Saturday, December 29, 2007

Isabel's Brother

I'm onto my Forth revisit to having a cold (and getting rather tired of it). My dear family is also onto their Nth iteration of having a cold (or, to be excruciatingly mathematical, their "Sth" iteration), so we had just finished watching one of my top ten movies of all time (Singin' in the Rain, and the song. I love how in that movie that the only possible responses to "Moses supposes his toës are roses, but Moses supposes erroneously. For Moses he knowes his toës aren't roses, as Moses supposes his toës to be" are "Hoop-di-do-di-do-di" and "It couldn't be a [many different kinds of flowers] but a 'rose' because it rhymes with 'Mose'" and one of the standout, knockdown, silly, fun and funny taps of all time) and were onto one of my other top ten movies of all time -- The Importance of Being Earnest (you can do further search on your own, I'm sure).

At the end of that movie, where "'Earnest' Worthing" discovers he does, indeed, have a brother, Isabel turned to me from her scootched (scootch-scootch-scootch she squeaks as she pushes me further toward the edge of the big-big bed) in snuggled position.

L'il Iz: He has a brother! she exclaimed happily.
Me: Yes
L'il Iz: I want to have a brother.
Me, ouch: Yes, I want [you to have] a brother, too. kissing her head tenderly.

Bedtime, and bedtime stories occupied her mind with other things. Now the problem is how to occupy my mind with other things? She may already have a baby brother, and we hope she may have one yet. After all, Sarah Was Ninety-Nine Years Old when she conceived Isaac ...

Geography Lessons

Verbatim post from Diane's blog; entry May 13, 2007


The Princess stands on a chair next to the schoolroom's world map and declares, First we will go to Canada, then we go back home. Then we go straight to Mexico.

I ask, What will we do in Canada?

Visit all the people there.

How about Mexico?

We will give them money.

Then we'll go to e-ma-la, that little pink place.


(I looked at the map.) Oh, Guatemala.

Then we will go to sawf America.

South America.

After South America, we will go to Aus-tray-lia, right over here. After Australia, we will go to China. Then we will fly to A-si-a.

Are we done?

No, not yet. Next I want to go to Greenland, that's right over here, Mama.

She picks up a stick. There are two Russias! We'll go to this Russia, this one, (pointing with stick) the one with Asia.

... then my comment:


My dear lady,

Please remember that the Princess was born in the Old Dominion, Virginia-THE-Commonwealth, South of the Mason-Dixon Line. In this light, South (pron. Sawf) America is pronounced Sawf Uhmereka.

Remember, this is the Sawf -- a pan is not "oily", it's "gaizy". People older that you are addressed as "Sir" and "Ma'am", unless there's a group of them, then they are called "y'all". Tea is always served cold (unless it's 4 p.m., and that's when one dresses in one's finest and enjoys small cucumber sandwiches served on Royal Albert), and the afternoon is spent on the porch drinking a Mint Julip.

Remember, this is the Sawf, so save your Confederate money, for we will rise again!

Thank you, and y'all come back real soon now.

High Five!

As we were eating lunch, EM was crowing about her excellence in using her peripheral vision.

EM: Look, Papa! I can see you.
Me: That's great, holding up my hand, how many digits am I holding up?

EM keeps her head facing forward, but her eyes noticeably slided over to look.

EM: Five!

After much laughter, her mother explained the proper use of peripheral vision, and we demonstrated by example, I held up my hand for my dear wife to count digits and ...

EM and Isabel, in direct view of my demonstration, shouted together: Five!

... at which the parents did the only thing left to them, exchanged high fives.




N.B.: see how I artfully side-step the great "Is the thumb a finger?" debate. Digits come from the Latin: di meaning ten and gits from the Sawfern (e.g. Git on ovah he-ah, so I can learn you real gooh(d)!)

Monday, December 24, 2007

(Disaster) Dinners with Dad

News from the front:

You didn't know that a pater familias cooked, did you! Well, I'm not going all Alan Alda here, but I do enjoy a turn at the stove, now and then.

3 successes deep frying cat fish fillets on Fridays. Unqualified success there.

1 success steaming cat fish in the "Chinese" style. My view: the result was unsubtle. The cat fish was hard, not flaky. The tastes ran to gross. But the family enjoyed it. Everyone asked for seconds and all but the Até-of-the-delicate-tastes finished their seconds, too. Huh.

1 unmitigated failure deep frying chicken. I tried for Anda's fameous fried chicken taste and ended up with hard and stringy fried chicken. You know what I'm talking about: the kind of fried chicken that when you bite into it, instead of a piece in your mouth, you have only a slight mark on the unmoved, whole, piece in front of you. Ugh. The tiny chicken wings turned out nearly right, so I think I need to stick with those, and leave cooking of chicken thighs to the crock pot or some such. How can a guy with Louisiana blood mess up fried chicken, for crying out loud?

Crosswords

So, entirely out of character, I accepted a phone solicitation (I usually state my name, and if I don't get an answer within two seconds, or if I get the "May I speak to Mr. A-cu-lare?" (after having already stated my name), then I hang up ... this time I didn't, because the Hand of God was at work, as you shall see).

After the phone conversation finished, I was the proud owner of a 20-week subscription to the Washington Post ... but only because they have a weekly chess page (written by a world champion, no less).

(Me: But it was on sale!
Cara Spoza: GRRRRRR!

Authors note: What does GRRRRR! mean, in the context that my soul-mate reads the paper every morning now? ... I win!)

So, channelling the spirit of my favorite father-in-law, I was doing the crossword.

EM, a good little girl, and always curious: What are you doing?

I explained through demonstration: Look, 1-across says "Bird of Prey", and we look on the puzzle ... 6 letters. Hmmm. E-A-G-L-E? No, that's 5 letters, so let's look at 1-down: "At a distance" and on the puzzle that's three letters. F-A-R! So, 1-across must be F-A-L-C-O-N. See?

EM, excited: May I do that, Papa? Please; Please!

I handed over the crossword puzzle to my six-year-old; my heart swelling with pride, but caution. Was I pushing her into an intellectual exercise too hard for her? Would her heart break when it was crushed against the mercilessness of the uncaring crossword puzzle? I was about to warn her to use a pencil, but I saw that she selected one already.

She studied the puzzle seriously. Then writing precisely, filled out 1-across:

B-I-R-D-O-F-P-R-E-Y


EM: Hm, all these numbers are making the puzzle hard, Papa.

I agreed with her (successfully containing my mirth), and commanded her to show her mama her amazing triumph of 1-across.

My little girl's all growed-up now!

Exercise

The new Dance Dance Revolution (Universe 2) came out, so I was off to Best Buy (as the local game store did not have it).

Me (announced to the family): I'm off to Best Buy to get the new DDR.
EM, surprised: Why do you have to exercise at Best Buy?

While her mother laughed uproariously, I explained that I was buying the game, not exercising there. EM pondered this a while.

EM: But Papa, why are you walking to Best Buy?

This comment put my cara spoza on the floor.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!


We were blessed with delightful weather for Thanksgiving and as you can see, the girls took advantage of it -- perhaps the last time they'll wear their summer dresses and frolic in the warm sunshine this year.



After Mass, we had our Thanksgiving Tea at home. It was very simple and did not require any major preparations --just some artwork, a bit of baking, and pretty dishes. And a little girl's song of thanksgiving and praise, now happily shared with all of you. Happy Thanksgiving!

video

Monday, October 8, 2007

Wile E. Coyote, in two parts

Part of my job as pater familias is to keep the family well-entertained. My dear wife will attest to my efforts (if not to the fruits of those efforts ...). So in one of our rather longish car rides (it had to be more than 15 minutes in duration, so it was of the really-prolonged-are-we-there-yet-Papa? variety), I switched my story-telling tactics from historical significance ("This is how the pilgrims built houses" or "This is how seat-belts developed") to the farcical -- dare I even say: "wile"-y? -- because, well, because after telling the seat-belts story the 42nd time, I had stripped that mine bare of rich (or, even, any) material.

So, I told the story of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner: how the wily coyote was always trying to catch the Road Runner (for what purpose, I remained coy), and being slower than the road runner (meep-mbeep! fwhooosh!), was always ordering the latest gimmick from the Acme store (Ha! I bet you didn't know there really existed a store by that name). So, I told, from memory, the incident of the man-catapult.

My story was an instant hit. Of course it was: it had all the elements of a winner -- a lofty, albeit unattainable, goal, a persevering protagonist, the dominating force of nature, and classical physical humor. What's not to love?

