In the Middle


All photos in this post come from our Family 2013 Album and most of them were taken by Grandpa Haddad.

I’ve been trying to hold off on writing this blog post because we’re just in the middle of so many things. But it’s been so long that I feel bad every day for not providing any updates at all. So while this isn’t the blog post I wanted to write (I’ll have to wait a little while before these things all come to fruition), it is the blog post you deserve.

First of all, it’s been so stinking long since I last wrote (about 424 days, sorry) that I just can’t remember everything that has been happening. My memory already feels sub-par, and to expect myself to recall any details from the last year+ would be ludicrous.

So the plan is to resume posting as though you haven’t missed anything. You have missed some things (the cover photo is from a trip my parents made out here to visit us in April this year), but don’t worry about it. You’ll soon forget all about that big black hole in the middle of my already poorly spaced post history.

Unfortunately, this post will be somewhat lackluster since I really can’t reveal too much about what we’re in the middle of. There are a lot of things that I can’t tell you about until we’re done with them. No, nobody is pregnant and none of the unfinished stuff is bad news. But we can’t just go around talking about things and getting you all excited only to find out that things didn’t go according to plans. So that’s that. Speaking of which, a previously announced project has died. Just forget I ever said anything.

Books We are Reading

Brian

Reading? Uh… Since the last post I’ve completed two books. I’m a slow reader, and they were both embarrassingly short books. The first was hilarious and I recommend it to everyone: The Young Visiters[sic], or Mister Salteena’s Plan by Daisy Ashford. Look it up on Wikipedia. It’s a fantastic book with a rather (or should I say “rarther”) odd history.

I also finished Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett. Jim Corbett recently joined my short list of heroes in life after I discovered him on Wikipedia. He is witty, a great storyteller, and one heck of a man.

It’s interesting that both of these books come from the turn of the last century (late 1800s to early 1900s). I didn’t do that on purpose.

I am currently reading Harry Potter (the first book) to the kids (both Sophie and Micah – I’m so glad Sophie’s been able to sit still while I read to them) whenever I get a chance, and for myself I am in the middle of Start with Why. It’s not a great read so far but the ideas are sound.

Rochelle

Rochelle doesn’t stop reading. I have a hard time keeping up with what she’s read and what she’s reading. She got a new Kindle Paperwhite for her birthday this year and has been absolutely loving it. We’re thrilled that these wonderful devices are so inexpensive (relatively speaking). I’ve been using the now unavailable Kindle Touch for a couple years now and I’ve loved it. I have to admit that Rochelle’s Kindle is nicer. Mine works just fine for me though.

That being said, now that we are both kindle users we have been stockpiling kindle books left and right. We enjoy watching for books we love to appear in the daily deals (sometimes being discounted to just a dollar or two).

How the Kids Are

Micah


Like I said, we’re in the middle of some big things for and with Micah. I can’t provide too much of an update on what I want to talk about, but I can say that he has been enjoying his summer break. He and Sophie have been working hard keeping Rochelle as far from sanity as possible.

This week he’s been attending a daily scout camp. They’ve been going on nature walks and visiting museums and who knows what else. Perhaps we’ll have to bring back the feature where he writes his own entry here. He’s not terribly good at keeping me up to date with what’s been going on in his life. It’s not all his fault though – I’ve been working the night shift and I just don’t get much time with the kids. Everything I write, for the most part, is recounted to me by Rochelle.

Other than the scout activities, he’s been, like his mother, reading a lot. Beside that and what I’m not going to tell you about there just isn’t much to say. It’s 3:30 in the morning so I can’t exactly ask him for any additional input. Once more of our in-progress things have come to a close I’ll have a lot more to share here.

I often feel a little bad about how much I write about Sophie and how little I write about Micah. The thing is that Micah is generally quiet at home and keeps to himself. He’s very interesting, but he doesn’t often share with me or interact with us in a way that gives me good stories to tell.

Sophie


Sophie’s growing and getting ready for her first year of school. She’s getting very good at reading and basic (very basic) math. We often find her on the couch or in her bed sitting quietly with a book.

In fact, I wish I had the photo (I’ll try to get Rochelle to send it to me from her phone so I can post it next time) – recently we’ve been trying to get Sophie to skip naps since she won’t get naps in school. One day (this was a few months ago) she was sent off to play quietly in her room around nap time. She was specifically told that she didn’t have to take a nap. But when we went in to check on her a couple hours later we found her passed out on her back in bed with a book opened over her face. It was adorable, and we love that our kids love reading so much.

Edit: Here’s the photo. It’s great.

Though I don’t have many more details to share from the last year and change I can tell you two stories that Rochelle has recently shared with me about Sophie.

First, she knows she’s going to kindergarten this coming school year, but for the longest time when Rochelle would ask her if she was ready for school she would say something like, “um… no, not ready yet.” This went on for a month or longer. Then, just in the last week or so Rochelle was driving somewhere with the kids and Sophie was sitting quietly in her booster seat contemplating things (like she normally does when she’s not terrorizing Micah) when she broke the silence and said something to the effect of, “OK. I’m ready to go to school now.”

