One Couple's Stumblings Through Parenthood and Marriage

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Floods & Betrayal

Last night the Sacramento Valley had to endure the worst storm of the season. Levees burst, flooding the highways. Creeks and rivers overflowed, placing homes under several feet of unclean water. The wiers were opened, so that the swollen waters of the Sacramento River could fill the Yolo flood plain, and ease the already burdened banks.

Amidst this time of deluge and calamity, I have a darker event to report. It was something my wife did. She broke one of our most important vows. She cast aside our parenting ethos for an expediency. She let our girls watch the Teletubbies.
Oh, she has her excuses. She even says that the girls liked the Teletubbies - as if that is supposed to make me feel better! Annie was going to keep this secret from me, but Genna revealed it last night.

On the way home from my folks house, Genna began hiding her eyes behind her hands, then pulling them aside and saying, "Boo-hoo!" I didn't know what this was, but Annie's deceit had been revealed. Shame-faced, she related to me that earlier in the day, while snuggling with the girls on the couch, she had flipped on the TV to give them all something to watch. She had stumbled across the Teletubbies. Instead of switching the station immediately, she let it stay.

I was horrified. I cannot say exactly what it is about Teletubbies that so frightens me. Perhaps it is the singsong cadence, the pyschedelic colors, the androgynous characters, or the surreal songs. Perhaps it is all of that, and more. Whatever the case, it has always been understood between us that the Teletubbies - and Barney - would be forbidden from entering our house. Now our home has been defiled.

Annie has sworn never to let it happen again. But the damage has been done. Pray for us.

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Baptists Get It!

See, folks! The Baptists get it. Why don't the rest of you?

You can make your own sign here.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Unexpected Reactions

Our daughters received cabbage patch kids for Christmas. Annie and I assumed they would be a big hit with the girls - but we were sorely mistaken.

When the girls first saw the dolls, they weren't terribly interested due to all of the other gifts they were receiving - despite my dad's attempt to scare my daughters with them. So, Annie and I decided to reintroduce the dolls the next day when it was quiet. We eagerly awaited their reactions.

Genna saw hers, backed away in fright, saying "No, no, no!" What? She has always loved babies! That didn't go as planned. We hid her doll from sight.

Kate saw hers and took it right away. She said, "Oh, baby's crying. Need a bottle." Wow, that was cute. We were so happy to see her maternal side come out. Annie got up to go get the bottle that the cabbage patch kid came with. I stayed to watch, and what I saw was horrifying. Kate brought the doll to her face and began making a loud crying noise at it. It wasn't pleasant. She then threw the doll to the ground. Then she walked over to the doll and kicked it. OK. That was disturbing. My first thought was that she was taking out her suppressed aggression towards her baby sister - for taking so much of mommy's time - on the doll. Who knows.

Perhaps my girls need so psychotherapy. Regardless, we are going to wait a while longer before busting out the cabbage patch kids.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas Miracle, Christmas Scandal

Miracle: Genna and Julia were sick (out of both ends) for the whole week leading up to the Christmas weekend. However, when we awoke on Saturday morning, all sickness was gone. For the first time since becoming parents, we had a completely healthy Christmas. Very nice.

Scandal: On Christmas day we put the girls down for a nap in the upstairs bedrooms. Genna slept in one of her aunties' rooms. When she got up from her nap, my wife noticed something different about Genna's clothing. Upon closer inspection, it turned out that Genna was wearing her auntie's thong undies! Evidentially, during her 'nap' she had rummaged through a pile of laundry on the bed next to her port-a-crib. Since she is in the midst of potty training, she knows what panties are for. So, she put them on - correctly, if over her pants. Scandalous! and quite embarrassing for the auntie in question.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas in Mordor

We ended up spending our Christmas in Mordor, the land of Sauron. It was Annie's idea; she wanted to get out of the bitter, freezing cold of the Sacramento Valley and go someplace warm. Well, she got her wish. This is a picture of the girls posed in front of Mount Doom (that's the volcano in the background between Kate and Julia).

