was never an expert, by any means, but I used to be better about being able to set shutter speeds, adjust aperture settings, and use flash in order to get the picture that I was looking for.  It's gonna be fun to get back into practice.

Last night Amy made delicious chicken enchiladas with red sauce.  Soooo good.
And last night we watched a video about baby care (every bit of this stuff helps, I've decided- I feel less anxious for having watched it), and then I followed the baby care video with The Walking Dead.  Such is my life as I prepare to role into my 42nd year here in 2015:  the optimism and hope that come with having a baby coupled with the constant fear of an apocalypse.
Maybe I'm thinking a little bit too hard about the symbolism behind my Sunday night, post-enchilada viewing choices.  ;-)

Anyway, that was the weekend! 
Hope you are all doing well!!!