Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Why is it so much fun... make a baby laugh and giggle?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Quote that tickled my funny bone

On Sunday, Jonathan was asked to substitute last minute for an age seven primary class. The talk didn't scare them off! Just kidding, he did a fine job. By last minute I mean twenty minutes before the class was to start. He was handed a manual, and being a good sport he agreed.

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.


Took the kids to the park yesterday. It was pleasant, in the 70s. The one positive side to having few parks here is that they are usually teeming with lots of kids to play with.

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

Close, but no cigar

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

Talk is done

Rachel is still playing Valkyria Chronicles.  I got distracted and spent 40 minutes reading the Savage Peanut archives.  It is past 1:00.  I am going to go to bed.

The best talks I read while preparing mine are Ordinances and Covenants and Children.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bathroom Tourism

Why, oh why is it that our children feel the need to check out every store or restaurant bathroom? Sometimes they make multiple trips over the course of a hour.

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.

Speaking tomorrow in church

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

Some Christmas thoughts

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.

The doll had been securely fastened in the most diabolical fashion with many wire twisties to a cardboard box.  Melissa's solution was simple: obliterate the box.  Dozens of two-inch scraps of cardboard greeted us when we finally groaned out of bed.  That must have been a lot of work; it was a sturdy box.

Two new games: Andrea got us Killer Bunnies and Ellis got us Take Off.  I'm impressed with Andrea's game sense; for a non-gamer (or perhaps we should update that to "new gamer"), Killer Bunnies was a very astute choice.  It looks very Munchkin-esque, which means I'd better wait until I have some non-family members to play with.  Take Off is suggested for players 6 and up, and hopefully I'll get to try it tomorrow with the kids.  I am also impressed by this choice since it looks like a fun game that I have never heard of.  This is tough to pull off once your gift subject discovers Board Game Geek.

Take Off will probably precipitate another lesson in sportsmanship for Matthew; wish me luck.  (We tried to play Parcheesi a few nights ago; the game ended when I captured one of Matthew's pawns and he stormed off to his room in a temper.)

The extended family is getting large.  I lost track of who we'd gotten what for, to the point that when I opened a copy of Ticket to Ride: the card game addressed to me this morning, to find no note included, I asked several people on the phone if they had sent it before I realized that it was the present I'd ordered for Brian, on a mission in Brazil.

Rachel found a copy of Mark Twain on Writing for me.  It's been on my Amazon wish list for years and out of print -- and impossible to find, which is unusual with Amazon and alibris -- for even longer.  That's love!  She also got me a high-end set of cooking knives, after she caught me drooling over Greg's.

Rachel got each of the kids a bilibo -- pink and blue, of course.  Matthew loved his; his favorite thing to do is spin in it like a top on the tile floor.  He really gets going!  Melissa was more interested in the beads from Grandma and the princess accessories from Andrea.

Matthew's favorite toy was his new camera.  I considered getting him a new one, but the cameras marketed towards kids take terrible stills and no movies at all, and I didn't see the point in adding another 5MP-ish point-and-shoot to the family collection, so we gave him our old one.  I admit it's a gamble, and he might prove me wrong by breaking it.  But I think my odds are good.  I was right, too: the movie mode is his favorite part.  He's already chastised me for speaking during his movie.

I was jealous of the family together in New Jersey when I called and everyone was at my parents'.  It almost makes me want to give up and move back.  But that's just not going to happen; it's way too expensive to live there with three kids.  Everyone still there is either childless (David, Christine, Frank) or has a low head count (Grant: one girl).  Grant's expecting to add a boy very soon and maybe more after that so I wonder what he will do.

One step forward, two back

The good news is, flying to Newark is now a 3.5 hour flight instead of 4.5, and costs $220 instead of $350.  (Or $150 to Philadelphia!)

The bad news is, flying to Seattle is now 6+ hours instead of 2, with no direct flights.  I think I need to get more activities for the kids when we fly out to Andrea's wedding.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Filed under things I never did before children: sweeping the table. No, not washing the table, sweeping the table. Today we made sugar cookies (for Saint Nick, of course!). I mixed the dough ahead of time. Matthew and Melissa rolled it out, cut Christmas shapes, and placed them on the cookie sheet. In the process they made approximately 1,000,000 pieces of cookie dough crumbs. These crumbs managed to migrate through much of the dining room leaving only 500,000 still on the table.

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!

