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.


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


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


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.