The place was teeming with orcs and goblins. I began to feel like we should get going, so we only stayed two days. At one point I took a wrong turn and got completely lost. Luckily, there were these two very nice fellows who helped us out. They were very short, and I suspect that they weren't orcs at all. They directed us to a narrow tunnel, which they claimed was a shortcut back to 'the realm of men.' Trying to get down the road from the tunnel was sketchy. My Ford Aerostar has never handled steep staircases very well.
Though the girls really enjoyed the magma and the park near Cirith Ungol, I think that for next year we might try someplace new.

This photo is courtesy Ian Tillman.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Santa Claus: An Engineering Analysis

On Christmas Eve, it is important to understand what Old St. Nick is up against. Here is an analysis of the engineering involved.

1. No known species of reindeer can fly, but there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not completely rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has seen.

2. There are 2 billion children in the world (persons under 18). But since Santa doesn't (appear) to handle Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or Buddhist children, that reduces the workload by 85% of the total, leaving 378 million according to the Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there is at least one good child per house.

3. Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/lOOOth of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stocking, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth, which, of course, we know to be false, but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept, we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household, for a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding, etc. That means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second - a conventional reindeer can run, at tops 15 miles per hour.

4. The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting the "flying reindeer" can pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increased the payload -not even counting the weight of the sleigh to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison - this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth - 5,353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance. This will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecrafts re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair will absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they will burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and creating a deafening sonic boom in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized with 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subject to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would bepinned to the back of the sleigh by a 4,315,015 pound force.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Beware the Cuteness

Here is our annual Christmas season photo. Behold the cuteness of Kate, Julia, and Genna!

I was hoping to do a real manger scene, but Annie shot the idea down. She had her reasons, though. Getting an ox, a donkey, and some sheep into a studio would have been logistically difficult, and the insurance liability would have been tricky. Oh well. This turned out cute enough.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Rant

Christmas can be a very stressful time of year. At times, it seems impossible to feel the Christmas spirit. Don't worry, I'm not going to talk about the material nature of Christmas. That is always talked about. Rather, it is the traditions that have me so stressed out.

Take, for instance, the 12 Days of Christmas tradition. I have had to jump through so many hoops and drop a large wad of cash (and break a few federal laws) to get the gifts to me wife (my true love, per the song). I didn't have a problem getting 12 partridges, 30 french hens, or 36 calling birds - we have enough pet shops and farms around to provide those.

Also, the 42 geese and 42 swans weren't that tough. It just so happens that swans and Canadian geese migrate across the Sacramento flood plains and wetlands this time of year. Catching them, though, was the difficult part. That is where I broke a few laws - capturing water fowl without a permit and trespassing on protected wetlands.
The 40 golden rings I cheated on. I have been going to Sonic each day and getting her a side of onion rings. Clever, huh?
For the maids-a-milking I was able to contract with Crystal Cream and Butter Company to do a workshare program with their female employees.
The leaping lords and dancing ladies were relatively easy. The Sacramento Dance Company has been a great resource in this.
Getting enough pipers and drummers was iffy for a while. I ended up booking the marching band from UC Davis. The problem is that the band members are a bit wild, and keep demanding spiked egg nog, which I refuse to provide.
No, it has been the turtle/doves that have been so hard to find. I have to provide 22 of these. In the end I went back to UC Davis, and had their genetics department work up a cross between the red-ear slider turtle and the common dove. The resulting animal is freakish, and probably won't survive far past Christmas, but I had to do what I had to do.

I am feeling a bit nasty toward Santa right now, so here are some cartoons that express my ire.

The last part of my Christmas tradition rant has to do with the music. We have several local radio stations that are playing 24 hour Christmas music, and it is driving me nuts. Yesterday I was subjected to the Jackson Five's "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." It reminded me of a conversation I had with my wife last year. We were driving in the car when the song came on. The conversation went like this:

"Change the station," I said.
"Why?" Annie asked.
"I hate this song. Please change it."
"Why do you hate it?" she asked.

