Reboot

Yet another reboot of the skipandmadge.com site. I need a place for personal posts and this shall be it!

Mmmm... Weedo!

Sophie:   Mom, can you find my buttewfwy net?

Mom:   Well, in a minute hon, I'm trying to decide what to feed Rhys.

Sophie:  You can feed him pablum.

Mom:   Well, he can't always have pablum, he needs to eat all different foods, like we do.

Sophie:  Okay, feed him some weedo!

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Scarrows & Peacons

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Lauryn:   Oh, look!  A Robin!

Sophie:   We need to get the Biwd Book so we can see what kind of biwd it is.  It might be a scawwow.

Lauryn:   A scarrow?

Sophie:   Yeah.  A scawwow.  Or a peacon!

Lauryn:   A PEACON!!??

Sophie:   Yeah... scawwows and peacons.

Lauryn:   What's a peacon?

Sophie:   A peacon is a biwd that has long bwanches... and on the bwanches it has eyes!

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Happy 08!

Now we begin those first few marks on the blank page that is a brand new year.

If the Chinese have it right, this year should be a lucky one.  Can we ALL have a really fortunate year at the same time?  Regardless, we wish you all a great one.  May you be happy and healthy and loved.

Looking back, we had a busy year.  Our major undertaking was the renovation of the entire main floor of our home.  We’re really enjoying it now and we find our kitchen to be much more functional & welcoming.

It was a big job, but a much more exciting event was just around the corner.  Our baby boy was born at the end of May.  He’s an absolute delight.  Life must not have been much fun before he came along.  His sisters adore and dote on him.  Lucky little man.

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In November, Dave lost his Dad due to terminal illness. It was a sad and difficult time.  It was poignant and life-changing.  It was important to be there.  We dearly miss him, and we appreciate the love and support we’ve received from our family and friends.  He was truly one-of-a-kind and the closest replica exists only in the form of his two fine sons.

We were so happy to have Dave’s mom come for Christmas.  She is so sweet and a pleasure to have around.  We spent a lot of time at my parents’ place.  They know just how to make the holidays fun and they welcome everyone.

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When Dave’s iPhone barked the toll of the new year, I was happy to have no regrets (other than my crummy Wii bowling score) and look forward with contentment.

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas was great, and we were blessed to celebrate it with family and friends.  Its special to have a baby around at Christmastime.  Its fun to share his smiles and love with family, and to watch as new little eyes gaze at the lights on the tree.  You can’t help but wonder what they’re thinking as they stare and smile and take it all in.

Every night before bed we would read more about the Christmas story with our girls.  We also sang a Christmas carol with them each night, and they loved it.  They’re great little singers!

I can’t imagine what Christmas would be like without children.  They really make it memorable.  I love to see the gifts they give.  My oldest child made wonderful cards this year for everyone in the family.  The art was amazing and the messages were so sincere.  A gift seems so much better when you know you can’t purchase it at a store.

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That brings me to the point of next Christmas.  I’m seriously considering a Buy Nothing Christmas, where all gifts are hand-made, or simply gifts from the heart.  We’re all so wealthy in the global scheme of things; so few of us have unfulfilled needs.  Why should we go out and purchase unneeded things for each other? I hate to further fuel the consuming “machine”.  If any of us needs something, we’re likely to go and buy it.  And no, I’m not referring to wants here.  Anyway, its a plan and I’ll see how it goes.

A big thanks to Grandma & Grandpa for the sleepovers, the puzzles, the great food & even better company.

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I can do it, Mommy

Here's my little girl, perfecting her culinary skills.  I do feel a little sorry for the banana...

Banana Massacre

At which age are children typically able to handle a knife?  She’s never cut herself, and I always try to keep an eye on her, but I can’t help but worry a bit.  They tell me Dave used to cut an apple on a stool with a sharp knife when he was about three.  It was a regular snack, but never as popular as the cheese sandwiches which he’d microwave on his own.

Its amazing how little ones can handle tools.  They learn by observation, and with a little instruction and supervision, its neat to see them succeed easily on their own.

No news is... news?

For all those who voted on when our baby would arrive, most of you surely didn't win.

He's hanging on inside longer than any of us expected, though we all doubt he'll hold out until Monday. At least his birthday won't fall on our anniversary or Sophie's birthday.

Our midwives joke that, "It takes longer to make the handle".

Email is a Hammer

Give an active kid a hammer and what will they do? Use it on everything in sight.

With no boundaries or rules in place, everything is subjected to the hammer's usefulness, because it is such a wonderful and marvelous tool toy.

Email is a hammer.

I was on the internet for the first time back in 1995 and I had just started my university career. It was the heady days of Pine (for email), Finger (for finding if people were online), Gopher (for searching), and the Usenet (mmm... alt.caving). Browsing the web was done only in text. And getting "online" meant using telnet from within the school network or a dial-up connection.

