Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
After church I asked how the class went. He looked bemused and chuckled, "Oh man! Seven is a theological wasteland! They didn't know anything!"
I bet the kids enjoyed his class though. Jon is very good at balancing goofy with serious. He's a natural teacher and kids like him. He and I team taught a class of 11 and 12 year olds in our first ward together. (Good grief they're on missions and in college now! Wow.) It's a good calling.
Melissa's favorite thing in the park is the swings. I pushed her for a while then told her it was someone else's turn. Besides, she needed to burn off some energy. If I'd let her, she'd stay on the swings indefinitely. Then I took Isaac over to the bucket swings for the first time. He was startled at first but then seemed to enjoy the slow rocking.
While pushing Isaac, Matthew got on a swing, pumped his legs, and got the swing going All By Himself. He didn't even need a get started push. Six is such a capable age. I really like it!
Monday, December 29, 2008
I was talking with some gamers over lunch and heard that the xbox 360 settlers of catan game was out. Could this be the excuse I needed to get a cheap 360, and maybe even virtually reunite the Grant / Ellis Catan crew?
First, Catan/360 has no camera support. Come on, guys. Uno gives you webcam support, for crying out loud. Are you even trying?
Second, it doesn't allow multiple players to share one console, so our wives couldn't join us. Or to be more egalitarian, we couldn't join them, either.
Boo, whoever-developed-Catan/360-that-I-couldn't-google-in-thirty-seconds. Boo!
About a week ago, we went to the only Filipino restaurant in San Antonio worth eating at (there are two others that got mediocre reviews), Mekeni. The name means "Come on over" in Kapampangan.
I was a little disappointed; the food was only okay. It was a buffet priced slightly on the high end, but nothing was really excellent. The kaldereta came closest but was not nearly as good as what the Boondocks's chef served in Salt Lake. In fact my own kaldereta, produced with the help of the chef's secret ("maraming keso" -- lots of cheese) may be better. My other favorite Filipino foods are pork and chicken adobo, but Mekeni's pork adobo was barely okay and the chicken adobo was of the lazy "let's throw a bunch of drumsticks and thighs in without de-skinning them or cutting them up" variety, which I guess some Filipinos must like but I do not. The mechado was also disappointing.
One pleasant surprise was the sinigang. It was quite tasty, with lots of good chunks of beef. Unfortunately one of Rachel's first bites contained a very spicy pepper, which ruined it for her.
I let Melissa choose her own foods to try, but even so she didn't want to try anything. We ended up letting her fill up on Tapioca pudding (with cassava and coconut chunks mixed in).
It wasn't a total loss, though. A 40-ish woman at the next table heard me trying to scrape the rust off my Tagalog, and asked if I'd been to the Philippines. "Two years in Quezon City," I replied. "Missionary?" "Yes." "Mormon?" "Yes." "No wonder you have a large family!"
Turns out she was Mormon too and wanted to chat. So we did.
One other thing came up: the restaurant had a large TV running Filipino shows. Turns out that you can get seven Filipino channels on DirecTV. (I wonder if it's time-shifted, or if you basically need to get a DVR with that?) They also have Brazilian and Chinese packages, among others, but not French or Japanese. (Spanish is listed separately next to English; it's not considered International.)
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Are our children connoisseurs of bathrooms? Am I missing some sort of thrill here???
A typical excursion begins with me telling the kids that they need to use the bathroom before we go. OK mom! Done? Great. Fine and dandy, we leave. As soon as we get to an establishment a small voice will pipe up, "Mom I need to go potty!" Matthew is big enough to go by himself, but Melissa I have to help. So we make the first trip. Depending upon the condition of the facilities I may remonstrate Melissa to "not touch anything!" Yuck.
We leave the "rest" room (now there's a good euphemism). Perhaps 15 minutes will pass and I'll hear, "I need to go potty!" And she'll go. Again. This time the other half of her business, which she takes her sweet time doing. Ugh. Then I wipe since her job is "not good enough even for government" as Jonathan has stated.
Just to make things interesting, Matthew may have to go again and sometimes he can't reach the sink to wash so Jonathan or I will have to assist him as well.
Not to be outdone by his older siblings, Isaac will more times than not fill his drawers, necessitating yet another trip to the ladies room. Which may or may not have a changing table...
If we're at a restaurant there's the obligatory post-meal hand and face washing. With the three of them I get to know the area bathrooms much more intimately than I really care to.
Sometimes it seems I spend more time in the ladies room than sitting down in the restaurant. Sigh.
I was asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting on perfecting the saints. This is going to be hard.
I'm used to public speaking. That part doesn't bother me. In fact, it's kind of a rush. But I've always tried to make my presentations involve audience participation -- asking questions with a small audience, getting a show of hands with a large one, that sort of thing. Sacrament meeting talks, though, are monologues. That's just how they are. It's more solemn that way. So I keep thinking of ways to drive participation for this talk, but I can't use them. It's driving me crazy.
Also I like to be very informal when I present. And controversial. Both of these help when your primary purpose is to entertain. (And even in technical talks, that's your primary purpose, or you're doing it wrong.) I can't get up tomorrow and say, "The two-Cumorah theory is bulls***." (Rachel caught me laughing to myself earlier. I was thinking of things I could say that would ensure I'd never be asked to speak again. That's one.)
