Sunday, June 29, 2008

Game night 3

Rachel is up in Washington with the kids. I'm going to join her Wednesday, but in the meantime I'm temporarily living the bachelor life. Last night I went up to Game Night Games again to try some new games and to have something more interesting to tell Rachel than "I programmed all day." Mmm, programming without interruptions...

When I got there there was a group of six playing power grid and a group of 3 playing something that looked kind of like scrabble, only more boring. So I read the newspaper I'd brought until a group of four came in and wanted to play Incan Gold.

I'd played Incan Gold with Howard a while ago. It's a pretty light filler game; maybe the most interesting thing about it is it supports up to 8 players, and since everyone "plays" at once (just throwing down either a go / leave card) it moves quite fast even with a lot of players. Not much strategic depth, but it's a good "gateway" game for non-gamers, and it's simple enough that kids can play without being mind-numbingly tedious for adults. Hmm, maybe I should pick it up to play with Matthew -- I thought Mille Bournes would be simple enough but when I actually re-read the rules it was more complex than I remembered, and we tabled it for another year or two.

Then we played Ticket to Ride: the card game, which I actually like more than the standard board version. There are train cards just like the board game, but since there is no board, the destination cards each have a train card requirement printed directly on them. You try to get train cards into your "on the track" pile to get to your destinations, but once cards are in the pile, you can't look at them again. This adds an element of skill to the game that is absent in the mostly luck-based board game. Of course it's memory skill, not calculation or strategy skill which are less like "work," but I'll take what I can get. On the down side it is only for up to four players, not five like the board game. I would pick this up if we didn't already have a copy of the board game; I'm not crazy enough about TTR to want to own both. Although I might be in the minority there, given TTR's dominance of board game sales month after month.

Still haven't found a (good) game you could reasonably play on an airplane. Needs to be two player, not have a huge board, and not have small pieces either.

Friday, June 27, 2008

That's My Girl

I took the kids to See's chocolates last night. The lady behind the counter asked if they would like a lollipop or a chocolate. Matthew took the long-lasting lollipop, but Melissa blurted out, "I want chocolate! I want dark chocolate please!!" She pointed to the dark chocolates for further emphasis.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Homework? In kindergarten?

Rachel says Matthew will probably have homework in kindergarten.

What the hell?  Five is too young to crush the love of learning out of him.

Guess this will be the first of probably many times where I get to be a squeaky wheel for my kids.

Orson Scott Card on elementary school homework: part 1; part 2.  I've ordered the books he cites.

Friday, June 20, 2008

On being gimped

I've known for a while know that trying to put contacts in one-handed is the most difficult thing I've tried with my right arm unavailable.  (Hence, the glasses I've been wearing instead.)  But it wasn't worth making a post just to say that.

This morning I added one more thing to my list: cracking eggs.

I had some cleaning up to do afterwards.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Saint Petersburg

Rachel and I went on a date to Game Night Games last night.  Hurray for Uncle Brian baby sitting!

We arrived at almost 8.  All the tables were jammed full with games in progress.  Off in a corner we spotted one lone guy setting up a game, so we asked if he had room for two more players.  Sam had room, so we joined him for a game of Saint Petersburg, along with Tim, who turned out to be the store's owner.

Saint Petersburg took us two hours to play, which seems long given that it's supposedly a 45 minute game.  But playing through your first time can be like that, especially if Sam is doing the explaining.  Tim told us that Sam plays that game "a lot."  Sam clarified: "I've played over one thousand... no, over eleven hundred games of Saint Petersburg."  That's pretty obsessive.

SP seems simple but there is definitely skill involved, as demonstrated by Sam and Tim both  doubling Rachel's score and mine.  (I was last by a good margin.)  If it really does play as quickly as 45 minutes when you know what you are doing I am tempted to pick up a copy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A letter to Uncle Chris

Dear Uncle Chris,

How's your day going? I hope you are having a good time there. Did you know that I know how to flip a quarter of coin now? So I forgot how old you are? How old are you? I know you're not so old, I know you're not like 1,000. You can't get to 1,000.

I had a sleepover the other day. I had a long night watching a movie downstairs. They have a wall downstairs, not a TV, but when you close all the windows and turn on the thing it plays a movie on the wall. That's pretty cool. They have a TV upstairs, though. I had a really good time having a sleepover at Emma's house. It was really fun. I played good songs there on the piano.

