October 2013


As many of you almost most certainly do not know, October 1st was IEEE Day! I waited to post this blog entry until some of the excitement died down from the event – I don’t want people to feel overwhelmed (note from Everett: are you using sarcasm?). If you take a moment to read through the website for this big day, you might have the same reaction I did: What are you talking about? What is IEEE, and why might tomorrow be better, as the website suggests, as a result of IEEE Day? I’ll offer what I can in the way of explanation: IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, of which Chris is a member. It has been in existence for almost 130 years, and it is safe to say that the work of IEEE has touched the daily lives of almost every person in the world. A significant part of IEEE is concerned with communications (satellite, computer, network, radio, optical, tin can + string, etc), and yet ironically IEEE has a reputation for being not very good at communicating, at least to non-engineers. This problem is not unique to IEEE – for years there has been a perception that scientists could do a much better job of communicating to non-scientists. Other events designed to increase awareness of engineering: a website was setup for Thank an Engineer Day (now defunct, but you can search those terms and find some…interesting videos on Youtube); Engineer Week (the next one is February 16-22, 2014). Until these organizations get a clearer idea about the message they are trying to get across, I think it would be more fun to highlight what engineers do in their spare time. With that in mind, a few weeks ago I posted a blog entry about the cockamamie schemes I sometimes get talked into by Sean, and I alluded to the fact that engineers often come up with absurdly complex solutions to non-existent problems. Along those lines, here are a couple of spectacular examples, both of which are timely for Halloween. First, a way to give candy to trick or treaters using a garage door opener with an embedded controller; second, a pumpkin chucking festival (pumpkins seem to be popular for air cannons and trebuchets). I can only hope that when our children are older we will dream up similar projects. And to encourage the inclusion of women in engineering we are considering Goldie Blox for Gwen’s birthday list.

Comments (2)


Blog entry from Melissa:

This week we had to say goodbye to our sweet Kyra.  Since she was a pound dog, we don’t really know exactly how old she was, but our best guess is  that she was 13 or 14.  She is the last of our four animals to pass on, and now we are left with a family of just 5 humans.  Though we do and will miss all of our animal companions, we know that they are now at peace, and, as Everett pointed out, they are all hopefully together with Jesus now :>

Here are two of my favorite memories of Kyra:

For both of my pregnancies, Chris took a weekly picture of me and my growing belly.  Invariably, every time I would get into position against the wall for my picture, Kyra would get up from wherever she was resting, casually walk over in my direction, and photo bomb me :>
Kyra and Melissa
Similarly, every time Everett and I would play hide and seek, she would suddenly show an interest in our activity. Whenever it was my turn to hide, she would come with me and then just stand there right next me, making it virtually impossible to actually hide.  This was great fun for Everett, who could find me within seconds because of Kyra’s help.  Everett and I would do this again and again, laughing hysterically, to see if she would keep doing it-and she always did.

We hope you are running free now.  Rest in peace, sweet girl.

Comments (3)

Halloween 2013

Everett wanted to be Perry the Platypus (a.k.a. Agent P) for Halloween this year. However, Perry costumes are almost nonexistent, so Melissa decided to make one. She ordered a turquoise sweat suit from H&M, and bought a brown fedora from a local Halloween shop. We added a black fabric band to the fedora and used some orange foam sheets for the tail, shoes and duck bill. It was immediately obvious when we were trick-or-treating who was a fan of Phineas and Ferb. People who weren’t asked questions like “Are you a duck?”, but fans of the show took one look and said “Hi Perry”. Nice work on the costume!
Melissa and Everett suggested that if Everett wants to be Perry again in the future then maybe Dad can be Dr. Doofenshmirtz, which would be great because then Chris could invent some Inators and bring them along.