I looked at her in shock. "Listen to the words! It's scandalous. The kid's mom was kissing Santa Claus!"
It was her turn to look at me in shock. "Justin, that isn't Santa Claus. The mom is kissing the daddy, dressed like Santa Claus!"
I went silent for several moments as my stupidity washed over me. The mom wasn't having extramarital relations with Santa? Santa is not some nasty, philandering home-wrecker? That made so much more sense. I still don't like the song, but now my jilted view of Santa had been redeemed.
Can you believe it? Here I was, in my 20s, and I had never picked up on that?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Winter Solstice

Today, thanks to the tilt in the Earth's axis, all of us Northern Hemisphere folks are going to be experiencing the longest night and shortest day of the year.
Today is a very important day for me. I am going to attempt to celebrate the solstice old-school, multi-cultural style. Here are some of the activities I have planned for tonight:

1) I am going to celebrate the death, burial, and rebirth of the Egyptian god, Osiris, by emerging from a makeshift tomb with my baby daughter, Julia, at the stroke of midnight.
2) I will have all of the womenfolk from my family come over and rend to pieces an effigy of the Greek God, Dionysus. Don't ask - it is very complicated.
3) I am going to serve a birthday cake for the god Mithra.
4) I will construct an ancient birch grove in my back yard, for my Druid friends.
5) I will have all of my family gather round a low, small table to tell stories and tales, in honor of Zoroaster.
6) I will craft prayersticks and perform purification rituals, for my Hopi folk.

That's about it. It's ambitious, but I want to make it happen. Also, I think something important is happening this Sunday, but I need to check my calendar.

The Chronic-what?-cles of Narnia

For those of you who haven't seen it, or for those who want to see it again, Saturday Night Live did a hilarious rap video about seeing Narnia. Here is a link to see it - just look under the 'videos' section. Here are the words to it. Be sure your speakers are turned on. Listen to the words, and laugh.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Mess Is Worth It.

Yesterday, in the span of 10 hours, the following happened:

1) Genna woke up covered in her own vomit. Required much cleaning.
2) Kate woke up covered in her own blood from a bloody nose. Required much cleaning.
3) Julia woke up, having peed through every layer of clothing. Required much cleaning.

Yah, parenting has it's downside. It is often gross and always time consuming. But then later in the day:

1) I come home and Julia looks over at me and gives a huge smile. Okay, Julia, your smile owns me. Feel free to pee through your pajamas every night.
2) After dinner, Kate says, "Genna, I love you so much. I'm going to work." She walks over to the front door and turns the knob. She then walks back into the kitchen, and says, "Hi Genna, I'm home." Okay, Kate, that may be the cutest thing ever. You're worth it.
3) Just before bedtime, Genna climbs into my lap and lays back to rest her head against my chest. She wants me to read Dr. Seuss's "Put Me iIn the Zoo." Okay, Genna, you can upchuck whenever you want. I'll clean it up.

It is amazing how quickly your kids can redeem themselves. I am afraid that my daughters are slowly but surely getting me wrapped around their little fingers. But then, they are still little. This post might be different if they were teenagers.

Monday, December 19, 2005

It's Kate's Turn to Spill

Genna ended up spending the whole weekend with her horse hitched to the up-chuck wagon. As of this morning, she is still asking for the bowl, though her heaving is unproductive. That is one nice thing - she has learned to ask for the bowl. Aside from the two thorough blow outs in her crib, every other ... event has been contained to the bowl.
All of this has been very confusing for poor Kate. She has had to watch Genna get held all weekend, which, sadly, meant less time for her. Of course, my girl is one smart cookie. On Saturday she became very interested in Genna's bowl-oriented activities. At one point, while Genna was leaning over the bowl, Kate came over and asked, "Genna, are you alright? Genna, are you sick?" She then said, "It's Kate's turn to spill."
There are two cute things in that. 1) she calls vomiting 'spilling' - that is a much more clean word. 2) she has figured out that if you are sick, you get more attention.
Ever since then, she has been saying that she is sick, too, and that she needs the bowl. Poor thing! She has always been more demanding of attention. Genna being sick has been doubly hard on her. Mom and dad are preoccupied, and her favorite playpal is out of commission.
Genna did show some signs of recovery yesterday, though. After she woke up from her afternoon nap - 4 hours long! - she livened up. Kate was thrilled. Annie called over to have me listen, and sure enough, Kate was saying, "Come on, Genna!" The playing was on. This was soon followed by a fight over possession of a Tinkerbell figurine. You know you're kids are getting better when they start fighting.
So far, no one has joined Genna's vomit-fest. Kate and Julia's colds should clear up soon. Things are looking good for a sick-free Christmas.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Genna, the Seawitch, and the Recliner

