Saturday, June 30, 2018

A grand adventure

I took Secondborn on a walk this morning. We're trying to get him enough exercise that he doesn't feel compelled to jump around the house while he's recovering from his hernia surgery, so it was quite a long walk... in the mid-morning Texas sun. Beautiful Wife and Firstborn were supposed to go on their own walk after us, so we made a little arrow out of sticks to show them which way we went, and... well...

It might have gotten a little out of hand. There might, hypothetically, be a trail of sticks from our front door to Nana's front door. Secondborn might hypothetically have gotten a popsicle before we started for home. We might hypothetically have returned, sweaty and well-exercised, rather later than we'd planned on.

Friday, June 29, 2018


So Secondborn, at the age of eight, has had his hernia surgery. The doctor made an incision, found the opening in the abdominal wall, and sewed it shut; that's what you do with hernias. This is good news.

Even better: before he sewed it closed, the doctor ran a little camera around to the other side, and made sure there wasn't any sort of incipient hernia or congenital weakness over there. There wasn't; the inside of the kid's abdomen looks fine. (On a related note, I now have a high-resolution color portrait of the inside of my son's abdominal wall at age eight. That one's going in the scrap book, believe me.) The hernia was, according to the doctor, "respectably sized" and he apparently had no trouble finding it.

Secondborn handled it well: he wasn't allowed to eat or drink that morning, but he stayed in a good mood and went off with the doctor the way he was supposed to. We'd briefed him on how he'd have a mask on his face for the anesthesia, and apparently he handled that just fine as well.

Here's the thing about getting your children (or apparently your grandchildren, for that matter) through surgery: this stuff is stressful, y'all. I still don't think I'm entirely decompressed from it.

After the surgery, they put Secondborn in a room until he woke up. When he did, the nurse asked him if he wanted a drink of water. "I can't!" he replied. "I have to have surgery!" And, of course, once he was awake they brought us in to sit with him until he was ready to go, which was just about as soon as he was conscious. We had to wait a little longer, both to let the anesthesia wear off and to go over all the rules for after-care. We also had to pick up some pain medications, mainly to get us through the first day -- after that, we should be fine with over-the-counter stuff.

So... it's done.

Now, if we can just keep Secondborn still (or, at least, not moving at full speed) long enough to heal, I think I can finally stop being stressed out about this, and start being relieved. That's not going to be so easy, though. The child only has two speeds: sitting on the couch, and parkour. Still, with any luck we can get him through this and not have to deal with it anymore.



Hm. Two additional thoughts:

1. Thank the gods for modern medicine. (Or, y'know, better yet: thank science. But either way, the sentiment stands.)

2. In the modern United States of America, this is a relatively simple medical procedure, even when performed on a child - and (in the modern United States of America) we're still spectacularly lucky that getting this surgery done hasn't bankrupted us.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Music: My Father Makes Recommendations

So, my Dad made a couple of music recommendations while we were at his house on Sunday (right before we took him out to see The Incredibles 2). Apparently he'd been talking about them to his renter.

First up: Chug-a-lug
(Roger Miller)

Second up: Hugging and Chalking
(Hoagy Carmichael)

Not my usual fare, but what the hell. Have at, if you're so inclined.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Friday, June 22, 2018

Callahan's Friday Pun: On The High Seas

Did you hear about the noble freebooter who accidentally dropped a tea bag into his cup of grog? It was the most piratea thing he'd ever done...

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Snarky McSnarkypants Strikes Again

Me: "I still have a picture of your mother and I sitting on a bridge with you, and you're like this tall."
(I'm holding my hands about eighteen inches apart.)

Beautiful Wife: "And now you're almost as tall as I am. You're still cute, though."

Me: "Well, he was cute. He's starting to be more handsome, now."

Beautiful Wife: "And snarkier. Now he's our snark-monster."

Firstborn: "I'm not a monster. I am a snark-god."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Political Reptiles

Beautiful Wife, reading off a poll on MSN: "It asks, 'Is the government secretly run by reptile-people?'"

Me, sleepy: "Yes. It's called congress."