I went to Target with Grandma and Aunt Andrea. I got a dump truck and I saw a lot of other stuff. They looked cool, but they didn't look like I wanted to buy. But I did want the garbage truck. Grandma bought me the garbage truck. Grandpa Don was here and Brian too.

Dad brought me a surprise from his trip. It was a handkerchief that changes colors.

So I hope you have a good mission.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Grandpa as a Young Man

A picture of Grandpa, Grandma, and my Mom. I'm guessing early 1953.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Remembering Grandpa

Grandpa died on Sunday. I miss him terribly even though I haven't lived near him in years. He'd been sick for the last few years; every time I'd come up to visit, he seemed weaker then the last time. Even so, I wasn't ready for his death. Whenever I'd call him on the phone and ask how he was doing, he'd give me a very hearty "Terrific! Couldn't be better!" (the liar!) He was a cheerful and gentle man.

Mom suggested that I write happy memories, but really, those are the only kind I have of him. My regret is that my children won't know him as I did, and so I will write so that they may know a little of him.

My Grandpa loved loud shirts, tools, large mugs of diet coke, ice cream, Grandma, and kids. He had a wild array of shirts tailored especially for him from the time he spent in the Philippines. Whenever anyone commented on his blindingly bright shirt, he'd respond, "Yeah, you should have seen it before the batteries died!" When wearing a more subdued top, he'd match it with a pair of tape measure suspenders or his stripy suspenders.

At one point he was quite the craftsman. In his old house he had a great workshop with lots of tools. Sometimes I'd go down there and watch him work on a small project. His workshop wasn't the tidiest though and he spent an awful lot of time rummaging through it trying to find the right tool. Jonathan wrote about his collection in a past post. If he couldn't find the tool, he just go out and buy another.

Whenever I traveled in the car with Grandpa the trip always consisted of a stop for a extra, extra large diet coke. When you're a kid whose parents considered soft drinks a waste of money, traveling with Grandpa was a wonderful thing. Naturally he'd order anything I'd like too. Whenever he'd ask if I'd like to go to the (hardware store, computer store, grocery store, or wherever) of course I would! For a while he and Uncle Keith had a largest mug competition going. I don't know who won in the end, but I have never seen so many enormous mugs gathered in one place.

Despite being diabetic, Grandpa had quite the sweet tooth. When we were kids he'd take us out for ice cream and have a little himself. He was good around my parents though. My Dad was his doctor and my Mom always made a sugar free dessert for him. At other times he wasn't at all opposed to just a bite or two...

Here's a picture taken in the Summer of 2004-
Wish I had some better pictures, these just don't do justice.

Living with Grandma and Grandpa for a year provided me a closeup view of their relationship. Due to school circumstances, I lived with them while attending ninth grade. My parents lived a few cities away. Grandpa and Grandma were deeply in love after all those years of marriage, and it showed. Grandpa liked surprising Grandma with flowers or treats for no reason at all. Or rather, the best reason of all, he loved her and wanted to make her happy. They played games together nearly every night that I was there. Sometimes Grandma would say, "Oh Damn!" if she made a bad move. Grandpa with a twinkle in his eye would tease, "What a naughty thing to say!" I never did hear Grandpa swear.

Grandma and Grandpa did have funny routines that had clearly been set over many years of marriage. One was the purse routine. Grandma has many wonderful characteristics, but promptness is not one of them. Grandpa would say, "We need to leave in one hour." At which point Grandma would start to get ready. Over an hour later, Grandma would nearly be done. Grandpa would find a chair in the kitchen, sit down, and sigh. "I just need to find my glasses." Grandpa would let out a bigger sigh. Ten minutes after that, "have you seen my purse? It's not where I left it!" Big sigh from Grandpa, "No Dear, have you checked here, there, or there?" "Yes I already looked and it's not there." Eventually Grandma would find the purse and they'd be out the door- somewhat past the hour time frame. Sometimes Grandpa would substitute sighing with flipping the TV channels in the kitchen. After all those years together, Grandpa didn't seem genuinely exasperated, it was just the routine. To Grandma's credit, she always got me to seminary on time (and she is NOT a morning person). I'd get myself ready in the morning then tap on her door. She'd take me as soon as I was ready to go.