This is Teddy & Gwen’s first Halloween. Teddy was a monkey, and Gwen was a banana.
Everett graciously agreed to collected candy on their behalf. We went to our neighbors Katy and Mike Nunag’s house at about 4:30pm. This was an exclusive party for the 5 and under crowd on the block – we did not previously realize how many children on the block are in that age group. As it was getting close to our official start time of 6pm Everett’s anxiety level seemed to be getting higher and higher about missing it, so we went home to get a candy bag and started trick or treating. We walked up and down the block and got a fair amount of candy, and had a chance to chat with neighbors. One tradition on our street is for people to sit in their yard with a fire in a fire pit on Halloween. After we made it most of the way up the block and back, Everett abruptly went home and said he wanted to do the same. So he took his costume off while Chris brought the fire pit to the front yard. Then Everett wanted to make s’mores. We didn’t have chocolate, but Melissa had the great idea of spreading Nutella on the graham crackers. This was just as easy, and perhaps even more delicious than using chocolate bars, if that’s even possible, and we abated our old bag of marshmallows at the same time!

Comments (5)

St. Matthews

Everett has taken quite an interest in our church St. Matthews, and more broadly in Christianity. Most of this has come about with very little effort on our part, other than trying to teach him values that are consistent with our religion. We have started attending church most Sunday mornings, but Everett hardly takes an interest in these services. Rather, his interest started when he met Pastor Chris during Lent dinners last year. Everett LOVED Vacation Bible School (VBS) this past summer, which he attended for a week with Trinity. He now attends Sunday School and has started to develop a relationship with Jesus. For example, today he misplaced his wallet and asked Jesus to help him find it. He recently joined the children’s choir, and their first performance of the year was last Sunday.

Comments (1)


Chris has been meaning to write this blog entry for some time, first when the babies were two weeks, then four weeks, then six weeks. But the summer has flown by and we haven’t had much free time, and when we do sleep usually wins over other possible activities. The twins are now three months old. We are thankful that they are healthy, and we feel immensely grateful for the support we have received since they were born. We had at least one grandparent at the house for the first four weeks after birth. Amanda was with us for about three weeks, and Cress joined us for two of those weeks. Around the time they headed home, Grandpa and Grandma Linda stayed with us for several days. And soon after they left we went to Colorado for a week with Sean, Kathy and their boys. We have also received gifts of food from our church and many friends who gave us prepared dinners. Our neighbor Lori regularly stops by to give us prepared food: pizza, soup, “Lori buns” (these are spherical rolls about an inch and a half in diameter and one of Everett’s favorite foods). Friends and neighbors have helped us by taking Everett for hours at a time. These experiences have strengthened our appreciation for our support network.

Here are some observations we have made along the way.

Two Weeks

Gwen’s and Teddy’s personalities became evident within a day or two of being born. Teddy is pretty calm most of the time. During periods when he is awake and alert he will look around quietly. For a few days after birth Gwen made gentle chirping noises like a bird.

Gwen and Teddy look a lot alike. For a few days after they were born they had some distinguishing features (aside from the obvious): Gwen’s cheeks were slightly asymmetric; the cartilage on their ears was almost completely flattened at birth, and as a result Teddy’s left ear had a very distinctive squiggle. Now their face and ears are slowly taking a more natural shape, and the squiggle in Teddy’s ear is disappearing, making it harder to quickly identify them. After about a week and a half we have noticed that Gwen’s cheeks are slightly lower than Teddy’s, and her hair is a shade lighter.However, we both continue to misidentify them at least once a day.

Their cries are often indistinguishable. For a couple days after they were born Teddy cried loudly when he was upset while Gwen made noises like a small bird. Soon afterward, however, she developed a loud squawk that sounds kind of like a peacock. She doesn’t seem to get upset gradually. Rather, she goes from quiet to full volume squawk in about a second, which reminded us of Kevin from the movie Up. Teddy seems to get upset a little more gradually. However, their cries remain very similar and they seem to adapt to each other to stay that way.

