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221 B Baker Street

Apr. 30th, 2014

08:47 am - Peace and Quiet

It used to be instant messaging that was cool.  Then LiveJournal was where it's at.  Next came Facebook, which I try mightily not to use because privacy doesn't exist.  Now I suppose it's texting, which I rarely use because I don't have a bazillion friends who want to talk to me all the time.  In a few more years that too will be passé, I suppose, replaced by the next new social thing.  It's exhausting, keeping up with social media!

xkcd Morse Code
Crossposted from

Dec. 18th, 2013

10:07 am - Christmas, cats, exams

We did a lot of Christmas last weekend: first the Children's Christmas Breakfast at the college.  Cheap food, Santa Claus, Christmasy.  It's fun for me because I know most of the employees that attend, and I get to see their kids each year and watch them grow up.  And most of the kids are dressed up for their photo with Santa so there are lot and lots of cute kids in cute Christmas outfits.  We dress ours up too, and ourselves, so we can do a "formal" family photo.  You can see this year's photo (and a lot more) here:  Scroll down to December 14.

Then Sunday we had an ornament exchange party.  The family who hosted it really does Christmas in a big way, which is impressive, but my wife described the decorating as, "Kris Kringle threw up".  Abigail managed to steal "her" ornament back, which made her happy.  Isaac took Ethan's ornament off our tree and dropped it on the heat register, where it smashed.  Fortunately Ethan doesn't attach very much to things like that.

We are not at all done with our Christmas shopping.  It would be easier if we didn't have so many birthdays to also think about: mine, then Abigail's (and Debbie's on January 5), so it's hard to focus on any one gift-giving occasion.  We did count them up yesterday to see how many/what else we need, and I think we're making better choice than in past years.  My wife has a habit of picking cutesy gifts that don't have much replay value.  Unfortunately toys with high replay also tend to be more expensive.

The cats are venturing out from under the couch more often, though generally only for short periods when people are about.  Jericho is a brave, curious cat who comes out frequently and examines everything.  I need to build him a shelf he can jump to, from which he can oversee life.  He enjoys being petted but usually doesn't stay still long enough to get much.  Lily is very shy and never comes out if there is activity, but will curl up on someone's lap for a long time if it's quiet and people are just sitting or lying on the couch.  Although they both clearly like the adults, they dash for cover if we happen to walk towards them.  They have to decide to come to us.

I took a practice Network+ exam yesterday and did terrible on it.  But I still have time to study.  It's frustrating to study for it: there are so many concepts, terms, and (especially) acronyms that I can't focus on any one area, less I ace that and bomb the rest.  Any one topic only gets one or two questions.  Basically you have to know everything well---which is the point of the certification, of course---but does make cramming hard. 
Crossposted from


Nov. 14th, 2013

07:34 am - Network+ Training

Ethan's tricycle got stolen a few weeks ago, so we found him another one last Saturday.  Had to drive a bit over an hour to get there, but buying it used is a lot cheaper than new.  Since we were there, we took the whole family along and went to a kid's science museum place.  All sorts of fun activities that taught science.  They were a little above our kids' heads, but they enjoyed the place, even Isaac.

I managed to get the house prepped for the winter, and a good thing too, because it snowed Tuesday and is still here.  Usually the first snow is not until December, and usually doesn't last through the following day.  I think this will be a cold, snowy winter.

I am taking a training class all week in networking (Network+).  It's online so I didn't have to travel.  Lots of it I already knew at a practical level but I'm learning lots of theory.  The acroynms are a bit much though: there's got to be well over a hundred total, maybe multiple hundreds.  Every service, protocol, and technology has one, and often each one has a couple of types, each of which is its own acronym.  It's going to take weeks of practice to memorize them all before I take the exam.  And, of course, many of them I will never need to know again.

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Sep. 19th, 2013

10:02 pm - Isaac at 18 Months, part 2

Yesterday was Isaac's second appointment at U of M.  This one was with a behavioral specialist, as there was some concern from the pediatrician back at his 12-month check up that he was behind (he wasn't saying many words or pulling himself up).  This appointment was easier on Isaac: no scary elevators, and no poking and prodding.  Lots of questions from three different medical professionals about his behavior, his eating habits, etc., and then finally a set of behavioral tests. 

He was handed a cup, upside down, and "passed" by immediately turning it right side up.  He put the blocks back in their can, found the car when it was covered with a washcloth, identified most of his body parts, handed objects back when requested, and could easily follow directions.  I was surprised when he was presented with a piggy bank and plastic coins: his fine motor control is good enough that he could put the coins in.  She told us we don't need to come back: his development is perfect, exactly where it should be.

