Saturday, March 26, 2011

Matthew's first pinewood derby

Originally uploaded by jbellis
Matthew was extremely enthusiastic about his cub scout pinewood derby car. I took the approach my own dad did: I'd help him cut out the basic shape (that he drew on the side with a pencil) and weight it; the rest was up to him.

I asked Google and a bunch of other dads about weighting approaches but nobody had a better approach than what my dad had come up with: drill out some holes (narrower at the entrance, so the lead can't fall out if you drop the car) and melt solder into it.

The wussification of America threw me a curve, though: you can't actually get lead solder anymore as a matter of course. You can get acid core solder, or you can get silver solder, both of which are much more expensive -- and less dense -- than lead solder. Fortunately, you can still find lead on the internet, so I ordered enough for a couple years of cars. The photo is of Matthew and me melting some into the back of his car.

(Matthew was tickled to death with the novelty of such a soft metal, and unrolled the solder and twisted it into ... interesting shapes. It's easy to melt solder into a hole if you have a straight line that you just feed into the heat source. It's a little more challenging when your straight line, isn't.)

Friday Rachel took Matthew and Melissa to the planetarium. I drove back early from Austin to take Isaac while they did that. It also fell to me to deliver Matthew's pinewood derby to the official weigh-in.

I was not impressed with the official race scale. It claimed to be accurate to three significant figures, but Matthew's car started at 5.19 (Rachel's scale had put it at 5.0) and drilling out 5 holes to lighten it got it down to 5.15. Five more holes got it to ... 5.15 still. Something doesn't add up there!

There was exactly one electrical socket in the room, on the opposite side from the scale. And every time I wanted to check my progress I had to unplug the drill so Isaac wouldn't hurt himself. Isaac wanted to help, so we got into a routine: when I stopped drilling, Isaac would pull out the plug.

It took almost half an hour before we were done. Isaac had been extremely patient, so I took him across the street to the Dollar General to get him a treat. He picked out a bag of cheetos, and we took it to the playground for a snack. He started munching and immediately started coughing. Initially I didn't think anything of it but he kept coughing after each cheeto. I took a closer look; it turned out to be Flaming Hot cheetos. I didn't know they even made such a thing. I need to look a both sides of the packaging, apparently.

I showed Isaac that drinking water was more effective than coughing, then I tried a couple... and coughed. They're not all that spicy but something in it kind of tickles your throat. The bag is still sitting on the kitchen counter but it will probably get thrown away uneaten.

Isaac ran around the playground for a while but I hadn't been thinking ahead when I dressed him, and I'd put sandals on him rather than hunting down a pair of socks and his sneakers -- like most playgrounds here, this was covered with wood chips that sneak into sandals. So he was done pretty quickly. Sorry, kid. I let him watch cartoons when we got home to make up for it. Then Rachel fed him some leftover pizza when she got home.

Potty training, day 6

I took Isaac and Melissa to Momak's burgers after dropping Matthew off at a birthday party. Momak's has a huge outdoor play area, with two jungle gyms and a field.

This wasn't the first time we've taken Isaac somewhere in training pants. I took him to walmart just this morning, in fact. He's not great about telling us when he needs to go, but we just remind him every hour or so and that keeps accidents to a minimum. Still, I set out with an extra set of training pants and shorts, just in case.

We got our food. The kids didn't eat, of course. I don't know why I bother buying anything but a drink for them. The definition of insanity, after all. But the kids played and drank their lemonade and I ate my burger.

It was time for a pit stop. I scooped up Isaac and hustled him over to the bathroom. I took off one shoe so I could get his pants off, and only then discovered that he had done a number two in his shorts. (Rachel informs me this is his first accident with poop.)

Fortunately I'd parked right next to the door by the bathroom. I put him on the toilet to do his number one and ran for the car to get the emergency back up pants and the just-in-case baby wipes. I got back and he was still playing with the lock on the bathroom stall -- perfect.

I got him cleaned up and put the soiled shorts in the car. The training pants I threw out.

Now, if this were the end of the story, it might not have gotten a write up; the bar for poop notoriety is pretty high after Matthew and Melissa. But we went back out to play; I started showing Melissa how to kick a soccer ball with some semblance of accuracy (she's been to two soccer practices but you wouldn't know it) and had to stop because Isaac was jealous. He didn't want to play too; he just didn't want us playing.

