Monday, December 31, 2007

Mr. Mom reads the walkthrough

Rachel is on vacation full-time again today.

I took the kids to wal-mart in the morning, stocking up on milk and staples. This is not unusual; I probably make about 60% of the wal-mart runs anyway. (But I get only about 40% of the groceries, since Rachel's trips are more productive. I take my time, spending ten minutes in the toy isle, five minutes watching the goldfish, ...)

Lunch was at Arctic Circle where we had corn dogs, a food Rachel does not approve of. But she wasn't there, so the kids enjoyed their dogs. That and a couple of Arctic Circle kids cones got us all the way to my favorite time of day, nap time. Melissa was drooping in her seat on the way home so I knew she would fall asleep when I bounced her on my knees, and she did. Unfortunately, Matthew never did fall asleep.

But then Rachel and Andrea got home. Andrea wanted to play more Escape from Monkey Island, so she and Rachel hung out until Melissa got up. In honor of family home evening we went up to Salt Lake to see the lights on Temple Square. Matthew complained that he wanted to go home whenever he remembered how miserable he was, playing his game boy. I told him that we weren't going to let him hold us hostage this time with bad behavior and he eventually resigned himself to his fate.

We saw the lights, sat through one and nine-tenths of a song in the Assembly Hall, and had hot chocolate and dessert at the Joseph Smith Building.

Then we came home and put the kids to bed. Andrea is playing Monkey Island again. If we hadn't gotten her a wedding present two years ago I would suggest getting her a ps2. Rachel never lets me get anyone a ps2 but everyone else is getting the happy couple china and bedding and boring stuff. I think they'd appreciate something fun.

Andrea is going home tomorrow. Mr. Mom is off duty.

Mr. Mom takes a break

Sunday was a family day. I cooked pancakes for breakfast; Andrea got the kids ready for church, and Rachel made split pea soup for dinner. Other than that everyone pretty much took it easy. I finished All Corvettes are Red. Then I spent a few minutes pricing vettes on AutoTrader and EbayMotors, but I was just window shopping.

Matthew got Andrea to play some video games with him, probably the first time in her life she's held a playstation controller. After Matthew picked a couple games like Soul Calibur 2, Rachel intervened and set up Escape from Monkey Island.

Women love LucasArts adventure games. (I wonder if that genre might still be around if they'd figured out how to market it to that demographic.) I introduced Rachel to computer games through Grim Fandango, and Monkey Island had the same effect on Andrea. She was still playing when I went to bed at 11. She was still playing when Rachel went to bed at 12.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mr. Mom goes to the bouncy place

We survived Sky High (the real name of Some Dude's Playground -- Rachel says she remembers it under the old name, but I don't). As soon as he woke up, Matthew complained that he was starving. So as soon as we got there I ordered the pizza. (So much for cooking dinner later.) The kids ate about five bites total and went back to playing despite my warnings that it would get cold. (It did, but the kids didn't care.)

Finished The Paypal Wars. I'm going to give a copy to all my "government regulation is the answer to all our problems" friends.

Bounced with the kids enough to be sore. Bouncing just works a lot better when you have a five year old's moment of inertia.

Now it's time for some quality time with Duck Tales, courtesy of the library earlier. Then bedtime.

Mr. Mom

Rachel is on vacation.

Rachel hasn't had a real vacation since Matthew was born. I'm convinced that when you're full time Mom it's not a real vacation if the kids are with you. So I've been trying to get Rachel to take a vacation for a while now. I had one myself with my brother Grant a few years ago -- we drove up to San Fransisco for the World Cyber Games. (This year the WCG was in Seattle, and for a while it looked like I was going to be able to combine a family trip with some hardcore nerd action but it didn't work out. Yes, I'm a geek.)

Rachel never did find a good vacation time that would work for her and one of her friends. It's true that a shared vacation is more fun than a vacation alone.

But now Rachel's sister is getting married in January. I suggested that Rachel fly up and spend some time with her, see Seattle, maybe Victoria, or even fly somewhere else entirely with Andrea. Sort of a last hurrah before Andrea's life gets more complicated too. Fortunately, Andrea had some rare time off from work so it looked like it might happen. But for one reason and another they decided it made more sense for Andrea to fly here instead, leaving me with the assignment of keeping the kids out of the way during their vacation.

My job started after work yesterday. Evenings with the kids are my specialty, thanks to Rachel's orchestra practice, so this was cake. We went to the library, which was closed (6:00 on Saturday -- doh), and headed for Arctic Circle. On the way, Matthew claimed to see a "new slide," i.e., fast food with play area. I humored him because hey, killing time was the name of the game. And it turned out that he was right -- Del Taco had a small play area that I never noticed. It's not going to see much time on my Slide Rotation calendar, though; the kids enjoyed playing, but didn't eat any of the food. Even the quesadilla. They scarf Rachel's quesadillas.

Today we paid a visit to Uncle Ellis, followed by a trip to the library (open, this time), and lunch at Carl's Jr. Matthew likes Carl's Jr because he can refill his glass at the fountains All By Himself. Right now the kids are napping; this afternoon we will visit The Bouncy Place (Google thinks its real name is Some Dude's Playground. I think Google is smoking something) and hopefully that will get us close to dinner time. If Rachel and Andrea are back from The Nutcracker, I'll take them out to eat, otherwise Daddy's cooking dinner.

Kid play areas are a little on the boring side for dads. But thanks to my Christmas wish list I'm well supplied with reading material. Last night was All Corvettes are Red. (The title comes from a quote by a GM manager, which concludes "The rest are mistakes.") Today I started The Paypal Wars. Paypal turns out to be one of the most interesting books on entrepreneurship I've read in a while. Corvettes is less interesting to anyone who isn't already a fan of the titular car. Unless you have a sick fascination with dysfunctional bureaucracies; there's lots of that involved, too.

Getting Old...

At the beauty counter in the mall, a sales lady was helping my choose a foundation. She suggested the "age defying- wrinkle minimizing" formula. "Hey!" I squawked, "I'm in my 20s!" "Oh. Well, how about this?" Later on as she was applying the foundation she remarked that I had a remarkably "mature" face for 20. "Well, I'm in my 20s, though actually closer to 30." She replied a bit flustered, "You still have a mature face for your age."

"Mature" is code word for OLD. Gee thanks!

To think that just 5 years ago I was mistaken for a teen mom! Which reminds me of another great story...

He Didn't Make a Sale
When 8 months pregnant with Matthew (and I get very great with child), a door to door salesman rang the bell. I answered the door, and before I could I could say a word, he asked if my MOTHER was home and could he speak to her, or the head of the household!!!!

After I got over my shock, I laughed. He was duly informed that he was looking at the lady of the house, and no, we were NOT interested in his wares.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Strep Throat Part ll

It's Baaacck! I think I shared my germ with Jonathan, who in turn reciprocated. Tis the season for sharing, right? Good times! Oh yeah! We'll be popping pills on Christmas. Meanwhile, I'm going to wash all the doorknobs (again), throw out the toothbrushes (again), and wash all the sheets and blankets (again). This time we'll both be on antibiotics so hopefully we'll banish it for good.

As long as the children don't get it too....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas terrorists

We had our "neighbor gifts" all taken care of. Eight families on our street, eight gifts, finished. Rachel put them together and Matthew and I delivered them. (Matthew was pleased with this little bit of exclusivity -- "This was a job for just two people, huh Dad?")

All done.

Or so we thought. Today someone not on our street dropped off a gift for us. How inconsiderate! Now we have to reciprocate; that's Just How It's Done. Argh!

As long as we have to make more gifts now, maybe we should drop some off at random peoples' houses while we're at it. Just to mess with them.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Poor Jonathan!

Jonathan is really sick.

He's got chills, sore throat, and an earache. His throat is coated white. The strep test came back negative, but the doc gave him a prescription of antibiotics in the event it gets worse and the test was just a false negative.

I think we should quarantine ourselves until April...

Praying with two year olds

Melissa wants to participate in family prayers now.  Mostly this means occasionally she will consent to repeat a prayer as prompted by Mommy or Daddy.

Tonight I was prompting.

"Heavenly Father,"

"Healy Fader,"

"We thank thee for our family."

"Thank you family."

"Bless Daddy to get better."  (Daddy has a nasty cold.)

"Bless Daddy det beyer."

"Bless the kids to be good."

Melissa unfolded her arms and looked back at me indignantly.  "I am!"

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The difference between men and women, continued

The local classical station was describing Romeo and Juliet yesterday.  I wasn't really interested until they said something about a "bedroom scene."  That got my attention.  I grinned at Rachel: "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Yes," said Rachel.  "I need to look up my grandparents' address."


Along the same lines, Rachel says she can tell when I am really sick when I lose interest in sex.  I can tell when Rachel is really sick when she loses interested in cleaning.


Friday I wore a white T-shirt to work.  I don't have very many white shirts because they show stains much better than black ones.  Between myself and my kids a white shirt's half-life is about a week.

Friday Rachel gave me spaghetti leftovers to take for lunch.

You can see where this is going, can't you?  Yes, I got some sauce on my shirt.  But resourcefully I scrubbed it out with hand soap!  Super-husband saves the shirt!

I was rather pleased with myself.  When I got home I told Rachel, "you can't even see where I spilled the sauce!"  She looked a little closer and pointed, "There."  She was right.  I was a little crestfallen.

"That's okay," she comforted me.  "I wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't said anything.  And I'm sure any man wouldn't notice at all."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Tic tacs

Matthew's favorite thing to buy is tic tacs.

Rachel was a little outraged at the single box surcharge, so she got a four-pack and sold them to Matthew individually for the cheaper bulk cost.  It's about $3 for the four-pack, over 30% off the price if you bought them singly.

I applaud the frugality that prompted this, but I had slightly mixed feelings about it at first.  Mostly because as soon as he gets his allowance he spends most of it on another box of tic tacs.  He bought all of Rachel's initial four-pack and another that I picked up.  That's six weeks of allowance at a dollar a week.  (Currently we are out of tic tacs, and he is out of savings.  Call it a draw.)

