Saturday, March 18, 2017

Seattle 2017

I spent the weekend in Seattle at the annual conference for the American Psychology-Law Society. I had a presentation to give on Thursday afternoon, and my flight left Thursday morning. I was nervous about making it in time, especially with the weather in Chicago lately. I decided that it would be best to travel in my suit in case I did not have time to change once I got into the city.
When I was dressing again after security, I knocked my watch out of the bin and when I picked it up, I found that it was not ticking and one of the hands had come off. That was disappointing, but at least I had an empty seat next to me on the plane.

I spent the plane ride practicing my talk with my laptop in front of me, and mumbling to myself under the roar of the engines.

I made it to the hotel with plenty of time, and even got to spend a few minutes in my room after registering. The talk went very well, particularly as I was the fourth talk after 3 dull ones.
It was a surprisingly interesting conference, with a special appearance by Amanda Knox, the young woman who was wrongfully convicted of murdering her roommate while in Italy. She apparently lives in Seattle, and was invited to come and be part of the proceedings, sharing her story. I even got to shake her hand and talk with her briefly Saturday night. 

Today, we had another special presentation from some of the experts and attorneys who have been working on Brendan Dassey's wrongful conviction case. That was very engaging, and a nice demonstration of the importance of our research.

Tonight is a poster session where my graduate student will be doing his research debut with a project we've been doing.

As usual, I miss the kids terribly by now, and Kira could sure use another pair of hands, so it's a good thing I'm heading back tomorrow. Hakan had a fever the day I left, so Kira took him right in, citing our past problems with child illnesses as soon as I leave for any trip. It's a good thing she did, because he tested positive for strep. She got him on medicine as soon as possible, so he's been doing very well.

Merritt surprised us all a few days ago when he accepted a pacifier at nap time, and then fell asleep while sucking on it without rocking. He's done it several more times since then, too. He's also sprouted his second tooth! Recently, one of his favorite things is doing the actions along with some songs, like 5 Little Ducks and such.

Avey is one week away from spring break now, so she's looking forward to relaxing and avoiding her brothers. She turned in her project on George Lucas this week, which turned out great. She spent most of Sunday night decorating a box to look like a space battle scene from Star Wars.

Carver is turning out to be more of a homebody than we thought. He spends most of his days in his pajamas that he received at Christmas. He's already worn holes through the feet of both pairs. Most of the time that one of us offers to get him out of the house for a little outing, he will turn us down. We're hoping that Kindergarten will get him more interested in new experiences rather than just running around the house.

We've got a relatively normal week ahead of us, for better or for worse...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Spring Work

My spring break is quickly fizzling out. I worked through most of it, getting caught up with things, and trying to get a little ahead because this coming week I head out to a conference for a few days to give a talk and try to get used to a new bed. I sort of took Monday off because the oldest boys had dental appointments, and I stayed home with Merritt. 
Kira got a new client scheduled for tomorrow, and has been focusing a lot of her energy on getting Merritt's sleep under control. He's been sleeping in his car seat for naps and nearly all of the night, because for a time we found that car rides were the only way to get him to sleep. Then we tried manually rocking him in the car seat. That works pretty well, but it's getting very old very fast, as he and the car seat together make a very heavy object. 

We thought we'd try transitioning him to his bed for night sleep at least, and figured this week would probably be a good one for that. He's been doing quite well, so we hope that this continues to improve. He seems to be teething, as indicated by his chewing on everything he can fit in his mouth, but there are still no detectable chompers yet. 

He's officially taken steps on his own. He's taken one at a time here and there, but a few days ago he took three full steps...toward the television. I suppose the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. He stood up for about a full minute yesterday as he was keeping his eye on a babysitter (while Kira and I went out for a brief date). He walks along walls and furniture like a pro, so he'll be strutting around like a peacock in the next couple of weeks, it seems.
Avey has been in a creative mood lately. She got a bee in her bonnet about making some homemade silly putty, so she made a batch that worked, and then followed up with several batches of different colors, all named after Star Wars elements. For example, there's Tatooine Sunset Orange, Sith Lord Red, Tatooine Sand Yellow, Degobah Green, Jedi Blue, and Deep Space Purple. 
Hakan is Batman at the Store
Carver has been relishing in his 5-year-oldness. He is a little bit braver, and a little more confident, attributing all of his skills to "being five." He still has not grown any more open to trying fruit, but maybe he'll grow into that when he's six.
First Total Haircut
The boys all had haircuts this week, and this was the first major makeover for Merritt. I think he looks sharp, but it still catches us by surprise each time we look at him.

