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Bye, Rune · She was a pure­bred (Ben­gal) ac­tu­al­ly, with a for­mal name: Bell­san­gels Rune, and a pedi­gree. Born March 23, 1998, de­part­ed this life June 22nd, 2017, ae­tat 19 years and 3 month­s. She pre­dat­ed our chil­dren and dig­i­tal cam­eras and this is the on­ly obit she’ll get, so it’ll be length­y. But not un­a­mus­ing I hope, full of sto­ries, and book­end­ed by base­bal­l ...
 
Marlowe, RIP · Our big male cat, an­nounced in this space in 2005, died sud­den­ly. Bloggers’ cats get obit­u­ar­ies ...
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Children in Combat · There’s strife in ev­ery fam­i­ly. The kids’ fac­tion is at a ter­ri­ble dis­ad­van­tage in strength and wis­dom, so they have to fight sneaky. The anal­o­gy with guer­ril­la war is ob­vi­ous, which gives me a chance to mix up fam­i­ly life and a book re­view ...
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Joyful Screams · Here’s a pho­to of chil­dren scream­ing. Care to take a guess what it’s about, and is about to hap­pen? Try a look at the full-size ver­sion ...
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Sex Education · My turn in the car­pool sched­ule. Girl and Boy in the back seat, my first-grade daugh­ter and her class­mate who’s ex­pect­ing a lit­tle sis­ter any day now. Gir­l: “Daddy, how do they know whether it’s a boy or a girl be­fore it’s born?” Me: [Tries to ex­plain about ul­tra­sound (as if I un­der­stood it) and how they can see a not-very-good pic­ture of the baby, still in Mummy’s tum­my.] [Si­lence] Gir­l: “But how do they know if it’s a boy or a girl?” Me: “Well, they look to see if it has a penis!” [Longer si­lence.] Boy: “Did you know that when a baby’s born, it’s naked?” [Still longer si­lence.] Gir­l: “Daddy, please don’t talk about gross stuff like that.”
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Frozen Family · We spent this last Christ­mas in Saskatchewan, which is flat, and so we went to a part that wasn’t to have very cold fun ...
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What Kind of Mother? · Why Chi­nese Mothers Are Su­pe­ri­or by Amy Chua went through the In­ter­net hive mind to­day like a hot knife through but­ter. I have some di­rect per­son­al ex­pe­ri­ence of these is­sues ...
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The Joy of Nerf · When I was a kid, my par­ents, be­ing pro­gres­sive forward-thinking type­s, wouldn’t buy me toy gun­s. My grand­moth­er was un­trou­bled by such scru­ples and gave me a huge, shiny, cap-firin’ six-shooter. We do things dif­fer­ent­ly now ...
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Mom’s Birthday · The week­end of May 24th, my ex­tend­ed fam­i­ly gath­ered in Cal­gary from points East and West across Cana­da to cel­e­brate my Mom’s eight­i­eth birth­day. Here­with sto­ry­telling and pic­tures ...
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Leaf Compacting With Children · It’s like this: You’re out in the yard, rak­ing up the leaves that you didn’t get to last fal­l, pil­ing ’em in­to the big yard-waste bin, and the 3½-year-old is wan­der­ing around pre­tend­ing to help. Pret­ty soon the bin will be look­ing full while there are still lots of dead leaves that need to go in. Here’s what you do: You hoist the child up in the air and an­nounce “You’re a squish­er! Straight legs!” Then use the kid like a pile-driver to make room in the bin. Up-down up-down; the leaves com­pact amaz­ing­ly and the child is squeal­ing with glee. The on­ly down­side is that for the rest of the day, you’ll be hear­ing “Leaves need squish­ing again, Daddy?” ap­prox­i­mate­ly ev­ery 45 sec­ond­s.
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21mm Fight Dance · I had two ten-year-old boys with me; they said “Fight dancing!” Real­ly it was Capoeira, some­where be­tween a mar­tial art and dance for­m, in­vent­ed by African slaves in Brazil. There are a cou­ple of sto­ries but let’s start with the pic­ture ...
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A Toast · At din­ner af­ter my son’s first game of the year, I pro­posed a toast, but I couldn’t help wa­ter­ing it down with a word of cau­tion ...
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Green Eggs and Toast · “No,” you say, “It’s Green Eg­gs and Ham!” Well ex­act­ly, and right at the mo­ment it’s one of my 2½-year-old daughter’s bed­time fa­vorites. To the ex­tent she’s mem­o­rized it; and once a toddler’s mem­o­rized a book, you can branch out ...
