Sunday, November 27, 2011

How picky is Isaac?

How picky is Isaac? by jbellis
How picky is Isaac?, a photo by jbellis on Flickr.

Here he is eating Raisin Bran from two bowls: one for the original cereal, and one to put rejected flakes into while he sifts out the raisins.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Science night

The elementary school held a science night, with a lot of forgettable activities... and robots. Two nearby high schools' robotics clubs were recruited to present demos. Here's the first:

Science night by jbellis
Science night, a photo by jbellis on Flickr.

Their adviser was clearly taking the attitude that "we're having fun learning even though we don't really know what we're doing." In the competition, their robot "came close to scoring a point, once."

Here's the second high school's robot:

Science night by jbellis
Science night, a photo by jbellis on Flickr.

A single picture doesn't do this justice. It had a forklift on the front for lifting inner tubes for one kind of point scoring. It had a kind of winch on the back to raise a flag for other points. It was 120 lbs, and *fast*. Melissa didn't get to drive this one; they were afraid someone might get hurt by a novice at the controls. It was controlled by two joystick setups connected to a laptop that talked to the robot over wifi.

Of *course* they were wearing their own Robotics Club T-shirts.

Did the students really do all this themselves? According to the student I talked to, they did. (I bet the advisers helped with fundraising from the sponsors on the side there, though.) The freshmen too? "Every Fall we have a recruiting drive where we teach freshmen how to solder. Everyone contributes."

When we first moved here, someone told Rachel that the area was popular was popular with Asians because one of the nearby high schools was the top in the area for science and technology. I think we know which one now. Now I wish Matthew was old enough to go there...

Corinna loves swinging at the playground

This is a fun age. Happy Baby Bubbles.

I told Isaac I wasn't interested in helping him play in the water

I told Isaac I wasn't interested in helping him play in the water by jbellis


I don't think he missed me.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Two-fisted hot dog eating

Two-fisted hot dog eating by jbellis
Two-fisted hot dog eating, a photo by jbellis on Flickr.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Isaac's book of words

Isaac's book of words by jbellis
Isaac's book of words, a photo by jbellis on Flickr.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fly with me!

A few days ago I saw Isaac jumping off of his chair with him arms outstretched.  He did this over and over again. 
Isaac, what are you doing?

I wasn't sure if I heard correctly since fly isn't a word he's ever used before so I asked,
Are you flying?
Yeah! Fly!
Then he flapped his arms to demonstrate. 
Fly! Fly!
He laughed and we both flew.

Later I told Jonathan the story.  Isaac overheard and had an idea.  He pushed a chair over to where his Daddy was sitting.  Then he lept off of the chair, flapped his arms, happily yelled "fly!" and launched himself onto his Dad's lap to the amusement of them both.

Veteran's Day 11/11/11

The third graders at Matthew's school held a Veteran's Day program.    They had a flag ceremony, said the pledge of allegiance to both the US and Texas* flags, sang a number of patriotic songs including ones that mentioned the various branches of the military, and honored the veterans in attendance.                                                

It was a nice program, but I forgot my camera so this is the best I could do with a wimpy phone camera. 

Melissa saw the presentation earlier at school, but she liked it so much that she decided to come with me in the evening to see it again.  This despite the fact that her Auntie Andrea was at home to watch her if she chose to stay.  She bobbed to the music and sang out in the audience.

Prior to honoring the veterans, this poem was recited:


It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

by Charles M. Province

My favorite servicemen:


Happy Veteran's Day!

*Yes, Texas has its own pledge.  In case you were curious: I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.  


I gave Isaac a choice between two ties to wear to church.  He chose one and decided that Daddy should wear the other one.

So Jonathan did.  To church.  "I got quite a few comments on my tie today!"

Sunday, November 06, 2011

At Main Event

We celebrated Matthew and my birthdays with rock climbing at Main Event with Brian and Chris. (Jeremy came down with a migraine and couldn't make it.) While waiting for our turn on the walls, we played some air hockey and video games.

Melissa kept going 3/4 of the way up and then losing confidence and coming down. Finally I coached her up, which mostly consisted of yelling, "You're doing great! Keep going!" She got to the top, extremely pleased with herself. Now she tells everyone, "I rang the bell!"




Happy birthday to me

Originally uploaded by jbellis
Grant and Lisa sent me a massive box full of Herr's Sour Cream and Onion chips, one of only two things I miss about New Jersey.

A clean garage

Originally uploaded by jbellis
The result of Rachel's herculean effort: after moving Grandma Johnson's chest, we can actually fit a car in the garage now. Amazing.

More pictures from the farm


(Isaac was done but we had tickets for the hay ride and damn it we were going to use them. Once we got on the tractor Isaac quickly forgot his bad temper when a cat sat next to him.)



