Category Archives: day in the life

Conversations with Cutie

For those of you who are keeping track, my youngest son is just a little more than two years old now. And far all ages have been good ages with my sons (so far) this is a particularly special age for me. It’s the age of language acquisition.

He’s a good talker, and has been using full sentences for a couple months now. But listening to him is still a bit of an acquired skill, because…. well… he’s still a baby, so all of his words don’t quite sound right.

By the way (Pat said, managing to tangent away from his primary purpose in the blog in a record-breaking two paragraphs) did you know that the reason it takes kids so long to talk isn’t primarily mental? A huge portion of it is actually physical. They lack the physical control required to make the proper sounds with their mouths.

It makes sense when you think about it. Learning how to pick up a pencil is hard, but learning to whistle is *way* harder. Learning how to accurately and consistently recreate the 42-46 phonemes that comprise American English…. well… it’s easy to forget how hard it is until you see a kid struggling with the process.

Think about it, your lips, tongue, jaw, and vocal cords all have to orchestrate things together *very* precisely just to make just *one* phoneme. Like an “Mmmmm” sound. And each phoneme has many variations.

Then realize that even a simple word like “more” has *three* of those phonemes. And all of those need to be pulled off correctly, together, in about a tenth of a second.

And that’s just for one word.

This is why a lot of parents do sign language with their young kids. Kids can understand you much younger than they can talk (Most folks who have studied a foreign language know the same feeling: being able to understand a question in your new language, but not answer it.) Babies can think in words much earlier than they can *say* most words, which means they can communicate with you much sooner than you think if you teach them a few gestures.


(Don’t look so smug, little man. That’s a pretty sloppy “more.”)

The reason parents understand their kids better than anyone else is because we’re more experienced with our own children’s  particular accent and dialect. And even then, *we’re* clueless some times as to what the kids are saying.

This is why parents constantly repeat what kids say back to them. Partially we do this so children can hear a clearer version of what they’re saying, which helps them improve their pronunciation. But it’s also because we’re double checking what we think they’re saying. (And honestly, I’m guessing there’s some straight-up biological imperative mixed in there, too.)

Anyway, all of this is preamble and context so I can share a conversation I had with Cutie the other day.

Cutie: Daddy Faat es laou!

Me: Daddy’s fart is loud?

Cutie nods: Es yike ayafat.

I’m clueless here, so I look to Sarah.

Sarah: It’s like an elephant?

Cutie nods again: Daddy’s faat es yike a yion wohr!

Me: Daddy’s fart is like a lion?

Cutie: Wohr!

Me: It’s like a lion’s roar?

Cutie nods again.

So… yeah. Now you know. Even if you didn’t want to know, you still know. And you can’t unknow it.

Sorry about that.


P.S. In case you were wondering, having kids is pretty great.

Also posted in babies, Cutie Snoo, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat24 Responses

Using Your Words

If you read this blog (and I’m guessing most of you do) you know I tell a lot of stories about my older boy, Oot, who’s creeping up on 6.

I have another son, who’s a little over 18 months old. I don’t talk about him as much for the simple reason that when you’re that young, there aren’t as many stories to share. Babies are, to be completely honest, fairly useless. They can’t do much, either physically or conversationally.


But Cutie Snoo has been talking more lately. What’s more, he’s started saying “dada” again, after a few months of heartbreaking hiatus.

It’s a fascinating time in a kid’s development. He’s learning how to express himself, and if you’re good at interpreting, you can get a little window into how his charmingly unspoiled little baby mind works.

Tonight, I ended up having to do a fair amount of work (because that’s what Labor Day is all about, right? Working until 9:30 pm?) and as a result, I missed my kid’s bedtime. By the time I wrapped up the things that needed immidate attention and opened the door to my office, the house was dark and quiet.

Still, I crept into the room where they sleep with Sarah. It was dark and as I stepped close she said, “the end,” finishing what was no doubt their bedtime story.

“dada” Cutie said.

I crawled into the bed and lay next to him. It’s a big bed, but I still had to move carefully because he’s so tiny and it’s so dark.

I smooched him, and he squirmed around a little bit until he was nestled next to Sarah, then he said: “my mama.”

There’s only so much that text can do to replicate a baby’s speech. Most linguists agree that nonverbal communication (which includes things like tone, inflection, and body language) accounts for about 80% of the total information transmitted when we talk. But when you’re a baby and your entire sentence is two words, that number is pushed even higher.

Here’s part of what he was saying: “My mom is here.”