So that was very relieving.  Always a good day when the doctor says you (or your child, in this case) are fine and don't need to come back.  Then on the way home we got a call from the endocrinologist that we saw last week: they checked his blood, and both his thyroid and his Vitamin D levels are fine.  So really, there is nothing wrong with him, though getting his weight up would be good.

We think that he lost weight around 12 months because Debbie was working, he stopped taking a bottle and we weren't encouraging baby food because of frequent constipation issues, so altogether he wasn't getting enough calories for a while.  Since then (after we got him on baby food), his weight is fairly stable but hasn't regained.  So we will encourage him to eat more and work on some high-calorie foods for him, and hopefully get his weight back up over the next few months.

Crossposted from


Sep. 16th, 2013

09:33 pm - Isaac at 18 Months

We took Isaac to the University of Michigan Medical Center on Friday, to see an endocrinologist.  Back story: when he was born, he was somewhere around the 50th percentile for height and weight.  Now, at about 18 months, he is in the 3rd percentile for height-weight ratio on the WHO charts.  That started around 12 mos: he hasn't been gaining weight as fast as he probably should be.  And developmentally, he may be a little behind: for instance, he just started walking a few weeks ago.  He's roughly a month to six weeks behind the average, but not for everything, just some things.

So our pediatrician referred us to the U of M, which is the biggest, most advanced hospital in this area.  Isaac was very good on the long car ride, but he didn't like the elevators (the "ding" per floor scared him), and he most certainly did not like the white coats.  But we had a good talk with the doctor, who treated us like responsible parents and not as though we were mistreating him.  She ordered some bloodwork so she can check on his thyroid and on his Vitamin D levels, both of which are apparently indicative of whether calories are being absorbed properly.

I have a hard time believing he has a problem: he seems perfectly fine to me, if on the small side.  But it is true that he is walking and talking later than his brother did, and I can't argue with the WHO charts.  Hopefully they will either discover a problem and find a solution, or discover that there is no problem and he's just small.


Jun. 27th, 2013

10:13 am - Remodeling, family, and reading

The bathroom floor is laid, and they did a really nice job.  Tomorrow, probably, my friend will have time to help me and we can put the toilet and sink back in, and rehang the door, and then our downstairs bathroom will be functional again.  It's only been out of order since March...  I'll still need to cut and paint and hang a lot of trim, but I can do that any time, and may wait until fall/winter to do that, since that's an inside project and I'd rather spend the summer days on outside projects.

Hopefully that next project will be the pea gravel in the backyard.  That'll be much better for the kids to play in, especially Isaac.  He is so nearly walking: probably by the end of July he will be walking.  So he needs a place where he can safely play outside.  He loves the outside: whenever we bring him inside, he screams and points at the door, very emphatically! 

Debbie is home six days a week now, working only on Wednesdays.  So far it's working out pretty well: I think the kids are generally happier with her home.  Isaac is at a difficult stage: he wants to do and go more than he can, and gets frustrated so that it's hard to know what he wants.  I don't think he even knows what he wants.  So he has been hard to deal with, and that's made for some hard days for her.  But I suppose they'd be even harder if we still had a babysitter.  The other kids went through this stage too, so we just have to be patient.  So much of child-rearing seems to be about patience... 

I found a list of "manly" fictional recommendations the other day, and started reading some of them.  Finding good reading is often difficult, as many of you know (being fellow bibliophiles).  I started with Gates of Fire, a retelling of the Spartans at Thermopylae. Apparently they read it at West Point, and now that I've read itt, they are right to do so.  The best part is the discussions of conquering fear: the Spartans were not presented as iron soldiers who had no fear, but rather as well-trained soldiers who have learned to control their fear.  I followed Gates of Fire with Pride and Prejudice, mostly because it was the next book in the list that the library had currently available.  But I don't recommend that order: very jarring to go from the rough Spartan world of 480 BC to the English ballrooms of 1812!  [personal profile] katharhino (and likely other readers) will probably be shocked to know that I had never read it before, thinking it was a girl's book.  Well, I had read a super-abridged version that had about 20 pages: I recall being confused about why Lydia eloped with Wickham.  Anyhow, I really enjoyed it.  The characters were well-developed: it's very difficult to make a true-to-life flawed character, and Austen succeeded in doing so with all of the main characters.  I've now moved from 1812 to about 1920, as I read The Maltese Falcon.  Now I know where the hard-boiled detective genre comes from!

