Monday, May 19, 2014

At Seaworld

I took the kids to Sea World (a two hour drive each way) as a Mother's Day present for Rachel.  Unfortunately, they closed the park due to a thunderstorm after only about three hours.  On the one hand, Texans shouldn't quit just because of a little rain.  On the other hand, it was more than a little.

Silver lining: they gave us a voucher for another visit.  Maybe for Thanksgiving.

(Isaac really liked the two shows we saw, especially the "Azul" show with acrobats.  He was out of his seat more often than not, jumping with excitement or dancing to the music.  Sometimes both.)









Rained out at SeaWorld today. I thought it was rather un-Texan of them to let a little rain shut the park down.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tommy takes a bottle

Tommy takes a bottle by jbellis
Tommy takes a bottle, a photo by jbellis on Flickr.


Brothers by jbellis
Brothers, a photo by jbellis on Flickr.

The Williamson County Orchestra plays John Williams in the park

At the Round Rock Tech Shop

At the Round Rock Tech Shop by jbellis
At the Round Rock Tech Shop, a photo by jbellis on Flickr.

Dad enjoyed the tour. Shown is the CNC quilting machine.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Carrot top?

Thomas's hair has started coming in more.

It isn't a trick of the light, Matthew's hair looks distinctly dark blonde, and Tommy's red.

 And here I thought we only made little blondes!

Friday, May 09, 2014

Tommy smiles

Here he is at 2 months old.

Around 5 weeks Tommy started to flash his gummy grins at us.  Previously he'd have sleepy content milk grins, but they weren't directed at anyone in particular.  It was more of a "my tummy is full, I feel good, all is right in the world" smile. 

Now he's Mr. Personality.  He coos, smiles, and waves his arms and legs in excitement when we talk to him. 


Eatin' my fist.

He'd grunt and try to shove the whole thing into his mouth.  This entertained us for 10 minutes last Friday.  Seriously.  

Baby toes.


Easter was scaled back somewhat this year.  The night before Melissa and I prepared the Easter buckets with goodies (except hers I kept a surprise), filled the eggs, and had everything in the refrigerator for our traditional feast.  I'd even located the special 12 Easter story eggs filled with items depicting things that occurred at the time of Christ's death and resurrection. 

And the next day I was in sad, sorry shape. 

The kids did get their baskets buckets.  In our house the Easter bunny is practical and gives buckets every year. With summer coming up, buckets are great at parks and sand pits.  Sweet woven baskets wouldn't last 5 minutes in this house.  Jonathan took crew to church and Tommy and I rested. I completely forgot to get pictures of them in their Sunday best.  Also missed out on the bluebonnet pictures this year.  Oh the shame!

Easter just got stretched out through the next week.  Monday the hunt was on!

First Isaac and Corinna had their hunt.  Matthew discretely hid the eggs ahead of time.

Corinna is wearing the dress that grandma made.  It is currently her favorite article of clothing and she wears it until it either gets wet or so dirty I confiscate it to toss in the wash.

Then it was the big kid's turn and I hid the eggs.

Matthew accidentally hid one of the eggs by an ant hill.  The ants crawled into a hole in the egg to get to the chocolate.  Corinna was unlucky enough to find that egg and her bucket filled with ants.  Eep!  This justifiably freaked out Corinna.  Most of the ants around here are fire ants. 

Thursday, May 08, 2014


Rachel and I took separate cars to church on Sunday. I rounded up the kids and was ready to go first, so I headed out. Matthew picked up Rachel's bags. "Hang on," I said, with a nagging feeling that she might need them. Then again, she didn't like bending over to pick things up [Rachel's interjection: I was 9 months pregnant at the time of this story.  Bending over wasn't easy!]. "Never mind," I concluded. "Might as well bring them with us."

I had just unloaded the kids when my phone rang. It was Richard Wright. "Your wife was chasing after you [at 9 months pregnant, must have looked fairly ridiculous], but you must not have seen her. You have her keys and her phone."


The Wrights brought Rachel home and we picked my car up from the church the next day. Fortunately, Rachel was more amused than annoyed.