Grandpa loved to tease Grandma. He'd tell her it was obvious he was more evolved than she because he had short stubby fingers; all the better suited for typing and using keyboards. On the other hand, her long fingers were barely removed from her vine swinging ancestors. Sometimes he'd tease with a perfectly straight face and she wouldn't realize he was kidding initially. When she did catch on she wave her hand and exclaim, "Oh you big tease!" To which he'd respond, "What? Me tease? I was serious!"

Of course sometimes they'd argue, but even their disagreements were fairly mild. Both Grandma and Grandpa were gentle people. I never saw either of them upset with the other for very long. There was an awful lot of kissing and flirting going on too! I never realized how much until I lived there everyday. I hope that I am so lucky in my golden years.

Grandpa had a marvelous singing voice and he'd often sing silly parodies to amuse us. One of my favorites was "After the Ball was Over."

After the ball was over,
Nelly took out her glass eye,
Kicked her false leg und'r the table,
Pulled out a bottle of rye.
Put her false teeth in the cupboard,
Hung her false wig on the wall.
After the ball was ooover,
There wasn't no Nelly at all!

Another was a ditty about an outhouse.

'Twas only a shanty in back of my country home
And the path that led there was mighty well worn
A sears roebuck catalog lay on the floor
And a half moon carved high in the door
Twas a place for Papa, for Mama, for me
Many happy the hours we spent there we three
Though it's all full of flies,
It's my paradise!
The shanty in back of my country home!

He had a great whistle too. I had never heard a gorgeous vibrato in a whistle to compare with my Grandpa's. When not whistling or singing, he liked to make us laugh with silly rhymes.

Ewey gooey was a worm. A mighty worm was he! He ventured on a railroad track, a train he did not see. Ewey Gooey!

I eat my peas with honey. I've done it all my life. It makes my peas taste funny, but it keeps them on my knife.

Little spider on the wall. Ain't got no mama, no mama at all. Ain't got no mama to comb his hair, but he don't care, he ain't got no hair.

My favorite rhyme I can't do justice typing. It was about thirty dirty purple birds sitting in curb and was done in a terrible thick "Jersey" accent. If you've never heard it you'll just have to take my word that it was hilarious.

Here's a picture of Grandpa holding Matthew as a baby.
He really loved kids and loved make us laugh and entertain us. He'd take us for rides on his tractor and in the trailer attached to the tractor. So much fun. I remember riding in New Jersey in the trailer as just a very small child and also in Washington as not such a small child. It was just as much fun when I was a little older. My parents made a cross country trip with my Grandparents when I was young. I do not remember much about that trip except that I got to ride with Grandpa in the truck. My Mom says that Grandpa and I held a screaming contest to see who could yell the loudest. He was patient with the many necessary pit stops. I'd get hungry, then thirsty, then I'd have to go the bathroom...again.

Grandpa was always extremely patient with me and from what I've heard all the rest of the grandkids too. He didn't raise his voice or get upset with us even when we'd done something foolish or something we'd specifically been warned about. Grandpa was able to get his point across without lectures or appearing angry. With him, I knew when I'd made a mistake, and I wanted do better.

My memories of Grandpa are sweet. I have still many more I haven't written about but will someday. I do regret very much not being able to see him once more before he died. I had a trip planned out for the end of the month to see him because Mom had said he was getting weaker, but my timing was poor. I will miss him very much. I suppose I am so sad because I loved him so much and it is hard to say goodbye. I know he's okay. He has suffered poor health for years, and it must be a relief to him to be free of that. Still I miss him...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

What I did for summer vacation

Read a lot of books this week.  Played a lot of Super Stardust HD.  What else is there to do when you can't exercise and typing is a chore?

Knights of Dark Renown was excellent.  Read it if you are at all a fan of Fantasy.

Mass Effect: Revelation was decent pseudo-military SF.  Not Timothy Zahn level but most of the Star Wars hacks are not, and some SW book I haven't read is the author's only claim to fame.  It accomplished its purpose, though, getting me excited to play the ME game.  Too bad that will have to wait until I can use a real keyboard and mouse again.