After giving it some thought for a while she has decided that she is ready. That’s Sophie.

Finally, several months ago Rochelle showed the kids a YouTube video she thought was funny. You’re going to have to go watch it, so I’ve embedded it below.

Anyhow, the kids call it the “trololo song.” When Rochelle showed it to the kids Micah expressed that he didn’t care for it (or something like that). As far as I know Sophie was indifferent. Since then, though, Sophie has figured out that she can bother Micah whenever she wants by humming or singing the trololo song. In the car (again) Sophie was humming the tune to the trololo song and it was really getting on Micah’s nerves. Rochelle told him something along the lines of, “if you don’t react that way she won’t keep singing it.” Micah has heard that quite a bit, and he doesn’t like that advice. This time he decided to come up with his own way of combating her annoying behavior.

“I know,” he said. “I’ll just sing something she finds equally annoying. That’ll get her to quit.” He thought about it for a second and couldn’t think of anything. So he decided to ask Sophie. “Sophie, what is your least favorite song that you think is really annoying?”

And without missing a beat Sophie leaned in real close and said in a very serious, matter-of-fact way, “the trololo song.” Micah was defeated.

Oh! That reminds me of another Sophie and Micah related story that also involves music. You’re going to have to watch another video to understand this one as well. Watch the whole thing (it’s short).

One morning Rochelle was walking Micah to school with Sophie shortly after showing this video to the kids. Micah loved this one and was singing the song the whole way. Rochelle, meanwhile, was talking to her mother on the phone. At some point Sophie ended up with the phone talking to her grandmother. Sophie decided she was done and it was time for Micah to talk to grandma. Grandma couldn’t hear it, but Micah was still singing, “I have a bad case of diarrhea” in the background. Sophie’s chosen method of handing off the phone was, “Grandma, Micah has something he needs to tell you.” Micah got embarrassed and couldn’t take the phone. Rochelle took it nearly in tears laughing. Grandma didn’t know what was funny until Rochelle explained it to her. I thought it was pretty slick of Sophie to think of saying it that way.

We are also in the middle of something for Sophie, but I’m not going to talk about it since progress has been slow. Ha ha. I was going to give you a clue but I decided not to.

Until Later

In addition to the thing with Micah and the other thing with Sophie, we are also in the middle of another thing that I can’t talk about. It’s not as big as the others, but it’s exciting for me. If you follow my personal (more nerdy) blog you might be able to figure out what the other thing is soon (I haven’t written the post yet, but I have a post planned relating to the thing).

Anyway, we’ll have a lot of exciting news in the next few months (if everything goes according to plan), and I’m hoping to blog a little more often than once every 424 days. Maybe I’ll just shoot for at least one more blog post before the end of the year. That way if I get two in I’ll feel really good about it.

Thanks for continuing to care for our family even if you thought we may have disappeared forever. We’re still here and we always enjoy hearing from you. We’ll enjoy any comments you leave and we look forward to hearing from you soon.

Since I’m in the video embedding mood tonight I’ll embed one more for you. It’s very short.

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Removing Bumps

From Family 2012

We’ve been busy! A lot has happened and we’ve been horrible about sharing. So here we go.

First of all, Rochelle and I have declared a holy war on bumps. My mom referred to it as a bump removing quest. If that’s the case, we’re about done with the quest. If we remove any more bumps, our bodies will soon cease to resemble humanoid figures.

First, Rochelle, being a red-haired, fair-skinned lady, had some moles removed to be on the safe side (we’re looking to confirm nothing is cancerous). We’re still waiting for the results, but we don’t feel there is much to be worried about.

Band-aids to the rescue!

While she was there, the doctor offered to remove a mole on her nose that protruded out a little. While not entirely unsightly, she decided it couldn’t hurt to be gone with it. So now she proudly wears a Band-aid where her bump used to be.

Just before she went to see her doctor about the moles, I decided to get my bump removed. Mine was a large cyst on the back of my head, in the right-hand hemisphere. It was about the size of a small marble melted into my skull, though it was obviously soft tissue.

The surgeon who would perform the surgery was wonderful. She reminded me of a good friend of ours; a certain lady living in Colorado with several children who has an imposing figure and a warm personality. We love her and her family dearly, and it was nice having a surgeon who commanded the same level of trust and warmth, especially since she would be the first person to ever cut me open.

The bump on the back of my head had become a long running joke among my coworkers. It quickly became known as “the bump” and it was said to be responsible for my oft appreciated intelligence and problem solving capabilities. Before I went in for the surgery one of my coworkers had me promise to ensure the surgeon would not remove the contents of the bump if it resembled a brain.

I shared this with the surgeon, and she promised that she would leave it alone if it looked like a brain. I saw it afterward, and it definitely did not look like a brain.

My battle wound. It's got medical super-glue on it.

Anyhow, the wound is just now beginning to feel sore, but I am glad to have my first surgery over with. I have a pretty intense irrational fear of needles, and that has been a huge barrier to me getting work like this done. It doesn’t mean I’ll be jumping under the knife for any little issue that needs resolving, but it does mean that I might be more willing to consider surgery now that I’ve had my insides messed with.