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Discipline · Our adorable daugh­ter, al­most 2½, is strong-willed. This lead­s, oc­ca­sion­al­ly, to melt­downs at the din­ner table. Lau­ren and I both feel that nei­ther screech­ing nor throw­ing things is ac­cept­able. When her broth­er, now 9, was deal­ing with sim­i­lar is­sues, we found that “time out” was an ef­fec­tive cor­rec­tive. He found ban­ish­ment such a shat­ter­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that our bar­gain­ing pow­er, once he got the link­age be­tween crime and pun­ish­men­t, was tremen­dous. With the girl, not so much. When ban­ished, she sits in the cor­ner and bur­bles in a cute kind of way. And re­cent­ly, when she’s get­ting to­ward the end of din­ner, on a few oc­ca­sions she’s slipped out of her chair and said, in her adorable lit­tle munchkin voice, “Now I go time-out, bye.” She tod­dles over to the penal­ty box, leav­ing us non­plussed, to emerge in a cou­ple of min­utes chortling glee­ful­ly. Some­one is un­clear on the con­cept and I’m not sure it’s her. What’s the next op­tion, the cat o’ nine tail­s?
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Family Moment · The back porch door was open and our adorable lit­tle almost-two-year-old, all gold­en curls and pink dim­ples, was wan­der­ing in and out. One time as she was com­ing in, I no­ticed Mar­lowe the cat was sort of hov­er­ing around her; then the air was full of fe­male shriek­s: “She’s got a dead rat!” And so she did, hold­ing it up all ea­ger to please, while Mar­lowe looked con­fused and ir­ri­tat­ed. A fair-sized one too, with a good five inch­es of dan­gling tail. A few sec­onds lat­er, she was just as con­fused and ir­ri­tat­ed as Mar­lowe, for the same rea­son, and the corpse was head­ed for dis­pos­al ...
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Baby Hand Wine · I was car­ry­ing the girl, now near eigh­teen month­s, up­stairs for sto­ries and bed­time, jug­gling her, her milk, and the last glass of din­ner wine, a very de­cent Pen­folds Shiraz-Cab. She saw her chance when I had to free up one arm for a door; feint­ed left, squirmed right, plunged her hand all the way in­to the ru­by red, and beamed tri­umphant­ly. I’d just fin­ished wip­ing din­ner off it so with no hes­i­ta­tion I stuffed the wig­gly pink drip­ping fin­gers in­to my mouth. The wine tast­ed good off her warm skin, odd­ly dif­fer­ent but good. I rec­om­mend this.
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Censoring Homer · Our son, now eight, can read per­fect­ly well (in three lan­guages) but still re­quires a bed­time sto­ry, which is OK be­cause Lau­ren and I both en­joy read­ing them. Giv­en the fact that he can now read all the cheesy pic­to­ri­als he likes for him­self, I’ve been en­forc­ing Big Se­ri­ous Book­s. So re­cent­ly it’s been the Odyssey, which ac­tu­al­ly hasn’t worked out that well ...
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Summer’s End · It wasn’t that great; there was some good weath­er but not enough, and much of that while we were off in Ber­lin or Saskatchewan. But there were com­pen­sa­tion­s, fam­i­ly things ...
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Lauren and Jean · Hey, this is my blog, if I want to run a pic­ture of my wife and my moth­er, I can ...
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Single Dad · Lau­ren and the ba­by girl have been away in Ox­ford nine days, and the house un­ac­cus­tomed­ly qui­et. The boy and I are get­ting along OK in the eerie space and empti­ness. This af­ter­noon, he asked if he could go for a sleep-over at Samuel’s house, and I couldn’t see a rea­son to say no. When I packed him off with pa­ja­mas and a book and a “stuffie” (what the kids call stuffed-animal toys these days) sud­den­ly I re­al­ized that wow, I was alone. I could play the odd­est mu­sic as loud as I want­ed. I could have a wild par­ty that ran till to­mor­row. I could prac­tice my drum­ming. I could, well... I dun­no. What I re­al­ly want­ed was my fam­i­ly back. Then in the late north­ern dusk, the phone rang and it was Samuel’s mom: “We have a home­sick boy here”. So I went and brought him home, and sym­pa­thized, and helped him get set­tled when he couldn’t sleep. And was glad to have him back un­der my roof.
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Fathers’ Day · The me­dia are full of heart­felt pieces about Father­hood; here is my fa­vorite this year. I find my­self, as a prac­ti­tion­er, feel­ing like an im­pos­tor, but so do many fa­ther­s ...
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Spun Gold · In the Rumplestilt­skin sto­ry, the miller’s daugh­ter had to spin straw in­to gold or die, and how­ev­er evoca­tive the dwarf’s over­heard song (Wikipedia has nine ver­sion­s) I could nev­er stop won­der­ing what the spun gold might look like. Now I know ...
 
