Letters to Holly

Wednesday, December 28

Not So Fast

The tubes will not go in tomorrow morning. He has a cold with chest congestion, and the doctors say that doesn't mix well with anesthesia. We rescheduled for Jan. 12, and we're to be there even earlier in the morning than we were to arrive tomorrow. He also, true to the doctor's prediction, has another ear infection. We had an 18-month checkup this morning, and the pediatrician asked us flatly which antibiotic we wanted. We picked cefdinir, but we'll go back for rocephin if his ears aren't better in a few days.

I'm glad we don't have the early morning tomorrow. This week has been a chore, hardly a vacation at all. I toured Asheville yesterday as the car was tuned up, and the sidekick stayed in daycare. I visited the Biltmore Square Mall, and it is pathetic. It's mostly empty, and what stores are there are the small boutique types, folks selling Southern knickknacks. It's sad; I bought Your Sister's valentine's ring there. I also visited the new shopping center on Long Shoals Road. It's more of a town than a mall with storefronts and avenues and apartments on the higher floors. It's anchored by a new movie theatre, and I watched the new Mission: Impossible there. It was the earliest film I could catch and keep my car appointment. If Your Sister takes the deputy to daycare tomorrow, I hope she watches War Horse. So I don't have to.

I visited the short shop while I was in town and met my liaison. She said my stuff would go up this week. I said I'd be in next week to see them. So. We'll see what I see.

I also stopped into Toys R Us and finally bought the Y-Wing. I've only wanted it forever. They're my favorite ships from Star Wars, and I love the mythology they have: All the Rebel Y-Wings are cobbled together from salvaged models. They're the bombers of the fleet, the B-52s and B-17s. The X-Wings would be their escorts and draw fire.

The deputy was given a play tent by my mom, and he seems to enjoy it. She visited Monday for a late Christmas lunch.

Picture of the Day
Yeah, baby.

Friday, December 23

Stick it in Your Ear

Our regularly scheduled ENT appointment was to see if the boy could get off the Prevaid. But we asked first if he could check the ears after such a long spells of infections. He took quick looks and said that, within the next two weeks, he's gonna have another infection because his ears are full of "reduction sauce of ear snot."

He's getting tubes. The doctor explained the procedure and sought to comfort us with talk of procedure length and recovery, but we're not rattled. The regular doctors prepared us for this possibility, and we recounted the infection history and anecdotal tube stories from other parents.

We noted the multiple comments of potential verbal progression once the tubes are in, and the ENT said flatly that he and we will not believe how much better he will hear once this is done. I mentioned he can already differentiate between a truck and a train, and the ENT shook his head. That's nothing, he said. He will even cover his ears from the increased din in those fully operational ears.

We make the appointment next week for an Asheville surgery, and the ENT said that we'd do the procedure even if he came down with an infection. Needs doing. Also that will be when he will check the heartburn and tell us if the sidekick can get off Prevacid.

The ENT said he gives this spiel on ears and surgery and anesthetic and tubes twice a day. There's a 1/50 chance his eardrum could be punctured and a 50/50 chance he'll need a follow-up procedure in five years.

Picture of the Day
The Most Great ENT, Dr. Loveotron-san.

Thursday, December 22

Tis the Season

Your Sister is in cleanup mode as the semester ends. It's exam week. She either watches other classes take their exams or remediates her own students as they try to squeeze past the failure threshold. Her days run just as long as when classes ran normally, and she has just as much homework to get all the grading done.
I am sketching. The podcast that inspired 80TEAM80 asked me to provide some zombie art for a new project, and it took a turn. The art went in a direction I didn't expect, and I find myself drawing the image repeatedly in a nerdy rush. Details later. I also started a second round of thumbnails for the comic and the obligatory script tweaks. This threatens to be an epic story of desperate robots.

Still no sign of my shirts at the store. I was again told my liaison was sick. I am now convinced this store is run in second gear.

Have a Merry Christmas on those beaches. Toast the season with pineapple drinks.We are not putting up a tree this year as the sidekick will only tackle it. Every five minutes.

Picture of the Day
Behold the Cthulhu Tree, the encapsulation of HP Lovecraft's dark mythos and yuletide cheer.

Bonus Moving Picture of the Day
Know you of this? Maybe we can set up a movie date for next year. I remember we three watched Two Towers on a snowy afternoon. And then we tussled at pinball.

Friday, December 16

Breathe A Sigh

As the week comes to a close, so does a very difficult semester, and Your Sister is noticeably sloughing that burden. We're not clear yet; final papers need grades and exams dominate next week. But even that week is easier to handle than the previous weeks' load shoved onto her as the returning workhorse.

She got cranky, to put it mildly, and screechy, to put it bluntly, and Tuesday represented the absolute worst I've ever seen her. She cracked. She's entitled. She got it out of her system and was fine the next day. The upcoming semester promises regular work periods during school hours and a curriculum distributed to all the teachers. She wasn't the only one feeling it these past months, but she had a jarring return to the school after a year's absence. I think she'll drink this weekend. I endorse the notion.

+  +  + 

The deputy made it through a full workweek without a fever or ejection, and I am almost dancing with relief. He's not sleeping through the night though. Sometimes he's hungry, sometimes he's restless. I wonder if we've coddled him through his ailments and back into the pattern of crying for company. We may have to break him of that crutch again.

Missing some sleep is infinitely more preferable to sitting him at home again. If he wakes up in the night, he usually just needs some water, maybe a diaper, and he's out quickly. Five minutes, maybe. 

+  +  + 

I hope to have pictures of my printed t-shirts early next week. I'm told they will try to use all the art I sent them earlier this week. I'm already working on new images too.

Picture of the Day
Andrew Garfield, the likable guy from Social Network, is the new Spider-Man, and new images were released this week. I'm not digging the new costume, but I appreciate them trying to make it look like active wear.

Tuesday, December 13


After tidying up some t-shirt art, I planned to print out copies and hand deliver them to the t-shirt shop Monday. I sent my first email files to them three weeks ago and heard nothing. I called and left three phone messages with no response from my store contact, and I was getting mad. As I saved the last Photoshop file, I called the store to confirm they would be open during my lunch break. Surprisingly, my contact answered the phone.

I asked if she had gotten my files. She said yes and then rather sheepishly said the political art wouldn't work. They didn't want to polarize the audience, and it was then that I developed a new theory: They worried I would go ballistic. Maybe I was one of those crazy political junkies who took any opportunity to yell fascism.

I understand completely. That's why the Helms/Thurmond shirt I made could be worn ironically or sincerely. But I had made other art and mentioned that. She didn't remember them, probably not noticing them once she saw the art and formulated a panicked plan of no response. I emailed her the files I had just polished, and she said the store might start printing them less than 24 hours later. We'll see. I'm posting shirt designs (and some design history) on heygregory and FaceBook.

Picture of the Day
Blue Spiral had a showing of work by Taiyo La Paix recently. I was surprised to find it among theglass birds and wood vases. Don't know the name, but I appreciate the style.

Monday, December 12

All Better

We knew the boy turned a corner when he woke up hungry in the middle of the night. Like a fever breaking, the Clearance Sale bug dissolved enough that his appetite came back. A day later, so did mine. And then Your Sister's. As the bloat dissipated, our stomachs realized they were empty and yelled for goodies. We ate all weekend. I initially thought the sidekick was starting a growth spurt, but because we all had the same cravings, it seems like he's refueling.

She again dug into her pile of research papers, and I watched the deputy over the weekend. We'll switch roles in a few months when I'm ear-deep in my comic. As long as he has access to a water cup and a handful of snack food, he's mostly OK. I can draw at the kitchen counter as he bounces and crawls and climbs. It's my hope we can go a full week without a doctor visit. Even if he comes down with something now, we'll wait for his Dec. 28 18-month check-up to take him in. I mean, an arm has to fall off for us to see the doctor before then.

