kids and family 

2018.09.23On the Texas Life

I've decided to split out content related to our Texas move into it's own web form, and keep the family life content just focused on family events (funny things the kid says and so on).

The new Texas Life web form has content related to the move, the new house, settling in, and so forth. Please join us there for all things Texas... y'all.



Link to this

 

2018.09.08Rain, Rain, GO AWAY

For the third time this week, I'm actually pumping water out of my pool -- somewhat unconventionally -- because the rain has filled it to its maximum height.

The National Weather Service keeps extending their river flood warnings because the rain won't move out of the area.

We totally need the water, but this is too much, I'm afraid. We're having to add water to our pool weekly -- sometimes more than that -- during the hot summer weather. But really. Having to dump water OUT of it three times in a week??



Link to this

 

2018.09.04Family Update: Kiddo Got a Big Ol' Boot

One of my coworkers, who is very ways in the ways of volleyball, called it a "rite of passage."

Got a call from the school nurse this morning. This wasn't kiddo's previous "frequent flyer" kind of behavior: she rolled her ankle during this morning's practice.

Two hours and fifty bucks later, she's sporting a shiny new boot -- complete with air bladders to improve its fit. X-ray imagery shows no break, just a pretty fair sprain. Doc says she'll be showing off her new footwear (single) for the next couple of weeks.



Link to this

 

2018.08.18UPDATE: Family Update: Downward Dog

Papa passed quite quickly in May. And I say "quite quickly" in relation to a weekend as opposed to the many years of his full life. The lowlights of his disease were that he was on a relatively low-sloped decline until he experienced a trauma -- he fell and broke his collar bone -- which accelerated its progress dramatically. Over the next few months, words, around which he had modeled his life, would increasingly flee until he was saying few if any actual words at all. Dementia was for him a cruel and sinister irony.

Fast-forward to June. The dust has begun to settle for Yaya, who has determined she will stay in the house but look for opportunities to move to a smaller place in town. Kiddo has completed a very successful year in middle school. Bartlett, our older dog, has been slowing over the past couple of months; it's become obvious his hearing is significantly diminished, and his gait has slowed, but he still likes to romp and play with his kitties now and again. Laurel and I are preparing to move the family.

By early July, we're in at the new house. The cats came in the first trip in my small car; the dogs came in the second in the larger SUV. Laurel and I had been talking quite a bit about countermeasures for keeping the dogs from falling into the pool, but we first wanted to see how well they'd do with all of us outside with them on their first visit to the back yard.

The yard is mostly pool. The back door, at the north side of the yard, exits onto a patio which leads directly to the steps down into the kidney bean-shaped pool after about 20 feet. The pool was obviously made for relaxation or very gentle exercise; its maybe 5' deep at most. The absence of any sort of barrier between patio/yard and pool strongly suggests children were not part of the install equation. What grass there is is on the south side of the yard. Plenty there for small animals; one just has to guide them along the walkway between the house and the pool to get to it.

As I said, I've spent a few cycles on how to ensure the dogs' safety, with inputs from both Laurel and kiddo. But then the big moment arrived, when we could watch them in the yard for the first time and determine whether they -- chiefly, Bartlett -- could navigate the shoreline on his own.

We hadn't been outside for 30 seconds. I had only walked out a few feet -- far enough to deposit my towel before going into the water -- when I turned to see Bartlett standing at the bottom of the pool. He was out of the house for SECONDS and walked straight off the deck into the water. We viewed this as a prime indication of how poor his eyesight has become -- and wouldn't have believed it without this event.

I started this post talking about Papa for a reason. And here it is: I find there is stunning similarity between Papa's trajectory and Bartlett's. To be clear, I am certain Bartlett suffered from, essentially, dementia. Like Papa, Bartlett was on a slow decline until a trauma. For Bartlett, it was falling into the pool.

He was underwater for perhaps five seconds. Kiddo and Laurel were pulling him up within three. By the fifth second he was in our arms and being carried to the deck. We watched him pretty closely for a day -- he slept very, very soundly that first night. The following day he seemed a little slow. But by the end of two weeks, much about him had changed. His gait had become stiff and extremely slow. His steps were uncertain. He would stare at walls. He would yelp when touched from a direction he couldn't see. We'd consulted a local veterinarian who prescribed some medication to make him hungry again, and Laurel cooked some nice food for him to eat. But through the second week it was clear it wasn't having enough of an effect.

Laurel and I spent the past few nights wondering if he would wake the next day. I made the call to the vet's office on Friday. We were slated to put him to sleep at noon the following day (today).

This morning we saw even more evidence that we were doing the right thing: a liquid mess in the back yard which suggested stomach problems, and, as we walked him into the vet's office, urine that was alarmingly dark. Our boy was shutting down, and he knew it. When Laurel found him this morning, he was asleep in a corner of her office -- an unusual place for him. Laurel interpreted it as him going to a remote place to die.

Our new vet was beautiful. She had absolutely the right words for us; she knew we were grieving. It's... it's difficult to meet somebody when you've been "ugly crying." Laurel and I spent probably twenty minutes on the floor with our boy -- the first ten just laying with him and petting him; the second ten, doing the same, but lulling him to sleep after receiving the sedative. The doctor even kissed her palm and placed it on his head. She could tell were were both absolutely devastated at having to bring him in, and she made me feel like her heart really, really went out to us.

I don't know if the other animals have figured it out yet. The younger dog watched me completely dissolve into tears over Bartlett minutes before we left with him. But because Bartlett had been so sedentary over the past few days, I don't know if the pup (I say "pup," but he's like seven years old now) or the cats have done the math because he hadn't been moving from room to room as do the rest.

I'm particularly curious about how the pup will adjust. Pup isn't like Bartlett; he's not got the sense about him to be "one of the family." He's a dog through and through, nothing more. That doesn't mean Laurel doesn't love him to pieces --- she absolutely does. He just doesn't have that je ne se quois that transcends; that -ness that tells one very clearly he's some Gestalthund. What pup usually IS, though, is jealous: he got so unbelievably mad whenever we would separate Bartlett from him. It gave me the idea that he was certain Bartlett was getting to do something fun and he was stuck not getting to do whatever amazing thing Bartlett could. To be honest, he was right about that some of the time. Bartlett, for his part, absolutely hated being separated from his little buddy. He would yowl inconsolably when pup was gone for vet appointments and the like.

I hope Spirit Bartlett will visit him. Pup is such a nervous little dog.

 

UPDATE: Pup finally got the memo. It's taken a few weeks. Last week we had an awful lot of rain (for this area, anyway), and some thunder-bumpers were part of the package. We have a good product called Thunder Shirts to help keep them calm despite the commotion outside (they're good for fireworks, too!). Anyway, the Thunder Shirts' design is a little complicated, and it's not so easy to tell which shirt goes onto which dog. As the storm was approaching, Laurel placed one of the shirts onto pup, and figured out pretty quickly it was the wrong one (by size) -- but pup had already taken a big sniff of it, and the math was well underway. He sniffed at the fabric some more, and Laurel could see him recognize Bartlett's scent, then remember him, remember he was ill, and realize he's been gone for a little while. Pup became sad and sort of moped around the house for the day.

Pup has had a behavior late in Bartlett's days of hiding treats. Laurel would give them each a biscuit; Bartlett would drop it on the floor and forget about it, so Pup would later pick it up and eat it, or, as time went on, he'd hide it someplace where he knew Bartlett couldn't get at it. The hiding behavior became noticeable after we'd moved and Bartlett was in steep decline. Kiddo and I would find dog bones (the biscuits) under our pillows at night. Probably the best "hiding" job I saw was when he'd turned one of Laurel's flip-flops onto its side by a wall, and placed the biscuit behind it.

Since pup's epiphany last week, the hiding has stopped. We'd figured he was doing it in response to Bartlett's assertion of dominance through food control. Here we've at least circumstantial evidence to suggest that was the case.

Finally, I think other behaviors have changed in Bartlett's absence, and for the better. I sort of wonder if pup is actually happier without Bartlett, insofar as he no longer has to compete for attention; there's no reason for jealousy, much like there's no reason to hide biscuits. I know pup could display some amazing jealousy where Bartlett was concerned; he would bark his "mad bark" whenever Bartlett was allowed out front of the house and he was put in the back yard. With those days behind him now, I hope pup will feel happier and become a better friend to us all.



Link to this

 

2018.07.28Family Update: Downward Dog

Papa passed quite quickly in May. And I say "quite quickly" in relation to a weekend as opposed to the many years of his full life. The lowlights of his disease were that he was on a relatively low-sloped decline until he experienced a trauma -- he fell and broke his collar bone -- which accelerated its progress dramatically. Over the next few months, words, around which he had modeled his life, would increasingly flee until he was saying few if any actual words at all. Dementia was for him a cruel and sinister irony.

Fast-forward to June. The dust has begun to settle for Yaya, who has determined she will stay in the house but look for opportunities to move to a smaller place in town. Kiddo has completed a very successful year in middle school. Bartlett, our older dog, has been slowing over the past couple of months; it's become obvious his hearing is significantly diminished, and his gait has slowed, but he still likes to romp and play with his kitties now and again. Laurel and I are preparing to move the family.

