Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First Day of School

Matthew and Melissa started a new school this year.  We're moving 10 minutes away and they are attending a brand-new gorgeous school that opened this year.

All cleaned up and ready to go!

Isaac is attending a speech therapy preschool.  He has the same teacher and speech therapist as last year, and they really liked him.  Even more importantly, he really likes them.  He was not ready for the new school year to begin, however.  "I stay home you!" he protested when it was time for him to get on the bus.  Oh, there were tears and struggles, but he was launched unto the bus under duress.  So much for taking a cute picture of him getting onto the bus!  When he got home, however, he was all smiles.  And wiggles.

Isaac back from his first day of preschool
Isaac wearing his favorite penguin shirt.  Why yes, he does have quite the collection of penguin shirts, doesn't everyone?

The kids have attended school for three days, and today I got a phone call from the school.  Apparently Matthew was supposed to be in the other classroom since he will be in the talented and gifted program for math and science.  All the "TAG" kids are in the classroom next door to his current class so they can be pulled easily from the classroom for their supplemental subjects.  Matthew was just dejected when I picked him up from school today.  This year he has a male teacher and Matthew thinks he is just the coolest, nicest teacher ever.  The class he will move into is also taught by a man, but Matthew is pretty disappointed about switching classrooms.  Sure hope it is a good move for him.  He will be with a lot of other smart kids and that will surely be good.

Melissa seems to be enjoying school.  She is great at making friends and is a lovable little person, so  I suspect she will thrive.  No calls yet from the principal, we'll see if my little spitfire tests the boundaries again this year...

Corinna Speaks

Corinna started saying "bah" for bye a few weeks ago.  Shortly thereafter we heard "uh oh," and Isaac taught her "bang!"  A few days ago Jonathan noticed she was saying thank you.  It sounds more like "dayn do" to me but she uses it appropriately whenever she receives something.  Such a polite baby.

Uh oh is probably Corinna's favorite word; we hear it all the time.

We're still waiting on ma ma and da da....

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Summer School

Matthew and Melissa are working on their SRAs.  Isaac is writing his name and drawing on the white board.

Jonathan teaching chess.

Science lab with Matthew.  After we move, I think we'll try to regularly do a kitchen lab on Saturdays.  Here he is extracting DNA.

The whitish jelly substance floating in the alcohol is the strawberry DNA.

This summer Matthew took an advanced lego robotics course and Melissa took an art class.  They both took a pottery class together and had a blast.  We also went to many museums.  Jonathan started the big kids on a beginning programming game, and gave Melissa some art instruction.  Summers are a great since there is time to learn about topics the kids actually want to learn.