One of the first friends I met in class was a fellow with a penchant for forwarding emails. Email was this brand new toy and we were all excited to use it, though we only had each other to talk to. (We all checked email in the same room at the same time.) I very soon was known in class by my username, probably because we saw each others' addresses so often.

Forwarded emails became a staple of our diet. My friend had his network of friends who would send him everything they received, and he on to us. It was pretty cool and a lot of fun... for about three weeks.

After a relatively short period of time, the novelty began to wear off and these endless forwards became quite tarnished. It became very obvious that many of the "feel good" stories were nothing more than well-crafted lies, and the threads of jokes went from poor to worse (especially the ASCII animated ones where you hold down the spacebar to achieve animation).

Years later the cycle continues, and for some it never ends. Honestly, I don't know how people have the time (or interest) to read (and then forward) all the garbage that passes through their mailboxes. Perhaps this is why spam is successful. Lonely, unbusy people, enjoying the novelty of this new hammer, expecting everyone to have the time (or interest) to read whatever "feel good" scam comes their way.

Bang, Bang, Bang... Forward, forward, forward...

Please, before you waste my (or others') time, do be considerate and research the background on the latest "hot" story to hit your inbox. Search for it in Snopes, and more often than not you'll find its a hoax.

And yes, there are legitimate articles that may be of benefit to me or to others. Forgive me if I never read them or never respond to them. If it doesn't interest me at that moment, chances are I'll never look at it again. I'd much rather prefer a personalized communication than something you received and think I'll be interested in. Or at least preface it with a personalized note and high-level synopsis. I don't want to read 2/3 only to discover that its a complete waste of my time. If you can sum it up in one sentence, and that sentence is appealing, I'm probably 10 times more likely to read-on.

Last but not least. Email generally is not the best mechanism for distributing cool videos to your friends. Find it on youtube.com (or post it there) and send me a description and link. My mailbox has a finite size, and I process (and store) a lot of email. Please don't flood me and make legitimate messages bounce.

(...directed at no one in particular. Just an observation and personal declaration.)

Programamming

When I first went to university, I very soon had two favorite classes. The one involved coming up with an idea - a solution to a problem - and documenting it (why, how, the solution would work, etc). The second, was a class in TurboPascal. I ate it up. The language was ok, but mildly frustrating as I remember it. I didn't have a completely clear understanding of why and how, but I found it very magical to create. I could create - create anything I wanted or anything I could use the language to create (as languages, of all types, can easily become barriers unless you learn to properly employ them).

I'd been timid as a child. Intimidated by my peers, by my siblings, and by my surroundings. In my own element, where I found myself somewhat in control or completely knowledgeable about the subject at hand, I could find myself at ease, but apart from at the farm, or outside the classroom, I was out of my element. My peers, and siblings (and their offspring) found my excellence in the classroom as perhaps intimidating, or perhaps insulting or unworthy of recognition. But if that's one of two places where you find yourself at ease, its nigh impossible to stop performing well. Its not a question of impressing the right people, but, in my situation, any positive reinforcement feels wonderful.

I the business world, at least in my business world, I've found that excellence is rewarded, complemented, and appreciated. As a youth it lead to hostility, insult, jealousy, contempt and disrespect. Certainly, in the business world, these negative results can still be experienced, but I'd vouch to say that they emanate from adult bodies with insecure youths trapped inside.

But university is a place to be tried, rewarded, insulted, and generally instilled (tuned) with knowledge, ability, and understanding. And so I found comfort in creation. At first it was the simple ability to run a program - a simple program that put words on a screen. Any words I commanded the machine to put on the screen would be displayed (if I held to the rules - the syntax - of the language).

Yet my confidence and focus in university were battered and I let myself down. I didn't have the faith in myself that I could understand if I put in enough effort. So I didn't apply the necessary time on one lab that came back to haunt me in the final. My marks suffered and I left "First Year" with the desire to do something different.

Two years in France gave me a chance to learn - to learn about myself, about other people, about the world, and about where I found work most enjoyable. Again it was in front of a computer. This time the language was different - it was data organization and representation. Yet the task was the same - improvement. Using the computer to improve a process, simplify, reduce labour.

I am a machine.

I live to improve. Improvement comes through creation.

I am creation.

So I returned to university. I had worked, in the best and worst conditions all at the same time, in France and found confidence and ability and understanding in myself. I found my strengths. My patience and determination were improved. I found faith in myself and tolerance in my surroundings and peers. Their words would no longer stick to me. Though they may hurt - sting for a moment - I gained resilience and confidence.

I retook classes that challenged me before and prevailed. And I took a new programming class.

C++

Those three syllables had been ominous to the old me - something beyond my abilities or opportunities. Like Calculus to Arithmatic, C++ to Pascal was seen, by the old me, as a higher level - a challenge that would surely be demeaning and frustrating, not something I would enjoy.

