November 26, 2014 by Adam in Sam

Somehow Sam managed to make it to sixteen.  He's currently 6' 2" and just joined South's wrestling team.  To top it off, he's got a 4.0, though he might get his first B this term.  He's far more gregarious than I was at that age, and he has a number of friends that he hangs out with.  Needless to say, I'm quite proud of the boy.

The birthday boy was up early and started with french toast, bacon, and a latte.  We unwrapped presents for him, most of them practical items of clothing.  He did appreciate the hat Joanna knitted for him, as well as the two old topographic maps I'd found at the library sale a few weeks back.  After playing with friends online for a bit, we headed downtown to Sizzle Pie for a short walk, pizza, and conversation.  We finished up the celebration with a trip to Voodoo Doughnuts, lighting a candle for his doughnut upon his return.

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Happy birthday Sam!

November 26, 2014 by Seraph in Cortez

Happy birthday Sam!  Your birth day will always be a memorable one for all of us!

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November 26, 2014 by Yayoe in Yayoe

Today's is Sam's birthday. How well we all remember waiting for him to arrive on Thanksgiving Day. Franklin Miller was also born on this date. This is your special day SAM. And here's to Franklin...too. Enjoy

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It's a Long Way to the Top

November 24, 2014 by Adam in Family

". . . if you want to rock and roll." was the usual response from Emma every time I asked that on the way up Mt. Pisgah.  The last time we went to the Arboretum, Sam said he wanted to go to the top of the mountain.  Yesterday we started at the base on a cool, clear day, and made our way up the 1.4 mile trail to the summit.  It was a long haul, and Emma complained most of the way.  Sam occasionally went off-trail to explore.  I occasionally resorted to pushing children some of the way.

The top itself was beautiful, and we were all thankful for getting there.  Sam loved the relief map showing the local area.  We snacked, rested, enjoyed the view, and headed back down.  Joanna's knees started to fail, so she walked backwards with some assistance for the last bit.  We returned home and collapsed with exhaustion, Honoka going to sleep on the couch almost immediately.

The rest of the weekend wasn't quite as exhausting.  Friday night Duncan had a sleepover at Ash's house, while Joanna and I went out on a hot date.  Saturday morning Berry and I played Castle Panic and Terraria.  It was nice getting in some one-on-one time before her trip back east.  I picked up Emma, took her and Honoka to the library while Joanna took Berry and Duncan to a laser tag birthday.  Emma and I spent the afternoon installing our new dishwasher.  Emma was genuinely helpful, doing quite a bit of the work herself.  She later told me it was pretty fun, and I was happy to have clean dishes again.

Saturday night was the usual pizza and Mythbusters.  Sam played a lot of video games with his friends.  Both Honoka and Sam worked on US History assignments. 

Sunday morning we got up early and got Duncan and Berry ready for their trip back to Rochester.  Everyone has been a little off, as it's always weird for us.  Fortunately it's a short trip and I think they'll have some fun adventures playing in the snow and visiting with family.

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Mocha Friday

November 21, 2014 by Adam in Family

Well, the dishwasher arrived.  It looks very pretty, still wrapped in plastic in the corner of the room.  Apparently installation wasn't included and so we get to figure out how to hook it up this weekend.  Sam offered to assist, which is nice.

The kids were all home last night.  Sam and Honoka worked late on homework, as the end of the term is coming up soon.  Sam and I had a somewhat heated discussion about taking only three classes next term.  I'd like him to take at least one more, as this is the last time education will be free.  He's talking to his counselor today.  The little kids where generally sweet and happy.  Berry is wearing half of the BFF necklace she shares with Honoka.  Emma was her usual funny self. 

Joanna and I have a hot date tonight - should be fun.  I'm getting excited for the holidays.  Berry and Duncan leave Sunday morning, which will leave the house strangely quiet.

