Building a computer with my daughter and Hello Ruby

I bought the Hello Ruby books for my daughter a couple months ago. She was interested in learning to code, and I had recently watched Linda Liukas’ wonderful TED talk about how she came to write her books.

So I bought both of the Hello Ruby books: one about programming, and the other about computer hardware. I read the stories in both books to my daughter, and then we paused for a time.

I realised that Liukas also made available PDFs of the computers that school kids could download and print to make little cardboard computers. I downloaded the PDFs, and had them printed on 300 gram paper the other day.

Our daughter cut out the various pieces, read about components like RAM, ROM, the CPU, and GPU, and then we sat together this afternoon and built her computer.

Having done this, it may be time to return to the books, and start exploring some of the exercises in the books. It’s a great way to introduce kids to what is otherwise a pretty technical field. Our daughter loves the Hello Ruby approach. I’m a fan too.

Married For 12 Years

Today Gina and I have been married for 12 years. I’ve had the opportunity to wake up next to her almost every morning in those years (well, and a year or two before that too 😁).  I’ve loved my wife since our second date. I’ve driven her crazy in all that time. We’ve raised two amazing kids over the years, and I have her to thank for that.

I hope I have many more opportunities to pay tribute to my long-suffering, immensely patient, and beautiful partner. She and the kids are the loves of my life, and I am a better person with them in my life.

Our last two anniversaries:

When kids start treating the staff poorly

Kids playing with pillows on a bed

Reconcilable Differences #66, titled “Inherent Injustice”, is both hilarious and cringeworthy for parents. The hosts, Merlin Mann and John Siracusa, were talking about raising young kids, setting examples for them, and issuing parental edicts.

I started giggling at around 31 minutes when they were discussing how kids seem to struggle with this idea that their parents are not servants who exist to cater for their every whim. I had to share this:

I had another laugh at about 1:01:30 when Mann and Siracusa started talking about resolving inconsistencies in rules that parents make for kids. I definitely have a preference for Siracusa’s approach. As with terrorists, there are times when you just don’t negotiate with kids about rules.

This was probably one of the funniest discussions I’ve heard for a while on this show. Even if you don’t listen to the show (and it can be an acquired taste), definitely spend a few minutes listening to these discussions.

Being a parent gives you superpowers

Being a parent gives you superpowers

Parents often tell their kids they have superpowers of some sort. My favourite myth (which may actually be true) is that mothers can see through walls and whatever our kids are doing on the other side of those walls.

Fortunately kids believe this long enough to give us time to come up with something more plausible (and similarly effective) as they grow older.

Leaving aside the myths, there are times I think we really do develop some kinds of superpowers as parents.

One of my superpowers is the ability to hear a crying child over some background noise (in my case a fan in our bedroom) in the middle of the night and be on my feet and in my child’s bedroom before my conscious mind has even realised that I’m awake.

That sort of thing still amazes me after more than 9 years.

Image credit: Chris Barbalis

Being a Dad is mostly the stuff you didn’t intend doing

Being a Dad with my family

Laura-Kim has been publishing a series of Father’s Day posts and she asked me to make a contribution so I wrote a post titled “Being a Dad” one afternoon, while I was sitting at a park with our kids.

The thing with “Dad posts”, especially when they are written for a Father’s Day series, is that it is tempting to delve into the profundity of fatherhood. I’ve certainly written those posts before.

Fatherhood is what happens when our kids disrupt our plans

This time around, I wanted to focus on an aspect of fatherhood we often don’t focus on because, well, it’s a little embarrassing. You know that saying that “(l)ife is what happens to us while we are making other plans”?

It occurred to me that much of being a Dad is like that. We have things we want to do, either with our kids or on our own, and those things are often not what our kids want to do.

I thought I had something meaningful, profound even, to share about the magic of being a Dad and then I was interrupted.

I was at the park with my daughter at the time. She asked to push her on the swings and I lost my tenuous link to what I thought would become a deep insight into the source of the magic of fatherhood.

As I pushed her higher and higher (these kids are crazy) I tried to remember where my thought train was derailed and failed. Instead I found myself captivated by the sunlight in my little girl’s hair and I realised that she isn’t such a little girl anymore. When did that happen?

