Posts in the Carolyn Category

That Disney Magic

Published 19 years, 2 months past

For Thanksgiving, we visited Kat’s parents in the West Palm Beach area, where they retired earlier this year.  When we left Cleveland on Thanksgiving morning, it was snowing—the first snowfall of the season for us.  It was clear that it would build up a dusting, and then melt within a day.  Where we were headed, it was in the seventies.  A part of me wished I could have stayed with the snow.

But off we went, and had a wonderful dinner with Kat’s parents and brother Neil.  After dinner, Uncle Neil taught Carolyn how to work the stacking-ring toy we brought along, and his efforts paid off in spades.  She’s been pulling rings off of the toy and putting them back on ever since, although she still hasn’t quite worked out that whole “largest-to-smallest” thing.  It’s pretty amazing to see how fast she went from not understanding to clumsy attempts to get it right to being an old pro.

Best of all, there was a prize embedded in the center of our trip:  we drove up to Disney World to spend the night at the Contemporary Resort and take Carolyn to the Magic Kingdom for the first time.  We had dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern, an establishment whose name strongly and incongruously reminded me of Thomas Jefferson’s dark aphorism.  After dinner we watched the Christmas parade go past.  Well, actually, Kat and I watched it; Carolyn slept soundly through the whole thing, thus proving my assertion that when she’s fallen into a deep sleep, you can march a brass band past her at full volume and not wake her up.  The parade marched two of them past her.  Snores galore.

The next day, we had breakfast at Chef Mickey’s, rode a few rides, saw the new “Philharmagic!” show (highly recommended), and then headed back to West Palm Beach with my father and his wife, who had met us that morning.

There were two things I observed at Disney that completely astonished me.

The first was that all the children, the same media-savvy world-weary jaded children we keep hearing about in the media, totally buy into the ‘magic’ of Disney.  They relate to the costumed cast members as if they were the real thing; when “Mickey” comes by the table to dance a little jig and pat the kids on the head, they don’t see quote marks.  It really is Mickey, as far as they’re concerned, and even if they know on some level that there’s someone inside a costume, they gladly ignore that knowledge and go along for the ride.

The second thing was that Carolyn, against all my expectations, totally got that the costumed characters were in some way special.  I expected her, even at nearly a year old, to regard the characters as slightly strange people, and not significantly more interesting than anyone else.  Not so.  At first, she was a little hesitant, but with each new character she got more and more excited about them.  You can see in the pictures just how comfortable she became: she’d only learned to give kisses the week before, and by the end of dinner gave Chip (or Dale) a kiss.

At breakfast the second day, she spotted Chef Goofy standing alone near the entrance to the restaurant.  She immediately let go of my hand and toddled toward him.  He sat down, and she went right into his arms for a big hug, then sat down next to him and looked up into his face.  As I took pictures, I heard several people behind me saying things to the effect of it being darned near the most adorable thing they’d ever seen.  A woman sidled up next to me and said she hoped I’d gotten it all on video.  I hadn’t, but that’s okay.  The pictures I did take tell the story well enough.

I don’t know what it is about Disney; maybe they put something in the water.  But it really does create a kind of magic.

All too soon, it was time to head back home.  Like any good parent, we want our child to be as safe as possible, so I was greatly heartened to see her taking the time to look over the important safety information printed on the card found in the seat pocket in front of her.

Carolyn, strapped into her seat on the plane, solemnly looks over the airline safety information card.

Look Who’s Walking Now

Published 19 years, 3 months past

This past Tuesday, and by that I mean three days ago, Carolyn stood unsupported for the first time, wobbling in place for five seconds.  She stood on her own a few more times Wednesday and Thursday, gaining a little more experience and confidence each time.

This morning, she started walking.  They’re tentative, almost spastic steps, but she can get from one person to another without any support at all.  Her facial expression as she does so is a bizarre mixture of pure concentration and pure joy–almost as if she knows this is really, really hard, and yet loves to do it so much that she can barely breathe.

Remember, this is the little girl who didn’t even start crawling until about six weeks ago.  Now she’s walking, and she’s started crawling up the stairs to boot.  I can hardly believe it.  It’s almost like she was uninterested in mobility until she twigged onto the fact that she could actually move from place to place on her own… and once she figured that out, well, Katy bar the door.

