Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
After church I asked how the class went. He looked bemused and chuckled, "Oh man! Seven is a theological wasteland! They didn't know anything!"
I bet the kids enjoyed his class though. Jon is very good at balancing goofy with serious. He's a natural teacher and kids like him. He and I team taught a class of 11 and 12 year olds in our first ward together. (Good grief they're on missions and in college now! Wow.) It's a good calling.
Melissa's favorite thing in the park is the swings. I pushed her for a while then told her it was someone else's turn. Besides, she needed to burn off some energy. If I'd let her, she'd stay on the swings indefinitely. Then I took Isaac over to the bucket swings for the first time. He was startled at first but then seemed to enjoy the slow rocking.
While pushing Isaac, Matthew got on a swing, pumped his legs, and got the swing going All By Himself. He didn't even need a get started push. Six is such a capable age. I really like it!
Monday, December 29, 2008
I was talking with some gamers over lunch and heard that the xbox 360 settlers of catan game was out. Could this be the excuse I needed to get a cheap 360, and maybe even virtually reunite the Grant / Ellis Catan crew?
First, Catan/360 has no camera support. Come on, guys. Uno gives you webcam support, for crying out loud. Are you even trying?
Second, it doesn't allow multiple players to share one console, so our wives couldn't join us. Or to be more egalitarian, we couldn't join them, either.
Boo, whoever-developed-Catan/360-that-I-couldn't-google-in-thirty-seconds. Boo!
About a week ago, we went to the only Filipino restaurant in San Antonio worth eating at (there are two others that got mediocre reviews), Mekeni. The name means "Come on over" in Kapampangan.
I was a little disappointed; the food was only okay. It was a buffet priced slightly on the high end, but nothing was really excellent. The kaldereta came closest but was not nearly as good as what the Boondocks's chef served in Salt Lake. In fact my own kaldereta, produced with the help of the chef's secret ("maraming keso" -- lots of cheese) may be better. My other favorite Filipino foods are pork and chicken adobo, but Mekeni's pork adobo was barely okay and the chicken adobo was of the lazy "let's throw a bunch of drumsticks and thighs in without de-skinning them or cutting them up" variety, which I guess some Filipinos must like but I do not. The mechado was also disappointing.
One pleasant surprise was the sinigang. It was quite tasty, with lots of good chunks of beef. Unfortunately one of Rachel's first bites contained a very spicy pepper, which ruined it for her.
I let Melissa choose her own foods to try, but even so she didn't want to try anything. We ended up letting her fill up on Tapioca pudding (with cassava and coconut chunks mixed in).
It wasn't a total loss, though. A 40-ish woman at the next table heard me trying to scrape the rust off my Tagalog, and asked if I'd been to the Philippines. "Two years in Quezon City," I replied. "Missionary?" "Yes." "Mormon?" "Yes." "No wonder you have a large family!"
Turns out she was Mormon too and wanted to chat. So we did.
One other thing came up: the restaurant had a large TV running Filipino shows. Turns out that you can get seven Filipino channels on DirecTV. (I wonder if it's time-shifted, or if you basically need to get a DVR with that?) They also have Brazilian and Chinese packages, among others, but not French or Japanese. (Spanish is listed separately next to English; it's not considered International.)
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Are our children connoisseurs of bathrooms? Am I missing some sort of thrill here???
A typical excursion begins with me telling the kids that they need to use the bathroom before we go. OK mom! Done? Great. Fine and dandy, we leave. As soon as we get to an establishment a small voice will pipe up, "Mom I need to go potty!" Matthew is big enough to go by himself, but Melissa I have to help. So we make the first trip. Depending upon the condition of the facilities I may remonstrate Melissa to "not touch anything!" Yuck.
We leave the "rest" room (now there's a good euphemism). Perhaps 15 minutes will pass and I'll hear, "I need to go potty!" And she'll go. Again. This time the other half of her business, which she takes her sweet time doing. Ugh. Then I wipe since her job is "not good enough even for government" as Jonathan has stated.
Just to make things interesting, Matthew may have to go again and sometimes he can't reach the sink to wash so Jonathan or I will have to assist him as well.
