Thursday, April 30, 2009

Matthew's First Buzz

A few weeks ago Matthew was once again complaining about having his hair combed.

"Well Matthew you can get it cut short like Daddy's if you don't want it combed."

I figured that would be the end of it because Matthew has told me on no uncertain terms to "please, please don't cut it as short as Daddy's hair!" when I've given him a trim before.

Apparently combing was an evil too great to be endured any longer and he asked to have a haircut just like Dad's.

Here comes the clippers:

The honor of buzzing was bestowed on Jonathan because, "Daddy has never cut my hair before; you've had lots of turns, Mom."

All done!

And since Melissa wants to do everything that Matthew does, she took off her shirt and posed for a picture too.


  • Matthew: "I'm going to run really fast. I need you to check behind me and see if there's a blur."
  • I poured Melissa a bowl of shredded wheat and told her to get herself a spoon. "Big spoon or small spoon?" "Either is fine." So she came to the table with a huge serving spoon and ate her cereal with that.
  • Issac got up at 4:45 this morning. I took him downstairs and stopped to relieve myself. Isaac leaned over to see what was going on and decided to let it rip too. The lean created just the right opening and I got well and truly peed on. The warm trickle felt like it would never end. So we went back upstairs to clean up before I got to rock him to sleep (which took almost an hour).
  • I asked Melissa to pick up the blocks and put them in the block cart where they belong. "Otay!" She set to work, but Isaac saw what she was doing and scurried over. He loves taking the blocks out of that cart. They continued that way for a while, with Isaac taking them out more or less as fast as Melissa put them in. This frustrated her immensely ("Daddy! Isaac taking the bwocks out!") but I was able to do the dishes much faster with Isaac distracted like that so I wasn't about to pull him away. Eventually Melissa solved the problem herself: she moved the block cart down the four steps to the living room -- Isaac can go up stairs but has not learned to negotiate them the other way -- and stashed the blocks in her shirt to move them over to the cart.

Kindergarten Parade

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Fiesta San Antonio is a big deal here. A lot of San Antonio shuts down to party every night for a week and a half. At Matthew's school they had the annual kindergarten parade and dances last week.

Melissa waiting along the parade route.

Here comes Matthew!

After the parade they danced for us.

Matthew with his buddy.

Matthew's class. Melissa snuck into the picture, much to Matthew's annoyance. She wishes she was in kindergarten too. There are 6 kindergarten classes at his school, so it was a long and colorful parade.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Matthew, in the car, singing: "Farmer Brown he had a dog and Texas was his name-o! T E X A S! T E X A S! ..."

Matthew, to his mom: "Can boys be on stage and dance with ballerinas?" On being answered in the affirmative: "I don't want to do that. Make sure you tell Dad I do not want to take ballet lessons!"

Melissa, to Uncle Grant: "We have a pumptin! His name is Isaac!"

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sleepy pumpkin

Sleepy pumpkin
Originally uploaded by jbellis
Resting up for the long night.

Isaac is teething again

It's been brutal. He starts off the night by refusing to sleep except in his mom's arms (and woe betide you if you dare put him down). Sometime between 11 and 2 -- usually closer to 2 -- he will sleep deeply enough to be placed in his bassinet. Then he will wake up around an hour later. I will rock him back to sleep and put him in his swing, and sleep on the couch. Two hours later he will wake up angry and I will take him up to nurse. He will doze for a while; on a good night this will be until almost 7:00; on a bad night, 5:00. Then I will rock him again, and usually (but not this morning) he will let me put him in his swing for a while longer.

That is why last night I slept from 9 to 5, minus the interruptions. Rachel slept from 1 to 8.

The magical age

Things Matthew started doing this week:
  • Violin lessons with his mom (I know what a novice on a violin sounds like from being around when David was learning, so I callously insisted this be done while I am at work)
  • Chess lessons with me
  • Typing lessons with Peter
Six and a half: when kids start to get fun.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Matthew surprises Dad

Matthew was very pleased with himself. "Come outside! I have a surprise for you!" I came.

Matthew and his friend Joseph had washed my car! It was a six year old job but it was cleaner than it had been so on the whole definitely a good surprise.

Then Matthew asked, "How much are you going to pay us?"

Hmm, that makes two surprises.

I explained that I'd be happy to hire them next week but I wasn't going to pay for a service I hadn't been consulted on. Not very magnanimous, I guess, but I'm a little leery of setting a bad precedent. Matthew took this news graciously but I think his friend was pissed. (I wonder if it was his idea to ask for a gratuity...)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

PSA: Type Racer

Type Racer is a lot of fun. How much fun? My officemate Eric has been playing all morning. He just won his first match in Intermediate. "I probably just made some six year old cry," he says.