I guess the fundamental problem is that speaking in church, at least in sacrament meeting, is not primarily to entertain. It's a completely different game than you practice for any other public speaking. No wonder almost nobody is good at it!
Back to the grindstone.
Friday, December 26, 2008
- Matthew showed me a video of Melissa jumping on the couch. "See? See?" Tele-tattling. That's an application of his new camera that hadn't occurred to me.
- Matthew has become very good at trying new food, perhaps partly in an effort to differentiate himself from his sister's pickiness. Sometimes Melissa will follow his lead if he gives it the Matthew stamp of approval, like tonight when he pronounced the noodle-wrapped shrimp Good. He doesn't hesitate to stop after one bite if he doesn't like it, which may be why his opinion carries more weight with his sister than Mom's.
- "Melissa," Matthew began from the back of the minivan, "remember when Raven was babysitting the three kids?" "She fell asleep, Matthew," I interrupted. Matthew was undaunted. "Oh. Dad, remember when Raven was babysitting the kids ..." and we embarked on a dissection of a particularly humorous Teen Titans episode. I should have kept my mouth shut.
- A motorcycle pulled up next to us today while our windows were down in the 80 degree weather. "Hear that, Matthew?" I asked. "That motorcycle is a Harley. They are the only ones whose engines sound like that." "Why do they make them like that?" "Because it sounds manly." He is now identifying Harleys like a pro.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Dazzled by his presents, Matthew exclaimed, "This is the best Christmas ever!" A few hours later, he was sourly complaining, "I never get to do what I want. Santa didn't get me a computer or a phone that plays music, even though I wrote him a letter!" Somebody's trying to grow up a little too fast. And just when I was feeling pretty good about how much six-year-old toys cost, too.
Matthew was on his best behavior for the rest of the day, though. He told us that that was his Christmas present to us: being a good boy all day. And he was.
The kids got up at 5, but Rachel was ready for them: "Santa" left their stockings by their beds. So when they woke us up we told them to go play with their stockings and come back at 6. Then at 6 we told them to go downstairs and see what else Santa got them. "Santa" had left several presents unwrapped for each of them. "How did you know the doll was not for you and the magic set for Melissa?" we teased Matthew later. "The doll was pink, Dad," Matthew replied.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Reminds me of play-doh days.
Then I added frosting to the mess. Oh yeah. Such fun!
Matthew, the traditionalist, opted for green and white frosting. Melissa, our "pink" girl, naturally wanted pink frosting only for her cookies. She made a pink tree, snowmen, candycane, and bell.
Uncle Chris called from Korea tonight. It's Christmas day over there. The kids were thrilled to talk to him. Uncles are so much fun! It's hard to believe it's him! My baby brother Chris is sounding so much older and more mature now. I miss him. It appears that he is working hard and really loves the Korean people.
I mentioned to him that Matthew is reading pretty well, and he asked me if I remembered teaching him to read. Of course I remember that summer! Chris's teacher during the school year didn't know how to teach kids how to read. They were using "whole word recognition," which turned out to be disastrous.* Chris didn't think he was smart enough to read and was determined to be proved right. Mom and I took turns with him going over sounds using hooked on phonics. It was a slow and frustrating process. This was not because Chris was slow, quite the reverse. He'd just had such a bad experience that he didn't want to try. Gradually he started having some success and now he loves to read. Growing up, I'd often find him squirreled in some odd nook with a book in hand. Anyways, tonight Chris thanked me for teaching him. Aww shucks, of course!
After Chris's call we read the Christmas story in Luke, and tucked the kids in bed. It's quiet now...have they fallen asleep with sugar plums dancing in their head? I hope so. Santa wants to finish with his work so that he and Mrs. Claus can retire to bed as well.
Oh wait, an Isaac is stirring. Sigh. At least he's pleasant.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
*This is part of the reason Jonathan and I are so determined that Matthew have a positive experience in school. We really, really want him to love learning new things and not have it be a drudgery. Kids are born programmed to learn, and are inquisitive from the get go. We'd hate for our kids to lose that!
Rachel's mom got me a netflix subscription for my birthday. (Thanks, Mom!) Netflix lets you create sub-accounts, so we made Rachel one and put her in charge of one of the discs.
All was well until she put High School Musical at the top of her queue.
I will only say that "Never watch a movie that went straight to DVD" is a philosophy that will save you a lot of grief. Not to mention, "Never watch a movie whose main fans are pre-teen girls." The one bright spot was the eerie resemblance one of the main characters bears to a family member. Spooky.
Rachel claims that this was only fair, after I made her watch MST3k, but I think that HSM violated the doctrine of proportional response.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Matthew likes to sleep with the covers over his head
Originally uploaded by jbellis
Melissa was offering suggestions, "Isaac needs to nurse!" When that didn't work she said, "Isaac wants Daddy!"
Isaac may have wanted Daddy, but he settled for a nap in my arms.
"Eggs, eggs, eggs!
Mmm, mmm, mmm!
I LIKE eggs!
Hmm, hmm, hmm!"
She composed her own tune too, because it wasn't one I recognized.
She was chattering with Isaac, "Hello, baby boy!"
I said to her, "Well, hello big girl!"
She responded, "Mama, I'm a big, BIG girl, AXE you ally (actually)."
Pardon me! But of course!
He's getting bigger! Time to start baby proofing.
