Too Cool for School

Back home, Ben spent a year in a synthesized Pre-K/Kindergarten class. It was all day, every day, originally to our chagrin, but it turned out that he really enjoyed it. Because of his birthday falling in December, we asked that he be considered a Senior Kindergartener — knowing there was the possibility that he’d end up with JK results, which would help us decide what level he should progress to.
At the end of the year, we still didn’t have a really clear picture. He did well in class, enjoyed it, and his “report card” was positive (although I don’t think they’re allowed to write anything negative any more.) His teacher said his skills in all subjects were exactly appropriate for his age. But his age, in Canada at least, was still an awkward in-between: either ending up the oldest in a Kindergarten class, or the youngest in a first grade class.
We were inclined to put him in first grade. Then we moved here and found out that Kindergarten was half day — they do have full-day Kindergarten, but there’s a lottery to get into it, and we missed the lottery. That seemed less than ideal. However, his birthday excluded him from first grade without an opaque, expensive, and completely unfriendly evaluation — and the first grade class was full anyway.
So we decided to look into private Christian schools — of which there are plenty in this here Red State. We visited an awful cute little school that reminded me a lot of FCA (and cost just as much) who offered to evaluate him for first grade for free. Unfortunately, they’re a year ahead in math and they teach language using phonics. I’m a big fan of phonics, but Ben had never seen it before, and while he can probably handle 1st grade math, he’s definitely not ready to be in 2nd grade math. So that evaluation ended really quickly.
The Christian school also offers half day Kindergarten — although at a price. Between public school half day Kindergarten that will do basic math and more ridiculous “whole language” English, and private school half day Kindergarten that is more likely to keep him from total boredom, we’re leaning strongly toward forking out the cash for the cute little private school. The schedule works better as well, and will allow Nicole to have focused Abi and Eli time in the morning, and focused at-home learning time with Ben in the afternoon while Abi is at pre-school and Eli naps.
Fortunately, we lucked out with pre-school for Abi. She’s in an enriched Pre-K class, which should move her along nicely. Since her birthday is less contentious, it was easier to find a fit for her. However, if Ben gets a year of private school, so should Abi. I have to admit, I actually really like the idea. They’ll have chapel on Wednesdays, learn about creation as something God did, not a random series of accidents, learn how to find verses in their Bible… Of course we work on that at home, but having it as a part of their societal life… that might just be worth $4000 a year to us.

The Simple Life

I’ve been lucky in my career in that I’ve been able to keep a balance between my work life and my home life. If you’ve read anything about the technology industry, you know that these jobs have a tendency to be all-consuming: stories of people sleeping in their office, or working through weekends are not fiction — they’re reality. I recently read the fascinating story of the initial release of Windows NT. 4 years of people’s lives were consumed creating the last operating system ever to be built from scratch… It was a gargantuan effort, but that level of commitment isn’t unusual for my peers and leaders.
And to be clear, I’ve put in my overtime. In the early 2000s, just married and in my first real job, I worked for a year and a half, often late into the night, on AppCentre — a web-based container for AJAX applications, long before anyone knew what AJAX applications were. I bled code and learned a lot through the process. The company who owned that IP is long gone now, but at the time, the project was the most exciting thing I’d ever lost weeks of sleep over.
My patient wife put up with that — and with the multiple moves that have followed as my career grew — but once we had kids, I no longer found the creation of code to be the most important outlet in my life. With my previous role, distance from the head office forced a high-latency work day; no less demanding, but with plenty of time at home to spend with my kids. My new role is of significantly lower-latency. Back in an office, in an environment where things change quickly and furiously, for 10ish hours a day, there’s barely time to use the bathroom, much less spend with my kids.
In exchange, I’ve decided to clearly delineate home life. While before I was working where ever I was, now I work only at work. To that end, I don’t have a desk at home — I don’t even have a computer. I have a laptop from work, but I try not to bring it home, and if I bring it home, I try not to turn it on. The mixed blessing of the smart phone means I can be responsive to work if I need to, but even that I try to ignore. I’ve paired down my collection of gadgets to only what’s needed in the home, and installed my historic technology trophies in my little half-office at work. On the main floor of the house, anything higher-tech than the microwave can be hidden behind a cabinet door — even the TV can get put away. On the top floor, there’s an allowance for a decent home theater — but the LaserDisc player from 1992 has the same pride of place as the receiver from 2011 — and a little desk with Nic’s old laptop and our printer, which are for family use as the kid’s get old enough for school projects.
If Ben’s (or Abi or Eli) curiosity drives him toward technology, we’ll make room to explore such things, but he won’t grow up surrounded by artifacts from my career. Daddy has a job, but at home at least, the job does not define Daddy.
That said, I spent Monday in Silicon Valley this week, treading on ground stomped by some of the legends of this industry that I’m part of. Reading the stories of the once-young men and women who are now giants shaping the face of the planet through technology, still stirs a passion and excitement about what it is I do. In little more than 3 decades, a generation of dreamers discovered, invented and intuited the digital fabric that defines the world my kids will grow up in. I still wake up almost every day from dreams about where this job can go. And go to bed every night astounded and blessed that I’m living the dreams I had 10 years ago…