There's supposed to be a snow storm moving into our area tonight, which is strange because we went so much of this winter without snow. We've loved the sunshine, though, and can't wait for spring!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Carver Turns Five

The biggest news of the week is that Carver celebrated the fifth anniversary of his birth with us. He was so excited to turn five. We started the celebration by taking the oldest two children to see the new Lego Batman movie. Hakan wanted to go, but it was during his nap time, and we have learned through previous experiences that he typically gets bored halfway through movies at the theater and decides to go exploring instead. The older kids and I loved it, though, and now they can't wait to see the Ninjago movie at Avey's birthday. 

We also went out to lunch at Carver's favorite restaurant, where he could get pancakes in the middle of the day. It was then home to open presents and gorge on cake and ice cream. Easily the most popular gift in the first 24 hours is a specifically requested toy that makes tooting sounds (demonstration). All the siblings have been awaiting turns with it. He very much appreciates all of the cards and gifts through the mail as well, they just aren't quite as hilarious, apparently. 
It is hard to cope with the fact that we'll never get to spend any more time with the 4-year-old Carver again, but we are excited to see what the future holds for the 5-year-old, including Kindergarten in the fall. 

Otherwise, we've been busy with everything else going on. Merritt had some very good nights sleeping this week, going 6-hour stretches and such. He kept us humble last night, though, getting up about every 2 hours. He is walking along walls now like nobody's business, and this morning took a single step unsupported. He impressed me this morning when Carver cried out in pain after colliding with a toy or something. Merritt crawled over just as quickly as his little limbs would move, and then seemed to try to give Carver a hug to help him feel better. 

Hakan is turning into a night owl. He stays up after Carver goes to bed because he actually naps, but then where he used to willingly go to bed around 7 or 8, now he insists that he is too busy playing. It takes a lot of coaxing and then 4 or 5 steps to complete the bedtime ritual. 

He's also maintained his same uniform for close to 2 weeks now. He was immensely happy after Kira washed his standard shirt, and put it right back on:
He impresses all the strangers when we are out and about.

Kira has another client scheduled, and got her first pay check today! She somehow scrapes by on a few hours of sleep at a time, with occasional loss of consciousness as she nurses the youngest man-child.

I am on spring break this week, but will be filling most of my break with work, trying to get ahead of things, get prepared for an upcoming conference presentation, and trying to get some projects off of my list.

And the adventure continues...

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Light Saber Fiasco

As Kira had an appointment with her client Monday afternoon, I had all the kids in my charge. They were in need of an outing, and were in the market for a new beach ball after discovering a hole in one of ours that is essential to a game they recently developed. Ergo, the five of us headed to the Dollar Store nearby in search of a replacement beach ball.

The first problem was that Merritt was in need of a nap in the near future. The second problem was that the other three cared little for his predicament. They sorted through the toy section of the store, finding nary a beach ball. Apparently, the dead of winter is not the season for them. As time wore on, we needed to finish our business and get home for Merritt's nap. I told the children to make their selections if they had money and coveted any particular item. Avey chose something that caught her fancy, but the boys chose nothing. Then we got in line for the checkout.

It was at this moment that Carver decided he wanted something after all. He claimed to want a knock-off light saber, so we sent Avey to get one. Pressing the little button was supposed to make it light up and make some sound effect, but it did nothing. We sent Avey for another. That one did not work either. I questioned Carver once again about his decision, because he had shown no interest in the toy earlier, and this was a last minute (literally) decision, so perhaps he would rather save his money. He insisted that he would rather die than leave the store without the object, so we arranged to purchase the non-functioning toy and then go find one that worked on their rack. 
On the way to the car, Carver waved the sword back and forth, testing out its weight distribution, its feel, and function. Hakan asked to hold it in the car, but Carver refused, seeming never to tolerate parting with it. An argument ensued, but then was settled by the time we arrived home. 