The more I think about it, though, the less I'm worried that we're teaching him to go for instant gratification instead of saving.  Mostly because I remember back to when I was five.

Back then I got fifty cents a week as allowance.  I remember because it took me two weeks to save enough to buy a seventy-five cent soda at a convenience store a few blocks from our house.  (I'm pretty vague on the actual distance.  To a five year old it was a long ways but it was almost certainly under a mile.)  I did this with a significant portion of my allowance; the only other purchase I remember from that time period was a pair of vice grips.  I don't remember whether that pre- or post-dated the discovery of the orange sodas.

Here's the thing, though.  I didn't even particularly like the soda.  But I kept buying it!  Crazy!

This illustrates a couple relevant points, and one irrelevant (?) one:
  1. To a five year old, two weeks is forever.  There was no point in saving longer than that because a five year old is just completely unable to focus on events past that time horizon.  A soda was the best option available for less than a dollar, so that's what I bought.
  2. The main reason I kept buying the soda was I was in charge.  My mom took the attitude that if I bought it with my own money I could do with it as I would.  Sugar was otherwise controlled with an iron fist but that soda was mine.
  3. I've always been absolutely terrified of new situations.  To the point where I couldn't function sometimes, when I was younger.  (Another story: in fourth grade, thanks to my dad's tutoring, I was put in the "accelerated" program with sixth graders, studying 8th grade math.  The teacher told my father that for the first couple days I was so flustered I couldn't have counted my toes.)  Even though I knew I didn't really like the orange flavor I still got that instead of trying a different one.
  4. Eventually, I did save up for the vice grips.  Probably when I was a little older.
For Matthew I hope point 3 is not a factor.  But I definitely see #2 playing a part; he loves being In Charge of his tic tacs.  (He's very generous sharing them with his sister and friends, too.  I think this is why tic tacs are so attractive: there are a lot of them in a box.  Certainly more than twenty, which is as high as he can reliably count.)  And I think #1 does as well.  And when his time horizon lengthens enough, he'll find something he likes more than tic tacs and save up for it.

Jingle Bells

Right now I am in my room. Melissa is on the potty taking care of business. She's also serenading all who care to listen to her version of Jingle Bells. Where she doesn't know the words she substitutes "la la la all the way." Not only that, but she's in tune and she's pretty good! I didn't even know that she knew Jingle Bells! I wonder where she picked it up?

No Thank YOU!

Saturday is the day we clean rooms in the Ellis household. The rest of the week the kids can live in their natural messy habitat, but on Saturday, the Health and Sanitation Department, chaired by Mom and Dad, insist on seeing the floors in the rooms. Plus our kids would run out of clean clothes if we didn't make them fork the dirty clothes over from all of the places they've squirreled them away.

Melissa is now old enough to start picking some toys up and putting clothes in the right drawers. The past few months we've been sitting in the room to supervise and direct the process. Cleaning her room is not her favorite thing do, but most of the time she goes along with it. Yesterday there was mutiny in the ranks.

"NO! I NOT clean room. I NOT!"

"NO Thank You! No thank YOU!"
(waves her hands, and then crosses her arms)

"Oh yes you are going to clean you room! Let's go!"

"No thank you! No, no, NO!"

"Yes you are!"
(Daddy picks her up and hauls her to her room)

She protests all the way there, but once in her room seems amendable to the idea of picking up. 'Course whenever Daddy left the room for something, she high tailed it out of there too. Guess she was trying to see how serious we were!

Letter from Matthew to Uncle Chris

Dear Uncle Chris,

I have my own tic tacs. Orange kind that are sweet and they are my favorite. The bomb game is fun (it's a game on the DreamCast)

Today is my mommy's birthday. Me and Daddy gave my mom presents. When I turned five I got my own suit. It fits perfectly.

(Yesterday) Santa Claus said when he picked my up to sit on his lap, "oh, you're getting to be a big boy!" Then I got a candy cane. (At the breakfast with Santa) I had brown muffins with chocolate chips and hot chocolate.

When I playing out in the snow, Mama moved the shovel and it got in my eye. It was bleeding, and I cried a lot. I had to go to the doctor to make sure my eye was ok. It was, and that's all. (We had an unfortunate incident last week. I was shoveling snow and ice, Matthew moved right as I was flinging a load of ice with the shovel. It got him in the side of the face, but just missed his eye. He's doing fine now.)

Are you feeling better Uncle Chris?


Saturday, December 08, 2007

I'm So Glad That He's My Dad!

I have been fighting off a severe head cold this week and have not been getting much better. Last night my Dad called me and asked about my symptoms. I described them, and he had me look down my throat. Couldn't get a good view of things, but I did notice that my tongue was coated white. Thinking that was odd, I mentioned that, and my Dad asked me to check my lymph nodes to see if they were swollen. Check. He thought it sounded like strep to him so he called in a prescription for me. I wasn't so sure, because in addition to the very raw throat, I'd been having so many cold symptoms- very bad congestion, coughing, sneezing, headaches, etc., which are not ordinarily associated with strep. So I went to the AfterHours InstaCare to settle the matter. They did a 5 minute strep test which came back positive.

I have a pretty smart Dad.

If he hadn't called, I likely would have waited it out a few more days...

So I just started the antibiotics several hours ago. Driving back from the clinic and pharmacy was a bit of a trick. In addition to it being dark out, it started snowing pretty hard and the plows hadn't cleared the roads yet. It had rained earlier and there was a slick layer of ice under the snow. The defrost in the car wasn't working well, the wipers gave out, and so visibility was virtually nil. I pulled over in a parking lot for 15 minutes and scraped the car a few times and wiped the inside windshield. It got marginally better, but I still needed to drive with the windows down in order to see. I prayed I would make it back safely without incident, and I am happy to report that I did.

Right now I am up at 3 AM because I CANNOT get warm and my throat feels like someone sandpapered it and then stuffed my mouth full of cotton. Swallowing is well nigh impossible. I am hoping the antibiotics start working soon... Die strep die!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Loosely related to speech class...

While Matthew works with his speech teacher I keep Melissa busy with books and toys. Recently, she found a fisher price doll house and was just enthralled. She started making up little scenarios and stories about the baby, mommy, daddy, brother, and dog. She put the baby in the stroller and mommy took baby for a walk. Then baby had to go potty in the toilet, then daddy put the baby down for a nap. "Shush! baby sleeping. Now baby up, morn'n time! Baby play with dog. Ruff!" She is going to looove her Christmas gift! I bought it months ago when on sale and have had it hidden ever since. A picture is worth a thousand words so here is what the doll house looks like.

I am so excited to watch her open it Christmas morning! I'm debating whether I should paint or stain it... Hmmm, I'll have to think about that.

Matthew's speech teacher lives way out in Herriman in the middle of nowhere. Last week Jonathan took the kids to speech class because I felt lousy. Driving on the way back he was going around 50 mph in a 35 zone. It's a country road with a few ranches on it and not much else, so he felt confident going fast. Well, as he rounded the bend he saw a cop waiting. He braked to slow down, and the cop motioned slow down. Jonathan waved a "yes sir!" and that was that.

He related the story to me when he got back. "And there was this cop in the middle of nowhere, just around the bend!" I mentioned that I've seen a police car there more often than not, but didn't think to say anything.

He looked at me.

"Um, clearly I wasn't thinking was I?"

We both laughed.

I Two!

An earlier conversation with Melissa:

Melissa, "Mama, you sick?"

Me, still recuperating from a fierce head cold, "Yes, I'm sick."

Melissa excitedly, "Matthew is five, I two!"

(I guess at least she acknowledges that she is two now! For a while she insisted that she was five as well, just like Matthew.)

Melissa is also showing more of her mischievous side. The other day she and Matthew were sitting on the couch. Actually Matthew was more sprawled head down over the arm of the couch, when Melissa got this gleam in her eye. Before I could react, she grabbed his foot and shoved him over-board. Matthew only fell about a foot, but though unhurt, he was sure indignant! Meanwhile Melissa laughed and laughed at him. Matthew bristled, "It's not funny Melissa!" Actually, considering all he's put her through, it kind of was funny. She's his match alright.

Melissa Milestones

I got Melissa a Hamburger kids meal at Burger King today. (Rachel is sick so Daddy is taking care of the kids while trying to get some work done.) She ate it without making a mess. If you've ever seen a kid try to eat a hamburger ("hammer," she calls it) before they are coordinated enough to hold the two halves together and eat at the same time, you know what I mean.

She also made the sounds of the alarm system sticker at BK, which read ADT. "Ah d d d tuh!" she read. Matthew has been watching phonetics videos and Melissa has apparently been following along.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The chamber pot

About a month ago, Rachel started Melissa on a potty training program again.  We've spared you the details, but Melissa is mostly potty trained at this point.  She still has the occasional accident but it's been at least a week since the accident involved poop.

She usually poops once in the daytime then saves the rest for after she has her bedtime diaper on, and lets it rip during her bebopping around after being "put to bed."  (So there are usually two bedtime diapers.)

She hates it when the poop is caked on her bottom and I have to scrape it off, and I always tell her, "If you pooped in the potty instead, we wouldn't have to do this."

Tonight she decided to give that a try.  Rachel went in to re-tuck her in, prepared to change her diaper, and instead found Melissa sleeping naked on her bed, her sleeper in one corner of the room, and her doll's potty full of poop.  (Yes, her doll has a potty.  For educational purposes, you know.)

She actually did a really good job of aiming, considering the doll potty is only about 3 inches by 5.

Matthew plays a trick

Matthew is playing outside in the snow.  I have come inside from shoveling.

Ding-dong!  I answer the door.  It's Matthew.

"Daddy, the mail is here.  Can you get it?"

"Is it snow in the mailbox?"  I saw him stuffing snow in with his friends before I came in.

"No.  It's mail.  Can you get it?  I can't with my gloves on."

"Son, is it really mail, or just snow?"

"It's snow."  He grins at his cleverness.  "I play a trick on you, Daddy."

Bomb Game

It's been over a year since we've had my Dreamcast connected, but somehow Matthew remembered Bomberman Online aka "Bomb Game."  He's been asking to play it for a while now, but we really don't have room in our entertainment center anymore, which is currently home to a PS3, Xbox, Wii, and VCR.