So I took them back to our table for one last try at eating before we left. I'd just given up when Melissa informed me that "something smells awful! Really, really bad!" Whatever. Melissa was always full of emergencies real and imagined. But as we headed out Isaac grabbed at his butt. Uh-oh. "Tu dois aller au VC?" [Do you need to go to the bathroom?] He nodded. We headed over, and this time I checked his pants before taking them off. Full of poop: great.

Back to the car, got the wipes, cleaned up the mess, threw away another pair of training pants. There was some poop absorbed by the shorts too, so I picked him up and carried him butt-naked to the car, where he rode home in pantsless glory.

Then I gave him a bath, because no matter how many times I told him, "Touche à rien! Fais pas ça!" [don't touch anything! stop that!] he kept smearing whatever poop he could grab off his butt on his shirt, his arms, the floor, me, anything he could reach. "Duck," [yuck] he decalred, but that didn't stop him.

Now Rachel is back from picking up Matthew. (Birthday party, remember?) So it's my turn to get clean.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Practice

On the two mile drive to church tonight, I passed an elementary school, a high school, two churches, and a park. 

I saw several kid's soccer teams practicing, an elementary flag football team, a baseball team, and several community adult soccer groups practicing in the various open fields and parks.  All over town colorful teams have sprung up along with the bright Texas wildflowers to dot the landscape. 

I love Spring!

Potty training Day 4

I think it is safe to say that Isaac has got it figured out.  He stayed dry all day with the exception of naptime.  Jonathan did put him in diapers for soccer practice since neither of us want to do cramped port-a-potties with a two year old.  Other than that he took care of business and seemed to forget about the jelly beans.  Being big is its own reward. 

I have to say, of the three, he was the most fun and easiest to train.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kisses for baby

Melissa is simply delighted with the idea of having a little sister.

She is the only one who consistently remembers her in her prayers, "and please bless the baby in my mother's tummy, and bless all the babies in their mother's tummys."

Every day she talks about the baby.  "And someday when she gets big we can share a room!" or "I can teach her to do x, y, or z!"

She tells random strangers that she meets that her mother is having a baby (then her eyes get big) "and it is a sister!"

Every night she requests to give the baby a kiss on my tummy and then she hugs my belly.

I really hope she is as pleased with reality.

Potty training Day 3

Successes in the toilet: Every time he sat, he went.

Accidents: 2 minor cases of dampness. 

Interruptions: 1 I was in charge of the play group this week so we had to go.  We went on a short hike and ran around on a playground.  He wore diapers during that time but used a port-a-potty too.  He also made use of his diaper, which is only reasonable since that is what diapers are for. 

Milestones:  Tonight we took the kids out for dinner and Isaac wore his cloth training pants for the first trip outside the house.  He made one trip to the potty during dinner and stayed dry on our excursion.  (We kept a pair of backup pants just in case though.)

Yay Isaac!

Lesson Learned

Monday was a busy, busy day.  I got caught up in the things I needed to do, but neglected other important things.

That evening I dropped 2 meals off for families that were sick and drove the kids to soccer practice.  I chased Isaac and Melissa up and down the soccer field.  Then we walked to a nearby park and played there while Matthew practiced.  I remembered the drinks for the kids, but forgot one for myself.  At the end of practice my belly was a hard ball and I felt pretty crappy.  It'd been a long while since I'd had anything to drink...

Driving home, my belly kept tightening up and it was somewhat painful.  Matthew and Melissa chattered and asked dozens of questions, until I finally told them that they needed to stop talking at me because I felt lousy and needed some quiet. 

We got home.  Dinner was already cooked, so I dished up bowls of soup and whole wheat rolls for the kids.  I told Matthew to help Melissa and Isaac to seconds if they wanted it, and then I lied down on the couch and guzzled water.  As long as I stayed horizontal I felt somewhat better, but as soon as I sat up my belly clamped down uncomfortably. 

