Sunday, May 18, 2008

American Dream

Elena Marie, Isabel and I play this little game. I'm lounging about, reading the newspaper (sudoku) or doing the latest masyu puzzle or some such. The girls sneak-sneak-sneak up to my reclined-at-chair self (they are so sneaky!); each girl grabs a tsinelas (pron: chi-nehl-las) and runs off, squealing with giggles and laughter to hide their prizes from their hot-in-pursuit papa.

Me: Why, you! Come back here right now with my tsinelas!
Girls, running away faster: Tee-hee!

The game then involves the proud girls producing themselves with the announcement: We hid your tsinelas, Papa; go find them. ... Now! Come on, Papa; come look for them now!

That's what I love about little girls: they wait so patiently.

So, I'm led (dragged by the hand) past the first obvious hiding place (the coat rack, the umbrella stand, the laundry bin), but this being the 50th time this game has occurred, this week!, I, playing along, "don't see" where my first tsinelas, so it's always Isabel who cracks first ... not being able to contain herself any longer, she runs to the hiding place, retrieves her hidden treasure and presents it to me --

Me: Oh, wow! you hid it in the closet? I never would've looked there!
Li'l Iz, rolling eyes, smiling hugely, jumping up and down, all at once: Hoorah! Do I get a trophy?

The kids are always getting trophies; we're starting to run out of closet space.

Elena, however, being a proper young lady at 6 years of age ...

EM, interrupting my blog entry: Papa?
Me: Yes? ['cause that's what I always say when EM says Papa?]
EM: Papa?
Me: Yes?
EM: Papa?
Me: Yes? [see?]
EM: When will I be six-and-a-half?
Me: In another two months.
EM's face turns into a lemony prune: Grrrrrr!

Anyway, EM, being a proper young lady of only six years of age [EM: Grrr!] has novel hiding places and poem hints to reveal them:

EM: Papa, I'm your tsinelas, and I'm behind a tray the holds some wires near where people comb their hair.

So I spend the next few minutes clomping about in one tsinelas calling out: Where's my other 'chinella'? I can't find my other 'chinella'!

This annoys my cara spoza to no end:

She: It's called tsinelas!
Me: But I'm wearing only one 'chinella' ...
She, interrupting my perfectly sound justification [just as I was getting into my stride, as it were], face red: A SINGLE TSINELAS IS CALLED A TSINELAS!
Me, hurt look (lips quivering, too, it was perfect): I knew that! Of course I knew that! *sniff-sniff*
She, not buying it [you'd think after 11 years I'd perfected the innocent look]: ELENA MARIE, GIVE PAPA HIS OTHER tsinelaSSSSSS!

So off Elena Marie and I skip (Me: clomp/skip-clomp/skip, EM: skip-skip-skip) to where the other chinella [She: TSINELAS!], okay, slipper, is hiding, and we play the warmer-warmer-hot-colder-cooler game until I locate the missing chinel... [She: TSINELAS!], uhm, slipper. At which point trophies are again awarded and I am regaled with many recounts of the daring and clever escape and hiding missions.

So, I told you that story to tell you this one.

Our family visited Elena's god-family. Maria, being the eldest, is also a proper young lady fully two years Elena's senior. So after we returned home (the 'as we returned home' was an adventure, too, with red monsters catching children not getting into their car seats, and li'l Iz crying that I wanted to sleep over Aunt Jen's house!) and were having supper, Elena explained to us the relative age gap between herself and Maria.

EM: I am now six, and Maria is now eight.
Me: Very good, Elena! I saw you calculated that without counting! You're very smart!
EM, continuing as before: When I will be seven, Maria will be nine.
When I will be eight, Maria will be ten.
When I will be nine, Maria will be twelve.
When I will be te ...,

Isabel, hollering in her interrupting voice: NO! When YOU are NINE, Maria will be E-LEV-EN!
Me, surprised: That's right, Isabel! How smart of you!

This did not please EM at all [EM: Grrr!], for she didn't like the idea sharing smarts. So, I went into consolation mode.

Me: Elena, it's okay, sweetie: you are smart, Isabel is smart, Mama is smart, and Papa is smart. Other people are smart, but that doesn't mean you're not smart anymore. Look at Papa: he's very, very smart!

... as I turned my head for the bestest, smartest profile. That's my problem; my humility. But, EM had an immediate response:

Do you feel smart when you can't find your tsinelas?

My cara spoza showed her support for me by falling out of her chair, laughing.

So, it's the American dream for parents that the children surpass them in excellence. Today, my 'dream' became a reality.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lumines, Hashi, Masyu

I, unfortunately, do not know how well a title would show on your screen if I used kanji and hiragana, so I'm using the romaji. I hope you don't mind.

  • Lumines (pron. loo-men-is or loo-meen-ess) is the Japanese response to tetris. Where the tetri, instead of being in different shapes are always square, and the matching occurs on the (one of possibly two) colors. Since tetris is NP-hard, I suppose the same argument can be used for lumines.

  • Masyu (pron. ma-shoo) has my attention currently. The connection with lumines? Nothing, except of what we choose to make. One person did make this choice. Puzzle 69 of Nikoli's masyu puzzle collection 1 looks very much like a lumines game in progress. And, since masyu puzzles are NP-hard, we have another similarity.

  • Hashi is what I've infected my puzzle-crazed friends with: Mike, Malou, Mike's mom, my cousin Jill and her son have all now the hashi-fever. An unfortunate side effect of this confluence is sometimes confusion. Mike's mom complained to me: "How are you supposed to do these puzzles with no instructions in English? How was I to know that at most two, not three, bridges where allowed between cities?" I swallowed my obvious, but unhelpful, advice: "Well, read the Japanese instructions." and instead offered a sympathetic smile in support.

Musical Chairs

Isabel was feeling rather daring and saucy a couple of days ago (well, not only a couple of days ago, but everyday; however, the particulars are cemented in my mind for this occasion), so she leapt into her até's chair and preened: I'm a big girl; I'm sitting in até's chair; la-la-la!

Elena immediately charged the red cape, attempting to squeeze her way onto her own, occupied, chair. Nothing doing. Let's share the chair, Isabel! Nopidy-nopidy-nu!

Then, my not-so-little-anymore Elena Marie got a clever idea and a clever look. She ran to her little sister's chair, and enthroned herself there. Look at me! she countered, I'm sitting in a comfy-cushy chair!

This tipped the scales in an entirely new direction. Isabel jumped off her captured prize and ran to her own chair, pleading with her até to yield, who, God bless her, chose the conciliatory route. Let's trade chairs, then. Both parties argeed, both parties roosted on their own (original) nests with beams of pleasure at their victories.

Classical Ballet and Dads: Are they dead?

Today our family went to Prokofiev's Cinderella. I am fearlessly going to accept the branding as philistine here, because the ballet was a two hour production that can best be described as 'insipid' or, accurately, 'soulless'. But where does the fault lie for this? The sets where creatively designed (à la Nutcracker and Little Red Riding Hood), the costumes were near-perfect in conveying the ethereal beauty of the fairy god-mother and the earthy beauty of Cinderella, the acting suffered slightly from heavy-handedness in the stereotypical (supporting) parts, but otherwise shined for the principles. The technicality of the dancers was a delight to behold (albeit the ensemble pieces were ever-so-slightly discombobulated, making me wish to shout out the tempo ... I didn't). It wasn't, as far as I can tell, the artistic director, Septime Webre, either, for he has an intimate connection with the audience, with children, and has a lively way of educating and exciting people to the forms of ballet.

No, my assessment is the problem transcends all of these issues, and points out the show-stopper: classical ballet, as a narrative form, is dead -- its very essence is outmoded -- it talks to a different age using moribund means. I argue that there is no longer a connect between the modern audience and the classical narrative form of ballet -- it screams its message (which reduce to simply advancing the plot) but the dancers, restricted by this form, are struck dumb and so can only pantomime their message to an indifferent audience.

A case in point was today's performance -- the performers mouthed words of rage or signs of love or hate, but not one sound issued from their mouths. It was if Septime seemed to know that the classical form could not communicate, in itself, the emotion or the situation adequately, so he required the performers to mouth clear and obvious words to help the audience over a tricky or inexplicable point in the ballet. This happened with alarming regularity throughout the ballet.

I argue that classical ballet is dead. Prove me wrong: argue the timeless, or timely, things that classical ballet gives us, and argue how the form of classical ballet is the medium that transmits that essence to the audience. And when I say 'transmit' I mean in a way that engages the senses and the mind and the imagination of the participants. In today's audience, the man snoring to my left, and the lady sharing chips with her daughter to my right, are strong evidence to the contrary of any lofty ideals you put forward. But, please, bring the fight to my doorstep.

On the same note.

On our way to the parking garage to the theatre, our family shared the elevator with four other families. There was only one man in the elevator. That would be myself. So, I made the joke "there seems to be only one person with a Y-chromosome here", which nobody, excepting myself, found funny. It was funny. But it wasn't. This is Saturday. Where are the Dads? Okay, so I just argued that classical ballet is dead, so going to such a production is a complete waste of time, yes?


Dads, by your not going, you have given your daughters a message: "This is what male persons are" and "I have more important things to do [work, drinking, watching baseball, video games, gambling, pick your hobby] than to spend two hours of a Saturday afternoon with you." Note I did not say "men", because "men" implies "responsibility" and "spine", I said "male person". Your example is poisonous, because your lack of care for your daughters is what your daughters will grow to expect in their view of the male person. This will inform their choices in how they behave toward other people and how they will expect other people to behave toward them. This is how they will eventually choose their lifetime partner, and so this example perpetuates.

This country has suffered too many decades of men ceding their manhood onto the altar of indifference or cowardliness. And women, God bless them, have stood in the gap and picked up the slack. I'm sure those Moms would've preferred to be reading, or having a conversation with friends or being themselves by themselves, just as you chose to do, Dads, for those two hours, but they were there with their daughters, as they always will be, because they must.