We do our best to have our kids watch very little television. But when you wake up early on a Saturday morning to chaos, Mr. TV has to step up and share the parenting load.
It all began with the coughing and crying of Julia. The poor baby has been fighting a cold. To win this fight, she uses whatever is at her disposal, which mainly involves crying, late nights, and early mornings.
After soothing her, we turned to Genna, who had just begun crying. We walked into the twins' bedroom and were assaulted by vomit-stink. Yes, Genna had puked all over her crib and had apparently gone to great lengths to ensure it got on everything. Her crib sheets, the bumper, her horsey and baby, her blankets, the crib railing, the floor, and of course, her pajamas and hair, were all covered in gooey chunkiness.
After we bathed her, twice, Annie and I turned to one another and knew at once that it was Dora Time. That little monkey-friended Dora The Explorer is one of our favorite cartoon people. Her effect on our children is a double-edged sword. She turns their brains to 25% power, which is bad when you want to encourage reading, but wonderful when you want to take your daughter's mind off of her roiling tummy.
Once Dora was over, we had to bring in the cavalry. We gave Kate and Genna a choice of movies. They agreed on The Little Mermaid. Ariel, Sebastianen, and Ursula the Seawitch entertained them while I cradled Genna in the recliner, with a steel bowl at the ready. She ended up filling this bowl four separate times. I was impressed at how well I managed to catch all of her up-chucks, and not vomit myself. Annie worked the assembly line: taking dirty bowl, replacing it with new bowl, and cleaning out old bowl each time.

Genna has now been sleeping for three hours. I hope this is a healing sleep - a slumber from which she will awaken fresh and relatively healthy. You see, we have my company Christmas party to attend tonight. Genna's condition will determine whether or not we go.
Despite the grossness and misery of the morning, there are some positives. Annie and I get to rediscover how well we work as a team. And, you remember how important it is to you that your kids are comfy and loved - even if it means sitting through Saturday morning cartoons, watching your 39th viewing of The Little Mermaid, and holding your daughter's hair back while she unloads her stomach contents. One more upside - I am so glad this is happening this weekend, and not next.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Very Disappointed

Several months ago, the Duggar family of Arkansas made the news with the arrival of their 16th child.
But today it is being
reported that a family from my own backyard, in Sacramento, has them beat. The Chernenkos have given birth (well, the mom did) to their 17th kid. They can now lay claim to having the nation's largest family. Mr. & Mrs. Chernenko are immigrants from the Ukraine, and have been married for 24 years.
What bothers me is not the number of kids. I feel, hey, if you can make them and provide for them without being on the dole, that is fine. What bugs me is that neither one of these families is Mormon! Come on! Heck, they aren't even Catholic. I am very disappointed in my people. Are we losing the 'largest families' title to some 'miscellaneous' group? Where is our pride?

I'm doing my part. We had twins, and then a third daughter two years later. We hope to have more, but, alas, I fear that 18 kids may be beyond even my wife's maternal prowess. I'll talk to her tonight, though, and see if I can convince her.
If you don't see a post for a few days, it means that my wife took my suggestion poorly. Please look for me in one of the irrigation ditches surrounding Woodland.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Free Falling

In a world full of news of calamity, disaster, and death, it is nice to hear about freakish survival once in a while. Here is such a tale.