February + March Peanuts

  • Corinna has figured out that if she gets bored in Nursery, all she has to do is tell them she's poopy and they'll take her to Mom.
  • Isaac is wearing his doctor outfit AND his knight costume today. "I'm a Doctor Knight," he told us.
  • Me: "Corinna is on the counter, eating chocolate chips from the bag." Rachel: "There's only a few chips in there." Thus speaks the mother of (almost) five.
  • Rachel couldn't find Isaac's penguin lunch box, so she packed his lunch in his old Dora box. "That one mine," Corinna said when Rachel took Dora out of the fridge this morning. When it became clear it was intended for Isaac, Corinna went straight to the cupboards and pulled out the penguin box.
  • Neither Isaac nor I could find his new red shoe for his right foot this morning. So I put his old white shoe on instead. Isaac looked sad. "I sorry, Daddy. I not cool anymore."
  • Me: "I wonder if Isaac is picking up bad language from his preschool. I heard him saying, 'damn it!' today when he was having trouble putting his shoes on." Rachel: "School isn't the only place he could pick that up." Me: "Well, I don't use that language in front of the kids." Melissa: "Yes you do!"
  • Me: "Corinna, tu veux un petit gâteau?" Corinna: "Yes p'tit gâteau! Un deux trois!" She held up both hands. That is how she says, "many."
  • We were at Chick fil-a for lunch. Isaac got his foot stuck in a gap between play area sections. Corinna came to get me. "Isaac à l'aide!" (Agrammatical, but we'll make allowances for being two.)
  • "Eye-ah pee pee! Eye-ah pee pee!" Corinna teased Isaac all the way to Matthew's scout troop. His indignant protests delighted her.
  • Me: "... I'm not sure we can name this kid Brian. Look how blond his hair is!" Isaac, holding baby brother: "He have more hair than you, Daddy!"
  • Friend in the neighborhood offered to take Isaac and Corinna to the park with her son. Corinna was super excited when Mommy said she was going to the park this morning and bugged me about it constantly. But when the strange minivan pulled into the driveway she was skeptical, and when I put her inside she totally lost it. NOT ONLY IS THERE A NEW BABY BUT NOW DADDY IS TRYING TO GET RID OF ME!
  • Isaac said family prayer, in French. Unprompted. "Merci pour le nouveau bébé..."
  • Isaac and Melissa are discussing the heroes and monsters that live in their worlds, and arguing over how to get from one world to the other. Future DMs?
  • I left the broccoli steaming while I finished a game of Starcraft. Rachel: "It may not technically be burned, but this is nursing home-quality broccoli."

A Tale of Two Matthews

This post contains two very different stories about Matthew and the impact he has on his younger siblings.

The first story took place a month ago.

We were having family home evening and Matthew was having a BAD DAY.  The topic of the evening was how to apologize and ask forgiveness.  Too often in our family someone would do something that hurt another family member and when told he or she needed to "say sorry" the offender would roll his eyes and sarcastically say sooorrry! in a huff.  This did nothing for the offender and made the victim feel worse.  No good.  I read this teacher's blog post about how she introduced a better way to apologize in her classroom.  It is well worth a read.  A good apology can be broken down into four steps.  First acknowledge that what you did.  "I'm sorry I..."  Second tell why it was wrong to do.  "It was wrong because...."  Third say what you will do in the future differently and it has to be something positive (i.e. you can't use "I won't...")  "In the future I will... Lastly, and just as importantly, ask for forgiveness with the realization that the wronged person may not be able to forgive at that time.  "Will you forgive me?"  

So, to get back to the story, the other kids were amused by Jonathan and I acting out bad and good apologies and seemed to get the gist of the lesson.  They told us what we did right and what we did wrong.  Matthew had a chip on his shoulder that night though.  This chip had been hanging around for several weeks actually.  During the lesson he decided to call his sister a nickname he made up for her that she didn't like and she asked him to quit using it.  Jonathan told him that this was the perfect time to practice apologizing.  We were practicing mock scenarios and up until that point the mood was still light.  This suggestion only elicited an angry response and a sarcastic apology from Matthew, totally missing the point of the lesson.  We excused him to finish loading the dishes when it became clear his heart was hard and he wasn't going to listen or change his position.  This only made him madder and he started slamming dishes in the dishwasher and then he knocked over the silverware holder with all the silverware in his angry carelessness.  Not wanting to have my dishes broken due to his 11 year-old tantrum I told him that he was clearly tired and needed to go to bed.  Now.  

