Maybe I should go Amish

Oh iPhone, oh iPhone, why do you burn through your battery so? You were fine just a few days ago. What have I done anger you in this way? I swear, all I did on Friday was download one app to help my nephew with his Flat Stanley project for school.

A visit to the Genius Bar at “Steve’s Store” suggested that the problem was more likely hardware than software. I tried doing what the fellow there suggested; restore the system from backup to clean out any software that is stuck or settings that may be bad. So far, that’s proved fruitless.

In my mad dash to make the appointment (parents of toddlers seem to so rarely be on time for anything), I lost the soft case for my Ray-Ban Sunglasses (from Costco). It fell out of my pocket. Now I down both an iPhone and useful case for my sunglasses.

Perhaps I should just go Amish. Hats. Beards. Mighty fine barns. Somehow I don’t think the wife will go for that.

Not my best moment

I shared this with a few folks on FB earlier today, and I thought I’d preserve it here:

I gave Baby G. a grilled cheese sandwich and a few tater tots for dinner tonight. We were both tired, him from a a nap strike yesterday and me, from well, everything. All went well until I turned my back, he got hold of the salt shaker, and suddenly there was a white coating of salt all over his food, all over the table, and starting to work its way to the floor. Even as I said “Baby G. Stanley Cornelius! What are you doing!” too loudly and anxiously, I could hear my mother’s recent advice: “don’t yell at him, he doesn’t know any better”. And really, I wasn’t yelling at him, because she’s right, he doesn’t know any better. If I was yelling at anyone, it was at me for leaving the salt shaker within his reach. He didn’t know that… a for a few minutes, he started to cry. It was but a moment, but not one of my best.

They say that life is what happens while you are waiting for your plans to come true. Today feels like parenting is what happens while you are waiting to get some more sleep.

Phantom voices

I got up at about 1:45am the other night because Baby G. was stirring and mumbling in his sleep the other night.  Mrs. Geek pulled this duty the night before and expressly asked me to get up if I heard him in the middle of the night.  When he did, I got out of bed, walked down to his bedroom, found a pillow, and stretched out on the floor next to his crib.  After a short while, I fell asleep.

I had a dream of the sort that I usually don’t have.   I dreamed it was dark and I was walking through rooms in my parents house that don’t exist.   I started in rooms that were indistinctly filled with sleeping people in bunk beds, through a series of doorways, doors, and chambers that became progressively less used.  Each next room seemed to be filled with several people indistinctly mumbling, only to fall silent and uninhabited as soon as entered.  I stopped in a room, looking for corner where I could curl up and sleep.  A disembodied figure passed through from behind me onto the next chamber.  I took it to be my father.  I asked it/him if these rooms were ever used.  He responded “If I ever told your mother that they were, I’d never get any sleep around here.”   I lay down in the corner of that room and went to sleep.

After that, I awoke saw from the clock that it was almost 3am and went back to my own bed.   For some reason, that passing from room to room with the next room full of indistinct conversation that then fell silent… that’s stuck with me since.

It’s been ten years… really?!?

I happened to look down at the Archives list on the blog the other day and realized that it’s been ten years since I started blogging. Looking back at the early entries, it certainly feels like another life. I was about 2.5 years out from finally leaving graduate school and going to working for Company O. The job there still seemed shiny and new, and I was generally happy with it. Mrs. Geek and I had been in a dating relationship for almost a year, and were a couple months away from making that relationship more permanent. The Second Iraq War started.

I’m trying to remember how I actually found myself at Diaryland (the first home of this blog). I think it was due to the band the Asylum Street Spankers. Wammo had a blog on Diaryland that I found through the Spankers web site, and I started reading that regularly. From there, I started following a few other bloggers… among the first (if not the first) being Mrs. Roboto. From there, it just blossomed over the next five to six years, through my wedding, the first couple years of my marriage, and buying my first home.

In the process, I became the “imaginary friend” of a group of people I still associate with on Facebook. Looking down the Diaryland favorites list, I see Harri3t Spy (she eventually became not imaginary), who introduced me to Lass, Jeanne at Necromancy Never Pays, JoyHowie at The Crooked Line, and Freshhell. Mrs. Roboto introduced me to Eve Roboto(also not imaginary.) Through her, I met her husband and got involved with their web site Geeks of Doom until my day job and parenting responsibilities made it difficult to keep up with the pace of their growing web site. I wrote some popular early articles there, and feel proud that “I was in the room” when that web site was born. I also met Ariadne518, Teranika, and Eleanorio. I also get the odd, once in a while, update breadcrumb about Ilonina. Finally, I started reading the blog lionessden. I think there are three or four Ph.Ds conferred to that group in the decade (joining my own), a few moves across state lines (and occasionally international boundaries), a successful web site, a t-shirt I wish I hadn’t sent, some mix CDs both from me and to me, and a lot of very wonderful words.

