09/04: Guess What...

Category: Family
Posted by: seanmcox
Chicken Butt! Go to the blog entry...

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Category: Family
Posted by: seanmcox

Cassey gave birth to a healthy baby boy at 6:56AM on April the 8th. (That was this past Thursday.) The hospital was St. Francis in Lynwood.

Compared to Bellflower Medical Center, the staff at St. Francis was much more friendly. They didn't forget to bring Cassey her meals, and they let Cassey have her baby as a rule, not just when she asked for the baby. The Bellflower staff kept Jasher separated from Cassey for long periods of time, and instead of bringing the baby to the mother to eat, they would sometimes bottle-feed, which was most alarming after the trouble we had getting Ephraim to breast-feed. (We couldn't get him to breast-feed, which, fortunately, is a difficulty we have not had since.) When I had questions, the St. Francis staff were willing (and obligated by policy) to answer.

The downsides are, that they charge for parking (I and my wife could get parking validated, but they weren't very forthcoming with that detail), and they had this odd and discomfiting policy whereby only hospital staff are allowed with the patient while they prepare her and her room for delivery. To me, that is a fundamental failure to see to the safety and comfort of the patient. Like having a lawyer in court, we should all have the right to an advocate at the hospital.

The hospital is one of many places where we would hope that people have our best interests in mind, but this is not always the case. It is, in fact, very often not the case. School guidance counseling is another similar scenario, but the level of vulnerability isn't the same. I'm not saying guidance counselors, nurses, and doctors are all evil. However, they do not really work for us like we would like them to. They work for schools, hospital, insurance companies, etc. They have enrollment quotas, hospitals, principles, insurance companies, malpractice insurers, and a host of other interests which can very often take precedence over our paltry best interests.

The day Cassey had the Baby, a pediatrician attached to the hospital came to visit and announced that he would be our baby's pediatrician proceeded to presumptuously talk about care our child would be receiving from him in the future. This being our third child, of course, we already had a pediatrician, and the overall impression I was left with was that this guy was hard up for patients. As soon as he left, my mother-in-law expressed the same feeling I had, that this guy was angling for a new patient. Little did we know how underhanded he would be.

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Category: Family
Posted by: seanmcox
Yesterday was a productive day.

I woke up early and found that my blog had a significant amount of spam from some guy in Pakistan. I already have a decent amount of spam protection for my blog, but this guy was still getting through. I figure this guy was sitting down and actually manually posting the spam. Anyhow, the actual comment never had a link, but his user website was always the same shady business website. Blocking his IP wasn't stopping him. (He's probably using dynamic IP.) Anyhow, it was obvious to me that what I needed to do was block the website he was trying to promote, and after looking around and finding no plugin for that, I wrote one. It's not ready for public consumption yet, but I'm excited to be able to block special website promotions.

After that I went to Lowe's to pick up some supplies, weeded the garden, broke up some cement, and chopped some fire wood.

After lunch, I sprayed for weeds in the front yard and replaced an outdoor outlet I had installed incorrectly. (It needed to be GFCI, and it wasn't firmly attached.) The outlet was fixed in preparation for putting up Christmas lights. We made some further preparations, but determined we didn't have the lights we needed, so I'll finish that up next week.

I finished up the day by working on The Glyph Project. I worked on transliteration and translation, then performed my weekly word import.

Ephraim and Jasher enjoyed playing outside and got themselves about as dirty as they could manage without water to help.

Cassey reports that Ephraim will create pretend words in the tub. He'll jumble the foam letters together and ask Cassey what the word is.

I can't say that his reading has progressed much lately, but things seem to keep getting in the way of his lessons.

Cassey hates to watch Jasher while I quiz Ephraim, and Ephraim has lately expressed a preference to have Cassey work with him, so we've started this last week to give that a try. Ephraim has also started making up songs out of random things that he hears. It's terribly cute.