He stomped upstairs.  Isaac asked me if he could spend the night in Matthew's room.  One of Isaac's favorite things is to have a "sleepover" with Matthew.  I told him no, that wasn't a good idea.  Isaac didn't listen and since he's rather tone deaf when it comes to other's bad moods, he decided to ask Matthew directly.  Matthew laid into him and said he didn't like sleeping with Isaac and would never do it again.  Also Isaac did x, y, and z that annoyed him and that he didn't like Isaac either.  Of course this just devastated Isaac.  Isaac cried and this only seemed to infuriate Matthew more.  I told Matthew that he was out of line and to stay in his room till morning.  "Your parents don't deserve this and your brothers and sisters will not want to be around you if this is the way you treat them.  Also Thomas does not deserve to hear yelling in his home.  It isn't good for babies and you didn't have that when you were a baby."  Then I consoled Isaac in his room.  "Matthew is angry and sometimes angry people say things that aren't true, Isaac."  I comforted Isaac and settled him back to bed, but I was pretty peeved at Matthew and the way he'd been treating his family, not just tonight, but lately.  

An hour later I went upstairs to check on the kids and pull up the covers on any child who may have kicked them off.  Matthew's light was still on in his room.  Great, I thought, he's grouchy and now he'll be overtired tomorrow.  I knocked on his door and opened it.  Inside I found Matthew sitting on his unmade bed and just sobbing.  

"Matthew, I'm going to help you make your bed.  Do you want to tell me what's going on?"  "I've just been so mean to Isaac, and Melissa, and Corinna."  he said between sobs.  "I've been disrespectful to you and dad.  I feel really bad."  I was glad to see his heart had softened and that he finally realized the damage he was doing.  "I don't know how to make it better."  I put my arms around him and told him that he was going to need help to make it better.  That's why we have a Savior.  Christ already covered the cost, our part is to repent and make amends with those we've wronged.  

"Now go wash your face, blow your nose, and get a drink, Matthew.  That will help you calm down tonight."  On the way back from the bathroom Matthew stopped by Isaac's room.  When he saw that Isaac was asleep, Matthew started sobbing again.  

"I can't tell him I'm sorry and that I love him because he's asleep!"  

"Matthew, tomorrow is a fresh new day.  Isaac knows you love him, but tomorrow and from here on, you need to work on showing him."  

Together Matthew and I thought of ways he could be kind to Isaac and his other siblings, and also strategies he could use to calm down when he's angry instead of escalating it.  

The next morning Matthew asked if he could treat Isaac to Baskin Robbins as part of his apology.  There's one right across the street from our neighborhood that we walk to and I told him that would be fine.  Matthew left for school a much happier boy!

When he got home, the first thing he did was apologize to Isaac and Isaac quickly forgave him.  One nice thing about Isaac is he doesn't hold a grudge.  Then the two of them left for ice cream on Matthew's dime.  They returned hand-in-hand and Matthew was a different person than he'd been before that day.

It hasn't been easy for Matthew because he does have a short fuse like his mother, but he really has been trying to be kind to his siblings lately.  I personally know it is hard to not yell when frustrated and that sometimes it is best to leave things unsaid.  He has been doing much, much better at controlling his temper.  I told him that they all look up to him as an example and a leader, and it is very true.  When Matthew is playful and generous they respond to it in kind.  Conversely when Matthew is argumentative or quick tempered, the whole feeling in the home changes and fights are more likely to break out.  Not physical fights, fortunately hitting is rare, but verbal ones.  Matthew very much is the leader of the Ellis pack o' kids and all of them want to spend time with him and seek his approval.  Which leads into my next story.

About a week ago I had to make some visits right after school.  Corinna was napping so I asked Matthew if he'd take on his first official babysitting job.  I also told him we'd be having dinner guests that night and could he and Melissa please pick up the front room while I was gone?  An hour later I returned and discovered Melissa sweeping the floor, Matthew picking up the rest of the house and Corinna toddling around after him.  All the kids were cheerful and so helpful.  Matthew had convinced Melissa that Mom really needed help so she'd also emptied the dishwasher and he loaded it.  What good kids I have!  He then held Tommy and bounced on the ball while I prepared the dinner and asked several times what else he could do to help!  Matthew has super powers for good, for sure.  

Just like Uncle Ben said in Spiderman, "With great power comes great responsibility."  