June Peanuts

  • Isaac just took the printer apart. "I nee' peessapapah." [I need a piece of paper.]
  • A first lesson in debugging: Melissa and I couldn't figure out why her circuit didn't work, so we broke it down into components. The battery worked, and the alarm IC, and the speaker. But when we added the "space war" IC, we got nothing. So we swapped in Matthew's IC and it worked. Then Melissa rebuilt the circuit she wanted.
  • I thought nobody was paying attention when Brian told me, "Rachel said I could take the kids out for donuts after breakfast." But Isaac attacked his oatmeal with renewed interest, and when he was done proclaimed, "I rea'y donut!"
  • The older kids were thrilled to hear we'd be staying in A HOTEL in Houston for Brian and Kirsti's marriage. What I didn't expect was that Corinna is every bit as amused by the novelty, if not more so. She careened through the room, giggling at the new couch, new curtains, new beds... We should offer our endorsement to Marriott: "Four out of four Ellis children recommend Residence Inn."
  • Rachel: "Where's Matthew?" Me: "He's over at the Hannas'." Rachel: "Oh, right. So that's why it's so quiet!"
  • Didn't have time to investigate the myriad options in the kids toothpaste isle, so I grabbed the standard peppermint kind. Isaac does not approve: "Hot!" he protests.
  • Rachel put Brian and Kirsti's wedding photo on the fridge. Isaac was pleased. "My Kirsti!" Melissa covered Kirsti's face with a Rhinoceros magnet. "Look, Isaac! Rhino Kirsti!" "Nooooooo! Can't see Kirsti!" Isaac wailed. Rachel told Melissa stop teasing Isaac. Then she just let him have the photo because he was so pleased with it.
  • Isaac gave me some Jolly Ranchers. Rachel took them back. Guess my low-sugar diet is still on.
  • Chauffeuring cub scouts to day camp. Radio tuned to the classical station in a futile attempt to deaden the noise. "What kind of music is this? Soft rock?"
  • You know you're getting old when the dentist hands out little trial tubes of Sensodyne instead of Colgate.
  • Matthew: "Japan is Asian?"
  • Melissa, after the flight to Washington: "I'm so thankful for gravity."
  • Grandma Linda: "I can take the kids to walmart with me. That'll get them out of your hair for a while. What's left of it, anyway."
  • Interesting first night in Walla Walla. Isaac up moaning at 12:00, 12:30, 1:00. Grandma Sinden's dog up whining to get out at 4:00--and Grandma can't hear it. Corinna up for good at 6:00.
  • Grandma's neighbor Sandy helped Matthew get his trout off the line. To show his appreciation, he and Melissa caught a canful of worms for her and took them over.
  • Corinna hit her third outfit before 9:00. First she got poop on her shirt when I changed her diaper. Then, dressed in outfit #2, she sat in a puddle when I took her outside for a walk. (Since she was wearing a onesie, this necessitated changing into a new shirt as well as pants.)
  • Rachel: "aren't you glad your job doesn't deal with putting someone's brains back in his head?"
  • Melissa took her cupcake outside to eat on a glass plate. Isaac thought it would make a good frisbee. It didn't. That's how I ended up on my hands and knees picking 1/8" shards of glass out of my sister's lawn for 20 minutes.
  • Matthew is taking his second shower of the evening. This time, I told him to use soap.
  • Matthew's getting frustrated playing risk on the ps3. Starcraft has ruined him: "How do you even mine resources?"
  • Melissa, on tying shoes: "First you make bunny ears. Then you make a rainbow, and turn them like they're dancing. Then you put one ear through the rabbit hole and pull them tight!"
  • Rachel left me with one Corinna diaper and no wipes. Of course she peed first to use up the diaper, then pooped. I wiped her off with TP and toilet water, then put one of Isaac's night time diapers on. I felt like the McGyver of poop.
  • Isaac showed the grocery clerk his penny. The clerk was appropriately impressed, and pointed out to him a spot on the floor with another penny AND a dime. Now Isaac is rich.

May Peanuts

  • Classical music concerts are one activity that don't make me feel old, yet. I was one of the youngest attendees when my mother took me to my first at ~16; I'm still one of the youngest.
  • The boys left their room open, so Corinna invaded. She was playing with Isaac's discarded shirt and pants when I caught her. She squawked when I confiscated them, so I let her keep them. She happily dragged them around with her for a good 15 minutes.
  • Isaac just doesn't do "shh."
  • Rachel saw a French flag being flown in the neighborhood. I stopped by to say hi. Turned out he's a German who collects flags and flies them when he has a good excuse (e.g., today's French elections).
  • An unwelcome development: Corinna can now open the kitchen trash can.
  • Corinna pulled my laptop onto the floor face-first, shattering the screen. I think that's a new record for most expensive thing my kids have broken.
  • Matthew, on seeing a boy his age at the Maker Faire with a purple mohawk: "Why don't you ever let me get a haircut like that?"
  • Rachel bought her first game on Steam.
  • Melissa: "Alcohol, drugs, and boating don't mix." Me: "What does that mean? Don't drink alcohol and drive a boat?" Melissa: "No!" (Her tone pities my foolishness.) "If you mix alcohol, and drugs, and a boat, it will explode!"
  • Melissa: "It's hard being a girl. When you drop a tic tac in your dress, you can never find it."
  • Isaac likes sand. A lot. We're used to dumping his shoes out after preschool. Today he asked for a bag when he got home. Rachel got him a sandwich-sized ziplock. Next thing she knew there was sand in the bag and sand all over the floor. I guess Isaac had stuffed sand in his pockets to save for later. Next time we'll be more suspicious when our three year old asks for a bag for no particular reason.
  • Rachel: "Here's next season's crossover hit: My Little Ponies AND ZOMBIES."
  • Isaac's favorite song is still "The Wheels On The Bus." Tonight when we ran out of verses he wasn't done yet. "Da Eyeash ah da bus go bunja bunja bunja!" And he started jumping. "Bunja bunja bunja" is what he likes to say when he jumps on his sister's bed. Or the couch. It's his happy jumping noise. The Isaac on the bus goes Bunja bunja bunja!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Matthew writes Uncle Brain, again

