Friday, August 17, 2007

The play - Success!

OK, she did such a great job, and the pictures turned out so well, that I'm not waiting until tomorrow. Here's the link to the web album:

Theater Camp

All the kids did a great job, and I'm really glad Stacey got to be a part of this. The show went off pretty well, and most of the kids needed some direction - including Stacey. Since all the kids learned their parts in under 40 hours, that shouldn't be surprising. Still, it was cute, and came off great, and the director, Candace, obviously loved to be working with the kids.

At the end of the show, she called all the kids up and said a personal anecdote about each of them, and gave them little trinkets, a small wind chime with a crystal in it. Very nice touch.

Thespian memories

Seven years ago, when Stacey was almost 4, I lived for a short time in a small apartment, piecing my life back together after Stacey's mom and I broke up. I started from scratch, taking only my clothes, computer, a reclining chair, and some odds and ends. By the time I had bled my money dry, I had procured the necessities of life: dishes, a kitchen table, cookware, a desk, two bookshelves, and two beds - one for me, one for Stacey.

The next few months were, without doubt or exaggeration, the best of my life. Stacey and I were close since she was a newborn, but we grew so attached to and fond of each other in the Spring of 2000 that it's difficult to describe. We were perfect in each other's eyes. She was beautiful and loved by everyone, a natural learner and eager and happy to explore everything. I was infallible, strong, and always available and willing to do anything she was interested in on a whim.

We hung out at parks, did crafts, and went to the zoo. When the weather was bad, we spent lazy days hanging out at a local mall that had a kids' play area.

We signed her for ballet class...

Went to see a kids' concert...

..and we discovered reading.

I introduced her to Sneetches, Madeline, the Velveteen Rabbit, Winnie The Pooh, other Dr. Suess stories, and some stories I wasn't familiar with that we bought at the local book store.

Stacey wanted me to read her bedtime stories almost every night, a ritual I looked forward to as much as she did. She would get under the covers in her bed which faced the bookshelf, then look at the books, throw the covers off and run and grab a book, then come back and get under the covers again, scooting over to me and putting her head on my shoulder. I would wrap my arm around her and get into character, and my reserved, quiet demeanor would fall away as I become a master thespian for a while.

I had never been skilled at reading aloud until I had someone who really wanted me to read to her. It took a few tries to get my confidence and ignore that I felt silly being in character, but I got over it, and became deft at reading aloud and speaking clearly and at the right tempo and volume -- and I became better at a lot of things because of that.

Around that time, I was recruited at work to come teach data communications to new hires when the "regular guy" wasn't available. This required not only creating my own materials and a plan, but also speaking clearly, and at the right tempo and volume, the very things I had been practicing nightly. I did well enough training my first class that I became the regular guy myself, and later went on to teach a week-long advanced class to the "level 2" tech support team.

A couple years later, I volunteered at an Elementary school teaching basic computer skills (creating Powerpoint slides and basic spreadsheet charts) to Fifth-graders, and ended up with a pair of giant construction paper thank you cards from the kids two years in a row. Again, the soft skills I learned by reading to Stacey, and the class-running skills I learned at work came into play.

So my kid wanting bedtime stories, and me embracing it wholeheartedly led to other benefits. Yet another example of how being good to your kids pays off.

This week, Stacey, almost 11, is in a theater daycamp, where she is learning the part of Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Last night we were practicing her lines, and I had great fun becoming Nick Bottom, arrogant and overbearing, and trying to play every part in Pyramus and Thisbe while Quince struggled for control of his play. As I hammed it up during our practice, Stacey got to the point where she couldn't stop laughing, and we had to quit for a minute.

The memories of reading bedtime stories came flooding back, little Stacey tucked into my arm with a grin on her face as I read off...

until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew
whether this one was that one or that one was this one
or which one was what one...
or what one was who.


Miss Genevieve,
noblest dog in France,
you shall have your ven-ge-ance!!

I've been pretty emotional with revery all day. The performance is tonight at 6. I'll get pictures and post how it went tomorrow.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


All of life's problems at the moment:

Dog sheds too much
/dev/urandom only readable by root
Kid growing up too fast
Six month weight loss plan over, still have six month muscle-building plan to go
Four node webMethods cluster inefficient
Pension doesn't vest for another year
Bathtub needs to be caulked
Can't be in two places at once
Need to design new dinners kid and I can both eat

Not too bad, if these are all the problems I can think of. I've got my family, health, job, and sanity. Most of the problems will be familiar to everyone. The geek problems are just what's going on at work at the moment, transitory, to be replaced in a week or two with new problems. The unvested pension means I can't even consider rethinking my career for another year, else waste the free money that is 4/5ths waiting for me. The last one though, that's going to have me scratching my head for a little while.

Stacey is a growing girl, naturally active and healthy, burning through Calories as fast as I can throw them at her. In fact, when she is in the middle of a growth spurt, she eats more in a day than I do. I am currently eating 1600 Calories a day, and after I drop my final 2.2 pounds to hit 185, I plan on going back to around 2400 Calories with a lean, high-protein diet, and changing my workout to focus on aggressive muscle-building. Needless to say, my diet won't mesh well with the needs of an 11 year old girl.