Of course, the darling daughters demanded more and more stories, and so I had to recollect and recount these vignettes from memory. Then I had to make up some. And still they demanded more, applauding my efforts with peals of unrestrained laughter.

Partus Primus (that's fake latin for "Part #1")

So, my dear wife tells me, a week later, after I've returned from work in NJ (soon to be West Chester, PA ... joy, I've always wanted to add another two hours each way to my commute), that Elena, playing with a friend at ballet recounted these stories at face value after her friend told her what she had seen on TV. Think about it: Elena Marie has never seen a Warner Bros cartoon, but she's talking in context with a friend who has.

So, I wonder what my children will think of the "real thing" if I ever show them an episode. Will the cartoon reality be as rich as what their imaginings have provided?

Partus Secundus

So, the children love to put on impromptu plays and productions. So, as I was departing for work again this week, Elena Marie invited the parents to witness her latest invention. What I saw, when I was dragged to the bedroom, was the bed in shambles: on the cue of me entering the room, Isabel leapt into a pile of pillows at the foot of bed and the force of her launch propelled her into the chest of drawers (chiffonier to y'all down sauf).

Bang! Whaaaaaaa! was Isabel's heart-rent cry to my scolding. Bang! Whaaaaaa! was Elena Marie slamming the door to her bedroom and crying into her pillow.

Isabel quickly cheered up after several hugs and a promise of chocolate from a mother-haven, but Elena needed much more coaxing. Apparently the setup was to be a reenactment of the road runner and Wile E. Coyote (with the usual cliff's edge shenanigans), but Isabel, who played the road runner, was supposed to be invincible and infallible and emphatically wasn't supposed to fall off the cliff's edge, as it turned out. Elena couldn't be consoled, not because of an affectionate consoler, but because her best laid plans, well, "Gang aft agley".

Well, work, that cliff-crashing siren, called me away (fortunately, not to my shipwrecked doom, but the night is still young), but as I now have a "new" car (thank you, again, Mike and Malou for the life-saving loaner), I returned home to get my EZ Pass (another life-saver ... why waste time queuing up for tolls when one can zip right through ... like Jack-ther-Frost?) to find my little Elena Marie at the door, squealing with joy at the opportunity to receive a few hugs and to say good-bye properly. Little Isabel was sad, however -- I thought you left for work! -- she takes partings hard, and so having to part twice with Papa in one day was not something she regarded with any joy. Oh, well, sometimes you win, and sometimes you fall off a 3000' cliff chasing after dinner.

Front-paged on HBO

First post in a while. I'm supposed to write about Jack-ther-Frost or about the recent homilies at Mass or about the Wile E. Coyote or other happenings in the life of this pater familias, but I have this small offering for now:

The 40 Most Memorable Aliens
geophf let us know about a piece at the London Times - the 40 most memorable aliens. The Covenant came in at Number Nineteen. He found this link on the IMDb Hit List. (Louis Wu 21:15:56 UTC) (permalink)


See http://halo.bungie.org for the post.

I'm happy. After more than, what, three? five? years of reading hbo, I've finally been posted, by none other than lwu himself, as a contributor.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Weird (*ahem*, more weird) Work days

Vignette 1: adagio

Sometimes, work is like this. I had just finished listening to my theme song (yes, that's me on lead guitar, and, yes, I need a haircut), when the customer, Scott, asked our new contractor, Anthony, a time zone question: So, what's the time in Arizona now?

This, of course, is a trick question. Everybody knows this is a trick question, so I whipped off my head phones and said so. Scott chuckled at that: Heh! I knew you could hear me!

Of course, Arizona is on standard time (except the parts of Arizona in the Navajo nation which is now in daylight savings time). But Anthony already knew this, so he was good (being in charge of that part of the code). This lead to a prolonged, albeit genteel, gripe by Scott about the complicatedness of it all when it comes figuring out times across time zones. And how always having to be correct would wear anybody down.

Me: Except me: I am Iron Man [gentle reader: you did follow my theme song link, right?]
Scott grudgingly admitted, after the double take, that, yes, I was a perfectionist.

You could make a "Scott's Decree" that all time will now be in UTC, I continued, that way, the vampires would be confused and melt when they went out into the sunlight by accident.

That last bit gave Scott pause: Ya know, I never would have thought of that as a consequence.

Vignette 2: andante

It came on to rain, and unlike rains in the midatlantic area (Oh, should I rain, I don't know ... perhaps I'll just mist about for a while), rains in the Northeast rain with a driving purpose. Well, this rain today was more of the lento variety, so when Leo, my skydiving coworker, saw the rain, and me, inside, not dancing in it outside (yes, ask me about that later, for I am John the Fisherman), he made a remark about it.

Yes, well, this polite rain is all very transcendent in its serenity, I responded, but I prefer something a little more sturm und drang.

Leo: So you like the lightening?
Me: Nah, I'm a wind elemental, so I'm at home in a heavy wind.

The shocked look on Leo's face indicated his surprise.

Me: Ha! You weren't expecting that statement, were ya! I win.
Leo: Dougster, I've learnt not to expect anything from you, except the unexpected.

I let that non-sequitur pass.

Of course, Greg, the program manager wouldn't leave my antics alone (when will he learn?): But you could get hit by lightening!

This, of course, set me off: OOooooOoh! That would be so cool! I'd call myself ElectroMan.
Greg, chuckling, in a parting shot: Or, we would call you dead ...
Me: Oooooh! Extra crispy; love that chicken!

Vignette 3: adagio

It's now nighttime, and we, Greg, Leo, Anthony and I, were discussing code. Leo mentioned that one system, although working, was in need of optimization and was sloppy. Greg said, Well, all code is sloppy ... except yours Anthony.

Me: ... and mine; mine is good, too! I entreated.
Greg smiled at that. Yes, actually, Scott said your code was cute. I've never heard that said about code before.
We all chuckled at that, and I added: Huh! It's odd how the word never and I seem to be so closely associated. I don't know why that is, as I'm such a middle-of-the-road kind of guy.
Greg snorted: Yeah, you're just so, erhm, he stumbled for words, ordinary. as he ended weakly.
Me: Yeah, yeah, I'm like this non-entity ... like a Minnesotan: so bland you don't even notice I'm there.

Greg couldn't play at this game anymore. He burst out laughing as he headed out for supper.

Three Days with my Three Girls!

I met with my friend, Mike, on Friday, to save the world, and to discuss techniques for saving the world, when I found myself the proud owner of two Red Sox tickets.

The were actually Baltimore Orioles tickets, but the Red Sox have home-field advantage where ever they play, or, as the Boston radio announcer stated: "Welcome to Fenway Park at Camden Yards."


Hm. How to handle this (2 tickets, but 4 family members)? Fortunately, my dear wife had a plan: since Isabel was soon to be ill with a cold, I would take Elena Marie to the game. Heh! (Or, should I say, *whew*).

What followed ...

EM: Papa, are we there yet?
Me: Nope!
EM: grrrr!

EM: Papa?
Me: Yes?
EM: Tell me a story abooooooooooout ... the road runner?


... was a little girl flowering into a baseball fan born in the Red Sox Nation. So, thus beginneth her education.

At batting practice:

EM: Papa, look at that ball! as another humdinger flies out of the park.
Me: yes
EM: Papa, look at that ball! as another humdinger flies into the stands.
Me: yes
EM: Papa?
Me: yes?
EM: If I catch a ball, I will throw it back to them.
Me: Oh, no, sweetie, if you catch the ball, you can keep it.
EM, incredulously: Really?
Me: yes I say that often these days.
EM: Papa, I want you to catch me a ball!
Me, wait for it: yes


During the game:

EM: Papa, did the Red Sox get a home run?
Me: No, sweetie, they're fielding the ball, so they're pitching to the Orioles.
EM: Why?
Me: Well, sweetie, each team take turns fielding the ball and batting, at the top of the inning the Red Sox got to bat, and, since the Orioles is the home team, they get to bat at the bottom of the inning.
Lady, sitting next to us: Oh, how cute! Is she learning baseball?
Me: Yes, this is her first game.
Lady, turning to her caro spozo: Look, dear, that little girl is learning about baseball!
Caro spozo looks over and shrugs (these Bostonians are hard to impress).
EM, continuing her education: Papa? I want the Red Sox to win.


Please note, gentle reader, that this came with no prompting or indication of preference from me. If my daughter wishes to be a Yankees fan, that's her problembusiness. But it may have helped that 99.5% of the fans in our section were Red Sox fans ...

At the top of the 7th inning:

EM: Is it over yet?
Me: No, sweetie, there are two more innings.