It's nice to have a moment to sit down and write. Such moments have become more and more scarce for various reasons. I've picked up a traditional paper journal to write in, as blogging has become less feasible. I use the journal for planning, some note making, and goal setting as well, so it's fulfilling a few different purposes. Still, I have some hope to be able to get more work done on my own personal computer. (I don't see that changing real soon though.)

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06/10: Baby Tales

Category: Family
Posted by: seanmcox
So, I have a baby on the way, expected mid-April. We have no names in mind yet in the event that the baby is a boy, and I think we'll be hard pressed to come up with one should the need arise.

Ephraim, meanwhile, has made some great progress with his letters. In my last comprehensive quiz, he was able to correctly identify 24 out of 26 capital letters as well as identify the letter's sound. And the outstanders? Those would be Q and Y. (He identified Q correctly, but he couldn't identify the sound.) Having been out of town last, Ephraim really hasn't been getting the regular attention he deserves. Now he has a sore throat and a cough, and since his lessons also involve copious amounts of chocolate, I'm giving him a bit of a rest.

While Ephraim's letter identification seems to have improved despite my being out of town; I presume my Mom worked with him (Thanks Mom!); even with that improvement, however, he seems to have lost ground on his reading, though he can still recognize his current favorite word, "up". "At" was one he could usually get, and he was able to get it the last time I worked with him, but it was clearly more difficult, and required more repeated sounding out than usual. There were a few other two-letter words that he used to be able to get by himself, but he couldn't get any of them on Saturday. (He was tired, though. I have to note that he also did poorly on letters on Saturday, but came around for the comprehensive letter quiz later with the above noted stellar performance anyhow.) It will be time to start on lower-case letters in earnest soon.

Ephraim is sick and Cassey is sick. Jasher seems to be getting off easy. (He got a mild fever a couple of days ago, but that was it.) I feel a tickle in my throat, but I'm nursing it and it seems to not be making any progress.

Jasher never fails to be adorable, even when he's formulating evil plans.

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Category: Family
Posted by: seanmcox
Many things have happened this week, but of those things, Ephraim's attainments have been the most remarkable.

Cassey has been taking him swimming a lot at the home of his Great Aunt Carol. On Monday, he wouldn't even get n the pool, but by the end of the day he was splashing around with gusto. Water wings were obtained for him during the week, and by the end of the week he was jumping into the pool by himself (meaning, I was only hanging around just in case) and swimming (with water wings) to the other side. He still needs to learn to keep his mouth shut in water, but otherwise, he's doing great.

Having installed Daggerfalllast week for Cassey's gaming history edification, Ephraim soon learned how to walk around and open doors, which marks the beginning of his serious use of the arrow keys. (Which I'd previously failed at teaching him.)

This week, I showed Ephraim a game at his grandparents' house which he really liked (Kgoldrunner), which he refers to as "Stairs" (though, there aren't any... just ladders). "Stairs" uses the mouse, which is a bit odd for a side-view type of game. Anyhow, he asked me for "Stairs" again today, and I told him that we didn't have it here, but I offered to bring up another game for him, and I pulled up "The Ephraim Game". The Ephraim Game is a game that I started making for him many months ago, hoping to teach him to use the arrow keys, and to stay interested in letters. For those who have seen my homemade game engine at work, they will know what the UI kind of looks like. For those who haven't, you can check it out the first ever game created with it at my wedding website. (It currently seems to be acting a little odd in FireFox.)

Anyhow; Ephraim has demanded a few upgrades. I'll probably post the game he is playing once I've addressed his initial concerns.

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Category: Family
Posted by: seanmcox

Just yesterday I got back from the first annual Cox Family Vacation. About a month ago, Cassey told me that we needed to go on a family vacation, and after a little bit of consideration we decided that we would go to Utah.

The car ride to and from was a bit hard on Jasher, but mostly we convinced him to stuff his face and sleep. We made four or five stops each way to help the kids get the wiggles out.

We drove up on Friday, the third.