The solution I'm considering now is to build meals that I can piece together at the table, and give myself smaller portions of the carb-heavy and fatty foods, and letting Stacey plate up on a balance of everything. For example, I'll take the roast chicken but no gravy, a few spoonfuls of mashed potatoes, and keep cheese off of the salad, where Stacey can pile on the gravy, salad dressing, and add lots of butter to the potatoes.

Next week is the last week before school starts, and she'll be with mom, so I'll take an evening or two and run around the grocery store and search for recipes online. I've been doing packaged meals and meal-substitute bars for so long now, that this will be a welcome change.

Here's a little anecdote I wrote up after Memorial Day but never published, when I attended a church picnic with some friends:

"Is it OK for Christians to beat up little girls?" This was the question my roommate asked me after I recounted the story of a volleyball game Stacey and I played in. She and I were on the same team, she having been picked dead last, and still a little peaved about it. It was game point, and we were losing. The ball is served to us, we return it, it comes back again to Stacey, and an aggressive, competitive man on our team runs up to hit the ball, knocking Stacey flat in the process. The ball came back to where I was, but I had lost interest and let it land beside me, thereby causing my team to lose the game. All the while I was staring at my kid picking herself back up and the man, my friend, who had knocked her down, thinking to myself "don't cock your fists, don't cock your fists." The aggressor in question was contrite afterwards, and Stacey was not as upset at the experience as I thought she would be. I was fuming, and struggling to keep my head. Later, after I had chilled, we played another game, and karma came to the rescue.

The final game we played that day, Stacey and another little girl were the team captains. Stacey picked no adults except for me, just teenagers and other kids. When the game started, another man who showed up late joined our side. Among the others on the opposing team was the man who knocked her down, and his son, who had been baiting Stacey and carrying on like the wild beast he is for most of the day. Our team did well, thanks to some lucky and overconfident plays by the teenagers, and as the game wound down, we were winning, and two points from game point, and it was Stacey's turn to serve. The son/wild animal was acting foolish and yelling taunts, trying to distract Stacey so she would flub her serve. She served well, and we won that point. Game point, the son turned up the asinine factor on his antics, and Stacey calmly looked at him, expressionless, and served the ball to him.


Stacey redeemed herself in her own eyes, and the silent ace to win the game was as poignant a response to being picked last and knocked down as I could imagine. Victory was sweet, and despite not generally being competitive, I couldn't help but feel smug. My little angel saves the day again. Next up, Stacey saves Christmas.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Apparently I've been so busy with the "Operation Inner Stork" blog and keeping up with work and life that I've neglected my journal for most of the summer. So what's been going on?

The divorce was final in late May, and although I had been separated for years, the finality of it felt a little strange for a while. The ex and I still communicate well for things that involve our child, and not at all otherwise.

Stacey has been enrolled in a number of summer camps this year, and this is the first time she has done an overnight camp outside of the city. It was a Girl Scouts camp, Molly Lauman (, and they had horseback riding, swimming, crafts, songs, and other camp stuff for 5 days. I was worried that Stacey would be uncomfortable or homesick, having never been away from home and relatives for more than a night, but she reports a fantastic time was had by her and all, and she came home with new friends, email addresses, and Webkinz, Club Penguin, and Millsberry buddies.

It's getting so that I need to give up worrying. The kid is, as always, competent and attacks life like nobody's business, while I fret away nervously to no end.

So other camps she did this year were a combo sports camp, a couple performing arts camps (one for dance, one for theater), a second scouts camp, and her first year of ropes course. Busy, busy.

And lastly, a crazy anecdote. Stacey and I head down to North Carolina for a week in late July to visit family. My 85 year old grandmother has some sisters who are getting old enough that travel is hard on them, and one of them is in a rest home. The plan was to visit the extended family in Virginia for a day, then head to West Virginia to see the oldest sister, and then Stacey and I would shoot back to Ohio.

Everything went great, and Stacey got to see some family she hasn't seen for a while, we slept at a house of one of my great aunt and uncles. The next morning, when we were getting ready to head to West Virginia, my mom mistakes the door to the basement for the door to her bedroom, and falls all the way down the stairs! Head over heals, screaming a scream that can only be described as "this can't be how it ends, damnit!", and conks her head on the basement floor.

A quick call to 911, a ride to the hospital, and 3 hours of observation and x-rays later, and it was determined that she didn't break a damned thing. Just bruises and some pulled muscles. 56 years old, out of shape, and a hypochondriac, and she comes away with a 12 foot fall with nothing broken. Zounds.

It's been a couple weeks now, and she's back on her feet, assisted with yummy pain pill goodness, and paying more attention to where she's walking. Needless to say, everyone was freaked out when it happened, and Stacey was genuinely frightened for the first time I can remember. She was a real sport in the hospital after she figured out grandma was going to be OK, and struck up conversations with nurses and asking about procedures and equipment, as she still plans to be a doctor.

So there it is, a close call and a little education, and life goes back to normal.