Monday, August 31, 2009

This child...

is a real challenge at times.

Melissa's decided that toilets are strictly optional, again. She's been having 1 or 2 "accidents" a day almost everyday. Why, I don't know. She did this one other time about 6 months ago. We tried rewards, punishments, unpleasant consequences such as cleaning up the mess or wearing diapers, and extra attention in the event she was feeling middle child syndrome or some such thing. There was nothing medically wrong with her, and she didn't have any big changes; it was totally out of the blue. It lasted for about 2 weeks and then she was fine. No accidents whatsoever after that. Recently she started up after Jonathan left for his trip earlier this month, but she didn't seem otherwise distressed about his absence, so that may just be coincidence.

This I do know, Melissa is extremely strong-willed. When she was first toilet trained at 2, it lasted 2 weeks and then she decided she didn't want to go through the effort. Nothing could persuade her otherwise so we backed off until 2 1/2 when she was once again amendable to the idea.

So now at 4 years old we are running into this. Lately I've just had her wear a diaper if she goofs up for the day. She hates that, but I do enough laundry as it is. Still, it hasn't completely deterred her, so I might go for the bare buns approach. Other than the "accidents" she's her regular cheerful, busy, happy self. I can't get any explanation out of her either. She just says, "I'm sorry." It seems to occur when she's distracted by games, or TV, or longer activities. We're trying to eliminate distractions. I love my moppet headed, happy girl, but this is tough!

I'm out of ideas, and running out of patience.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

You know you're a nerd

When you have dreams about having Harry Potter-esque powers (only cooler, since they are actually more derived from inFamous), and your spellbook is ~/spells, and the spells are things like /usr/local/bin/force-majeure.

I was a total badass, too.

Then I woke up.

(Normally I don't remember my dreams, but for a CS major this was a pretty cool one.)


  • Rachel: "You're playing a good guy? [in inFamous] Do you remember how? Let me know if you run into any ethical dillemas." (I usually play bad guys.)
  • First week of school. (Already!) On Monday, Matthew was lying in bed awake when I went in to get him up. First-day jitters, I guess. I can empathize. So far Matthew is having fun and not being homeworked to death so I'm good. Rachel though is shocked, shocked! that Matthew's public school is academically less than rigorous. "Color the triangles purple." Video Fridays. Personally, I never learned anything in public school, either, so I'm not really sure what the fuss is about.
  • Rachel [after I remount her FFXII save data that one of the kids messed with]: "Oh. So it was just a software problem." "Yes." "Good thing. If it was a hardware problem, _I_ would have to fix it." "Yes."
  • Sure enough, when Isaac broke my keyboard. Rachel fixed it.
  • Rachel agreed to a Starcraft rematch with her brother Chris. In a moment of hubris she also agreed to the handicap of Chris picking her race: Zerg. Practice status: Starcraft is installed on her laptop.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Really Rotten Tooth Fairy

Yesterday Matthew lost another tooth while at school; his fifth or sixth now? I've lost count. He proudly showed it to me in the "tooth" box that he got from the nurse's office. That night he put it under his pillow. . . and that is the last I thought of it until this evening I heard the word tooth in passing while at the grocery store. Tooth? Tooth! Oh crude! I'd forgotten to swap out his tooth for some change! Oops. Each night I check the kids before I go to bed, so I can't believe that I forgot. I asked Jonathan if Matthew had mentioned anything to him this morning before school. "No, he didn't say anything to me." After dinner, Jonathan slipped upstairs while Matthew was using the bathroom and made the exchange.

Here's hoping that Matthew doesn't notice either.

[Update: Matthew came up with his own explanation, "The tooth fairy is tricky! When woke up this morning the tooth box was still there, but when I went to bed I heard coins under my pillow. The tooth fairy must have come while I was at school."]

Another Ellis likes potatoes

Originally uploaded by jbellis

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Me: Isaac, when are you going to learn to walk and say "mama?"

Jonathan with fatherly pride: Well, he's got what's important down. He crawls, gets into things, and says "dada."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How Apropros

Melissa's fortune cookie at dinner tonight:

And is there ever a will!

A night out with the kids

I took Matthew and Melissa to see Monsters vs Aliens at the dollar theater while Rachel was away. The dollar theater is half an hour away, to to amortize the trip a little, we stopped at "Two Bros BBQ" on the way.

