One Couple's Stumblings Through Parenthood and Marriage

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Mommy Test

This was just forwarded to me by a buddy of mine. Thanks Alan!

The Mommy Test

I was out walking with my four-year-old daughter. She picked up something off the ground and started to put it in her mouth. I took the item away from her and I asked her not to do that.
"Why?" my daughter asked.
"Because it's been on the ground, you don't know where it's been, it's dirty and probably has germs" I replied.

At this point, my daughter looked at me with total admiration and asked, "Mommy, how do you know all this stuff?"
"Uh," I was thinking quickly. "All moms know this stuff. It's on the Mommy Test. You have to know it, or they don't let you be a Mommy."
We walked along in silence for 2 or 3 minutes, but she was evidently pondering this new information. "OH...I get it!" she beamed, "So if you don't pass the test you have to be the daddy."

"Exactly" I replied back with a big smile on my face.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Horsey Is Dead

Our weekend was a ... stressful ... one. All three of our girls were (and are) sick. I'm mean, the whole shabang - green-snot runny noses, leaking eyes, moaning and groaning, wallowing, and coughs that sound like our neighbor's dog's bark. This made for a weekend full of broken sleep, frustration, and feeling inadequate as a parent.

On Saturday we had to run to Costco to make some purchases - we had to resupply before our students ate everything we owned (yes, we bought a pile of more hotdogs). This wasn't the wisest decision, as it required that we strap our sick kids into carseats while we made our way to Sacramento. Long drives + colds = disaster.

Kate had left her favorite teddy bear, a pink horse aptly named 'Horsey', at home. She discovered Horsey's absence only once we reached the freeway. Instant and inconsolable crying resulted. No matter how we tried to reason with her, she wouldn't stop. After 15 minutes of her lamentation I finally lost it. "Horsey is DEAD! Horsey is GONE. There is NO MORE HORSEY!" I said. I didn't shout it. I just said it in my plain, though maniacally-flavored, voice.

Annie, who has a much larger store of patience than I, talked over me, thankfully, and managed to soothe our daughter before I could make an even bigger fool of myself. Kate doesn't have the existential awareness to understand "Horsey is dead," but "Horsey is gone" may have sent her into an epic fit.

I've really got to work on my temper. I took far too much visceral pleasure in announcing Horsey's death. Maybe counseling would help, too.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Spider Kids

Isn't this so true? You're so particular with your first kid (or kids if they are twins), but then your standards start .... sliding from there.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Betrayed by Lady Justice

I had to go to the courthouse in Fairfield today to dispute a speeding ticket I received in August. I had to defend my honor, and my family name!

I honestly believe I wasn't speeding. I was heading southbound on 113, and merging onto eastbound I80. I was pulled over by a CHP officer during one of their mass 'speed enforcement' operations. The officer who cited me wasn't even the one who LIDAR'd me. I thought for sure that I would be able to clear my good name. It must have been a case of mistaken identity, right?

The problems began right away. You see, as a habitually law-abiding citizen, I really have no idea how the court procedure works. The court papers that were mailed to me didn't even give me an address! Luckily I was able to track down the information online and show up on time. I was in my best (and only) suit, looking good and well groomed. I even had my obligatory day planner tucked under my arm. It didn't help. Wandering the halls of a vast courthouse, squinting at every door sign you can find tends to make you look and feel silly. Eventually, I found my courtroom and waited outside with the other 'accused' for the doors to open.

I was only in the courtroom for 45 minutes. This is where I really took a beating. My trial was the only for which both officers appeared (other 'accused' were let off because their one officer failed to appear). Also, I was the only 'accused' not represented by an attorney! I had to offer my testimony myself (in one of the trials before mine, the attorney kept saying "I object" to the officers testimony - and that guy got of clear and free!).

We were sworn in, and the judge asked the first officer to offer his testimony. He went on for over seven minutes, describing detail, almost a second by second breakdown, of how he spotted my car, used his LIDAR, pointed my car out to the other officer, got my license plate number, etc. He then launched in to a detailed report of how he used his LIDAR, the angles involved, the distance, the manufacturer of the LIDAR, the serial number, where, how, and when he was certified to use the LIDAR, how many continuing education courses he has taken in the LIDAR, how often the LIDAR is calibrated and tested, etc.