Thanks everybody, for putting up with me this long and for letting read about your lives in return.

Finding my laugh

I haven’t felt much reason to laugh over the last three to four years. Some wonderful things have happened during that time (Baby G. being the most important of them) but I haven’t found to much reason to laugh. Work at Company O. kind of killed my ability to laugh for a while. As a child, my Mom would ask me “why are you laughing? are you re-living some joke again?” and often I would be. I had the ability to hold some bit of laughter in my memory and let some of it out simply by replaying it. For the last few years, Mrs. Geek would show me something and say “What? No chuckle? Anything? That’s funny!” and I often didn’t have the laughter in me. Everything around me seemed so serious and so depressing… putting my mind into a laugh inducing state of mind was hard to do.

With a change of job has come a change in temperament. Mrs. Geek says that there is a quietness and calmness about me that she hasn’t seen for a few years. Certainly an angry, frustrated core of emotion is gone. With that replaced by something more relaxed and genial, I was wondering if the ability to replay laughter might return too.

It did when I saw this not long ago:

I know. This bit of Photoshoppery, it’s wrong, so very wrong. Yet I think about it and giggle a little bit every time.

Experiments in sleep deprivation

It turns out that toddler sleep, like American football, is a game of inches. In this particular case, the inches are the difference in height between the mattress and the crib rail and the distance between the crib and the nearest thing to which a toddler can climb. For Baby G., the crib rail was just low enough that he could swing a leg up to the top and a “mock Swedish” home-assembled storage cabinet (from a certain company with bright blue stores and a four letter name) was just close enough to provide a platform for escape from the crib. Given that Baby G. is turning into an avid climber, this suggested that the winds of change were blowing during this past week, and that we should get ahead of them.

Fortunately, we purchased a convertible crib. The crib first transforms into a toddler bed by replacing the front crib rail with a low guard that protects about half the length of the mattress. After that, it is possible to buy bed rails that turn the front and back crib rails into the headboard and foot board of a full-sized bed. Baby G.’s room is too small for anything more than a twin bed, but we figured that the crib to toddler bed conversion would be useful. When Baby G. actually got out of his crib a couple of times last Tuesday, we figured the toddler bed was worth a try.

The actual timing of the conversion caused some friction. Mrs. Geek was hoping that I’d convert the crib sometime before work on Wednesday morning. I was just feeling on the better side of a cold and had a company potluck luncheon to prepare for that day (I brought Texas-style chili con carne) and decided to wait until the evening. We were both a little worn out and irritable by the end of the day, and she was disappointed that we weren’t able to try the toddler bed out for his afternoon nap. This turned out to be just as well; we’d misplaced some parts needed for the conversion and a trip to the hardware store was required to find replacements. That was easily accomplished on Wednesday evening, and could not have been accomplished that morning.

Bed time that night and the following three nights were not, well, a disaster… but it wasn’t a picnic either. Baby G. has always been good at settling himself for the night, but it’s always been a SLOW process. We could put him in a crib for the night, but he doesn’t fall asleep right away as a rule. He usually takes 30-45 minutes of rolling around, walking around the crib, and sometimes chattering for him to calm down for sleep. Take away one wall of the crib, and he wants to get up, walk around the room, play with toys, and start climbing things. These new possibilities also excite him, so he stays up much later with the toddler bed than he would with the crib. Mrs. Geek and I eventually took 15 minute shifts trying to keep him in the bed… and he wasn’t always happy about it. With an 8pm bed time, he didn’t calm himself until about 10:15pm on the first night. He got to sleep between 15 and 30 minutes earlier on the other nights. His naps weren’t much better. Mrs. Geek and I got tired and irritable from playing “bad cop” for about 2 hours each night and an hour or so during the afternoon. It became a cycle of decreasing returns… where all of us just became more and more exhausted.

So today we decided to withdraw and regroup. The toddler bed is now a crib once more, with the mattress set the lowest it could go. The crib is now a few inches further away from the toy storage cabinets, because the crib is now closer to the wall and the cabinets have been moved as far away as some wall bracing will allow. Baby G. fell asleep on his own in about 10 minutes for his nap this afternoon, and in about 45 minutes without intervention from his parents this evening. The lower mattress and the larger spacing between furniture bought us some time… to consider our next move. The events of the last few days taught us that this needs to be a proactive, not reactive, process.

Finding New Ways To Lose Sleep

The “terrible twos” have arrived at our house (along with a new two-year molar or three). Baby G. has been more moody in the last few weeks, and prone to throwing tantrums in which he screams and either throws himself on the ground or tries to bonk his forehead into something if he’s unhappy. He’s moved from “2T” to “3T” between October and February, and he seems taller every time I turn around and look at him. All this change has got to be unsettling. Add to that the fact that he’s still not talking — he can now perform a variety of simple tasks if you ask him, so there is plenty of language cognition but he has little interest in mimicking others (for fun or not) and is very selective in how he vocalizes — and he’s got to get plenty to be frustrated about, I’m sure. Since he doesn’t talk and can’t ask, we don’t bother to explain what is going on even though he could probably understand some of it. Mrs. Geek and I need to be better about that.

