Friday, September 30, 2011

4 Months and Shrinking!

Four months postpartum, and I can now squeeze into many of my pre-pregnancy clothes.  Squeeze is the operative word.  Some of my pants I could really use a shoe horn assist.  I'm within 10-12 lbs of my regular weight, and since I can wear most of my wardrobe I'm pretty happy about that.  

For the last month I have been losing gobs of hair.  I think it gets worse with each baby.  I sure hope it tapers off soon, since it isn't as though I have lots to spare.  

Still waking up with night sweats about every other night.  Dratted hormones!  It will be nice when things settle down a bit.

All in all, I'm feeling pretty good and getting into the swing of things with 4 kids.  4 kids?!  How did that happen?  It still boggles my mind sometimes.  It's a zoo at times, but a pretty happy zoo.  

4 Months and Growing!

Took Corinna to the doctor's office for her checkup this week.  She is now 14 lbs 10 oz and 25.5 inches long.  That puts her at 75th percentile for weight and 90th for height.  She's a good sized baby.

It is amazing to me how fast she has grown.

Here is Corinna and Isaac when she was just 4 days old.  

And today.  
She looks enormous in Isaac's lap!
Isaac is a good big brother.  He likes to hold his baby sister, sing, and play games with her.  Corinna doesn't really "get" his games yet, but she seems to enjoy his antics and tolerate the volume.  

Corinna has lost the new baby "bobbly head" and has gained a neck.  When held horizontally, her back is straight, head up, and her arms and legs extended.  It's super baby!  She likes to bat at, grasp, and chew toys, but her favorite toys are her fingers and toes.  

She is easily our drooliest baby and soaks 4-5 bibs a day.  Corinna also likes to blow bubbles, hence her nickname, Baby Bubbles.  She coos, gurgles, and seems to carry on a conversation when you talk to her.

The girl is a good eater, obviously, and very efficient.  She typically breastfeeds every few hours.  Sometimes she likes to snack on and off, but usually she's all business and done in less than 10 minutes.  Corinna is now at the distractible age.  If her siblings are being loud, she'll pop off and crane her head to see what the excitement is.  

At night she likes to bounce to sleep on our large exercise ball.  A few weeks ago we had a temporary crisis when the ball broke.  Corinna had a couple of nights without it and was not pleased.  Order was restored when a new ball arrived.  

At night she sleeps between 6-7 hours at a time.  It is glorious.  And unprecedented among Ellis babies, I might add.  

We sure enjoy our sweet, happy, Baby Bubbles.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A visit to New Jersey

Last week I spoke at the Strata conference in New York, so I took the opportunity to visit my family in New Jersey. Unfortunately, the only flight that worked schedule-wise was on JetBlue, so on Tuesday I flew into JFK, my parents' least favorite airport to pick me up from. Not to worry, I figured: I was saving the company two nights of New York hotel prices, so they were still coming out ahead from me expensing a JFK-to-Westfield taxi.

Of course, the driver wanted to tell me his life story. He was a newlywed of two years, but had ten- and twelve-year-old kids from his ex. Ex-girlfriend, that is, not ex-wife. They were in Florida, and he was pretty bitter about how (according to him) the ex had left him for a drug dealer, then tried to come back when he dumped her. Somewhere along the way, he asked me if I ever cheated on my wife. "No," I told him, "I'm a religious man." I didn't ask if he had. I didn't want to know the answer.

As soon as I could politely do so, I opened my laptop to get some work done. The 3g signal was consistently good--shockingly so, in fact. The only downside was the pulping of my wrists from my macbook's sharp edges. (Enduring these for the past year was a major factor in my decision to not get another mac this time.) Steve Jobs ought to spend a few years in purgatory getting flagellated with sharp laptop edges for approving that one.