I've made it a low-priority goal while in San Antonio to find a better barbeque place than Utah's Goodwood; Gary and other Texas natives I know assured me that they must be here somewhere. But I have found mostly mediocrity until Two Bros. They serve everything by the pound and quarter pound; we tried the pork, brisket, and sausage, all excellent. The meat is served on two-foot squares of butcher paper; the kids were delighted at this novelty, still more when one of the seating options was a wooden bench. (More modern tables are also available.) Matthew was also fascinated by the wall of vintage hubcaps; I recognized most of the emblems, but not all.

Two Bros also boasts a pretty respectable playground. Unfortunately, it it outside, and it was 102 degrees this evening. Children are mostly oblivious to the heat, somehow -- I remember being the same way myself. So they insisted, and I tried to stay in the shade while they climbed about and played in the sandbox. All too quickly, from their pespective, it was time to go to the air-conditioned movie theater. They were reluctant to leave, but I had a trump card: "Do you want to get popcorn at the movie?" My kids like popcorn more than perhaps any other treat, especially when combined with a movie. So the kids were motivated too and off we went.

Monsters vs Aliens itself is a terrible movie. It is easily the worst I can remember seeing in a theater. (Of course, since I see movies in theaters so infrequently, I usually have pretty high standards. These are obviously relaxed somewhat when it comes to dollar movies that are child-appropriate.) The animation was inadequate when mesaured against the bar Pixar has set, but I did not hold that against MvA, because Pixar is in a class by themselves. Mostly the plot--and I use the term generously--was simply irredeemably bad. Definitely won't be picking this up on DVD.

In fairness, the kids liked it. (For the most part: Melissa found some scenes too scary.) But the kids would like just about anything, presented on a big screen with popcorn and drinks. With a PG rating I would have assumed they're trying to appeal to people older than six.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Matthew Solves a Mystery

Jonathan misplaced his wedding band a few days ago and we have searched the house in vain for it. Tonight Matthew brought me the ring. "Where did you find it???" "It was in the bathtub right by the drain." Eek! I'm guessing the ring slipped off last time Jonathan bathed one of the children in the kid's bathroom.

And yes, the kids are due for another bath.

What's better than a birthday cake?

Why 2 birthday cakes of course!

Isaac turned 1 on the 8th of August while we were in Washington. Naturally we had to have cake.

Eying the cake.

For me?
Oh boy!
The aftermath:

Matthew and Melissa wanted to celebrate when we returned home, so we had to have more cake, of course. "Mom, this time Isaac can have cake too!" said Matthew. We had a chocolate cake on the day he was born and Matthew felt a bit sorry for Isaac then since he was too little for cake.

The ducky cake I made (inspired by the tub toy Aunt Telitha and Uncle Nolan gave Isaac):
Happy Isaac:

Isaac is doing well. He's been healthy with nary a trace of diabetes returning. We do have to monitor him when he's sick, but so far so good. Last August certainly was an interesting (worrisome, scary, exhausting, sad) time, but then again we have never felt so loved and so blest. Our friends, neighbors, and family descended upon our little household and helped so much. We were frankly surprised by the many acts of kindness- and so grateful. Even just simple things like a friendly ear touched our hearts. Thank you.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Trip to Washington- Day 4

Monday I had the pleasure of visiting Telitha, her husband Nolan, and my two little nephews whom I haven't seen in over 2 years. They moved to Washington this summer for Nolan's internship, so I'm looking forward to the opportunity to see much more of them!

Nolan managed to get all three car seats into the back of their car. A Herculean task.

The summer was very dry and hadn't really rained in two months. Of course when I come to visit it pours. Welcome back to Seattle! Sure beats the 100+ heat wave of the previous week, so I won't complain. Due to the soggy weather, we opted to go to the mall with a little indoor play area to burn off excess energy. There I had one of the best sandwiches I have ever tasted. It was a beefsteak with melted provolone and jalapenos all on a toasted sour dough bun. Delicious.

Isaac highly approved of the indoor play area. The soft climbing structures were just his size to scale up and down. He was very disappointed to leave and hooted his frustration. Unfortunately we weren't the only ones with the idea of going to the mall to escape the rain, and the area was packed with at least 50 kids.

James playing on top of the boat.

Baby Mark. I can't believe how coordinated he is already!

Tuesday, before the crack of dawn, we flew back. Fortunately the return flight was uneventful, and even the layover in LAX wasn't too long. Unfortunately Isaac only took two micro-naps (maybe 45 minutes total), so I had to entertain him for 5 hours in crowded conditions and 3 hours in airports. We were very happy to see Jonathan, Matthew, and Melissa!


