5.31.2006

Rush Hour on the Information Superhighway

You know how the freeway is always much faster than the surface streets?

Except at rush hour.

At which point it becomes w a a a a y y y y slower.

Well that's how it is with dsl and dialup.

5.30.2006

Why is it...

...that when you're running late you hit all the red lights...

...and when you desperately need to blow your nose, you hit all the green ones?

5.26.2006

The Fog

As a birthday gift, Andy took the kids to the zoo so I could compose. And here I am trying to find excuses to distract myself.

It's the same experience that Andy talks about with Geometry, I think. Staring into the utter chaos of the unknown and willing your mind to move forward.

Step

by step.

note

by note.

chord

by recalcitrant chord.

It's hard. It hurts. It's exhausting.

Above all, it's terrifying.

Because if I push through the fog and darkness, there will be music.

And I'm so afraid that my soul will burst with the exhiliration.

A warm welcome

After two long years in Cameroon, Sharon is finally back in California. I desperately wanted to meet her at LAX... but I got mixed up about the day, and missed my chance.

It was around 3:00 Wednesday afternoon when I realized that Sharon was not actually coming in on Thursday, but HAD arrived at 10:30 Wednesday morning. Desperately anxious to see her, I tried to track her down that evening. To no avail. She was off someplace with Jim. Surprise, surprise. It's probably just as well that I couldn't find his cell phone number, because then I would have had a terrible, guilt-wracked battle with myself over whether or not I was going to interrupt their first afternoon together since he flew down to Africa to propose six months ago.

As it was, all I could do was debate with myself how late I dared try calling her hosts again. In the end,I decided I really didn't dare call back at all, just leave a message and wait by the phone.

I wanted to call her first thing in the morning. I rationalized it to myself, saying that Sharon has always been an early riser, and jet-lag is on my side here...

But in the end, I waited, glancing at the clock incessantly, until the sensible hour of 8:30.

At which point I promptly discovered that she'd been doing the same for the past hour and a half.

At any rate, she and Jim were going to jaunt about hither and thither and yon, meeting various long-missed friends. They were meeting some of Jim's Fullerton pals at 1, and then they would just bop down the street to our house.

In my head, I knew full well that I shouldn't expect them until rather later in the afternoon, but from around 1:30 on, I jumped up and looked out the window every time I heard an approaching vehicle.

I talked to Andy on his cell phone at 3:30. He told me that a nurse from the insurance company was coming at 4:30. After the third kid arrives, it's time to beef up the life insurance, and of course the underwriters wanted to verify that he was't likely to make use of such a policy.

Shoot. I thought that was next week. Well, maybe Sharon and Jim and I can take the kids to the park or something.

Car after car passed right by our driveway, but finally, shortly after 4, one of them actually pulled. A willowy red-head stepped out and started walking toward our door. She'd changed a lot. Two years in Africa must have aged her twenty. I hardly recognized her.

I rushed to the door with my arms wide open, excitedly calling out my welcome. "Sharon!"

Inches away from a hearty embrace, I screeched to a halt, reeling with disorientation, and struggling to keep my balance while fighting the momentum propelling me into a stranger's arms.

She had a stethescope around her neck.

Sharon and Jim eventually did arrive, and the nurse was gone by then, and we had a wonderful evening together.

But when Sharon came to the door, I couldn't greet her with a hug. In fact, I had to send Andy to answer the door.

My hands were covered in pizza dough.

5.25.2006

Heading straight over to the "do-not-call" registry

Dear "Tricia from the financial dept.", "Tim with the mortgage company", et. al.;

Actually, you can't give us a better rate on our mortgage. We rent. And Kelly, I think you have the wrong number, because your answering machine can't possibly be returning a call we never made. Especially not a call about mortgage rates, because like I said, we rent.

And Karen from AOL, why no, we are not current subscribers. For a very long list of very good reasons... but I'm sure you don't want to hear them, so please stop calling me before I feel compelled to list them off.

Most importantly, Officer Young, you know how they say that you should put potential customers at ease by calling them by their full name instead of just asking for the lady of the house? Well, it really doesn't work if you start off saying you're from the Police.

