Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Brief Word on "... they'll just have to..."

There was an article in the paper today about how some area schools are starting back early this year, and how the kids are noticing. Someone commented (I KNOW! Never read the comments. Nonetheless...), "Just wait until you have a real job. In the real world, you don't get a summer break at all, so soak it up."

As an aside, it's weird to me that even people who don't have alt-ed viewpoints consider school something other than "the real world." Interesting. 

But the level of resentment dripping off of this - how dare kids be disappointed their typical break is shorter?! - is my main focus.

Look around and you'll see something: A lot of adults are really pissed off at kids in general. Pardon my English, but it's true. I think these adults feel like they've grown into productive members of society with good work ethics and a healthy dose of stoicism, and that kids "these days" are just whiny toots.

I'm pretty sure these same people would have had these same reactions as kids were the circumstances the same. Also, one of the kids interviewed was talking about how it was a challenge to get the summer reading assignments completed in less time. So this wasn't about languishing by the pool while the 'rents work their butts off.

My question is: Why do grown-ups seem to hate kids so much? Why do grown-up people decide to have kids, and then just seem to lose all compassion and empathy for them?

I have a kid who has anxiety, and we are dealing with that. One thing I've heard concerning not just our situation, but others', too, is, "Well, someday, they're going to have to XYZ 'in the real world.' You need to make them start doing it now, because the longer they ABC, the harder it's going to be to adjust."

May I tell you how ridiculous this is, whether it's leveled at a child or an adult? 

People who have phobias or other impairments that prevent them from functioning typically in any given situation might or might not find exposure therapy useful. I can tell you now, if you have a fear of snakes, I'm pretty sure that if I lock you in a box with 50 non-venomous snakes, you would not thank me later for assisting in your recovery. Or maybe you would. I'm not irrationally afraid of snakes, but I don't think I'd like that, anyway.

It is furthermore the height of self-righteous pride for anyone to tell a parent, "Here's what's wrong with your kid, and all you have to do to fix it is..." This might shock those of you who observe from the outside and then have the audacity to propose a simple fix, but I can promise you that parents have thought of EVERYTHING. They've researched, they've sought opinions, they've gotten opinions that they never solicited (including yours), they've second-guessed themselves, and eventually they have settled into what is working for their family. Your input at any point in this process is worthless, unless you, too, have been through the EXACT same thing and offer a viewpoint with the caveat that you truly understand no two people or situations are the same.

Lastly, any time a person says anything about how someone "has" to behave "in the real world," I am truly blind-sighted by how narrow a view of what constitutes a functional life so many of us have. Not everyone needs to be able to maintain eye contact for an extended amount of time. Not everyone needs to be able to drive. Not everyone has to wear close-toed shoes (shout-out to my friend Dave for that one :D ). People can and do create lifestyles they can manage all of the time. Now, can you get a high-paying corporate job if you can't do these things? Except for driving, maybe not. But not everyone's life needs to look the same. Some skills are worth honing because they will be useful, but not otherwise (like cursive; and please don't flame me). Not everyone needs the same social skills as everyone else. Not everyone needs to conform to the same box or boxes or cylinders or whatever. Does that mean the off-beat person's life will be more complicated? Maybe. But it's going to be more complicated, regardless. Some people just have a more challenging time with certain functions than others. That's okay. It's different, but it's not bad.

I have a bonus point: If you see a situation which you think is not ideal, whether it's a person you don't think is meeting their potential or a family you think could operate better if only they'd listen to this thing you've reasoned out... and if you really want to help... rather than offering an opinion unbidden, how about saying something like, "Your family really means a lot to me. Is there some way I could help you?" then be willing to do whatever they ask, if they take you up on it. Seriously, your unbidden input can only strain your relationship. Trust me, everyone's doing the best they can.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

In a Hurry?

Parents: "Kids want to grow up so fast! Why don't they just enjoy their childhoods?"

Parents, also:

In so many ways, we give our kids the impression that they're not fully people; they're people in training. But do you remember being a kid? Did you feel like an actually-fledged human being? 

I think we do this with really good intentions. We know our time with our kids is limited, and we want to "prepare" them to release them out into the world as responsible, equipped adults.

However, I'm afraid this often leads to our making long-sighted parenting choices when short-sighted ones would actually be better. For instance: If my kid's room is a mess, maybe it's just that they don't have the energy to clean it this moment, or even today... and it doesn't have to mean that OMG, they're going to grow up without any self-discipline and their house will be overtaken by roaches, and they'll get evicted and therefore I'm turning off the wifi until the room is clean, dang it.

Kids see this. So much that they know, as they get older, that even their education isn't important in this moment. Otherwise, why would they ask, infamously about algebra, "When am I ever going to use this in the future?"

How often has a kid, discouraged with an extra-curricular lesson or activity, been encouraged to keep going because, "Someday you'll wish you'd mastered *this* so you can do *this other thing.*" 

Do you know when I've learned the things I've needed to know as an adult, for the most part? Exactly when I needed to know them.

This might surprise you, but I never learned a darn thing about real estate until I had to "learn" it to take a test. And even then, I didn't *actually* learn it until I was working in the field. Same with insurance. And video production. And script-writing. And parenting. Yeah, pretty much all of it.

And I have a theory about why family vacations are so much fun for our kids (other than the splurging in terms of fun and money throwing-around and whatnot): When we're on vacation, we are in the moment with them. We're not planning for the next thing. We're enjoying the thing we're doing right then and right there.

What if we lived like that all of the time? Or most of the time? Or at least some of the time?

Maybe our kids would be more content being children if we let them know they're important *now.* They can do things in this day that have value. We don't always have to be projecting them into the future.

Nichole Nordeman tells a story of how she had volunteered to play a song at one of her kids' school events, and as the day approached, she hadn't prepared anything. Then this following song came to her. And although the song is directed toward the children, she said that, of course, the encouragement to "slow down" is actually for the parents. I'm trying. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Moving away from the guard rails

I started writing this in response to a post on a mailing list.

Basic idea behind the original post: I have a few decks of cards. I know that card seven in deck 12 tells me where I can start to find the 2 cards I can actually care about in decks x and y.

There's some personal stuff mixed into the middle of the career advice, so it seemed worth capturing the silliness that goes on in my head here.

I'm assuming the original poster wasn't just a troll.

There's a definite learning curve here.

Learn to spot these patterns.

Along with all the others. There's probably a Lifetime Achievement Goal for this one.

When you do something like (first xs) or (nth xs 3)...think about it!

Are you really just accessing the first element of a sequence?

I know that seems to be the "clojure idiomatic way." And, honestly, I think a lot of lisp literature probably supports this sort of approach. It's *great* if you're processing a seq by recursing over head/tail. that what you're really doing?

And, seriously, is there *ever* a really good reason to call nth in the middle of general-purpose code? (Yes, I know common lisp gurus *love* cadadar, but it gives this lesser mortal a headache just thinking about it).

In your case, it isn't. Or we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Personally, I haven't found a better solution to your dilemma than combing through the source code and looking for smelly parts like this.

One good (cross-language) rule of thumb I've run across is "If it happens once...OK. If it happens a second time, start being suspicious. If you see this pattern a third time, it's time to move it to an accessor method kind of thing."

I have the fresh wounds to be aware: I spent a good chunk of time today taking a namespace file that had grown too big for me to handle and splitting it out into multiple pieces. This meant a lot of digging through source code and updating specs for new namespaces. I'm still trying to figure out how this part actually works in clojure 1.9. I probably should have checked out Cursive again, and I haven't gotten further than installing CIDER 0.15.

There's another angle here that makes me suspicious.

Is what you're doing really complex enough to warrant "several thousand" lines of code?

I'm not saying it isn't!