  • Finished The Narnian. Outstanding biography.
  • Isaac's birthday present from Daddy arrived: 10 "First Impressions" DVDs. Verdict: better than Baby Einstein (real music, not cheapskate My First MIDI crap).
  • There is a lot less laundry when Daddy is the one in charge of when an outfit is too dirty to wear.
  • The kids and I helped water the temple grounds Monday morning. (Watering with sprinklers is banned; hand-watering with hoses is OK.) Matthew took one hose by himself and Melissa and I took another. Matthew did a good job and was very pleased with the compliments he got from various adults passing by.
  • While Rachel was gone I was putting in a full day's work while watching the kids. Even with Inflatable Wonderland I didn't have a whole lot of time left for more than the basics. So before she got back I swept out the kitchen and dining area with a push broom. It was the right tool for the job.
  • Matthew beat Guitar Hero: rocks the 80s on easy. Medium is proving more challenging: "Don't you throw my guitars!"
  • Matthew: "Did you know I can burp the ABCs?"
  • Rachel has an honest soul. On my developing male-pattern baldness, comfortingly: "Well, you look good from the front!"

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Trip to Washington- Day 3

Sunday, August 9th was Dad's retirement. Dad's unit was there, as were a fair number of the big brass from the base, and many friends and family members. Dad is highly respected and well loved. To my great disappointment, Isaac did not make it through much of the ceremony. He started to squawk right at the beginning, so we spent the time walking the hallway. I was able to hear bits and pieces in between finding novel ways to keep the baby from getting bored (and loud). Sigh. What I did hear was quite nice.

Andrea sang the Star Spangled Banner (all verses!). That girl has a great set of pipes!

I am very proud of my Dad. He is a good man and patriot. After he served his time in the Army, he didn't have to join the Air Force Reserves, but chose to out of a sense of duty and love of country. I think the opportunities to fly around in really cool jets was the icing on the cake. He also truly loves people and has a great sense of humor and a flair for pranks. Whenever anyone finds out I'm his daughter they get a twinkle in their eye, laugh, and relate some interesting anecdote. I hear what a nice guy he is all the time. Nurses, airmen, fellow docs, technicians, cashiers, random people in the store; they all like Dad.

After the ceremony, my parents had prepared grilled hamburgers with all the trimmings for the entire unit. Some friends, neighbors, and family helped put it together. My Dad wanted everyone included, and there were a LOT of people. Around 150, I'm guessing.

Isaac liked the ice chests. Moving pieces of ice from one chest to the other amused him for 15 minutes at least. Here he is in his little flight suit. The recruits get younger and younger every year!

Here Mom is smiling. I know she is happy that my Dad is done being a warrior on the weekends. I think my Dad will miss it though...

Grandpa and Isaac:

Dad with Grandma and Grandpa:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Trip to Washington- Day 2

Day 1 was spent running errands all over town with my Dad for the retirement barbecue.

Day 2 my beautiful cousin Laura married her sweetheart. (Welcome to the family Braton!) Isaac and I waited in the temple lobby with Nana, Laura's grandmother and my adopted grandmother. She is a lovely lady, and it was so nice to chat with her.

See? Told you she's beautiful. ;) Jonathan's comment when he found out about the wedding, "Laura's getting married!? She was like 12 when I first met her! Gee, I'm getting old."

Cute cousins and Chris! I miss the monthly cousin dinners...

Unfortunately the luncheon conflicted with naptime so I took Isaac home to get some rest. There is nothing less enjoyable than a cranky, overtired, overstimulated baby at a formal occasion. If only I knew a babysitter in the area!!!

The afternoon was filled with more prepwork for the retirement lunch. Mom made something like 6 million cookies, give or take a few. She made enough potato salad, baked beans, dip, and sliced condiments to feed an army. Literally.

That evening was the reception at the Van Dukers. It was gorgeous, of course. The food was amazing! Scott made Italian sodas at the bar and even Gus, the dog, was decked out to the nines. Wish I'd gotten a picture of him in his collared bowtie. Isaac was dressed for the occasion, but he hated his tie.
Here he is grinning after ripping it off.

Bustling the dress. Aunt Charlene is assisting. Those things are tricky!

Wished I had more time to chat and to see people... oh well.