Books We are Reading

Brian

Sadly I’ve been on a bit of a reading-break. I’ve slowly been making my way through The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King with Micah for his bedtime stories, but I’m stuck at 35% of the way through the final book of the Hunger Games trilogy. I really don’t have a good excuse for not reading, and I’ll probably finish that soon. My next reading project is the Harry Potter series, since that came out in ebook format recently and we went ahead and purchased it for my Kindle. I’ll probably read it to Micah for his bedtime story, and work on shorter Kindle Singles and other free items from my collection in my personal reading time.

Rochelle

Rochelle is currently on the Children of the Mind, the final book of the Ender Saga. She had read the first and third books in the series before, but never all of them together. The whole four book series was on sale for about $15 not long ago, so we got them. That’s a great series. Once she finishes the final book she plans on going to the library to get more books (she took a vacation from using the library, but she wants to get back into it).

How the Kids Are

Micah

From Family 2012

Probably some of the biggest news this time comes from Micah. A few weeks ago I learned that ThinkGeek was going to host an event at their headquarters just an hour from our house.

If you’re not familiar with ThinkGeek, they are an awesome Internet-based vendor that caters to the nerdiest, geekiest crowd out there. They specialize in all things science fiction, bacon, ninja, games, science, technology, and anything else you might be able to geek out over.

So when they posted an application to come out and visit them, I immediately registered. It was going to be a pizza and a movie night, along with a raffle for some prizes, and an opportunity to help them get rid of 33 old eMac computers they once used for their customer service representatives. I thought it could be kind of neat to get one of the eMacs for Micah. Then, in the application, I saw that they would allow you to bring one guest, and that the event was supposed to be kid friendly (“geeklings welcome,” they said).

Rochelle doesn’t know this, but here’s how it played out in my head. She was on the phone. My first thought was to bring her with me, since we do everything together and I knew she liked ThinkGeek. But since she was on the phone and I wanted to submit my application quickly (this is a very popular company, and I knew there would instantly be hundreds of applications), I didn’t have time to ask her if she had any plans for the night of the event. I waited for a minute, but it was apparent she wasn’t going to get off the phone any time soon.

I thought about bringing Sophie, since she’s young and easy-going in public, but I knew the event would go late into the evening, and I thought she might get bored or cranky. Then I thought about how often I saw Micah reading through the ThinkGeek catalog. He did it frequently, often talking about the products in there. I knew he’d love to visit their headquarters, and so I decided to just list him as my guest.

I didn’t think I’d really get selected anyway.

So I was surprised to see that we were accepted just a few days later. I didn’t tell Micah though, I wanted it to be a surprise.

The weekend before the ThinkGeek visit Micah and Rochelle went to a scouting event while I took Sophie out to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy center (more on that below). Sophie really enjoyed the alone time with her dad, and we had a great time. So it was only fitting that Micah got the next weekend with me.

All I told Micah about the event before we went was that it was an extremely unique opportunity, and that out of hundreds of applicants (I didn’t know the exact figure) we were one of only twenty applications to get accepted. In all, there would be just over forty people there. Micah speculated that there must have been a thousand applicants, but that figure seemed a little high to me.

When we pulled up and he saw the ThinkGeek sign in the window of the office building, he said he got so happy he almost cried. He is known for being melodramatic and exaggerating things, but I could tell he was pretty excited.

I didn’t get any photos, but you should have seen him roaming around with the tour group, looking at all of the things he had seen in the catalogs, and marveling at all of the geekiness.

Then we got to the room full of eMacs, and I told him we got to take one home for him. I was the first one in to get a good keyboard and mouse from the box (with a power cord, of course), then I handed those to him to carry and I heaved an eMac into my arms. The nice tour guide lady (@Stephonee) held the door for us and we took it straight out to the car.

Micah thought the movie was infinitely more humorous than any of the other 42 invitees, he spilled soda on himself, he accidentally poured ground red pepper on one of his slices of pizza, and he didn’t get too upset when we didn’t win anything from the raffle (we still got a free computer). He even got to ask one of the ThinkGeek employees how the company got started (you’ll have to ask him about that yourself sometime).

Oh, and at the end we were informed that there had indeed been about a thousand applications for the event. So yeah, Micah was right.

The next day we set up his computer. He has been extremely pleased with it. We are not going to allow the machine on the Internet (for a vast variety of reasons), so I’m transporting downloaded .dmg files (disk images to install Mac software) on a thumb drive to install on his system) from our family desktop, and anything he wants to print will be transferred to the family computer since he won’t have a printer either. He’s got lots of homework helping software, in addition to some fun creativity software, and even a couple of games. I keep my eye open for more free software all the time. Since it’s an older system it’s not hard to find free stuff.

If you know of anything fun we could put on an older Power PC chipset running OS X 10.5 (Leopard), please let us know!

Oh, and a few weeks ago he also learned to ride a bike finally. I spent a couple hours helping him balance and get a feel for how it moved, then after mulling it over in his head for a couple of weeks he went out and tried it on his own and was able to do it almost as though he had never needed lessons. He picked it up pretty quickly.