Rachel's cousin just moved (temporarily) to Florida and offered to loan us a TV while they were gone.  "Perfect for the Dreamcast!" I thought.  So now it is hooked up downstairs and Matthew is delighted to play Bomb Game again.

I like that old Dreamcast (launched 9/9/99).  PS1 graphics were just too primitive for me, so the Dreamcast was my introduction to modern gaming.

I might have to go play Shenmue again now.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Holiday nostalgia

I'm not normally a very sentimental person.  Perhaps this comes from having poor long-term memory; my earliest memories date only to about 5 years of age, and those are pretty fuzzy.  This seems on the high end comopared to other people I know.  Nor do I remember a lot of the details from only a few years ago that Rachel does.  I've mentioned before that when Rachel asked me if we had any holiday traditions growing up, I have no idea.

But I discovered one source of nostalgia today.  Practicing Christmas songs with the ward choir, I kept thinking back to when I was a teenager singing in my ward choir.  Then, I sang bass; now, I usually sing tenor.  I'll sing which ever the choir is short on, because I can neither hit the really low notes nor the really high notes.  My only virtue is carrying a tune.

Mom anchored the soprano section then; she's a pretty serious amateur vocalist.  Besides the choir, we'd sing as a family and go caroling.  Twice that I remember, we sang a quartet at the neighborhood Christmas party -- Mom, Grant, Telitha, and me.  Christine was young then, and the other boys were less musically inclined.  Then I left on my mission and when I came back my parents moved.

Singing today, I remembered all that.  I missed it.  And I missed Mom.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Mmm, pie

Rachel cooked nine pies (and an apple crisp) and invited all her cousins over for Thanksgiving dessert.  With all her cousins, spouses, aunts, and uncles, we could have had 30+ people.

But only seven showed up, so even after they took some home, we had a lot of pie left.  (We had dessert scheduled for 5, after a 2:00 dinner at Rachel's aunt.  But her aunt's turkey was very late and we didn't eat until after 5.  Fortunately our guests were flexible.)

We had our neighbors Walt and Marilee over yesterday, with their kids, and we still had a lot of pie left.

Finally we had the  Casslers over, and now we only have a little pie left over.

All told, I had four pieces of banana creme as well as some pumpkin, pecan, raspberry creme, blueberry, and chocolate mousse.  But only a little of the chocolate!

I think I'm done eating dessert for a while.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Another difference between men and women

At lunch with the guys Friday, Gary mentioned that he caught hell from his wife that morning for his attire.  "You're not going out like that, are you?"  Gary checked.  "My shirt looks fine, Dear."  "Not your shirt -- your pants!  You can't wear corduroy with sneakers!"

This was news to all the other guys at the lunch, too.  We sympathized with Gary, and finished our burgers.

When I told this story to Rachel, she laughed.  "Well," she said, "his wife did have a point."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Advant Garde Artist

Matthew loves exploring new artistic mediums. He's used duct tape, sticks, vegetables, cardboard, masking tape, paper tubes, rubber bands, newspapers, wood scraps, ink and more to express his art.

Recently he took an empty milk jug, uncapped all his markers, and put them into the jug. Then he put his hand on top of the jug and shook it for all he was worth. The markers dotted the inside of the carton in a riot of colors. Voila! Art!

He was immensely pleased with his creation.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Daddies are so different from Mommies

A few days after Halloween, Melissa and I were walking through the neighborhood when we heard loud whooping and hollering. As we came closer, we saw two young boys gleefully dancing on the roof, while smashed pumpkin guts splattered the pavement. Our neighbor was climbing a ladder to the roof with another pumpkin in his hand to hand off to his boys. He was thoroughly enjoying himself too and was egging the kids on. (Not that they needed much encouragement.) They were having a grand time! Melissa and I sat in the grass to watch the pumpkin carnage, well out of the way of flying debris and rolling gourds. I noticed that the boys' mother wasn't home to witness all the fun...

Monday, November 12, 2007

I have a great husband!

Jonathan usually gets up with the kids in the morning and feeds them breakfast so I can sleep a little longer. Melissa now calls out for "DAAAAD DEEEEE!" first thing in the morning.

Heaven is burrowing deeper in the bed covers on a cold morning.


While at the park a few days ago Matthew ran up to me clearly steamed.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

Matthew replied with unmasked disgust in his voice, "Those kids boss me around. They keep telling me what to do like a grownup does!"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The joys of homeownership

After a month of trying to get some guys out to stain our deck, Jonathan bit the bullet and broke out the circular sander yesterday. We got most of the sanding and cleaning of the deck done, but then Melissa woke up. She didn't nap very long, so Jonathan entertained her for a bit while I started staining. Matthew was supposed to be cleaning his room during this time.

I informed our son that I was now staining. Matthew really likes to "help" in any project with mess potential, so he quickly finished cleaning his room so he could offer his services. Not wanting to discourage any budding work ethic, I gave him a cloth so he could "help". I did insist that he wear old clothes though. Matthew's idea of staining is to saturate the cloth with as much stain as possible and then drip it on random parts of the deck. He stayed out to help me for about an hour before he got bored. I asked him a few times if he'd rather do something else, but he was adamant. "Painting the deck is a lot of work! You need help! I will help you!" I couldn't turn him away. Instead I mopped up excess stain when I could, and thanked him for his efforts. Definitely not a professional job, but it'll protect the wood at least.

When Matthew decided to go inside, Jonathan popped a movie in for the kids to watch while he and I finished the deck. He asked me a about staining a part of the deck and I said, "Up to you dear, I leave it to your good judgment. After all, I know you have good judgment, because you married me!" He grumbled something, the last bit I caught, "and I could have had a condo!" Grumble, grumble.

So we got about 80% of the deck done yesterday. We didn't have time to finish the stairs before it got dark. Today it rained of course. I'm crossing my fingers that we don't have to redo the &%!* thing again this year!


I was at Home Depot Saturday with Matthew looking for wood scraps for him to nail together.  (What can I say, I am cheap.)

As occasionally happens, I passed wind.  Matthew noticed.

"Something stinky," he said.  "Is that you?"

"Matthew," I admonished him, "That's not a polite question."

When I told Rachel later, she laughed.  "You can't blame him," she said.  "It usually is."

(Rachel also says the title of this post is uncouth, but she cannot or will not suggest a better one.  Just so you know who to blame.)

You missed a great dinner

We had my friend Kevin and his wife Celia over for dinner tonight.  I made beef caldereta and it turned out as good as any I have ever had.  My caldereta is a bit hit or miss as I experiment, ever since the chef at The Boondocks told me his secret was "maraming keso" (lots of cheese).  The nice thing about caldereta is, the ingredients are so good that even if it's a bit off it's still edible.  And when everything comes together just right, like it did tonight, the results are fantastic.  

Here is tonight's recipe, more or less.  You can google recipes with lots more ingredients but I prefer to strip things down to the essentials because I don't see the point in spending added prep time on things that don't really affect the result.

As with any dish you make over and over I didn't actually measure any of these.  But I think I'm pretty close.

2 lbs beef, cubed
1 medium onion or half a big one, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp chopped garlic
5 small purple carrots from Rachel's garden, or about 3 boring normal orange carrots
2 8 oz cans of tomato sauce
2 cups grated cheese (that is, post-grating it was about 2 cups)
3 bay leaves 

Throw everything in a wok and cook until the beef is done.  Serve with rice.  Feeds four adults.  Feeds no kids; they would rather have a PBJ.

  • I suggest adding the cheese just at the end.  It seemed to make a difference tonight.
  • Bell peppers and peas are acceptable carrot substitutes for caldereta.
  • All the "authentic" calderetas I have had included potatoes.  But since potatoes are nutritionally and tastefully almost the same as rice I omit them in keeping with my no-wasted-effort cooking philosophy.  Just eat more rice with it and it works out.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Sportsmanship, peanut style

Rachel found the Wii Sports disc. Good thing I didn't buy another from Nintendo for $20. (Ouch!)

Matthew likes Tennis but despite my efforts to demonstrate has not figured out volleying. It's not that he swings and misses; the Wii makes that almost impossible. He just won't swing at all at the net. Since the computer is very, very consistent at returning baseline shots this means that he loses to all but the most inept computer opponents. (It scales its skill level as you get better. But Matthew hasn't been getting better.) Matthew often loses his temper as well as the game when this happens.

Fortunately for his wii privileges, he came up with a solution: he plays all four positions! The rallies aren't very long but he is immensely pleased because he wins every time.

I'd rather he learn that losing a game isn't a big deal and losing to a computer is an even smaller deal but I guess I'll take what I can get in the meantime.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Matthew was playing with the stick-on-the-wall bathtub letters last night.  He'd throw random letters up and ask what they spell.  I explained that the written word represents the spoken word, not the other way around, or in five year old terms, pick a word and spell it.

He didn't really get it so I told him to spell "cat."  What sounds are in "cat?"  He sounded it out, and put up C A T.  Great!  Next he replaced the C with an S to spell "sat."  Then he must have gotten tired with spelling, because he put up VAT next.  "What does that spell?" he asked.

I didn't want to make this a vocabulary lesson.  I wanted to reinforce my point about picking a word and spelling it.  So I asked him to sound it out and see if it made a word.  "Vvvv... aaaa... t.  Vat."  "See, it's not a word," I told him.

"Yes it is, Daddy.  Mommy says, 'Pick up vat!'"

His speech therapist still has some work to do.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Things that remind me of my dad

Every time I have to tell one of the kids, "I just told your [brother/sister] to stop doing that! Why did you start?!" I think of my father. My father who seemed to ask that question with the same tone of puzzled frustration that I hear in my own voice now. Dad used to seem so clueless at such times.

Poor Dad.

My own earliest memories are from when I was five. Three memories in particular. Having Matthew turn that age makes me think of my dad, too.

When I was five I remember measuring my height against my father. I came up to his belt buckle. I was halfway to being as big as Dad. A huge milestone.

