Saturday, December 27, 2008

Quick Conversations, in two acts

Act I: On the way to the barbershop, with Zoe & Talia. The radio is on.

Z&T: Is this that Car Talk?
Me: Yes.
Z&T: Yea!!
Me: Do you think these guys are funny?
Z&T: Yes.


Act II: In the basement with Aaron.

Aaron: This is the shield that I made, and I didn't have to wait for it to dry because I used duct tape!
Me: Congratulations, Red Green.

Finis.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Islands in the Kitchen

Sing it with me, Dolly:
Islands in the Kitchen
That is what I build
No one's up with me
Why's this take so long?
Chris and I almost never get each other gifts. If we need something, we get it, but we're both of the mindset that we really don't need much. But this year, I decided to be different, and hopefully not in the "Watch this; I'm about to do something stupid" way.

When her family came for Thanksgiving, we moved our old (pre-children) dinner table to the kitchen to give us a little more space to work. This is what it looked like:


Useful, but not the most aesthetically pleasing. And what's more, Aaron would put his fingers in the leaves and then lift them up. I thought a proper kitchen island would be nice, but one on wheels so that we can move it out of the way if we want to, and definitely one with no drop leaf (and locking wheels at that so Aaron can't push it into the dishwasher). After too much time surfing the web for kitchen islands, and several clandestine trips to furniture stores (see, Chrispea, it didn't really take me an hour and a half to do the grocery shopping that day), I decided on a model. Assembly required.

A little while later, two boxes arrived. Their contents were as below:


Attaching the glider guides for the drawers was the most difficult part, because the screws heads were smaller than the guide mounting holes. Idiots! But it gave me the chance to improvise. A few new holes drilled and the screws held the glider guides in just fine.


Here it is with the side panels, with the guides in place, attached to the butcher block. So far it just looks like an oddly designed table, but we'll press on.


The next thing to assemble was the drawer. It was uneventful, so I only took a picture of the final product:

At this point, you might ask, "But what covers the island on the back side of the drawer?" If you were actually asking that, please seek help. As it turns out, the cover for the back is a fake drawer. If we wish to be highfalutin' about it, we can call it a tiroir faux, but I think that'd be too much. I don't understand the purpose of the fake drawer. Nobody can remember which end is the real drawer and which end is the fake, so you wind up pulling on the fake drawer until you break something. The kids do this with some of the fake drawers in the bathroom all the time, and now we have a broken fake drawer up there. It's simply a stupid idea. How about just a panel with no hardware?

But I didn't design it, I'm just assembling, so I put the fake drawer on, with its stupid handle, the cabinet doors, the lower cross-pieces, the casters, and the towel racks (which really looked nice to me with the wooden brackets and metal bars). It's starting to look like a real piece of furniture now, except for the upside-down-ness.

Fortunately, the next step is to turn the thing upright. Now the drawer can go in, and the shelves, and the cabinet doors on the other side --- which are not faux. They open and are useful.


The last step is hard to see from the picture -- installing the magnets so the doors open and close properly, but they're in there, I guarantee it. VoilĂ , it's finished! It looks just like the one in the instructions. The real drawer goes in and out smoothly. The doors open and close easily. And it rolls.

I am done. Except, well, it's kinda... You see, it's a kitchen island, and this room is clearly not the kitchen. Let me explain. Everyone was asleep upstairs, and the family room is the farthest from the staircase, and farthest from all the ears of the sleeping people. I couldn't trust myself to do this quietly, so the family room had to be my center of operations.

But wouldn't it be cool if, when Chris came downstairs and walked into the kitchen the next morning, she would see this? That's what I thought. All I had to do was pick it up, carry it up the couple of steps between the family room and the living room (where the French doors are), roll it across the living room, the foyer and the dining room, and then into the kitchen. Piece of cake, right? Well, for one thing, it's heavy and awkward, but I got it up the steps. Going across the rooms wasn't too bad; I just had to keep it on only two casters while going across some area rugs.

Then I got to the kitchen doors. The island was too wide -- not the entire thing, though, just the top. Now, I know a thing or two about trigonometry and solid geometry, so I thought I could just pick it up and bring it in on an angle. It turns out that's not so easy to do by oneself at three o'clock in the morning, especially if waking the rest of the house is to be avoided. (In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is. -- Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut, maybe.) I picked it up, butcher block side up against my chest, and tried to finagle it into the kitchen. It wasn't easy. In fact, it was so not easy that it didn't go in.

In a rare moment of common sense, I thought to myself, "Tim, if you keep at it, you will do something stupid. Let it go until tomorrow." The island remained overnight in the dining room, right next to the doorway to the kitchen.

The sun came up the next morning, and Chris saw the island. I think she liked it but the first things she said about it were:
  1. It's big.
  2. That I probably spent more on it than she would have.
  3. The old table in there was just fine.
  4. Will it actually fit through the doorway?
So much for my hopes of an ecstatic look from Chris with "It's wonderful! I've always dreamed of an island in the kitchen. Zoe and Talia are right, you are the best ever!" Issues one through three are the reasons we don't buy each other gifts in the first place, so let's skip them, and concentrate on number four. I took a second look at the problem, and thought that if the top comes off easily, I can wheel it through and do the reattachment in the kitchen. That turned out to be the case, and six wood screws later, we had this:

I am pretty certain that Chris actually likes the island quite a bit, but I'm still waiting for my big thank-you hug and kiss.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Stupid Gentile

This morning as I was driving to work, I had one of our local public radio stations on. The program airing was a local production, a discussion of the "December Dilemma" -- how different faiths handle all the December holidays, but in particular, how Jews deal with the inevitable association of Hanukkah with Christmas.