Sophie

From Family 2012

Like I said earlier, Sophie and I got to go to the Udvar-Hazy center together. It was a lot of fun. It was the first Saturday after shuttle Discovery had been moved in, so there were a ton of people lined up to see her. We got there an hour before they opened the doors. Sophie was excited to see the shuttle, and when we got home she started playing more with a toy shuttle I had picked up a long time ago and given to her.

A couple of quick anecdotes about Sophie: Lately Sophie has taken to making up cute little songs about just about anything. She’ll just randomly burst into song about things that she hears or thinks of. It’s really cute, but sometimes it’s a little creepy. Last night Rochelle was giving me an update about a little girl who had gone missing in the local area. Rochelle said, “they found her, she had drowned in the lake.” Behind us we hear Sophie burst into song, “Drowned in the lake, drowned in the lake. Drowned in the lake, drowned in the lake!” It was a sweet voice singing a pretty melody, but my goodness… What strange things she sings about!

She’s also been a little obsessed with using death, dead, killed, and other similar ideas in her play and everyday communication. At a children’s play-place tonight she and a much younger little girl were playing. Sophie had removed her socks before the other little girl arrived so that she could climb up the plastic slide easier. But with the younger girl I didn’t want Sophie going up while the little girl came down. That could have been bad. So I called Sophie over to me (sitting just a few feet from the father of the little girl) and asked, “Sophie, what do you think would happen if that little girl came down the slide while you were climbing up it?”

Sophie responded, “I could bonk my head, then I would fall over, and I will be dead.”

The father next to me was quite amused, especially since Sophie always delivers lines about death with a mixture of deadpan humor, frankness, and sweetness.

Not a whole lot more to say about that silly girl. She’s obviously been cute and silly the whole time since our last update, but we’ve been pretty busy, and the numbing medicine is really starting to wear off, leaving my scalp in pain and creating an intense distraction that is making writing quite difficult.

Until Later

We try to keep this blog from going so long without updates, but I’ve long since decided that making promises about the frequency of posts is a futile endeavor.

We love you all, and we appreciate all of your readership, prayers, love, and support. Stay tuned. If you don’t like visiting our blog to find that no updates have posted since the last time you checked, you can subscribe to the RSS feed, or you can sign up to get updates in your email inbox using the form in the upper right-hand corner.

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Mini Teaser Update

We’re gearing up to begin work on a huge secret family project that we can hardly wait to share with you all. Of course, it’s so secret that only a few people know about it. In fact, you now know as much as the kids do about our secret family project.

Regardless, we’ve got ourselves some tools and we aren’t afraid to use them. To tease you a little, I’ve uploaded a mic test we did with Sophie to a site called Humble Voice. You can listen to the mic test or even download it by following this link: LINK.

As I get more teaser material I’ll likely upload it to that site as well. Notice the bar along the top-ish portion that says Home / Music / Video / Photography / Art / Writing. I’ll add stuff under those categories as we produce things to share.

Anyhow. We’ve got our audio editing software all tested out (to make the file for the mic test), we’ve got the mic all tested out, and next week we’ll be building and testing even more stuff.

This is going to be fun.

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And That’s a Wrap

From Family 2011

I’ve gone more than seven months without blogging here. Gee, you’d think life has been stressful or something…

Gladly, the stress in our home has been mostly distributed among the adults. Micah and Sophie are happily unaware of the majority of our family stress, although I’m sure they feel it from time to time, especially on days when Rochelle and I are not at our best.

Regrettably (and gladly, I suppose), we are aware that a huge source of unnecessary stress in our home comes from clutter, disorder and excess physical belongings. They distract from our spiritual needs, they cloud our thinking, and they impart their chaos to our thoughts. I’ve been aware of this growing problem for many years now, but only recently has it become so acute that I began contriving a solution and countermeasures.

As long as I can remember I’ve had a fondness for simplicity, a longing for a concise collection of belongings that could be easily transported, sorted and organized. Of course I haven’t always lived that way very well. I tend to hang on to things that I may need one day. Just in case. I love to be prepared, but preparedness isn’t about excess, it’s about necessary necessities.

I remember with great fondness my mission time in Mexico and my time living in small spaces as a student at SCAD. Moving from place to place required no more than a couple of hours to pack, and most (if not all) of my belongings could be carried by me alone. I sorely miss that mobility, and now my goal is to get my entire family into a position where we know what we own, why we own it, and how each item of our belongings is essential to our goals and priorities.

This will be a slow process, and one that I hope to share with you along the way.

If you’re interested, I highly recommend a book that I read recently called “Simplify” by Joshua Becker. I believe it is for Kindle only, but it is inexpensive and can be read from any Kindle reading application, even in a Web Interface that Amazon provides.

If you do not wish to pay for the book, you should still check out Becker’s website. Most of the ideas in his book are outlined in ample detail in his many blog posts there. I should warn you that I find his tone regarding simplification to be a tad overzealous at times, often coming off as a bit preachy. Rochelle didn’t feel preached at when she read Simplify, but I did in a couple of places. So if you’re not one to be preached at, perhaps just following our adventures here with my sporadic blog posts will be sufficient.

