Category Archives: Family

How to avoid Harry Potter (hint: Tiffany Aching)

For the past year or two, I’ve been reading Harry Potter to my seven year old daughter for a bedtime story. It started out at about her level, but by the fifth book it’s definitely at a teen level because of dark themes, including sadism and torture. (Professor Umbridge, I’m looking at you.) We’re up to the last book, and I’m avoiding it. Not just for the adult themes, but also for fear of what to read when we’re done. After all, when she’s misbehaving, the only threat that always works is to threaten that we won’t read Harry Potter that night.

Happily, my friend and coworker suggested The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. It’s the first of a four-book series about a no-nonsense girl named Tiffany Aching who wants to be a witch, and how she teams up with a band of fairies whose three skills are fighting, drinking, and stealing.

That was the first book I’ve ever found that can compete with Harry Potter. And boy have I tried. We’re already on the second book (A Hat Full of Sky), and I’m not sure which series she’ll want to finish first.

If you have a child under the age of 10 who has not yet read all the Harry Potter books, I strongly recommend The Wee Free men as a speed bump after the first two books.

Hello, Lucy!

We got a kitten for Sylvia’s birthday. Right now she’s living in Sylvia’s room until she’s ready to share the house with Britannicus. Sylvia is changing her litter and giving her food and water. And somehow Sylvia’s still managing to get enough sleep.


Sleep and kids

I have an appointment at a sleep clinic in a few months. I strongly suspect I have sleep apnea, although I also strongly suspect that I can eliminate it by sleeping on my side. The problem is that side sleeping seems to be bad for my carpal tunnel syndrome. (Long story short: I’ve been in treatment for nearly a year and a half, physical therapy for four months, and I just had an MRI scan of my neck which ruled out a herniated disk as part of the problem. I’ve got muscle tension all up and down the areas where those nerves run from the brain to the hands, all of which contributes in some way.)

One reason I haven’t done anything about my sleep apnea suspicions is that there are so many things that affect a good night’s sleep. In particular, it was just this spring that the kids have stopped treating our bedroom as a late-night Grand Central Station. And there’s been some backtracking there.

Most nights Sylvia will come into our room, having just had a nightmare, and ask me to help her think of good dreams. I don’t like being roused from my bed, but in moderation this is one of the joys of parenthood.

We tend to get happier as we get older, and I believe that the main reason is that over time we learn to live with our bodies and our brains. We learn tricks to get around our nagging limitations and develop habits which suit our idiosyncrasies. I am particularly enjoying opportunities to teach these tricks to Sylvia. It’s not something I remember anyone ever doing for me (although I’m sure I just wasn’t aware of it) and it’s something that only I can offer her— and which only someone of my temperament will value. There is nothing more personal than dreams, and perhaps she will inherit my lucid, self-referential dreams in which I know I am dreaming but can only affect the dream within the bounds of dreamland rules. When I give her dream ideas, I am passing a bit of my imagination to her, and helping her to form habits that will let her use her imagination to improve her life.

Ian’s walking

Ian is now walking more than he crawls. The switch from last night to tonight is dramatic. I’ve only seen him crawl a few times this evening. That’s three weeks since his first steps.

Back from Unistar

The family’s back from a vacation at Camp Unistar, thus ending a busy month. I also went to Opus for the last time (I’ll be too old next year), which I left early so I could be home for Ian’s first birthday. (We had a small celebration, no guests. He wouldn’t appreciate a big party.) The following Monday morning at 3:30 I went to the airport to get to SpeechTEK, a conference where I was on booth duty for my company. I got back to town on Thursday (on an equally early flight) and was off on Saturday to Unistar. It seems I did nearly all my travel for the year in a single month.

While I was away at Opus, my father-in-law (one of the many Davids related to Jordan) came to visit and ended up landscaping the back yard. That plus a new fence makes a huge improvement to the yard– if you ignore the huge areas where the new grass hasn’t grown yet.

This coming month looks to be really busy too. Home life is always busy when you’ve got two kids, but work is starting to heat up. I’ve had it easy since Ian was born, but now there are three potential clients which have expressed interest in big projects, all of which would require custom (i.e. written by me) features. One of which might get kicked off this week. And there are a few more big projects coming down the pike that aren’t quite as urgent, as they don’t have paying customers behind them.

Ian got a lot of practice walking at Unistar. He’s now walking about a quarter of the time, and for as far as 10-20 feet.

Ian is walking

Ian has been taking one or two steps for a few weeks now, but yesterday afternoon he took three deliberate steps from the the dining room table to me. He even had to turn slightly to make the walk.

He’s definitely walking now. A few minutes later we were able to catch it on video, and we’ve gotten him to do it several more times. By next week it will probably be his primary mode of transportation.

Right idea, wrong orifice

I was talking to Jordan on the phone yesterday when I heard a high-pitched raspberry coming from Ian. And then again. And then it became clear that Jordan could trigger it.

Jordan was trying to wipe his nose. He’d seen Jordan help Sylvia blow her nose, and apparently was trying to mimic the nose blowing.

Bridge collapsed, we’re fine

Last night a major bridge in Minneapolis collapsed, the span of Interstate 35W which goes from downtown from points north. It’s been on the news, so I want to reassure everyone that we’re all fine. I don’t know of anyone who was on the bridge at the time, though I know a few people who crossed it minutes before it collapsed. My family crosses the span only a few times a year.

There were about 60 vehicles on the bridge at the time, including trucks and a school bus. (All the kids evacuated safely, with a few minor injuries.) There was road resurfacing going on, so the highway was down to two lanes in each direction with stop-and-go traffic. The latest report I’ve heard is 4 dead, 79 injured, and 20 missing. But the whole city is in shock, because everyone knows somebody who crosses that bridge, and anyone could have been crossing the bridge.

I’m not sure what will happen in terms of traffic. You can’t replace an 8-lane bridge overnight, and all of the bridges are heavily used for miles in each direction.

The apartment where I lived in grad school was about 500 feet from the bridge in question, as you can see here. The image shows two parallel bridges, one a 4-lane city street, the other an 8-lane highway. The highway collapsed. My old apartment is at the southeast corner of the 4-lane bridge, but it’s hard to make out because the border between the images cut straight through the middle of the building; its shadow and tennis courts are clearly visible, but if you zoom in you’ll see one ghostly tower swaying northeast across another ghostly tower swaying southwest. (It will be interesting to look at that image for years to come to see how soon Google updates the images. If you look upstream, you won’t find the new Guthrie building, but you will see the tents where Cirque du Soleil was many years ago.)

“I put a pea in my nose”

Sylvia said that matter-of-factly during dinner Saturday night. The same way she might announce that she’s wearing sandals. (Matter-of-fact for a three-year-old sounds surprised and slightly amazed to adult ears.) After calling the doctor and trying a few nose-blowing techniques, it was off to the emergency room.

The doctor gave her a nostril constricting spray, and had her try blowing hard several more times. Sylvia was remarkably calm as the doctor prodded the pea with a tool consisting of a tiny metal loop on a stick. Then we were back to blowing many more times.

Eventually the doctor used a trick which, according to the nurse, none of the other doctors know. She stuck an oxygen tube in the opposite nostril and had the nurse crank the oxygen to full blast. I restrained Sylvia, and the pea flew out her nose. The doctor was so impressed with how well-behaved Sylvia was that she gave her a big hug. And the nurse gave her an orange popsicle.

If Sylvia had been as well-behaved for us as she is for strangers, we wouldn’t have ended up in the ER. But that may be a little much to ask for a three-year-old.