By early July, we're in at the new house. The cats came in the first trip in my small car; the dogs came in the second in the larger SUV. Laurel and I had been talking quite a bit about countermeasures for keeping the dogs from falling into the pool, but we first wanted to see how well they'd do with all of us outside with them on their first visit to the back yard.

The yard is mostly pool. The back door, at the north side of the yard, exits onto a patio which leads directly to the steps down into the kidney bean-shaped pool after about 20 feet. The pool was obviously made for relaxation or very gentle exercise; its maybe 5' deep at most. The absence of any sort of barrier between patio/yard and pool strongly suggests children were not part of the install equation. What grass there is is on the south side of the yard. Plenty there for small animals; one just has to guide them along the walkway between the house and the pool to get to it.

As I said, I've spent a few cycles on how to ensure the dogs' safety, with inputs from both Laurel and kiddo. But then the big moment arrived, when we could watch them in the yard for the first time and determine whether they -- chiefly, Bartlett -- could navigate the shoreline on his own.

We hadn't been outside for 30 seconds. I had only walked out a few feet -- far enough to deposit my towel before going into the water -- when I turned to see Bartlett standing at the bottom of the pool. He was out of the house for SECONDS and walked straight off the deck into the water. We viewed this as a prime indication of how poor his eyesight has become -- and wouldn't have believed it without this event.

I started this post talking about Papa for a reason. And here it is: I find there is stunning similarity between Papa's trajectory and Bartlett's. To be clear, I am certain Bartlett suffered from, essentially, dementia. Like Papa, Bartlett was on a slow decline until a trauma. For Bartlett, it was falling into the pool.

He was underwater for perhaps five seconds. Kiddo and Laurel were pulling him up within three. By the fifth second he was in our arms and being carried to the deck. We watched him pretty closely for a day -- he slept very, very soundly that first night. The following day he seemed a little slow. But by the end of two weeks, much about him had changed. His gait had become stiff and extremely slow. His steps were uncertain. He would stare at walls. He would yelp when touched from a direction he couldn't see. We'd consulted a local veterinarian who prescribed some medication to make him hungry again, and Laurel cooked some nice food for him to eat. But through the second week it was clear it wasn't having enough of an effect.

Laurel and I spent the past few nights wondering if he would wake the next day. I made the call to the vet's office on Friday. We were slated to put him to sleep at noon the following day (today).

This morning we saw even more evidence that we were doing the right thing: a liquid mess in the back yard which suggested stomach problems, and, as we walked him into the vet's office, urine that was alarmingly dark. Our boy was shutting down, and he knew it. When Laurel found him this morning, he was asleep in a corner of her office -- an unusual place for him. Laurel interpreted it as him going to a remote place to die.

Our new vet was beautiful. She had absolutely the right words for us; she knew we were grieving. It's... it's difficult to meet somebody when you've been "ugly crying." Laurel and I spent probably twenty minutes on the floor with our boy -- the first ten just laying with him and petting him; the second ten, doing the same, but lulling him to sleep after receiving the sedative. The doctor even kissed her palm and placed it on his head. She could tell were were both absolutely devastated at having to bring him in, and she made me feel like her heart really, really went out to us.

I don't know if the other animals have figured it out yet. The younger dog watched me completely dissolve into tears over Bartlett minutes before we left with him. But because Bartlett had been so sedentary over the past few days, I don't know if the pup (I say "pup," but he's like seven years old now) or the cats have done the math because he hadn't been moving from room to room as do the rest.

I'm particularly curious about how the pup will adjust. Pup isn't like Bartlett; he's not got the sense about him to be "one of the family." He's a dog through and through, nothing more. That doesn't mean Laurel doesn't love him to pieces --- she absolutely does. He just doesn't have that je ne se quois that transcends; that -ness that tells one very clearly he's some Gestalthund. What pup usually IS, though, is jealous: he got so unbelievably mad whenever we would separate Bartlett from him. It gave me the idea that he was certain Bartlett was getting to do something fun and he was stuck not getting to do whatever amazing thing Bartlett could. To be honest, he was right about that some of the time. Bartlett, for his part, absolutely hated being separated from his little buddy. He would yowl inconsolably when pup was gone for vet appointments and the like.

I hope Spirit Bartlett will visit him. Pup is such a nervous little dog.



Link to this

 

2018.05.14Family Update

It's been an eventful few months, to say the least.

  • Papa: Papa passed a couple of weeks ago. The family has been reeling. It's one thing to know in your head that that one's time is short; but I find that knowledge doesn't really prepare one for the actual event. He passed with his family all around him, telling him it was okay to go.
  • Yaya: My heart breaks for her. Papa's now actually gone, not just apart. 51 years together. And here she is at 80, confronted by the loss of friends all around her (many are moving to care facilities or out of state to be closer to family for care) and by having to learn all sorts of things for herself that Papa always took care of -- this, coupled with her physical condition, is why staying in the house isn't a good option. She knows this, but is reluctant to move out and move on. At least now, once the dust settles from Papa's passing, she'll get a firm sense of what she'll be able to afford -- Papa's care prevented any sort of accuracy in forecasting.
  • Me: Six months ago we moved in with Yaya to prevent her from being alone over the winter (it wasn't the original plan). After a short contract with a company on the east coast, I've landed with a company in the south and will be moving my family down there in the short term.
  • Laurel: Her brain aneurysm was corrected in February, and is fully recovered from surgery. Last month, she completed her masters program, and now has an MSML -- a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. I couldn't be more proud. She's excited about the move -- she has her father's way of being excited about new opportunities and new things to do, and takes the bumps along the way in stride.
  • Kiddo: Has powered through her freshman year of middle school and the end is in sight. She's excited about the move too.



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2018.02.17Family Update: Laurel and the Brain Aneurysm

Overview

Four years ago, Laurel was diagnosed with a stable, unruptured, fusiform brain aneurysm on her middle cerebral artery (MCA) in the area above her right ear.

Procedures for removing aneurisms in the MCA are performed by choking the aneurysm off with a microsurgical clipping technique, performed via craniotomy, while most others can be treated using a coiling technique which is performed using a minimallly invasive endovascular method. The methods are significant to us because Laurel's aneurysm, being located on the MCA, makes it a poor candidate for use of the endovascular method.

I'm going to be updating this article day-by-day. Please check back often!

January 28, 2018

We are preparing for a trip to Florida tomorrow. We're not visiting Disney World or even going on vacation. And we're not bringing kiddo with us. It's a getaway for two... to the Mayo Clinic.

The Mayo Clinic was Laurel's choice of medical practice for taking care of her aneurysm.

I think it's fair to say the discovery is what really pushed Laurel to have the vertical gastric sleeve surgery in 2016. The resulting weight loss resolved a number of problems that would have added certain risk to the procedure we're preparing for in the coming week.

For my part, I am working very hard to convince myself that we are in the place we're meant to be in right now. Faith in that notion ought to relieve me of the stress I'm feeling.

January 30, 2018

The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville is comrpised of three interconnected buildings. One can walk from one building into another and never really know one had changed buildings. The Cannaday and Davis buildings contain clinics and administrivial functions, and they are on opposite sides of the Mayo Hospital building.

We arrived in Florida on Monday evening, and on spent most of Tuesday moving from clinic to clinic as directed, often repeating information we'd told the previous clinician. We started in the Cannaday building, where we met Laurel's physician and talked strategy.

We also found at the time that Mayo never received the image files from our local hospital. This, in part, is what put us on track to schedule a diagnostic cerebral angiogram.

The angiogram is essentially comprised of a probe, which gets inserted into the body, a dye, which gets injected into the body, and a large machine which captures images from the probe's point of view. At least, that's how I understand it. The angiogram was itself a surgical procedure, albeit a minor one.

UPDATE:
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and Jill a dull girl. We're in Florida for goodness sakes. We're looking to spend at least a little time in the sun. So earlier in the day we got a recommendation for a seafood place, and tonight we visited. I give you the Safe Harbor Seafood Company, right on the water.

Photo of the 
      enclosed deck at the Safe Harbor Seafood Company

The blackened Dolphin and blackened Trigger were outstanding. The conch fritters were a trip back in time for me.

January 31, 2018

We reported to the Mayo Hospital at 6 AM on Tuesday morning and, due to unforseen circumstances, didn't actually have the procedure until close to noon. The angiogram took about an hour and a half. It still ended up being a very long day.

We spent the evening just laying around watching TV and ordering in. We ordered from an American gastro pub and the food was awesome. Laurel got caught up on all the grease and carbs she'd been missing, and we slept pretty well.

Perhaps part of the reason we slept so well was the phone call we received from the neurosurgeon's nurse -- we were able to schedule the craniotomy for next Monday.

February 1, 2018

Today is Wednesday. We slept in until 9 AM -- even after having napped for a little while the preceeding evening. We've a consult scheduled with the neurosurgeon for early this afternoon.

The surgeon told us a little bit about the craniotomy, and the risks involved. The plan is for an incision behind the hairline beginning above the ear and extending upward toward the top of her head, then basically folding the skin forward to expose the bone. (My palms are getting sweaty as I type now.) There were two considerations he pointed out:

  • There is a network of nerves that seem to originate from the area of the ear and radiate forward to the face. Among these is a nearly invisible nerve which connects to the muscle used to raise the eyebrow. If the nerve crosses the "fold" of the skin, it is possible that the ability to exercise the eyebrow muscle may be temporarily retarded after the surgery. Think of it like what would happen if you were to fold a garden hose over onto itself.
  • There is a muscle attached to the skull called the temporalis which protrudes downwards from the skull and wraps around the jaw, at which point it's known as the masseter muscle.

