Friday, November 30, 2012

18 Months

In the last six months Corinna has changed from being a "baby" to one of the pack.  She considers herself one of the big kids around and mimics them in play.  She has the Sinden climbing gene which she uses to find various mischief around the house.  

Corinna vocabulary has grown!  She now says hot, stinky, Isaac, Matthew, Mmm!, hi, uh oh, Mama, and bye.  Jonathan has been trying to get her to say Dada, but she smiles, pats him and says Mama!  She thinks she has a hairy mama who is full of play, and a smooth faced mama who nurses her and is great for snuggles. 

In the last few weeks Corinna has started singing.  In church she babbles in a sing-song voice during the hymns.  She loves ring-around-the-rosy and sings the "ashes, ashes" part.  At the all fall down part she laughs and laughs.  She also enjoys "Wheels on the Bus," and will initiate the song by rolling her arms.

It is difficult to believe 18 months have already passed.  She is our funny, happy Bubbles and she adds such joy in our home. 

Monday, November 26, 2012


I arrived in Madrid early on Thursday morning, about 2 AM Central time.  I took a taxi to the hotel, part of the NH chain that I stayed at earlier this year in Belgium.  By European standards they have large rooms with modern amenities.  To my pleasant surprise they let me check in hours early.

I worked for a couple hours but even though I'd been able to sleep for a few hours on the plane my body said that this was time to sleep, so I took a nap.  I'm not sure there IS a good way to deal with jet lag flying East to Europe.  My approach lately is to sleep when my brain gets fuzzy and hope that lines up reasonably well with my speaking schedule.  I took another nap after dinner, then went to sleep at a reasonable time about 1:00 AM.

I was on my own for dinner.  The cab driver had said that the plaza near the hotel -- one of many; it seems that Madrid loves plazas -- had good restaurants.  So I peered in the windows until I found a menu that looked appetizing -- most had English descriptions up as well as Spanish.  The emphasis was on tapas dining, so I picked four that sounded good.  Three of them were on bruschetta -- two that I expected, and also the Iberian ham plate.  The fourth plate turned out to be a toothpick skewering a bite of salmon and a couple peppers.  All in all, not my best meal ever.

The conference on Friday went shockingly well for a product of first-time conference organizers.  Mine was the second talk of the day, and while they couldn't set up the wireless mic I requested, they did get it set up for another speaker later.  Lunch was the only disappointment -- plates of finger food that disappeared as soon as it arrived.  They conference had sold out, and the catering was perhaps a little overwhelmed.

After lunch I headed back to the hotel with some of the other American speakers.  I wanted to rest up before the dinner the organizers had invited the speakers to, especially since Jon warned us that dinner the night before had started about 11.

Dinner started on time at 9:30. This was fortunate because it lasted almost four hours. I lost count of the plates of pinchos (tapas) that we had. Eight kinds, perhaps, including the most fois gras I've ever eaten in one sitting. Hours into the meal the main course arrived, a kind of monster empanada stuffed with ox tail. It was good, but at that point I was already full. This was followed by three desserts, the last of which was American-style brownie topped with violet ice cream.

It was pretty epic, although to be honest none of it made me think, "Damn, I need to try this again some time," except perhaps the first pincho, some kind of bisque with meat and egg in it. If I were to guess, it was probably well over $100 per guest, including the four? five? kinds of wine. As one of the organizers said, "In Spain our economy is s***, but we can still cook."

Saturday morning I took an Easyjet flight to Paris.  It reminded me of Southwest -- cheap and extremely bare-bones.  Packed like sardines, paying extra to take even one bag besides my laptop briefcase.  But hundreds of dollars cheaper than the other options.

I didn't do any sightseeing in Madrid.  I suppose that was a missed opportunity but I planned to play tourist in Paris, and there was work to be done.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Isaac solves a problem

At the park with the two youngest this morning. Isaac: "I nee' doh potty." "I think the bathrooms here are closed. We'll have to go home." "I don' wan' doh home." "We may not have a choice. Let's have a look." We rounded the corner and sure enough they were locked. I didn't have a keycard. I turned around to give Isaac the bad news. His pants were around his ankles. I thought at first that he had just gotten ahead of himself a bit -- at home, he frequently takes his pants off first, THEN runs to the bathroom. But then I saw a sparkle in the sunlight that wasn't dew on the grass. And Isaac let a second stream go. (Rachel's commentary, later: "Sometimes it's good to be a boy.")