And yet, given the opportunity to receive instruction, I latched on and have not yet been filled. Soon I found myself using language constructs the instructor did not understand or appreciate and I found myself yet again conversing with the instructor (or teacher in the more youthful days) over how I was indeed correct.

Another year of school and the language became more clear and my abilities grew. Year over year I learned and grew and created. Soon it was another language, and another. Then it was how ALL languages work. And on reaching that point, the language specifically ceased to be important, as fitting the appropriate language to the problem at hand became more fun. Using the language that made the act of creation easier, or more enjoyable, is what happens now.

But the task is always the same.

Solving the problem. Creating the solution. Improving the process.

Yet software development is a hobby - a side-project. My skills improve in many areas, and as long as I learn and improve, I am happy.

But I do not shake this software addiction - nor do I want to.

(Originally written on a train to Seoul Nov 9 2005)

Warm Chocolate Molten Cake

During our time in San Diego a couple (and their daughter) quickly befriended us, and gave us the opportunity to go surfing a couple of times. We always had lots of fun together and had a lot in common.

After one dinner party (or other outing) the topic of desserts came up and they said they knew one of the best, richest, most delicate, dark chocolate desserts. Naturally we had to schedule a follow-up dinner party during which we made these.

Thanks to Cameron and Lisa for introducing us to this one (and their hospitality). Now I just need to document the rules to their addictive dice game.

Warm Chocolate Molten Cake

Serves 4

  • 5 oz bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate chopped (145 g)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon brandy (or 1 tsp rum flavoring)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Large pinche of salt (+1/8 tsp cinnamon)
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chilled whipping cream
  • 1/2 package frozen raspberries

Method for the Cake:

  • Generously butter four 3/4-cup soufflé dishes or custard cups (ramekins to the cool kids). No flour or sugar.
  • Arrange on baking sheet.
  • Stir chocolate and butter in heavy small saucepan over low heat until smooth.
  • Remove from heat; stir in brandy (rum). Cool 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Using electric mixer, beat eggs, yolks, 4 tablespoons sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl (about 6 minutes)
  • Sift flour over batter; fold in flour. Fold batter in chocolate mixture
  • Divide batter among dishes, filling completely. Can refrigerate up to 24 hours.
  • Preheat over to 400°F. Bake cakes until tops are puffed (about 15 minutes).
  • Cool cakes 5 minutes before turning (inverting) onto plates and serving with the following:

Raspberry Coulis:

  • De-frost raspberries and puree with 1 tablespoon of sugar.
  • Pass through a sieve or cheesecloth to remove any seeds.
  • Ladle sauce onto a plate and center a cake in the pool of sauce.
  • Garnish with Confectioners sugar (icing sugar, powdered sugar)
  • (optional) and serve with whipped cream.

Nigella's Brownies

Beyond just posting about interesting software that I'm interested in or can't live without, I also like food. Actually, if I could typically go without eating, I would. But, when I'm interested in food, I quite enjoy it and especially enjoy food of quality, not necessarily quantity.

So here's a recipe that I found on the Internet (via slashfood), that Madge first made, and that I've now made once (with pointers from Madge). These are, according to my tastes, very good brownies. I'd say that they're "the best ever" but that's a tough judgement call until I've tried every brownie recipe in existance. These are definitely a contender. And I expect Nigella is Nigella Lawson.

Nigella's Brownies

  • 1 2/3 cup soft unsalted butter
  • 13 ounces (368.5 grams) of very fine chocolate (I used Lindt 70% Cocoa Chocolate - each bar is 100g, and some Chipits chocolate chips)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts - yuck!) (I'd say optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  • Line your brownie pan (13x9") with parchment paper. This is a little extra step but makes the brownie a breeze to get out of the pan....
  • Melt the butter and chocolate together over medium-low heat. Let this cool a bit after melting.
  • Mix together the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl.
  • Measure the flour into another bowl along with the salt. (I used a 2 cup measuring cup and then added the salt directly to the measuring cup and stirred.)
  • Mix together the cooled chocolate/butter mixture and the eggs/sugar mixture.
  • Add in the nuts (I didn't - I left them out).
  • Mix in the flour and beat to combine smoothly
  • Scrape into lined pan.
  • Bake for 25 (35-40?) minutes and be vigilant. Brownies can go from delish to dry in about 2 minutes.... They will continue to cook a bit as they cool....

25 minutes just wasn't long enough. I ended up baking them for closer to 35-40 - until a knife could be inserted in the center and the batter would just barely cling.

Nanking Cherry Jelly

I grew up eating most anything. I'm not talking about food served at the table, but generally anything that could possibly be considered edible, I've probably tried or would be willing to try.

My brother almost fooled me into taking a finger-lick of grease after he opened a new tube for the grease-gun and he told me it was chocolate pudding. I also once ate a bee that had been squished by a french dictionary and two encyclopedias (for a bit less than $10). I've eaten every sort of grass or plant imaginable. And I've tried most berries (early on I was told to stay away from Buffalo Beans - AKA golden bean/buck bean/yellow pea/Golden Pea/False Lupine).