Wondering when he will realize how to spell "Brian..."

This time Matthew did his own paragraphing! sort of. One paragraph for each time I sent him back, saying, "make it a real letter. Imagine all the things you would tell Uncle Brian if you saw him. Then write that."

Hi Uncle Brain! Did you get the last letter I sent?

How is Boot camp? Is there anything interesting there? I hope you are having a good time. I got to Have Brandon Over for a sleepover 2 days a go! He is moving to India. :( We might go to pool today. We also are going to the libary.

Soon I get to go fishing with the scouts! Last time the scout pack and I went on a 2 mile hike.( I was wering my glow in the shirt.) We got 4 popsicles in the end, so I think it was worth It. My dad is going to be out of town for the fishing part. :(

I just finished pottery camp. I got to use a pottery wheel and pour some cool molds, turtles, frogs, mushrums, and candel holder or a cupcake holder. I also got to make a whisle , 2 bowls , and a star reef.

The Casler Boys got to come over! We accidentaly borke a pretty big hole on the wall. Mom and Dad are not happy about that. See you at your graduation!

Love, Matthew

Our Olympic baby is 4

and he isn't a baby anymore.  "I BIG!"



He was born 08/08/08 at the time of the opening of the Olympics in Beijing.  After a fairly normal birth and first few days, he sure had an interesting first few months.   Fortunately he's been healthy ever since and his pancreas has been doing its job.  In the last year he has really grown up.

Now he can take responsibility for more things.  He can dress himself, put away his clothes, buckle his own seat belt, clear his place at the table, and put away toys.

Isaac's communication skills are night and day from where they were a year ago.  Last year he had little more than a handful of words that were decipherable and maybe a dozen words more that he was trying to use, but we couldn't understand.  He started speech therapy just after his third birthday last year and began a preschool speech therapy class in February.  The speech therapy has done wonders for him.  When he first began his voice was very high pitched because he was straining so hard to get the words out of his mouth.  He'd also mostly given up on trying to make us understand a lot of what he wanted and needed.  Instead he became very adept figuring out ways to get it himself.  He was a master of finding, climbing, and opening difficult things.  He was also a master at temper tantrums and meltdowns, having several of those every day.  A lot of his difficult behavior stemmed from his inability to express himself, I believe, since he has mellowed so much in the last year.

Initially, to encourage Isaac to communicate, the speech therapist gave him a picture exchange book, PEC.  Isaac quickly figured out that putting the pictures in a certain order on the strip got him the things he wanted.  This was a great break through for him and in short order he was requesting TV shows, books, food, the park, and even tried to get ice cream for breakfast.  I had to say sorry charlie for that one!   Over a few months as his language skills improved, he realized it was faster to speak what he wanted than to get his book, find the pictures, and place them on the velcro strip.

