Tuesday, December 30

Old Year, New Year

Did I say I couldn't get sick? Well, since I am off work this week, I guess it's ok to get sick. Just a little coughing, nasal dripping, and fatigue to fill the vacation days. Bleah.

This morning, while I was still mostly asleep, Betsy asked me if there was anything I would like to accomplish this vacation. I responded with the only thing on my mind at six thirty in the morning. "I would like to sleep in until ten AM!", I foolishly replied. She spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how this could happen. Obviously, this will never happen if I sleep at home. The boys just wake up too early. So, I have an invitation from either, my parents or her mom to spend the night at their house and sleep in till ten. Now I feel like an idiot. I'll go back to work and some one will ask me what I did on my vacation and I will reply, "I slept in until ten AM on one day!" Wow! Go me! So now I'm thinking about just what I want to do on this vacation, and realizing that I was largely unaware that there is this week here and I have no plans for it. I think I'll just spend most of this time hanging with my kids. Elijah has learned how to play the memory game (you know the game where you try to flip two cards over and have them match) and it's kind of fun to play with him.

New years for this year should be interesting. Every year when I was in college I would go to Cris' house and have probably the hardest drinkin' and partyin' night of the year. After I graduated and got married I wasn't able to go anymore but Cris continued to throw New Year parties. A couple of days a go I heard that Cris had a stroke a few days earlier. He is younger than I am. He is a bit heavy and smokes a lot, and I guess his job is pretty stressful, but I was totally shocked when I heard the news. Brian decided we should get together for this New Year. It certainly won't be an old fashioned R.O.G. party, but all the regulars should be there, Cris, Doug, Brian and I, and we probably won't drink a drop of alcohol.

A few weeks ago my parents had their fortieth wedding anniversary, and we kids completely shocked them with a surprise party. Events conspired in our favor, and they had no idea what was happening right up to the moment we yelled "Surprise!" I think my mom cried four or five times during the evening and she said that my dad was even more touched than she was. Good times! The week before the surprise party they went on a trip to Mexico. A few days after they got back my oldest sister, Molly, arrived from Minnesota for the holidays with her little boy, Milo, who is around six months old. So, they were swamped with other activities and did not notice some of the suspicious stuff we did, like take a bunch of old pictures out of the house to display at the party. To get my parents to the restaurant Molly and her husband offered to take my parents out to dinner for their anniversary. The battle to get my parents to the restaurant is an interesting tale in its self. (Molly, tell about Carol's lunch menu campaign in a comment) At the restaurant we assembled all four of us kids, our spouses and children, and seven or eight of their closest friends. Sarah, my youngest sister and her husband drove down from San Francisco without my parents' knowledge to participate in the surprise. I think everyone had a good time, and most of the credit goes to my other sister Kate who really did most of the organization and my wife Betsy who helped a lot.

Monday, December 22

When the Lights Go Out

Hey, according to today's GPF comic Jeffry Darlington is a Danny Elfman fan! This is cool of course, but the sad news is the oingoboingo.com site is apparently off the net. At least some one is keeping the flame alive.

Friday, December 19

Busy, Busy, Busy

Has it already been three weeks since I last posted anything? Where does the time go?

Everyone at our house has been sick but me. I can't get sick. If I got sick I'd never get enough rest to get well again. So, I don't get sick. Not an option.

In the last three weeks, Elijah has thrown up about four times. I think he has figured out how to puke whenever he wants to, so he doesn't have to eat "yucky" food. On the other hand, maybe I'm just a cold, unsympathetic father.

Work has been insane. We had about three months worth of work to do this month, and the last week and a half of this month is Christmas vacation. The plan was to bring in two new people to help with the load. So I spent the first week of the month training the new guys, and then spent about two hours every day after answering questions. In his book "The Mythical Man Month" Fred Brook's makes the great statement, "It takes nine months to produce a baby no matter how many women are assigned to the job." The point he is trying to make is that some tasks just don't breakup and process in parallel very well. Even when they do there is the problem that the amount of over head, and communication rises with the square of the number of workers but the amount of work performed rises only linearly. Therefore, in the end, adding more workers to a late project often just makes it later. I think that is what happened here this month. The copyright date on my copy of "The Mythical Man Month is 1975. It is considered a classic in the field of technical management, but I doubt anyone here has ever read it.

The holidays should prove to be equally insane. Three of the four out of town Aunts are coming for the holidays. The one I get along "least well" with is arriving at our house tomorrow with, among other things, her three-month-old daughter. It will be interesting to see how Elijah and Luke react to a baby in the house.

Speaking of babies in the house, (cue the trumpets,) we should be having our third little bundle of joy around July or August of next year. That's right, we're expecting again! I am excited, but the boys have been such a handful lately that the prospect of adding another into the mix is a little overwhelming right now. So I am coping by completely ignoring the fact. So, if I haven't told you personally it's because I'm still trying to come to grips with the situation myself.

