Archive for December, 2013
Around 8 o’clock each night, the cat makes his daily appearance. He comes down the stairs and sits his butt down at the front door. If no one notices him in what he considers a timely fashion, he starts to yowl. Someone, one of the kids, myself, the Wife, eventually lets him outside.
A couple hours later while sitting on the couch, I hear him. Or, more precisely, I hear him scratching at the screen. The dog reacts by starting to bark. I react by getting annoyed. I hate him poking at the screen. On occasion, I’ve sat here with the window opening and a squirt bottle. When I’d hear him scratching at the screen, I’d let him have it with the bottle. Another time, I let the dogs out to chase him.
Neither has stopped him. I’ve come to accept that he’ll do it each night.
I don’t let him in via the screen door anymore though. He won’t always come in that way, which is even more annoying than the scratching at the screen. Now, I go to the front door and call him. After a couple seconds, I can hear the jingle of his bell as he jogs around to the front of the house from the back. He comes up onto the porch and waits for me to pick him up.
I do so, and bring him in the house. Upon opening the door, the dog is waiting for me. He knows what I’ve gone outside to do and the cat is a constant source of temptation for him. I bark at him to back off and leave the cat alone and he slinks off to a safe observing distance. He knows where the cat is going and he contents himself that he’ll get his opportunity.
Sometimes I let the cat go right there and he’ll scamper up the stairs to safety from the dogs. Sometimes I’ll escort him to his food and water bowl. It’s the only variation in our routine.
He’ll load up on food, and then do some exploring through the house. Eventually, he’ll find his way upstairs onto our bed where he’ll fall asleep. He’ll wake up eventually, and then make his daily appearance.
If it weren’t so believable, it would be unbelievable.
The Cowboys, without Tony Romo, just threw and interception to basically end their season. It’s just amazing how this team manages to to cough it up so regularly in game-determining situations. Another 8-8 year and no playoffs.
A somewhat intriguing link at Instapundit: 11 ‘Girly’ Things Men Wish They Could Do Without Judgment.
Having read through the list, I can’t say that I identify with wanting any of these things. The only item that comes close is the one about kids. But then, I’m not too worried about what other people think when it comes to me and the kids. So it doesn’t really apply in my case.
All the other things strike me as silly, frankly. Of course, the creators of that list would likely say that’s the problem. To which I’d reply- no, they’re the problem, and not the fact that they want to do these things. If they want to do those things, then just DO them! Don’t expect me not to think it a bit odd because it’s outside the norm, though- that pretty much defines “odd.” Besides, defying social stigmas is all the rage nowadays- these guys should just let there inner-whatever show.
The lass spent the whole movie giggling excitedly. The boy spent the whole movie wiggling uncomfortably.
That’s probably the best way to sum up Frozen. It’s called a movie, but I thought it was more a musical than movie by the time it was all done. The first half the characters were breaking into song every 5 minutes or so. It slowed down some in the second half, but there was still plenty of spontaneous eruptions of song.
Which isn’t to say I disliked it. I just didn’t expect so much of it to be told with music. As for the story, the main shortcoming I could come up with was how the loss of the girl’s parents was dealt with. That is to say, it wasn’t. They simply were there for about 20 minutes, and then gone- never to be addressed or spoken of again. Seemed kind of odd given that the girls were supposedly so close to them but then never grieved for them. Not to worry too much though- the 20 minutes they are in the movie is long enough to lay the ground work for what happens in the rest of the movie.
The movie’s strongest point is the ending. The “act of true love” which is needed to resolve the story is setup quite nicely. As a Disney movie, everyone is led to believe it will be one thing. What it actually becomes is much more satisfying and in keeping with the overall heart of the story- the relationship between the two sisters.
Sprinkle in comedy relief from Olaf and Sven, and there’s plenty of story and entertainment for everyone. Except, apparently, for the boy who claimed he didn’t like it. It was almost as comical watching him wiggle in his seat during the “kissy” scenes as listening the lass squeal with delight at Olaf’s goofiness. Disney did a nice job of adding a new twist on their “Princess” canon.
Let the record show that on this day, the 26th of December in the year 2013 of our Lord, the lass finished her first chapter book. It was a kid’s version of Frozen, the current Disney movie out in theatres and was about 125 pages long.
