Monday, December 31, 2007

The road to recovery

It looks like Isaac is finally starting to feel better - his sniffles are subsiding, his cough is clearing up, and his appetite is returning. Better, his appetite is back: Lots of bottles, but also human snacks. I got him to eat almost a full hot dog today... boy, it makes me crazy that I feel like it's a huge success to get him to eat a HOT DOG or a chicken nugget... but that's our lot in life.

I can only hope that this will signal slightly more restful nights - or at least nights where Isaac will allow Pamela to comfort him! At least I've had a lot of cuddles with him... and many with Bella too: I've been spoiled with hugs these days. It's wonderful.

At least we're relaxing around here during the days and evenings: We watched the full Bourne trilogy - simply FANTASTIC: And I hadn't figured out just how closely interlinked 2 and 3 are.... it was amazing to see how they slotted together. As a fill in we've been watching Two Fat Ladies and All Creatures Great and Small. And there has been much snacking.

I am trying to not let work hassle me these final few weeks... I fully admit that the past couple of weeks were a bit of a horror, with pretty major revelations throwing all sorts of spanners into the works. But with these behind me, I think I can move on and be proactive!

I'm off work tomorrow, which will be nice to ring in 2008. Resolutions? I think that simply moving to my new work will create new opportunities. As long as I keep with my working out schedule, keep on learning my new languages, keeping the family going... no major changes required! Perhaps work on my relaxation!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hola Amigos

Been a long time since I rapped at ya. Things have been, how you say, CRAZY around here.

1) Christmas Etc: We have had a great season - starting with dinner out on Friday the 21, guests here on the 22nd, hanging with Bella's birthfamily on the 23rd, Xmas eve at grandma and grandpas, Christmas proper, and now Pamela's parents, brother, and niece here through the new year! So it's busy. And the kids are trying to be troupers, but Bella is chronically low on sleep which impacts her mood, and Isaac seems to be a magnet for every single virus that checks into the Twin Cities, and is back with the sniffles, with occasional puke-age (though I think that might be more of a sore stomach from too much phlegm!)

But we have taken time to watch some videos (Bourne, BladeRunner), read, sit by the fire... so while busy, we've tried to have fun.

2) Work. Oh man am I ready for my new job. In the past 2 weeks I've got nothing but terrible news at work. For all of my project management mojo, I am limited to delivering what the Vendor can provide. And I've got lots of fresh info that says
- They're delivering what they can even later than before.
- What they're delivering won't be what we wanted particularly
- They're canceling future development in one area that we were counting on.

So once the docs hear about this, they're going to go ballistic. The software DOES do a few things well, but not SO much better than the system it replaced: This whole project was based around a "future state" that the next software release was supposed to deliver, and now they've canceled it. WHAT TO DO?

I've been documenting "Plan B" and "Plan C" and communications plans and what if responses like mad, hoping that we can act quickly once the docs DO go nuts.

But also, honestly, I'm counting the days until I'm done... which is sad because I do like to do a good job, and I do see that this leaves them in a limbo state, but I can't put off the new work any longer!

3) Sleep: With Isaac back into having a cold, he's been up a LOT in the night, and it's starting to impact my sanity. The big problem is that right now, he is EXTREMELY Daddy-focused. Pamela can hold him for 10 min, him screaming at the top of his lungs, and if I walk in the room, he stops, smiles, and reaches out his arms for me. At 1am, at 4am, I'm the only guy who can get him back down to sleep...

I've had some sleepy moments that have been frankly scary: I've had situations where I'm watching a show, and I could swear it's like clutch cargo - the lips and eyes move, but the faces take a moment to catch up - as if my rendering CPU is lagging and only processing the key information. I actually caught a 10 minute nap in my office (I'm glad I have a door!!!)