Firstborn: "I mean, yeah, but those are snakes."

Me: "Snakes are reptiles."

Such are the political conversations we have before coffee.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I slept!

I took some melatonin and went to bed a bit before 10:00 last night, and proceeded to actually... what do they call that... Oh, right: sleep.

That makes this morning the first time in maybe as much as a month that I've woken up and not still felt tired.

As perverse as it seems, I think I actually get more done when I set my sights lower.

I need to do more of this.

And yeah, none of this is new -- I've probably published some version of this same shocking, radical discovery at least four times over the last couple of years on the Blog o' Doom here alone -- but it keeps coming as a surprise, at least on a visceral this-is-how-it-actually-feels level, and I feel like maybe if I write it down again, this time the lesson will finally stick with me.

It never seems to work like that, but I keep trying anyway.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Firstborn Runs His First DnD Game

So, on Wednesday the boys had a couple of friends over, and Firstborn decided that he would try running his first Dungeons and Dragons game. He's using (a very abbreviated version of) 3.5, though it's so abbreviated that it barely makes any difference -- it's almost its own, different edition.

The two boys who were visiting were brothers, so let's call them Olderfriend and Youngerfriend. They're a little younger than my own boys[1], but they're bright and engaging and fun.

So Firstborn called Olderfriend and spent over an hour on the phone, putting together his character. And he was, I think, planning to run just a two-person gaming session... only Secondborn decided that he wanted to play, and then Youngerfriend jumped in as well. So by the time I got home (work day, remember) they were trying to throw characters together ten minutes before they were supposed to start playing.

I helped. Specifically, I fired up my laptop, opened up a character generator that I have installed, and threw together the two other characters that Secondborn and Youngerfriend wanted.

This... wasn't as easy as it could have been.

Secondborn had looked at the available minis and chosen a wolf. He wanted to play a wolf. Standard D'n'D isn't wildly well equipped for that in 3.5, but okay: I managed. The generator has an interface for companion animals, so I made him a wolf with an additional level of ranger.

Youngerfriend had picked out a giant orc with an axe, so that was pretty easy: half-orc barbarian, greataxe, a couple of throwing axes, a chain shirt, and we were good to go.

Youngerfriend, however, is very young. So by the time I got everything printed, he had the orc miniature hopping all over the board, and Firstborn (our would-be Dungeon Master) had his head in the "I have face-palmed so hard I actually hurt myself" position. He can see where this is going. We all can.

But we hand out sheets and dice and get everybody settled long enough for Firstborn to announce that they're all in a tavern, only the barbarian is getting thrown out for bouncing around and breaking things and looking for something to fight. But the other two -- who are, I think, a fighter-mage and a wolf from the pack who raised him[2] -- hear the barbarian stumble into a couple of weary travelers outside, and step outside to make sure nobody gets hurt.

At that point, the village is attacked by Dark Forces. "Because," as Firstborn puts it, "reasons." It turns out a couple of mimics have wandered into town, and are Tearing Things Up. The battle begins!

...I don't have stats for mimics handy, and my laptop's in the back room. I make some up on the fly -- armor class, hit points, attack bonus, damage -- and have Firstborn write them down. There are two mimics, because that's how many miniatures we have. Then I spend the next few minutes walking the boys through the (very abbreviated, mind you) process of resolving combat. It's... brutal.

I really didn't make the mimics strong enough, and while the wolf is the only one in the party with multiple attacks, the barbarian is a freaking combat monster... who promptly rolls maximum on both his to-hit and his damage, and one-shot-kills one of the mimics. The other two characters make successful attacks on the other mimic, and the barbarian steps in on the following round to finish it off. ("Whack!")

He hasn't even raged, because I don't have it in me to explain rules that only work sometimes.

Nevertheless, Our Heroes are victorious! And now the time has come for them to make introductions and forge new bonds of friendship, and...

"Die!" says the barbarian.

