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.