Basically, after a long hot day at the farm, anything will taste good.

I can only eat a small quantity of Alfalfa before the taste starts to bother me (its rather "rich" in flavour - like its full of minerals). Pulling most any grass/grain apart will reveal a tender section that's quite pleasant. Many flowers taste OK - Roses are on the bottom of my list (but rose hips are good - esp. from the Alberta Wild Rose), Carnations are at the top. (I once played a dinner-game where the goal of the game was to eat the carnation out of the centerpiece vase without anyone outside of the participants noticing. I didn't win, and I didn't even notice the winner making the move). I've licked sap, chewed on bark, eaten leaves, you name it. But berries are the best.

I once went camping with some people who wanted to go for a hike over some rolling prairie hills. Climbing out of one valley I noticed some Saskatoon berry bushes, announced their presence, and started picking and eating. The camp leaders were astonished at my stupidity - eating something that was just growing out of the hillside. They couldn't possibly fathom that something so delicious could "just grow" out in the middle of nowhere. After a great amount of convincing (backed up by the quantity I was enjoying) everyone soon began to participate. (I also love Chokecherries, but it was too early in the year for them to be ripe.)

Living in France it wasn't uncommon for me to hop off my bike and just start eating the blackberries that seemed to grow on every hedgerow. They were delicious in August (and otherwise wasted).

Yesterday, we went for a walk through the park, enjoying this glorious warm weather. Heading up the hill toward Dama's house, Madge spotted some Nanking Cherry bushes covered in ripe berries. (She was initially shocked as well when I claimed I recognized these "berries" several years ago and began eating them.) We used Lauryn's hat and soon had it filled with the sweet round cherries. Madge had the plan of making jelly, and this evening we followed through. It is delicious. For reference I'm listing the recipe. I think we didn't need as much pectin as the recipe calls out. (We used Bernardin Pectin - a 57g box). Next time I think we'll cut it in half and see how that does.

Nanking Cherry Jelly

  • 6 cups Nanking cherries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pkg powered pectin
  • 4.5 cups sugar

Oh, no, she swallowed it again

More than two years ago I bought Lauryn a dolly. If you squeeze its hand or tummy it makes little cooing or crying sounds. At first she was scared of it. Then just disinterested. But in the past two weeks she's really gotten into "Mommying" her baby. Her name is "Charlie".

After playing with and talking about the baby doll today, this sequence spilled out.

Lauryn: She's sad because she has a sore tummy

Mom: Why does she have a sore tummy?

Lauryn: Because she has a hard spot in her tummy

Mom: How did she get a hard spot in her tummy?

Lauryn: Betause she swallowed a bee.

Mom: Did she mean to swallow a bee?

Lauryn: Nope, it just buzzed right in

Mom: Oh.

Lauryn: I need to det (get) her some medicine to make it better

Lauryn: (Leaves and comes back.) I have the medicine

Mom: Did you get it from the Doctor?

Lauryn: Nope, I just found it. I would give it to her (runs away with the doll).

Audible: *slurp*

Lauryn: (Runs back) She needed FOUR parts of medicine. Now I have to burp her. (Pat, pat, pat, pat...)

Mom: You take good care of your dolly

Lauryn: I knowed how

Audible: *burp*

Lauryn: The bee flew out.

Mom: It did?

Lauryn: With her burp. Oh, no, she swallowed it again.

Tina

We have the sweetest neighbour here in San Diego. "Grandma Lee" recently turned 95 and lives all alone next door. Her son is estranged and she hasn't heard from him in years, and her daughter lives in Colorado.

Like many of the elderly people I've lived around, she's a rather independent soul even at such a frail age. We used to see her shuffle past our door and drive off in her car to get groceries or head to the bank, but recently her car hasn't moved from its parking spot. Just before her birthday, she asked Madge to take her to the DMV so that she could renew her driver's license. She managed to pass the test and could drive her car, but since receiving her new license, I think she's moved her car only one time – she says the battery is dead.

No one visits her. No one came for Christmas. Since her car wasn't working, Madge has intercepted her, with the help of Lauryn, as she tried to walk to either the bank or grocery store – neither of which is reasonably close for someone of her age. In fact, her bank is more than a mile away and on the other side of a deep valley. Since Madge caught her trying to walk to the grocery store, her daughter has been ordering (over the internet) groceries to be delivered, but she still needs to go to the bank once a month.

Madge was busy with two sick kids yesterday – Sophia was asleep in bed and Lauryn was in jammies – when Grandma Lee walked past yesterday. Several minutes went by before she realized that this sweet elderly woman was wearing a hat and handbag and, regardless of our previous offerings to help, was attempting to trek somewhere again. But despite feeling responsible to help her, Madge didn't dare leave Lauryn and Sophia alone while she ran down the street to look for and stop her.