At the bottom of the 7th inning:

EM: Is it over yet?
Me: No, sweetie, there are two more innings.


etc. Because of two stoppages of play, the first, in the third inning, which led to the Orioles starting pitcher being ejected from the game, it was well past Elena Marie's bed time, and that, with all the excitement for her throughout the day (it being her first baseball game, and all, where she shyly passed the pre-teen girl in front of us an "I like you" picture and where she kept waiting to catch an errant fly ball), the little one was all tuckered out.

Then the walk back to the car (EM: Why is everybody smoking?) and the exit to the highway (EM: Why are the cars not moving? ... this comment, in light of the fact that the Camden Yards has the most convenient parking lot in the world: it empties right onto 395!)

So, the next day, in gratitude, we composed a "thank you" card to our Tito Mike and Tita Malou, with Elena Marie providing the artwork.

Me: Is that you swinging a baseball bat?
EM: No, Papa, that's you.
Me: Oh.

Well, on Saturday, I took care of both girls, as their mother headed off to instruct her debutants in her latest creation -- since these young ladies and gentlemen are already accomplished dancers, they appreciate her choreography. Well, as the day progressed, Isabel's cold did, too. Which means that we had to go to A&J's for health-restoring soup, of course. Which she did not eat, of course.

So, on Sunday, after I had returned from the early morning Mass (which the priest gave a wonderful homily relating Wisdom ("What is this Wisdom today's first reading is talking about? Is it the wisdom of mathematics? Is it the wisdom of knowledge? What Wisdom this reading is talking about is God.") to our sacrifices described in the Gospel reading ("Jesus is not telling us to sever our ties with our brothers or sisters or our things. No, he is telling us that if any of these others lead us away from God, we must choose God and not these others, for God is worth more than all these others, and the wisdom he gives us as we read in the first reading is to choose Him."), I looked after the li'l Iz while Elena Marie and sweetie went to the morning Mass.

Well, what was to be done? Isabel and I shared some breakfast (Isabel: Would you like some ... Coffee? Isabel delights in making people coffee with our special coffee maker). And then she, as is her wont, handed me a series of books to read, the last one being Guess How Much I Love You. This last one she was not content to listen to the words and look at the pictures. No, after reading the first few pages, she left the table and acted out the words in pantomime.

Me, reading from the book: "I love you as high as I can reach." said Little Nutbrown Hare.
Isabel hops up from the table and reaches as high as she can.

So, I decided to join in this game.

Me, continuing to read: "I love you as high as I can reach," said Big Nutbrown Hare.
Then I leapt from the table and reached as high as I could.
Isabel, with wonder in her eyes, laughed out: That's high, Papa!

... which coincided nicely with what I was reading next: That is quite high, thought Little Nutbrown Hare. I wish I had arms like that.

The next part required a little bit of effort:

Then Little Nutbrown Hare had a good idea. He tumbled upside down and reached up the tree trunk with his feet.

"I love you all the way up to my toes!" he said.

"And I love you all the way up to your toes," said Big Nutbrown Hare, swinging him up over his head.


For this, I cradled Isabel in my arms and threw her above my head, inverted.

Isabel: That was scary! ... but it was fun.

There was more reading along the lines of hopping (which required that I do a bunny hop, which Isabel immediately imitated, with a near-close encounter with a coat rack and bookshelf ... my heart!) and kissing goodnight (which entailed me cradling her in our glide chair and giving her a good "night" kiss).

So, now comes the part in the blog where I outline the third day with my dear sweetheart, but this is the rawther disappointing part, because the third day was a hug for her at the beginning of the weekend and a goodbye kiss at its end. When people are lining up around the block, as for rock stars and my wife, it's hard to get in a "mo'" edge-wise.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Once more with feeling: Ninjas Rule!

Okay, this link is too good to pass up:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXX0sxUHQiU

... it's kind of like this one, but not:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bmotlurx0EM

I really must rethink my ban on television watching (22 years and counting), these were really edifying clips.

In a totally-related link (related by Chaos), it is found that Ninjas are mathematicians in this blog entry.

Makes perfect sense to me: after all, I'm a Ninja and mathmetician (don't quite remember my Erdos number right now (nor, embarrassingly, my Shusaku number, as I didn't even know this number existed until just now ... oh, the things one finds when one looks ...), so please don't ask), so, via generalization by sophistry, Every Ninja is a Mathmetician, Q.E.D. Do not read in that blog the comment posted by this weirdo geophf person, unless you're open to having your brain melt.

Bambi and Thumper

As you can see from other stories I've told, I'm quite the animal, um, activist. Well, coming home from a trip to northern NJ, our family saw a pair of deer, the mommie dear with a fawn, grazing in the field adjacent to our hotel. Elena Marie, like Curious George, was very curious, but also very good, wondered what deer eat. When I told her, oh, leaves and grass and stuff, she recommended I pick a leaf and feed it to the dear deer. Because, you know, grazing makes deer hungry. Huh?

So, armed with an obliging leaf EM picked for me, I started my trek across a possibly deer-tick-laden field to feed this family another leaf. I fully expected the deer to run off when they noticed me.

But no.

Did you know that deer hiss? When the mother finally noticed me, across a football field's worth of high grass (I guess my ninja skilz aren't all that well-polished ...), she snorted, as if expelling air forcefully through her nostrils (I guess I just did say "snorted", didn't I ...), and then stamped on the ground, as if to announce I was entering a danger zone. I, fearless as ever, continued my advance. This scene repeated twice, until my dear wife, having just finished unloading the car could now turn her attention to other things: What in the world are you doing out there, come back here right this instant and help me unpack. As I leapt to her bidding, both deer also leapt into the safety of the surrounding forest.

Diane: What were you doing with those deer?
Me: All I wanted to do was to pat them...
Diane: grrrr!

Later that night, around midnight, in fact, when I was walking back to the hotel from work (yes, it was Labor Day), a rabbit grazing in the field next to the walkway cotton-tailed its way across my path to disappear into the forest. I haven't yet found out if rabbits hiss when one approaches their young ... stay tuned.

So there you have it, folks, Bambi and Thumper, both in one day.

Visiting Home and Aaron's Stories

My dear wife set up a visit to Nana's in Connecticut over the Labor Day weekend for Elena Marie, Isabel and myself. It went as expected, which was: Great! and there were some delightful unexpected surprises (I put "unexpected surprises" in there for my dad: of course, surprises are unexpected, so "unexpected surprises" is a redundancy, or perhaps it's a tautology ... or maybe it's both ... but I digress).

Nana was very happy to see her great-grandchildren, and we had three Nana-cooked meals a day. Shockingly, I didn't gain weight over the weekend. But, then again, she didn't serve gnocchi, because she knows EM and li'l Iz don't like red sauce.

Me: Nana, any time you're cooking gnocchi, you call me: I'll drive here.
Nana: But your kids don't like the tomato sauce.
Me: That's perfect: more for me!

The children both cried themselves to sleep the first night (no surprises there; they missed their mama), but the second night, they dropped right off (EM: Move over, Papa, you're hogging the whole bed!) after the evening prayers and were all bouncy the next morning for another fun-filled day.

What's not to have fun with? With Autie Beki and Uncle Howland visiting with their children Peter (EM: Peter, come over here; come play with me!) and Sofiya (li'l Iz: Sofiya, Sofiya, are you having fun with me?) and bike rides (Pepé gave Isabel a bike with training wheels that should could ride by herself and crash only once, but even then, she hopped right back on and said: Look, Pepé, I'm going faster than Sofiya! but EM, pushed by her papa, wanted it to be known that she reached the school playground first! -- and, yes, as the person pushing and balancing her non-training-wheeled bike, my heart did not burst, thanks for asking).

Then, a special surprise for me and Nana was that Aaron, Trish and Michele visited! Aaron and I grew up inseparably as the cousins who were always getting into trouble (somehow, fires always seemed to spontaneously start near where I just happened to be standing ...), so I retold the story of how I kept asking for small cups of water from Nana: oh, um, just because ... Nana, herself, later came in and said:

Yes, Douglas was a good boy, but one time he kept asking me for cups of water. When I followed him, there was a fire in the middle of the room. 'Douglas!' I said, 'did you start this fire?'

Me, as a little boy: shakes head, looking surprised.

