Hi little girl. I began this post way back in November, a few days after Thanksgiving, to be exact, but it’s been a while since then. Time is just flying by, and you’re getting bigger and stronger every day. I can’t believe how much you’ve grown in such a short while; it was only a few weeks ago that I could cradle your head in my palm and your feet wouldn’t touch my elbow. Now they hang down on either side of my forearm, bumping my chest every once in a while as you stir in your sleep. Early this morning, as you laid in bed next to me, trying to fall back asleep, I stared at your little face and thought of all the things that have happened since I wrote to you last.
Thanksgiving has come and gone already. In what is now family tradition, Papa’s family came down from New York for the holiday, and we were able to put you down long enough beforehand to be able to vacuum the floors, clean the bathroom, and cook an 18 lb. turkey, a double helping of stuffing, potatoes, yams, beans, cabbage, and gravy. You even sat in your bouncy chair long enough for us all to eat while the food was still warm. I think Mama must have dosed you with some kind of mild sedative when they got here, because you were on your best behavior the whole weekend. The bouncy chair, normally good for about ten minutes, kept you happy for an hour. Mama put you down at 10, and you didn’t stir until 8 the next morning, which meant our real Thanksgiving came on Friday morning.
That Saturday your Mama’s family came to visit, so we had a whole houseful of relatives around a warm fire, and passed you from lap to lap for as long as you would stay happy. You did really well with all of the new faces, and practiced your pretty smile with everyone. I think you’re just ensuring your inheritance, ’cause as soon as the door closes behind our guests, you return to full-on meltdown mode. What’s up with that?
Saturday evening, Mama put you down on a blanket for some tummy time, and instead of faceplanting in the middle of a piercing shriek, you kept your head on your shoulders and blinked at Mama like you were practicing for weeks. Even after we removed the pillow underneath, you stayed upright and happy, even smiling at us, for several thrilling minutes.
Of course, we knew it wouldn’t last. The Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Mama told me you slept for about thirty seconds; the rest of the day was spent in various states of catastrophe. Wednesday was no better; you spent most of the day in a sustained fit, using sleep only to rest up for the next explosion, and the rest of the week was filed with more of the same. As with everything else, It would be helpful if you could tell us what the problem actually was, instead of giving us that reproachful glare right before you commence to shrieking like a stuck pig.
Mama did more reading and found some great advice about your sleeping habits, which she then put into practice. The theory goes something like this: The more quality sleep you get during the day, the better you’ll sleep at night. After a number of other small modifications in our routine, we’ve had some incredible progress in your behavior. Granted, you haven’t become the Baby Jesus or anything, but the difference in your attitude is amazing.
Meanwhile, the world around us continues to thrash and convulse its way to ruin; every day the news is bleak, although it seems like everyone is just holding their breath. I’m doing my best to remain positive; we’re only a few days away from Christmas, which is one of my favorite times of the year. I’m so excited to spend it with you and Mama together. I don’t know if we’ll have a real tree this year, or if we’re even going to have time to put up decorations; between my work schedule and your waking schedule, there isn’t much time left in the day to shop, much less install a tree in our living room.
Even if I have to go to the Target to find a 3-foot plastic tree this year, we’re going to have some kind of Christmas. The trick is going to be slowing down enough to enjoy it.
Date posted: December 16, 2008
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For the last year or so we’ve been working on finding a good school to get Finn into so that she’s got the best possible chances in 9 through 12th grade. We looked at a couple of very pricy private schools, one of which seemed to be a factory for Stepford Aryan lacrosse players. She also tested for the local magnet school, which has a very good reputation in this area. We’d done a tour last fall and came away extremely impressed by all the programs we saw. Their graphic arts program was staffed and set up better than the facilities I taught at over at UMBC. Their Environmental Science programs all looked fascinating, all the technology programs were sharp, and even the cosmetology program was legit. Jen arranged for Finn to take the various tests and we waited nervously for the results. She didn’t wind up being accepted to the other expensive private school we looked at, but we found out this week she was accepted into the magnet for Environmental Science and she’s low on the wait list for the Graphic Arts program. I can’t express what a huge relief that was for our whole family.
Our local high school isn’t terrible—it’s rated #5,920 out of all of the high schools in the country, #104 in Maryland, with a 92% graduation rate. But in contrast, Western Tech is rated #366 in the country, and the #6 school in Maryland according to the US News & World Report ratings. And according to the Baltimore County report card, it has a 98.6% graduation rate. It’s set up to be a lot more rigorous, with a lower teacher-to-student ratio than the others, and the facilities and curriculum all look solid.
I’m so proud of her for working hard to get in. She deserves a program that will challenge her; I hope she digs in and makes the most of it.