There was a surprise when we arrived. The cab was equipped with a card reader, but the driver claimed that it only worked when he turned on the meter, not for fixed-rate fares like this one. I'm still not sure if that was the truth or he just wanted to keep the 2% card fee, but I went in and greeted Mom with, "Good to see you too! Do you have $140 in cash?" We had to raid her wallet, Dad's, and Christine's, but we came up with the fare and a tip. Then Mom gave the driver directions back to the turnpike, since we'd followed my phone's directions on the way in and he was lost. ("It's crazy that it's so dark when it's only 7:00," he'd commented. "In the city it's still bright.")

Dad pointed out that I could have hired a limo for about $100 instead. Lesson learned.

(Waking Christine up to raid her wallet was about all I saw of her this trip. The following night was parent/teacher conferences, so she came home at 9:30 and went straight to bed.)

Wednesday morning, I took the train up to NYC. I didn't have a deadline, so I made it a dry run for Thursday, when my talk was at 10:40. I made it to the hotel at 10:00, a comfortable safety margin. Then it turned out that the Thursday hotel was actually different than the Wednesday one, so I walked about 10 blocks down to the correct one.

The only real entry on my schedule for Wednesday was a Skype interview with the FLOSS podcast. I borrowed our VPM's hotel room for that, doing some furniture re-arranging so I could get decent lighting for the camera. As luck would have it, the video froze a few minutes into the show and for the rest of it they just had a still image of me explaining something--mouth open, arms waving.

Wednesday evening was the big family dinner at my parents'. Grant and Lisa and David and Dielha were all there. There was chicken parmesan and baked ziti, both excellent. There was also broccoli rabe, which made an indelible impression on me. Broccoli rabe is bitter. Extremely, extremely bitter. Almost chewing-up-a-tylenol bitter. It looked kind of like spinach though, or like swiss chard, so I took a big helping because I like both of those, as vegetables go.

The others profited by my experience: Dielha gave hers to David, who is apparently immune to bitter. Dad took a small portion. I'm not sure Grant took any at all. But I finished my double helping because that's what men do.

I caught up on family stuff. David, who was offended when I expressed skepticism when he told me he was moving to Texas this summer This Time For Sure, took a new job as a scale technician as step one towards his new plan of moving to Brazil. I was pleased that the copy of Brazen Careerist I'd sent him had helped land the new job, though.

Grant is working 80 hour weeks and has virtually no free time at all, but stayed a couple extra hours to chill. I'd taken the last two volumes of Planetary to read on the plane, and Grant's radar spotted them on the table in the family room. He read Vol 3 and was going to read 4, but I told him to wait and I'd send him 1 and 2 so he could read those first. He was going to read 4 anyway, but Dad confiscated it. That made me smile; Dad is still Dad.

When the conversation ran out of steam and everyone started reading a book or watching TV (we're a family of introverts, for the most part) I wanted to introduce Grant to Machinarium or Braid, but nobody knew Christine's administrator password for the kitchen computer, so I settled for Angry Birds.

Grant's daughter Pamella ("Elly") looks incredibly, even shockingly like her dad. To me, most month old babies have kind of bland, generic faces. Even my own. But even I can tell that this is unmistakably Grant's child.

Thursday morning it was back up to NYC. Same route I took yesterday. Only this time the 8:56 from Newark to NYC still hadn't left the station by 9:20, when they announced that due to power problems at NYC Penn Station, no trains were going in or out until further notice. So for Plan B I took the PATH subway instead, which after a couple connections took me to within three blocks of the hotel, at almost 10:30. I ran like hell and got to the room with a couple minutes to spare, wiping sweat off my forehead.

Our VP of marketing was just about to have a heart attack because I'd texted him about the train problems, but I couldn't get a signal on the subway to tell him it looked like I'd make it. We had a backup plan, though; I'd emailed him my slides the night before and Matt or Jake could have delivered it if necessary.

But after that, the talk went well. Standing room only. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed our CEO sitting on the floor towards the front -- he said later that he didn't want to take up space standing in the back so if more people came in they would have room.

I had lunch at the same table as a high school senior whose father was speaking at the conference and took him along for the week. I thought that was pretty cool. Better use of time than another week of the same old.

