Dear Daphne – 4 Years

We celebrated your fourth birthday on Saturday.

Technically, your birthday was on Sunday, but we decided to rent a couple cabanas at Schlitterbahn, a water park down in Galveston, and it was easier if we did so on Saturday.

Daddy took a little siesta in the hammock…

While you swam for hours…

You rode bravely down a couple waterslides, and then played a rousing game of “Just How Much Sand Can I Fit into My Swim Diaper?”

We took a lap around the Lazy River too.

And your poor father is still feeling the effects of all that sun radiating down atop his defenseless melon.

Everyone had a really fantastic time, and I think you had the best time of all.

Which is a sign of a birthday party working as intended.

Another entirely different development that’s happened of late is that I have, on rare occasions, had to become “The Bad Guy.”

Take, for example, last night. During dinner.

You decided that you were done with your food, signed “finished!” and summarily left the table. All these things were fine.
However, you still had a mouthful of chicken nugget when you did them.

Your mother and I tried to calmly explain that you simply cannot go play with a wad of processed chicken in your mouth, yet you refused to listen to our sage advice. Instead, you careened around the living room, wielding your new sit n’ bounce ball like a morning star versus a vile and evil ice dragon Jib.

And so, playtime had to be interrupted, and Dad had to come over to remind you that Daphne does not run Bartertown.

At this point, anything that might’ve been recognizable as “food” had dissolved into an slurry that you’d tucked into your lower lip like a wad of orange chewing tobacco.

And yet, you refused to relinquish this, your chicken chaw.

And so..Dad had to go get it.

It took several attempts, because you were being rather unhelpful throughout the process. Eventually I had to pin your hands and hold your face still while I scooped it out with my finger, a process that you and I both found equally disquieting.

Your response to this was to simply cry, and cry some more, and then cry even louder… But then, you reached your tiny arms around my neck, and hugged me in an effort to get me to stop.

And that little maneuver shattered your daddy’s heart into a million pieces.

Maybe we can work on a Bartertown triumvirate…

You’ve started full days at school this week, and it’s actually worked out pretty well so far. (Granted, it’s only day 3…but we’re hopeful.)

It gives your teachers more time to work on that whole potty training thing, gives you some extra time to play (you’re really enjoying a little thing called “recess”), and it gives mommy enough time to be able to leave work and pick you up from school.

And you’ve been doing fantastically well during these longer days, earning nearly all “+”s on your daily progress reports. (Except for puzzles; you hate doing puzzles.) Your mommy and I are very proud of what a smart and kindly little girl you are, and your teachers absolutely adore you. Hopefully you’ll always love going to school in the years ahead.

Years.

Four years…

It’s hard to believe that this is only our fourth ride around the sun since D-Day. Time is indeed a strange, wibbly-wobbly thing.

The lives that we lived before you became our little girl seem foreign, very far away, and strangely quiet (despite how “busy” and “stressed” we thought we were back then). And yet, it was not nearly long enough ago that you fit so perfectly into the crook of my arm.

I’m trying everything I can think of to be mindful during every amazingly lucky day that I get to be your daddy, and yet you’re still growing up way too fast.

I love you more than you’ll ever know, my little girl.

-Daddy-

Beach Follow-Up

I’d kinda been holding off on posting until the “official” beach pictures arrived. Had I known it would take almost a month, I wouldn’t have waited.

Regardless, here are a few of the pics that came in.
We’ll catch up afterward.

Look how beautiful my wife is. *sigh*

And, in what has become one of my favorite pictures of fatherhood to date…

That one gets me every time.

Okay, that should just about do it for the beach house stuff.

Sadly, we’ve kinda had a rough go of it since my last post. Daphne came down with a fever the Saturday before last and, after a doc visit on that Monday when it had held steady at almost 103 for the second day, it was surmised that she’d come down with the flu.

Which in turn caused Daph to sleep for 14-15 hours per day and refuse to eat anything, at all, for 72 hours.

She was an absolute skeleton by last weekend, her little shoulder blades starting to stick out of her back, when she finally turned the corner and began to get better…much to her parents’ relief.