I heard this story on the radio yesterday. This woman, a 21-year-old, was skydiving solo for the first time when her parachute failed. Her training kicked in, and she cut away her primary chute to allow her reserve to deploy. This, too, failed. She then proceeded to plummet to the earth, over half a mile below. She landed on asphalt - on her face and stomach. She has no memory of actually hitting the ground, only of her last prayers to God.
Her instructor reports that, following the impact, she sat up and began speaking. Can you imagine how awful she looked, especially when she tried to stand up? She suffered plenty of broken bones, including losing 6 teeth. The doctors had to use 15 steel plates to patch up her skull. Her health and appearance are expected to make a full recovery.
Following her emergency medical examination, she was told about another surprise. She was two weeks pregnant, and the fetus was fine!
I can only imagine that God so wanted this child to survive, that He was willing to use the mother's face to soften the impact. Now that is something to record in the child's baby book. Is hoping for a 'bouncing' baby boy inappropriate?

This, my friends, is why I never skydive while pregnant.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Oakland Temple Christmas Lights

On Monday we took our annual trip to the Oakland Temple to see the Christmas lights. It took four SUV / van-sized vehicles to transport the clan, but we made it. After a yummy dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory, we made our way to Oakland. Right away we were struck by the beautiful display of Christmas decorations. The entire place was lit up.

Kate and Genna were the first to get a look. Here they are standing on a bridge over the running water with the temple in the background. I viewed the photo on my camera's LCD and noticed that it was awfully dark and that my pictures weren't giving the display proper justice.

So I changed my camera setting to 'nightscape,' and took this photo of the manger scene. Wow, what a difference! I then got hooked on taking as many photos as possible.

This next picture was taken from the fountain by the entrance. Here is the temple in all its Christmas glory. Beautiful, isn't it?

This one is my pride and joy. This is the fountain by the square, framed by the temple. Now, that is beautiful.

We spent quite some time there. The weather was beautiful, and all nine grandkids got to run around and play.
Here is a picture of my nephews.

At first I thought they were performing a reenactment of Jesus casting out the money changers from the temple. I was mistaken. It turns out that they were just rough-housing. Kurtis is the one with a maniacal gleam in his eye, and is busy grappling the smiling Carter. Casey, the youngest, is the little hooded figure in the foreground.

As we made ready to leave, my mother-in-law picked up Kate. Kate pointed at the temple, and said, "There's the temple. The temple is dangers!" I nearly shouted, Heathen child! Blasphemer! I was mistaken here, too. It turns out that when Annie had taken the girls out of the van, she said, "Hold my hand - we're in the temple parking lot. See the cars? It's dangerous." Oh, OK. I forgave Kate's slanderous comments this time.

I recommend going out to see the Christmas lights. For those of you who don't live near enough to Oakland, check out a
temple near you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Calvin & Hobbes Snowmen

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Bounty Bars and Hotdogs

Today marks the two-year anniversary of the capture of Saddam Hussein. These two articles (1, 2) give great accounts of the details of his capture, and the conditions under which he had been hiding.
One of my favorite details is how his hideout was stocked with Bounty candy bars and hotdogs.
Now the man is on trial by his own countrymen. I love it. Our soldiers have done a spectacular job. Let's hope that the elections coming up will go well, and that we can see this task through to the end.
Maybe tonight we should all eat Bounty bars and hotdogs, and spend some time in our own private 'spider holes' to commemorate the event.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Shoes Laces

One of the best parts about being a dad is stumbling across your kids' handiwork after they have gone to bed, and being reminded of how cute they are. As I have illustrated previously, Genna is very into strings and ribbons. She has always been fascinated by them. So last night, when I went to put my shoes away, and was confronted with this image, you can guess who came to mind.

I would love to know what was going through her head. What game was she playing, what world had she created, that led her to stuff her favorite laces into my shoes? Isn't that one of the cutest things ever?