Catchy Tune · The boy had a few morn­ing min­utes free be­fore we had to leave for school and so “Daddy, can I lis­ten to your iPod?” I told him to go ahead, and then when we were head­ing out the door he was singing; he can car­ry a tune well and I knew it but couldn’t make out the song. I asked him to sing a lit­tle loud­er: Perverts in the sun... perv­ing ev­ery­one... Oop­s. It turns out that the Shuf­fle had shuf­fled in some of Ig­gy Pop’s Skull Ring. I sug­gest­ed that maybe he not sing that one at school, and re­al­ized that if the iPod is a fam­i­ly re­source, I’m go­ing to have to be a lit­tle care­ful. Why’d Ya Do It?, for ex­am­ple, is right out.
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Baby Dread · Sup­pose it’s re­al­ly late and you have a lit­tle ba­by who’s cranky (maybe sick) and can’t or won’t sleep and you’ve tried all the usu­al tricks and they’re not work­ing. Here’s my ul­ti­mate weapon, and while the sam­ple size is on­ly my two chil­dren, it does span gen­der­s ...
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Going Mobile · Our daugh­ter will soon be eight months old (so fast!) and is learn­ing to crawl—wait, didn’t some­body al­ready say that?—actually, she knows she wants to but can’t yet ...
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Christmas Pictures · Another Christ­mas in the bo­som of the fam­i­ly; we got all of Jean Bray’s chil­dren, their spous­es, and her grand­chil­dren to­geth­er, which we don’t man­age of­ten enough, in Cal­gar­y. Like many oth­er­s, I find with ev­ery year that pass­es that the peo­ple seem more im­por­tan­t, the eat­ing and drink­ing and so on less; but I got an out­stand­ing pre­sen­t ...
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Went Camping · In Cana­da and the US, the first Mon­day in Septem­ber is a hol­i­day (“Labour Day”) and then the kids start school on Tues­day. This year, we spent the long week­end at cam­p. It was en­tire­ly tra­di­tion­al and very good. Here­with na­ture shots and camp­fire tales, some mu­si­cal ...
 
The Sweetest Thing · Our ba­by girl, two months old to­mor­row, has learned to smile. She’s still learn­ing to steer her eyes and fo­cus, so you have to get your­self po­si­tioned around where she’s look­ing. Then the eyes widen and the whole lit­tle face lights up. Stone would melt. The pro­cess is not ful­ly per­fect­ed: the smile oc­ca­sion­al­ly veers out of con­trol in­to a lop­sid­ed ine­bri­at­ed tooth­less leer, and then some­times she’ll beam sud­den­ly at the back of a chair or a piece of brick wal­l. The evo­lu­tion­ary be­hav­ior­ists can please just butt out.
 