Kid photos here!

Crossposted from

Jun. 3rd, 2013

03:32 pm - Summer projects

 We've been saving money since January to complete the fence around the entire house.  That would allow us to contain the kids and not have to worry about them getting too close to the road.  But we've decided not to do the fence: Debbie is going to be staying home full-time in another few weeks, and she thinks she can be outside with them enough that it won't be a problem.  I'm still uneasy with them being outside and not under immediate supervision, but it's true that they are very good about not going in the road.  And since she's the one who will be home, I guess if she's okay then I can be too.

So, we will use the saved money first to pay off my remaining college loans.  In a couple of days, after the cash transfers to our checking account, my college education will be paid.  Thirteen years after I graduated.  That's a ridiculously long time, though I know much longer payoff dates are not unusual.  My wife, who graduated several years before me, still has about $8000 to go.  Student loan debt is a crippling problem!  

But mine will be done, and removing that payment will make it possible for Debbie to stay home.  The remainder of the fence money will be used to put down the floor in the bathroom and, if there's any left, to cover the backyard (the fenced area) with pea gravel.  Almost the entire fenced yard is dominated by the walnut trees, which poison the ground such that it is just bare dirt now, with a few pathetic weeds.  When even the weeds are pathetic, you know growing groundcover is a losing proposition.  So we will cover it with pea gravel instead, which will make for a nice play area and will give us a place to put a picnic table, too.

That all has to wait for the bathroom remodel to be done, though.  I'm taking next week off and with luck I can finish my part.  Then we can call the floor people in and get the floor laid, and after that it should only take a few hours to get the toilet and sink and door replaced.  With that, it will be functional again.  Only taken about four months...
Crossposted from

03:23 pm - Striker's Passing

 Thank you all for the kind remarks about Striker.  We took him to the vet on May 24, two Fridays ago, and put him to sleep.  He died in my arms, just as I wanted.  That was a very hard day.  I am very sorry that he couldn't die naturally, but I don't regret it.  I was looking at videos from 2012 this weekend, and as late as last spring he was walking easily, so he went downhill more quickly than I appreciated at the time.  So I think it was the right thing to do.  We took him out to Debbie's parents' farm and buried him.  I miss having his company late at night and early in the morning, when I am downstairs and everyone else in bed.  And I miss him curling up on my feet.  And, we miss him cleaning up the dining room floor, especially now that we have a baby in a high chair!  

Abigail and Ethan did not even notice he was gone until late Saturday afternoon, when Abigail was making friends with the next-door neighbor girl, and came running in to ask me to bring Striker outside so her friend could meet him.  No easy way to let her down gently with that.  But we'd been warning them for several weeks that he was going to die soon, so they were not surprised.  Both were sad and cried a bit for several days (Abigail more than Ethan), but Abigail also immediately (within minutes) began campaigning for new pets.  She wants cats, preferably of the kitten variety.  I like cats and I would be fine with getting one or two, but I am a bit surprised that I strongly desire another dog, once I've gotten past Striker.  Apparently I am very much a dog person.  Though if we get more pets, that means we have to go through Friday again, ten or twelve years from now.
Crossposted from

May. 21st, 2013

11:44 am - Striker, my dog

 Striker is somewhere between 11 and 12 years old this year.  Last year he began having difficulty getting up, and the vet noticed that the nails on his left back leg were worn down (meaning it the paw was dragging).  On a long walk across town, he started limping, and by the time we were home there was blood in his paw prints.  The vet diagnosed arthritis in his lower spine, which is common in large dogs, and suggested we try some anti-inflammatory medication to bring down the swelling (and thus lessen pressure on the nerves, which is why he was losing control of his leg).  We tried the medicine, but it had no noticeable effect, and we don't have $4000 for surgery.

So life has gone on.  Five or six months ago we bought him a harness with a handle (thanks, Jess!) so we can help him up.  I took him on a few short walks with that, and it helped a lot, but he could still only go about a block.  The arthritis has now affected his right back leg too, although it's a little better than the left, but he can't get up unaided any more.  Even when he is up, he can't walk without help: his legs will just collapse.  We have to help him outside and hold him up while he relieves himself.  

His bowels are not as controlled as they once were: partly because he can't signal when he needs to go out any more, but also I think because it is much easier for him to stand, such as he can, on the carpet (where his paws won't slide) than outside.  Thus we've been having to do a lot more carpet cleaning than we used to do.