Fortunately, these last few years have seen a reclamation -- men are reasserting their manliness -- which includes everything a pater familias must be: the provider, the protector, the example, the shield, the sword, and the comforter. A man is both steel and velvet. So, I cannot abide the thought that we are backsliding into limpidness again so quickly. This is not about you or me. You cannot be an example if you are not present. Your wives need you, your daughters need you, and your sons need you. Men, stand up, be counted, and be there.

A new (Catholic) Daughter ...

May 4th, 2008 -- after a long struggle, we finally have a new Catholic daughter: Marissa Ann (I'm the godfather, don't you know). The struggle was on the part of Mike and Malou, her parents, in their attempt to schedule a baptism class, then the actual baptism itself. They finally got in through the "back door": as Marissa is going in for surgery May 15th, they were granted priority for a "semi-'emergency'" baptism that just happened to coincide with the regularly scheduled baptism following the noon Mass on the 4th.

The prelude was a bit spooky for me: at the preceding Mass, I sat in front of a woman who, if not in fact, appeared to be the mother of my other god-child -- another emergency arrangement: Fr. D asked me to be the godfather of little Katerina because the parents only had a "Christian Witness" as a sponsor. God save her! I haven't heard from them since, and my heart breaks each time I think of my lack in raising my god-daughter in a proper Catholic upbringing.

The baptism went extremely well -- although the Deacon looked in askance when her godmother, Aileen, and I, after the ceremony, laid little Marissa on the altar: consecrating her to God.

Marissa was joined by (Theresa) Nikki, a new born (and born again) of acquaintances of our family, so I was the first to greet and to congratulate their family on their new saint in the making.

Before, during and after the baptism, my rôle as godfather (just call me Dom Auclair) was questioned -- Mike's mom (and, by extension, my own mom, as Mike and I are twins, separated at birth ... and, um, time, and, um, place of birth, and, um ... well, okay, we're not really twins separated at birth, but both our mother's middle names are 'Ann' ... but, of course, every Catholic girl born circa that era had a middle name of 'Ann', so there it is) and I debated Catholic habit (standing/kneeling/sitting and reading the Bible) and dates of Vatican councils (she was pleased that I put the Nicene council in the right age, forcing Mike to jump in: "Well, why do you think we picked him as godfather? Whenever Marissa has a question, guess where we'll send her?"), the Deacon handed me the candle, joking that the godfather never gets to do anything during the ceremony, and, then, several days after, Fr. Kleinmann and I debated the efficacy of the godfather ("None" was my answer, as the Holy Spirit motivates everything, and so to God all the glory. "Well, you could try to emulate by example God's love", Fr. responded. Which begged the question, which I asked: "How can one get 'close' to the infinite goodness that is God?").

See, that's the thing: I can, as an apologist, debate the finer points of theology with my betters, and still carry the point (daily reading St. Thomas helps here), but for saving souls, I've had catastrophic results. When a boy turns to me with the confession: "I don't believe in God anymore," I was less than useless in helping him. I can convince an atheistic physicist that there exists a primary mover, but then the very next day, he's still spouting Sartre (his hero -- who, ironically, received last rites and renounced his existentialism on his death bed: "There are no atheists in foxholes"). What profit is it to me that I can quote scripture, if my life doesn't lead the lost sheep to Christ?

Well, so, as Marissa's godfather, it will be I who is put to the test: can I, as her godfather and as a "Christian witness" (a real witness to Christ), help her to see that God loves her and to show her how to love God, purely and correctly, in return?

That is the question. Her life, and mine, will be the answer.


After the reception, I had the honor of taking Mike's mom to the airport, on her (harrowing, don't ride in a car with the geophf if you fear for your life) ride we did get a moment of refection. She told me she treasured the intimacy of the friendship Mike and I share. I was surprised. Mike and I have a friendship that I view in the cadence of something that is not measured, but as something as solid and as necessary as air. I don't know how or why Mike and I have a spiritual kinship that is as strong as blood, but it's something there that Mike and I have regarded and then moved past. That Mike's mom noticed and admired this bond was strange for me. It is as revelatory as that a fish noticing the ocean in which it swims.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Survey Says

The survey is as follows, with the caveat that one can only use one word to answer each question. What are your answers? Mine are below.

  1. Where is your cell phone?

  2. Your significant other?

  3. Your hair?

  4. your Skin?

  5. Your mother?

  6. your favorite thing?

  7. Your dream last night?

  8. Your favorite drink?

  9. Your dream/goal?

  10. The room you're in?

  11. Your ex?

  12. Your fear?

  13. Where do you want to be in 6 years?

  14. Where were you last night?

  15. What you're not?

  16. Muffins?

  17. One of your wish list items?

  18. Where you grew up?

  19. The last thing you did?

  20. What are you wearing?

  21. Your TV?

  22. Your pets?

  23. Your computer?

  24. Your life?

  25. Your mood?

  26. Missing someone?

  27. Your car?

  28. Something you're not wearing?

  29. Favorite Store?

  30. Your summer?

  31. Like someone?

  32. Your favorite color?

  33. When is the last time you laughed?

  34. Last time you cried?

  35. Who will/would re-post this?

  36. Whose Answers are you anxious to see?


Can you match the answerer to the answers? The players are Momma, my sisters, Lynda and Beki, my cara spoza, and moiself (that is French)? Okay, the give-away hint is that I am the last answerer (But, then again, who else would add footnotes to his answers (yes, "his", obviously, in this case, 'cause I'm the only one with a Y chromosome answering these questions and going to ballets entitled Cinderella it appears, but that's an entirely different blog entry ... by my answering the survey, however, detracts in no way from my manliness, because I, being pater familias and all, am a manly man -- "Men, men, men, men [bis-bis]").

1. pursechargingCOFFEETABLE pursedesk
2. HowlandToddY'ALL DougSaintly1
3. heavypurpleIKKY naturalcropped
4. agingexpandingTHINNING tannedscratchy
5. LouisianamendingUNLUCKY hipperfect2
6. chocolatecarsSOFA learningmaths
7. immemorablefiredDUNNO homeSFF3
8. mochaslushHAZELNUT mochawater
9. serenityinvestedROMANCE childrenheaven
10. computerkitchenBEDROOM schoolroomoffice
11. unknownhauntingCOMPLICATED forgottennon-EXistent [giddit?]
12.insanityalone REGRETSScrewtapeMary
13.eventingenjoying HEALTHYhomePhilippines
14.couchtattoos SOFAschoolroomsnoring
15.patientenergetic HELPFULpatientafraid
16.pumpkinnone NADAsconescorn
17.peacefreedom LOVEfreedomson
18.Connecticutchaos HOTSVILLEMarikinaasea
19.sleptvisited POOPEDcookedDDR
20. pajamasredSWEATS pajamasbeard4
21. ancientoverwhelmingTINY silentbooks
22. abundantnon-existent GRANDCHILDREN Darcyfat5
23. laptopagingOK G5actualizing
24. exhaustingforcedCOASTING exhaustingsimple
25. subduedhopefulCONFUSED wiredexuberant
26. NanasiblingsWOW homeMrBingley
27. bluesanctuaryTHERE minivanborrowed
28. makeupshoes BRA contactskilt6
29. cooptargetGOODWILL onlineBorders
30. disjointedinspiringHOT slowStCroix
31.Alisonnieces COUSINSbrothersMike
32.purplepurple TOURQUOISEpurple :-)MontyPithon
33.yesterdayyesterday TVtodayaujourd'hui
34.yesterdaytoday PHONEhmmm...driving
35.Momcoworkers DUNNOnobodyJasmine
36.Lynda'sDouglas' DIANE'SDoug'sDad


0 My cara spoza is in a bind: the monthly prayer meditations from the Pope are not written in language that is easily consumable by young children. There is a translator, but this person is habitually late, so she asked me if I would do the translations, with one caveat: "No FOOTNOTES!" was her imperious plea. Hm, a post from me sans footnotes ... is that possible? (Matt 19:26 -- But please note that Jerusalem also had a gateway entrance known as the needle, so YMMV, depending on whether the greek word was "camel" or "cable" and whether He meant a threading needle or the Needle gate (where the only way a camel could enter was for the rider to dismount and for the saddlebags to be removed)).
1 Who other than a saint could put up with me for 11 years ... straight? St. Howland, St. Todd, how's it going, bros?
2 Or as Mary Poppins says: "Practically perfect in every way!"
3 "Let me take you down 'cause I'm goin' to Strawberry Fields [Forever] ..."
4 Yes, I have a beard even though I shaved today; Aaron knows this problem well and personally ... is it a male Auclair thing?
5 But that's the fault of the saintly person who locked them in the food closet overnight...
6 A curious Hinglish native, asked, with reddened cheeks, "But what, sir, do you wear under the kilt?" The proper Scotsman answered with complete aplomb: "Socks, madam, and then shoes."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Toe Fights

So, Elena Marie, Isabel and I were sitting around the table, eating baked chicken wings and rice. I don't recall the impetus, perhaps it was my direction to EM to eat her rice, but the little girl grabs a kernel and exclaims "Food Fight!"

Me: No-no! you know what kind of trouble you'll get into!
EM: Why?

I didn't verbally answer, but my glare of wait-til-your-mother-finds-out was enough to silence her.

EM, harrumphing: But I wanted to have a food fight Pout-pout.
Isabel, always imitating her até: Yeah! I wanted to have a toe fight!

This proclamation caught me by surprise, not the proclamation itself, mind you, but Isabel's interpretation of what she heard. Although, really, I shouldn't've been surprised. I laughed and laughed, and then, being in an argeeable mood, we all had "toe fights". We wiggled our feet together as we giggled. Elena declared that the red and pink socks teams won and the white socks team lost.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Cooking, Cleaning, Cids

Originally posted Dec 6, 2004

Yeah, the three 'C's uttered by Caiser Wilhelm that started the womyn's liberation movement that still has echoing effects on the world, even today, even under the current administration and the resurgency of 'moral values' (whatever they are ...). Also, whenever one sees 'C' in this email, think not of it as an American 'C' that can be pronounced 'S' or 'K', no, rather think of it as the greek 'X' (khi) which is pronounced 'X' ('K(h)').