It reminded me of earlier in the day when Kate and Genna were playing in our bedroom. Our closet doors are full length mirrors, so the girls prefer playing in front of them than in their play room. Genna was sitting on the floor, playing with her blue lace, singing "A dream is a wish your heart makes ...", when Kate came bursting into the room and said, "I see the Beast!"
She stared at herself for several seconds in the mirror, then turned to Genna and said," Uh-oh, I'm gonna go get Belle! Come on, Genna!" Then she bolted from the room.
Genna scrambled to her feet, and shouted, "No! Wait! It's Cinderella!" and chased after her twin. They went back and forth, each one trying to convince her sister to join her own Disney fantasy land - Beauty and the Beast vs. Cinderella. In the end they went their separate ways.
I watched them the whole time, just wishing that I could be inside their heads to see what kind of world they were in. Their imagination and their games are so fun to watch. Then I thought, Hey, Disney should be paying me for all of this! My daughters have become walking billboards for Disney, and I haven't seen one dime! Oh well. At least the laces Genna stuffed in my shoes weren't Disney laces.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Santa’s Got a Broken Lap

Today we visited my in-law’s ward for their Christmas brunch. Almost the whole clan showed up. After the delicious food we all sung Christmas carols. But the grand finale was yet to come. After the closing prayer, the big rocking chair was brought out onto the stage. Oh, yes, the excitement was building. All three of our girls were wearing their red Santa dresses in anticipation of this very moment.
With a mighty “Ho, Ho, Ho!” Santa came bursting through the rear doors of the cultural hall. Yippee! Hurray! Annie and I pointed out the jolly old man to the twins. We watched their faces to see their reactions. Both of them said, “I don’t want Santa.”
Why is it that parents keep thinking their kids like Santa Claus? It seems like it isn’t until they are ol
d enough not to believe in him that they actually stop being scared of him. We knew our girls would cry, but we got in the sit-in-Santa’s-lap line anyway. Was this a Christmas celebration, or a child torture event? Here is a picture of me trying to talk the girls into sitting on Santa’s lap.
Even that seemed weird. Do I really want to start the practice of talking my precious daughters into sitting in strange men’s’ laps? Then, just to top it off, Annie informed me that Santa had bad knees, so he couldn’t have any of the big kids actually sit in his lap. Our Santa had a broken lap?
I was annoyed at first. But then I thought, Hey, why should he be put out of work? If he goes through all of the effort of keeping a snowy white beard year round, and showing up looking festive and jolly, then he has every right to be Santa.

As it turned out, both the girls sat in Santa’s lap – they were small enough, and he was a good sport. Genna did so quietly, watching her mom the whole time.
Kate took the most coaxing. After three seconds she turned to me, and said with a smile that showed she was near panic, “I’m all done now.”

We all had a really fun time. But it has made me start rethinking some of our Christmas traditions.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The movie opens in theaters today. Everyone go see it. I predict that it will be a spectacular film.

Oops, My Wife Read My Blog ...

I'm busted. My wife read my post about Monster In-Law (see below). She feels that I misrepresented the situation. So, here is an official apology and clarification. I'm sorry. You are right. I did agree to watch the movie. You weren't very eager to see it either, but since we had a free voucher, we both agreed to rent it. And yes, I do blame my mother for recommending it. You have excellent taste in movies. We share the same likes and dislikes. You have been at my side for every showing of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, historical movies, and anything done by M. Night Shyamalan. Yes, you may pick the next movie. Who wears the pants here?

(I never lied in my post, mind you. What I said could have applied to some of the other romantic comedies that she has had me sit through - The Wedding Planner, Maid In Manhattan, Runaway Bride, anything with Meg Ryan. Can I dig this hole any deeper?)

So there, it is official. You are right and I am wrong. You are better than me. I'll be on the couch if you need me.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Where Did She Get That?

Ever since she was old enough to reach out and grab things, Genna's preferred toys have always been strings and laces. Shoe laces, hair ties, twine, you name it, she is obsessed with it. Lately we have given her a spare shoe lace, and she carries it with her wherever she goes.
Yesterday I was home alone with the girls. The twins were jumping on the bed and I was holding Julia in the rocking chair. Genna called out, "Daddy, help! It's a little mermaid." I looked over to see what she could possibly be talking about. She was holding up her shoe lace by one end and pointing at a knot she had accidentally made in the middle of it. Ok, I thought - what does that have to do with The Little Mermaid? I untied the knot and went about my business.
About a half an hour later, she calls out "Daddy, help! It's a little mermaid!" Sure enough, she was pointing at a new knot she had tied into the lace. I would love to get inside her two-year-old head and see what makes her think a knot in a shoe lace is called a little mermaid. What kind of connection could there possibly be? If I had the endurance to watch The Little Mermaid for the 34th time, I might get some insight - but just thinking of it is exhausting. Alas, I may never solve this mystery.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ransom Like an Egyptian