Unfortunately, the radio station decided to open up the phone lines which allowed some idiot to get air time. I don't know his name, but we'll refer to him by the initials ASG (A Stupid Gentile). ASG's argument was (not an exact quote, but as close to his words as I can recall) that Christmas and Hanukkah are not even comparable holidays because one commemorates the birth of a divine saviour, while the other celebrates a candle that burned a little longer than people thought it would. Yes, Hanukkah is, in the scheme of things, a minor Jewish holiday, but wow, talk about a pedestal and a mud puddle.

Can I even begin to describe to you how much ignorance bothers me? Amazingly, neither the show's host, nor the guests took the caller to task for being not even wrong.

I'm no historian, but even I'm a little bit familiar with the Maccabean Revolt.

Let's not be so full of ourselves, ok?

No $&*#!@ ball in the house!

My friend Sarah is not just an athlete, she gets sports. She's competitive & talented, and I'm not just saying this because I'm going to tell her I mentioned here (but I am). Shortly after Chris and I became parents, and a little before Sarah became a parent, we were talking about indoor rules. Her main point was that all the rules about playing inside seem designed to discourage athletic activity: No running in the house, No playing ball in the house, no jumping down the steps, and on and on. That's the kind of sportschick she is (Sarah, if you object to being referred to as a sportschick, just tell me so and suggest a replacement term).

For precisely the reason Sarah cited, I've always been kind of lax about enforcing the rules against horseplay in the house. I'll say things like "No running," or "No soccer," but my heart's not really in it. I like seeing the kids learn to use their bodies.

The passageway from the living room (a favorite play area) to the family room (another favorite play area) has a lovely set of French doors. Each door has fifteen glass panes, about 7"x10" arranged in a three by five grid. Right there, ignoring everything else in both rooms, we have 30 opportunities for an accident. Dear reader, you see exactly where this is headed, so I won't keep you in suspense. The pictures are below.


Somehow, the pane managed to break in this nice flattened oval shape, so I didn't have to file it down before covering up the edges with duct tape.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yummy, counterpoint

In this post, Chris mentioned not being a fan of feeding a baby. I love it. I enjoy putting a spoonful of some random vegetable & milk mush into Melina's mouth, watching how much of it comes back out, catching the expelled bits on the spoon, and putting it back in the ring for a second go around. And then a third, and then a fourth. Sometimes while she's gumming a spoonful of stuff, she'll put her index and middle fingers in her mouth. I don't even mind when she takes those two sticky, slobbery fingers and grabs for me or for the spoon I'm holding.

I don't mind that it changes the consistency and (especially this) the smell of her poop.

I don't mind that afterwards, she has crusty bits of dried food on her face, under her chin, on her eyebrows, and up her nose, but not on her fingers. They've been in her mouth and are still sticky and gooey.

But that's just me. I'm ok with messes and filth and squalor.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Calling all physiologists!

As I was preparing a lecture today (for the quarter that starts in January, yikes!), I stumbled across a great website. Why is it is so great? Because they sell...


What, you may ask. What do they sell? A contorted dove? A stuffed turkey? Ice covered windows for you to draw on? No, they sell anatomical heart necklaces! Be still MY beating heart! The company is out of them until after the holidays, after which, they will email me to let me know when I can purchase one. Better hurry, they might go fast :)


Friday, December 12, 2008

Yummy

Melina has always been a great eater. No latch-on troubles for this little lady; she likes her milk and seems to always want more. I asked at her 4 month visit if we could start cereal, and the doctor gave the okay. Now, 1 month later, Melina is loving her sweet potatoes more than the cereal, but will eat rice cereal with a couple spoonfuls of sweet potato mixed in. At this age, milk is still her primary source of nutrition (as it should be), but it is nice to know she is on her way to having a seat at our table. Or is it?

I somehow managed to forget (despite the 3 who came before) how messy a baby is when she is learning to eat. Most food OUTSIDE the baby, not INSIDE the baby. Zoe, Talia, and Aaron think watching Melina eat is almost as good as watching a television program. I, on the other hand, cringe to think that I have many meals ahead of me where wiping the person up is as important as wiping the table before her. That sounds awful, but please, let me say this: I think all parents have certain things of which they are not fond. I don't mind diaper changing, bathing, nursing, or a whole host of other duties that come along with the little bucket of sunshine. Feeding mashed fruits, vegetables, and watery cereal -- not my idea of fun.

Of course, after all that, I know you are just waiting for a good picture of Melina with food on her face. And so, I oblige:

The sweet potatoes sleep with the fishes:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ah, the memories

It is cold and snowy here, and just about the time of year I start missing Ann Arbor. Why, you might ask, do I miss Ann Arbor in the winter? Well, I really miss the place all year round, but in the winter, I miss our apartment and the free heat that went with it. Our two bedroom place was so hot, we didn't need to wear sweaters indoors, even if we had the thermostat set to 66. When the heat was on, it was ON. So, every year, when the mercury dips and I start turning blue (despite the 5 layers I am wearing) I long to be back in that two bedroom apartment in Ann Arbor.

Of course, if we WERE in that two bedroom place in Ann Arbor, the girls would have our old room, Aaron and Melina would be sharing the little bedroom, the cats would have to hide from the dog in the bathtub, and Tim and I would be stuck with the couch and the floor, both of which would most likely be hidden by all of the stuff we have miraculously accumulated in the years since having kids. So, do I really miss Ann Arbor? Yes. Here is what I miss:

1. The Cloverleaf Diner.
2. Gallup Park and running through the Arb.
3. St. Mary's Student Parish.
4. Jerusalem Garden, Tios, Bev's Caribbean Kitchen, chapatis, Earthen Jar, the Backroom and Stucchi's.
5. The Ronald McDonald House and the old pals we had there.
6. Walking down State Street/Liberty/Main Street.
7. The friends we left behind when we moved here.