I have absolutely no basis for judgement here beyond gut instinct. And no room to judge...I wouldn't pass this next check by any measure. I'm just asking questions here.

How good is your unit test coverage? How good are your commented-out REPL tests? Or maybe you moved those elsewhere to keep from polluting your production code base. (I'd personally rather see them right in the middle of what I'm testing as examples of how to call the code I'm testing, but I think I'm in a slim minority here).

I'm sorry for the long circle around your actual question.

If you have "lots of irrelevant stuff" that turn up when you search your code base for [first second nth]...what have you been doing?

If you've been slinging together a bunch of unrelated data structures into linked lists and expecting magic to come out the other end, then I feel your pain. Welcome to the real world. It doesn't work that way.

If you can pick apart the bits and pieces where you've been doing the same thing over and over again, you might be doing things that are easy to extract. Hmm...I'm calling (first (second (nth x 7))) a lot, to get to the same thing. I'll write a function that does this instead and then spend as much time as I can digging through my code to search for that pattern to refactor it to call that function instead.

Personally, I've never had any luck letting my editor do that step for me. It either finds a ton of false positives that breaks everything when I try to run my code in production, or it misses a ton of false negatives that leaves me wondering why I invested the time installing that editor in the first place. (Don't take my experience here as worthwhile: my experience is about 3 years out of date).

But, really, if you're doing the (-> x (nth 7) second first) sort of pattern often enough that you have to wonder whether you were looking for your uncle's telephone number or your sister's twitter feed...there's a bigger picture problem in your code base.

Figure that one out again. Recurse.


Personal historical perspective that doesn't add anything, except my personal amusement and possible historical interest:

I've been working with a couple of C++ developers on a python project,  and they've complained many times about this sort of thing.

I wish I had a better answer than "What did you expect was going to happen?" In a lot of ways, it feels like when I was doing C++ and everyone around me threw away days tracking down N-1 errors on their array accesses because STL vectors were just too slow/complicated.

It seems like there are probably XKCDs about this. If there aren't, the captions should be:

C gives you enough rope to shoot yourself in the foot. C++ gives you enough rope to blow your entire leg off.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fish Gotta Swim and Birds Gotta Fly

I had an epiphany last week. It's about fishing. I've never gone fishing. I like being on a boat, but I don't have any urges to fish, especially not catch-and-release. I can actually understand the draw of fishing for dinner, but the other? Well, I didn't really get it. Until last week.

In the past couple of years, since having put out bird feeders, I have become increasingly interested in birds. Since moving into this house, I actually joined the Facebook group Birds of Texas, where there are more experienced birders than I who are happy to identify birds when I am unable to do so. In our yard here, I have seen: House sparrows, house finches, Carolina wrens, Carolina chickadees, doves, cardinals, red-bellied woodpecker, painted bunting, black-chinned hummingbirds, and turkey vultures. It's interesting: I haven't seen nor heard any Mexican scrub jays, which were all over the place at the apartment in Oak Hill. I also haven't seen a roadrunner in our yard, though I've seen them in the area, including one that walked past our house in the street every day for a week or two. I felt like he was going to work, then coming back home with a lizard for the family.

Anyway, my parents moved to Temple earlier this year, and they live in an area with so much new construction that there aren't any mature trees. They put out a feeder, though, and are being inundated with visitors. When we were up there last week, I went to sit outside to see what birds I could see. Also, it was 100 degrees and about 70% humidity.

At any rate. I pretty quickly saw a dove sitting on their next-door neighbor's roof.


Then, I saw a couple of pairs of house sparrows and house finches.


You rang?
I also saw some grackles flying around in the area, but they never landed in my parents' yard.

If you've never watched birds before, they do this thing where they'll end up trickling into the same area, they'll all hang out for a while, then every single one of them gets a telepathic memo or something, and they all take off.

At one point, I was sitting there, staring off into space, waiting for the birds to come back. I thought, "Ha. I'm sitting out here in the heat, waiting to see more birds. Common birds. And I'm not sure when they'll be back..." Then I realized: I WAS BASICALLY FISHING. Just without the water. And I under no circumstances intended to eat any of these for dinner. My cats might have a different take on that.

But I felt a camaraderie with people who enjoy fishing just for the sport of seeing what you can catch, and enjoying the still silences (boredom) between active moments.

Also, bird-watching probably means I'm getting old, a fact that next month's birthday would tend to confirm.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Speaking with Mal

Here are a few snippets from conversations with my son this morning, in the space of about 2 hours:

MAL: Eww. Earwax.
ME: Yummy!
MAL: No! Earwax is gross. Boogers are yummy!

Later, Mal handed me something that looked like a seed.
MAL: What's this?
ME: (realizing it wasn't hard-shelled) Um, did it come out of your butt?
MAL: Yes.
ME: Then I think it's poop.
MAL: Not, it not.

MAL: Mommy, deedees!
ME: Sweetie, there's not any left.
MAL: I just need two deedees!
ME: We already did two.
MAL: I just need five deedees.
MAL: They're not tired! They're just closed! Right there!!

Permanent mood

And here's a bonus conversation with that child's dad, many many hours later.

ME: Good morning! Are you hungry?
ME: What sounds good?
JAMES: You want to do that thing you mentioned? With the pies and the cheese and the video games?
ME: Um, no. You can't do Chuck E. Cheese on the weekend unless you get there right when it opens.
JAMES: Is it too late for that?
ME: What time do you think it is?
JAMES: About 8?
ME: It's 20 'til 1.
JAMES: Wow. Thank you.

I think we can all agree I'm the best wife. I don't think I've ever even made a honey-do list. :)

Have an entertaining weekend, people!

Monday, July 17, 2017


Last night, I was writing my previous blog post out on the porch, enjoying the sunset and sounds of Texas summer. I'd invited Mal to come out with me, but he was watching videos in the floor of our bedroom.

Anyway, at a little bit after 9, Mal opened the back door and said, annoyed, "Mommy! I'm TIRED!" I asked him if he wanted me to help him go to bed, and he said yes.

We came in, and, of course, nursed for a few minutes, then he said, "I want to go outside now." I have to admit, part of me was like, "What? I thought it was bedtime!" but I went back out with him, and at that point it was pretty much dark. We looked at stars, he looked for fireflies (I guess it's too late for them now), and he desperately wanted to see a shooting star.

We started hearing a very high-pitched whinny, which sounded kind of like a cartoon version of a little pony. Maybe it was a baby fox? Or a bird? Anyway, Mal decided it was a horse, and it kind of freaked him out. He wanted to come in before the horse got us.

I actually had him sit in my lap outside a few more moments, explaining that horses don't really attack humans (but you don't want to walk around the back of one!), and that whatever it was was probably just crying for its mama.

When we did come in, he decided it was a baby horse missing its mama, who had gone to get dinner at McDonald's.

And he was asleep within 10 minutes of that.

It's not always that simple or easy, but it's a lot better than two hours of insisting "you don't have to go to sleep, but you have to stay in bed!"

I understand it's different for kids who have to be somewhere the next morning; no judgement here. Mostly just thought it was a cute interaction I wanted to remember. :)

And this is how he went to sleep Saturday night: we were driving to watch the sunset. We missed it. :)
This is the only thing that works besides "deedees."

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Strides in Unschooling

It's been quite a while since I realized we were "unschoolers." We'd been so in spirit pretty much from the beginning, academically-speaking. I was always willing to skive off the loose plan I had (we never bought curricula and always just had some random colorful workbooks around and some science experiments in the pipeline in case the desire arose) if something more interesting came up.

For instance, when I used to mystery shop, if I were able to schedule a whole day of shops, I'd do that and we'd listen to Dragon Rider or the Spiderwick Chronicles or Harry Potter on audiobook in the van. And I wouldn't feel like we'd missed out on anything, or that we were "behind."