Not to be outdone by his older siblings, Isaac will more times than not fill his drawers, necessitating yet another trip to the ladies room. Which may or may not have a changing table...
If we're at a restaurant there's the obligatory post-meal hand and face washing. With the three of them I get to know the area bathrooms much more intimately than I really care to.
Sometimes it seems I spend more time in the ladies room than sitting down in the restaurant. Sigh.
I was asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting on perfecting the saints. This is going to be hard.
I'm used to public speaking. That part doesn't bother me. In fact, it's kind of a rush. But I've always tried to make my presentations involve audience participation -- asking questions with a small audience, getting a show of hands with a large one, that sort of thing. Sacrament meeting talks, though, are monologues. That's just how they are. It's more solemn that way. So I keep thinking of ways to drive participation for this talk, but I can't use them. It's driving me crazy.
Also I like to be very informal when I present. And controversial. Both of these help when your primary purpose is to entertain. (And even in technical talks, that's your primary purpose, or you're doing it wrong.) I can't get up tomorrow and say, "The two-Cumorah theory is bulls***." (Rachel caught me laughing to myself earlier. I was thinking of things I could say that would ensure I'd never be asked to speak again. That's one.)
I guess the fundamental problem is that speaking in church, at least in sacrament meeting, is not primarily to entertain. It's a completely different game than you practice for any other public speaking. No wonder almost nobody is good at it!
Back to the grindstone.
Friday, December 26, 2008
- Matthew showed me a video of Melissa jumping on the couch. "See? See?" Tele-tattling. That's an application of his new camera that hadn't occurred to me.
- Matthew has become very good at trying new food, perhaps partly in an effort to differentiate himself from his sister's pickiness. Sometimes Melissa will follow his lead if he gives it the Matthew stamp of approval, like tonight when he pronounced the noodle-wrapped shrimp Good. He doesn't hesitate to stop after one bite if he doesn't like it, which may be why his opinion carries more weight with his sister than Mom's.
- "Melissa," Matthew began from the back of the minivan, "remember when Raven was babysitting the three kids?" "She fell asleep, Matthew," I interrupted. Matthew was undaunted. "Oh. Dad, remember when Raven was babysitting the kids ..." and we embarked on a dissection of a particularly humorous Teen Titans episode. I should have kept my mouth shut.
- A motorcycle pulled up next to us today while our windows were down in the 80 degree weather. "Hear that, Matthew?" I asked. "That motorcycle is a Harley. They are the only ones whose engines sound like that." "Why do they make them like that?" "Because it sounds manly." He is now identifying Harleys like a pro.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Dazzled by his presents, Matthew exclaimed, "This is the best Christmas ever!" A few hours later, he was sourly complaining, "I never get to do what I want. Santa didn't get me a computer or a phone that plays music, even though I wrote him a letter!" Somebody's trying to grow up a little too fast. And just when I was feeling pretty good about how much six-year-old toys cost, too.
Matthew was on his best behavior for the rest of the day, though. He told us that that was his Christmas present to us: being a good boy all day. And he was.
The kids got up at 5, but Rachel was ready for them: "Santa" left their stockings by their beds. So when they woke us up we told them to go play with their stockings and come back at 6. Then at 6 we told them to go downstairs and see what else Santa got them. "Santa" had left several presents unwrapped for each of them. "How did you know the doll was not for you and the magic set for Melissa?" we teased Matthew later. "The doll was pink, Dad," Matthew replied.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Reminds me of play-doh days.
Then I added frosting to the mess. Oh yeah. Such fun!
Matthew, the traditionalist, opted for green and white frosting. Melissa, our "pink" girl, naturally wanted pink frosting only for her cookies. She made a pink tree, snowmen, candycane, and bell.
Uncle Chris called from Korea tonight. It's Christmas day over there. The kids were thrilled to talk to him. Uncles are so much fun! It's hard to believe it's him! My baby brother Chris is sounding so much older and more mature now. I miss him. It appears that he is working hard and really loves the Korean people.