Symptoms · Of stress and lack of sleep, I mean. Se­cond kids are eas­ier, but when she re­fus­es to feed and then re­fus­es again and screams tiny screams of hot rage at your at­tempt­s, and won’t stop and won’t eat, and you’re not get­ting much sleep, and the house is be­ing ren­o­vat­ed, and you’re hoard­ing your ra­tion of lu­cid­i­ty, it comes out in the odd­est ways. I drove way too fast to the su­per­mar­ket to beat their phar­ma­cy clos­ing time, re­al­ly need­ing a pre­scrip­tion filled; made it with min­utes to spare, and when I walked in­to the mostly-empty store, some­one had turned up the mu­sic and the wild old elec­tric Lay­la was play­ing: Let’s make the best of the sit­u­a­tion... (y­ou know the rest of that verse) and it made me cry for my five-day-old. Oh, and one more thing: wom­en have it hard­er, way hard­er. [P.S. The baby’s fine, gain­ing weight, grunt­ing re­as­sur­ing­ly in her bassinet as I write this; the big pic­ture is OK.]
 
Newborn · Now we are 4. Last Thurs­day Lau­ren and I be­came par­ents of a bounc­ing 9lb 7oz (big!) ba­by girl. She’s fine, Lauren’s fine. As a mat­ter of pol­i­cy, our children’s names and pho­tos don’t ap­pear here, so in­stead of say­ing “the kid” it’ll have to be “the boy” or “the girl”. Wel­l, we de­cid­ed to make one ex­cep­tion; how can a cute-baby pho­to do any har­m? Plus, as a ser­vice to the loy­al read­ers of on­go­ing, a dozen facts about new­borns and their con­tex­t ...
 
38 Weeks · Every­thing hap­pens at on­ce. The preg­nan­cy draws heav­i­ly to its end, the house is be­ing ren­o­vat­ed (we need an­oth­er room), the kid’s in base­ball play­offs and re­hears­ing for his sum­mer fes­ti­val and school is wind­ing down. Work’s busy, too ...
 
You Too Can Shoot High-Def · What hap­pened was, we’ve had an HDTV for a while now, and the de­cent old Canon cam­corder wasn’t cut­ting it, and we’ve got a ter­rif­ic video op­por­tu­ni­ty com­ing up. So I end­ed up buy­ing a Sony HDR-HC1, which records 1080i High-Def. This was a non-obvious choice for a cou­ple of rea­son­s, and it turns out that home-HDTV is still a pret­ty bleeding-edge tech­nol­o­gy. Here­with the nar­ra­tive, with some pic­tures but no video sam­ples ...
 
Wrong About the Infield Fly Rule · My broth­er Rob is re­al­ly tak­ing to this blog­ging medi­um. Check out his re­cent Cre­do, and al­so the on­ly in­stance I’ve seen of Anglo-Saxon al­lit­er­a­tive po­et­ry ap­plied to a mini-van.
 
Goddess · That would be my wife Lau­ren. After I b0rked our Win2K game­box, I tried re-installing the OS and even­tu­al­ly re­duced it to com­plete brick-ness, it rec­og­nized nei­ther the video adapter nor the net­work card. So Lau­ren brushed me aside and start­ed wrestling with the prob­lem, and to make a long sto­ry short, it al­most com­plete­ly works again. At one point she seemed near­ly in­fi­nite in her ca­pa­bil­i­ties, sit­ting in front of the com­put­er wran­gling soft­ware up­dates while knit­ting ba­by stuff and look­ing up words in a Ger­man dic­tio­nary for the kid’s home­work. Some of the Ger­man nouns and mut­tered curs­es at the Win­dows in­stall sound­ed re­mark­ably like each oth­er. Why would any­one not mar­ry a geek? The on­ly prob­lem is that Win2K won’t auto-switch res­o­lu­tions to play games any more, it gets the fre­quen­cy wrong and the LCD goes pear-shaped, you have to hand-select the fre­quen­cy and switch in­to the right res­o­lu­tion first. LazyWe­b?
 
More Family Fun · Check out Lauren’s news. Hav­ing a com­bined age in ex­cess of 90 does not con­sti­tute birth con­trol. Ex­pect less from me this sum­mer.
 