And whenever we went on field trips, I never made a lesson plan in advance, or printed out a scavenger hunt, or made D take notes. We just enjoyed what we were doing, and what was interesting or important stuck.

Then a few years ago, everything fell into place and we had a label. At first, I thought it would just be academically. I read about radical unschoolers (parents who let the "they'll learn what they need to know without coercion" bleed into their home life as well as education), and it sounded for all the world like "unparenting" to me. It sounded boundaryless. It sounded like chaos.

And then D got older, and wasn't quite the people-pleaser (or mom-pleaser) that the younger version had been. I had to decide how to handle that: bow up against it and assert my "parental authority," or lean into building the relationship we'll have as adults, and invest my energy into something that will outlast what happens "under my roof." I chose the latter. It's taken a while, but it's changed everything, and I wish I'd done it sooner.

So Mal gets a different start than D did. We're starting him without the authoritarian model D had as a young tyke. And it's fascinating to see how it's going.

When D was newly-minted, I really thought that I had to provide "educational" stimuli every moment, or I was missing opportunities. Think things like saying, "This is your nose" or singing the alphabet song, or narrating literally everything I did. It didn't occur to me that entry into the world is stimulating enough. That kids learn by watching and imitating. That talking to them naturally rather than didactically is better.

Yesterday, Mal asked me to read "Thomas and the Ten Balloons." First of all, that was cool because he's a lot less into reading than D was at the same age. And we don't assign value to any of his pursuits over others, as a rule, but it's just interesting how different they are, and I really enjoy sitting a kid on my lap and going through books together!

Anyway, for the first time, Mal counted all of the balloons on the first page correctly. He can count to ten, and will do it "right" much of the time. But pointing to the balloons in sequence, without skipping any or counting one more than once, was a first. And whereas I'd counted out loud, counted objects, encouraged counting, and drawn numbers over and over, "working" with D, I've never done any of that with Mal. Yet somehow, he's managed to pick it up.

On the radical unschooling front, there's that Mal eats and drinks whatever he wants. I never made D eat at certain times, but, for instance, I made laminated "tickets" in the shape and color of little cups when D was about Mal's age. There were 2 "apple juice" cups, 2 "chocolate milk" cups, and like 8 "water" cups. They were in a pouch on the fridge, and D would get one ticket to bring me, I'd fill the order, and I'd put the ticket on top of the fridge to be recycled the next day. I did this because I felt very arbitrary about when I said "yes" to juice and when I said "no," but I "knew" that parents aren't supposed to let their kids drink a lot of juice, because sugar and obesity and whatnot. So I made a scapegoat and though it was brilliant.

Another time, D didn't eat the mandated amount of broccoli at dinner, and I insisted that would be the next thing consumed. Breakfast rolled around, and D instead opted out. Then we met friends a Chick-fil-A, and I brought that stinking (literally), cold left-over in a snack baggie. Half an hour into playing and desperate for a kids' meal, my poor child choked down those sad trees so we could all get on with our lives.

Again, at the time, I believed it to be a battle of wills I'd needed to win. The only problem with doping it like that is that it makes the kid the "loser." Winning and losing is fine in competition: sports and games... but not parenting. We're supposed to be working together. If it ever feels like the kid is "against" us, then it behooves us, as the hopefully better-able-to-think-rationally adult to see what's going on, what the conflict is, and how to navigate forward.

So, cut to yesterday: Mal had had three doughnuts to start his day A different mindset might have limited this to one or two before "encouraging" the child to eat something "more nutritious." But we just let him have what he wanted (actually, he walked into his room eating one that he'd gotten himself... and that was supposed to have been D's!), and no one made any big deal out of it. Whatever he ate throughout the day wasn't memorable, and then at dinner -- this is particularly ironic given the anecdote I just shared - as we were sitting down to the potsticker soup I'd made, Mal wanted none of it and instead requested broccoli.

Actually, there were a couple of tries with the soup, during which I realized that he seems to think the refrigerator is like the microwave, but for cold. He'd ask me to put the soup in the refrigerator because it was too hot, and 45 seconds later, he'd start fussing that I take it out... then scream when it was still "too hot."

So I only heated the broccoli 30 seconds, to knock off the cold rather than to heat it up. Mal inhaled it and asked for more. He probably ended up eating 3 servings, enthusiastically, with no "reward" in sight. He ate it because it's what he wanted, and he was happy.

It's so much easier and enjoyable that way.

In terms of learning... well, my son knew what a feller buncher was several days before I did, and I have more than four decades on that kid! D is an even more amazing artist than ever, and learning all sorts of exciting stuff I'd love to share, but teenagers and privacy and respect and all of that. It's just a treat to see my kids learning things I've never thought of learning, because it's where their interests are taking them.

Yesterday, when Mal was playing and being a little too rambunctious, and getting in my way when I needed to get something done, I asked him repeatedly and without shielding my frustration to please move so I could finish. Whether he moved or not, whatever he was doing, it occurred to me that he has no fear of disappointing or displeasing James or me. He does what he does, and if he does something "wrong" like hurting one of us or breaking something, he pleasantly and genuinely says, "Sorry, Mom!" but doesn't blanch and wait for the other shoe to fall. He's secure. He knows he's loved. He doesn't worry about what we might do when we find out this or that happened. It's a pretty amazing thing.

I believe there are two main reasons a lot of people wouldn't consider unschooling, on any level, but maybe especially whole life unschooling.

The first is a negative view of children (and probably humanity in general). "If you give 'em an inch, they'll take a mile." Well, that might be true if you've stingily meted out centimeters their whole lives and are "doing them a favor" by letting them have a "little" taste of abundance. However, if you just throw the whole rope out for their use, it's actually easier to reel it in when you need to, because they trust that you're being as generous as you can, since that's what you always do.

For instance, this morning, we were out of Lucky Charms, which Mal requested (specifically: "marshmallows with cereal"). He was disappointed, but I managed to sell him on Quaker Oatmeal Squares with bananas by telling him the truth, which is that it's my favorite cereal ever. And he knows we'll get more sugar bombs another time. He knows we say "yes" as often as we can, so he trusts our "no"s when we have to give them.

The second reason, I believe, is something akin to jealousy. "Why should this kid get to decide how to spend his time? I never got to do that." Often, this is stated as something more benevolent-sounding, like, "They have to learn to do what people tell them because once they get out in the real world..." Well, except... they're kids. They can probably pop on into regimented scheduling and being told what to do for hours on end fairly easily. And if they can't, maybe they'll create their own "thing" so they don't have to be beholden to someone for those moments of their days.

Regardless, I don't harbor any resentment against my teenager, who decides when to go to bed and when to get up and when and what to eat and how to fill the weird hours of wakefulness. I think it's exciting, and wonder what I might have done with that freedom. I used to make newsletters for my grandma on our computer (printed with the dot-matrix printer!). And write short stories for friends. I loved to walk while listening to showtunes. I liked sitting out on "the bluff," overlooking the Arkansas River. Who knows what might have come of unlimited hours to indulge in my own thoughts, plans, and schemes? How grateful I am that we can give that treasure to our children. Once they get older, they necessarily will have to choose more "mature" and less "fun" pursuits (though hopefully still leaving room for those; I do, in as much as I can!), so that they can experiment and while away hours and binge-watch and try to cut down trees with sticks and get trapped on the bed for 45 minutes because there's a cat sitting there like a paper weight... It's something I'm supremely glad I get to witness and in which I am privileged to play a role.

My first "high speed" wreck...thank you, 1431 (and Capital Metro!)