But I do hope your fundraiser goes well.

Really.

Sincerely,
Elena Johnston

Well, as a matter of fact...

Nathan looked over my shoulder as I was browsing the internet.

The article I was skimming happened to feature an image of a certain Hollywood plastic surgeon.

The sweet bug-o-mine pointed excitedly.

"Quack! Quack!"

5.23.2006

Foaming at the mouth

I'm not entirely sure how soap ended up on my toothbrush.

I am quite sure how I feel about it.

Oh, the words that could have come out of my mouth...

Except that there was no way I wanted to wash it out again.

Brain Transplant

Andy insists it's more like a soul transplant. I don't know about that... but it was still pretty creepy.

It was amazingly simple. We left all the complicated details untouched. The keyboard, the monior the mouse... all the same. Just disconnect a few wires, find a place for the new box, plug it all in again, and you're good to go.

Even the dsl modem that we didn't pay $200 to have the technician install... so easy.

The hardest part of the whole process was figuring out how to turn the thing on. (Nothing's happening. Is the power supply connected? Oh... wait... that's the eject button for the 3.5...)

But when all was in place, and we finally found the right button...

The screen lit up emblazoned with the Compaq logo.

Not Toshiba.

And it's waking-up routine was all wrong.

Where was the endless series of warnings? It was supposed to inform us that the computer was positively on the verge of exploding... really shouldn't boot up... oh, if you insist... just this once...

No warnings, not error notices, no nothing.

It just... well... booted up.

Normally.

Which is abnormal enough, but on top of that, the order was all wrong, the fonts were all wrong. Everything. It was all wrong.

We stared incredulously.

And when it booted up, it was an entirely different computer. But with the same monitor, complete with the streaks from when Nathan "washed" it for me yesterday, and the same keyboard and the same mouse. The same body, really.

Nothing had changed except everything, and it spooked me out.

And when I looked over and saw that it spooked him out in exactly the same way, with the same proportions of glee and discomfort metaphysical musings, I remembered again why we were meant to be together.

Brain transplants are just so much more fun that way.

5.22.2006

Soul Food

I figured it’d be a good idea to find out what all the hubbub was about, so I finally read The Da Vinci Code.It was a blast. Nothing spectacular, just a fast-paced thriller dealing with important spiritual themes. Rather along the lines of the Left Behindseries (as far as genre goes, not content), although perhaps not as well written. Dan Brown may not have much of a way with words—even the (overabundant) anagrams were spectacularly dull—but the plot was fabulous. That bit in the second chapter with the bar of soap and the GPS? So. Much. Fun.

And the way he jumbled together various elements of history was absolutely hilarious. A gnostic sect preserving knowledge of Christ’s... humanity? The ironic twists are riotously funny on so many levels. That he’s using this novel to blind the historically ignorant masses to the true nature of gnosticism just makes the inside jokes that much funnier. I suppose it would be funnier still if I was the sort of person (ie. a gnostic heretic) who generally liked the idea of keeping truth away from the general population.

At any rate, the big thing I learned from the DVC is that life is ever so much sweeter when I’m in the middle of a just-for-fun book. And Kripkedoesn’t count, even if he is amazingly light and fast-paced for a philosopher, and truly quite a fun read.

I need some mystery and adventure.

So I picked up a collection of Chesterton short stories, The Innocence of Father Brown.Fun, fun, fun.

And of course, I expected it to be fun. That is, after all, why I checked it out of the library. What I didn’t expect was for it to be brilliant and important.

But every bit as surprising as the doddering old priest who solves the mystery, is the light-hearted mystery story that turns all our ideas about faith and reason inside out.

If that wasn’t enough, as I began re-reading some of the stories aloud to my husband, I kept seeing crazy patterns to the structure of the book as a whole. Like theological banter, pretty much irrelevant to the plot at hand... but those ideas are the underlying theme to the next short story. Which has irrelevant theological banter of its own, which... well, you get the idea.

