Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Finding Melissa

I was explaining Cassandra to one of Rackspace's architects over lunch on Dec 16 when Rachel called: "I can't find Melissa. I sent her to clean her room, then when I went to call her to come eat I couldn't find her. I was downstairs almost the whole time, and I didn't hear the door open, but I've looked everywhere and I can't find her. If I can't find her in another ten minutes can you come help look?"

I'm a little slow but I realized that the right answer here was, "I'm on my way." We'd walked to the Thai place for lunch, so I ran back to the parking lot and drove home. (It was a long enough run that I was quite sore the next day. I call this "the Melissa exercise plan.")

At home, I doublechecked Rachel's canvasing. She'd been thorough: all the closets, under all the beds -- even in the furnace recesses, which wouldn't have occurred to me. No Melissa. I called in my Loud Daddy Voice. No Melissa. But her shoes were all present and I didn't see any jackets missing (although she has several), and it was cold enough out that I thought that if she HAD taken off she'd either gone inside or she'd be back.

We said a prayer, and I checked our closest neighbors. Melissa is not shy about inviting herself over to play with her friends, but none of them were home. The few people who were home hadn't seen her.

One of the women I talked to suggested that she might have gone down to Matthew's school. That seemed like an idea worth following up on, since she's set off to do just that before. (After a lady in a pickup truck brought her back the last time, Rachel instituted the rule that either Melissa has to come to school when I dropped Matthew off, or Rachel needs to be awake in case Melissa woke up and decided to pull that stunt again.)

Nobody at the school office had seen her, but they said they'd keep looking.

Having exhausted the high probabilities, I started moving down the lower ones. I expanded my radius of neighbors, and was doing this when a patrol car and an unmarked cop car went by and stopped in front of our house. Rachel had called the police after calling me the first time, and they were finally arriving (about an hour later).

I kept going down the street, and a few minutes later Rachel called me: "they found her." She'd hidden in one of the large padded bags we keep under the guest bed for our dining room table leafs. The difference between amateurs and professionals: Rachel and I had both bent over, seen the closed bag, and moved on. The policeman lifted the bed up and from that vantage point it was clear there was something else in the bag. Good thing, because they were about to call in the helicopter and everything.

We called the school and the nice lady who said she'd help drive the neighborhood and look to say "never mind," and sat down to figure out what to do with this girl. (We're still working on that one.)

My family knows stubborn, but to hide silently in the dark for an hour and a half, at the age of four? That's pretty exceptional.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A letter to Santa

Matthew wrote this letter to Santa:

Dear Santa,
How are you? I am doing good. This year I have a little good and a little bad. I will try to do my best in scool. I will leave milk and cookies [arrow and more writing on the back] for you. there will also be carrids for the reinder.

be safe
He also had an optimistic wish list for Santa.

1. elechric sorw (electric saw)
2. migerscop (microscope)
3. tellascop (telescope)
4. fillter (felt - for his craft projects)

I had to downgrade his expectations a bit. "Santa doesn't do dangerous gifts." So the electric saw was out of the question. A telescope and a microscope are both big gifts, and there are a lot of kids so I didn't think Santa could do that. He was a little disappointed, but seemed to understand.

On Christmas day, Matthew got a microscope. He has been in little boy heaven all day long. But that is for another post...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A milestone

I was raised on a bland diet: neither of my parents is fond of spicy food, so my mother never cooked it. We didn't eat out to speak of, so I wasn't exposed to it that way either.

I didn't feel like I was missing anything. Why eat food that was painful? But when I started dating in college and going out to more restaurants, I found that I really liked Asian food, especially Thai food. Most Thai food is spicy, although I understand that American restaurants tone this down for wimpy white person taste buds. So if I had to learn to like spicy food to eat Thai, that was a trade-off at least worth considering.

So I've been working on this for years now, slowly, and now I'm mostly on a par with Rachel, who had the advantage of growing up with Tabasco sauce. Tonight I made Thai beef salad with Serrano peppers (substituted for the "thai red peppers" it called for; I'm pretty sure they are not to be found in San Antonio), and our guests commented that Serranos are spicier than Jalapenos.

I was pleased, because when I was a kid I thought Jalapenos were very, very spicy. Of course I knew by now that Jalapenos are really at the bottom of the minor leagues for spiciness, but hey: progress.

(Only recently did I learn that "the whole point of spicy food is that at first it is painful, causing the release of endorphins to the brain. With time the pain goes away and you still get the endorphins." A light turned on...)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why all our soap bars have holes in them

Originally uploaded by jbellis
Melissa likes to screw them onto the bottom of the faucet, like this.

Dodged a bullet

Despite Matthew's best efforts, he just sprained his elbow this time. The doctor advised him to "take it easy." Ha!

He already has his cast picked out for next time though. "They have glow in the dark? Cool! I want the glow in the dark water-proof cast when I break my bone again!"