The dark side of Netflix

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

Thanks, Isaac

Yesterday I wore a pair of my pre-pregnancy pants and today some jeans.


A lot of it is due to the Pumpkin's hearty appetite, I think. Right now I'm on the breastfeeding diet: eat what I want and when I want, until I'm full.

Breakfast and a nap

We went out for pancakes and eggs this morning.  Afterwards Isaac and I were tired, so I rocked him to sleep and took a nap myself.  While I dreamed, my friend Ellis magically moved to San Antonio and I had a conversation with him:

Me: "Hey, Ellis.  Does Merri like pancake places?"
Ellis: "Yes.  We especially like [some local place]."  Too bad I don't remember which one it was.  Ellis is usually right about such things.
Me: "Oh, cool.  We just had breakfast at the Magnolia Pancake Haus."
Ellis: "They're okay, but the food is pretty heavy."

It's almost 2 now and I'm still full.  Ellis was right again.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Matthew likes to sleep with the covers over his head

It makes him sweat. A lot.


Good thinking!

Both Matthew and Melissa get very concerned when their baby brother cries. As Jonathan has mentioned, it doesn't happen all that often.

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.

Melissa Singing

Another thing Melissa likes to do is make up songs to sing. Kind of reminds me of the Francis stories. I gave her an egg this morning and she started chirping:

"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.


Melissa loves to interject to word "actually" into conversation. Here's an example from a few minutes ago...

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!

Isaac Rolls Over

He started rolling over about a week ago, Daddy was the first to see him do it. I didn't see him roll over until yesterday. Jonathan says Isaac appeared quite surprised the first time he ended up on his tummy. Yesterday when Isaac flipped over it was clearly with intent. He curled his legs up, turned to his side, then reached with his hands towards a toy with all his might.

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

Matthew tricks his dad

I took Matthew upstairs to tuck him in last night, but Rachel had stripped it for washing.  When I tuck the kids in I am done with that part of the day, mentally.  So I pragmatically tossed a non-fitted sheet on the bed and went off to find a blanket.  Returning, I saw Matthew curled up under the sheet.  He often falls asleep with his head entirely covered, but that makes him sweaty, so I pulled the sheet down before putting the blanket on him.

It wasn't Matthew; it was a large Santa doll he'd been playing with!  Matthew jumped out of the closet, giggling at my surprise.  "I tricked you!  It's not April Fool's, but I didn't want you to forget being tricked!"

Matthew has "tricked" us many times already but this is the first time that the wool was really over my eyes.  He was tickled to death.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tis the Season

For the last six years we have put up this artificial Christmas tree and sworn that this year will be the last, dammit.  It's fiendishly designed to be as aggravating as possible to set up.  (Rachel says, "It's not we.  It's I."  But she has made me help every year.  "Did not!"  "Did so!")  So she wants to get a real tree next year.  But I remember getting a real tree as a kid and it's a royal pain in the backside.  Needles all over the place, just to start.  You haven't had Vacuum Rage until you've had a pine tree shedding all over your living room as it slowly dies.

So.  Any suggestions for an artificial tree that won't take so long to set up (and take down)?

Our current one doesn't have a model number or anything.  It's just helpfully labeled "holiday tree," 7 ft 2 in model, by General Foam Plastics.  On sale at Lowes.

But, if you have one you like, it might save me from getting seriously injured next year.  Possibly by a Christmas tree with too-dry needles catching fire like you sometimes hear about.  But more likely, by a grumpy wife.

(Postscript: I suggest not blogging about your wife while she has a glass full of ice cubes close to hand.  Not that she would ungraciously slip them down your shirt or anything.  Just saying.)

If you like The Savage Peanut, you may also like...

I have the blog configured to mail comments to me (and Rachel).

While reading the most recent, I noticed the gmail ad: "Case XX Peanut Knives -" 

I had no idea there was such a thing as a peanut knife.

Songs to give your six year old nightmares

Of course everyone has heard Tom Dooley (but did you know it's based on a real murder?), where the Kingston Trio (not the first, but the most popular) sing in perfect harmony about Laura Foster's murder.  But while that may be a little disconcerting on first listening, it leaves the actual murder comfortably in the background.

I heard the DitWG for the first time just now.  Not what I expected to hear the Everly Brothers singing.  I wonder if that was controversial back in the 50s.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I like this one!

