Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Prelude to Summer

Yesterday marked the end of the spring semester, at least as far as I’m concerned. I’m still on call as a TA, as there may be a couple of late papers that will make their way in during the week and need to be graded. But other than that, I am done.

What’s on the agenda for summer 2013? I wish I knew. I’ve been promised a TA-ship, but I have no idea which half of the summer it will involve. If it’s the first half of the summer, I’ll be back on campus, five days a week, starting on May 13th. That’s less than two weeks away. Alternatively, I’ll start on June 24th. That’s a big difference, and it’s irksome that I still have no idea what to expect. If I don’t start until near the end of June, it’s going to be a bit late for me to work out any travel arrangements for the first part of the summer. Not that Melanie and I are 100% certain to do any traveling. We haven’t talked about it too much yet, which is unusual. There was some talk a while back about going home to Utah. But for whatever reason, we haven’t discussed it recently. Probably because there’s no point to discussing it until we know when I’m available to travel! See how this works?

Regardless of what happens, I’ll need to spend the next week or so doing some good work on my dissertation. I think my committee chair probably needs a reminder that I’m still alive and a part of the PhD program. Tonight, however, we’re going to cut a little bit loose as a family and order some pizza and stream a movie from Netflix. On a Tuesday. This is living, folks! We’re also gearing up for Peter’s 5th birthday, which is only a couple of days away. I’m sincerely excited for it. We’ll have a family celebration on his actual birthday and then have a birthday party with friends on Saturday morning. It’s going to be dinosaur-themed. It should be fun.

That’s it, I’m done.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Snooze, I Lose

I’ve owned the same alarm clock for over a decade. I bought it because, at the time, it seemed fancy-shmancy. The main attraction was that the alarm clock could wake you up to a CD, something I thought was just unbelievably cool. Not only that, but you could set up to three different alarms! Wow! I trusted the Sony brand name, and I purchased the clock radio without reservation.

Jump ahead approximately a dozen years, and I’m still trying to figure out how this damn clock works. I know, I know, this story inevitably paints me as a moron – either as a moron who can’t figure out an alarm clock after something like 4,000 nights of sleep or as a moron who has put up with a crappy alarm clock for over 10 years rather than purchasing a replacement. Well, be that as it may, this little alarm clock boggles my mind. Whether I want to turn the sounding alarm off or just press snooze, it’s like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube, blindfolded and with one hand. Now, I know everyone stumbles and fumbles when trying to deal with an alarm. Spending 2.5 seconds groping for the alarm and feeling your way to the snooze button is nothing new. But what I’m talking about is far, far worse than that. On this particular alarm clock, as with many other alarm clocks, the snooze bar is the most prominent button on the device. Unlike any other alarm clock I’ve ever dealt with, however, this snooze bar has to be pushed repeatedly before it actually responds. Put simply, it makes you beg before it will do anything. I honestly believe there are only a few select places along the snooze bar that can be pushed to any effect. As you can imagine, this is terrible. The best strategy is to just start rat-a-tat-tapping all over the top of the alarm clock, as if you’re typing in a PIN. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the code right and the alarm will be silenced. Of course, you the run the risk of double- or even triple-activating the snooze, which on this alarm clock adds 10 additional minutes to your snooze time for each push. You might want a 10-minute snooze and end up with 30. If you actually have to get somewhere, that’s bad news. And yes, it’s happened to me more than once.

I know what you’re thinking. Why not just turn the alarm clock off and forget the snooze? In other words, quit complaining and get out of bed already! Unfortunately, turning off the alarm might be even more difficult than pushing snooze. Unlike the alarm clocks of yore, this alarm clock does not feature a switch that turns the alarm off and that must be switched back into place in order for the alarm to be set for the next morning. Such quaint functionality would make silencing the alarm a breeze. But on this contraption, you simply press a button that silences the alarm and leaves it ready for the next day. There are obvious advantages to this. And perhaps there are obvious reasons for making the “off” button somewhat difficult to find, such as that you are less likely to turn off the alarm and then slip back into slumber. But this particular “off” button resides as a slight bump on the face of an alarm clock that itself is rather bubbly-shaped. The result is that it’s nigh unto impossible to distinguish the “off” button from any other contour of the alarm clock, including the myriad other buttons very near to the “off” button, at least one of which, if mistakenly pushed, will set the radio blaring. If the goal is to wake you up, I suppose this is fairly effective. But it’s also highly frustrating.

