Saturday, May 30, 2009


I am woefully behind on SP posts. (Still need to put up some pictures from Melissa's birthday party 3 weeks ago...sheesh.)

Last weekend James, Cameo and crew drove from Houston for the weekend. It was so fun to see them again.

Matthew on the morning they drove in: When are they coming? This is taking too long! Can Jacob just stay with us a week and his parents can go back if they need too? Pleeease? I just can't wait until they get here!!!

Melissa was excited too: Can I play with the cousin Jacob? We will play lots of games!

James and Cameo are both looking great. And their kids are so cute. Jacob is very articulate now and very happy to run around playing boy games with Matthew. Elijah is just a content, cuddly baby.

We went to the wildlife safari which was rained out, but the kids still seemed to have fun. We primarily saw deer and antelope. I guess a lot of the other animals must have been taking refuge in the trees. Matthew and Jacob rode with James and Cameo and they lucked out and saw/fed a few more animals than us. Melissa rode with us, and having no preconceived notions, she wasn't disappointed in the least and enjoyed herself thoroughly. For his part, Isaac wanted to stick his head out of the window in the rain as we tooled along at 3 mph. He really liked playing with the knobs and buttons in the front seat of the car as well, but really could care less about the animals roaming. Maybe we'll try the safari again another day or maybe we'll check out Natural Bridge Caverns located next to the safari- those look really interesting. (I'll have to see when we can get photos off of the camera phone- Jon's phone broke, but that is another post entirely).

After dinner Cameo bathed the boys who were quite pleased to take a bath together in the BIG tub.

Matthew, Melissa, and Jacob all bunked in Matthew's room for a "slumber" party. We heard noises well past bedtime and I had to break up a marble game in progress. But eventually they went to sleep. As long as the lights were off and the giggles and chatter relatively quiet, we figured no harm done. After all, cousins were in town! Speaking of which, James and I both stayed up later than we should have playing video games. Heh.

Despite Matthew's pleading, they had to leave after church on Sunday. Alas. We'll have to plan some get togethers in the near future.

More Tunes

I admonished Melissa to eat like a human not a little monkey with her hands. "Use your fork, Melissa!"

This inspired Jonathan to sing:

Don't use your fingers, use your fork.
Use your fork!

Eat like a human, not an orc.
Not an Orc!

Matthew liked it so much that he started singing too. Melissa used her fork.

Jonathan caught me making up my own poopy diaper song while changing Isaac today. He was quite amused. "I'm a good influence on you!" Little does he know that I secretly sing many diaper songs during the day to entertain the Pumpkin while wiping his bare buns. (The Pumpkin does not like his britches changed AT ALL- so I'll do whatever it takes to keep him occupied for a minute or two to finish the task.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Originally uploaded by jbellis
Isaac climbed into the storage rack under the bench, then couldn't
figure out how to leave. I helped him out to the tune of many
indignant squawks.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Isaac likes mcdonalds

Isaac likes mcdonalds
Originally uploaded by jbellis

Power Grid online

Rachel and I played Power Grid with Jeremy over Skype last night. (Andrea declined to join us. Next time!) We used BrettspielWelt as our board, which added half an hour to our 90 minute game. The interface was significantly worse than the asobrain one that powered our Settlers experiment, and half in German to boot! Unfortunately, asobrain has a far more limited selection of games to play -- pretty much just Settlers and Carcassone. I am not a Carcassone fan.