Isaac was just born happy.  I'm still amazed every day by what a pleasant little boy he is.  He hardly ever cries, and when he does, it's for a reason.  When he is cranky, 90% of the time rocking, bouncing, or nursing will get him down for the nap he needs.

This is not to say he is completely cooperative with his parents' wishes.  Right now, for instance, we wish he were asleep.  He is not.  He is lying next to Rachel, quite awake.  But he is content to just be near her, not demanding anything in particular.

Twice this week, he got up about 5:00 and played with me for about an hour.  Then when he was tired, he closed his eyes and fell asleep in my arms.  No fighting.  No yelling.  Just a content baby boy.


Rachel points out that on more than one occasion I joked that if God wanted us to have more children, number three had better be easy.  Only I wasn't really joking.  "You have to admit that's what we got."  "I don't know," I said.  "2 weeks in the NICU wasn't exactly easy.  That's more like mixed messages."  But I do admit that even including the hospitalization he's averaged a whole lot easier than his predecessors.  So, as with the first three, I'll follow Rachel's lead for number four.  Which, I suppose, is as it should be.

Friday, December 12, 2008

He's a Big Rygg

Took Isaac to the pediatrician's for a check up today. He weighed 17 pounds 12 ounces. That's nearly triple his birth weight! At four months. All breast milk too.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

First Day of School (again)

Today Matthew started kindergarten for the third time this year. Poor kid!

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.

Which would you choose?

I had a very odd dream last night.

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

Guess What I Had For Breakfast?

Chocolate mousse birthday cake! And a tall glass of cold milk.


I know, tsk, tsk...

Monday, December 08, 2008

I'm beginning to understand the attraction of "winter homes"

It got up to 80 today.  I had to turn on the air conditioning.

I have to keep reminding myself that it's December because it sure doesn't feel like it.  Even Matthew realizes this is a little strange.  "Why do the trees still have leaves on them?"

Of course, as everyone keeps telling me, the trade off is that summer here is hell.

I've never hated snow but I can see the appeal of having a second home south where snow does not fall.

Unplanned purchase

Apparently San Antonio runs on electricity pretty much exclusively. Gas stoves and dryers are almost unheard of. So when I looked in the laundry room all I saw was a big black plug. Greeaaaat! I love my gas dryer, really I do! But here it is useless.

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.

Grumble, grumble.

Counting down

Matthew is really excited for Christmas this year. Every morning he's greeted me with, "I can't wait for Christmas. 17 more days!" He's been counting the days since the beginning of the month.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


Found the hair clippers Friday and just in time. Matthew's hair was getting pretty shaggy. I've only taken him to a barber once, but was rather unimpressed with the results. "I do as good a job as that!" Someday Matthew won't want his Mom cutting his hair but until then we're good.

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 excuse time for a new more durable (aka nicer) one. So I guess you could call that my toy. My toys tend to be less expensive than Jon's- but his are more fun! :)

Daddy's new toy

We sold the Mark VIII to a neighbor's son for cheap when we left Utah, so I needed to get a car to drive to work.  I rented for a week and did some test drives over the Thanksgiving break.  (A Mark VIII fan site?  Rachel is still giggling.)

My first offer was on a 2000 Vette that was a blast to drive.  The previous owner had added a supercharger, so (according to the supercharger manufacturer) it did 450+ horsepower (vs 350 factory).  It was a firebreathing monster, way too easy to rip the wheels off the road.  What a beast.  It also had a custom hood that made it look vicious.

But the dealer never got back to me.  I don't know if they were playing games or disorganized or thought I was lowballing too hard (I wasn't).  So when over the weekend the owner of the Z4 I drove called me with a lower price I took it.  The Z4 is not hell-bent on collecting tickets the way the Vette was, but it's a lot of fun to drive and is still under (extended) warranty.  And yes, you can comfortably drive with the top down here.  In December.  I'll probably never live anywhere with better convertible weather, unless I change my mind about moving to California.

Postscript: Rachel advises that if I plan on driving this with the top down in the Summer, I'd better get a hat.  "I'm going that bald?"  "Yes."

Friday, December 05, 2008

I survived Rookie-O

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

They Got the Corner on the Market

One other thing I've noticed about San Antonio which was confirmed by a native:

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


Jonathan and Isaac discovered tickling for the first time. Previously when Jonathan tried, Isaac was not amused. Last night Jonathan tickled and Isaac giggled in delight. This made Jonathan laugh along with him.

Daddies are fun.