Now we can understand much more of the things he is trying to say.  He is less frustrated, his pitch has lowered, and vocabulary has exploded.  We've discovered that he knows his colors, ABCs and sounds the letters make, shapes, emotions, and names of important people in his life.  He has started to use past tense, make up short stories, and use contractions lately too.  His sense of humor is starting to sparkle through and he makes simple jokes and laughs at them.  However, he still does struggle in making his sentences understandable.  When Isaac adds words together, he often loses enunciation.  So, he still has a ways to go, but he has made tremendous progress!  We are so proud of him!

Isaac wants to be BIG, sometimes big like Daddy, sometimes big like his brother and sister.  Wherever they are and whatever they are doing, he wants to be in the midst of it.  When Jonathan taught Matthew and Melissa chess, Isaac wanted to play too.  When Matthew makes his oatmeal all by himself, Isaac wanted to make his oatmeal by himself as well.

Isaac also loves all things electronic.  He isn't afraid to play around with the computer to find new programs and games.  He especially enjoys puzzle type games.  When the computer isn't available, he is happy to play on the kindle or phone.  Sometimes his curiosity has led to him to delete things or copy programs we don't want him to, but as long as he is playing with his own username the damage is minimized.

I am excited to have a big 4 year old in the house and I believe 4 will be even better than 3!

The tepee his Grandma Ellis sent him.  All the kids love to play in it.

Isaac riding his new plasma car.  Again his present was a hit with all of his siblings.

Checking out the cool new Ants in the Pants game that Aunt Kirsti and Uncle Brian gave him.
Aunt Andrea and Uncle Jeremy also gave him a fun game of making faces.  Right up Isaac's alley.  

Grandma Linda gave Isaac an Indian costume and bow and arrow.  Isaac immediately wanted to put it on and test the bow and arrow.

Pingu cake as Isaac requested, made out of two round cakes.  I got a bit behind on party prep, so the cake was quickly iced and not as smooth as I would have liked.

But Isaac liked it anyway.

We had fun with Uncle Jeremy, Aunt Andrea, and Gwendolyn at the inflatable bouncing place before breaking for pizza and cake at home with Aunt Kirsti.  Thanks for coming and making the day special for a very special little boy!

Cassandra summit 2012

Last week was my company's big conference for the year. We flew everyone in to San Jose: from Texas, Utah, France, England, and Poland. Alas, there were visa complications for the ones in Belarus, and our man in Connecticut was expecting his fourth. So it was not quite a full house, but as close as we'll get.

I flew out a day early since nobody else was available to teach the pre-conference training class. I dread training days; not because of public speaking anxiety, but because an entire day is an awfully long time to be "on" for an introvert.

We've expanded the trainings since I did them routinely. Back then we had developer training crammmed into the morning, and operations in the afternoon. Now the dev material covers two days alone. Partly this is because we've slowed down the pace a bit, but mostly because we've added a lot more features to cover.

Brandon had already booked his flight for Monday, so I took the first day. This meant an extra day away from Rachel, but the silver lining was this was the material I knew cold. The second day was Hadoop and Solr stuff that was more Brandon's area. So that actually worked out well.

I attended Tuesday as well, partly to give moral support to Brandon, who is possibly even more introverted than I am, and partly because I was the only one authorized to drive the car.

Meanwhile, the rest of the engineering team had an all-day meeting. Which sounds bad, but it wasn't. Our CEO gave an overview of our financials and marketing progress and so forth, our new VPE conducted voting for some awards, and there was a freezer with all the Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars you wanted. Even Paul didn't complain.

I got back from the training in time to catch a picture of the team:


Jeremy wore his Muppet shirt:


Tuesday night I rehearsed my keynote. I had gone through it a couple times already but it was pretty flat. It was pretty stressful being on stage in this huge room for 800+ that was empty except for our CEO and VP Marketing, watching me. Billy was probably pretty nervous about the next morning after that, but like a good coach he didn't say that. Instead we came up with a couple places to improve my slides and he assured me that it would be great.

After dinner I finished the slides, rehearsed twice more, and went to bed. Monday I'd had the room to myself, but my roommate was there now, and he snored. Loudly. After twenty minutes I went over and prodded him. He kept snoring. I prodded him harder. This time he woke up. "Sorry," I said. "You were snoring." Fortunately I fell asleep before he did again.

