Well, what has been going on?

For one thing, I find myself answering the following question a lot, lately:

“What’s that, Daddy?”

“Daddy, what’s that?”

But a lot of other stuff has been going on, too. Like potty training. And getting used to Danielle being on sea duty, again.

And putting Sean back in bed—over and over and over again.

It’s this last part that I’m finding most difficult to deal with. By the end of the day, my Patience Meter is about at empty, so following the experts’ advice (don’t talk to him, don’t make eye contact, just take him back to bed) is hard to follow.

How can this be fun for Sean? He’s gotten out of bed nine times since I started writing this blog post. Ten. Seriously: what kind of satisfaction does he get from this little game? And when I eventually lose my temper? How is that incentive for him to continue?


It must be some perverse quirk (twelve) of the toddler psyche. Somehow, it’s a game (thirteen). A game he’s very good at, and I’m very bad at (fourteen).


It must have some kind of point system (sixteen).

Make it out of my room: 1 pt.
Make it down the hall: 2 pts.
Make it (seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, 21, 22, 23) into Mum and Dad’s room: 5 pts.
Jump up on Mum and Dad’s bed: 10 pts.
Make it downstairs: 50 pts. (24)
Make Dad shout: a million pts. (25)
(26, 27, 28)
Cry and make Dad come back and tell me he’s sorry: win.
(29, 30, 31, 32)

I earn points on (33) a different scale: (34) Every time I successfully put (35) him back in bed without speaking or shouting or making eye contact, I score (36). The number of points I score increases as the game goes on because the difficulty of the one maneuver I have at my disposal also increases with time, according to some algorithm I don’t have the (37) mathematical wherewithal to (38) work out.

I win when he goes to sleep. That’s worth (39) infinite points.

Sean just scored 50 points by making it downstairs (40). I figure my (41) successful retrieval was worth (42) about (43) a hundred thousand points, based on my level of irritation, right now.

He’s now bringing different things out of his room (44) every time: his blanket, his giant stuffed duck, his water bottle, his blanket and his stuffed duck (45). In his mind, that must be worth something. Perhaps I should assign point values to the various (46) things he could bring with him with each successive escape….but, really, who’s keeping score? (47)

The incredible part is, after almost 50 returns to his bed, he has the balls to ask me if he can watch TV. Astonishing.

48, 49, 50, and…

I win.

UPDATE: 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57… (I’m still winning, though).

Madame Bovary: a Review

Madame Bovary Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What could I possibly say about Madame Bovary that hasn’t been said? It’s a classic. As the preface of my edition puts it, it’s the ‘first sex and shopping novel.’

Gustave takes his time pulling you into the story, but by 150 pages in things are zinging right along. His writing is wonderful throughout the book, but you don’t really come to appreciate it until you’re fully invested in the characters.

One point of caution: I found the story to be almost ‘ho-hum’ at certain points. There are too many Emma Bovary’s in our culture, now: Carmella Soprano, Betty Friedan, the desperate housewives, that one woman in that movie you saw. But I’m glad I didn’t stop! It’s worth it to read to the end, to watch the tragedy unfold in such exquisite detail.

But this is perhaps the reason to read the book: it’s a blueprint. You read it, and it takes you back to another century, when things were supposedly simpler, and you discover characters experiencing the same human elations and sufferings that we experience today.

There was no ‘simpler time.’ People are the same everywhere, and always have been.

View all my reviews >>

“I Love It”; or, Kids Say the Darnedest Things

Some weeks ago I left the patio umbrella open in a storm. I awoke the next morning to find it quite broken—broken so that no amount of duct tape would fix it. And yes, I tried.

The next week, Danielle was gone, so I told Sean one morning that we were going to buy a new umbrella because ours was broken. Every time we saw an umbrella in a store or at a sidewalk cafe, Sean said, “Umbrella’s broken. Gotta get a new one.” This went on for weeks, because I couldn’t find an umbrella I liked.

Finally, on the advice of a friend, I went to a store in Chesapeake called Garden Ridge. And they had dozens of umbrellas. Cheap. Wood, metal, square, market, tilting, non-. And the best part was that they were only forty bucks. A couple weeks ago I came close to buying one for $250! I can break six of the Garden Ridge umbrellas, and still be ahead!

But that’s not even the best part. The best part is that, as we rolled through the store with the plastic-sheathed umbrella, Sean says, “I love it.”