    A cutaway image of the left side of the human skull, including the temoralis muscle
    Image credit: Duke University

    The neurosurgeon explained he would have to make a split in the temporalis to get to the bone beneath. A byproduct of the incision is some affect the act of chewing, probably until the muscle heals.

    There's also some concern about the split causing atrophy of the portion of the split closer to the face as a result of decreased blood flow, which could result in a minor disfiguration near and behind the zygomatic process, which is the portion of the skull at your temples. The neurosurgeon characterized this as happening to most, but cosmetically noticeable in some.

    an image of the front of the human skull, with names of various features
    Image credit: Wikipedia
We'll likely ask more questions about things when we meet later this afternoon.

A note on yesterday's angiogram: Laurel doesn't seem to be experiencing any discomfort today. The incision site (I guess I'll call it that) looks good, and only minor bruising is starting to appear. She was good last night, staying off of her feet and letting me handle picking things up off of the floor. She hates not being able to do for herself, but she's a good patient.

UPDATE:
It's later in the evening. Our appointment with the neurosurgeon ran very late -- we didn't actually talk with him until over an hour after our appointment time. During our visit, he answered every question we threw at him, but we came away with a very nice (??) overview of what will be involved with the procedure on Monday.

One other thing we learned was why the CT scans from our local hospital are still important to him: CT scans offer context the angiograms don't. Put another way, the angiograms highlighted the MCA and the aneurysm, but blacked out everything else. The benefit of the CT scans, even though they're less precise, is that they show the MCA and the aneurysm in relation to everything else - the bone, muscle, and other tissues beneath and above.

The neurosurgeon is considering ordering a CT angiogram (CTA) in case the local hospital doesn't come through with the scans they did last August. A CTA differs from a standard CT scan in that the scan includes the injection of a dye to increase the definition of veins and arteries in the image.

The surgeon described Laurel's procedure as a right pterional craniotomy. Google it at your own risk. Also, Laurel's aneurysm is located on her MCA at a position roughly equal to the Sylvian fissure, which is the boundary separating the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. This is a huge bonus for us, because it means no navigation will be required inside the brain.

One of the things that will happen at the close of the procedure is that they will inject a fluorescent dye into Laurel and monitor her circulation to ensure the clip is stable and that they didn't adversely affect anything else. I likened it to when automotive technicians added a fluorescent dye to the gas in my car, then went under the hood with a black light to look for compromised seals.

Finally, there's an additional side effect to the procedure. Laurel may experience some temporary swelling in her right eye as a result of a pooling of fluids. The swelling will go down.

At this point, we're in vacation mode until Monday morning at 6:30 unless the surgeon orders the CTA; and the surgeon ordering the CTA means they were unable to get the imagery from our hospital at home.

February 2, 2018

Slept in again. We were up late, having driven down to St. Augustine for dinner with friends at the Gypsy Cab Co.

Today is about administrivia: extending the hotel and car reservations and so on, plus picking up a few odds and ends at the grocery store: our coffee creamer supply is critically low.

It's nearly noon, and we've not heard from the clinic. This seems to suggest they received the imagery they were looking for, and didn't order the CTA.

We don't have any big plans for the day.

P.S. - if you've ever questioned the value of the trip insurance offered by the airlines, here's a tip: Laurel bought the trip insurance for this trip, anticipating (correctly) the chance things might not go as originally planned at the hospital. The trip insurance will reimburse us for all costs related to our extended stay. After burning through all of the hotel rewards points I had left, the extended reservation still cost over $2,000. Add to that the cost of food, rental car, and so forth... it's significant.

UPDATE:
We drove to St. John's Town Square this afternoon. I got a great photo of Laurel reclining for a pedicure with a mimosa. Dinner tonight at J. Alexander's. The paneed hake (rhymes with "make") with lemon butter crab sauce was insanely good.

After dinner we walked around the square and did a little browsing.

And our creamer shortage has been resolved.

One last thing for tonight -- I went down to stick my feet in the hot tub for a few minutes and came upon a guy drunk on Bud Light who was really touched by the notion that the hotel caters to Mayo Clinic patients. I made the mistake of mentioning Laurel's impending procedure and he offered (several times) to give me his phone number so I could call him on Monday if I wanted to talk. His advice to me was to stay positive and "move on," by which I think he meant to just take things as they come and not to dwell on them. He may have been completely wasted on cheap beer, but that doesn't mean the advice was bad. I thanked him by calling and asking the front desk to look in on him when I got up to our room -- I didn't want him alone in or near that hot tub in the condition he was in.

February 3, 2018

The drunk guy from last night was at the hot tub again this morning when we came down for breakfast.

We ended up driving back to the airport to swap rental cars. Our first one was a Dodge Journey, a small SUV. It was a brand new car, but the infotainment center was rather bizarre and it had no back-up camera... it's surprising how much we've come to depend on those things. Our new rental is a Ford Explorer with navigation and a back-up camera. I guess the iPhone interfaces with the infotainment system via an app that has to be downloaded and installed.

All cleaned up and pretty again, we'll be heading out for some lunch at either Taziki's or PDQ, then we'll head east to see the beaches -- it may be 60° and overcast, but hey, it's not snowing.

We're now on what we'd call the second leg of our trip -- that is, we've reached the point where our original reservations have expired and extensions or new reservations have taken over. It's why we drove the original rental car back to the airport this morning to exchange it for another.

This afternoon we drove out to Jacksonville Beach. It was probably about the worst day we could have visited: cloudy and super windy.

Photo of Neptune Beach
      in Jacksonvile Beach, Florida.

We spent maybe 20 minutes walking along the beach and immediately sought out a coffee shop to warm up. (We found a Starbucks a few blocks away.)

February 4, 2018

Super Bowl Sunday started out with rain, although it's warmer than yesterday -- it's 66° as of 10:30 EST.

We're planning to hit up a shop or two today -- scarves for Laurel to wear around her head post-surgery, and I'm in need of some better footwear (I've been walking about in my slip-on Chucks -- great for airport security lines; not so great for all the walking we've been doing).

We'll figure out what time the game is on and order in. I'm certain today is like Black Friday for pizza shops.

I've been noticing that Laurel has been spending a lot of time surfing Jacksonville real estate. Today we spent the afternoon walking through model homes in two separate real estate developments. She wore me out. But we saw two models that were laid out really, really well.

So in preparation for the Super Bowl, we ordered a deep dish pizza from a local place named Siena's Italian Cuisine -- we opened the heavy box to something resembling a cheese wheel. They provided a marinara sauce to go over the top. Wow was it good!!

We tuned into only the last couple of minutes of the Super Bowl. I had been following along via intermittent queries to Siri while Laurel watched every episode of Worst Cooks in America -- it's funny how every television we own or watch for an extended period seems capable of only receiving the Food Network and the Travel Channel. Anyway, we caught the last couple of minutes when it was looking like the Eagles might actually pull it out... I'm glad Philadelphia is bringing home the Lombardi Trophy, and that the Patriots seemed professional and gracious about the loss.

February 5, 2018

5:15 came awfully early this morning, following an uncomfortable night before surgery. Laurel was wheeled into the O.R. at 8:30 AM on the dot, with a little pain medication in advance to help with anxiety. It seemed like the decision and all it entailed suddenly left the realm of academic exercise in the five minutes before she left. And in a way, I'm very grateful -- I had been the one doing all of the crying up to this point.

I'm crying because they're cutting my beautiful baby's head open. I know they're doing a good thing -- although I still can't quite let go of how close the call was between operating and leaving it alone. When it's over she's going to have screws and fancy washers holding a baseball-sized piece of skull in place, and her face will have been peeled back and sewn back together. She will be bruised and swollen and scarred, and we've been told about the weird noises she'll hear from the air that got let in. Nobody wants any of this for a loved one. The notion of this is making me cry now -- how will I ever keep it all together when I see her this afternoon?

I'm back at the hotel now. I've eaten, had a little coffee, and have the A/C working a little overtime to make up for whatever got changed yesterday -- the room temp was part of the reason sleep was evasive at times. I'm going back to bed now to try to catch up on some of the sleep I lost earlier.

UPDATE 1:
12:30 PM EST. No word yet from the hospital, but that's to be expected. After making the previous entry I texted a few of Laurel's friends directly and took a nap for a little while. Just got up and made a little food. I figure I'll get cleaned up and head back to the hospital in a little bit. 1:30 PM EST will mark five hours.

I anticipate the next word I'll hear is that she's out of surgery. I think their practice is they take her back to ICU and do a few things (basically, this is recovery) before I'm invited back to see her -- so I won't get to see her right away once she's out of surgery. BTW, recovery in ICU is standard operating procedure (forgive the unintentional pun) for craniotomy patients.

UPDATE 2:
12:54 PM EST: I just got a call from the hospital. The news is, "Things are going well," and that the surgeon "is currently working under the microscope."

As with many things about this trip, the message was a little vague. I guess the second sentence means they've begun work on the aneurysm. The poor volunteer who phoned me is a guy sitting at a desk someplace -- he's got no direct knowledge, so... *shrug*

I really liked the first sentence, though.