I haven’t taken many pictures in the last year—something I’ve been thinking about is looking over the number of files in my Lightroom library to see what the falloff has been—but we had to take a picture of Finn for a church thing yesterday and I thought I’d post it here too.
Wow, look at that. Fifteen years ago this week I started demoing the old exam room in preparation for a renovation; I think it was this same day Jen came in and told me she’d just gotten a positive result on a pregnancy test.
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I’ve been using a cast-off MacBook Pro from work for email since before the pandemic; I have one good machine cobbled together from multiple out-of-service 2013 Retina models—this one has a drive from one machine, a replacement battery from another, and a screen from a third. It’s serviceable for what I’m doing on it, mainly email, photo selection/cataloguing, and other basics. But I’m stuck at OS 10.14 on this machine and I’d really like to upgrade to the latest version for security and modern features. It can’t talk to my iPad, which kind of sucks. It suffers from random 1-5 second freezes. There are some applications I can’t run anymore.
I think it’s time to upgrade my personal system here, given that the last truly new MacBook I bought was back in 2011, funded partially by the sale of my previous laptop. I’m looking at something ligher and slimmer (and cheaper) than a true MacBook Pro, which points at a MacBook Air: They’ve just updated the model to the new M2 chip and it goes head-to-head with the 13″ MBP with only a few minor omissions that I don’t care about at all. I’m waiting for a large expense report check to come in from work, and when that does, I’m going to pull the trigger.
Happy Birthday, monkey.
This is the first weekend in a long time where we’ve been home. Like, in our own house for two days. Jen has been socked in with work for several weeks, and a lot of it has come to a head, so we thought we’d take a break from driving south to Lexington Park and stay around the homestead. I’ve had a lot of things around the house piling up in our absence, so I took the opportunity to knock a couple of them out.
The first thing was replacing two basement windows that were original to the house. I’d ordered replacements back in March and they finally arrived about a month ago; I’ve been waiting for a solid weekend to tackle the project. Pulling the old windows was pretty quick work—they were only held in by two sets of ancient brass hinges and a hook and eye latch. I cleaned up the wooden surrounds, cut and installed baffles, and slotted them into place. With some careful carpentry the inside baffles got nailed into place, and they got caulked tight. Now we can have open windows and enjoy fresh air in the basement! A miracle.
The second project is one Jen has been asking about since last year: painting the garage to match the house. I started out by scraping the west side and got it ready for paint. After cleaning both my guns and consolidating the remaining paint, I filled the compressor and sprayed out the west side and half of the driveway side before running out. I’m going to have to repair some of the plywood on the front side and do a lot more scraping overall, but it looks pretty good so far.
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Finn has been binging a new videogame for the past month, and has been asking me to play with her. It’s a survival/exploration game called Ark, where you land on an island teeming with dinosaurs and have to learn how to gather food, build tools and shelter, and tame those same dinosaurs to help you advance. She’s been playing on her iPad, but I can’t load it on my phone and squint at tiny menus. I saw that it was available for the Xbox so I ordered a used copy on Amazon and installed it on the console. From there it demanded a 100GB update, so we waited days for the console to choke that down (it puts itself to sleep after an hour, so I had to constantly keep it awake) and then two more updates before we could play.
Once that was done, we picked up our controllers and started a new world together. And found, very quickly, that it was almost impossible to navigate in 2-player mode. They split the screen horizontally, so the top half is one character view and the bottom half is another, but they didn’t change the menu system to fit that resolution. So when you go into the menu system (and half the game is spent here) it’s still the size and shape of an iPad and you have to squint at tiny little icons smushed into the narrow space given. It’s like looking at the menu bar of Word 97 through a peephole: impossible unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. I tried for several nights but found it almost unusable.
She then found a new game called Albion and started playing that. Seeing that it was available for the Mac, I downloaded a copy and tried it on my 8-year-old laptop, which slowed to a gelatinous crawl, cooling fans struggling to keep the processor from melting. I thought about it for a day or so and decided I’d pull the trigger and finally buy the iPad Pro I’ve been looking at since they were released. Playing games with Finn was a big part of the decision, but the other reason was that I want to work in Procreate with the Apple Pencil and learn how to illustrate with the system. I bought a new 11″ unit with the Pencil and picked it up at the local Apple Store this past week. The early review is very favorable: playing Albion on it is easy and fun! We spent a couple of hours on Friday getting me set up in the game and understanding how not to die. Now I have to catch up to her character level.
This is the first device I’ve owned with Face ID, and it’s very slick. The Pencil is fast and responsive. I bought Procreate and started fooling around in the program but it’s going to take a lot of time to sort out how I use it and get the most out of it. Getting used to the way the brushes and pressure work is an uphill battle, especially for someone as picky about the tactile feel and orientation of scratchboard tools as I am. I’m going to start out trying to mimic what I know and love, and then see where the app takes me.