Ooh - Isaac is crying again. Gotta run.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

From the mind of Bella

The holidays are in full swing, and we've been out and about - we visited friends last night, saw the Macy's Nutcracker thing today, and had extended family over tonight. The kids are way out of whack with their bedtimes, going down well past 9 both nights, and we've got to get them back in sync sooner than later! Poor Isaac was a wreck tonight!

Anyway, Bella had two quotables today:

1) Bella spent the afternoon at Jenny's house making cookies. Family was coming in the evening, including Grandma and Grandpa. As I fetched Bella she had questions:

Bella: Why do I have to come home?
Daddo: Because Grandma and Grandpa are coming over.
Bella: Why are they coming over?
Daddo: They're bringing Taco fixings - we're having a Taco Party!
Bella: Well, I sure wouldn't want to miss THAT kind of party!

1) I took second shift in helping Bella go to sleep (quite wound up after the evening festivities that included more than a few rounds of Rock Band and Katamari Damacy with the cousins Ryan and David - Karen's nephews.) Here's what she wanted to let me know:

"Casey believes something that is completely wrong. He thinks that Pterodactyls are still real. But they're gone. Long gone. Can you believe that people dig up dinosaur bones? Imagine if they could dig up Pterodactyl bones - boy, you'd have to go way up in the mountains to find Pterodactyl bones...

"Who would want to fall up into space, anyway? I mean if gravity stopped working and we all started floating up into the sky. Not me. I would NOT want to fall up into space. But if gravity DID stop working, the Pterodactyls would be ok. Because they can fly. They could probably come save us."

"And a baby pterodactyl could help carry the baby humans... and the baby human could ride on the back of the baby pterodactyl. And if the baby pterodactyl got tired, it could ride on the back of mommy Pterodactyl. So you'd have a Pterodactyl, a baby Pterodactyl, a baby, and so on all the way up, and on the very top would be a single grain of salt.

"A grain of salt is so small, i bet you can't even SEE it. I wonder what it looks like up close?"

With that, she fell asleep.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bella figures it out

Today Bella was talking to Pamela and revealed the following:

I: "You know, Mom, I'm half dog."

P: "Oh yes, we know that dear."

I: "And Lilli? She's half horse."

P: "Yes, that makes sense!"

I: "And Isaac.... he's half squirrel and half rock star."

I'd say she has the right idea....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Kwick Kindle Update

I've devoured three and a half books on my Kindle so far, while still enjoying my daily NYT. It is still getting daily use, so I'm calling this thing a success in my home.

Apparently for all the naysaying, Amazon has seriously sold out of them, and they're going for over $800 on eBay, so if I was unhappy, I could cash out easily... but I'm not unhappy in the least.

My only regret is that I have four deadtree editions I've got for gifts recently that will be next in line... I can't quite see re-buying them in Kindle editions... that would be crazy. CraziER than I'm usually comfortable with, I guess.

Did I mention that Pamela's back? I'm just so happy to see her smile, to hear her padding about the house - I was missing my friend.

She's back!!!

YAY! My sweet Pamela has returned!

Apparently she had a wonderful time - I've got a few stories and more are on the way...

That's all. She's back, we're all good.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Current Scotch List

In the past 18 months, the following Scotches have made their appearances at our semi-regular "Avenger Nights". It is an amazing list.

Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beis
Ardbeg Uigeadail
Balvenie 12 Doublewood
Bowmore 17
Bunnahabhain 12
Bunnahabhain 18
Bunnahabhain 25
Caol Ila 18
Caol Ila 1981 19 year
Compass Box Asyla (Blend)
Cragganmore 17
Dalwhinnie 15
Dalwhinnie Double Matured
Deanston 12
Deanston 17
Deanston 30
Highland Park 12
Highland Park 18
Highland Park 25
Highland Park 1967 37 year
Glenburgie 1969 34 year
Glenfarclas 12
Glenfarclas 21
Glenfiddich 15 Solara Reserve
Glenlivet 15 French Oak
Glenlivet 18
Glenmorangie 10
Glenmorangie Madeira Cask
Lagavulin 2005 12 year Special Release
Lagavulin 2006 12 year Special Release
Lagavulin 16
Laphroaig 1999 7 year
Laphroaig 2000 7 year
Laphroaig Quarter Cask
Laphroaig 15
Laphroaig 30
Ledaig 10
Ledaig 16 Sherry Cask
Longmorn 1967 37 year
Macallan 14
Macallan Cask Strength
Oban 14
Port Ellen 1979 22 year
Scapa 14
Springbank 10
Strathisla 1967 37 year
Suntory Hibiki 17 (Blend)
Suntory Yamazaki 12 year
Talisker 10
Talisker Double Matured
Talisker 18
Talisker 175th Anniversary
Tobermory 10