UPDATE 3:
2:39 PM EST: Hospital reports "the aneurysm has been clipped and secured." We're now at hour six of the procedure; I assume this report means they're testing and getting ready to close. Next call I receive from the hospital should be the neurosurgeon.

UPDATE 4:
3:40 PM EST: Neurosurgeon reports surgery went well; ran long because the aneurysm was nestled up against the frontal lobe, so extra time was taken to maneuver in to isolate the aneurysm. Two clamps were used to cut off the blood flow, and her vitals were constant and good throughout.

I was STILL on the phone updating everybody when I got the next call...

UPDATE 5:
5:20 PM EST: Laurel is out of recovery and ready for me to come visit!

UPDATE 6:
9:00 PM EST: Laurel is resting comfortably for the moment. She’s got all of the symptoms we were told to expect—- headache, pain in the jaw muscles on the right side, and pain probably from swelling behind the right eye — but nothing more (apart from a touch of nausea, which is common in craniotomy patients). Pain management has made her sleepy.

And I am thankful.

She was a little bit of a jerk when I got there -- she demanded her lip balm and then basically told me to shut up when talking to the nurse a few minutes later... so I sat quietly for a few minutes until she asked for me again. I sat with her there for a few hours, in the dark, feeding her crushed ice as she'd ask for it.

She looks good -- as good as a woman whose head is wrapped in a bandage can, I guess. Her right eye looked a leeeetle droopy, but I'm not sure if that's just the effect of the bandage or not. No bruising or swelling that I could see, but it's possible those may set in overnight.

Drove back to the hotel, made myself a bite to eat. Started considering this evening's entertainment options as I was typing. I could write some code, but I think I might hafta sugar up to do it. Maybe I'll browse some new books on my Kindle or just surf the Chive for a little while... I could use some funny.

UPDATE 7:
11:50 PM EST: Ended up playing a few hands of solitaire and watching the latter half of Doctor Strange. The hospital scenes read differently now.

Tomorrow I plan to sleep in, shower, eat, and head back to the ICU. Perhaps I'll bring the laptop along and bang out some code.

February 6, 2018

12:30 PM EST: Laurel is recovering well. She's eating, drinking, walking, and using the restroom with assistance. Pain management still keeps her sleepy. Some bruising happening on the right side of her face; her jaw is still sore, and she still has that headache. By all indications, her recovery is progressing very well. She's already had an IV removed, and she'll get her bandage taken off this afternoon. Apparently the hospital has a fun selection of hats from which she may choose... she's looking forward to it.

She was moved out of ICU and into a room on a different floor late this morning. She's sleeping again now. Lunch today is a mango smoothie with protein powder added, and chocolate pudding. Her choice.

I didn't exactly sleep in this morning, but basically everything else went according to plan.

So far today I got to speak Russian and Tagalog in addition to English. Such a win.

Yesterday was pretty frenzied with constant updates -- basically every call I got from the hospital became about an hour of some combination of calls, writing update texts, an update post to Facebook, and updating the site. I took the call from the surgeon while I was in the car, and pulled off of the street. I sat there for an hour. I expect that updates will be far less frequent from today forward -- particularly the urgent messages and calls. I'll still respond to queries as I can.

UPDATE 1:
1:35 PM EST: Bruising is really becoming noticeable around her right eye. She's been asleep for about the past 45 minutes. I've been silently working through 4 oz. of steamed broccoli for most of that time.

UPDATE 2:
10:40 PM EST: Laurel's bandage was removed late this afternoon -- at least, most of it was. Beneath the bandage is a... honestly, I don't know what this thing is. I would have expected it to be gauze... it's where gauze would go over the sutures, along the seam where the skin was cut. Only it's not gauze. It might be a pad from a 3M Tegaderm dressing, but with the transparent adhesive removed from around it.

When the bandage was removed, Laurel complained of her hair being "matted" in the back. As best as I can tell, perhaps a drop of glue fell on the back of her head. So, doing the math (read: I'm completely reaching here), perhaps whatever that long strip is was actually glued over the shorn skin. I heard the nurse mention that someone was going to remove the remainder of the dressing tomorrow, and to shampoo her hair.

I had been worried about the reveal... worried about how I would respond. I snapped a couple of photos for Laurel to see and she wasn't exactly elated with her current look. But I'm following Phillip's advice, and just "[being] positive and moving [forward]."

Thank you, Phillip.

February 7, 2018

Got in a little late this morning, wrangling coffee and iced tea as ordered.

I struggled into the room to find Laurel awake and without the remaining dressing. A short while later she was escorted into the shower.

When we left last night, we'd requested a different anti-nausea medication that Laurel knew worked well for her. Sometime in the night it must have been authorized, and I was overjoyed to see her eating applesauce this morning.

A nurse came by a few minutes ago and mentioned there's talk of releasing her today. Personally, I think I'd rather she stay through to Thursday. She's barely eaten in the past couple of days, and at this point she's eating applesauce. I guess I'd prefer she have a little more nutrition under her belt before we head for the hotel.

She's sleeping again. I'm sure the shower really took it out of her.

UPDATE:
3:30 PM EST: Lots of sleeping happening, but in the breaks she's using the toilet, and going for walks.

I need to do a little bit of grocery shopping this afternoon, because I'm running on low on supplies at the hotel. I'll probably take off in about 45 minutes to do that -- hopefully by doing so I'll avoid the rush hour mess on San Pablo and Beach Boulevard. I'll grab some dinner in the room while I'm out and come back for a while this evening.

February 9, 2018

Laurel was discharged from the hospital yesterday. She ate some dinner last night and ate some breakfast this morning. She has three medications -- one of which is for the prevention of seizures (another standard operating procedure for craniotomy patients). Her other prescriptions (pain and anti- nausea) are further fortified with Tylenol and Advil.

Her swelling continues to decrease -- she noted this morning that the FaceID on her iPhone is working again. She's still got a headache of course, though it's not as bad as it was.

February 11, 2018

Laurel's swelling is just about gone -- her jaw and cheek are still a tiny bit swollen, and she's still got some color in the area of her temple and right eye.

She had a very active day yeterday. We stepped out of the room for a while and did a little shopping (she drove a motorized cart), and we went out for sushi last night. The roll made her stretch her mouth a bit, and her jaw is sore today (oops). We also stayed up late last night watching the olympics.

Also, she didn't nap yesterday. She finds she's a touch tired today.

Chick-Fil-A's sriracha sauce is not my friend.

February 12, 2018

Last night we went to another spectacular seafood restaurant. Marker 32 served a Mahi Hoppin' John with a beautiful basily flavor that sent me into orbit. The black-eyed peas and rice were a bit heavy - almost mealy - and weighed down the dish enough that I could only eat half. The basil was the perfect introduction for the marinara atop the fish. It was crazy good.

A neighboring table remarked that Marker 32 is known to be second only to Safe Harbor Seafood for the quality of their seafood -- and that's because Safe Harbor actually fishes for the food they serve. Looks like we've covered all the bases here!

More importantly, Laurel looked beautiful at dinner. She's got her curly hair arranged around a bandana, and any remaining swelling is imperceptable without careful study.

She completes her anti-seizure medication tonight (she never had a seizure), and she'll have her staples removed on Thursday. At one point yesterday she logged into her work computer and spent some time catching up with one of her peers. I slipped out for a sorely needed shave... two weeks away from my clippers did me no favors. We had a little down-time yesterday afternoon, laying on the bed and watching women's olympic ice hockey (USA beat Finland).

So far today, she's playing on her XBOX. I interpret this as a huge step, because gaming tends to create elevated mental activity. I admit I'm curious to see how long she'll play and how she'll feel when she stops.

February 14, 2018

Laurel continues to improve, though I have noticed she's got some bruising on her throat now, probably from her intubation during the procedure.

Her use of the medication has been declining. We talked about it a bit, and I learned that she's moving away from prophylactic use and toward management-as-needed. I've been meticulously logging her consumption of both the pain and nausea meds as well as her supplementary OTC meds, and all have been in decline over the past two days. She was typically using one of the OTC's at about 90 minutes after her prescription meds; those times have been slipping to two hours and beyond. She's actually run out of the nausea med, but she's getting it refilled.

Last night we had another new dining experience: TacoLu is located just over the bridge toward Jacksonville Beach. They're a casual, Day of the Dead-themed taco joint and bar. Their "$10 Taco" is made with Filet Mignon, but it doesn't hold a candle to The Carne Royale.

Today, Laurel is out getting some "face time" with a beautician while I hang back in the hotel room to have an interview with a prospective employer -- my second in two days!

February 16, 2018

Laurel got her staples out yesterday afternoon.


Afterward, we went out to celebrate. Dinner was at Pusser's Bar and Grille at Ponta Vedra Beach. I couldn't have been more excited about this -- during my service to our country I was lucky enough to participate in the time-honored British naval tradition of splicing the mainbrace. The restaurant even had a rum tub under glass:




Today was our big day for heading out to the beach. And the weather didn't disappoint.




We're finally coming home tomorrow. We spent this evening in the room having Chinese take-out, doing laundry and packing our bags. We can't wait to rejoin the rest of our family!