When I was five I got a big yellow steam shovel for my birthday. I am not so old that they were really "steam shovels," but I had read a book in which such earth-moving machines were indeed steam powered and in my five year old mind so they remained. (I don't think this was the famous Mike Mulligan story, but it may have been.) This was the coolest present ever.

When I was five I saved up my allowance -- fifty cents a week? twenty-five? I'm not sure -- to buy a half-sized pair of vice grips. I didn't really have a use for them, per se, but I did know that vice grips were one of my father's most-frequently used tools and therefore having my own made me more grown up by association. (Which reminds me of a modern update to the old adage about vice grips: "Perl is like vice grips. You can do anything with it, and it's the wrong tool for every job.") [Rachel comments, "You're so nerdy." And then kisses me so I guess she approves.]

That's one thing I wish I did more of, is projects with Matthew like my dad used to do with me. I'm relucant to admit this in public, though, because Rachel is full of good ideas for home improvement, and it's really more of a fuzzy "wouldn't it be cool" wish than an actual desire. ["Darn it," she says.]

Rachel adds: "Matthew thinks all the tools belong to me, and Mommy is the one who fixes things."

Just doing my part for modern gender attitudes, Dear.

What Matthew is thankful for

  • Robots
  • Transformers
  • Emma
Daddy did not make the cut.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Don't get me wrong; I like Ellis. It's a fine last name. If common.

"Have you updated your wish list for the holidays?"  Tonight Rachel did.  Then she checked out my wish list for good measure.  "21 Jonathan Ellises!" she exclaimed.  "What a common name!"

Rachel has a thing about common names.  She still hasn't quite forgiven me for changing her name from what was probably the only Rachel Sinden in the country.  (But on the other hand she doesn't like it when parents make up new names for their kids, either.  It's really hard to win this game.)

I pointed out that, really, Ellis isn't that bad.  "Try John Brown," I suggested.  Rachel was skeptical that there could be anything much worse than Jonathan Ellis.

There were 368 John Browns.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


While waiting in the grocery store line we saw a burly and bearded man dressed in an emerald robe and wearing a crown. Melissa was delighted. "Princess!" she squealed with delight pointing. "Princesses! Princess!" The woman behind us hooted with laughter while the kingly man tried to maintain his dignity and made a point of ignoring us (guess he didn't have much of a sense of humor). I apologized to the man and tried to correct her, but Melissa would not be dissuaded.

I bet that is the first time the man had ever been called a "princess." Oh well, the woman behind us remarked that that was the funniest thing she had heard all day. At least we made somebody's day!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


We were driving in the car and Matthew piped up, "Grandma gets lost." "Oh? Grandma gets lost?" I queried. "Yeah. Grandma gets lost if I don't hold her hand, so I hold her hand."

"When I grow up I will come back and visit you and give you a hug and kiss. I will leave my kids with a babysitter to come visit you," Matthew explained. "Well, I think Grandma likes seeing you, her grandson, and I bet I'll like seeing your kids too, just like Grandma likes to see you." He thought a moment and then brightened, "Oh! You're right! I'll bring them too!"

"I was a cute baby, wasn't I?"

"I just tricking you!" One of Matthew's favorite explanations for his mischief.

"I am big, but 6 and 7 year olds are really really big!"

I a Pretty Dirl!

A conversation between Melissa and Jonathan:

M: I a Pretty Dirl!

J (somewhat taken aback): Yes, you are a pretty girl.

M: Dada, you a pretty dirl!

J: No, I am a handsome man. You are a girl; I am a man.

M: Datthew a man?

J: No, Matthew is a boy. Matthew will grow up to be a man.

M: Datthew drow up man?

J: Yes.

M: Mama a pretty dirl?

J: Mama is a pretty woman. You will grow up to be a woman too.

M: I drow up woman?

J: Yes.

This was a little beyond Melissa.

M: I a pretty dirl!

J: Yes. Good night.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A letter to Uncle Chris

Dear Uncle Chris,


I broke my toenail. I went to the doctor to fix it. He cut it off part of the toenail and put a band-aid on it. I got shots in my toe. I walked slowly with the blue band aid on it. It's feeling better.

It needs a 2. "Why?" It just does. 222222

I had fun with Mason. (Mason is Matthew's friend)

I went to church happy. And what did I learn about Dada? I don't remember what I learned about. (Jonathan was teaching his class today).

My pet is sick, my penguin pet. (a stuffed animal)

We hanged the pinata at my birthday party. We broke it. With a bat, by whacking it. Ate cake. And opened my presents.

I got sick on Wednesday. "You weren't sick on Wednesday." A long time ago on a Wednesday I was.



Sunday, October 21, 2007

Classic Peanuts

Our neighbor came over to our in a panic and wanted to use the phone. Apparently her one year-old baby had locked her out of the house and her two older children were still sleeping inside and couldn't wake up open the door for her. I gave her the cell phone to call her husband. Meanwhile their baby was crying on the opposite side of the door, while she tried to calm him. Thankfully her husband was only 5 minutes away at this point. This brought to mind a similar unfortunate occurrence...

When Matthew was about 17 months old I took him on a very memorable shopping trip. I'd forgotten to bring a toy and he was getting restless. I gave him my keys which entertained him enormously. We finished shopping, I loaded the groceries into the car, and put my purse in as well. I then buckled him into the car seat and closed the car door. I'd parked right beside the cart return so I pushed the cart in and reached for the driver side door.


Oh crud!!!

Matthew had found the lock button on the key chain. I tried to coax him into push the unlock button to no avail. In a panic I ran back into the store and grabbed a clerk with a phone (my cell phone was conveniently locked along with my AAA card, d'oh!). We called the police and waited and waited. I think Jonathan was teaching a class at the time which is why I couldn't reach him... Thankfully it was early March and pretty cold outside so Matthew was in no danger of overheating. The store employee even brought some blankets out to cover the glare from the sun and help keep things cool. I played peek-a-boo with him for about 15 minutes. He was amused at first but became distressed when I didn't open the door and join him. He then started a full baby wail. It tore at my heart. Poor fellow! I wanted nothing more than to come to him. I got to the point of requesting a brick to bash open a window, but decided to wait a few more minutes.

Thankfully the locksmith arrived shortly thereafter (maybe 30+ minutes total wait time?). Matthew was getting frantic as was I- but I didn't want to show it for fear of freaking him out even more. The locksmith did his work quickly and then informed me that they don't charge in instances where a kid gets locked in, but they strongly suggest a $50 donation. I wonder if the man know that at that moment he could have named his price. I'd have written a check for any denomination. Matthew snuggled up next to me saying "Mamamama" Then I had to put him back into that dreaded car seat in order to get home. He was not thrilled, but I bribed him with some candy.

He took a very good nap that day.


  • The kids watched Star Wars with Jonathan on Thursday night (orchestra night). Matthew is a huge Star Wars fan after playing Lego Star Wars over and over... Every time the movie cut to a new scene he'd excitedly exclaim, "They made it to the next level!
  • Matthew's speech therapy is going well. He can now say "k" sounds and intermittently "f's" instead of "s". He proudly announces to strangers on the street and store clerks that he is now "five" instead of "ssive". Melissa also insists that she too is five.
  • Last night we took the kids out for ice cream. On the way to the ice cream parlor Matthew piped up, "I want blue ice cream!" Not to be left out, Melissa chimed in, "I want red ice cream!" This went back and forth for a while, the kids happily shouting out their favorite colors, when Matthew slipped and said he wanted red ice cream. Melissa corrected him, "No Dachew, you like blue one!" At the store Melissa changed her mind and said she preferred the pink kind. Good thing too, because there was no red ice cream to be had.
  • We can't leave anything out on the counters or on top of the refrigerator any more. Mostly we are pretty good about keeping it clear of tempting and/or dangerous things, but every once in a while we slip. One morning Jonathan caught Melissa on top of the counter happily helping herself to potato chips. "Mmmm, chips! Licious! Mmmm!" (Daddy is a bit of a softy, and gave her some chips at the table before putting the rest away in the pantry.)


Matthew tattles on Melissa.  (Melissa got into the cookies!)  Melissa tattles on Matthew. (Matthew's playing with markers!)

I hate tattling.  But Melissa made me laugh when she was mad at Matthew but didn't have anything to pin on him at the moment.  "Mom!" she tried, "Matthew did something."

A cheap table

My grandmother once said that, as far as furniture was concerned, "Ethan Allen is the cheap stuff."

If that is the case, we just ordered another cheap table.  We checked R C Willey and Granite first (my grandmother would have been horrified) and could not find anything that was not laminate -- the kind that you can scratch with your fingernail, for the most part -- or weird, like one that was all stainless steel.  Or just shoddy construction, like the one that was perfect except that it wobbled if you breathed on it wrong.  That would have lasted Matthew about a month.

We also checked a place called Campo that imports solid wood furniture from Mexico.  But Rachel didn't like any of the styles they had.

So at Ethan Alen we got what was I believe the cheapest table in the store.  The saleslady called it "virtually indestructible," and I think she might be right.  (She kept going on and on about how high-quality EA furniture was, blah blah blah, so I told her about my grandmother to shut her up.  It worked.)

The price on the table itself was actually quite reasonable.  Then they really nail you on the chairs.  (You wouldn't want chairs that don't match, would you?)  All told it was almost $3000, or 10x what I paid for our current cheap table and chairs (a glass-topped iron model that is really patio furniture) 8 years ago.

Darn inflation.


Matthew's favorite birthday present was a late one: Uncle Ellis gave him and me Nerf dart guns.  There was much shooting and laughter in the basement last night.  (I am a better shot than Matthew, but our hit rates were about the same because I am a much bigger target.)

It's a good thing Ellis gave us some extra darts too.

Darts lost by Matthew not paying attention when he fired somewhere in the kitchen: 1
Darts chewed up by Melissa: 2

(I thought she was done with the "let's chew up random stuff for no particular reason" phase.  Good grief!)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Those glow sticks sure smell bad when you chew them open

Grandma Ellis sent the kids some glow sticks for Matthew's birthday and the run-up to Halloween.  We gave them one each to start with; then Melissa bent the rest of hers, starting the glow reaction, so I gave those to her too.   She preferred them bent into bracelets.

