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Baby Pics For Your Ooohs and Aaahs!
Jun 23rd, 2015 by Blaise

It seems I have been remiss. Apparently, in my attempt not to be that Dad who’s constantly forcing people to look at pictures of my child, I’ve actually gone too far, and deprived a number of interested readers!

In order to remedy that failure (and maybe get a couple of the more aggressively interested of you off my back!), I present the following. You may now squee:

Surferdude

Chocolate Good

Tulip Fest

I Don't Hate Water???

Elton John?

Baby’s First Words
Jun 20th, 2015 by Blaise

First WordsAnd here we are, the big milestone! Our son Dashiell has begun to master the art of speech. He’s a little late, but he jump-started by starting out withe three words, rather than the usual one.

As you’d expect, two of the three are “Mama” and “Dada” (the second whispered creepily, but hey, ya pays your money, ya takes yer chances!). The third, which I actually argue was the first of the three (of course, I only know what I myself heard), was “UhOh!” I am painfully certain that he understands this word, as he shouts it gleefully every time he pulls something off a table onto the floor or breaks something!

If there had ever been any doubt, this would be the absolute clincher. He’s my son!

Judging by my own history, there is a word of which his discovery will mean a tale of woe… “Experiment!”

First Tantrum
Jun 14th, 2015 by Blaise

I suppose it had to happen eventually…

Yesterday afternoon, our fifteen month old toddler reached yet another milestone! He lost his shit for the very first time. It seems that he had developed and implemented an intricate plan whose pivotal component involved placing a large piece of his ‘Mum Mum’ cracker in a specific spot on the kitchen floor and keeping it there for some unspecified amount of time. Immediately afterward, our bull mastiff developed and implemented his own, somewhat less intricate, plan that involved removing that cracker from the specific spot and depositing it in his own stomach.

This thwarting of his plan displeased young Dashiell no end, and he began a campaign of screaming, stomping, and penultimately, throwing said bull mastiff’s full water bowl across the room and onto Daddy’s shoes. It was all very dramatic. And messy.

I’m so… proud?

My Application to the Terrible Fathers’ Club
Apr 16th, 2015 by Blaise

Well… I suppose it had to happen eventually.

As I mentioned in my last post on the topic, our son Dashiell started walking. This is great, but also scary. REALLY. FREAKING. SCARY! It took him ten days to go from a few halting steps to this astonishing fall-recover-fall-recover process (frunning? toddle-jogging? toggling? this must have a name…) that approximates running at least well enough to make him impossible to catch if you’re more than two feet away when he starts doing it!

This milestone arrived while my wife was on her first solo trip since the first trimester of her pregnancy. Her retaking of her self-actualized ways is another wonderful thing, but it meant that my son and I were flying solo for about 8 days, so I was alone when we achieved warp-speed.

We were in the living room when he first did it. I was amazed, and immediately scrambled for the camera to get some video. As I turned back, he gave me a mischievous look, and took off in the opposite direction, directly into the sub-woofer of our speaker system! Needless to say, the speaker was unmoved. The toddler, on the other hand, came out a bit worse for wear!

He bounced off and hit the floor in a split second, at which time he immediately rolled over and started screaming. His right eye was completely obscured with blood, and it was running down his face (the blood, not the eye, you sickos!). I almost literally blacked out from the fear-response this inspired in me. I was quite certain my child had, due to my clearly incompetent supervision, lost his sight. Until he blinked the blood out, and I saw the eye was quite intact, that is…

Still in shock, but no longer quite in a panic, I managed with one hand to simultaneously carry him and apply pressure to the gouge on the orbital bone just to the outside of his right eye, while one-handedly rummaging through first-aid supplies. I got him cleaned and sterilized, with bleeding mostly stopped, in about ten minutes. The screaming (oh god, the screaming!) continued for another thirty, while I anxiously waited for a call-back from the pediatrician’s office. Amazingly, after all that wailing, all at once he just stopped, smiled up at me, and fell asleep!

After seeing a picture and giving me instructions for how to periodically wake him and check for concussion just in case ( a sleep-full nigh did not follow these events), the doctor pronounced this “nothing to worry about, just the first of many minor injuries.”

I want that to make me feel better. I really do…

First Boo Boo

OUCH!!!

[The shiner lasted four days, and at nine, the scar is almost invisible]

Baby-chievements!
Mar 29th, 2015 by Blaise

First Birthday

Yay, I’m One!

It’s been a good long while since I last posted about our son, Dashiell. Partly, this is because around the first of the year I took a contract building control systems for Volvo on behalf of GE, and partly this is because the amazing, big changes slowed down for a bit!

It seems that once you get past 8 months or so, the rate of new “Holy crap! What just happened?” moments slacks off considerably, settling in to slow, incremental change for a while. That’s a good thing, by the way! You don’t realize how much a little routine means to you until you have none at all for the better part of a year, believe me… However, it seems things have “hotted up” on the baby front again, so it’s time for another installment!