Picture of the Day
John Wayne as Neo in The Matrix.

Friday, December 9

Lingering Effects

I'm still reeling from the Clearance Sale bug. My understanding of fermentation is that yeast eats sugar and makes gas. I think I'm making beer in my stomach. I am swelling from this stomach souffle. It aches. Antacid doesn't work. To break the foam, I'm eating despite a complete lack of appetite. My stomach feels full, and my brain says I don't need to eat, but my mouth misses tasty things. I have to remind myself to eat.

Before the Great Unpleasantness started Monday, I was interviewed for a podcast on Saturday. Some online friends have a regular show called Sarcastic Voyage, and each year they open their show to an exchange of audience questions. But the submitters must answer a randomly selected question. And so it was that I was recorded via Skype and asked about '80s cartoons. You can download the episode here. I come on at the 21-minute mark. If you go to the 1 hour and 20-minute mark, you'll hear someone answer the question I submitted:
The category of "art masterpieces" is cumulative. What was considered a landmark of art in the classical ages is largely still considered so. As the centuries unfurl, and more work is added to the pantheon of great art, we become buried under what is considered the best of all time. I say we need to limit the great works of art to a set number. And so I ask YOU: If you had to eliminate a famous piece of art from the status of "masterpiece," what would it be and why?
I wouldn't mind doing this on a regular basis.

I'm giving the t-shirt shop until Monday to return any of my three requests for confirmation they got my initial files, and I'm continuing to make art on the off-chance they are so blown away by my material that they forgot to call me back. I'm also making art for other online buddies for Christmas.

Picture of the Day
That's Frawn-ken-steen.

Wednesday, December 7

Wracked With Sickness

He got the third shot Friday and picked up a stomach bug Monday. I was at work for maybe 20 minutes before the daycare called me due to his throwing him five or six times. I was livid. It didn't help that the employees told me after I arrived that "he seems fine now, but he has to go home." He wasn't fine, turned out. Neither was I. Three hours after I got home, I was hit with it. 

I haven't thrown up in years. Maybe a decade. There were times I wanted to, yes. When I got swamped on Two Buck Chuck at the neighbors a few months back, for instance. But this was monstrous. The waves of nausea wouldn't crest, so I forced myself to throw up as a curious toddler a few feet away on the other side of a hallway gate. It was so violent, so massive, that I thought I pulled muscles even as I knew I wasn't finished. I was almost too fascinated by the experience to be upset by it. I felt immediately better as the toilet flushed before the cycle started again a half hour later. The sidekick and I had a few similar episodes throughout the day and evening.

I called Your Sister around 6, asking her to bring home some Gatorade. She suspected something was up before that because the boy as sporting reddened cheeks. He had also coughed up some breakfast over the weekend, but nothing that rang our alarms at the time. Also, a stomach bug was tearing through her school. She got home around 7, and it was soon tearing through her. The three of us were pitiful throughout the night. I had a dehydration headache the next morning, and the sidekick kept all his meals down during the day. Your Sister slept virtually all day, and she's back at home today. I'm at work. He's at daycare. So far, so good. I'm a little woozy still, mostly muscle weary. I may also be starving. We've lived off soups and toast for a few days.

Picture of the Day
The Milky Way over Nepal. 

Tuesday, November 29

Yes, Again.

Can you guess where we were Monday morning? Does the pattern hold true?

Yes, we were back to the doctor. His fever spiked Sunday, and his rash was back. I got him the earliest appointment we could for Monday, but his rash and fever had subsided. Just like taking the car to the mechanic. The doctor said his ear was infected again, and she noted with some alarm his recent medical history. He's been on three antibiotics since September. She suggested Rocephin as a last measure before we see an ENT. He'll get three shots this week, including his first dose on Monday. The doctor advised that we might see a behavioral shift, and by cracky, we have. He's pinballing off the walls. He's beyond "perky," as she warned. He's almost manic.

She suggested the shots and possible ENT with trepidation, and I told her we'd do what's necessary. We want him better. Ear tubes, from all anecdotal evidence, is no big deal these days. They go in easy. They come out easy. And if they keep him from getting dizzy and cranky and potentially deaf, then let's get those if need be. But until we make that appointment, let's see if the new stuff works. He's gotten it once before. His first infection was treated with one shot of Rocephin to boost the prescription of Amoxicillin. This time he's getting the three shots alone. 

Picture of the Day
Hey, mom! Watch this!

Tuesday, November 22

Supplemental Income

As I killed time before this weekend's roller derby, I swung by the t-shirt store on Lexington. Its a screen-printing company that promotes local artists. I got my Batmobile shirt from them right before Fanaticon. In fact, I bought it as I was killing time before the museum dance party the night before the show. Saturday I noticed a flyer soliciting new contracts with local artists. I dismissed it immediately. My idea of "local artists" in this town is trendy faux-psychedelia. Not my scene.

Monday morning, however, I found a nice shirt on Woot and bought it immediately. I don't do this. I wouldn't have any Threadless shirts if not for the two you gave me a few years back.

This was too clever to pass up. Also, I'm the kind of nerdy old man who can't resist skulls on a black shirt. I'm closer to the TV geek fashion of House, not the Big Bang kids.

Skip ahead a few hours. I had to go downtown to deposit my paycheck, and I decided to kill the rest of my lunch break by cruising downtown, as I do. I swung by Lexington once more and thought again about that flyer. The skull shirt inspired me. Maybe I could that. Maybe I've already done that, and I just need to put my art on shirts. What the hell.

I went in, chatted with the lady behind the counter, and had a signed contract within five minutes. I retain all image rights and get a cut of all sales of merchandise with my material. Costs me nothing but the time to make and email the artwork. Yeah, what the hell. I mean, that Shiva logo is begging to see the light of day. It's ready to go now. Toss in a few reworkings of other artwork, and I could have an in-store display and a catalog section on their site. If I can sell shirts with my characters, that's free advertising. What. The Hell.

I combed through my old art files and found a handful I can send in soon. I made a list also of sketch ideas I have. I can maybe have shirts in hand before Christmas.

Picture of the Day
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! 

Monday, November 21

Back to the Doctor

Friday night was pretty difficult with him. It took me an hour to feed him supper because he cried and protested the food with each bite. I saw it as pouting. Maybe sleep deprivation. Your Sister suspected tooth trouble, and Saturday night's repeat at feeding time solidified that. She took him to the doctor Sunday morning, and we learned it was not tooth-related. His right ear is further infected, and he got an antibiotic upgrade to Azithromycin. It looks like we're back to middle-of-the-night ear drops.

The doctor also suggested he's becoming particular and perhaps reaching his tantrum phase, presaging the Terrible Twos. We've seen that. He runs off to cry when he's denied something, even lying on the floor to scream a bit. We won't have that. Your Sister leaves the room. I give him a smack on the tush.

He's definitely mimicking words now. He doesn't get all the sounds tight, but he's getting there.

I didn't witness Saturday night's antics because I went to the season finale for roller derby. They hadn't played at home since July due to civic center renovations, and we learned via the program that the bouts are moving to the ag center at the airport. That's convenient in a lot of ways: free parking, closer to home, tailgate possibilities. I wonder how the facilities might affect attendance. Will they have enough room for the average civic center crowd? Will the downtown foot traffic follow the team to our neck of the woods?

The night featured the usual blowout wins provided by tip-top athleticism, and we got a skater busting her chin on the track (requiring stitches and an extended clean-up) and another gal collapsing into vomit on the track and suffering a knee injury. I worried she had a seizure, but she seemed OK after some EMT attention and another long clean-up. We won't see the derby again until April. Yeesh.

So, hey, I'll see you in a few days. Prepare for child overload.

Picture of the Day
I normally don't like image memes like this, but ...