Teddy started sucking on his fingers within moments after birth. He also learned to roll on his side within two weeks. By the third week Gwen was also rolling on her side.

For the first two weeks their eyes were large pools of a nondescript blueish color. At around two weeks their pupils became visible, and the contrast has continued to grow since then.

One Month

We mentioned to Everett that he has been asking for siblings for a long time, and we asked him how he feels now that they are here: “Good! Except for the squawkage!”

Six Weeks

Gwen and Teddy now seem much more sturdy than newborns. They can pick their heads up, sometimes for extended periods of time. We are able to more clearly see their individual personalities. Teddy seems to be a gentle soul who is happy to look around quietly when he is awake and happy. If Gwen is upset then she still squawks loudly.

Melissa recently informed Chris that infant fussiness peaks at six weeks. We certainly hope this is the case, because it would be tough to take much more of it. The time from about 6pm to 10pm seems to be the witching hour, during which it is really difficult to get either of them calmed down. This is usually followed by a nighttime that is an unpredictable odyssey. The best case seems to be that they sleep soundly and get up about every three hours to nurse. The worst case seems to be that one of them wakes up every 45 minutes all night.

The babies started smiling around six weeks. Melissa noticed this more than anyone else.

Two Months

Gwen has been working very hard and can now get her fingers and thumb into her mouth. Yeah for self-soothing! Teddy still seems to benefit from swaddling more than anything else when he is upset (assuming it’s not from hunger). Gwen does not like to have her arms restrained, and if we swaddle her she will expend as much energy as necessary to escape. So we don’t really try anymore.

The babies now respond to our voices and will vocalize back to us at times. They can kind of sit if we prop them up.
Gwen & Teddy

Three Months

Both babies now have a full-body smile. This is when they smile, raise their arms to their chest and turn their heads in response to one of us. It’s impossible not to smile back when they do this.

At some point in the last month they both started producing tears when they cry. We have been joking that the purpose of tears is to further accentuate feelings of guilt that we feel at times as parents.

Gwen has become very good at self soothing. She will spend long periods of time sucking on her hand, which results in loud smacking noises. As Everett puts it: “Gwen is smacking it up again!”. Teddy has been having a rough time eating, and has experienced extended periods of time when it is really difficult to get him settled down. He seems to have all the symptoms of reflux, so he is taking medicine for a week or two to see if it helps. Judging from the reduction in crying we have observed, it seems to be going pretty well.

Everett really enjoys laying down with his brother or sister and having some face to face time.

Comments (1)


Technology is having a curious effect on this generation of children. Everett was adept at using the iPad before his second birthday, and it continues to be a treat to use and an object of desire (it is remarkable that Apple achieved this response from almost any age group). We have heard similar stories from other parents. A friend from Cleveland recently reported that her daughter was going to call her a turd all day unless she got the iPad. Another friend we know from Cleveland told Melissa that her son’s desire for the iPad became such a problem that it went away to summer camp and never came back home. At times the iPad can be both educational and entertaining. However, it still counts as screen time, and there are rules in our house about when and how much screen time is permitted: no screen time in the morning before school; 30 minutes of screen time on school days; 30-60 minutes of screen time per day on weekends; unlimited screen time in the “movie car” during long trips or during flights.

Everett does not have his own phone or other portable device, but we feel confident that he will before we know it. This will likely be accelerated by the fact that his cousin who his twice his age, and who Everett admires and emulates, has her own cell phone. Feedback we have received from many parents about such devices has been consistent: no devices in bed; no device usage past a certain time at night; explain to the child that you will be monitoring their online activity. Clearly one concern is that children will have unfettered access to the wild west that is the Internet. Another concern is that they will lack basic skills because of over reliance on technology. For example, one father of a high school senior recently wrote about how his son does not know how to mail a letter. A third concern is that, by virtue of the near universal popularity of these devices, parents will begin to rely on them too much around their children.