I tried taking notes at first (mainly to look like I knew what I was doing), but I finally gave up and just watched him prattle on. Once he was done, the officer who actually gave me the ticket rattled off a list of traffic and civic codes, and his procedure for taking my license number, etc. By this time I knew I was in way over my head. The judge turned to me and asked if I wished to cross-examine either officer.

I tried to sound important as I said, "No, Your Honor." He then asked me to offer my testimony. I stood up dramatically and approached the jury. I pounded my fist on the railing. I cited stare decisis, Brown vs. The Board of Education, the Federalist papers, I quoted from James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. I shined! The audience applauded until the judge had to call the court to order by banging with his gavel ...
Actually, my testimony pretty much boiled down to: "Uh, I didn't do it."

He asked if, since my car is so old, I had recently had my speedometer checked. Nope, I hadn't. He found that, "Due to the evidence provided by the officers, it is my belief that you were driving in excess of 65 miles per hour, and blah blah blah ..." I was stuck with the ticket, though he said I was eligible for traffic school.

What have I learned from this? If you actually want to dispute a speeding ticket, you should come to court with the following: the make, model, and serial number of your speedometer, a certification in speedometer reading, proof of speedometer calibration, your procedure for verifying daily that your speedometer is working correctly, and where and when you received your speedometer reading certificate. Without that, all you can do is hope the officer doesn't show up.

I understand that if the judge took my "Na-uh!" as evidence, then the court system would be rendered useless, but man, I really got robbed on this one!

As I left the courthouse, I saw Lady Justice outside. She was standing there in her toga, blindfolded, and holding the scales and sword. As I walked by she stuck her foot out and tripped me. I stumbled forward and skinned my knees and palms. Then she spit on me.

I am proud of myself, though. In a daring display of defiance, I drove my car through the heart of Solano County law enforcement and jurisprudence, teeming with CHP officers, with my license plate tags 3 months out of registration! Also, once I got on the freeway, I went 67 mph the entire way to work! That is sticking it to the man, baby!

Speeding ticket: $124
Traffic school: $24 and a Saturday lost
Being made a fool of in a court of law: priceless.

In the end, though, I feel no bitterness towards the officers. They were doing their duty, and I am grateful that we have so many men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line to keep us safe. It just sucks when the whole system backfires - especially on me!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Gotta Hide the Hotdogs

Last night Annie hosted a Pampered Chef party. We spent a good two hours preparing our house: cleaning, straightening, sweeping, and hiding things until the house was immaculate. The consultant showed up an hour beforehand with her husband to get everything set up. The place looked great.

As the guests arrived - a good 10-12 women - they were greeted by the smell of chocolate, because that was the theme. Oreo truffles, Valentine M&M cookies, and graham cracker chocolate dip were spread out on the dining room table. We had created the perfect sales environment. I managed the girls, leaving Annie to be the wonderful host that she is. The show went great. Everything had gone perfectly.

Until Ryo came home.

He walked in to see the gaggle of women, and was naturally surprised. Annie, figuring that he might be put out by the estrogen-charged atmosphere, said that he could take his dinner to his room. To her surprise, he declined. So, get this. Just as the show was drawing to a close, and all of the women were perusing the catalog to decide upon their purchases, Annie catches the strong, unmistakable odor of hotdogs. HOTDOGS!

She looks over to see Ryo carrying a plate loaded with three pieces of pizza and two plain, no-bun, freshly-microwaved hotdogs over to the dining room table. He sets his plate down and takes root right in the middle of the desert spread - right in front of the whole group!

Few things are as jarring as the smell of delicious chocolate competing with hotdog for nasal attention. Annie was horrified at how quickly the house went from the perfect baking sales environment to smelling like an AM/PM.

