Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Whidbey Island Part 1

We live in a townhouse complex. Those communal affairs that are not quite apartments and not quite duplexes but most people there have some sort of familial unit that requires more space and the general population is not crammed with young professionals who's idea of Keeping It Down mean keeping the 500 watt amps inside their unit and for whom Going To Sleep At A Reasonable Hour is something not far from incomprehensible.

It means communities where quiet, somewhat fuddy, somewhat duddy hobbies are embraced as appropriate and even Alright now that everyone is of a certain age never mind that its the sort of thing I did even when I was youthful and supposedly full of vim and vigour (perhaps the first clue I've been  more on the bookworm side is I would use the term 'vim' without thinking it might be as modern day appropriate as blunderbuss, Black Lung, or consumption (dying of, not mass)).

And its through these activities that an alarmingly large number of families have bonded together.
The men, by playing european board games about, amongst other things, power distribution in a large German city, battling monsters for control of Tokyo, and winning the favour of the marriagable princess in 16th century Normandy (we cast a wide net).

The women, by having a wine drinking club that occasionally discusses books. It might not be applicable to all book clubs, or all women book clubs, but it certainly pertains to this one, that the books they choose make some of the drearier Russian novelists look like auditioning members of Menudo. Dire subjects, plot lines more dire by far that involve this relationship falling in dissolution, that childhood trauma being revealed, and everyone in the end being shipped to a leper penal colony.

This may explain the wine, actually.

On top of that you have kids who more or less get along. The older ones tolerating the younger ones, as the case often is, the younger in a state of endless hero worship. Or at least unquestioning attachment. All the kids invariably jockeying for position to play with the kid that's older. Sometimes, it's magic, where they all find some imaginary game where they can all, more or less, participate in. Or at the very least, the younger ones are not aware they are being excluded. That's some parenting nirvana right there. Kids at free-play learning how to socialize and the like, parental duties involve doing absolutely nothing except listening for wailing or complete, unbroken silence.
It's great that everyone gets along, pretty shocking, actually. So in an effort tempt fate we decided, all 17 of us, to pack off to Whidby Island and hang out at a beach house together. My brain immediately thought of a G-rated Big Chill, minus Kevin Costner in a coffin, obviously.

We all made it there in various cars and vans, down through the border which I'm always worried will involve a grumpy border guard and various breaches of the Geneva Convention. But they never do because a young family driving a 11 year old hatchback gets a pass, generally.

After the hubub of travel with the nauseau and the cliched questions about 'there' and the state of 'yet'ness and always lurking, the not entirely irrational fear that a gunfight will break out as soon as we see speed limits posted in seemingly sedate MPH, its was relief to make it to the farmhouse.  An place where we can all live in even closer quarters and do the things we generally do anyway but a few hundred miles away and with a beach close by. Our communal living arrangement made more communal.

Monday, September 09, 2013


We went to the Seattle zoo. I hadn't been to a zoo for pretty close on 30 years and expected it to be much as it was in the third grade. Soviet-era cement bunkers locking down the whimpering remains of once proud animals. Each going through their own hellish version of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest minus the good friend who's handy with a smothering pillow; plus various attempts to get them to mate with other animals, who, while the same species, are complete strangers.

I don't know if I looked forward to this overmuch. Although there is some magic in seeing an elephant in the flesh; even with the hollowed out stare of someone long past wishing for death, I'm not sure there is enough magic to keep me excited for the 3 hour drive. Mind you, these are all memories added onto my memories as a child. Who knows what I thought back then, now through the tinted glasses of a purportedly sane, responsible, socially conscious adult.

The Seattle Zoo, however, is not the cement zoological gulag I remember of my youth. It's all made exceedingly natural, so where there was once concrete bunkers there's now rolling hills and hidden pools and, quite frankly, far more land than there is animal. It's like a Where's Waldo featuring charismatic megafauna. You get to experience the joy of birding (uncertain identification, natural surroundings, sporadic somewhat embarrassing excitement) and the joy of public events (overpriced concession, the click of numerous SLRs all firing at the same moment, cleverly hidden washrooms) rolled into one!