Instead, our kids have a tendency to pull us out of our plans and send us down another path (usually a paved path in a park towards an inadequate hiding place). Sometimes being a Dad is recognising that our kids’ impromptu plans are the more important ones.

With that, here is my post. I hope you enjoy it (I certainly enjoyed writing it):

Being a Dad

When you are finished reading my post, go read the other Dads’ contributions to Laura-Kim’s series:

The heaviest object in the universe and other parenthood moments

All those parenthood moments

Just when you think you are the only parent who has to deal with ridiculous parenthood moments, you find posts like this that reassure you that you are not alone …

I had this conversation with our kids about two weeks ago:

This, of course, is a classic:

This is a daily occurrence in our home:

There are so many more of these gems but I have work to do and my daughter is going to start wonder why Daddy is laughing so much and what it has to do with her and her brother …

Check out How to Be a Dad for more. It is my new favourite parenting site!

Image credit: Eskimo kissing by Caroline Hernandez

The tooth fairy versus the scientific method

The tooth fairy versus the scientific method

Our daughter is about to lose her first tooth. Like many kids, she has grown up (so far) with the expectation that the tooth fairy will arrive to take her tooth and leave her some money.

She is actually pretty excited about this prospect.

Our son, on the other hand, has become a complete sceptic at 9 years old. He refuses to be persuaded that, among the many things in the Universe that we don’t understand yet, there could be tooth fairies. He knows the tooth thieves and source of the cash are his parents and he has no qualms debunking this particular myth when we mention it.

This, of course, distresses our daughter. She has been waiting so long for her teeth to start falling out that she is really hoping that a tooth fairy arrives at the appointed time.

This presents something of a dilemma for us. I try really hard not to lie to our kids about things, generally. Maintaining the myth of the tooth fairy is commonplace for parents, sure, but, in the case of our son, it feels wrong to go too far with this in the face of growing scepticism.

The Tooth Fairy versus the Tooth Mouse
The Tooth Fairy versus the Tooth Mouse

When it comes to our son, we have basically given up on the whole idea. He lost a tooth recently and I couldn’t even find it to craft an elaborate illusion of a tooth fairy’s visit (well, we’ve gone with the tooth mouse for him).

He lost his tooth or hid it from me and there was no cash waiting for him. He didn’t say anything so I think that phase of his childhood is decidedly over.

Our daughter is only 6 so we’re probably going to run with the tooth fairy/tooth mouse myth for now. I’m tempted to say the deception is really for her because she so desperately wants it to be true but this interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson about how his daughter debunked the myth using the scientific method gave me reason to think a little more about this approach:

I like what deGrasse Tyson said about there being so much wonder in the Universe that we don’t really need to invent things to keep our kids entertained and inspired. Still, does that mean that we need to abandon the tooth fairy so soon?

Perhaps the answer is that when our kids are old enough to deduce for themselves that the whole thing is an elaborate hoax (we leave notes “signed” by the tooth mouse), it’s time to hang up our wings and either come up with another rationale for the cash or just File 13 the whole thing.

What do you think?

I channelled Yoda with our kids without meaning to

You know how you seem to channel your parents when you become a parent? I managed to channel Yoda with our kids last night and I’m not sure what that says about me as a parent.

It was getting late, we were all tired from a busy weekend and it was time for the kids to brush their teeth and get ready for bed. As usual, they weren’t listening to me. They were playing on the couch instead so I reminded them to do as I asked (well, instructed) them to do.

Our daughter told me, rather indignantly, that she was “trying” to stop playing with her brother and go brush her teeth. Before I realised it, I found myself replying to her with something along these lines:

There is no trying. Do or do not. Go brush your teeth!

It didn’t help that my wife, who was in the room, immediately picked up on what I said and started laughing. Our poor daughter thought we were laughing at her. We were laughing so hard that we couldn’t explain the joke to her for a few minutes.

I guess channelling Yoda at a time like that merits a few Geek Parent points, even if I probably traumatised our daughter a little in the process.

Image credit: Travel Coffee Book