(Eric is testing one of my Kinesis keyboards to see if he wants to spend the money on one. I have two, one for home and one for work, since I'm prone to developing tendinitis in my wrists. I would say they are not worth the money if you have no RSI problems, but if you do, I haven't found anything better.)

Sign in to Type Racer with facebook and it will show you who else in your network has tried it and how fast they are. (This is probably a guy thing.) I was pleased to average 92 wpm but I didn't feel fast for long; my friend Todd types 128.

A taste of summer

Tuesday it got up to 90 and yesterday, 96.

The good news is that so far, my glass-half-full co-worker has been right: the humidity goes down when it gets really hot. The humidity yesterday was only 20%. Not bad at all.

Today the forecast is for a high of 86 and 96% humidity which is more like New Jersey or the Philippines.

The bad news is that our upstairs AC quit working. Rachel investigated (she's the mechanically inclined one of the family) and declared that it's broken. So I will have our landlord come fix it. Until then our plan is to stay downstairs until it is cool outside at night and then open the windows.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Places to go

Isaac now scoots up the stairs at lightening speed. He's figured out how to get down backwards too. Today he discovered rolling down the stairs; he scared the both of us with that trick! This from the kid who still does not sit up.

Why is it all of our children have learned to crawl before sit?

Fiesta Texas

Jon saved us some seats along the Riverwalk yesterday so we could watch the parade floats. Fiesta is a BIG deal here. It started last week, and every night this week there is a huge event downtown as well as smaller events all over San Antonio. It was described to me as kind of like a huge block party everynight. At his office building they had all kinds of food, music, and drinks (fyi fresh watermelon juice I was really impressed by how well done it was.

We were right up front and had a great view of all of the floats along the water. Each float was beautifully decorated and most had live musicians. Very Cool!

Unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera. I tried to take some pictures with my phone, but I don't think they turned out well.

Here's some pictures of the kids after we got home.

I found a note that Matthew wrote (and I quote), "I like the Riverwalk! I LOVE the RIVERWALK!"

That settles it

I need to get a gaming PC. (To my dear wife: since I intend to play on our relatively low res TV, it won't be that expensive!)

I still haven't been able to play Mass Effect since work got me a laptop with a graphics card that would have been embarassing five years ago. And now that the trailers for Alpha Protocol are out my days are numbered. (You know, the new game by the makers of KotOR II, which was almost a great game but time pressure gimped it to merely "good?")

Or we could move my Mac (formerly Macbook, now just a Mac since I can't actually close it anymore or the damage gets worse -- did I mention that Apple decided this wasn't covered under their $400 extended warranty? they did) downstairs close enough to the TV that an HDMI cable would reach. But then we'd have to move my desk too which Rachel thinks is an eyesore.

Monday, April 20, 2009

View from my office

View from my office
Originally uploaded by jbellis
Kidding. But only mostly -- it's fiesta week and there are chairs lining the riverwalk that I can see my wifi from.

Come to think of it though it's a private section of the walk and I don't see any reason anyone would kick me off any normal day, either.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quotable kids

Matthew's been paying attention in school. "I'm a Texan and an American." Personally I think he's got those in the right order. I like the streak of individualism here. "You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas." (My mother and mother-in-law both said that if Texas were ever to secede they would move here. Hey, I'll take grandparents near us any way I can get 'em.)

Nothing embarasses Melissa. I went in to help her clean up after a number two (she does a ... less than adequate job on her own) and she informed me, "Toilet paper you can blow your nose. Toilet paper you wipe your bottom. You can blow your nose and wipe your bottom!"

"Stick to doing one at a time, Melissa," I told her.

My Kids Are Weird

Took Melissa to the dentist last week. She was really, really looking forward to it. "Is it time to go to the dentist yet?" When we got there she hopped right up into the chair and opened wide. She managed to charm the entire staff at the dentists office. Several ladies popped their heads in to say "hi" and chat to the cute BIG girl. Melissa just ate it up. Funny little imp!

She collected her prize and tooth care goodies at the end of the visit- no cavities yea! When we picked up Matthew he saw the assorted dental paraphernalia and deduced that Melissa had been to the dentist. "Mom! It's not fair! When do I get to go to the dentist?"

Sheesh. I never looked forward to going to the dentist as a kid.

More Matthew Art

I figure if I take pictures of some of them, then I can toss them without guilt. Otherwise we'd be swimming in paper.

Matthew's been in an abstract phase lately. Not sure where his inspiration comes from. I know I wasn't making abstract doodles at 6 and Jon says he wasn't either. Nor are they doing it at school...

When I ask him where he gets his ideas, he says, "I don't know. Somewhere in my head."