I rocked Merritt to sleep for a few minutes, and when he was finally asleep, I came out to see how the older 3 were faring. Carver begged permission to play video games. I declined, pointing out that he had a brand new toy with which to entertain himself. He insisted that he did not want to do anything but play video games. After some more back-and-forth, I made him a bargain: if he chose 10 toys of his to give or throw away, then he could play video games for a few minutes. 

I thought myself awfully clever to occupy him with such a task, while getting him to evaluate his decision on different terms. After about 10 full seconds of consideration, he held up the very same toy sword he had just purchased at great emotional and temporal expense, and said, "I can get rid of this!"

I will spare the reader description of my outrage and dismay. Suffice it to say that Carver got a sound lesson in impulse purchasing, the value of a dollar, and why Daddy's hair is falling out.
One big development this week was Merritt's attempts to feed himself. He consistently tries to grab spoons we use to transfer food from a container to his mouth, so we've tried more finger foods to avoid that. He enjoyed crispy rice cereal, and Kira recently got him started on ground up broccoli and chicken. As one can see from the video footage, that has gone over well, albeit messily.

Hakan has been in his biggest Batman phase ever. Each morning, he wakes and puts on the same uniform: tan pants, a Winnie the Pooh sweater, cowboy boots, and a black and blue cape. Any time I am within earshot, he orders me to "do Batman," which means I need to talk in a low voice, almost whispering, and conversing with him about whatever is on his mind. Most recently, he has made Batman befriend a spherical plush penguin toy. Although they have little in common, aside from being mostly black, and not really built for flying, they often find things over which to converse, such as whatever food is on Hakan's plate.

Carver turns 5 this week, which has us all excited and wondering where the time has gone. We can hardly believe that he will be starting kindergarten in the fall!

Avey keeps busy with school and her Star Wars obsession. The franchise sure timed these movies right if they intend to secure our children as lifelong fans. Avey often recruits the boys into her role playing games, so even though they've not got a full grasp of the story or the customs of that galaxy, they are already familiar with key terms like "dark side," and "hyperdrive," etc. Avey even chose to do her school biography project on George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars.

This week also came with house guests for one night. Kira's college friend came through with her mother to spend the night and then catch a plane for foreign lands. It was a brief stay, but still something for the kids to enjoy. They are always up for a fresh audience.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

This Week's Battle Scars

Last Sunday evening, as Hakan was gathering his things for bed, he retrieved his water bottle from our kitchen table. Normally, he uses a small stepping stool to reach things, but on this particular night, the stool had been removed by one of his siblings. Hakan usually makes a huge fuss about things like that, but that night he decided to just climb up his chair to grab the water bottle. He tucked it under his arm, and slipped off the chair, landing his chin on his water bottle. The impact tore his chin quite a bit. It wasn't very deep, but certainly frightening and painful. After some ice, a bandage, and lots of cuddling with his mommy, he fell asleep in her arms and then transitioned to bed a bit later. He's healing up nicely now.

The weather over the last few days has been gloriously (and unseasonably) warm and sunny. It's allowed us to enjoy our back yard again. As the kids were playing a few days ago, the celebration of outdoor play got a little out of hand, as you can see in this video:
Carver was fortunate that the disc hit him in between the eyes and not in one of his eyes. Hakan is apparently more powerful than he looks, as Carver's little mark shows:
With clumsy little bodies with brains that don't think ahead very well yet, we are sure to have a few scrapes now and then. At least there's nothing too serious so far.