I was at work, a few blocks away, packing up my cubicle as our office is moving. I understood Madge's position but still felt obligated, and compelled, to look out for, and find, this aged soul. We don't live close to our own parents and I often feel bad for not being in a position to assist them, but find it consoling to be able to keep an eye on our aged neighbour in their stead.

After deducing the direction she most likely walked, as she uses bus-stop benches as resting places, I ran off from work to a place on a nearby road where I hoped I'd be able to find her. It had been about 25 minutes since Madge had first seen her, and she didn't expect I'd be able to find her. But as I ran up to the corner where I was going to start looking, I was amazed to see Grandma Lee standing next to the stop-light pole, waiting to cross the street.

I ran up and told her, "Hi, I'm your neighbour, are you ok?" I was glad to see both surprise and relief enter her face, and I quickly told her that Brenda would come and we could drive her to her bank. I had a two-way radio with me and was able to talk to Madge at home to tell her that I'd indeed found Grandma Lee, and where she could find us. (By then Lauryn had gotten dressed and Sophia had woken up.)

I helped her shuffle back to a nearby bench where we waited for Madge. She told me of her plan and how she underestimated the distance. When she drives in her car, it seems so close, but she'd only been able to walk 1/6 of the way. She feels like if she gives up some of her independence that she'll quickly lose all her abilities. For her age she does amazingly well, but I feel its rather risky to live completely alone and independent, especially now that she's losing the capability of caring for herself. But, as with many elderly people, she doesn't want to live in a "home," so for now she'll keep on alone. Hopefully we'll be able to keep her from voyaging.

Half a Baby

one

Lauryn: Mom, do you know what?

Mom: What, Honey?

Lauryn: One, two, three! I'm three!

Mom: Yes, you are three!

Lauryn: How many is Sophia?

Mom: Well, she's eight months old, so she's not even one yet. She's kind of like... a half.

Lauryn: Half a baby!!?

Mom: No... she's a whole baby, she's just not one year old yet.

one

Yittow Yittow Babies

Lauryn

Mommy: Won't it be fun when she can talk? I wonder what her first word will be...

Lauryn: Maybe "Hi" Or maybe "I had fun bein' a baby"

Mommy: She'll start crawling in a little while.

Lauryn: Yeah, and I know two crawling songs.

Mommy: Can you sing one for me?

Lauryn: Nooooo! They're not for big people. Just for yittow yittow babies!!!

Little Baker

As I type this, Lauryn is receiving additional instruction from Madge on the proper procedure for cracking, opening, and pouring eggs. Lauryn's been cracking and emptying eggs for several months now with varied success and usually she does a good job.

Today they're making some sort of a fruit pie with a custard filling I think. Madge read off the recipe, "We need three eggs." Lauryn responded, "I could crack two, and you could crack one."

I swear, other than regular counting I haven't done any addition, subtraction, or multiplication lessons with her. Perhaps I should.

14 Days a Week

In French, there are two ways to refer to the amount of time we, in English, refer to as a week. First is the straightforward "une semaine" or "one week." However, in conversation it is more common for people to refer to a week as "huit jours" or "eight days." Now if you count the days, from say Wednesday until and including the next Wednesday, you will count eight days. I don't know if this is the logical origin, but if someone, on a Friday, says they'll see you in "huit jours," show up at the specified time on Friday, not Saturday.

Similarly, "quinze jours" is equivalent to two weeks (or a fortnight), and not the two-weeks-plus-one-day that you may expect. Lauryn, however, has her own non-French, non-"English" way of counting days.

She eats breakfast 14 times a week, and never has dinner/supper. Each one of our days is, in Lauryn's world, comprised of breakfast, lunch, nap, breakfast and another (long) nap. Consequently it has been very challenging to teach her the concept of "days of the week."

However, while she knows that once it gets dark at night its time to go to bed, she doesn't fight the afternoon nap despite the fact that its not dark. No complaints here.

If you haven't got your health...

The four of us moved down here to San Diego three weeks (to the day) after Sophia was born. Things weren't going fantastic with the little one by the time we left, but the timing worked well for my employer and this adventure had to start sometime.

I hope to document the day of travel before I forget it all, but I'd like to work back to that day a bit with this post.

Before Lauryn was born, we studied the pros/cons of nursing vs formula quite heavily. It was a struggle to feed Lauryn at first, including a late night trip by Madge, with Mennipus' help, to the hospital because of a severe case of mastitis. After a few weeks, things settled down and nursing turned out to be rather convenient (not to mention the health and emotional positives for Lauryn).

We weren't going to change our routine with Sophia. But things didn't go very well this time around. We were able to better manage the first few days, but Sophia wouldn't latch and her electric equivalent (the proxy nurser) needed to always be at hand. Thus the prospect of traveling only three weeks after her birth, with these complications persisting, was definitely a daunting adventure.

