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Friday, April 06, 2018 2 comments

Here's Your Sign

“More” (hungry kid)
While Charlie is still non-verbal at age 2, his speech therapist says he understands a lot more than the average 2 year old. Meanwhile, the speech therapist, daycare, and the wife are teaching him some sign language (ASL). I remember reading about kids who skip the baby talk until they’ve figured out how to speak in complete sentences, and I kind of hope that’s what Charlie will do.

Still, he usually manages to make himself understood. That’s a lot easier when your surrogate parents have raised a handful of kids, and been around a bunch more. I can often tell when a baby at a restaurant is hungry or just wants attention by the edges in the crying. It’s hard to explain, but I’m usually right, judging from what the kid’s doing after quieting down.

Anyway… back to Charlie. A lot of times, he’ll start to fuss when I put him in the playpen (a/k/a “cage”—a nice roomy cage with lots of toys, but it’s still confinement). I’ll say, “You know the drill; I’ve got to get stuff ready to go,” and he’ll calm down and start playing. He really does know the drill.

One recent morning, I was getting him ready for the ride to daycare, and his shirt rode up. Belly blast (blowing loud raspberries on his belly) time! He laughed, then signed “more.”

"More what?” I asked.

He pushed his belly out. More belly blasts!


This evening, I was getting his bottle ready. (He drinks out of a cup now, but still likes his bottle for nighty-night.) Back when Mason was a baby, I'd count down the last ten seconds before the microwave finished up, and I’ve been doing the same with Charlie. Somewhere along the way, Mason started whispering “Tin!” and pointing at the timer, trying to get the countdown to speed up (I point to each number as it counts down). Tonight, Charlie grunted and pointed at the display for the first time. He’s not saying “ten,” but it’ll come.

Sometimes, I wonder if Mason’s fascination with numbers partly stem from those late-night microwave countdowns. Speaking of Mason… as this is Spring Break week on Planet Georgia, he’s spending the week with his dad. He was supposed to come back yesterday, but asked if he could stay until Saturday. Skylar stays with us most evenings, to provide some surrogate noise, but it’s mostly been a quiet week. I’ll be glad when the rugrat is home, though.

Thursday, March 29, 2018 1 comment

Patching Things Up

Charlie is mostly laid back, but he definitely has a lazy eye. A few weeks ago, we got to head down to the 'burbs to see an eye doctor—whether they specialize in pediatric eye care, or have an “in” with the state, what does it matter? Wife wanted me to take a day off work and come along… since it was on a Thursday, I also took Friday and made it a four-day weekend.

I was curious how they would get a squirmy toddler to look where they wanted, and I found out. They have a number of gadgets designed to get a child’s attention—a mechanical owl on the other side of the room, a clown toy that does jumping jacks when you push a button—yet another one of those it’s obvious when you think about it things.

yawwwwwn uh… arrrrr.
The upshot was, Charlie has to wear a patch on his left eye for two hours per day for the next month or so. They gave us a handful of samples to get us started, and (of course) you can get nearly two months’ supply on Amazon for $20 or so (and we did).

The cool thing about the big box is that it has an assortment of patterns—camo, wizard (robe, wands, Harry Potter-esque glasses), rockets… and, of course, pirates! By the time I got this picture, Charlie was well on the way to lala-land. I ended up peeling the patch off (which woke him up a little, of course) and putting him to bed soon after.

It only took a couple days for Charlie to mostly stop picking at the patch while he has it on. Once it’s on, if we keep him occupied for a couple of minutes, he pretty much forgets about it unless he gets bored. So far so good. Getting daycare to remember the patch is kind of hit-or-miss right now, though. Oh well. One thing at a time.

When it comes time to take it off, though, I guess Charlie knows to keep his eyes peeled…

Thursday, March 22, 2018 2 comments

Back in the Saddle

Mason got a mountain bike a while back, and lately he’s wanted to… well, go mountain biking. Imagine.