Sunday, May 04, 2014

January Peanuts

  • Seen on /r/Austin: "Maybe it's syphilis." "That would be better than cedar fever. They can cure syphilis."
  • Rachel: "Before he went to medical school, Grandpa Don worked in the pea fields." Matthew, suspiciously: "The pee fields? That sounds gross. Are you serious?"
  • Corinna noticed the cuff links Rachel got me for Christmas. "Ooooooooooh!"
  • Matthew doesn't like the red squiggly lines from spell check. So he turned it off.
  • Mom, spelling something out: "That's B as in boy, K as in potassium,..."
  • Isaac is teaching his plush Angry Bird to read. He is pleased that Angry Bird does not know as much as he does.
  • Achievement unlocked: page someone in Narita airport.
  • Japanese audiences are reluctant to ask questions. So one (Japanese) speaker broke his talk into four section and paused for questions after each. That way he got four questions instead of one. Brilliant!
  • In Japan I saw a shirt for sale that had this on the front and "My Free Damn" on the back. I thought it was hilarious but I decided Rachel would probably not approve, so I got a shirt with Fuji-sama and no Engrish instead.
  • I just had more raw fish for breakfast than most Americans eat in a year.
  • Me, at the taco truck: "Are you sure you don't want a coke? They have the real thing here, from Mexico." Aleksey: "No, that's purely an American problem. The rest of the world doesn't get your corn syrup crap."
  • 7 AM: Bus picks up kids. 9 AM: School autodials me. "Classes have been cancelled due to road conditions. Students already at school will be supervised for the day."
  • "Update 1:40 p.m.: Austin police have responded to 274 crashes since midnight." Texas really doesn't do cold well.
  • Told an executive to quit acting butthurt in a meeting today. I may be regressing in the tact department. But he was totally acting butthurt.

November + December Peanuts

  • Rachel, on my "Welcome to the Jungle" Pandora station: "Is it 80s night?" Me: "Yes. Yes, it is." Rachel: "If I were any younger I wouldn't recognize these."
  • Isaac is using two controllers to play Plants Vs Zombies against himself. Reminds me of Calvin.
  • "He has a shield. You can't defeat him without combos." Melissa teaches Isaac the facts of life.
  • Corinna has strong feelings about The Muppet Show. Human guest stars: No. Kermit: Yes. Miss Piggy: PIGGY PIGGY PIGGY!
  • Corinna is speaking franglais too now. "Daddy! There's a oiseau! Attrape! Daddy, attraper!" (A bird! Catch it!)
  • Corinna climbed up on the counter last night and helped herself to seven or eight fist-sized chocolates. (Two-year-old fist sized, that is.) Today, she puked them up. Cleaning chocolate-colored puke out of the carpet is harder than you probably think.
  • Sunrise today in Ekaterinburg [Russia] is projected for 10:21 AM. Sunset is 5:17.
  • 12 degrees this morning: lol I thought you said Russia would be cold! 12 degrees tonight: HOLY DAMN I CAN'T FEEL MY FACE I'M FREEZING MAKE MY TEETH STOP CHATTERING! Being tired makes a big difference.
  • "Bill found a bug today that we're fixing." "Okay. Which Bill?" "Uhm... Actually, Russell." I'm not very good with names.
  • I think Corinna was born to be an Alaskan. It's 40 degrees at the park but she took off her jacket, shoes, and socks to go barefoot.
  • Brian: "Isaac, you the man!" Isaac: "I'm a little man! I'm five."
  • Somehow the Christmas morning talk turned to babies. Isaac: "You have to get married before you have babies!" Kirsti: "We've been married a year and a half! Remember? You fed me carrots at the wedding!" Isaac: "Why you not have a baby in your tummy?"
  • Matthew got Corinna a vast quantity of dollar store Floam for Christmas. Corinna loves it. It's already gotten everywhere. Matthew: "I didn't know it would be so messy!"