And she’s made up for it since then, averaging about 4 bowls of Cheerios each morning before school.

That’s the face of a little girl that’s feeling much better.

Everything else ’round these parts has been about the same. I’m still working from home (which is getting weirder the longer I do it, but that’s a story for a different post), Jen is almost finished with another school year, and we’re closing inexorably in on Daphne’s 4th birthday later this month.

Yes. Her 4th.

How exactly 4 years just rocketed by is as much a mystery to us as I’m sure it is to you.

Okay, I’ve got to get back to work.

Talk to you soon.

j.s.

Bolivar, Bolivar…

“…never before has a boy wanted more!”

(Apologies in advance if I get that little meme stuck in your head.)

Yes, we’re back from our family Spring Break trip to Bolivar Peninsula. And yes, everyone had a great time.
Daphne in particular, as it was warm enough for her to actually go into the water without freezing to death. (The LAST TIME we went down there the temperature didn’t rise above 50°.)

But this time it was in the mid 70°’s, and so we braved the tiny surf of Galveston for her first non-pool swim outing.

We started with just some basic puddle stomping near the shore…

But soon, that wasn’t exciting enough, and so we graduated to wading into the surf.

And she got progressively more brave…
Until I was having to go out and get her.
“Okay Dad, I’m good. Pick me up in Cancún in a few.”

We played in the water for over an hour, running back and forth between the shore and out into the wavelets, until her little lips were turning blue and we headed back to the house where she napped, and napped hard, for a few hours.

That evening saw us doing our usual board and card game thing, and we came across some really good ones, and some “meh, this is okay” ones.

The first one, Cockroach Poker, was somewhere between those two.

It was VERY simple to play (the only similarity to actual poker is that it’s a game played with cards) and makes for a pretty good family game…pending said family is willing to lie, lie, and lie some more, right to one another’s faces.

The next game was The Mind.

I picked this up at PAX and I was really excited about playing it, but the general consensus was that it fell squarely into the “meh” category. Alas, the game is nothing more than a deck of cards numbered 1-100, so I can’t really argue much with that opinion. Although Jen and I played a round and both really liked it, so it might’ve just been the setting that wasn’t quite right.

We also played Monikers, which came highly recommended…but I think we all found to be kinda “meh” as well.

It’s part 64,000 Pyramid, part charades. And honestly I think we were all a bit to sober to really get into it. Another time, perhaps.

Quacks of Quedlinburg is another game I just picked up a few weeks ago.

Quacks is a push-your-luck game where you add ingredients to a bag and pull them out blindly in an attempt to make the best potion possible without the ingredients becoming volatile and exploding. It was a bit rules-ey at the beginning, but after a while we all got the hang of it and the game became a lot of fun. And this despite my potions CONSTANTLY exploding, prompting a subsequent string of obscenities at being forsaken by the laws of probability.

And finally we played Red Flags…

This was an interesting game about horrific dating partners that was indeed pretty funny, but it was the last game of the night and so it felt like it dragged on a bit too long. (I think 4-6 players is probably the wheelhouse for this one.)

The following day, Daphne returned to the water for more playing…this time with mommy in tow.

As I said, she had a fantastic time…as did we all.

And I’m afraid that’s where I’m going to leave you for now, as I’ve another new editing project that just arrived and I need to get started on it.

See you soon,

j.s.

Settling In

I hate to start these things off on a negative note, but I just started using the brand new WordPress editor and I’ve gotta tell you…it’s not very good. And this coming from a guy who’s been blogging for almost 20 years.

There’s a TON of intimidating white space on this screen, and very little else.

Might have to find a plugin that makes it look like the old school version. We’ll see.

Anyway…

Hi there!

So things are pretty good over here. I have been ceaselessy amazed that values in a bank account can actually GO UP rather than steadily dwindle.

Although I’ll tell you all something, working from home is a very strange thing.