The various staff and plaques announce the animals are quite happy. Their objectivity isn't to be relied upon, I'd imagine. However, regular feedings without the alarming ritual of predators thinning your herd or poachers trying to provide material for a 3000 year old recipe for Viagra has to be somewhat better? The kids seemed to enjoy it. The animals didn't seem scarringly depressed? I'm not sure.

There didn't seem to be a whole lot of rhyme and reason to which animals they liked. Terrified of giraffes, not at all put out by panthers. A panther that could kill them and then carry their lifeless corpse in its mouth while it cleared a 6 foot fence not that, as a father, I'm hyper aware of every single danger that may or may not happen to my children no matter how slight the chance. Not so scared of tiny green Amazonian frogs which could kill our entire family with a sneeze. Scared of an unidentified sharply coloured jungle snake that... ok, well, that made sense.

There were some exotic things that I was sure were just urban legends perpetuated by a recurring misprint in a reference edition of the Encylopedia Britannica (Tapirs, I mean, really), and then not so exotic things (wolves (which they put on the same field as elks? was this just to keep both of them on their toes? Do elks live more healthy lives when harried by endless anxiety? Are they the Woody Allens of the temperate herbivores?)).

There was even a bear. A great massive hulking bear. Bears, actually. And they were gigantic like what you imagine they'd be if you were three and just saw Omaha's Wild Kingdom, on an IMAX. Volkswagen sized. So massive that the idea of them opening up a mini-van at Yellowstone because someone left a bucket of KFC in there takes no imagination whatsoever.

The zoo designers had a bit of a ball with the bear enclosure. First you see it from a great way off and think, 'Huh, big bear'. Then there's another viewing part, this time under a rock, and it's a bit closer, and you can see the mini-van crushing teeth turning a whole salmon into a pink slurry. And then finally there's a viewing area that's right up against the water where the bear is eating. Close enough that my mind started doing faulty arithmetic and laughably misinformed load bearing calculations with regard to mini-van destroying omnivores and whatever plexiglass grade they use to build the enclosure.

It's a strange thing to trust your life to the whims of an engineer who may or may not have thought of everything when creating a barrier between your family and thousands of pounds of muscle that would eat you as an afterthought on the way to getting a snack.

Are there zoo engineers? Is it terribly rigourous? Do they, at the last second, move the bears to the flamingo sanctuary and the pythons to the duckling alcove because of some marketing head's idea?

I have no idea. There is some charm, it might be said, for concrete gulags.


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Owlet is Metal

 For the most part, Owlet is as you would expect any seven year girl to be. Deeply involved in cartoons and their subsequent merchandise. Anthropomorphized animals of various magical qualities; fairies, both the Disney sanctioned and the not so sanctioned; princesses of every sort. She has endless small sets of tiny plastic figurines which don other, much smaller plastic clothes or accessories or some kind of domestic contrivance. She sets them up and plays with them, chatting about what's happening and why and how some discord or other comes about.

It's enough to make any Mattel executive ( pre-teen girls division, TV-tie-in portfolio) get all misty and sentimental.

It's also strange how she expects me to somehow be into this, and to know the various backstories of characters, their names, their likes, their failings. If I was at all interested in memorizing names and arcane stats about things which have, at best, imaginary importance I'd get into spectator sports. (Not that Owl Jr. is any better, no I do not know the episode of Rescue Bots where Bumblebee makes a brief, and apparently memorable, appearance).

In any case, we went to a street fair in June. One of those torrid affairs which is far too well funded by the local merchants to have that charm that only hand tossed patchouli and questionable crafts can bring. Lots of engaging of brands going on down that 4 or 5 block stretch. They did let some, I'd assume, smaller and more independent retailers sell their wares. Balloon animals and mini-donuts and other things that seem so very much worth their over-inflated price at the time.

We told her she can get one necklace.She chose a stall which honestly looked like it just knocked over a Hello Kitty bead factory. Lots of bright colours. I wasn't sure how she'd ever pick one, there being so much choice. Was she going to pick the pink and yellow sunshine thing.. happy.. type bauble, or the aqua-marine doo-dad which had either a mermaid or a trout with a penchant for wigs. There was always the rainbow option. So many rainbows.