A Coffin for Dimitrios was the weakest book I read.  It was written in the thirties, and is apparently vaguely famous for some reason, or it wouldn't keep getting reprinted.   You can google a competent review or two; to my mind, the only possible explanation for what poor popularity it does enjoy is an infantile denouncement of capitalism of the sort (corporations are eeeeeevil!) that has proved enduringly popular through the years.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Today was my appointment with the shoulder specialist, Dr. S. I picked up my X-rays from the instacare, and they took a couple more at the clinic. The doctor concluded that I had a bad type 3 separation, halfway to a type 5. (A type 4 is a different kind of complication. Type 5 is just the clavicle being pulled even farther from the normal position.)

He said that whether I elected to have surgery or not, I could expect to recover full range of motion. Dr. K could not raise his left arm above his shoulder, which had worried me, but Dr. S. said that was due to poor follow-through with PT. The only thing surgery might help with would be reducing irritation and fatigue from repetitive overhand arm motions.

So, given the paper Rachel found on Medscape last night detailing that both surgically and non-surgically treated patients had a 90+ recovery rate, but that post-surgery you could expect a 60% chance of needing more surgery later, vs a 6% chance if you initially had none, I opted for the non-surgical route.

I did decide to try the shoulder brace he offered. Odds are good that it will improve the cosmetic appearance, and the reduced separation distance may improve function as well, especially given the prounonced initial distance in my case.

At first the brace merely felt like mild pressure, but it's grown into quite the throbbing ache over the day. I took some lortab so I could sleep. Hopefully my shoulder will acclimate to the new position soon or it will be a rough three weeks.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

More Pictures Of Our Budding Beautician

Melissa loves to comb Mommy's hair, Daddy's hair, and her ponies' hair. I suspect she'd like to comb Matthew's hair if he'd let her. Whenever she asks, "Matthew, I comb you hair?" he turns her down.

These were taken about a month ago. And no, she is not particularly gentle!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hard Day's Night

Melissa was up from 4 to at least 6:00. I'm not sure when she finally fell asleep because 6:00 is when I finally achieved that state myself.

Currently her brother has no yet managed to wake her. (And neither did my opening the door of her room a crack -- all I could manage because she was sleeping on the floor in front of it.) This happy state of affairs will surely not last.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Insult to Injury

Jonathan had an appointment to see the orthopedic surgeon at 11:20 today. (He insisted on driving himself one-handed.) About five minutes after he left I got a phone call, "Can you come pick me up on the corner of 14th and State?" Apparently the car broke down. I got the kids in the car and half way there he calls and says, "Never mind, the receptionist said that if I'm going to be late to just come in at 1:00 because the doctor has lunch at 11:45. I'm going to call AAA and have them tow the car to Hillside. Can you pick me up from there?"

So at 12:30 we picked up Jonathan from the auto repair shop and drove straight towards the doctor's office. I filled out the paperwork for Jon (it's really a bummer that he injured the right shoulder), and Matthew, Melissa, and I waited in the lobby. The kids were very good actually; I bet it didn't hurt that I bribed them with lollipops!

We stopped by the bathroom to wipe off stickies when Jonathan heard us and called us to the examination room. The doctor was there discussing the injury and possible options. He said it was a level 3 separation in which the collar bone is completely separated from the shoulder blade. Here's a link with more information. Turns out that this is the worst kind. Unfortunately there aren't any really good options. He can let it heal on its own, but he won't have the same strength in that arm as he did before, he will likely have a lump on that shoulder (a special brace may limit that), and possibly be more prone to arthritis in that shoulder. If he has surgery it will be more painful, it may or may not increase the strength in that arm as opposed to letting it heal naturally, and there are possible complications using screws or the newer surgery technique (I forgot what it was called). Either way he will need to wear a brace for at least 6 weeks. Basically neither option is great.

Jonathan plans to talk with another surgeon who specializes in surgery on shoulders Thursday, before making up his mind. Meanwhile he's looking into one-handed keyboards because he's going nuts typing 25 wpm and voice recognition software just isn't there yet...

Waaay too frustrating to program at that speed, and he'd be climbing the walls if he couldn't program for 6 weeks. He's already getting restless.

