Recently in Family Category

Other poems in this series can be found here.


Pizza was Sam's favorite, she just loved the taste
of it. She'd eat it morning, noon, and night. She
relished every single bite. She ate it topped
with pepperoni, mozzarella and bologna.
Spinach, mushrooms, peppers, too. She
even tried it with bamboo. Every day
she ate and ate; box by box, plate
by plate.   She ate one in the
time it took for another
one to cook.   She was
sick & tried to stop.
But it was too
late . . . for
she went

lifespoke-logo.gifA week-and-a-half ago, I spent all weekend (well, about 34 hours of it) in a habitrail of meeting rooms with about 100 other people trying to do something pretty incredible: invent, build, and launch a new Internet startup in less than three days.

The event, InOneWeekend 2008, was the inaugural entrepreneurial exercise by this new Cincinnati organization, which hopes to jump-start new-venture creation in the technology-based services space (i.e., dot-coms).

After lots of thinking and working and coding and sweating (not to mention eating fast food and swilling highly caffeinated beverages), our concept was outlined and mocked up to a degree that we thought the world should be invited to share in its evolution from beta concept to fully operational service.

I, er, we give you...LifeSpoke.

Go the link and check it won't hurt, I promise.

LifeSpoke is, and soon will be more of, a place to save, organize, and share all your personal memorabilia and life's memories (assuming they come in handy digital format, of course). With an innovative, patent-pending interface (that we're not quite ready to share yet) and a family-oriented content model (that includes loads of privacy, security, and convenience), we're pretty stoked at the idea that moms, dads, kids, grandparents, and close friends will finally have a place to share their intimate memories and most precious media in a rich new environment.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Actually, you're thinking "I'm hungry...I wonder what's in the fridge." Hey, focus...there's just a little more to read here. You were also thinking "But aren't there a bazillion other media-sharing websites out there, like YouTube, most with sharing features?" To that I say of course! But LifeSpoke is different and will be the best solution for families and close-knit groups of friends to share their memories. While those other sites are great for stuff like watching someone's dog ride a skateboard or having anonymous 15-year-olds "friend" you, LifeSpoke focuses on the relationships in your life that mean the most.

So...go sign up for one of the limited beta invitations at and join us as we ride this idea to wherever it takes us. Should be a fun trip.

If you're interested in reading more about the InOneWeekend adventure we had, check out these stories:
Official LifeSpoke press release (
Cincinnati Business Courier article (

Introducing the newest addition to our family:

Colin David Froehle

Born: April 2, 2008 at 3:18am
Weight: 7 lbs, 3 oz
Length: 19.75 in

Everybody's just fine. :-)

As an engineer by training, it's my duty to make sure my kids are exposed to the fun of hacking their world. Combining hacking and art makes for an activity fun for both generations, so I'm generally on the lookout for fun art/science projects. An instructable (I'm an avid instructable fan) entry had a great idea -- light doodles! To have fun drawing in the air, all you need is some colored lights, a dark room, and a digital camera.

Well, it is a little more complicated than that. If you don't have some colored LED lights (like car keychain lights) handy, you can follow this instructable to make some of your own. I bought some cheap assorted LEDs and other parts off eBay to make mine. I had tried using an incandescent flashlight, but the poor results bored my kid. The LEDs are easier for small kid hands, and multiple colors add to the fun.

Next, I had to pour through my digital camera manual to figure out how to set (a) the delay and (b) a long exposure. The exposure setting was hard to find! My Canon SD100 can be set for 15 seconds. After that, it's pretty simple. If you need more tips, read this instructable for advice on taking the pictures.

Look, Ma! No messy paints, no wasted paper!

My daughter, who's 3 now, and I have discovered that we enjoy making board games together. She enjoyed Candy Land and Chutes & Ladders, but tired of them quickly. So, we decided to try and make our own using stuff around the house. After two pretty successful (i.e., she still enjoys playing them a few months later) games, we attempted our most ambitious one yet: The Zoo Game. It's fun, cost all of $8 to make, and, after spending two hours putting it together, we've spent several hours playing different versions of it. So, I thought I'd document it here in case anyone else with little kids wanted a starting point for making their own game.

Constructing The Zoo Game

The Zoo Game is your basic roll-a-die-and-move-around-the-board-trying-to-accomplish-things type of boardgame. The theme is, obviously, a zoo, and the general objective is visiting the animals in the zoo. Here's a photo of the board as we constructed it, set up and ready for play:


Around the periphery of the board are the animal cards. We made 4 cards for each of the 10 animals at our zoo (you can have as many or as few animals as you like) by cutting 3"x5" index cards in half. Each animal card has on it a sticker of the animal it represents (we bought two packs of animal stickers for $1.99 each...yeah, Michael's is expensive, but they have everything). I tried to make the animal cards look like Polaroids (R.I.P.), to suggest that we're going around the park taking pictures of the animals, but you can give them whatever treatment you like. We're planning on writing things about the different animals on the backs of the cards -- things a toddler would like, such as the names of the babies, mommies, and daddies (e.g., Elephant: Daddy = Bull, Mommy = Cow, Baby = Calf).

