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.