So without further ado a sampling of the latest from Matthew's gallery:

City Scape

This is easily the most recognizable of his art. Kind of reminds me of a scene from Harold and the Purple Crayon. Except not purple. Maybe that's where he got his idea...


This way up

I titled this one after Matthew said, "No mom this way is up!" when I was holding it sideways. Oops.



Or how I can tell Matthew is the son of a programmer...

Matthew: Mom! Look at me! I'm upgraded!

Me: Oh? How so?

Matthew: I'm getting super strong. Can't you see my muscles?


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Images from the San Antonio Tea Party

Jonathan and I went to the Tax Day Tea Party in San Antonio. I parked at his office and we walked over to the plaza. Here are some images from the event.

It took place in the Alamo Plaza and an adjoining park to accommodate the crowds. I'm not sure how many people were there, but it was a LOT. Estimates range from between 7,000 to 14,000.

Texas flag waving proudly on a building near the Alamo:

We saw people of all ages, races, and walks of life. We overheard a elderly man assisting a tiny white haired lady probably in her late 80s. "So mom, what did you think of your first protest?" There were young babies, children, teens, college kids, middle-aged, hispanic, black, white, and asian. We saw flags, tea bags, signs, buttons, tricornered hats, baseball caps, visors, and of course cowboy hats.

Isaac's first protest:

I didn't think it would be an affair appropriate for Matthew and Melissa, but was pleased with how family friendly it actually was. Chants of USA! and very positive speeches were the order of the day. Still M&M would have been bored, so just as well I got a babysitter for them.

We were standing next to a family of 8 children with one on the way. They were extremely nice people and their children so well behaved. The lady asked if we brought water, and when we replied in the negative she insisted that we each have a water bottle from their stash. Then when Isaac got hungry, they offered me one of their chairs. Now I've nursed Isaac standing up many times, but it is much nicer to sit instead of supporting his (22 lbs?) standing. Very gracious people. We are very fortunate in finding great people wherever we go.

I can't find a link to a video of my favorite speech, so I'll just summarize. One of the speakers was born in Columbia, "a land where if you were born poor, you died poor." Her mother moved her family to America for the opportunities. You could just hear in her voice the love she had for America and for Texas. She was able to get an education and raise her children in prosperity in San Antonio. Like the rest of the speakers she feared the government encroachment on individual liberties (including economic) and takeover in the private sector. It's a poor summary I've rendered, so I hope I can find that clip....

It was a very polite, orderly crowd. Even the police were enjoying themselves.

Lastly a picture I took of the Alamo just before we left. The Alamo is surprising small, but inside it is reverent, like a church.

Nothing lasts forever

My kids killed one of my dreamcast controllers -- the connector end looks like it was savagely beaten. I ordered another from Amazon (cheaper than eBay for most things these days, it seems). And when I tried to load up Sonic Adventure for Melissa the Dreamcast kept asking me to "please insert game disc." I ordered another copy of that from Amazon, too.

Fortunately Sonic Adventure 2 worked (the copy I ordered from eBay long ago and turned out to be a warez disc), so my promise to amuse my daughter with a good Sonic game was not in vain. But it made funny noises. I wonder if the Dreamcast itself is dying. The thought makes me sad. The games still compare well, technically, with modern Wii titles (if not 360 or ps3). And it hosted an array of category-defying titles that you can't find the like of anymore. (With the exception of a few downloadable titles from PSN.)

Even if it isn't dying this year or next (and of course there is always Amazon), the odds are good that twenty years my grandchildren won't be playing my Dreamcast collection. That's a depressing thought.

(Then again, maybe by then we will be downloading Dreamcast titles for the equivalent of 2029's Virtual Console.)

Houston pictures

Matthew, Melissa and Jacob dying eggs the Saturday before Easter. Guess what color Melissa chose?
Later we ate dinner and played at a park with lots of sand. None of the kids were particularly interested in dinner- go figure.
Even James got into the act with the sand. "Just keeping Jacob busy." Righhht.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Houston (Reader's Digest Version)

We had a lovely Easter in Houston. James and Cameo blessed their baby, Elijah, and we made the trip out to see them. It's our first road trip with the kids and *only* a four hour drive- however with children you have to add the a multiplier for each kid. So a trip that is four hours feels more like 6. Kind of like wind chill factor only it's "kid car factor." "Are we there yet!? This is taking too long. I have to go potty. Mom, mom, mom!!! Dad, dad, dad!!! Isaac's crying again! I'm thirsty!" You get the drill. So we survived. Actually it wasn't too bad.

Matthew and Melissa were pleased to play with their cousin Jacob and we stayed in the Marriott Residence Inn to give us a little more space. (And to make up for the truck-stop cramped motel we stayed in when we went to WA). It was NICE. It had two bedrooms and a joint living/dining/kitchen area. I could easily get used to staying there.