The daily routine is quite similar to that prior to being hired. I get Daphne up in the morning, make her breakfast, get her dressed, then drive her to school, all on the same general timeline. The big difference is, once I get home I have just enough time to clean up the Cheeriosplosion that is our breakfast table and pour a cup of coffee before I have to lock myself in the upstairs office until around 12:30.

Then, for my “lunch break,” I hurry downstairs to take a quick shower, microwave a lunch speedball of dubious salutary value, then tote a Topo Chico back up to my office…which is where I stay until about 6pm.

Which means the only time I actually leave the house is to drive Daphne to school in the morning. So by Thursday evening, I’m a little punchy from being trapped in the house all week.

The good thing about it is that it makes for some really speedy workweeks.

I’ve somehow been at the new gig for a little over a month now. And no, I’ve no idea how that happened either. (Time, you are a lead-footed grandma in a Plymouth Fury that’s late for bingo.)

Anyway, it’s going well, I think. At least on my end… Hopefully they’re still happy with me.

And for additional evidence of how fast time is moving, look how tall this little girl is getting:

This past Sunday was an absolutely beautiful day, so Daph and I went for a long walk around the ‘hood while Mom wrapped up some work she needed to get finished. Sadly, all the other pictures I took were blurry and/or generally not good enough for publication.

And it must be that I’m rusty, because it sure isn’t the fault of the subject matter. =]

The potty training also continues. And with very little in the way of success. Discussions with her teachers have given us the impression that it has become a control issue for Daphne. Given that she’s not necessarily in control of much else, where she goes to the bathroom is something that she can dictate. And for now, Little Miss Dictator here has decreed that potties are for suckers, and hosing down Pull-Ups is her jam.

Okay, I’ve got to get back to it.

Talk to you soon.

j.s.

Been a Minute…

Hi there.

Yep. Been a few weeks. Sorry about that.

But, in my defense, I have been in Plano for job training, which has been not entirely unlike standing in front of an informational fire hose for 9 hours at a clip. And in my rare spare time I’ve been trying to write 11,000 words for a game publisher, finish a proofing job, and, somewhere in there, find time to work on my little start-up.

Which means I’ve had next to no “spare time” to speak of… For about a month.

But things have settled slightly, or at least enough for me to bang out a quick post here in the next 15 minutes or so.

So where were we? PAX? 
**checks post history**
Yep, PAX.

You know, I didn’t really get many pictures at PAX this year. And to be honest I wasn’t all that impressed with it. This is probably going to sound curmudgeonly, but this was the first year where it felt like everyone there was busy trying to be a productLots of kids with their Mixer, Twitch and YouTube channels advertised on shirts and poster boards. And tons of people streaming video throughout the halls.

I feel the same way about that as I do about the people who record concerts. At some point, stop amassing data on your life and take a moment or two to live it. 

And you know it’s bad when the guy who has a blog where he posts pictures and videos of his kid all the time thinks you’re being excessive…


Like these, for example, which are the only ones I have from PAX.

Anyway, I don’t want to harp on that. Suffice to say I’m not entirely sure if we’ll be returning to PAX next year.
So let’s move on.

After PAX I still had 2 more weeks of training in Plano. And I’ll tell you, I don’t know how those “road warrior” types do it. I was completely OVER living out of that hotel room by the second week, and I desperately wanted to be back home. So much so, that I did whatever I could to feel connected to my family.

Like eating these for lunch.

Between you and me, I’ll be quite happy if I don’t see another hotel room until 2020.
Late 2020.

But now to Daphne.

So we’ve been doing the potty training thing pretty hard these past weeks. And honestly Daph has been off-and-on with the whole process. Last week we had a stretch where she was using the potty both at school and at Gramps & Nana’s house…but not at home.
This week she’s not using any of them, anywhere.
*sigh*
I know. It’s a process…  Hopefully they had some luck with it at school today.

In other Daphne news, I had to evict her from her playroom upstairs and have turned it into the following:

Not nearly as entertaining as foam letters and a play kitchen.

But given that I’m working with patient health information, and given how loud Alex can be, I absolutely have to be able to close the door in order to work from home.