I crawled on the floor and up the stairs to put the kids to bed.  Fortunately they went to be bed without too much fuss.  As soon as they were down I started the bath water and just drank and drank and drank.  After soaking in the tub for 30 minutes I felt fine again.  My stomach was nice and soft and the wee one happily thumping around.  Ahh.

I wasn't having contractions, just Braxton Hicks with umph.   Still, lesson learned.  Stay hydrated.

Today Isaac and I went on a short hike and enjoyed the mid 80s weather.  After that we played in the park for another hour.  I brought a big bottle of water and was just fine and dandy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I needed an activity to keep three boys quiet while Isaac napped, otherwise they'd start wrestling and pounding on each other like boys do.

Here's what I came up with:


Guess which kid got the messiest?


Yup that would be mine.


Matthew's friends asked to take their goo back home with them. By all means, guys, I'm sure your mothers will love it!


Amazing how much fun a little cornstarch, water, and food coloring is. Kept the little darlings busy and quiet for half an hour.

Potty training Day 2

 Today Isaac had many successes in the toilet- I didn't keep count.  He made lots of trips to the bathroom.  About half of the time he initiated going to the bathroom on his own, and he raked in the jelly beans. 

Accidents: 1 To his credit he was in the bathroom, he just couldn't get the pants down in time.

Interruptions: 2  I needed to help with food for a funeral so I put him back in diapers and he stayed with a friend for an hour (he stayed dry).  During nap time he was back in diapers too.

Still waiting for #2.  

The older children had early release from school today and I couldn't devote as much one-on-one as I would have liked.  Ideally I would clear the calendar of any activities, outside distractions, neighbor kids, or trips and just focus on potty training boot camp for 3-4 days like I did for the older children.  Unfortunately I kept waiting for such a time...and I've come to realize it just isn't going to happen.  On the other hand, Isaac seems to be a quick study and so far he is the most cheerful child I've ever taught.  To him it is a game and he high fives me and says, "YAY!" after he does a "dry check."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Potty training Day 1, afternoon

Isaac got up around 3ish and declined to use the toilet.  His diaper was very wet so the issue was put aside. He did want to put the training pants back on though.

About 25 minutes later I heard "Uh oh!" and saw his wet pants.  He ran to the bathroom on his chubby legs and finished his business.

He went once more successfully and then it was time for soccer practice.  No WAY was I taking a toilet neophyte to use the field port-a-potties.  Back in diapers, kiddo.  He was none too pleased, but cooperated.

After soccer practice he went once more, and everyone celebrated with a jelly bean apiece.  Matthew read him some more propoganda books and it was bedtime!

Day 1 complete.

Potty training Day 1, morning

The toilet training has begun in earnest.

Today we watched Potty time with Bear.

We read toilet time propaganda books together such as My Big Boy Potty and Too Big for Diapers.

Isaac drank 1 juice box, 1 sippy cup full of water, and 2 sippy cups full of diluted juice, in addition to sips from the faucet.

He ditched the diapers for cloth training pants.

The results?

This one well hydrated kid had:

6 trips to the bathroom
5 of which were successful
2 accidents

6 jelly beans as a reward.  

All in all a pretty good start.  Around noon we took a time out for a nap.

Playing in the sand

Saturday one of the neighbors had a big pile o' sand dumped in their driveway.  They were putting in some new playground equipment.

They graciously let the kids play in it while they shoveled loads to take to the backyard.

Isaac had a 2 bath day that day.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Break!

Grandpa Ellis came to visit last week.  He flew in on Monday, just in time to enjoy the gorgeous warm biking weather and play with the grandkids during their spring break.  Since Jonathan was working in Austin, the kids and I picked up grandpa.  They were excited!

Naturally he rode his bike every day he was here and Matthew went on a few short rides with him. Matthew and grandpa also played with an electronics set.  He taught and then quizzed Matthew about current, voltage, pressure, resistance, and Ohm's law.  I didn't learn about any of those things till high school!

Tuesday Jonathan took the car to be cleaned inside and out, and played with the kids in the park across the street.  He came home to a happy wife.  The grungy car was clean and the kids nice and tired. 

Wednesday Jonathan drove up to Austin for work, grandpa biked, and we picked up some friends and went to a new park a little off the beaten path.  The bigger boys discovered a small pond in the woods with tadpoles and the littler kids had fun running back and forth between the two playgrounds. 