Friday, November 18

Get Him Healthy

This is necessary accompaniment when we learn the sidekick has another ear infection and must stay home.

When the deputy can not go outside and finds himself stuck in our relatively small house for three out of four days, he's not happy. Neither am I. I spent a healthy chunk of Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday with him on my hip. I too was stuck inside, and the satellite dish saved my sanity. I used the laptop to work from home, but tweaking magazine files through two computers and their internet connections is rough going.

Today, he's fever-free and rash free and seemingly regaining his appetite. He woke up last night hungry for the first time in months.

Your Sister is dragging. She goes straight from the dinner table to her office to do school junk. She's not yet at the point where I can help out with papers. I can do little for her. I made dinner last night from a recipe she picked. She forgot to thaw the frozen items including the broth. As she tried to feed a cranky sidekick, I cut the broth out of its box and thawed it in the microwave after hacking it to bits with a knife. I had to split the dish into two pans to cook, and I was teary eyed from the red onions. This was kitchen slapstick.

I at least think I was the doctor's best parent Monday. I gave her what I consider good information and observations about our guy, and we talked about his unwillingness to use words. He might -- might -- have started word mimicry this week. It sure sounded like he said "bright light" after I did this morning.

Picture of the Day
We all need help these days.  #OccupyGotham

Tuesday, November 15

Battle Stations!

Our first car sickness disaster happened yesterday.

We got halfway through our commute -- literally the midpoint-- and I happened to be glancing at him in the mirror when he spit up. That's odd. Ha hasn't spit up in months and months. As I was thinking I should pull over to clean up that slight mess, he made a gigantic one. Seemingly everything he's ate this weekend came up. And it was effortless. It looked like he was no longer babbling in words but in liquid. A soup soliloquy. I was too amazed to be mad. I pulled into a gas station parking lot and discovered his hoodie had caught most of it. I took that off and turned it inside out to bundle the mess. I used his diaper bag items to clean him up, and we drove back home.

My brain has a constant fret swarm buzzing about, arguing that I'm never prepared and never capable. I've been in enough significant moments to know that this panic cloud vanishes when it's time to act. It's merely a barking yip-yip dog, scampering off in times of trouble. Granted, this was ultimately an inconvenience, but this was our first car-bourne eruption which we're led to believe is an inevitable catastrophe for all parents. Did I go James Bond on my son's upchuck? Yes, why not?

I decided he'd stay home even if this was an isolated thing. He didn't have a fever, and he seemed to be in a low gear, but he was playing. A little clingy, maybe, but that's not a bad thing some days. I'll hug my boy. When I called daycare to explain his absence, I was told there was a vomit bug going around. That's info we needed beforehand. He ate lightly and slept heavy, and this morning seemed mostly OK. He made it to daycare unsullied.

We took him into the forest both weekend days to burn off his toddler energy. I worked on a piece of comic art for an online buddy's Christmas surprise. I'll post images after he gets it.

There's been some more nonsense among the family regarding Thanksgiving, and it involves how much money is spent on each grandchild. It makes me want to skip the 12 hours of driving. Would you join us in a defection if we decide to do something else, like Occupy Dollywood? (I'm kidding/not kidding.)

Picture of the Day
This is what Burning Man looks like at night from space.

Wednesday, November 9

Time Change

We think he's adjusting to the new clock settings. He's waking up later in the morning now after a few days of waking up earlier than we wanted. He's not as cranky on the commute home when it would normally be after his time to eat. We stuck to our plan to give him the same food we eat, saving us all that time used for food preparation, and we're trying to teach him to use a spoon properly. He's slow to pick it up. He's also not yet intentionally saying words, and that's concerns me a little. He babbles all the time, yet when it comes to identifying specific items, he relies on the same simple vowel outburst. He can make a variety of sounds, seemingly the entire alphabet, but he hasn't figured out to consistently make sounds for specific items.

Wait, he does say "blluh" for "umbrella," and he makes the vroom noise for all motors. We just introduced him to the vacuum cleaner -- the loudest motor in the house -- and he's delighted by its roar. He knows it sleeps in the closet, and he wants to visit it always.

I'll feel better when he's using something approaching words. He's clearly bright, if we do say so, but I worry he'll have some developmental communication trouble. Then I remember he took forever to walk, and he was running immediately after.

He finished the antibiotics, and his nose is no longer running, as it did for about two consecutive months.

Picture of the Day
Spooky-ooky necronauts.

Wednesday, November 2

Beloved Leftovers

Your Sister bought four growlers of Ninja Porter for the Saturday party, and virtually no one drank it. Besides me, of course. I discovered I killed a growler all by myself over the course of five hours. I feel no guilt. More important, Your Sister likes Ninja Porter, and we're making recipes all week that practically require a strong beer to accompany them. We also have extra candy from Monday.

She crashed early last night, and I was able to chip away at my stack of commissioned artwork for friends while watching a James Bond block of films.

That old guy in the mirror needs to start exercising again. I hope the upcoming time switch will let me get up early and make with some push-ups.

Picture of the Day
The cast of Alien, apparently back when the monster was going to be 20 feet tall.

Monday, October 31

Halloween Weekend

The annual carving party was a blast, and the house was swarming with kids. The deputy took it in stride as he's learned at daycare. He wore his costume for a few minutes before the attendees' body heat made it impractical. He went to sleep easily and slept through the chaos. Once he was put down, Your Sis and I could play the proper hosts.

We moved the party into the garage to escape the horrible wind and set the firepit near it on the driveway. As Your Sister made the party soup and cider, I took the deputy to the town street festival. He strolled inside the small hay maze, but the people and sounds distracted him to the point of immobility. I put him back in the stroller, and we made a few laps. I got my beloved lab gyro. There were a number of costumes, including a homemade He-Man costume. When I congratulated him as he walked by, he stopped to thank me. I was the only one (so far) to know who he was supposed to be. I live among heathens. I walked past the theatre stand and talked with the actor who played Scrooge in my last play. He was surprised the deputy was 16 months already, and we traded ear infection stories.

I drove the sidekick into the forest, and we walked the fish hatchery. After he inspected seemingly every vehicle in the parking lot, I pointed out the circling buzzards to him, and we followed them to the fish area. A ranger had given a flock a dead fish from the hatchery, and we got to watch them on the ground. He was mesmerized until he saw a cart with wheels, and he ran to play with that. He's also now obsessed with playing with Your Sister's umbrella.

People arrived around sunset, and soon the house was packed. We said goodnight to the last family around 11, and we quickly cleaned up and collapsed. I watched him last night while Your Sister did schoolwork. We fended off his small yeast outbreak with leftover medicine, and he seems to weather this infection well. He gets a little moody, but then he is a toddler.

We ended the night watching Walking Dead. That consists of me calmly taking it in, and Your Sister peeking from behind the couch.

The Letters to Holly Quasi-Victorian Cheesecake Pinup of the Scary Day
She only wanted sparkly shoes. Who are we to judge her?

Friday, October 28

Repeat Attraction

Another ear infection has set in.

The daycare called yesterday around 4 to say the sidekick had a fever. I called Your Sister and got him home. She called me about 15 minutes after we arrived to say she got the last appointment time at the Hendersonville clinic. I hurriedly packed the deputy and his snacks back into the car, met her halfway down the road, and together we broke some traffic laws getting there in time. The doctor confirmed infection in both ears and put us again on the familiar antibiotic. We got home two hours after we left the house (prescriptions in hand) and got him fed, drugged, and asleep within another hour. We high-fived in victory. Sometimes, we roll strong.

Aside from tugging at his ears, he seems fine. His appetite and energy are still there. He sleeps fine. He's still chatty. He went to daycare today and participated in the costume "parade" indoors.

Picture of the Day
Los Dos Frodos.