And that’s where I’m writing this little post from right now, before it’s time for Daphne’s bath.

Oop! And the water just stopped…so I’m on my way.

See you (hopefully) soon.

j.s.

Yep, I’m Back…Sorta.

Hi there.

Yes, I know. It’s been almost 3 weeks. But I do have a pretty good excuse…

So, in what we’ve taken to calling “The Christmas Miracle,” I got a job offer about 30 hours before Xmas morning.

Not only is it roughly the same pay as my old job, it’s also 100% remote, so I’ll be working from home. Which means I get to keep my Mornings with Daphne, and I might even get to continue going to swim lessons if I can squeeze them in during “lunch.”

“Not tryin’ to hear that, old man…”

It qualifies as a “miracle” because my 6-month emergency reserves, which I’d somehow stretched out to last for almost 14 months, were getting perilously close to hitting “E.”

But, I officially started the job yesterday. Which means I’m coming to you “live” from a hotel room in “The Colony.”

Be it ever so humble…

Yes, I still had to come up to their office for training, which will go on for the rest of the month.

And yes, I’m already sifting through my phone for videos of my wife and Daphne, because I’m missing them so much.

Like this one, Daphne’s latest swim video…

And this one, featuring my beautiful wife rocking and singing to our little girl…

It’s going to be incredibly hard for me to be away from them for so long…

Fortunately, the PAX South gaming convention has returned once again this weekend, and so we’re all going to meet in Seguin tomorrow, then stay in a hotel in San Antonio on Saturday night before I have to return to “The Colony” (which sounds rather ominous…) for the week.

And somewhere in all this I have to finish that writing assignment I mentioned in my last post, continue to cultivate my little virtual reality start-up, and maybe find time to sleep in there somewhere.

But! I didn’t want to let another week go by without saying “hi” to all of you, and to at least let you know why the posting’s been so scarce of late.

I’ll talk to you soon, hopefully next time with pics from PAX!

j.s.

HoliDaph

Hey there.

Yes, I know…it’s been a few. There’s been an awful lot going on.

Daphne’s strep has indeed cleared up, and thank you all for your well wishes.

I will say that having to pin her arms down while shooting amoxicillin into her mouth before school every morning was not my favorite way to start a day…but she’s better now as a result, so all’s well that ends well, I suppose.

She actually wrapped up her school for the year a little more than a week ago, and was sent home with this adorable little guy.

Rudolph the Recyclable Reindeer

Inside were a few other crafts, a snowflake, a Christmas light, and a painted snowglobe, all of which are currently magnetized to our refrigerator.

So last Sunday, Christmas Eve-Eve, we went over to the Sugar Land Skeeters baseball field for their annual holiday lights event.

I’d pay extra to see a game with all this stuff still in play.

You get to walk a path around the perimeter of the field and all of the seats are lit up in various colors. These, in turn, light up your daughter in various colors.


She got tired of walking…
A rare BumbleMom sighting!

They smartly had a beer tent open as well, complete with rocking chairs, firepits, and s’mores.

Cozy.

Daph got to run around and do her thing here while we sipped a beer and relaxed in front of the fire.

Yes, I know she touched the ground and then put her hands in her mouth. Don’t judge.

In all it was a really good time. Definitely worth checking out if you happen to be in the west Houston area during the holidays.

I had a couple more gifty things to pick up afterward (Christmas procrastinator that I am), and so I purposely waited until around midnight that night to run over to our new 24-hour Wal-Mart, thinking that the crowds wouldn’t be so bad.

Which was a very correct assumption.

Judging by the cars in the lot, there were something like 4 people there…but I never saw them.

No one but me and Mac, the janitor bot.

**bbbbrrrrt. DING! Welcome to Wal-Mart. I love you.**

I even checked out by myself at the self-service stations.

It was, in all honesty, a little spooky.

But I picked up what I needed, at which point Christmas was officially a “GO!”

And as it turns out, Santa would do his part too, and he dropped off presents for a particularly good little girl that we all adore.

He brought a Big Wheel…

“I drive . Give me keys.” –Alex–

And some new artwork that he knew Daphne would like…

Storybot on the half-shell.