Saturday was also Isaac's birthday. 1 year old! Since the day was so hectic, we waited to celebrate. Matthew and Melissa did call to sing happy birthday though. I know Matthew, and I'm sure he insisted on calling right away! It was cute. Isaac seemed to recognize their voices and made approving noises.

Trip to Washington- flight out

(Last weekend Isaac and I flew up to Washington for a wedding, retirement, and short visit with my sister-in-law. It was quite the quick trip. I'll break the tale up into several smaller posts.)

I found a flight that had a three hour layover in SLC. Sweet! I'll have dinner with my sister before flying on to WA. San Antonio has a tiny airport, and there are no direct flights to virtually anywhere. Thursday morning I took the kids swimming and in the early afternoon Isaac and I waited for our plane which was about a half hour delayed. The flight was pretty uneventful until it was time to land. Winds were gusting at about 40+ mph and several wildfires burned around Salt Lake City giving the air an orange haze. The plane jumped up and down in the turbulence. Within the plane, people were getting sick and I confess to feeling more than a little queasy myself. It's the first time I've ever felt airsick before, and it was by far the roughest landing I've experienced. Fortunately it didn't get beyond feeling sick for me, because I had enough to do Isaac wrangling. Isaac seemed to be fine despite the turbulence.

Andrea graciously picked us up from the airport and took us to dinner. There's this nice little Italian sandwich cafe/fine chocolate shop downtown. I'll ask Andrea for the name of it, I highly recommend it to those in Utah. Regrettably, I was still feeling very green around the gills and couldn't fully appreciate the sandwich or my first taste of an Italian soda. Jeremy works a few blocks away at the KSL building and met us there. He bought me a fantastic chocolate bar which I am savoring as I type. Mmm!

We arrived back at the airport, and saw that the plane was scheduled to be a half hour delayed. Okay, no sweat, this will give Isaac some more time to burn off energy before boarding. The plane finally arrived an hour late, but by then the wildfires had picked up, assisted by the fierce winds no doubt. All of the ramps were closed save one, and the planes in the air had to land before any aircraft could take off. So we waited, and waited. Isaac pushed the stroller and crawled around on the floor. Gross! I know, but what else can you do with a squirmy, gotta move baby? While Isaac scooted all over finding things to amuse him, several flights were diverted to other airports to refuel before attempting to land again in SLC. About three hours into our adventure we could finally board. Isaac was getting quite tired at this point, being well past his bedtime. We get settled and discovered there were 25 jets ahead of us to takeoff. Sigh. Isaac entertained himself at the window for a while and I bribed him with M&Ms when he got bored.

Fortunately he conked out right after takeoff and slept the entire flight. Bliss. It was a nice break from inventing ways to amuse him for the entire flight.

I got him, his carseat, his stroller, the backpack and the suitcase to the curb where we met grandma and grandpa well after 11 PM; much later than the initial 8:40 planned arrival. But we made it!

[I've come to the conclusion that traveling with 1 one year old by himself is nearly as challenging as traveling with 1 one year old and Matthew and Melissa. Matthew and Melissa are pretty good travelers now and really don't add much to the logistical work.]

Saturday, August 08, 2009


  • A couple weeks ago, we watched "Secondhand Lions" with the kids. It's the first "grown up" movie Matthew has watched. He was fascinated, and full of questions. "Why is she a bad mother?" "Why do some people want to get money so badly?"
  • Rachel has become a bit of a tortilla snob here in San Antonio. It's true: fresh tortillas made without preservatives are distinctly tastier.
  • I gave 3 talks in 3 days in San Jose. Two of the talks were for OSCON. It was tiring, and I was glad when it was over. Public speaking no longer scares me, but it's not something I have a natural flair for. I submitted two talks figuring that my odds were better of getting one accepted that way, but they wanted both and I was foolish enough to comply. I was too busy preparing to see the rest of the conference, which is a shame. Then again, OSCON always seems like it has less of a soul than PyCon, even as the latter has grown in size.
  • Melissa, "reading" a sign: "'Today is the best day ever!' Right?" I think she starts every morning with that thought.
  • Melissa: "Mommy, my vest is upside down!" [Rachel rights it] "Thanks, Mommy! You are a superhero!"
  • Isaac was Most Upset that Rachel left him (_left_ him!) to go visiting teaching. He howled for a while, until I put on a Baby Einstein video. Then he was so happy that he pooped.
  • Rachel fixed her macbook. Too bad, I was having fun specing out replacements.
  • Rachel got me "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in posession of brains must be in want of more brains.
  • Matthew, reading Twitter over my shoulder: "Is that what you call a Facebook?"
  • My friend Ellis introduced us to the Seafarers variant of Catan. I like it. It makes sheep less worthless in the mid/late game. (Which means brick takes that honor instead.)
  • Rachel keeps cutting my Bionic Commando session short so she can play FFXII. How am I supposed to finish at that rate?
  • Isaac _really_ likes cheez-its.
  • Isaac found a starburst in the living room. He couldn't unwrap it, but that didn't stop him: he was a very happy baby boy chewing on it and occasionally spitting pieces of the wrapper out.
  • Rachel is out of town and I don't have a library card here yet, but Matthew does. He felt very important being The One In Charge of checking out the books.
  • "Guitar Hero: Rocks the 80s" arrived Thursday. (I wait until they're cheap.) Matthew and I rocked Metal Health, Holy Diver, and We Got the Beat with the volume up _far_ louder than Rachel would have approved. Some time in the last 6 months Matthew's sense of rhythm emerged, and he can get through the bass parts on Easy well enough that we can stumble to the finish line. This is what every dad waits for.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Daddy learns a lesson

