A love letter to my son, aged 6 years, 6 months

Dear Ronan,

You are a special young man growing right before my eyes. I can’t believe you’ll be 7 in less than half a year, and that Grade 1 is under 4 weeks away. The past three months have been awesome. I’ve seen more of you in that time than I would have in twice the normal amount of time.

I love –

  • How you constantly amaze me with the depth and breadth of your knowledge. Every day it seems like you’ve learned an entirely new subject, and want to share it with all of us.
  • That you love to cook and make up your own recipes.
  • The way you skip along when we’re just walking together, tossing one leg up and backwards. Your pure joy really shows.
  • How you treat Jack, the littlest child at daycare, as if he were your own little brother.
  • When you talk and act like a mature 6 year old
  • That other parents compliment us on how well behaved and kind you are.
  • Your fantastic memory that captures every fact.
  • When you laugh as if it’s the only thing you know how to do: loud, long and with a big smile on your face.
  • Your gorgeous blue eyes that somehow came from our gene pool of hazel and brown ones.
  • Being able to play video games with you. Lego Indiana Jones will always be our game.
  • When you gather together both friends and random kids to discuss your plan in a huddle, whispering the instructions like it was a top secret invasion plan.
  • Your enthusiasm to try new things, throwing yourself at new situations with everything you’ve got.
  • Your salesmanship, in everything from making deals to get dessert, to selling lemonade on the street.
  • How you need to hear ‘Inchworm’ or ‘Froggy Went A Courtin’ from me before you can go to sleep.
  • That you have empathy for plants and animals of all shapes and species, treating them all with respect and care.
  • Your love of reading – it will serve you well throughout life.
  • When you get scared watching a movie and want to cuddle up to me, just like you did when you were younger.
  • Sharing a ‘big bath’ with you and your sister, and all the imaginative water games you two come up with during that time.
  • Whenever you say “Good job, Daddy”.
  • That we still say “I love you” every night.

With all my love,

A love letter to my daughter, aged 3 year, 5 months

Dear Bailey,

I wanted to let you know about the special things you bring to my life, and the special memories I’ll take away from this time we’ve had together.

I love –

  • The way you scrunch up your face and grit your teeth together when you’re being ‘pretend mean’.
  • Your impish smile, especially when you’re doing something impish.
  • How when wisps of your hair blow in your face, you unthinkingly brush it away from your eyes with the back of your hands.
  • Your intensity when you find something interesting on the ground to squat and look at.
  • When your little hand slips into mine when you know we have to cross the street. I never, ever, ever want that to end.
  • When you say “Thank you, Daddy” in your clipped, polite voice, especially when you haven’t been reminded.
  • When you look at my mosquito bite “ow-ies” and carefully put band-aids on them with all the patience and concern of an OR nurse.
  • Unexpected hugs, and expected ones too.
  • How you sleep, arms and legs spread everywhere, no blankets, and your sweet little mouth just barely open; and then you shout instructions to your brother while in a dream.
  • That you always hand my juice to me first during our nature walks with the daycare kids; you always want me to be happy.
  • How upset you are when I can’t come on a nature walk; you always want me to be there.
  • How you say, “It’s OK, Daddy” if you think I’m upset.
  • Your naptimes when you ask to go to sleep and fall asleep right away (these are rare events indeed).
  • Your tousled head when you wake up.
  • How you laugh and tell me to “stop it” when I tickle you, then laughingly beg for more when I stop.
  • The nights when you go to sleep and DON’T
  • The time when we flew kites with your brother on a gorgeously warm, sunny-with-fluffy-clouds day and you spontaneously said, “what a beautiful day!”
  • Your head lolling about when you fall asleep in the car.
  • Every time you say, “I love you, Daddy”.

Will all my love,

A reminder of what this time has meant

Recently, I’ve had a three month long break from work. During this time, I was able to spend more time with my two children, Ronan, aged 6 1/2 and Bailey, aged 3 1/2, than probably at any point in their lives so far. Barring a lottery windfall, or some other spectacular change in my working life, this probably will be the longest break I’ll be able to take for the foreseeable future.

In this time, which I admit, hasn’t always been used exclusively with my children, I have managed to experience more of my children’s lives than I have before. I was able to talk with them, walk with them and play with them.

Not all of this was golden, sunlit dreams of pure innocence. These kids are still immature and my patience was worn thin more than once. However, what I want to capture here is my happy memories from this time, so that I can look back in years hence and see what joys these two were able to bring to my heart during this trying period.

Hence, here are two love letters, from me to them.
To Ronan
To Bailey

Forgotten Faves

I posted a tweet while I was listening to my iPod about the play list I was using.

It’s a “smart” playlist I set up in iTunes that takes songs that I’ve rated highly in the past, but haven’t listened to in a while and.. oh, it’s easier if I just show you the damn thing:

Forgotten Faves playlist

The only downside is that if I rated an entire album, it will play the entire album, which is usually good (hey, I rated it 4+ stars didn’t I?) but sometimes tedious when you just want to hear a varied mix of songs/artists.