But the most amazing thing of all is that Chesterton’s ideas would so naturally express themselves in this way. It is a winsome Christianity indeed, that flows out in such sweetness and wit.

G. K. Chesterton is a newfound hero of mine.

5.21.2006


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The Dread Pirate Tembo Posted by Picasa

Whee! Posted by Picasa

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Doopahs with the Dadders. Posted by Picasa

I think I see some monkeys... Posted by Picasa

5.20.2006

Graduation

Last night I was amazed, and a little bit wistful at how hugemongomous my (once) tiny baby had become.

This morning, when I looked at her delicate features perfect form, rising and falling with each sleepy breath, I realized that she was the tiniest little doopah-girl imaginable.

She's growing up.

Experimenting with Forms

Since I'm not studying Plato, I'm studying philosophy of play-dough, instead.

I love recipe*zaar.

Thousands and thousands of recipes. Some of them are good, some of them are lousy... but most of them have reader comments explaining why they are good or lousy, and how they experimented with the recipe, and how their experimentation made the recipe better or lousier.

And best of all, you can sort the recipes according to rating.

So lately, whenever I'm looking for a recipe, I'll just examine the top three or four recipes that dozens of people have given 5 stars. I'll also read a bunch of the comments, and get a feel for what made each of the five star recipes so great. Then I'll try to combine the best elements of each recipe, and come up with my own.

So here's the play dough I made yesterday. And I must say, I liked it very much.

Combine in medium saucepan:
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup salt

Add:
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Knead together with a big spoon over low heat.

A few drops at a time, slowly add 3/4 cup water, fully incorporating the water before adding more.

Keep kneading it over the stove until it feels like... well... play-dough.

Color as desired.

I divided it into two lumps, and used six drops of blue in the one, six drops of green in the other. My aesthetic sensibilities would not allow me to give them a variety of colors that would inevitably mix together into a revolting sludge.

It's a little bit oily, so do be careful not to get it on things. But then again, you knew to be careful already, since it has food coloring in it. And the oil is what keeps the salt from drying your hands out.

I'm going to keep experimenting, and tweaking things, but I do think it turned out well.

5.19.2006

Pruning

I won't be taking the Republic Meta-Torrey next fall. It's a strange feeling. I've wanted so desperately to take that class for the last five years or so, and for the first time, it finally fits beautifully into my schedule. It's on one of Andy's days off and everything... it's just perfect.

But I've decided to sign up for the regular Junior Fall class instead. They haven't posted the readings yet, so I'm not even sure what I'll be studying. I'm pretty sure it's the Russians, but they've been shuffling things up so much, I don't really know exactly. Anyway, it's not some consuming passion, some particular topic that I desire even more than Plato, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Just Junior Fall, the ordinary, year after year upper-division course that happens to mesh with my schedule. It meshes with my schedule almost as well as the Republic class.

When I was a Freshman, the Republic turned my world inside-out and upside-down. The universe opened up as something more real and more beautiful than I'd ever imagined.

When I was a Sophomore, a group of twelve blessed, blessed upperclassmen studied Plato all semester long. I burned with desire to join them, but I was a lowly Sophomore.

When I was a Junior, all the groups were splitting up, going in different directions, and we, the people of Rossetti, wanted to stick together. So we proposed a class on Augustine's Confessions, and in that way we stayed together one semester more. I wanted to take the Republic, but I wanted to stay with Rossetti more.

That Spring it became futile to try to stay together anymore, so I could have taken the Republic... except that Dr. Reynolds was teaching a class on the philosophy of science. And that was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. The topic had nothing to do with my particular interests, except in so far as clarity on that issue is essential to anyone who wishes to be a thinking person in a science-driven world. Whether or not I was particularly passionate about the topic, I needed to understand these things, and Dr. Reynolds is right up there at the forefront of this area.

And then I had babies, and the next chance I had to take a class, they were offering philosophy of music, which is exactly my thing...

But now, finally, I could take the Republic... and I'm not going to.

Not that I wouldn't love to. But it's not really what I need right now. I guess I've already done the Plato thing, and it's time to move on.