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Paris, day two

I got off to a bit of a late start on Sunday as I tried to plan out my sightseeing, but I started out by going to church. It was right by the Centre Pompidou, the art museum with its skeleton on the outside. Odd how that never caught on.

For French in Action students, the pool across the street is perhaps even more famous.
The meetinghouse was closed when I got to it, with a sign that said "Open 16:00-18:00." Guess the internet was wrong about when they meet. All right, I'll come back after my tour later.

It was cold and I was hungry. Fortunately there was a crêpe stand hoping to do some business with the crowd standing in line to get into the Centre Pompidou. He wasn't having much luck, possibly because of the rain. I was made of sterner stuff, and enjoyed a Nutella-and-coconut crêpe, folded into a cone for easier consumption.

No church meant I had a couple hours to kill before my tour. I knew the Louvre would be a madhouse. Maybe the slightly less famous Musée d'Orsay would be less busy... No such luck, it had a wait of over an hour as well. It might be the off season for foreign tourists, but it was still the weekend, so I was facing large French crowds.

I walked across the Seine to the Tuilleries garden.

I arrived at the edge of the Place de la Concorde.

The Tuilleries themselves were a bit underwhelming in late Fall.

But first! Random photo sampler!

L'hotel de ville: City Hall.

I vaguely remember something about a statue of a king who had his foot on the head of a commoner, and they had to redo that when that kind of attitude became ... unpopular. If so, it's not this statue.

Our tour guide said that the Hôtel de Châtillon is where Louis XIV's mistress liked to stay. Wikipedia only confirms that it was built by the architect of the Place des Vosges.

The Picasso museum was closed for renovations:

I saw this one kind of sad little playground. There are kids and schools in Paris, but they live behind nondescript facades and you won't notice them unless you're paying attention.

One of the oldest synagogues in Paris. Unfortunately, antisemitism is alive and well in France.
Back to the Tuilleries:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Paris, day one

My hotel in Paris was not a chain, and full of character.  By which I mean the bed was three or four inches shorter than I am, in a room that barely had room for this abbreviated bed and a tiny desk in the wall -- not next to the wall; there wasn't room for that.  The bathroom was similarly tiny, with no room for a bathtub; just a shower.  Its best virtue was that it was cheap, for Paris, and it was nearby the venue I'd be speaking at Monday.

For lunch I ate at a Japanese restaurant down the street.  Not exactly classic French cooking, but it was highly rated (deservedly so, it turned out), and close.  It was packed -- is it normal for restaurants to still be doing brisk lunch business at almost 3 in Paris? -- but I got my food quickly despite this.  Oddly, it took almost an hour to get my check afterwards.  I think my waiter was having a bad day; one of the cooks caught my eye and shook his head sympathetically.  Of course, in France as in most of Europe tipping isn't part of the culture -- service staff is supposed to take pride in doing good work without ham-handed post-facto bribery.  Mostly this works.

After lunch I browsed the used book-and-dvd store nearby.  (Across the street from it was its counterpart for Japanese material only.  I saw several other stores with Japanese signage in the area, and a handful in Korean.  Guess I picked an Asian corner of Paris purely by chance.)  I picked up some DVDs for Dad, and a manga book for Christine. 

There were too many shelves of manga books to do anything like an exhaustive evaluation, and I ended up picking one out almost entirely based on its cover.

I had the opposite problem with DVDs.  I know absolutely nothing about French movies from the last twenty years.  I asked a French lady my parents' age for advice, and took the four she recommended.  With no guarantee that Dad would find any of these watchable, I added a dubbed James Bond movie and an American TV show.

That didn't really leave me with time for sightseeing before things started closing down for the day, so I retired to my room to plan the next day's activities. 

