Sunday, May 10, 2015

Quick Hits

Happy Mother's Day.  Now, an Ada update:

Ada was playing with Mardi Gras beads this evening and singing everything that she was doing.  I explained that it was like she was in a musical on Broadway.  I then sang to her: "Do you think we should write a musical about Mardi Gras?"  Her immediate response, perfectly sung, was: "No, that's a bad idea."  She's probably right.

We went to the driving range again today.  Ada has a little 7 iron, and she is getting a lot better with hitting the ball.  She always wants to go lefthand low, even on full shots, and she often forgets to keep her left arm straight.  But I remind her, and she does a pretty good job of doing the right thing.

On this Mother's Day, it's important to congratulate Kat on how well she has trained Ada in various things.  Ada used to get up way too early and bother us, so Kat installed the "Family Morning Time Light," which is a timed light that comes on at 7 a.m. every morning.  Ada is not allowed to leave her room to bother us until that light comes on.  Many mornings I will hear Ada come out of her room at about 6:30 a.m., go straight to the bathroom, and then return to her room.  She then emerges when the light comes on.  I wish she was so easily trained with toothbrushing and protecting her food from dogs, but this is a great example of how well Kat relates to tiny humans.  I appreciate the opportunity to sleep in that the FMTL provides, and all of the credit goes to Kat.

I tried to explain deja vu to Ada today with no success.  While we were at the driving range, she told me she had a "weird feeling."  I tried to explain what might cause weird feelings, but I didn't really get anywhere.  My plan all along has been to talk to Ada like she is an adult and expect that she will pick things up.  But sometimes my inability to explain things becomes clearly evident.  Today, when we were listening to U2's Raised By Wolves -- one of Ada's favorite songs -- the lyric was "Boy sees his father crushed under the weight...."  Ada asked what it meant to be crushed, and I said it was like being smushed flat.  She then asked what it meant to be crushed under the weight, and I said it was to be smushed by something heavy.  She thought this was no good, and then I said, "Well, in this instance, it is metaphorical.  No one was literally crushed."  She then asked what metaphorical meant, and I absolutely could not explain in a manner understandable to a 3 year old how the pressures of life can bear down on someone and, while not literally crushing him or her, it can impact them deeply.  Ada didn't seem to care though as she just returned to singing the chorus.  She has learned something from that song though because whenever she hears it, she says "raised by wolves means you are wild."

The fact that Ada listens to these songs in the car results in some pretty funny exchanges sometimes. A week or so ago we were at a park and met another girl who was about Ada's age.  This girl was singing "The Wheels On the Bus."  She asked Ada if she knew that song, and Ada said "Yes. I know that song, but I know other songs, too, like Shake It Off and All About That Bass."  As a parent, I don't know whether that was something to be proud of or ashamed of, but it was hilarious.  And Ada was deathly serious about it too.  In her mind, pop hits and preschool standards are one and the same.

Ada went all the way across on the monkey bars by herself recently.  I was there to catch her if she fell, but she did it on her own.  However, when we went back to the park, she was afraid to do it again.  I reminded her that she had done it, but development is not a perfectly straight line.

This shouldn't be only good things about Ada because I am fair and balanced.  She needs to say please and thank you more without being prompted.  I'm going to be even more vigilant about ensuring that happens.  It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.  I'm going to get her to memorize that.  And I'm going to teach her what metaphors are.  And a thousand other things I'll tell her that she will ignore.  But I enjoy the process, and, to at least some degree, I think she does too.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Good Hang

Ada and I have spent the weekend together because Kat is away for some well-deserved rest and relaxation in Phoenix.  Ada fully understands that she is dealing with a less talented and able parent, so she seems to be on her best behavior.  Emma, however, is the opposite.  Much like Lily during her younger years, Kat's absence causes Emma great concern, which manifests itself in trying to destroy the house and ensuring that I do not get much sleep.  I took Emma to the dog park yesterday and she ran for miles, but she was still pretty amped up.  She is a wonderful dog, but it is difficult to say that with any conviction after she licked my face when I was dead asleep at 4 a.m.  I am excited for Kat's return and the return to Emma's normal level of craziness.

Lily, on the other hand, has embraced old age and acts like many of the retirees I know: speaking through gritted teeth, sighing, shows of annoyance, and occasionally snapping at the youth.  It is still definitely preferable to Emma, but it would be nice if Lily had a little more patience with little children, which is actually different from the retirees that I know.

Now that the section where I complain about the dogs is complete, let's discuss the weekend.  Ada and I went to the Prescott Regional SciTech Fest, and it was pretty great.  I learned a lot, although I am not sure that Ada had as much fun as I did.  Robotics might not be as interesting when you are three, but Ada did a good job of going to all of the booths that I wanted to go to.  She liked looking at sun spots through a telescope and just looking at the sun through some protective glasses.  She also got to sit in a helicopter, which she enjoyed.

This is a selfie of Ada and I while being "filmed" by a computer programmed to only read edges. I told Ada it was like we were in Waking Life before it was animated.  She wasn't that interested.