February 17, 2018: Home Again

After a long day of travel, we made it back home at about 10 PM. The longest part was about four hours on the aircraft taking us from Dulles: Bad weather was moving in, and we sat in the plane for about an hour and a half before we went anywhere. But we did okay, and got home safe.

We were welcomed home with a small banner hanging in our bedroom and another by the back door -- both painted by kiddo. When I got in the door she gave me the biggest hug ever and wouldn't let me go. I won't soon forget it.



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2018.01.28Family Update: Terry Charch

Papa continues in decline at the rest home. His weight is down significantly, but appears to be doing very well physically, and eats everything put in front of him. Mentally, though, his transition continues. He's still verbal, but has joined the club of residents clutching dolls and stuffed animals. It seems he is projecting memories of his infant children or grandchilden onto them -- I suppose they're all doing that. Over the past few visits, he's been cooing to one of these community objects. He introduced us to a teddy bear today, which he named "Terry Charch."



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2017.12.11Soldiering On at Christmas

Clipart image of a Christmas tree

It's nearly mid-December, and that means decorating for Christmas. Yesterday we put up our Christmas tree, and decorated it using mom's family ornaments.

I'd have to imagine all of these ornaments are dear to Laurel and mom -- they represent memories going back at least to Laurel's childhood. Decorating the tree without Papa this year must have been very hard on her.

It was at Christmastime last year that Papa fell. The trauma significantly accelerated the spread and severity of his dementia, prompting us to place him in full-time care.

Mom didn't participate in decorating the tree. I suspect she made herself busy cooking dinner. I'm sure that unpacking and hanging those ornaments would have been pretty rough on Mom.

For my part, I was free of the significance of the decorations, but I absolutely understood that Laurel was not. And I thought she was very brave.



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2017.12.09Season of Giving

Kindness is giving hope to those who think they are all alone in this world. Credit: randomactsofkindness.org

A man came to our door this morning and asked for my mother in law by name. Once he verified her identity, he delivered basically all of the food one would require to make a standard Christmas turkey dinner -- including tons of canned goods, a sack of potatoes, and of course, a frozen turkey. He also gave her a board game -- something meant for kids to play together to pass the time.

We are all just completely blown away by the gesture. From what we can tell, this act of kindness originated from a neighborhood church. Since mom was asked for by name, we must assume some members of the church -- probably neighbors -- were aware of the rough year particularly she has had, and wanted to do something nice for her for the holiday season. Going with the thought the benefactor is a neighbor, he or she has likely seen that we've moved in with her -- a couple with a kid -- and perhaps that became the basis for the donation of such a copious amount of food and the game.

I can't thank these people enough for their generosity, though I'm left with a thought: Perhaps whomever does the shopping for these lovely gestures might put more thought into the board games they're giving to families down on their luck:

Sorry!


We're grateful for all of these blessings. But maybe games like "Sorry!" 1  and "Life" 2 could send an unintended message?



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2017.11.23On Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving

Image of a classic Thanksgiving card. Image credit: stufffundieslike.net

First, I need to get something off of my chest: I have never been one for the "let's go around the table and say what we're thankful for" kind of thing at Thanksgiving, because I feel its an act of performance.

Being thankful -- and the things, people, events that people are thankful for -- should be a private matter. Making one list these items only invites trouble, because "obligations" tend to intrude. Thoughts like, "I'd better say I'm thankful that lush Uncle Jerry and tightwad Aunt Margaret made the trip, because I'm seated right across from them."

I like my thankfulness unrehearsed and uncoerced. I don't want social pressure to inform what I should or shouldn't say. Every time I've been made to do this, I've tried to assemble my words as the people before me were taking their turns. That's what makes this such an awful exercise.

I've spent the last few months not feeling very thankful. I lost a job that I really loved; I lost a house and a neighborhood I really loved. Selling the house ate through all of the savings I had left, and now I have a massive tax bill because of the penalties. I was without work for two months. All of this shattered my confidence and made me feel "less than," despite none of it being my fault. My exercise and diet routine was shot completely to bits -- through a combination of change in routine, losing my motivation, and stress. No, I'm not thankful for any of that. At least, not yet.

Here's what I am thankful for: Through all of that amazing awfulness, my wife and daughter and their love have kept my spirits fairly buoyant, along with the friendship of others. I'm thankful for a new employer who was willing to work with me to help me get back on my feet, and I've been showing them a wealth of gratitude. I'm thankful I was able to save my mother in law's life -- that's hard for me to write -- and I'm thankful we're all getting along in this tiny house. I'm thankful our daughter is doing so well in school, and of how proud she makes me. I'm thankful for new friendships in unlikely places, and new pursuits. I'm thankful I can cook for my family and still talk to my mother. I'm thankful mom sold her place and moved into a care facility. I'm thankful for guidance and for new experiences. No, my life is not what it was, but I feel like I'm on the mend -- and I'm very thankful for that.

I'm saying that, even in hard times, we can probably find things to be thankful for. There's a lot about my life that has absolutely had me down over the past couple of months. Someone once said, "it's not how many times you get knocked down that counts. It's how many times you get back up." These days, it's not hard to find somebody who has things worse than you do. That exercise in itself is a measure of thankfulness.

A year ago this week, the neighborhood got together and spent a couple of hours packing boxes and bags of food for people in need in our community. I need to make time to do that more often. Because it's one thing to be thankful for the blessings in your life. But to BE a blessing in someone else's life is another thing entirely.



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2017.10.17Cultural Inventions

Image of a classic American version of Santa Claus. Image credit: Wikipedia

Kiddo has been advancing in so many ways this school year -- academically, she's taken off like a rocket, with A's in three of her classes. We've seen some indications of her success when she's talked to us about the things she's learning. The important differentiator here is that she's LEARNING the material, and she's reaching out and getting help with material that gives her trouble.

She's also advancing socially -- making friends, hanging out with them (a group!), and navigating around the pitfalls of middle school social networking.

She's also becoming more technologically aware by having responsibility for a laptop and using it to complete assignments.

So I'm having trouble understanding how, in the midst of all of these advancements, she still believes in Santa and the Tooth Fairy?

I think it's our fault, as her parents. Because we've done so well in perpetuating those myths that she's a wholesale believer despite the pace at which everything else in her life is maturing.

Santa Claus

In a previous life, Laurel worked for a local economic development agency. Part of her responsibilities as Director of Events was to organize every last detail of seasonal parades. As you can imagine, she got to know a lot of people and civic organizations pretty well -- including the man who was hired to play Santa in the Christmas parade.

It was the holiday season (prior to Christmas) and kiddo was four when she and Laurel were at the mall doing some shopping. Laurel's Santa normally didn't work the mall, but he was there on this occasion and walking toward the break room when he spied Laurel and Kiddo. He spoke up and greeted Laurel by name, and blew. Kiddo's. Mind.

I don't know if Santa ever realized the great gift he'd given Laurel that day. His greeting sparked a conversation between Kiddo and Laurel that somehow culminated in Kiddo becoming absolutely convinced that Santa was always watching, that mommy had a DEMONSTRATED direct connection to Santa, and that she could email him at any time for any reason. (E-mailing Santa was a device of kiddo's design, by the way -- one night, Laurel was up late doing some work, which included sending some e-mails. Kiddo, still awake in her bedroom, asked her if she was e-mailing (*insert dramatic pause*) Santa -- perhaps she was afraid she'd make the naughty list for not being asleep yet!) This gave rise to more conversations than I could count that ended up with Laurel asking, "Do you want me to e-mail Santa?"

Portable North Pole

At about the same time, Laurel caught onto an absolute GEM of a gimmick: The Portable North Pole console. It's a service -- that still exists today -- whereby you can enter your child's name and upload a couple of photos, and Santa will send special video messages for you and your child. You could use these videos as a corrective device, by entering in the form that your child has been naughty and selecting a reason why -- the video will then show Santa finding your kid on his naughty list and encouring him or her to improve before Christmas. Your child is "identified" by his or her book -- Santa has a book for every child -- and the photos you send in appear in the "book." I recall uploading photos of Kiddo's room (we didn't upload photos of Kiddo; we uploaded images of things familiar to kiddo instead), and seeing her just EXPLODE when she saw a pic of her room in Santa's book. You could even add the names of your child's friends, so your kid's "book" appears next to those of the friends. We used PNP with great success.

Laurel took a few extra steps to ensure the myth of Santa was preserved, though also subtly introduced the notion that Santa was not the only gift giver. The best example I can offer: gifts from Santa were always wrapped in a super secret wrapping paper. This was absolute brilliance on Laurel's part, because Kiddo could be aware of the presence of holiday wrapping paper in the home, and would receive gifts from specific people in addition to Santa. But the roll of paper Santa used was never seen, so it was like Santa wrapped those gifts someplace outside of the home. This tack was also important, I think, because it introduced Kiddo to the concept of people giving gifts to each other over the holidays; not all gifts come from Santa.

The Tooth Fairy

The Tooth Fairy has always given kiddo a golden dollar for every tooth she's lost. (When I was a kid, market value in our house was $0.25.) I thought the Sacagawea dollar was a great choice for dental currency because (1) it's golden color really stands out (2) it's actual legal tender (3) rarely circulated (meaning the chances of her getting a Sacagawea dollar on the economy is low) and (4) it's valued at $1.

What's not to like?

The Tooth Fairy has also always written kiddo a nice letter, either hand-written or printed in an elegant font (thank you, Microsoft Word!).