Some Isaac pictures


Isaac commissioned an artwork from Paul. First, I tried: "Eye!" Isaac said. So I drew a huge capital I. "Ssssss" he hissed. I drew an S, on top of the I. Isaac did not approve: "No no no!" Rachel laughed. "He wants you to write his name. He knows the S comes after the I." So I tried again: "ISAAC." So far so good. "Mama!" Isaac demanded. I wrote "MAMA." "No no no!" He wanted a drawing of Mama.

Isaac was out of confidence. It was Paul's turn. He wrote Isaac and drew Mama and Dada and Wawa [Matthew] and Issa [Melissa] and Baby (in Dad's arm). Isaac was pleased. He took the drawing over to each family member and proudly pointed out their avatar.


Isaac likes to hold Baby. He is a gentle brother, and solicitous of his sister, as three year olds go. "Baby sad!" he will say if she cries, and get her a pacifier or a toy.


Isaac eats part of Matthew's bible. I'm still waiting for him to outgrow the wanton destruction phase.


With Uncle Brian.


Blowing bubbles.


Packing a "lunch," just like the big kids.


Another episode of destruction, this one of Rachel's Eternal Sonata game manual. Sigh.

Sweet Berry Farm

Jonathan already wrote about our misadventures on the way up to the farm.  Figured I ought to post some pictures.

Isaac in the children's corn maze

Matthew and Melissa raced ahead so I didn't get any pictures of them in the maze.

Daddy with his girls

Welcome to Melissa's beauty parlor

Melissa loves styling hair.

Corinna was more interested in Melissa's shirt.

Beautiful girls

September Peanuts

  • I can see where the kids get their touch of OCD from -- Rachel is going through Stacking methodically beating each stage with every possible solution before going to the next. (In gaming terms, she's a Completionist.)
  • Another development milestone: Corinna is now ticklish. Lots of baby giggles with Dad!
  • Melissa is enjoying Castle Crashers immensely. "I kicked their butt!" she cries, as her little green knight administers fiery death to goblin bad guys.
  • Isaac peed in the toilet without being reminded. Maybe he's decided he's ready to be potty trained again, after deciding it was too much bother for months.
  • Dinner at a large authentic-Chinese restaurant with a huge fridge of exotic drinks. Isaac picked a can of guava juice. Melissa got a clear peach soda. Matthew picked... Sprite.
  • Matthew punctured the yoga ball, so I have to pace the floor with Corinna instead of bouncing her. Can't wait for the replacement ball to arrive.
  • Puke is my least favorite body fluid and Melissa got it ALL OVER. Not sure how she managed, honestly: on the wall at the head of the bed, on the floor at the foot, and of course her hands and feet were both covered as she went through the house after she eventually decided "I should probably tell Mom and Dad."
  • (Two days later) Me: "Time to eat breakfast!" Melissa: "My tummy hurts!" Me: "This isn't a good time for excuses. Come eat your English muffins." Melissa: puuuuuuuke.
  • Rachel just beat me and Brian in Power Grid. Closest game I've seen: Rachel and I both powered 17 cities but she ended the game with $147 to my $146.
  • So, that's our first employee to be hired away by Google. Feels like some kind of rite of passage. Bye, Eric.
  • (Three days later) Isaac's turn to puke. At least he had the grace to (1) wait til morning and (2) do it on the tile kitchen floor instead of all over the bed. Still had to bathe him afterwards.
  • Melissa: "D is for the Dark Side."
  • Rachel: "While up with Corinna last night, I heard Jonathan talking to Isaac in French in his sleep. I wonder if he was dreaming about picking up toys, because I heard "into the sack" "Good job Isaac!" and "That's my boy!"
  • Took the kids to an SCA event. 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."
  • It wasn't just a glass of juice making Isaac's face red: Rachel just discovered he was into her cosmetics.
  • As we left for church at 11:27, Rachel commented, "I think this is the latest we've ever been." I thought ten minutes wasn't that late, but when we arrived the first speaker was already wrapping up. That's when I realized church starts here at 11:00, not 11:30.
  • Matthew refers to Paul as "the guy who can blow up skinny balloons really easily." It's like a superpower. (I was completely and utterly stymied in my own attempts.)
  • Rachel: "Interesting. Our blog has a 'messy' tag, but not a 'clean' tag."
  • The spicy twice-cooked bacon from the Chinese place last night is the greasiest dish I can remember ever eating, and that's saying something. Paying the price this morning since before 5. [Two months later, I still have the food equivalent of PTSD when I visit that restaurant.]
  • Lisa: "The problem with Jonathan's solutions is that he assumes that other people are like Jonathan."
  • Found the missing Eneloop battery... in the bottom of the dishwasher. Sometimes the kids baffle me.
  • Matthew: "The kids at school are mean. Vincent tells everyone that I'm bossy. And they wouldn't listen when I told them what they should be doing!"

Rolling, rolling, rolling

Corinna started rolling over this week.

She grabs her feet like so:

And then flips to her side:

From there she sometimes makes it onto her belly.  And then squawks.  Loudly.

Rolling over is mostly accidental at this point. 