In the morning, the practice paid off. The keynote went well. We were shooting for 700 attendees and had 830, 30 more than we had chairs for. The room was still big, but full of people it didn't make me nervous. It helps to remember that when you're speaking in front of an audience, they all want you to do well.


I got to attend exactly one talk that day. The rest of the time I was answering questions either formally for interviews, or informally with someone who spotted me and came over to ask something. I spent a lot of time hanging out in "the DataStax lounge" for this. We put together an attractive space:


(Not shown are the corner off to the left where Tyler gave hourly Opscenter demos, and the food and drinks behind the camera.)

Thursday was team building day, and Martin put together a sailing outing. I would have rather spent the day catching up on work, or better yet flying home, but I stayed for team solidarity. Brandon did fly home, and to Martin's credit he didn't twist his arm to stay. I think everyone else thought it was a pretty great idea, except Billy, who hates boats and water and was also there to be a good sport.


Adding insult to injury, I sunburned my forehead and the back of my neck pretty badly. At least I remembered to spray the top of my head this time. Dad was right, with the reflection from the water you get almost 2x the intensity.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

On again, off again

We spent today telling people at church that this isn't our last Sunday with the ward after all.

We had all Summer to find a house we liked.  We looked all over Austin.  Exhaustively, up near where we are, and less exhaustively elsewhere.  Besides Round Rock,  the other good school district is Eanes, which is mostly out of our price range.

Turns out that the set of houses with five bedrooms and a study and a good backyard and near both good elementary and middle schools and reasonably close to restaurants and activities and not substantially farther from my office and the airport is ... pretty much nothing.  We visited over a dozen houses to buy or rent, and looked at many more online, and came up empty.

So we looked in San Antonio, where we still have a lot of friends.  We drove down twice, seeing about ten houses each time--no mean feat with four kids in tow--and narrowed it down to two in the same neighborhood.  Both were fifteen minutes from the airport in one direction, and ten minutes from the temple in another.  Ideal location.  One even had dual master bedrooms which would be ideal, since I'd like to use the fifth bedroom as a guest room.

We made an offer on the less expensive one, and after a little haggling, it was accepted.  It appraised at substantially over our offer, so I was feeling pretty good about it.

Meanwhile San Antonio's Northeast school district was dragging their feet getting back to us.  Finally they told us that they can't commit to anything without doing their own diagnostics on Isaac, but the best we could hope for was four hours per week of speech instruction in their preschools.  Compared to the ten per week we were looking at in Round Rock, that seemed pretty lackluster.

So we ended up walking away from the house.  Earnest money, loan application, title search, appraisal, inspection...  a lot of money to burn with nothing to show for it.  And I liked that house.  I had my heart set on being five minutes away from the table tennis club.

But, a new house just came on the market in the Round Rock district.  We'll have to do some work on it, and it's farther away from just about everything, but it will do for a couple years.  We'll probably get an ARM to save a little on the payment since we don't plan to stay after Isaac's done with preschool.

Worst case scenario, plan D would be staying where we are now for another year.

Either way, I need to change that flight that I booked leaving from SAT next week...

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Baby rawrs

Almost every night after family prayer, I chase the kids to bed.  First Melissa would climb on my back and we would chase Matthew.  Then it was Isaac's turn to ride.  Now it is Corinna's.  She laughs and laughs as we chase them.

Isaac is a little sad that his place has been usurped.  Some nights he gets a turn on my back too.  But mostly he enjoys being chased by his little sister.

When all the big kids are in bed, then it's time to chase the smallest.  I put Corinna down and Roar! it's time to run, little girl!  Daddy's after you!

Saturday for the first time she figured out the game and ran away, giggling.  Until now she's run towards the daddy-monster, which wasn't quite the point.

I tired of the game before she did.  Not satisfied, she kept running around the house, yelling pint-sized rawr!s at all and sundry.