However, we don't often turn down a challenge, and we survived the day of travel. Just four days later, we were weary and facing a bleak situation.

Friday night, just when things in the feeding department seemed to be turning a corner, Madge started feeling achy and feverish. We both immediately recognized these as mastitis symptoms. But this time we were in a foreign country, with the expectation of having health care coverage, but nothing to prove (even to ourselves) that we wouldn't be facing huge medical bills because of the infection.

So I pumped Madge as full of ibuprofen as I could and did my best to let her rest – hoping that somehow things could improve on their own.

They didn't.

That night I laid, half-awake, trying to imagine how to get out of this awful situation. "We could fly back, and just forget living here," my fatigued brain said amongst other equally unrealistic solutions. Saturday morning Lauryn and I awoke early, and Sophia and Madge slept. Hoping that Madge would awaken feeling better, I was rebuked by her reminder late that morning that, "These things don't just get better."

"I need to see a Doctor."

I went into panic mode, being forced to deal with a situation that I dreaded and that caused me much anguish. Immediately I realized that I had no one to turn to. The internet didn't give me any health hotline numbers to call for advice, and I didn't have time to waste. A co-worker, Dennis, who had also moved down for the project at work, was my only hope. I didn't know his home phone number, but luckily I'd asked him about his weekend plans, and knew that he was going to be in the office that morning.

So I sent him an email. I could have tried calling his extension, as its one off from my own, but I figured that if he were in the office, he'd check his email before checking his voicemail (and its permanent queue of 15 messages). Within minutes he called. I'm thankful for his wisdom and his assistance. Basically he told me to forget the potential expense and get the situation taken care of – that it was foolishness to risk Madge's health. He also volunteered to look around the office for our project manager's home phone (or cell) number and that he'd even call and find out what he could as far as my coverage was concerned (and what I should say and do).

He left voice-mails with at least two people before getting a live body, and promptly called back saying that we should simply head to the nearest hospital, explain our symptoms (but not raise any alarms) and to be armed with our Visa card (just in case).

I knew there was a hospital around the corner (and another just on the other side of the freeway), so we packed up the kids and made our first outing: a trip to the hospital. We were surprised that the walk-in emergency was empty. Madge wrote her symptoms on a card, and dropped it in a box. A triage nurse retrieved it from the other side of the wall in a few minutes, and soon she was evaluated. Sophia slept and Lauryn ate a two-slice peanut butter and jam sandwich (the whole thing - crust and all.)

After being evaluated, and prior to seeing a doctor, payment had to be arranged. I could remember enough from the healthcare forms I'd filled out two days prior that I was able to convince the administrator-guy that we should have coverage even though we'd not yet received cards. Madge saw a doctor and our home-diagnosis was confirmed. A simple antibiotic prescription would be sufficient and we were done.

In the meantime, Lauryn's diaper had leaked and she'd started into her second PB&J sandwich (which she later finished!).

Based on the "Primary Care Physician" that I'd chosen (two days earlier), the Administrator-guy warned that our insurance plan might try and get out of paying for our visit because we'd gone to a hospital to which our Dr. was not affiliated! Ugh.

We'd survived that far only to learn that the hospital that we should have gone to was right next door. Not only are there two hospitals within a 5-minute drive of each other, there are actually three within that distance. (I later discovered that the Dr. is affiliated with the hospital we picked, and we haven't heard anything from the insurance people yet.)

Basically things worked out well despite all my trepidation and agony. The business nature of medical service down here does mean that the emergency wait is nice and short, and that the people are very friendly and accommodating (as they want your business). But honestly, three hospitals within shouting distance seems a bit excessive.

Oh, wait, we now live in the land of excess. I forgot for a second...

Beach and Bath Photos

We had a busy day yesterday and a frustrating night the night before.

We've never owned our own television. We had loaners and old TVs, but were never in a position to purchase our own. Friday night we decided it was time, and ended up at Best Buy, ready to walk out with either a Sharp 27" regular TV or a fancy Samsung HDTV. We decided against the HDTV model because we figured HDTVs were going to improve (and come down in cost) in the near future (as confirmed by wikipedia later that night). So we moved to the till with our chosen TV.

Neither would they take my starter cheque for my new account (the only one with money at this point), nor a credit card imprint on that cheque. And despite possession of a US Passport, the ultimate identification, we couldn't even get a Best Buy credit card because I don't have a state-issued drivers license.

We walked out dejected and empty handed, but unsure if the TV would have even fit in the car. Grrr.

Saturday we wanted to go to the beach, but I but wanted to get a little wetsuit with built in lifejacket for Lauryn from Costco and more memory for the new camera. After the previous night's experience I knew I had to get cash, so we packed up, made a trip to the bank, and headed over to Costco.