I left for the airport instead of staying for the post-conference party. I needn't have hurried; my flight was delayed, and delayed, and delayed again, and finally they just left the projected departure on the monitor even after we passed it with no plane in sight, as if to admit that they knew we didn't believe them anyway. I did make it back to Austin that night as planned ... at 2:30 AM.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Isaac's speech therapist

"Ms. Dana" has a cabinet full of toys. Therapy consists of Isaac choosing a toy to play with and Dana keeping up a stream of comments --"Pig hides. Stack hay. Hay falls!" -- and encouraging Isaac to "Use your words! What are we going to do?" (Isaac: "Open!") "We'll open the choo-choo box."

Isaac clearly enjoys it. Today was my first time to take him, and he ran through the building to the right office with me in tow.

I bet he'd be making even faster progress if we lived near Aunt Christine. Somehow, she had the ability to get Isaac to speak to her, more than anyone else.

Of course Aunt Christine was teaching him French, so maybe we'd still need Miss Dana...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Smiling Corinna

(August 29th) Corinna at 13 weeks

I just realized that I forgot to post these pictures.  Corinna is a smiley, happy baby (most of the time).   As I type this she is waking up hungry and grumpy, so she isn't always sunshine and lollipops.  Still, as long as her tummy is full, her diaper clean, and she is being held or has toys to amuse herself she is pretty happy. 

August peanuts, part 2

  • Isaac invented a game: climb the couch, get a kleenex, jump down, run to Corinna in the swing, wipe her nose, run to the trash can and throw away the kleenex, run back to the couch, repeat. Both Isaac and Corinna were amused.
  • Isaac broke the PS3 again, this time by stuffing playing cards into the DVD slot. Rachel fished half a dozen out with a crochet hook but it wasn't enough. At least everything but physical media still works.
  • Rachel took Isaac back-to-school shopping. She came back with Matthew and Melissa supplies, a Dora backpack that Rachel knew about, and an extra pencil box that Isaac snuck into the cart unknown to her.
  • Matthew's bow and arrow arrived on the 18th and the next day he was already bugging me about a hunting license.
  • Freshmen have arrived in Austin for Fall semester at UT. They're all really, really young. Realized I'm closer to Matthew going to college, than I am to having been in college myself.
  • Rachel was skeptical about Braid but she is really enjoying it. Highly recommended for all of you who still haven't played it.
  • A worker at the supermarket this morning heard me speaking French with Isaac and introduced himself. He and his wife are from Algeria; he has a master's degree in sociology; hers is in banking and finance. He stocks shelves at HEB; she is a cashier. "When we won the green card lottery we decided it was worth it to take the opportunity and find whatever jobs in the US we could."
  • There's an international school about five minutes from my house that offers French immersion (even giving them the French standardized tests, which I'm ambivalent about). That would be fun for Isaac except their preschool is full-day-only. And $10,000 a year.
  • 8/25: three days of school, three emails from Matthew's teacher. That's a filterin'.
  • 8/29: after a week of being dragged out of bed for school, Matthew and Melissa woke up at 6:30 on both Saturday and Sunday. Today, back to dragging out of bed again.
  • 8/29: A first: I totally made Corinna laugh making funny faces and noises with her. Not that I am bragging or anything.

August peanuts, part 1

  • Isaac is more stubborn than the hook that was in his door to keep it closed. Back to teaching him to stay in his bedroom the hard way.
  • Oddly, picky Isaac is the only one of the kids who will eat Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Matthew and Melissa are strictly thin-crust only.
  • Rachel: "Wal-mart probably has a better price on tic-tacs than Home Depot." Matthew: "Yeah, it's $2.42 sub-total for a four-pack at wal-mart." The things you have brain cells to spare for, when you're eight.
  • Taiwanese neighbor, to Rachel: "I know everyone on the street. Except the woman from mainland China over there. I don't talk to her."
  • Austin is taunting me. The local wal-mart has Herr's chips... but only nasty ones like Honey Cheese Puffs.
  • Jeremy fixed Rachel's phone (to be able to use Android Market) after I failed. I will now go turn in my geek card.
  • Fat lady who looks like she's from "people of walmart" glared at me and muttered not-so-under her breath when I moved her kid's plastic boots from an otherwise-empty McDonald's booth, to the floor. Me: "I'm sorry, were you not done eating?" Fat lady: "We weren't eating."
  • [Twenty minutes later] McDonalds visit cut short by Isaac pooping his pants. Again.
  • There are three pizzerias within a reasonable drive advertising New York pizza. Tried the first today for Isaac's birthday party: it's ... well, "It's not the best pizza in Austin, but it's the closest," as one Yelp reviewer put it.
  • Me: "The founder of Five Guys really does have five sons." Rachel: "I'm not giving you five sons, sweetheart."