A Hairy Sunday

Matthew had to give a talk for primary. I tried to con Jonathan into writing one for him (even though it was my turn- he wrote the last one). Being good natured, and unable to bathe or get kids dressed for church he consented. His first attempt seemed geared towards adults. "Jon! This is for primary kids! They aren't going to understand that." His second attempt was... well less than grammatically correct and didn't really make sense. He fixed the grammar issues, but it still didn't make much sense. I wonder if it was residual lortab acting up? Resigned, I relieved him of talk writing duty.

Matthew and I read over the talk I wrote several times and we pronounced it good. Both kids were clean, dressed, and ready to go and we had 15 minutes still before we needed to leave. Plus I wrote a talk and reviewed it with Matthew. Sweet! Was I good!

However, things had become eerily quiet... An abnormal state in the Ellis household, except when children are sleeping- and I was pretty sure Melissa was NOT sleeping. Tracking down Melissa, Jon and I found her in her room. She proudly displayed her shorn toy, "I cut pony's hair!" Whew! Could have been worse. Where does this kid find scissors? Except...wait a minute! "Melissa you cut your hair...AGAIN?!" There were little blond curls on the floor and liberated curls still draped on her head and shoulders. I took her to the bathroom with a brush to better assess the damage. She took more off of the front but the rest of the haircut was dispersed all over her head. Sigh.

We were late to church.

Addict (n)

Normally I go to bed by 11, so I often don't know how late Rachel is up.

Tonight though, I slept 1.5 hous at 9:00 so I was not tired at 11, and I got to watch Rachel play Oblivion until 1:30 AM.

She claims this is not a regular occurrence.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Finally downloaded pictures from the camera. Here's Jonathan riping up the lawn on May 10th. What A Man! What a great Mother's Day gift! (The watch was nice too.) ;)

I titled this one "Three Year Old + Animal Crackers." I heard a crash yesterday, and this is what I discovered.

Matthew taught himself how to do handstands. I was impressed!

Poor Jon

Jonathan isn't one to complain about pain, so when he says "It hurts like hell," I know it's serious.

He wanted to take a shower today, but after helping him out of his sling and shirt, he was in enough pain to have second thoughts. He opted for just a clean shirt instead.

I hope it's not as bad as it looks

Took off my sling briefly to take a shower.  Looked in the mirror.  Parts of my shoulder that should not be sticking out, are.  Inches.  If the NP hadn't said that the x-ray showed no fractures, I would have sworn my clavicle was broken.

Very disconcerting.

At least I didn't get sunburned

As I got on I-15 heading for ultimate frisbee at Murray Park, I realized I'd forgotten to put on suncreen.  It was a sunny Saturday morning, and if we played well past 12:00 as expected, I could expect to burn a little.

As it tuned out, I didn't have to worry about that.  Chasing Ellis down ten minutes into the game, I somehow couldn't keep my feet in front of me and I hit the ground.  I tried to roll but I was too slow and came down hard on my right shoulder.  It felt like my shoulder exploded with pain.  I knew immediately that this was not a shake-it-off-and-keep-playing pain.  When I could stand, I headed off the field, answering "No" to the players asking if I was okay.  At least one looked skeptical; it probably was not a very impressive fall.

I headed for the IHC instacare about 9000 S and 700 E.  It took half an hour with the construction-retarded traffic.  I got an ice pack there, but they told me they wouldn't take my Blue Cross insurance and besides, they had an hour plus wait.  So I called down to the BCBS instacare on 123rd S and they only had a 15 minute wait.  I headed down.

To make a long story short, I waited, they took some x-rays, I waited some more, and they concluded that nothing was broken but I had an AC separation, and put a sling on me.  That was about 11:45, 1.5 hours after the injury with the worst pain I can remember.  (Damn IHC.)

I took the babysitter home.  Rachel was at a bridal shower and had left her phone on the counter.  (She didn't know the babysitter had her own.)  I was hoping to avoid more driving, which hurt, but at 1:15 Rachel was still not home and the pain was driving me crazy, so I dropped the kids off at our neighbor's -- Rachel had the car seats -- and left to pick up my lortab.

Rachel got home before I did.  "Where are the kids?"  "At the neighbor's."  "What?!"  Rachel sounded pissed.  I think she thought I must have told the babysitter to leave them there so I could play more frisbee, so I quickly told her what happened.

Today there's a lot less pain as long as I'm careful not to move it at all.  I'm going to see a specialist tomorrow and see how long I'll be in this sling.