For a number of reasons, Sabrina had to start weaning Dash in January, and it was a fairly quick and easy process, probably because he’d already started eating real food with the arrival of eight teeth. Our doctor told us that given all the food he was eating, we should switch from formula to whole milk, which was also a painless process, so that by the end of February, he was fully transitioned from breast-feeding to all real foods and gaining weight!

Then March came, and all the interesting stuff started happening. Of course, there was the first birthday party, and Dash’s discovery of his love for swimming in frosting; exploring the house in a walker; first year shots (we’re finally somewhat protected from measles, so I’m much less likely to feel compelled to murder any anti-vaxxers now!); and standing up on his own without support.

Then, last night, it finally happened. Dash stood up and took his first steps! And we caught it on video!!! It was only six steps, but it really happened. And we laughed. And cried. Dash was a little confused…

Then, this morning, for the very first time, we were treated to the simultaneously hilarious and frightening sight of a one-year-old in a walker terrorizing a 120 pound bull mastiff by chasing him around the dining room trying to pet him!

 

So long, Leonard!
Feb 27th, 2015 by Blaise

SpockI’m having an emotional afternoon. Leonard Nimoy has passed, and it’s hitting me unexpectedly hard! Generally speaking, I’m no fan-boy, but Leonard Nimoy has always been something special for me, and now he’s gone…

I was never the most rabid of Star Trek fans. Like many of my trekkie compatriots, I came to my fandom for Star Trek via syndication. I wasn’t even born yet when Star Trek was cancelled! I was too young to go to the early conventions, and by the time I was old enough, they were massive events I could rarely afford to go to. I don’t have the fanatic chops of many, but I watched those shows over and over, and dreamed. When I was six or seven, my mother, who was also a fan, at least of the (at the time) very pretty William Shatner, asked me who my favorite character on the show was. I immediately answered “Spock”.

She argued with me. “But Captain Kirk is so brave and cool!”
I answered, “Yeah but Spock is smart.”
“But isn’t Spock kind of boring? He doesn’t really do anything.”
“He wins with his brain. And anyway, he doesn’t run around doing dumb things that need to be fixed, he just fixes other people’s dumb things.”

It’s one of my clearest early memories. Of course, I liked Captain Kirk too, I just connected more with Spock. He meant more to me.

You see, he looked like my Dad. Not the pointy ears or the makeup, of course (although that would have been really cool, in retrospect), but the man underneath. Leonard Nimoy could have been my uncle. Also like my dad, Spock was always the smartest person in the room, but never seemed to fully connect with those around him, even when he was the center of attention. They were born less than a year apart (and strangely, have died less than a year apart, of diseases caused by their long, regular use of tobacco), wore similar styles of clothing (my Dad was a fairly stylish man for his day), and both had powerful, riveting baritone voices when they spoke, voices that could quiet a room and get everyone’s attention without being raised.

Why this mattered was that unlike the controlled, unflappable Spock, my dad was an alcoholic. I didn’t know that, and wouldn’t have known what the word even meant at the time. In fact, I was well into my twenties before I really realized that both my parents had been alcoholics for most of my childhood. In the Seventies and Eighties, everybody’s parents came home after work and had a few drinks. It was a cultural thing, a sign of affluence. In my parents’ case, it just extended well beyond that first couple, a slow, quiet dissolution as the evening progressed, something that was just “normal”. What it meant, however, I knew all too well. It was an inability to control emotions when things changed unexpectedly. It was a helplessness when it came it identifying and fixing problems. It was watching my Dad, to this day the smartest person I’ve ever known personally, squander that intelligence sitting alone in his office or at the kitchen table, either staring into space or starting discussions about very deep topics with my mother or me that were seemingly designed to turn into fights where really mean things were said, and self-images were crushed.

In my mind, I suppose Spock/Nimoy came to represent a sort of ideal version of my Dad. All the good without the bad. Of course that was completely unrealistic! Spock the character was deeply flawed, and Nimoy the person was just a nice seeming actor of apparently normal intelligence who came across in writing and interviews as quiet, humorous, and relatively pleasant. But in the mind of a child, all the best parts got rolled together into that ideal, and I kinda loved him.

Today he passed away, just like my father did last year. One of the first pictures I saw of him once it was announced showed him, gaunt and wearing an oxygen tube, looking almost exactly like my father the last time I saw him sitting up and lucid.

At that moment, I realized everything I just wrote, and it all just crashed into me like a tidal wave.

So long Leonard! I never really knew you, but I’ll miss you desperately anyway…

The Cord is Cut; or How Time Warner Killed TV
Nov 22nd, 2014 by Blaise

cutting-cable-tvOur family is officially un-cabled. After a year with only basic cable television service, we’ve finally gone all the way.