Elijah is turning three in January and Luke is turning two in March. However, I think Luke is developing a little ahead of schedule because he is trying to keep up with his brother. So right now, we have two boys in our house who are going through the "terrible twos", and boy, are they terrible!

Let me tell you about Luke's fascination with step stools. He started out using them to turn lights that the rest of us left on, off. The first time we saw this, Mom and I thought it was so cute. He would go to the bathroom where we keep the stools for brushing teeth, pick up the one with the handle in the middle (we have three stools of varying sizes). Then, he would carry it, like a little handyman carrying a heavy toolbox, to his room. Put the stool down. Climb up and turn the light off. Then he would climb down, pick up the stool, and carry it back to the bathroom. This is a very involved process for a little boy who is not even two yet. Then, on his way back down the hall, he would realize the light in Elijah's room was on. So, he would repeat the whole procedure to turn the light in Elijah's room off. Then, since he had turned off all the lights at that end of the house, he figured he might as well turn off the hall light too. However, he wouldn't realize this until he was half way down the hall again. So, he would turn around, and head back to the bathroom for the stool, and repeat the entire process a third time. He probably performed this entire routine four or five times over the course of three or four days. Then, Elijah, who doesn't need a stool to reach the light switch, caught on. Whenever Luke decided it was time to turn a light off, Elijah would notice that he had gone to the bathroom and brought back the stool, and while Luke was climbing onto the stool, would walk over and simply flip the light switch off. As you can imagine, this did not go over well with Luke. Like a good boy, he would still haul the stool back to the bathroom but he had been robbed of his chance to switch the light off.

I can hear you thinking, "But, he's using the stool to turn lights off", and "At least he is returning the stool to the bathroom, and not just leaving it lying around like Elijah would". These things are true, and like I said we thought it was cute and wonderful. But, that was just the beginning. Now Luke just goes and gets the stool for anyting he is just not tall enough to do. Using the stool Luke has extended his reach by a good two feet, (he grabs the largest stool whenever he needs a little vertical assistance). Now he can reach tables, counters, cupboards, etc. that even Elijah has never gotten into. I didn't realize that there was so much stuff in the house that we just put up where the kids couldn't reach it. We used to think that stuff on the dinning room table was safe from the kids. Not anymore! The medicine cabinet in the hall, he has already been in it (hopefully the whuppin he got will deter him from going in there again). The pile of bills on the dinning room table? He thinks they're chewing gum! The vitamins on the kitchen counter are candy to Luke.

I think the source of the terrible twos stems from the fact that, as parents, we count on the fact that there are things that infants and toddlers just can't do. For example, reach high things. So we let them do the things they can do while protecting them and the fragile stuff by just making it impossible for them to get to the trouble. But, these stinkin little guys are constantly growing, and learning, and what they couldn't do yesterday is now the skill du jour.

Eventually they learn the skills to overcome the barriers we put between them and the dangerous/destructive things they want to do. Then the struggle really begins, because at this point the only thing between them and grabbing the butcher knife off the counter, for example, is their little underdeveloped conscience. You could put the knife in a cupboard, eventually they'll just find it. You could put it up higher, but they'll just climb higher (this obviously carries risks of it's own). You could put locks on all the cupboards, but they figured out how those work on the lower cupboards months ago. It's an abilities arms race, and in the end the child must learn that there are things that they can do, but should not do. This is the struggle.

Self-control is difficult enough for adults who have been "practicing" it all their lives. At around two years old, I think every person is introduced to the concept of self-control for the first time. Up to this point, the little sponges have been soaking up skills at an amazing rate, and we have encouraged every new skill. They are born explorers and up to this point, we have been encouraging their exploring nature. From their perspective, the only limits on exploration are their abilities. We removed all the trouble spots. Removed them so well the poor kid did not even know they existed. Now it's getting harder/impossible to remove the trouble spots, and the little guys just have to learn self-control. The arms race could go on until all the cabinets require two hands to open and slicing up an orange requires a trip to the garage for the ladder. Eventually we parents just decide the kid needs to learn there are things he can do but should not. In the end the actual tipping point is really a point of convenience for the parents.

I think part of the trouble stems from us parents being inconsistent with the tipping point from situation to situation depending on what is most convenient. For example, If I'm washing dishes alone and Elijah reaches for a knife in the drying rack I might use the situation to teach him that there are things that he should not do. This will inevitably involve some tears and probably a time out or two, but slowly he will learn self-control. However, if the situation is the same except I am in the middle of a conversation with a guest, I will probably just move the knife to a place he can't reach it without even breaking the flow of conversation. With this choice, I remove the responsibility for self-control from Elijah, but there are situations where the interruptions that would be caused by a lesson in self-control are just not acceptable. Another issue with the ability to move the tipping point is the guilt I feel when I have to reprimand him and punish him when I know I could just move the knife.