James and Cameo both look great and their kids are so cute. Jacob really took a shine to Matthew and had fun hanging out with a "big" boy. Matthew to his credit was good with the little kids and took him under his wing. So we played games, dyed eggs, went to the park, and had a good time. Summer and Bob were there, and later Cameo's parents came. Sunday we went to the blessing: 8:30 church, ugh. Afterward we had a luncheon, hunted for eggs, told the Easter story, and then drove back. A good time was had by all. And I have to mention that I'm way impressed with the public reststops in Texas. There were playgrounds, fully landscaped grassy areas with mature trees, flowering bushes, internet access, CLEAN restrooms, and vending machinces. Wow!

Oh and Matthew lost another tooth. He will write all about it I'm sure when he gets back from school.

Pictures to come as soon as I can convince Jonathan to download them from his phone.


You know what the definition of insanity is? Remembering the road trips you went on with your parents as a child and then setting off on one with your own kids anyway. And by "you" I mean "Rachel." My parents only took us on one road trip of note when I was growing up -- all the way from New Jersey to Utah. That was enough for them and us. (I still remember driving my father stark raving mad by making up a song about a street we passed, to the tune of Camptown Races: "One mile road is ten miles long, doo dah, doo dah..." I sang it until he expressed his sincere and heartfelt desire that I stop before I gave him an aneurism.)

But Rachel is made of sterner stuff. Or more stubborn, or more optimistic, or all three. Thus we set off Friday night. Rachel will fill in some details too but I would like to say that while it was not a worst case scenario (that would be Isaac yelling the whole way with Melissa joining in and Matthew alternately moaning "how much longer?" and shouting at Melissa to be quiet) it was still a pretty bad case scenario. Isaac slept about ninety minutes and played in his seat an hour each way, which left a good hour and a half to yell.

On the way up he would have only yelled maybe an hour but Melissa woke up before we got to the hotel and started screaming for no reason. Isaac was tired but eventually she woke him and they had a duet. For added fun, neither the GPS nor my iphone could take us to the hotel we'd booked, so that prolonged the symphony an extra quarter hour (you think in hours when you are being yelled at like that -- it seems much longer than a mere "fifteen minutes") -- while someone at the hotel gave us directions through the dark.

The tree-lined streets were a nice touch for a busy commercial area but they made finding your hotel in the dark at 11 PM damn hard.

So eventually we got there and it was the wrong hotel. There was another Marriott Residence Inn five minutes away that didn't show up on the map at all.

By the time we got there we were exceedingly grumpy. At least I was. And from the noises they were making, so were the kids. (Matthew was in "worst case" mode by this time.)

Fortunately we had separate bedrooms at the hotel -- one for us, one for the kids -- so we all slept well. And by "we" I mean "everyone but Rachel, whom Isaac is still trying to subject to some kind of sleep deprivation test."

In the morning we visited Rachel's cousin and his family. I noticed there was a "Fat Ogre Games and Comics" not far away. That is a pretty cool name for a store so of course I went over and picked up a copy of San Juan, which I'd been introduced to at PyCon. I think I taught everyone in the house how to play but Rachel.

So we hung out and then Sunday we blessed the baby and then in the afternoon we headed home. It was a lot like the trip out, only Melissa didn't fall asleep (which means she didn't wake up screaming either). We did get to experience Matthew suddenly announcing, "I need to pee really really bad." I guess it wouldn't be a real road trip without that. Fortunately there was a rest area near and we rested, by which I mean "peed."

An hour later we stopped at the very next rest area too, this time so Rachel could nurse Isaac. (It didn't help much: he was still pissed afterwards.) I thought the first rest stop had been pretty nice -- 6 clean bathrooms, full landscaping, lots of picnic benches under shade trees -- but the second had all that and a jungle gym too, so the bar moved that much higher.

Then we got home, and like my father before me I vowed never again to drive my kids farther than the nearest Walmart.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The friendly baby in the mirror

The friendly baby in the mirror
Originally uploaded by jbellis
Isaac approves of this hotel.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Hands free technology

Hands free technology
Originally uploaded by jbellis
Isaac likes to play on the first step so he doesn't need to use one
arm propping himself up. He amuses himself much longer now that I
figured this out.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Then and Now

One more recent picture of Isaac:

As you can see he has really grown! He's wrapped in the blue blanket that my cousin Kathleen made when Matthew was a baby. It's a blanket that I just love and was the first one we wrapped Isaac up in after he was born.

April Fools!

We have a six year old in the house, so April Fools day is a major holiday. Matthew can't resist pulling a fast one on his parents. When I opened the refrigerator this is what I saw:

there were hoots of laughter in the background.