Wednesday, October 26

Keep the Receipt

So, no, you don't have to remove the entire front half of your car to replace a headlight. You do if you want to change the glass housing wherein said headlight nests. I found the right bulb by matching the car's manual bulb ID number with a bulb in the local car-part store. It's not a breeze to get your hand in there to change it. But you pop the hood, grab the coupling, turn the bulb, and remove it from the housing. The bulb pops off, the new one pops on, and the coupling goes back into the housing. Took ten minutes. I should have changed both the bulbs. At night, the new one shines like a lightsaber jutting out from my engine.

Your Sister had bales of hay delivered to the house in preparation of the pumpkin party this weekend. We're inviting people on the sly, keeping it small and hoping to avoid awkwardness around the latest dissolving marriage. Whatever the reason for the separation, I sympathize with them both. Kids are involved. That's an Olympic degree of difficulty.

Speaking of separations, after a 20-minute ordeal of comparing bedsheet packages at a local store, I found what I thought was the perfect replacement for the flannel sheets shredded by the cat. Right texture, right color, right size. They had to fit a king bed because I bought a king mattress when my first wife ran away. In fact, the very first thing I did the morning after was buy a bed to replace the one she took. I know it was a king frame because the delivery guy mentioned that there was only one mattress size larger than the one I ordered: a California king size. However, when Your Sister bought the TempurPedic mattress to replace that one a few years later, she got a queen. My perfect replacement bedsheets don't fit. So I must trade during today's lunch break, and I will grumble the entire trip.

Picture of the Day
A franchise-wide design for Penguin Book UK's new James Bond paperbacks. 

Monday, October 24

Harvest Time

The garden is closed. The falling temperatures blackened the vines, and I warned Da Missus that I would need about an hour to fetch the taters. I went out last night and came back in just as all daylight faded. When my first sweet potato sprouts arrived in the mail DOA, I almost wrote off growing any this year. But I found some at the local hardware store and put them in the dirt immediately. We had plenty of vines with no idea how many potatoes to expect. Turns out it was quite a bit.

About three weeks back, I pulled three vines' worth and had a good handful of potatoes. The two batches of sprouts produced very different yields: long, ropy vine taters and fat, traditionally shaped ones. But I didn't expect the rest of the vines to offer up quite so many as I excavated last night.

The sizes again ranged from finger to cat.

We are now flush with taters.I pulled the last of the cherry tomatoes from that lingering stalk last night, leaving only the bright marigolds and the dead pea vines. I'll shave the garden down to the soil and maybe cover it with tarps to burn the weeds out before next spring. I offered to split the tiller rental with the neighbors next year so they can start a garden too. If we plan our crops, we can trade veggies.

+  +  +

An expected disadvantage to the daycare has emerged: the sidekick gets bored at home. He has the run of the main floorspace and a variety of objects to distract him, but he burns through them quickly on weekends. As Your Sister self-medicated into a coma, I feared the deputy's yelps would wake her, and I tossed him into the car for drives this weekend. We went into the forest Saturday and meandered and visited the local playground yesterday. Both times, he ran for the parked cars. He is obsessed with vehicles, be they cars or trucks or airplanes. He loves tires and rushes to pat them. He stays on the playground items for about three minutes and spends half an hour going from car to car.

The daycare scheduled costume parade for Friday, and Your Sister is tempted to catch it. This will require her to miss the entire school day. I hope it's worth it. I envision a five-minute scrum of kids tugging off each other's hats. I'll stay at work and save my parental visits for when he will remember if I was there or not.

+  +  +

My Mom visited the Amish country last week and seemed to enjoy it. She's baffled by the Amish, and that probably extends to all other religions. We, in contrast, attended a night of secular one-act plays at Kathy and Travis's church, and they put on a better show then the one-acts I managed a few years back. They had better energy, more skits of differing lengths, and ended strong.The venue was better too. It was a lively night, and none of this would have been allowed in the church I grew up in. That's the kind of show the local company has to consider before it goes completely under.

+  +  +

I have a headlight out on the Matrix, and a Google search for replacement bulbs suggests that I have to take off the bumper to get to the dead bulb. That can't be right. Changing Your Sister's sportscar headlights wasn't that bad, and it required removing air ducts and the battery. If it's that involved, I'll let the dealership do it. And this might be under warranty anyway ...

Wednesday, October 19

In the Interim

And we're back.

All is well, nothing is amiss. Your Sister is in the sick bed lately, but she's still going to work. The sidekick continues to sleep through the night, exhausted mentally as much as physically; he's trying his damnedest to talk, but it comes out as jabberwocky. We don't have to wind him down anymore. By the time he gets out of the bath and eating a light banana mush, he's yawning. Your Sister puts him down much quicker than before while I do dishes or shove dinner into the oven.

One such dinner was the usual Monday night wangs, but this batch of birds came from a local farm. We got them at the tailgate market on Saturday. We normally could buy local meats from the gourmet grocery store, but the bankruptcy of their landlord dislodged them, and they continue to look for local space. We miss that place. But a number f their suppliers took to the tailgate market, and we can buy more cheaper without the middleman. We bought three packets of wings, but I learned only after opening two of them, that they were vacuum-packed. We had much, much more than we expected and normally ate. But ate I did and slept like the dead afterward.

That evening, Your Sis took the deputy to the new local Halloween fair. It's a massive thing, with bands and pumpkin patches and mazes. I wonder how this might affect our town's annual Halloween street party. I've written off running in this year's costume 5k; I don't have the lungs after months of indoor patenting. I ran Saturday, and the conditions were exactly the same as last year's race, and like that evening, I couldn't finish the 5k route. The dry air wilted me.

Your Sister's stubborn sense of professionalism has finally stepped back as she has hit her threshold of care about this semester's workload. No longer is she locked into doting all the i's. Now things will get done when they get done. I don't blame her. She has some leeway as a returning new mom; she doesn't have to ramp up back into her previous fifth gear. She always gives kids a chance at the semester's end to salvage teir GPA. They won't suffer.

I have a few more monsters to draw for the October theme at heygregory.com, and then I'll bear down on next year's comic. 

Picture of the Day
Back in the day.

Tuesday, October 11

Glad To Be Back At Work

Between Your Sister working on Saturday and attending a far-off wedding on Sunday and being back at work Monday, these past three days made me glad I don't work from home with the sidekick. Because it's not practical while he's at this age. He's everywhere. Or he's desperate to be everywhere and crying when he can't reach this or climb that. There's only so much assuaging I can muster. I took him to the school yesterday to tour the school and visit with teachers, but he fell apart within 20 minutes, and back home we went. It rained. That removed the park or the stroller as a way to kill time. I was delighted when naptime rolled around.

I had my own naptime Saturday evening after visiting the neighbors. They invited the three of us over to hang out and make s'mores, and they plied two of us with Two Buck Chuck. I have no problem with that. Your Brother introduced us to it during one of our first visits to their house. But I ate very little that day, and my glass was rarely empty, and I quickly realized that I was dizzy even though I was sitting down. I told them that I had achieved "pickled" and needed to leave. Your Sis stayed for a time while hubby and child were zonked, and I hope that time out helped her.

She still feels frazzled despite the weekend extra work time, and I don't know how to help. This isn't grading; this is class preparation. Me, I'd trust my familiarity with the material to see me through -- make some highlight notes and improvise between them. She doesn't work that way, and I think that's working against her.

Moving Picture of the Day
Watch the new Avengers trailer. Watch it a lot.

Friday, October 7

No Contest

We've observed radio silence lately because we're stuck in a rut. Our days have become rigid in their schedule with nary a variation in our hours.

Your Sister is crawling through the semester. Having only one planning period every two days is murder, and she's deadweight. She's planning to go into work this weekend again, and my suggestions to lighten the workload clunk off her blast shields. The schedule should lighten next semester (still scheduled to begin with the new year, not weeks after), and the feedback of the bedraggled teachers should guarantee this doesn't happen again.