Okay, I'm off my satirical social/political/alphabetical commentary box.

Isabel's attachment to me is reaching wonderous proportions. This morning, no, not at 2 am, when they first woke, but at 8 am when Elena woke us all up. "Mama, I need to [Elena's latest achievement not to be discussed on a public forum]; Papa will come with me!" So, Isabel woke up with Elena's announcement (Elena chooses not to announce things soto voce; she, in general, prefers fortissimo for announcements), and launched herself across the big bed towards me, who was already up. Diane, fearing permanent brain damage for her younger daughter (imagine this, Isabel diving off a bed higher than she is, and you can grasp Diane's concern), woke up immediately and grabbed a passing leg.

This did not deter the bunsoh (trans: 'littlest one', this Philippino term, whenever uttered never fails to elicit the concerned comment, "What? You're not going to have any more children?"), who flipped herself around for a foot-first two-point landing and barrelled to her goal. Reaching it (me), she reached out with both arms in supplication: "Ah?" And, from that moment, we were conjoined.

Okay, me shaving solo is a dicey endeavor ... me, holding a bundle of joy ("Dah?" pointing to her next desired object in another room) and shaving -- recipe for facial skin disaster ... I handed off the squawking ball of energy (actually, the equivalent amount of mass converted to energy at c-squared would rather be more like an H-bomb explosion that a squawk) to my dear wife who was in the midst of trying to handle Elena in her attempts 'to help' cook breakfast. Did I mention that Diane hadn't got any sleep since 2 am?

At one point during my morning toilet, Isabel marched off from her Mama's grasp in the kitchen to stand outside the bathroom door, pounding on it with her open palm. That "Daddy's Girl" is focussed, I'll give her that! Elena didn't display half as much attachment during her "daddy's girl" phase, so I wonder at this singleness of purpose. Not that I'm complaining at all, mind you: she let's me kiss her cheeks, she laughs at all my attempts to entertain her, and it gives a bit of respite for Diane. "I don't see any down side here," was Diane's assessment.



Kids woke up at midnight.

We went to the Frying Pan farm (I'm not making up that name). It's not a petting zoo, it's an actual working farm. Today, they were hosting a dressage competition, so we watched a couple of riders perform the same walk-trott-canter and jump routines that Beki practices every morning with Neo. Elena was transfixed, but for Isabel, having just been transported across a windy and cold parking field into a cold barn, wearing only a wafer-thin wind-breaker, it was a rather trying time of icy cold hands and hugging Papa for dear life. So, we moved on to the pigpens and to look at the chickens, turkeys, peacocks and -hens, sheep, goats, cows and rabbits.
Now, Elena is a big lover of pigs, but when a big ole pig decided to attack another one nearby (for territorial reasons?), she wasn't too enthoused about sticking around. So, we declared the farm visit a 'victory' and headed off to sbux for a Chinese lunch.

Yes, you read the last sentence correctly, see, we go to this sbux near a supermarket strip mall that has a standard American-Chinese restaurant. The owners have fallen hard for Elena, giving her a fortune cookie as soon as they see her, and they check up on her. So, we parked at sbux, and Dennis, Elena and I walked across the trickiest parking lot in Annandale to pick up some chicken wings and ho fun and até at sbux (I had a peppermint latte to wash down the MSG; Diane opted for a sandwich from Subway, instead; a good move on her part).

Then, like every Philippino family, we had the obligatory visit with relatives: we next went to Lolo and Tita Femme's house where the whole family got to coo over the children. Aileen, sitting next to me, got a lot of time with Isabel, and Elena Marie wandered from person to person, being suddenly attacked by Tito Mike, her peals of laugher echoed throughout the house as he tickled her. Isabel wasn't sure at all that she liked this demonstration, so she stuck close to me. When she reached for my Diet Coke, I wagged my scolding finger at her: "Not for childrens!" She looked confused but didn't make further attempts at my aspertame-flavored colored water. Dennis was his asked his neck and shirt sizes, so he obligingly walked down the runway and twirled to that family's shocked delight.

It being 5 pm, bedtime for all.



Kids woke up at 1 am.

Diane and the kids were up in time and headed off to the 9 am Mass; Dennis and I went to the 10 am choir practice leading to the 10:30 mass while Diane drove off to sbux to entertain the children. When Dennis and I returned from Mass, we met Diane, who had also just returned.

This was my cooking day, so I set at it, and, to give Diane a break, I had Elena Marie "help" me in cooking the meals. First things first, Elena Marie and I seasoned the sirloin for the grill: salt and ground pepper on one set and Mrs. Dash and spicy steak flavoring on the other. (I wonder, since it has been determined that the "flavoring" on McDo's fries is meat, if the spicy steak flavoring is vegan? -- just something to wonder about, like, who are the people who collect bamboo fungus in China to make the rice wrap rolls of the same; and if bamboo fungus has a flavoring, and if it does, is the flavoring meat? See what I mean?). Elena had a bunch of fun holding out her hand over the steaks to receive a hand-full of the flavoring to spread over and then to impregnate the meat with. I had a bunch of fun enjoying Elena's efforts to cup her tiny, tiny hand to receive the flavoring (her hand is about an inch square), and then to position that cupped hand over, but not on, the meat. Whenever I would demonstrate the proper way to do any cooking activity, informing her that I would show her first, she would watch eagerly (eager for me to finish, I don't doubt), and then ask, hopefully, "May I [do it now]?"

Diane boiled potatoes and then had Elena mash them ... Mike, I think you've got some competition on best tasting mashed potatoes, there, pal. Lunch went off well. I overcooked the steaks, but Diane likes them well-done, anyway, and Dennis didn't complain. At first, Elena ate only mashed potatoes, and refusing the steak, asked to be excused, but after I made some yummy sounds and cut her an Elena-sized bite, she couldn't get enough steak. So much for her career as a vegetarian.

Right after lunch, I set to work on supper which was to be breaded/fried eggplant served with a red sauce. My trick to make red sauce is to load it down with /stuff/. So, I took the water used to boil the potatoes and used it to boil some spicy italian sausage. I took the prepared tomato sauce and cleaned its container with 1/4 liter of shiraz which, along with the cut-up sausage, I dumped into the simmering base. Next up, as Diane asked for clear chicken soup, I took 4 chicken thighs and put them in a big-ole pot of boiling water.

Ha! Chicken thighs for the red sauce and Chicken soup for Isabel. Am I bad or what!

The next task was to saute mushrooms for sauce, so I got out the big-ole pan, put down a layer of olive oil and had Elena "help" me scoop in some garlic. Elena, being forewarned that the stove was hot (I had preheated the oven to bake the eggplant), was very tentative with the garlic. Even carrying her in my arms and instructing her to shake the spoonful of garlic into the pan, she would do nothing more than cautiously hold out the spoon high above the pan. So, I had to take over that task. But, when I got this skillet going, and placed the mushrooms into it to saute them, adding more oil with Elena's help ("I do it!"), she began to assert her skills. "My turn!" after I had pushed the mushrooms in the pan a bit. Then, as she flipped the mushrooms, she would proudly declare: "I cook it!" Should her nickname be 'cooky', then? Anyway, into the sauce the mushrooms went.

And then, for the piece de resistance (that's French for "piece of resistance"), Elena and I set up the production line for breading the eggplant. Elena chose two eggs for dipping ("I break it!") and helped stir salt, pepper and garlic into the flour ("I stir it!"). At first, she was responsible for breading the eggplant slices after they had been dipped into the egg, but after one too many instructional pep talks from her papa after spilling the flour onto the table, and her dress, and the floor, and ..., well, you get the idea, she took over the dipping part of the project.
She's found her calling: she'd slide the eggplant slice into the egg and then flip the slice with nary a splash or spill. Then, that done she would ask: "Ready for the next one?" and extract the slice from the egg, placing it carefully into the flour. She got to the point where she was producing prepped eggplant slices faster than I was offloading the finished product into the baking pan, so she would offer helpful suggestions on my routine:
"Put more." "Pat it down." "Ready yet?"

Great fun.

During this whole production, Dennis took Isabel for a walk (in the jogging stroller) around the block (she promptly fell asleep and slept from 2-5 pm) and I didn't see Diane at all, so she got to finish some unpacking and (I hope) get a little catnap with Isabel.

Of course, by the time supper was cooked (6 pm), Elena was so sleepy she could barely keep her head up (fancy this: while she helped me, it was 3 am to 6 am in the Philippines, and she's still on that clock), so she nearly cried herself to sleep as her own food that she prepared was placed in front of her.

The poor thing!

Isabel, having just been roused from her nap stayed up with me as I did the dishes and clean up the mess that was the stove top. That lasted until 8 pm when she nodded off again, and I finished work in the kitchen around 10 pm.



The kids woke up at 2 am.

*sigh* Maybe in a week's time they'll be adjusted.

Kids, Inc., and MMM (more than a modicum of musings)

ma chere famille (that's French for 'my expensive family'),

Aunt Rolene wrote:

From: Rolene AuClaire
Date: Tue, 7 Dec 2004 18:00:52 -0800
Okay, busy papa, I give up. When do you find time to compose such delightful reports on life in the fast (child) lane? I was exhausted just thinking of what all of you are experiencing as mom, brother, and two daughters, not to mention, you, adjust to the time changes. Keep up the good work. I'm going to bed!

So, if I were to respond to her question in full, my email would have the subject line: 'Time, keeps flowing like a river, to the sea'. But, since this is only to be a brief treatise, the subject line is what it is, and not, 'Time [etc]'.