But he was also saying, “Look at me, cuddled up against my mom.”

But he was also saying, “Look, this is my space. There are boobs, like, right here, and they’re great, and that’s kinda my thing, and I’m going to sleep next to them. So just be clear, I’m glad you’re here, but don’t try to pull any shit with me. This is *my* mom. Okay? Okay.”

(In his defense, I do sometimes tease him by trying to steal the boobs from him while he’s nursing. So this is not an unfounded fear on his part.)

Last and not least, he was also saying, “Isn’t this great?”

It was clear as day what he meant. And now that I was closer to him and my eyes had adjusted a little, I could see him smiling. His tone was so contented that it was actually kinda smug. And his body language… he wasn’t just relaxed. He was deliberately and theatrically lounging.

It made me realize how awesome his life is. Think about it. How cool must it be to go to sleep next to the person you love without any reservation? The person who is, in effect, three quarters of the known universe? To know if you are hungry or need comfort or a cuddle, a boob is right there. Like, literally, right by your head. To know that you’re cared for. To know you’ll be taken care of. To not have any fears or worries that ride you into the night and make you wake up sweating?

What must that be like, to feel like that for days at a time?

I’m not going to lie. Thinking about it now, I’m more than slightly jealous.

But at the moment, I was jealous for a different reason. He’d said, “My mama” with such smugness and satisfaction, but he’s never said, “my dada.”

I should be better than that, I know. But I’m not. I’m not going to carry a grudge or anything, but still, I can be jealous.

“My baby,” I say, and I kiss his belly.

I say goodnight to him, and give more kisses, and promise that tomorrow I’ll try to spend more time with him.

“Bye,” he says. “Go. Go!” he pushes at me with his foot. This might sound like a dick move. But it was playful. Not mean. And there’s nothing wrong with letting someone know what you really want. If I was all geared up to snuggle with a boob as big as my head and someone was there who might ruin it for me… well… I’d kick them the hell out of my bed, too.

I get up and I say goodnight to Oot, too. (He’s on the other side of Sarah.)

Then I get up and start to leave. “Goodnight my family,” I say.

“My dada,” Cutie says, and I get all melty inside.

“My baby,” I say.

“He’s reaching up for you.” Sarah tells me, because she knows I can’t see him in the dim.

So I get down into the bed and kiss him again. A lot. On their deathbed, nobody ever says, “I wasted my life kissing babies.”

Still. Oot has school in the morning. I know I’m keeping them all from getting to sleep. So I get up.

“Mo,” Cutie says. This is one of his other few words: more.

“Mo dada,” he says. In the dark, I can see he’s reaching up again. “Mo my dada. Mo bebe dada. No bye dada bebe.”

I think it was Robert Bly who said vocabulary wasn’t important for a writer. He claimed you could write marvelous poetry even if you only knew 200 words, so long as you knew how to use them properly to get your point across…

He’s not wrong.

Later all,


Also posted in babies, Cutie Snoo | By Pat34 Responses

Snowmen and Second Chances

So earlier this month, I started to catch up on certain things in my life. I turned in a story that’s three months late. I caught up on reading my backlog of e-mail (well… most of it). I got back in touch with people I’ve been meaning to e-mail for months.

And at the beginning of the month, spring started to arrive here in Wisconsin.

You would think this would be a cheerful thing for me. Birds singing. Flowers budding. All that Disney shit.

But you’d be wrong about that.

For one thing, you’re thinking of the wrong sort of spring. In Wisconsin, spring really just means the snow melts. Everything is brown and grey and muddy. It rains. The trees stretch their bare, black branches into the slate-grey sky like they’re auditioning for a part in a particularly emo T.S. Elliot poem.

Yeah, eventually things green up. It gets warm. Trees bud. But that’s in May. That’s *late* spring. Early spring is depressing as fuck.

The other reason spring isn’t very cheerful for me is that in my head, spring isn’t a beginning time. Spring is an ending time for me. Maybe it’s because for 20+ years of my life, I lived by the school year, rather than the calendar year. And May (Which again, is spring in Wisconsin) is the end of the school year.

Whatever the reason, spring is a melancholy time for me. I don’t think, “Yay! A new year is starting!”

No. I think, “I was so busy this winter that I didn’t take time to make a single snow angel. I didn’t build a snow fort like I wanted to with Oot. I didn’t even make a snowman with him. I don’t think I even made a snowball this year.”

It’s a depressing thought.