On top of the world

I wasn't sure if this was worth a blog post, but Rachel saw the pictures and said, "He's climbing on top of those now?"

Yes. Yes, he is. (I think that puts him a few months behind Melissa in that respect. But not many.)

[Rachel setting the record straight: Actually Melissa didn't start climbing *on top* of the monkey bars until after we moved to San Antonio.  She was nearly 4 when she started her dare-devil tricks.]

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Isaac thought it would be fun to put these stickers on Mommy. "No, Isaac," she told him, "Put them on Daddy!"

And thus we see that you don't need to run faster than the bear, you just need to run faster than your husband. Something like that.


Painting is Isaac's favorite part of Kids Workshop

Home Depot's Kids Workshop is once a month. Lowes is twice. I'm glad it's not the other way around, because Home Depot goes the extra mile and puts out paints for the kids to really personalize their projects, and cleaning Isaac (and myself) up monthly is just about all I can handle.

He makes a circuit around the paints table, which has 8 or 9 trays full of different colors of paint. He makes exactly one stop at each tray; when he has tried them all, he is ready to go home. If it is an unexciting color then he will just put a few dabs on; if he really likes it, he'll paint the whole thing with it.

This can be unfortunate; last month, his project was a riot of color... then he got to the last one, and decided he REALLY liked brown, and painted over everything with it. This month's toy blackboard was more fortunate.

Lunch in the rain

We went out to the food trucks for lunch Friday and got caught in about the only rain we've had in months. It didn't even occur to us to pull open the blinds to see if it was raining, because ... why bother?

We didn't score one of the two tables with umbrellas but we toughed it out anyway, because we are men. And we were hungry.

(That's Nate in the lower right, and Brian next to him.)

My favorite food truck is Pig Vicious, which has an excellent pork-oriented menu. But the one I eat at most often is a Mexican taco truck because it's the only one that's open every day. Most of the rest are only open Fridays and evenings.

Fondue for two

Andrea and Jeremy offered to watch the munchkins so Rachel and I went on a date.

Rachel had desert with her cousins at a Melting Pot restaurant years ago, and has been interested in trying a full meal there ever since. It just so happens that we live less than a mile from one...

I'd say it was worth trying ... once. The cheese appetizer was only okay, and the main course of meat was difficult to avoid overcooking--and even if you were better at that than I, there's only so much you can do with boiled meat anyway.

But dessert was fantastic. The brownie was especially good when re-dipped in the chocolate. We'll keep it in mind when we're going out (1) just for dessert and (2) without the kids. Those two don't align very often.

A thousand words

I think we've mentioned that we live near a LOT of Asians. Here's a strip mall across the freeway from us: four Chinese restaurants ("Asia Cafe" doesn't get a sign for some reason), and a Chinese dance studio as a bonus.

(If you were to assume from the two Indian restaurants that they are the second most populous non-white demographic here, I think you'd be right about that too.)

This is weird after moving just an hour north of San Antonio, where Hispanics make up 60% of the population and the rest is almost entirely white. I like the variety. And in particular, I like Asian food.

At the SCA renaissance fair

Originally uploaded by jbellis
I took the kids to an SCA event today. Melissa and Isaac immediately declared it boring and scampered off to the adjacent playground. Matthew lasted about one minute longer before joining them. "I don't get it, Dad."