Although, in my excitement I can’t promise I won’t preach at you either. Simplification is something that I believe we should all strive for.

That is our great endeavor this year. It isn’t a new year’s resolution, but it is a change in our home that began with the new year.

The rest of our family news will be covered in greater detail below, but suffice it to say that we’ve experienced a wonderful close to 2011, and we are all looking forward to 2012.

In the latter half of 2011:

  • Micah started at a new school.
  • Sophie saw a neuro-ophthalmologist.
  • We flew out to visit my parents in Arizona.
  • Rochelle and I got new shoes.

Books We are Reading

Brian

Hurray! I’m reading again. My main Christmas gift this year was a new Kindle Touch. Since I got my Kindle, I’ve actually read several books. Most of them have been small, free books (just to get my reading muscles warmed back up after such a long period of minimal use), but I did read The Hunger Games, book one. I enjoyed it, but I can’t say it was one of my favorites. The story was excellent, but I wasn’t able to connect with the characters, and the first person perspective paired with the present tense writing style didn’t agree with me. I think I’ll enjoy the movie, and I plan on reading the next book in the trilogy soon.

Currently, I am actually attempting to finish nine books that I’ve started in the last year. The one I started most recently on my Kindle is The Frog Princess. I’m not going to recommend this book to anyone except the most curious. It’s not horrible, but I’m only a third of the way through and I am going to have to force myself to finish it. I want to finish it, but it’s not the best writing for me.

If you really want to keep up with my reading, I log all of my progress on books I am currently reading, rate and review books I’ve read, and I even keep track of books I intend to read at a site called Goodreads. Here’s the link to my profile page there: http://www.goodreads.com/brianhaddad

Rochelle

Rochelle has always read a ton. She is currently knee deep in her twelfth read-through of the Harry Potter series. I think she’s on book 5 or somewhere thereabouts. I lose track of how many times she’s read them and which book she is on.

For Christmas she got all 8 of the Harry Potter movies on Blu-Ray. We’ve been watching them since we got back home from our little vacation, and so far we’re halfway through the sixth movie. I haven’t read the books, so I’m trying to enjoy the movies just as they are, but I can’t help but notice inconsistencies in the characters and holes in the plots – all of which Rochelle assures me is the result of the movies being inaccurate. I plan to read the Harry Potter series once the ebooks are released later this year.

Rochelle is also on Goodreads, and she too keeps track of books she liked, books she plans to read, and sometimes even books that she is currently reading (unless she is reading something that she’s read before). You can visit her profile there at: http://www.goodreads.com/rochellehaddad

How the Kids Are

Micah

From Family 2011

This year Micah started going to a new school. For his first two years here in Maryland he attended a school just outside of the military base where we live. The school was mediocre at best, often causing more problems than it solved with new policies and rules.

By the end of his second grade year there, Rochelle had nearly reached the limits of her patience dealing with the school, and to her great delight a new public charter school was granted permission to operate on  base.

Unfortunately, the new school, called Imagine Andrews, does not yet have a dedicated, official school building (they are imagining they have a school building). For this year they are stationed in a run-down, hastily remodeled maintenance building at the edge of one of the base golf courses. By next school year they hope to complete construction on an actual school building, complete with a much needed cafeteria, gymnasium, playground and additional classroom space.

The curriculum seems to be challenging Micah so far, which is good. There are several problems, since it is a new school being run by a new faculty in cramped conditions, but we are doing our best to remain positive and supportive of their efforts.

Micah, along with the rest of us, was excited to go back to Arizona to visit his Grandma and Grandpa Haddad. Amazingly, neither of our children showed any concern that Santa wouldn’t be able to find them in a different home.

Micah came home with plenty of cool gifts, including some fun games and projects, Lego sets, spy gear, and some books. He doesn’t know it yet, but his toy collection is going to be drastically reduced under our new policy of simplification, and we are going to help him ensure that his toys are limited to the most versatile, fun toys that he can find. Of course, we aren’t going to be totally oppressive with this, but it will be good for him to be discerning and thoughtful about what to keep and what to get rid of. I learned a lot as a child when my parents would make me dump my toy collection on the ground and think hard about what to keep. I’m hoping he’ll remember the activity with the same fondness that I do now.

Sophie

From Family 2011

Sophie is doing especially well. Every day she shows us new ways that she is smarter than we previously suspected, and she is developing an awesome sense of humor, along with a sharp attitude.

As mentioned above, she did have to see a neuro-ophthalmologist. It started when her last MRI in November generated some concern. We do not yet have any real reason to worry, but there appears to be some thickening in an area that her doctors are sure is merely scar tissue. It is not unheard of for scar tissue to thicken a little, even a few years after surgery. However, there is a possibility that this thickening could be a type of tumor growth.

Some of you have been lucky enough to see Sophie recently, and if you’ve seen her recently it’s likely she’s shown you her “eye trick.” She recently learned that she can roll her eyes up and point them in two different vertical directions. When she showed her doctors, they decided to send her to a specialist (the neuro-ophthalmologist) to see if the anomaly could be related to a new tumor growth.