On Saturday, I went to a get-together with my brother and my cousins, then we went to see fireworks. Ephraim had been excited about fireworks all week (for some reason... he was the only one excited, so I'm not sure where it came from), so I expected he'd love them, but instead, he was scared out of his wits. He kept yelling "All done! All done!" and "I wanna go home!" Jasher didn't like the fireworks either, but he just curled up and hugged close to Mommy.

On Sunday I figured out where my in-law's ward was, which really is kind of a complicated thing. Most of the hard work was done by maps.lds.org, which is a fairly new resource. I was thrown off, however, by the fact that the buildings in the area were double chapel buildings, housing 6 wards instead of 3. Nobody seemed to be passing out ward bulletins either. Consequently, we ended up going to the wrong ward's sacrament meeting. We got straightened out for Sunday School however.

On Monday, I programmed a little (improved the handling of OutOfMemory errors in The Shtick Image Editor) while Cassey took the kids to a park.

On Tuesday, I went out to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. (What I found will probably be the subject of a separate blog entry.)

On Wednesday we planned to go to a water park, but ended up just going to see a movie (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was pretty well done). We also went to a wedding reception for the daughter of one of Cassey's cousins (good food) and then visited with David.

On Thursday we went out to a creek. I read and Ephraim and Jasher splashed around and had fun.

In addition, over the course of the week, I read two books and lost every game I played and Jasher's walking made major improvements. He now relies on walking for most of his non-vehicular personal transportation needs. (Ephraim also crossed this threshold while out of town with his mother.)

Now that I'm back there's plenty to do. I still have a sprinkler system to finish and the laundry is backed up a bit. The spiders had also done a pretty good job of installing new webs in the family room. On Friday, it appears that someone began a spam campaign against my blog, which required some time to clean up. (I blocked a number of IP addresses, updated my challenge questions for comments, and updated the permissions on my challenge question list to prevent anonymous people from getting access to it. We'll see if that makes any difference.)

My Elder's Quorum President called this evening to ask if I had any cement to be broken up or holes to be dug in my yard as he had rented a machine that he could use. It turned out he had rented a small excavator for use on his own yard and was having so much fun with it that he thought he'd find something else to use it on. Being nearby, and knowing we had plans for our yard, he gave us a call. With the excavator, he broke up the cement that we were looking to take out. He pulled out one of our yucca trees, and ripped out most of another. He also knocked down a sickly grapefruit tree that was planted long ago in a poor spot. The affect is to advance us in one night about a year into our plans for the back yard. He might have been able to do more, but I hadn't really planned that far in advance.

It has been a productive week.

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Category: Family
Posted by: seanmcox
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to make some significant progress on my sprinkler system.

During the week I had worked hard to finish up the drip line connections in the front yard. (That is, the PVC runs out to the where the drip line is connected. I haven't actually connected the drip line yet.) I also finished putting in all but one sprinkler head in the main lawn area.

Yesterday morning I finished half of the sprinkler system in the strip of lawn between the sidewalk and the street. After that I went under the house to replace the last remaining length of galvanized piping that was running out to the front yard. I used a hack saw to cut off the galvanized pipe, which was really the wrong way to go about it. I'd done that sort of thing before without too much trouble, but under a house, where there's limited space to move, it's really hard to get full strokes, apply good pressure, and avoid dirt falling in your face. I should mention that there was also a possum down there, and he didn't seem to like my activity. I spent the first little while a bit nervous about the possum. My wife also came down with a fever (which I didn't know until later) and was having trouble with the kids, which didn't help me to concentrate. My Elders Quorum President recommended that I should have used a pipe wrench to unthread the pipe, but I didn't have a pipe wrench. With hindsight, I should have cut through half inch copper instead. It would have taken me less than 15 minutes rather than an hour and a half.

In the end, I messed up the copper connection I was trying to make and had to call my Elders Quorum President over to help me get it right. He came over. We got it right. I owe him.

Now I have to finish the PVC and work on the timer installation this week. (I'll need to go back under the house to run the timer wires, but that's it.)