The newest addition was the Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beis ("Shelter of the Beast") - a 1990 bottling that is a new favorite. Ant had it poured for us as a blind test, and we got close, but didn't quite suss the distillery... Chicken declared upon tasting "I think I just met my fiancee!" Sir Ant replied "then next time you shall meet your mistress" - his basement is full of delights we have yet to meet...

Rest assured, at any one night between 4-6 are sampled, BUT no more than 3-4 ounces are actually imbibed across a 4-5 hour evening. So we are NOT lushes. Really. Hic.

Surviving and Thriving

Well, Pamela has been gone for 4 nights so far, and tonight will be five. How am I holding up? VERY WELL THANK YOU! In fact, up to last night, I'd say it all went swimmingly: Isaac had only one wake up each night, Bella slept well in my bed, I turned in early to get extra rest. Bella's sick stomach did not return thankfully, and Isaac's cold and coughing took a break as well: The kids were healthy and well rested, as was I.

Last night, three things changed:
1) Bella was out late to see Jenny's Xmas pageant and came home over 2 hours past her bedtime. The poor girl was nearly unconscious, and was fast asleep within 10 minutes.
2) Isaac was off by a few hours, had his wakeups at different times, and was up by 4 this morning and couldn't get back asleep...
3) I had the Ant and Chicken over for some Scotch and watched Die Hard (they had never see this Christmas Classic)... and didn't get to bed before 1am.

So all three conspired to put us all "off" today, though a late morning nap for Isaac and I helped restore some equilibrium. Bella was just a bit brittle all day, but she had some good playtime with George up the block. Dad had us over for pot-roast dinner (and tortellini for Bella - a new "food that works") and an unexpected surprise of Cranberry Steam Pudding. Grandma kept Isaac and Bella good and occupied so I got to catch up with Dad. It was a great treat.

At the end of the day, as I was to put Isaac to sleep I didn't want Bella to watch another show (a Scooby before bedtime equals strange energy sometimes), so I suggested she do some artwork - perhaps a picture for Mommy?

She got good and mad (as she will when she is overtired) and grabbed a red pen and a piece of paper: She drew a sad little girl face with tears streaming, and said "LOOK: THIS IS ME. I AM SAD AND MAD".

I took the hint and spent a few extra minutes getting her started on a nice picture for mommy, setting her up in front of the fireplace. Later after Issac was asleep, we played three games of "go fish" in front of the fire (real Go Fish with playing cards, not the animal verson). She was so cuddly and close it was all but impossible to not see her cards... But even so, and with my every effort not to win, I won the first two games, which brought tears to the brims of her eyes. Fortunately the third game went all the way to the last card in the deck, and only by palming the last card was I able to "throw" the game, which made her evening. Then we read the fine Japanese trilogy about Feet, Scabs, and Poop, and she dropped off quickly.

Pamela comes home tomorrow and I will be happy to see her: I handled the house pretty well (especially with a little babysitting help!), but I miss having my best friend around. She's called every day and it sounds like she's having a wonderful time!

So that's the update: All is well!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Spoke too soon.

WAY too soon.

No sooner had I posted the last update... I went upstairs to find Bella contentedly asleep in our bed. Covered in puke. I had to wake her, shower her, put her into her bed, change all of the sheets, start the laundry... Ugh.