San Antonio, First Impressions

We've been in San Antonio for a little over a week now, and there's a few things I've observed.

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.

Foolishness loves company

Greg, the one who had us over for dinner last Sunday, showed up at church with his arm in a cast. He dove at someone in a Thanksgiving game of touch football, and fractured one of his wrist bones into pieces. He'll probably need surgery.

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

Wheee! Found the Memory Card Reader!

We are now up to our armpits in boxes rather than over our heads. It's progress. Some boxes seem to be without rhyme or reason though. They'll have items from up to 3 different rooms tossed in. Whaaa? Oh well, just about everything has survived the move and with the (at times) creative labeling it's a surprise to open each box. It'd be like Christmas if we didn't actually need to find some things quickly. Getting there, getting there.

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

Melissa on bodily noises

"My bottom burped!"

Rocking my son

Isaac has been restless at night lately. Last night I went to bed early, so I took him downstairs to rock him at 5:30. He promptly fell asleep. Even when Isaac is difficult, he's not really difficult.

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


As I reflect on the past year, I realize how much we have been blessed. Why? I do not know, but I am full of gratitude nonetheless. I bow my head this day in particular in a prayer of thanksgiving.

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.

Trash princess

Trash princess
Originally uploaded by jbellis
"I the trash princess!"  Her own idea.

At the dump

Someone at the dump has a sense of humor.

I rented a U-haul to take a load of junk up (since the U-haul was enclosed, I didn't have to tie and tarp everything down like they required for a pickup) and at the entrance I saw these posted.

(If you can't see the second clearly, it reads, "Beware of signs.")


Yup, that's me.

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

In which Matthew makes his mom blush

Well, almost.

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'."

I am reminded once again that my son thinks I'm older than dirt

Many adults like to ask Matthew how old he is (he's quite proud to be six), and he often reciprocates the question. We're trying to teach him that it isn't exactly polite to ask adults that, but he tends to forget.

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.

Traveling with three kids

While Jonathan drove to Texas, I had the thrill of flying with two small children and a young baby. It was an experience. Not one I care to repeat in the near future, but definitely an experience.

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

Driving, day 2

Drove though the rest of NM and a lot of TX.  I'm halfway through the mp3 of the third Mistborn book.

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

Driving, day one

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.

On moving

Our packers were good.  Really good.  The team of four had us packed and loaded in 12 hours of work.  From her experience with professional movers as a military kid, Rachel expected it to take twice as long.

The only drawback was, they were constantly packing things we weren't quite ready to take.  It became a running joke, how we'd as each other if we'd seen such-and-such an object.  The answer was always, "Yes; it's already gone."  The only really annoying loss was the dustpan.  And I made them bring back our kitchen chairs so Ellis and Merrie would have a place to sit Wednesday night.

This is a minor irritation though compared with how vastly improved the moving experience is when professionals do most of the work.  This comes at a price: the estimate was $12,000 for our move.  (Paid by Rackspace -- woot!)  But we are renting in San Antonio, because (a) my division is moving to a new location within the next year, and it's hard to find a place optimal for commuting to both, and (b) we want to be more familiar with the city before committing to buying.  So, the odds are very good that we'll be moving again soon, the hard way.

But, you can get a good approximation of the deluxe moving treatment by hiring packing and/or loading help from e.g.  You're looking at $50-60 per man-hour of labor, which sounds steep for not-very-skilled work -- after watching them, I wouldn't call it unskilled, for sure -- but if the five-star rated movers there are anything like the ones who packed us, you're paying for (a) experience and (b) hustle.  They packed carefully but quickly and when they loaded they ran everywhere.  

(The final part of the secret to blitzkreig packing was that they had vast quantities of all sorts of boxes in their truck.  I had no idea there were specialized boxes for some of those things.  And using boxes of a uniform size made packing the truck easier, too.  So as much of a rip-off as their prices are, I guess I'm down for buying a metric buttload of all the various boxes at u-haul next time, since you can return the unused ones.  But be careful to save the receipt.)
So I'm thinking, I could totally pay for packing help, then call in the church quorum to help load.  (There is an unwritten rule somewhere that the quorum is happy to un/load, but you're on your own for packing.  Probably because unskilled packing is virtually guaranteed to be a disaster.)  ~$1000 to get packed in a day?  I think that is probably worth it.

Last night in Utah

Andrea volunteered to take the kids so Rachel and I could have one last date night in Utah.  I had been looking forward to a dinner at La Caille, and what better night than our last?