Raleigh M-60… 1998?
Well, gee. I have a mountain bike, too. It has even been featured on this blog in the past, riding exotic routes like the Pinellas Trail or the Silver Comet Trail.

I hadn’t ridden it much in the last few years, and even less so after Charlie and the knee replacement. But it has been in the dry garage, and even moved around from time to time. It was a gorgeous weekend—we were all running around outside with shorts—and Charlie wore himself out riding a push-truck on the driveway. After he went down for a nap, at Mason’s incessant urging, I rolled the Raleigh out into the sunlight along with its air pump, a few tools, and the tires.

Off with the on-road,
On with the off-road!
The tires, you say? Yup. It came with a pair of off-road tires, with an aggressive tread that made it sound like an old pickup truck when riding on pavement. It turned out I rode a lot more on pavement than off, especially when The Boy and Daughter Dearest were old enough to ride on the roads. So I bought a pair of hybrid tires, swapped them on, and hung up the knobbies for later.

Later, it turned out, was last weekend. As Mason watched with great fascination, I pulled the wheels off, swapped the road tires for the knobbies, then hung the road tires up. This was made easier by dint of the tires being quite flat. Fortunately, the inner tubes held air when I pumped them back up. We took a shake-down cruise: down the driveway, across the expanse of yard alongside the road, around the gravel pile, then back to the manor. You know the old saw about “it’s just like riding a bicycle.” Yup, it all came back to me really fast. The tires and tubes were fine, and Mason was ready to start his adventure ride.

There’s a trail that leads from the back yard down to a garden area (a previous owner cleared it, although I wonder why they didn’t clear an area closer to the house… oh well). Mason found the trail on the other side, that runs to the fence between FAR Manor’s grounds and the in-laws’.

“Want to ride down to the pond?" I asked Mason. He was enthusiastic about the idea, so we went through the gate and I led the way.

The pasture was pretty rough, between all the rain we’ve had recently and the cows walking on it, and it jounced us thoroughly. Through a gate on the other side, past the campsite, and down to the pond. There were some poles and tackle left behind by one cousin or another, so Mason decided to do a little fishing:

Just as well they weren’t biting
I’m kind of glad Mason didn’t catch anything, because it would have been rather difficult to bring the catch home.


You may have noticed I said we rode down to the pond. That was a deliberate choice of words: FAR Manor is on a hilltop, and there’s only a dozen yards or so that isn’t downhill between the house and the pond. Now you can guess what that means… yup, uphill all the way home. This was the part Mason hadn’t really considered. Even in low gear, he complained a lot and had to take a few rest breaks. Surprisingly, I only needed a brief rest, and I never went below the middle chainring on my bike.

I hope Mason elects to continue riding around the manor and farm, though. It’ll build up his legs and his stamina, and he’ll be able to hustle harder in his soccer games. As for Charlie, I have a bike seat that clips onto the rack. I bought it for Mason when he was little, but he wanted nothing to do with it. I expect Charlie will have a more positive reaction.

Oh… and I need a new helmet.

Sunday, February 25, 2018 2 comments

Spring Fever Walks In

Sunny days, everything’s A-OK.
In the last couple of days, Charlie has all but given up crawling. The utility of being able to move around while holding something (especially something you treasure, but aren’t supposed to have) is not lost on him. This is exciting, because he’s progressing, but now we have to uplift anything he wants to grab… which is pretty much everything. Mason and Sizzle’s kids have a bad habit of stashing stuff on a bookshelf full of videos in the living room, and Charlie has demonstrated the ability to reach objects on the second shelf from the top. Put it up top, guys, unless you don’t care if Charlie gets it.

I’ve lost track, but I think we’re in Spring #3 right now. It has been longest and warmest of any of the mini-springs we’ve seen here at FAR Manor. I think I caught Spring Fever on Friday; I was in the best mood I can remember in a loooong time. Making big progress on a major work thing (we’re in the middle of a conversion to DITA, for you #techcomm folks, and I’m one of two people hacking on the PDF plugin) certainly didn’t dampen my spirits. Nor did driving home with the top down.