What is with this guy and hotdogs? Annie had specifically NOT set out any hotdogs for him to eat. Partly because we are rationing them for tomorrow night's pups-in-a-blanket, and partly because she wanted to avoid this very thing from happening. Nevertheless, he managed to locate some in the freezer, defrost them, and serve them up.

We love these students, and are happy to have them in our home, but desperate times call for desperate measures. We decided last night that we are going to have to store (hide) our hotdogs in the garage freezer. Oh ya, and invest Ball Park Franks stock.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Revealing Quality of Character

This is another installment of the Yuki and the Library Saga.

Yesterday Annie had two very telling conversations with our Japanese students. Yuki got home around 7:30. After he was done with dinner (a delicious tortilla pie made by Annie), he walked over to Annie:
Yuki: "Uh, I will be late all week."
Annie: "Every night? What about the weekends? Will you need dinner?"
Yuki: "Yes, every night. And Saturday and Sunday. No dinner."
Annie: [glances at me to make sure I am listening] "Where are you going to be?"
Yuki: "Uh, I will be at the library."
Annie: "Every night?"
Yuki: "Yes. I have a lot of homework"
Annie: "Do you need help?"
Yuki: "No. Thank you." (He then heads to his bedroom.)

I'll tell you what he needs! He needs to be taken over my knee for a spanking! Liar!

Then around 9:30 Ryo came walking in the door as Annie and I were watching some TV. His face was red and he looked bedraggled.
Ryo: "Sorry I am late."
Annie: "No problem. Are you cold?"
Ryo: "Yes, it is very cold."
Annie: "Your face is red."

Ryo: [touching his face and smiling sheepishly] "Yes, I was drinking with Tommi." (one of his fellow Japanese friends).
Annie: "OK. Where?"
Ryo: "At a bar in Davis."
Annie: "OK. Good night." (Ryo waves good night and disappears upstairs)

Which student is better? Both dialogues reveal quality of character, I believe. I can tell you that regardless of Ryo's drinking, I much prefer his conduct over the apparent deceit of Yuki - unless Yuki is trying to conceal some incredible humanitarian or charity work he is doing, which I find to be unlikely. Anyone volunteer to trail him?

Alas, such are the trials of a host parent. Luckily, Yuki is very friendly and always helps out around the house. I tell myself this as I worry myself to sleep at night.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Our Accommodations

I thought it would be nice to let you all know what we have sacrificed as a family to accommodate our new Japanese guests.

Adding two new adults to our house has resulted in less privacy for Annie and I. So, my sister gave us her little TV, we went to Walmart to buy a super cheap, uber-sale DVD/VCR player, and set up a little entertainment system in our bedroom.

Yep, that is the Wedding Singer. Also, do you see the rabbit ears? Oh yes - high tech. We get 4 channels! But, hey, now we can watch our recorded shows with some modicum of privacy.

Yuki, when he is not at the library, is sleeping in what used to be our playroom / Julia's bedroom. This means that all of the toys have been displaced to our garage and the front room. Julia's crib was moved to the twins' bedroom, making for a tight fit. How many small bedroom do you know that have three cribs in them? I felt like I was playing Tetris as I tried to make them all fit.

You will notice that we have a Tinkerbell rug and a Tinkerbell poster in there. What you can't see is the motorized Tinkerbell we have suspended from the ceiling that flaps her wings and flies in a circle when you flip her switch. Yes, our girls like Tinkerbell.

In fact, we have enrolled them in fairy-in-training courses. They passed the Tantrum Throwing and How to Be Jealous modules without a problem. Also, we have found that if we don't bathe them for several weeks, that they get so dirty that when we swat them, little clouds of dust fill the air. So far we have yet to determine the magical qualities of this dust. I don't think we'll be able to complete the next module, though. It requires that we have fairy wings grafted to their backs, and that procedure is very expensive and still experimental. I hate to break their little hearts.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Going to the Library

The third week with our students has begun. And so have the lies.

Things have actually been great with them. Both Ryo and Yuki are very friendly, and help out quite a bit. The kitchen is always clean, and they don't hang out in our front room all of the time. They are great with the girls, and perhaps even too tolerant. For instance, yesterday Genna spent a good 10 minutes throwing hard plastic balls at Ryo, laughing the whole time. All Ryo did was sit on the floor and say 'no.' It didn't stop her.