After her victory, she did not declare that she’d be going to Disneyworld. She did ask when she could see the movie though.
The boy’s favorite Christmas present is his laptop. It’s not a toy laptop loaded with educational games. It’s the real deal laptop, with a 64-bit Intel processor and 150GB of disk space. Size wise, it’s a netbook so it’s just right for him to set on his lap and peck away at. Best of all, it has Ubuntu installed on it.
The only thing I don’t like about it is the Unity UI. Bleck. But then, I’m not a big fan of UI’s like that. Extended Linux exposure will do that to a user.
The reason he got that kind of rig is because of his desire to learn to program. It’s hard to justify anything else for a kid other than a Linux box since tools, debuggers, editors, IDE’s and any language the prospective programmer could possibly want to work worth are readily available at no charge. If this machine had not been available I’d have converted some other machine, probably a chromebook, as I saw fit.
So he’s enthusiastically resumed his programming activities. In addition to the laptop, he received a “programming for kids” book on python. I was somewhat amused to see that the book’s approach was similar to my own. Namely, introduce him to the language and so forth and build up his ability to write programs.
I’ve come to realize this is a completely inappropriate way to teach a kid like the boy. He needs to see a program actually do something. He doesn’t care about variables and tuples and functions or object-oriented and classes and constructors or closures. He wants to see a ball bounce on a screen.
The book has a couple of simple games it helps the prospective programmer write. It takes the approach of building up the knowledge bit-by-bit until there’s a functionally complete program. Naturally, the boy skipped all that and went right to the part where the whole program is laid out. It’s a “bounce” program, a simple version of the game “Pong.”
I’ll admit to not initially being thrilled with his approach. But, there are plenty of programmers out there that have cut there teeth by reading code and learning how it worked that way. There’s no reason the boy can’t be one of those if he chooses. Most importantly, he was willing to work through it. He did try to see if I’d be willing copy it for him, since I “could do it faster.” I scoffed at the notion though, “I can’t learn how to program for you.”
I did have an “I told you so.” After he’d started writing the code, I told him he would have to debug the program. First, there were bound to be typos in his code and those would cause syntax errors he’d have to work through. Then, there would likely be some lines he missed, or mistyped so the program would fail at strange points. Thankfully, there was only 80 lines of code or so, so debugging it wouldn’t be to difficult a task.
Forty-five minutes later, he’d finished typing it and tried to run it. It puked.
So I helped him fix that mistake. “Do you think it will run this time?” he asked hopefully.
And it didn’t. It didn’t run on the third try either. Or the fourth. Or the fifth.
To his credit, the boy maintained his patience. It was obvious he was in that excited state a programmer attains when their program is about to ready to take flight. It maintained his focus.
After we fixed the syntax errors, we finally got a screen to pop up. But it still wasn’t running. Once more, we slowly brought his little program to life. First a paddle appeared on the bottom of the screen. Then a ball appeared above it. Shortly after that, the ball started bouncing around and the game was working.
Through all of it, I tried to explain what was wrong so he’d learn something for the next time. For many of the errors, he’d have needed a better understanding of programming to solve. Regardless of whatever I tried to offer him though, his main motivation was to see it run.
When finally it worked, the boy was beside himself with joy. Literally, a smile from ear to ear. Here was a game that he had “created” and written on his computer that he could actually sit and play.
Since then, he’s gone back and started trying to do other things. Last I saw, he was trying to draw circles on the screen. Hopefully this little success breeds more. Perhaps the thing to look for is a book with various programs for him to copy and play with.
The main thing is he’s off an running.
The boy was working on a last minute gift for the Wife. He’d already picked out a couple of presents, but he wanted to make her something as well. So, he set to work on one of those rubber band bracelets that seems to have taken the world by storm. Perhaps its just our world, but for all intents and purposes, it’s the world.
He came home one day a couple months ago and was weaving these these rubber bands together with his fingers. He said a friend had shown him how to do it at school. Soon after that, the Wife had purchased a supply of rubber bands for making the bracelets and he and the lass would sit and string them together. Shortly after that, he got a “loom” for making even fancier patterns. Then we were seeing all the kids making the dang things. Since then, both kids have mastered several patterns and designs and will sit and work on them when the mood strikes them.