Not that I know all there is to know about Plato, just that I probably know all the Plato I need to know right now. My academic place in the Kingdom is not as a Plato scholar. I am to be a composer and a philosopher of music. And Plato really does have a place in all that. It was the Republic, after all, that convinced me that philosophy of music is of earth-shattering importance, closely intertwined with the rise and fall of nations and souls.

I know I'll be coming back to the Republic, but right now, what I need is a solid broad foundation, and some good hard-core analytic philosophy.

The Republic would be good, so good, and it hurts not to take it. But there's only so much I can do, and I know I need to sacrifice the good for the better.

And I'm reminded of a quotation Jessica brought up in a recent online discussion.


"To live is to choose, and to choose is to deny oneself. The person who wants to
do too many things in life, or cultivates innumerable interests and hobbies, is
dispersed, and will not be outstanding in anything.
"One must have the
courage to make choices, to put some secondary interests to one side to
concentrate on the primary. To prune!"
— Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa

5.18.2006

Futility

We were all hungry when Andy got home, so I whipped up some french toast, and we ate right away. Thus it was that we were done with supper at 4:30, leaving the evening wide open.

Nathan pounced on Andy, book in hand, and demanded a story. As they snuggled up together in the glider, Andy proposed that after the story, he would slip off to Starbucks for a bit of solitude. Then he’d come back and give me a chance to get out of the house.
I thought that sounded like a good idea. Maybe he could read TWO stories, though? That way I’d be able to get in a quick shower.

I’d actually bathed earlier in the day. Sort of. Mostly. Except Tembo started screaming, and I hopped out to console her, dripping wet and wrapped in a towel. As I nursed her back into her nap, the boys pulled down the full length mirror and started jumping on it. The four-foot strip of glass rippled ominously beneath their weight. I quickly set the baby down (completely waking her up again) and whisked the mirror back into our bedroom.

I was amazed and relieved that the mirror had not broken. Broken mirrors are an ill omen indeed with toddlers about. Nothing is ever quite so fascinating (or yummy, for that matter) as broken glass. I was ever so glad that we were going to make it through this fiasco without injury.

The wuggy-boys, on the other hand, were horrified and indignant that I was taking away their wonderful toy. And you have to admit, it must be a pretty amazing experience to jump on a mirror, with no floor that you can see, and an image of yourself jumping upside-down beneath you.... But take it away, I did, and Nathan ran behind me, screaming his protest.

I tucked the mirror just inside the bedroom, and quickly shut the door. Nathan just stood there and wailed.

His finger was stuck in the hinge side of the door.

A little neosporin and a lot of kisses... tickles for distraction... a bandaid and a thousand hugs and two Tylenol Meltaways... Several rouns of altoids, because it’s not fair that Isaiah can’t have the yummy Tylenol... and several more rounds of Altoids, as I quickly gathered up the spilled tin...

Nathan was okay.

Eventually.

But my hair was still very much in need of a wash. I was glad of the chance to hop back in the shower while Andy read to the boys.

By the time I emerged from the bathroom, clean and fresh, they were done reading and had moved on to another fun activity.

We quickly passed off the reins, so to speak. Andy kissed me, then gleefully hopped into the car, eager for his hour of Euclid, and I settled into the chair on the porch steps to supervise the mud-pie project.

As the little green Tercel turned around the corner, out of sight, the irony began to dawn on me.

Cleanliness may well be next to godliness, but I’m afraid it’s far away from motherhood.

5.16.2006

Problem is, I'll never be able to drink Starbucks again.

I just got back from a coffee tasting. Well, not exactly. I got back shortly after midnight, and there was some sleeping done between then and now, but the caffein is still coursing through me, so I snapped wide awake when Andy left for work four hours later. Maybe I'll be able to get some composing in before the kids wake up.

Anyway, it was a blast. Greg and Christina Peters hosted, but Sara Prehn presided over all coffee preparation. I had heard that she was a coffee snob, but I had no idea to what extent. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea how far it was possible for coffee-snobbery to extend. Anyway, over the course of the evening, I learned much about the home-roasting process, and how the various stages bring out the different flavors, and how each region infuses its coffee with its own particular flavor.