Earlier in the year, the county announced a contest for a new official seal. Logos were solicited, and I was mildly tempted. The deadline was right around the time of the two local conventions, and I had my concerns about the vetting process. Namely, there would be a committee of locals who would filter the submissions down to a handful before a round of citizen voting for the winner. The initial criteria for submissions was clearly noted. Who knows what the committee would look for? And why open up a matter of design to an expanded committee, one the size of the county? Too many variables in play. The winner wouldn't be necessarily the best design, but the one that appealed to the broadest range for whatever reason.

The two logos that have been released for public input reflect my suspicions. (I'd link to them, but the newspaper site requires a paid online subscription to read articles. Even the New York Times gives you a number of freebies per month.) They are bland or intentionally folksy. The committee apparently agreed as they have added a third voting option: the current county seal. So you can vote for weak, weaker, or same. I'm glad I stayed out of it. I wonder if they got so few submissions or, probably, they eliminated the ones that displayed ingenuity. It reminds me of the beer-logo fiasco, and what I call the victorious mediocre. The sharp/smart/clever/snazzy is dismissed in favor of material that prefers to blandly identify instead of engage. Or the contest organizers want the design that best fits their unspoken idea. And that makes the contest a dead crapshoot. (Am I just bitter? Maybe.)

I think the "same" option will win. It's the safest choice, and frankly the cheapest. No money will be required to replace the old seal. And that consideration will (and should, right now) trump all others.

Pictures of the Day
Entertainment Weekly and Marvel released the first official stills from next year's Avengers movie, and I can't believe we're getting an Avengers movie.

Monday, October 3

Hit or Misses

Yes, the airshow was freezing. We packed jackets and hats, but we were still unprepared for a wind that sharp. There was no sun. Others hadn't expected anything like that and attended in flip-flops. We were uncomfortable. They were miserable. Your Sister enjoyed it as much as the deputy because she's crazy for airshows. I don't regret skipping the 9 am 5k race on the runway -- too much wind, too much cold, too little running in the past months. But I am noticeably thinner, and I wonder how that will affect my running when I pick it up again. The Halloween race may still be possible. Actually, we're both pretty small these days. Your Sis is three pounds heavier than she was on her first day of college. I haven't been this thin in more than a decade. Speaking of which ...

This weekend marked the 10th anniversary of the Night That Changed My Life. I forgot about it entirely until this morning. That's a comfort; it means I don't obsess.  But it does remind me how radically my stations have changed in the interim. A new wife, a son, a house, new in-laws, a lost parent, comics, two jobs, 5ks. It's vertiginous. And dizzying. In virtually every way, my life improved. I'm tempted to contact the ex and thank her for her supernova of bad decisions. I'm also curious to compare our progress since then. I don't wish her ill, because, frankly, part of me thinks I don't need to. She's done more damage to herself than anything I could have concocted in the darkest bitter moments.

I mean, let's be honest, someone departs that way because they're betting they can find a better partner or be better off financially (Also it's an intentional slap to the head with a big, cold fish.). But that bet, at least indirectly, also gambles that the one left behind can't do better than the departed. And in that regard, the former missus missed. I traded up. I so, so traded up. Still, she was my best friend for the decade prior to the one I just marked, and her absence is notable for the time we did spend together. I certainly don't regret the marriage as it, if nothing else, house-trained me for Your Sister.

Another of our friends' marriage seems to be collapsing, and both folks work with Your Sister. No one knows the particulars, and that's fine. It complicates Your Wife's workplace, of course, and touches the majority of our friendships. We like this couple a lot, both as spouses and individuals. I hope they can work this out. But the parallels to an early collapse a few years back is spooky.We remaining husbands are obliged to step up.

Picture of the Day
This is Pyongyang, North Korea. This would make Orwell run screaming.

Wednesday, September 28

Huzzah for Phobias!

Mission Hospital and a slew of radio stations are sponsoring a health fair at the airport Saturday, and they are gonna mount a 5k race there. ON THE RUNWAY. I haven't run since we did it last (was that Easter?), but I might not be able to resist that opportunity. They're trying to bring in kids by promising small airplane rides and tours of the airport's giant trucks, and that's right up the alley of Your Nephew, who is now officially in love with school buses. The only hitch is the jolting cold front sweeping in. And the fact that the airport is shuttling people to the event; I'll bet dollars to doughnuts they can't accommodate a baby seat.

I suspect a bird ate his outdoor pet spider Charlotte.She will continue to live, however, in my nightmares. But huzzah for phobias! Another giant f'ing spider has popped up on our deck, spinning a web we could use for a pool tarp/communal shroud. The sidekick is delighted.

Kathy called to mention an ad she saw in the paper for a part-time radio newsman. This is for the local station. Tempting, but it's part-time, and I'll double down those doughnuts that it's morning and noon. That station goes on autopilot around 4 pm. But I'd love to do radio. I had the briefest of experiences with it at ECU. Did you know I once had an imaginary station that I "hosted" on cassettes I made for songs I taped from actual radio stations? And that I named my Pandora station after it? And that I was a complete goob?

Picture of the Day
The sidekick and monkey enjoy breakfast.

Monday, September 26

Parental Back-Up

Star Wars blu-rays now live at our house. Your Sister packed it in very early Friday night, and I ducked out to grab the set at the Mart of Walls. I hadn't been in there in a long time, and every stereotype was validated. Their ventilation system circulates sad air.

I spent a few hours in the workshop to pound out the Spider-Girl artwork for Kathy and Travis. It's lingered way too long in the sketch phase. I drew a 11 x 17 piece a while back, but it's flat. I redid it with a new angle, moving away from the tight reliance on my reference photos.

She spent most of the weekend at the school catching up on summer grading. The sidekick continues to move in fourth gear always, and Your Mom came over Saturday to watch him. I went back into the workshop and tackled the city background on the Spider-Girl image and cranked up the commentary track on the Naked Lunch DVD I bought a few moths back. I love that film. I love my time at ECU it hearkens back to. When Your Sister returned, and the sidekick was put down, we cracked open the blu-rays and watched only the deleted scenes. They're wroth the cost of the set by themselves. The Tattooine Biggs scenes are there. The Return sandstorm scene is there. Leia and Han's Hoth argument originally went much longer. The Wampas were more prominent. The admiral in Return had a subplot. Han had a girl on Tattooine. I mean, we just marinated in this stuff.

Both Your Parents came over Sunday while I made the grocery run. I concocted a new stir-fry recipe last night (fried chicken with honey and black pepper coating), and I think I burned my throat. It feels scratchy, and this isn't allergies. I suppose the grease stayed hot cocooned in the crispy shell longer than I expected.  On the other hand, I think it tasted great.

I finished re-reading The Exorcist, and I want to watch the film again. I'm not sure if I ever saw the whole thing through. I think I can sell Your Sister on watching it if I suggest we watch it as a time-caspule artifact from the '70s.

Picture of the Day

Friday, September 23

DragonCon Video

This is a good indication of the variety and volume of costume varieties at the show. The only quibble I have is that the video suggests much less floor traffic than we encountered. That kind of wingspan room is just not there. The atmosphere of camaraderie, however, is omnipresent. It really is a happy party.

Wednesday, September 21

Not What I Ordered

A sign that we are parents: Sleeping through the entire night makes us giddy as drunks. I'll tempt fate and say he is virtually over his lingering bug. Our own versions are fading also, but we all cough randomly to map the territory of the herd.

(The Debacles need a collective noun. A nerd of Debacles? A thrill of Debacles? An ass-smack/goose of Debacles? We shall ponder.)