Do I like where we are? Yes. Here is what I like:

1. First Watch.
2. The metroparks and running through them.
3. Our neighborhood and neighbors.
4. Flying Pizza.
5. Our preschool and our city school.
6. The libraries
7. The friends we've made since moving here.

I'll think of this again next winter, and all of those winters following, perhaps until I find my way back to Ann Arbor someday.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thank(god-it's-over)sgiving

We managed to get through Thanksgiving with seven adults, six children, two cats, and one dog in the house. There were no arguments about politics. Nobody got food poisoning (hey, that's a risk you run when you have two vegetarians cook the turkey for Thanksgiving). And everyone had a place to sleep. It was nice having everyone here. Ok, that and it was nice that we didn't have to stuff the children in the car for a 6+ hour trip and find someone to take care of the pets while we were gone.

Zoe and Talia were fascinated with the process of carving the turkey -- not the meat itself, but the bones. They wanted to collect all the bones and put the turkey skeleton back together. They completely get this from their mom, but I will admit that it's pretty cool that you can separate the vertebrae and see the spinal cord inside. That was nifty.

Because of scheduing conflicts with naps, feedings, diapers, and walks, we never did get all six kids in the same spot at the same time for a photograph, but here are five of them.

I'm channeling Tevye here (from left to right in the picture): mine, not mine, mine, mine, not mine. In addition to not being able to get all six kids in a picture, I think there's a theorem that places an upper bound on the number of children in any picture who will (a) have their eyes open, (b) be looking at the camera, and (c) be smiling. I conjecture that the upper bound is not strictly a number, but a function of the median age and age variance of the children. In our situation, the least upper bound seems to be between two and four.

But enough math... since Melina was left out, she gets her very own picture.


And I would be remiss if I didn't include a picture of the actual Thanksgiving-like festivities, so here are Z & T with the drumsticks, which ought to please my mom to no end.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Random thoughts as of late...

In the flurry of activity that goes with hosting Thanksgiving, I've let my mind wander away from the tasks at hand. Don't get me wrong...I don't mind hosting. Actually, we offered, as we didn't want to have to drive 4 hours with 4 kids and a dog, plus find a cat sitter for the weekend. So, having people come down here should be easier for us, but getting the house ready has made me want to escape. Why, might you ask?

Because let me tell you: cleaning up after 4 kids, a dog, 2 cats, and 2 adults is not too bad, but KEEPING it all clean is a bear! Here is my usual conversation with the kids after they get home from school:

"Didn't I just throw that piece of paper in the recycling bin?"

"Yes, mommy," says one of the girls. "But that one is Aaron's. You put mine in the recycling bin."

"Why is this hat still up here? Doesn't it belong in the basement?" I ask.

"Well, we don't want to play with it in the basement, we want to pull all of the dress-up clothes up here, so that we can put on a show (and then leave them all over the floor for you to trip on)."

Okay, they didn't add that little bit. But seriously, even though 3 of our kids are old enough to clean up after themselves, and they do a pretty good job, it is the little things that really get to me. The things that meander away from their holding tanks, the crumbs that are perpetually on the floor, the sink full of dishes that just never seem to go away, and the laundry! Don't get me started with doing laundry for 6 people, one of which attracts food on his shirt like a magnet. That same, unnamed person, has issues with the toilet, too. CLEAN toilets and 4 year old boys just don't seem to jive.

Why then, am I sitting down at the computer to write instead of doing all of the above said work? Because I want to. I figured out the other day that the amount of "me time" that I take is not nearly enough. So sitting for 15 minutes at the computer with a cup of decaf coffee and some animal crackers is my reward for the day. If doing this today helps make me a better mom to a sick baby and 3 kids that are arguing, it was worth doing this as opposed to scrubbing that sink. Don't you think so?

*I should note that Tim and I talked long ago about whether one of us would stay home with the kids, or if we'd both be working. I chose this life willingly, and would do so again. I consider us especially blessed, with healthy, happy kids and animals, a roof over our heads, employment, and food to eat. Just remember, I am especially sleep deprived as of late.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bug guts!

So as I was cleaning up the dining room this morning, I overheard this strange little song sung by my favorite redhead. Aaron was singing it with much animation in his voice to a tune he apparently made up.

Do you know what are my favorite colors?
My favorite colors are red and black and orange and green and blue!
Why?
Because they are Halloween colors!!

Red -- for blood.
Black -- for the sky and a witch's hat.
Orange -- for pumpkins.
Green -- for poison and bug guts.
Blue -- because it is just my favorite color.

Aaron chanted this a couple of times to Melina, who lay quietly mesmerized by the antics of her older brother. When I entered the room, he became quite shy about singing it.

Aaron has this fascination with Halloween; he likes jack-o-lanterns, cemeteries, bats, you name it. It might be caused by being born the day after Halloween. Who knows? My favorite part happens to be the bug guts. I mean, where do kids get this stuff?!?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Beware of First Grade Humor

Zoe: Daddy, look under there.
Tim: Under where?
Zoe: Ha! I made you say "underwear!"

Our fifth child :)

As I said in the previous post, Olivia came to visit with the grandparents. She enjoyed herself immensely, as did our kids. We all had a grand time, in fact. Olivia stated the morning she was leaving that she had other plans; she was going to live with us. I am sure her Mom had other ideas, so back to Pennsylvania she went. Here she is with Shadow, our dog.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our special visitors

So here it is, almost a week since my last post. Didn't I say I'd keep this site updated weekly? What was I thinking? I am certainly glad I didn't rise to the National Blog Posting Month Challenge! Some weeks, I am betting I could post every day; this week, posting has been hard. Melina has been a little off -- she didn't take her usual 2 naps a day -- and Aaron was particularly crabby. Perhaps it was leftover from being sick last weekend and early this week. In any case, I was unable to sit at the computer and write something coherent over the past couple of days.