Feel free to comment and copy this playlist. Show it to your friends, kids, baristas, and everyone down at the bowling alley.

Don’t leave me hanging on the telephone

I hate the telephone. Not specifically any physical phone, though my cordless phones all seemed to develop terminal battery syndrome within a week of each other, necessitating an implausibly high number of hours spent researching replacements, either to the entire phone setup, or just to the batteries themselves. But I refer to the humble concept of engaging in conversation with another person in a far off place, with no direct visual or chronological involvement.

I have many reasons for this unrestrained animosity. Death comes over the phone. My grandmother, my grandfather. My uncle. My granddad-in-law. My cousin. My other grandmother. Family friends passing away, pets being euthanized. Jobs lost or opportunities missed. Bad news travels fastest over long distance connections. I cringe when I see a message on the answering machine, anticipating the misery that awaits me when I hit the “Play” button. Toss away the mundane, everyday phone conversations, and the number of bad calls in my life greatly outweigh the good ones.

My family isn’t particularly good at phone conversations either. My wife’s family? Unbelievable – they’ll talk literally for hours to each other, get all the news about all the relatives, pass the phone to spouses and children to carry on (presumably once their throats have turned to raspy husks from so much talk). But my mother, father and brother and I aren’t particularly good at it. Conversations between my brother and I start out well, but eventually wind up in discussions of hockey news and our children’s activities. My father usually discusses one of three things: money, computer problems, or my children.

Now, I love my mother. Really I do. But she and I just can NOT carry on a decent phone conversation to save our lives. She brings people and events into discussions like prize fighters bring in jabs and hooks. Unexpected, unexplained and unrelenting. I’ve had my mom go on for twenty minutes about some person I’ve never met and know nothing about, only to have her tell me that they passed away last week. And the knockout punches of shocking news: my father is recovering nicely from his surgery; her MRI went well; the cancer is benign. What? But? How? Sputter. When? Sputter.

This is certainly not to say that I’m blameless. Far from it. On the phone, I have the attention span of a hyperactive 6 year old who’s eaten a dozen doughnuts, a case of PixieStix and has forgotten the Ritalin for the 18th straight day. If I’m sitting, I fidget back and forth until I get up from my seat. If I’m standing, I pace back and forth literally throughout the house, until I sit down and start fidgeting. I look out the window. I watch TV. I surf the Web. Without a visual interaction, I’m not able to pay attention to the person talking to me. I can carry on conversations fairly well in person. I talk to friends, co-workers, even my wife, with little or no problem once the conversation is going (I’m inept with small talk), but I need an audio and a visual component, not just a voice vibrating a speaker that’s near my ear.

Speaking of co-workers, I’ve really started to smash my head against this problem lately at work. I’ve recently been given a new role, where 95% of the people I work with are spread around the world. Silicon Valley, Kansas, Germany, India and China. And all the conversations take place on the telephone.

You can imagine how well I’m doing with that.

Things aren’t as bad if there is a presentation or demonstration taking place while the call is going on. I can match people’s voices and actions and pay attention fairly well if the subject is interesting. But in a call without some visual connection, I’m half a second away from checking scores on ESPN.com.

To help, I’ve resorted to using ‘people puppets’, where I’ve pulled down a few dozen random images from istockphoto.com, and as the conversation goes along, each new speaker gets “attached” to one of these photos. Then as we talk, I can match a face with a name and make it through an entire meeting without buying a half-dozen new DVDs from Amazon by the end.

I do dread the day when I wind up meeting some of these people in person though. The stock photos models may prove to be much more – ahem – photogenic than the real people.

RSS feeds

Hmm. I’m still having problems getting the RSS feed to work properly.

Also, Google has said they’re going to discontinue FTP uploads of blog posts. Looks like I’m going to have to spend some time revamping this whole domain.

Always a distraction to keep me from my goals, I guess.


Updates are a-comin’

As the thousands of you who read this blog have no doubt noticed, I’ve updated the look and feel of julieandian.com. What does that mean, you ask?

Well, I did make a New Year’s resolution to do more writing more often, and I think a general precursor to doing any writing is doing writing warmups, which is a perfect fit for blog entries.

Thus the goal is to write a blog entry, then write 500-1000 words on my other works.

Barack mania

Given how terrible US political scene has been over the last 8 years, I’ve got to admit, I’m really hyped about the Obama presidency and what it might mean for not just the US, but all of us, around the world. As a tribute, I took the new official portrait and made (IMHO) a sweet wallpaper for y’all. (Original photo by Pete Souza – not sure of the copyright for this photo):

(In 1440×900 – for my MacBook):

(And in 1920×1200):

(Same again, but reversed for you “leftists” out there ;-) ):

Right click and “Save Link As…” to download the full size files. Then use your usual methods of changing your desktop wallpaper to keep Obama on your desktop, telling you “We cannot walk alone.”