With this new specialist, Dr. Avery, Sophie was a little angel. He was particularly impressed with her every step of the way through the appointment. He assessed her vision with one of the most in-depth eye exams I’ve ever seen, always amazed at her intelligence, cooperation and maturity. He couldn’t stop raving about how well she was doing.

Near the end of the examination he informed us that she would need eye drops to dilate her pupils. He said that it would “S-T-I-N-G a little” and that there was usually a lot of “S-C-R-E-A-M-I-N-G” with other children. Rochelle and I looked at each other, then told him that he didn’t need to spell it out with her. We explained to Sophie that Dr. Avery was going to put some drops in her eyes that would sting and hurt a little, but that it would go away fast.

I had her rest her head in my lap and helped the doctor hold her head still while he applied the drops. She barely budged, and didn’t complain even a little. Dr. Avery’s amazement was complete. He couldn’t recall precisely the last time he had seen such a cooperative, brave patient.

In the end, Dr. Avery concluded that the eye issue is a result of the original tumor and swelling that she had two years ago, though there was no visible sign that it was a direct result of the swelling (apparently you can see that sort of damage quite clearly even years later on the back of the eye). He was certain that there was no evidence that this eye problem was a sign of any new tumor growth, which came as a great relief to us all.

Sophie especially loved the trip out to Arizona, and had been talking about seeing her uncles, aunt, cousins and grandparents for several weeks beforehand.

For Christmas she also got some craft items, some books, a few toys and her favorite: a pink Nintendo DSi. She may not look terribly excited in the photo above, but she plays it nearly every day, and has a particular fondness for a certain princess game.

Sophie’s next MRI is in February (on Valentine’s day) and we will likely post an update after we get the results.

Until Later

Especially now that we have something specific to write about, and since its process will help me feel more organized about life in general, I expect to be a little better about blogging. But alas I’ve never successfully promised to be better about blogging, and I’m not going to make any promises!

I trust that you’ve learned to be satisfied with my ineptitude at blogging, and I should likewise be more forgiving with myself.

It is our deepest and greatest hope that all of you have transitioned safely and happily into 2012. We look forward to making sure we blog at least once this year, and we also look forward to your emails, Facebook posts, phone calls, text messages and old-fashioned paper mail.

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Filed under Celebrations, Exciting, Holidays, Sophie PMA, Vacation

Five Month Radio Silence

From Family 2011

It seems I suddenly became a terrible blog administrator. I was doing fairly well for quite some time, only missing a month or two every once in a while, but then 2011 happened and it’s been five months since my last post (almost to the day!). I did do one little post on my personal blog in April, but that one wasn’t a very good one. So within the next couple of days I hope to have this one and my personal blog updated.

Going off our Family 2011 photo album, I can see that we’ve done quite a few things already this year. We’ve been to the tunnels of Crystal City, we went ice skating in Pentagon City, we’ve been to the Smithsonian, the Supreme Court, the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy hangar complex, and we enjoyed a visit from Grandma and Grandpa Haddad for Micah’s baptism. We all enjoyed our birthdays (they are all within the first four-and-a-half months of the year), Rochelle’s family had a wedding and a funeral (both of which she attended), and I may have finally decided on a career path (this is a big deal). Some friends of ours left the area, some came to visit, and we’ve made a few new ones. Overall, everyone has enjoyed good health, and we are doing well.

Oh, and I got to ride in a helicopter.

Books We are Reading

Brian

Despite the recently circulating rumors, I can read. In fact, I recently finished a book, and afterward decided it was time to catch up on the last eight months worth of magazines I had been letting pile up.

I’ve always been an avid reader of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics, the former being my favorite, and the latter having several practical elements that prevent me from being able to ignore it entirely. As a subscriber, upon the arrival of either, I would have it finished before the day’s end under normal circumstances, but with work being as stressful as it has been, I began piling them up back in August and hadn’t gotten around to reading them until this month.

For more about the book that I read, you’ll have to wait to read about it at my personal blog (that post is up now).

Rochelle

Rochelle just finished reading the Harry Potter series again. This is something she does regularly.

After finishing that, she began reading The Poisonwood Bible. It took until about the  halfway point before she really got into it, but she seems to be enjoying it quite thoroughly now.

How the Kids Are

Micah

From Family 2011

While many of you share our religious views, much of our family may not be familiar with our beliefs.

In an attempt to quickly and briefly address any questions, I will share our views on what I think are the most common differences between religions when it comes to baptism: how to do it and who should do it (at what age).

We believe in baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, as taught in the New Testament. We also believe that the ordinance should be performed by one holding the authority of the priesthood, that same priesthood that John the Baptist held (he being a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses).

Finally, we believe that young children, before they are accountable for their own actions, have no need for baptism since they are not yet in need of a remission of their sins. Yes, we believe that baptism is a necessary step in our journey to Heaven, but small children are innocent before the Lord. Therefore, only after they become accountable for their own sins, knowing and choosing their own actions, are they able to make the decision to be baptized.

Micah, having reached the age of accountability, decided that he wanted to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He made this decision knowing that it was not something we required of him and knowing that he could wait to make the decision later if he should so choose.