Has anything interesting happened? Oh, plenty. We had a visit from Grandma and Grandpa C. last weekend, and this weekend, Grandma and Grandpa M. came out as well. Tagging along with the M's for the ride, all the way from Pennsylvania was our niece, Olivia. The kids were thrilled to learn Olivia would be coming, and actually, I was, too. We don't get to see any of our siblings children enough, so a middle-of-the-school-year visit is a real treat.

Pictures to come next time.

Happy cold weather to you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Music to my ears

We finally have a piano. I say "finally" because I have wanted a piano for so long, but we just never got around to purchasing one. Okay, maybe it was really that we were grad students living on grad student budgets for quite awhile, and living in a two bedroom apartment with twins. I grew up in a house with a beautiful baby grand piano, and a baby grand is what I would ultimately like to get some day. In the meantime, however, we found a nice-sounding spinet piano that fits where the the pack-n-play used to be. Don't worry, we didn't trade Melina for the piano; she takes her naps upstairs now.

The kids are enjoying it, and the only rule we have with respect to piano playing (so far), is not to play when Melina is sleeping. Well, I guess the kids aren't supposed to pick up the piano key cover by themselves...so two rules. I include a picture of Zoe, Talia, and Aaron doing their best impersonations of Chopin.


On another note, we took some great pictures of all the kids, which I share here so that all the aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, great-aunts and uncles, friends, and random people can see their smiling faces.


Come visit anytime!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Mmmmmm....

Enough cannot be said of Halloween candy...especially Reese's Peanut Butter cups.

Heaven.

Happy Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Will you be counted?

It goes without saying that there is an election coming up. Even I, sleep deprived and barely functioning, realize that a presidential election is on the board for next Tuesday. If I hadn't already known it, the girls would have told me, as their first grade classes have been discussing the candidates. Thanks to the pamphlet that came home with them last week, we now know that John McCain likes Mexican food, while Barack Obama likes chili. Well, I like both of those, so I guess I can't use food preferences as my litmus test.

Actually, I am not taking this election that lightly. As with every presidential election, I try to think about which person I think will do the best job for the country and for me. I never agree 100% with either of the candidates, and sometimes, I don't agree with either of them very much at all. This time is no different. But like I tell my kids, "Voting is a private matter, and I don't have to tell anyone which lever I'll pull." Furthermore, I am not going to tell you who to vote for, either.

But if I could find out more information about candidates, I'd vote for someone that had these characteristics (listed in no particular order):

-Doesn't believe everything they read
-Stands up for what they believe
-Listens to what the other person has to say, even if they don't agree
-Is generous with time, talent, and if they are able, money
-Respects ALL life: insects, trees, people, the earth
-Thinks independently
-Thinks judiciously
-Judges not the other person
-Realizes that everyone is special...we're just born that way
-Doesn't underestimate anyone, regardless of what they look like

I could go on, but I actually have work to do.

But please, get out and vote, whatever your vote may be!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lost and Found

Funny thing happened this past week. Not once, but twice. I was out with the kids at a local eatery (nothing fancy...the kind that serves not-so-healthy chicken and deep-fried potatoes), when a young lady strolls up to us and says, "Are they all yours?" What? I smiled, and nodded, all the while thinking that several kids from a nearby table MUST have latched onto my coat or something. When did having four kids become fodder for, "Are they all yours?" Apparently, four kids will get that reaction because the next day (literally, the next day), Tim and I were out with the kids and again, "Are they all yours?"

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (and I would put a link here, but I haven't yet investigated how to do that, and to be honest, just getting this post on here is a feat in and of itself due to time constraints), the number of kids per household is about 2 (give or take a little). Okay, so we are two above that. But what if we were 3 above that, or 5 above that, or say, like the Duggars (again, hyperlink here) fourteen above that? Is it really anyone's business but our own?

Of course, as I was recounting this experience to my sister the afternoon of the second incident, I finally figured out what I should have said, and what I will say the next time. No expletives necessary, just a simple "Oh, I found them in Aisle 5...do you know where the lost and found is?" will do just fine.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Just to hold you over:

Had to throw in a more current picture of Melina. She actually doesn't like this car seat too much anymore, which means we stick around the house quite a bit. She turned 100 days on October 18; we made chocolate chip cookie bars to celebrate. Of course, she didn't actually eat any (I am not that bad of a parent!).

A new nerd is in town...

I have decided to take this blog over, so we'll see where it leads us. Do I have time for this? I don't know. Will I post something at least every week? Yes, that I will. Somewhere between doing the laundry, dishes, cooking, nursing, teaching, emailing and sleeping, I will find the time to keep this lovely site more properly updated. Is that a dig at the previous author? Maybe. But anyone that has time to read Fark everyday has time to update a blog once a week so that his little "buckets of sunshine" can be seen by friends and family.

I do not claim to be as witty as Timmy, so if you don't feel like coming back, I understand. However, I hope you do.

I'll find something nifty for next time.

Chris

Sunday, August 31, 2008

... and I endorse this message.

I have just a short political message (ok, two), that I'd like to see go viral:

Of course, my dream ticket would be this:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More artwork


SCAN0189
Originally uploaded by three beans
I've updated the Flickr page with more artwork created by the kids.

This picture shows Talia and Zoe (conveniently labelled "T" and "Z") outside with me and the telescope on a dark, starry night. Several of these stars seem to have gone supernova at the same time, so it looks like the three of us are on the verge of a major scientific discovery. I'm so excited that my eyes turned red. The moon is also out, and despite the darkness, the grass is quite clearly green. Amazing.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A remedial course in baseball groundskeeping

After every baseball game, the players are responsible for cleaning up the field. Especially rookies. I'm a rookie. We sweep out the dugouts. We rake the dirt along the base-paths. We remove the bases and cover the base posts. We cover the pitcher's mound and home plate area with tarps. We are a grounds-keeping machine.