Saturday was freakish-great; I’ve often said Planet Georgia’s winters get warm when the sun goes away and vice versa, but it was sunny and warm. It reminded me of that amazing November day when Mason had a soccer game. Speaking of which, his team has started practicing for the spring league. Their first two practices got rained out this week, so the coach found us a field for a “pickup practice” on Saturday afternoon.

Maybe this is another kind of Spring Fever thing, but Mason and a girl in his class are playing girlfriend/boyfriend. Not sure what the deal is with oversight on her parents’ side, but she has her own AppleID. Mason uses mine… which means I get to see all the texts they send each other, and get notified every time she tries to FaceTime him (usually 2-3 times per day). They tend to be rather nonsensical online, and a little needy. I’ve since found that teens are often the same, so either Mason and his friend have the emotional maturity of teens twice their age, or teens have the emotional maturity of 8 year olds. Either way, it’s as hilarious as it is annoying. The teens in Blink are a lot more reserved, even the immature but brilliant Sarika (Blink’s on-again off-again love interest). Still, I don’t think I’ll adjust their texting habits… fiction has to make sense, after all.

Charlie’s enthusiasm for life in general goes up a few notches when he’s in the water. So I’ll leave you with a brief tub video, just because I can. Spring Fever is not required when Charlie’s in a tub or pool.


Until next time!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018 No comments

Horsing Around

BIG doggie!
Charlie continues to get therapy for his developmental issues. Besides the occupational therapist who makes house calls on Thursdays, he goes to a clinic for speech and physical therapy.

Part of the latter involves horses—they say it helps with his balance. The clinic has a large indoor area where they can control the situation as well as the climate.

Charlie’s first encounter with a horse went rather well, I’d say. At least he didn’t freak out. i could imagine some kids being intimidated by a critter that size.

So he was comfortable getting face to face with a horse; how about getting on and taking a ride? That went pretty well, too. He sat up straight and enjoyed it:


Check out that big grin as he goes by the wife. He’s loving every minute of it.

Of course, with so much excitement, he didn’t get a nap today. I finally finished a work project that has been dragging on FOREVER, and we celebrated with a night out. Charlie was enamored of the service dog at the table next door, and managed to eat fairly well. But he refused to go down for the night until he had his bottle. Priorities! But he did go down early…

Thursday, January 11, 2018 2 comments

Brace Yourself

With Charlie’s second birthday, he’s finally starting to take those all-important solo first steps. To give him a little more practice, I’ve been walking with him some, trying to get him to hold only one hand and walk beside me. (Besides, I’m less likely to step on his feet that way.)

A while back, one of the therapists said he would need braces to get his feet aligned properly. I immediately conjured a mental image of the hardware Forrest Gump wore in the early part of the movie. But when he came home with them, I had a surprise:

Ankle brace, really
Just a foam-lined plastic cup that goes around his ankle, and a Velcro™ strap to hold it on. To be honest, I'm not sure how they work. They’re called Supra-Malleolar Orthoses (or SMOs), and are designed to be worn with shoes.

Now shoes were an interesting issue. Charlie’s feet are still pretty thick, although not as blobby as they used to be, and he’s supposed to wear shoes over the braces. The orthopedist suggested a wide shoe, a little oversize with laces, and we figured he would need an 8W. Surprise! Most shoe stores didn’t have anything suitable. After a few attempts, I gave up and went to the nearby Target. We soon found out why the orthopedist recommended laces—between the brace and Charlie’s thick foot, the Velcro straps barely reached across at best.

Amazingly enough, I found a pair of shoes that fit the bill:


High-tops, no less!
High-tops? Well, they fit. The zipper on the side turned out to be the key there—unzipping it gave enough room to slide the braced foot in without having to unlace the entire shoe.