The photo above is just moments after coming out of the chilly water.

I have to tell you, I felt bad for him. That water was cold. Preparations had been made so that the water would be warm. They filled the baptismal font earlier that morning with nice, warm water. Before dunking him in the water, we had a small service in which we prayed, sang and listened to some remarks about baptism from my father. He smeared peanut butter on his face. The children loved it. Then we all went into the room where the font is located and were shocked to find that all of the water had drained!

So, with only a little water in the hot water heater’s tank, they began to fill the font again. Of course, rather than wait several hours to fill it full of warm water, we had to settle for a little hot water and mostly cool water. We didn’t even wait for it to fill to the optimal depth. Having served a mission for our church and having done a few baptisms before, I knew that I could get him under water no deeper than my knees. So we filled the font until just after my mother’s remarks (she spoke about the Holy Ghost, a gift we receive after baptism as part of our confirmation into the Church). Then we all went back in to the font room. The water was pretty cool. Micah shivered pretty hard. With just one good dunk though he was baptized.

Because the immersion under the water must be complete, people often have to be dunked more than once if any part of them fails to submerge. Micah only had to endure the biting cold water for one submersion though. He was glad.

In addition to his baptism, he has enjoyed seeing the museums with us, he enjoyed the ice skating, and he’s been doing well in school.

Sophie

From Family 2011

Whether she’s cracking her mother up with the angry mean face, getting an MRI, or hanging out with me after work, Sophie is the brightest star in our home. She can cheer anyone up with a hug, melt anyone’s heart with a smile, or make even the angriest parent crack a smile with her antics. Undeniably, she has the cutest toes in the house, and she gives the best hugs.

Obviously, with five months having gone by, a lot has happened to tell about, but I can’t possibly remember it all. I’m really terrible about keeping a journal (these blogs are the best I can do most of the time, and we all see how well that’s working out).

In February she turned three. She is very aware of how old she is, and she knows she’ll be turning four next. She tells people this from time to time. Also, she understands relative age fairly well, tagging anyone younger than her as being one or two years old, and anyone older as at least four or five. Just recently she informed me that I am older than her, estimating my age as being four, then (seeing that I am obviously more than just one year older than she is) changing her guess to five (with an “oops, silly me” giggle).

Every now and then Rochelle and I share short little blurbs about Sophie on Facebook. Here are a few from each of us (more recent ones come first):

Rochelle:

I was watching a movie with Sophie. Two people started kissing in the movie and she said, “Look at those two people kissing.”
I asked her how that made her feel and she said, “Huhuhu, jealous.”

Sophie: Don’t sing anymore. It’s my turn to sing.
Me: Okay, you sing it then.
Sophie: I don’t know how to sing this song!

Me: We’re going on a toad trip tomorrow.
Sophie: Rearry!?!
Me: Really.
Sophie: Rearry!?!
Me:Yes. Really.
Sophie with a wistful look in her eyes: Can you take me to see the lanterns?

Brian:

Sophie (playing by herself) – “I did it! I am AWESOME!”

Sophie (holding MY flashlight): “I’m going to play with it.”
Me: “Can I please have it back? It’s mine.”
Sophie: “No, it’s mine.”
Me: “No it’s not.”
Sophie: “I’m Sophie and I’m the lost princess. It’s mine.”
I took it back. She’s getting better at this.

Rochelle: Sophie, say Wild Thornberrys.
Sophie: Wild Thornbabies. Wild Thornbabies to the sky!

As you can tell, we thoroughly enjoy having her in our family. She can be difficult, but it’s worth it.

Oh, and she’s in this video.

Also, her latest MRI looked clean again, so we won’t be going in for an MRI after three months like we had been. We get to wait six months instead.

Until Later

Despite five months worth of activity to report on, I wanted to keep this post short-ish to prevent you from taking one look and turning back out of fright. I promise I’ll try to be more regular than I have been so far this year. If you have anything you’d like to tell us, leave a comment or contact us using the contact information on the blog’s main page.

We love you all and hope you’re having as awesome a year as we are so far. Be sure to check out our Family 2011 photo album to see a few of the things we’ve seen thus far.

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Filed under Exciting, Travels

Christmas Card

From Family 2010

We are terrible about sending cards out, so consider this your holiday card.

In a lot of ways, this is better than any of the other cards you have received this holiday season. This one has links to videos that are long and full of kids opening presents.

So go check out the final version of our Family 2010 album at Picasaweb, and watch the videos below.

Oh, and I’m not going to embed it here, but on our channel you can watch a really cute video of Sophie praying in her sleep.

We are continuing a family tradition from when I was a kid in which we open one non-Santa present on Christmas Eve before going to bed. Both of these presents came from a program at work where gifts are purchased specifically for children using donated funds. Pretty neat stuff.

The next two videos will immerse you in our Christmas morning present opening extravaganza. Many thanks to all the friends and relatives who helped make this possible. We love you all.

Later that evening I went around to see what the kids were doing. This is what I found.

That’s all for this year, folks. Halfway through next month y0u can expect our January blog post. Until then, many thanks and much love from the Haddad family.