And honestly, I’m not sure who’s more excited, her or us.  Yeah, I know, she’s walking now and that means our lives will never be the same, we’ll wonder why we were ever excited about this, blah blah parental scare stories blah.  You know what?  I will never wonder why I was excited about this.  As she’s moved through every stage, I’ve cherished and enjoyed where she was on each day, and how she’d changed from the past.  Kat has as well.  I think we’ll be free of the wistful regrets that so many other parents have talked about, saying things like, “Oh, I just couldn’t wait for little Joey to start talking, but now he just won’t stop with the chattering and I wonder why I ever wanted him to change!”  No matter how jovial the tone or wry the expression, there always seems to be an undercurrent of seriousness, as if they really do wish that little Joey would just shut up… or, at the least, that they’d fully appreciated the pre-talking stage.

I don’t know that we’ll ever understand that view, and I can’t say that bothers me.  Every time Carolyn makes a developmental advance, it’s a new and fascinating time.  But more immediately, every single day is exciting and wonderful, as we watch her figure out this thing or that; just share playtime with her; or take her for a walk in the yard to touch the trees’ bark, pull up tiny handfuls of the grass, and tilt back to look at the sky with storm-gray eyes full of awe.

Now she walks.  Soon, she’ll start signing to us.  A few months from now, she’ll begin to really talk; she’s already starting to assemble the rudiments of language, imitating things we say as best she can.  One day, she’ll go to kindergarten, and later to grade school.  In the farther future, she’ll become a teenager, and then a woman.  At every turning point, we’ll celebrate who she is and what she’s doing, and never regret the times that have passed into memory.

Keep walking, little one.  We’re right behind you.

Baby Proof

Published 19 years, 4 months past

September was quite an eventful month around these parts.  Guess who learned to crawl, started pulling herself to a standing position, began “cruising” (hesitantly walking while holding on to a couch, table, or other object), moved up to a bigger car seat, figured out how to drink from a sippy cup as well as she already could through a straw, and acquired full object permanence within that thirty days?

And those are just the developmental changes we’re sure happened.  We’re very tired now, thank you.

In the process of installing baby gates all over the house, I discovered that I’m becoming vaguely handy.  It’s a little weird.  Practice does get one closer to perfection, and Ged knows I’ve a very long way to go before I even begin to approach the contemplation of perfection in being handy, but I’m now to the point of seriously thinking about building my own workspace furniture, sort of like Dan did a while back.

Most of my practice was obtained by trying to baby-proof our kitchen.  This is no easy task anyway, but the, er, “interesting” choices made by the house’s previous owner made it about a zillion times more difficult.  Because of the way the drawers and cabinets are faced, it’s almost impossible to secure about half of them.  Of the half that could be secured, two-thirds of them were a royal pain.

Of course, sometimes the difficulty wasn’t with the materials.  I had a friend over to help me with the kitchen proofing, and we spent a lot of time complaining about the idiots who had put together the kitchen.  We had just pulled out a drawer to install a lock.  He selected a thin bit to drill a guide hole, and then started.  The drill bit didn’t even penetrate the facing.  He pressed harder, and still nothing.  Harder, and I realized the drill bit was actually starting to bend.  It wasn’t getting anywhere.  We were kind of impressed, as the facing didn’t look that tough.

No matter; he switch to a sturdier bit and started again.  That one made no better progress than the first one, and as he bore down, we both saw a wisp of smoke curl out of the drill site.  When the drill was lifted away, there was simply a small dimple in the facing.  Now we were seriously impressed, and more than a little confused.  What the heck was this facing made of, anyway?

Just as I started rooting around in the toolbox for a hammer and chisel, he suddenly exclaimed, “Oh, I am such a dumbass.”

It was suddenly very, very clear what had happened.  I couldn’t help it.  I started laughing, as did he.

He clicked over a lever on the drill, put the bit back in place, and hit the drill trigger.  It tore straight in.  I almost fell on the floor, I was laughing so hard.  I couldn’t speak, could barely breathe.

“Well, go figure!” he said in a self-mocking tone.  “I guess it works better when you have the drill actually going forward instead of in reverse!  Wow!  Who’d have thought?”

Indeed so.  Lesson learned.

Since there were requests for pictures of the little one in action, here you go: one crawling, one standing, and a bonus “on the swings” picture.  No, I don’t need help adjusting the brightness on these, but thanks.