Luckily for me, Stevens Point got about three inches of snow last week. Then last night, on Saturday, we got about four more. Good wet packing snow.

It’s nice to get a second chance. Especially when you don’t deserve it. To ignore such a gift would be reckless to the point of arrogance.

So today I took a couple hours and focused on the important things.

Best crop

(Click to Embiggen.)

Those of you who live in the uncivilized backwaters of the world might not know what Sarah is doing back there. But anyone here in Wisconsin can tell by the tracks in the snow….

We’re making snowmen. Snowpersons, rather. A whole snow family.

Snow family

The one in the middle is Oot, pretending to be a snowchild with his corncob pipe. Or, as he refers to it, his smoker.

If you have trouble with snowman gender identity, let me clarify by pointing out that the one on the right is me, while the one on the left is Sarah. You can tell because the one on the left is more cheerful, and looks better in her hat. While the one on the right is more full of shit.

And no, I’m not speaking figuratively. I’m talking about this:

full view

Can’t see it? Let me get you closer….

Close up of deer

There’s a herd of deer that regularly hang out in our backyard. This is one of the many nice things about living in central Wisconsin. Some deer poop in your snowman is a small price to pay. It’s as inoffensive as rabbit poop. The two are virtually indistinguishable, truth be told.

The other way you can tell the difference between snowme and snowsarah is that snowme has an icicle beard….

icebeard and pat

Next time, I think I’ll go for the pine beard, as the icicle one is hard to see.

If you can’t tell which one is the real me, it’s the one on the right. I have better posture than snowme, and I’m more full of shit. (Figuratively.)

Also, for those of you who are curious, that is my favorite coat. (Well… I only have two, but it’s still my favorite.) I’ve had it for over twenty years. That’s why it looks a little the worse for wear….

Anyway, to wrap things up, here’s our whole snow family:


And with that I will leave you.

May you all have a relatively pain-free tax day. May you all have ample opportunity to make snowmen, and more second chances than you deserve.


Also posted in my beard, Oot, Sarah, small adventures | By Pat52 Responses

Being Awesome

So as you might be able to tell from the lack of blogs, I’ve been working frantically behind the scenes to get things ready for this year’s Worldbuilders fundraiser.

The other day, as I was desperately trying to catch up on e-mail, Oot came into my office and asked if I could play.

I told him I couldn’t, that I had work to do.

(Note: This is one of the worst things about working as a writer. I’m at home, but technically, I’m at work. That means that, technically, I’m always available to play, and Oot can see that. But when he asks me to play, I have to say no. Again and again. And again. It breaks my heart.)

Anyway, after Oot negotiated for a while and failed to bargain his way into an episode of Shaun the Sheep, he found a pad of paper to play with. Then he  asked if me could borrow a pen so he could write a check.

A little mature, of course. But you have to realize that he is pretty grown up now. How grown up? Well, here’s a picture of him on his most recent birthday, dressed to the nines, aloofly telling you how old he is…

So I gave him a pen. He wrote a check, then stood up, bored with that game.

“Could you write me a letter?” I asked.

“Oh! Yeah, yeah, yeah!” he said.

Then he sat back down and scribbled onto another sheet of paper. There was a lot more going on this time. Writing a letter is a lot harder than writing a check, after all.

“What does the letter say?” I asked.

So he starts to tell me what he’s writing as he scribbles down his letter. I transcribed it onto a piece of paper here on my desk so I wouldn’t forget it.

The letter was as follows:

Dear Daddy,

Sometimes I really love you, but sometimes I don’t love you. Sometimes I do, but somethings I don’t.

Whenever you’re alone, I come to help you.

And that’s pretty awesome, because I love.

And that’s really all that needs to be said, isn’t it?

*     *     *

In other news, we’ll be launching Worldbuilders later this week, so brace yourself for the coolness.

This year we’re doing a bunch of new things. It’s exhausting and exciting at the same time. Plus exhausting. Did I mention exhausting?

One of the things we’ll be doing year is stretch goals. When donations reach 50K, 100K, 150K, etc, we’ll throw something new into the fundraiser.

So I wanted to ask: What do you think our stretch goals should be? What could we throw into the fundraiser at these various levels to act as donation incentives?

Any suggestions?

And, since I’m asking questions, how about one more….

This year, as I’ve mentioned previously on the blog, Worldbuilders is offering sponsorships to folks willing to donate at certain levels. Right now, we’ve got three levels of sponsorship: Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

Here’s the thing: it bugs me that the names we have for the levels are so generic. I’d like something that was a little cooler and truer to our geek heritage. But not *so* geeky that it makes us look unprofessional to potential corporate donors.