Things were particularly bad two weeks ago. Baby G. was waking up in the middle of the night a lot. He also seemed to be want to cling to Mrs. Geek or myself than usual. His appetite was off. Mrs. Geek took him to a “newborn to toddler” parenting class in which the parents meet in one room while the kids have (supervised) playtime together in another room, and he had a pretty bad meltdown. This struck us as rather odd, because he’d attended the class during the previous two weeks and everyone was very impressed with how easily Baby G. was able to separate from his mother.

The reasons for his apparent bad mood became clearer to me a couple days later when Mrs. Geek was at a scrapbooking event for the evening and I gave Baby G. a bath. I happened to peek into his mouth and saw a new two year molar breaking through in the back. If it wasn’t “problem solved”, it was “problem better understood” at least. He continued to be grumpy, and up occasionally overnight all through the following week. It felt better knowing why.

If all this wasn’t enough, the alarm system panel at our house started making these sequences of six beeps every few hours during both the day and the night over this past weekend. I first noticed the problem at around 3am on Saturday. Baby G. was up again at around 1am, and I’d brought him with me to the sofa in our living room where (thankfully) we both fell asleep again fairly quickly. So that got me up for a second time with a front row seat because the alarm panel is only about six feet from the sofa. By late morning, I’d done some searching online about the problem and figured out that the system has a small lead acid battery that it uses as a backup power supply. That battery was dead or dying, prompting both beeps from our control panel and signals to the alarm company. Those alarm company signals resulted in robo-calls to our house saying “your alarm system has a low battery”.

I tried at various times during the day Saturday to call the alarm company to get advice on what to do. That initially proved fruitless. The robo-calls we got referred to a web site, and the web site referred to a 1-800 help line that called an automated phone tree. The phone tree eventually tried to call a number that prompted one of those “You have dialed a wrong number. If you reached this number in error, please hang up and call again.” messages from the phone company. After a few more episodes of beeping alarm panels during the day, I stepped up my efforts by looking at the contact numbers available on our monthly bills. One of those connected me to a human right away, and I finally found myself taking apart the alarm panel at around 5pm with the help of someone on the phone.

Getting at the battery proved fairly easy, but finding a replacement was less so. About the only place where I figured I could find such an item after 5pm on a Saturday was the local electronics megamart chain. It’s a great place to go for absolutely all things “technology geek”, but their customer service is absolutely horrible and their business practices cut every corner possible. Yet, they are a “one stop shop” with a lot of stuff you can’t get elsewhere, and cannot be ignored for that reason. I follow two rules when shopping there: 1. don’t call and ask if they have something because the sales drones always lie about what’s in stock, and 2. never buy anything “previously opened with manufacturers warranty” because all returns seem to be put back on the shelves at least once, even if parts are mangled, broken, or missing. Knowing that this might involve a journey, we decided that I should wait until Baby G. was fed, bathed, and in bed before I departed.

I finally began my quest just before 7:30pm. I headed to the nearest store for the battery, which the chain web site indicated was in stock. As with calling on the phone, I discovered that “in stock” on the web was a relative term. After looking for 10 minutes where on the shelf that the battery was supposed to be but wasn’t, I flagged down a sales drone and he looked at the inventory system. It said that there was supposedly one item in inventory, but the drone happily conceded that it was often difficult to locate an item if there was only one of them in the system. I had the presence of mind to ask about inventories at other stores; he said there was a store 10 miles away with four, and a store 20 miles away with twelve. I opted to head for the store 20 miles away because it was getting toward 8pm and the stores closed at 9pm. I’d rather go the distance and definitely find a battery than stop at a second store only to have to move on to a third and be worrying about closing time.

The further store did indeed have plenty of the batteries, though it took me a while to find one because each store is laid out differently and I hadn’t been to that location for a long time. The replacement battery took about 10 minutes to install and then 24-30 hours to charge. I had it installed by 9pm on Saturday, and the low battery warnings (with the attendant beeps and robo-calls) didn’t finally end until Sunday night. The system did not report that it was healthy again until I got up on Monday morning.

When I told my parents about all this on Sunday, my Mom humorously remarked that “all of you seem to try awfully hard to find new ways to lose sleep.”

I did get one consolation out of the shopping trip on Saturday night. The CD selection at the local electronics megamart has shrunk a lot over years (though it’s still better than say, Best Buy or Target) but they still have a rack for audiophile releases like SACDs and DVD-Audio discs. There, I was able to find a copy of the Mobile Fidelity SACD release of Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. This is a lush, beautiful stereo version (created under the supervision of Brian Wilson in 1997) that made for a gorgeous meditation as it played on my SACD player while I cleaned house on Sunday morning.