Aaron then told the story (he, in fact, had quite a few more rememberances and stories from our childhood than I did) of when Mike, our older, bigger, cousin one day knocked the wind out of Michele, Aaron's sister. Neither Aaron nor I nor both of us together could take on Mike in a (hypothetical) fight, so Aaron, Michele's big brother and protector, took Mike out in the backyard with one well-placed kick. Little did he know that all the uncles (and his father and grandfather) watched the event unfold from the living/sitting room. Uncle Roy, his father, jumped up from his chair and was going to give Aaron whatfor until Uncle Nick, Mike's father, stopped him: No, Roy, Mike was too rough with Michele and Aaron is defending her. You let him be. Saved by the Uncle St. Nick.

Uncle Nick died a couple of years ago, leaving behind 4 children (Kim, Joy, Carry and Mike) and one step-daughter (Laura) and his wife (Aunt Elaine). His death came suddenly, like it seems to for us Auclairs, and it still hurts to think about it, as I learnt more about his kindness, business acumen, love of classical music and parenting at his death than I knew from him in his life. He was a supremely self-confident (cock-sure) man, like we Auclairs are, but one not given to boasting. Nana, having already lost Pepé, took the loss of her eldest son very hard. He died and was buried in his shirt-sleeves: a simple, hard-working, man.

Aaron told another story about John, the third of our terrible trio, who as a young boy, after Pepé set up a mini golf-course in the back yard, wondered what a golf ball, propelled with appropriate force by a golf club, would do when hitting the back wall of the house. He found out (it penetrated the asbestos wall, leaving behind a golf-ball-sized hole), but, again, Uncle Larry (his father), Pepé and Aunt Roberta (his mother) were watching this all from the sitting room, where the golf ball happened to find itself. Pepé was furious, and decided to take disciplining his grandchild into his own hands, storming out of the house, rolling up his shirt to introduce John to the woodshed in a new way. Only Uncle Larry's and Aunt Roberta's intercessions stopped Pepé, but that fury left its mark on John, for he retold this story with awe to Aaron. We all remember Pepé as a man of few words and fewer emotions, so his anger would be a terrible storm, indeed.

Nana asked me if I played cards (she was angling, of course). So I had my own story to tell.

One day, Nana, Aunt Rolene and I were sitting down to a game of set-back and Aunt Rolene was instructing the masses (me, new to the game, at the card table, and her younger daughter, Cybel, on the phone with her friend in California) about the artistry and skill of the game. Cybel was having a hard time swallowing this, as she saw this entirely as a game of chance. Aunt Rolene would not hear of this heresy, so, to prove her point, invited Cybel, who had never played the game, to the table for a thorough thrashing. What happened, as Cybel stayed on the phone with her friend ("Yeah, I'm playing this silly card-game, it's all based on luck...") was that Cybel casually took every trick in the hands she played. You should have seen her mother's face as she stewed under a slow boil of listening to her daughter beat up her own mother's sacred card game as her daughter executed a perfect setback hand after hand. It's funny in retrospect ...

Bedtime. Mass time (which for EM, meant "Potty time" during the gospel reading ... grrrrr!). Lunch time. Then, drive home time.

EM: Papa, are we there yet?
Me: Nope!
EM: grrrrr!

... a few moments later ...

EM: Papa, are we there yet?
Me, having fun with the game; joyfully: Nope!
EM: grrrrr!

... a few moments later ...

EM: Papa, are we there yet?
Me, even more joyfully: Nope!
EM: grrrrr!
...
EM: Papa?
Me: Yes?
EM: Papa?
Me: Yes?
EM: Papa?
Me: Yes?

... in case you didn't know, Elena Marie needs to know that she has my attention ...

EM: Why do you keep saying: 'Nope!'?

Back at the hotel, the children did a full-on tackle of their waiting Mama.

As li'l Iz says: The end.

... and so it is.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mass

Elena Marie and I trundled off to Mass last weekend, and she was very pleased to find herself in the pew behind Ate, Tita Josie, Kuya Ramon and Kuya Kyle. We did what we always do at Mass: she implored for me to hold her (ostensibly to see the priest, which is a valid ostentation for a 5-year-old), and I denied her, and then she pouted, and then we moved on and paid attention to the Mass. Elena Marie flipped through the missal, looking for the responsorial psalm, then I helped her. Then she had to go potty (must remember to require the kids use the bathroom at home before going to Mass!), and then she complained she was tired. Mass-business as usual.

What was such a pleasure for us was to see Kuya Kyle there. See, I was called in to talk with him. About what, I didn't know until we started talking: he has renounced his belief in God. I was so flummoxed by this statement that I couldn't marshal a response (so much for my Christian apologetics). So, to see him at Mass, for any reason, was a cause to celebrate.

I have a question: does sending a child to Catholic school increase the likelihood that they renounce the Faith? In my experience, it seems like these two things are linked by causality.


When we went up for communion, Elena Marie observed that Kuya Kyle wasn't going, so she asked why. I told her to ask her kuya, but then she put on her shy face.

I'm currently also working on my agnostic friend, Mike. Now, if he went to Mass this last weekend, that'd be a "God 2-fer". I invited him to morning Mass this last weekend, but he said he wouldn't go because he had to go to Mass at 3 pm for a relative's death anniversary. Win!

"Yup," Mike said, "you can tell God you had absolutely everything to do with me going to Mass this weekend."
"Hm," I replied, "the word after 'absolutely' I was thinking of was quite different..."

Mike has a little girl on the way, and I believe him going to Mass will help his family, as it has helped mine. But, of course, nothing is ever that simple. Elena Marie believes in the Real Presence because her parents believe in the Real Presence. Isabel thinks about God and Heaven because her parents think about, and believe in, God and Heaven. If they saw me going to Mass, just to go to Mass, they would smell my phoniness a mile away. So, one could argue (erroneously) that going to Mass is a waste of time.

But, then, on the other hand ("there are 5 fingers"), the Real Presence is Real. One is closer to the Communion of Saint because one participates, along with the rest of the congregation of believers, in the sacrifice of the Mass. One is keeping the Sabbath holy, and therefore doing an absolute Good and avoiding mortal sin. On a purely secular level: the homily is edifying, and, after all, it's just an hour one is "wasting". To put Blaise Pascal's wager succinctly: "If I go to Mass, and there is no God, I've lost nothing. If I avoid Mass, and there is a God, I've lost everything."

Anyway, Mass was good: I received our Lord, and the deacon's homily was about the Lord disciplining those He loves (which related to the second reading for the Mass), which is always an à propos message, being an eternal one and all ...

Monday, August 27, 2007

A funny thing happened to me on my way to reconciliation with God ...

We Catholic-Christians have this "silly" ritual: we confess our sins to Christ (yes, it is Christ that we confess to: the Christ, through the priest physically present, in alter Christus, who then forgives us our sins). Now, let's think about this miracle for a moment: I have offended God through a sin committed or omitted, and God, in His infinite Mercy, forgives me, and through His infinite Justice pays for my offense through His Own self-sacrifice.

"All roads lead to Calvary ..."

With me still? Because I've lost me: why would God ever forgive my sins? When, after all, I find it very hard to forgive myself. Now, try forgiving somebody who's sinned against you. Okay, have you done that? Now, imagine doing that over and over again, perfectly. Parenting might be a hint of God's Mercy, but I think my ability to fathom this miracle is extremely limited, even as pater familias, as the below stories illustrate.

I was waiting in the faster line at the confessional (you didn't know that queuing theory makes you efficacious in spirituality, now, did you? Well, then, there it is). We where moving along at a fair clip, but the lady in line in front of me turns to me, out of the blue, and begins aping a confessor who just doesn't stop confessing. To be sure, the lady ahead of her did have her Rosary out (a sure warning sign that this particular confession would be a prolooooooooonged affair), but her confession took no longer than anyone else's. Apparently, she forgot the "waiting for the bus" rule: the bus takes twice as long as you think it will when you're waiting for it at the bus stop (if you matriculate in the field of Operations Research, you find this rule explicated in the stocastic models course). So, when our angry lady stormed into the confessional, I checked my cell. When she stormed out, 8 minutes later, to spit out her penance in front of the Presence of our Most Blessed Lord, I did not inform her that she took exactly twice as long as the poor lady bearing the brunt of her anger ...

I didn't tell this angry lady this, but the gentleman two places behind me accosted the soon-to-be-innocent in front of him: "DOES CONFESSION ALWAYS TAKE THIS LONG?" The young man behind me, who I will vouchstaff for sainthood if God wants my opinion, answered quietly: "I don't know, it depends, I guess." The angry man behind me didn't let it go: "WELL, DOES THE PRIEST SPEAK ENGLISH?"

Now, where in the world did that accusation come from?

The young man, a model of patience, replied: "I don't know, it depends on who the priest is, I guess." "HUH! WELL, THIS WILL BE INTERESTING!"