There has never been a time she didn't receive a golden coin paired with a nice letter -- though this year, we changed things up a little. More on that in a bit.

Tinkerbell

Our relationship with The Tooth Fairy was sort of pushed to an extreme a few years ago. Kiddo had lost a tooth just before we went on vacation to Disney, and in a letter, the Tooth Fairy had told kiddo that she and Tinkerbell were good friends, and that she'd talk to Tink about our upcoming visit.

Upon check-in at Disney, we asked the staff where we might find a gift shop that had little Tinkerbell-oriented gifts, and explained the whole Tooth Fairy-Tinkerbell connection. The front desk staff told us they'd take care of it (that was so nice!), and wow did they -- when we got back to the room that evening, waiting on the kitchen island was ALL SORTS of goodies for kiddo: a Tinkerbell mug filled with little toys and fun confetti, perhaps a small stuffed animal too; little pins and lanyards and things. They. Completely. Hooked. Us. Up! We thanked them again and again and again.

A couple of days later we were walking around EPCOT and saw that Tinkerbell was making an appearance at one of the exhibits -- and kiddo was anxious to thank her. I got busy downloading an app I could use to draw very large text on my phone screen, and used it to guide Tinkerbell as best I could.

First I drew Kiddo's name in large letters and positioned myself behind Kiddo so when we walked upon the stage, Tink could read her name. She took the cue beautifully and greeted kiddo by name and very enthusiastically. Next, I wrote "lost a tooth" or "Tooth Fairy sent her" or something like that and she picked right up on that, too, with Kiddo very happily filling in the gaps. It was about perfect. Kiddo left feeling kinda star-struck. I've always wanted to thank that young actress for her awesome assistance that day. I should send this story to Disney World.

Sunday's Tooth

Fast-forward to this past Sunday. Kiddo pulled out a molar, and insisted she put it under her pillow for the Tooth Fairy. The notion completely blew me away -- just how is it she is learning about sex and science and what assholes adolscents can be, but still believes in the tooth fairy?

It was 10:30 at night. My printer is still packed. She's been using her phone a lot more lately -- texting has really become a thing -- maybe we do this letter electronically?

I set to work making changes to my website mailer code. I modified the development environment code to make the sender address read "tf@toothfairy.com," and sent myself a few test messages.

But sending an e-mail wouldn't be enough. First off, I still had the problem of the actual tooth-for-money swap; and she's now sleeping with the dogs in her room. We've been living here for three weeks now; I was praying the big dog in particular, who is hard of hearing and going blind, wouldn't attack me in the dark. Very fortunately, he slept through the whole thing, and I made it out with the tooth and the phone.

Laurel set to work configuring the phone for the e-mail account Kiddo never knew she had, and configuring the notifications to make the incoming message appear -- and stay -- on the lock screen, so kiddo couldn't miss it.

Then I got to thinking about creating contact information for the Tooth Fairy, so Kiddo would see "The Tooth Fairy" and an image as the sender instead of deciphering an e-mail address. I got the new contact AirDropped onto kiddo's unit, then got back onto my laptop and sent a test message. Everything went perfectly, so we deleted the test, turned off the phone, resent the message, and planted the phone back in kiddo's room.

On Monday morning, kiddo noted that she woke up with the coin in her hand, but found no letter. When I dropped her off at school, I reminded her the Tooth Fairy had never not left her a letter of some kind. I was confident she'd find it as school was letting out, but she didn't mention it when I picked her up in the afternoon. When Laurel asked about it later, Kiddo only casually responded that the Tooth Fairy had sent her "a note on her phone." -- it was another example of her classic underwhelming response to something we worked so hard for.

Exit Strategy

Where we anticipate trouble with all of this is at school -- or, more directly, with her friends at school. I just don't want to see Kiddo come home deflated after her entire class ganged up on her on Santa or the Tooth Fairy. And right now, we're a little more concerned about the Tooth Fairy because the Tooth Fairy is a contact in her phone! I can guarantee it'll be a bad day if one of her friends sees that. This is the kind of thing that makes an exit strategy so important. (I never in a million years would have thought I'd be using a term like "exit strategy" to describe how to escort Kiddo away from her childhood.)

Laurel and I have discussed how to proceed. Kiddo has an orthadontist appointment in the next few weeks -- Laurel's going to use the opporutnity to determine how many teeth Kiddo has left to lose, and we'll put together a plan for how The Tooth Fairy will say goodbye. At the moment, it'll probably be an e-mail message on the occasion of the loss of her final tooth, assuming that happens sometime relatively soon.

Santa's gonna be a tougher nut to crack. Every holiday season we very timidly test Kiddo's waters to figure out where she is on the scale of Santa Reality. Particularly over the past couple of years, we've braced ourselves for the result. She's heard other kids saying that Santa isn't real... and she's asked mommy straight out. Mommy's response was perhaps imperceptably subtle.

I guess I just thought that kids figure this stuff out for themselves, and parents just sort of abruptly learn that their child doesn't believe in it anymore. The parents breathe a sigh of relief and life moves on. And maybe that can happen for us. But when I was growing up, kids didn't have mobile phones with contact information for the Tooth Fairy, or probably didn't grow up believing their mothers had a Wifi hotline to Santa.

Straight Up Now, Tell Me

Of course, we have available the direct option of just telling her the truth. Reading that sentence aloud nearly made me cry; it makes me feel like I'd be killing something pure and beautiful. This is a real dilemma, as silly as it may sound. On the one hand, I'd like the convenience of Kiddo just learning it someplace. On the other hand, I don't want her to suffer for that lesson -- I don't want her to be ridiculed by friends, and I couldn't bear for her stepbrother to break her heart yet again. I feel pretty safe in saying Laurel and I would much rather have some control over how the news is delivered, and have some influence in how it is received, than to risk an event within especially her budding social network.

Epilogue

I told Laurel that I felt we should talk with Kiddo about the Tooth Fairy in particular, for some of the reasons I gave above.

Later in the afternoon, after Kiddo got home from school, we had an opportunity to talk a bit about the whole Tooth Fairy thing. She volunteered that she didn't believe in the Tooth Fairy; she'd stopped believing last year. "I had a fishy feeling," she said. I then explained the sequence of Sunday night's events to her, and also explained that we did it because we thought she really believed in it, and didn't want to disappoint her. She wasn't angry or upset at all.



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2017.10.07Moved In

Image of a real estate for sale sign in front of a home

It's been a week and a half since the closing on the old house. The plan for selling the house all along was to bring mom aboard so she wouldn't be alone over the winter. We've achieved that, though not according to plan. I think we've certainly added some stressors to her life -- she's become used to living alone -- but I think we've also made things much better for her. I've been trying to be as helpful and out of her way as I can be.

I guess I'm overly sensitive about the situation, but I'm working really hard against any of us feeling like we're occupying mom's home in more of a military sense than a familial one. I want to be as cooperative and helpful as I possibly can. The house is getting a top-to-bottom cleaning. So far, the kitchen has required the most attention -- I found a bottle of ketchup that expired over six years ago; its contents looked like barbecue sauce. At that point we brought in the big guns, and boy am I glad we did -- mold was found in a couple of spots and remediated.

This is in no way my mother's fault; it's merely a function of settling into a life or environment, combined with simply not wanting to deal with the detritus of separation. I'm hoping our time together here will be a rebirth of sorts for mom -- that new sweeter memories will gradually replace the bitter ones.



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2017.09.17UPDATED: Sidearms and Stripper Poles

Image of a real estate for sale sign in front of a home

 

Yesterday I came to realize that I've been having such a difficult time of things lately because I've got two of the greatest stressors happening at once -- being between jobs at the same time as packing up my home.

I received a visit from a friend yesterday afternoon. An accomplished business man, he offered the observation that I'm doing everything right regarding my approach to the job search. It was kind of him to comment.

Meanwhile, the house is looking increasingly maked. We held a garage sale this weekend to lighten the load a little in preparation for the move. Well, when I say "we," I actually mean our cleaning person, whom I'll call "Bill." The garage sale was his idea -- something he wanted to do for a while, so we agreed to contribute our driveway and items that he could sell, and we'd split the proceeds with him.

On Friday evening, his sister arrived to help with the set-up. We'd met her before, but we'd never seen her wearing a sidearm. It made me very uncomfortable. Also, among the items Bill contributed for the sale was a stripper pole. I spent Friday night awake for a while, wondering what I'd just invited to our neighborhood, and how much apologizing I'd have to do to my neighbors for the show in our driveway.

People were arriving an hour before the sale opened on Saturday morning. I overheard many asking "Bill" if he was the homeowner -- the "sold" sign remains in the front yard. As weird as this is, it seems to be working. Bill texts us when customers have questions about our contributions, and is keeping a record of the prices we're asking for.

I was just outside, and saw the stripper pole against the fence. Apparently Laurel and I are the subject of much conversation among the sale visitors. Because I need that right now.

UPDATE: The stripper pole never sold.

UPDATE: 9/18 - I have to take that back. Yesterday evening, slight man knocked at my door and asked if the stripper pole had sold. To my knowledge, "Bill" had loaded up his leftover things and had already hauled them back to his storage unit, so I put the man in contact with "Bill" to sort out their transaction.