I had a lot of time to think of a title for this post. "My neck hurts," was one early contender. "Everyone is okay, but the minivan is not" was another. Or, how about "We just got that thing fixed?" But Matthew picked a winner when he told me, "I think you learned a little lesson, didn't you, Dad?" Nothing like a little well-intended salt in the wound.

So: we were in an accident. Everyone is okay. The minivan is spending some more quality time at a body shop. I wanted to take it to the one we had it at after the teenager rear-ended Rachel, but I didn't remember its name. Rachel was on the ground in SLC but did not have her phone on, so I picked a shop that sounded sort of familiar.

The accident was 90% my fault. I made a left turn while looking to my right, assuming my left hand side was still clear. The guy was speeding, or it would have been, but still, totally avoidable if I had been following my father's First Rule of Driving: always look in the direction you are moving.

Everyone had their seat belt on. The only damage is to my head, which got a real wallop from my air bag -- my glasses went flying. Me pulling into a parking lot without glasses was probably the most dangerous part of the whole thing. (The cop saw the minivan, not all that much worse for wear, and commented, "the airbags went off for that?) I have the largest goose egg I've ever had right on the top left of my head. It hurts.

The kids are fine. Melissa is too short for the airbag to have hit her, even in her booster, and Matthew was on the other side where the air bags didn't deploy.

There was an Enterprise rental center about a mile down Nagcadoches from the accident so I had them pick us up and rented a small SUV for now. If the body shop isn't done by the time Rachel gets back we will have to trade up to something bigger; this doesn't have room for Issac with the boosters in.

I would be afraid of Rachel killing me but honestly this crosses over the Line Of Suck where you have screwed up so badly that people get sympathetic instead of calling you an idiot. Even the cop didn't give me crap about not having a Texas license yet. Both he and the guy who hit me kept asking if I was sure I had a way to get home. (It helps to have cute kids with you, I guess.)

The kids took it in their stride at first. Then, after we pulled over, it sunk in and Melissa started bawling that our car is broken. I reassured her that (a) it could be fixed and (b) if it couldn't we'd get another. Matthew took stock of the situation and said, "Boy, it's a good thing the library books didn't get ripped, or we'd really be in trouble!"

Good thing everyone has their sense of perspective intact.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Cast is Off!

Took Matthew to the orthopedist's office to get his cast removed today. Things look great. They x-rayed his arm again, and this time you can see very clearly where his bone has healed. He had what is called a supracondylar fracture which appeared in his previous x-ray as a darkened triangular area around the humerus. It is called a "sail sign" and shows where the fat got displaced. It's most common between the ages of 5-9 years old and seems to happen in a 2:1 ratio of boys to girls. Yep, that's my busy heedless boy! Now that bone has repaired, the darkened areas are replaced with white new bone. Very good.

Had to take the whole crew with me, and Matthew and Melissa made friends with the other kids getting their casts removed. One boy, who looked about 14, broke his hand doing gymnastics. Matthew instantly related to him because he had the same color cast Matthew did. Gee kids are lucky these days! Matthew got to pick his color cast from about 12 different colors, and the cast was waterproof, and it didn't smell or irritate his skin!