I blame foot-mouth-itis for my useless addition to this conversation: "Sir, this is the faster line ..."

Now, where in the world did that comment come from, and what does my comment matter, anyway?

"FASTER IS A RELATIVE TERM!" was the harumph I got for my trouble. I did not tell this man that he could test his theory of relativity by trying out the other line.

Oops, my turn. The priest heard my confession (I didn't confess my offenses of thoughts about how God could improve his creation in two particular cases in the a particular confession line or the future sin about my next thought). I received, in English, my penance and did it, quickly.

Everything was right with God, again ... that is, vis-à-vis me, or so I thought. Driving along, I checked my rear-view mirror: the very chic young man in the very tinted sunglasses, with the very black hotrod had a card hanging from his mirror ... like a moth to the flame, I translated the backwards writing:

"I >heart< MY P*N*S" -- (vowels editted out by author)


Eddie Murphy states the man who shot Pope JPII didn't want to wait in line (Satan: "You shot the Pope? Come right in!"). The "huh!" I uttered after reading our young man's narcissistic ode will probably put me right up front, too.

A few weeks ago, a priest delivered a relevant homily (it, too, was in English) from the Colosians (as my brother Bob Colosi likes to say). He said: "If we are no longer Greek or Jew, then God loves you as He loves me. So, if you are crying, then, by God's Grace, I should be sad, too, and comfort you in your sorrow, for if I'm happy when you are sad, I'm not seeing the Christ in you." I don't know when I'll learn this lesson, but I had better learn it quickly, for this life is over soon.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sandra Boynton Moment

Last weekend, we had a "thank you for visiting us, Tata Dennis" luncheon (Diane cooked everything) where we invited Diane's extended family from two houses (from one: Tito Levee, Tita Femme, Aileen and from the other: Mike and Malou). Near the conclusion of the lunch, Isabel sat on Tita Malou's lap and sang the following song:

...
Go to sleep, my zoodle
My fibbety fitsy foo
Go to sleep, sweet noodle
The owl is whispering, Moo.


This song is one of the seven bits of poesy from Snoozers
by Sandra Boynton (our current-day Dr. Seuss -- who, by the way, has count'm 1-2-3 primary websites (the last one will please Mike with its straight-up Massachusetts-centric focus on the good Doctor) ... Boynton concentrates on Dinosaurs and Hippos than Elephants (named Horton) and Hoos, but you get the point. Actually, Felicia Bond has a lovely set of books, headed by Tumble Bumble, that gives Sandra a good run, but I digress ...) and when Li'l Iz sings that song on my lap, it's a moment of ecstasy for me.

So, Malou, I hope you enjoyed your zoodle moment, because I certainly enjoyed watching you two have that moment together.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A stream of poetry

I recently saw these pictures on my desktop from a vacation in Punta Fuego we had back in 2003:





and





and I sang e.e.cumming's poem again:

10

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea


Uppermost in my mind, besides, of course, Robert Frost's poems (is it, then, a civic duty of every New Englander to think in Frostian cadence?), are a couple of old Chinese and Japanese poems:

The Little Fête, by Li Po

I take a bottle of wine, and I go to drink it among the flowers
We are always three, counting my shadow and my friend the shimmering moon.
Happily, the moon knows nothing of drinking, and my shadow is never thirsty.

When I sing, the moon listens to me in silence.
When I dance, my shadow dances, too.

After all festivities, the guests must depart.
This sadness I do not know:
When I go home, the moon goes with me,
and my shadow follows me.


This translation is intoned on Vangelis' China, but a very different translation is reproduced at the author's site.

I also recently reran into a pensée from a Go-playing friend, David Matson ...

"Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things."
Okakura Tenshin


... which, surreally, goes very well with this week's reading from Ecclesiastes, chapter 1:

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.


Seymour makes an appearance here, via his brother, Buddy:

" My personal phobias aside, I don't really believe there is a word, in any language - thank God - to describe the Chinese or Japanese poet's choice of material. I wonder who can find a word for this kind of thing: A proud, pompous Cabinet member, walking in his courtyard and reliving a particularly devastating speech lie made that morning in the Emperor's presence, steps, with regret, on a pen-and-ink sketch someone has lost or discarded. (Woe is me, there's a prose writer in our midst; I have to use italics where the Oriental poet wouldn't.) The great Issa will joyfully advise us that there's a fat-faced peony in the garden. (No more, no less. Whether we go to see his fat-faced peony for ourselves is another matter; unlike certain prose writers and Western poetasters, whom I'm in no position to name off, he doesn't police us.) The very mention of Issa's name convinces me that the true poet has no choice of material. The material plainly chooses him, not he it. A fat-faced peony will not show itself to anyone but Issa - not to Buson, not to Shiki, not even to Basho. With certain prosaic modifications, the same rule holds for the proud and pompous Cabinet member. He will not dare to step with divinely human regret on a piece of sketch paper till the great commoner, bastard, and poet Lao Ti-kao has arrived on the scene to watch. The miracle of Chinese and Japanese verse is that one pure poet's voice is absolutely the same as another's and at once absolutely distinctive and different."


... which really isn't a poem, but a steam, nay, a river of thought.

So, am I sad because I read these poems; or do I recall these poems when I'm sad?

Monday, August 6, 2007

Wishing Well

Diane sent me on a quest:
Retrievest thou a table of sturdy construction by which we will instruct the brood

This devolved into going to Washington D.C. to pick up a table from Italian student named Shasha (she was quite taken with Elena Marie) that Diane had bought off of Craig's List.

Mission accomplished, and with very little fuss or distraction (except my constant gawking: Dear, look, that sushi bar has a happy hour! Her: Dear!).

So, to reward my effacacy, Diane allowed lunch at Teaism, where I enjoy (salmon) hand-roll bento, and the children (the brood) enjoy lounging by the indoor koi pond (Me: Elena Marie, don't put your finger into the pond, the fish will bite it off! Elena Marie: But that boy put his finger in the pond, and the fish didn't eat it. Me, getting creative: Well, that's because he didn't wash his hands. Me, to Isabel: Don't feed the fish that rice, only the cook feeds the fish at certain times. Isabel: But, Papa, they look so hungry! -- there is no denying the pitiful looks from the fish with their mouths gaping above the waterline).

So, with lunch done and table collected, we started our trek back to the parking space (only 2 blocks away; Fancy that, Hedda!), but we were deterred by a large Naval ceremony. (Me: Dear, look! Diane: Dear!) As the children were enchanted, we stayed for part of the ceremony (that I found out from an NCO was a retirement ceremony -- thank goodness: with so many family so well-dressed and looking so sad, I was afraid it was for our kids (who have kids: I just returned from a 6-bagger baptism where one of the kids was in a full-dress corporal Marine uniform) who didn't make in the Gulf). But, after the parade of the Colors, the long speeches began, so we decided to leave. However, as the ceremony was by a monument that had a well and fountain, Elena Marie dug in her heels and demanded coinage to make a wish. I granted her her dime (I was out of pennies), and recalled Isabel, who had already started walking off with her mother who had places to go, and very little time to get there! Both Elena Marie and Isabel cast in their coins and told me their wishes.

EM, the material girl: I wished for money, so I can buy things!
... and off she raced to catch up with her receding mother.
Isabel, holding my hand, and always wanting to be like até: I wished for money!

We walked along for a bit, Isabel and I, both caught up in our thoughts, then Isabel turned to me: Papa, give me moneys.

... apparently, for this little girl, there's a very tight connection between the wish/desire and its fulfillment.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Für Diane



Many happy returns on this, the occasion of your 42nd birthday! May you have all that Life, the Universe, and Everything has to offer on this auspiciously-numbered birthday.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Is Heaven Near?

[Isabel] has been my constant companion this past week, and just like her sister, this one also initiates heavenly conversations while I drive.

Mama, is heaven near?

(Shouting above the din of the noise) Here?! Is heaven here? No. Yes. Maybe. What are you thinking about?

Heaven.

Ahh....

And God.

Ahh... That's good. (shutting off the noisy A/C to hear her better)

I am good.

Yes.

And you are good.

Yes!

And Ate and Papa are good.

Yes?

Because God is good. And He made us!

--
Posted By Diane to [...] at 7/09/2007 01:16:00 AM

Monday, July 23, 2007

Mr. Bun and Até

Elena Marie is the Até (first daughter), and she plays her role well: she looks after her own (ditsé would use the term hen-pecks for some of the over-protective/demanding/lording behavior). Well, it's come into her head that I need a travel companion and protector from time to time. Once, she gave me a tree frog doll to protect me from impending comet debris:



But for the last two week, I have been the caretaker of a little white bunny, I'm not sure of the name, so I'm borrowing the name Susie Dirken gave hers: "Mr. Bun" (yes, that Susie from Calvin and Hobbes).