She also loves grabbing her feet and attempting to suck her toes.  At times she gets so excited by her success that she kicks her legs...and then loses her toes.

Speech Therapy Update

It took nearly two months of waiting, but Isaac was seen by the play based assessment team for the school district on Tuesday.  The assessment room was filled with all sorts of toys.  There was a toy kitchen, a trampoline, a slide, a lego table, trucks, puzzles large and small, stuffed animals, paper, crayons, markers, games, and tons of different kinds of blocks.  They basically turned Isaac loose and watched him play and interact with them.  Naturally Isaac attempted to try it all.

After an hour of play, they concluded that he had great fine and gross motor skills.  They were amazed that he could handle scissors so well at three years old and that he was very coordinated in his leaps onto and off of the trampoline.  He also showed an affinity for puzzles and problem solving. [As his parents, we are very aware of his problem solving skills.  He's been know to stack odds and ends on top of each other in order to climb up to reach the forbidden.  The top of the refrigerator is no longer safe, nor the highest shelves.  I recently purchased a safe for Matthew so he can keep his prized possessions locked up from the dynamite destruct-o.  Also he uses tools to open or unlatch objects.  For instance, he takes the broom handle and slides the chain lock off at the top of the door.  As far as puzzles, he can put about half of the United States puzzle map together just by matching pieces.]  He does engage in imaginative play, and sorts things by color, type, and shape.  However, he doesn't know the names of all the colors or shapes. 

The bad news is that he is indeed severely speech delayed [which we knew], and he is behind socially [yep].  It is hard to determine how much the social delay is caused by his inability to communicate or if there are other factors at work.  He is rigid in his play and does not like it when others try to change the play scenario.  He has his own ideas about how things should be and protests when other people do things differently.  This makes it hard for him to interact with other children.  They were also concerned by his lack of attention span.  Some toys engaged his attention for a while but others only held his interest for a few seconds.  He flitted from one activity to the next and it was hard to get his attention sometimes.  I'm less concerned by the attention span/inattention though.  First of all it was a Very Cool place to play and naturally he wanted to try it all.  He didn't waste his time with things he deemed boring.  Secondly, we've been there before with Melissa.  She can wander into "Melissa la la land."  I remember discussing this with my mother and she laughed and said Chris was just like that.  In order to get his attention they had to cup his face with their hands, place their face a few inches away, look him directly in the eye, and then talk to him.  He also got the constant admonition to "think before acting."  Over time he matured and his attention span grew.  Melissa is doing much better now too, though she still sometimes lapses. 

The assessment was a bit of a mixed bag.  However it was clear to them that he should go onto the formal evaluation.  I guess the play based assessment is a sort of pre-evaluation.  They debated a bit about whether to have a psychologist there for the future evaluation since it wasn't clear exactly where he fell socially, but decided it would be a good idea.  Also they plan to bring an interpreter since he comes from a "bilingual household."  I laughed when they said that, but the speech pathologist explained that they want him to get credit for the things he knows in French and it might give them a better idea of where he is cognitively. 

The school district bureaucracy moves slowly, so the evaluation won't take place until beginning of December.  After that, they discussed having me meet with one of the preschool teachers.  Here's hoping he gets into the class and that it will of benefit to him.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Why I'm not taking these kids on a road trip until they're 20

We set off this morning for Sweetberry Farm and their hay rides, an hour away. (But an hour and a half, the way we took on the way there.)

Twenty minutes from our destination, Melissa announced that she couldn't hold her pee any longer. We pointed out that pit stops work better if you can give a little notice before Full Emergency -- we'd just driven through a town, but now we were back in the middle of Texas nowhere until we got to the farm -- but there was nothing for it but to pull over and pee by the side of the road. We did a little better than that -- a "picnic stop" had a bush, but no port-a-potty. The bush was adequate.

Five minutes later, Matthew spoke up: "My tummy doesn't feel good." I pulled over again. "Are you going to puke?" "No. But it doesn't feel good." "Okay: put down the book. Close the laptop. Look straight ahead, and you'll be fine." I start the car again. We haven't gone a hundred feet when the car fills with the smell of puke. Rachel cleans off Matthew and I wipe down the laptop. The computer actually caught a lot, which I guess is good since it's hard plastic, but he got some on the upholstery too.

Rachel and I laughed. What else could we do? Isaac and Melissa were glad to have a chance to stretch their legs while we cleaned up.

Two steps forward, one step back

Two weeks ago, Rachel cleaned out the garage in a single day. (No doubt her work was much easier after I also cleaned out the garage in a single day, previously. I leave it to the reader to divine why two such cleanings should be necessary.)

Unfortunately, a rake handle or some such ended the day leaning into the track of the garage door, and luck was not with us when we closed it. The strut the door's wheel was on caught, and bent furiously.

We've since had it fixed. I kind of miss our crooked door. It had character.

(Also: Rachel found the box with my passport! Huzzah!)

Two steps forward, one step back
Originally uploaded by jbellis