We received a lovely Christmas letter from one of our family friends. One of the paragraphs from it was so shocking, that I felt compelled to share it. I have changed the names of those involved. Here it is:

"Our exciting news is we are now GRANDPARENTS! On June 22, Cheryl and Yusuf welcomed Ibrahim into the world, a beautiful, healthy baby boy, weighing 8 pounds. It was quite an experience, as Cheryl delivered in Cairo! At what was supposedly the best hospital in Egypt, Ibrahim was taken to the nursery without Cheryl being able to even see him. She was left stranded in the hallway of the delivery area for 45 minutes, until the head nurse finally informed Yusuf that he needed to pay all of the nurses who attended the delivery(or had been anywhere within a 20 meter radius of Cheryl) baksheesh (tips or bribes, depending on your point of view). Once paid off, Cheryl was magically wheeled up to her room, where she was finally able to meet her son for the first time."

Can you believe that? Can you imagine what it would be like to have your brand-new child and your wife - or yourself - held hostage by hospital nurses? At what is supposed to be one of the most happy events of your life? And this was supposedly one of the best hospitals in Egypt? What happens in the backwood (desert) facilities? Do they just take the mother and child and sell them into slavery? Wow, now that is culture shock.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Manchester Scam's Scam

I am not sure exactly how on got on their mailing list, but I received a letter in the mail recently which, upon first reading, was quite flattering. Here is an image of it:

In brief, it states that due to my many professional and executive accomplishments, Manchester Who's Who ( is going to include a bio of me in their upcoming registry of other prominent business potentates - free of charge. I kept looking it over for a scam - I have never done anything professionally worthy of note outside of my office. Hmm, so I went online. Sure enough, and alas! for my poor broken heart, it is a scam. Who would have known that an unsolicited mailing that lauds my many so-called but unidentified accomplishments would in the end expect money from me?!? Horrors! What disappointment! All this time I thought I was someone special.
Turns out, if you snoop around online to find out, that a woman calls you up, after you've turned in your registration form, and fawns all over you in a mock-up interview. She then asks which level of membership you want - the 'lifetime' option being almost $1,000!
I have to say, I am very impressed by the lengths people will go to legally separate the unwitting from their money. Should I feel ashamed that I have been included on a 'he-must-be-a-chump' mailing list? I would love to know how many people actually fall for this. I might even pay money for that information.
Here's a tip if ever you fear someone is getting their scam on: go to Google, and type in the name of the offering/service/business and then the word 'scam.' It opens up a whole new world. Likewise, if you want to find out what the critics say about any particular product, do a search for the product name plus the word 'sucks' - you are guaranteed to get the scoop, along with some ... colorful language.

P.S. Yesterday I received another one, this time from Empire Who's Who ( - with the same wording. They need to coordinate better. Even simple people such as myself might begin to get suspicious.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Calvin & Hobbes Snowmen

I recently received an email containing most of the Calvin & Hobbes snowman cartoons. I have always been a huge fan, and I am thrilled that someone went through the effort of compiling the many snowment cartoons. To see all of them, click here.
In the meantime, I will be revealing them, one or two at a time. Like here:

Monster In-Blah

On Saturday night my wife subjected me to one of the worst movies ever. Monster In-Law, starring J-Lo, Jane Fonda, and Michael Vartan. Thankfully, we rented it for free from Hollywood Video with a rain check. That was one of the only redeeming qualities of one and half hours of my life that I will never have back.
When the movie began, showing a lovelorn Jennifer Lopez getting love advice from the obligatory misfit girlfriend and sassy gay guy friend, I knew it was going to be awful. In my defense, I fought seeing with all of my might. But the wife won out - she is stronger than me. I can't count how many times we looked at one another, our mouths gaping from shock at how awesomely awful the movie was. It used every cliche and device known to romantic comedies. It was utterly predictable and completely vapid - that's right, vacuous, noxious, deplorable & a lot of other fancy words that mean 'lame.'
Though I abominate Jane Fonda, I actually like Jennifer Lopez and Vartan (from Alias). That increased my loathing of this movie - that these two would produce such a blight.
The only other good part about watching it: I have the privilege of picking out the next movie we watch. Annie's credibility when it comes to movie-picking taste has been now called into question.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