On the positive side, it _was_ a great playground and their were tons of other kids there. And we got smoked turkey legs to take home for lunch before we left.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

That's my boy!

Matthew came home beaming from his after school lego robotics class today.

"Mom!  We programmed the robot to move the block around the yardstick and back to the goal- and Jeff and I were the _first team_ to figure it out!"

(As I've mentioned before, we're in a high tech area- lots of Dell people, engineers, and programmers.  How awesome is it to have an after-school lego robotics class???)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Speech Therapy

Isaac's speech is markedly behind where it should be at his age, and we've been worried. We kept hoping that he'd catch up... but that hasn't happened so far. My number one priority after the move was to find a speech pathologist. (His ears have already been checked- they are fine.) So while the big kids were at school on their first day, I took him to be evaluated. As we suspected, he is significantly delayed.

Twice a week he goes for a half hour session. Isaac thinks it is great! The therapist uses toys and play to interact with him. On the positive side she doesn't think he needs to use signs since he is able to imitative many sounds. If he is required to, he will talk to get what he wants, but he strongly prefers to point or get things himself. On the downside, he rarely makes sentences, and then only two words at most. The words he does use we have had to repeat and drill over and over before he uses them. Additionally, words that have 2 or more syllables and change sounds are difficult for him to say, and to a stranger, unintelligible. "Mama" and "Dada" are easy since the same sound is repeated. "Matthew" "water" "marble" are hard for him. Also, the sessions are very expensive ($90!) so we will have to cut down to once a week once he's really comfortable with her.

We'll give it 6 months and see what happens. We are hoping that once he fully recognizes the power of words to manipulate his environment to get what he wants, he will progress quickly. I can see that he is talking more frequently and new words are starting to pop up. I pray that his problems are all speech-related, the alternative is really difficult to contemplate...

Pretty in Pink

Some smocked dresses that Grandma Ellis originally made for Melissa.  I'm so glad that we can use them again!

Corinna at 7 weeks.

And at 11 weeks.
Dressed to impress with lace, beads, embroidery, and dainty smocking!
Girls are fun to dress.

A new centerpiece

A new centerpiece
Originally uploaded by jbellis

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Melissa is sick

Crashed on the couch

She first threw up at 1 AM, so Jonathan and I cleaned the bedding, floor, toys, wall, knobs, light fixtures, faucet, and daughter. It was pretty messy. Today she hung out in pajamas and continued to upchuck- mostly in a pot. We're trying to keep her hydrated. Here's hoping that tomorrow is a better day. Poor girl!

Sunday, September 04, 2011


Matthew tried his hand at archery at scout camp this year. He enjoyed himself so much that he saved up to buy his own bow and arrow.

First Day of School

 Matthew and Melissa started school on the 23rd of August.  Matthew was very excited, but Melissa was feeling a bit nervous. 
 Isaac really wanted to go too.  I bought him a backpack and a lunchbox -just like the big kids- and he carts them around with. 
 All ready to go!
Their first day went pretty well.  Matthew and Melissa both made some friends.  This is good since they've both been feeling lonely after moving away from all of their friends.  One of the kids Matthew met in his class lives on the same street and they really hit it off.  Branden, Matthew's new buddy, rides to school each day and Matthew wanted to ride too.  We found his bike helmet in one of the garage boxes on Saturday, so next week he can start riding his bike to school.  We live further away from the school in Austin than we did in San Antonio, so while it is still within walking distance, it is a LONG walk in 100+ degree heat with small people.  Maybe when the weather cools off in a few months I'll be game for walking. 

Isaac seems to enjoy the calm while the older kids are in school.  This summer has been tough on him.  he went from having mom to himself all day last school year, to a new baby sister, and his mama's attention divide among the older children.  Throw in the turmoil associated with a move, and he's had a rocky summer. 

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Glass half empty

Glass half empty
Originally uploaded by jbellis
On the bright side, the movers didn't lose my electronics. On the other hand, they packed them in the bottom of trash can where I unearthed them under a pile of heavy yard tools.