You know, of course, that since Einstein's revelations, that space-time is (generally and specifically) relativistic: time is what you make of it, and what you make of it depends on how (relatively) fast you're going. 'Relative to what?' you ask. Glad you asked! Well, we have Mach to thank for this answer: everything else. Mach, in a thought experiment, uncovered that if the universe contained nothing but you, you couldn't tell if you were standing still or twirling in one spot, because you need at least one other point (mass) to get any feeling at all of acceleration. It was Mach's realization that debunked Newton's 'aether' supposition (that was universally despised, perhaps even by Newton) and therefor eliminated the last defense of an "absolute" or "static" universe, and opened the door for Einstein's work. Wow!

So, since Time is relative, and since, we know, that time 'slows' for faster objects, the simple answer to my dear Aunt's question, 'where do you find the time?' is that I manufacture 'more time' (a very good reggae album from LKJ; I highly recommend it) on an as needed basis.

Another answer is that sleep deprivation does weird things to one (just ask Diane), so that one loses all sense of attachment to the present moment -- the less sleep one has, the more one resides in otherworldly no-time. Me, having fallen asleep at the wheel more than one time (ya know, driving from Florida, where I used to live, to Connecticut, where I used-used to live, without stopping can lead to some rather dicey situations: I've actually seen 4' high pink elephants gallopping across the superhighway in front of me), I've come pretty close to being entirely in an otherworldly state on a permanent basis.

Some of my colleagues here believe that, in their opinions, since I have no actual grounding in this reality, that I'm already deep-deep into otherworldly territory. It's pretty cool, then, that they've entrusted so much to me, given their views ("Yeah, Doug ... he's out-there weird, but pretty harmless, I suppose").

Of course, "time" qua scheduling things, etc., is really a Westerner's notion. Only of my favorite Chautauqua is the story of the BIA set up a meeting with chiefs from various tribes for 9 am in two weeks. Two weeks later, 9 am, no representatives appeared. 10 am, noone. 11 am, no. Noon, one or two showed up, and by that time the BIA people were nervous that the meeting would be a no-go, but were reassured with this statement from one of the tribal elders: "They said they would be here for the meeting, and so they will. What does it matter what time the meeting is? They'll be here." and by 8 pm, all the representatives were present for the meeting. Robert Persig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) shares another perspective of time at by relaying a sad-sad story "to illustrate". Then, there's the whole eastern no-concept/no-concern of time, which I can't say I really know anything about at all. But there it is.

So, where do I find the time? Well, for one, nowadays, I've become better at "programming" or "instructing" my body: "Okay," I tell myself, "I've got two hours to sleep, and during that sleep, it will be a deep, relaxing and restorative sleep, equivalent to 8 hours of normal sleep." Another is that how one spends one's time defines that person, I am, essentially, a being that produces these artifacts (St. Thomas Aquinas calls them 'accidents': accidents do not reveal the essence, but they certainly aid one's understanding of it).

So, perhaps this is one of my gifts from the Holy Spirit: the gift of gab ... *ahem* ... oh, well! Whereas for you, Aunt Rolene, I see your gift evidenced in your concerned listening spirit and thoughtfulness in your responses. Words fail, as always, to describe the essence of it, but I believe, that when this gift is pointed out, it would be universally acknowledged: "Oh, yeah, that's how Aunt Rolene is."


Remember the movie "Monsters, Inc."? Well, really, it has nothing to do with email, other than the subject line, and some relation to incidents described below.

Little Isabel is still ever-so-attached to her papa, and it's unfortunate that I'm coming home from work later than the kids bedtime, because both she and Elena Marie very much enjoy sharing their time and talents with me, their big pushover. Reveille (the French word for "torture") for me is Elena storming into the room shouting: "Papa it's time to wake up! Are you sleeping? Get up!" at some incredibly early hour of the morning (like, *shudder*, 8:30 am, *grimace* ... sorry, didn't mean to scare any of you). Isabel storms in, alongside her Ate (Tagalog: eldest sister), and comes up to the bedside with a huge toothy smile and a deep throated growl: "AaaaaaahhhhhhrrrrrraAAAAHHHH!" Me, just waking up, I survive this onslaught with distraction: I drum my fingers on the side of the bed. Isabel thinks this is the funniest thing in the world and can't stop from pounding the bed with all her might in response. This delays her, for a moment, from her real goal: she has invisible strings which she loops herself and my poor self into a tightly bound ball of hugs. She gets these strings around me when Elena Marie grabs one of my drumming hands and pulls me, bodily, out of bed: "Are we going to cook eggplant now?" is all Elena wants to know. All I want to know is when the room is going to stop spinning, and when someone would kindly turn off that big, bright orb in the sky -- it's so bright it's giving me a headache!

Elena Marie "helped" me get ready for work this morning. She "counted" out my vitamins and packed them for my lunch, then she accompanied me into the bathroom: "I'm going to shave and shower!" she was pleased to announce to me. I explained that little girls didn't need to shave, to which I received in response: "I BIG Elena!" I knew my thesis had a logical flaw somewhere ... *cough*. She spent the time while I shaved leaping from bathmat to floormat: "I shave and shower, Papa!" and waving about a roll of toilet paper in directorial (dictatorial?) manner. I could have chosen to become annoyed and ordered her out, but I reasoned that she was first, causing no harm ('Primus non nocere' is a pretty good motto to live by, anyway, along with 'Living, learning, loving, and leaving a legacy' (the 5 lambdas, as I call them)), second, that she was well-intentioned: attempting to express her inexpressible admiration for me by imitation (when I dropped a vitamin on the floor, I slapped my knee in frustration; Elena, sitting beside me, repeated that movement with the same passion and intensity ... scary how greatly we parents affect our children in even the smallest gesture) and coparticipation, and third, what was display costing me? Nothing, that's what; so, chill, Doug. So I did, enjoying her little performance.

She's also respectful. When I said, "Okay, Elena, Papa needs to [do something not to be discussed in polite conversation] and needs some privacy," she immediately left the bathroom "to help" Diane prepare breakfast. Poor Diane! (Well, at least neither of the following happened: the kitchen didn't explode and we didn't need to rush off to the hospital to have them sew back on Elena's severed arm: "Honey, we told you that running around with that cleaver would eventually cause you to lose an arm, but did you listen? Nooooo! Now see where you are!" Yeah, we don't subscribe to the: "in order for your children to be good, you must make them feel bad" school of thought ... we also don't allow Elena to run around with a cleaver, either, just in case the implication in my example got you wondering ...). Oh, well, I'll work on improving the morning evolution to help (really) Diane and me prepare us and the children to face that big world out there.


Dennis and I went to choir practice and then sang for the Immaculate Conception Mass. Dennis is a better singer that I am, of course, but he also had every piece ready at the appropriate times. I think John, our choir director, after catching me off-tempo during the athem, is probably wishing that Dennis will stay here and that I return to the Philippines ... `;-)

After Mass, Dennis and I shared a supper of pasta and leftover sauce. Then we started talking about what he does (which is computer graphics animation, and he's also creating a feature) and about the movies we've seen: he likes the Pixar movies (Toy Story, Monsters, Inc.) more than the Dreamworks ones (Antz, Shrek) because Pixar doesn't make obvious and inconsistent outside references to get the laugh. He said of the CG movies coming out these days that they should concentrate more on story and character development than on presentation and cool effects.

Hmm, I wonder what would happen if half of all the movies coming out of Hollywood would do that?

OH, NO! SO MANY WONDERFUL MOVIES TO SEE! WHATEVER SHALL I DOOOO? would probably be the public outcry.

He, as a CG animator, doesn't care about new gee-whiz features of animation packages, he's looking for absolute dependability: if it fails, he doesn't care, so long as it fails predictably. Me, as a software developer, view the flip side of the coin as the aim: absolute fidelity to algorithm -- if there's a bad piece of code in there, it should immediately be excised. Funny how two people with "opposed" views can be striving for the same thing ("quality" or "perfection" -- there's another Robert Persig reference) in entirely different ways. I described my geas as philosophical. It may take only 5 minutes to write one line of code in practice, but getting myself to write that one line may take hours: is it right? is it a quick and dirty fix? will it help or hurt in the long-run? is the long-run a viable concern? is there a better way to do this? Coding can be a heart-wrenching experience.

... which is what I will now go back to doing, 'cause, after all, my work is an expression of my true self. That's why I work.

Love Doug

Postscript: poor Isabel missed her nap and was inconsolable for quite a while this morning, I was just told ... another thing to improve on my part: parenting to help our family and to alleviate unnecessary suffering. Me, I'm suffering right now, thinking about the poor little "aaahrrraaah"er, but this is necessary suffering: it hurts, but it'll make me a better person. God's little wake-up love note to me.

Elenas cooking; Isabel chasing

Originally posted Dec 13, 2004

Beki visited this last weekend, to give Diane a vacation to recover from recovering from her vacation to the Philippines. Diane originally thought Beki was coming to play with her neices, so she was pleasantly surprised to find otherwise.

So, Beki came, and visited, and played, and baked, and wrapped presents, and while she was doing that, Diane got to go to confession (first time since April), and got to dress up and go to high tea with some lady friends, and, at tea, have adult conversations -- all these things without the children in tow. Diane looked amazed to be relaxed, mentioning that with two mobile kids, she didn't see that coming any time soon. Beki responded that surely in a couple of years things would ease up. That's where I chimed in: "Ah, no, not for another 18 years, at least, until they're married or consecrated, then we can take a deep breath."

Beki looked at me in shock: "Those things you just said scare me." Me: "What things? 18 years? Marriage? Consecration?" Beki: "All of them."

... so it was a good visit.

So, Elena Marie tends to become very excited, over excited, in fact, when she's having a good time, so Isabel would get knocked over, or bonked on the head with a broom (we had a moment, there, when her papa firmly scolded her for that), or have doors shut on her fingers, or bounced off of beds, or ...