I thought Melissa rolled over much earlier, but I read back in the archives and she was just shy of four months when she first rolled. Matthew I know rolled over early, he was just three months. He was a wiry, busy baby (and he had roughly 5 pounds less to move than Isaac does).
I'm a little wistful. I'd like him to stay my little baby a while longer, but he seems determined to grow and do. Which is how it's supposed to be... I guess.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
It took a while to get the paper work from the Texas Health Department, and the schools can't accept out of state records. In addition, the schools were closed for the whole week of Thanksgiving, so we got the ball rolling kind of late.
From the sounds of it, it went all right. His teacher seemed quite nice. He certainly isn't behind either. He's reading at a first grade level at least. Here they have a Spanish class during the day in addition to PE and music. The downside is kindergarten is all day long rather than half a day. It's a bit longer than I think is reasonable for most 5 to 6 year olds. Fortunately Matthew is one of the older kids due to his October birthday and is probably better equipped to handle it. We'll see how things go...
The school is about a half mile away from the house, so I do like being able to walk him to and from school.
I dreamed that there were two worlds. One was stunningly beautiful, like Washington x 100 and without the constant drizzle. It was filled with attractive, almost intangible people. There was no birth or death in the world; no pain or sorrow either. The people there appeared happy and warmly encouraged me to join them.
The other world was gritty and sparsely populated. The landscape paled compared to its ethereal counterpart. The people scarcely noticed my presence, they were struggling to make it day to day. Their faces were lined with their toil and hardships. This was a world well acquainted with both pain and sorrow. Birth and death came as unpredictable companions.
One point in particular divided the two worlds. The lovely world wasn't real. Its beauty was an illusion and those that dwelled there ceased to be "real". That is why its residents looked and felt intangible. The other world in all its harsh unloveliness was very real. The things that occurred there, good and bad, mattered, and mattered forever.
My unseen guide made it clear that it was up to me to decide which world I wished to live in.
Then Isaac woke me up.
Later I dreamed that it snowed in San Antonio...
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
We inherited it from the previous tenants in our first house. They asked if we wanted their old washer and dryer, and since we didn't have one, we said sure. The washer was junk and had a tendency to flood. After about a year I sent it off to the junkyard and bought a decent washing machine. The dryer looks like junk, but it runs great. It is an ugly greenish color, has duct tape holding the bottom panel in place, dents and scratches galore, and is likely older than I am. It is a great dryer though. It dries clothes faster than the washing machine washes them and doesn't give us a bit of grief. Good dryer.
So I wasn't at all pleased to go down and buy an electric dryer. Blah. The salesman raved on and on about how much I'll love electric dryers, ecetera, ecetera. I DO NOT love it. It's ok, I guess. The drying time is much longer. Now instead of waiting on the washing machine, I'm waiting on the dryer. I really don't like buying things when I already have a perfectly good one- just no way to hook it up.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
So I cut his hair, and then trimmed Melissa's for the first time. She's had one haircut before when she took the shears to her own head. I brought her in to a professional then to fix the damage. Since I don't know where to go for haircuts here, I figured I'd try my hand at trimming her hair. I couldn't botch it too badly since her hair is curly and would hide a multitude of sins. Unlike her brother she is a wiggly target, but I managed to get it cut. I'm pleased with the results, her hair does mat and tangle less with the ends neatly trimmed. Maybe I'll get around to posting some pictures....
Finally, finally the mailman arrived with the mail key. Here the mail is in a locked box and I've had to drive to the post office to pick up the mail since we didn't have a key. Grrr.
Unpacked more boxes... but there are still boxes in every room. Sigh. Boxes labeled "books" are low priority right now and we have a LOT of books! Books are in nearly every room. In fact the pantry and bathrooms are probably the only rooms without books.
Bought a new couch set. Our previous set we purchased when we were first married for cheap. Why cheap? Well, neither of us likes debt so we've agreed to buy things in cash. Nearly 8 years of abuse later, I decided that moving would be the perfect
Friday, December 05, 2008
New Rackspace employees face five full days of orientation. Your first day, always a Monday, is a "rapid immersion" program that does the usual HR stuff, plus a tour of the main (soon to be ex-) campus, some background on the company and Security 101.
Then, once a month, all the new hires have a four-day Rookie Orientation course. So if you are unlucky enough to start the week of the course, you have five days in a row of this stuff. I was fighting to stay interested by day 2 and gave up completely after that. Days 3 and 4 were spent reading programming.reddit on my iPhone. I wasn't the only one; on my team of eight, five of us had our Waste Of Time meters in the red zone in very short order. We came in dead last out of six teams for the final tally.
I can see the value of a course like this. I really can. But four days is murder. Cut the 90 minute slots to 60. All of them. Most of them could stand some tightening up anyway. Force the speakers to cut the fat. That should get you most of the way to 3 days right there. If you still need to cut more, drop the skits. I know they are near and dear to your heart -- they are not to the introverts in the room -- but skits and prep is 2.5 hours of time. Hard to argue with that. And if you still need more time, add an hour to a day or two. That's still better than sretching it out another full day, for sure. I haven't watched a clock with so much interest since high school.
Actually if I were in charge I would cut it down to one day and present the rest of the information in printed form. It's so much more information-dense than lecturing, and this was all at the 101 level, so you don't need experts to ask questions of. The only thing you would use lectures for is the CXO guys so the rookies get to meet them.