Unfortunately, the shoes aren’t very well-balanced… something one might expect from a big-box shoe. They’re too heavy in the toe, so Charlie was dragging his toes when we walked with him. The orthopedist gave us a set of shoes that are made to work with the SMOs—at least the Velcro strap goes all the way across. They’re kind of clompy-looking, but they do seem to work. We’ll keep the high-tops for when he’s older and no longer needs the braces.

Let the Games Begin

Now this is the world according to Charlie:

Paper is treasure.
Bread is dessert.
Anything on his feet is an abomination.

Keeping socks on his feet has always been a chore. Any time he gets a moment to think, off they come. One morning, I was taking him to daycare in the Miata (he likes riding in the little car, because I’m always within reach). He made his “heyyy” noise, and I glanced over. He had one foot in the air, and his hand on the end of his sock.

“Don’t do it,” I told him. He grinned and yanked it off. Little rat.

Now, to get his socks off, he has a couple other things to remove first. Developmental issues my rear; he may still be non-verbal, but he figured out how to pull those Velcro straps quick enough. Ah, and the satisfying ripping noise they make! Rip, and the shoe can come off. Rip, and there goes the SMO. The sock doesn’t make any noise, but bare feet in the breeze makes up for that. Usually, he works one foot at a time. Given a trip of any significant distance, and he’s either asleep or barefoot (or both) at the end of the journey. With the cold (by Planet Georgia standards) weather we got with Winter #2, it was often a mad scramble to get his footgear back on before getting him out. Sometimes, like at the grocery store, we just left the gear in the car and took him inside barefoot. Cold doesn’t bother him.

He still prefers to crawl—but as his balance continues to improve, he often free-stands and will walk short distances (four or five steps). His biggest problem is he’s trying to lean forward and run before he can walk. It won’t be long before we’re shoring up all the old baby-proofing and hearing Mason rage-scream about Charlie messing up his stuff.

Saturday, November 18, 2017 1 comment

Meet our Newest Inmates

Daughter Dearest’s cat Sprite shuffled off this mortal coil, went to meet his Maker, brought down the curtain and joined the choir eternal… Well, he was 16, so he’d been part of DD’s life for over half of it.

Of course, there was someone at church who had rescued a few kittens from a runaway mom who were almost weaned. We’ve been there before—somewhere, I have a pic of a 15 year old DD bottle-feeding three hungry kittens by… oh look, I found it:

From 2004. I remember those boys were HUNGRY and didn't want to wait in line.

Anyway, she got the two surviving ones (another got underfoot… of a cow) and brought them home. They only needed about a week of bottle-feeding, fortunately. So here they are…

Here I am—pet me!
Oscar (I joke that he has that name because of #OscarsSoWhite) is the affectionate purrbucket of the two. He’s also the explorer, often shooting out the door into the kitchen when someone opens it. He will climb right up your pants leg if you don’t pick him up. Daughter Dearest says: “He climbs my leg if I’m wearing jeans, he climbs my leg if I’m wearing slacks, and it’s very painful if I’m wearing shorts.”

Sprite was mostly white when he was a kitten as well, but then developed Siamese markings (but definitely not the Siamese 'tude). I kind of wonder if DD is hoping for the same thing to happen here.


I'm fine down here. Really.
KT, which DD informs me is short for KAT, is the more retiring of the two. She doesn’t run away, but she doesn’t run to you like her brother does, either.

Her markings are very similar to those of my first (adult life) cat, Megabyte. If she’s anything like he was, she’ll pick her person, latch on, and not be all that present for anyone else.

Charlie is thrilled to have little furballs around. But we have to keep constant vigil that he doesn’t grab a leg or torso too hard. Prying that grip loose can be a battle these days.

Oddly enough, Rosie the Boston Terrible likes them, and not for a snack. DD brought Oscar into the living room one night, and Rosie licked him constantly. She’s often over at the doors going to the porch, watching them through the window and moaning.

They share the porch with Pop, the big orange cat. He seems to tolerate them OK, but does like to be outside this time of year. Who knows what he might catch under those piles of leaves?

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