It started with HBO. Six years ago, Time Warner raised the price for HBO yet again, so I got rid of it. It felt good. Then came four years of fighting them over constantly increasing prices for the rest of cable. Virtually every month, the price would increase, or a new fee would appear or get bigger. One by one, we dropped all the extra packages, ’til we were down to just “standard”.

At that point, the war over data service began. Service would drop or be severely degraded for hours at a time. Their service folks told us repeatedly that everything was fine on their end, and that I must have my router (or, ya know, something) misconfigured. If I wanted a house call, it would cost me dearly. I pointed out to them that not only was I a professional who’d been working with networking equipment since before there was a RoadRunner service, but that I had beta tested their own service for them (paying for the privilege), during which time I helped the techs at their local office learn how to program their own hardware! I had tested everything on my end extensively, and was quite sure it wasn’t my problem, but they weren’t going to help unless I paid them $100!

This phase finally ended when, after months of complaints and long conversations, I finally convinced one of their support guys to walk through everything I’d done on my end with me in a two-hour marathon, before he finally said, “Huh, it sure sounds like everything’s fine on your end, let me just check something real quick.” Turns out, my cable modem was the one I’d originally used with them while beta-testing their service some fourteen years earlier, and just before the trouble started, they had made changes on their end that were incompatible with the old hardware. Their hardware. I replaced it myself the next day, physically making the round trip to their office and installing and configuring it myself. After that, I spent a year trying to get them to refund me for the lost service (early on, I’d written a script that logged whenever my network could contact the cable modem but not any of a list of internet sites, so I could track downtime), and pretty much failed.

Needless to say, my opinion of Time Warner has not been sterling since these travails, but since the government saw fit a) to allow only one TV/data service via cable, and b) to allow Time Warner to sign a monopolistic agreement with Verizon that they would no longer install new service in areas where the other already held a monopoly, we’ve been stuck with them. Between 2010 and 2012, we fought a dozen battles with TW over increasing prices and decreasing services, by the end of which I was just done. I issued them an ultimatum, “fix it, or I’ll cancel cable altogether”. Amazingly, this worked, for a while. They dropped our monthly costs by almost 20 dollars, and refunded me some money (not much, maybe $50, but still). We were happy as clams for about six months, until the bills started increasing again.

So last year, once again, I raised hell with them, made more threats, and when they wouldn’t budge, we cancelled “standard cable”, shaving $30 a month off our bill to compensate for increased prices and fees. I even returned our cable box, relying on the “Clear QAM” signals for the digital channels we wanted, saving another five dollars a month. Once again, everything was great, until…

This last round of disservice started with a new charge, specifically a monthly rental fee for our cable modem. It was annoying, more than expensive, but after it all, it pissed me off pretty good. Then, prices for our data service started going up, while the digital channels we were paying for were replaced with digital signals that only carried standard-def channels in a little box in the middle of the screen, with either black bars or advertising wrapped around the outside. Nine months ago, I called to issue another ultimatum. Amazingly, TW actually responded well this time, and offered to reduce our monthly payment by ten dollars, while adding on their “turbo” service (an extra 5 megabits on our data service) for free. I took it, and things were great again (at this point, we really weren’t watching TV at all, anyway).

Things were great until three months ago, that is, when we started getting charged an extra $10 a month for turbo service. It took us a couple of months to notice, and when I called last month, I was told “Oh, well, that was a promotional price that has now ended!”

SB6141So, in a final purging, I found a clearance sale on the best cable modem on TW’s approved list, the SB6141, and bought it. It arrived Wednesday, I installed it and got it registered with TW Thursday, and yesterday, I took the old modem to TW’s office, made sure we wouldn’t be charged rent on it any more, gave everyone in the office an ear full approximating this very rant, and turned off cable TV forever.

We will now pay $17 less per month, until the next battle begins. We are cable TV free, and realize that we haven’t watched any in nearly a year, so it really doesn’t matter (Hulu and Netflix pretty much cover it). Time Warner made this happen. If there were another true broadband service available, we’d have dropped that too.