Some time after putting the kids to bed we heard a disturbance from Melissa's room.  Rachel wearily asked me to investigate.  I poked me head in the door and Melissa told me "Ow, tongue!"  I smelled something funny.  She'd been chewing on one of the glow sticks and sure enough one was broken open and she had glowing yellow liquid on her.  I got her a drink of water (I tried to get her to just rinse and spit but she drank it) while Rachel called poison control.

Turns out it is caustic, as Melissa found out, but not really dangerous in small amounts.

In some ways Melissa is an easier child than her brother.  But we have never had to call poison control for Matthew.  This is twice for Melissa.  (The first time, which I don't think I blogged, was when she ate a handful of Tums.  Which is funny, because Rachel would rather endure heartburn than eat those.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's 10:30 PM

I know where my children are.

In particular my son is in his room, making various not-sleepy noises.

Uh-oh, the water is running. Now he has incurred the wrath of Mommy.

I predict a cranky boy tomorrow.

Why some people never have children

Actually, I think five-year-old birthday parties are pretty low down on the list of reasons why some childless couples choose to remain that way.  But that's only because they don't know how bad it can get.

Last year, Rachel let Matthew invite six (?) friends to a party. Four came. It was fairly manageable.

This year, counting on a similar acceptance ratio, she let him invite nine friends.  All of them came.

Perhaps the best summary was offered by Rachel's friend Jessica, who stayed for the duration of the party with her two daughters that Matthew had invited -- one a little older than he, the other a little younger -- and two younger sons.  I don't know why she stayed.  Maybe she just didn't want to drive back and forth again since she lived about 10 minutes away.  But I think it was more likely simply morbid curiosity, just like you can't look away from a train wreck you know is coming.  

Anyway, Jessica pointed out that "Wow, little boy parties are very different from little girl parties.  Little girls like to sit, and talk, and follow instructions.  They don't hit each other or wrestle or run off away from the activity."  Which our guests did constantly.  When there wasn't anything obvious to hit each other with, like Matthew's lightsabers or swords, they'd find something else.  Like teddy bears.

Rachel reminded me that "testosterone starts affecting boys' brains in the womb."  I believe it.

Matthew's party theme was superheroes.  (Of course birthday parties need a theme!)  Rachel tried to get him to accept an offer of a pirate party, but he would have none of that.  As a compromise of sorts, she managed to get him to broaden his demands for a Buzz Lightyear party into one to which all superheroes would be accepted.

Mostly Rachel wanted a pirate party because it's incredibly easy to come up with pirate-oriented activities for attention-challenged youngsters.  But she did pretty well with the superhero theme: first there was a "training camp," with races and bean bag throwing contests and the like.  Then there would be a "mission," where Rachel had a trail of photo clues leading from one location to the next and finally to a pinata.

We did have to improvise briefly after the last training episode -- a race around the house.  Matthew fell and threw a tantrum, some of the other kids were arguing about who cheated, two kept having sword fights, and at least one was inclined to wander off and explore the house.

Rachel called an emergency meeting of superheros, with popcorn.  The heros ate the popcorn with gusto and order was (briefly) restored.

Then we did the photo clue mission, which went as planned except for the oldest guest running around picking up clues out of sequence, which left me running around putting them back.  Then the pinata was duly destroyed, candy was put into bags for when they left, cake was served, and presents opened.

Then everyone left, we swept up all the popcorn and cleaned away the cake, put the kids down for a nap, and fell asleep exhausted ourselves.

The party ran from 11 to 1, but what with pre-party cleaning and preparation, and post-party cleanup and recovery, it really was an all day thing.  (I woke up from my nap at 5.  I needed it.)

I wonder if there's a way to distract Matthew from having a party when he turns six.  Maybe if we're out of the country for all of October, for instance... 

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Either he's in for a big surprise or I am

Today Matthew wore a suit to church.  (After all, he is now a big five-year-old.)  After Primary he was really excited to tell us that Emma told him he was handsome.

Emma is the neighbor girl he has decided he is going to marry.  (Why?  "Emma is nice."  What about [some other girls]?  "They are not as nice as Emma.")

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Toe trauma

Thursday night is when Rachel practices with her orchestra. (She is viola chair this year.) Thursday is also, not coincedentally, when Daddy takes the kids out for fast food.

This past Thursday I took the kids to Burger King. Matthew rushed ahead. "I want to open the door!" He heaved it open with all his might.

Unfortunately, his toe was in the way, and he was wearing sandals.

He shrieked and kept shrieking. I could see that it had started bleeding but I didn't think it was that bad; Matthew's prone to exaggeration in such things, particularly when he sees his own blood. I carried him inside and put him on a table where I could look at his toe.

It was a mess.

The toenail was shattered and the toe itself was bleeding pretty badly, for a toe. It was bad enough that clipping away the toenail mess myself didn't look like an option.

So I carried him back to the car and bucked him in, still shrieking. Then I went back and collared Melissa, who had run ahead to the slide. She didn't want to go but was fairly philosophical about being caught. "Matthew ow, toe."

We drove down to the instacare a couple miles away. Matthew wasn't in that much pain but he was still freaking out in a big way. I reached back and held his hand, and he made some efforts to calm down by singing, but it was only partially successful.

When we got to the instacare the receiptionist gave him a lollipop and he calmed down instantly. Then some other kids came in and saw his injury, by far the coolest in the waiting room, and started talking about times they hurt themselves. Matthew was pleased with the attention.

It was a good thing that he calmed down because we had a long time to wait. We got there at 7; they closed at 8; we were done at 10. By that point both kids were way past their bedtimes and fatigue was taking its toll on Matthew's composure. It didn't get as bad as my flight back with him from NJ when everything caused massive and noisy hysterics, but it was definitely causing extra crankiness.

First they took x-rays to make sure it wasn't broken. I was sure it wasn't but it's Procedure dammit. At least it didn't add that much time to the wait. Then they got him on the operating table. The doctor took a closer look and didn't like what he saw. "It's deeper than I thought," he said. "He'll need anaesthetic for me to trim the nail. We can either do that with a local here, or you can take him to Primary Children's where they can knock him out through the nose." I'd had needles in my toe when I had a doctor attack an ingrown toenail very aggressively. (He tried to take out the root so it wouldn't grow back. It grew back anyway.) It hurt like hell but I survived. General anaesthetic can have rare but nasty complications, especially if you're young. So I opted to take care of it then and there.

I and a tough-looking nurse held Matthew down while another nurse gave him three barrels of novocain. He screamed again. "I don't like medicine!" Now that I don't blame him for in the least, poor kid. Then it started to go numb and he figured he was good to go home, but we had to wait another 20 minutes or so for the novocaine to be at maximum strength before the doctor could operate. The nurses and I praised Matthew for being Tough.

Fortunately a kind nurse took Melissa into the staff office and gave her papers and crayons at the table during this. She had reached her own limit of how long she was willing to sit still and listen to stories, and we'd exhausted the few child-safe amusements of the OR (tongue depressers and... that's about it), so I was very relieved.

Matthew's toenail was just generally mangled at the front. That needed to come off. But it was also split down the middle almost to the base. The doctor gave me the choice of removing it completely or trying to save it with a little superglue -- the danger being that if he caught it on something it could very easily rip it open along the seam. I opted for the superglue. When he started in, the toe was so numb Matthew didn't even notice, so he put a couple dissovlable stitches in instead of the glue since the stitches are stronger.

Finally we headed for home. That's when Rachel got home, saw the house dark and deserted, and freaked out a little herself. I'd called a couple times but she'd left her phone home. When she called she was relieved that we hadn't been in a car accident or worse.

When we got home Matthew couldn't wait to tell Mom his adventure. Novocaine is wonderful stuff. We gave him some codeine before tucking him in so hopefully the pain wouldn't wake him up during the night. It didn't.

By today he is running around normally, not favoring his toe at all. Kids heal fast.

Travel update 2

So it turns out that January is about the worst possible month to visit Tahiti as weather goes (temperature, not shown, is also lowest in the US summer months when rainfall is lowest). Conversely, US winter months are the best for the Philippines.

Both get roughly the same amount of rain ("a lot") in their rainy season. (The Tahiti graph is in mm -- 15 inches is about 380 mm, so they peak at about the same rate.)

Rachel has put me in charge of getting passports. ("I'm sure you'll get the job done. Plus, I don't want to deal with it!")

Friday, October 05, 2007

Travel update

I did look at some French-speaking African countries. Morocco is currently very popular with Europeans looking for something different (and cheaper). Here is one good Morocco blog by an American.

The main drawback is that these are very Islamic countries and although foreigners are left alone, a Moslem who converts to Christianity is not treated well there. (Since under Sharia the penalty for apostasy is death, I suppose they're making progress, technically.) Perhaps not coincidentally the LDS church does not have much of a presence there.

So we're going to leave these off our list. Besides the part about your religion making you a second class citizen, the church is also a support group of sorts, and when contemplating a drastic change like this it's nice to know that there will be some people there with whom you at least have religion in common.

Madagascar was the only French-speaking country that did have an LDS church presence. But it seems very, very third world. (One ISP I found touted as a selling point that their equipment only uses 25 watts! "Easy on batteries, generators, or solar panels!") Their recent history probably has something to do with that.


  • Melissa was sitting on my lap being cute the other day when she unleashed a series of four loud, moist farts. How unladylike! I was a little shocked, not that a two year old would do such a thing but at the juxtaposition with her picture-perfect cuteness in every other respect. She looked up at me and grinned her dimply grin. "Bubbles!" she exclaimed, clearly pleased with herself.
  • Today Melissa was on my lap again. "How were the kids today?" I asked Rachel. Melissa chimed in, "Machew dood boy." [Matthew good boy.] Rachel confirmed that it was so, and I praised Matthew. "Were you a good girl?" I asked Melissa. "No, I not dood dirl, I dood boy." "Silly little miss, you're a girl!" "I not dirl!" "You are!" "I not!" I changed the subject: "Toes!" I tickled her and there was much giggling.
  • Matthew copies letters and words and really wants to read, as long as it doesn't require any concerted effort. (We are on reading lesson 10... a month ago we were on 9.) He tries to guess words based on context. He claims he can read "Exit" on doors, which works fine except when the door actually says "1st floor," as one did today.
  • Rachel has labels on the linen closet shelf to show her well-intentioned but slightly oblivious husband where things go. Matthew copied the "Towels" label (you wouldn't think I'd have trouble with that one, but Rachel was thorough) and placed his next to his mom's. With his own duck tape. That label is manly.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Travel distraction

My company's current and so far only contract has a major deadline in January. Even though I know better (in software development, you only get busier post-release) I have been thinking about how it would be nice to do some traveling.