“You love the umbrella?”


He then gave it a hug.

It Cooks Rice

I love my new rice cooker. Is that weird?

Today, as I was starting to think about what to make for Sean for lunch, I realized I didn’t have any veg for him to eat (not that he’s usually all that willing to to eat it—the veg—when I do have some).

But we just bought a new Aroma rice cooker, and I remembered that it has a steamer basket and that we have some yummy carrots in the fridge (of course; everybody has carrots in their refrigerator, even if they’re weeks old). Glancing in the manual, I saw that it should only take about 15 minutes to steam the carrots. Score!

And he ate them! And he ate the rice and chicken-and-apple sausages!

I am way too excited about this!

At the Library

At the library this afternoon, I was struck by something very odd: there aren’t very many books. There weren’t very many magazines, either.But there were a lot of computers.

In the “Teen Zone,” there was a big screen television.

The children’s library, on the second floor, however, was awesome. It’s huge, for one thing. For another, there are scads of picture books and chapter books. For another, there are non-obnoxious toys for toddlers to play with.

But still I found myself wondering, Where are all the books? Where are all the magazines? Am I missing something? And then I pulled my Kindle out of my bag to read while Sean played in the make-believe kitchen.

Personalizing Your Kindle

My Kindle Cover

When I bought my Kindle, I also ordered the Patagonia Kindle cover, which is all black polyester. It’s a great cover, but it’s a little bland. The only embellishment it ships with is a little Patagonia label, which I cut off with my pocket knife some months ago.

That’s when I got the idea that I wanted to personalize my Kindle a bit. Stickers wouldn’t work because they’d peel right off, and a regular sew-on patch would be a trick because (a) I’m not much for sewing, and (b) there’s a pocket on the inside of the cover that would have required something my sister referred to as a “lift stitch.”

Then Danielle told me about this stuff called Stitch Witchery, which is available at craft and fabric stores. It turns any patch into an iron-on patch. That was my “duh” moment. I hadn’t even thought about iron-ons. Problem solved. Now I’m keeping an eye out for something super cool for the back…

The Big Short – A Review

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Another great story from Michael Lewis. With The Big Short, he has made the task of understanding our current economic state enjoyable. This book tells a hell of a story and it’s peopled with real-life characters, people who say what they think (whether it’s appropriate or not) and put their money where their mouth is.

By telling the story of a handful of investors who saw the subprime mortgage collapse coming (and who got fantastically rich by making shrewd bets against the dominant market trends), Lewis shines a light on just what it was that turned Wall Street (and the rest of the country, too) upside down.

It’s part thriller, part morality tale, and it’s all good. The only people who might not enjoy reading it are the investment bankers who were on the wrong side of trade.

View all my reviews >>

From the Early Morning Desk, Norfolk Edition

[Clears throat]
Good morning.
[Blows cobwebs off blog]
Well, we’ve been busy! Danielle has reported to her ship, Sean is potty training, and I—well I haven’t been blogging, apparently.

What I have been doing is a lot of gardening and home maintenance, computer repair, and “home theater optimization.” (Separate posts to follow for some of these.)

The biggest change is that Danielle is now gone from roughly 5 a.m. until 6:00 or 6:30 p.m.—on a good day. On a not-so-good day, she hasn’t been able to come home at all, as her ship is prepping for a long-ish trip later this year.

This, as you can imagine, has been hard on her. Not getting to see Sean for more than maybe an hour a day will be the most difficult adjustment by far.

The adjustments I’ve had to make are trivial, by comparison. In addition to writing, Sean-rearing, and house-wrangling, I can now list “gardening” amongst my daily activities. It’s been a long time since I had a yard to care for, and I’d forgotten how quickly it can become an overgrown eyesore. I’ve been referring to all yard work as “gardening” because I’m hoping the Power of Positive Thinking will help me see the grasses, flowers, trees, and shrubberies outside my windows as part of a creative enterprise, and not simply as endless drudgery.

In fact, maybe I should refer to all my daily activities as “gardening.” Caring for the people and pets and other possessions that fill my family’s life.

It sounds very Zen, don’t you think?

Time Change Fail

I set a calendar reminder for myself. People have been talking about it all week. Sean even woke us up an hour early this morning, and we still blew it.

Mission fail.