I create mutually beneficial relationships for a living. Sometimes they’re technical, sometimes business, but I’ve gotten pretty good at measuring ROI on a relationship. If I’m not careful, I’ll do this to personal relationships and starting finding the most satisfaction in friendships that are good mutual investment opportunities.
This comes so natural to me that I’ve forgotten that God does not view me the same way.
It’s so easy to think that God wants some kind of trade out of me. That affirmation of mutual ROI can be found in blessing. That lack of blessing must mean I’m not keeping up with the expectations God has for me.
But this notion I sometimes have that I’m giving to God in a way that pleases Him to earn His love and grace amounts quickly to pride — and maybe some other sins too. The truth is, I am a bad investment. I have nothing to give back to Him that isn’t His to begin with, and my tiny gifts are empty useless offerings before the God of the universe. He does not love me because of what I can give Him — if He did, I would be in trouble! And He does not accept me based on my obedience to His commands. My relationship with God is not mutually beneficial. It’s one-sided, unfair and selfish.
And He’s OK with that, because He made me and He knows that next to Him I am nothing, I have nothing, and I can contribute nothing. The wonder of it all is that He loves me anyway. Oh! how He loves me.

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

Well we’re here. In the wee hours of Sunday morning, accompanied by Nic’s cautiously brave but supportive family (thanks guys!), we loaded the kids and our suitcases into the leave-behind car, and headed to the airport in Toronto. The timing worked out well, despite the lines, and we spent very little time waiting around. By 11am PST we were in the Seattle area, and by noon, loading up into my faithful Saab — very grateful I had driven there to have it waiting for us.
Over the weekend we were contacted by some of the folks involved in our relocation process (and there are a lot: the moving company, the packing/unpacking company, the vehicle transport company, the mortgage broker, the mortgage document collector, the mortgage underwriter, the real estate agent, the insurance broker…to name a few) to let us know some of our timing was moving up. We’d learned from the truck driver that his ETA was 6 days — drastically different than the 10-30 we had been informed, and were concerned that the new house wouldn’t even be closed by the time he arrived. It turns out God had other plans, and I worked the printer/scanner frantically to get things in place in time for an early close on the new house.
The end result is that we moved into the temporary apartment upon our arrival, gave the kids a little nap, and then started furniture shopping for the house we’ll likely move into onto on Thursday!
Meanwhile, my coworkers, in my absence, decided that this would be a good week for my first business trip. Meaning I had Monday morning to sign some more documents, a little time to greet my team’s newest hire and my office buddy (we double up on offices at my new employer) and then had to rush back to the airport to fly out for California — for what’s turning out to be a very worthwhile trip; a veritable who’s-who tour of exciting tech companies.
This weekend we’ll work on getting the house settled, maybe find some of that furniture, and attend a church picnic with the little congregation that seems likely to be our church family here. They’re a small, quite young church, with their priorities straight and their teaching Biblically sound. It’ll be a bit of a change of pace for us, but it looks like we’ll fit in and be able to help out, so we’re excited to try it out.
So shall (hopefully) end 6 weeks of craziness. It will be good to have a home again, where we’re all together, and can start establishing the routines our kids need to feel safe and stable. Although there are lots of things back at home that will be missing from that foundation, we know God will supply new building blocks for our home. That He will add to the architecture of our lives in new and unique ways — ways that we wouldn’t have had if we hadn’t stepped out in faith. And although there will be challenges here, there will be growth.
We won’t back down from those challenges, and we will welcome the growing pains, because we can’t imagine a life where there isn’t more out there waiting — for those willing to look for it, to work for it, and to give it back to God with thanksgiving and praise…