So the boy had worked out a hybrid design involving a “hex-a-fish” and a “star-burst” design together and was working on joining the two halves together. That’s when “disaster” struck. Remember, when you’re a kid, everything that doesn’t go exactly, perfectly, as expected is a disaster.
The boy, naturally, responded appropriately.
He grabbed the bracelet he’d been working on and threw it across the room. Then yelled about how the world isn’t fair and everything always goes wrong right at the end when everything is almost done.
The Wife and I both tried to calm him a bit, but it was little use. He was cranked up and needed to be distracted from it. He stomped upstairs to go beat up his bed, or something.
I then had an idea.
I went up after him and asked him to join me for a moment. We walked over to a book shelf I’d made for the Wife and I pointed to some inlay work I’d done on it. It was a straight line of alternating darker wood set into a piece of maple. The accent gave the book shelf a little bit of character that it otherwise would have lacked.
It also never would have been there if I hadn’t messed up while building the bookshelf. I’d cut a groove on the wrong side of that piece of wood. I was upset when I’d done it, but rather than hurl the piece across the yard and destroy the garage to vent my rage, I walked away from it. I showed it to the Wife a bit later and she came up with the idea for the inlay.
So I explained all this to the boy. I set it up by asking him if what he thought of that little bit of inlay and then went on to explain how it ended up there. I even concluded the entire thing with a nice pithy “And the only reason it’s there is because of a mistake,” which, given the circumstances, I thought was a nice way to try and give him a different perspective on his own situation.
I was feeling pretty good about myself at that point. It was just like the movies where the young child is imparted with some useful life wisdom by his parent and everyone walks away happy and better. Roll credits.
The boy, seeing I was done, got up and walked back to his room to continue doing whatever it was he’d been doing. I sat there for a moment, admittedly disappointed. I already knew life kids don’t accept these sorts of lessons quite so neatly and cleanly as we parents would like. But I’d hoped this would at least get some kind of reaction. Alas, it was not meant to be.
Painting has never been my strong suit. Actually, this sort of art in general has never been my strong suit. Mom and the Sister both had that talent in spades, not myself. My talents lie elsewhere.
As for the Wife, the lass and the boy I submit these to make your own assessment. The Wife signed them up for an art class at a local gallery. The class focused on teaching the mechanics of painting the penguin. I imagine if enough of these classes were taken, a given person could become fairly proficient at creating these paintings.
Perhaps even me.
The boy and the lass built this fella yesterday afternoon when they got home from school. It originally stood as tall as the boy, now it is about 6 inches shorter. He looked a lot happier yesterday as well. After today and tomorrow though, there may not be much of him left.
The lass named him Olaf. I think that is from the story Frozen which the lass is reading before she can see.
The boy was disappointed that Olaf had melted so much. Guess he was hoping it would last so Santa could see him. As if Santa doesn’t see enough snow stuff as it is.
Meet knucklehead1 and knucklehead2. In case it isn’t obvious, the one on the right is knucklehead1.
Raise your hand if you thought I might be referring to the kids…
Lying at knucklehead1’s feet, errr- paws, is the reason they are posing so nicely. I’m holding a second snowball in my off hand while taking their picture with the other. They are patiently waiting for me to toss them somewhere.
Part of my at-home duties is entertaining these two knuckleheads. Possibly their favorite activity ever-in-the-entire-world is this one: chasing snowballs. I’m quite sure they would do this until they collapsed from exhaustion. Even then, they’d probably find a way to chase after another one.
Although it might seem a simple thing, throwing snowballs for them is not quite so straight forward as one might assume. I have to make the snowballs two at a time, throw one in one direction and the other in the complete opposite direction.
If I make and toss them one at a time, knucklehead2 will stand there yapping at me but will not give chase because he defers to knucklehead1. If I throw them in the same direction, again knucklehead2 will not chase because of knucklehead1. Thus, throwing snowballs becomes a carefully orchestrated event.
It is because of things like this that I refer to them as knuckleheads.
The Wife had a holiday night out with friends tonight. That left me with the kids. Fortunately, that’s a position I’m comfortable with by this point.
Tonight, they were split up for awhile. The lass had dance lessons again, now that her leg is fully healed. The boy had to take a karate class tonight to make sure he got his two nights per week in. I needed to get some paperwork for Scouts signed somewhere in the middle of all that.