Now that we know the interface, more or less, we can probably get Power Grid games down to 75 minutes or so (from 100-120 for an in-person game). Power Grid is a game that is about at the limit of the amount of bookkeeping I will stand for in a non-computer-powered game, so it definitely benefits from having that automated away.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I decided to keep track of Peanuts on Facebook, so those of you following my status there have seen these already.  (Those of you who aren't, aren't missing anything.  This is literally the only use I have found for FB so far.)
  • Melissa got her birthday present from Andrea. "Look! I have a purse and keys! Now I tan drive!"
  • I couldn't find the broom, so I bought a roomba. Rachel is skeptical of this kind of logic.  So far, verdict is mixed: it does a good job cleaning the kitchen, but only if I put the chairs on top of the table so it doesn't get caught in the Maze of Chair Legs.  This is almost as much work as sweeping.  But Isaac likes to stalk it; it's like a pet.
  • Isaac managed to steal a bite of bath soap. His majesty Did Not Approve.
  • Isaac has discovered the joy of pulling books off all the shelves he can reach.  I was hoping it would take longer.  His favorite are the oversized comic books, possibly because they give him lots of leverage.
  • Matthew saw my Schlock shirt, "Rule 1: pillage, _then_ burn." "Why is that?" he asked.  "Because if you burn first, there won't be anything left to pillage."  I heard him making up his own rules a few minutes later. "Rule 26: be as careful as you can."
  • Matthew: "boys are lucky. When they jump in the pool their trunks puff up with air!"
  • James and Cameo came down to visit from Houston on Saturday.  The wildlife safari sucked; the animals must have been hiding from the rain because we just saw a few deer.  But playing San Juan that night was fun.
  • I have dropped my iphone on my tile floor before with no repercussions. This time I was not so lucky: shattered touch panel. Damn.  Apple will repair for $200, or I can try to DIY for $40.  Guess it's worth a try.  In the meantime it is still usable, barely, with a third of the screen covered with scotch tape.
  • Sticker shock at the theater: $40 to watch Monsters vs Aliens. We bought Madagascar 2 at wal-mart instead, with a ton of snacks.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Matthew reading to Melissa

Matthew reading to Melissa
Originally uploaded by jbellis
This is very cool.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dad's home

Dad came home from the hospital late last night. He still tires easily, and changing positions hurts like hell with ten broken ribs (with a total of twenty fractures), etc, but he's out of the hospital and no longer being awakened hourly.

Thanks for all your kind thoughts and prayers.

Melissa prepares breakfast

Yesterday I promised Melissa I would hang up her new curtain rod and curtains today. First thing this morning she says, "You hang up my curtains now?"

"I'll hang up your curtains after I eat my breakfast."

"I ATE my breakfast! You hang up now?"

"No, Lis, after I eat my breakfast."


Next thing I know she brings me a big bowl of carrots.

"Here mom. Here your breakfast. You eat now."

"No, I don't think I want carrots for breakfast."

She runs off.

"Ok. How 'bout an onion?" (offering a raw onion)

Mmmmm. Onion for breakfast.

In which Isaac goes to sleep

Rocking Isaac at 3 am. He's yelling at me so I put him on the floor. Why should I rock you if you're going to yell at me anyway? Sometimes this makes him appreciate being rocked more. Other times it just makes me feel better.

Repeat twice. The second time, he yells harder on the floor, then stops. And goes to sleep. In the dark, I had placed him with his head on the down pillow I brought to use myself, later. (Don't worry, I can hear him breathing.)

I have -never- seen Isaac go to sleep on his own like that at night. Ever. And I will bet money that Rachel has not, either. (Or she would have told me, in awed tones.)

Now, how to reclaim my pillow without waking him...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The difference between boys and girls

Yesterday Melissa and I were picking up the toy room. While collecting all of the plastic dinosaurs to put in the bin she started making up a story. "And the Mommy dinosaur cooks dinner while the girl dinosaur plays with toys...." She had a whole narrative going about the dinosaur family and their relationships.

Taking a trip down memory lane, I seem to recall a slightly different scenario when Matthew played with the dinosaurs at age 4.

"Rawr! Rawr!" [dinosaurs crashed together violently] "Rrrrr! Argh! Ahhh! Rawr!" Inevitably the smaller dinosaurs were eaten by the bigger ones.

It was certainly no dainty tea party!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Melissa dropped another bowl yesterday. We're down to 7 stoneware plates now and 8 bowls out of Rachel's set of 20. The teacups have fared best, since they don't get used as often; only 3 of those are gone. (We've gone through far more drinking glasses; I think we're on our fourth set of 16.)

Mostly this is due to Matthew, but Melissa is starting to contribute and a few casualties hark back to when Uncle Grant lived in Utah.