After grabbing the items we had come for, we walked through the TV section and saw almost the same model TV that we'd tried to buy the night before. This time we had the cash and were still adventuresome enough to try and fit a new TV in the front seat of our car (sans boîte, bien sûr).

So we did it. I'm amazed that it fit (just barely) and I even took a picture to remember our craziness. It didn't take long to drive home and drop off the TV, followed by a trip for lunch at Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill for some fish tacos and chicken burrito.

Then, after being here for about three weeks, we finally made a daytime trip to the beach La Jolla Shores.

Lauryn goes to the beach

Lauryn was excited, but Sophia's hunger (and no reasonable place to feed her as the feedings aren't without challenges yet...) kept us from staying very long.

Lauryn and I headed down to the water's edge, leaving Madge and sleeping Sophia safely on the dry sand. I planned on dipping our toes in the water to see if it was worth putting Lauryn in her new wetsuit, but my plans aren't always the best.

Shortly after getting our feet wet, and while looking down into the water, a larger wave (still very small) threw Lauryn off balance, plunging into the sandy surf. I popped her up and onto her feet as quick as a flash, but the damage was done.

Sophia's Bath

She was shocked, and had no idea what had happened. Seconds later Lauryn realized that she was wet and, despite my efforts to convince her that it was fine and that the water was nice, the coolness of the situation made her want to go see Mom. We pulled off her wet clothes, dressed her in a more appropriate fashion, and headed back to enjoy the water.

We only spent a few more minutes before it was time to go, but the weather was beautiful, the sand was warm, and the ocean wasn't cold. We'll definitely have to go back.

I have two new sets of pictures available of our trip to Costco and the Beach, and a later set from Sophia's bath that night.

Why Babies Should Be Born Bald

When our first daughter, Lauryn, was born, her thin blonde hair laid so evenly on her head that for months people thought she was bald. Slowly the hair grew and at one point there was a patch, at the back of her head, of soft dirty-blonde hair that, if you blew on it just right, looked like a cute mustache.

Sophia, however, was born with a fair amount of soft dark hair. The back half of her head has longer hair than the front, but no one could claim that she's bald.

activeawake

There's a downside to this situation, however. Up until about two days ago, her longer hair laid flat and neat - smooth on top of her head. When we decided that she'd probably enjoy spending some of her active-awake time laying on a blanket, we witnessed the results of Sophia's little hands discovering her own hair.

With her head turned to the right, arms stretched up above her shoulders, her left hand was perfectly positioned to touch and stroke her soft locks. She seemed quite pleased with her discovery, but in the process of enjoying the sensation, she "backcombed" her hair into a soft fluff.

discovering_hair

I've been told my hair, as a child, behaved in a similar fashion (only standing on end), but in addition to perhaps a genetic predisposition, Sophia assists the process.

With touching comes grabbing, and Madge was required to intervene. Sophia grabbed a chunk of her own fluff and pulled, making herself cry. When the crying begins, she doesn't stop pulling and its necessary to literally pry her hand open. At this point the crying ceases.

Funny, funny kid. Makes herself cry and doesn't know why.

So if you wish to avoid this same situation with your children, just make sure they're born bald.

Whites, Darks, and Pinks

The joys of two daughters

As much as I would have loved to have been writing over the past few days, well, we've been swamped. I've had lots to write about but no time to even lay my fingers to a keyboard.

However, today I finally had time to do some much needed laundry. (As you can see, if replenishing the pile of infant clothes moves from the "must do" list to the "free time" list, you know your priorities have shifted and that you've been rather occupied.) I grabbed the most evident laundry, especially the ones needing scrubbing, and headed outside to our new laundry room. (New to us of course - the washing machine is old and the dryer isn't much newer.)

As I started the washer, and separated the laundry, I soon realized that we are now subject to three color categories. Whites, Darks, and Pinks.

Two girls, and especially one infant daughter (4 weeks old tomorrow), generate lots of cute laundry. Cute, pink laundry. (Well, its cute other than the times that it has diaper-leak spots that need endless scrubbing.) The three piles were about even in size - maybe a bit heavy on the darks, but my jeans occupy much more space than 10 burp clothes and a dozen tiny socks.

Pink laundry smells nice too (mostly). Babies, up until about the age of 2, I'd say, put off a non-diaper (non-burp) odour that conveys everything cute and sweet about babies. I swear that sometime I'm going to take a worn (but clean) sleeper and double zip-lock it so that when I'm going through the struggles of teenage girls, I can open the bag and take a whiff of newborn goodness.

And now I'm off to bed. Goodnight.

Easy Memorization

Bedtime with Lauryn is a ritual, with no deviations. Well, there are variations, but only Lauryn can make changes to the routine – changes that Madge and I try to avoid. She's fallen, somewhat, into the practice of trying to stretch out teeth-brushing, story-reading, and song-singing as long as possible. Most nights it all goes well, but there's always some sort of challenge.

Two stories, two songs, and a lullabye, then the music box and lights out. That's the pattern.