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Filed under Celebrations, Holidays

Christmas is Coming

From Family 2010

While there may have been no excuse for my negligence in posting here during the month of September, I hope that all of you know by now that I do not post normally during November. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I have participated for the last three years (and finished a winner every time).

Be sure to visit our Family 2010 album as the year is drawing to a close. There you will find photos from our recent date (no kids!) to an ice skating rink at the Pentagon Row in Pentagon City. Also be sure to visit our YouTube channel where you can see three videos that were uploaded since the last post.

Books We are Reading

Brian

I just finished NaNoWriMo. Give me a break. I’m still looking with guilt at my unchanging pile of books to read, and every day I feel that I inch closer to actually reading one. However, in the short term I really want to see if I can edit my NaNoWriMo novel into something bearable to read.

On a nostalgic note, I’d like to add that I’ve been enjoying playing an updated version of an old game I loved when I was younger. Nintendo recently re-released GoldenEye 007 for the Wii. It was originally one of the best Nintendo 64 games ever made, and they did a wonderful job refreshing it for the new system. If you ever played and loved GoldenEye 64, you must try it on the Wii.

Rochelle

Rochelle is currently re-reading “Reading Lolita in Tehran” for the third time. Reading has been relatively routine for her during the last several months, so she doesn’t really recall anything worth sharing. Keep watching this space for something interesting though, because I still haven’t been reading squat.

How the Kids Are

Micah

From 020

For the time being, I am giving up on trying to get Micah to write anything for this thing. Maybe it will be a summer only event. Until then, I’ll just fill you in on what he’s been up to.

He won three awards at school today. One for attendance because he thinks we’d sell him if he ever skipped school, one for being nice (while he is nice most of the time, we are a little surprised he got that one), and one for getting a 4.0 (the one in the picture, where he’s posing with his teacher, Ms. Reynolds).

He is both excited for and dreading Christmas, mostly because he really, REALLY wants a Nintendo DSi, but we’ve made it very clear to him that they are way too expensive for us to get right now, and we constantly remind him that he has a history of abusing electronics, and we wouldn’t want to let him have a DSi unless we knew he could handle it without breaking it. Plus, he manages to convince himself every year that he’s getting coal (and someday we’re going to get it for him as a prank, but when he’s older and won’t be scarred for life). Overall, he’s absolutely sure he’s not getting a DSi, but he’s still holding on to a last shred of hope that Santa will put one under the tree in spite of all we’ve said.

What he doesn’t know is that we have had a DSi for him sitting in my closet for over three months. We’re really excited about giving it to him, and we REALLY hope he doesn’t break it. We also got him a certain Pokemon game that he wants. I’m going to try to get good video of him getting this gift, because we’re sure he’s going to freak out. We are hoping for a reaction like this kid (YouTube Video), but it’s probably going to be more like this kid (YouTube Video).

I was going to just let you be excited with him, but in this case I decided to take you on our journey as the parents who are waiting as patiently as we can to give our child a gift he really, really wants.

Sophie

From Family 2010

No news for Sophie. She’s still just being cute. She now finds interesting words to append, “ies” to the end of (“pearsies for pears, “friendsies,” and many more). She has become quite a funny little girl. She even gets a lot more jokes now, and her little, “I get it” laugh is super cute.

Sophie has learned how to button buttons, and she helped extensively with the tree decorating (which happened almost two weeks late this year).

A long while back, when Sophie was learning not to be afraid of water, we used to have her lie down in the tub with a little water and we’d move her around “like a mermaid” (in her own words). I took a video with my phone, and finally posted it to YouTube. Yeah, it’s got a naked girl in it, but it doesn’t show anything she’d be too embarrassed about later in life, I hope.

She has had a strong interest in letters recently, learning to spell her name and recognize most of the letters in her name. Of course, when she spells her name, she goes through the, “S – O – P – H – I,” then she gets distracted by the “H, I” and continues with, “J, K, L…” She recognizes the “S” the “O” and the “P” most of the time, though sometimes “corrects” herself and says that the “O” is a circle (which it is, but not when that circle is being a letter).

For Sophie’s gifts, you get to be with her on her journey. I’m not telling what we got her, but it’s going to be good.

Oh, and in November we took Sophie in for yet another MRI. Things are looking great in that little girl’s head. No new tumor growth, and her brain is finally starting to look more like a normal one (some of the cavities that expanded when the fluid built up and where the tumor was may never go completely away, but they are minor and hardly noticeable now). Also, the one year anniversary of her surgery is this Saturday (the surgery was on a Friday last year). We are full of gratitude this year for all that happened last year and we are looking forward to spending the holidays with that beautiful little girl again.

As for what lies ahead, we still don’t know. We’re waiting to get an appointment with the man who can help determine what to do from here. We’ll let you know as soon as we know anything.

Until Later

Well, that’s it for this month. Shortly after Christmas I’ll make an effort to get all of the videos and photos we take posted. Thanks in advance to all of you who may or may not have sent or are sending gifts, money or love. We appreciate all that you do as our cherished and beloved family, friends and blog readers.

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Filed under Exciting, Holidays, Milestones, Sophie PMA