However, there has been an interesting development with Yuki. He has been getting home pretty late at night, and has been off on his own during the weekends. This is a wonderful thing, and I have no complaints. The problem, if you care to call it that, comes in when he tells us where he is going.

On Friday night he didn't get in til almost midnight. The next day Annie asked him where he
was. He said, "Ah, I was eating sushi. I went to the library, too." Annie and I looked at each other - no, don't think so. He then told us that he would be out late and wouldn't need dinner because he was going to the library. He left at 10 am. Hmmm. 12 hours at the library?

Annie, being the sneaky investigator she is, had a conversation with Ryo a bit later. She told him how Yuki was out late, and how he said that he was eating sushi and at the library. Ryo looked at her with a surprised look on his face, and asked, "Really?" He started cracking up. She then told him how he said he would be at the library all day on Saturday. He said, "Really?" and began laughing again. He knows full well that Yuki isn't being forthright with us.

Then yesterday, Yuki walked up to me in the morning and said, "Justin, I do not want to go to church. I will go to the library." I looked over to Annie and we began laughing.

Who does he think he is fooling? How can he think we'll believe that he is spending every free moment at the UCD Library? More importantly, though, why does he feel compelled to lie to us? He is older than me! What he does outside of my house is none of my business - he is under no obligation to keep me informed. I feel like I have a teenager in my home - maybe I should start staying up late waiting for him, then give him a scolding for making me worry.

Do you see a pattern here? Ryo has gone to church with us every Sunday now. Yuki, however, went home early from church last week, and didn't even come this week. See? First the lies, and then avoiding church? I may have to ground him.

Yesterday, after Yuki departed for the 'library,' I got the girls into their high chairs for breakfast. Kate asked, "Is Yuki at the library?" I shook my head sadly and said to myself, No, Kate, he is not.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


You don't know me. Don't judge me. I only put these here because I know my wife likes Tinkerbell. Not me, though. No, I prefer Captain Hook and that crocodile. The Indians are cool, too. Don't judge me. Stop looking at me. provides  free video and photo hosting and sharing provides  free video and photo hosting and sharing provides  free video and photo hosting and sharing provides  free video and photo hosting and sharing provides  free video and photo hosting and sharing provides  free video and photo hosting and sharing provides  free video and photo hosting and sharing provides  free video and photo hosting and sharing provides  free video and photo hosting and sharing

Friday, January 20, 2006

I've Failed as a Parent

I have failed both as a biological and a host father. Let me start with Kate.

We got home a bit late last night, so the girls were cranky, tired, and hungry. After a delicious dinner (that I prepared!) I gave the twins a bath. Both of them love bath time. When it is time to get out and I approach the tub with the towels in hand, they always point to the other twin and say "How about Genna/Kate?" Last night it was Kate's turn to go first. This provoked an epic fit.

Trying to contain a tweaking-out child while she is soaking wet and slippery is never easy. I quickly bundled her up in the towel and walked over to stand in front of our full length mirror. I was trying to be funny and make her laugh, thereby short-circuiting the fit. It didn't work. She kept at it. So, I began swinging her back and forth. After about the third swing I began to hear water splattering noises on the floor. Guess what? Kate was peeing. On me. Literally. I got her so mad that she began to pee on me! I had failed. Annie believes that her tantrum simply distracted her from maintaining proper bladder control. I don't think so. I think it was anger-pee.

But I also failed as a host parent to my Japanese students. We have had them for almost two weeks now. During that time we have fed them beef stroganoff, tacos, tatertot casserole, spaghetti, cheeseburgers, and several other wonderful dishes. They have always made a point of letting us know how much they like the food - usually by nodding several times and going back in for seconds. Last night was different.