It's really a mess under our house. (I don't imagine that to be unusual.) I found an old Parcheesi board, an old school book, and an old cigar box; Cubans, if I recall correctly, distributed through Florida. The school book isn't in great condition. That is, the cover is pretty thrashed, but the actual contents are readable. The title, I believe, is Chip, and I can't find anything about it. (Perhaps I got it wrong though. I'll have to get it out and examine it more closely.)

There's a lot of debris under the house, and some of the wiring is pretty oddly done, with wires just lying loose in the dirt. Some connected to nothing. I discovered the connections for the phone lines (which should be tidied up) and I discovered that a wire that I have hanging out of a grating in our back yard actually comes from a heater. I have no idea what the wire is for. Apart from that, there was plenty of scrap pipe, wood, and other things. I cleared out some of it, but only as it got in my way, or was found interesting.

In other news, it appears that at least two people have tried to use my Twitter plugin for Nucleus CMS. The only people that I have heard from are two individuals who have run into problems. I have to imagine there are more people using it who have had success with it, but those aren't the sorts of people one actually hears from. It works for me, anyhow, and I am my target customer.

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Category: Family
Posted by: seanmcox
Busy times for me.

Last week I spent just about any free time I had planning a sprinkler system that I was slated to install on Saturday. On Wednesday I got a call from my fire/hazard insurance company informing me that they were planning on not renewing due to the fact that they had not received some photo from me. On Thursday, I found out that what they had wanted was for me to paint my garage door. It would have been nice if they had informed me that they wanted me to paint my garage door before getting to the point of scheduling me to be dropped for having failed to do so. All the same, I still have two months to work the issue. So, on top of sprinkler system supplies, I picked up paint.

The sprinkler system installation was planned as a quorum project, and despite offering a mountain of food, and entertainment and socialization for wives and children, the only people from the quorum to show up were members of the quorum presidency. Nevertheless we had rented a trencher and a sod cutter, so we got my lawn ripped out and trenches dug rather quickly. As far as the rest of the work goes, we have the beginnings of each of the three zones installed, but none finished. Fortunately, I feel comfortable with the work now, having observed our very capable Elders Quorum President, and having begun to fit pipes together myself.

The work party broke up by about 4:00pm (which is very late for a service project, but our quorum presidency has some real troopers) due to the fact that I needed to do my home teaching.

In the meantime, Ephraim lost a fight with a rock and required some attention.

Home teaching went well, and after, I went to painting my garage door, but only got the primer coat on, finishing up in the light of the street lamps. (That's OK. It looks painted, so I was able to take the requisite photo. I'll finish it up today or tomorrow.)

Today, Cassey hears a rustling and scratching sound coming from the fireplace, up in the chimney. I don't know what critter got in, but I suppose I'll investigate when I get home.

I also hear a rumor that there is now some question as to whether or not my sprinkler plan provides adequate coverage for the lawn. I'll have to find out what that's about. I planned the recommended head to head coverage for all areas except the strip between the sidewalk and the road. (Actually, I planned head to head coverage there too, but Home Depot didn't have the requisite parts, and I'm having to improvise some.) It's an interesting rumor to hear because I'd felt like I had caught a bit of flack before beginning the work for having over-done the coverage unnecessarily.

Anyhow, still plenty of work to do.

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Category: Family
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After spending weeks quizing Ephraim on his letters, I was surprised when Cassey showed me he was semi-competently counting fingers. Ephraim has been progressing amazingly well on his numbers without us putting much effort into the subject.

Anyhow, I decided to try encouraging him to turn semi-competent into competent. Unfortunately, my initial efforts left me and him both frustrated. So, I turned to chocolate. Unfortunately, he would just stare at the chocolate most of the time and refuse to count, then throw a fit when he didn't get any.