Monday, December 01, 2008
There is 1 type of grocery store here. That's it, 1! Uno! If you don't count Super Walmarts or Targets, the only place you can buy groceries is H.E.B.
Perhaps that is why milk is $4 a gallon...
Sunday, November 30, 2008
The people here are very friendly. That said, a lot of San Antonians originate from elsewhere. I've only met 2 people thus far that grew up here, and they were married to each other.
There is a large Hispanic community. A sweet lady from church invited our family over for Thanksgiving dinner along with some friends of theirs. The couple's parents were from two different parts of Mexico as were all of the guests, except for Rajiv who was from India. Military and work brought them here to San Antonio. Everyone could speak Spanish with the exception of our family and Raj. That night they primarily spoke English for our benefit. They were lovely people, and we had a nice time. I do think it would be prudent if we learn at least some Spanish though. Just in our neighborhood are a lot of Spanish speakers. The friendly couple right across the street are from Argentina, for example.
There's a LOT of military and retired military here. Which of course is natural since there are 4 military bases located in San Antonio. Many people we met assumed the military brought us here.
Texans can't grow grass. I'm not sure what this stuff is that is growing everywhere in yards and parks, but if I'd run across it in UT, I'd be reaching for the herbicide. It's course, prickly, pale green, and looks mean. And they water it!!!
They love kids! In the grocery store, just walking around, shopping, and at church people will come up and ask about your kids and coo over them. If they have kids or grandkids, they'll freely chat about them as well. In the furniture store even some guys in their 20s came up and wanted to touch Isaac's fat feet. This was cool with me, his feet are pretty hard to resist- but I was surprised that guys would approach a baby. Huh. Someone explained that in Hispanic culture it is believed to be passing a blessing along to touch a baby. I don't know if that's true or not, but people do like to touch babies. I'm less of a germaphobe than I was for my firstborn, but still I prefer touching to be on the top of the head or the feet or other parts he doesn't stick in his mouth.
As much as they like kids, they didn't plan enough parks/playgrounds. In Utah there are playgrounds big and small all over the place. Here they are pretty sparse.
The general attitude is more laid back. In the grocery store for instance, I was a woman on a mission because I had to get back right away. I kept finding myself behind people strolling along the aisles doing their Thanksgiving shopping at a leisurely pace. When checking out, the clerks chatted up each customer. I need to plan more time for the slower pace, I think.
Driving is more laid back as well. It's very easy changing lanes, people are mostly polite behind the wheel. As Jonathan noticed, a lot of drivers drive at or below the speed limit on the freeways. Coming from Utah this is a bit of an adjustment. Still figuring out the roads- at times the GPS gets confused too, which doesn't help. More lanes than 2 are needed on 1604 to cut back on rush hour congestion. Seriously though. 2 lanes for a major freeway for a city of 1.3 million? Many of whom commute on that freeway into the heart of the city?
Pictures coming soon, so you can get a glimpse of the city as I see it.
That sucks for Greg, but part of me is glad that I'm not the only one who can manage to injure himself in a sport where you wouldn't think such a thing possible.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
And now some pictures:
Isaac fell asleep sitting up in his sling. I'm not sure how he does it, but he can fall asleep in nearly any position. The second picture is with his Daddy the day he was blessed.
His blessing outfit that Grandma Ellis made. Actually this is the second one. The first one she made right after he was born. It was for a little 6-7 pounder. Plans changed, and he grew!
Melissa borrowing some knee high boots. On her they were like thigh high fishing waders. Silly girl!
Isaac's tree. It is small now, just as he was at birth.
Goodbye house! I think Matthew was feeling a little sad to leave. It's the only place he can remember living. Melissa wasn't sad then and still is undaunted.
There are some pictures I wish I'd remembered to take before going. Melissa with Ms. Jan, Matthew with his buddy Mason, Rebecca with chubby Isaac, and a few others. I'm still kicking myself for forgetting. Alas.
Friday, November 28, 2008
This thanksgiving, I'm grateful that this happy little boy is alive, and home, and growing, and we don't even have to stick him with needles anymore.
Thank you for your help and prayers.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
We've had a number of challenges this year, but through it all the Lord has been merciful to our family. And I am so humbled and grateful.
We all have our good health. Isaac in particular is thriving. There are no more sleepless nights filled with worry.
Each of our children brings such joy into our home. We sometimes complain, because they can be lots of work and aggravation at times. To top it off they were given such imperfect, amateur parents! However, it is to rewarding to see them learn and grow. They are good little people and want to do what is right. It warms my heart to witness Matthew sharing with his sister or playing with his brother, not because he has to, but because he wants to. Melissa was born with a sunny personality and playful disposition that can coax a smile from me even in my grumpiest moods. Isaac is just our happy, happy baby.
Jonathan has a job, doing what he loves, and for a good company. Things have happened that we wouldn't have chosen, but the timing has all worked out.
I am grateful for a normal pregnancy and birth on my terms. I am also thankful for the few days of normalcy before all heck broke loose with Isaac's diabetes. I am so very grateful for modern medicine. We owe our child's life to insulin and skilled doctors and nurses.
We have been richly blessed with great friends and family. Many people have taught us, loved us, and helped us in countless ways. Our parents, siblings, extended family, dear friends, and neighbors have all given so much, more than we can ever repay. Thank you.