During the post-game clean-up (wow, back-to-back hyphenations) our manager, Terrey, had me get a broom and told me to sweep a circle around home plate. This took all of thirty seconds. "Ok, I'm done," I called out to him.

"Keep going, around and around," were his directions.

So I did. I kept going in a small circle around and around home plate, in the same direction until I felt so dizzy I couldn't walk straight. Finally, Terrey came over to me, shook his head, and said to make the circles bigger each time.

"You mean you want a spiral?" I asked. "Terrey, you have to speak geek to me."

"Make a spiral." He continued, "and when you're finished there, do the same thing out at the pitcher's mound." Out at the pitcher's mound, I brushed with the opposite helicity, because I was feeling quite dizzy from all this going around and around.

Now, brushing the home plate area and the pitcher's mound has become one of my regular jobs. Every time, Terrey reminds me to make a spiral, and every time, I remember to brush counter-clockwise for one area and clockwise for the other.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Melina arrives

Chris had been feeling a little uncomfortable all day Wednesday, but at 38 and a half weeks pregnant, I'd guess that's the normal way to feel. We'll pick up the story around 11 pm, when contractions were about five minutes apart, but according to Chris, didn't feel like they were contractions of the entire uterus. I have no uterus, so I can only write what she described, and that's how she explained them to me. Oh, and another thing: this post will use the word "uterus," and other words that cause queasiness among beer-swilling men. If this sort of talk upsets you, skip all the words and scroll to the bottom of the post for the baby pictures.

But back to the uterus (UTERUS!). I had noticed that the contractions kind of followed the scheme of one big one, and then two smaller ones, all spaced about five minutes apart. I don't really know for certain if this was what was happening; I was just trying to estimate the strength of the contraction by observing Chris's reaction. Because it seemed that the big ones were arriving on more-or-less fifteen minute intervals, I thought we'd be safe for some time. I was not even wrong.

Around 11:50 pm, we called for the babysitter to come over, because we thought that at some point we'd be headed for the hospital, and it'd be less intrusive to call at midnight rather than some wee small hour of the morning. About 12:10 am, things really got exciting. The bag of waters broke. This didn't make as big a mess as one might expect. I called the obstetrician's office, which was, of course, closed, but the recorded message gave an emergency phone number, which I called. The answering service for the emergency number patched me through to the obstetrician's cell phone, but he wasn't answering. The on-hold music, by the way, was some classical stuff that was completely not soothing. The answering service person came back on the line and told us she couldn't reach the doctor, but she'd left him a message and he'll call us back soon. In the meantime, we called our babysitter to let her know what was happening, and she said she'd be right over.

About five minutes later, the phone rang. [Edit: the astute reader will notice that I originally placed the return phone call twenty minutes after I called the hospital. Chris assures me that only about five minutes elapsed between calls. She is undoubtably correct, but it sure felt like I was waiting for a long time.] The obstetrician was returning our call and he and I chatted some --- a little too leisurely, probably, for Chris's liking. ("Oh yes, her water broke and she's feeling the urge to push, but I've been telling her to hold off...") The net result of the phone call was the OB telling us that it was time to come to the hospital. I grabbed her overnight bag, brought it downstairs, and threw the camera, a few Powerbars, and a bottle of green tea in it. I helped Chris down the stairs, and as soon as she got to the kitchen, she needed to get down on her hands and knees because of a contraction. The babysitter arrived, and we left.

Ten minutes later, with surprisingly few expletives during the drive, we were at the hospital. Middle-of-the-night traffic made the drive a snap. I don't know if one can call a car ride uneventful if one's passenger says things like, "I feel like I need to push this baby out right now." I did ask if Chris wanted me to pull over and deliver the baby right there (because, you know, I am a scientist, and if baby delivery is anything like nonlinear optical crystals, I'm your guy), but she said just to keep driving.

I parked in a patient loading zone with my four-way flashers on. A hospital security guard told me I could leave the car there. Maybe I remembered to lock it, maybe not. I didn't take anything into the hospital except Chris in a wheelchair. I learned that I'm not very good at turning wheelchairs through 180 degrees in elevators, but these wheelchairs were awfully wide (I blame high fructose corn syrup for this), and the elevators did seem a bit narrow.

When we got to what looked like an emergency room for pregnant women, a labor and delivery triage nurse examined Chris and told us she was completely dilated and effaced, and that the baby was at +2 cm station. The nursing team said they were bringing her to a delivery room, the obstetrician was on his way, and she was free to push. Sadly, I didn't get to test my driving skills of the beds on wheels. Somewhere along the way, I got a little green tag that said "Birth Partner."

Around 12:45 am we were in the delivery room. Maybe because I can never keep my mind on the task at hand, I noticed an interesting and almost familiar accent from one of the nurses. We found out later that she's from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, but she doesn't know the Turcos (yes, I asked). Of course, that would make perfect sense, since Marty Turco is from the Ontario side, but my brain wasn't putting those facts together at the moment.

The doctor arrived and sat down at the foot of the bed to see how things were progressing. There were pushes, followed by moments of resting, and I really didn't know how long this was going to take. I told him my urologist joke, to which he gave a perfunctory groan and almost laugh, but I'm certain that he's telling it to all his friends now.

Well, it turned out that it didn't take long at all. Around 1:05 am, I started to notice a wrinkly thing with hair on it that could only be a head. The wrinkly head was still a few inches away from being at the exit, but it was moving along. Several good pushes later, the head was out but the rest of the body was still within, and it was already yelling at us. With another push, at 1:09 am, the rest of this person came out, and I could easily verify that this person is a girl, because as soon as she emerged, she urinated all over everything, and I got a very good look at the part doing the urinating. It was quite a bit more liquid than I expected a newborn's bladder could hold, but everyone there was glad to know that those parts were functioning properly. Actually, we also found out that some other parts passed quality assurance as well, because she, um, she voided her bowels, too.