Rachel and I have talked about living abroad for a year or so in the relatively near future. There are lots of places we would like to live but probably the top three are Ireland, Tahiti, and the Philippines. The main line of reasoning here is
  1. If you're going to go abroad for a year it's a bit silly to live somewhere that's not very different from the USA, which tends to rule out Australia which is after all rather like Canada, only warmer
  2. On the other hand it does suck to not be able to understand anyone. We should be fine with English in Ireland and the Philippines; we think we could probably dust the rust off our French quickly enough to make Tahiti viable. (Thanks to my father's influence, my French was once good enough to be able to watch the news and occasionally trick a Frenchman into thinking I was Quebequois. Although I never managed the opposite; my accent was not French enough.)
  3. You could apply (1) and (2) to France itself as well, but neither of us is really excited about that idea for various reasons
  4. Ditto Northern Africa, although it's quite possible I should look at the options there more closely
Of course, before moving somewhere for a year it only makes sense to make some shorter trips first to see if we actually like it first. That is what I have in mind for January.

Of those, I'd prefer not to make our first visit to Ireland be in the winter. From what I have read, the weather there is similar to Rachel's native Washington in the sense that it rains a lot most of the year; the main difference is that Ireland is colder.

My dad wants to come out and say hi if we go to Tahiti; since he's a college teacher, that means waiting for summer makes sense for Tahiti too. (And if you are thinking "sharing a vacation with your parents doesn't sound like much fun," you clearly do not have kids yet. Free baby sitting. Plus my parents think Rachel walks on water which doesn't hurt either.)

So, that is the long explanation for why Rachel often catches me reading about the Philippines online. At first glance there's a lot of information available about living just about anywhere but if you look closer most of it is geared towards either singles or retired couples. Or retired singles. Younger couples with kids... not so much.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Not out of the woods yet...

Last night Jonathan and acted like newlyweds, we stayed up late games.

In retrospect that wasn't such a good idea.

About 1:30 in the morning Melissa woke up yelling for Daddy. Daddy was out for the count so I went in her room. As I knelt by her bed I abruptly realized something was very wrong. I picked her up and and started yelling for Jonathan. Melissa had thrown up and was covered head to toe. I bathed Melissa while Jonathan took care of the bedding, floor, and wall.

Freshly bathed and attired, I rocked her in her room. She threw up again and got me and the rocking chair, not to mention herself too. We showered

(Well wasn't that interesting. As I wrote this Melissa was sick again while on my lap. I wasn't quite fast enough and she got the couch too. Poor thing.)

So anyways it was about every 10 minutes she'd have another episode in the night. It went on until around 5:30. I'm not sure what time she got up this morning, Jonathan took her then and I slept till 9.

So then Matthew started complaining about being sick. I thought he was just vying for all the attention that his sister was getting. Unfortunately I was wrong. So now both kids are taking turns upchucking. We are in constant threat of running out of fresh towels and Melissa clothes. The washer and dryer and running full time. Poor kids, poor parents.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


*Warning the following contains bodily functions and interior decorating. It is not a pretty combination.

Sunday Jonathan put Melissa down for a nap. He could hear her goofing off and then it got erily quiet. Daddy patted himself on his back for successfully putting her down for a nap. A half hour later he hears "Dadda Poop! Dadda! Dadda!" Upon entering the room he is overwhelmed with the poop fumes. Melissa is in the room diperless and the contents of her discarded diaper artfully decorating the floor, blankets, and her. He picks her up, gives her a shower, and cleans the floor.

Fast forward to that evening. I'm taking a shower and Melissa barges on in the bathroom. I tell her firmly that "No, you had a shower today, now it is Mama's turn." Jonathan extracts her from the bathroom and locks the door for me. I finish up and head upstairs. Melissa is in her room naked and covered in poop. Her floor is covered in poop, her bedding likewise adorned. She looks up and Jonathan and me and says, "Daddy Poop! I shower?" Gahhh!

She got a cold wipe down in the tub instead. Daddy and Mommy were not amused.

Call Me Old-Fashioned

Since moving to Utah a decade ago, I've noticed a trend. Most adults here are addressed by their first names by children. In fact if I introduce someone to my children as Mrs. So and so, they will interject, "oh you can call me Jane." I thought it was a regional quirk, but after browsing through an online parenting discussion forum, 97% of the posters go by their first name with children. In fact more than a few of them thought it is degrading to children to have to use Mr. or Mrs./Ms.!! That using a title is an inappropriate form of respect and real respect comes from actions not words.

Well, in my ever humble opinion, words do convey respect or disrespect, and there is nothing wrong (and quite a bit right!) with using a title to express that. Kids are wonderful, delightful people, but they are not adults in miniature. Believe me, I live with two of them! I have yet to see an adult throw himself onto the ground kicking and screaming because he can't have the gumball he wants! Or decorate the walls, floors, and her body with markers. I think that with age comes responsibility, experience, and (hopefully) wisdom, right? Adults teach and protect children and as such are not on the same level. On television, could you imagine calling Mr. Roger, Fred? As in "Fred's Neighborhood?" I just don't see myself as the peer of a three-year-old! Likewise, those whom I grew up addressing as Mr./Mrs. or Brother/Sister, are still addressed in that manner, unless they prefer to be addressed otherwise now that I'm an adult.

However, my viewpoint is not popular. It's hard to teach Matthew and Melissa to address adults with a title when their peers don't or the adults prefer to be addressed by their first name. Even very casual acquaintances will ask to be known as Bob or Amy. Often I can compromise with "Ms. Amy." Really close friends and cousins have the honorific "Aunt or Uncle." I want to respect what other adults what to be called, at the same time I want to teach Matthew and Melissa good manners. It's tough to balance.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


  • It sucks when your kids get over their cold faster than you do. They're bouncing off the walls while you're groaning on the couch wishing the world would stop being so loud. At least Melissa slept in til 8:30 two days in a row while she was recuperating.
  • Matthew's favorite song is the Star Wars Imperial March, aka "the Darth Vader theme." He has several variants that he hums to himself. I'm not sure if the variations have more significance than a 4-year-old not quite remembering how it goes.
  • Matthew's class was assigned to say what they are thankful for during the ward Primary program. Matthew was thankful for his birthday, and Christmas. Recently he added Halloween. One of his classmates is thankful she doesn't have nightmares anymore.
  • Melissa has been spending more time in her room lately as she learns that telling Daddy "No" when told to Come or Climb Down is not acceptable. This morning, for instance, I came back in the room to find her on top of the counter, stuffing her face with Mommy's gummi worms. She was not pleased to see me.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A trip with Matthew

I took Matthew with me on a business trip to NJ in mid-August. Matthew was a good traveler for the most part; if he hadn't done well on our trip for David's wedding I wouldn't have done it. 5 hours is a long flight, plus more waiting in the airport, is a long time to sit around when you're 4.

Continental overbooked the first leg of our flight (to DC, where we were going to take a Delta flight to Utah). The good news was they put us on a direct flight to SLC instead. The bad news is we still got in to Utah almost three hours later, past 10 PM. Matthew did pretty well until he fell asleep half an hour before we landed -- when he woke up he was in bad shape. Everything resulted in a flood of tears and howls.

But I guess it was worth it; Mom was glad to have Matthew for a couple days, and Matthew was glad to see Grandma and Uncle Grant again. Rachel was glad to only have one kid by herself while I was gone. And for all their squabbles, Melissa missed Matthew -- Rachel said every morning she would ask, "Where Dachew?"

Monday, August 27, 2007

Captain Oblivious

My wife figured out early on that I can't read her mind. That's just not a skill men come with, in general. Tonight she found out that even as men go I'm a little slow.

We were sitting at the table discussing Halloween costumes, and Rachel asked Matthew if he was going to eat his chili this year.

I paused. "Wait," I said. "Is that what we had last year [when Matthew wouldn't eat his dinner, so didn't get to trick or treat]?"

My wife looked at me with a grin in her eyes. "Yes, we've had chili and corn bread every Halloween for seven years now."

"Oh. It's a tradition?"

"Yes, Dear. So what you're telling me is, when I ask if you had any traditions growing up, you're not really a reliable source, are you?"

I guess not!

(I didn't tell her that I probably never would have noticed the chili and corn bread thing if Matthew hadn't refused to eat it last year. So, no. Not a reliable source at all.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Another sign you need to work out more

Your wife tells you, "I like that look on you. Black is slimming."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

On the hazards of getting your wife killed

We played Munchkin with my cousin Bryan and his wife Jen yesterday. At one point Bryan was fighting a level 10 monster. I made it "Ancient" (+10) and he enlisted Rachel to help fight it. Then I gave it a "mate" (doubling its power to 40). Rachel and Bryan had to run away. Bryan made it. Rachel did not and died.

Rachel was understandably peeved with me. I thought it ended with the game until she told me as we were going to sleep, "I think Lisa has the right idea." I immediately knew what she meant: Lisa only plays board games to make Grant lose. I have no idea why he still plays with her.

"I didn't know you were the vindictive sort, Dear," I said.

"I'm not vindictive. I'm just holding a grudge."

I guess that does it for Munchkin.

(It could be worse, though. My friend Howard knows a man with a couch he calls his Medici couch, because that's where he sleeps after he plays Medici with his wife.)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Little girls

Girls play so differently than boys.

Matthew's (second) cousins Abby and Alex are here playing. Abby is a little older than Matthew and Alex is a little older than Melissa.

Abby is running things. Her games are entirely different than Matthew's. I came down when she was serving "dessert" to the others. She saw me and assured me, "It's okay; we already had dinner."