Since Thanksgiving is celebrated with family and friends, I am reminded of the military men and women who are away from their families. Words are inadequate to express the debt of gratitude we owe to them for their sacrifice and that of their families. Oh Lord, please bless them this night in particular.
I am so grateful for my husband, friend, co-conspirator, lover, and companion through thick and thin. He has seen me at my worst and loves me anyway. It is wonderful to go through life with a faithful ally at your side.
Lastly I am thankful for my Savior, Jesus Christ and for his redeeming atonement. It is through him that, imperfect person that I am, I may be washed free of my sins.
My heart sings with all that I have for which I am grateful. Much, much more I have not listed but am so thankful for nonetheless.
Someone at the dump has a sense of humor.
I was taking boxes out to the garage today while talking to my Grandma on the phone. It was kind of dark and I missed the last step. The phone flew out of my hand, the box came crashing down, and I landed sprawling on my ankle. Snap! Oops.
I sprained my ankle, again. Last time was the day before Easter. I seem to have a thing for holidays lately. Christmas with strep throat, Easter sprained ankle, Thanksgiving- deja vu. On the bright side I did less damage this time. It hurts, (believe me!) but not to the extent it did in March. Best of all I can take something a little stronger than tylenol this time. =) Happy Day!
Monday, November 24, 2008
At the airport Matthew started spelling random words. He caught my attention, and several other people's, when he started spelling his numbers.
"S.........E.........X! S...........E..........X! That spells six!"
"No, dear, six is spelled with an 'i'."
At the rental car place the man responded that he was 24.
"Oh wow! My mom is way, way, way older than you! MY mom is 28!"
Sigh. And I thought 28 was young.
Kids come with a lot of gear. I took 3 car seats, 1 large suitcase, 2 kids' backpacks with diversions and snacks, 1 diaper bag, 1 laptop bag complete with laptop, 2 headsets, & dvds. I shuffled all of the paraphernalia to the check-in counter (the shuttle didn't drop us off anywhere near curbside check-in, grrr), where I checked 2 of the car seats and the suitcase. This only left me with the laptop bag, the diaper bag, Isaac's car seat + base, and Isaac in his sling to carry. Matthew and Melissa hauled their own backpacks. I was probably hauling over 50 awkward pounds and keeping a quick pace up and down the terminals. Rachel, the urban sherpa! We had over three hours to kill until our flight so we went back and forth on the moving walkways- I wanted M & M good and tired for the flight, ate liesurely lunch, and hung out in the kid play area.
The kids did pretty well during the flight and the attendents even commented on what good travelers they were. One of the attendants even asked if my kids were cookie eaters (of course!) and wrapped up a bunch of cookies for them. Isaac slept through his first flight, all the way from SLC to Dallas. Lucky, lucky, lucky!
We arrived at the Dallas airport without much event, but things kind of went downhill from there. I've never flown in through Dallas before... it is a HUGE airport. That night it was very, very crowded as well. I sure hoping to leave with three kids, since I'd arrived with three, and I kind of like them and all. Matthew and Melissa were pleased about the sky tram that takes passengers to the various terminals, and would have liked to just ride that indefinitely. While waiting to board the airplane, Melissa charmed a lady knitting a scarf into coloring with her. She even climbed up on her lap, but the lady didn't seem to mind in the slightest. This child is so terribly shy... haha. Matthew was most unhappy to learn that he would have to get on an airplane once again. "This is the longest, worst day EVER! Hrmp!" Up until that point he was ready for adventure.
Onto the airplane! Isaac was not at all pleased about flying again. I distracted him for most of the flight, but he wailed uphappily during the last 2o minutes. I thought perhaps his ears were bothering him, but he would not nurse, so there wasn't much I could do for him. Fortunately the Dallas to San Antonio trip is quick. We got off of the plane and a kind businessman took pity on us and offered to carry the car seat for me. THANK YOU whoever you are! We got to the baggage carts, and I felt I could handle it from there, so businessman and I parted ways. We received several other offers to help after that, but were doing ok at that point. Fortunately all of our luggage appeared in the baggage carousel (after a very long wait), so I lugged all of our stuff to the shuttles for rental cars.
We got to the rental car place in short order. Whether it was the late hour, the excess sugar, or just being cooped up in an airplane; Matthew and Melissa acted as though in a pinball machine at the rental car place. Boing! Boing! Boing!
I rented a Dodge Journey. A minivan would have been more practical to fit car seats in, but my frugal side balked at the $60 a day difference in price. So it was a tight fit, but it worked. I've discovered that I am a terrible navigator at night. The GPS I rented was not much help either. The 8 minute trip to the hotel took closer to 30. The kids voiced their displeasure for the first half of the trip, but all fell asleep before the end. Finally at 11 PM local time we checked into our hotel, and I tucked all three into bed.
What a very long day!
Sunday, November 23, 2008
TX is flat and bland.
I slowed down from my usual 15-over for cities... except I got careless right after stopping at a Dairy Queen and got a ticket an hour away from SA. Damn.
The truck driver called. He will be ready to unload Monday morning.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Took the kids in the morning so Rachel could rest after being up with Isaac (and Melissa!) all night. Got on the road at 10; stopped at the post office and comcast -- to return their modem -- and got on the road for real at 11.