Since we got in so late, I whipped up a pile of grilled cheese sandwiches and a pot of tomato soup. Who doesn't love a good grilled cheese sandwich? I know who - Ryo. After I got the twins hooked up with some food, I fed him next. He ate the first sandwich without comment, along with the soup. But then I placed the second sandwich on his plate. Now, for those of you who don't know - Japanese men (especially the ones who have stayed at our house) eat a lot. But not last night. Ryo actually walked back into the kitchen and placed the grilled cheese sandwich back on my tray! He didn't like it! Then Yuki came home, and I presented the food to him. Ryo began talking to him in Japanese, which made me nervous. I can only imagine that he was warning his fellow student against the gaijin sandwich I had made.

Annie suggested that next time, I add some hotdogs to the grilled cheese sandwiches - they'll be sure to enjoy them then. That made me laugh - the one bright moment in an otherwise urine and disappointment stained evening.

See, I failed as a parent. I made Kate so angry that she peed on me, and then I disappointed my students with my inadequate culinary skills. I only hope that my students aren't also angry with me. And if they are, I hope they don't decide to pee on me, too. That would be too much.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Mystery Continues

I have been trying to get to the bottom of why our Japanese students consume so many hotdogs, and in such unusual ways (in enormous bowls of ramen, in egg and bean filled tortillas ...). My buddy, Alan, has done some research on his own. He has a Japanese friend who he emailed about this phenomenon. Here was his friend's response:

"Hotdogs in Ramen? I never heard of that ... I think hotdogs are similar to Japan but we usually eat hotdogs as hotdogs. Those students have different habits from average Japanese, I guess. Hope this help."

Thank you, Yosuke (via Alan), that does help. It appears that my students are aberrant. That comforts me and disturbs me. First, my faith in the Japanese people is restored. On the other hand, though, it means that my new housemates are misfits. I must remain vigilant ...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Difficulties with the Language

No, this isn't about our Japanese students. This post is about my daughters.

Both love to sing, but rare is the song for which they actually understand all of the words. They, especially Kate, really love Christmas songs, and still sing them.

Here are some exerpts from Kate's repertoir. Bear in mind, she doesn't just sing, she belts it:

"Frosty the snowman! Was a jolly on his way!"

also ...

"Joy to the world, the Lord er time. The Lord, The Lord, THE LORD!"

And then Annie reported this conversation she had with the girls yesterday. Annie was sitting on the couch when Genna walked up to her (the twins are only 2 and a half years old):

Genna: "Mommy, I want to get married."
Annie: "What?"
Genna: "I want to get married."
Annie: "You want to get married?"
Genna: "Ya."
Annie: "OK. But you aren't old enough for that. You are too young."
Kate: (who has been listening from across the room) "I not too OLD!"

We can only imagine that they have caught on to the whole marriage thing from seeing Annie and I's weddings photos, and also from the fact that pretty much every Disney princess movie ends with a happily married heroine.

Gotta love their imperfect, but very cute, lack of mastery of the English language.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Japanese Diet

Is there something I don't understand about the Japanese diet? Last night we had a 'clean out the fridge' night - so, admittedly, it was a bit of a free-for-all. We laid out some tortillas, beans, and lettuce, and I made my patented taco meat scrambled eggs. Annie and I made our plates, and invited Ryo to do the same.

While Annie and I ate, we watched out of the corner of our eye as Ryo made his dinner. He assembled two of these: a tortilla filled with the scrambled eggs, shredded cheese, a lot of lettuce, beans, and two whole hotdogs. HOTDOGS! As you have noticed from previous posts, our students also put hotdogs in every bowl of ramen they make. We didn't even set the hotdogs out! His two tortilla ... things ... were absolutely huge and lumpy.

Yuki came home about an hour later, and also put hotdogs in his tortilla concoction. I honestly had no idea that the Japanese had such a fascination with hotdogs. We are going to have to find a wholesaler for them. We are going through them way too fast.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Linguistic Insensitivity

Yuki and Ryo have come to church with us both Sundays now. Ryo, in particular, has enjoyed it, and not only stayed for all three hours yesterday, but even went to choir practice with Annie.

This has been fun for us because we have a couple of ward members who served their missions in Japan, and are therefore able to communicate well with our students. The downside is that their conversations leave me on the sidelines, trying to jump in, and making a fool of myself. Take this conversation that happened between Ryo and one of our ward members, John, yesterday after Sunday School.

