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?


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


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?
created with

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.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Wisa and Wisa

Elena Marie is a little explorer ... perhaps she's a pirate! And one day, she came across my shoe-shining kit, which includes cotton rounds, not synthetic ones (as they will scratch the leather -- this is a very important point for archival shoe-shining purposes). The cotton rounds immediately reminded her of her "friend" "Wisa" (but perhaps not Thea or Thetha or Mea or Meesa). So she demanded, and received, a cotton round which she christened "Wisa", post haste.

Of course, whatever ate does, Isabel follows suite immediately, so she demanded, and received, a cotton round, which she also named "Wisa".


Elena Marie saw a problem here: "I will name mine 'Meetha'."
... with Isabel chiming right after: "I will name mine 'Meetha'."

"NoooOOO! Isabel, we both can't have friends with the same name!" Elena Marie declared, losing her temper.

Well, Isabel may be the perfect follower, but do not rock her boat. After some wailing, tears, and did I see some gnashing of teeth?, I explained that is was, indeed, possible for two people to have two different friends, both with the same name.

The happy conclusion was that their friends (the cotton rounds) reverted (or, to please my father no end: "reverted back") to their original names.

Saturday night, at the request of Elena Marie, we polished our shoes. This is a great way to have "quantity" time together as a family, which she enjoys very much, but her request also came from another need: since she lost Wisa some time ago, getting to the shoe-polishing activities also means getting to the Wisa-source: the bag of cotton rounds.

So, aside from a minor mishap (Isabel stepping into the edge dressing -- the pouted lip after my scolding ("Now, Isabel, I told not to step there: lookit, you foot is all dirty") quickly averted by a distraction ("Lookovader! Is that a hedgehog?")), the day ended in classic Greek comedy style: the Wisa's had been returned to their doting owners.

Courage and Joy

I'm getting quanta with the family: short, concentrated, bursts of time that heighten the experience to an entirely different plane -- the emotion slams into me like an 18-wheeler. Fortunately, since I'm a man of steel, I'm still standing after each burst ... like the following:


I was working away in the office, perhaps on taxes (as after the 1040 forms were due, the Commonwealth forms took their toll), listening to some trance music in the background. The children, always wishing to be near me when I am present, were playing in the adjacent playroom.

After some time, Elena knocked discreetly on the office door and requested: "Papa, would you not play that music any more?"

"Oh, okay," I responded, switching off the music.

... now, I don't know about your father, but my father was an imposing figure, and, I think that somehow, fathers are imposing ... I know I'm frightening to my children at times (Elena Marie hid herself in her mother's lap after she stressed a creaky door, where upon I demanded: "What are you doing to that door, Elena? You are going to make it sira [broken]"). So, I couldn't image myself, at any age in childhood, asking my father to do something differently. For a little 5-year-old girl to make this essay, and do so with, not ease, but with a sense of calmness -- this is an impressive display of courage in my book.

... and Joy

After playtime downstairs, it was time to trot back up for lunch. Elena Marie dismissed herself and off she trotted. But for Isabel, it was different: she paused at the stairs and looked at askance at them and me. It isn't as if she was not able to ascend the stairs, but, for her, sometimes things are better faced with a companion than by oneself. So, taking her hand in mine, we ascended the stairs together, and I could feel the warmth of her satisfied glow almost as a physical presence. For Isabel, joy doesn't necessarily come in the great things, like learning how to skip, but in the everyday things: like holding Papa's hand going up the stairs.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

The Azalea Girls Talk About Their Day

Elena: We went to the azaleas. We saw a raccoon. And then, Isabel needed to go potty. And then she tripped and fell. Then, she got up and we head for the potty.

We saw the azaleas. Pink, red, orange, white.

We climbed a tree. Then we went to the gardens and saw flowers ...

Isabel: And bees! We take the pictures. We walked in the gardens and then we saw flowers. And then we walked up the stairs and we walked across the street. We looked at frogs ... three frogs and we walked on the bridge.

Elena: We touched and smelled leaves in the garden. We ran and went to the towers ... columns. And then we saw real fish. Koi. They were trying to get food from us but there was no food.

We went to the parking lot and we saw a man and he had in his car, little trees. Bonsai! He was too late to bring the bonsai into the garden for the show. Bonsai is a little tree that you trim.

The end.