So the barbarian and the elf resume combat, only this time with each other. And, unsurprisingly -- I should never have maxed out strength on a barbarian run by a small child -- Youngerfriend's barbarian kills olderfriend's elvish fighter/mage[3]. Olderfriend accepts this philosophically, but decrees that this means that the townspeople arrest the barbarian and execute him. Youngerfriend accepts this philosophically. Firstborn looks completely appalled. Secondborn announces that he's making a run for the woods, flees the town, and vanishes.

And then I announce that well, okay, we're done, and averybody gets up from the table and goes outside to play.

There is a marked lack of tears, angry screaming, or dark recriminations. The adventure has essentially imploded, but nobody is upset and everybody had a good time, so I advise Firstborn to take the win -- which he does. The boys' mothers -- who were off at the far end of the kitchen having a conversation about something that had nothing whatsoever to do with orcs, half-elves, wolves, or mimics -- look up in surprise, and throw out variations of, "Are we done already?" They're only a little more surprised than I am, and they weren't paying attention at all.

So I gave them a quick recap, kissed my wife, and went off to play my Elvish Ranger/Rogue in a completely different campaign, and finally have that drink.

Quest completed.


[1] Who are now twelve and eight, and how in the nine hells did that happen?

[2] Don't ask. I certainly didn't.

[3] I think. I don't know, I'd just come home from work, I hadn't even had a drink, and I was barely keeping up as it was.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Music: You Want It Darker

I know I've used this one before, but I'm in the mood for some Leonard Cohen:

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Maybe Some Relief

So, I know I've been on about my dad, but he was... better, Sunday. Maybe only in the short term, and only in limited ways, but better.

But Secondborn has an inguinal hernia, possibly congenital, and the damned thing... it's there, but it hides when we try to have doctors look at it. I mean, the pediatrician could identify it. The ER staff couldn't find it at all by the time they finally tried to scan for it (and initially sounded very dubious that the pediatrician could have made the diagnosis without getting an ultrasound, but eventually confirmed that with the symptoms we described it really couldn't be anything else). So yesterday, Beautiful Wife finally managed to get the child into his appointment with the pediatric urologist.

The plan was that she would take him in for the initial appointment, and I would be at work as usual (which, y'know, at some point does need to happen). But after the second phone call of the morning, and maybe two hours of actually being at work, it was completely obvious that Beautiful Wife was completely (and understandably) freaked out, and right on the edge of melting down.

I explained the situation and went home.

So when we went to see the doctor, we all went to see the doctor. And we probably looked like we were on safari, or waiting for the apocalypse. I had The Backpack -- the one in which I keep my laptop, my kindle, all my chargers, a bag of allergy meds, a toothbrush, a first aid kit, a sewing kit... it's kind of my work bag, but it doubles as an overnight bag or a go-bag. Beautiful wife had her pack, which she carried in lieu of a purse because it's easier to transport papers in a day pack. Secondborn had his Kindle Fire to play on, and Firstborn had packed the Nintendo Switch and several games, along with his Kindle. But we honestly didn't know how long this was going to take, or whether they would send us immediately to surgery or not be able to find anything and look at us like that was because we were clearly insane.

And that was the other reason I came along: in my experience, doctors are much less likely to blow things off if they're described by a man. And since we didn't know this doctor...


The appointment went swimmingly, by which I mean exceedingly well. Secondborn wasn't showing any extrusion, but the doctor was able to get him to clench up and show us exactly where he could see the hernia. (Suck it, Emergency Room.) He described how this sort of thing happened -- possibly a congenital weakness in the wall of the abdomen from when the testicles first extruded, possibly related to Secondborn's perennial constipation (which he was able to show us via the ultrasound), or possibly some combination of both. Then he described the minimally intrusive surgery it would require to fix it, and explained that once he'd made the incision he would run a microcamera over to the other side, to make sure there wasn't any potential hernia waiting to happen there as well; if there was, he would fix that, too, as part of the same procedure. (Apparently sometimes there are... indentations in the abdominal wall, that lend themselves to forming hernias.)

I'm having a little trouble describing how much of a HUGE FUCKING RELIEF IT WAS to have finally made our way to a doctor who essentially said, "Yes, I can easily see the problem you're describing, even though it isn't active right now, and yes, I know how to easily fix it and we're going to schedule that now, and in the meantime here's what to watch for and what to do."