The doctor clamped the cord and handed me the scissors. I got to do this with Aaron, and I remembered that the cord is kind of thick and strong, and the way it feels reminds me of calamari. I went at it with a strong hand, because nobody wants to look like a wimp in front of someone who delivers babies for a living.

Just after the cord cutting, a nurse and I wiped her up and I got to rub some of the vernix into her, which actually felt kind of nice, and then the nurse wrapped her up and gave her to Chris to nurse. I can't remember exactly, but I think she got a pretty good latch.

At this point, the obstetrician stood up from the foot of the bed to where gravity had drawn all the amniotic fluid, blood, Melina's urine, and other liquids I might be neglecting to mention. He looked at his scrub pants, which had a huge red stain on the rear end, and said, "I think I've just had my period." This still makes me laugh, and just goes to prove that even boys with M.D.'s and Ph.D.'s find potty humor irresistably funny. Ok, yes, that's technically not potty humor, but it's in the ballpark.

So here it all is: Melina arrived at 1:09 am on Thursday, July 10. She weighed six pounds and six ounces. Her length was 20 inches, but that looked like a generous measurement to me. On Saturday, the nurse at our pediatrician's office measured her at 19".

Eventually, I moved the car to the parking garage and retrieved the camera from the car. According to the metadata on the photographs, I took pictures between 2:45 am and 3:28 am. Sometime between 3:30 and 4:00, I left the hospital for home so I could take Zoe, Talia, and Aaron to dinosaur class in the morning. Although I should've gone straight to bed, I turned on the computer, uploaded the photos from the camera, and sent an email out to everyone I could think of, plus all the email addresses that Chris had prepared. That message went out at 5:17 am. At 5:23 am, our friend Stacy replied. I couldn't tell you what she was doing up then, because I read her reply and went to bed.

Here are a few pictures:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kindergarten: Mission Accomplished

Thursday was the last day of school for the girls. They read, skipped, and sang their way through kindergarten and are ready to tackle first grade. Well, after a three-month vacation, that is. Just for kicks, we'll show the progression of education. Here they are on their first day of preschool:

Before leaving for their first day of kindergarten:

And finally, here, exiting the bus on their last day of kindergarten:
Notice the increase in sophistication apparent in the pictures. Talia somehow managed to be wearing a pair of headphones to give the too-cool-for-school look. The headphones are, to the best of my knowledge, not even hers and we don't know how she wound up with them. I wouldn't put it past her to have won them shooting dice in the back of the classroom.

Update: Ok, the headphones are actually hers. I had forgotten that the kids wore these when they worked on the computer at school. Zoe's headphones are tucked away in her backpack.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Little Mop-Head meets the clippers

Aaron's hair was out of control. It wasn't that it was long, it was just, well, a lot. I'm no good at describing it; this is what he looked like. It didn't bother me, but according to Chris, something had to be done (shout-out to Miss Nelson).

Chris had a hair appointment on Saturday. As it happens, the woman who does her hair has two little boys of her own, so she has some experience taking shears to the heads of children while they're bobbing and weaving.

When Aaron got on the chair, the hairdresser floated and jabbed with the clippers. By the end she was standing over him as if he were Sonny Liston.

Then the hairdresser raised her arms and said, "I am the greatest." Ok, she didn't, but wouldn't it have been unbelievably awesome if she had?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What Would Henny Youngman Do?

I really, really shouldn't admit to dreaming up this joke. Watch carefully -- I'm about to do something stupid:
Joe: I think my urologist is a pessimist.
Bill: What makes you think that?
Joe: He told me my bladder is half-empty.
Thank you. I'll be here all week. Please be sure to tip the wait-staff generously.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I love living in the 21st century


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Originally uploaded by three beans
Little by little, my parents are divesting their house of my junk. Each time they come to visit, they bring a box (or several) of my Hess trucks, baseball cards, books, Matchbox cars, or old school papers. The last time they were here, they brought an overstuffed folder of my schoolwork from kindergarten. I couldn't believe it. These papers were 32 years old! Why hadn't they thrown them away long ago?

Here's how it works, from the parental point-of-view. Your precious little snowflake brings home a piece of paper with something that resembles a colorized Rorschach test.

You: "Oh, that's a beautiful, um, dinosaur? Playground? Baseball player?"
Snowflake: "Daddy, that's our family. This is me, that's you, and there's mommy."
You (who didn't know until just now that you had self-tanning-spray-gone-awry-orange skin, lime green eyes, and jet black hair that sticks straight up): "Well, we will certainly keep this."

And you do keep it. But then, maybe the next day, maybe a few days later, a new picture comes home. Well, because this one's even nicer than that old one, you have to keep the new picture, too. That's the logic that gets us into these messes. Eventually, though, it doesn't matter if any progress is displayed. All the papers go into the Kindergarten File. It has to be that way. The kids work on their projects and present them to you as if they were handing over Lord Stanley's Cup, and what sort of glacial parent could toss them into the recycle bin? That Kindergarten File, though, eventually finds its way to the basement and is forgotten for twenty or thirty years, until you have the opportunity to return it to your now-grown up, but still precious, snowflake with a mortgage and his own basement to store all this crap.

I have some prolific little artists, so we have started our own Kindergarten Files. We also have Pre-school Files, Random Things They Made At Home Files, and Stuff Aaron Made At Our Neighbor's House Files. But this problem of long-term storage is, I am happy to say, a thing of the past. It's a 20th century problem, and we are parents of 21st century children. It's time to become friends with digital storage. I scan the kids' artwork to the computer (mom, that's the link you want to click on) so that if the originals somehow wind up in the Residential Mixed Paper bin, we still have records of their glorious achievements. That picture at the top of this post is one of Aaron's fingerpaint creations. I used it as my computer desktop background image for a long time.