Above the top of the board is a stack of "Zoo Cards" -- I'll explain those later.

Recently retouched...looks OK as B&W, I think.


Other poems in this series can be found here.

I'm Rich!

On Saturday, I found a penny
It wasn't shiny, wasn't new
But still I dreamed of all the things
With that penny I could do

I could buy a three-ring circus
With acrobats and a dancing bear
Lions, tigers, and that guy
Who fends them off with just a chair

I could buy a silver airplane
And fly from New York to Madrid
Then to Paris and to Moscow.
Beijing, just to say I did.

I could buy a word processor
Write a modern-day best-seller
After all, the kids in school
Shouldn't have to read Old Yeller

I could buy some animals
And open up a petting zoo
Some ducks, a llama, and a goat
Maybe a crocodile...or two

I could buy an amusement park
Ride roller-coasters so divine
Eat cotton candy, funnel cake
And never, ever stand in line

I could buy a microscope
See germs and such with my own eyes
Who knows what I might discover
I'd probably win a Nobel Prize!

I could buy a deserted island
Name it after my dog Bailey
Relax each night around the fire
Sit and play the ukulele

Or maybe I should keep my penny
And not spend it at this time.
On second thought, I think I will.
You see, I just now found a dime.

As most any avid fan knows, the Transformers movie is opening today.

I was a huge fan of the toys and cartoons when I was a kid. That fact was reinforced when I happened upon this old Polaroid of me on my 14th birthday.


My buddy Greg also has a kick-ass Transformers collection, so I know where to go when I need a fix. But until I can visit, the movie will have to sate my appetite. If you see it, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Previous poems are here and here.

Noisy Toys

Sam would not nap, no matter what
Her poor, sad father was distraught
Inside her crib, she rolled around
She kicked the bars, jumped up and down
"Why won't you sleep?" her father said.
"This really is a comfy bed."
She just frowned and hollered "No!"
To sleep, she simply would not go.
And so she lay there with her toys
Making every kind of noise.
Tweets and bleeps and tweetle-twees
Everything had batteries.
And then her dad had an idea
A secret plan, a panacea
He scooped up all her toys that made
That awful, beeping serenade
And while she watched and made a pout
He took every battery out
Then all her toys were quiet, mute
Her father made a small salute
And then without that constant din
To go to sleep Sam could begin
Her eyes, they fluttered and were drawn
Dad smiled and fought the slightest yawn
And so she lay there fast asleep
Until her father's watch went...BEEP!

As previously promised, here's another poem I wrote last year for Sam (no, no, it has nothing to do with real life events in our, not at all...why on Earth would you think that??):

The Picky Eater

Samantha Elle, she would not eat.
The doctor said, "she's too petite."
No food appealed, not sour, not sweet.
No rice, no bread, no fruit, no meat.
No pancakes, waffles, cream of wheat.
No buttered, battered, boiled beet.

She would not even eat pear pie,
Or jelly on Italian rye,
Or ham and eggs, or pizza pie.
And even just one wee French fry
Upset her so it made her cry.
But never did she tell them why.

And bit by bit, she seemed to shrink.
A quarter inch each night they think.
She would not even take a drink
Although she was upon the brink
Of disappearing in a blink
By washing down the kitchen sink.

Each day her folks repeated pleas.
They begged and pleaded on their knees.
Then one day Sam said, "Scuse me, please.
You've offered meat and bread and peas,
But had you asked, I'd say with ease
That all this time I wanted...cheese."

I wrote some poems for a book I put together for my daughter about a year ago. I'll post a few here on's the first:

The Drawer
I have a desk; It's quite a mess
There is one drawer that I like best
I keep in it my favorite things
Like guitar strings and water wings
Old magazines and comic books
A chess board, seven pawns, three rooks
A postcard from the Hoover Dam
My B+ 3rd grade math exam
A roll of tape, two pens, one dime
A broken watch that tells no time
A book on how to knit wool hats
Pictures of my sister's cats
A screw, to what I have no clue
A Tom & Jerry fake tattoo
One candy cane, slightly eaten
Battleship (I'm still unbeaten)
Scented pens that smelled like fruit
A plastic horse, a rubber newt
Half an egg of Silly Putty
Flash cards that I didn't study
A Junior Mint I dare not eat
A well-worn copy of Teen Beat
A roadmap of southwest Nebraska
An eagle keychain from Alaska
A phone book from three years ago
(Why THAT'S in here, I do not know)
Two black plastic spider rings
A little Elvis doll that sings
A penny flattened by a train
A postage stamp that came from Spain
And, um, what's this, here in my pile?
It looks like it's been here a while
It's green and fuzzy, stinks a bit
I'm not sure what to make of it
Hey wait a I know
This used to be some cookie dough

Don't be's only an introductory text.