Then he addressed the issue with Secondborn being constipated, and gave us an explicit To Do list so that we could clean out the blockage that we'd seen on the ultrasound and maintain a more... even flow of processing... from there. And the first big step of that -- getting the child to drink a full cup of magnesium citrate -- occupied most of the rest of the afternoon, but it's done and hopefully we're at a point where all this will finally just... be done.

Now, if we could just convince my dad to quit having strokes...

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Dungeons and Dragons, Season 2

So I mentioned a week or so back that we might be the wrong party for our current DnD quests. Well, the Dungeon Master made a suggestion and everybody seems pretty happy with it: we roll up a whole new set of characters in a different area, and experience the current chain of events from another perspective. (If we get far enough along, we'll probably reintroduce the original party and see how that goes. )

So, last game we wrapped things up with the current party, and then created a whole new batch of second-level characters for Season 2. This party is off helping to defend a border fort from raiding desert nomads in a corner of the land that our last party never visited. So, the new party looks like this:

A half-giant Cleric (first level, because of the level cost for half-giant) worshipping a nature deity and armed with a scythe.

A human fighter, also armed with a scythe. He's probably going to do most of the Beating Things Down that the party requires.

A gnomish bard, who's focusing mainly on offering buffs to the rest of the party and handling the charisma-based skills.

An elvish rogue/ranger (me) who's heavily dex-based and focusing mainly on stealth, scouting, and not being caught by surprise, but is planning to eventually combine dual-wielding and backstabbing for some damage-dealing capability. (Currently, I'm relying on Weapon Finesse and a rapier.)

We're a little weak on arcane spell-casting, but unlike the previous group we're at least all good-aligned, and I think we've got a pretty effective party here. Our first game opened with the desert raiders attacking our fort, and our commander immediately dying, so we're currently in the midst of trying to retake the courtyard so we can drive them out. Our fighter took command of the remaining foot, while the ranger/rogue took command of the archers. The cleric went with the foot, and the bard went with the archers, singing Rush songs to boost our morale.

So far, so good.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Never rains but it pours

So we spent about three hours in the emergency room on Friday afternoon/evening. Secondborn appears to have an inguinal hernia right at his crotch (that may be redundant), and apparently when he was using the bathroom he strained hard enough to make something extrude through the hernia, resulting in extreme pain. However, we weren't able to push it back in and lying on the couch apparently wasn't relaxing him enough for it retract on its own. So... off we went to the emergency room... with fairly predictable results.

First, we wound up in the waiting room for about twenty-five minutes before they got us into a room. Second, about ten minutes into that stretch of waiting, while Secondborn was lying across a pair of seats, whatever tissue was protruding through the hernia finally receded. So, by the time they finally called us back, he was walking normally and no longer in pain. Then we spent three hours in the emergency room, mostly waiting for nurses and doctors and PAs. We went through the whole description for the nurse, and later for the doctor. The doctor felt around but couldn't find the opening, so we got a sonogram but apparently that couldn't see the hernia either.

So, three hours and $850 later, we have a CD with the sonogram results and instructions to hurry back to the nearest ER if it happens again. About the only upside of this is that the ER doctor confirmed that given the symptoms we described, it pretty much has to be a hernia -- we're not going to have to go through the What Is The Real Issue Here process, at least.

We're in the process of setting up for a surgery -- and apparently the urologist who'll be doing it is really good, since he was recommended by our doctor and the ER doctor recognized his name and said complimentary things about him. Hernia surgery is both commonplace and about as safe as it gets, so again all this could be a lot worse. However, after the Friday ER visit, it seems possible that we'll only be able to set up the hernia surgery at a time when tissue is actively protruding. Otherwise, they may not be able to find the opening so they can fix it.