Almost immediately after receiving my blue-ray copies of the original Star Wars trilogy from The Amazons did I realize that it contained no supplemental material, the stuff that justified the purchase of yet another copy of these films. I think I've bought them three times, all on VHS. All the packaging noted were commentary tracks. I had hoped and assumed an reckoned that the trilogy sets would each include the good stuff. No. Now I must own bu-rays of movies I don't intend to watch to get what I really want. However, I know the sidekick will probably want to see them within the next three years. I packed up the set, printed out the paperwork from their website, and mailed the movies back to The Amazons this morning. Sigh. So close.

Picture of the Day
Hi, Happy Hobbits.

Tuesday, September 20

Again? Again.

Still croupy. Still medicating. I should start a BrewGrass featuring cold medicine. The sidekick is much better, and Your Sister is climbing slowly out of the murk in her head.

I got an email from the theatre announcing yet another show switch. They wanted to do Arsenic & Old Lace, a play with eleven male characters. As the email notes, that's asking a lot. Apparently only three guys showed up to audition. They will instead do a two-person show, one that has the actors reading letters onstage. That may be as close as they ever get to reading theatre, an option that can salvage shows with large casts but few actors. Like the one they just scuttled. Just last week I saw an article about a local actor starting up reader theatre in town in an effort separate from the county theatre group. I tried to sell them on the idea. It's convenient for everyone and capable of being just as entertaining as memorized shows. And you don't risk losing patrons by changing shows midseason.

I briefly considered auditioning for this show before I remembered what my schedule becomes during rehearsals. I can't drop the sidekick off and eat supper before getting to the practice space. Despite my reservations and complaints from past shows, I like this script, and it's a staple of community theatre. I'm starting to age out of certain roles that I always wanted to play. Now that we see how the auditions developed, I'm glad I stayed home.

Your Sister noticed last night that I have a beard these days (not just stubble) and she's fascinated. I think she has beard envy. 

You and I talked about costume ideas for next year, specifically Commissioner Gordon. Here's what the comic version looks like:

And here's Gary Oldman. 

I can do this rather easily. This is a role I'm aging into.

Picture of the Day
This can't be right, can it? The Sahara is longer than the US?

Monday, September 12

Nip It In the Bud

The sidekick's constant running nose sprints along, and we noticed that he was again stumbling and cranky. Much more moody than we're used to. We remembered that this is how his ear infection started, and we visited the same far-off doctor's office Sunday. Confirmation ensued. The doc said his left ear shows retraction, apparently evidence of an ear infection. We caught it early though, and he escaped the office without a shot and armed with a prescription. We're giving him more ear drops as a precaution. He's again waking up in the middle of the night, and we placate and coo and caffeinate as the sun rises.

A combination of allergies, convention crud, and whatever was blown our way by last week's tropical depression has waylay-ed Chez Debacle. I have avoided a full whammy, but Your Sis is staying home today. The doctor said the sidekick exhibits only the normal daycare exposure to dozens of viruses. Nothing we can do, she said. Wipe his nose and hope he isn't flattened by anything bad. Your Brother is paranoid that all daycare kids require ear tubes, and the doctor poo-pooed that. I was a daycare kid from eight months on, and I had no tubes. A ton of allergies, yes.

We biked Saturday, an excursion delayed for months by the boy's ailments. He seemed OK with it. I had just finished mowing the yard jungle. We usually bike later in the day, and I expected a longer recovery time. Nope, Your Sis was in a high gear, and off we went, and many sufferings did I endure. But I'm glad we did it and wished we went every weekend.

Because of a great early-bird price, we bought our memberships to next year's convention. Combined with our relocation rate and confirmation for the hotel, we're all set. We're going. I'm currently thinking of going as Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon.

Picture of the Day
Apparently the deleted scenes on the Star Wars blu-rays include scenes like this:

Thursday, September 8

Car Talk

Da Missus drove the car with the bad tire to the local garage. They plugged it. But she was told that when she needs a new tire, she has to replace all of them at the same time. All-wheel-drive cars require this. We did not know this. We would have bought another type of car.

I've heard there's a service called 'shaving' that can make a new tire match the degradation of the other three, but that sounds like something beyond our local guys' ability. This stinks out loud.

+  +  + 

I have now ordered the Star Wars Blu-Rays from the Amazons. I only got the original series.

+  +  +

Despite allergies and congestion, the sidekick has slept through the night since last week. Hu-fucking-zzah.

Picture of the Day
I have found my costume for next year's con.

Tuesday, September 6

There and Back Again 2011

Here are my con photos.

I stayed home Friday to prepare the boy and My Mom for our vacation. She arrived a little later than I'd hoped. I wanted to caulk our bathtub and give it the whole weekend to dry, but I discovered very late that tubes of caulk can and will go bad. We had three tubes. All liquified. I grabbed the boy and hustled to the nearest hardware store. Mom showed up about an hour later, and I caulked the tub as he went down for a nap. He didn't like it, and Mom had her first exposure to a cranky sidekick, and I think that prepared her for the weekend.

Your Sis got off work at 3:30, and we were on the road by 4:15. It was about half an hour later that we realized one of her tires was perilously low. We could either ignore it, swing by Greenville and patch it (if a garage was open at 5 on the Friday before Labor Day), or go back home and switch cars. We picked C. While it added almost two hours to our ride, it was the quickest option we had. We got to Atlanta at 9. Could have been worse: We passed a 13-mile stretch of interstate where cars were not only parked, but people were milling around on the pavement and playing sports in the median. I have not seen anything like that.

The check-in was seamless, despite the hotel switch, and we charged right out to get our convention badges. The phone GPS was confused by Atlanta's density, but we found the correct hotel downtown and were officially conventioning well before the con closed shop for the night. We hung out with some online friends. The convention started Thursday morning, and the foot traffic was already strong. That was nothing compared to Saturday.

We got up around 7:30 to prepare for the parade. Instead of shelling out $13 for hotel cereal, we found a Starbucks right around the corner. We dressed in costume and hit the road. Between leaving the hotel and finding the parade, random folks had yelled out my character name, including security guards. One approached to check my handgun, and I showed him it was completely fake and plastic and harmless. We learned he was in the Air Force, and he talked Germany to Your Sister.

Right before we got to the parade, we passed a street preacher who was angling for a fight. He was yelling at passersby, including the family with young kids ahead of us. He berated them for reading Harry Potter (assuming they read Harry Potter) instead of the the Bible (assuming they didn't read the Bible). Convention people can validate a lot of geek stereotypes. He was doing nothing to help the stereotypes of fundamentalists. And yelling at kids is the mark of a total asshole. He wondered aloud again why the parents let the kids read Potter instead of the Bible, and this was right as we walked by, and I responded "Because it has a better ending." He stammered a bit and went back to his spiel, and I hope he was soon after hit by a bus filled with drag queens.

Your Sister grabbed a seat near the gathered horde, and I searched for the parade staff so we could officially join in. That done, I sat with her, and we ate breakfast and pointed out costumes. We found a contingent of GI Joe/Cobra folks and complimented each other on their outfits. I saw WKRP's Loni Anderson ride by, and I assume she was a Grand Marshal. On the dot of ten, we started walking, and we quickly found the parade to be immensely immense. Here's Your Sis in all her costumed glory. I love this picture.

I was gobsmacked by the audience. A good number yelled GI Joe catchphrases and character names. It was by itself worth the cost and planning to attend. I saw and hugged my hometown gang along the route, and we were met at the very end by a college buddy and her gal. It was a perfect parade experience.