That last one was particularly interesting, as Santa must have had to take her old picture down off the wall while she slept, and swap it out with the new one.

Sneaky Santa.

And finally, he brought a little something for the entire family…

Yes, there are fish in the house now.

Jen picked out all of the decor and artfully arranged their ichthy-condo, and I handled the biological additives and chemicals.

We dropped our first two fish (Lewis and Clark) into the tank last night, and I’m happy to report that they are both still alive and zooming around the tank (as of the time of this writing, anyway), blazing a trail along the nitrogen cycle and laying the groundwork for all the settler fish to follow.

It was a fun Christmas all around, and Daphne loved all of her gifts.

Finally, we went out on a post-Christmas sailing trip with the Sailing Angels on Friday, cruising around the Kemah harbor.

As you can see, we had a horrible time.

Daphne loved the rocking of the boat and, much like her daddy, seemed to find it soothing. So much so that she fell asleep on the way back to the dock.

We were just waking up here…

Was a really good time, and we’re very appreciative of the folks at Sailing Angels, and for the people at Hope for Three for setting us up with them.

Speaking of Hope for Three, you’ll find a familiar face (and writing style) on their website, talking about a particular little mermaid.

Okay, I think I’ve gotten everyone caught up. There’s more to talk about, of course, but that will have to wait for next time.

We hope your Christmas was every bit as merry as ours.

See you soon.

j.s.

Comin’ Strepped

This has been a challenging few days…

Daphne has been a very sick little girl. 

She developed a wet cough out of nowhere on Saturday afternoon which, while unlike her, wasn’t in itself a huge deal.

Then by Saturday evening, a fever had begun to creep up.

And by Sunday morning, she was hot to the touch and our failmometer was vacillating between 99.2 and 101.5.

Regardless, that meant “fever,” and so we propped Daph up with some pillows and a blanket, gave her Little Baby Bum on the iPad, and tried to keep her stationary, insomuch as such a thing can be accomplished with a 3 1/2-year-old.

The lighting from that screen isn’t doing any favors to your pallor, kid.

Unfortunately, her fever got worse as the day progressed and the failmometer read 102.1 on the high end of the samples (seriously, I hate that thing) by Sunday evening. 

So on Monday morning we cancelled swim class, called her school, and settled in for another day of rest here at home.

But, despite being completely soaked in sweat after two naps, her fever never broke.

Grandma picked up some toddler ‘tussin from the local CVS and we gave her a shot of it just before bedtime on Monday night. (Fun aside: this would be just after she threw up all of her rice and chicken nuggets while we were still sitting at the dinner table.)

And man, that stuff knocked her out like I’d spiked her Martinelli’s with Vicodin. 

Capri Sizzurp

She crashed out at 8pm and didn’t even move until 7am the following morning.

Awesome…” I thought as I awoke on Tuesday. “That had to have knocked out whatever that bug was. We’ll have a chill day at home again and she’ll be ready for school tomorrow

I stomped triumphantly upstairs to congratulate her on a great sleep and talk about what a fun day of videos we had ahead of us. But when I opened the door I found her sitting up in bed, flushed, and still burning hot to the touch. 

The Failmometer beeped back 99.5 and 101.9, unhelpfully.

This isn’t fun anymore…

Okay. This one is officially beyond dad’s over-the-counter skill to heal… We’re going to need a cleric doctor.

So I called the local clinic and, after some preparatory discussion about how Daphne would be unable to describe her symptoms, they found an opening for her at 11:30.

Now, getting Daph to cooperate with a doctor’s poking and prodding when she feels great is an Olympic sport. When she’s already sick, it’s a wrenching, muscling, screaming battle of wills and endurance, and one that’s entirely unpleasant for everyone involved.

Suffice to say, we did get her checked out.

And suffice to say, as you might’ve guessed by the title, Daphne does indeed have strep throat.

So today began the first of 10 days of amoxicillin shots, administered via one of those weird oral syringe thingies.