As luck would have it, I ran into the fellow I needed to sign my paperwork at the karate school. Turns out, he handles the custom shirts for the school and we just happened to cross paths tonight. Fortunately, I had the papers with me so that took care of one burden.
The boy finished up his lesson and was hungry. He asked me if I knew what I wanted to do for dinner. In truth, I didn’t. It was going to be 6:30 by the time we got home, not leaving much time to throw anything together. I was strongly leaning towards dinner out.
I suspect the boy can sense these things, because he cheerily offered a local restaurant that we hadn’t been to in awhile. A little Mexican food place that he and the lass both liked. At that point, I didn’t need much convincing. We left to get the lass at her dance school. She was pleased at the news we’d be eating out tonight.
This place is a bit different when ordering food. It’s like a mix of takeout and sit down. We order the food at the register, then go and seat ourselves and wait for them to bring it out. The lass wasn’t sure what she wanted, so I ordered for her. The boy and I both ordered our usual meals- he gets a steak burrito and I get a taco salad with chipotle Ranch dressing. They both got bottled water to drink.
We hadn’t been sitting more than 30 seconds when the boy started wondering when they were going to bring the food out. “What’s taking them so long?” he complained. It’s one of those things I remember doing and am now ashamed of. I can only hope he’ll look back on his moments like these with a critical eye as well. He opened his bottle of water by breaking the plastic cap seal and took a drink. I’m not sure if the lass is more patient than her brother, or is just content to let him speak for the both of them. Whatever she might have been thinking, she remained quiet.
I had been zoning, looking out the window when I noticed the boy busying himself with something. I started to observe him and he was whapping a piece of the plastic cap around our table with another piece of the plastic cap. He’d push the piece in one direction, then double it back and bring it back in the other direction.
Then I realized, he was “playing” hockey.
I continued watching him. The lass wasn’t interested at this point. After a bit, I said “How’s the hockey game?”
He smiled a bit and said it was going fine. Then he put his off arm on the table and cupped his hand and started “shooting” the puck at his hand with the other piece.
When the lass heard mention of hockey, she turned and saw what her brother was doing. She was instantly ready to participate and formed her own hands into a goal. She implored her brother several times to start shooting the puck at her goal, but the boy ignored her. As she continued to watch him, she lamented “I want to play hockey…”
She then glanced at her bottle. The plastic piece that had come off of it wasn’t on the table. She looked on the floor, and there, lying next to her, was the little piece of blue plastic. She bent down to pick it up and I could see her beginning to ponder how she’d turn this into an object of entertainment.
Alas, it was not meant to be. Right then, the food arrived and all the hockey games ended in favor of eating dinner.
Growing up, we didn’t have any of these silly days that the kids now have at school. There are silly hat days and twin days and comfy-cozy days and other days that I’ve forgotten. Today was pajama day at the school.
The lass came downstairs and remained in her pajamas all morning, just like her brother did. By “all morning” I’m merely referring to the time period from when they got up to when it was time to go to school. If she’d managed the real “all morning” then I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this post.
The kids were basically all ready for school and I told them it was time to go. That was when the lass got a serious case of cold feet.
She started complaining that her teacher wouldn’t know that today was pajama day and she would get in trouble for wearing pajamas. Suffice it to say, this reasoning made no sense. The boy knew what day it was, there was no conceivable way that a teacher wouldn’t as well.
She stuck to her guns and slowly worked herself into tearful frenzy over the issue. Seeing that things were hitting “ridiculous”, I quietly went outside to the car to start warming it up and left it up to her if she wanted to change. The only thing was, she had to choose quickly because we couldn’t wait forever or they would be late for school.
While the boy and I sat out in the car while it warmed up, the Wife stuck her head out the door and gave us some kind of signal. I figured the lass was changing clothes and she just needed another minute or two. Sure enough, the lass emerged from the door a short time later wearing black clothing- something the Wife had chosen for her.
The boy wanted to make a big deal, but I told him to knock it off and reminded him that it was fine if she didn’t want to wear her pajamas to school. There is no requirement to participate in this stuff.