Yeah, it's like insurance for the emotions raising kids: ya know it all is going to happen ... good thing I'm the solid one of the family: yeah, as solid as a rock ... on a fault-line! Yikes!

Given Elena's exuberance, Beki bought some cookie dough, so she and Elena could bake cookies together. It worked like a charm. Once Beki began cutting off strips of cookie dough and rolling them into balls for baking, Elena was hooked: "I roll it?" "I put it in the oven?" [Beki drew the line there] "Look, a snake!" she exclaimed, describing a long cylinder her little hands had just rolled.

Elena also prepared and baked a quiche with me. I got the quiche idea from Beki when I was visiting her and Howland in Vermont: so tasty, and so easy to prepare! ... and, as an added bonus, Elena likes eggs. Once she learned that the quiche was egg (Me: "Elena, do you want some quiche that you made?" EM: "noooooooh." Diane: "Elena, do you want some egg [pointing at the quiche]" EM, bouncing in her seat, "OTAY!"), she was nearly insatiable. So, there you have it. (Isabel also likes to eat rice with my special red sauce that has 'stuff' in it.)


Isabel has discovered a new joy in life: chasing her papa. She discovered it thus: Isabel was toddling off to be with her Ate, who, when she sees her, causes a huge smile to spread across her face as laugher bubbles up, unbidden, from her tiny tubby tummy (Did you notice that rhyming assonance there? Three 'y' endings in a row ... the dictionary uses 'stony and holy' as an example for assonance, but mine is better: mine has three, MW ('"Mary" and "Websteer"', has two; mine has alliteration, MW doesn't -- point of the story: I rock, MW doesn't). As she left me, I followed behind, just keeping her in sight. She became aware of her follower and found it amazing and entertaining that I was "chasing" her.

She doesn't always like this: sometimes when I'm following her, I see a hint of concern clouding her face, so I'm careful not to be a "scary monster", and have avoided following her much at all.

But she did turn tables and come after me at that time. As I did my U-turn and jogged, mostly in place, away from her, she thought this was the neatest thing. The second time, I jogged away a little too fast from her: when I turned the corner into the big bed room, she lost track of me, and didn't know how to look for me. Not fun for her. So, I make sure that when I'm "running" away from her "to hide" that she always has a clear view of me. Playing this game, she gets a kick out of "finding" me in my hiding place, and then chasing me across the house to the next hiding place. We're a rather slow procession, as she's still in the toddling phase, and she's slowed to a walk by the incredulous smile plastered on her face.


So, this morning, my two alarm clocks woke me at 5 am (Isabel: 'WAAAAH!' (she had a fever, but didn't want to ingest her medicine), EM: 'Mama, I sick, too!' (Elena likes doing what Isabel does: her first take on love is that being treated in the exact same way is being equally loved -- annoying sometimes for her parents, but she's only 3 years old, and many 'adults' have difficulty understanding this concept, so, in that regard, it's cool that she's experiencing this, and learning from this, now, and not 30 years from now)), so that I could ferry Beki to the airport. I also had the heart-warming experience that either Elena or Isabel called for me (sometimes it's hard to distinguish their voices) from the bedroom as I was leaving: "Papa, bapa, paba, baba!" I didn't go to them: they were on their way back to sleep, and didn't need the Papa-excitement distraction.

My heart went there, though, to my darling wife and two little girls.

So, Beki, wonderful visit, but one complaint: it was too short! *Sigh* See y'all in a couple of weeks!

Our Xmas

Originally posted Jan 19, 2005

Hello, and finally, FINALLY, I have two minutes to rub together to send out an email ... why do I have two minutes? Because the database is down (of course, I'm at work).

*sigh* Mgmt is becoming concerned that I'm working too hard, but they don't seem interested in lightening the work load nor moving the deadlines ... work is rewarded with work; thank goodness I like doing this ...

We had a wonderful Christmas up North. It started rather unfortunately with an airline strike that delayed us beyond Nana's Christmas party, causing us to miss seeing many relative, including, especially, Beki and Howland, and for that I'm sad.

But, on the upside, we had some very special time with Nana, and those who stayed behind at Nana's. Dad was there, and Aunt Rolene, Ocean, Bill, Jasmine, Jessica, and Cybele were all there, and several delightful situations arose from the more intimate settings.

Dennis, after greeting Nana, headed off to NYC to visit family and enjoy the ambience, which he did, but not before he was treated to a snow flurry God sent especially for him. Golly, did that stuff come down, for hours on end. But if there's one thing Dennis regrets about his US Visit, that thing is that it only snowed during the night ... he didn't get to take a picture of himself during a snowstorm to show everybody back in the Land of No Snow.

Back in CT, watching Nana and little Isabel interact reminded me strongly of the interplay between Elena Marie and Nana when Elena Marie was Isabel's age. Isabel crawled and toddled around Nana with not a hint of self-consciousness, as if they had been buddies all their lives. Nana, towering over the little baby, reminded me of a gentle and pleasant giant -- not overcome with joy (like I am when I'm with the children), but floating easily in it. Nana and Elena Marie, and now, Nana and Isabel: the superimposition of images in my mind's eye is a strange disconnect from the present reality into something ageless. I wonder if, in that moment, I'm seeing things a little bit like God does: not past or present or future, but the Eternal Now.

Of course, we ate at Nana's, but how can one put words to (abstracted) paper about Nana's food ... even when it isn't her cooking, it just tastes better, anyway, because she's serving it. At Nana's table, things tend to happen, other than eating (but not hot-frying-pan chases, those tend to occur before a meal, or, I should write, BY THE TIME a meal SHOULD have been served, but hasn't yet, prompting innocent questions, like, "When do we eat?"). We were all sitting around, comfortably, at Nana's kitchen table, when Ocean offered something to one of her elders. So, I asked for some o' dat, too. Ocean's response was instantaneous and classic: "Oh, please, Doug, have some! How else may I serve you?" and she carried this on for the rest of the meal, "Oh, Douglas," she exclaimed as she bustled to the fridge, "do you need something more to drink?" I played along, too, cool as a cucumber, royal as noblesse oblige. ... all the while, cringing that my older cousin should be serving me, and not the other way around.

Didn't stop me from working it, tho'

Nor her.

During that Vaycay, I took Diane and the children for a one-day visit to NYC as a little Xmas present for her. We met up with Dennis, but poor Elena Marie was asleep for the whole visit. This was Isabel's moment: she toddled along in her pink winter Eskimo jacket, attaching herself to any available leg (Times square in Xmas? There were plenty of legs available). When we arrived at St. Patrick's Cathedral, she had the grandest time ascending the steps to the door of Saints, then descending the steps, then ascending the steps, then ... well, you know. At St. Patrick's the line to enter the Cathedral was so long that we gave it a miss; in fact, a lot of people just took pictures outside the Cathedral. It's heartwarming that people are remembering the Reason for the Season ... I wish the church could have been more accomodating; but if they threw open their (huge) doors, the inside would become bitterly cold, as it was outside. It turns out that there were many Philippinos visiting the Cathedral -- they would ask either Diane or Dennis to take there picture -- allowing me to play "tag" with Isabel (more like 100m dash as she teetered on the edge of the steep steps -- I think I broke some national speed records).

After Xmas, both girls are STRETCHING out; I'm seeing an actualization of "elongation". The way, too, Elena Marie is maturing is giving me wondrous pause. With her pert haircut, she's all elder sister, sometimes even instructing her parents. "Papa, be quiet," she demands. I try to take it in a light-hearted manner. She told me this as Dennis and I were driving along with the children back from Starbucks, and my response was straight Fargo: "I won't say anything [beat] Absolute silence [beat] Not one more word from me [beat] [etc]" Dennis, who had seen Fargo, was racked by convulsions of silent mirth. This put a spell on Elena Marie, who didn't know how to handle someone who said they were doing what she demanded.

This approach didn't work the next time, weeks later, of course. "No, Papa, be quiet!" she demanded when I began to reel off my schpiel. But, then, her mother was there to lay down the law. "Elena Marie, don't order your parents ... say please." "Papa, be quiet, PLEASE!" Well, I'm so glad we straightened that out.

When I'm making tea for Diane in the morning, Elena Marie, of course, must help ... her disposition is that of an eager helper ... did I say 'eager', 'zealous', more like. So I grab the empty teapot from the stove, and that's Elena Marie's cue to go into overdrive -- PJs and all: "Papa, let me make tea!" "Okay, kiddo, go get your stool." "Papa, you wait for me!" "Yes, Elena Marie, I won't start the tea until you return." With that reassurance, she's off to get her stool, at relativistic speeds ... ZOOOOOM! She's there, and then, CLOMP-CLOMP-CLOMP, she's walked her stool from her bedroom to the kitchen as fast as childly possible.

After she's ensconced in her helping task, you could find a happier creature. Just ask her:

"Elena Marie, do you like making tea?"


"Elena Marie?"

[furrowed brow response: "Don't bug me," it says, "I'm helping!"]

After the tea's made, and we bring it to Diane in bed (who, incredibly, gets less sleep than moimeme (that's French, it means, as Miss Piggy says, "Moiself"). That's the time one finds who made the tea and how happy that person was making it:


Diane, mumbling from under the covers, "Who made the tea, Elena?"


If Diane wasn't awake before this time, ...

Isabel is still very attached to me, dashing from the bed into my arms, and then remaining in them with a pleased, self-possessed look: "Yeah, this is my Papa," the look says, "I've got him; he's mine. U-huh!" She's now trying to put new words together, attempting to babble her new words in a stream of nonsense syllables. In fact, her overall progress has elicited remarks from her parents, but it's to be expected. Elena Marie had to invent all her behaviors: parents' aren't models for behavior so much as safety nets to catch one -- with Isabel, she has an older sister to see how to react to everything. So, it's also rather amazing to me that she has such a different personality than Elena Marie's. Elena's the ordered (bossy) type -- even when she is her own subject: "Not for childrens!" she wags her finger scoldingly at herself when she sees her papa's vitamins; Isabel's a little girl. They are so different, so it's such a pleasure to see that they get together as often as they do -- that Elena Marie looks out for and looks after Isabel, and that Isabel laughs so freely with her older sister.