For dinner I set out determined to have a French meal worthy of the name.  I pored over dozens of reviews and finally set out.  On the way, I found a shoe store and replaced my broken shoelaces with a new set.  "Where are you from?" the shopkeeper asked.  "The United States," I replied.  "Is it obvious from my accent that I'm not Parisian?"  "Yes," he said, "but I wouldn't have guessed American.  Maybe German."  I guess I'll take that as a compliment.

Unfortunately, my carefully chosen restaurant turned out to be only open for lunch.  So I backtracked to a brasserie I'd seen on the way and ate there instead.  Alas, my veal with rice was entirely forgettable.  The waiter, however, had character.  He kept replying to my French in English.  Finally I called him on it: "You're embarrassing me here!"  He shrugged, as if to say, it's nothing personal.  "It's because you have an accent," he explained.  Guess I need to work on that.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

September peanuts

  • Rachel: "Kids Workshop at Home Depot, chess lessons, and Lego Kids Fest? You have a full day with Melissa and Matthew." Isaac, playing at the computer, was paying more attention than we thought: "Day wi' Mafew, 'issa, an' Eyeash!" [Matthew, Melissa, and Isaac!]
  • Me, teasing: "Melissa, why are you such a climbing monkey?" Melissa, seriously: "I don't know. I'm just clever that way."
  • Matthew learned at school that not all Christians are Mormons.
  • Corinna thinks shoes are foot jewelry. I guess for girls, that's reasonably accurate.
  • Rachel: "Isaac! You have to take the lid off before you pee! ... No, now it's too late."
  • Melissa has started taking books to the bathroom.
  • Things I thought went without saying: "Matthew, don't put bookmarks in your food."
  • Last night Matthew got most upset with me when he kept trying to ask me a question but I wouldn't even let him finish it. "I'm done, Matthew. I have no more energy for questions." He insisted it was urgent. And that it would save me money. But I got him to bed without hearing the question. Today he remembered this most urgent question. It was about ... hovercraft construction techniques.
  • Parenting: when there's a layer of brown silt at the bottom of your daughter's bathwater, and you're glad because this time it's only chocolate.
  • Matthew: "No offense, Dad, but you need to work on resisting Mom's chocolate chip cookies."
  • New house. Melissa went from "this room is AWESOME" to "I need to get rid of this wallpaper" in under ten minutes.
  • Rachel: "My knees are getting older. We played Ring Around the Rosie in nursery today; I don't like 'all fall down' anymore."
  • Everyone thought Melissa was asleep. No. She was taking advantage of everyone else eating breakfast to get the first turn on the computer.
  • Rachel didn't believe me when I told her that wrapping presents in newspaper is a family tradition. Then Christine Ellis came in this morning looking for newspaper and tape to wrap a present.
  • Went to a concert at UT with Rachel, my mom, and Christine. Afterwards, a high school kid wearing a Boston T-shirt tried to explain to me why the atonal piece was awesome. I still don't get it but I enjoyed his enthusiasm.
  • "How to get oil pastel out of carpet." Things my kids make me google.

Breaking my nose

I never did get around to posting about how I broke my nose in September, although I posted a picture of my cast here.
It was pretty simple, really.  I had the kids at the park on a Saturday morning.  Everything went well for almost an hour.  Isaac started to get bored so I offered to push him in the swing.  He urged me to push him faster and faster, until he achieved Maximum Four-year-old Velocity.

Then Corinna saw something that caught her attention and ran right in front of him.

I stopped Isaac before he hit her.  Unfortunately I stopped him by grabbing his butt, and his head continued its backswing right into my nose.

The world exploded and I immediately started dripping blood, both from the inside of my nose and the outside.  Meanwhile Isaac was whining that I hurt his head, so I tried to bleed into the woodchips with him in one arm and Corinna in the other.  (I wasn't entirely successful in aiming for the woochips. Isaac also complained that I got some on him.)

It hurt like hell, so I had to squat there for a minute while things stopped throbbing quite so much.  Then I went to the bathroom to wipe some of the blood off.

I rounded up the kids and took them to the donut shop, because damn it, I wanted to get Rachel donuts and breakfast tacos and this wasn't going to stop me.  The donut shop lady didn't say anything, which kind of surprised me.

