Yearly Interview Questions

For the last many, many years, I’ve tried to do a yearly interview with our daughters Amy and Lisa. I have one of those dad fantasies that Lisa will find them fascinating  to watch when she gets older (and that Amy would have).

These two pictures are scans of the list of questions I’ve been using. The list has evolved over the years and I don’t always keep to the script, but I think they’re a good jumping-off point.

I’m posting them because some new friends asked me about them and I said I would. I’m hoping they will spark some other parents to do something similar for their kids. I’d love to know what other kinds of questions you come up with – let me know.

I’ve often thought about rewriting them, cleaning them up, but there’s something nostalgic for me about working off the original list…

The first image is my list of questions – along with notes I’ve added over the years.


The second image is a list Lisa generated some years ago. I think she was about 9 or 10. We have a lot of fun with this list – though often she won’t answer all of them.


I hope you enjoy these and that you think about doing this with your own kids. Or maybe with yourself?

Daily Thought for Feb 13, 2015 (Fri) – Road Trip to PonyCon 2015!

Wow, it’s been a Hard Day’s Night.

This weekend is Ponycon. A year ago, that didn’t mean much around our house, but things have changed. OK, here’s the story: a few year ago, while on a road trip to Crazy Horse Monument, Lisa and I drove through Riverside Iowa, the future birthplace of Captain James T Kirk (( click me! 20150213e)) a federation captain known for piloting the USS Enterprise. While there, she picked up a copy of Year One  20150213f by Five Year Mission  20150213d . Well, as it turns out, these guys are QUITE good and this is not their only band. They range from a Guns’ n’ Roses cover band 20150213g to the surf-influenced Madeira  20150213h to this one:


The Shake Ups in Ponyville!!!

When Lisa found out they were playing Ponycon, she bought a ticket then asked if I would be her road-trip backup if none of her friends could go.

“Road trip?” is always answered “yes”, so at about 3p Friday, we climbed into the KIA and hit the road.

Along the way, we went past the old site of the 50 foot Jesus Status (Solid Rock Church on US23 in Ohio).


I always wanted to post a picture of that. Not that it’s great art, but I admire anything on that scale!

It was a long drive, but beautiful. Really. We’ve been on several of these long trips and this one was magic. Almost no traffic right from Ann Arbor and all the way into Manhattan. Just the road curving along ahead of us, an assortment of different music and stops every few hours at the truck stops for snacks.

We listened to Tom Ashbrook’s interview with David Duchovney, a mediocre 2-CD set of “classic cowboy songs” (75% unknowns and the ones I did know weren’t the recordings that hit the radio), and a whole lot of me listening to the sound track of Season 1 of the X-Files while Lisa watched them on my laptop. (The KIA’s a stick and she can’t drive it, so I had the duty the whole time.)

We hit NYC about 1 a.m. There was construction at the Holland Tunnel but Lisa used GPS and got us to the hotel by 2.

We’re at the Super 8 at Union and 3rd St. (not Ave). It’s actually a very nice a place and I want to write them up on Tripadvisor. I looked at SO many hotels over here that had bad reviews. (Of course, I’m shopping “under $100” so my selection is limited.)

20150213bThe morning was rough – after we were seated WAY in the back, we waited 12 minutes before we got up and left because nobody came by. But we found a great little bagel shop across the street and enjoyed. I dropped her at St. Frances College and headed back to work on my Performance project for Eastern. Good progress all around.

She had a great day, hung out a little with P.J., I taxied over for Indian, then worked at Starbucks the rest of the night. We just got back, I’m finishing this, then a few episodes of X-Files and off to sleep.

Words for the wise today? Road Trip!

Lisa and Scary Movies 1

The movie “Drag Me To Hell” was a decent entry in the ‘scary movie’ category. I saw it several months ago while it was still on the big screen. About a week ago, I rented it and watched it with Jean. Though she isn’t a big horror movie fan, she really liked the twist ending.

We talked to Lisa about it, thought it might be fun for her too. We don’t watch a lot of scary movies at our house and I thought it might be good to see it together, get a sense of what kinds of things would frighten her, talk her through them. Plus, it was one of the few I’ve seen recently that didn’t either swim in gore or shoot to be terrifying.

Jean and I talked to her a bit beforehand, agreed to tell her when the scary parts were coming, told her there were some funny bits to look forward to as well. We all settled in – lights on, popcorn ready – and turned on the DVD player.

About fifteen minutes into the movie, the major plot is launched: an old Gypsy woman is begging for an extension on her mortgage, the movers are there and ready to throw her out of the house. Alison Lohman’s character  –  a loan officer angling for a promotion by proving she can ‘make the tough decisions’ – turns the woman down. The woman is devastated and falls to her knees, begging not to be thrown out of her home of 30 years.