Frankly, that last bit was mildly disturbing, given that the coffee of the night was Kopi Luwak. I'd explain, except that this is a family blog. Just google it. There's even a search box for you in the sidebar. Be enlightened.

At any rate, despite its sordid past, the coffee was sublime and multi-layered. Ethereal and earthy, the sort of thing you'd expect dryads to drink.

If dryads drank coffee.

5.14.2006

The Great Similac Conspiracy

From time to time we get a newsletter from the Love and Logic people. It makes for enjoyable reading—the articles offer generally sensible perspectives on various aspects of parenting, and they always use entertaining stories to get the point across. Nothing earth-shattering, since it’s all pretty much the same stuff as in the books. The latest one, however, sparked an epiphany, and I’ve been mulling over it for the past few weeks. In case you’re wondering why I’ve slacked off on the posting, this is why. My noggin has been way too busy. Mulling, mulling, mulling. Anyway, this article attempted to explain and remedy dental fear, and suddenly, all sorts of things started clicking into place. The woman at the learning store... the diaper bag full of glossy pamphlets... it all made sense now.

You see, pain and discomfort used to be inherent to any dental work, but the drugs and procedures have come a long way, and it simply is not as big a deal as it used to be. Still, many kids are terrified of the dentist. Jim Fay surmises that this has little to do with the child’s actual experience in the dentist’s chair, and, ironically enough, everything to do with the parent’s fervent attempts to reassure them.

Our unspoken assumptions impact our children far more powerfully than the actual words we say. They know perfectly well that we wouldn’t waste our time on reassuring them unless we thought it was scary in the first place. Fay recalls watching a little boy and his mother in the waiting room. The boy marched merrily behind the dentist, following him into the back... until his mother called out, “Don’t worry, sweetheart! It’s not going to hurt a bit.”

At which point the little boy wheeled around, ran back, and buried his face in his mother’s skirts.

Sometimes when we reassure our children, we introduce them to fears that they never would have come up with on their own.

I’m wondering if that concept might explain why formula companies find it in their best interest to send reams of breastfeeding advice to every new mom. It might also explain why the poised, confident, health-conscious, well-educated stay-at-home mom I met at the Learning Store was so utterly convinced that breastfeeding would be too difficult and complicated to fit into their lifestyle. They do a lot of traveling as a family, you see, and she just couldn’t imagine trying to nurse on the road.

I was a bit non-plussed. Truth is, breastfeeding is supremely portable, and way more convenient than formula, in my experience. No bottles to sterilize, no formula to mix... and nothing to pack except the baby. It’s totally do-able. Really.

But come to think of it, you certainly wouldn’t know it to read those pamphlets. Don’t get me wrong—the advice is all very sound and pro-breastfeeding. Exactly the sort of thing that you’d hear from a good lactation consultant if you were having a tough time of it.

If you were having a tough time of it.

A tranquil room with soft mood lighting, husband always available to rearrange your pillow formation, refill your ice water and maybe give you a foot massage... all that sounds good. Really good.

But when it comes right down to it, and you’re barreling down the freeway at 60 miles an hour, sitting in the back seat leaning over baby’s carseat... well, that’ll do, too.

There are lots of women out there who have a hard time breastfeeding, for whom it’s a constant up-hill battle, and I don’t mean to denigrate any of them. We live in a fallen world, and our bodies don’t always do exactly what they’re supposed to. Fortunately, a little mood lighting, a few comfy pillows and some TLC can fix a lot. Stress can be at the root of all sorts of trouble.

Come to think of it, all that sounds like a great way to start out, too. Pillows and soft light and lots of help can make it a whole lot easier to get comfy with this new experience. Besides, breastfeeding is the perfect excuse to get all the rest you desperately need postpartum, so you may as well milk it for all it’s worth.

But if the pillow constellations and arm-positioning diagrams start to look daunting, just relax. The bottom line is, you should make sure baby’s mouth can reach your breast.

If you can manage to keep two hands free for blogging, so much the better.