I mentioned to him that Matthew is reading pretty well, and he asked me if I remembered teaching him to read. Of course I remember that summer! Chris's teacher during the school year didn't know how to teach kids how to read. They were using "whole word recognition," which turned out to be disastrous.* Chris didn't think he was smart enough to read and was determined to be proved right. Mom and I took turns with him going over sounds using hooked on phonics. It was a slow and frustrating process. This was not because Chris was slow, quite the reverse. He'd just had such a bad experience that he didn't want to try. Gradually he started having some success and now he loves to read. Growing up, I'd often find him squirreled in some odd nook with a book in hand. Anyways, tonight Chris thanked me for teaching him. Aww shucks, of course!
After Chris's call we read the Christmas story in Luke, and tucked the kids in bed. It's quiet now...have they fallen asleep with sugar plums dancing in their head? I hope so. Santa wants to finish with his work so that he and Mrs. Claus can retire to bed as well.
Oh wait, an Isaac is stirring. Sigh. At least he's pleasant.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
*This is part of the reason Jonathan and I are so determined that Matthew have a positive experience in school. We really, really want him to love learning new things and not have it be a drudgery. Kids are born programmed to learn, and are inquisitive from the get go. We'd hate for our kids to lose that!
Rachel's mom got me a netflix subscription for my birthday. (Thanks, Mom!) Netflix lets you create sub-accounts, so we made Rachel one and put her in charge of one of the discs.
All was well until she put High School Musical at the top of her queue.
I will only say that "Never watch a movie that went straight to DVD" is a philosophy that will save you a lot of grief. Not to mention, "Never watch a movie whose main fans are pre-teen girls." The one bright spot was the eerie resemblance one of the main characters bears to a family member. Spooky.
Rachel claims that this was only fair, after I made her watch MST3k, but I think that HSM violated the doctrine of proportional response.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Matthew likes to sleep with the covers over his head
Originally uploaded by jbellis
Melissa was offering suggestions, "Isaac needs to nurse!" When that didn't work she said, "Isaac wants Daddy!"
Isaac may have wanted Daddy, but he settled for a nap in my arms.
"Eggs, eggs, eggs!
Mmm, mmm, mmm!
I LIKE eggs!
Hmm, hmm, hmm!"
She composed her own tune too, because it wasn't one I recognized.
She was chattering with Isaac, "Hello, baby boy!"
I said to her, "Well, hello big girl!"
She responded, "Mama, I'm a big, BIG girl, AXE you ally (actually)."
Pardon me! But of course!
He's getting bigger! Time to start baby proofing.
I thought Melissa rolled over much earlier, but I read back in the archives and she was just shy of four months when she first rolled. Matthew I know rolled over early, he was just three months. He was a wiry, busy baby (and he had roughly 5 pounds less to move than Isaac does).
I'm a little wistful. I'd like him to stay my little baby a while longer, but he seems determined to grow and do. Which is how it's supposed to be... I guess.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
It took a while to get the paper work from the Texas Health Department, and the schools can't accept out of state records. In addition, the schools were closed for the whole week of Thanksgiving, so we got the ball rolling kind of late.
From the sounds of it, it went all right. His teacher seemed quite nice. He certainly isn't behind either. He's reading at a first grade level at least. Here they have a Spanish class during the day in addition to PE and music. The downside is kindergarten is all day long rather than half a day. It's a bit longer than I think is reasonable for most 5 to 6 year olds. Fortunately Matthew is one of the older kids due to his October birthday and is probably better equipped to handle it. We'll see how things go...
The school is about a half mile away from the house, so I do like being able to walk him to and from school.
I dreamed that there were two worlds. One was stunningly beautiful, like Washington x 100 and without the constant drizzle. It was filled with attractive, almost intangible people. There was no birth or death in the world; no pain or sorrow either. The people there appeared happy and warmly encouraged me to join them.
The other world was gritty and sparsely populated. The landscape paled compared to its ethereal counterpart. The people scarcely noticed my presence, they were struggling to make it day to day. Their faces were lined with their toil and hardships. This was a world well acquainted with both pain and sorrow. Birth and death came as unpredictable companions.