Lisa is squirming at this point.

The old woman is reduced to begging for mercy from the young bank teller, who flatly rejects her. Security is called and the woman is dragged out of the building.

The next Big Scene is the end of the work day. The teller gets into her car to go home, but sees the Gypsy woman’s car in the parking structure. Scary music comes up, the camera pans and the Gypsy woman is shown in the back seat – spirited magically into the car (she wasn’t there a minute ago) by her floating handkerchief.

A fight ensues during which the old woman attacks Lohman. The fight goes on for several minutes, but by the middle of it, we’d turned the television off.

I don’t want to get too descriptive for fear of embarassing her, but Lisa made it quite clear to us that she didn’t want to see any more of the movie. She was ready to walk out of the room if we didn’t turn it off.


It wasn’t fear. She wasn’t afraid of anything that had happened.

It was a kind of queasy disgust that the storytellers had taken this sad, broken woman who was losing her home and turned her into the Evil Bad Guy of the movie.

I was completely astonished. What an eye opener. What an education in conditioning. We (OK, I’ll just say “I”) have seen so many movies over the years, have seen so many crazies and plot devices and action sequences and etc that some of the basic features of the stories go sailing right past.

Here we were (the good parents) worried that she might be scared about the shadowy demons, or the quick cut scenes that make you jump out of your seat (surprised, not scared), or grossed out by the old woman toppling out of her coffin, and she responded on a much more human level – it just wasn’t right to make the Gypsy woman the bad guy.

What a treat to see such an honest and human reaction from your own kid.

Home from Cleveland Clinic

Lisa and family returned home from Cleveland Clinic Saturday night.

We checked out of the hospital Friday afternoon but spent Friday night in Cleveland to kind of ease the transition from 2 weeks in hospital back to the ‘real’ world. And so we could visit the house they used for the outdoor shots of “A Christmas Story”. The house is in Cleveland and we’re huge fans of the movie from way back.

We took it slow Sunday, Lisa attended her cousin Andrew’s birthday party then back to Ann Arbor for rehearsal and Youth Group. Rehearsal is for next Sunday’s Christmas play at the downtown church. 

So far, everything is looking good and we’re ramping back up for school tomorrow.

Cleveland Clinic Day 11

Thursday evening, week 2. Lisa went back on Trileptal last night, tapering upward to a full dose of 900mg this morning. The idea at this point is to…go home!

Yep. Given that we haven’t seen any seizure activity, we’re going to try dropping her medication down to just this one and get her back into her normal environment.

This falls squarely in the ‘double-edged sword’ territory. We’re very optimistic that she’s stabilized but like I said earlier, with her history, this feels very much like Russian Roulette.

And, there’s no easy or obvious way to talk about what we’re looking at. Miracle? Honeymoon period? Another morph in her symptoms (the first 5 years were mostly auras that affected her stomach and emotions)? If it’s a morph, when is the next one going to come? If it’s a miracle cure, why didn’t we at least get a letter from an angel giving us the ‘all clear’?

We’re easing our way into excitement – at least I am. I figure I’ll do the worrying and Lisa can enjoy the freedom. Whatever is happening, she’s about to enter a phase of her life in whch she’ll be much, much less medicated.

I’m expecting my posts in her will happen less regularly, at least posts related to Lisa’s health.  We’ll see. Maybe I can get the Music section up and going.  We’ll see.

Cleveland Clinic Day 9

We’ve been completely off meds for about 2 days now. Lisa has had a very bad headache since last night, it got worse this morning but according to her, it didn’t feel like a seizure, maybe closer to migraines. She had dry heaves four times between 9:00a and noon but nothing showed up on the EEG.

We met with her primary doctor here, Dr. Kotagal, at around 10a. We agreed that we should keep her here for further observation, since we’ve come this far, if we start again some other time, we might have to repeat the several day wean off of her meds. Basically, our attitude right now is “we’ve come this far, let’s keep going.”

During the afternoon, they attempted to induce seizure in a couple of ways. One was to have her hyperventilate, but this didn’t produce any results. Then, they tried flashing a strobe light at various speeds a few inches from her face but again, no results.

Lisa was very, very exhausted this morning, she slept on and off until after 11a.m. We woke her to talk with the doctors and nurses, plus she was up four times with those little interruptions I mentioned above, but she was very bleary-eyed and out of it for most of that time. When she woke around noon, she looked much, much better.

It’s 9p now and she’s doing World History homework.