Instead, she chose a skull, and crossbones. On a black necklace.

There are layers there already, I see. I was delighted, but try to stay neutral as to whatever choice she makes. But delighted I was. I mean, it was kind of a cute skull and crossbones, but it was still the universal symbol for death or for piracy. That was pretty metal.

She confirmed this underlying current of PURE METAL a few weeks later. She was going through the detailed history of a My Little Pony, Princess Luna, blah blah 'saves the world' something or other 'moon' something something, and then, "but she turned bad, and was called Nightmare Moon, so I like to call her Nightmare Moon. It sounds cooler".

That'll leave the Mattel executives scratching their head, I"m sure.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Marketing On Ice

It's funny the things you save up for the massive, magnanimous gifts or tickets you hem and haw over and finally  bite the bullet and get them for your kids. And then they invariably give you a blank look, and, depending on how old they are, give you a smile that may or may not be convincing. Nothing gives you a glimpse better into the moment when your kids send you to a retirement home more than your child trying hard not to hurt your feelings. The vast chasm of  your own frailty/humanity set against the invincibility of youth.

Anyways, so we tell Owlet we are going to "Disney On Ice", and she gives us a 'oh good' smile which is more bewildered than blank, but I think she gets that she's supposed to be excited, so she attempts a small clap or something.

My parents were 1st generation immigrants, and they were... Well. I went to IceCapades as a kid, and I swear to god the concession workers who sold wares at my seat level look suspiciously like Himalayan sherpas. Indistinguishable dots moving in pretty patterns with a flutter of detail which may or may not have been a reference to Star Wars figure in my memory. This is also, more or less, my memory of any sporting event we were taken to.

What I'm saying is goddamn those tickets were pricey and I can understand why my parents might have gotten the seats at the treeline and damned  be the altitude sickness. And with these hefty tickets in our wallets you can imagine my chagrin at being treated with a 6-year-old's version of a polite shrug as a response.

But that's all understandable because how is she to know wtf a "Disney On Ice" actually is? We tell Owl Jr. but good luck if any of that even remotely registers. He doesn't even give us a polite smile.

We get there and it's just a phalanax of marketing. Over-priced dolls and programs and commemorative plastic cups (apparently the plastic cups with a drink in them were 12 bucks. Jaw. Dropping.), and  keychains and my god it just goes on forever. This is on top of the mindless spinning glowy things that are really going to be amusing for exactly as long as the show if not shorter. It's like a Fast Track To Global Warming By Using Quickly Disposable Petroleum Products, while we show you an show that's ironically ON ICE.

Even over loud speaker they are pimping out their wares. Duplo + Disney + Another Faceless Multi-national + Child Development Advantage == sales, I think. The wording is pretty slick 'Something something Disney something is now being offered!'. Or some equally egregious weasel word which is better than "COME BUY OUR STUFF, OUR SHAREHOLDERS DEMAND MORE VALUE!" . So there's the audio, and the stalls, and the fact that Owlet and a bunch of girls her age are all dressed as some sort of Disney Princess and long story short both our kids have some outrageously overpriced plushies now.

Disney on Ice is really about Princesses on Ice. When you look at how everything is structured, that's what it's aimed at. Owlet got a choice of five or six different princesses(she chose Belle), and Owl Jr. got to pick Flounder or The Beast (he chose Flounder (although I did make it clear to him that he could pick a princess if he wanted)). I'm just glad they have newer princesses, with better values. The Princess and Frog had a line about 'I got this curse because I wished upon a star instead of relying on hard work', which was pretty great.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rejected Colours for Sherman-Williams 2013 "Colour Your Dreams" Catalogue

-Gulag Archipelego Mauve
-Sudanese Child Soldier Taupe
-Xe Dark Grey
-Silent Scream of Existential Angst Eggshell (matte)
-Surprisingly Racist Highschool Facebook Friend Blue
-Stand Your Ground Red
-Euthanasia Purple (waterproof)
-Stress Position Primer (industrial)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ice Skating

One of the things we forget as we get older, is how terrifying childhood is. Or at the very least, reasonably uncomfortable. Case in point, lessons, about anything: swimming, reading, soccer, or in this case, ice skating.