Three pictures: one of her crawling away from the camera, one of her standing against a table, and one of her on a playground swing.

iLike iLife 4

Published 19 years, 7 months past

Long-time readers may recall my ranting about iLife 4 being a for-money upgrade, which in the end was as much about my lack of understanding as it was about Apple’s (perceived) silence on the subject.  As it turns out, I never got around to buying iLife 4, so I was happy to have it bundled with my new PowerBook.  That’s right, folks, I spent over $2,000 on a laptop, but I saved $49 in the process!  Ph34r my l33t sh0pp1ng sk1llz!

So I imported my entire iPhoto library into iPhoto 4, which only took about 45 minutes.  In the process, I discovered that I actually have 4,080 photos so far.  There was some weirdness, in that iPhoto 4 claimed to have discovered 234 “lost” images.  Under half were duplicates, and the rest were completely blank files with the same names as photos I already had.  So I threw them all away, and landed at 4,080 pictures.  Once I figured out the keyword interface, which is by no means intuitive (or even very usable), I set about adding metadata to some of my images.  The first order of business, of course, was to tag all pictures of Carolyn and organize them into a smart album.  Guess how many pictures I’ve take of her so far?  We’ll have the answer in a moment, but first, here’s a recent one of her sitting up on her own, which she started doing a couple of weeks ago. A picture of Carolyn sitting up and reaching upward, an enormous smile upon her face.

Everything I’ve heard about the improved speed in iPhoto 4 proves to be correct, and possibly understated.  This thing screams.  It still generates bloated directories, though, given the number of XML files and image copies it’s capable of producing.  This is largely so that it can support a “Revert to Original” feature, so any time you take out red-eye or lighten up an image, you end up with both the original and the modified image on your hard drive.  The same happens if you do no more than rotate an image.

That’s where iPhoto Diet comes in so very handy.  It’s a small application that can get rid of all unnecessary duplicates in your iPhoto library, and it can also delete the originals of all rotated images.  It can also wipe out all the originals, replacing them with the modified versions.  I ran it on my library before I migrated to the new machine and reclaimed over half a gig of drive space.  And that was only getting rid of unnecessary and rotated duplicates, not all originals.  I did a lot of red-eye reductions, and those are still around.  I also have yet to run the “strip thumbnails” option, which could easily reclaim a few dozen megabytes.

I haven’t really played with the rest of the iLife suite since I don’t have a video camera or a garage band.  I may eventually burn some images to a DVD for relatives to play on their TVs.  If I can figure out how to use Garage Band, I might try creating some background tracks for use in radio production work.  It’s nice to know the options are there.

And the answer to today’s trivia question is: as of this writing, the smart album titled “The Compleat Carolyn” contains 1,832 pictures.  At this rate, we’ll have about three thousand pictures of her by her first birthday.

Air Baby

Published 19 years, 8 months past

Earlier this morning, I obtained a Continental OnePass account for Carolyn.  She’s six months old, and she has a frequent flyer number.  Even if our schedules remain absolutely static from now until the end of 2004, Carolyn will have earned close to 10,000 miles toward Silver Elite membership before she reaches her first birthday.

I can’t decide if this frightens or amuses me.

Adoption Day

Published 19 years, 8 months past

Yesterday afternoon, in a small court room on the twenty-second floor of the Franklin County Courthouse in downtown Columbus, Ohio, Kat and I legally finalized our adoption of Carolyn.  There were just two witnesses to this event: the legal representative for the adoption agency, and the magistrate who conducted the proceedings.  The entire proceeding was recorded using a PC to digitally capture the audio, which I thought was rather advanced for a government agency.

To get to the courthouse, we drove two and a half hours through bursts of rain and heavy interstate traffic.  The hearing took less than twenty minutes.  After taking some pictures with the magistrate, we drove back to Cleveland.  After an hour or so to rest, we celebrated this milestone yesterday evening at our favorite restaurant, Matsu, with a small gathering of friends.  For the first time in my life, I ordered a Big Boat o’ Sushi (I’ve always wanted to do that), and with the help of everyone at the table the decks were pretty well cleared.

Until now, I haven’t said anything here about Carolyn being adopted, although it might have been possible to infer it by reading very closely between the lines of some early posts.  To a large degree, this silence was dictated because the adoption wasn’t legally complete.  In a legal sense, we were just borrowing her from the adoption agency on a six-month trial basis.  During that time, we were regularly visited by a social worker who, I assume, was making sure that all was well, that she was thriving both physically and mentally, and that we hadn’t done anything that might be considered unsafe, such as setting up a crystal meth lab in the kitchen or acquiring a pet grizzly bear or something.