Exciting times.


Originally posted Feb 4, 2005

It's been snowing here in D.C., on and off, for the last three weeks, and I couldn't be happier! Perhaps it's the New England in me (Mike would say CT is not part of New England, but he's been wrong before, too): I love it when it's cool, wet and windy (perhaps because it gives me justification to get a bowl of Pho).

"Yesterday" was lovely: Diane and Isabel met me and two colleagues (Bill and Sumit) for lunch at a Thai place. I had the drunken noodles, of course! Isabel was a pip, of course: once she experienced sitting in my lap, the high-chair held absolutely no appeal to her. Perhaps it was my bouncy-bouncy knee, or perhaps it was my frequent but unexpected and intense shaking hugs -- whatever it was, there was a pleased grin affixed to her lips that wouldn't go away (she also liked the chicken-coconut-cream soup mixed with rice, maybe that was it, because she made great pains, once she obtained the spoon, to keep possession of it and to demonstrate to all who watched that she could feed herself very well, thank you -- the audience was appropriately rapt).

Then I also came home from work in the evening to help Diane settle the children into bed. When I entered the house, Isabel ran up to me with a very concerned look: "MAMAH! MAMAH! MAMAH!" reaching up in supplication.

Yes, I'm Isabel's "Mamah!"

Elena Marie was very pleased to tell me what she had just done, so the three of us sat down to eat Pho noodles with our fingers (much to the delight of the children, who, I guess, had never seen their papa drop noodles into his gaping maw, and so felt the need to assist in this laughter-inducing operation). Diane, meanwhile, got a much needed break to prepare the house for bed: while I played "spider" and "knock Papa's slippers off his feet" games with Elena Marie (her favorites, along with "chase me" and "tickle me" and, when in bed, "Papa, you read"), Diane prepared Isabel for bed.

But not before Elena Marie saw my (her?) plastic mah-jongg set ... we (EM, Isabel and I) played "turn the tiles over" and "move the chips around" games. Great fun was had by all.

But Elena Marie was getting sleepy, so with promises that Mama would read to her after Papa prepared her for bed, I ended up reading three books to her after we brushed our teeth. Every night is Elena Marie's birthday party (I was informed that she's now "five" (she celebrated her 4th birthday party yesterday, don't you know)), and tonight she had gifts for Auntie Beki and Uncle Howland. Yesterday, it was "where is Jasmine? Is Jasmine malayo [far]? When can we see Jasmine?"

I kid you not! She was very insistent about this; I eventually connected this desire because I was mentioning "Auntie Cybele" to her ... the sweetie kept saying "Autie Isabel" [Hey, Cybele, how come you picked a name so close to our daughter's name? :-)], so I had to mention that "Auntie Cybele" was the Aunt to Jasmine and Jessica. That got her started -- I guess she really enjoyed the Christmas visit up North.

Well, Elena Marie was very tired and insisted for her Mama to come to her room, but Isabel was still tossing in the big bed. Hm! So we prayed an Ave Maria and then we recited our "God bless"es. "God bless Tita Malou; God bless sino [whom], Elena?" I asked. The poor girl looked at me through drooping eyes: "I want to go to Mamzzzzzzzzzzzzz."

My cue to make a hasty exit, and here I am writing you an email.

Beki and Howland are coming for a visit this weekend ... yes, in February. Do you know that the last three February visits that our VT relations ended with delayed flights back to VT ... we're talking days here. Very brave of Beki and Howland to be come, and they are very welcome here indeed -- I wonder what adventures we'll have on this visit ... I can't wait!

Okay, y'all I'm going to sneak home and see if I can catch a few 'z's myself.

A visit with Beki and Howland

Originally posted Feb 8, 2005

Just coming off a whirlwind visit: Beki and Howland came South for a weekend, bringing with them 50+ degree (farenheit) weather. Diane remarked that Spring had come early, and then grimaced, realizing that it was only early February. ... hehehe (sung: "I'm Mr. ColdMiser; I'm Mr. Snow!" ... How Come Every Word In That Song Is Capitalized?).

The visit: it was pretty much an non-contemplative affair from the moment Beki and Howland deplaned ... okay they did have an hour's worth of meditation time at the airport, as they arrived at 10:15 pm, and I was sound asleep, coming off a 34-hour work day (whoops! Sorry, Beki and Howland!). Saturday it was: Starbucks for breakfast, then I went off to sing a requiem for one of our choir members (15 children, 51 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren -- the Liturgy and music were all in Latin and our cantor, Adina, sang "In paradiso" so beautifully), then Pho for lunch, then le Matin de Paris (a Korean bakery/cafe (I'm not joking)), then Diane and I went to confession while Beki and Howland watched the kids (Thanks!) and when shopping at Kam Sen (the Chinese grocery) -- Elena Marie decided her happiness depended on some rice crackers, and Beki obligingly bought them for her. Pizza and leftovers for supper, then I fell sound asleep again (it being 8 pm, and all) while Beki visited with her friend Sarah.

Sunday: Dance-dance revolution exercise early morning for me and then Mass for us, yoga for Beki. We missed the 9 am Mass, so we met Howland at Starbucks for some breakfast and then we hopped off to the 10:30 Mass where I sang in the choir (the choir director stopped me after Mass to extract a promise from me that I would sing for Holy Week -- I've stopped singing during Ordinary time to help manage the kiddies, who can get rather antsie during the homily (so I went down to the pews to help Diane manage the sweet li'l bundles of (very energetic) joy during the sermon -- Adina mentioned: "You're a real Papa; you've managed to be in two places at once!"). Off to one of our neighbor's children's birthday parties (Michael, born a few months after Elena Marie). It was a small affair: only 4 families in the playgroup in which we participate (the mother, Jennifer McCabe, started the playgroup), so I felt honored to attend. Because of the delay from Mass, we showed up (fashionably) late. As we made our entrance, everyone greeted us, which caused Elena Marie to disappear, becoming my perfect shadow. I gave her some wise comfort: "Don't worry, Elena: everyone's looking at you." As you can guess, this helped quite a bit -- Elena went *shrink* *shrink* *Shrink*!

After that party (the father, Matt, made the train-engine cake himself!), Mike Wuerthele called and "invited" us over for a visit, so Beki, Howland, and I walked over, transporting EM and Isabel in the sport tandem stroller. As it was the children's naptime, they fell asleep on the way, and slept throughout the visit, and most of the way home.

Time for supper: we went to the Afgan Kabob place I "discovered" (I've gone there since it opened and have brought not a few other customers to their doors), where we enjoyed chicken and lamb kabobs with the wide and long flat Afgan bread. Yummy!

Time to send Beki and Howland back home! Yikes! The visit's over already? Elena Marie and I brought Beki and Howland to the airport, and Elena was quite the chatty one on the way. Beki and Howland went on their way, and, as I was closing the trunk, I heard the strangest sound coming from the car: a whining, sobbing sound.

Poor Elena Marie was crying deep, heart-felt sobs of grief in the face of losing her dear, dear Auntie Beki and Uncle Howland. I almost ran into the airport to ask Beki and Howland to say goodbye one more time to the poor baby, but then I guessed that prolonging the goodbye would prolong Elena's grief. I drove off, instead, assuring my crying daughter that Beki and Howland would visit again, or that we would visit them.

She continued to cry all the way home, and I echoed her sobs on the inside as my heart hurt at my little girl's sorrow.

When we arrived back home, she fell fast asleep next to her mother. The next morning, I was awake early to exercise, and she woke up and ran to me, crying ... see, she usually sleeps in her own room (which she proudly took possession of a month ago: "Stay out, Papa, this is MY room and this is MY bed!" You couldn't find anyone happier!), but when she wakes up in the morning (sometimes in the very early morning, ya know, 2 am) she looks for her mama and cries when not seeing her immediately. So, this morning, she ran out of our room, looking for her mother in another room, and became disorientated.

I grabbed her and hugged her for a while, and then a little peep from my shoulder queried: "Papa, can I take your picture?"

She had seen our camera, and after she took a picture of me standing by the coat hangar in my pag-bahay (around the house clothes), everything was right in the world again: we looked around for breakfast foods, we put on a pert shirt and pink pants, and then Mama and baby Isabel came along for the morning activities.

Now, I'm finishing up some reports for a conference I'll be attending for the next three days, hoping this week goes quickly, because it's going to be a great deal of hard work at the conference, with the promise of much more hard work following it.

So, Beki and Howland, thank you for giving me a break from this work, so as to create and to share these wonderful family stories.

Antics from the Kiddies

Originally posted Feb 25, 2005

Good morning! My dear mother is finishing up her visit with us and is headed south, INTO the snow for Lake Charles, LA for a spell. So, what better time than now? Let's have some stories about the kiddies to send her on her way.

Isabel Marie has taken a cue from her Ate (elder sister) and has been quite the playful one with her Lola (grandmother), whereas the last visit from Mom, Isabel took a long time to warm up to her, this time, Isabel presented herself right away and commenced to play ring-around-the-rosies and other such games. Mom was surprised and pleased beyond measure (but she contained herself well, unlike me, see the following).

Diane took the girls shoe-shopping, and, they returned home before I left for work (I exercise in the morning, you see). In walked Elena Marie with her new shoes, and I just had to burst out: "ELENA MARIE, YOU'RE WEARING SOOO CUTE PINK, PINK SHOOOOOoOooooOoOOooOooES!" So, Elena Marie, not being able to contain herself, either, ran off to her room, peals of laugher bursting forth from her, to hide herself and her brand new pink shoes from her papa.