On a completely unrelated note, it seems I'll be postponing yet again my plan to replace my rather elderly laptop. Probably until at least Christmas. Eh, what the hell. I didn't want to move to Windows 10 yet anyway.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Dad news, not bad news

Sorry, it seems to be a theme this week, but it's what's on my mind and this blog has always been whatever happened to be on my mind. (Admittedly, skimming back through it, it does seem like I used to have more humorous/whimsical stuff on my mind than I have in recent years.) And I don't know what's changed, exactly, though the dark gods know there's no shortage of possibilities, but... Well, author Seanan McGuire posted on Twitter this morning:

...So maybe I'll just leave off thinking about reasons why I might be a lot more discouraged now than I was, say, a couple of years ago, and I'll promise to do some serious self-care this weekend. (Like, get All The Sleep, exercise, eat good food, read good books... Yeah, that sounds like a plan. 'Cause seriously, I feel like I've been pretty useless this week and honestly I just wish I'd taken the week off. I did put in for some vacation time soon, though, and that should help too.)

Anyway, Beautiful Wife went and collected my father yesterday, and brought him back to our house for the afternoon. Firstborn sat with him and worked on one of those Science Kits you can order -- Tinker Crates, I think they're actually called -- and my dad helped him out and explained concepts like "fathoms" and I don't even know what all else, but when I got home from work my father was looking better and more content than he'd seemed the last couple of times I saw him. Even the slur in his voice had gone down, though he was still having a little trouble putting words together. I'm sure some of that was just that he was making an effort, but I also think that being relaxed improves his condition and being stressed makes it worse. And my father is one of those people who really craves human contact -- interacting with people recharges him, where it just exhausts me.

My wife is brilliant, y'all.

Anyway, I'm still not sure where all this is going, and I'm still pretty worried, but there's good stuff happening too.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Still worried...

I realized last night that I'm actually completely stressed out about my dad having his second stroke in six months. I mean, it's a couple of other things, too -- the boys making the adjustment to their summer vacation and how we're handling that this year, a dental issue that's pretty mild but is still One More Thing I Have To Deal With, and the usual house cleanup and maintenance. But mainly, it's this thing with Dad.

And I've been doing that thing where I'm completely freaked out but pretending even to myself that everything's okay, or at least that it isn't that bad and we can just keep going through it, and... yeah, that's not so much what's happening. And, of course, I've been telling myself that we really just need to wait and see how this plays out, because there isn't really all that much we can do about it -- which is true, but apparently does nothing to settle the underlying sense of panic. Which means that I'm weirdly unfocused and not making the best choices, when I really need to be working on the things that I can work on.

I think I need some time off, but I need to get some stuff back under control at work, first. (Oh, yeah - there's yet another reason why I'd be, um, unaccountably stressed...) I think I'll see if I can put in for a couple of days around the July 4th holiday - that would combine for a nice extended weekend. And while I'm at it, I should put in now for the first couple of days of school in the fall. I've been meaning to take those off for a couple of years, now.

No new tale to tell, really. Just feeling unproductive, out of control, and really ready to just take a moment for myself.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

I'm worried about my dad

We lost my mom just over two years ago. (Well, not technically "lost". She died. We know exactly where her ashes are. So now that my deep-seated pedantic streak is hopefully satisfied, I will point out that emotionally that means that we lost her. She's gone. She is lost to us. Yeah. Suck it, nit-picky brain voices.)

I remember observing, a year or so before that, that we were entering the season of losing that generation: a couple of my dad's close relatives had died, and it was starting to look less like chance and more like a pattern. I can't find the post that I wrote for that, but it's here on the blog somewhere.

Then, in February, my dad had a stroke -- and I started worrying that, while it had looked like he would be okay in his own home for the next several years, maybe that wasn't the case. And even before that, we'd been discussing my father and his eyesight, and how that might complicate or disrupt the life he's set up after mom's death.

But over Memorial Day weekend, he had... I'm not sure it's a second stroke, exactly. It's more of a repeat stroke, as it seems to have happened in the same area of the brain and affected the same general areas of functionality. And while it seems to have come to fruition on that Saturday, when he was out in the heat at the local renfest, I've spoken with his renter and she tells me that she was seeing signs that something was wrong a couple of days before that -- being unable to focus, to find common words, to pronounce them.