Before the twins were born, Melissa found several apps to track the behavior and bodily functions of babies. The one that she chose is specialized for tracking twins, and makes it much easier to capture information that she used to document with pen and paper. Among other things it tracks diaper changes, diaper contents, nursing time and duration, and which side each baby nursed from. After a couple weeks she commented how she couldn’t imagine managing this information without her phone. And a few weeks after that she quit using it altogether and managed the babies using raw maternal instincts. This is another desirable but perhaps under appreciated outcome of using technology: trust and confidence in your own judgement becomes more valuable than the detailed information that these devices are so capable of capturing.

Comments (1)

Rock & Roll

Everett and Chris aspire to leave the house each school day morning by 7:30am. On the days we are able to achieve this we very likely have more fun getting to school than anyone else. Reason 1: the zoo interchange construction project is a monstrosity that is now reaching full size. Over the next 4 or five years it will affect roads ranging in size from interstates to small secondary roads. Already we have had several road closures in our neighborhood. To make matters worse, the entrance ramp to Interstate 94 near our house will be closed for about a year, as well as the entrance to Route 45. And the local roads that provide detours are partially or completely closed as well (Swan Blvd, Harwood Ave, Harmonee Ave). So it’s rough trying to get anywhere in the car. Fortunately it doesn’t affect us on the bike, which relates to Reason 2: we continue to have bike adventures on the way to school as time allows. Lately we have been taking different trails around the reservoir, and we have invented a bus stop game where Everett hops off the bike, hikes for a bit, and then he gets picked up on the “bus” and pays his fare in rocks. He is very generous with the rocks, and we have amassed quite a collection in the bike.
Chris tries to offload these when he thinks of it, but Everett is pretty diligent about collecting more.

This weekend we attended Dan & Michelle’s wedding in Cleveland. We left Friday night, drove to Toledo and then made it to Cleveland by midday on Saturday for lunch at Tommy’s. In the afternoon we rested and got ready, and around 5pm Chris’ former colleague Angela came by with her daughter Erin to watch Everett for the evening at their house. The wedding ceremony was in the Japanese Garden at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, followed by an outdoor reception and dinner in the banquet hall. It went beautifully and we were very thankful to be a part of it. The twins joined us and behaved very well. We held them during the ceremony, and they spent the rest of the evening being held by friends or resting in their bassinets. Chris wanted to take pictures during the ceremony. However, it turns out that photography is considerably more difficult with three children compared to one.

The next day we went to the post-wedding brunch at Dan & Michelle’s house where we got to see some of our good friends and their children: Aaron, Michelle & Minna; Walter, Marcy, Augie and Louie.
We left for home around noon, but before doing so we told Everett that if he wanted to we could stop in South Bend to visit his best friend Mary. He answered an emphatic yes, and for the next four hours he asked how much longer until we got there. He and Mary had a few hours to make soup in a bucket from acorns, dirt, crabapples, leaves, grass and whatever else they could find.
The McVeighs hosted us for dinner, then loaded us up with about a bushel and a half of fresh vegetables. The departure was much lower drama than we expected between Everett and Mary.

During this trip Everett was the great traveler that he always is. We got home after 10pm and he was in bed by around 10:30. However, the next morning he had a really rough time waking up and was even slower than usual getting ready. Alas, this was not a morning with time for any adventures. A few blocks from home he told Chris that he forgot his backpack and lunch. When Chris mentioned this to Everett’s teacher Ms. Tierra, she explained that the arrival of the twins is a major transition, that they have been expecting to see some behavior changes as a result, and that now is the time for patience. She is not the first person to mention the need for patience and the possibility of some regression in behavior. The challenge for us as parents is to achieve more patience with less sleep. Fortunately we have many friends and family who either are or have been in similar situations, and it is strangely therapeutic to share our experiences with them.

Comments (1)
Powered by WordPress
Natural World RapidWeaver theme by ThemeFlood