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Matthew's elbow, part 2

Last Thursday evening Jonathan told Matthew that he needed to clear the table. Instead, Matthew proceeded to ride on the over-sized exercise ball like a cowboy on a bucking bull, whooping it up. Unfortunately things did not end well for our hero. The "bull" bucked him off and he landed with his arm overextended. Crunch. He cried a bit and after that got if you'd been doing what you were supposed to be doing you wouldn't have gotten hurt from his father. He complained a bit about it hurting and we iced it, but there wasn't any swelling to speak of and he was still bouncing off the walls, so we didn't think too much about it.

The next day he was still complaining a bit about his elbow but said it only hurt when he straightened it all the way or when he tried to touch his shoulder. Since he didn't seem to be in too much discomfort, we sent him to school, but after school he still didn't like moving it. It looked to me like he needed to head to the doctor's office.

The timing could have been better. Jonathan's car wouldn't start, and I had a dinner to deliver to a friend.

Matthew's orthopedic clinic fit him in with the PA in a different office building, since his doc was in surgery for the rest of the day. I had an hour before we had to leave, so I threw together a dinner of chili. muffins, and a chocolate M&M pie, all while entertaining Isaac.

At 4:15 it was time to:
  • Drop Melissa off at her gymnastics class,
  • Drop off the dinner,
  • Take Jon and Matthew to the clinic. It turned out to be quite a bit further down the freeway than either of us expected, but where else could we find a place open and ready to see Matthew at 5 PM on a Friday?
  • Go back to pick up Melissa. Freeway traffic was bad, so I took the back roads, and it was still terrible. To top it off a blasted train decided to go past, and it was loooooooooooong! Grr! Fortunately Isaac mostly napped and when he wasn't zonked he took the trip with pretty good grace. I arrived 10 minutes late to gym class and collected Melissa,
  • Turn around and go back south again to pick up Matthew and Jonathan. Our timing was good and we arrived just as they were walking out of the building,
  • And pick up the babysitter for our date night!
Matthew was sporting a splint and grinning. The x-rays didn't show an obvious break, but as we learned the first time, growth plate fractures don't necessarily show up on x-ray immediately. Either it's a sprain, or he broke it and the fracture just isn't visible yet. He has a follow up appointment with his doctor tomorrow, and we should know more then. According to Jonathan, Matthew charmed the lady who applied his splint. She thought he was just too adorable and so polite.

[Post by Rachel with edits by yours truly, by request]

You're Older Than You've Ever Been

Matthew was singing this song with great relish today:

You're older than you've ever been
And now you're even older
And now you're even older
And now you're even older
You're older than you've ever been
And now you're even older
And now you're older STILL!

TIIIIIME is marching ON!
And TIME is still marching ON!

By They Might Be Giants

Repeat over and over. Thanks, Uncle Jeremy, for putting this gem on his MP3 player.

For my birthday he also gave me a book:

Would you believe he picked it out all by himself? And bought it with his own money too!

He was really excited to give it to me. We will enjoy reading it together, I'm sure. ;)

The Nutcracker

Saturday Melissa and I went to the Nutcracker. It was her first time to see a live ballet and she was so excited she was skipping.

She laughed at the naughty mice, sympathized with Clara and her troublesome brother, clapped for the "toys," and was enchanted with the snow ballerinas. Melissa loved the first part and made it through most of the second part before getting a bit bored. And hungry.

When asked what her favorite dancers were she quickly replied, "the pink ones!"

Monday, December 07, 2009

O Christmas tree

The second year of our marriage, Rachel and I got an artificial tree at Lowes, and Rachel has hated it more every year, mostly because it takes at least an hour to set up under the best of conditions, and two with "help."

This is the year that her hate for that collection of plastic finally overcame my reluctance to kill a live tree to have it shed the living hell out of our living room for a few weeks. It's every bit as bad as I feared, but Rachel likes the smell and keeps saying things like "What a pretty tree!" so this might be my fate for the foreseeable future.

(I think part of my immunity to the tree's charms might be that my memories of pine scent skew heavily towards trying to scrub pine sap off my skin as a boy -- much harder than you'd think -- rather than nutmeg and apple pie. The only trees we had with branches I could reach were pine.)

Melissa is thrilled, I think partly because she believes that buying and decorating the tree brings Christmas that much closer -- she keeps asking "is Christmas tomorrow?" -- but mostly because she adores pretty things. She was so anxious to get the tree that she offered to pay for it: "I saved lots of dollars!" I reassured her that buying the tree was Daddy's job, but she was still excited to help, and ultimately I accepted a single penny from her purse.