Mostly he just lays around the house now.  I don't think he is unhappy with that life, but it's pathetic to watch him: he drags himself around by his front paws when he wants to go somewhere, such as occasionally into the dining room to get scraps, or to follow me around (though he waits to see if I'm going to sit there for a while before he tries to follow me).  And I imagine he is probably in a lot of pain, though he doesn't act irritable: the vet said he could tell that his joints hurt last year, and since the symptoms are so much worse I imagine the pain is too.

I would much prefer that we wait until he dies naturally, but I think we have to put him down, and we will probably do that this week.  Only Abigail is old enough to be very affected, and I'm not sure how hard she will take it.  We've told them that Striker will die soon, one way or the other, and she is unhappy about that but it doesn't send her into hysterics.  We're hoping that we can bury him quietly on the family farm, and that she will accept that his time has come.
Crossposted from

Current Mood: sadsad

Apr. 15th, 2013

03:01 pm - Update


Last time I posted, we were looking for vinyl flooring and trying to get the walls painted.  Since then, we've found vinyl and painted the walls, and then decided that wasn't the right color, so it has to be painted again.  The painting, obviously, should happen before the floor goes in, so the a useable bathroom is waiting on the paint right now.  But I have so little time for remodeling that it's getting overwhelming.  We need to cut back on the number of things that we are doing, but we have to finish these things first.  We're going to try to arrange the evening schedule so that on Thursday and Friday nights I can put in at least two hours of work on the bathroom.  It'll still go slow, but better than nothing.


Ours are done and filed, but boy were they complicated this year.  First we lost Isaac's Social Security card very early, so that we didn't have his number on file anyway.  So before we could finish the taxes, we had to get a replacement card.  Next, I discovered that an in-house nanny is very different from a day-care provider (that uses her own house) for tax purposes: the nanny counts as an employee, so you're supposed to be paying unemployment taxes, withholding SS and Medicare, and income tax money.  None of which I knew until last week.  I think we are okay: we paid all those taxes now, but some of them are higher because they weren't paid quarterly.  We also had to apply for an EIN (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS, and then we couldn't e-file because the IRS didn't have the EIN in their database yet (even though they had already automatically issued it to us: clearly their two databases can't talk to each other).  Anyway, I managed to overcome all the obstacles and got our return in the mail Saturday.


Abigail got to be in a wedding yesterday: rather a redneck wedding, to be honest.  They called up the preacher Saturday night, and got the family in by Sunday afternoon.  Add some cheap wedding decorations and they walked down the aisle, preceded by six or seven little flower girls.  All but Abigail were nieces of the bride, and the family was nice enough to invite Abigail to participate, as she would otherwise have been the only little girl not involved.  

Ethan is such a hyperactive little boy!  I can see why it's easy to talk parents into giving their boys Ritalin, and Ethan's only normally active.  I'm glad spring is here so he can go outside regularly, or we'd never get him to go to sleep at night.  Later this spring we will be able to fence in the rest of our yard, which will give them more room for playing outside.  Still a small yard but better than the tiny fenced area they have now.

Isaac is a little sweetie, but we are a little worried about his development.  He's been on the small side (25th percentile by weight) all along, but the doctor was concerned Friday that he is not yet saying words, or pulling himself up (he does, but rarely), or waving, all of which babies can usually do by about 12 months: he turned 13 months on Friday.  The most likely explanation is that he isn't getting enough calories: until Friday, he was still nursing almost exclusively.  We had tried some baby food but it always seemed to lead immediately to constipation.  But the doctor suggested that we should first work on the eating and then deal with the constipation problem.  So he's had plenty of baby food over the weekend, and ate a lot of it.  He's been playing more and sleeping better (longer stretches), so hopefully he'll catch up soon.  We're giving him milk of magnesia and extra water to try to keep him regular: I never realized how important poop was (getting it out, that is), until I had kids.  Hopefully he eats well for our nanny this week, and can get his weight up by his two-week follow-up with the doctor.

Debbie feels very badly about this, and is worried that he is irretrievably behind now.  She feels like she should have noticed the problem earlier.  I seem to recall hearing stories of truly undernourished babies/kids, who are adopted into American families and then make a tremendous rebound, but still, she is worried.  And so am I.  She won't really relax until it's clear that he is developing normally again, so I hope that doesn't take long.

Crossposted from

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