Merritt seems like he is on the verge of a tooth, but I realize we've thought so several times before. He has a little white dot on his gums that's been there for a long time now, and he seems like his sleeping has gotten even worse lately, so a tooth sounds like a good explanation (and easy solution) for both.
Miracle of miracles, Kira had an appointment with a client yesterday! This one has been on the schedule for several weeks, but found reasons to postpone each time. Finally, Kira held a phone appointment with her, and she agreed to meet in person this coming week as well. We hope to get something regular scheduled so that we can avoid the constant planning and re-planning.

We have this beautiful weather for a few more days, and then we imagine it will be back to frigid winds, so I'd better stop spending my time at the computer... See you next week!

Sunday, February 12, 2017


As mindful parents, Kira and I strive to teach our children the value of a dollar, as it were. Carver earned some money early in the week and then received a generous gift for Valentine's Day of some more cash, and the kids all needed an outing, so we took a trip to the thrift store - always a treasure trove. 

Carver purchased a stuffed bunny toy, and after we were home, Kira found it and asked whose it was. Carver proudly announced that it was his, adding, "I wasted my money on it!"

With some clarification, it became apparent that he had meant to say he had spent his money on it. 
In other news, all three boys have had the stuffiest noses we've seen in some time. We are blowing (no pun intended) through our bulk-purchased facial tissue stockpile like there's no tomorrow. Fortunately, there are no other symptoms adding to their discomfort, so Kira and I get awoken only a little more than usual each night (which is still considerable). I suppose one can't spell "Illinois" without "ill."
Merritt is growing bored with his usual spots to explore, so he is making it more difficult for us to open any access to restricted areas. Any time someone opens the refrigerator, he makes a beeline for it, desperate to get a peek and maybe slap a little hand on the pickle jar, if just for a moment. He maintains a fascination with Avey's room especially, as it is sealed off from just about everyone in the world. When he sees her door open, he cautiously and quietly moves toward it, keeping an eye out for Avey, like a mouse moving toward an unprotected piece of cheese, keeping watch for the cat. Sometimes he gets a foot or two in before she snatches him up, so her room remains the final frontier.

Avey's constant chatter about all things Star Wars has infected Carver, so the two of them watched Episode I this week. Maybe now they will have something over which they can bond instead of just video games.

Avey finished her after-school art class, so now she will need to find new ways to avoid arguing with her brothers.

Hakan is still preoccupied with his super hero toys, constantly asking for me to do their voices. Maybe he just needs some coaching in sound effects. He also loves being chased around, and riding on my back. Both of those activities require energy: a commodity in short supply, so we do our best. Why can't our kids ever ask if we would like a back scratch or something?

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Voices in My Head

About a year back, Carver fell into a habit of wanting to watch some short show on a smartphone right before he would lay down his head at night. We happened upon some fun videos showcasing superhero toys for boys about his age. He loved the videos so much, I thought that for his 4th birthday I'd get him some of the toys. They have been a source of fun off and on since then for both Carver and Hakan, and several more heroes and villains have joined their ranks. 

Still, it seems that the boys have run out of ideas recently. The poor superheroes went unloved for a while. Earlier this week, Hakan was bored while he was eating, and needed something to entertain him. Usually, a fork that talks like Captain Hook will do, but that game seems to have gone by the wayside. I found a couple of the superheroes and struck up a conversation between them, including some encouragement for Hakan to eat. He kept eating, so I kept the show going. Hulk and Batman kept throwing the Joker in jail, but he kept getting out until they realized that the jail was our napkin holder, and it doesn't have 4 walls. 
Hakan Rides the Reading Train
It was fun, and sparked new interest in the toys. However, Hakan now relies on me for all of the dialogue. He'll approach me in the middle of something and say, "Dad, do the Flash!" He then expects me to come up with some elaborate situation that will entertain him. He usually catches me at a busy time, so I have to turn him down, but otherwise I am getting to a point where my creativity is spent. The superheros are now reduced to talking about the weather.

I need to figure out a way to get Hakan to come up with ideas for the superheroes himself. He's gotten better, and it's pretty funny when he tries to talk like them. When he imitates the Batman voice, he basically just whispers in a serious tone.
He's also randomly integrated a toy sheep into the group, having each hero take turns petting it and commenting on how soft its wool is. I suppose that deserves some points for creativity.