To my daughter,
Tonight, as I lay asleep, I saw you in a dream. It was the future. You and I were walking through what looked like an airport or transportation terminal of some sort. On the polished faux-marble floor, I found two coaster-sized discs of semi-transparent yellow -- what they were, or would be, I've no idea. But I held them up to my forehead and stared at you, invoking an age-old game where I challenge you to say what I'm thinking. In real life, we've yet to play this, but I now yearn for you to be old enough so that we can try. You look at me, catch my eye, and initially know the game is on. Barely a moment passes, but I notice how you've grown up. You are as tall as I, straight-ish, glossy auburn hair hangs past your shoulders, neatly ordered by one of those semicircular headband things that arcs from ear to ear (this one is red). You look like your mother, but a taller, more mature and formidable version -- your lips are painted (something your mom would never have done willingly) a rather daunting burgundy gloss. In that moment, a wry half-smile (yep, there's me in there, too) cracks your face and you say with all the confidence typical of a late-teen all-star, "Yellow." And we both know that's exactly what I was thinking, because you are me and we are each other.

Fast-forward a few years, not too many. You are showing me an amazing new educational product that your company (yes, the one you founded) just released, promising to be revolutionary. You demonstrate one particularly innovative feature and look up at me, beaming. I grin back at you like a simpleton, eyes a bit shiny. And you ask me what that look is for. I then say, "Let me try to explain. At this moment I am experiencing two different and conflicting emotions, both of which threaten to overwhelm me entirely. First, I am so incredibly proud at what you have become: a brilliant, confident, impressive woman. I wish I could say more, but pride in one's offspring is apparently difficult to put into precise words. Second, I am overwrought by the fact that you have grown up, for I so loved the infant, the little girl that you once were and enjoyed seeing you each day, different from the one before in shades so slight as to be like the movement of sunlight across the floor. You are grown and time has passed and there is no way I can ever enjoy those moments with you as a baby again. Not that I would trade now for then -- that I would not want, either -- but the tragedy of having only one of you at a time brings me to the verge of tears. So these two emotions -- immense, chest-swelling pride at what you are now and heart-rending longing for everything you have been -- are colliding in me and making me this quiet, doleful, smiling idiot before you." At this point, I can't tell if you grasp the magnitude of what I just described, but you will, I expect, if you have a child.

your dad

maxxum_5d.jpgRecently, I started a list of cameras that almost met all my needs, but failed to do something I desired.

Well, after looking at all these cameras, my resolve to stick it out until someone came up with a digital SLR that took movies simply petered out. I am weak.

After looking around a bit and trying out some cameras in stores, I realized that I need image stabilization -- I just do not have steady hands. And, I wasn't very excited about dropping over a grand on a camera. So, based mostly on those two factors, I decided to see if I could find the Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D (called the Dynax 5D in some markets) for a decent price.

As fate (or advertising) would have it, I got an email from Circuit City announcing a big pre-Thanksgiving (wtf?) camera sale. Long story short, I picked up a 5D kit (includes an OK, but not great, 18-70mm lens with the 5D body) for $703 from the CC store about a mile from my house. As that was only about $15 more than the cheapest mail-order, I gave in -- my last argument for holding out was gone, and immediate gratification was just too tempting.

I haven't had much opportunity to use it extensively yet, but I snapped some quick pics of my daughter eating her dinner. So far, I'm really pleased at the responsiveness of the camera, and the images are very nice -- good detail and great color accuracy. The lens doesn't seem to be noteworthy in any regard -- it's a bit slow, but given that it only added about $50 to the price of the body alone, it was a bargain.

I haven't gotten it out of Program AE yet, so I expect this camera has a lot of room for me to grow into. More reactions will be posted here on GearBits as I use it...I promise.

I was thinking this morning about something that I imagine a lot of parents think about when their kids are small: what will my child do when he/she grows up?

I came to the conclusion that, 20+ years from now when she actually is old enough to have a career, I don't really care what she does as long as it's interesting, legal, and she loves it.

"But what," I thought to myself, "does interesting actually mean?" So I pondered this and came up with the same answer that someone at some point used to describe porn: "I can't describe interesting, but I'll know it when I see it."

But, some jobs came to mind as ones clearly not interesting. At the risk of offending those who may hold any of the following positions, here are some of the careers I believe would definitely not meet my personal definition of interesting:
- HR manager for an auto parts retailer
- Owner of a knitting supplies store
- Anything involving the preparation of food served in paper or styrofoam containers
- Copier repair
- Canadian-US border guard
- T.J. Maxx dressing room attendant*
- Professional scrap-booker
- Highway toll-booth operator
- Wal-Mart greeter

So that's my short list. What are yours? Have you ever had a job that was clearly not interesting?

*I actually had this job one summer in high school. They tried to teach me how to operate the cash register, but I ended up with more voids than completed transactions.