The End of the First Tiny Little Leg of the Journey is Approaching

May 8, 2008

Two weeks from today, little Theodore James Gleason and his family (including much of his extended family) will be attending his final adoption hearing. To say that we’re excited would be something of an understatement.

It’s hard to put into words just how surprised we were a little over six months ago when we were given adoptive custody of TJ. We had quite literally convinced ourselves beyond a shadow of a doubt that we would not be selected and given custody. It seemed throughout the entire process – not just the adoption of TJ, but all of our prior selections in the overall adoptive process – that things just seemed to be stacked against us. So many different staffings, several different selections – each of which ended up sadly because of no fault of our own. Some of those situations even led to policy changes to ensure that the same thing couldn’t happen to other adoptive families…too late for us, though!

I remember very clearly the night before – Halloween night – talking with Jen and both of us just knowing that something would happen and we would just be going back to work the next day, probably no longer even interested in persisting in the adoption system at all. Around 12 hours later the entire world was set on its side, and suddenly we had a whole new person in our lives to learn about.

To say that TJ has been a blessing would be a total understatement. Many days when I’m feeling just plain crummy, all I have to do is think of his adorable little smile, his funny little laugh and the way he runs up to me when I get home and suddenly I feel my spirits lifted. We are often asked – still – if we have all adjusted OK, and the answer is a simple yes. TJ adjusted pretty much from day one – he has never once given us an indication that he’s ever been less than happy, aside from occasionally not being happy that he can’t play with the phone, have a drink from Daddy’s glass or the other travesties of life that are committed upon the person of an otherwise happy 20-month old boy.

So Memorial Day weekend is going to be a big time for the Gleason family


The Great Escape

May 8, 2008

There was a fair bit of excitement here at the Gleason household last night, but everything ended up OK. Jennifer took TJ (our 20-month old) outside to enjoy the nice evening, and I had gone up to the bedroom to change clothes after work. Luckily our window was open – I heard Jennifer yell, “TJ let Rosie out!”

Rosie is our little orange tabby cat, and to be frank I really probably could not care less if she ran off into the wilds of Kansas City’s northland, never to be seen again. I say that now, but I might feel some remorse. Maybe, but I doubt it.

So Rosie was let out into our back yard and immediately ran under the deck. Our deck is not very high off of the ground – less than three feet – so it’s tall enough for her to run around under there with ease, but we can’t get under there. For a few moments I had nightmarish visions of me essentially dismantling the entire deck to try to get her out…but with my luck she probably would have just ran off over the fence right after I pulled out the final screw.

I grabbed a broom from the garage and made my way out back. Jen found that if she stood on the south side of the deck she could see all the way through, and watched as Rosie took her sweet time enjoying the sights and sounds of this amazing new world. Rosie has not been outdoors since we got her almost three years ago, and she was only 9 months old or so then so her range of outdoor experience is somewhat stunted.

Jen would watch Rosie go out one side of the deck and then try to run around and catch her while I swatted with the broom to try to keep her from getting back under the deck. NO GOOD. This just scared Rosie and made her even more erratic. Jen and I switched positions then, so I could watch and direct from the yard while she used the broom as a noisemaker to flush Rosie out, like some kind of beater at a fox hunt. This seemed to work, but we just couldn’t jump down from the deck fast enough to catch her.

By this time both of us were pretty well peeved, but TJ thought this was a fantastic game. He’d run around the deck just laughing with little-kid glee, especially when one of us would jump or run or swat or when Rosie would poke her head out or (more frequently) run back under the deck. Jen was pretty well ready to commit Rosie to memory and just let her stay out there, but I had one last thought.

I went around to the front side of the house and got the garden hose, turned on the spigot and made my way back to the side of the deck. I took careful aim and started shooting – not full blast, because I didn’t really want to end up with a completely soaked cat. No, I wanted to make Rosie WANT to NOT go back under the deck, and the best way I could think to do that was to dampen the ground underneath it.

I was putting my plan into action but realized – too late – that I had not accounted for a wild card. From out of nowhere a little blond blur dashed in front of me and right into the stream of water, and before you could say, “sopping wet child,” TJ was soaked…and loving it. He laughed and laughed and laughed…and while I wanted to stop and laugh with him, I still had a feline extraction to facilitate.

I turned up the pressure a little and finally Rosie decided that she had enjoyed enough of the rich bounty of the outdoors. She meekly came out next to Jennifer and practically begged to go back inside. Meanwhile, TJ was doing everything he could to ensure that there was not a single square inch on him that was left dry. I will admit that I was an enabler – it was a pretty warm evening, so I did spray him a little more but then we finally made our way indoors to towel off and change into dry pajamas.

A little while later we all went downstairs to watch Top Gear on the DVR. TJ absolutely loves cars, and he will actually sit and watch quite a bit of Top Gear – especially when they are doing road tests or power laps. This time, though, he climbed onto my lap and pretty much just fell asleep – a good hour and a half before bedtime! We did eventually wake him up, fearful that such an early slumber would lead to a very early morning, but it was final proof positive that we’d had a very exciting evening.