Guess we're not going to school tomorrow!!!

And I hate that "sympathetic nausea" you get when you encounter other puke: Your body thinks "that's sickness - I must be sick too!"

Wish me luck in the night.

We have liftoff!

Pamela is finally at Miraval!!! She left this morning, and called this afternoon with a rave review of her room - with high ceilings, a fireplace, a private veranda with mountain view... A fine place to relax! After two tries (Try one cut short by the arrival of Isaac, try two canceled when Mark died) it's nice to have her out there enjoying her 40th birthday present, a year late, but no less appreciated!

I took the day off: Bella had a puking incident last night - more likely food related than flu - but nonetheless that meant school was no-go. We had our fun, building a gingerbread house, drawing, and playing a lot. Isaac's health seems back on track too, as is his appetite. Knock on wood, but things seem ok.

I'm a bit tuckered - I still did my 6am workout, but got no nap in the day. I had a babysitter for the evening so I could go learn about options for Bella at our elementary school: They have a great program called "Continuous Progress" where a teaching team keeps the kids for 5 years, and there are mixed grades: Very grade specific things like Math are still taught in grade settings, but the core class is mixed grades...

The more I listened to it, the more sense it made, and it really sounds like something Bella would do well with - especially considering her two best friends are a year older than her, and she plays regularly with kids even older and younger... So I think we'll have to try for CP. I'm a believer.

And now I'm off to bed!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Somewhat quiet?

Friday night, I went off to the annual holiday party for the company whose software I helped write with my dad back at the very start of my career. Even though I haven't worked with or for them for many many years, they keep me on the list as a participant... which is growing odder and odder as the company grows and the number of people who have no idea who I am far outnumber the ones who remember my history.

But this party wasn't about me... it was about Dad, who is finally deciding to "retire" from the business. He has been working there full time for almost 8 years, and it was 17 years ago that the software got started, when we both worked on it in our "spare time"...

So 3 years ago I came in to do some analysis work to help figure out what the next phase of software would look like and document the current system. All this year, Dad has been transitioning his knowledge. And come Jan 1, there will be no Reays there. So the Christmas party was partially a celebration of his service... There was a "roast" in there, but it didn't feel all that toasty... but there were some good heartfelt tributes in there too. The food and the band were fabulous too: If you're looking for a party band, I heartily recommend Belladiva - they were simply amazing. Really.

Pamela didn't come because she was battling a slight head cold... which she got either from Bella or Isaac both of whom are nursing colds... Bella's is a lot less severe, but Isaac has been wiped out for almost a week now (yes, we did take him to the doctor!) In spite of being under the weather, Isaac is still more than capable of causing household mayhem.

He has figured out that his signs (More!), and words (Baba! Banana! Bella! Dis!) will get us to jump up and DO THINGS, so he's more or less randomly pointing at things and rejecting them once they're in his hands. Total boy who cried wolf syndrome.

Bella has been at Grandma and Grandpa's house all weekend - she helped pick up and decorate the tree, and did some sledding, and I imagine a lot of arts and crafts... we said bye at 10am Saturday, and hi at 4pm Sunday! It was strangely quiet in the house (Isaac notwithstanding).

So we took advantage and read the paper, did Christmas cards, I finally wrote thank-yous for my birthday, I worked on my guitar chops for Rock Band...

Speaking of thank-yous - Apparently word got out that I like scotch, and it has become a very giftable item for me. The other night, Uncle Chicken went to my cabinet, and backed away, gasping "It's like Buckingham Palace!" So until a few more bottles are consumed (and I do have the boys coming over more often now), no more need arrive...

Finally, Pamela takes off Tuesday for her long awaited trip to Miraval... and I'm on daddy duty until Sunday! I'm looking forward to it. Fortunately, I'll have help - our super sitter will be around many days, and family and neighbors are more than interested in having Bella around! It'll be just a taste of what Pamela goes through all the time (and will go through more as I start to travel a little), I know, and I welcome the experience.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Back into it.