October Peanuts

  • Achievement unlocked: DataStax is big/old enough now to have its first ex-ex-employee.
  • Isaac dropped the kids' computer and cracked the LCD. He was devastated. Today we picked it up from the repair shop. It's like having an old friend back. All the kids had stuff on it they didn't want to lose.
  • Rats chewed a hole in our garage wall and have been pooping up a storm inside. Not cool.
  • Ate four pieces of banana cream pie for my birthday.
  • Isaac, saying prayer at breakfast: "We thank thee for this day, ..." He pauses, looks up at the pancakes Rachel made. "Thank thee for this GOOD day, ..."
  • My two year old loves to play, "Hey Dad, let's see if you can figure out which cables I pulled out to make your desktop sound not work again." I really, really hate that game.
  • Me: "So, you're Spanish?" Him: "Yes. Well, I'm from Catalan." Oh: "Oh. I take it Catalan is the Texas of Spain."
  • Me: "I have one pillow, you have three?" Rachel: "That's fair."
  • Rachel: "Are you showering before bed?" Me: [sniff, sniff] "No, I smell okay." Rachel: "Hmm." Me: "You dispute my conclusion?" Rachel: "Well, you don't smell as good as me."
  • Me: "I couldn't hear you. Did you ask if I want to carve pumpkins this year?" Rachel: "No. That's not a choice."
  • Mom, on Christine making a career change to programming: "It's good for her, because relatively speaking, her people skills are amazing now."
  • Rachel: "That's not on your diet!" Me: "For someone who eats whatever she wants, you're awfully judgmental." Rachel: "I'm just giving voice to your conscience."
  • Achievement unlocked: 100mph with the top down. [Rachel did not know this until I posted it just now.]

Mastitis Purgatory

Jonathan left to spend a week in France three weeks ago.  I thought we were in really good shape.  Mom Ellis cooked a weeks worth of meals and I had a sitter coming in a few times that week for a couple hours to help out.  The first day everything went smoothly and the kids were great.  The second day we got a lot of things done and all of the shopping for Easter.  That evening I had a tender spot on my breast so I nursed Tommy more on that side and took a hot bath while he slept.  After the bath I felt very cold so I bundled up and went to bed.

But couldn't sleep and couldn't sleep.  My teeth were chattering and my body started to ache from head to toe.  Then I felt like I was in a furnace.  My breast became exquisitely sore and painful. Oh FABulous!  I watched the hours pass by unable to sleep and sent out a 3 AM petition for help on facebook for my local friends.  Mastitis hits with a vengeance and within the space of a few hours I went from feeling fine to a temp of 104 and feeling not too steady on my feet.  Sheer misery.  Tommy, for his part, slept the longest he's ever slept while I struggled to get any sleep.  Motrin and later Tylenol brought the temperature down a degree and I got about an hour of rest before getting up to get Matthew and Melissa off to school at 6 AM Wednesday morning.

Fortunately our sitter wasn't substitute teaching that day so after sending M&M off and feeding Isaac and Corinna she came at 9 to watch the little ones that morning while I went back to bed.  My midwife called in some antibiotics for me and I picked them up after picking up Isaac from preschool.  A friend came by that afternoon for a few hours and that evening Kathi and Quinn Lewis drove all the way up from San Antonio to help out.  Kathi stayed Thursday and Friday and was an absolute angel.  I really do not know how I would have done it otherwise.  She took care of the children so that I could spend my time in bed with the baby.

The fever broke a few times and then returned, but pain and lump in my breast didn't get any better despite hot compresses, rest, and feeding Tommy frequently.  Saturday night Jonathan returned home from his trip.  We put together the kid's Easter buckets.  On Sunday, Easter Sunday, I was again running a high fever and at that point the midwife advised that I go to the hospital.  Groan.

The kids were very good even though it wasn't the Easter they were expecting.  They did get their Easter buckets of loot, but I told Isaac and Corinna that the Easter bunny was waiting to hide the eggs until Mommy felt better so I could join the fun.  Matthew and Melissa were a little disappointed that we weren't having our usual Easter feast with the traditional special Easter rolls.  (Hollow sweet rolls to symbolize the tomb).  Instead they had leftover BBQ and salad.  Jonathan called around and two sisters in our ward came by to watch the kids so he could then join me at the hospital and help with Thomas.  They left 2 meals in our refrigerator too.

Tommy and I left for the hospital after talking with the midwife.  There they gave me a broad spectrum based antibiotic via IV.  Bring out the big ammunition and kill this mastitis with FIRE already!  I didn't have an abscess, thankfully, but since the one class of antibiotics wasn't working they switched the prescription to another one.  The Rocephin did the trick and that night was the end of the fevers.  Gradually over the next 3 days the pain changed from exquisitely painful to merely uncomfortable and then normal.

It was a brutal week; thank goodness for wonderful friends.  We are very blessed.