So, Mr. Bun is sitting right next to my computer on my desk, and whenever I'm having a tough time of it (which is several times a day), I grab him for a prolonged squeeze hug. When I told Elena Marie this story, she thought about it for a second and then vehemently exclaimed: "You are going to keep the bunny forever and ever!"

So, when I went of to work Sunday night, Elena Marie checked to make sure I had the bunny packed, and when she found out I didn't she rushed off to retrieve it for me.

"Let me tell you something you don't know"

Diane, Isabel and I were lounging about on the big bed and the subject turned to the crazy things I do, like taking the extreme commute to New Jersey every week.

Me, to Diane: "Well, because, of course, I love you."
Diane: "?"
Me: "Do you know that I love you?"
Diane: "?"
Me, to Isabel: "Do you know that Papa loves Mama?"
Isabel: "?"
Me: "Isabel, I have a secret for you to give Mama."

Isabel loves secrets, so she leaned over.

Me, whispering (loudly): "Tell Mama that Papa loves her."
Isabel delivered the secret, and then there was the bonus, Mama had a secret for her to tell me. After receiving that secret, she sauntered over to me.

Isabel, whispering (loudly): "Mama said, 'Papa loves Mama'"

Diane, hearing this, burst out laughing, because, of course, she told Isabel the contrapositive, but it was all good.

Every laugh-out-loud moment in the family is a good moment.

My Blog Rating and a "Flock" of Crows

Online Dating

The one problem the rating system noted was that I used the word "Murder" (oops! I used it, again!). So much for context-sensitivity: a murder of crows has everything to do with more than one crow and nothing to do with premeditation for felonies, but I'm glad my blog is inoffensive ... but should I be glad?

"Dear, if I die tomorrow ..." and sleep

Bill Cosby, in his prime, did a stand-up show called Revenge, and one of the stories he told was that, one morning, at 3 am, his wife woke him up and asked the fateful question:

"Dear, if I die tomorrow, would you get married again?"

and, like any intelligent man roused from a deep sleep, he gave the best reply he could: "Auwsta-wadah-fooompf?"

"Now, I told you that story to tell you this one:"

Diane was invited to an outing with her high-school classmates who "live in the area" (well, within 100 miles or so), Elena Marie, inseparable from her mother, would go, of course, but little Isabel was still (is still) in the clutches of a summer cold was to be my charge. Fortunately, the little one fell asleep after a busy day on the town, so off mother and daughter went. Soon after they left, as I was finishing up cooking supper, Isabel woke up from her slumber: "Papa, where's Mama? I want Mama!" Hmm, well, a taste-test for done'ness' of the bowtie pasta distracted her for a bit, but then during the supper proper (and it was proper: freshly cooked jumbo shrimps in a garlic-butter sauce -- snaps to Diane for that!), the same loss and tears reemerged.

Me: "I know you miss Mama; what can I do to help you be happy again? Will ice cream help?"
Isabel: "Hm?"

I used to think that the instant transformation from despondent to delirious only happened in the movies; that is, until I saw it happen right in front of me.

After the ice cream (Isabel made me coffee using the Keurig coffee maker ("So easy, a 3-year-old could make coffee with it" should be their tagline)), devoured mercilessly (I pity the chips in that mint), she returned to her sadness.

Note to wife: Dear, if you haven't got it yet, your kids really love you!


So, after brushing her teeth, I put in her favorite movie of all time: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (as an aside, Donnie Osmond, yes, Donnie Osmond, delivered an outstanding performance as Joseph), in the master bedroom and as she watched, I promptly fell asleep (it being past 10:30 pm and me having come from the three-hour commute and a sleepless night).

Meanwhile, back at the party, one of Diane's friends made a late arrival at 10 pm, and Diane was going to leave early, for she told her friends: "I'm afraid my husband will fall asleep." Her friends coerced her to stay (peer-pressure, it doesn't stop after high school, so be careful out there, y'all!) reassuring her that her husband would never abandon a three-year-old to Morpheus ... so, when she returned home and saw from the front window Isabel sobbing in the living room, she fully expected to see me there consoling her. So, she had two surprises: one you know (me, unconscious, in the bedroom), the other was a full-on charge by Isabel followed by a tight-tight squeeze hug.

"Now, I told you that story to tell you this one:"

The next night, Diane, Isabel and I were lounging on the big bed. Diane recounted the events of the previous night, also adding that Isabel told her mother that she didn't brush her teeth or eat supper. My, oh, my! Then, Elena Marie called out for help brushing teeth, so I answered: "Alright, Elena Marie, your mother's coming to help you." (One of the privileges of Pater Familias: delegation).

Diane, shocked: "What! What happens if I die? You'll have to brush their teeth, you know."

Well, if Diane dies, there're be many more concerns I'll have than just ensuring the kids' teeth are brushed, but before I could voice this thought, Isabel countered:

"No he wouldn't! He'd fall asleep!"

... and the belly laughing didn't stop until a long time after that!

My Weekly Homecoming

I can boast of having one of the best coming-home-from-work experiences possible: after my three hour commute, sometimes through heavy traffic caused by not-so-sporadic roadwork, I open the door, late at night, to have my two little girls blitz from their bed room for a full-on tackle --

"It's Papa! It's Papa!" they chant as the hop up-and-down and up-and-down, much as popcorn would if it was a 5- and 3-year-old girl.

Recently, my dear wife has gotten a piece of this action. After watching 30 seconds of unending exuberance, she started jumping up-and-down and squawking a pitch-perfect imitation: "It's Papa! It's Papa!"

This display, of course, elicited peals of laughter from the girls, but, did it slow them down? Heavens, no! More bouncing and squawking ensued and they rang around the rosie Papa.

Now, if I can convert these weekly esctasies into daily ones, then I would have the best possible homecoming experience ...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Playing Dr. for real

Little Isabel came up to me Saturday morning: "My hand hurts, Papa, you be the Doctor." A common enough request from our children, as they get into enough scrapes with our fast-and-furious play that my doctoring ("pretend!" as Elena Marie often insists) gets them from pouting to playing in no time.

When I did see that her (right) hand had actually swollen to be about 50% larger than the other, it was time to call in the big guns:

"Go show your mother your hand."

One phone call later, we, Isabel and I, rushed off to the pediatricians' -- Dr. Thiede (not Dr. Lam, as she has now been married two years, people, get with the program!) diagnosed a mild infection, proscribed the usual (hand held above the heart), but changed her mind and sent us on our way to the hospital for X-rays when I recounted a incident a few days prior involving a slammed door and her hand.

The receptionist, like Dr. Thiede, was all kindness: how do these health-care professionals so joyfully sacrifice their lives? And, Isabel, being prepped by moiself (that is French) about having pictures taken of her hand, was completely accomodating. I reviewed the X-rays and observed no fractures (yes, one of my many talents is the ability to read X-ray charts to the utter amazement of the techs), but the tech had the radiologist confirm this. Confirmed.

So, off we skipped to the van via the "secret path" (a flower garden encircling the hospital's sidewalk entrance) but we expedited our skipping with the bees became a little too curious (maybe Isabel looks like a honey pot to the bees? that's the way she looks to me, too ...).

So as per the original diagnosis, a couple of days of rest with an elevated hand produced two effects: reduced swelling and special Papa time.

It's a Girl!

Great news! My friend Mike phoned me yesterday to let me know he and Malou are expecting a little girl in late November. This news is particularly sweet, as they have been trying for 10 years now to conceive. Now with God's blessing, their hopes are coming to fruition.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Rosie in Our Hearts

posted from Diane's blog...

The Princess wants to call her baby sister in heaven, Rosie. We decided then that Rosie is short for Rose Marie, since all our girls have Marie as their second name. Why it's a girl is just their gut feel. I don't mind at all. I'll even venture that the first one we lost in 1999 was also a girl. If we get creative, she'll also have a name by the end of the day.

The little one took it as well as her mind can understand what happened. After I explained that Mama is not pregnant anymore, she replied, Mama, I want to go to the Holy Land!

It was a great journey, this past 7 weeks. To be able to conceive after two years was a miracle! Secondary infertility is something we have to live with but even as we expected to eventually conceive, it still came as a surprise. Then having two children who can talk and understand the magnitude of this event was a big plus. We borrowed tons of books, read about how babies grow inside the mommies, had fun comparing the baby's size to ordinary objects like coffee beans and grains of rice. It could have been a 9-month lesson plan there!