This morning, after running kiddo to school, I thought I'd put my car back in the garage -- and lo and behold, that stoopy stripper pole was STILL HERE.

UPDATE: 9/28 - I put that pole in a neighbors' garage. *guffaw*



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2017.09.10UPDATED: House Hunters, halfgk Edition

Image of a real estate for sale sign in front of a home

Nothing seems to make a house your home as much as what you hang on its walls. Photos of your family, artwork that reflects your tastes... all of these things combine to represent you to the people you welcome into your home.

If you accept that argument, then it stands to reason that about the fastest way to demote a home to a house is by taking all of those mementos down from its walls.

Tonight, my home looks naked. I can't think of a more visible reminder that our chapter here is ending than seeing open walls where artwork and photos and certificates and posters were once hung.

I know it will affect me... I'm just not yet sure how: it will likely serve as a visible reminder that we have a lot of work to do, but I don't know how I'll feel. Maybe it'll motivate me. Maybe it'll just make me sad. Maybe both.



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2017.08.29Life, Unscripted

Meme of Steve Correll yelling, with text 'WHY IS EVERYBODY YELLING'. Image credit: quickmeme.com

Laurel and I exercise every morning after kiddo gets on the bus. Today the bus went flying down our street pretty early, and kiddo missed it. No big deal. As early as it was, we decided to exercise before making the drive. Kiddo joined us. We saw a police vehicle drive by us on a neighborhood street -- a rare sight. Later on our walk, we saw -- and heard -- something else: a woman, standing in the middle of the street, screaming at someone about an affair her husband was having. Apparently the woman proceeded south in parallel to us, because we saw her again after we'd turned east. At this point, we could hear a man responding to her yelling. He didn't sound agitated, and she was still ranting.

All of this drama definitely affected kiddo. It was the subject of conversation on the ride to school, and, well, clearly I'm still thinking about it. We'll need to spend some extra time with her tonight.



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2017.08.28UPDATED: House Hunters, halfgk Edition

Image of a real estate for sale sign in front of a home

The plan of previous report remains partially intact. We're still moving out... but we're not buying the other house as intended.

My employer held a second round of layoffs late last week, and I'm transitioning to alumni status. Continuing with the sale of our current lovely home will serve to relieve us of a mortgage payment.

As for Yaya's home, well, some things will be accelerated on that front. We'll put our things in storage and move in with her. Among the advantages this offers: Yaya won't be alone (a primary goal of the original move plan), and certainly won't be lonely.

So some of the activities needed to happen as part of getting her home ready to sell should now happen before we move in. She'd been having a hard time going into Papa's room; it's about to get a tweenager makeover.

It's not what I wanted. But it's the lemonade we've made.



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2017.08.16School Has Turned Our Lives Upside Down

Image of the back of a school bus. Image credit: Fotolia

The start of school has already had quite an impact on the whole family. Kiddo now catches a bus at the same time I used to get up in the morning, so now we're all getting up before the sun. And because we're now up so early, Laurel and I go exercise once Kiddo is driven away, which seems to make my morning much, much longer -- before I was going out to exercise following a morning meeting, after having eased my way into morning with a cup of coffee and a protein shake. Now my butt's in the chair instead of up above my feet for that 20 minutes. By the way, my exercise numbers are (relatively) off the chart (yay!).

Coffee is one piece of the puzzle that's sorta not quite fitting yet. I make it first thing in the morning out of habit -- but since I want to get my protein shake in before going out to exercise, coffee is sort of taking a back seat to breakfast... I won't really drink it until I get back and start working. Maybe I shouldn't even bother to make it until we get home from exercising? Doesn't that defeat the point?

Clearly, the new schedule is impacting our evening time too. I fear my days of staying up until the 11 o'clock hour are gone -- at least during the week. I'm adjusting, I think, because by early afternoon I'm due for a nap... and last night by 9:30 I just couldn't keep my eyes open anymore.

Happily, kiddo is loving the new school. She's already made new friends and was asked by THREE BOYS to go, eh, "go steady." (The phrase around my school at that age was to "go with" somebody. She's getting asked "Are you single?" "Do you want a boyfriend?"). This, by day TWO of classes. (Unrelated: Someone should start a business renting out impressive yet inoperable weaponry to fathers with adolescent daughters for display in their living rooms.)



Image credit: Fotolia



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2017.08.16UPDATED: House Hunters, halfgk Edition

Image of a real estate for sale sign

I cried when I heard the news.

We sold the house yesterday.

Now comes all of the minutiae and mess of everything that follows: hammering out the details with the buyer, tweaking details with our seller... plus getting Yaya's house on the market and all that entails.

.

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2017.08.14Kiddo, Kitty Not Getting Along

Image credit: Imgur users seaeye and sirbaz.

Kiddo and the cat aren't getting along, I guess. I just heard kiddo yell in the bathroom, "I'M NOT MESSING WITH YOU, CAT!! I JUST CAME IN HERE TO TAKE A SHIT!!"

Oh, mercy. It's the first time I've ever heard her use that phrase -- she must be really, really angry!



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2017.08.13The Chosen One

The aliens from Toy Story. Image credit: Disney

Kiddo came home from her first day of fifth grade last year and trumpeted that she was "the chosen one." Her basis for this claim was that the school janitor tossed her a peanut butter sandwich.

Tonight, on the eve of her first day of sixth grade, she has made the same declaration -- only this time, the basis was a clump of Parmesan cheese in her meal.



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2017.08.12Miscommunication

image of children doing handstands

Kiddo (to Laurel):"Can you queef?"
Laurel:"Well, yeah, but not on purpose."
Kiddo:"Wait. What do you mean?"
Laurel:"What do you think a queef is?"
Kiddo:"It's a headstand, right?"
Laurel:"Uh... nope."
Kiddo:"Oh, man... I've been saying that to random people..."



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2017.07.30She's Not Wrong

Image credit: Imgur users seaeye and sirbaz.

Me:"What does your fortune say?"
Kiddo:"It says I'm expensive."

She's incorrect, but she's not wrong:

Fortune cookie fortune, that reads, 'You are very expressive and positive in word, act and feeling.'



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2017.07.29Learning How She Learns

We recently had our child examined to discover strategies we and the schools might use to help her learn and retain material more effectively.

We expect the final report will show the presence of dyslexia and perhaps Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Not entirely unexpected, really.

Kiddo was born apart from Laurel and me with some challenges -- parting gifts from her birth mother. Laurel knew this when she adopted our lovely child. Typically kids born with these addictions develop some emotional and learning difficulties. In our daughter's case, I feel the emotional part probably presented on time (when she was very young), but she hasn't had any serious learning challenges with the exception of a diminished capacity to retain the material she reads; she has to work harder than her classmates on that score. We'd been working with her and the school through an individual education plan to help her achieve, and she's been doing a pretty good job -- but we still wanted an actual diagnosis.

We're about to get it.



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2017.07.25Herpes

Image credit: Imgur users seaeye and sirbaz.

Kiddo:"It's herpes!"
Laurel:"Do you know what that is?"
Kiddo:"Yeah, it's a disease that makes you go like this. *shakes*"
Laurel:"That's Parkinson's."

SMH



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2017.06.28House Hunters, halfgk Edition

Image of a real estate for sale sign

My wife and I are at the age where the parts on the parents are wearing out. Papa is in a care facility, and Yaya is left lonely and alone in their home. Being without Papa has been quite an adjustment for her; they were due to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next week -- but he no longer understands they're married -- he may not even recognize her any longer.

Yaya's health and mobility remain fair, and I believe it will for at least the next few years -- she has a degenerative muscular condition that will eventually require dedicated care resources. I believe there's a significant window between now and then.

Laurel and I have decided that while we're in this window, we want to bring Yaya into our home. Doing that means selling our home and hers, and buying a larger home for us all to live in.

We've found two homes in the area that will meet our needs.

The Big House

The first was a gigantic place that backs up to a golf course. The master suite is actually on the first floor, and is just about perfect for Yaya -- the ensuite is built with wheelchair access in mind. It seemed pretty clear to me the previous occupants included someone with a disability. The downside of the home was that the upstairs, though featuring three enormous bedrooms, had a single, small bathroom, and a single stairway with a 90° turn (which may preclude installation of a chair lift). Also, the home is situated back on it's property on a busy street. In short, the home would be great for Yaya, but maybe not super awesome for the rest of us, though there's plenty of space. We put an offer in on the house, but it was sold to a cash buyer.... or was it?

That 70's House

The second home is... well, we thought The Big House was mind-blowing until we saw this one. That 70's House is a beautifully constructed home in a much quieter neighborhood. Lots of wood and stone accents were blended with the interior to offer a kind of a rustic yet spacious feel. It has a "bridge" that connects the two ends of the upstairs part of the home, and that bridge has both an angled front stairway and a stright stairway from the kitchen. But the most mind-blowing thing about the home is it's basement -- it has 10' ceilings and seems to go on for miles. The neighborhood seems to have a lot of kids of roughly the same age as ours, and the home is within walking distance to the new school opening this coming fall. We have an offer in on the home, with the sale of our current home as a contingency.