5.13.2006

A Long Sentence; Five Terms

In cleaning out the van, Andy came across the sunshade to Aiden's car seat. Nathan immediately recognized the item, but upon glancing around, noted that its owner was nowhere to be seen.

"Ai'n not play here. Bye-bye."

I was pretty impressed. I do believe that's his most complex usage of the English language to date.

Not that it's the longest sentence he's made, or most complex idea he's communicated... but most of it just goes right over my head. My twinspeak is rudimentary.

Very rudimentary. In fact I only know one word.

Ah'-ee, which refers to bicycles, tricycles, and motorcycles, and has no known roots in English. Ah'-ee.

It's just one word, but from what I've heard about other parents' experiences with twin languages, I'm proud of knowing even a single word.

Ah'-ee.

5.11.2006

Onomatopoeia

Sound-effects are an important part of every toddler's world.

Doggies go "woof-woof."

Cows go "moo."

Cars go "vroom vroom."

Ducks go... well, they don't exactly quack, but they make a convincingly duck-like noise.

And trains go "train-train-train-train-train."

5.10.2006

Now that they have new shopping carts...


...we can shop at Trader Joes again. Problem is, we take up half the store... Posted by Picasa

5.09.2006


His tantrum had quieted down, so I went to let him out of his room. But I could couldn't get the door open. I guess he needed a nap... Posted by Picasa

5.08.2006


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Family pictures are an... adventure. Everybody simultaneously smiling at the camera? I think not. But the twins are at the same angle. That should count for something... right? Posted by Picasa

5.06.2006

5.04.2006

I think he loves me.

Mind if I brag a bit?

I have the best husband in the world.

No, really. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. Yours can be the second best, but mine really is the best husband in the world.

Seriously.

Yesterday I was sick. Really sick. Sick enough I needed to head out to the urgent care center as soon as Andy got home from work, and too sick to drive myself there.

My wonderful, wonderful husband transferred all the carseats and baby gear from my gas guzzling van to his efficient little Tercel so we’d save on gas. He got everybody into socks and shoes while I sat in a hot bath and prayed for the pain to go away.

He drove us to Little Caesars. Redundant, I know, but where else can you feed a family of five for $7.50?

He watched all three kids while I waited to see the doctor. Without anything with which to feed the Tembo.

When I finally came out, I didn’t even have to call him, because he was right there in the parking light, with his hazard lights on. I’m not sure if the hazards were Andy’s idea or the boys’, but in any case, it sure made it easy to find them.

I wondered if they’d stayed there the whole time, but apparently not. They’d been to the pet store, which was very exciting. Especially the crabs. And the frogs with the red bellies. Oh yes.

They’d also been to Target.

To buy me a pretty white sundress.

We stopped at a 24-hour Walgreens to pick up my antibiotics. You’d think that when you’re the only customer in the store, and there are three people there behind the desk, they could fill your prescription in less than a half hour. I guess not.

Those of you who live in La Mirada have no idea how lucky you are to live near the Rex-All at Rosecrans and Valley View.

It was 11:00 by the time we finally got home, and Andy had to leave for work at 4:30 in the morning. It was quite a mad scramble for bed.

When I got up this morning, I realized with dismay that I’d forgotten to transfer the carseats back into the van. No park trip today.

Except there they were. All buckled in and everything. The diaper bag was there too.
I have the best husband in the world.

5.02.2006

That's My Duck!

Isaiah's favorite books are the ones with lots and lots of illustrations. The ones with a single big picture on each page are all well and good, but it's books like the original Curious George series that really capture his imagination. The sort of books that have lots and and lots and lots of pictures of all sorts of different things on every page.

Drawing is his newest obsession, and wouldn't you know, the pictures he makes are of the same sort as the ones he loves. Whearas Nathan covers each page with a single, unified, scribble, Isaiah puts dozens of tiny, distinct images.

And although I certainly wouldn't be able to tell by looking at them, each one is a picture of a car, or a truck, or a van, or a bus, or a doggie, or a cow.

Or a duck.

Usually a duck.

Quack, quack!