Family Fun · For my “Atom as a Case Study” pre­sen­ta­tion at ETech, I want­ed to give the au­di­ence a feel for the end­less, wear­ing nas­ti­ness in the syn­di­ca­tion com­mu­ni­ty. It wasn’t hard to find a cou­ple of sam­ples of ig­no­rant child­ish vi­tu­per­a­tion from the week be­fore the con­fer­ence to hold up as ex­am­ples, but I thought that a lit­tle light re­lief was in or­der, too. So I put to­geth­er a pho­tomon­tage slide show to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries, 25 pic­tures of bat­tle­field panora­mas, alien in­vader­s, mon­sters fight­ing, Mex­i­can wrestling, su­per­hero com­bat, slaver­ing vam­pires, fright­ened sol­dier­s, crash­ing planes, fan­ta­sy war­riors with big ug­ly weapon­s, and so on. It was kind of amus­ing, if I say so my­self. After the talk some­one came up and asked “What tag did you use to find that stuff?” It wasn’t like that; back at home on the week­end I was pok­ing around Google and Ya­hoo im­age search look­ing for things like “combat”, “monster”, “explosion“, “battle”, “weapon”, and so on and the six-year-old cruised by and looked at my screen. Boy, was he ev­er hooked. So I set­tled him in­to the chair be­side me and we spent a re­al­ly en­joy­able half-hour cruis­ing the In­ter­net for pic­tures of vi­o­lence and de­struc­tion (Safe Search def­i­nite­ly on). He was quick to pipe up “Ooh, that one, Daddy!” but puz­zled by a cou­ple of my pick­s. Qual­i­ty time, they call it, bond­ing, that kind of thing. Am I a Bad Par­en­t?
 
How They Learn · It’s amaz­ing, con­trary to all the clichés, how slow­ly lit­tle kids learn. My lit­tle guy, now in first grade, has been learn­ing to read for a year now and still strug­gles with some obvious-seeming word­s; oh, those English vow­el­s. But slow is OK, be­cause time is what he has, no end of it; and when you’re my age that time rush­es by, fast and un­ceas­ing like a spring flood. This evening, read­ing the first chap­ters of the first Har­ry Pot­ter at bed­time, he seemed to want a turn so I point­ed him at a para­graph and he hur­ried through it, the tale’s ur­gen­cy car­ry­ing him over words he couldn’t make out. I re­mem­ber be­ing the same age do­ing the same thing, won­der­ing what some word mean­t, but not enough to stop, or even slow down much.
 
FSS: Dad, Rob, Bike · Fri­day Slide Scan #11 is from the sum­mer of 1964. It shows my Dad fix­ing my bike, with my broth­er Rob look­ing on. The lo­ca­tion is the Beka’a val­ley in Le­banon, so there’s some back-story ...
 
Check out Marlowe · Mar­lowe is a kit­ten and joined our fam­i­ly two weeks ago. Here­with some cute-kitten shots and sto­ries and al­so some kit­ten ethic­s ...
 
Have Mercy on Me · It was peer-group pres­sure that did it. For my sin­s, I am now the coach of Dou­glas Park Soc­cer Under-7 team #3, now known as... hold on, we’ll get there. The need was des­per­ate but I was up-front, said I’m there most Satur­days but mid-week might find me in Slove­nia or Tokyo, so they found me a co-coach and now I’m stuck. In my per­son­al mem­o­ry, coach­es are large per­son­ages with boom­ing voic­es and a gen­er­al air of hearti­ness, which I shall en­deav­or to em­u­late; a whis­tle and clip­board are on my shop­ping list. So, dur­ing the season-opening cer­e­monies I con­vened the team, whom my mathematically-literate read­er­ship will have de­duced are all six, to choose a name. They were se­ri­ous­ly in­to it, and giv­en the choice be­tween ad­dress­ing sev­er­al thou­sand from a keynote stage or eight ea­ger six-year-olds, it’s not even close. I asked them if they want­ed a fun­ny name (Turnip­s, Po­ta­toes, Car­rot­s), a fierce name (Lion­s, Tiger­s, Dragon­s), or a Van­cou­ver name (Griz­zlies, Or­cas, Ea­gles). It’s a mixed league but our team is all-boy, so they they didn’t hes­i­tate, they want­ed a fierce name. One skin­ny lit­tle guy, all shorts and shoul­derblades, looked at me sin­cere­ly and said “How about ‘Stormtroopers’?”, and I was gob­s­macked for a mo­ment till I re­al­ized this is the video gen­er­a­tion and he meant Im­pe­ri­al stormtroop­ers not Sturmabteilung. “Uh, no.” I said, and then The Dragons car­ried the day. No, I don’t know what I’m get­ting in­to.
 