I never took ice skating lessons as a kid, I think at one point my dad may have given me a pointers over a span of about 15 seconds. As he was an immigrant from a country where humidity meets monsoons, that was the entirety of his knowledge on the subject.

We have Owlet in classes, all that 'give your child the opportunities you never had' thing coming into play there. Thinking back, the only reason I didn't have this opportunity is that my parents were busy signing me up in all sorts of other activities to feel awkward and self-conscious about.To my everlasting regret, there was never a summer camp for 'sitting quietly in a corner, reading books while taking breaks to watch cartoons'.

So anyways, yes, it's difficult, this thing we call childhood. We adults are supposedly much more self-confident, assured, and generally stable in most ways of the world. And yet we put the children in situations where they have to show how clumsy and awkward they are to their peers, "what doesn't kill you will only emotionally scar you", I guess. It's a huge burden to put upon developing minds, I think. They don't know what they want to become or how to act or what to do in pretty much every situation and yet, here we go, new activity, fall down in front of your peers.

Which is one of the many reasons I decided to take skating lessons myself. The frequency with which I, all adult with a full-time job and a mortgage and life insurance and such and such am required to do anything remotely as uncomfortable as lessons I can count on the hand I use to count the number of times I'm required to get feminine products for Mrs. Owl. Which is vanishingly, and thankfully, small.

I go to the Owlet's lessons, I give all the encouragement any dad can reasonably offer without repeating himself or falling into Al Pacino "Any Given Sunday" territory, but I think it'll really help me if I put myself in the same situation.

It's much less rigid, adult lessons. They crammed the intermediate with the beginner. I'm somewhere in between, so that's fine. I can skate forwards and stop  after a fashion. If the zombie apocalypse were to happen along a an improbably frozen river I think I'd do OK. If there was a social situation where the family were to skate I'd come off less well, though. I can't skate backwards, nor stop without losing a fair bit of dignity.

We all just mill about, trying things, and two to three instructors wander about giving us pointers and things to work on. I had my choice between a fairly cheerful woman who was impressively vague in her instruction or another young woman who's dourness denoted a lifetime in a war-torn country, a feeling that all this instructing stuff was a bit beneath her, or all the above.  The dour one was actually pretty instructive but had the brusqueness of someone who, if they do not pencil in their eyebrows now, soon will and abhor anyone who goes above, say, 1100 calories per day.

The first lesson was excruciating because apparently rental skates vary widely in their fit. The ones I had had a previous life as the genocidal ruler of a country filled with compliant people, a non-existant embezzlement regulatory body, and a complete blind eye with regard to disappearing political dissidents. I want to say it tortured me, but there is something professional about that word that doesn't quite capture the enjoyment I imagine said skates extracted from my suffering.

My second lesson I happened upon a pair of skates whose sole purpose is not to inflict maximum, gleeful suffering from my body. It has other duties, like one skate being sharper than the other. It's better, much better actually, asking for a piece of wood to bite on while I skated was awkward for all involved. Still doesn't beat going on home and catching up on Transformers, though.

Saturday, February 09, 2013


Owl Jr. is still very much into Thomas the Tank Engine. Periodically he'll ask me to read him the toy catalog, which I'll staunchly refuse the first 97 times.

But he has taken up Hotwheels to some extent. It does seem all hopelessly gender stereotypical but I suppose I'm just too old-fashioned, lazy, and cheap to get him the Mother Jones approved Green Nurture Truck from the Gaia Solar Empowered Rescue Team (made from carbon neutral renewable Fair Trade non-invasive species bamboo). Also, it means I can hand him down my Hotwheels. Likely made from lead-paint, cast from asbestos casts and formed from depleted uranium with a special DEET-infused glass for the windshield.

It's a bit of a trip to see him play with the milk truck tanker which I pretended to be a tanker with mini-laser turrets where the tank caps are. Or the grey funny car which quite EMPHATICALLY belonged to my brother. Or the 007 Aston Martin which even MORE emphatically belonged to my other brother.  Or the Starsky and Hutch car before it was made into a ironic poorly made retro-movie callback.