Drove through Price. Didn't really notice.
Drove through Moab. I was surprised that it wasn't bigger. Had a chicken sandwich.
Drove through a slice of Colorado.
Drove through Gallup, NM. Had KFC. Found out I do not care for the "Colonel's Strips." Will stick to real chicken in the future.
Drove to Albuquerque. Got a $40 room at a Motel 6.
I actually like the $3 internet better than the places with free internet, because when it's free too many people suck up the bandwidth. With a $3 charge I have lots to myself. (But $10, like the fancy hotels like to charge their mostly-business-traveler clientele, feels like being ripped off.) The same principle applies to highways, too, which is why I am not as anti-toll as some.
I am on track to get to SA after another 11 hours tomorrow.
Our memory card reader is packed up so I will have to wait until I find that box before posting any pictures.
The last few weeks have been a flurry of activity. We tied up last minute business, sorted through our household items and sold, gave away, and dumped that which we wouldn't need or couldn't take. How did we accumulate so much stuff??? We listed our house on the market. Last Sunday was Isaac's baby blessing. I was so glad we were able to do that surrounded by friends and family before we left.
Finally we planted the Isaac tree. I guess it's a little silly and sentimental, but it makes me smile to think that each of our kids has a tree growing and thriving as they grow. Matthew has a cherry tree, Melissa the apple, and Isaac the small hardy evergreen.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
They came a little before 8 and were like a whirlwind. It is now 4 and the entire house is packed and more than halfway loaded. Whew!
Looks like they're going to call it a day and finish the job tomorrow before noon. Wow.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The couches are gone.
Rachel listed them on Craigslist for $50 takes both. They lasted less than 24h. 8 years old, showing some Matthew- and Melissa-related wear, but in pretty good shape. In fact the man who took them away gave her $60. I guess he felt like he was really getting a steal. (He almost bought the weight set, too, but his wife said No. I felt a moment of kinship with him.)
The family room is very empty without them. I don't mind, for the most part. I can stretch my legs out in front of me to use my laptop. But it was a weird feeling when I went to change Isaac and I had to put him on the floor.
Melissa was perhaps the most impressed by the change. She wants to buy new couches Right Now. We'll get new ones after the move -- leather ones.
I wanted leather couches way back when, but Rachel liked cloth upholstery better. (As I like to explain, "we compromised: we bought the cloth ones.") After 6 years of laundering the cushion covers to get out the various indignities inflicted by our offspring, she's on board for leather this time.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Looked at 20 houses, found 1. That's a lot of houses. If you try to do this with kids, plan on taking several days just to see them.
All yards are fenced. All of them, with 1x3 boards that are never stained or weatherproofed and thus start falling apart as soon as they are built. I'm convinced that you can date a neighborhood by how badly the fences are sagging.
There are no public playgrounds in suburbia. (I remember at least one downtown, so they do exist there, at least nominally.) Private per-subdivision playgrounds are scarce.
The freeways have signs up reading, "Don't slow texas down: slow traffic keep right." This is awesome.
There is a very very high percent of people who apparently think "slow" means "more than 5mph under the speed limit." Not so awesome.
My real estate agent, whose definition of "slow" matches mine, says she's never been ticketed for speeding in San Antonio. "Only by state troopers on the way to Austin."
IHOP is like the official state breakfast restaurant. I have never seen a denser population of IHOPs anywhere.
I like the access/frontage road system. Takes up lots of space but you are never far from an on-ramp.
You absolutely need a GPS to navigate here. Unfortunately, my rental sucked and could never locate the address I wanted. So I'd have to google it on my iphone and try various nearby interections until I came up with a combination that it liked. Hopefully our newer GPS won't have this problem.
The Thai restaurant I ate at last night offered me chopsticks and a fortune cookie. WTH? You wouldn't eat Mexican food with processed American cheese on it, would you? Sheesh! The duck curry was good, though.
(We did the tourist stuff when we were here as a family so I won't repeat anything about that here.)
I spent all morning driving and filling out forms but it won't take much time to tell about it.
I went to USAA to get money orders for the application fee and security deposit. I figured when I got there (9 AM in SA, 8 in UT) Rachel would know which house she wanted. I called and she was driving, so I waited for her to get home and check out #1 online. She called back and we talked it through again. About 10:20 we decided on #1. So I got in line. About five minutes later as I got to the front of the line, Rachel called and said the schools for #5 were better so let's do that. I let four people go in front of me and then got in the back of the line so I could take my time talking.
This time we were done. #5 it is. I got the money orders and went over to the real estate office, where I gave a blood sample for DNA testing. (Kidding. But almost.) They were really very surly about the whole thing considering that I was trying to pay them money. I hope we don't need anything fixed because I don't think they are going to be very helpful if we do. Then I forged Rachel's signature on a few forms and headed to the airport.
San Antonio has one of those nice little airports that is small enough that the security line is never huge and it can afford to provide free wireless internet access for everyone. And rocking chairs. I like it.
The real estate agent got off to a late start today so I had time to go check out a hotel that claimed to have a playground, for us to stay at while waiting for our furniture to get trucked down. The roads nearby are a mess, but the playground is good.