John: "I used to visit a small town on the coast in Japan where all of the kids would fly kites."
Ryo: "Um, what?"
John: "You know, kites - tako."
Ryo: "Oh, yes, tako."
John: "Of course, not to be confused with (at this point I thought he was going to say 'taco'- but no) tako."
Ryo: "Oh, yes, tako [laughs]."
Justin: (I couldn't help myself) "What is the second tako?"
John: "It means octopus. Octopus and kite share the same word in Japanese."
Justin: (Now making a fool of myself) [Laughing and turning to Ryo] "So, do you ever eat a tako taco while flying a tako? (I thought that was worth a laugh at least)."
Ryo: [Confused look on his face].
John: "He means a Mexican taco. An octopus taco."
Ryo: "Oh. No." [Awkward silence that ends in me having to walk away]

But, of course, I didn't stop there, no. This next conversation happened about an hour and a half later over lunch. Annie, Ryo, and I were sitting at that table.

Justin: "Hey, Annie. Guess how you say 'kite' in Japanese."
Annie: "How?"

Justin: "Tako."
Annie: "What - like 'taco'?"
Justin: "No, T-A-K-O - tako. Now guess how you say 'octopus'."
Annie: "Hmmm ... burrito?" [We both laugh - after all, great minds think alike. Ryo gives a courtesy laugh and leaves].

Are we being culturally - or at least linguistically - insensitive here? Do we need some sort of training or seminar?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Won't They Learn?

Our students are turning out to have a smaller impact on our lifestyles than we had feared. They come home around 7:30, and usually disappear to their rooms around 9ish. That has been nice.

Both have decided to purchase bicycles. That is good, but I am afraid it might lead to some problems. One of my sister-in-law's students had his bike stolen the day after he bought it. He didn't know that parking a bike at a mall, and then locking only the front wheel to the bike rack is a bad idea (even after her husband warned him against doing just that). When he came home from school, his ride was missing.

We talked to our students about this, and they laughed, thinking it was hilarious. I appreciated this. But then I asked Ryo where his bike was, and he said it was out front. Sure enough, he had parked it, locked only to itself, in front of the house! Didn't he get it? I told him to bring the bike around to the backyard, because it was guaranteed to get stolen. He jumped right up and did it. Problem solved.

But then last night I took the garbage to the sidewalk and looked to see that his bike was parked out front again! He had already gone to bed, so I moved the bike myself. I was tempted to hide it from him to teach him a lesson, but then I remembered that he isn't my child. I envy these guys for living in a country where theft is so rare. But man, you've got to understand, anything that isn't bolted to the concrete here is fair game for thieves. Don't they believe us when we warn them, or do they think we are only joking?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Toy or Liability

The other night Annie gave the girls the last of the mini M&Ms they had from their stockings. That left an empty plastic container. Annie held it up to me and said, "This will be a fun toy for the girls in the tub."

"No, that's a liability," I said. She knew exactly what I meant. You see, with little kids, every toy is more than just something they play with. It is also something, that if lost or damaged or taken away, will result in crying and lamentation. This is doubly true for twins, or any kids that are close in age. If we only have one of any given toy, the odds of them fighting over it are very high.

Sure enough, last night in the tub, Kate was playing with the new M&M container, and Genna wanted one, too. I had to (well, I chose to) empty the other container into a baggy so they both would have one to play with. Toys can be such liabilities.

On the plus side, toys can also be leverage. I used this age-old classic on Genna last night, with remarkable results: "If you don't stop fussing, I will take away your necklaces." What do you know, she suddenly lost her will to fuss.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My Japanese Bistro

Last night I was home alone with the kids - meaning my daughters and students. That also meant that all of us menfolk were on our own as far as dinner went.

