Cuteness overload

So, right, Ben is in town today. He arrived last night and spent much of his day in the East Bay with the many many folk of a previous (now incredibly profitable) startup he worked with years and years ago. Since he was around for dinner, he asked around to see who was also available. Most everyone was playing ultimate, celebrating birthdays (totally awesome, Happy Birthday, Megan!), or just out on such a short notice for his visit (we found out on Tuesday that he was coming into town, as he was thinking about if he could make it or not).

Heather and Vinny, on the other hand, were available, with two of the three in their household barely over being ill. Which means, yes, that's right, Daphne Time!

After an awesome dinner with Heather and Ben, we all went over to Heather's to see if Daphne was still awake. She was all of 1 minute in bed when we arrived, which really meant she was all smiles and giggles when Heather went in to pick her up. I swear, as much as Heather claims her kid is cranky and cries a lot, I don't believe her any longer: Daphne is the only kid who *hasn't* cried when I picked her up.

Silly girl.

We had fun, mostly chatting about Daphne and conversations from dinner (did you know that California produces 85% of the world's porn? yeah, I didn't know that either before tonight). I hadn't realized that Daphne was a French citizen, but she is, and that's pretty cool. I particularly enjoyed nibbling on tiny French fingers.

This picture notwithstanding, I would like to state that this seven month old child does not have a head bigger than mine.

Really.

After a short while of giggling on my lap, and my taking pictures of her, Daphne had something to say about the whole paparazzi thing. In particular, she said, "Hot dog!"

 A story no longer told

I have a story that I used to tell. Said story involved me, my brother and a large kitchen knife. The story didn't end happily, but it didn't end badly either. Sometimes just an ending is the best you can hope for.

I've stopped telling that story. My mom asked me to stop telling it, and out of respect for her I have. Not telling the story doesn't mean it didn't happen, nor does it undo the times I had told.

Ben mentioned it last night when he, Lisa and I were sitting around the fire talking. He asked about it, and my parents' divorce, and a number of other questions before coming to the conclusion I had a rough childhood. I can't say it was a piece of cake, but in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't truly a bad childhood. There were no drugs, no hunger, no creepy uncles or physically abuse relatives.

We had a large dose of religion, two young parents trying to find their way, three aimless youths with a complete lack of direction and a small town environment with lots of freedom.

I think we did okay.

Ben eventually agreed, but did point out my childhood had a lot more drama than his did. That, now, I couldn't argue with. Fortunately, I had Guy and Kris to show me that a life without drama can still be a wonderful place to be.

 Songs of the Coyotes

As Ben, Lisa and I were gathering ourselves up to head to bed, Ben told me to open the window next to where I was standing in the bathroom. He waited a few moments, then asked, "Can you hear them?"

I hadn't managed to open the window, so Lisa offered a different solution, and chatted with me as we walked out the back door, onto the small porch.

In the distance, I heard shrieks. Shrieks and calls and howls and whines and laughter from a pack of coyotes sounding from the cemetary which was just beyond the next copse over. I listened, becoming more fascinated and more terrified by the moment. Lisa was unaware of my growing unease, and listened to the changing timbre of the coyote song. "Sounds like it might be a kill," she commented, increasing my unease even more, "listen how many there are."

Now, the adult part of me knows that coyotes don't walk up to houses and attack adult humans off the porches. That same part knows that any loud noise would scare off all but the biggest of the pack. That I was standing near dear friends who would beat off any coyote attack the way I would unflinchingly fight for the two of them.

But the small child terrified of the loud monster under the bed, the one who slept downstairs when the rest of her family slept upstairs, the one who's vivid imagination caused a decade of sleep problems, SHE wasn't so sure about those coyote sounds. SHE hustled back into the house, grabbed her toothbrush and headed for high ground.

Yeah, nature's nice, but sometimes the doses work better from under the covers in a locked house.

 Zoo trip!

Ben, Lisa, Jake and I went to the zoo today. Well, Max, too, but he wasn't really aware of the adventure as much. We left fairly early (for me anyway), to catch the ferry over to Seattle. Even with a two year old (maybe even because of the two year old), ferry crossings are wonderful events.

Although the day was pleasant (with SUN!), I can't say it wasn't cold. Very much what I expected, actually, temperature-wise. Very much surprised water-falling-from-the-sky-wise, actually. So, into the zoo we went, with Ben handing me the map, and leading the way. The family has a season pass, so my $6 ticket was the only additional expense on the trip.

We saw hippos ...

... who have pretty big feet.

We saw the giraffes, but they managed to take too long to actually come out of their shed, so we of a two-year-old's attention span didn't see much of them.

We saw elephants ...

... no really, I was there ...

... and komodos ...

... and owls ...

.. and gorillas ...

... and a lot of really ugly children. What is it with small children that there are just so many ugly ones?

I ask you.

Anyway.

The creatures who live in the zoo and stay at night. So, there was this one monkey, simian biped HOWLing near the gorillas. We had heard one of the women talking about the gorillas in a way that clearly indicated she knew what the heck was going on with the gorilla, so we asked her about the howling when she walked by us.

Turns out, this particular monkey was born and raised in captivity. When he was old enough, a female was introduced to him, and put in his area. The female was mature enough to reproduce and, according to the zoo woman we had stopped, making all the right moves to start the courtship. The howling monkey, however, DIDN'T KNOW how to DO IT, so managed to miss completely.

In an effort to continue this particular line, the female was moved to a different zoo with a male who knows what to do, and another female, who is past her prime and had her mate die recently, was moved in. The female and the howling male were howling to each other, presumably to start the mating ritual.

Not that the boy monkey would know what to do.

We continued our zoo journey after learning about the monkeys, and saw a big cat...

And somewhere around here, my bladder started calling out to me. I had to dash off to the nearest building with a toilet.

Now, I recall getting lost as a child, maybe 8 years old, at the Marriott's Great America (probably a Six Flags now). The experience was traumatic enough to remember a couple decades later. When I stepped out of the building with the restroom, and couldn't find Ben and Lisa and Jake, the desperation feelings of an eight year old me washed over me.

Fortunately, the adult me was fine. I went off on my own to visit the pink flamingos ...

... before finding the family again.

They had wandered fully into the big cat exhibit, not just the one cat we saw earlier. Ben managed some amazing pictures of the cats.

We together next wandered into a kids playland, a building where adults are allowed in only if accompanied by a child. I'm not sure about the three to one for Jake, but no one seemed to mind.

Lisa pointed out that the building was fairly empty at this point, but that when it was raining, the place was PACKED with kids playing and parents standing around bored. How about that for a switch?

Jake enjoyed the slide.

About this time, Jake was getting tired. The attention span of a two year old? Yeah, not so long. So, we started our journey out of the zoo, but not before seeing one a Southern Pudu, which is a full grown deer smaller than Bella.

I wanted to take one home with me.

Not that Bella wouldn't have tried to eat if I had.

All in all, a good trip.

 Visiting Carboat Beach

Ben, Jake and I went to Carboat Beach this morning. Ben gave Jake a choice of going to the beach for a walk or going to school. He chose the beach, so off we went.

Walking along a beach with a small person is a significantly different than walking along a beach with an adult. In particular, we move slowly. As in slowly enough to take lots of pictures. YAY!

I can say that I like walking at the small person pace.

After dropping Jake off at work, Ben and I went back to the house to work. During the work, we updated Ben and Lisa's site. We were FAR more productive sitting next to each other working on his site for two hours than we would have been working on it remotely for two months. A very satisfying afternoon.

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