At home, Rachel confirmed that my nose was indeed crooked.  "Maybe I should just leave it alone and let it heal," I said.  "It's starting to hurt less."  "You need to get that fixed!  It really looks bad!"  "Wouldn't you still love me with a crooked nose?"  "Get it fixed."

So I went to an urgent care clinic up the road.  The doctor charged me $200 for x-rays to "make sure it was broken" and then told me he couldn't do anything about it.  Our conversation was brief:

Quack: "You don't look happy about this."
Me: "It was obvious my nose is broken.  This is bullshit."
Quack: "I'm sorry you're upset.  But you don't need to use language like that."

I didn't tell him to FOAD but I wanted to.

On Monday I went to an ENT who (after sending away for the official Nose-straightening Tool, which looked like a somewhat thick butter knife) stuck it up the left sinus and got busy.  This actually didn't hurt much because first she'd given me six Novocaine injections, all the way down to the bone. THAT hurt.

She did a good job.  You can still see an asymmetry if you look closely but Rachel is happy with it.

Postscript: the following Saturday, I was swinging Isaac at the park again. "Slow, Dad! Slow!" he urged me. "No hurt nose!"

It's kind of hard to say

Isaac: "Isaac good boy. Right?"
Me: "Oui, Isaac est sage."
Isaac: "Isaac sage, Melissa sage, Matthew sage!"
"Est-ce que Corinna est sage?" [Is Corinna a good girl?]
"Baby sleeping."

August peanuts

  • Our new HOA prohibits oil drilling on our property. Those fascists.
  • Melissa: "If I had a nickel every time Matthew made a noise..."
  • Took Matthew and Melissa to a free performance of The Sound of Music with Andrea and Jeremy. Matthew sat through it but Melissa was fascinated. (She was nodding off by intermission though so we called it a night.)
  • Fifty something Iranian dude at a conference. "You know," he says, patting my gut, "that's not good for you."
  • I had Isaac clean up the shredded Styrofoam that he scattered all over the back seat. He grabbed a handful. "Watch, Dad!" He dropped it in the trash bag. "Boom!" He did this with every scrap he picked up.
  • Corinna's first word is "Bye," pronounced "Bah."
  • Whenever one of the little girls in nursery sits down on Rachel's lap or mine, Corinna drops what she's doing to muscle off the intruder. Mission accomplished, she wanders back off. Jealous little one-year-old.
  • The good news is, Corinna stops what she's doing when I tell her, "No." The bad news is, she also has a total meltdown every time. This may be the earliest we've had a child begin the terrible twos.
  • The donut shop lady inquired after my health this morning when Rachel picked up donuts instead of me. Not sure if this is worse than the Iranian dude patting my gut but it's close.
  • Me: "Let's not be sexist about this. Why is killing a cockroach strictly a man's job?" Rachel: "It just is."
  • Matthew: "You know Dad, someday *I'm* going to post something on The Savage Peanut. Something about you."
  • Corinna's second and third words are "uh-oh" and "bang!" Isaac taught her bang, complete with shooting motions. Uh-oh was more of an inadvertent team effort. Christine's first word was uh-oh, too. Rachel says it's a natural one for youngest children to pick up...
  • Me: "So would you do the South Beach diet with me?" Rachel: "That's a pretty drastic step, don't you think? No, but I'd hide my carb stash from you."
  • Corinna already has a favorite pair of shoes: pink, with flowers on the straps. She'll bring them up to me or Rachel and grunt at us to put them on.
  • Rachel made brownies, from scratch, with a dark chocolate glaze on top. When they were done, I got the vanilla ice cream to go with it... but it was freezer burned. Undaunted, Rachel made ice cream too.
  • Corinna's fourth word is "tae je" [thank you]. Yes, the pronunciation needs some work, but she uses it consistently. What a polite baby.
  • Me: "Am I rubbing off on you, dear?" Rachel: "This isn't your fault. I've never had patience for people THAT stupid." 
  • Matthew told his teacher that he wants to run away from home. Not bad for the second day of school.

The voice of experience

[Jonathan is in France; I think he misses his family since he is doing a lot of posts he's saved up.]