Lauryn Dogpark

Lately, instead of me reading and singing everything, she's taken to splitting the reading tasks between the two of us. Sometimes I need to "help," but surprisingly she does quite well.

Naturally, at being just a couple of weeks short of 3 years, she most certainly cannot read, but in reading mostly the same 20 books over the past 2 years every night, several have been committed to memory.

Tonight it was Piglet's New Friend, a board book with a moveable Piglet. The words on each page were perfectly recited, word for word, as pages were turn just at the right time (and Piglet was moved appropriately). However, she surprised me tonight when it was time to sing.

We used to just sing regular songs. While I was in San Diego, the ritual changed (according to her demands) so that we now sing made-up songs that are about the two stories we just read. Tonight, as we each read one story, we each also had to sing a song.

After singing mine, and struggling to remember what we had just read about (including enough details to sufficiently satisfy her song criteria so I don't have to sing it again, better), Lauryn followed up by flopping around on her bed, reciting the entire story, word for word (except the last page).

Piglet's New Friend

"Who do we have here?" Pooh asked, unpacking his picnic basket.

"It's a caterpillar," Piglet exclaimed.

"Maybe he'd like to try some honey," Pooh suggested.

"Careful, Pooh!" Piglet warned. "Honey is too sticky for caterpillars."

Piglet spotted his new friend on Eeyore's lunch.

"Maybe he'd like to try some of my thistles," Eeyore offered.

"I think thistles may be too prickly for caterpillars," Piglet explained.

"Piglet, my kite's stuck!" moaned Roo.

"If I can squeeze through these bushes, maybe I can free it," said Piglet.

"Look!" said Roo. "The caterpillar wants to help, too!"

The hungry little caterpillar began munching the green leaves.

"You've found some lunch!" Piglet said. "Now I can have mine."

Kid's books often don't have the most compelling of stories, in my opinion, but evidently this one is worth remembering. (grin)

Also, while its been a few months since she convinced us of her ability to remember stories (and songs), I always assumed that the recollection of the exact words was keyed to the images on a specific page (or the tune of a song). I've probably read this story to her about half the number of times that she's heard it, and while I could tell you the gist of it, I would never remember at which point the book says "Piglet warned." Yet with no cues, her young and sponge-of-a mind has captured and can recall this funny book.

If you're a parent, or will be a parent, or every spend time around a young child (which should include about everyone), never forget how much impact your speech and actions can have on that child. Little "pitchers" have big ears, so don't expect them to speak or act differently than you, their example, and don't underestimate their capacity to learn and comprehend.

Vocal Crossfading

As a child I learned a song about springtime. It went like this:

I looked out the window and what did I see?

Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.

Spring has brought me such a nice surprise,

Blossoms popping right before my eyes...

Shortly after meeting Madge she alerted me to a rather strange talent I seem to have developed - the ability to crossfade between songs while singing them. Or, in more clear terms, I could sing the first few lines of one song and, without noticing, finish the verse by singing lyrics from a completely different song. The most memorable example was the mixing of "Popcorn Popping" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," using the lyrics below and to the tune of "Swing Low."

I looked out the window and what did I see?

Comin' for to carry me home.

Popcorn popping on the apricot tree,

Comin' for to carry me home..

LaurynChristmas

Its been fun to accidentally discover songs whose tunes easily blend and are swappable, but today my daughter Lauryn showed that she has inherited my talent.

Lauryn's Song

(To the tune of Row Row Row Your Boat) Feb. 9, 2004

Row row row your boat

Gently down the stream.

Mary Mary quite contrary

How your garden grow?

Summerburn

A week in Waterton among friends and family. Such bliss...

After having my SCSI card die and prevent my machine from booting, I was able to ditch work for a week and go to Waterton. Participating in a family reunion, I enjoyed reencountering friends, who are now family, that I haven't seen for 5 to 7 years. It was fantastic.

I surprised myself by coming in 2nd in a 5 km fun run, and by being 2nd in a race to the top of Bear's Hump and down. Talk about stiff legs the next day! I could hardly walk, with inclines and declines becoming nearly impossible navigate so bad was my stiffness.

Too bad I had to pay Waterton sale prices to buy a pair of shoes to run in...

Another lesson I learned, not the hard way, was that canoes remain stable only while being used properly. That is, two friends tried to participate in a canoe race by paddling their canoe backwards - using the tail end of the canoe at the front. They ended up in the freezing lake and had to be "rescued."

FreeStanding

Last night we visited Ryan and Camila at their Aunt and Uncle's home. They are house-sitting and we went over for the evening. After dinner, when we were playing with Satchmo, a Standard Schnauzer, Lauryn, excited by the dog, suddenly stood up on her own.

free-standing

She stood there for about 10 seconds before she decided to sit down again. Several times she defied the tendance to fall over and stood, unassisted, for several seconds.

satchmo