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.

Sunday morning activity

The kids are threading Froot Loops (1/3 less sugar, please) onto threads for "necklaces."

More precisely, Matthew is threading the Froot Loops and Melissa is kneeling on the table being a dog. (Dogs eat Froot Loops without hands, naturally.) It's great when they play nicely together. Matthew volunteered his help when she was distressed about only getting one Loop on her string. She wasn't sure she trusted him immediately but now she is OK with it.

She transformed into a baby dog on the way back to the table. Woof!

We're going to miss this cute stage.

Late to the party

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Steve Jackson's Munchkin. Its humor reminds me of The Order of the Stick. (The comic, not the game. The OOTS game looks lame-ish.) The humor extends to the title:
In gaming, a Munchkin is a player who plays what is intended to be a non-competitive game (usually a role-playing game) in an aggressively competitive manner. A munchkin seeks within the context of the game to amass the greatest power, score the most "kills," and grab the most loot, no matter how deleterious their actions are to role-playing, the storyline, fairness, logic, or the other players' fun.
... which actually describes the card game surprisingly well. Munchkin came out in 2001 and already has 4 full expansions and countless mini-expansions. (And a substantial Wikipedia entry.) Sheesh!

Anyway, we had one of my friends for work -- also an OOTS fan -- and his wife over and played a couple games. It's a keeper for sure, although I doubt I'll be buying all the expansions, at least not immediately. Who can't love a game with a FAQ like
If it's not in the rules, it doesn't matter how logical it is, unless you can talk the other players into it. And if you can, go for it!
Steal the Kneepads cards out of all your friends' games and EAT them. If they catch you, lie.
It's also a good candidate for "Grant's birthday present" if he doesn't get it himself after reading this post.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Not to be critical, but

I'm just not a fan of wedding dresses that shout, "Look at my boobs!"

I suppose that's a low-class way to put it, but really -- for your wedding?

Words words words

Melissa is turning into a real chatterbox. She delights in all the words she knows and uses them just to show she can.

Yesterday she decided she was going to name the color of everything she saw. Blue overalls! Red skirt! Pink horse! (That would be the My Little Pony that Grandma got her.) She was still at it when I got home from work.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

It was worth it

I started reading Blackcollar: The Judas Solution last night before bed.

I don't recommend this as bedtime reading; I was up until 4 AM finishing it. I do recommend it highly otherwise. I was a little afraid that it wouldn't be up to my memories of the first two Blackcollar books but Zahn delivered.

If you're new to the Blackcollar books, the first two were reissued in one volume simply as Blackcollar shortly before The Judas Solution. (This is a little confusing since Blackcollar was also the title of the first book in the trilogy alone.) Both are now available as inexpensive used hardcover on Amazon.

One downside: the cover artwork of the new books appears to be done by an artist who never read a description of what he was supposed to be illustrating. And trying to do "action shots" was just a bad idea; I prefer the original covers. Oh well.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

He said, she said

Matthew came running in this morning. "Daddy, Lissa push me! Lissa push me!" Melissa was hot on his heels. "Dada, Dachew [Matthew] push! Dachew push! Ow!"

It begins. (Melissa has tried to tattle on Matthew in the past, but this is the first time she's been intelligible. Alas.)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

That's not cake

Rachel roasted a fantastic chicken for dinner tonight. After chicken and potatoes and salad and watermelon, Melissa was a mess. Seemed like a good night to have dessert in the tub, so Rachel bundled them off while I dished up the chocolate cake, which I then duly delivered.

I retired to the living room, but was quickly summoned back by Rachel yelling something. I hurried to the tub and saw the kids out of the tub and chunks of brown floating in the tub.

"That's not cake," Rachel said. "Why don't you take the kids for a shower?"

So I did, while she cleaned the tub.

Sometimes I think Matthew was a tougher baby than his sister. All the same, Melissa is now 3 months older than Matthew was when we decided to have another.