And then we went into the madness of the convention. You do not walk. You shuffle. Shamble even. You do not talk. You yell. You sweat. You say "excuse me." All the time. You gawk at costumes. You pose for pictures. You obey the security folks even as you grumble about the policies (like no standing along a wall to catch breath). We hit some booths and tables for knickknacks. I found brand new Joe figures that I hadn't seen before. We started snapping costume photos in earnest. The sheer number of people boggles the brains. And it spread over blocks of downtown. It filled hotels. It smothered the streets and restaurants. This is truly an international gathering. And we were INSANE to think we could have brought the sidekick. Some folks brought their kids and shoved them around in strollers, making the crowds less navigable and smooth-flowing. Those people should be ejected. And hit by a bus of drag queens.

We left the crowd and found the Gone With the Wind restaurant where we ate for Your Parents' anniversary. And back we went, into the mob. It really is all about milling and shuffling and sight-seeing. The variety of costumes from every conceivable genre is endless, but there were patterns emerging: Dr. Who, Captain America, Spider-Man, Vader. The biggies.

Your Sister called it a day around 4:30, and we went back to our hotel. It was about seven blocks from the action, and we appreciated the separation. The host hotel elevators were impossible to nab and fit into. We did begin to run into those attending the nearby college football game; some of them had not heard about the convention and reacted as you might imagine Southerners With Money would: Exaggerated confusion and stares. And these were people festooned in school gear as much as we were in our costumes. But I had a bird on my shoulder, and that threw many a debutante. (I know you were a debutante. But you ain't these people.)

I aired out my costume in the hotel room before dressing up again and meeting my online gang for dinner downtown. Your Sister grabbed dinner from the Starbucks (they serve bistro boxes now) and shooed me out the door to enjoy myself. The gang and I gobbled Mexican and rested briefly in a hotel room before diving into the chaos. Saturday night at DragonCon is utter calamity. It's nonstop revelry with obvious debauchery lingering at the fringes. It's Mardi Gras indoors. For hours we walked and gawked and clicked and chatted. I was pulled aside many times for my outfit; most people were delighted to be reminded of a character they hadn't seen in 20 years. Some were confused. Two people asked if I was Popeye. Another person asked if people knew who I was and was relieved when I said absolutely. Some actual firefighters knew me. That was cool.

I packed it in around 12:30. I had worn contact lenses all day, and my eyes were shot. Also, my feet. I carefully walked back to the hotel and initially avoided the drunken game fans whose team just lost. But right as I was about to take the quiet detour away from the mobs, I got my dander up. Fuck 'em. I walked along the main road and right toward the drunks. Some were mighty mad that my comeback was funnier than their jab. One older lady, I suspect, debated tackling a sailorman for a sidewalk quickie. Your Sister was out cold when I got to the room.

We grabbed Starbucks the next morning before officially checking out. The hotel warned us that the valet car service would be swamped Sunday morning, and we may have been the only people to have heeded that warning. The lobby was crammed with crabby hungover game fans bitching about the wait. See, we checked in a day earlier than they, and our car was parked closer. They arrived after everyone else hit the city, and their cars were practically parked at our house. Also, and this can't be ignored, the valets were all black, and these unhappy guests sounded like nothing less than sons of the plantation owners bitching about workflow. We kept silent lest we delay our departures. Let the howler monkeys howl. Brats. Where is that drag queen bus anyway?

We met up with my college buddy and her gal for brunch, and we spent a chunk of time catching up and trading convention stories. They didn't officially attend, but they did donate at the con's vampire blood drive. We managed to escape town before the tropical storm hit, but the Twitter feeds did speak of people waiting in the rain for con events. Your sister suggested new costumes for 2012 before we left the city. We got back about 5:30. Mom was aglow with her time with the deputy. She agreed to do this again next year if we went. And I think we will.

Recap: We're exhausted but deliriously happy in a geek cloud of camaraderie.

+  +  + 

On Monday, I watched the boy while Your Sis caught up on school stuff. We also had to address her flat tire. We called AAA and learned we could have the car towed to the nearest garage, and we pursued that for a while. Then we considered simply putting on the spare tires and having her drive it to the garage later in the week after school. That's what we did. But that car and that wheel are gigantic. A AAA tow driver came by and switched out the tires. I did the grocery run and bought cider for her to swig after the long weekend and last-second workload. The sidekick slept through the night. Thankfully, so did we.

Thursday, September 1


The diaper rash is fading. The sidekick slept through the night. I'm halfway packed. Our con experience is a little over a day and a 3-hour drive away. You just followed me on Twitter.

The world is spinning my way. 

It's with a sigh of relief that I can say our big weekend starts tomorrow. Your Sister doesn't feel ready to pack and go. But might she ever? I say no. Not until we're on the road. We're meeting up with folks from Mississippi and California at the show. We're 90% confirmed to be in the parade Saturday morning, and I hope to have the few comic pros attending to draw in my Doom cooking sketchbook.

I called My Mom, and her anxiety has given way to optimism. She had no pressing questions. I drew a map to the local park, and I promised to leave a garage door remote for her. I pick up her eclairs tomorrow before she arrives.

Picture of the Day
The building codes are slack in Mister Rogers's neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 31

Hi, I'm A Bastard

The diaper infection has returned, and I blame the long commute. I was home yesterday awaiting the repairman, so the kid got a full day of intensive tush therapy. The automated pharmacy system initially refused to refill the cream prescription, and I protested to a human pharmacist until I got clearance. This happened about a half-hour after I berated the over repair guy into driving to Asheville to get the part he needed; he wanted to wait until Thursday for the part to arrive from Spartanburg and then make an appointment to install it.

No, sir. I drive to Asheville very day. It's doable.  

But it will cost more, he said.

More than buying a new oven?


Make it happen today.

And he came back about five hours later and fixed the oven. Being a jerk sometimes is the best option. I would have tipped him, but apparently his drive was added into the bill. So he and the company were covered. More money for me and for gee-gaws at the convention. Just three days away! Costumes done! Parade authorities contacted!

I baked some of those Sunday biscuits to go with dinner. Our suspicions bore out: The pilot igniter was kaput. I think it faded into death as the oven seems to crank up like a volcano now.

Your Sister was at school until 8 with the semester's open house, convincing parents that it was too early to abandon ship on their kids' GPA.The boy was down before she came home.

My Mom will be driving up Friday later than we first thought, giving us less time to prepare her for the weekend. I'll call her tonight to give her more notes.

Picture of the Day
I envision the sidekick torturing My Mom with shenanigans all weekend. Or maybe I mean "hopefully envision."

Friday, August 26

Work It Out

The boy followed a spirited ride home from daycare with an attack of constipation. Seriously, he's trying to suffer every ailment before our Atlanta trip.

He started screaming at bedtime. Orajel didn't help, and Your Sister vetoed ear drops. She took him to the bath and interpreted his expressions to mean he was backed up and fighting it. After a half hour of his screams, I suggested we try to colic thermometer trick: You lay the baby* down, insert a thermometer rectally, and wait for his protesting muscle contractions to work out the blockage.

We did this in his tub for about a half hour, and halfway through, he realized what we were doing and that it could help, and he started co-operating. We were actually working together on this, and it was a bonding moment. It was almost 14 months to the day that I was in practically the same position making practically the same encouragements to Your Sister.

She grew impatient and wanted to try an enema, but a hastily improvised contraption failed immediately, and I went back to the thermometer. Eventually, I let him sit normally and let him play with bath toys and realized his screaming had stopped. I called in Your Sis to verify that the storm had passed. He was fine.He was exhausted, and he cashed into sleep quickly.

*I trip up over this word with him. He's technically not a baby anymore, and I wanna enjoy each of his developmental stages. I don't want to infantalize him, to be the kind of parent that can't let go of the baby-hood. He's a toddler, but that's a clumsy word. My nickname for him had the word "baby" in it, and I'm awkwardly trying new names. It still tumbles out by habit, and I regret it each time. I may just start calling him by his first and middle names.