Some context:

Today (well, yesterday now) was Krispy Kreme's 80th birthday. So I took something like my 4th lunch since I started this day job to basically spend an hour standing in line to get a dozen of their original plain glazed doughnuts for $0.80. After I bought an assorted dozen for regular price.

I have to wonder how much money they made/lost today. I'm sure that the overworked people behind the counter were the ones who really paid for it.

Anyway. I had a couple dozen doughnuts in the passenger seat when I headed home from the day job at 17:02. Leaving at that time of day was dumb,
but I was at a stopping point, and I didn't want to open
any new cans of worms.

Drivers were more aggressive that I'm used to today. Maybe it was just the time.  At one point I had
to jog a smidge inside my lane to dodge someone who was weaving
around to pass me on the right, then immediately slam on my
brakes to avoid someone else who decided to cut me off on the

That threw the assorted doughnuts out of the passenger seat
and into the floorboard.

It also kicked my adrenaline into gear, which left me extra
alert. I think that's why what happened next wasn't much worse.

The "highway" out to our house has a lot of curves and hills.
It's nothing like the sheer cliffs, sudden tunnels, and winding craziness
between Nederland and Boulder, but it seems to have a lot more wrecks. Maybe
the serenity lulls drivers into safety.

Or maybe it's just that this road has a lot more traffic.

It doesn't even have the lane switches (if you've never driven that road, it's a maddening combination of two or three lanes, with the three lane stretches set up at exactly the places to make it most difficult to pass someone whose care can't really handle the grade) to help
you stay awake. It's just a wide-open 4-lane stretch, with
nothing that resembles a median.

As soon as I told co-workers I was moving out here, they started
warning about the dangers of this road.

Apparently there's a major accident at least once a week.

Laura's just barely missed a couple. Our neighbors
across the street had their car totalled a week or so ago
when a driver who was supposedly behind them drifted
into their back tire (at least that's the version of
the story that I heard 3rd hand).

Today was my turn.

Traffic was flowing along pretty well, though it was
also pretty tightly packed. I was in the right lane.
A smallish Capital Metro bus was in the left lane
directly in front of me. I was making it a point to
give it plenty of room, in case that driver wanted
to get in front of me. There were a bunch of
drivers in a hurry who wanted to pass both of us.

We were all flowing along nicely at about 50 mph.

About a mile and a half before my turn off (which
is the part of my drive that scares me the most, because you have to stop for oncoming traffic right after you crest a hill),
I spotted a driver topping a hill (and a curve)
in the right lane coming the other way.

That's the way I remembered it the first time through, anyway. The lack of a real hill in the pictures that follow is a great example of the fun games our minds play on us when they reinvent the past. Then again, we went out later to get pictures of the skid marks, and it's a pretty serious hill from the other side.

Anyway, I didn't see what went wrong. According to the bus
driver, his wheels slipped onto the shoulder. I've driven past the skid marks a few times since it all happened, and I think they bear out this version of the story.

I just saw him suddenly veer over in front of the

I was positive that he was about to die. I was
pretty certain that my little clown car was
going to plow into his smoldering wreckage.

I slammed on my brakes, halfway expecting to
go into a skid, flip my car, and cause a huge

It's one of the only times I've ever really felt
ABS in action.

Somehow, the bus driver managed to slow down
enough the he really only clipped that car. It
scooted and spun around past him, bounced off
the guard rail (I think...that's the only explanation
I have for how everything, including the big
dent in the rail wound up...I had enough adrenaline going
in that instant that I don't really remember it), and
then drifted back.

I'd somehow managed to stop.

I slammed it into reverse and managed to back up
4 or 5 feet before what was left of his bumper
just sort of pecked mine on the cheek.

I'm firmly convinced that that bus driver
very narrowly managed to avoid killing the
guy who lost control.

I sent Laura a text about it at 17:52, just to let
her know that I was fine.

The guy who was in the car directly behind the
bus got out to
1. make sure everyone was OK
2. call the cops (he wound up calling someone who was
on vacation because main dispatch wasn't answering...I
love living in a small town)
3. decide he didn't have time to wait around for this
4. just swerve around everything and abandon the scene once
the people with flashy lights started showing up

Everybody else pestered the bus driver to clear
the lane and get out of the way, but he wisely
refused to move until the cops got there.

I can't blame them. After all:

Blocked a surprising amount of traffic:

This might have been 2 minutes after the wreck.

When the cops did arrive, their first concern was to clear a lane to try to keep someone else from plowing into the back of the pile and turning it into a real mess.

It took a while to convince them
that the at-fault car started out heading the other
direction. Even though you could see the skid
marks from his tires.

If I hadn't seen this happen, I'd think that bus had clipped the lancer's rear bumper. Or something along those lines. Especially if I were looking at the damage to the front of the bus.

That would be completely and totally wrong.

The guy driving that Lancer lost control and started its skid about where the truck is in this photo.The bus managed to slow down enough that it only lost its front right headlight, sending the Lancer into a spin. I'm pretty sure it bounced into that guard rail, then skittered backward into my car. (Well, it definitely did the last part...I got its paint on my bumper to prove that part).

It looks worse (well, ok, not much) when you can actually see it up close and personal. I think everything's probably OK, and a few minutes with a buffer can probably clean it right up, but you never know until you've had a professional check it out.

Have I mentioned that I was cruising along at 45-50 mph when this happened?!

The dude driving the Lancer made it a point to apologize, and I feel awful for him.

I'm pretty sure he's the only person who got hurt. I wish I'd gotten pictures. He was growing this big goose-egg on his forehead, and I have people I love who have been through something along these lines with traumatic brain injury and didn't realize it for a year or so.

He specifically mentioned that he thinks he probably needs stitches in his ear, but that isn't worth the price of an ambulance ride. I can't blame him for that, but I really hope he gets himself checked out..

I feel like every muscle in my body has been stretched out and wrung to dry, and all I did was stomp on the brakes.

When the EMTs asked me if I needed to go to the hospital, I'm pretty sure I would have answered "No," even if I'd needed a tourniquet. And I hadn't just suffered a nasty blow to the head.

The kind of blow that he took can change your life.

If you're ever involved in this sort of thing, please, please go see a doctor.

I just scheduled an appointment, for the sake of following my own advice. I think I clicked all the wrong buttons, so they'll probably think I'm suicidal when I get there. In 4 days. Maybe I didn't click anything seriously wrong after all.

When I got home, Mal calmly announced that I'd had an accident. I suspect Laura might have mentioned it...maybe she was preparing him for the possibility that my car had been smashed. (In case no one's ever mentioned this, he gets *really* attached to stuff).

He had what looked like a new bruise over his eye, so I asked if he'd had an accident too. He got indignant.

It turns out that was just paint, and he'd done it on purpose.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Childhood is Magic

This morning, Mal found the basting brush in a drawer, and decided that he wanted to "paint food." So, we toasted a slice of bread, melted a pat of butter, and mixed some green food coloring in with the butter.

And after that, we added jelly on top, because Mal just doesn't appreciate plain butter toast like I do.

Then tonight, at about 9 PM, after he'd watched the "Nighttime" episode of Daniel Tiger, Mal decided he wanted to go outside and "find out what's special at night." At the time, I was in the middle of a very long hold waiting for customer service to fix an error. But James manned the speaker phone while I took Mal out onto the porch.

After we'd handled that business, Mal said, "Okay, let's go in the car!" So... We did. James, Mal, and I got on shoes and decided to go to the lake to see what was special at night over there. I'm glad we did!

First, when we got there, we drove through a scene where the police had their high-beams on and were talking to two people with very large dogs. We decided to go in the far entrance, and then park.

As we pulled into a space, we saw a frog under a tree. It's funny, because that's one of the things Daniel Tiger sees on his night walk, and Mal had (wrongly) said on our porch, "I hear the frogs!"