It got so bad, that he would hide from the M&M's I'd bought him. One morning, he asked for chocolate for breakfast, so I went for the M&M's. As soon as he saw them, Ephraim said "no, daddy, all done!" It was pretty funny at the time, especially since I didn't really want to give him chocolate for breakfast anyway (though I'd've been willing enough to do it if he'd've just counted 2 or 3 of the things). Cassey had a little better luck, but not much. (This progressed over a period of 2 or 3 days.)

It was clear I had to do something, so I started asking him much easier questions in exchange for M&M's; questions he already liked answering. Much to my surprise, he bounced back within 24 hours, and he's counting his M&M's now with gusto. He's only counting up to 5, but that's likely only because we haven't yet pushed further (partially due to a reluctance to give him so many M&M's... I'm surprised how fast he emptied the bag). He can do abstract counting (by which I mean, not counting anything in particular) up to about 20.

Ephraim is also getting much more creative with his blocks, building stable structures in the shape of houses, and such.

It's nice to see him learning so much.

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Today was a busy day. I started the day with a trip to Home Depot, then Lowe's, because Home Depot didn't have everything I wanted. (Lowe's didn't either, but they had more.) I needed a stop valve to replace one under my bedroom sink that leaks, some cord for my weed whacker, and some various items (wood, screws, etc.) for a project Cassey is working on.

Today, I planned to whack up more of the overgrown weeds that once used to be my entire front yard. I have a lot of yard work to do, and I'd nearly filled up my green-waste can disposing of the greater part of an old overgrown bird of paradise that sits next to our front door. I made sure to leave some space, however, for my weed whacking.

I whacked the weeds, while Cassey was out shopping. I let Ephraim water the lawn, and he did a pretty good job. Lots of water ran into the street, and he got thoroughly soaked, but he followed instructions pretty well. For my part there are still a couple of overgrown sections, but I plan to get those next week. I made sure to clear the area near my neighbor's driveway, which made a mess on his driveway, but I had already made a mess there, and I figured that if I finished the job there today, then next week I wouldn't have to make such a mess.

The mess, however, needed to be taken care of, so when the weed-whacking was done, I took the weed-whacker into the garage and emerged with a large push-broom.

Ephraim, by now, had flooded the front-lawn quite thoroughly. The flooding was so effective, that, lo-and-behold, he'd flushed out our new gopher. (Sassy, as you may recall, had eaten or former gopher back in February.)

I ran over with the push-broom and began herding the gopher to prevent it's finding a new hiding place. Unfortunately, I had just seen Sassy head to the back yard when I went to put the weed-whacker away. I eventually determined to get the gopher off of the grass, which I managed to do, while informing Ephraim that it was not safe to touch the gopher (because gophers bite). Ephraim was quite curious all the same and, while keeping a safe distance, he didn't stay so far back that I was made to feel at ease.

Anyhow, I eventually worked the gopher up the driveway, a safe distance from any possible escape, and then quickly went off in search of Sassy, while a little warning light blinked in my head alerting me to the danger that Ephraim might try to touch the gopher despite all of my warnings. Sassy, fortunately had been heading back to the front yard, so she was right around the corner. I quickly scooped her up and showed her Ephraim's find. Sassy needed no further instruction regarding the import of the situation and she quickly began the work of disposing of the unfortunate gopher.

The gopher really had it pretty good, because Sassy killed it pretty quickly. (Cats don't always do that, but then, I've never seen her, or any other cat, waste time playing with anything as formidable as a rodent.)

Ephraim was spell-bound, and though I tried to divert his attention to watering the remaining unwatered portion of the yard, he would have nothing of it, though at the very least I was able to get him to promise to stay back and not touch Sassy.

I finished watering the yard, and eventually Ephraim lost interest. (Ephraim said that the gopher was gone, but I could see that wasn't quite so, though almost.) Ephraim was soaked, so I stripped him down at the entryway and instructed him to find a blanket. I then went to finish putting things away.

I came back to find Cassey had returned home, so I told her about Ephraim's latest accomplishments.

Ephraim is a very accomplished young man.

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