Any thoughts?

Lastly, if you’re still interested in being a part of Worldbuilders, as a donor or sponsor, it’s not too late. Just drop us a line at donations (squiggly atsign thinger)

Later all,


Also posted in Because I Love, Oot, Worldbuilders 2012 | By Pat110 Responses

On Being Manly

I’m still sorting pictures for the photo contest. The process got slowed down a little bit because Sarah and Oot got home on the 2nd, and I’ve been trying to hang out with them as much as possible before I leave for ComicCon in a week.

Sarah had a lot of stories about their vacation. They saw a bear, they went bowling for the first time, they went to some hot springs….

Oot had a different perspective on the the ten days he spent in Colorado.

He said he saw a machine with a green button and a yellow button. Then he sang me the song he’d learned while he was away (“On Top of Spaghetti”). Lastly, he asked if I’d like to see his “penis trick.”

I said I would like to see it, and was kinda relieved to discover it was just him dancing and jumping around naked.

Note to future Oot: Odds are, by the time you’re in highschool, the internet will have morphed into something new and terrifying, which means people will use it all the time and nobody will read text blogs anymore.

If you read this anyway, and you are embarrassed and angry at me for sharing this little story, just remember. I could have put up a video, but I didn’t. This is because I love you.

Then we had cake.

Why is there a tree on the cake? Because we told Oot it was a black forest cake. He said, “with trees?”

So yeah. That makes sense. It really should have trees, shouldn’t it?

The night after they got home, a bat somehow found its way into our house. Specifically, it found its way into Sarah and Oot’s room. Sarah discovered it around 3:30 AM, then came to get me.

Why? Well, I am the man of the house. I am powerful. Puissant even. I am an international bestselling author, after all. A warrior. A magician. A hero…

Anyway, the point is that bats at 3:30 are part of my job description, so she came to get me so I could deal with it.

This led to an exciting hour’s worth of adventure. Which in turn led to me sharing the following story on Facebook.

I just managed to catch a bat that had somehow gotten into my house.

I would like to reassure you all that I was extremely brave and manly through the whole process. At no point did I dive to the ground, flinch and hide my face, or emit anything resembling a high-pitched squeak.

It will help if you picture me as equal parts Crocodile Hunter (except I was up against an animal that’s pretty much the same as a mouse) James Bond (except I have a beard) and Clint Eastwood (except I was using a powder-blue bed sheet instead of a gun.)

Suffice to say I have defended my home, my woman, and my child. And I did it with considerable composure and panache.

The main reason I mention this is because a couple hours ago, someone sent me a picture they drew, memorializing the event, and I wanted to share it with y’all….

(You should really click to embiggen it.)


That was exactly what it was like. Exactly.


Also posted in being awesome, Oot | By Pat73 Responses


So Worldbuilders wrapped up yesterday. While we still have a lot of work to do, assigning and shipping out prizes over the next couple weeks,  there was a general sense of exhausted triumph in the air.

I won’t lie to you, it’s a lot of work making worldbuilders happen. It’s exhausting at times. But y’all made things worth it by stepping up and helping us raise more than I’d ever thought possible this year. I’ll do an official recap about the whole experience in just a couple of days.

Anyway, since Worldbuilders was done on the 7th, I celebrated by reporting for jury duty on the 8th.

I’ve never been called for jury duty before, and while I’m busy these days, I’ll admit that I was looking forward to it. For those of you who haven’t guessed, curiosity is one of my driving forces, and I really wanted to see what a jury trial was like. I’ve never seen any sort of trial, actually. I probably know more about the Renaissance legal system than the current one here in the US.

So no matter what happened, it was going to be news to me. So I got up at the ungodly hour of 7:30 so I could be at the courthouse at 8:00.

The first thing that I learned is that not all juries have 12 people in them. You can have a 6 person jury too. That’s the sort of jury they were going to use for this case.

What happens is this: They pick a bunch of jurors at random from a pool. Then those people have to show up at the courthouse. From that pool of potential jurors, they chose 12 of us, knowing that they’re going to pare that down to 6.

My name was the second name picked. So the second thing I learned is that the chairs in the jury box are really comfy.

Next they ask you questions to make sure that you can be a good juror. These were fairly straightforward. Do you know the plaintiff? Do you know either of the lawyers? Have any of you ever been to court? If so, do you think you were treated fairly?