Meanwhile, Isabel needed to remove her pink sneakers, so we sat down to do just that. Isabel was very helpful: she would raise her leg as high as she could (from her seated position), which turned out to be a whole 2 millimeters, to help me in my task of removing her footwear. As she did this for each foot in turn, she would look at me with an expectant, suppressed, smile on her lips: "Do you see me helping, Papa?" is what I assumed she was thinking.

But it turns out that Elena Marie hasn't been feeling all that peppy: instead of sitting down for lunch, she had me hold her in my arms and rock her "to sleep" ("I'm sleeping, Papa. Look at me sleeping, Papa. Papa, sing me to sleep on the rocking chair" -- that's Elena Marie sleeping ... right). And she actually did sleep through supper (we went out to Thai Pilin, the best Thai food in the U.S.A. -- unfortunately, tonight (last night?) the drunken noodles were not at all spicy (both Mother and Isabel disagree with me -- Mom asked to try my dish, much to her chagrin, and Isabel grabbed a string bean from my plate, only to return it right away after tasting it as a look of intense discomfort crossed her face), only waking after we finished as we walked out into the cold, driving snow. The poor girl was shaking so badly as I put her into her carseat that my heart must have missed a beat or two in my anxiety for her.

She'll be fine, she and Mother invented this new game called "Oh, where is my granddaughter?" Elena Marie would run to her room to hide, and Mom would sing out this call, which, after a couple of essays, would bring Elena Marie bounding into the room, bursting out, "Here I am!" in very short order. This game seems to have many rounds to it and is a source of delight to all (three) participants (Isabel would join in by following or leading her Ate in these disappearances and reappearances, smiling joyfully the whole time).

So, God speed, Mother, your apo (grandchildren) had a great time with you on this visit.

Elena's smile; Isabel's reach

Originally posted March 20, 2005

Good evening (37 minutes to "Good Morning") and hello!

A couple of stories to share about our daughters. A thought just hit me up-side the head like an iron skillet: "new daddy sharing kiddie stories" -- how prosaic! I guess I'm turning out to be a caricature of a stereotype.

But I forge on, not bravely, because bravery is action in the face of fear, but fearlessly, 'cause I'm that kind of guy.

Elena Marie, and forgive me for writing this, has a smile that would melt snow in Antartica. Yesterday, Diane dressed her up in her purple corduroy dress (with large pink and blue flower prints), pink tights and pink, pink shoes. Now, I demand an answer from you: how could anyone supress a scream of delight. I certainly could not contain myself, and that's when the special smile of hers was framed by eyes squeezed shut with delight and pink cheeks all aglow (she hid behind herself, if you can imagine that, as there was no closet to duck into nor coat rack to hide behide).

So, later that day, Diane needed to deliver something to me at work (ummm, don't ask about work: just when I thought it couldn't get busier, I find out ON FRIDAY that all the other people like me (don't ask) are going on vacation next week, so I need to maintain their systems while they are away ... next week's Holy Week, but our international partners decided it was a good time to turn on a new system that one of those lucky vacationing folks maintains, so ... I feel like I'm holding the bag, but the bag is three stories tall!). Isabel was sleeping, peacefully, like a little baby llama nestled into the crook of her mama's belly on Noah's arc, but Elena Marie was quite pleased to see her papa so she could play, quietly, with him.

The game was a simple one: she would extend her shoe out the car window, and I would spider my hand toward the enticement until, she judged, that the spider was close enough to be a threat to her covered foot. She then would rapidly retract her leg; I, my hand, until she extended her foot again, demanding: "Papa, sommore!" And, with that 1500 watt smile of her's, who was I to say no?

We also played a variant today. Isabel was asleep again, and Elena Marie was constructing an Africa lion-head mask, with a modicum of help from her mother. Between burst of activity, she indolently extended her leg to rest her foot on the table top. Which would cause me to run, full speed to grab that pink, pink shoe. My action elicited her immediate response: her giggles covered her quickly protected footwear. She would then, cautiously extend her leg, and I would attempt to ninja up to the table (it's hard to ninja up to a centralized, well-lighted area with an alert target watching one the whole time, but it was worth an attempt). Her smile and laughter would grow as I futilely attempted to draw closer. *Zwhoosh* Away, again, went her foot, hidden safely again.

It was a pretty head-mask she made. I have her previous opus, a Zebra head-mask, at work.


Isabel Marie is growing into her own (very strong) personality. She loves bouncing onto the balls of her feet (she's dancing with joy), she loves "running" (stomping along at twice the speed but covering half the distance), she loves "crying" (she really is unhappy, but it's difficult not to laugh when she raises her hand to cover her mouth in an "oh! Woe! woe is me!" gesture that would make pros ask for her autograph). She's recently been acquainted with a new game that she's very fond of doing, and then repeating.

Her Tito Mike lifted her up to the ceiling for her to extend her tiny-tiny hand to touch. That has got to be the coolest thing in the world for her. The cost is not so bad either: a big-ole smootch on the cheek (with she loves receiving and, when called on, delivers with the utmost dignity and care). I watched this game for awhile, and then when asked, obliged.

I am so happy I caught her when she slipped from my grasp.


She thought it was part of the game and a hoot, so asked for a replay. Again, I obliged, but this time set myself up a little better to prevent another near-hospital-visit incident (the hospitalization would've been for me: I get tunnel vision just thinking about it again!)

She's also so smart! She gets weepy when tired, so Diane asked this disconsolate 25# bundle: "Do you want to go to bed or go see the puppet show?" She, with the utmost gravity (Jupiterarian: when a toddler's crying like that, everything seems more serious), pointed to the bed. You know, I wish I was that smart: when she's tired, she asks to sleep. It will be amazing to hear what she has to say when she starts talking more than "Mama, mahma, mavah, mama" (that's this guy writing).

Okay, all, good morning!

Elena's angel and friends; Isabel's silence

Originally posted April 6, 2005

Ah, so many wonderful things happening in ma famille, so I was compelled to write! So, there it is.

A couple of stories (more or less ... okay, more).

Isabel Marie is working on saying words. One day, when Tito Mike was helping me baby sit the li'l tyke (he was there for (my) moral support, and for lunch). She, as usual, was in my arms, and, as usual in that position, had a commanding view of the things she needed to have and the places she needed to be. Well, her Tata Dennis had given her a frog made from ironwood (native to the Philippines ... this kind of wood makes wonderful bokken, but that's not a story for today) that "croaks" when it's back is brushed with a drumstick designed especially for that purpose. It was, I say WAS, safely out of her view on the mantlepiece, but, in my arms, she found she needed to hold that toy particularly pleasing to her. "Mm-mm!" she pointed. So, after having watched Diane and Elena Marie work with her on words, I decided to give it a go: "That's a frog, Isabel [note to my dear readers: yes, like the painting "Ceci n'est pas un pipe", it wasn't a /real/ frog, but I felt the lesson about a real thing verses the representation of that thing in a picture or sculpture or in other forms was a lesson to be learnt later]. Can you say 'frog'?"

*pause* *furroughed brow* *a look at Tito Mike to see if she should be embarrassed if he was looking at her expectantly (he was)*


Me, all excited: "What did you say?"

Isabel said nothing thereafter, choosing, instead to bury herself into my armpit.

She did get the frog, and was engaged with it happily for quite some time.

That was story 1.


She also goes to sleep as if by magic. When I notice her eyes a bit droopy (it also helps that she tells me she's sleepy by (rarely) crying or by demanding that I continue dancing her), all I need do is to rock her for no more than two minutes, bright lights, loud noises, or quietness, it makes no difference, she's out, and out for at least two hours. Also, putting her on the bed couldn't be easier:

  1. I put her on the bed.

  2. She stirs.

  3. I rest my hand on her stomach.

  4. She sleeps.

  5. I cover her.

Um, pinch me (I won't complain that this is too easy, because it is).

That's story 2 (hey, I didn't claim these stories would be the Illiad and the Odyssey!)


Before bed, the children and I play before they play with Mama (and then, eventually, sleep). Sometimes we play "bus": I'm the bus, and Elena Marie and Isabel go to school on the bus, and to the mall on the bus, and stop at goose crossings on the bus ("Papa, look out for goose poop!" Elena Marie's exclamation had Diane in tears, she was laughing so hard). It is vitally important, before we play this game, that Elena Marie obtain school books for herself and Isabel, so Elena Marie leaps off the bed, grabs two books from the nursery ("Don't drive away yet, Papa!" she calls from there), and races back to the bedroom to hand Isabel her book and catch the "bus" just in time. It's quite an undertaking, from the effort I see expended, but it appears to be a satisfying one at that. Elena Marie hops off to go to school (As I understand it, school takes two seconds of sitting on a cushy-cushy pillow before "Papa, the bell is ringing!"), and then takes the bus back home.

After that adventure, reading is necessary. Isabel demands I read her "Touch and Feel" four or five times; "Tumble Bumble" (great book! One of my fav's) at least twice and "Dinosaur's Binkit" [whatsa 'binkit'?] twice. This is how she demands I read a book: *shove* (book into my face) *point-point-point* (her finger onto the book cover) *meaningful look* (to make sure I understand my orders and will execute them expeditiously). One time I was reading to her while Diane and Elena Marie were talking. Isabel raised an imperious finger to her lips: "Ssss!" Diane and Elena Marie kept talking: "SSSSS!" Still talking. Me, to the other ladies present: "I think Isabel wants it quiet while I read to her." Other ladies, looking me over with a look of distain, pity and warmth, exeunt, stage left.

Yeah, it doesn't look like indecision will be an issue with the little one, so that's one problem solved.


That's the third story ... I hope you don't mind if I go over my "coupla stories" quota.


