Day’s finally over. Week, in fact.

IMG_1067Started out panicking a little that I wasn’t going to be able to give my kids the Christmas I wanted to. My debit card was on its eleventh day of replacement delivery after some earlier fraud.

A few comments from the kids about disappointment over spending Christmas at dad’s house heightened my anxiety, and when my card arrived I went overboard.

In my sudden relief and joy, I let them open several of their “lesser” gifts. Bad reactions and disappointment from the kids brought back dad’s bad response. More panicked spending.

Finally talked to mom and a close friend, both of whom adore Christmas and have been doing it forever, and surrendered to their advice. I had nothing to lose at this point.

Mom: Invite your brother over and have him make dinner. Make a Christmas memory and don’t focus on the gifts.

Friend: Make interesting and cheap stockings. Everything’s going to be discarded and forgotten just as quickly as the expensive gifts, but a grumpy reaction to a single disappointment is easily overshadowed by amused reactions to 20 confusing dollar store gifts.

First thing in the morning I hear screaming: “Dad! Dad! Where are you!” I let them sleep in the living room last night and didn’t get to bed until 3 or so, so I was disoriented and still half asleep. I jump out of bed and Malcolm and I startled each other in the dark as we ran into each other. “Santa did come! You have to see these stockings! And oh my gosh! We both have huge presents under the tree!”

Stockings were an amazing hit, though they both LOVED the gift they opened this morning. Still, icing on a successfully baked cake. But they had both expressed some concern over the week that I wasn’t going to get any presents and that morning there was nothing stuffed in my stocking. *Lesson learned…put some crap in your own damned stocking if it’s hung over the fireplace. So I had also stuffed a microwave popcorn packet into each of their stockings with a note from Santa about how they were to wait for the delayed arrival of the new microwave oven he had ordered for me from Amazon (ours went out in, like, August and I’m replacing it next week). “Hey! Santa brought dad a present but it just didn’t get delivered on time!”

The kids weren’t so thrilled about dinner, but god damn it was amazing to have another adult there with me after this week. And he’s a fantastic cook. Brussels sprouts with uncured bacon and garlic, mashed potatoes with a surprisingly improvised gravy from ramen noodle spice packets (I forgot the gravy mix!), ham steaks with a sweet pepper glaze, and the company of my brother around my dinner table.

Thanks for everything. Not everybody’s near, but they’re close.

Daniel Tammet

This guy fascinates me. He seems so self-aware and capable of explaining his understanding of himself to the rest of us. I once read an article written by a neurosurgeon who suffered a stroke and recorded her experience as it was happening. I love it when people can express their own amazing weirdness in a way that makes sense to those of us who haven’t been through the same thing. It’s the definition of genius to me.

I read one of his books a whole bunch of years ago, “Born on a Blue Day”. Afterward I memorized π to 75 digits over the next couple of days. I used telephone area codes I had memorized at one of my first jobs, home phone numbers I remember from my childhood, family members’ birthdays, and ZIP codes to find the most memorable patterns, and then when nothing matched I just thought to myself, “oh yeah, the bunch of numbers that don’t mean anything…” But it only stuck with me for about 2 weeks. I had to recite it every day, several times to hold the numbers but it was almost completely gone a week later and forgotten 2 weeks later. Well, not completely. I still remember it out to about ten digits. 

3.1 easy. 415, San Fransisco area code. 926, kind of like the 976 porn phone numbers from the ’80s. 535, 5 seven times. I don’t remember any of the rest of it, but I learned about finding meaningful patterns in noisy number trails as part of this exercise.

Meta Bedtime Story

The bed time story I told my kids tonight:

“Once upon a time there were two little boys who were going to bed. Their dad said, please turn off your iPad, Malcolm. And Malcolm said, I don’t want a story! And dad said just turn it off until the story’s over. And Malcolm said it better be short! And then dad said ‘the more Malcolm argued with dad, the longer the story was and the longer he had to sit there with his iPad off.’ And finally Malcolm turned off his iPad and dad was able to finish his story. All of this made Ian so tired and he was having a hard time keeping his eyes open. And then Malcolm prolonged the story by asking if he could turn on his iPad, to which dad said, ‘no! not until the story’s over!’ Every time Malcolm asked if he could turn on his iPad, the story got longer and longer! It was like magic. And then, Ian was so tired that he just couldn’t stay awake any longer and the time when Malcolm got to turn his iPad back on got nearer and nearer. And then, guess what! Malcolm asked if he could turn on his iPad again and the story got even longer!”

Mal: No I didn’t!