Ryo came home first and made his dinner. I can't say how he did it, but he managed to make my house smell like a Japanese restaurant. I just don't get it. We have only American ingredients. We didn't purchase any new types of food for the students, but somehow, he was able to cook up a very large batch of ramen that made my house smell like downtown Tokyo. How did he do that? How did he take your average American home, with your average American foods, and make it smell like your average Japanese bistro? I casually walked by his bowl and glanced over to see its contents. Nothing special, just a lot of noodles, broth, some veggies, and sliced hotdogs (Annie loves that last ingredient - yummy).

I am utterly dumbfounded. When Annie came home several hours later, she commented on it, too. It is a mystery. A dark, foreboding mystery.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Mistaken Identity

On Sunday, while spending the evening at my wife's sister's house, Annie and I were reminded of an event that had happened several months ago.

We had put Kate to bed in my sister-in-law's bedroom. On the inside of the door, her husband had put up a poster of Arnold Schwarzenegger posing on Venice Beach. It is a black-and-white photo, and shows Arnie in 'The Oak' pose, displaying his youthful, muscle-bound, prize-winning prime (similar to the pose to the right).

When she woke up I went in to get her. I picked her up, and she pointed at the poster and said, "Look, it's Jesus!"

After I stopped laughing I wasn't sure what to say. So, I said, "No, Kate, that is our governor." Then I started laughing again. I think it was just as confusing for me as it was for her.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Two More Children

Everything went very smoothly with picking up the two new additions to our household and bringing them home. Ryo and Yuki are both very nice and respectful. We don't have any complaints. Well, almost.

It is hard to add two adults to an already full house. Take yesterday. They came to church with us, which was nice. Several ward members had served or worked in Japan, and so were able to talk to them in their native tongue. It was a great experience for them. But, when we came home, everything went to pot.

Annie stays after at church because she is the choir director. This means that I take all the girls home - and now, two Japanese students - all by myself. It was like having five kids. Kate, Genna, and Julia were doing a combination of running wild and crying. The students had forgotten where everything in the kitchen was, so I had to direct them on where to find the ingredients and equipment to make their oh-so-appetizing ramen noodle / egg / hotdog stew. When Annie finally came home, I had reached the boiling point. She took over management of Julia, and things got a lot better.

In many ways, the students are like additional children. Upside: they can feed themselves and they come potty trained. Downside: they eat a lot more and we have to transport them to more places.

It was even tempting to go tuck them in at night, just like how we do it with the girls.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Preparing for the Invasion

Tomorrow we will have new guests in our house: two Japanese men. They are agricultural students and will be staying with us for twelve weeks.

To accommodate them, we will be using the loft as one bedroom, and we had to clear out the girls' playroom (which also doubled as Julia's bedroom) for the other. This second task has been the most arduous. All of the play stuff has been moved to the great room, which we were afraid would make our girls upset, or at least make them begrudge the students who have temporarily displaced them. But once I explained that their great-grandfather helped to defeat the Japanese in World War II, the girls felt much better about it.

Here is a brief profile of our two students (both male):

Ryo, age: 24. He describes his personality as "mild dispotion" (misspelling was his). His expectations for his family stay are: "lively family." (with twin two-year-olds and a six-month-old that won't be a problem).

Tomoyuki, age: 30. His hobbies are: Hiking and Coffee. (This might be a problem. The closest thing resembling even a hill in Woodland is the landfill. Also, coffee? Sorry, not here. But my pal Ian might hook you up).

These will not be our first foreign exchange students. We have had two Japanese students before, and one Chilean. Ultimately, we do it for the money, but it is also a lot of fun getting to know them and to learn about their culture, and to teach them about ours. I have learned from past experience that, this time, I need to set a few ground rules from the get-go:

1) They must refer to me as Justin-san.

2) No Sumo-wrestling or Hara-Kiri - both are messy and make for insurance liabilities.

3) Don't try to pass off Saki as a simple rice drink. I don't want Kate drunk again.

4) They must honor me for owning a Toyota Corolla.

5) They can't discuss Japanese dominance of the electronics market.

6) They are encouraged to discuss the U.S. military presence in their country.

7) Finally - they must bring a kimono for Annie ... don't ask.