Isaac peed two pairs of pants tonight. Each time he put on a new pair of pants but didn't empty his bladder into the toilet.
Rachel: "How can you possibly ignore a bladder that full?"
Matthew: "When you're playing a really fun game, that you're really interested in."

Isaac gives Daddy a heart attack

Another one from August just a bit too long to be a Peanuts bullet.

Rachel took Melissa shopping, leaving the other three with me.

Corinna was super cranky so I bounced her to sleep. When I came out of the bedroom the front door was open and Isaac was gone.

I didn't panic yet. First I checked in the house to see if he'd come back inside and left the door open. Nope.

Then I panicked.

I ran outside. "Isaac!" I yelled.

He ran to me from the other side of the car. "I wan' go fine Mafew Muhissa." [I want to go find Matthew and Melissa.]

Matthew was in his room and had locked his door, so Isaac was lonely.

It's a tough job being the oldest

Matthew: "Mom, can I make this cream into butter?"

Rachel: "Go ahead."

An hour passes. Matthew: "Melissa! Want to make some butter? All you have to do is shake this!"

Melissa: "No."

Matthew: "Isaac! Look! Isn't this cool? If you shake it it makes butter! Don't you want to try it?"

Isaac: "No no no!"

I remember trying to rope Grant and David Ellis into my plans like that...

Friday, November 09, 2012

Brian gets his wings

Brian graduated from his classes and received his wings at Lackland AF Base last month on October 25th.  Mom, Dad, and Chris flew down to root for him.

Brian's graduating class.

Newly minted Airman Sinden receives his wings from Colonel Sinden

Three Airforce Sindens standing tall

The siblings

Brian and his sweetheart, Kirsti.  She wore some awesome red heels, but I forgot to get a picture of them.  

The people who raised him, and let him live even through his teenagehood.

Uncle Brian and Gwendolyn

W00T Brian!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Pumpkin carving and Halloween 2012

Our ward hosts an annual trunk-or-treat, since they clearly don't get enough candy trick-or-treating...or something like that.  Anyway, it is a tradition, and the kids won't let us forget!

It doesn't seem that long ago that curly, blond-headed Melissa was wearing the pumpkin costume.

Isaac requested to be a tiger again this year.  The child knows what he likes.  This year I got him a tiger sleeper so he can be a tiger every night and dream wild dreams if he wants to.

What is painted on Isaac's face?  A pumpkin, naturally.  He's our pumpkin boy and is somewhat obsessed with them.  Today I called him my little pumpkin boy and he called me "pumpkin-mama" and his father "pumpkin-man."  I'm so glad he grew into a rolly-polly pumpkin-baby all those years ago.

Melissa bowling.

Matthew with his buddy, Jacob.

Another night we invited the Dewys and Thomases over for pumpkin carving. 

Matthew, being goofy, which at times is synonymous with being 10.  

Melissa got right into scooping out the "pumpkin guts."

Baby bubbles.  Oh how we love this cute little girl!

I helped Isaac scoop,

 and Jonathan helped Isaac carve.  

Mark Dewy helping Carmen with the design she sketched onto the pumpkin.  Later she stuck a donut on top of the jack-o-lantern stem and proclaimed her creation "Mr. Donut-pumkin"

 Matthew cleaned, designed and carved his pumpkin all by himself.  

And last it was Halloween night!

This year everyone ate their chili and cornbread.  With full tummies, they were ready to hit the streets running.  I insisted on a picture first. 

After multiple out-takes, this is the best I could get.  Enough with the pictures, they were ready to go trick-or-treating already!  Matthew and Melissa went trick-or-treating with friends while I took Isaac and Corinna around the neighborhood.

Isaac showed Corinna the ropes on bumming trick-or-treating for candy.

She was a quick study.

He pulled her in the wagon when her little legs got tired.  Eventually she just wanted to eat her loot so I took them home.  Isaac, however, wasn't ready for the night to be finished.  "I not done trick-or-treating!"  He convinced his Dad to take him a second time.

Not the best picture, but here are Matthew and Melissa with their jack-o-lanterns.
 What a night!