Before we got out of the car, James and I got to see the frog catch and eat something. Then we walked over, and the frog was nonplussed by James's flashlight pointed at it. I told Mal, "If you want to pet it, you can. It will jump, if you do." So he did, and the frog hopped away. Mal was tickled.

See the vertical-ish line to the left and about in the center? That's the frog's back.

Then we went over to the playground, where a little girl was actually playing in the dark as her family packed up their stuff from an afternoon on the water. There were boats coming in, and a surprising amount of activity, for it to be 9:30 at night.

It was actually pretty nice, Mal getting to play on the playground without burning his legs on the slide, and without my having to hide under the play structure for shade.

When we left, we were going to drive around a bit more and decided to stop by Sonic. Mal ended up falling asleep on the way back from Sonic, without even eating any of his French fries. So guess what he's having for breakfast tomorrow?

If we didn't have a toddler who wanted to explore after dark, we probably wouldn't have gotten out this evening. I'm glad we had a tour guide who wanted to explore the magic.

The moon through our trees.

Cloud cover

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Case Clothesed!

Recently, someone posted a meme with different text, but with this picture... I'm linking to it, because I don't want to download it an post it here. There are several memes, some quite unkind. But the one my friend posted wasn't tacky. Still, it was paired with the picture.

What got to me wasn't the person who shared the picture, but the person who took the picture in the first place. It actually hurt me for this lady. It appears to be in a classroom of some type. Why not tap her on the shoulder and say, "Hey, I'm not trying to be nosey but notice that your bra is not very securely attached. Is that okay, or do you want me to help you get it?" If you're the kind of person who's thinking, "Oh, I could never say something like that!" then I hope you're also the kind of person who couldn't imagine pulling out a phone and taking a snap of someone else's wardrobe potential malfunction.

This whole thought process reminded me that I used to spend hours on People of Walmart, giggling at the silliness. It's been years and years, and what this picture made me realize is that maybe, in my transition to gentle parenting, I've just become more gentle toward humanity in general. I've never liked to see people publicly disappointed or embarrassed, and now it's grown to include being unwilling sources of humor, I suppose.

But here's an issue I also have with all of that, as well as a well-intentioned article a friend posted today, which devolved in the comments section to what is "ladylike" to wear in public (of the "people used to know how to dress and now it's all gone to pot!" ilk): THIS IS 2017. PEOPLE SHOULD BE FREE TO WEAR WHATEVER THEY WANT TO WEAR.

People should be able to wear whatever comfortable, uncomfortably stylish, ugly, impractically fancy, fleecy, ripped lacey, leggings-as-pantsy, belly-baring, body-swallowing, traditional, formerly-gender-inappropriate thing that they want to wear.

Want to wear your formal wedding dress to buy groceries? Fun! Want to walk over to get a Slushie without changing from your night gown? Go for it! Taking your kid to the park but you already had on a broomstick skirt? Just be careful! Halfway through, realize it's too hot and take off your top so you're wearing only a sports bra? Super!

If YOU feel like it was "better" when people dressed up to run to town, dress up to run to town! Feel great about yourself! (And PLEASE teach me how to make pin curls you can sleep on.) At the same time, know that that gives you zero right to look down on anyone else, whatever they might have used to cover up their bodies. No right to feel "better." No right to assume you care more or are more gracious or respectful. It's your preference, and it's great, so embrace it. But if MY preference is not to spend an inordinate amount of time fixing up for an errand, that doesn't say a thing about my character. I just save my "fix up" time for my husband, or for when I know there will be pictures taken. Because I have other stuff to do. Stuff that I think is important, but you might not care about at all. And I promise not to look down on you because you don't have the same priorities and preferences.

I do not understand why anyone else thinks it's their business to asses the appropriateness of someone's clothes for their body type, situation, or temperature. Much less to say something out loud. Or take pictures.

I spent a lot of my young life feeling ashamed of my clothes. We couldn't afford Guess! back in the day when EVERYTHING was Guess! I had people say things to me like, "Boy, you don't like that shirt, do you? I can tell because you never wear it" about the one sort of nice, stylish Coke shirt I had in junior high, and, yeah, that I wore once a week because I felt awesome in it. I had someone say, "We were supposed to wear our BEST outfit tonight!" the last night of camp, after I'd showed up in the nicest thing that I'd brought, that I'd saved all week for the talent show. I've been keenly aware of being the only person in the room not wearing jewelry. Or the only one in sandals without a pedicure, or at least painted toenails. I've felt "poorer" or "less than" in my discount store jeans and Goodwill tops.

But now that I'm older and more mature, you know what? I realize now that poverty isn't as huge a factor in my wardrobe as I might have been tempted to assume in the past. Because, financially, I'm more stable now than I've ever been (thanks, honey!), and you know what? I'm a CHEAPSKATE about clothes! I buy what I like now, but not until it's on sale. And I don't wear jewelry because I'm allergic to most metals, including silver, and I just don't care enough to seek out other stuff. So when I go out, I'm wearing what I want, and I no longer feel self conscious. I feel comfortable. And if you're judging me, then... well, I feel sorry for you. Seriously, get something better to do. Because your opinion means nothing to me, so you're just wasting your energy.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Contemplative Independence Day

Last night, I had this thought that I might make some sugar cookies. Just plain ones, but color half of the dough red and half blue, then make round cookies and ice the red ones with white stripes and the blue ones with white stars.

Today, between running errands and making a pretty sous-chef-y dinner, I wasn't that motivated... plus, when we were out, Mal wanted to get doughnuts, so we have dessert already.

Saturday, when Mal and I were at the Home Depot, I thought about buying an American flag... but didn't.

I'm very wary of overt shows of "patriotism" right now. Does that make sense?

I've only felt this way one other time, and it was in the wake of September 11, 2001. I was singing at church the weekend after the attacks, and when we arrived Saturday afternoon for rehearsal before the night service, we were told that we were going to sing "God Bless America." I balked.

It's not that I don't want God's blessings. It's not that I didn't want to comfort scared people, many of whom would be coming to a house of worship for the first time in a long time because they didn't know what else to do.

It was because, in addition to the extreme grief and shock and fear I'd witnessed Americans experiencing, there was also a lot of sort of anger-fueled nationalism, and I didn't want to give the impression that I was asking God to bless America... instead of the nations of "those" people who attacked us. I didn't want it to seem that we were circling the wagons. And that's what "patriotism" (not the spirit, but the displays) felt like to me in that moment.

And now.

Now... I am separated by only one or two or three degrees from people whose lives are being adversely affected by the climate and policies of our country. I can stop scanning news stories all I want to, but I still hear personal stories. I feel splayed open and raw, unable to really do anything for anyone in distress except maybe not act so damned proud that I had the stupid luck of being born here, white, middle class, descended from a mighty people whose weapons and lies "won" this very land where I'm beginning to own a home from people who were already here.

This weekend, I heard a prayer thanking God for "this land You have given us." Did He? Did God decide that we were destined for it, and therefore it was okay to kill "savages" and make countless bad faith treaties with them?

Which is not to say that I'm not grateful... I'm grateful for freedom, even as I recognize that many people do not have it. I'm grateful for comfort, though I know many need and cannot access it. I am grateful for my family, but read through tears story after story of parents and children separated and sent back into dangerous places... just because they had the misfortune of not being born here. White. Middle class.

I have never been oppressed. Maybe I feel like a fraud celebrating freedom, as if I came to it out of something else.

So tomorrow, I will cherish spending time with my family. I look forward to eating some good food and maybe catching up with my sister. I will get to hang out with my husband more because it's a holiday right in the middle of the work-week. And I'll celebrate the freedom that this country affords as best I can, shadowed by the humbling awareness that I've done nothing more or better than anyone else to deserve it.