Robert · That would be Rob Bray, my broth­er, who’s been blog­ging for a while now. He’s broad-spectrum, there are pieces about singing in the car, NFL foot­ball, So­cial Cap­i­tal and Love, and school­girl pol­i­tics. Weird­ly, my sin­gle fa­vorite piece is about GAAP in the char­i­ty sec­tor. To­day he ex­pands in­for­ma­tive­ly on my religious-courts piece, a sub­ject on which he knows im­mense­ly more than I. Good stuff.
 
Daddy Moment · You on­ly get maybe one of these per child and, like they say, “You nev­er forget” ...
 
My Mother’s Garden · My moth­er Jean Bray is an avid gar­den­er who con­tends might­i­ly with the Saskatchewan cli­mate (zone 2B for afi­ciona­dos); her space is in sum­mer al­ways a de­light to the eye­s ...
 
5/137 · Ju­ly 1 is the kid’s birth­day, he turned five this year. Canada’s too, one hun­dred thirty-seven, both the kid and the coun­try are young spec­i­mens of their kind. Since I work (of­fi­cial­ly) for Sun Canada, I bailed out of Ja­va One a day ear­ly to cel­e­brate. Here­with notes on the birth­days and a dip in­to ec­sta­sy ...
 
#9 · After din­ner Fri­day the kid want­ed to do a jig­saw puz­zle and I thought that we might as well have a mu­si­cal back­drop for our qual­i­ty time. I felt in a rock & roll mode and my hand fell on the White Al­bum. Even­tu­al­ly Revo­lu­tion #9 came along, and all these decades lat­er, you know, it holds up pret­ty well. Any­how, the kid with fur­rowed brow was try­ing to fig­ure out which way a piece of Thomas the Tank Engine would fit, and I was mak­ing help­ful sug­ges­tions when I no­ticed that in his lit­tle munchkin voice he was in­ton­ing “Number nine... Num­ber nine... Num­ber nine...” Now that’s Qual­i­ty Time.
 
Life Lessons · “Look Mom­my, there’s a but­ton on the table!” said the kid. “Yes, I think it came off Daddy’s pants.” Si­lence... a bit too much si­lence. “What are you doing!?!?” Tableau of hor­ri­fied lit­tle boy crouched over the hot-air ven­t, look­ing up with crum­bling face as he re­al­izes he’s Done Some­thing Wrong. There is, af­ter al­l, no ar­gu­ment from first prin­ci­ples (those avail­able to a four-year-old, any­how) that you shouldn’t drop a nice shiny but­ton down the heat­ing ven­t. Sub­se­quent­ly, par­ents ob­serve that un­con­trol­lable gig­gles se­ri­ous­ly im­pair both the solemn les­son about Not Drop­ping Things Down the Vent and the ef­fort to soothe the child’s bruised feel­ings.
 
My Flesh Crawled · I think we've all heard the ex­pres­sion “my flesh crawled” in con­nec­tion with some hor­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and af­ter last night, I can tell you that it re­al­ly tru­ly lit­er­al­ly hap­pen­s ...
 
Daddy Moment · Be­ing a par­ent is more of­ten wear­ing than up­lift­ing, but there are mo­ments. I was get­ting ready for work with my 3½-year-old hang­ing around, I no­ticed a splotch on his face and said "hey come here and let me wipe your face off." He ran off in­to the next room and hid. He's re­al­ly bad at hid­ing, so it was sur­pris­ing when I went next door and couldn't find him ...
 
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