War of the Decades

We've been very focused on That 70's House since learning The Big House sold... but we learned yesterday that The Big House is back on the market. (We had been wondering why the real estate company's sign had remained in the yard for so long.) I find myself somewhat conflicted -- The Big House is cheaper up front, but I think we'd end up spending as much as we would on That 70's House once you factor in putting in an upstairs bathroom. The Big House is also outdated -- it's 1960's origins are really apparent in some places. Still, a lot of room and plenty of formal touches -- the living room has double-doors that open directly into the dining room, and it's even got an entrance and food prep area that must have been designed for staff. How cool is THAT?!

That 70's House is full of lovely upgrades, but still has some original fixtures -- for example, I think all of the shower enclosures in the four full baths are original, and the glass rattles in each of them. That 70's House also has a giant sunken tub in the master bath -- it's a little ridiculous, but it looks fun and I wanna try it out. The owners are in their 70's, I think -- I can't believe they're still using it. At least, not without setting a step ladder down into it first. Laurel's afraid she's gonna stumble over the edge of that tub one evening and really hurt herself. I can't really say I blame her for being a little wary of it. At the same time, though, the sinks on the first and second floors are all very stylish and modern and fun. Some are hammered copper, others are glass; these contrast with the hickory-style wood with emphasized grain (SO MUCH WOOD) throughout the home, particularly in the kitchen.

Selling Our Home

Of course, nothing about these other homes will matter if we can't get our home sold first. We had an open house last weekend that was very, very well attended, and we've had one showing so far this week. None of this seems to be moving fast enough, and I'm sure once it does we'll be wishing things would slow down.



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2017.06.24Says She's Got the Body for It

image from DC Comics' new Wonder Woman movie staring Gal Galdot

Kiddo, on Halloween plans:

"I'm gonna be Wonder Woman this year. I've totally got the body for it."



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2017.05.11Nope. Not even close.

Photo of a Stretch Armstrong figure

Photo of a Stretch Armstrong figure

Kiddo: "OMG! Louis Armstrong!"



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2017.03.31"Hello Baby"

image of a text alert with the words

My daughter received a text from a classmate last night (read: from another 11 year old). It read, "Hello baby."

"Try again" was the response I sent.

"That was my dad" was the follow-up response Laurel sent.

There was no reply.

I recognize that moments like these are going to shape, or determine, what kind of dad I'm going to be to our teen. And I admit that the more I think about it, the more I want to march over to the kid's house and speak with his parents.

What would I say? I just want them to have some situational awareness. How they handle it in their home is their concern.

What my kid receives on her phone is my concern.



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2017.03.23Dissed Me Off!

Yaya: "I hear the hold music, and then it went quiet. So I think, 'okay, I'm going to get my answer.' And then the music starts again! I think she was trying to diss me off!"



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2017.03.09On Beginning Her Day

Kiddo told us the other day that she was going to start setting her alarm for 6:30 AM, "so she can begin her day."

I'm still the only one awake at 6:30.



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2017.03.06All Hail Jesus

Kiddo is describing attendance at mass this past weekend.

Me: "Did you have to say things while you were standing and kneeling?"
Kiddo: "Oh yes."
Me: "Like what?"
Kiddo: "Like 'all hail Jesus' and 'Aw man' and stuff."



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2017.03.04The Lumchop

Image of the man on the old Brawny paper towel logo

Kiddo offering fashion advice on my beard: I should "do a lumchop."

Me:"A what?"
Kiddo:"A lumchop. You know, those guys in the plaid shirts who chop wood."



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2017.02.27The Day Has Arrived

Photo of a shark jumping out of the water

Well, it's happened. I'd heard nasty rumors that kiddo had develped hair in her pits, which meant we were on a six month clock for... this.

Kiddo dutifully reported, with a measure of pride, that she'd had some spotting yesterday. And just like that, Operation Shark Week went into effect. She went to school today with a few extra items in her backpack.

I'm not having an easy time with the news. For as much of a hypochondriac as she has been, I fear she'll become a "regular" in the school nurse's office again (she described the new nurse this year as an 'A-hole,' by the way).

I can't imagine the amount of Zoloft the middle school nurse must be taking.



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2017.02.19Hamsters make her uncomfortable

Image of a Hamster emoji

Kiddo: "I bet a turtle can eat a hamster. Hamsters make me uncomfortable."



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2017.01.31Questions about Adult Toys

This just happened not five minutes ago.

Kiddo:"What's a dildo?"
Laurel (about to join a conference call):{pauses} "We can talk about this later."
{Pauses again, calls upstairs to me} "Do you want to take this one?"

One of her buddies asked her if she was going to get one when she gets her own apartment.



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2017.01.22Deez Nuts

On the phone with Kiddo.

Laurel:"Have you had lunch? What would you like?"
Kiddo:(pause) "Deez nuts."



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2017.01.22Play Like a Champion Today

Laurel to Kiddo: "You know, you're 11. When Simone Biles was 11, she was winning medals. I'm pretty sure you can handle your room."

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2017.01.14Papa's Got a Brand New... Place

Papa has been moved out of the hospital and into new quarters in a care facility.

We were surprised that they decided to move him so quickly, particularly because there's an ice storm that's about to blanket the entire state. Happily, he's moved in, and seems to be improving.

During today's visit, I heard him introduce himself and say a few coherent sentences, like, "Please, sit down in this chair."

His mood seemed a fair amount brighter, and he also seemed very happy to see me. At the hospital, the attending physician changed his medication in hopes it might even out his mood swings.

His new room seems nice. He has a lovely bay window right across from his bed. His room is roughly 30' x 30', has a wardrobe, a small chest of drawers, and a nightstand. It reminded me very much of life in the barracks, but with nicer furniture and wood accents.

His room is actually part of a suite of sorts, partitioned from the other occupant by curtains. I understand these quarters are temporary, and he'll move into a different room by himself later on as space becomes available. At this point, I think we're all just very thankful he's out of the hospital.

The only thing I'm beginning to become concerned about is that when he sees me, he seems to talk about things that aggravate him. I wonder if he does that with the other (female) family members too?



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2017.01.10On Aging: Front Row Tickets to a Tragedy

I watched him leave.

It was all so subtle.

Think of the mind as a corporation, with divisions and departments, staffed by atomic characteristics of a person. A creative division that is in charge of all creative pursuits, run by the creative portion of the mind; it is home to fantastic ideas and concepts of art and magic and color. An accounting department that tracks that person's financial affairs. The entire enterprise of the person is controlled in the mind. Like economics, the enterprise is influenced by circumstances, people, life.

His corporation was suffering from attrition. The staff in the various divisions and departments weren't being responsive to the needs of the enterprise.

It started within the Communications Division. The workers responsible for researching nouns stopped doing their research. So he had a harder time to find the nouns he needs to effectively communicate those wonderful ideas.

The database staff in his IT department started leaving, so his ability to record and retreive information wasn't keeping pace. Soon, he wasn't remembering those wonderful ideas.

We saw it. We saw it all. It started with a few, memory-driven words. Eventually vocabulary became decoupled from concepts. He knew a chair was the thing you sit on; the word "chair" came to escape him, but he still understood the concept of "the thing you sit on," and would seek a replacement word for "chair" which would communicate the same idea. Then, the secondary words became out of reach. At times, he can manage words with similar pronunciations ("hair" instead of "chair")... at times, all he has is partial pronunciation, which may or may not make sense -- the end result might be unintelligible. And so, "chair" and "the thing you sit on" may not appear to have any connection at times.

At a higher level, vocabulary is becoming reduced to sounds. Or idioms. Or fragments of these. He's called his daughter "Gravy." The other, "Ohio." ("Ohio" might have been a replacement for "Hi"?) When his doctor asked him how he was feeling, he replied, "Fi fi fo fum dogs." No association.

What we have left are clues to intention. Some days, he can communicate effectively, but what he's saying seem to be products of delusion. In other words, he's using actual words to convey ideas, but whether they're the ideas he truly intends to convey is anyone's guess. Sleuthing comes into play.

In the disarray between communication and memory, all of those atomic elements that made him are fading. Fading until all that will remain is the machinery of a being; a body that functions. A man no longer greater than the sum of his parts.

His daughter has abandoned hope that her dad is still there someplace. She tells me that her dad would be mortified if he knew what he's become. I believe she's right about her dad's reaction. And I feel that she's perhaps making this projection to protect herself; she feels such tremendous sorrow for his state.

For my part, I attend. I visit him with her. He seems to recognize me; not by anything he says, but by his expression. It's like he doesn't know who I am, but he can recognize that I'm someone who is associated with him. Perhaps I'm much the same -- difference being I can express it here.

Last week we spent a little time searching his home. Objects have been misplaced, and we need to find them. In some cases, he hid them. The trouble is, there's no way he'll recall his hiding spots -- or, at least, be able to communicate any recollection he might have. And so I find myself sifting through the evidence of his life, of his liveliness. All of these objects attest to those certain atomic elements I mentioned earlier. They were there once. They operated on these things; made these things into crafts and art and expressions of beauty and passion and love.



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2017.01.09Dinosaur Pants on the Dog

Nothing peps up a Monday like putting dinosaur pants on the dog.

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2017.01.01Bathroom Etiquette

"If life with women hasn't taught you to close the lid on the toilet after each use, life with kittens will." #advicefrom2016

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2016.12.26Livin' on a Prayer

Kiddo is singing "Livin' on a Prayer" to the cats

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2016.12.18Taste : Smell :: Snot : Pennies

"My snot doesn't taste like how pennies smell, I guess."

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