A Rough Night – Part Deux

May 2, 2008

This afternoon the Kansas City Star reported that the National Weather Service says that one or more EF2-3 tornadoes touched down in the wee hours today in the Kansas City Northland. This begs a few observations:

1. I was quite wide awake at the time that these tornadoes touched down, and I’d probably attest to the fact that yes, they sounded like tornadoes. But…

2. We were told repeatedly through the evening that while “round two” of the storms coming overnight would potentially be severe, they WOULD NOT be tornadic. And…

3. There was no tornado watch OR warning for my immediate area during the time that the tornadoes touched down.

So let’s think about this.

A. Squall line storms can and do produce tornadoes, just less predictably than super-cells – and they are much harder to detect on radar. I would expect that the NWS would need a trained spotter confirmation to render a tornado warning during that type of storm, rather than the warnings they base on “hook echoes” seen during super-cell events.

B. If it is know that these type of storms can produce tornadoes, why wasn’t there a tornado watch for the remainder of the early morning hours, instead of ending at 1am as we were told during the 10pm news? Instead, why did we go to bed expecting the worst to be possibly high straight-line winds (which can of course be quite destructive) and potentially damaging hail?

The true irony of the past 24 hours is that the local TV affiliates preempted hours of programming (collectively) during prime time to follow tornadoes that largely didn’t cause any damage, but managed to give little to no indication to viewers that the real danger was coming in the overnight hours – probably because they themselves didn’t expect it.


A Rough Night in the Kansas City Northland

May 2, 2008

Kansas City’s “northland” is generally described as being the metropolitan area on the Missouri side north of the Missouri River. It includes communities like Parkville, Platte Woods, Gladstone, North Kansas City, Liberty and Kansas City, MO North. (What’s the difference between Kansas City North and North Kansas City? North Kansas City is incorporated as its own entity – Kansas City North is just the parts of Kansas City, MO that are north of the river.)

So with that geography lesson behind us, last night and this morning was – for us – the big kickoff of the spring severe weather season…and it was a doozy! Around 7pm or so we started getting tornado sirens going off for Clay County. There was supposedly a confirmed tornado touchdown north of us in Clinton county, and there were also tornado warnings south of us in Johnson and Miami counties in Kansas. Luckily Jen and TJ were already in the basement, and (amazingly) we still had DirecTV reception to watch the wall to wall severe weather coverage on the different local channels. We didn’t get any severe weather from the storm that caused the tornado warning, just lots of rain. So we eventually just went to bed…

…and were rudely awakened at precisely 2 a.m. when it felt like we were in the middle of an earthquake! You know how you feel disoriented when being awakened by some kind of loud noise or something? When I woke up the first thing in my mind was that we were in an earthquake for some reason…but it wasn’t an earthquake, it was hurricane force straight-line winds slamming into the front of our house, which faces west. I heard lots of ominous creaking and some odd popping noises, so I went into our library. That room has a big half-moon window and two (formerly) sealed double-hung windows underneath it. What I found was rain literally pouring down the insides of the (formerly) sealed windows from a new gap between the half-moon window and the other windows. Fun! I got some towels and – like an idiot – stood there next to the window trying to get towels around the gap and floor while the 80mph winds continued to buffet the house.

We actually did not get the worst of the storm – we live about a mile north of some of the heaviest-hit areas, which seemed to be between Englewood and 72nd street along North Oak Trafficway. For reference, we live at 97th and North Oak Trafficway. The Kansas City Star is covering the story, and their comments section has lots of interesting (and not so interesting) anecdotes in there from people that mistakenly think that the overnight storm “had to be” a tornado.

So, we have some admittedly minor storm damage that we’re going to be calling our homeowner’s insurance people about. It could have been a LOT worse. And the weirdest part? TJ slept through the entire thing without a peep, even when the power was going on and off. What a guy!

Special note about Kansas City television weather coverage: The local affiliates have discovered that “bumper to bumper” weather coverage seems to produce massive ratings, because people in Kansas City are weather-phobic. Instead of learning about the weather and how to tell the difference between tornadic supercells and squall lines, people would rather claim that they “had to have been” in a tornado because their roof was blown off, or because their neighbor said they saw a funnel cloud. At 2am. In a massive lightning storm. So in our collective ignorance, we turn to the television weather folks to provide comfort…which they largely do a decent job at, but over the past few years it’s become all-pervasive. Rather than breaking in to programming to say that a new tornado warning has been issued, they stay on the air during the entire life of the warning, regardless of whether or not any actual sightings have been made or damage indicated.

Is this a good thing? I don’t know. I don’t really lament the fact that so many of my Thursday night TV shows were pre-empted by weather coverage – after all, these were tornado warnings, and everything I like on Thursday night can be watched either on iTunes or from the broadcaster’s web site. Instead, I’m a little concerned that this type of non-stop coverage of weather “events” breeds fear in people rather than a desire to understand the weather. Green sky? Not necessarily tornadic – but probably hail-ridden. Swirling clouds? Maybe rotation, or maybe a lower level of scud interfering with your ability to see true upper-level rotation.