Poor Isaac: Sunday night he came down with some intestinal discomfort (lots of toots and wakeups - I had him for a few hours again), and by Monday it had revealed itself as a stomach bug. Fortunately it coursed through his system fairly quickly... but then in the evening he started doing a sparky the seal impersonation: Yep, he got Croup. So Pamela and I took shifts, because he was only sleeping up to an hour at a time between coughing fits.

Today, he still has it, but his spirit is strong: He played a new fun game with us, called "it's for you". Take one real telephone, hand it to Isaac, and he'll press a few buttons and give it back to you. Variations include throwing it to you, and alternating handing the phone to the other parent too. Hours of fun (well, at least one hour of fun).

So tired is the word of the day...

And tired will be the word of next week as well: We're starting 5-day-a-week 6am classes at my workout place, though I'll only be able to attend monday-tuesday, because Tuesday I'm shipping Pamela off to Miraval for the third attempt at her 40th birthday extravaganza. Whoo hoo! Superdad to the rescue.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A moment of peace

There's a fresh white blanket of snow falling, Isaac is asleep, and Pamela and Bella are out. I've got the fire turned on, I just finished a half hour on the elliptical, and I did a Pimsleur Japanese lesson (number 73 of 90 - I learned about headaches, stomachaches, and fevers)

Bella is off to a "princess tea party" for one of her friends. But Bella is QUITE done with pink and princesses right now: she has been giving away pink things to her friends (though not Doggie the Dog, of course). And her "fancy dress" for the day is a grey pantsuit that makes her look like a 1970s photojournalist... but the black bow in her hair and a bangley bracelet makes it "fancy".

We went to put the wreath on Alexander's grave only to find that the ground is frozen so hard, we couldn't stick it down... so we left it as is and crossed our fingers that the wind would be kind... and vowed to return with a powerdrill.

Now, for fans of the surreal: I should share that I had a very strange and vivid dream:

I was visiting a restaurant that our family had been long time patrons of in my youth (this is the story in my head - in truth I remember no such restaurant like this!). There's a roundabout for the front door, which leads to elevators, which take you down one level (or stairs if you prefer). As you stand in the elevator lobby, there are three rooms: To the left, there is the main dining room, which is a very average, white tablecloth affair... low ceilings, but the walls are all tall windows which look out onto a nice lake. Straight ahead is the bar, which runs parallel to the dining room: All dark wood, no tables, just a looooong bar.

But to the RIGHT is the "Starlight Room". This is a medium sized sphere, with the walls bulging out just a little. There's clearly an iron gridwork, and there are 2x2 gold brocade wall panels. There are only around 10 tables in here, and it's lit by pinpoint lights peeking out from where the panels meet in the corners. A few panels are off of the wall, allowing me to see behind. (they are in the middle of renovating this room).

All around the OUTSIDE of the sphere are scaffolds with chairs on them, with music stands. There are two rings of musicians. Yes, as you eat in the Starlight room, right behind the panels is a small orchestra, surrounding you with live music. Immediately by the door to the room is a small control room where the conductor keeps the players in sync with 1960's era radio headsets, and small cue lights for each chair.

Alas, the future is coming to the Starlight room: As they're reworking the room, they're replacing the chairs with surround sound speakers. The live musicians are hard to come by these days, and too expensive. But to compensate, they're also replacing the brocade panels with thin LCD panels. In their normal state, the room looks as it used to... but with a few key strokes in the control room, part of the wall turns into an aquarium. With another few strokes, the sky turns into a starry night, with meteors streaking across.

I'm struck that while the old technology was very charming, this new room might just be an allright place to be. We leave the workers and our old friends the Maitre D' and the Conductor (now the video/audio orchestrator) alone to their work, and back into the elevators. We may be back for dinner sometime... but if memory serves, the spectacle of the Starlight room was always better than the food...