Someday I will hand over CDs or thumbdrives containing all this stuff to my kids and make them deal with it. By then, I imagine the preferred format for data storage might be a three-dimensional holographic data cube, but I'll give them antiquated formats just to be a curmudgeonly old man.

Are you wondering about my own 32 year old Kindergarten File? I haven't thrown it out yet, but that is simply due to laziness. I'll take a look through it, and if the colors have faded from the pictures I drew, then the kids can re-color them. We'll call it a Ted Turner party. After that, everything gets recycled.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mmmm... dopamine

Dear readers, as I sit here typing this post, good things are happening in my brain. Happy chemicals are fluttering around, and neurons in activity centers deep inside my brain are tingling. At this point, you may be thinking (and honestly, I wouldn't blame you for it because it doesn't sound like a half-bad idea), "Oh here he goes, with his pitcher of sangria on one side and keyboard on the other, trying to be a modern-day Hunter S. Thompson." The truth of the matter is that blogging is good for you. Imagine that. Seriously, go ahead and imagine it, because then maybe your brain will release some dopamine, too. Take a moment; I'll be right here. Do you feel better? I knew you would.

According to one author of the study, expressive writing is linked to improved sleep. It seems perfectly clear to me, then, that babies and toddlers should be blogging. Babies could be sleeping twelve or thirteen hours straight at nighttime, and their parents wouldn't look or feel like zombies. One might find the content tedious,
"They kept giving me the purple duck. I wanted the green duck. I threw the purple duck. They thought it was cute and gave it back to me. I wanted the green duck. They kept giving me the purple duck, so I spit up my milk on them."
but that's not really any worse than what I typically post.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Testudines in the Outfield

No, it's not what you're thinking (unless perhaps you're an environmental biologist). Testudines have nothing to do with Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, 500 foot home runs, or shriveled things. Opening day for our baseball team was supposed to be Sunday. Sunday was clear and sunny, but not too hot --- a perfect day for baseball. I was getting dressed for the game when the manager called: the game is postponed because there were turtles on the field. It had rained the previous night, and evidently a gaggle, a school, a flock, a herd, a colony, a swarm, a bale of turtles thought the standing water on the field would be a great place to play.

A few hours later, Zoe and Talia got the idea into their heads that the turtles were having their own baseball game. One of them said that the game was probably only in the second inning, turtles being very slow creatures and all.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Quick! Appease the readers!

Although nobody has pointed this out to me yet, the past two posts contain no pictures of the wee beasts. This sort of reckless posting puts me dangerously close to alienating my base readership (mom, et cetera). Without delay, I present the basement! Not long ago, we almost-kinda-sorta finished part of the basement ("A bucket of bleach, some cans of paint, and I'll have this place ship-shape in no time" -- Jacqueline Ogburn from a beloved book). Many of the kids' toys have taken permanent residence in the basement, but the world-beating toy down there is the inflatable house.
Well, it used to be a house. The green and yellow parts that now resemble flaps used to attach to form a roof-like structure. These days it's more like a box, but for simplicity's sake, we'll continue to refer to it as a house. One way to use it is to sit in the house and play (like maybe "playing house," for example), but that mode of operation lacks in both amusement and parental anxiety.

The preferred game for the house is something that the children have named "Shipwreck." Shipwreck is straightforward: the people inside the house stand by its walls and rock it back and forth until it comes to its inevitable concussion conclusion.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A mathematician walks into a bar

Dear readers (and by "readers" I mean "mom"), it's not that I mean to talk about mathematics all the time, it's just that when Aaron takes a handful of pennies, puts them on his Magnadoodle, and draws this, the first thing I think of is graph theory. I'll be the first to point out that this isn't a simple graph because two pennies have more than one line connecting them, but the boy is only three, so let's cut him a bit of slack. Aaron himself, though, claimed it was a constellation. Is he too young for me to tell him about Hedy Lamarr?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Introducing Nevaeh Kryslyn and Kolt Brody, or whatever...

Whence came the baby name obsession? (I don't get to use words like "whence" that often, so just play along and nobody will get hurt.) Seriously: 13.2 million hits for "baby names" on Google? Even the Social Security Administration is getting in on the action. I'm pleased to know that part of my payroll taxes (though I prefer the term "the money I'll never ever see again") goes toward helping people track the popularity of the name Wilhelmina over the decades. It turns out, in 1884 Wilhelmina peaked at the 215th most popular name for female babies born in the United States and issued Social Security numbers (is that enough caveats for you?). Sadly, the name has not been in the top 1000 for little baby girls since 1954.

What does this mean to you, pregnant reader? Well, it means that if you're looking for that rare, perfect name for your baby daughter, that name that you can shout from the mountain-tops: "This is my exceptional child who is unique among the cosmos, and as such, she requires a name that will speak to the rarity of her existence. Therefore I shall call her ... Wilhelmina." Forget about Brandilynne and Amairetta and Tierramisu. Wilhelmina is what you're looking for -- the name of Kaisers and queens and witches.

Perhaps you really are enchanted by names like Daysha Kiandra, Dansan Jericho, or Dalek Master. If that's the case, then please read this article before you put it on the birth certificate and make it permanent. By "permanent" I mean, of course, the 21st century definition of the word: what you write on the birth certificate is the baby's name forever except until it isn't.