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Family Vacation Destination

November 20, 2014 by Sadie in Sadie & Greg

In anticipation of the final family vacation survey results, which will be available this weekend: What I learned from designing a Family Vacation Destination survey:

1. Everyone is unique, but decision-making requires simplification.
I received as many direct email responses from my first survey as survey responses, detailing the financial and logistical nuances of family vacation planning. Closed-ended questions were left blank and open-ended questions were used to communicate preferences and expected issues in vacation destination selection.  This, along with repeat survey responses from single users, made the results of the first survey unreliable at best.

2. Desire can be simple, but motivation is complex.
Often, direct emails came with recommended destinations based not on preference, but on what appeared to be best for the group. Actual preference as determined by voting was not aligned with respondent's destination recommendations.

3. Question structure can facilitate or impede accurate information gathering.

Respondents were split on vacation dates. Those who had no preferences for time were unable to provide a first or second choice for a vacation week, because they didn't care. Those who had other summer plans were only able to only report on possible unavailability. If I could create the survey again, I would change vacation dates to be a single multi-select question with any blocker weeks, as respondents generally view dates as “available” and “not available.”

4. Stakeholders need to understand the process to trust the process.
Several respondents were dismayed by the results of the first survey because they had not selected the top vacation destination. A run-off survey was developed in order to:
1. Narrow and simplify destination decision-making
2. Add an "anytime" option for vacation week preferences
3. Create a respondent summary view after submission, so stakeholders could see survey progress.

5. The total of group preference can inform, not decide, the group's final choice.
Lots of people want to go to Hawaii, which is a great vacation destination. Unfortunately, it’s not a feasible destination for whose of us who would have to take a 15+-hour flight with a one-year old. Even if the popular majority decides on Hawaii, the family vacation won't be in Hawaii.

Sorry, kids.

That's because the missing assumption in the survey is that a family vacation includes as many members of the family as possible. In an environment where the most people have to be able to participate in order for something to occur, we are limited by the deviant cases as much as by the majority choice.

Great surveys can weigh many voices equally, provide a space for information collection, and hone in on key indicators to inform smarter decisions. However, good decision-making is still a required part of the picture. However exciting as it is to provide all members of the family with an avenue to share a “vote,” more complex financial and logistical dynamics are always at play in group choices (as the initial direct email respondents implicitly knew, using their voices to circumvent the survey, recognizing that would be a minimal part of the final decision-making process)

Should you still vote for Hawaii? Good question. It will certainly decide where the next family sub-group vacation goes. And like all election coverage, this information will likely influence voting behavior. But you still have a vote, and you should still use it, albeit within the realities of vacation destinations.

In short, the Democrats are NOT the same as the Republicans, no matter what Nader says.

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November 20, 2014 06:09 PM by Sue
I've set up my retirement account to have money in a savings account each summer to pay for transportation. My goal is that you kids get to spend time together and the grandkids get caught up with each other, without this being a big financial burden on you kids. I'd be very content to aim for Hawaii (or Yellowstone or wherever the group aims for)the summer or spring of 2016, picking up transportation costs and hopefully the costs of a condo or big house if we could go someplace not too far for Baby Simon this summer.

November 21, 2014 08:28 AM by Adam
I do appreciate you getting the whole crew together, mom. I miss my sisters and their assorted families.

November 21, 2014 01:22 PM by Joanna
Aren't you glad you volunteered to do this? :) We're a complicated lot, with our varied needs and desires. Thanks for putting up with all of the "feedback."

November 22, 2014 12:32 PM by yayoe
Thanks Sadie for facilitating the family survey. Your research back ground shows your super training and analysis skills..I agree with you about a 15 trip to get to Hawaii...I use to fly back and forth with Josh for 6 hours from Hawaii to the west coast and it was very very difficult when he was a baby and a toddler. If I had a 15 hour journey on an airplane with him I'd be permanently insane.As it is now I'm just crazy but not psychotic but that's from againg not child rearing.

Another Ordinary Week

November 19, 2014 by Adam in Family

The week has been surprisingly ordinary.  I get up before everyone, shower, start the tea kettle, do the dishes, make my lunch, make breakfast, eat, and head off to work.  After work I help get dinner ready, eat and chat, get Sam from his mom's house, help with homework, and play a little on my computer until we all sit down to watch a show. 