He generally doesn't play with them all at once, or even many at once. He'll ask what they are called (the old, 'gotta read the bottom to find out what it's called' trick). And then he'll loyally haul that around for days and days. One of them was featured in a unabashedly toy tie-in book in which Hotwheels cars race while dinosaurs methodically take them all out. The blue car wins, which we, completely by luck, we happen to have. It's name is Tantrum, since it's not a real car, but some special weird made up car where they just let the Hotwheel's designers go nuts because I'm sure that's cheaper than licensing names.

Invariably, as ny 4 year old who hauls around one toy for days and days, he'll lose it. And then, for many more days than we'd have thought possible he'll wander around, like a Dickensian ghost, repeating "Where's Tantrum? I lost Tantrum... where's Tantrum?". It's a little unnerving bordering on aggravating. But it's matched by a nameless joy when he finally finds the damn car.

The naming cars things is understandable, but some of the cars don't actually have the name on the bottom, which is a minor sin, I think, and why Owl Jr. calls the generic stock car 'Thailand'. Others have convoluted names, like the full designation, wth all the X'es and numbers and dashes. I prefer something in between. 'Charger', is fine, "Charger XJ-29 2012 Limited Edition Nascar PRO wheel", is a bit much.

It's at this point thinking about cars that I kinda pine for the simple trains, with their names that were popular for British children's in the 40's:  Thomas, Ferdinand, Percy. Even if they are featured in a product catalog masquerading, poorly, as a storybook. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

PNE : 2010

This is a draft, one of many drafts on different topics I've found in my draft archives. This particular one is from 2010... Yowsa.

The PNE is the Pacific National Exhibition, which is a very Canadian and overly complicated way of saying 'State Fair'.

Owlet is four, if my math is right, which it rarely is. Owl Jr. is two, possibly/probably. There are  rides of various speeds and sizes and death-defyingness, sweet and salty and questionable treats that all have ceased being technical 'food' during the long slow cost-cutting and profit maximization that is industrial food production and regulatory slackening which began in the 80's and has gone as unabated sales of Atlas Shrugged to undergraduate commerce majors.

Owlet is a smaller fireball, and I'm not sure how she'll take rides. They trundle and whizz and bang and some go at speeds which used to fill me with excitement but now just have me worrying about the frequency of federally mandated safety checks for semi-permanent carnival attractions.

We go through the gates and there's the big behemoth, I think it's called The Coaster, which, well, I don't know how the creative team at the PNE believes slapping some capitals on a noun makes for an iconic coaster name; but it's big and wooden and is old enough to be grandfathered through various safety protocols and the people exiting the ride look mostly like they are happy to have not required inadequate CPR from grossly underpaid transients and students, so it's probably a good coaster.

All you can really hear is the thunder and rattle of the cars as they whip through various turns and falls. And Owlet is sceaming.

In delight.

It's equal parts screaming and laughing and laughing screaming.

She has this frozen smile on her face with her mouth half way open and it's kind of heart breaking to take her to the tamer rides that appropriate for her age and size. But the various treats formerly known as foodstuffs are so chocked with sugar and chemicals that make reading it make me feel like I'm reading a Breaking Bad script that any sort of disappointment is quickly quelled into a stupor or euphoric, hopefully temporary, chemical dependence.

Owl Jr. is 2, so he's more incoherently manic about trains. There is this train ride, of course, that I'm pretty sure he'd trade us for in a heartbeat if that was legal and he had the proper documentation. His screams come, of course, when we try to remove him at the end of the ride. Two years on and he's pretty much the same way but he can grudgingly take a spin on a ride that has somehow managed to go under the radar of Disney's copyright lawyers. Yes, I'm sure there are other perfectly well known flying elephants, but I'm drawing a blank at the moment.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

The Chewy, Charry Bits

I'm at the last bit of my game, LaunchCraft. I still think I implemented it poorly, but I just want to be done with it. Which is a really crap reason for wanting to finish a game, but at this point I need any motivation to get through it. Game development is alot of pain working with obscure tools and uncertain documentation aimed at MIT compsci gradutates who read WC3 specs to wind down, I find.