Turns out La Caille was closed for a private party.

Well, I'd also wanted to try dessert at the Lion House, also a famous Utah attraction.  It was also a lot closer to our hotel near North Temple and Redwood (selected for its proximity to the airport).  So we parked at the Joseph Smith Memorial building underground lot, but somehow on our way to the surface got turned around and ended up in the JSMb lobby, where there were prominent signs about the restaurants on the 10th floor.

On to plan C!

Isaac was being extra quiet so we decided we could go for the formal dining of The Roof restaurant.  Most patrons were in shirts and ties, and although I was not the only one tie-less and wearing jeans, I was the only man wearing sandals.

If you haven't been up there, you should; you don't have to go to the restaurant to enjoy the view, which is spectacular.  It's right across from the temple, and the North end, where we sat, also has a good view of the capitol.  There was a live pianist playing uninspired arrangements of pop culture songs, and I really enjoyed the food.  There is no menu, only a sort of very high-class buffet, with small enough portions that you can try lots of things and still have room for dessert.  Especially if you "cheat" and only try a bite of some of your wife's selections.  I tried five entrees, a soup, and two desserts.

Back at the hotel, we played a minor part in Jeremy's proposal, but that deserves its own post.

Jeremy proposes to Andrea

Jeremy proposes to Andrea
Originally uploaded by jbellis
We will get Andrea to guest-blog about how Matthew's advice made it
all possible. :)


Goodbye House, Goodbye Utah

Yesterday we locked up for the last time, snapped a picture, and drove off. So many good memories at that house...

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.

Welcome to the family!

Andrea's getting married!!! Matthew and Melissa are thrilled to have uncle Jeremy join the family. (Matthew's been scheming for months.)

Actually, we're all thrilled. :)

Congratulations you two crazy lovebirds!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Originally uploaded by jbellis
I took the pictures off their hooks in the bathroom, and this is what
I saw: the contractor Rachel hired had painted right over them. How
lazy can you get?

I put the pictures back where they were.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

That was fast!

Yesterday the movers called and asked if they could come a day early. Uhhh...sure. I was really planning on today to finish last minute details, but the sooner they come the greater the odds we'll have our things unloaded before Thanksgiving.

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.

Melissa is not traumatized

Melissa is not traumatized
Originally uploaded by jbellis
Here she is skipping up and down the loading ramp.



This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Squash Custard

Andrea brought a big green mystery squash with her, courtesy of our grandparents in Walla Walla.  My kids are not huge squash eaters and I hated to see it go to waste.  It was a lovely golden yellow color in the inside and had a mild sweet flavor.  Matthew and Melissa did eat some, but wouldn't be able to eat the whole thing before it went bad.  I figured that if I added a little sugar and made it custard-like, then it would disappear more quickly.  

Squash experiment:
*Keep in mind all measurements are approximate since I'm very bad at measuring out ahead of time.  I'm more of a dash of this, some of that type of cook.

about 4 cups peeled cooked squash  (I find it's easiest to bake it first in the oven and then peel the skin off)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin spice

Dump all of the ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth.  Pour into an 8 x 8 pyrex dish and bake at 350 for about an hour+ or until set.  Enjoy warm or cold.  

I've made 3 batches of it and we only have a little custard left, so it was a hit.  Mmmm!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My wife sold my couches

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.

Manly Things

Daddy is rocking Isaac right now.  

Isaac is cooing and grinning up at his Daddy.  I said something about a baby flirt and Jonathan interjected, "Men don't flirt, men bond.  We're talkin' about manly things."  Jonathan then gushes, "Isn't that right?  Who's a happy baby?  WHO'S Daddy's baby, huh?  Yes, you're a cute one, yes you are!  You make Daddy want to have more!  Isaac, my boy.  Who's my Isaac?  Yeeaaaah!  Isaac the pumpkin.  The BIG pumpkin.  YOU'RE my Isaac! Wheeeee!"  Jon bounces him up and down.  Meanwhile Isaac is cooing, blowing bubbles, and happily grunting right back.  The two of them continue their back and forth exchange for a while.

I chuckle at the scene.  

"What are you smiling about?"  

"Oh, you two are just cute."

"Hear that Isaac?  Mommy thinks we're cute!"  

Shhh, don't let on that you know:  Jon talks a big talk, but he's really a big softy.  

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Isaac's First Stockholder Meeting

and mine too!