It's easy to move on. The week of waiting between the first and second sonograms allowed me to prepare, pray and accept. If I was anxious at all, it was the night before the second sonogram, when I began to wish and hope for good news to share. Otherwise, there was no surprise at all with the results because my body gave me the appropriate signs. Seven weeks of an easy pregnancy is still seven weeks of carrying a life, and that's a gift, no matter how I look at it.

Third child lost

I regret to write that we have just lost our child. This is the third child we have lost by miscarriage; all three in the first trimester. This loss unites us with many couples we know and many couples we don't know who have lost a child, lost children, through miscarriage. So, a sad loss, but a loss that in which we may reflect with joy in the gifts we do have: each other, my wife, Diane, and I, and our living children: Elena Marie and Isabel.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

What Papa Can Do!


(HT: Douglas Wood)

There are lots of things that regular people can do but dads can't.
Dads can't cross the street without holding hands.
They can push, but they can't swing.
When dads play hide-and-seek they always get found, but they have a hard time finding you.
Dads really need to be kissed good night at bedtime.
It's a wonder they make it through life at all!


This book written by Douglas Wood and illustrated by Doug Cushman apparently missed the mark according to the daughters of our Doug the Pirate-Papa.

Papa can cross the street without holding our hands!

He can push AND ride the swing.

Papa can find me when we play hide-and-seek, even when I hide in the bathtub.

We're all good wrestlers.

He's very good at sleeping late. He can shave by himself too!

And he can drive very fast. He goes ZOOM-ZOOM!

He can eat just one piece of cake and one scoop of ice cream.

Papa can read a book by himself.

Does Papa really need a good night kiss?

I give him good night kisses!

He doesn't check for monsters. But we play monsters! And I get scared.


It's what this Papa CAN do that makes these girls wait patiently, sometimes anxiously, for the weekends, when Papa comes home from a long week away from them.

Happy Father's Day, Papa! You Rock!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

I'm currently working in Mt. Laurel, NJ,1 and one of the many joys of working in Mt. Laurel, NJ2 is my reacquaintance with red-wing blackbirds!



This recollects to me Wallace Steven's poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird", which I shamelessly reproduce here verbatim:4


I
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

II
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

III
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

VI
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

VII
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

VIII
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

IX
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

X
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

XI
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

XII
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

XIII
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.


A couple of notes about this poem: first, as I understand it, it was actually about red-wing blackbirds as they are common in Connecticut, and, tying into the first note is, second, my high-school compilation text where I first read this poem provided a footnote that "Haddam" in the exhortation to the thin men is, indeed, Haddam, Connecticut.

Take a moment from your busy schedule today and reread this poem. Hold fast to the center.



















1No, I do know why, but, yes, I can't believe it, either.
2It is my duty as pater familias, priest and king of this family, to "count it all joy"3
3Trust another blogger to snag that quote (James 1:2-3) for their blog-stead: http://countitalljoy.blogspot.com/
4As the poem is too precious simply to provide a link with the Quixotic hope that my readership will "follow the link"; but here the link is, for completeness' sake: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/stevens-13ways.html

Toesies

My littlest (so far), Isabel, and I have this little game we play, called "toesies". How this game works is that she is resting in bed or on her chair eating, and she flashes me her toes. This compels me to stalk these self-same objects ("stalking" meaning "looking in that direction and uttering: 'toes'" or "taking a step in her direction" or, even, "thinking about looking or stepping"). When I begin my hunt, she cries out "NOOOOOOO!" in abject fear (you really need to see this). This halts my advance right away. I back off, simultaneously offering sincere reassurances.

My retreats are more than a balm; in fact, they embolden her to demand my reengagement: "Toesies!" she demands as she wiggles the objects in question. This requires we repeat the game.

If I happen to be sitting next to her (which, I'm happy to report, happens quite often), the game has evolved into a new species. At first it was:

Isabel: "Toesies!"
Me: "I'm gonna get'm!"
Isabel: "NOOOO!" followed by a scrunching of toes into her feet.

But, nowadays,


We interrupt this blog post for a Muppet News Flash!

Dateline: Mt. Laurel, NJ --

A hot-air balloon just lazily passed the office where I'm working; vertically striped orange and indigo, it couldn't have been more than 1,000 ft above ground.

... I wonder if they pick up hitchhikers?


*ahem*

But, nowadays, to minimize the risk of foot cramping, I've explained to the little one that I wouldn't actually take her toes away from her, as they're stuck onto her feet.

Me: "See?" as I gently pull on a toe, demonstrating that it doesn't come off.
Isabel: "It's stuck!", said with wonder.
Isabel: "... try to pull off the other ones!"

So we repeat the game for each toe, as I very gently "try" to obtain a toe for myself, and at each attempt, she explains that I cannot take her toe:

Isabel: "It's stuck! *smirks*"



However, she's a delicate one! We'd be playing "monsters" or "giants" or "toesies" or "catch-me-papa", and if there's a bit too much excitement the pretend emotions become real, uncontrollable, ones. We, Elena Marie, Isabel and myself, were playing "catch-me-papa", which is a game where we run up and down the hallway, sliding into home-base (the fireplace -- hardwood floors with gym socks make for some good, long, slides) or leaping onto the big-bed ... don't ask how Diane tolerates this game, because I just don't know. Well, I uttered my battle-cry/warning to start the game off: "I'm comin' for youooouuoooouuuoouoouu!" Elena Marie screamed with excitement and ran off, but the scream frightened Isabel so much that she slumped to the floor, crying.

Oops! Game over, and new rule: "No screaming". Recovery time consisted of consolation hugs, calming, soothing reassurances, and, it now being late, time for their favorite, favorite, activity: Papa reading bedtime stories.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

A murder of crows

I don't know if this is an unusual behavior, but I happen to enjoy my kids' quirks. Perhaps because I have such a staid personality, that I can live vicariously through their antics ... yeah, that's it; that's the ticket! *ahem*

Até had taken a fancy to inquiry, of the challenging variety. Whenever I make an assertation, she has the need to check its veracity. I admit, she has good reason to do so: I'm a bit of a storyteller, but the upshot is that now even "real" facts come under scrutiny.

Me: "Elena, did you know that a group of crows is called 'a murder of crows'?"


EM: "Really?"

Me: "It's true! Ask your mother." (It appears that the authority on truth for Elena Marie is her mother).

Diane, up-turns her head away, and snorts: "Hmph!"

... I may have lost good graces with the Lady of the House, after having told her one too many stories. That, in itself, would not have earned her ire, but after she repeated these stories to friends as fact, and having been corrected, certainly caused the kettle to whistle away. But any fan of Sting knows this to be fact:


... Fussing and flapping in priestly black
Like a murder of crows ...





Here's another one:

Me: "Elena, when I was doing survival training in the wilderness, did you know I deep fried cactus for food?"
EM: "Really?" (See, look!, there she goes again, my little truth-seeker.)
Me: "Yes, it's true. Do you know what it tastes like?"
Diane: "French fries."
Me, looking dumbfounded: "..." 0
Diane: "Oh, come on! Yuca is a common side dish in the Philippines." 1
Me: "Oooo! That reminds me," as if I needed the prompting, "did you know, Elena, that tequila is made out of agave; which is like a cactus, but it's not." Pause. "Dear, is agave pronounced 'ah-gave' or 'ah-gah-vay'?"
Diane, up-turning her chin: "Hmph!"




I also have a story to tell above Isabel, Princess Bluebells or Princess Daisy or Princess "Me, too!" -- she's one of those three, or perhaps many others, but, normalment, usually not the one I call her.

She's an eater, that one, but in an odd way: she picks at her food, sometimes losing interest, and sometimes, after "finishing", is coaxed into eating quite a bit more.

One of the coaxing games we play, which I learnt from my dad, is the airplane game. Isabel stops eating, so I grab a spoonful of kanin at ulam [rice and viand [colloquially "meat"]], and "fly" it around the table setting:

Me: "The airplane's flying around the mountain."
EM, waving her hands, making sounds of thunder: "*pa-tchu* *pa-tchu*!"
Me: "Oh, no! A thunderstorm's come up, the airplane's running out of fuel and needs to come in for a landing in a cave!" as I make the doppler roaring sound of a WWI bomber in its descent (preceding a crash) that's taken too many rounds from a Fokker (where's Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel when you need him?)

Here, Isabel smiles and opens her mouth wide, to receive the airplanespoon that I pilot (expertly, I might add) to safety.

... that is, unless she's feeling haughty and unmerciful, in which case she up-turns her chin and snorts: "Hmph!