With the agent, I re-visited the top 3 houses from yesterday, plus two more, for a total of 20 houses seen. Added one of the new ones to the short list, which now consisted of houses 1, 4, 5, and C. (It was roman numeral 1 but to avoid confusion I'm renumbering it here. But this is not the same "1" that I posted pics of on the other blog. I emailed all the pics from day 3 to Rachel directly to avoid wordpress resizing them.)
Then I hit the neighborhoods. 4 was full of retired people. It got crossed off. C had kids and a playground but we decided it was just too 70's for us (all brown and yellow on the interior). 1 and 5 both did okay on the neighborhood test, with a slight edge to 1 for a lower average age.
So it was between 1 and 5 and we couldn't make a decision.
1 is a little small (2000 sq ft, down a guest room from our UT house) but 5 was a little large (3500 sq ft). 1 was in a crackerbox subdivision (you are in a maze of yardless houses, all alike), but since we weren't buying Rachel was okay with that. 5 has a bigger backyard. Neither has a public playground nearby; 5 is walking distance from an elementary school, and the neighborhood kids play there after hours, and 1 is near a playground in another subdivision that one dad says has a wasp problem. 1 is closer to downtown (and very close to where rackspace will be in a year); 5 is in a more affluent area. Both have people on the street who only speak Spanish. They are both in the same church ward. 1 is walking distance to a day care / preschool, but Rachel isn't interested in anything but a pure preschool.
In an effort to break the tie I also visited the neighborhoods from 3 and 6 in "the maybe pile," but they both scored low on kid presence.
We decided to sleep on it, since USAA was closed anyway for Veteran's Day so I wouldn't be able to get money orders out.
3rd straight day that I haven't had time for lunch. Low blood sugar makes me grumpy. Sorry, Rachel. :)
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I visited 18 houses yesterday. Two of them we couldn't get in, because the key didn't actually work. One smelled strongly of smoke, so I knew it wasn't even worth going farther than the entryway. The rest I took pictures of. (And wordpress resized my pictures down to "bite sized" despite my setting the Leave Them Alone Dammit option. Grr. I tried putting the pictures on my computer first for the last couple sets and it was WORSE. And the hotel wireless connection was also WORSE, so between fighting with wordpress and the wireless, it took me almost 2 hours to upload 20-ish pictures. I ended up giving up on wordpress and just emailing the last ones to Rachel so she could see them full size.)
I didn't get to test commute from Stone Oak because my iphone alarm quit trying to wake me up before I actually did. The iphone is a terrible camera, worse than my old one, because it has no actual "take picture" button so you have to use the touchscreen, only that's amazingly awkward when you're actually trying to take a picture with it, with the result that it's very easy to accidentally turn the ringer volume way way down while taking pictures. "Ringer" volume appears to affect every noise the phone makes, including alarms.
But I have to say the iphone saved my butt when driving with realtor #2, who did not have a gps and kept getting lost because she thought she knew better than the directions she had printed out from Google. It's also handy for finding intersections nearby for my GPS o' Suck, which is severely allergic to actual addresses. Of all the addresses I've plugged into it, it's found one: the huge mall with the Apple Store in it, where I got a car iphone charger. That's my biggest complaint about the iphone; the battery life sucks.
I went to the San Antonio board gaming group from 6 to 9. 8 people were there for board gaming and about that many for D&D. I played a LotR game that is like Stratego, which I hate -- Stratego, that is, but I don't think I'm fond of the LotR version either -- as well as Race to the Galaxy (twice) and Ra. I liked Ra a lot. I'm not sure yet how I feel about Race. There is no direct interaction between players, so it really is like a race in that sence, and races are amazingly boring. But Brian was a playtester and still likes it after hundreds of plays so maybe there is more to it. (It's also very highly rated on BGG; here are the two best reviews: 1, 2.) After 2 plays I was just barely getting the hang of it so I will have to reserve judgement.
I did win my very first game of Race, though. Beginner's luck, and everyone was disgusted. The next game I scored half what the winner did, for 4th place (out of 5). So balance was restored to the universe.
The Board Game Group didn't have much advice about finding a home, other than to stay south of 1604 at all costs. Since I keep hearing that from everyone except the people living north of it, I don't think I will bother making the commute experiment. I'll just find a home south of it, thanks.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Rachel gave a bit of an introduction so I'm just going to give a couple details.
We bought my ticket Friday, less than 24h before departure. We got screwed (paying almost twice as much, for a route through Phoenix taking almost twice as long) but not nearly as screwed as I expected to be (e.g., on SouthWest we could have paid 3x).
US Airways has the most comfortable coach seats of any airline I have been on. I'm not saying they're comfortable on an absolute scale by any means, but they have just enough more padding than everyone else to be noticeable.
My low-end rental car GPS (I told them I'd pay more for a good one, but that was the only model they had) couldn't find my hotel, by name or address. Finally one of the rental women realized it was near one of their other locations, so I put that in the GPS. When I got there I found out that it was converted from a Comfort Inn about 3 years ago, so that's how old my GPS's maps are. I'm guessing that the odds that it will know about all the homes I want to look at are not very good.
The rental car guy was amazingly cheerful for what I don't imagine to be a very stimulating job. It's all about attitude, I guess. We talked a bit and he said he had a college-age daughter. I was startled. "You look like you're in your thirties!" He laughed. "I am. My mom wasn't happy about that..."