When I was in school, a local biopharmaceutical company, Myriad Genetics, spoke about their latest research that tied into an upper division microbiology class I was taking.  I was impressed with their presentation and ideas so I followed the company over the years.  A couple of years ago I decided to buy some shares.  Jonathan and I rarely buy individual shares of stock, favoring index funds instead because of the risk factor.  However, we do have a small fraction of our portfolio devoted to exceptional companies that we like.  

The company recently held a shareholder meeting in SLC.  I originally had no intentions of going, but Jonathan encouraged me to go because it would be educational, and besides when would I get the chance to attend a shareholder's meeting again?  We don't live near the big cities that headquarter most of the companies in which we've invested.  He was right on both points.  

When I walked into the meeting, it was clear that I was the youngest in attendance (aside from Isaac) by several decades.  The meeting got underway, and the presenter reviewed the company information for the first little bit.  During this time Isaac ate and fell asleep.  He was quiet the entire time.  After the first speaker it got very interesting, the president of the company spoke about their various genetic tests, one of which I was unaware about.  He then described the cancer drugs and antiviral HIV drugs in their various stages of development.  2009 should be an exciting year for Myriad.  Very cool!  

I asked about their plans to expand their target audience to family physicians, advanced nurse practitioners, and midwives.  Currently they send out information to oncologists, OB/GYNs, and have done a limited direct ad campaign in the East and Texas about their BRAC analysis.  They target oncologists for obvious reasons, and more recently OBs since many women use them as primary doctors.  He responded that they are exploring doing that down the road, but currently don't have the enough employees to do that yet.  They are still a fairly small company.  He was very animated though discussing future plans.  

My inner geek is satiated.  Happy sigh.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

San Antonio thoughts

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.)

San Antonio day 4

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.

San Antonio day 3

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

San Antonio Day 2


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

Mr. Manners

In the busy shuffle of last week's news, I forgot to write about this...

Jonathan, Matthew, and I attended our first parent/teacher conference last week.  Matthew REALLY likes his teacher, so it was kind of bittersweet since we'd just found out we were leaving.  As expected, Matthew is doing very well.  We read to him, and have him read to us nearly every night at home and I think that has helped make school easy for him.  He's also a sharp little guy and picks up on things quite quickly.  Socially he gets along well with other kids and this too doesn't surprise me.  He's a social butterfly and loves interacting with other children.

What did amuse me was a story his teacher relayed to us.  During the kindergarten Halloween party one of the parent volunteers went up to Matthew's teacher and asked to who Matthew was.  She joked that she wanted to betroth him to her daughter because she'd never met such a polite little six year old  before.  He was very good about using please, thank you, and excuse me.  

YES!!!  Years of drilling manners into his head is finally paying dividends!  'Course when we move to Texas, he'll need to add "sir" and "ma'am" to his repertoire.

After the parent/teacher meeting, we celebrated with smoothies.  

San Antonio Day 1

What pleasant weather. High 70s to low 80s with a cool breeze all day. Eat your heart out, Utah. :)

I wasn't able to get all 9 wards in, but I got 6, including one from each of the 4 meetinghouses, and all 3 at the one that may to be the sweet spot between niceness and commutability. San Antonio does not have any convenient-but-expensive downtown housing to speak of. What little housing exists downtown, you don't want to live in. The farther away you get, the nicer the neighborhoods get, but the more your commute sucks.

My plan to hit all 9 was foiled mostly by driving time. Mormon churches are not as close together here as they are in Utah. Who would have thought. :)

The photographic evidence of my labor is over at I didn't want to put what is mostly temporary clutter on the savage peanut, and the stupid iphone can't mail multiple pictures in a single email. Since I had 30+ pictures and wanted to group related ones together, the simplest solution I found was a wordpress blog. The wordpress iphone app is smart enough to upload multiple pictures at once. Bite me, Apple. The silver lining is that now the rest of you get to see the pics, if you care.

Summary: Eden and SA 8 are small wards. San Pedro is the next smallest. SP and Deerfield contain most of my preferred locations. SA 8 has the locations with the shortest commute. Eden gets a few leftover subdivisions on the border of SP, plus some less desirable areas. Encino Park and Canyon Springs (and Stone Oak and Sonterra, also north of 1604) are big wards -- they are the closest to the temple -- but probably will fail the commute test.