After the SciTech Fest, we went to the Prescott Chalk It Up event, where an entire parking lot gets turned into art.  Ada wanted ours to be entirely blue.  She then wrote her name in red over the blue.  We had a good time.  Although it might have been a mistake to put ours right next to a really impressive one.  That was bad selection on my part.

As we were driving to the Chalk It Up event, Ada was looking pretty tired in the car.  I asked her if she thought she could make it through.  She said "I'll be fine after I take a little car nap."  (The car nap extended a little longer than expected, but we still made it.)  I wanted to tell Ada that while Kat loves what she calls car naps, I don't know that car naps are actually a "thing."  I mean, there is this, but that's quite different.  But a car nap is a good thing, even if not every family gives sleeping in the car a specific name.

To close our day, Ada and I went for a walk and then ran around at the park.  We played tag and made footprints on the cement.  We also played Simon Says, but Ada has a long way to go.  She does understand the rules and knows when she makes a mistake, but she has some work to do.  I think it is because she is a good kid who likes to follow directions, just like I think I was.  But we will keep working on it.  My attempt to explain it to her using the concept of a condition precedent for the performance of a contract did not work.  I don't know why.  Oh well.

 Here is Ada happily running.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


My family thinks I am preoccupied with death.  I don't know where they get that idea, but I have been "enjoying" two books and a podcast that are tied together by the fact that they involve the deaths of people near in age to me. Obviously, it is a shock for a young person to have someone his or her age die, but, as we age, that occurs more and more often. However, I am still only 33, so it is only real tragedy that causes the deaths of people that age.

The book I recommend wholeheartedly is The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs. It is truly an incredible story about Rob Peace, a brilliant African-American man who grew up in terrible poverty in Newark, New Jersey, and largely without a father because his father was in prison for murder. But nevertheless, Peace attended Yale and graduated with distinction in the school’s most difficult science major. While at Yale, Peace sold marijuana, and he continued to do so after he left. He taught science at the prep school that he attended, but then became seemingly aimless. He worked for Continental Airlines on the runway, and the most telling scene in the book is where he is sitting on a luggage cart reading an extremely advanced biochemistry textbook just to "stay sharp." Understandably, his co-workers could not fathom why someone who could actually grasp what was in that book was putting luggage in planes.

And this is the struggle that Peace faced in his life, and the book does an excellent job conveying through action, not simply by telling. Once he went to Yale, it was harder to belong in Newark. But when he tried to be the person he was in Newark, everyone thought he was pretending. It was not even that Peace could not go home again, it was that no matter what he did with his life, it seemed to be below his potential. These were obstacles that the overwhelming majority of Yale’s student body did not have to face.

Hobbs, the author, was Peace’s roommate at Yale. While he struggled in getting his work published after graduating, no one had an opinion about his potential or what he should be doing. He was simply allowed to keep working and learn from his mistakes. While it seemed that lots of other people wanted to put pressure on Peace to achieve certain things, he did not necessarily place that on himself. He wanted to vindicate his father, who always claimed to be innocent, he wanted to help his mother, and he wanted to change his life. In the end, Peace created his own "brand" of marijuana by using his chemistry background. However, competitors were not so pleased with that. He met his end like many drug dealers do, by being shot to death by unknown assailants in 2011. He was 30 years old.

Knowing the ending does not make it easier to stomach. It is a wonderful book with a truly humane description of an incredibly complex person. It powerfully shows how much it matters where a person comes from, even if it is not supposed to matter at all.  I’m sure someone will make it into a movie, but, trust me, you want to read the book.  It's a true story that is nevertheless a page-turner.

The second book is Boy on Ice by John Branch, which chronicles the life of Derek Boogaard, a gentle giant who became the National Hockey League’s "enforcer," only to be ravaged by concussions and injuries from fighting. He died in 2011 at age 28. Boogaard, like Peace, was also trapped in that he loved hockey but never had the talent for the sport to play at the highest levels. However, he did have the ability to fight at the highest levels, which allowed him to reach the NHL. He abused prescription drugs to battle the injuries and ensure he could keep fighting, and this pounding on his body caught up with him. His brain was found to have chronic traumatic encephelopathy (which numerous football players have been shown to have), and the story of his life raises serious questions as to why fighting is still allowed in the NHL.  It is terribly sad that someone could achieve his dream and yet simultaneously have this achievement kill him.

The last of the trifecta is Serial, a podcast you may have heard of. There was a bit of a backlash because it became so popular, but ultimately, I do think it was really good. As someone who likes true crime, likes the law, and likes podcasts, I am the prototypical listener, but I highly recommend it to anyone who has not listed to it (if such people exist). Hae Min Lee obviously was nowhere near my current age when she was murdered, but she was a senior in high school in January 1999 when she died. I was also a senior in high school in January 1999. Serial caused me to try to remember my activities back at that time, but I can’t say that I recall all that much.

I don’t have a neat takeaway from these three pieces of culture, except that they all are enjoyable.  While I normally like to be eclectic in what I consume, sometimes a theme just emerges.  My family would say that my taste in music demonstrates that the theme that emerges is always death, but I don't know where they get that idea.  Life is for the living -- and for meditating on death -- it's for that, too.