+  +  +
A little longer than I'd rather, I heard back from the hotel representative, and I now have a confirmation of accommodations at a second Atlanta hotel. I'm concerned the deal I was promised may not trickle down to the front-desk people, so I opened a Twitter account (@GregoryDraws) to ask the Hyatt Concierge for help. I heard back immediately and was given an email to send a request for the PDF of the deal. I'm waiting to hear back.

EDIT: I got my email listing the consolation package along with contact information for a reservations manager. I called and thanked her. This situation stinks for a lot of people, but it's progressed smoothly.

I bought two blocks of styrofoam to carve my gun replacement. I'll try painting it before falling back to covering it in electrical tape.
Picture of the Day
A mask at a local craft store. 

Thursday, August 25

Heart Attack

I got a call yesterday morning from our DragonCon hotel. I expected it was a reservation confirmation. The four main hotels that house the party fill up quickly, and people scramble for last-second accommodations. That's why we reserved a room in September. Eleven months ago.

I was informed that because of construction overrun, we couldn't use the rooms we reserved. And we would not be able to get rooms in that hotel.

Initial reaction: MURDER.

However, the hotel rep, who had no doubt steeled herself for this and probably experienced similar meltdowns already, told me that a nearby hotel had agreed to take the displaced, and our original hosts would pay for one of the nights, offer us early reservations for next year's convention at this year's rates, and give us free subway passes for this year's show. That seemed fair. I agreed to the deal. I was assured that we'd receive confirmation emails within the next two days.

I asked the caller when the hotel realized this would be necessary, and she said last week.That's short notice, and I'm positive they were holding their breath for months beforehand in anxiety. So Wednesday morning --  eight days before the start of a four-day Mardi Gras attended by thousands and thousands -- they had to find new rooms for their guests. I told her I sympathize with the last-minute adjustments and hoped those she had to inform were kind to her. I suspect some will deliver the rage I managed to keep in check.

Our new hotel is five blocks away from the party. That might make for better sleep. We can also get there via the subway system. We need never risk bad weather.

Me: Hi, new hotel. I need a confirmation for a relocated reservation.

Second DragonCon Hotel: Yeah, we never heard of you, and we're booked solid. Oh, we do have a special rate for a room Saturday night.

Me: How booked solid are you if you have a special rate on a room?

Second DragonCon Hotel: You should call the first hotel and find out what's up.

Me: Hey, first hotel. Guess what second hotel told me.

First DragonCon Hotel: Those booked-solid rooms include the block we nabbed for the relocated guests.

Me: But there's no proof I'm included in that.

First DragonCon Hotel: I'm gonna call over there and verify you're taken care of.

Me: OK. I'm being polite, but I can get ugly here.

First DragonCon Hotel: Won't be necessary.

Just a few minutes ago
First DragonCon Hotel: You're on the list, and they are still working on reservations.

Me: When you say "working on," what are the chances I won't get a room?

First DragonCon Hotel: None. You'll have a room. I'll call you with the confirmation when I get it.

Me: So I just sit tight and wait?

First DragonCon Hotel: Please.

Me: Can I borrow your fingernails to chew on?

First DragonCon Hotel: Thanks for being patient.

Me: Please take this the right way, but when you call me with the number, I hope that's the last time I talk with you.


We tried on our costumes last night. I'm thinking of making a stryofoam gun butt to replace the heavy toy gun I carried last time. That gun made the holster sag the whole time. I don't need a whole gun, just something to fill the holster. I can sculpt and paint it in an hour. We've lost so much weight since 2009 that our costumes will sag a bit no matter what.

The deputy is a hundred times better now, but he was wired last night. We all slept maybe four hours. I am Biblically acquainted with my coffee travel mug today.

Wednesday, August 24


The Nystatin seemed to work immediately. I'm using it exclusively on him instead of alternating it with the Vusion non-prescription cream; I'll save that for later. For now, he gets the strong stuff. His color's better, and he seems relaxed. Relaxed-er. Your Sis says he probably felt relief immediately. He's back at daycare equipped with the cream and a warning about his teething. We used Neosporin on him last night after he became cranky. Seemed to work. Teething can cause kids to tug their ears, and that initially spooked us into thinking his ear infection returned. He and I also apparently share the same allergy cycles. To recap: His loins are burning, he's teething, and his nose is a swamp. Childhood, ta-da.

I felt the quake yesterday but assumed it was one of the assisted-living home delivery trucks driving off. I felt what I assumed were aftershocks, but those felt like a very mild swaying. Your Sister and her students -- half a mile away -- had no idea anything happened.

The new neighbors baked us an apple pie, and we are devouring it each night. It's huge. Now so are we.

Picture of the Day
The gals went to Tallahassee and lost a close one to a nationally ranked team. I think our team is too new/limited in competition to get into the rankings.

Tuesday, August 23


It's a yeast infection.

He developed a slight fever at daycare yesterday, and I picked him up early and immediately made an appointment with the doctor. We saw her this morning (and her pediatric shadowing med student), and she pointed at the "classic breakaway lesions" and said this was treatable. We have two new medicine creams and should see improvement within 48 hours. Also, he were advised to dry him with a hair dryer and let him go streaking. Warm air is better than the bog that is his diaper. His fever is miniscule today. Also, he's teething.

It's a huge relief. This is common and fixable, and he's not actually pissing radioactive water. The parental panics do creep up after a few days of mystery ailments.I'll stay home with him today, and we'll probably be on a regular schedule tomorrow and after.

Picture of the Day
Say cheese.

Monday, August 22

Shift Rotations

After a weekend of medicine and baths, we have deduced that this diaper rash is a product of his antibiotic treatments for the ear infection. His skin goes red as his urine spills about in his diaper. Either he's peeing an irritant or something on his skin reacts to the pee.

The daycare folks suggested it might be diet, but nothing new has been introduced. They also said the antibiotics may have scuttled good bacteria in his system. He gets yogurt every day. Maybe we should up the dosage. If this doesn't fade by Tuesday night, I'm taking him to the doctor. Our best home remedies are exhaustive and exhausting us. I presided over about three hours worth of bath soaks this weekend. His rash also bumped our planned party-versary bike outing, for obvious reasons.

I took the neighbor kid to see Captain America, and he is psyched as psyched can be for next year's Avengers movie. So am I. The film holds up on second viewing too.

We're two weeks from DragonCon, and it's sneaking up on us. My Mom will watch the deputy that weekend, and she's equally excited and anxious. I'm taking that Friday off to walk her through a day with him, and we've hired a babysitter to be available via phone if Mom needs help. She's on retainer. But Mom's watched the boy before. She'll be fine. He hasn't spent the night without us before though, so I don't know how Your Sister will do.

Picture of the Day

Friday, August 19

Piling On

And now he has diaper rash.

It really should be called "diaper raw," because it's a sunburn in his pants. The common zinc oxide creams hurt him, and my almost-brilliant notion of aloe did no better. The daycare uses A&D which is mostly petroleum, and we've moved to that at home. Your Sis had me run out last night for a stronger ointment, but virtually all of them have zinc oxide. I went with the old-fashioned A&D (I hadn't heard of it before this week), and it does seem to help the most. We also started baking-soda baths.

We called the local nurse hotline. We were told to try an athlete's foot cream under the possibility that this is fungal. Your Sister wondered if this might be a yeast infection brought on by the antibiotics for his ears, and the doctor had in fact checked his mouth for thrush Monday at the follow-up. The soda baths were confirmed as a remedy, and it was suggested we give him as many as four a day. It was also advised that we skip the wipes for now and wash him off in the tub to clean him.

He was miserable for the last two days, but was almost normal this morning. The irritation is still there, but he's not as sensitive to a dirty diaper. We know the daycare folks have seen everything, and we trust their recommendations. I hope he's getting all the maladies out of his system before we go to Atlanta.

Picture of the Day
This behemoth towers over Asheville. I took this outside the Blue Spiral art gallery Wednesday.