And I’d love to say the stuff was a fast-acting miracle drug like they described…but that would be a total lie.

No, now she has the exact same fever, but has added a gurgling cough to it. (One with a tendency to spackle throat yuck on everything within a 10′ cone area of effect.) Couple these with a mucus spigot where her adorable little nose used to be, and you can probably guess how entertaining our homelife has become.

This, of course, leaves out the bit about strep throat being ridiculously contagious. And Daph has, on more than one occasion, coughed directly up my nose.

At this point I have zero hope of escaping the streppy fate that’s ahead of me.

Anyway, Jen has taken the day off today to help take care of Daphne while I finish up the writing that I have due at the end of the week.

Oh, I haven’t mentioned that have I?

Yeah, I’ve been hired to do some creative writing for an role-playing game. It’s not a huge deal, as I’m just one of several writers working on it. And it certainly isn’t going to pay the mortgage…
But, full disclosure, this is one of those things that I’ve dreamt of doing ever since I was a kid, and I’ve been given a chance earned my shot right now.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it if/when it’s published. (Pending, of course, my stuff ends up being good enough to make the cut.)

I can’t say a whole lot more about it right now, NDAs being what they are, but I am a little excited. And, whatever happens, it’s been fun to work on.

Okay, I’ve got to run. I need to take some more vitamins…

j.s.

“Yule Love It!”

You know, I haven’t had my annual “Scrooged” viewing yet…

Let’s remedy that right now, shall we?

“TOWEL!”

There, that’s better.

Okay, so let’s talk about the pivot from Thanksgiving to Christmas. This transition is always accomplished by two events.

The first is watching Scrooged and Die Hard, my favorite holiday movies. And, as we’ve established, we’re halfway there on that front.

The second is our annual Dickens on the Strand trip to Galveston, which is always the first weekend in December.  

This one was Christmas 2015. Daphne’s first DotS.
And here’s this weekend.

This was the first year that we didn’t bring some kind of Daphne Transportation Device (a stroller, Daphwagon, or the Kelty backpack) and, naturally, her little legs got tired after a while.
And there’s only one answer to that problem…

“Yah, mule!”

This would have been fine, however she took it upon herself to use my beard as a steering device, yanking it in whichever direction she wanted to go. And while this was oodles of fun for Miss Daphne, it was a bit rough on Dad.
By the end of the day, my beard had gotten so wild I looked like Hagrid the Grey. 

We also picked up our Christmas tree last week, and as it turns out Daphne is a big fan of it this year.

Pine needles on feet is apparently a strange and amazing sensation, so she’s been hanging out in that chair rubbing her feet on the branches.

Okay, so I started playing with Photoshop a bit… Don’t judge.

Yes, she’s that adorable all the time. 

Okay, I’ve really gotta run. Lots to do and less time to do it in.

Talk to you soon, and happy holidays everyone.

j.s.

Turk 187!

Yes, that’s an 80’s movie joke, mixed liberally with a 90’s gangsta rap reference, and delicately sprinkled with holiday trimmings.

And I’m afraid it will have to stand on its own, because this…

is the only picture I got of the turkey this year.

And honestly, it wasn’t all that great this year anyway (it was a bit on the dry side), so it’s fine to let this one go by unrecorded.

That said, we did get a family picture this year, which is infinitely better than shots of a smoldering bird carcass.

Overall it was a good, if slightly low-key, event this year. However my baking game was decidedly off point. I tried twice and still couldn’t get my homemade dough to rise properly. So instead of light, fluffy dinner rolls, we got thick slabs o’ carbs. 
To be honest I still don’t know what the issue was, which is frustrating.

Still, it’s always nice to have family over. And Daphne seemed to have a great time too.

So who cares about the rolls.

Today saw us driving over to Enchanted Gardens to pick out our tree (a holiday tradition), which should be delivered to our house tomorrow morning.  I’ll have some pictures of that very soon.

Speaking of pictures, next weekend, weather permitting, is our annual Dickens on the Strand trip.

So there’s plenty going on. I’ll update you all again soon.

Until then, happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

j.s.