There are two schools of thought when dealing with kids breaking things. One is that you don't buy nice, breakable things until the kids are grown, or you keep them locked away. We are doing this with my Lenox china. The other is that 20+ years is too long to wait to enjoy nice things so just go ahead and if they get abused or broken, so be it. This is what we chose to do with Rachel's Ethan Allen table, with the result that Isaac has already left his mark on this, in the form of tooth prints. Nobody said you have to be consistent.

I remember growing up my parents had a lovely floral china set (Mikasa Just Flowers), a wedding present. They started with 14 plates and 12 bowls.  By the time we moved to Princeton when I was around 10, we had a handful of plates two bowls left. These were distinctive, graceful bowls with a delicate arch to them. They were Dad's favorite for morning cereal, and they shattered easily. The bowls were extinct shortly after the move, although two plates are still around.

The torch has passed. Now his grandkids are breaking my bowls.

(When I called Mom to see if she remembered the pattern name, she said they also have some china from an expensive set, too.  "This was $100 a plate in the 70s."  They got three plates off their registry list and stashed them away.  I've never even seen them.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Prayers for Grandpa

Jonathan's dad was hit by a car while bicycling on Tuesday and left on the side of the road unconscious with multiple fractures. (What kind of person could hit and leave another on the side of the road? It's beyond me.)

He's still in the hospital recuperating of course. Any prayers would be sincerely appreciated.

Update 5/15: he was hoping to come home today but now the doctors are saying "not this weekend." He still has his sense of humor, though. His mind is unharmed; "just" 10 broken ribs and broken right arm, shoulder, and clavicle.

Update 5/17: Dad is on new pain medication that doesn't leave him incapacitated with nausea. He walked around a little today and asked for his computer. (Boredom is a good sign.) Mom predicts he will be home by Wednesday.

Song for a sleepy Pumpkin

Composed by Daddy

(sung to the tune, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing)

I'm a pumpkin, tired pumpkin,
but I won't sleep without a fight

When my mommy comes and nurses me,
I will wrestle her all night.

When my daddy sings and rocks me,
I won't sleep without a fight.

Little pumpkin, baby pumpkin,
won't you sleep my son, all right?

I'm a pumpkin, tired pumpkin;
no, no I won't sleep at night.

Sleepy pumpkin, baby Isaac,
rock to sleep my little one.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

On education

Andrea blogged about substitute teaching and the pathetic state of education today, and I started to reply but it got long. So I'm posting my thoughts here. (No link since I'm not sure she wants one; I will update if she does.)
It's clear that public schools run by unions are not serving children well today. Or ever really, but it hasn't been getting any better, despite the innovative solution offered by the establishment of throwing ever-increasing amounts of money at the problem.
This article makes you think.  Matthew likes art, and gymnastics, and violin, and chess, and writing his uncles.  He wants to learn Karate and carpentry.  What if that were a substantial part of his "school" instead of what he squeezes in when he's tired from sitting at a desk all day listening to what the State of Texas thinks all six year olds should hear (but only at a level geared to the slowest)?
I think we also need to be careful not to make the mistake that many adults do, which is to assume that the best subjects for today's kids to learn are the same ones we mastered as children. Not so long ago, you could not call yourself educated without mastering classical Greek and Latin. More recently, Penmanship was its own subject. Today Latin is studied cusorily -- when it is studied at all, Greek is gone entirely, and despite fighting the march of technology tooth and nail penmanship is doomed too.
This is as it should be.
More controversially, I submit that spending hours practicing the multiplication tables is as much a waste of time in today's world as manipulating a slide rule.  The SAT and all college math courses that I know of are way ahead of today's parents in recognizing this; the SAT has allowed calculators since some time in the 90s.  When I first heard that I had one of those "kids these days!" reactions, but it's true: If a student is attracted to math and engineering, he'll develop the ability to do simple figures in his head anyway, the same way we develop facility in reading -- by doing so for pleasure, not by being drilled mercilessly.  And if his interests lie elsewhere, there is no need to make him miserable; he will have a calculator in his cell phone.
This is why I am not a fan of many private schools either; they often compete on the basis of how rigorously they can beat knowledge hardest into your child.  I'm going to check the local Montessori school here for Matthew's first grade; they have a reputation of being more enlightened.