As to what was really going on in the lass’ head, only she knows that. She’s stuck to her guns regarding her irrationality. In the end, it turned out she was the only one in her class that didn’t wear pajamas, but that didn’t seem to bother her much. I guess she gets credit for that, anyway.
When I woke up this morning, it was 1 degree outside. An hour later, it was 2 degrees. The high today topped out at a whopping 20 degrees and it was in the teens most of the time the snow was falling.
Winter in New England can be pretty harsh at times. The thing of it is, it isn’t Winter yet. Usually, this kind of cold is reserved for January. We’ve had a number of days already where the high didn’t get out of the teens. Frankly, it’s getting to the point where I’m happy to see temps break the freezing mark.
For the moment, it looks like we might get a little relief sometime into next week. That can be a long time away though and, as they say, if you don’t like the weather in New England, wait 5 minutes.
Some days it seems just about anything is enough to make the boy mad. It could be a project that he’d been quietly working on. He’ll come to a point where something will go wrong and he can’t solve it. His frustration quickly boils over to anger and it’s all he can do not to completely destroy the project.
It can be his homework. Lo be the problem that he doesn’t quite get and causes him to begin erupting in fits of furious erasing and a willingness to throw his homework into the fire.
It can be a request to help. If he feels like it’s unfair (usually because he thinks he’s being asked more than his sister, or some variation thereof) he quickly turns into an angry little hornet. The request could even be something that is regularly asked of him, but for some reason he’s deemed it an unsuitable moment to be asked this particular time.
His temper is one of the white-hot varieties. He makes no bones about the fact that he’s mad. It’s not uncommon for him to be willing to destroy something that he’ll likely regret doing so. Sometimes his anger is directed at himself and he becomes his own worst critic, thinking he should have dealt with something better or solved something quicker.
More and more, I try to respond to his anger with rationale and logic, or just a calmness to offset his own boiling emotions. That balance can be tricky though, since he’s not the only one in the house with a temper. I’ve, regretfully, let it slip on a number of occasions where we’ve ended up going head-to-head. I say regretfully because I don’t think it’s a good example to set for him and, unfortunately, I think those are the moments that leave a bigger footprint.
I suspect this is one of those traits he’ll have to spend time working on to curb as he gets older. For now though, he doesn’t have the resources to reign himself in and the Wife and I have to figure out ways to defuse him. Time will tell how big a problem it becomes for him.
After the boy’s hockey game last night, we went out to dinner. I had fried clam strips and, for the first time in as long as I can remember, ate the fries that were served with it. Not that I don’t like fries, but changing to a low carb diet does have its consequences. In fact, I also picked at the boy’s fries as well.
I wasn’t doing so great when I we got home either. I wasn’t feeling sick, but I wasn’t feeling well either- and it didn’t have anything to do with the Cowboys latest monumental late-game collapse. After the kids went to bed, the Wife and I gabbed for a bit and then she went upstairs. Trying to get comfortable, I laid down on the couch and just kind of allowed my eyes to close…
When I next opened them, it was midnight. The fire was almost out and I was “fogged” up from the sleep I’d just had. Working on autopilot, I took the dogs out, coaxed the fire back to life, laid back down on the couch and…
… woke up at 6 to the cat mewling to go out. Miserable creature.
Now that I’ve had a cup o’ Joe and some breakfast, I’m feeling a bit more normal. All I can imagine is that shoveling the driveway caught up with me last night. The snow wasn’t particularly deep- the storm had changed over to rain at some point and appears to have packed down what was there. It took me an hour or so to clear the driveway by hand. Our snowblower doesn’t do too well with this kind of snow. The chute tends to get clogged and I end up spending more time coaxing it through the effort than actually plowing.
The funny thing is I took a nap after I finished the driveway so I kind of figured I was all set. I was outside a bit more though and spent a couple hours at a cold ice rink so perhaps it was the combination of it all that caught me. The cold here has been more January-like than December and any extended time out there tends to seep deep into the bones.
We got more of it for today too. It’s not supposed to get out of the 20’s until Wednesday I believe. No shoveling planned as of right now, so I’m not expecting any unplanned naps either.
For those of us out there that love the movie A Christmas Story, there are several, if not iconic, then certainly famous scenes. The flat tire scene would be one of those. So too the scene where Ralphie finally uncorks on the school bully.