My cousin's wife Jen warned us to "keep it filled with TONS of water or it just [sheds] incredibly worse," and so far Melissa has been eager to claim that duty. She was dressed for church before the rest of us this morning, so I handed her a beaker with strict instructions to only fill it halfway full from the sink before taking it to the tree. The next time I came downstairs, Melissa met me with a hangdog expression. "Daddy? I had an accident." With Melissa lately, "having an accident" usually involves needing a change of underwear, so I was wary: "What kind of accident?" "I spilled. I spilled the whole thing in the bathroom!" So I told her to get a towel and wipe it up, and she scampered off, relieved again.

Now we are decorating it while Isaac naps. Rachel and I hung the lights ("Your dad didn't set much of an example for you here, did he?" "No. His contribution was primarily to bring the tree down from the attic") while the older kids broke ornaments in their excitement. The score is currently 1:1. Now Rachel is hanging the beads.

Update: now (a day later) the score is 1:2:2. Isaac and Melissa have each broken two.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Matthew and Melissa Art

Portrait of Heather
(oil pastels)
by Matthew
Matthew sketched this picture while in Houston and added the oil pastels when we returned home.

(construction paper and cotton balls)
by Melissa

by Matthew
This was a quick doodle for a friend.

Farmhouses on a hill

(oil pastels)
by Matthew
Matthew spent hours working on this and was so pleased with it when he finished.

Girl in Pink
by MelissaWas there any question who the artist was? Pink is definitely her preferred color to express herself.

Winter Scene
by Matthew
I forgot to ask the artist, but I think that is a cow in the middle there...


by Matthew
In this piece he learned a new technique in art class. To make the trees, he painted Ys.


  • Melissa, blessing the food: "... We thank thee for Mommy, and Daddy, and Mewissa ... [quietly:] dat's me! I'm Mewissa! I'm a girl. I saying da prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

  • "I guess, technically, I already beat [Katamari Forever]. But not on drive mode! And I still need to collect some cousins and presents!" -- Rachel responds to a suggestion she play something else

  • Rachel: "You know, I would hate being the guy manning the phones at the Butterball Turkey Hotline on Thanksgiving. Because you know it's bad news, and it's too late to fix it."

  • Rachel: "Melissa, I'm going to put Isaac to sleep now. Please play quietly until I'm done." Melissa, five minutes later: "Daddy, Mommy is _gone_! Maybe she went to orchestra!" It's hard to tell when Melissa is actually paying attention to what you tell her. (It's also amusing that, a year later, Melissa still equates "Mommy is gone" with "Mommy is playing in the orchestra.)

  • Things I never thought I'd have to say: "Matthew! No sawing the railing!" (I was hoping I had misinterpreted what I thought I was hearing from inside the house, but Matthew just replied, "Okay.")

  • I don't really see the point of adding slices of white tissue-bread to a plate full of barbecue, but to the kids it was a revelation. Matthew tried to figure out why his mother only ever bakes whole wheat: "Mom?" Yes?" "Do you know how to make white bread?" Yes. "Did you ever make any?" Yes. "Did it turn out okay?" Yes...

  • Matthew: "Were Satan and King Herod friends?"

  • Isaac's job: take shiny, fragile ornaments off the tree and pull the tops off. Daddy's job: put the tops back on and re-hang higher on the tree.

  • Me, washing the pie Rachel gave him off Isaac: "You get him dirty, you clean him up! That's the law of the jungle!" Rachel: "No, the law of the jungle is 'Teach him to say Da-da.'"

At the Kids Workshop

Rachel found out that Home Depot offers a free activity on the first Saturday of each month called Kids Workshop. Every month there is a different project to build, and they give you a badge for each one you complete to put on your Official Kids Workshop Apron.

We went yesterday for the first time. It officially started at nine, and we arrived shortly after that. It was a zoo. The kids were immensely pleased with their aprons, especially Melissa, who told every employee she met that "I a worker, too!" The project was a 7-piece wagon, which was just about right for Matthew to do himself and Melissa to do with some help from Dad. By the time we were done about an hour later the crowd was much thinner, so we'll plan accordingly next month.

Some drama occurred when Matthew hammered a plastic axle in too hard and broke the head off. He took out his anger on the next nail he came across, which probably wasn't the best idea since he knocked one of his boards clean off. He started crying, "Now I won't get a badge!" I helped him put it back together, and although still mad at the broken axle, he was consoled that he did in fact still get a badge.

Melissa was tickled to death by the whole thing.

We bought a couple cheap boards for the kids to saw and hammer at home. Last night and this morning they were outside late and early hammering away (in their Official Worker Aprons, of course). This may be the best anti-princess activity yet, if it keeps up. It might not; this morning, Melissa failed to hold a board the way Matthew wanted, so he yelled at her and that was the end of her desire to participate today.

All in all, this is quite possibly the best freebie in America. (I understand Lowes has a similar program, but we haven't tried it yet.)


- Taken at 10:14 AM on December 05, 2009 - uploaded by ShoZu

- Taken at 10:06 AM on December 05, 2009 - uploaded by ShoZu
a quickr pickr post