I wonder where she learnt that?

*cough*








0Mike, when I mentioned a plethora of ellipses in Japanime, went on a 15-minute tirade about his dislike of that convention. We figured "..." translates into something of the form "I am overflowing with one of heartbreak, surprise or longing that my natural reticence prevents me from expressing verbally" ... Yeah ... so Mike's tirade may be justified after all
1A note to my dear readers -- you may look up Yuca yourself. I'm not going to link to it, and I'm not going to caution you to distinguish it from Yucca -- you can tease that information out of Google yourself.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Two JuicyGoose Stories

Is a goose anything other than a non-albino swan?


I'll need to extend my creativity to explain to Elena Marie why God decided to paint some swans all white and others in greys and blacks, something to the tune of: "The star-bellied sneetches had bellies with stars, while the plain-belly sneetches had none upon thars".


  • Once upon a time, a very, very long time ago, before everyone had cellphones (EM, interrupting: "But, Papa, how did people talk to each other?" Me: "Smoke signals." EM: "Oh, how did they make smoke signals?" Me: "They squoze smoke out of the smokey mountain range ... *snigger*" EM: "Really? They really talked with smoke signals and squoze smoke from smokey mountains?" Me: "Well..." EM, wise to me now: "Your telling stories!" -- that girl is onto my antics), Diane and I went for a walk around some of Cameron Run (This was when Cameron Run was still an Army Base, not a housing development with "affordable" townhomes "in the mid 500s" -- Gah! Silicon Valley East, indeed!). We packed sandwiches, eating them on a park bench. This activity attracted a gaggle of geese, and we tossed the yucky, yucky crusts to one goose, Fred, who ate it with much relish (not the condiment!).

    We continued our walk, but not unaccompanied: it seemed Fred was hoping for more charity. You can't give what you don't have, but try explaining that to a determined animal who can reach up to your neck. Needless to say, Diane and I picked up our pace and kept a weather eye on our stern.


  • Today I was en route to work when I noticed two geese guarding three goslings by the hotel pond. So, I did what any red-blooded Auclair would do (actually, I think we're blue-bloods ...): I pulled to the side of the road, whipped out my cellphone (this is now when everyone not only has a cellphone, but they also have a digicam cellphone), and got just out of range to take a tiny-tiny cellphone picture.

    Do you know that geese hiss just like cats? Actually, if you have a cat handy, who also happens to be hissing, listen carefully, as the onomatopoeia is inaccurate. The sound is "Χαααα" -- in the original ancient Greek (barely sounded 'k', heavy 'h' sound in the Χ). After the hiss, the Papa goose advanced on me, and another papa moved in. They had the moral upper hand, so I did a "tactical redeployment". Those goslings were big, too: I think they're related to Fred. (EM: "Papa, how do you know that goose's name?" Me: "That's easy, sweetie: all geese are named 'Fred'" EM: "Really?" ... hmmmm ...).



The morale to both of these stories is clear:

Don't mess with geese to live happily every after.

Happiness@work: HOWTO

Three stories today about work and happiness:


  • I found out today how to put a smile on the boss' face. I walked right up to him this morning and said:

    "I feel good about today. I'm going to make some real progress on [...]"

    He was surprised into a smile, and said, "That's a good thing for me to hear." and when I laughed, he said, "No, really!"

    What are you doing? Follow the above ("no really") link and read the article. Don't just skip to the next story; read the linked article, now!



  • You know how to make your coworkers and clients happy? A morning entrance with one dozen Dunkin Donuts (I've found the Chocolate Glazed to be the favored):

    "Oooh!" they complain, "I shouldn't be eating this! *munch-munch-munch*"


  • You know how the client makes me happy (besides the obvious): the B-50 Keurig with supplied Green Mountain Coffee French roast servings.

    Oh. My. Goodness. My entire coffee experience has been rebourne supremacy.

    Just as "my younger brother" Mr. Robt Ferrars pronounced: "If I had any money to spare, I would [buy one for myself]".

    ... and you should, too: it's that good. Besides, any supporter of the Green Mountain State and its coffees has my vote (for secession from the union? I thought that's been tried already elsewhere).

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Every Good Deed Deserves a Blog Entry

IT COULDA BEEN WORSE!

Two kids and a tired mom driving down I-66 cannot have their precious Mazda break down at all. So in exchange for our loyalty, the Mazda waits until we pull up on our driveway to bleed blue-green blood and snort smelly smoke from its insides. Thanks, Lauren! (If you must know, this car was christened by its previous owner with this beautiful name.)

Exhausted mom cannot think so she leaves the poor car by itself to solve its problem.

Surprised neighbors drive by and see the car's hood up, and call the now-worried mom. Oh, it just leaked and I don't know what to do ... was what they got.

Super neighbors to the rescue! Oh, it's easy. We'll just pull this out, buy this part, replace it, and voila, no more problem.


Thanks, Matt!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I, Elinor Dashwood



Your husband is like Edward Ferrars of Sense & Sensibility. He is quietly impulsive, with an understated hint of romance. But once you get to know him, he's very affectionate, caring, and faithful. The two of you enjoy a calm, joyful life.


Who is Your Jane Austen Husband?
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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

A perfect woman, nobly plann'd
To warm, to comfort, and command"


That's what my mother sent to me by text message on my cellphone by way of Mother's Day greeting. I posted a blog entry for her as my way of greeting her. As Doug can attest, we're a family with very few obvious demonstrations of affection but with LOTS of words.

But I do know what she is expressing. And I think I learned only after I became a mother. Fancy that! I didn't know what I had in me until then-6-month-old Elena dislocated her elbow, or when I had to rush 18-month old Isabel to the hospital with a gash on her head. I will not even start wondering why I did what I've done--the family bed, nursing on demand, tandem nursing! And now, homeschooling. I'm sure it's the Mother Factor (O.K., I'll just call it that.)

I bet, whatever it is, it's that same thing that inspired my neighbor to work with my girls on my Mother's Day surprise. Picture this: early this week, she comes in with her secret stash, makes me go out for a long-ish walk, and then helps my children do this --



She had the girls dress up, and took pictures of them holding a different letter each time. She even got them to smile so beautifully!





And she also printed them out, glued them on pink cardstock paper, and strung them with ribbon, ready to be hung above my fireplace!

I was touched. Because my girls gave me such a sweet remembrance on Mother's Day, yes. But even more by another mother's generosity and understanding. She knew that Doug's current work schedule doesn't allow for too much arts-and-craft time with the girls, and she went out of her way to help my family remember me on this special day. She knew that certain things do matter. (Oh, like the annual breakfast in bed, wet good-morning kisses, tickle hugs, no-cooking-no-laundry-no-dishes day.) She knew because she's also a mother.

So many thanks, Jen! And Happy Mother's Day to all you mommies out there!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Ninjas Rule: a reprise

This post may be considered by some as contraversial, or a sell-out, given my previous pronouncements, but no matter how much Pirates rock, it cannot be contraverted that Ninjas rule.

"How can this be?" you demand.

Well, I'll tell you. ("That is phat!" "Duh! That's like some fameous quote!" "From where?" "Mønti Pythøn ik den Høli Gräilen.")

See, I was at work, and I finally got a test on a piece of (software) code to run (no small feat: I was using the eclipse integrated development environment, the Java programming language, the Ant build system, the Spring application development framework, and the junit test suite -- each piece a בהמות and each "supposed" to work together "seemlessly" ...)

So, anyway, after two weeks of me struggling with the system, the test finally did run, and my battle cry of victory was heard around the building. My coworkers turned as one (I sit in the back, don't you know; our workspace is not the usual cubicle hell of most computer companies, imagine, instead, your old elementary school, complete, and replete, with the obligatory giant blackboard in the front of the room), so I had some explaining to do:

"I am a Ninja Coding Assassin! I have slain this test with my vorpal sword!"

... as they have become used to my antics, that was explanation enough. The boss said, "Well, since you are a 'ninja coding assassin', you ought to be able to cut down on the hours for this task on the project plan, right?"

Quick as a, well, ninja, I responded: "Yes, I should make a sharp slash into that time ... geddit?", and then chuckled at my own joke.*

I wish I had a videocam to capture the collective groan; it was classic!




* Dad recently told me a story about his experiences at work. He once told a joke and found his own joke so funny that he burst out laughing. Unfortunately, nobody else saw the humor. A kindly worker pulled him aside and lectured, as if to a child:

"Rod, this is how this works: you tell the joke and if we find it funny, then we'll laugh ... the rule here is you don't laugh at your own joke."

Ah, good times; good times.