We expect to have some bumpy times with these two chaps, but it should be fun. Our experience has been that Japanese students are always very polite and respectful. My sister-in-law, who lives in the same town as us, is also getting two students from the same group. It is our hope that these four will hit it off, and go OUT - not stay in our homes the whole time.

If I don't post for two days, it is because something has gone wrong, and they have taken over our house - Empire of the Sun-style.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Daddy Withdrawals

I am going through some serious daddy withdrawals. The holiday season allowed me to have two 3 1/2 weekends at home, back to back. I got to spend so much time with my girls (that includes my wife!), but now I am back at work, and life is back to being lame - well, less child-filled.

Should I feel bad that my main ambition in life isn't to get some kick-butt career, but rather to set up a financial situation where I can stay at home - or with my family, wherever that may be - as much as possible? I hope not, because that is what I am shooting for. Any ideas on how to make a lot of money without much effort? Legally (that's for you, Ian)?

Here is one: all of you come to my blog more often (and at and visit my advertising as much as possible. That might do the trick! Go ahead ... click away ... it is fun and free ...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Whole New World

Don't worry. This isn't another post involving "The Little Mermaid." No, this has to do with two new, high-impact changes we made last night involving our three daughters.

1) Operation: Teddy Down-size. Teddy bears are a double-edged sword. On the positive side, children love them, and they help get the kids to sleep. On the negative side, the kids have a hard time sleeping without them. Since our twins don't sleep with a night light, if they loose track of one of their teddy bears and then wake up and can't find them, the resulting crying and calls for "KITTY!" make for broken sleep for mom and dad. Therefore, Annie decided yesterday that our girls would get one item each to sleep with, not two, or three, or more. Kate gets horsey Genna gets baby. That is it. Both are easy to find, and keeping track of one 'teddy bear' is far easier than several. Result: we only had one call out for Kitty from Genna during the night. Very nice.

2) Operation: Child Consolidation. Last night we put all three girls down in the same room, at the same time. Julia, despite being six months old, now shares a bedroom with her twin sisters. We were very nervous and thought it was certain that the twins' playing and singing in their cribs would keep Julia awake. We put them all down at 7:30, and told the twins to keep quiet so Julia could sleep. But they were very excited to have her in the room with them. As soon as we closed the doors, Kate & Genna began singing "Julia" by the Beatles. Very cute, but potentially disastrous. Much to our surprise and joy, Julia slept through everything: their singing, laughing, playing, and crying. All three slept in til 7:30 the next morning!

I am so impressed by my girls right now. They are pretty much the best daughters ever. For now.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

FOR HIRE: Exorcist

Why is it that when children (toddlers and younger) wake up in the middle of the night, it is never to laugh, or sing, or shout for joy. It is always to cry and fuss. Or, in the case of Genna last night, to groan, snarl, and scream as though possessed by a demon.

It happened several times, which made for a wonderful night of sleep. The first couple times, Annie and I alternated and would go in there to settle her down. She would just be lying in her crib, thrashing and screeching. She wouldn't utter a single word - unless she was actually speaking in demonese. Each time I walked intothe room, I expected to find her floating in her crib, bathed in an orange hell-fire glow. Thankfully, that didn't happen.

I finally figured out that she wasn't awake during these episodes. So, the next time she started up, I grasped her shoulder and shook her to wake her up. It didn't work - she kept up her banshee wail. I then picked her up and held her out at arm's length. It was dark, but I could tell by her silhouette that she hadn't sprouted batwings or horns. That was a good sign. I began talking to her, "Genna, where's daddy? Where's daddy?" After asking her about five times, she leaned in to kiss my cheek. Could she be returning from Hades? I then asked, "Where's kitty?" (her favorite pink beanie-babies kitty). At last, human speech returned to her. She pointed into her crib, and said, "Kitty's in there." I handed her the kitty and she laid her head against my shoulder.

She didn't make another peep after that. Perhaps I have some talent at exorcism. I'll try using it again tonight - Julia is getting her six-month shots, and will quite likely require some demons to be cast out.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Pushover Penguin

What better way to kick off the new year than with a picture of a penguin pushing another penguin? provides  free video and photo hosting and sharing