After that and a little algebra, she can start on eclipse, the third book in the hot new Stephenie Meyer series.

Cleveland Clinic Day 8

Today, we crossed the one week mark.

There is no significant medical news, so I thought I’d post some hospital survival tactics. This might be helpful to anyone who has an extended stay like this.

  1. Find out the range of your roaming freedom and walk around. Lisa’s not confined to bed or the ward, but can walk down to the fishtank and the activities room. This is good not only for breaking the boredom, but for keeping you at least somewhat active.
  2. .(blank cuz I like some space between list items)
  3. Don’t count on the television. Unless you’re really, really an avid TV watcher, it will get boring eventually. Lisa brought New Moon (the follow-up book to Twilight) and finished all of its 547 pages 2 days ago. She would have finished it earlier but we did go through the Mork and Mindy marathon and the Spiderman DVDs. Which leads to…
  4. .
  5. Bring some favorite DVDs. The Cleveland Clinic (and no doubt a lot of hospitals) has a DVD player and a lot of DVDs to choose from in the activities room, but it’s nice to have some favorites along. Comforting to watch favorites.
  6. .
  7. Play games. They keep you thinking and active. Lisa’s made about $12,460,000 playing “Who Want To Be a Millionaire” with dad. Dad’s made about $27.50. She’s also killer at Sorry. Until I manually restacked the deck, she had 4 episodes of “dad got Sorry and sent Lisa’s piece home, then Lisa’s very next card was also Sorry and she put her piece back”.
  8. Make sure you fill out your meal selection menu. Find some favorite foods. I know, I know, but the food here has really been pretty good.

I’ll solicit some more from Lisa but she’s asleep so I’m going to leave her alone.

Cleveland Clinic Day 6

Saturday and we’re still here.

Lisa’s been stepped down off of all of her medications. Talking with the doctors and the ward nurses, it isn’t uncommon for this to happen. A child is brought to the ward, hooked up to all of the equipment and … the waiting begins. She’s had a couple of dizzy spells, some hand trembling, and some stomach activity reminscent of the very early seizures but nothing useful that could be captured on the EEG.

The most nerve-wracking thing about this is that she has a tendency to go into status very quickly so we were hoping to capture the information we needed while she still had some drugs in her system. Lowering her doses feels a little like playing Russian Roulette.

The other problem is that sitting around with no symptoms gets your hopes up. “Wow, maybe she’s been miraculously cured while we weren’t looking.” But this doesn’t really happen, not after this many years.

So, the waiting continues. Lisa’s now been through a Mork and Mindy marathon, a Bob Newhart Show marathon, is caught up on all of her homework, and has watched nearly all of the DVDs she brought, including all 3 Spiderman movies. We should have packed more movies. It’s like the Gilligan’s Island folks – they thought they were going on a 3 hour tour…

Cleveland Clinic Day 4

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving day and we’re still at the Cleveland Clinic.

Wednesday afternoon, we got to see some of Lisa’s MRI. There is some swelling in locations we didn’t know about but it seems pretty certain that 1) her speech and memory are localized on the left side of the brain and 2) the seizures are originating from the right side. These are good signs in terms of whether or not surgery would be effective. 

But, we haven’t had any luck getting seizure readings. Today, we agreed to reduce her anti-seizure drugs. She’s currently on four different meds: Lamictal, Keppra, Topamax and Trileptal. Tonight, we’ll take her off of the Lamictal then tomorrow morning, we’ll drop Topamax.

Some of the things we’re thankful for:

  • family
  • church family
  • enough food
  • music
  • our crazy dog
  • fangfish (redfang triggerfish)
  • board games



Cleveland Clinic day 3 – 10a.m.

Cleveland Clinic day 3 – 10a.m.

It’s still early in the day, but the good news right now is that the WADA test has been cancelled. Or at least postponed. We’re hoping to meet with Dr. Kotagal later today to see what the plans are going forward.

Lisa is still on her regular medications for now. Last time around, they dropped her doses to 0 to induce seizure. But after the nearly two-hours it took to get her back from status, we’re all being more conservative this time around.

The techs came today and added about a foot of wire to her left sphenoidal sensor. When the original doctor put it in, the wire knotted and she had to cut it short. Not a big deal for the monitoring devices, but it really restricted Lisa’s ability to get around. If she needs to get out of bed for anything, she has to disconnect herself from the monitors and carry the device the electrodes are plugged into around with her. With yesterday’s broken wire, she couldn’t hang the device around her neck like she could on Monday, but had to hold it very close to her shoulder. So, the added wire gives her more freedom.

Another of Lisa’s nurses from the 2005 visit came on duty today, always good to see familiar faces.