To be more accurate, working with open source tools is like that. I could very well use any manner of commercial prodcuts to get my game done, and that would likely be the wiser course. But I have this thing for freedom, and have various, radical scenarios where entire swaths of my PC goes down, or companies dissolve, and then I have to rebuild whatever I was working on from scratch. With open source, that option is there. The code never dies. There's no company to die and leave you in the lurch. You can always work 'light'. That is, with as few dependencies on the nefarious commercial companies which have the habit of going out of business or discontinued whatever widget you are relying on.

Or maybe I'm just a not so disguised zealot.

But it means having to endure a lot of pain and feeling not entirely bright while trying to solve what you think is a pretty straightforward problem. The problem has been solved, but it's under a mountain of documentation, and even then you're better off peering at arcane source code written by the bright, genius sort of coders who find making game-frameworks to be just the sort of challenge they need between reading WC3 specifications.

It's humbling, to be sure.

Open source suffers for the same reason that Apple does so well. User interface design. In this case, as the programmer, I'm the user, trying to use different bits of code to make a game. Trying to make this bit of code work with this bit of code. Invariably the sort of people who write game frameworks (the bits I'm trying to tie together) can't conceive, or don't plan for, programmers like me who can't understand why there's no, say, simple way to pause the game, and will answer, in a slightly bewildered tone, an answer that is in no way obvious and involves using bits of code that I suspect were made by a malevolent AI bent on eventual human enslavement.

But it goes, it goes. Roughly.

Friday, February 01, 2013

1st Draft Birthday Cards

  • Remember when you used to look forward to being one year older: more mature, more responsibilities and opportunities?
    And now it's just hoping that the degeneration of your body isn't too catastrophic and that maybe you can make it to a peaceful death without smearing your name on the walls with your own feces?
    Those were great times.
  • This card is made from pristine, supposedly protected redwoods of California. The image on the front is of a idyllic untouched coastal scene, though, so there's that.
  • Another year older, another year wondering if that delightful absent-minded professor routine you've cultivated since 19 is really just masking advanced dementia.
  • Well, you're well past ever making anything of yourself.
    We love you anyways. Happy Birthday!
  • You know using today to get a free meal at Denny's means you've lost, in not an unsubstantial way, some very real points in life.
    Breakfast all day though, have a great one!
  • Batmobile, Porsche, Ducati, European sports car, Japanese performance sedan, domestic sedan, sport wagon, mini-van. It's called the 'tactical withdrawal of life'.
  • You've now officially spent more time in your life struggling with 'mail merge' than you have spent laughing with your loved ones.
    Happy Birthday buddy!
  • Broadly speaking, you've just turned up on the radar of nearly every actuarian.
    Keep on trucking!
  • On balance, though, more of your friends are alive than dead, enjoy your youth, birthday boy!
  • The prolonged eye contact with the cute store clerk isn't due to your dignified, Clooneyesque demeanour, it's because you've reached the age where you remind her of her dad. 
  •  This is the year that the retirement home billboards take on a certain vicious significance. But you can still drive, happy birthday!
  • The Classic Rock station doesn't even play music you recognize anymore. Have a corker!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Christmas Family Letter 2012