So we went to visit him on Sunday (and found the renter at home there -- she's rented out one side of the house, and helps him work through his bills). The visit itself went well, and I think he was glad of the company and the interaction and the chance to get some things done. But I'm looking at him, and I think this second stroke is worse than the last one. We're not talking about it, but the slur in his voice seems worse, the effect on his manual dexterity seems worse, and the stumbliness of his walk -- stumbliness is a word, now -- is worse. The first time, it was barely noticeable, and mainly only if you knew him pretty well. This time, it's... obvious.

He's met with his neurologist, and I think his cardiologist as well. Apparently his blood pressure spiked with this more recent stroke (and apparently that's fairly common) so they've got him on a medication to hold it down, but something about either the blood pressure or the medication or both is making his eyesight even worse -- which he insists is only going to be temporary, but I swear by all the dark and forgotten gods that I can't tell if that's actually the case, or if he's just holding that out as an article of faith. It had better be temporary... but what if it isn't?

And, of course, as a result of that his mental state is quite a bit worse than it was last time. How much of that is psychological and how much is physiological -- if you can even separate the two in a meaningful way -- is impossible to tell. But he's... much more depressed. Much more impatient. Much more irritable. Much more scared. Frankly, so am I. And it's really shaken his sense of purpose -- between the eyesight and the coordination, so many of the things he enjoyed, so many of the things he was good at, have been taken from him. He's a gentle man, but he's proud, too, and so much of his self-image is tied up in being physically well: he's the one who doesn't get sick, who doesn't get tired, who doesn't have to watch what he eats... (I think that makes him sound kind of elitist and snobby-superior, but he's not; he's never been obnoxious about it, he's just quietly proud of the way he quietly keeps going -- and suddenly being frail has shaken a big part of his sense of self.)

I spoke to my brother before we went over there, and again when we got back to our house. He wanted me to ask if our dad had any contingency plans, or thoughts on how he wanted things to go -- the possibility of a group home, or moving in with one of us, or...

So I brought it up, while the boys were busy swimming in the pool and my Beautiful Wife was busy talking with the renter about the situation.

It wasn't an easy thing to ask, especially of someone who was slurring his words as a result of the stroke, and whose slur got worse as a direct result of being asked upsetting questions. And the answer was almost exactly what I'd expected: he didn't have any contingency plans, and didn't want to talk about them. He wanted to live independently, in his own home, and that was all there was to it. He hated the idea of living in a group home. Much like my mother (and if we're being completely honest, myself) he'd rather expire with some dignity on his own. I don't think he's had any suicidal ideations -- though may the dark gods help me, I didn't ask and I wouldn't blame him if he did -- but I think his ideal outcome is to either recover some functionality and purpose, or to expire quietly and on his own terms.

I don't know what to do with that.

Beautiful Wife is trying to recruit him to do some sort of Intro To Computer Mechanics class for our boys, who are out of school for the summer and need to be kept busy anyway. If that helps him feel like he's contributing (and honestly, it could be really, really useful -- far too many people know how to use a computer but don't understand how they really work) then maybe it's at least a partial solution. But if it just wears him out, or frustrates him... I don't know. Trying to get him to move in with either our family or my brother's is equally problematic: so much of his support network is based in his suburb that trying to move him up to ours seems likely to cause more trouble than it resolves. But his current arrangement may not be tenable, even though his renter seems disinclined to panic and look for somewhere else to live (and we've assured her that even if we had to move Dad out, she's not going to be suddenly displaced).

Basically, everything sucks and I can't tell if this is temporary or if we're going to have to work out something for the long term.

And I've known for as long as I can remember that life frequently sucks, and sometimes there are no good choices. But the last couple of years seem absolutely determined to drive that lesson home.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Marital Arguments Made Simple

Saturday afternoon, in the car on the way to breakfast (finally):

Beautiful Wife: “Are you mad at me?”

Me: “No, I’m starving. We could have a big fight if you want, though.”

Beautiful Wife, sounding tired: “Let’s not.”

Me “We could not and say we did.”

Beautiful Wife: “Let’s do that.”

Me: “Boys, your mother and I just had a huge fight. There was lots of screaming.”

Firstborn, darkly: “I heard.”