They didn’t ask us these individually. They asked us as a group. It was rather casual, actually.

When the defense lawyer asked, “Is everyone here familiar with a person’s right to defend himself?” Everyone kinda nodded along.

(I’m paraphrasing here, the quotes are meant to indicate dialogue, not a verbatim transcript of the exact words said.)

I raised my hand and said, “I’m familiar with the *concept* of a person’s right to defend themselves,” I said. “In general moral terms. But I don’t know anything about a person’s *legal* right to defend themselves.”

The defense lawyer nodded and said, “That’s an important distinction.”

Then the other lawyer said to the judge, “Can we have a sidebar on this issue?”

The judge agreed.

The third thing I learned is that having a sidebar is when the lawers go up and talk to the judge privately.

That was pretty much it for the questions. They lawyers got to take turns crossing off members of the jury. It’s like the reverse of getting picked to be on someone’s team. You don’t get picked, you get un-picked.

I got unpicked.

I will admit, I felt a little snubbed. A little disappointed. I was looking forward to seeing the trial and doing my thing as a responsible citizen, being a vital part of the legal system.

I tried not to take it personally, either. I know that they had to cut 6 of us anyway. Statistically, it was a 50/50 shot.

And honestly, if I were a lawyer, I probably wouldn’t want me on a jury. Not only do I look like a hobo, but I overthink and tend to ask questions like, “What you you mean when you use the word ‘mean’?”

Nobody wants to deal with that. Nobody wants to be a part of the Stevens Point amateur production of “Six Angry Men.”

All in all, I was out of the courthouse by 9:15. And since I had my day free, I went and had pancakes.

So you see, the story had a happy ending.

*     *     *

Also, for those of you in the area, I’m going to be doing a reading/signing/Q&A in Wisconsin Rapids tonight at 7:00. I think I’m going to be reading a piece of the new novella, just to see how it sounds out loud…

Details, as always, are on the tour page

Also posted in appearances | By Pat66 Responses

A little family update

My thanks to everyone who sent well-wishes and good thoughts my way on Friday. It was a stressful day. We had to take little Oot in for surgery.

I don’t care to talk about the details, but it wasn’t anything life-threatening. It was just one of those things that we needed to do if we were going to be responsible parents.

Still, it involved putting my baby under heavy anesthesia and having someone cut him. It’s really hard to express how unacceptable I found this. You know how sometimes you can shrug something off and be cool about it? Yeah. I was the other thing. Whatever the farthest edge of the spectrum is from cool, that’s where I was, emotionally.

I tell you. I never knew what it was like to be afraid until I was a parent.

Anyway, rest assured that he’s happy and healthy. He’s taking it easy, reading books and playing with duplo.

When I asked him how he felt today, he said, “Iyhava owie belly.”

“You have an owie on your belly?” I asked.

“Owie *inna* belly,” he corrected me. He does this with only a little reproach in his voice, as if he knows that I can’t help being stupid.

This is something that’s been happening a lot over the last couple weeks. He’s been shocking me with how fine-tuned his conversation is becoming.

For example, on Friday when we were in the hospital, after he’d come out from under his anesthetic I asked him if he wanted some juice.

“Okay,” he said blearily.

I know how thirsty you can be when you come out of surgery, so I hurried to his bag and rummaged around quickly. I couldn’t lay hands on a juicebox, but I found his sippy cup full of water and flipped up the top so the straw came out.

I handed it to him, and he took hold of it kinda unsteadily. Then he got the straw into his mouth. Suck. Suck.

He swallowed and looked up at me. “Dat’s wadder inair,” he said.

At first I thought he was just making an observation. He’s a good talker these days, but still, a lot of our conversation is limited to making observations about the world, or asking and answering simple questions.

Then I realized that wasn’t what he was saying at all. I played it through my head again and caught the emphasis. “That’s wadder inair!” His tone was thick with disappointment. “Wannet JUICE,” he said, sounding hurt and more than a little betrayed.

And you know what? That’s fair. I’d promised juice and delivered water. That’s a shitty thing to do to a guy who’s just been through surgery. I hurried to get a juice box and appologized.

Still, I’m kinda stunned that he’s already at the level where he can communicate reproach. If he’s doing this at 21 months, I can’t even imagine where he’ll be in another year.

That’s all for now folks. Keep a close eye on the blog for the next couple days. I’m going to be posting up a bunch of things before I leave for ComicCon.


Also posted in Oot, recommendations | By Pat61 Responses
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