Then she got the "bed" ready and told the younger kids they had 2 minutes before bedtime. Then it was storytime. Then, "Alex, go to bed with Melissa. I want to sleep with Matthew. He's the daddy."

But Matthew started arguing with her because he was having fun reading "stories" to Alex. "I sleep with Alex first." They argued at length. Abby played her trump card: "You'll wake the baby up!" But Matthew out-stubborned her, until Alex lost interest.

The two younger ones are taking this with surprisingly good grace, consenting to play along when it suits them, but ignoring the older kids when it doesn't. Mostly, it doesn't.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The most stubborn Ellis

I thought Melissa had "most stubborn Ellis" locked up but Matthew has forced me to reconsider.

Saturday morning, around 8:00, he was tasked with cleaning his room, same as every Saturday morning for the past few months.

He finished at 11:00 Sunday morning.

It was about fifteen minutes' worth of work. Thirty if you're horribly inefficient. An hour if you're inefficient and easily distracted.

So for over 24 hours Matthew only came out for meals.

It was annoying for the rest of us because we had some family activities we would have liked to do, but he was inclined to cut of his nose to spite his face.

I did beat Super Stardust though. So it wasn't a total loss.

Chaise lounge, postscriptum

This already is funny, to my mom.

"Just like her father," she chuckled.

"Hey!" I protested. You mean, "Just like her Uncle David! I wasn't the destructive one."

"You're right," she conceded.

"You've got to be more careful about that, Mom," I said. "Rachel hears you say 'Just like her dad' and takes it at face value."

I get the impression that my wife thinks I was 5 kids worth of orneriness rolled into one. Just trying to set the record straight.

Alas, poor chaise lounge

Melissa kicked off the weekend with flair.

I got home, kissed my wife, asked, "Where's the kids?" [downstairs, playing nicely] and sat down to read the paper. Hey, usually the kids are all over me, so I was going to enjoy the calm while it lasted.

Rachel checked on the kids a few minutes later. When she came up, she grimly deposited a marker-covered Melissa in front of me, then headed back down.

I went down too. Rachel's chaise lounge was covered in the same purple marker that decorated Melissa. Matthew had opened the Melissa-proof container the markers were in for his own use (on paper), but apparently saw nothing in his sister practicing her art on the chair worth telling us about. Odd, because usually he's so quick to tattle. Bad time to choose to be reticent.

Amazingly, Rachel got almost all of the marker out of the chair. Only four spots remain that I can see. And when I say it was covered I mean it; of the seven faces of the chair not facing the floor, five had marker on them and four had a lot of marker on them.

Rachel thinks there is hope if she tries different cleaning solutions on the four remaining spots but it is probably going to be time to drape her chair in decorative cloths of some sort.

Poor Rachel. As my friend said, "We've pretty much given up on having nice things until the kids are twenty or so." The chaise lounge was one of our few more-than-utilitarian pieces, and Melissa chose that one to practice on.

In a few years this will probably be funny.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Book reviews in exactly 10 words

Gun, with occasional music: Noir. Talking kangaroos. Doesn't merit hype. I couldn't suspend disbelief.

Medicine, Madams, and Mounties: 80 below? That's cold. Short but sweet; $1 on Amazon.

Rebel without a stitch

Melissa dressed herself this morning. She climbed on her bookshelf to get down one of her dresses that are deliberately kept "out of reach."

Next she decided she'd rather be naked. Rachel told her she needed to put on some underwear. "No 'wear!" she insisted. She argued for a few minutes, then decided that Mommy was probably not too bright and could be fooled. She put on a shirt and pants and came back, still underwearless.

Rachel was not fooled, and repeated her rule. "No 'wear," Melissa insisted again, between howls of outrage. Our daughter is well on the way to becoming the most stubborn of the Ellises, and that's saying something, so Rachel picked her up and put her in her room for a potentially very long wait for Melissa to comply. "No pick!" [Don't pick me up] Melissa demanded, but Rachel paid her no heed.

Fun with physics

I was just sitting down for my morning chat with the mayor when I heard a clunk from the living room. It was definitely the sort of clunk a glass makes when dropped on the floor, and I remembered now that Rachel had left a glass on the floor last night.

"Whew, I'm glad it didn't break," I thought, and debated getting up to confiscate the glass. Melissa decided for me, though, and I heard the glass hit the floor again. This time it didn't survive.

These glasses shatter particularly violently when they break, so I sprinted for the living room, sat Melissa on the couch, and started cleaning up. "Sowwy, Da'," she kept saying. She knew she was not on Daddy's Good List.

Let me just emphasize that Rachel had left the glass on the floor. So our daughter picked it up and deliberately dropped it, until it broke.

Our son isn't the only one with an appetite for destruction.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Breakfast of Champions

Jonathan often gets up with the kids in the morning (bless him) so that I can catch a few more winks. However his idea of what makes a complete breakfast and mine differ on a few key points. His concept of breakfast is expediency; whatever happens to be on the counter, or can be prepared in 3 seconds flat. On the other hand, I like to consider food pyramid type stuff.

Last week he gave the kids cookies for breakfast on Tuesday and on Thursday cake(!). (Yeah, the kids love Daddy breakfasts.) When I discussed the matter with Jonathan, he tried to say that cake is kind of healthy given that it has eggs, flour, milk... Uh huh.

Me: Daddy gave you cake for breakfast?

Matthew: Yeah, I asked for banana oatmeal, but he said no.

Me: Oh, really?

For the record, Jonathan refutes that oatmeal was ever discussed, or that Matthew was in the slightest bit dismayed with cake. "What a bald face lie!!!"

Sensing a necessary reform, I made a list of approved and NOT approved breakfast items.

Approved: oatmeal, fruit smoothie, any fresh or frozen fruit, eggs and toast, apple sauce, cereal, granola bar, yogurt, pancakes, muffins (*anything else, please consult the WIFE)

NOT Approved: cake, cookies, ice cream, goldfish crackers, etc (and yes these are all things he has fed them for breakfast)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Keeping Jonathan's ego in check

I just got back from OSCON where I presented a tutorial session. I was telling Rachel about it and I mentioned that on two separate occasions I was talking to an older fellow and they asked if I was in school. I was rather pleased about that, being a little sensitive about the whole over-30 bit lately.

Rachel, engrossed in Master of Orion, replied, "They must not be very observant. You certainly don't look like a student anymore."

I wasn't too flattered. A bit less than gruntled, even.

"... You look young. Really. Maybe, 23?"


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Beans! Beans! Beans!

Melissa helped pick our first bunch of beans.

"Purple Bean! Purple Bean! I help!"

We planted Royal Burgandy and they are Bee-autiful! (tasty too!) Took some pictures, but I don't know where cable is... Jonathan can post a picture when he gets back from his trip. Meanwhile here's a link to what they look like, and yes, they are that gorgeous.

purple beans

Monday, July 23, 2007

More Peanuts

  • Melissa loves to have books read to her. "Readzabook! Readzabook!" she demands. We keep a stash of rotated library books in the drawer of the entertainment center. She will pull book after book and clamber onto your lap expectantly. She is very insistent too, and will push whatever else you may be doing aside so that you can read to her. I usually peter out after four books, somewhat to her dismay.

  • Baby counting... Everyday when Daddy comes home he throws the kids in the air and counts to 10 as he tosses them. (Incidentally this used to make Mommy panic, but I've since mellowed a bit about Daddy games. He hasn't dropped a kid yet.) Melissa now counts 1..2..4! She's getting there!
  • Matthew likes to put the dog harness (it's a soft backpack that looks like a dog and it's tail is the leash) on Melissa and order her around the house. He calls the game "pet shop". Melissa, for her part, seems to enjoy the game and barks and licks things (while crawling on hands and knees).
  • Matthew wanted to play "crashing boat game" when I gave him his bath yesterday. This game consists of, well, crashing boats into each other. Matthew is pretty rough, so my knuckles get a beating playing this game. I persuaded him to play a word game instead to spare my hands. He has a collection of foam letters that stick to the bathtub wall. We used words that end in "ip" He was very pleased with the words we made. lip, sip, tip, rip, nip, zip, hip, dip...
  • Yesterday we were desperately low on TP. (You potty train a kid and toilet paper usage more than doubles!) I was certain we had more in the pantry, but alas. Since it was Sunday, we figured that if we rationed things we'd be fine until Monday. (Meaning kid use of tp was to be strictly monitored.) We didn't get to bed until late that night, and Jonathan gets a little loopy when he's sleepy. He had a "brilliant" brainstorm. "Hey dear, we can produce and market pee rags for crunchy people! Our slogan can be 'Save a Tree! Pee on Me!' or 'Pee is for Planet!'" Righhhtt.... And he likes to tease me about how crunchy I am! Okay, okay, so we do the cloth diapers, don't buy formula, don't use disposable feminine products, and prefer natural childbirth, but STILL!!! Night night, sleepy scheming husband!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

When all you have is a hammer

Grandma Ellis sent Matthew a Real Hammer. Matthew was immensely pleased. ("My first real tool!!!") He immediately started hammering everything in his bedroom. He got a nail partway through one of his shelves before Rachel caught him. (It's probably just as well for Matthew's sake as well as the coffee table's that he didn't exactly pull a Calvin.) Rachel sent me off to Home Depot to get some wood scraps so he could express his male need to put nails into things in a more acceptable fashion.

I brought some 2x4 scraps and some thinner ones. So of course Matthew nailed "wings" on to one of the 2x4s to make an airplane ("for Mama"). (Later he decided it was more of a helicopter.) His first creation out of something more substantial than legos.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Working the system

I've been putting Melissa to bed lately. I offer to rock her first, which she usually refuses violently, then yells her indignation at me as I leave and for long minutes afterwards.

This is uncharacteristic of her in other situations; she's generally much more aware than her brother that you catch more Daddies with honey than with vinegar.

The other night she applied this to bedtime. I put her in bed, and she asked, "Wok, Da'." [Rock, Dad]

So I rocked her.

Then I put her in bed and she asked, "Nuhdoh, Da'." [Snuggle]

So I snuggled next to her for a minute.