There have been a few quirky things.  When I picked up Sam last night, Emma declared she needed an old toy from the basement as a prop for a school commercial.  I dutifully found and delivered it.  Honoka has been slowly crocheting an American flag blanket.  She has 29 stars finished so far.  Sam's been playing Napoleonic era wargames with a friend online.  Berry made a robot out of cardboard and lots of paint.  Duncan has over 30 Minecraft mods.

Next week will likely be a little crazy with the holidays and all.  The little kids leave for Rochester next Sunday.  Sam needs to pick up a class or two for next term, with scheduling this Friday.  I continue to skim the various online sales for present ideas.  I look forward to the combination Thanksgiving, Sam birthday, and Emma half-birthday extravaganza coming up quickly.

Low Key Weekend

November 16, 2014 by Adam in Family

The weekend was relatively uneventful.  The kids and I hung around the house for the most part, playing games and crafting quirky artistic things.

Saturday morning Joanna took Duncan and Berry to a chess tournament.  I took Emma and Honoka to the library for the book sale and usual book borrowing.  Around lunch I took Honoka to a meeting with Megan to work on catering homework at Starbucks.  I snuck a coffee and dropped off snacks with Joanna.  The little kids had a good time, returning mid afternoon with medals.  Sam, Emma, and I played on the computer and later they played in the basement with Berry.  Emma ended up hurting her legs by doing the splits, but she seemed mostly recovered today.  The evening ended with pizza and Mythbusters, and Duncan going off to a musical with Flynn.

Today Emma, Berry, and I started the day with Terraria. I whipped up a breakfast of waffles, eggs, bacon, sausages, and mocha for everyone.  Joanna and Duncan went off.  Emma and I braved the cold to do a little archery and play with ice.  I chatted with my mom, now returned from visiting Sadie and crew, only slightly battered and bruised from the experience.  We made some little projects out of modeling clay, including a little box for Joanna.  Emma drew.  Berry roped us into weird things.  Eventually they returned with a couple of Duncan's friends.  The day wound down, Joanna went to a book store to listen to a writer.  Dinner was had.  All was well.

Mocha Friday

November 14, 2014 by Adam in Family

I had a house full of happy children last night.  We rolled the emotidice at dinner and talked about what happy, sad, silly, mad, ecstatic, or surprised happened to us that day.  Emma was cheerful and funny as always, sharing her latest drawing and the music she's learning for her flute.  Joanna started making an epic felt advent calendar, a giant tree with 25 little pockets.  Sam and I discussed the meaning of Fight Club.  Duncan played Minecraft.  Berry, Emma, and I talked about Terraria.  Honoka crocheted and listened to Japanese pop music.

The weather is cold and dreary.  I have a variety of house projects to work on to prepare for winter.  Hopefully I'll feel good this weekend and actually accomplish it all.  If not, there's always hanging out in front of the fireplace and playing video games.

Free Coffee

November 13, 2014 by Adam in Family

I'm soon going to go and enjoy some free coffee that our work recently started.  It's funny how the little things improve morale sometimes.

The week has generally been good.  Monday was no school for the little kids and Emma was sick.  I think they all hung out and took it easy most of the day.  Berry and Emma have this thing where they listen to Percy Jackson books on CD and draw.  Whatever it was only lasted a day.

No one had school on Tuesday.  I had coworkers coming in from out of town, but fortunately they left early and I went home to hang out with everyone.  Berry, Sam, and I played Legos in the basement.  The two of them later had an epic chess match, where it looked like Berry did relatively well (though ultimately lost).  I had a good time just hanging out with everyone - Berry and I continued to face terrible monsters in Terraria and overcome them.

Last night Joanna and I went out to a hipster diner downtown, chatting and nibbling our way through the evening.  She's slowly finishing her memoir, working on side projects, and keeping the house from falling down.

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