This evening, I pulled Mal out of bed to watch some fireworks over the trees, because he has been tempted to be scared of the noise every night this weekend. It was beautiful. It was sweet. That is something to celebrate.

And maybe tomorrow I'll do what I also did tonight, holding my growing son tightly on my knees so he wouldn't fall off of the picnic table as he covered his ears: Pray for the refugees, the immigrants, the prisoners, and all of their families, that every one of them might soon be reunited and able to cherish such sweet, tiny moments.

Some cool stuff (and a sneak peek at my birthday present!)

I'm not sure how smart it is that we bought Mal a second sandbox at a time where we are coming close to breaking heat records, but... we did. And he loves it.

The first day we got it.

The next morning.

Later that same day, and gosh, it was hot.
He played with it today, too. I think he might have missed Sunday, maybe? But that's the only day so far.

It was on sale, and when we've had a couple of kids over, the first sandbox has gotten pretty claustrophobic, so we'd planned to "expand," anyway. It's a hit!

James has this week off, and planned it at the last minute, so we don't have any plans. We're just enjoying time together. Today, for instance, we had his oil changed... which is apparently a "deal" with the Fiat 500s, as some places don't carry the oil and/or air filters, so we had to do some coordination.

Saturday, I asked James what he'd want to eat this week, and he smiled at the first thing that came into his mind. "I was thinking, 'Something Mediterranean, you know, like with artichoke hearts and pineapple.' Why did I think of that combination?" Well, of course I Googled it, and the internets did not disappoint me. Tonight, I made this Robert Irvine dish for dinner. Just know that that picture is NOT of this dish. I'm not sure how it ended up on there. But this was a fabulous summer pasta! It tastes bright and light, and we both recommend it. Mal does not. He preferred mac and cheese and a doughnut. D is asleep and hasn't tried it.

We got a phone call today, informing us about the IRRRL associated with VA loans, which basically says that as long as you've made at least 6 payments on your mortgage, you can refinance at a lower rate. Our lender (not the original one, the one that bought it) is "absorbing" (read: bumping the interest up a little above baseline) the costs, so all we have to do is pay our escrow for the month's payment we'll "skip" as the new loan goes into effect.

Some neat things about the new loan:

1) It is a 29.5 year term. We were told we could do 30 years, but we plan to pay it off sooner, anyway, and didn't want to tack on an extra half year.
2) It is about .4% lower than our old loan, and the interest rate has held firm, so I'm guessing the only reason we can do it is that our credit scores no longer come into play (if you're new, there's this whole thing about not using credit, paying a card off each month, etc. that really counts against you).
3) Our monthly payments will only be $62 less a month, but even with that, $20 more per payment will go to principal than before. Also, that's $744 a year. If we kept the loan for 30 years (again, not our plan), it would save us almost $22,000! Yikes! INTEREST!
4) The "extra" in-our-pocket money from the skipped month's payment is going to purchase my very own birthday present from James!

Okay, so here's what it is...


I've had a ZTE Zmax for just over 2 years and I like it a lot. I can't update the OS, though, without rooting it (trying to accomplish that lately, but unsuccessfully), and so can't run some apps I'd like to utilize. Also, it's just a little too big. I love the "big" for watching videos, but I can't take a picture with one hand. I can't text with one hand. And I have a tablet now, rather than a bulky laptop, so video-watching on the fly is much easier now.

One cool thing about this new phone is that it's Daydream-ready, so if I ever want to do some VR, it can handle it.

But I LOVE the idea of Dolby stereo speakers! I like to listen to the radio, to podcasts, etc. and most phones just sound tinny. I'm excited to hear this one!

I had more stuff, but it will have to wait It's July 4 already, and I need to get some sleep! Happy holiday, friends!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

(part of) A Day With Mal

Has either of us ever mentioned that this kid has a lot of energy?

I'm not sure when he really woke up, but I know that he was out and about and going strong by 8:53 this morning.

Last week, they had last-minute wardrobe issues getting to church. So Laura rushed for them both to get ready this morning. I'm not sure how she juggles it: if she gets dressed first, he's going to do something to ruin her outfit. Or he'll ruin his if she gets him dressed too early.

The kid has some skillz when it comes to creating a mess. (I say this in my most approving father voice).

They were out the door at 10:03.

Laura had a meeting with her pastor to talk about joining this new church (which sounds awesome) after the service. So I started getting dressed to pick up Mal at 11:01. I got there around 11:27, so I got to see what she meant about the traffic at the mega-church next door.

There was one kid on the playground (apparently she's *great*...she's a youngest sister who loves the chance to play big sis) besides Mal. And the attendant (I'm an awful person for not remembering her name). was weird. You show up at a playground, your kid runs to the fence, and starts asking why you can't join him.

There wasn't any reason, but I flashed back to a dozen movies I've seen where this is the setup for an abduction sequence. So I made it a point to stay outside the fence until Laura showed up.

Mal was busily (and happily) rearranging construction cones in the meantime. Then he broke out a pogo stick to use as a jack hammer for digging up the road, which seems to be his latest favorite pasttime.

He did interrupt this to complain about a rock in his shoe. The ladies there jumped to help when I pointed out what he was complaining about (they didn't understand his mouth noises), but he dumped it out himself once someone acknowledged it.

Laura showed up, kissed me good-bye, and Mal had to show off this tractor tricycle toy thing they have for him to ride around on. It's pretty awesome.

Then he took me out to find the silver car. He wanted to wait around for Laura at first, but I explained to him that the two of us were going to play while she went to school.

This explanation made total sense to him, and he was cool with it.

I'm still digesting that fact. I know, intellectually, that he's almost three years old. But that still seems like a lot of abstract concepts for him to be dealing with.

Or maybe he just reacted to my "This is OK" body language. Either way, we headed back into the mega-church traffic without any more complaints.

Waze managed to steer us away from all that traffic. But it also took us pretty much straight to the tollway. I was heading up the on-ramp and got panicked about whether I'd really strapped Mal in or not [I had, but it was scary until I'd verified did I get this way?]

We took that to Home Depot. Pointing out construction equipment along the way. Mal seemed dubious at first. But then he saw the wheel barrows. And a couple of girls getting pushed around by some guy in a car-cart.

Mal really wanted a car-cart. So I suggested we go find one. And then he got lost in the sheer wonder.

I'm pretty sure the displays of electric drills were his favorites. But he kept asking me about other things, like augurs and sanders and table saws.

Then, as we were wandering down the fan/light aisle, he decided he wanted to look at the riding lawn mowers.

The more I think about this, the more impressed I get. That's a pretty serious abstract conceptual leap.

I pointed us over toward the garden center, and he found the mowers.

I'm not sure how much time we spent there. He went back and forth between exploring the mowers, extolling their virtues to everyone who walked past (no one seemed to appreciate it), crawling around on the floor to stare at the blades, and wandering the adjacent aisles to examine what might be worthy of a nearby spot.

He wasn't impressed with the chain saws, though I think the hedge trimmers were sufficiently intimidating.

We heard a chainsaw later, during the rain; I wonder if he made the connection when I made the same mouth noises (there was also an fire truck...he fastened on the siren).

And then he was done and wanted to head back to our car.

So I guided him that direction. We almost made it to the door before he spotted a giant sucker in the "buy this, you sucker" line. I got it for him, of course.

Actually, it seems worth mentioning that I paid cash and stuck the change in his pocket. Then he stuck the sucker in the same pocket, business part up.

It fell out, almost immediately. So I had him flip it over to keep it from flopping out.

It was still in the wrapper!

If he starts shoving half-eaten lollipops in his pant pockets, this is not my fault!