Story: “Oh, wait, no he didn’t. So then the story ended and everybody got to go to bed. Except Malcolm who turned his iPad back on and continued to stay up. The end.”

Lord of the Rings

Just watched Lord of the Rings with my boys. Best movie watching experience ever. They were enthralled and Ian started crying when Boromir dies at the end and we all hugged when Sam won’t let Frodo go alone and then Frodo almost drowns saving Sam. “It’s like they’re brothers! Like me and Ian. We would always stay with each other.” I choked up a little.

Malcolm: “I usually like the bad guys better in most movies, but I hate these bad guys.”

Dad: “me too!” ::pride::

Ian: “I like it when people don’t have wars. I hope there’s never a real war. I’m never going to be in the army.”

Dad: “I can’t really talk right now.” ::I didn’t say that::

We’re going to watch Return of the King tomorrow.

The Cat is Boring

The argument that kept my boys awake half an hour past bed time:

Malcolm: “Dad, the cat won’t sit in bed with me. Now it’s boring.”

Ian: “The cat is boring?”

Mal: “No, it’s boring. The cat’s not boring.”

Ian: “Well, the cat’s boring to me because she was in your bed.”

Mal: “That doesn’t make her boring!”

Ian: “She’s boring to me.”

Mal: “You’re boring!”

Ian: “No! The cat’s boring.”

Mal: “You’re boring!”

Ian: “No! You’re boring!”

Mal: “No, you!”

Dad: “Would you both stop talking and go to sleep please? It doesn’t matter who’s boring because it’s bed time and boring is a part of going to sleep!”

One of them: “I’m not tired.”

The other: “Me either.”


A while ago I discovered that the reason Ian starts counting backward from 60 at seemingly random times is that, when I say “just a minute,” he takes me literally and counts down the seconds.

The other day I said, “In about 6½ minutes.”

He asked, “How many seconds is that?”


He groans, “awww… frown emoticon” and then walks out mournfully counting down, “three hundred and ninety, three hundred and eighty nine, three hundred and eighty eight…”

He seemed more annoyed that he had to count down from 390 than that I needed to work for another 6½ minutes before I could come look at his Minecraft water world that makes Endermen do something twitchy (I don’t really understand what was going on with the Endermen and water).

Optimus Prime – Free Two Day Shipping

Oops. A combination of stubbornness and bad time management on parents’ parts had Malcolm acting out what could have been seen by his teacher as a lack of respect for her expectations and by Malcolm as a sign from us that this is OK.

So last night I was frantic when I discovered the week+ old homework packet, unfinished, with instructions to finish and return to her in his folder. We finished it up, but since this was less his fault (virtually nil) and more a failure of co-parenting, I encouraged him with a bribe.

“If you can meet some for time-based goals I set as you go along, I will buy you the most expensive Transformer we can find on Amazon, outside of used and/or collectors items. For each goal you don’t meet, I’ll drop the reward by 25% of the most expensive one.”

He failed the first one with tears and obstinance, but after a break he beat the rest with ease.

The most expensive damned Transformer is close to $100. frown emoticon

Dreaming of Sleeping

Woke up this morning to Ian really wanting me to get out of bed. It was early, so I just ushered him into my bed and under the covers to buy myself some time.

He talked to himself a lot and scratched my back and played with my ears for a while, but got pretty fed up with my excuses for lying in bed while he was so awake.

Then I feel this little finger in my ear, digging and reminding me of those childhood warnings about cleaning your ears with Q-Tips. Next I feel him sticking his eye up to my ear, peeking in. 

“I’m gonna look in your ear to see what you’re dreaming about.” He pushes his eyeball tightly up against my ear and rocks his head to the side as though he’s honestly looking for something, then pulls back a bit.

“Did you see what I’m dreaming about?” I asked.

“I didn’t see nuffing. Just all black. Daddy? Are you dreaming about sleeping?”


Did homework with Ian tonight. He lit up like a christmas tree. He’s so eager to learn and so imaginative that it almost seems like he’s been filling the intellectual void with his own, fast-paced curriculum.

All day long, every day, he asks these “what if” questions. The last one at the end of the day today was, “daddy, what if the whole universe was the size of me?” When we were buying socks in Victoria last weekend it was, “if everything in the world was made out of fabric, would it be houndstooth?” One time it was, “daddy, if we [all animals] were made out of metal, what would we eat?” 

I feel like it’s a criminal disservice to him to shove this dynamic and differently paced little boy into a system that doesn’t really know how to accommodate him. I just wish I was far enough ahead of the game to know how to get him engaged in a way that could include fitting in at school without squeezing him into (or out of) somebody else’s definition of “amazing.”