One point in particular divided the two worlds. The lovely world wasn't real. Its beauty was an illusion and those that dwelled there ceased to be "real". That is why its residents looked and felt intangible. The other world in all its harsh unloveliness was very real. The things that occurred there, good and bad, mattered, and mattered forever.
My unseen guide made it clear that it was up to me to decide which world I wished to live in.
Then Isaac woke me up.
Later I dreamed that it snowed in San Antonio...
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
We inherited it from the previous tenants in our first house. They asked if we wanted their old washer and dryer, and since we didn't have one, we said sure. The washer was junk and had a tendency to flood. After about a year I sent it off to the junkyard and bought a decent washing machine. The dryer looks like junk, but it runs great. It is an ugly greenish color, has duct tape holding the bottom panel in place, dents and scratches galore, and is likely older than I am. It is a great dryer though. It dries clothes faster than the washing machine washes them and doesn't give us a bit of grief. Good dryer.
So I wasn't at all pleased to go down and buy an electric dryer. Blah. The salesman raved on and on about how much I'll love electric dryers, ecetera, ecetera. I DO NOT love it. It's ok, I guess. The drying time is much longer. Now instead of waiting on the washing machine, I'm waiting on the dryer. I really don't like buying things when I already have a perfectly good one- just no way to hook it up.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
So I cut his hair, and then trimmed Melissa's for the first time. She's had one haircut before when she took the shears to her own head. I brought her in to a professional then to fix the damage. Since I don't know where to go for haircuts here, I figured I'd try my hand at trimming her hair. I couldn't botch it too badly since her hair is curly and would hide a multitude of sins. Unlike her brother she is a wiggly target, but I managed to get it cut. I'm pleased with the results, her hair does mat and tangle less with the ends neatly trimmed. Maybe I'll get around to posting some pictures....
Finally, finally the mailman arrived with the mail key. Here the mail is in a locked box and I've had to drive to the post office to pick up the mail since we didn't have a key. Grrr.
Unpacked more boxes... but there are still boxes in every room. Sigh. Boxes labeled "books" are low priority right now and we have a LOT of books! Books are in nearly every room. In fact the pantry and bathrooms are probably the only rooms without books.
Bought a new couch set. Our previous set we purchased when we were first married for cheap. Why cheap? Well, neither of us likes debt so we've agreed to buy things in cash. Nearly 8 years of abuse later, I decided that moving would be the perfect
Friday, December 05, 2008
New Rackspace employees face five full days of orientation. Your first day, always a Monday, is a "rapid immersion" program that does the usual HR stuff, plus a tour of the main (soon to be ex-) campus, some background on the company and Security 101.
Then, once a month, all the new hires have a four-day Rookie Orientation course. So if you are unlucky enough to start the week of the course, you have five days in a row of this stuff. I was fighting to stay interested by day 2 and gave up completely after that. Days 3 and 4 were spent reading programming.reddit on my iPhone. I wasn't the only one; on my team of eight, five of us had our Waste Of Time meters in the red zone in very short order. We came in dead last out of six teams for the final tally.
I can see the value of a course like this. I really can. But four days is murder. Cut the 90 minute slots to 60. All of them. Most of them could stand some tightening up anyway. Force the speakers to cut the fat. That should get you most of the way to 3 days right there. If you still need to cut more, drop the skits. I know they are near and dear to your heart -- they are not to the introverts in the room -- but skits and prep is 2.5 hours of time. Hard to argue with that. And if you still need more time, add an hour to a day or two. That's still better than sretching it out another full day, for sure. I haven't watched a clock with so much interest since high school.
Actually if I were in charge I would cut it down to one day and present the rest of the information in printed form. It's so much more information-dense than lecturing, and this was all at the 101 level, so you don't need experts to ask questions of. The only thing you would use lectures for is the CXO guys so the rookies get to meet them.
Monday, December 01, 2008
There is 1 type of grocery store here. That's it, 1! Uno! If you don't count Super Walmarts or Targets, the only place you can buy groceries is H.E.B.
Perhaps that is why milk is $4 a gallon...