If this were a symptom of just spring severe weather season I’d probably just pass it off, but it seems to happen more and more during the other seasons – winter especially. A few flakes of snow and quite literally Kansas City seems to careen into the collective ditch. Now I’m not saying that we’re ALL morons – not at all. There was a great line in “Men in Black” where K tells J that “a person is smart. People are stupid.” Individually we seem to do OK, but when we act en mass – like when we all sit glued to the unchanging doppler radar display with slack jaws and tritchy remote control fingers – we seem to make dumb decisions.


Welcome to 2005, Dwain!

April 21, 2008

Yes, I’m now tweeting. Why did I suddenly hop on the Web 2.0 bandwagon?

The simple answer is that my tweet timeline is all about work. I no longer sit very close to the rest of my team, but I want them to feel like they know what I’m up to. So I’m going to be tweeting updates as I go to meetings, work on things for them, stuff like that. They’ll be subscribing with an RSS reader, and I’ll be sending updates from wherever, either on my laptop or on my phone. I will be doing the same with some home stuff…most of my family isn’t exactly super high-tech, but maybe if I tell them to start looking at my timeline they’ll do it. Or not.

I feel so young. Maybe I need a MySpace page next. Anyone want to be my friend? It looked really cool on the Internet House Party


Some New Features

April 12, 2008

I added some sidebar widgets that WordPress graciously exposes for free to the site today. The latest three pictures from Flickr are displayed, and you can link directly to Flickr from the widget. I also went through and tagged my old pasts and put a tag cloud on the site, which amuses me because it is blatantly apparent that I rant more than anything else here.

I’ve posted pictures from Lily’s birthday party last weekend into Flickr. It was a lot of fun – it is hard to believe that Lily is a year old already! All of the cousins are getting so big. TJ is talking more and more, and new words seem to be popping out every day. Lily is a hoot – she is walking all over the place. Kiera is SO CLOSE to walking – she stands up all the time, but just wasn’t set out on her own quite yet. Abby is starting to crawl around, I expect she’ll be terrorizing Arnold the dog any day now. Wes is such a big boy, he’s going to preschool and he is doing so well with TJ.

In a couple of weeks it’ll be Kiera’s first birthday too! I am thinking about getting a new camera. One of the annoyances of my otherwise nice Panasonic DMC-FZ10 is that it’s LCD screen isn’t sharp enough for me to tell if it is really in focus or not. Trying to use glasses while looking through the viewfinder is a challenge, and the camera wants to focus on a specific point in the picture, so if I happen to get the focus wrong I end up with many fuzzy pictures. I’ve seen a lot of newer cameras that have face-focusing technology, and they seem pretty darn nice.


Quick Update

April 2, 2008

Some life updates. No one reads this, so I’ll make it short and agreeable to my own personal tastes. If you write for yourself, you tend to write what you enjoy. So why I do hate my writing so much? Self-loathing, I suppose. Maybe my sartorial sense is stronger than my ability to write. This is why movie critics are so successful and numerous when compared to the filmmakers whose lives they wantonly destroy.

Anyway…

  • Little Theodore James is doing great. He just turned 19 months old, and he’s progressing very well. He’s using lots of different words, and it seems like he says a new one every day or two. He’s also stringing two or three together on occasion, but that’s rare.
  • Final adoption for TJ is scheduled for 5/22/08. Big day, and it’s going to be a big weekend – I’m planning on having a big BBQ party here at Chez Gleason in celebration of the event.
  • Lily Tsukioka turned 1 yesterday (4/1/08)! Considering all of her trials coming into the world this time last year she has done amazingly. Really, she’s done amazingly just all around. We’re going to her birthday party this Sunday at our church.
  • Keira Noel will be 1 later this month too, and she is really doing great. She’s JUST ABOUT to walk, and for yet another kid that doesn’t actually crawl she sure scoots around. TJ loves “the baby.”
  • Abigail Marie is doing awesome – she’s just starting to crawl, and she looks like quite the little princess. She even has pierced ears! I guess if you’re going to do that to a kid, do it when they’re too young to remember the trauma of having a hole drilled into their living flesh. Too graphic?
  • I have completed ALL of my required tests, exams, paperwork, evaluations and whatnot to obtain the insurance approval for my Lap-Band procedure. Once the surgeon’s office gets the last thing in hand they will file, and then it’ll probably be a couple of weeks before I hear back. I REALLY hope it gets approved, I would REALLY rather not spend $20K out of pocket for this, but I’ll do it if I have to.
  • Work is going OK. I have a great team but there is some weirdness happening all around me that is getting in the way of just writing software. We seem to be having challenges from process to databases to infrastructure, and it’s getting to the point where it’s becoming overwhelming. Thankfully it’s a great place to work regardless.

I think that’s about it. Don’t forget that I upload pictures on a semi-regular basis to Flickr, you can always see what’s going on there at http://www.flickr.com/gleasonfamily.