Happy New Year

No matter when you read this, Happy New Year!

2020 was a hard year. I hope that we all manage to do better next year. (Especially Americans, who can do so much better when they put their minds to it.)

We used to send out Christmas cards that featured some photos from our year to illustrate our favorite moments. Not this year, though. Since we spent the year sheltering in place, here’s a selfie (above) of the four of us in our dining room at home, lit by artificial yellow light. That’s 2020 for you.

While sheltering in place we’ve been learning new games to play together. We’ve played old favorite card games like Big Two and Chinese Poker (easier than Big Two), and we’ve played dice games like Zombie Dice (quick and fun) and Yahtzee (a standard).

They say first responders are heroes. It’s true. I remember Lillian’s tears after coming home from work because they didn’t have the resources to care for COVID-19 patients. And she keeps going back. If I ever have to be hospitalized, I’d want someone like her to care for me.

We lost Lillian’s mom to cancer late this year. She was strong and generous, and she kept her family coming together year after year. She was the kids’ last living grandparent.

The kids’ schools and my work all found ways for us to do our work from home. It’s a mixed blessing. We’re in each others’ faces all the time, but when we can return to a more normal routine, we’ll miss that comforting proximity of family we had. It’s nice that they’re right there.

Happy New Year to you. Let’s see what we can accomplish tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that.

Birthday Family Excursions

For years, Lillian’s made her birthdays all about doing something new for the family. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’ve had lots of different local experiences to choose from. She wants the family to learn about and appreciate the area they’re from.

This year, the excursion was almost right in our backyard. It turns out that the hills behind Milpitas hold a convenient site for hang gliding and paragliding. We’ve lived here for the kids’ whole lives, and never bothered to learn more about what was available so close to us.

For her own birthday, Lillian treated the kids to some tandem hang gliding experiences above our little town. I bet they wish it was her birthday all the time!


My son and I were talking about how sometimes kids try to get attention, any kind of attention, from another kid.

I said that that’s why sometimes boys might yank the ponytails of the girls in front of them. Sure it makes the girls angry, but it gets their attention.

He said, “Yeah, that might be what they did in your day. Now kids would just text the poop emoji, 💩, to the girl for attention.”

In a minute…

Dear Son,

When I say “in a minute” and you start counting off sixty seconds, I can guarantee that the wait just turned into at least two minutes.


Majestic Creature

I have little compunction about killing invasive bugs. As one of the heads of the household, I simply have bigger fish to fry. So when a spider threatens to crawl into one of my children’s beds, I weigh the total cost of relocating it vs. killing it on the spot.

And honestly, often, killing it on the spot wins.

But the garden is not one of our bedrooms. And there’s a beautiful big garden spider that’s been weaving webs covering over six square feet between the plants besides our front door walkway. (It’s not this one, but it’s the same type.)


Everyday we’ve been admiring it and keeping an eye out for it, too.

It’s a good thing that we’ve been keeping a eye out for it, because this morning it wove a web that crossed the walkway itself. There was no way out or in to the front door without getting caught in its trap!

Bold move, you majestic creature.

That spider earned herself a first-class, comfortable relocation to a bush down by the canal. Good hunting, mate, but watch out for birds.

(Thanks to flickr user nettsu for his beautiful photo of the spider web.)

Kids These Days

I dropped the kids off at home after school. The door was locked and I had to unlock it for them. They were being regular well-behaved kids, but I couldn’t help myself. I pretended to be exasperated and told them:

You kids are so needy. “Give me this. Give me that. Let me in the house.”

They looked at me like I was crazy, but we all laughed. OK, mostly me.

A Teachable Moment

Aaron showed me his new game, Clash of Clans.

As he was playing, he narrated, “You send in the giants first, because they’re hard to kill. Then you send in the barbarians to finish the job while the bad guys attack your giants.”

I said, “You know what that’s called, kid? You’re sending in your tanks to draw aggro.” I had to hold back the tears of pride, watching my kid naturally develop advanced RTS strategies.

When he needs to learn about obscure American football terms like Buttonhook and Dime Coverage, I’ll be no help whatsoever.

Bike Riding with the Kids

I went bike riding with the kids this morning. I took out my smart phone and made a short video of them biking through the neighborhood.

If you’d like to compare that video to a couple of earlier videos I made of the kids biking, you can see one with Maddie and Aaron in 2010, and another with Aaron when he was six.

Time Will Do Nicely

As the holiday season wraps up, I can’t help but realize what good sports the members of my family are.

We each made efforts to show the others that they’re loved and appreciated. And I think it worked. But things haven’t always turned out the way we wanted. Although my wife and I scheme to do something special for the kids, our plans don’t always work out for reasons of scheduling or resources.

I’ve made plans for quality time with the kids that just hasn’t panned out. For example, we haven’t opened up the new board game that I’m so excited about, and I don’t know when we will.

But when I look back on the past few days, I realize what some of my favorite moments have been:

Sitting in the car in the rain with my wife, chatting about nothing, watching TV with my daughter, and reading a book with my son.

And they all seemed to like it too. I was suspicious at first, because I felt like I owed it to them to do something more special for them. Why did my son say “that was a good book” when I knew he wasn’t a Star Wars fan? I thought at first he was just being nice for my sake, but I think some of it is that he just liked the time together, regardless of the book.

I’ll still make plans for quality time with the family. But when those plans fall though, I’ll have to remember that any time we spend together is valuable. It doesn’t have to be some grand event. Any time we spend together will do.

Next time we play Minecraft

I got the following email from my nine-year-old son today:


Next time we play Minecraft let’s finish our enchantment room. How? I have 3 eye of ender! (They lead you to a stronghold.)

Remember how in the stronghold is a big library? Let’s harvest the books! Then come back and finish off our enchantment room! You really only need 1 eye of ender but I’ll still bring the 3 in case we lose one. Isn’t that smart?

You toss the eye of ender, I’ll leave a torch trail! (The eye of ender falls back down to you.) That’s all!


I can hear him urgently calling, “Dad Dad,” to get my attention like he just came up with this amazing idea that just can’t wait!

I can’t tell you how happy that message makes me, and what a perfect memento that is of this stage in our lives. I’m so grateful that the kids still want to spend time with their parents, and that Aaron’s scheming up adventures for us to have together.

And how amazing is Minecraft, that over a year since we first got it, Aaron still wants to trek through it on a new expedition with his dad?

Thanks, Notch, Jens, and everyone else at Mojang. You made for another very precious moment for me.