At the Christmas Tree Farm

Here are some photos from our trip to the Christmas tree farm last weekend. We had free popcorn, free cider, and a free sleigh ride. And, of course, good times.

Here are the five of us crammed into one row. The other people on the tractor/sleigh really appreciated that we held the ride up by making the driver take a photo of us.

I have been having some fun with our new photo editing software, Picasa by Google. See how cute Genna is in black and white, with her hat on and her hand reaching for more popcorn?

One of my favorite things about my daughters is how goofy they are. Here they are in front of me as we wander the many paths of pre-cut trees, searching for that Griswold moment when a tree is lit by a shaft of light from the heavens above. It didn't happen. We went instead to the Boy Scout lot.

One last shot of our twins partaking of popcorn. Their appetite for this salty, buttery snack seems to be insatiable.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Vending Machine

This week we introduced solid food to Julia for the first time. She has entered into a whole new phase. She now grabs faces, and when you are holding her at the dinner table, she reaches out and grabs the plate. I love it. She is more and more playful. And she is more aware. She has been watching us eat for a while now, so we thought it high time to introduce her to the spoon.
Last night I was flying solo on child-duties. Annie had to be gone, so I was alone with the girls. We had a really fun time. The milestone for me was being able to feed spoon-feed Julia for the first time. I took a photo of how cute she was.

She is actually a neat ... well, noneater. Despite my less-than-nimble spoon work, not much oatmeal ended up on her face. That is a credit to her daintiness and good manners, not my expertise.

Mixing up the Gerber oatmeal was just like old times with the twins, only I didn't have to do it in industrial batches, just a few ounces. I thought I had it all down until I actually tried to feed her. She has the whole 'open your mouth' thing nailed, but not the 'now swallow' part. Every spoonful of oatmeal would immediately come back out. It reminded me of trying to feed a wrinkled dollar bill into a vending machine. Sorry, no Three Musketeers for you. I took comfort in the fact, though, that I wasn't actually trying to feed her, so much as getting her used to the act of being fed via spoon.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Kate, Not Always the Angel

We've already established that Genna is a 'spirited' child, and I've mentioned that Kate was identified as a cross between 'angel' and 'textbook.' But in fairness to Genna, her twin isn't perfect. Far from it, in fact, as you will soon find out.
We have been working on potty training the twins for a couple of weeks now. Kate has been doing best at it, though she has had a few ... incidents. The most recent one happened on Thanksgiving. On me.
We were over at the Walkers' house and I was holding Kate in my lap on the sofa. We were having a wonderful father-daughter bonding moment. We were discussing the responsibilities and ramifications of being a princess, when she looked at me and said, "Daddy, I need to go potty." I smiled, pleased that she alerted me.
"OK, Kate. Let's take you to -" Mid-sentence, I felt hot wetness on my lap. I jumped up, holding Kate out at a distance, and ran us both to the bathroom.

The photo above shows me standing by the bathroom, complete with Kate-pee-stained shirt. My pleasant smile conceals a seething rage. See Kate standing there, looking at her handy work?

In this photo I am giving Kate a blistering tongue-lashing. I am informing her that under no circumstances is it appropriate for a child to urinate on her father. See how she is standing with her feet spread? Her pee-soaked pants can't be too comfortable. Her expression is part chagrined smile, and part attempt at puppy-eyes to forestall my wrath.

I had to change my shirt, of course. There were few options left open to me, since we were at my inlaws. I went ahead and put on my mother-in-law's blouse. I felt that the floral pattern and pink leaves really complimented my skin.

We have always been good about packing a spare set of clothing for our kids - for instances just like this. I think from here on I will do the same for myself.