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Auntie Beth’s Present
· My Aunt Beth died a few weeks ago. Her real name was Bertha Marian White (née Scott), here’s her obituary. I was close to her when I was a kid; she was an awfully nice person, and I’m sad. But she’d been fading for years, and in the way of death these days, Beth the person we knew pre-departed the spark of life in her body. One reason we loved her is she always gave the best birthday presents, and she did that again one last time this month ...
· She was a purebred (Bengal) actually, with a formal name: Bellsangels Rune, and a pedigree. Born March 23, 1998, departed this life June 23rd, 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 ... [11 comments]
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 ... [5 comments]
· 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 ... [2 comments]
· 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.” [5 comments]
· 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 ... [1 comment]
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 ... [9 comments]
· 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 ... [1 comment]
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. [4 comments]
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 ... [2 comments]
· 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 ... [2 comments]
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 ... [9 comments]
· 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? [25 comments]
· 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 ... [2 comments]
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. [1 comment]
· 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 ... [17 comments]
· 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 ... [2 comments]
Lauren and Jean
· Hey, this is my blog, if I want to run a picture of my wife and my mother, I can ... [3 comments]
· 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. [4 comments]
· 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 ... [3 comments]
· 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 ...
· 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. [7 comments]
· 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 ... [3 comments]
· 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 ... [5 comments]
· 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.
· 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.]
· 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 ...
· 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 ...
· 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.
· 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.
· 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 ...
· 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 ...
· 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.
· “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 ...
· 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 ...
By Tim Bray
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