Melissa was a little freaked out about the saw the technician wielded despite Matthew's and my reassurances. She hid behind my chair, tucked her knees under her, and curled in a little blond ball. Matthew did great though, and Isaac was nonplused.

Isaac development

Isaac figured out how a straw works today. He first blew bubbles through it and then tried sucking on it. His surprised reaction was fun to watch. Pleased with himself, he repeated the exercise drinking more water. When he got bored he dumped the water, of course.

Our little Pumpkin also enjoys playing with containers, preferably ones with lids he take on and off. He delights in putting things into the containers, placing the lid on, shaking it, taking the lid off, and then dumping the contents out again.

Recently Isaac has begun to put things back in their place. With great encouragement on our part, he'll put blocks back into their box. He likes the praise, and he likes to set the box up in preparation to be emptied again, he can't resist scattering them. Isaac Rygg Entropy Ellis. Speaking of entropy, coffee tables, low alcoves, bookcases are regularly swept clean of their contents. Isaac waves his arms back and forth like windshield wipers on any surface he can reach. Once the area is sufficient 'cleaned' he moves onto his next target.

Still no definite words, but he likes to copy the sounds we make. He'll copy "ahhs" and "ooos" and grins ear to ear when we repeat the sounds he makes. He does say "da da da" and I think at times he really is referring to his Daddy. Yesterday I heard the front door open while I was upstairs with Isaac. "Daddy's home!" I exclaimed to Isaac who was happily playing on the floor by my feet. "Da Da Da Da!" he squealed excitedly and crawled over to the stairs. We have yet hear "ma ma ma," but I'm eagerly waiting.

Isaac has been cruising around furniture for a while and occasionally he'll stand unsupported when he doesn't realize he's doing it. As soon as he senses no support he falls to his rump or knees. He isn't as intent on learning to walk as Matthew was. Looking back, I can't believe that Matthew was walking at 9 1/2 months. Crazy! As for Isaac, crawling can get him wherever he wants to go and seems to suit him just fine for now. Perhaps he'll have fewer bumps on the head than his big brother did.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Natural Bridge Caverns

Took the kids to see some caverns a few weeks back. Southern Texas used to be under a shallow sea. Limestone deposits built up over millions of years, and after the seas retreated a final time, rain water slowly started eroding the underground limestone creating many caves. In fact San Antonio's water comes from a huge underground aquifer of interconnected caves and porous rock called the Edward's aquifer.

As a consequence of all the limestone, there are many caves dotting south-central Texas. I figured the kids might enjoy learning about the some of the interesting geological features in our area, so Matthew and I read a bit about caves and watched some you-tube videos before heading out to see one.

Naturally I forgot to bring my camera, so Jonathan did the best he could with his phone. The formations stood still and were fairly easy to capture. Our children were less obliging, and out of the dozen or so pictures Jonathan took of them, this is the only one that (sort of) turned out. Alas.

Not bad for a phone, still I'm kicking myself for forgetting the good camera. The phone wasn't the only thing I forgot to bring. I thought I'd left the Isaac backpack in the car, but didn't check for sure until we arrived. No backpack. Jonathan and I had to take turns carrying the little butterball in our arms. The cave was only about 70 degrees, but with 100% humidity it felt very warm. Remembering how cool Carlsbad Caverns were when I was a kid, I had everyone bring jackets, but they were definitely NOT needed and remained stashed in the backpack.

The Natural Bridge Cavern is a "living" cave with formations still being created. It is very, very wet with water seeping from the roof and sides of the walls. Occasionally after heavy rains the water table raises and portions of the caverns are flooded necessitating detours in the tour. After 22 months into the worst drought in 100 years that wasn't a problem. Still, despite the drought, quite a bit of water dripped through the ceiling and crevices in the wall.

Melissa really seemed to enjoy herself and was cheerful the entire 3/4 of a mile through the caves. She also raised her hand high in the air when the guides asked for questions. Unfortunately her "questions" were usually nonsense statements or an excuse to chatter. "I have parents!" "I am four!" "You have a red shirt!" Matthew asked more thoughtful questions, but his interest petered out towards the very end. "My legs are tired! This cave is too long!" He was tired? Hah! Mom and Dad were hauling Isaac and the backpack and we were still going strong.

I'd really like to take them to some other caves in the area, guess we'll see...

Matthew writes a story



"The Princess and the Prince"

One day there was a beautiful princess that had no one to marry. But then she saw a handsome prince and they got married. The end.