It’s a hell of a way to run a business…

Six-Month Baby Observations (OK, 6.5…)
Oct 3rd, 2014 by Blaise

Dashiell_6MO02So this is nominally a little late, but I figure six months is the perfect time to look back on new parenthood and reflect. At six months old, our son Dashiell has hit all his developmental milestones, is perfectly healthy, and is now almost a little person, just one who hasn’t figured out talking and walking yet! Here are some things I want to remember, and maybe some other people will glean some wisdom from:

  • Ears, hair, and beards make great handholds, especially for a child the doctors describe as ‘amazingly strong’. Bear this in mind while deciding on a carrying position.
  • Always choose to make the second trip. Or even a third. Trust me. It seems like that will take longer than just one, but any trip involving carrying a wriggling, babbling baby will require both hands at some point, and I guarantee the clean-up will take longer than the multiple trips!
  • Get a splash shield for your face before venturing into solid (read ‘not even a little solid, so it’s really easy to squirt/spit/splash/flick/dribble’) food. ‘Nuff said.
  • Learn to meditate. Even five minutes a day will keep you from breaking down in tears when things get bad.
  • It does not serve to even think about why or how what’s just come out of your baby looks or smells the way it does. You think I’m joking. I’m not. This will be something you wonder about. A lot.
  • Baby drool. Learn to love it. You’ll be bathing in it.
  • If you’ve never been kicked in the short-ribs or punched in the eyeball, throat, or tongue, you’re in for a treat!
  • A full-grown human adult cannot out-annoy a human infant. They have more will-power and energy than seems possible, and look at your efforts as idle amusements. A full ten minutes of exclaiming, “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” will likely render you incapable of speech for a day, but it will not even phase your infant, except possibly as an encouragement to yell even more between giggles. Not that I’ve tried this…
  • I say this as someone who waited until late in life to become a parent specifically so he could go out in the world and experience everything he could before “settling down”. There is literally (and I mean literally ‘literally’, in the literal sense) no better feeling in the whole, wide world than that you experience in the moments just after your baby falls asleep clutching himself to your chest.

 

Baby’s Latest “Phase”
Sep 26th, 2014 by Blaise

SlobberSo our son has apparently moved into another new developmental stage!

He’s acquired three simultaneous new habits. First, he drools continuously. Second, he yells and blows raspberries continuously. Third, he gets his heels underneath him and drives them repeatedly into any surface he comes in contact with over and over until either the surface gives, or the person he’s treating like a surface yells and moves out of the way!

Of special note, the three of these activities synergize quite well, the yelling and bouncing adding an incomprehensible amount of momentum to the drool.

I’m calling this latest move “The Sprinkler”…

First Night Away From Baby!
Sep 22nd, 2014 by Blaise

AhhhSo we finally did it. At six months, we finally let go enough to go away for a night, and leave Dashiell with someone else! It didn’t exactly go according to plan…

The trip was intended to be a surprise. My wife set everything up surreptitiously, so I would have no idea it was happening. Her execution was flawless… except for the minor detail that in order to make it happen, she had to tell a couple of other people, one of whom let the cat out of the bag two days beforehand! Since I’m not a big surprise person, I found this much more amusing than anything else, and by the way, I pretty much have the best wife ever!

The plan was for a party night and a stay away from home, to get completely out of our routine and responsibilities for a little while. Some friends were holding a private party at a club, and we had a hotel suite nearby to stay the night for afterward. We’d have some fun, dance, maybe even drink a little, and then get a whole night’s sleep without our usual 4 AM wake-up call. It was a wonderful plan.

And it started out wonderfully. We dropped Dash off with our friend without incident, and almost entirely without last-minute re-considerations. We made good time on the trip, checked in without event, and Sabrina even had time to go for a swim while I ordered our room-service dinner and unpacked. The food was surprisingly good, and we were fresh and ready to go to the club in plenty of time.

We found the club without incident, after which we made two discoveries. First, it was a strip-club, and second, it wasn’t actually a private party (our friends didn’t quite get that point across to my wife). So things were a little weird. It wasn’t a bad party. We had some fun, danced and drank a little, and talked to some friends, but we left early because it was a little uncomfortable being mixed in with the regular patrons and being accosted by teenagers who wanted to give us “private dances”.

We went back to the hotel, had a nightcap, and settled in, excited by the prospect of having a long, satisfying night’s sleep. Which came to an abrupt conclusion at our usual 4 AM when the fire alarm went off! This was no momentary concern, either. We were literally driven out of the hotel for an hour and a half while four fire-engines and countless police cars swarmed the joint (which, it turned out, was at least not actually on fire, so we didn’t lose anything). At least we got a yummy pre-breakfast at the Denny’s next door while we waited!

Needless to say, the reality of the trip was a tad less satisfying (or restful!) than our expectations might have prepared us for, but hey, at least we finally just did it, tore off the bandage, and endured our first separation from our son! (Who was perfectly fine by the way, and seemed a little miffed that he had to go back to these boring “parents” people!)

[ADDENDUM]
Because my wife tried so hard on this, the next weekend I begged our amazing friend Karen to take Dash overnight again, and made plans to stay at a local hotel and go to a local club as a do-over. This time, things went swimmingly, although the fire-alarm did briefly go off in both the club *and* the hotel while we were there (we may be cursed). We got the party we’d been looking for, got a somewhat shorter than planned but utterly uninterrupted night’s sleep, and generally made everything better!

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