I suppose in this day and age I should be using the alarm clock on my cell phone, or at least upgrading to an alarm clock that can play mp3s and automatically update my Facebook status to let my friends know when I’ve gotten out of bed. Yeah, I probably should. But as you can tell, I tend to keep things old school around here. And what’s more old school than sticking with what you’ve got and relentlessly complaining about it?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Thoughtful Faith

As previously announced, I’ve been asked to write for the A Thoughtful Faith blog. My first post appeared last night. You can see it by clicking here. I appreciate your visiting the blog and, if you wish, responding. But please keep in mind that this is a more professional blog, not my private blog. Your comments should be appropriate for a wide audience and should respect the professional setting. In other words, Mom, please don’t go post a comment on this other blog that says something like, “Oh, I’m so proud of you, my brilliant little huggy boy! You’re such a good writer!”  You can come back to my personal blog to tell me that.

Thanks for taking a glance, everyone!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Panned Parenthood

Here’s what’s going on with my children lately.

With Edison and even more so with Peter, I learned that the “terrible twos” are nothing compared to the “take-my-life-please threes.” Perhaps I jumped the gun when I recently thought to myself, “Wow, Creegan has been a surprisingly pleasant two-year-old!” Now halfway between his second and third birthdays, Creegan is finally showing signs of becoming a terror. Not that he throws many fits or does much structural damage. Instead, he’s a cornucopia of insults. Unfortunately, his older brothers are to blame for the rich pejorative vocabulary that Creegan now possesses. And I realize that Creegan scarcely understands the things coming out of his mouth. But somehow it’s still hurtful when your youngest child is much more likely to say “Shut up, you stupid idiot!” than “I love you, Daddy!” Other favorites include “jerk” and “incompetent blowhard.” Okay, not that last one, but he spouts the others with such regularity that I might appreciate some diversification. Melanie and I are now trying extra hard to curtail the insults that Eddie and Peter throw at each other, hoping the improvements will naturally carry over to Creegan. I think it’s already working a bit, thankfully. Then again, what do I know? I’m a stupid idiot.

Remember that thing I said about three-year-olds being even harder than two-year-olds? Well, lately, Peter seems determined to relive his glory days and, a few weeks shy of his fifth birthday, is now throwing tantrums that challenge my very sanity. I don’t know where in the world this sudden reversion in behavior has come from. But it is awful. Usually, the challenging behavior is reserved for bedtime, but in a way, that’s worse. We’re all worn out by then, and Peter’s antics have the propensity to throw off the entire bedtime routine. He gets Creegan worked up, he infuriates Edison by taunting him or kicking at the underside of Eddie’s mattress from the lower bunk. And he absolutely ignores any parental intervention. I know there are better ways to handle things, but it often seems as though I cannot get so much as a nod of recognition out of Peter unless I turn into a grade-A a-hole. I hate it.

I’m tempted to declare Edison a saint in comparison to Peter and Creegan right now, but that’s not entirely fair. I think the more challenging aspects of Edison’s behavior are reserved primarily for Melanie. They arise when Melanie is trying to help him with school or whatever. He acts so put out by things. He really can be a negative guy. (Where in the world could he get that from, I wonder?) Sometimes it seems like all he does is complain about whatever’s happening. It can be quite relentless. He’s also quite the drama queen. If he gets so much as a scratch, he acts like he cannot function for the rest of the day. Yesterday, he had a school field trip. Shouldn’t that be exciting? Shouldn’t he be thrilled to get away from his typical school routine? But instead, he cried and screamed all morning because he had a small scratch on his foot and he didn’t want to have to put on shoes. He doesn’t get over these things very quickly, and it’s as tedious as it is absurd.

To end on a more positive note, I’m going to share something Eddie created. I recently introduced my boys to Garbage Pail Kids. Edison promptly designed his own Garbage Pail Kid and brought it to me. Here it is:

The above Garbage Pail Kid is named Helicopter Patty. (The “he” near his head is short for “helicopter,” Eddie informs me.) As you can see, Helicopter Patty’s head is a helicopter pad. A helicopter (no, that’s not a Vespa, a roller skate, or some sort of Christian relic) is landing on his head, guided by the remote control that Helicopter Patty holds in his left hand. Cute, isn’t it?