  • Isaac has discovered grinding his teeth. I had forgotten how much that makes my skin crawl. It gives Rachel the heebie-jeebies too.
  • After considerable thought, I decided that the best video games ever were Starcraft, Planescape: Torment, Master of Orion (the original, although a lot of people prefer MOO2), Grim Fandango, and Uncharted. The last is a little iffy, or maybe it just seems premature to call it a classic after only a year, but the list of games I've wanted to play through more than once is very very short. And I'm trying to spread the genres around a bit; sorry KotOR.
  • Isaac has slept much better the last three nights, which is to say that now he only wakes up 3 times a night instead of countless. This is what passes for normal for our kids until they are almost two years old. And happy Isaac is back during the day! He is really enjoying pushing his walker around now (only in straight lines so far).
  • I mowed the lawn Saturday. My eyes itched for four days. And Rachel wonders why I think mowing the lawn every two weeks (or, if possible, three) is Quite Good Enough.
  • Matthew has learned to whistle. He's quite pleased that at six he is a couple years ahead of his old man. Unfortunately he has not yet learned how to modulate it; he can only whistle one note. But that does not temper his enthusiasm! Reactions include "Matthew, you're hurting my ears" from his teacher and "This is a no-whistling afternoon" from his mom.
  • My office is having a ping-pong tournament. This is the first place I have worked with enough ping-pongers to make having a tournament worth the trouble, and also the first where someone has been able to take a game off me right-handed. (But I have not yet lost two out of three!) I didn't realize that the tournament format was round-robin so I signed up both right handed and left. There are 15 people in the non-scrub category so that is a lot of matches.
  • Melissa jammed a pez into her ear canal this morning, so Rachel spent a couple hours at the urgent care clinic. While there, Melissa peed her pants. Happy mothers day. (Melissa is really on a roll this week, isn't she? Rachel asked. When you count locking us out of all the bathrooms in the house so we had to make an emergency trip to Lowes to get a slim screwdriver, yes, I have to agree.)
  • Brian IM'd Rachel from Brazil to say the phone cards we sent him didn't work. Not to worry: I set up SkypeOut on my iphone and Rachel was talking with her brother in no time. SkypeOut is cheap enough that maybe we should drop some minutes from our cell plan and use Skype for outgoing calls.  $3/m unlimited calls ($6 if you want to get an old-school phone number associated with Skype too) in the USA and with one of these you don't need your computer either.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Things that go bump in the night

I got up at 1:45, rocked Isaac to sleep, and successfully got him into his swing. (He spends about half the night in his crib and half in the swing.) Then I went off to find myself a blanket because my kids won't leave my sleeping-on-the-floor blankets in the living room. Grr.

(I sleep in the living room because Isaac often wakes up multiple times before I can't get him to sleep anymore, and I don't want him waking Rachel too before I can pick him up again. I sleep on the floor because I like it better than the couch.)

As I went down the 4 steps into the living room from the kitchen in my sleep-befuddled state, I slipped. I caught myself hard on my left hand. I lost some skin on the edge of the tile but also bruised the hell out of the base of my thumb and sprained my wrist a little.

I took some painkillers, elevated my arm, and fell asleep holding a bag of ice. I was tired.

(I rocked Isaac back to sleep twice more that night.)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Skype FTW*

Played Settlers tonight with Grant and Ellis and Rachel, over Skype and asobrain. Just like old times, except we all had to provide our own cake + ice cream.

My main complaint was that skype apparently doesn't let you do video with more than one person at a time. In that respect ichat is better, but we were not all on macs. Even Rachel might be going mac-free soon too, depending on what Apple decides to charge to fix the bad connection to the power supply.

Ellis won, thanks to me thinking that Rachel had already gotten largest army at three and saving up for a fourth soldier instead of grabbing those points when I could. Gah. Next time!

*For The Win.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

My keyboard is famous

Eric blogs about the keyboard I loaned him. He's a convert.