Elena Marie has a bunch of "friends". Her friends appeared after we asked a teenager, Emily [Elena Marie: "I'm Emily" after a visit], to come stay with us for a couple of hours to engage the children while Diane got some work done around the house. First there was "Emily" (she's the size of one of the hoos in "Horton Hears a Hoo"). After Elena Marie saw a "Little House on the Prairie" episode ["I'm Laura," she proclaimed] and had play time with other children of about her age ["I'm Anna," said she -- can you guess the name of the girl she played with?] there was Dessie, Thessie, Lessie, Dessie, Dessie and Dessie ... and Dessie. Sometimes they get on the "bus" with her, but there's plenty of room to accomodate 6 or 7 hoo-sized passengers. [One time, I asked if her friends were accompanying her, naming each in turn. Diane scolded me: "Don't tease her!" "I can't help it!" I responded, vibrating in place with the pure joy of naming Elena Marie's friends.]

Elena Marie also has a guardian angel. One time, she fell down off her chair, but didn't get hurt at all. Diane told her: "Your guardian angel caught you." Elena Marie warmed to her angel. When she falls (and I recover from my seizure), I've asked her: "Did you get hurt?" She would answer straightaway: "Nope [yeah, she actually says, 'Nope', and another one, 'thanks!', as easy as you please], my guardian angel caught me!" Sometimes, after one of these [for me, harrowing] incidents, Elena Marie sets up the scenario again, so she can get a repeated rescue from her angel. This whole experience is the source of no small amount of delight for her, as you may imagine (picture this, Elena Marie looking back into her fall to catch sight of her guardian angel, all the while smiling her 1500 watt smile).

So those above are a "coupla stories", so I'll finish off with one more:


The kids enjoy each other, in a companionable manner, whatever Elena Marie does, Isabel is right there with her Ate, doing the same thing. Ate Elena, regally, allows this. So, when Ate goes to the "store" to buy "foods", Isabel also loads up a sandpail with plastic fruits and vegetables to be rung up by an attendant (an attendant being the available parent). When Elena's reading (which is every hour, it seems), Isabel is reading. When Elena sits down to play, Isabel is a ready and studious playmate, so much so that we can leave them alone to their devices for quite a while.

It's a wonderful time for the children, and for us, too, as their parents to see them be so much themselves, and, at the same time, so comfortable with, and so comforting to, each other.

Love Doug

P.S. Diane's buying her "Mommy Van" this week (my Xmas present to her); "Oh, no! People will think I'm a Mommy!" she lamented and then got excited over the task of choosing just the right one.

A new van, same ole kiddies; habemus papam

Originally posted April 19, 2005

... but having the same-ol' kiddies isn't anything to complain about, tho' ... just the opposite, in fact.

So! The new news is that Diane is now the proud possessor of a mommy-van (2001 Honda Odyssey EX, if you must know ... it is green to her but to nearly everyone else, it's grey, until we tell them it's green, then they say, "Oh, yeah, it is kinda, um, what colour did you say, again? ... Green? ..."). So, we had our mechanic, Dan, check it out ("I would buy it!"), and I drove it home, all self-congratulatory, because all our neighbors were coming out and pointing.

Yeah, that's right, I'm awesome 'cause I'm driving a mommy-van (amazing, isn't it, how material possessions inflate one's ego, eh?).

Well, the neighbors were pointing because the passenger side tire had flattened down to the rim.


... and we didn't have a spare.

Um, yeah.

Fortunately, one of our neighbors DID have a spare for their (really) green mommy-van, and graciously lent it to us (after making the comment: "Oh, you have a flat. That's a bad start: it must be deflating." When I brayed a "Ha-Ha", our neighbor realized her double-entendre ... it must be wonderful to be so blissfully un-self-aware. Hey, I'm not sensitive, I'm just fully self-realized. By the way, 'sensitive' is a nuanced word: wimpy, quiche-eating, and so 90s; 'self-realized', on the other hand, is a beat-the-drum, manly term (but from the same era, unfortunately)).

So, after that little problem was solved ("It takes a village ... to change a tire"), we've made many new discoveries: one was that Isabel can hop up into the van, not to sit in her seat, mind, but to worm her way to the driver's seat so she can 'drive' ... while she's 'driving' she looks to me, expectantly, not to see if she's in trouble, but for me to provide the requisite sound effects ("brrrrm, brrrm, beep! beep!"). That little one is developing quite a signature smile, keeping pace with her Ate.

Yes, we've been out joyriding, but I haven't yet done donuts. I'll wait 'til Elena's 16 for that, so I can include that along with her driver's ed.

Poor Isabel had a fever "this morning" (ending sometime around 5 am), and was crying hard (Diane had to excuse herself for a moment, and the little one was wailing in separation anxiety), so I came to help in the nurturing (remember, not at all 'sensitive', please) of the progeny. I held Isabel, while Diane comforted Elena, and the li'l tyke and I walked about the darkened house ("Djadja!" she exclaimed. "Yes," I responded, "that's Mr. Darcy") until she asked to be returned to bed: "Mm-mmm!" [ya see, it's really not that hard to understand baby-talk!] I put her on the bed, and in a few seconds of pointing toward her mama (which I quietly acknowledged with a pensive hum), she was fast asleep.

Ah! My heart is breaking for the bunsoh [littlest one]! [to my dear parents-in-law: Isabel is the /current/ bunsoh, okay? No worries!]

Diane, next to and consolling Elena Marie, wiggled her eyebrows to me in appreciation.

SO, it being about the time for me to wake up, anyway, and having victoriously slayed all family strife dragons (Elena Marie: "Papa, look! There's a dragon!" Me: *swipe* "Got it!"), I covered up Isabel (which I later learnt I should not have done: children with fevers tend to become drenched with sweat when fully covered ... ah, well, libEn und lernEn (I always find the English words of German origin to be so much more forceful than the romantic counterparts: 'freedom' has a more visceral impact than 'liberty'; 'friend' vs. 'companion', 'live' vs. 'inhabit', 'learn' vs. 'apprehend', etc)), and headed downstairs to do my 'dance-dance revolutions' morning regimen. My friend, brother (actually, cousin-in-law by marriage, but since we're both white guys (he of German origin, me of mixed heritage), both from New England, and both 'like' things technological, our Philipino relations label us 'brothers'), and network engineer ('Honey, I'm a network engineer!' he proudly boasted to his wife, because he is) bought a whole bunch of songs, so, besides the 100 or so songs with the two 'games' (, Mike's given me another 50 or so more to dance through ... I've got quite a bit of dancing to do here, folks!

And now we have a new Pope (habemus papam). Diane, Elena Marie and Isabel watched a video of his first blessing, and little (feverish) Isabel pointed to the screen and exclaimed: "Papa!" Diane was so pleased: "That's right, that's our new Papa!" But this confused Elena Marie to not end, so Diane had to explain that, no, that wasn't Elena's 'Daddy' Papa (although, he is that, as well, I suppose), but the new Pope, to which Elena Marie replied: "Oh, Pope John Paul II!"

Diane was so pleased, again!

She also had to go out this morning to register her new mommy-van (any excuse for a joyride; I know the drill), so I volunteered to watch the knee-biters while she did that. The two girls and I breakfasted on cheeze, mostly consumed by Elena Marie, so I got out three more slices: first, just one for Isabel, until Ate said, "And one for Ate!" Me: "How do you ask?" Ate: "PLEASE!" Me: "Hokay." and then, until Ate said, "And one for Papa!" So, Elena Marie, being a big girl and the Ate, got to open her own slice, but, Isabel, being bunsoh, demanded my help: I sectioned the cheeze into bite-sized nibbles for the chickadee, and when she "MM!" for more, I said, "It's cheeze, Isabel, can you say: 'cheeze'?" Isabel: "Ztheeeezth!"


*sniff* my baby's growing up!

Well, after much applause, she got her cheeze, and then we all went outside to play. Elena Marie's favorite outdoor game these days is to exclaim: "Papa, it's raining!" so that we all duck under our cypress, until, magically, two seconds later: "Papa, it's not raining!" and we all run out and cavort about the yard. Diane, a couple of days ago, challenged my patrimonial skilz (yo!): "Maria's father throws her up into the air!" [Maria's a year older than Elena Marie; Maria's father is half-a-decade younger than moi-self]. So, in our cavorting, I threw Isabel high-high into the air, and then Elena Marie demanded: "My turn!" So, as a manly, 'self-realized', man, I took her into my hands and launched her high into the air, again, and again.

I'm typing this email with a pencil in my mouth from the hospital bed. The doctors say in 3-4 months I'll be able to move my left index finger again.

Right [no, Mother, I'm not paralysed, okay?].

I called Diane when I learnt we have a new Pope, and, the children, hearing that it's (one of their) father(s) on the phone, demanded some quantity time (and, as my sponge-cake-like heart was breaking over Isabel's fever, I wasn't one to ignore the opportunity). Me: "Hello, Isabel!" and, right away, she responded: "Papa!"

*WOW* That's a first! She hasn't, up to now, talked on the phone.


Elena was all lady-like on the phone: she informed me that she was with "Mama and Isabel and my friends" and about to have supper. On the same topic, Elena Marie has become quite the story-teller! Sometimes, when I'm driving, she asks me 'to read' her a story, which is not a literal request, so I begin: "Once upon a time, there was a girl named Elena Marie ..." and then she picks up the story from there, weaving in her experiences and thoughts for the day ... I thought only Bill and Ocean's children could do that!

She, like them, also is very good at coming up with new words for traditional melodies on the spot. We start with "Intsy-wintsy spider" and after the first verse she weaves a new tale over the next several verses. Cool! Isabel as also started to sing in these last few weeks. Her first songs were "Maaaaa-maa, Maaaaaa-maaa!" [I didn't realized she was singing out these calls until Tita Femme remarked with surprise that we have singing children] but then she also watched her Ate and started humming along with more complicated melodies.

This all puts me somewhat in a bind. Being a bear of a very little brain ("Run, Forrest, run!"), shepherding these two smart kids will be a daunting task, indeed! Ah, well! My daily prayer is that I be a good husband and father, and my daily thanks is one of awe for all the blessings raining down on me in this torrential downpour of joy.