If you're like me, though, you are on the other end of the spectrum: the people who make fun of people who name their kids things I wouldn't call my dog. I'll assume that's the case, because the Ambrosyanna Heighleymyrie crowd probably quit reading two paragraphs ago. I wish to draw your attention to this absolute gem: fifteen glorious pages devoted to snarky derision of parental stupidity. Spend a few hours there. Forward the link to your friends. Just, you know, come back to my blog when you're done, and I'll put up some new pictures of my own little buckets of sunshine. Hey, maybe that's a good baby name: Sunshyne Buckett...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Other kids' stuff

I guess when you're a kid, maybe the best thing about going to visit other kids is the opportunity to play with an entirely new set of toys. On Sunday we went to a party hosted by some new friends who have three young children of their own. Aaron enjoyed the workbench and, as you can see, followed all OSHA regulations and guidelines.

However, the big winner of the day, the one toy that the kids were talking about for days and days before the party, was the trampoline. In fact, I think that was the most desired play object for all the kids there. At one point, I counted no fewer than seven children and one adult on the trampoline. (Full disclosure: I was that adult.)

Before the kids asked me to hop with them, I managed to get a few pictures. This one is interesting. Like any almost-safe trampoline, there's a safety net. The picture is kind of nice, but all the little hexagons from the netting mess things up. Warning: \begin{geek} I want to try to get rid of them by taking a 2D FFT of the image and finding and removing the spatial frequency that corresponds to the hexagons' period. The inverse FFT should give me an image back where the hexagons are not so much in the way. I think I know how to do this with LabView. Once I find some time to play around with this, I'll post the results of my little image processing experiment. \end{geek}


But on to more important things, like marvelling at how much air Talia is catching in this jump.


I learned how difficult it is to take a picture while in mid-jump. This one was so close to turning out great.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Roy Galahad Biv III, Hosiery Expert

Zoe and Talia have a thing for socks. I suppose it's our fault. When they were babies, we'd put little socks on their little feet with no regard for matching one sock to the other. But hey, you try being a graduate student who's just become a parent to twins and see how high socks are on your list of priorities. Even to this day, we neither match nor fold together any of the kids' socks. Once they're out of the dryer (the socks, not the kids), they all go into a drawer in the kids' bathroom. As a consequence, when they're getting dressed for school, the girls will typically wear mismatched socks. (Yes, fascinating, isn't it? But there's a point --- well, not really, but there is at least a picture.) They are also a sufficiently impressive influence on Aaron that he has developed the same tendencies --- even to the point of wearing one purple and one pink when his sisters do.

On Thursday, though, they quite outdid themselves. The girls decided that they and Aaron should have rainbow feet, and managed to get everyone's socks on in the proper order, Roy G. Biv and all that, with no help from Chris or me. Having only six feet among themselves, and not really understanding the continuous nature of the solar spectrum, they had to let one color go (poor neglected indigo, as it happened).

As they say in mathematics, the result follows:
It remains to teach them the difference between normal and anomalous dispersion.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Put me in, coach!

I'm playing in an adult baseball league this season. It's been just about ten years since I've played hardball, so my goal is to avoid embarrassing myself or my teammates. We had a scrimmage tonight against one of the other teams in our league.

The directions to the ball park were along the lines of: Drive north until the highway ends. Follow that road through a few towns. Go past the grain silo, and park on the other side of the street. The air smelled of manure, but we had a baseball diamond, two teams, and an umpire.

My first at-bat was in the second inning. We had a runner on, and nobody out. As soon as I walked up to the plate, the umpire sent me back to our dugout because I forgot to put a helmet on. Yeah, that's too many years of slow-pitch softball. Ok, so we'll try again, this time with a helmet on my head. The catcher was kind enough to tell me about a soft spot in the dirt right outside the batters box. If he only knew that I didn't really care about making it to first base -- that all I wanted to do was put the ball in play, somewhere -- anywhere -- in fair territory.

The first pitch was a fastball, middle-inside, and just above belt high. Really, I was planning to take a few pitches, but I just couldn't let this one go. Back through the middle and into short center field. A single! A bona-fide base hit! I wasn't expecting a base hit until July, but there it was, the end of a ten year slump. The batter after me walked, and the batter after him drilled a single to drive me in. It was a very good inning.

My next at-bat came a few innings later. I was thinking to myself that I'd already gotten a hit, so no matter what happens at this at-bat, it was a good night. I also remembered to put on a helmet. There was a new pitcher on the mound, and the catcher once again reminded me about the soft spot in the dirt. This time, I thought, I really ought to take a few pitches to get used to seeing the baseball again. I took the first pitch, a fastball on the outside corner, for a strike. The second pitch was a curve off the plate. The third was another fastball that got a little more of the plate than the first pitch. I stayed on this one and lined it into left field for a stand-up double. Two hits!

We played until it was too dark to see, and we might have been up by a run when the game ended, but I don't know for certain. It didn't matter. A bunch of old guys played baseball, nobody got hurt, and I got to remember how good it feels to hit a ball with a wooden bat. Oh, did I forget to mention? No aluminum, no carbon nanotubes, no scandium or any other rare earth metals. Baseball bats are made out of trees in this league.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The dude and the cube

Unfortunately, this didn't happen when I was home, but Chris told me all about it. My sister got Aaron a Rubik's Cube for Christmas, and he enjoys messing around with it. The cube was in one of its 4.3 x 1019 configurations, and, according to Chris, sufficiently randomized. Well, Aaron looked over the cube and then he started twisting. Then he'd stop, look at it a little more, and start twisting again. After six or seven minutes of effort, he had the cube looking like this.

He handed the cube to Chris and told her to finish it because he couldn't figure out how to do it himself. I wish I had been there to see the look on her face. She told Aaron that she didn't know how to do it either, so they'd have to wait until I got home. When I got home, they showed me the cube. I took the pictures and then finished it for him.

Is my boy a mathematical genius? Could be, but that has nothing to do with nearly solving the cube. Cue up my inner skeptic: the cube was probably in a friendly configuration that just looked random: (RDLU)n, or something like that that's easy to undo. Nevertheless, it's pretty cool that Aaron took it as far as he did, and as soon as he's ready, I'm going to teach him group theory.