Where it truly matters, of course, things haven’t really changed.  Our love for Carolyn is as deep today as it was yesterday—maybe a little deeper, because as every day goes by it seems that we love her (and each other) a little bit more.  All that happened in Columbus yesterday was that the state officially and irretrievably recognized what was already true: Kat, Carolyn, and I are a family, with everything that implies.  We will share joys and sorrows, work together and play together, overcome obstacles and support each other.  We will love each other for the rest of our lives.

I’m not sure what I did to be granted such a wonderful daughter and wife, but whatever it was, it must have been really, really good.

Floridian Fun

Published 19 years, 8 months past

The previous week’s silence was caused by a trip to visit my father at his new digs in Florida.  His house is really nice, but the weather was not.  Every single day was really, really hot, and humid to boot.  As an official pasty white northern boy, I had a lot of trouble handling it.  Dad’s house is of course air conditioned, but that just made going outside all the worse.  I had to wait until late in the afternoon before I could even go out on his lanai (screened-in patio).

Said lanai was frequently visited by earwigs, Florida’s answer to the silverfish.  Have I mentioned how much I loathe both forms of insect?  I mean, I’m no fan of insects generally, but silverfish and those hairy-centipede-like things we get in Ohio are particularly horrifying.  Earwigs are not much better, in my book.  What’s worse, they had a tendency to get into the house.  I was in the middle of feeding Carolyn breakfast one morning and looked down to see a sizeable earwig on my leg, having just stepped from my sock to my bare flesh, waving its feelers about as if trying to decide where it should attack.  In what I feel was an impressive display of parental fortitude, I managed to refrain from screaming like a panicked little girl.  Instead, I knocked the bug off my leg and then stomped on it five or six times, just to make a point.  Carolyn was fascinated enough by the new game I appeared to be playing that she didn’t complain about the interruption to her breakfast.

Of course, since Dad lives about an hour from Disney World, we took Carolyn on her first trip.  We went to EPCOT.  Why there?  A few reasons:

  1. They were having their annual flower exposition, so the grounds were even more beautiful than usual.
  2. We figured the crowds would be a lot thinner there than at the Magic Kingdom, an assumption that seemed to be correct.
  3. Carolyn’s too young to really appreciate differences between the parks.  We decided to save trips to the Magic Kingdom until she’s old enough to appreciate it more fully.
  4. EPCOT is my favorite of the parks at Disney World, especially the international section.

Because we’ll be back to visit Dad with some regularity, we were able to take a more relaxed attitude toward our day at EPCOT.  We’ve done the endurance-test sprint from park to park, packing in as much as possible.  This was a leisurely stroll through the parts of the park that most interested us.  We didn’t get to everything.  That was okay.  Because, as I mentioned, it was really damned hot.  Despite consuming lots of water at meals and while walking around, I think I managed to dehydrate.  That was a problem in China too, and now that I think about it, the weather was very similar.  We pretty much all felt like Carolyn did in ths picture.

A photograph of six-month-old Carolyn clutching a water bottle to herself as if it were the most precious thing on Earth-- which, at that moment, it probably was.

We actually got her to drink from the bottle, too, and without choking.  All right, keep your smart comments to yourselves.

One of the most fascinating things about the entire day was watching Carolyn react to everything around her.  To her, everything is of equal interest, and the most routine things can be as entrancing as a once-in-a-lifetime event.  (Not that this is the only time she’ll ever go to Disney—not by a long shot.)  After lunch at the Japanese pavilion, Dad decided to take his granddaughter to see the taiko drummers performing outside.  He held her up to see them better, and she immediately locked her gaze onto a three-year-old girl sitting on the ground about ten feet away.  Carolyn studied this girl as if she held the secret to life itself.  A few minutes later, a small tree came in for the same treatment.

I’ve heard it said that through a baby’s eyes, you can see the world anew.  It sounds wonderful, deep, meaningful.  It sounds like a homily for the ages.  In practice, it’s simply that you get to watch someone with no preconceptions about the world react to everything around her, but that alone is exhilirating and amusing, mystifying and fascinating.  I could spend all day watching her watch the world.  When she’s trying to figure something out, the look of pure, unadulterated concentration is so intense it makes me want to laugh with joy.  I can’t explain why.  It just does.