On Thursday I made pistachio cupcakes and Melissa and I decked ourselves out in green.  Isaac wore his very favorite shirt, the one with the green crocodile that grandma gave him.  He gets excited whenever that shirt is fresh out of the wash.  To our dismay we discovered that Matthew had outgrown his green shirt, but he took it in good grace.  "Grandma said I have Irish ancestors, so I guess I don't have to wear green 'cause I'm green enough."  That night we took the kids to a playground and then a kiddie amusement park.  Matthew took Isaac all over the park and Isaac happily followed.  Anything Matthew wants to do is automatically cool.

Melissa stayed with grandpa and dad and just enjoyed the freedom to go where ever she wanted to go. 

 With grandpa on the carousal.

Friday we played in another park, listened to the baby during a prenatal checkup, and enjoyed the great outdoors with friends.

Saturday grandpa flew back to NJ.  We miss him.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

See you later, Dad

See you later, Dad
Originally uploaded by jbellis
Isaac filled Matthew's backpack with treasures, then demanded to be let outside. Guess he's off to school.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

One of those days II

Some days it seems I have everything together...other days I'm just happy my shoes are on the right feet, never mind whether they are matching.

Yesterday one of our children was invited to a birthday party of one of their classmates at Pump It Up.  Well and dandy!  Melissa picked out a birthday present a week ahead of time, wrapped it, we'd RSVP'd, and Jonathan dropped her off at the party place.  Matthew and Isaac played with their daddy in the meantime while I went shopping.

That evening I asked Melissa how the party went, "Great!  It was fun!"  Did Isabel like her present?  "Yes, but it wasn't the Isabel in my class, it was a different Isabel."  ???  Matthew interjected, "Yeah.  When I went inside to get Melissa a bunch of my friends were there.  I think the party was for the Isabel in my class."  Oops.  What kind of mother mixes up invitations for kid's birthday parties?  Oh dear.

Later I called the mom to explain what happened and apologize.  She laughed.  "Oh, no problem!  I have five kids. Once took them to Chuckie Cheese on a Saturday only to learn the party was on Sunday.  Of course when you take your kids to Chuckie Cheese you can't just leave,  so we had to stay and I ended up paying $60 more than I'd originally planned.  We then went back on Sunday too.  These things just happen."  She was just glad everyone had a good time.

That evening there was a baby shower for a friend of mine.  It was nice and I had a good time, but I was wearing pants that barely  really didn't fit.  I was very glad to get home.  Jonathan was playing a game on the computer when I got back.

I loudly announced to no one in particular "The pants come OFF!" and sighed happily.

"Rachel, I'm on speakerphone."

Oh crumb!

I don't even want to contemplate what the guy on the other end must have thought...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Isaac's fortune cookie

Isaac's fortune cookie
Originally uploaded by jbellis

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

One of those nights

One of those nights
Originally uploaded by jbellis
First Melissa dropped and broke a plate while setting the table. Then we upended a bowl of oatmeal (right) I was making for Isaac's picky water dinner. Then Isaac grabbed the oatmeal box and poured some on the floor out of solidarity (left).

Saturday, March 05, 2011

First big boy haircut

I gave Isaac a big kid haircut on Thursday. He's had his hair trimmed in the past, but I've never used the electric clippers to buzz the back and sides before.

Getting bored toward the end.

I kept it longer on top so it would still curl. He was done before I finished, unfortunately.  Still it turned out pretty cute if not perfect.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

See this noodle?

See this noodle?
Originally uploaded by jbellis
I just pulled it out of Isaac's nose. Seriously. I thought it was a booger hanging out, but no, he was stashing some dinner for later.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Power of Placebo

When our kids are running a high fever, have a headache, or congestion it is easy to figure out something from the medicine cabinet to give them. General complaints of my toe hurts, my knee feels funny, or my favorite, my tummy hurts, are more difficult. Matthew and Melissa expect us to DO something to alleviate their discomfort. Unfortunately there isn't anything really that we can do. Tummy aches can be caused by so many different things and it is unlikely anything serious. Yet they need something to help them feel better so we give them placebo (perhaps a little lotion on the tummy).

It works.