Another one that may be the most recognizable is the one where Flick sticks his tongue to the flag pole after being triple dog dared. The moments immediately afterwards are great stuff, and I can easily conjure him yelling “Stuuck! STUUCKK!” in my mind over and over again, followed by pleading to Ralphie for help. Ralphie, of course, bails on his friend because the bell rang, signaling the end of recess.
Today, the kids decided to put it to the test. This circumstance also reminds me of the time when my sister tested the theory by touching her tongue to the inside of our refrigerator freezer. Several cups of hot water later, she was convinced to the “myth’s” authenticity.
As for the boy and lass, we never would have been the wiser had the lass not started complaining during dinner that her tongue was hurting. The Wife took a look at it and noticed that the tip of it was bleeding a bit. She’d stuck her tongue to one of the wind chimes on our deck and it had frozen fast to it in the 15 degree weather. If only we’d been able to wrap it in a bandaid a la the movie.
It was later revealed the boy had also performed the experiment, but he did something different. He used a little extra spit to protect his tongue from getting frozen fast to the chime. How he know to do that, I can’t say. But when he revealed it, the lass was immediately upset with him for letting her get her tongue stuck without letting her in on the “trick.”
At this point, if we get a flat while going somewhere, I’ll be sure to leave the boy in the car.
The boy got very good marks today on his report card. Really, he couldn’t have done much better. The teacher had lots of good things to say about him as well.
I was curious a bit about the math curriculum, so I asked about that. The goal appears to be to give the kids a “more intuitive feel” for numbers and what they mean and they don’t want to just teach them “procedure.” I find that odd, because to my way of thinking math is procedure. For instance, I’ve been working with the boy on multi-digit multiplication and long-division. To perform those operations, there is a pretty simple procedure to follow to solve those problems. I don’t quite see how there’s a “feel” or “intuition” involved in solving them. If there is such a thing, I think it only comes from the experience of doing a lot of them.
As for the lass, she’s doing just fine. Her reading was the main concern and happily, she’s improved dramatically from where she was. She’s not the bookworm her brother is, but then he’s in 4th grade and she’s in 2nd. The boy’s proclivity for reading did not develop until the 2nd half of his 3rd grade year. Even so, there is no guarantee that she’ll be like her brother in that regard. We’ll keep working with her.
Aside from the reading, the teacher couldn’t sing her praised enough. She’s “a joy” to have in class and “gets along with everyone.” She’s always attentive and he never has to look at her funny or anything. I believe the phrase “model student” came up more than once and at one point the teacher even said that he’d hope that his son’s behaved the same way she does in class.
It was all a bit too much, actually. That much effusive praise is too much in some ways. Besides, I know what she’s like at home. That kid is a lot different from the one her teacher described.
So there will be no coal in their stockings due to poor reports from school.
The kids had a half-day today because of parent-teacher conferences at the school. I took the opportunity to cut cord wood. Let me just say that cutting, splitting and stacking cord wood in 20 degree weather is much harder than doing it in warmer weather. In fact, I’ve concluded I erred pretty badly in waiting for the cooler weather to come before starting in on the cord wood. For one, when fingers get cold, there is no way to warm them up and they just hurt. For two, there is no oxygen in 20 degree air. I was exhausted after an hour of work today. Finally, sweat freezes.
The kids arrived home while I was toiling away. I cam in for a quick break and the boy was holed up on the couch reading, while the lass was working on a paper. I went back out and decided to ask the boy for some help stacking what was left of the wood I’d split. He did so and together we finished up the project.
Shortly after that, we both went inside and the boy resumed his perch on the couch. I went to go shower up and noted that he was staring off into space as I headed upstairs.
When I came back down 15 minutes later, he was fast asleep. In the same position I’d left him in, just his eyes were closed. I can even imagine what he must of thought, “Hmm, eyelids heavy, I’ll just let them …. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ”
And there he remained for about 3 hours. So either he’s a bit sick and fighting something off or he’s going to wake up 4 inches taller tomorrow.
One of the unheralded treats of snow storms is the immediate next day landscape. It’s hard not to admire scenes like this:
On the drive in today, the boy and the lass were both equally impressed with the snow frosted vistas on either side of the road. The boy remarked “It looks like the white coated pretzels from Cub Scouts.”