If the world has not been consumed by whatever apocalyptic scenario a pre-industrial society that couldn't even be bothered to discover the wheel or pulley thought we'd encounter, then may this letter find you and yours well.
2012 has been an indecently busy year for the Family. Mrs. Owl has taken up full time work, as her part-time position disappeared when that facility switched contracting companies, in other words, the company that she worked for got fired from the company she actually worked for, it's like unemployment Inception. With full-time work she's exhausted and happy and busy and exhausted.
Relatedly, this year she's taken up running at ungodly hours of the morning with her neighbours and is enjoying that as well. I would say jogging but nobody says jogging anymore outside of retrospectives of the 80's, I think. It's more of a 'battling the decline of age' than a 'practicing for the Boston Marathon' type of running, which is good, because if it was the latter I'm sure we'd have to start eating muesli and sprouted grains.
She's also in a neighbourhood bookclub, basically a wine and cooler club that mentions a book in passing they might have all read at some point. It's more of a carousing club, to be honest, but that sounds like she goes to a Pirates of Penzance themed pub which she doesn't, that I'm aware of.
With Mrs. Owl going full-time the kids are going to full-time daycare. Well, Owl Jr. is in full-time daycare and Owlet is in pre and post school daycare. To them it's 'playtime with other kids when we don’t have to do schoolwork'. A net positive, I think.
Owlet turned six this year, and lost her first and second baby tooth. This is, I think you'll agree, absolutely impossible as last year she was two. But I'm assured by medical documents and Mrs. Owl that she is in fact six. Her adult teeth are coming in awkwardly and strange but that's what adult teeth are supposed to do and it's really just a precursor for the teen years so she might as well get used to it.
She's in a raft of activities. Moreso because she's the sort of kid who asks "What are we doing tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that". I foresee that when she's an adulthood she'll bring back the Rolodex. So, partly to assuage that never-ending guilt that we aren't enriching our children enough (like they are some sort of European breakfast cereal) and well, mainly because we felt we needed an answer to her planning queries, we signed her up for things.
Skating. She loves it and falls down an awful lot but keeps getting back up, usually with a smile on her face which is the most important thing in skating, and in life, I suppose.
Gymnastics. This is more of the same, running and tumbling and tumbling and falling and falling and whatever else. She usually asks when her 'performance' is which may mean she's far more Filipino than we suspected.
This brings us to her next activity, Music Theatre. It squishes dancing and acting and singing all into a Saturday of extracurricular goodness which seems alright. We do have to attend the season end performances which are great except you do have to watch the teen group do their thing and well teenagers trying to look cool and ironic while trying to do a scene from 'Annie' certainly redefines the definition of 'audience discomfort'.
She's started her first year of real school this year, with the Mandarin component. This aspect is primarily used to have her perform in front of relatives and friends which she, unaccountably, can become shy about. The school bit is good, she was frustrated it wasn't all play-time and fun and games but seems to have bounced back from the realization that she's in for a decade and a bit of raw drudgery, rather well.
Owlet is still the fireball she's always been. But now with more questions. Questions upon questions upon questions upon questions and I'm just glad I can access Wikipedia from my phone. We're trying to instill in her solid values, like getting up when you fall, never being afraid to ask questions, the indomitable power of perseverance, and all without referencing lines from "Batman Begins" or "Galaxy Quest". I'm finding the last bit pretty challenging.
Owl Jr. is four and is in full-time daycare, and has really opened up. He's gone from mostly sober to mostly... well, something like a pirate on Prozac who has just boarded your merchant vessel armed with a very large candy-cane and a train conductor's hat. Interacting with other kids on a daily basis seems to have been good for him. It has not decreased his near chemical dependence on trains and train-related things. It might be because his fellow daycare kids are also variously afflicted with this disease.
He started swimming this year that he's taken to fairly well. We'll be signing him up for more things as he gets older. I'm still getting over the shock that he's walking, so.. I might need some time to adjust.
Molly is now 8, middle-aged for her dog-size. She acts the matron of a newspaper established in 1855. Generally reserved, grudgingly affectionate, would rather spend the rest of the day in bed. We've gotten a dog walker to give her walks two days a week, which, given her rather pitiful stamina, seems more than enough. Mrs. Owl has just started taking her to work once a week, which lights up both the residents and Molly between their rather lengthy naps.
I am still, shockingly, I know, at the University. It's become a bit more staid and corporate and there is an endless stream of acronyms that sound impressive until you realize they've just renamed 'email'. It's all very formal and well-directed and there's lots of change going on as if people know what their doing and nevermind that the technology we're building and using didn't even exist when I graduated.
In my spare time I've taken to making video games, when I can kick myself into doing something constructive with my time. They are horrible, 1980's Atari-esque games with all the  artistic sensibilities or a clipart laden intra-office Best Holiday Wishes email. But they fool me into thinking I'm productive so there's that, I suppose.
All in all an eventful year for the Family. We hope yours was, if not as eventful, then at least as happy, because if the Mayans have anything to say about it it'll be our last.
Happy Holidays,
Mrs. Owl, Mr. Owl, Owlet, Owl Jr., & (begrudgingly) Molly