Then when I left she yelled anyway. Oh, well.

Update: Tonight I put her down twice. The first time we rocked and snuggled. The second time, she was be-bopping around so I ducked in to tuck her back in the bed. "Nughdoh!" she demanded. "No, I already snuggled you. Night night." I left. On my way out she commanded, "Way! Stop!" [Wait! Stop] but I left anyway.

Then she yelled. But only briefly.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Jonathan was reading a book about some mice and kittens to Melissa.
She named the cats off, "Dadda cat, Dachew cat, [and lastly] Sissa Cat!"

Jonathan: Is that a Melissa cat?

Melissa: Yeah!

Today I set up the photo booth on the mac so the kids could take pictures of themselves while I finished cleaning the kitchen.

Melissa pointing at the monitor: Sissa! Sissa!

Unfortunately the photo time didn't last long. [shaking head] two year olds and sharing....

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Outsmarting a two year old

Melissa wasn't really interested in breakfast this morning. She jumped down from her chair and got her stuffed doggy harness on, then handed me the leash and got on all fours, so I could take her for a walk.

I did. Right back to the breakfast table.

More things we never thought we'd have to say

"Stop licking the air vent." [Melissa]

"No, you may not eat on the floor." [Matthew]

"No, Daddy does not poop his pants." [Melissa]

"Girls give kisses, not licks." [Melissa, repeatedly]

A new job

I started a new job on Wednesday. My last day at the old job was Tuesday. It would be nice to take a break between but somehow anyone who wants to hire seems to want you to start Right Away. Go figure.

It was a frustrating start, actually, because the new company was/is so brand-new that they didn't have office space, so I and the other 4 in Utah were working from home. (We signed a lease Friday so this should change next week.) (The 2 in California are working from home too but that isn't going to change any time soon.) I'm fine with working from home, but this is the week that our Comcast internet chose to go from "intermittently flaky" to "constantly flaky," where constant flakiness is "up for no more than 10 minutes at a time." When you're dealing with code repositories on VPN, not to mention all the googling that comes with (re)learning a new platform, this is a pain.

We actually got lucky (at least, this doesn't seem to be typical for interactions with Comcast) and the tech we got Friday fixed it immediately. Something to do with how the installer had wired up the line made the modem unable to keep a connection very long. Why it suddenly went from "annoying, but not annoying enough to spend enough time on hold to get a tech out to fix it" to "almost completely unusable," he didn't say. But it's definitely been stable since his visit so I'm inclined to think he knew what he was doing.

The relearning of Java has been a little stressful too. It's been 3 years and 2 major releases of Java since I really touched it at all, and neither of the two IDEs (and a third build system) are what I used before. But I've always been able to be immediately productive in a new environment before, so I've been feeling that pressure, at least from my self. Still, thinking it over, always before I've had the former maintainers of what I'm taking over available at least for my first couple days to answer questions. Although that's true here too, the man in question is (a) my boss and (b) horribly busy with everything else involved in running the new company, both of which make me a little hesitant to ask the sort of "stupid" questions I'd usually ask when starting out.

The bike parade

Our neighborhood had a childrens' bicycle (and tricycle and big wheel and scooter and skates and stroller) parade last Saturday. Matthew rode his New Bike. Melissa rode in the wagon, because somebody stole the new Red Ryder trike that Rachel got her for her birthday. (Seriously. I saw it left out for a couple days, then it was gone. And not because we put it inside. Grr.)

It was a cool parade, with two police escorts. Rachel decorated Matthew's trike with ribbon for the occasion. Matthew was not the youngest, but he was the slowest. He was more diffident than usual; it seemed the handlebars were loose, because he wobbled a lot. But on closer inspection one of the "hub caps" on the back had come off and the wheel was doing its best to come off. So for most of the parade Rachel and I took turns kicking it to keep it on, which Matthew took with relatively good grace.

Also there were donuts at the end. I'm not sure why Rachel didn't tell me about this because I would have been a lot more exited about the whole idea if I'd known.

Uncle Chris letter 3

Dear Uncle Elder Chris,

I made a house of cushions. I put newspaper on top so it looks like a house. Melissa caused trouble [kicking Matthew] and I tickled her hard [hmm] and Daddy took her out and put me in my room and said You can come out.

My computer's making a funny noise. Like this: blibittleblipdoodleit. Like people are talking in my computer sprrrft boing! And they were talking and next time bliddleoop and pwrfgt the C batteries were making a funny noise, but the six batteries were not. [Rachel explains: he thinks batteries that come in a 6-pack are better than the ones in a 4-pack, and Mommy bought the wrong kind.]

I do paper lessons with Mommy where I write letters.

That's all I want to write.

Love, Matthew

Saturday, July 14, 2007

It's Saturday,

and Matthew is bellowing his "Time Clean UP!" song from his bedroom. This song is accompanied by lots of bangs and crashes, followed by erie silences. But hey, as long as it gets done I don't care how.

Every Saturday he's supposed to shovel out his room before receiving his weekly allowance. Room cleanup not such a huge battle anymore now that it's at a set time once a week. He knows what to expect, and no surprise room cleanups are pulled on him. (He hates surprises.) The rest of the week I just make a path to his bed when I tuck him in at night.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Natives are Restless

Due to all of the wildfires in the area, the air quality has been poor. As a result I've kept the kids indoors all week. They are not happy with the situation... Usually we spend a few hours outside everyday (with hats and sunblock mind you), so this is rough. They are starting the climb the walls as is their mother.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Another letter to Uncle Chris

Dear Uncle Elder Chris,

Wednesday I saw fireworks. They were loud. Daddy set them off, and Lissa wanted to help and Daddy said "Lissa sit down!"

Now let's talk about something else. I made an airplane out of legos. Lissa building a lego tower that falls. It fell down, but Lissa not sad.

The kids in preschool were nice. I need to read a book about a wide mouth frog before I go home. It's about a wide mouth frog. We talked about astronauts. And about outer space. There was one kid raised his hand and said he wanted to be an astronaut when he grows up. In outer space.

I want to tell him why I got a haircut. Yesterday I got a haircut. On Monday.

I went to Gramma house a long time ago. I played and watched movies at Gramma's house. I played with Uncles and cousins. I came back my to house and played with my friends.

That's all I want to write.


Sunday, July 08, 2007


Matthew started preschool last week. We are trying out a preschool in the neighborhood for a month to see how it goes and whether he'll go in the fall. So far it's a hit. Though getting him to move in the morning is like pushing peas from one end of the house to the other by blowing through a straw. He gets easily distracted and bounces off to another direction when getting ready.

Melissa is very displeased that she is unable to attend preschool. She knows that there are games and toys in there, and besides, anything Matthew does is automatically cool. I'm hoping that we can do fun things together while Matthew is away so that she will look forward to "Mommy time."

Will all the four year olds please stand up?

When asked "How old are you," Melissa holds up four fingers and announces, "I four!" Because that's what she sees Matthew do. So far, all attempts to teach her two fingers and "Matthew is four; you're two" have failed.

Plant Scare

Melissa had pilfered a mostly empty yogurt cup from the table and was happily smearing the remnants on her face and the couch. I confiscated the cup and was in the process of tossing it, when I heard a blood curdling scream from the front room. Tears were streaming down Melissa's face and she was wailing full throttle. I checked her head and limbs for bonks or cuts and didn't see anything apparently wrong. Clenched in her fist were two leaves from a plant. One was torn a bit.

Then she started gagging as though she was trying to throw up. Could she have eaten the plant and had a reaction? I rinsed her mouth and tried to get her to drink, without luck. Couldn't call poison control, because I had no idea what the name of the plant was. I tried to look it up in a plant book (while comforting Melissa), but didn't see anything quite like it. Melissa had stopped crying at this point but her face was starting to swell and she was drooling. Yikes!

Quickly I packed both kids up and drove to a nursery on the way to the doctor's office to identify the plant. The woman said it was a dieffenbachia and quite poisonous to pets. We made a mad dash out of the nursery and raced to the doctor's office five minutes away. Every couple of seconds I asked Melissa how she was doing and she'd nod back to me. She hadn't spoken since the painful screaming. Her poor little mouth was even more swollen. We got to the office and signed in. It was only a few minutes before a nurse called Melissa, but it felt like an eternity. During this time Matthew was telling everyone with great relish that his sister had eaten a plant and it made her sick. He also admired the turtle in the aquarium and chattered nonstop with all the kids. The office waiting room was packed, so there were a lot of kids with which to strike up a conversation. Melissa, on the other hand was abnormally silent.

Once in the exam room the nurse gave Melissa some benadryl (which we found out later does not help against plant toxins, but would have been useful if she was having an allergic reaction). Her oxygen levels were great. Thank heavens. She also got a popsicle. Melissa insisted on holding the popsicle, but would not eat it. The doctor came in and said that they'd contacted poison control and that oxalic acid in the plant sap causes a broken glass feeling in the mouth. She said that there really wasn't anything they could give Melissa to help, but they would like to keep her there for while to make sure her throat didn't swell and constrict her breathing.

Here's some info on that nasty plant...

So we waited in the tiny room. There was a TV on the ceiling and Matthew hopped up on the exam table to watch Blues Clues. Melissa mostly wanted to be held. I broke the popsicle into chunks and gave them to her. She resisted initially, but then the cold started to numb her mouth a bit and she gestured for more. About a half hour later she started talking some.

"Baby!" (there was a picture of a baby on the wall).

"Cold!" (the popsicle)

"More!" (referring to the popsicle again after she'd finished it)

She started to get bored in the little room and tried to ransack it. Clearly she was feeling better. The nurse in the hall insisted that we needed to be there at least an hour. Melissa requested another popsicle and the nurse got it. She was getting more vocal and impatient. I think the nurse was starting to tire of us. We saw the doctor about 10 minutes later. :) When the doctor came in, Melissa had just settled down to nurse. The doc had a big grin on her face when she saw that, but apologized for not knocking first. "Oh good! She's feeling up to nursing!"

So we left (Matthew reluctantly, Melissa bolting) and Melissa took a very good nap after her adventure. As soon as we got home, the guilty plant ended up in the trash.