Speaking of the hotel, I goofed and got one off of "the small loop" (410)'s intersection with I-10. I thought I was getting one near I-35, 10 miles north. Oops. Hotels.com gives it two stars; tripadvisor gives it one (ouch!). I am not picky, though; it has a Wendy's next door, so I'm good. I do notice that their wireless internet is a lot faster at 3 AM than it was at 9 PM (but still slow).
I talked to an "apartment finder" and a realtor on the phone yesterday morning. Both said they would email me a list of places by the end of the day. Neither did. I'm guessing the commission for finding a renter is not as motivating as a house buyer's. It would be handy to only have to work with a single agent, since many (most?) of the houses I'm interested in are in the MLS, which I imagine means a keybox and so forth.
Best sites to look on: oodle.com and realtor.com. Craigslist has almost nothing for SA. Both oodle and realtor have map views showing all the listings at once, which is far more useful than having to drill down into each listing to get a map showing just that house. Even the church meetinghouse locator has a modern UI now. Shocking.
Rachel found the GIS data for San Antonio, which gives me a much better idea of where to look than asking people their opinions. (Although those are still necessary since I don't know where the traffic bottlenecks are here, and neither does Google. Yet.) Basically we are looking for the intersection of college degrees + kids. (As you'd expect, poverty and college degrees are almost exactly inversely correlated.) We don't want to be the only ones in the neighborhood with kids in elementary school the way we were in Provo.
There are nine church wards in four buildings for the main area we'd like (south of 1604 on the north side). Thinking about how to visit all of them from 9 to 4 today makes my head hurt. (Because the ones in the same building all start two hours apart, I can't just make one trip per building.)
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
Matthew was hungry. I called Rachel to see if we needed to wait for her to come home. She was almost done at wal-mart but said to go ahead and make him a sandwich. I was busy so I told Matthew I would make him one when I was done.
Matthew was hungry. He made his own sandwich. He told me proudly, "It has pepperoni and cheese and ketchup!"
Matthew was hungry. He ate the whole thing. "I made a good sandwich!"
Afterwards Rachel made him brush his teeth because his breath was stinky.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
We were outside having a snowball fight when the UPS man showed up with a box full of Winter clothes. (Guess we won't need those much in San Antonio.) As he trudged up through the falling snow, Matthew ran up to him to say hi. "Isn't this a great day!?"
The man looked irritated for a second, then he remembered what it was like being six. "Yes," he smiled back, "when I was a kid, this would have been a great day."
Today is the 20th anniversary of the Sega Genesis.
If you're in your early thirties, you might have fond memories of playing Sonic the Hedgehog, Altered Beast, or Streets of Rage on a Sega Genesis.
Yes, I do. All three.
I bought a Genesis about a year after it came out, after months of saving. I think it was released without a game, so I got the second SKU, the one with Altered Beast. This was before Sonic came out. (I think I was too young to work most jobs, but the point was moot, since my parents never let me get one until I was in college. My father insisted it would interfere with my grades too much. Perhaps he had a point, since I did earn a rare merit-based scholarship. So I saved money from my one lawn-mowing customer a week at a time -- pushing the family lawn mower almost half a mile, including a stretch of gravel road. Did I mention the driving age in NJ was 17 at the time, now 18?)
Anyway, the Genesis was a Big Deal for me. I was mostly on my mission when the Saturn was getting its butt kicked, so I was still a Sega fan when I got a Dreamcast. Poor Dreamcast was EOLed less than a year later, but Shenmue still kicked the butt of anything released on the PS2, even now.
Today you can get a Genesis collection for the ps2 or psp for around $20. What a deal! Unfortunately it doesn't include any of Genesis' fantastic shooters, probably because that genre doesn't really exist anymore. So no Thunder Force III or Phelios for you. But it does include the Phantasy Star games, so that's at least half a glass full of awesome. Alas, I doubt Matthew will have the patience for those old 2D rpgs by the time he can read well enough to actually play them. But he enjoyes the arcade-style games well enough.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Didn't quite get a job by Oct 31, so we're insurance-less until the 24th, when my next job starts (no waiting until the beginning of the next month -- wow). But it turns out that they can't classify anything as a pre-existing condition until after 30-60 days of being uninsured, so that's all right, assuming nobody gets struck by lightning in the next three weeks.
I accepted Rackspace's offer about five minutes ago, so we're moving to San Antonio! Rachel was a little ambivalent until we woke up to three inches of snow this morning. "You know," she said, "San Antonio is sounding pretty good now."
My father approves of San Antonio, too. He's an easy man to please; as long as he can ride his bicycle year-round, he'll be happy to visit for Christmas. The cost of living there is within a few percent of what it is here in Draper, which is to say, a whole lot less than where he is now in New Jersey, so maybe getting some family out there isn't impossible.
I've been telling everyone in my immediate family, and Rachel's, that "we've been trying to get you to move to Utah for ten years, and nobody has. So it's time to try somewhere else," and that was true up until last night, when Rachel's sister moved down. Way to make me a liar, Andrea!
It's tough leaving home for parts unknown but on balance we're excited for something new. Time to put together a list of "stuff I'll wish I'd done in Utah while I was there" so I can cross some of them off. We've hiked in Zion's, seen a play at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and seen the Christmas lights at Temple Square, so I think we're in pretty good shape. Dinner at La Caille is one I'd like to add. Any other suggestions?