Later on that same afternoon, Carolyn discovered that in addition to fine books, O’Reilly also produces a great chew toy—I mean hat.

A photograph of six-month-old Carolyn chewing on the rim of her father's "O'Reilly Author" baseball cap.

That was shortly before lapsing into a late-afternoon nap.  Kat and I took advantage of the nap to park her with Grandpa and wander through the Moroccan pavilion, which is one of my favorites.  The architecture, rambling byways, and artistry of the pavilion are all top-notch, as you would expect: the Moroccan king sent his personal artists to create the frescoes and other aspects of the pavilion when it was constructed.  The covered bazaar area at the heart of the pavilion is almost like a hidden treasure, cool and generally uncrowded.

After a fine dinner at Les Chefs de France, we headed out of the park.  I snapped a final picture of the Spaceship Earth globe just a few minutes before the evening’s show began.

A photograph of the Spaceship Earth globe, illuminated by purple and pink lights in the deep twilight of a Florida evening.

Carolyn slept practically the whole way back to Dad’s place.  She’d been an amazingly good girl the whole day, considering the heat and level of activity.  I can’t believe how lucky Kat and I are to have such a wonderful daughter.


Published 19 years, 9 months past

After delivering the keynote and a technical breakout session at the 5th Annual Webmaster Forum (and I’ll be posting those files over at Complex Spiral‘s web site by week’s end), I realized that I had planned poorly.  When I arranged to drive to the UIUC campus for the conference, I did some research and discovered that it would be about a seven hour drive.  Because of that length, and not knowing exactly how the conference schedule would work out, I decided to get there Monday evening and leave Wednesday morning.  Now here it was, the middle of the afternoon on Tuesday, the conference was over, and I had nothing else planned.

So I checked out and started driving.  I left the UIUC campus right around 5:00pm Central Daylight Time.  As I departed, I knew that as I crossed back into the Eastern time zone, I would lose an hour, so I wouldn’t arrive home until 1:00am local time.  Most of the drive would be done in darkness, which I dislike, and I would have to fight road fatigue every mile.

It was worth it.

I passed through Indianapolis as the sun was setting, almost getting lost at the junctions of Interstates 74 and 465, mentally saying “hello!” to the gang at New Riders as I curved past the downtown and merged onto Interstate 70.  Three hours later, I edged around Columbus, matching speeds with an Animal Control Unit van on the theory that if he was doing 87 miles per hour on the outerbelt of a major city, it must be okay for me to do it, too.  Around 11:40pm, I refueled at the BP station just off the SR 97 exit (Lexington / Belleville), the exit closest to my home town.  As a high school student, I used to gas up at the same station on my way to and from work.  I sent another mental “hello!” to my sister, who still lives in the area, and my father, who the next day would be moving away from the area for the rest of his life.

As I got back onto Interstate 71, headed north, I cast my thoughts ahead to my arrival home, now only ninety minutes or so away.  I pictured dropping my things in the dining room, going up the stairs in the dark, and walking slowly and quietly into Carolyn’s room.  For a moment, I imagined looking over the edge of her crib just as she opened her eyes, gave me a big welcoming daddy smile, stretched, and then shut her eyes again to drift back into sleep.  I could see her face and her smile in my mind just as clearly as I could see the road in my headlights.

It was, after all, what had compelled me to get into my car, even knowing the length of the drive before me, late that afternoon.  It wasn’t that I was bored; I could have found any number of things to do in a college town.  I was in my car, passing within a few miles of my family without stopping, because I missed my wife and child more than I could stand.  I had chosen a lengthy, boring, late night drive over another night away from them.

It was worth it.

When I did finally arrive home, two minutes shy of 1:00am, everything went just as I had imagined it up until I snuck into Carolyn’s room.  She didn’t wake up, as I’d known she would not, even when I leaned into the crib to kiss her lightly on the forehead and whisper good night to her.  I knew that if I woke her she would smile at me, but that was never even an option.  So there was no welcoming smile, but that was all right.

For another minute or so, I just stood and watched our daughter sleep, listened to her breathe.  The pure innocence and beauty of a sleeping baby cannot be put into words, no matter how hard pop stars and rock stars and poets may try.  But I understand why they do.

It was worth it, I told her without words, looking down at her face, the same sleeping face I’d imagined in every detail.  It’s all worth it.

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