The commute test is tomorrow morning. I will go up to 281 and drive downtown at 6:30. Then, if there is time, I will go back up and repeat it at 8:00. The clerk of CS said that as long as you don't have to actually negotiate the 1604 -> 281 interchange, it's not so bad. I don't believe him.

Now it is dark and threatening to rain. I should go do some preliminary neighborhood casing. I probably would, if it weren't such a hassle with the gps-that-doesn't-work. It found one of the four meetinghouses on its own. One! The others I had to trick it by finding an intersection nearby that it recognized. It never got the first alternative interesection I tried, either. What a turd of a GPS.

Anyone want to buy a house?

or rent?  :)

There's a lot of things I like about our house.  We've put quite a bit of work into it.  Since we've moved in, we installed new carpeting and hardwood floors, the two upstairs bathrooms have been completely redone, we finished the basement with another full bathroom, added light fixtures, and we've cut a hole and placed a beautiful door downstairs which walks out onto paver stones and Irish moss.   We have built shelves in the garage, downstairs pantry, and laundry room.  In addition the property has a nice little garden.  It's not perfect, but it is home. 

And it is filled to the brim with lots of happy times and love. 

So any takers?   

Isaac woke with smiles

This morning he grinned with his whole body.  I smiled,  he flashed his 1000 watt baby smile, squirmed, cooed, and waved his limbs.  

Such a happy baby.

San Antonio day 0

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. 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: and  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

Jonathan's in San Antonio

We looked at the calendar yesterday and realized that in order to squeeze everything in before the movers come on the 20th, Jonathan would have to go house hunting this weekend.  So Jon bought a ticket yesterday and flew out today.  He'll check out the areas we're interested in and come back Wednesday evening.  

I miss him when he's out of town.

This was taken 2 weeks before Isaac was born.

In other news, I had a long overdue girl's outing with some great college friends.  My sister watched M&M and Isaac accompanied me.  Thanks sis!  We went to lunch, got pedicures, and talked and talked.  They all looked fabulous and it was nice to see them and catch up on news.  

Friday, November 07, 2008

Matthew makes a sandwich

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

The world according to Matthew

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."

20 years of Genesis

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.

Good article.

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?

It's been a while

Isaac sneezed some boogers out so I held a kleenex to his face.  "Blow," I said.  Nothing happened.  "Blow," I said again.  Still nothing.

Then I realized who I was talking to and just wiped the boogers I could reach.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

-- H. L. Mencken

A Dreary Election Day

The grey skies and drizzling rain seem appropriate today.

Well, I did my civic duty, but I can't recall an election in which I was less excited to vote.  Since the 1994 congressional election I've loved watching and participating in politics.  Every two years I stay up late watching the election returns with a big bowl of popcorn.  Jonathan can attest to this.  The last few years I've become increasingly frustrated with both local and national politics.  I'm feeling rather apathetic lately.  Over a year of winnowing candidates down and those two are our best, brightest, most qualified and moral individuals!?  I guess whoever wins, we deserve what we get, but sheesh!  

Another thing that annoys me is the question posed every four years to presidential candidates, "If elected, what are you going to do for me?"  What the heck?  Well Billy Bob, what are you going to do for yourself, your family, and your community?  Huh?  We've come a long ways from JFK's, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."  I just can't see very many politicians using that line in a speech today.  Why depend on the government to fix our problems?  

Let's just take a look at what government does well...

Public schools?  Why yes, aren't we leading the world in K-12 academics and student achievements? The more money thrown into the schools, the better they do too.  Just look at the DC school district.  They ranked third among states for per pupil spending. They're a model of performance and scholastic excellence, no?   

Next...FEMA.  'Nuff said.  

War on Poverty.  Guess I've been reading too much Thomas Sowell and Walter E. Williams to be content with our welfare programs.

War on Drugs.  Nope.  No drug problems here.

Social Security.  Now there's a ponzi scheme if I ever saw one.  My generation believes in eventual social security benefits about as much as the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. 

Medicaid/Medicare.  Scary.

Internal Revenue Service.   Even more scary.

The DMV.  Love, love, that fast, courteous service!

I could go on, but I won't.  Some things the government does do well.  The military is a fine example.  In general though, the more the government intervenes, the more unintended, messy consequences it creates.  

After the election is over I will continue living and loving life as always.  I hope and pray that the foolishness in Washington  and in Utah is kept to a minimum.  There is just too much at stake...  May God Bless America from whichever scoundrel wins.