Well...maybe there's some genetic component there. But not because of this.

We got back to our car, and he wandered around it uncertainly for a bit. I think he wanted to see whether Laura would show up. I can't remember now whether I had to remind him that she was in school.

I do know that I managed to convince him that I was hungry and needed food. I probably growled and showed my teeth to convince him that I might eat him if I couldn't find something fresher and chubbier.

We almost moved on to Dos Salsas. I just didn't want to try to shepherd him there by myself. Although the food still sounds great.

After circling around their parking lot, we wound up at Dairy Queen.

Which, sadly for me and my gout, really doesn't have any vegetarian options.

So I grabbed a quarter pounder with something like "jilaquiles" and pepper jack cheese. And water. And a peanut buster parfait for afterward.

And I got Mal a kid's meal.

Before we ordered, I stepped into the men's room, and dragged him with me. Even though he was "a little worried" about the whole thing. I think he was mainly upset about the fact that the fact that the music was louder in there.

I did point out the Excelerator hand dryer and admit that it's loud. He had fun playing with the regular paper towel dispenser.

He ate some fries. With ketchup, because it's healthy. And salt. And we watched a lot of some silly Disney show.

He didn't like the Barq's rootbeer that I selected for him. It was too spicy.

He got a kick out of the ice cream sandwich. I think his kick was mostly digging the ice cream into his fingernails and smudging the sandwich part onto his fingers.

So we headed back to the bathroom to clean his hands off.

He was still a little scared.

This time, with a little reason.

There was a guy at the sink in front of us who moved on to using the Excelerator.

That part freaked Mal out a bit.

So I started herding him outside to use wet wipes to clean his hands that way instead.

On the way out the door, he noticed a little girl in a high chair. He totally went into predatory stalker mode with her, trying to get her to acknowledge him. Every time I apologized and tried to drag him away, her parents insisted that it was totally fine.

He never touched her, which was something. But...he just kept leaning in on top of her.

It was one of those "Dude, you can't treat ladies that way" kind of lessons.

So we left.

He listened to me (again!) about looking both ways before crossing the street. Then he barrelled across and tripped and planted on his knee.

It was a good road-rash scrape. Minor abrasion on the top layer, nice subcutaneous bleeding.

Laura and I had a good round of parental worry (after she'd bandaged him up) about trying to keep little boys from hurting themselves.

But, before we got there, I had to get him home.

He kept trying to go to sleep.

I probably should have just let him.

But I have this theory that I'll get to sleep earlier if he does. Or maybe that I'll sleep better if he goes to sleep earlier. Or something along those lines.

He kept trying to fall asleep on the way home. I tried to keep him awake.

He won, when he complained about how much it hurt when I poked him in his injured knee.

So he was crying when I put him in the car, he zoned out during the trip home, and then he cried when I pulled him out.

That sets us up for today's second half.

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Follow-Up on the Digital Drawing Pad

I needed to add one more thing, after my "breakup with Wacom" entry. You're not going to believe this. Really, you're not.

Literally the day I wrote that blog, Wacom finally had the cables in stock. I ordered two, just because, and honestly didn't expect them to get here... or not to work when they'd arrived.

But this isn't about them. This is about Artisul. 

And, for the record, the cables came in and they worked, so the upside to all of this is that D is working again.

Anyhoo, I'll just let you have a little look-see into my email:

From: Artisul US LLC <>
Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2017 10:11:56 PM
To: laura.gatannah
Subject: Your order has been shipped!

Dear Laura Gatannah,

Thank you for your order from! We wanted to let you know that your order (#3922) was shipped via UPS, UPS® Ground on 6/13/2017. You can track your package at any time using the link below.

::: Time lapse to a week later :::

Laura Gatannah
Jun 20, 7:15 AM PDT
Shipping on this hasn't updated. Can you give me an ETA?
Thanks, Laura
Get Outlook for Android

Agent Yellow (Artisul)
Jun 20, 10:08 AM PDT
Hi Laura,
Thank you for contacting us. This shipment was sent on the 13th, we are contacting UPS to investigate the whereabouts of this package. If the package is not found by Friday we will send out a second replacement. Apologize for the delay. Thank you.
Team Artisul

::: quick editor's note: This means "Whoops! We forgot to mail it out." :::

Laura Gatannah
Jun 21, 6:15 AM PDT
Thank you, but if the original shipment can't be tracked down, I'd prefer to cancel the order and receive a refund. I appreciate your assistance.

Agent Yellow (Artisul)
Jun 21, 10:15 AM PDT
Hi Laura, That's not a problem, I'll notify you again on Friday.
Thank you

Agent Yellow (Artisul)
Jun 22, 10:50 PM PDT
Hi Laura, Thank you for patiently waiting. We apologize for the missing order I have refunded the full payment back to your original payment method.
Thank you

::: end of emails :::

SERIOUSLY?! How difficult is it to 1) have your products in stock, and then 2) actually mail them out once someone orders them?!

Fortunately, they did refund my payment immediately.

But, goodness. It's like I'm being offensive to these companies because I expect them to operate in a functional way and to take my money in exchange for stuff. Craziness.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Slice of (Real) Life

Our weekend and beyond:

Saturday morning, Mal and I went to the park to meet a friend and play a while. It was getting HOT, but nice enough with a breeze and in the shade. By the time we got home at noonish, James was up and around and getting hungry. His idea was to head into town to pick up his med refill and find something to eat. 

Mal wasn't having it. He begged James to stay home, but in the end, James said he needed to get out. Mal was devastated. James asked, "Do you want to go with me?" Mal did! Mal had James put the carseat into the "red car" and they ended up at Taco Cabana.

Photo credit: James
They also went to Walgreen's and Eileen's Colossal Cookies, so it sounds like a cool day! Then when they got home, D wanted to get out with me, so we headed into Cedar Park. It was a nice time, even though of the three things we tried to do, none of them worked out exactly (one didn't work out twice), but D ended up with a new fidget spinner, so didn't walk away empty-handed.

We spent the evening playing with Mal in the back yard, fortunately after the sun was behind the trees and we could enjoy the shade. We've been here six months now, and I'm still captivated by our back yard.

Yesterday morning, Father's Day, I noticed an idyllic scene just as we were getting ready to head out to church: Mal was sitting in the big blue recliner with James, petting Aish. The cat usually jumps up whenever the toddler is around, but this time, she was being super chill. It was so cute that I grabbed my camera to memorialize this Father's Day moment.

And just as I did, Mal spilled the soda he was drinking, and realized that he wasn't going to be able to wear his beloved grey and blue shirt to church. So this is the moment I captured.

That's about as real as it gets, people. That's how our Father's Day started. A few minutes later, when Mal howled, "No, thank you!" about every option I offered as an alternative, I might have sworn a few times, angry at myself for "letting" him drink when he spills every single time, and frustrated that he'd been ready to leave more than half an hour early but I hadn't been... and wishing I had and that we could have just driven around. 

But, it all ended fine and we got on different clothes, went to church, then met James at Qdoba for lunch. Father's Day food is more challenging when your guy is avoiding meat in order to avoid a gout attack. He got their veggie bowl, and I got a tropical shrimp taco (seasonal) then realized I was probably being a jerk for eating something he can't. I also got about 1/4 of a cup of diet Mello Yello before the Freestyle machine ran out. D'oh!

After lunch, we walked over to PetSmart. We usually get our cat food through Amazon Subscribe and Save, but it's not a perfectly-timed game. Sometimes, we get food before the old stuff runs out. This time, it wasn't going to happen. Approaching the door, I noticed on a chalkboard outside that if you texted "summer" to their number, you'd get a coupon. The coupon was for $10 off of $40 (and, sadly, the cat food we get is $46 a bag there)... OR $40 off of $100. So we ended up getting two bags of cat food and a box of litter for the same price we would have gotten just the two bags of food with Amazon (which is $10 cheaper per bag of food than PetSmart, barring sales and special coupons like this). Woo hoo!

James took Mal home and I swung by Walmart to pick up our groceries -- By the way, if you haven't tried Walmart Grocery pickup, you totally should. Pick out what you need online, prices the same as in the store, and they shop and bring it out to your car for you. It keeps the best part of Walmart (prices) and does away with the worst part of Walmart (shopping at Walmart). If you decide to do this for the first time, please click here and save us both $10!

The rest of the day, we hung out and played with Mal, including playing in the back yard quite a bit in the late afternoon. Dangggg, it's hot. But Mal was comfy, naked, and even managed to slide a few times after we got him a "magic carpet" (beach towel). I don't love privacy fences, but given Mal's proclivity to nudity, right now it's probably for the best.

For dinner, I made James "chicken" and waffles, using veggie protein tenders instead of chicken. It was delicious, and I think that substituting so much of our meat with non-meat has made zero difference to the teen. I don't care much whether we have meat or not, but I was concerned that we wouldn't have anything D wanted to eat. Mal also ate two tenders and an entire waffle, which is kind of a lot for him to consume in one sitting.

Also, miraculously, every single waffle of this batch turned out perfectly. Maybe it's because I used some whole wheat? I'll let you know next time I try it again.

This morning, Mal announced bright and early (before 9) that he wanted to go play in a ball pit. There's a place I've been meaning to take him, anyway, as a substitute for his beloved My Gym, but we just hadn't made it yet. So I ran and put on some clothes, decided my Monday chore could wait until we returned, and went back to get Mal ready. At this point, his tune was, "No way! Mal's very tired!" Sigh.

I got my chores done (cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms) and by then, Mal was less tired and eager to go. He got dressed, and we went to Little Land. They're preparing to open one closer to us, and when they do, I think we'll buy a membership. Mal loved it, and they had so much to do! In addition to the "gymmy" stuff, they also had a "fine motor skills" area with trains, puzzles, dress-up, puppet show, and a tiny grand piano that Mal banged on for probably 80x longer than anyone in that room wanted him to play it.

Then it all fell apart when, after about an hour, Mal discovered the baby area, meant for kids 18 months and under. There were fun things there, including an even tinier baby piano. I made him get out of that area because he was bowling over this sweet little crawler, and he was destroyed. "I want the baby piano!" It was so sad, and he couldn't calm down, not even to go sit and get a snack and some water. He tried, but just erupted in tears again at the injustice of being denied the use of the baby piano. So we left. 

We needed to get some grocery staples, but I was starting to get hungry, so we went to Chick-fil-A. Mal went into the play area and was enjoying the other kids when it was reported that someone had peed in the play area, and they closed it down for like half an hour to clean and let the cleaner dry up. 

Most of the kids left during that time, but we ate lunch and waited. There were a couple of 8-ish-year-olds standing there when the guy was checking to make sure the cleaner was dry, and one of them said, "I'd clean up pee if they paid me a million dollars." Man, the job market is going to be a rude awakening to him.

Mal played a bit longer, then was ready to go. It had started raining when we were inside, so we got to get wet, which is so much better than just being sweltering in the sun.

We went to 365 by Whole Foods and, in addition to the staples, I got six mochi. They have them individually, buffet-style, so we are getting to sample black sesame, matcha green tea, strawberry, coffee, red bean, and mango.

And we got rained on even more. 

Oh! I was out of gas... literally OUT. I was planning to get some on the way home, and either the storm had messed up the railroad crossing on Whitestone or they were testing it. But whatever, the gate was down and lights were on, but there was no train. I was already cutting it close, so started to get nervous. Then the gates went up and the lights went out!

About three cars went through when the lights started up again. So this time, we waited a few minutes, while I debated whether it was better to leave car idling or turn it off and hope it restarted. Fortunately, we got to the gas station on time. 

So that's our weekend and today. Not too much excitement, just our everyday life. And twenty years from now, I might want to remember what it was like.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Let's Talk

Mal was slow to the verbal game, but now that he's off and running... He seriously cracks me up every day.

Today, he was having me be "the horse." Okay, sidebar story: "The horse" is actually a beautiful giant white pegasus puppet. When D was little, we bought it on Amazon (before Prime) for a friend's birthday. It had been like $65 but was on sale for $5. I used to have a limit of $7 on any birthday gifts for D's friends, and I always managed to come up with some cool stuff. Anyhoo, the pegasus didn't get to us until after Ansley's birthday party, and we'd gotten her something else, but D loved the pegasus, anyway, so we kept it. And now Mal loves it.


I was being "the horse" and Mal was showing her (Mal says she's a girl) around his room. He got to this toy boat he has for his (at this point theoretical) baths, and said, "Horsey, here's the door, and here's the steering wheel, and here are the stabilizers." Um, what? I'm pretty sure that's from Peppa Pig. And they're actually where you'd tie up to the dock, but I'm not correcting him.

Tonight, I defaced a $30+ pair of Hanna Andersson pajamas (I didn't pay full retail, though!) because Mal REALLY wanted to wear his "stars and Ms" PJs (Wonder Woman; look at the logo and think of it from his perspective, viewing it from above), but they're winter pajamas and we're looking at near-record heat from now until the earth ends, apparently. So I cut off the arms and the legs. It's not like he could have worn them this winter, anyway. He's growing like crazy.

Look at this! The picture on the left was a year ago today, and the one on the right was last Tuesday, I believe. Now, he has been wearing those shoes for a year, but they are almost too tight. The clothes he outgrew long ago.

Before James got home this evening, I put on makeup for the first time in a long time. He doesn't usually notice/care about that kind of thing, but I was feeling mehh and wanted to spruce up. A couple of hours later, we were all in Mal's room, James finishing up his dinner, when Mal came over to me to hug me and said, "Mommy, so beautiful! Wearing makeup!" Hey, at least one guy in this house notices.

He's a fun kid, and he likes to go out and do things, but he can also be a homebody. Several times, he'll ask to go somewhere (the pool, Nana and Pappy's, the library) and once we get all dressed and ready to go, he's on to his own other thing and acts affronted that I'd suggest we go anywhere.

Lately, he's taken to saying "I'm scared" when he doesn't want to do something. I have to be careful with this one, because I do want to be sensitive to any fear he has. But also, he says it about going places and doing things he loves.

He DOESN'T love taking baths, but today was the first time he's told me he was scared. That, I get. He thinks the water is too loud. So I'll need to start filling it up before he gets in. We need to do that tomorrow. He has dirt tracks down his legs. Seriously.

Although I don't think it's therapy-worthy, Mal definitely has some sensory quirks. He is weird about noises being "loud." HE is loud. Loud isn't what bothers him. It's unexpected or prolonged or something out of the ordinary that bothers him. He will often turn his tablet down so low there's no way he can hear the words. The "air kites" down by the lake make him nervous, and although they're likely loud if you're riding in them (paragliders with fans), they're by no means "loud" at our house.

Mal has this battery-operated "drill" that has been slowly winding down for weeks. Finally, Monday, it stopped working altogether, so I had to switch out the batteries. On and off for four hours, he cried about how it was "too loud! Make it quiet again!"

Also, if it's windy, he thinks it's cold and that we need jackets and hats and gloves and scarves. There's no convincing him that it's hot and windy. He will say "brrr" when the wind blows, even if it's 85 degrees and 75 percent humidity in the full sun.

So I try to pay attention to what he's actually experiencing and take it seriously as a mystery to be solved, because he's trying more and more to communicate how he wants things. It's exhausting but fun work!