Wednesday, February 28, 2007

When You Gamble, Sometimes You Lose

Alyssa's home again. She asked to go to school at about 8:30, and I felt she was up for it, so I packed her lunch and away we went.

It lasted until 12:30, when the school nurse called me. Alyssa was coughing very hard, and looked miserable. So away I went to pick her up. At least she hadn't thrown up.

For that she waited until we were on our way to the car.

She hasn't quite figured out that if she leans over far enough, she won't throw up on herself. So in addition to a sick child, I had to deal with a soiled shirt, soiled pants, and soiled Spider-Man shoes. And the wind is blowing, so there was hair that needed a wash, too.

The hot water ran out during the hair rinse. I think one of the elements in our water heater is out. Since the home warranty people replaced both elements a month or two ago, I need to call them to come back and fix it. But I keep forgetting, as there is always enough hot water for my shower.

I think I'll call right now.

Shopper in Training

One of Alyssa's favorite activities at the Ft Worth Museum is in their Kidspace area. It's a little play grocery store where the kids can pick up plastic food and empty boxes, and put them in a little cart.

They have a little checkout set up with a simple electric eye, so it beeps whenever something is "scanned." Alyssa knows it's the barcode that does the magic, and looks for it before scanning anything.

She is a master checkout operator, thanks to her experience with the Self Checkouts at Wal-Mart. I'll load the belt, and she can have the items scanned and in the bags faster than half of the professionals who wear the blue vests.

Here we go again

Despite my best efforts, Alyssa's cough has come back with vigor. I'm sure it's allergy related, as all twenty million people here in Texas have a cough or runny nose right now. We rode bikes on Monday, and yesterday we walked to the museum and back, so there was ample opportunity to breathe large quantities of pollen. The weather has been just perfect - sunny and mid-70s - so there was no way we could stay inside.

But this morning Alyssa coughed enough to throw up - twice - and so I'm keeping her home, at least for a while. Fortunately, her coughing fit didn't start until 5:45, so I was already up and getting their lunches ready. I'll keep my eye on her, and if her cough subsides, as I suspect it will, then I'll cart her off to school. Kara's home today, so she can help with Alyssa, but the girl really needs to be at school if she can. She's certainly not acting like someone who is sick, which means she'll be trouble in a couple of hours.

I've got a full day ahead of me. I'm scheduled to go to Alabama next week, and I need to have a printer driver ready to test by then. I don't see it being a problem, but it's one of those hard and fast deadlines that doesn't allow much flexibility. So Alyssa had better act sick, or she's outta here.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Surprise! It's Lunch

Years ago when the girls were young, we came up with "Surprise Lunches" as a way to liven up a boring meal. Take the basic building blocks of lunch (ham, cheese, olives, veggies, etc) and arrange them into a picture. I pulled this trick out again a couple of days ago, and it worked like a charm. I almost feared that Anna would be too big for such a gimmick, but she ate it up. So to speak.

Kara is into more traditional meal preparation. Here she and Alyssa put together a batch of enchiladas. Alyssa loves helping, especially when it involves using tools (like a knife). We have a number of pictures of her in this pose from years past, but what really struck me this time is that she is standing on the floor instead of a stool.

My girls are growing up!

Baird and Ally are getting married. I don't actually know either of them, but the other night Baird sent me a text message announcing their engagement. I wish them both the best, whoever they are.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Two Kinds of Computer Users

When I was teaching computer programming as an adjunct faculty member at UVSC, I would emphasize to my classes that there are two kinds of computer users - those who have lost data, and those who will lose data. I'm not the best example of "save and backup", but I'm much better than I used to be. There are at least two copies of anything that is important to me. At least, of the things I have control of.

Our email service has had a crash, and it looks like a few messages have been lost. Since the crash, I haven't gotten any new messages, except for a handful of spam and a number of messages from Prism support, each one assuring me that the problems have REALLY been solved this time.

Now, it's possible that hundreds of fans of this blog have been trying to email me, with the messages just falling off into the ether somewhere. More likely, however, neither of the fans of this blog have tried to send an email. So as a test, I sent myself an email from my work account. I'm still waiting for it to arrive.

We have email accounts with our DSL subscription, but until now I haven't seen any reason to use them. This crash and disruption of service, however, may be all the motivation we need to bite the bullet and make the switch. Stay tuned.

I didn't get the cabinets installed into the garage yesterday. The wind was extremely strong, and it was all I could do to open the door long enough to get into the car. The air was so full of dust that the sky was brown and the sun was obscured. Needless to say, we stayed inside and cleaned up a bit. There's enough cleaning left that we'll probably do a little today, too.

The wind has died down, though, and the forecast is for 60s and sunny. Prime fossil-hunting weather, especially since we just had a good round of rain a couple of days ago. The limestone just seems to melt away in the rain, which of course is why all of the water pipes are coated with a healthy layer of minerals. Our water system does a good job removing that stuff, when there's salt in the tank.

We had the water guys put potassium chloride in the system, to see how it would work. We only had them put a little bit, and decided to go ahead and use regular NaCl. This was yet another source of sticker shock. I can only assume that the salt pellets are harvested there along the Wasatch Front, because the bags were only half as much as they are here. Even Costco charges nearly $5 a bag, compared to about $2.90. At least this system only has one salt tub, so in theory we'll only use half as much. And I haven't given up finding a more economical source.

If anyone feels the need to drive down to Texas this year, please throw a couple bags of salt in your trunk.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Return to the Cinema

Last night, the girls and I went to see Bridge to Terabithia. This was the first time I've taken the girls to the movie since we saw the last Herbie movie at the dollar theaters last year. Or was it the year before?

We usually opt to wait for the DVD, because Alyssa generally falls asleep halfway through, and Kara can't do the theater anymore. But this was an activity for Anna's book club at school. They read and discussed the book, and then went to the movies together yesterday, and now they'll discuss the differences over lunch next week.

We all enjoyed the movie - even Alyssa made it to the end, although she ended up on my lap halfway through. It has some sad moments, but the emotion comes naturally to this story, and it wasn't drawn out or melodramatic like so many "tear-jerkers" can be. There's nothing I hate more than having to wipe a tear, knowing full well that I've been manipulated by the director. In this story, the tears come honestly.

The girl in the lead, AnnaSophia Robb, is really turning into quite the little actress. She was in several of our favorite movies (Because of Winn-Dixie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and it looks like she has quite a few more coming out soon. She's such a cute kid, and really starting to show some talent. I hope she can avoid the trappings that seem to plague so many child stars.

It's another big day with another big to do list. It's supposed to be partly cloudy and 72, but with some pretty good winds. Still, I think I'll try and get at least a couple of the cabinets installed in the garage so I can start using them for storage. My big challenge for the day will be shepherding my little helpers into meaningful tasks, without totally ruining their "one day off."

A little bribery, a few threats, and I think I'll be up to the task.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Fish is not a Lap Pet

Alyssa lost her chance to go to the Science and History Museum yesterday. Her crime? Failure to keep her hands out of the fishbowl. After two warnings, I closed the bedroom door and told her she needed to stay out. But in the middle of a conference call, I heard a noise and felt impressed to investigate.

It was then that I found the fish on the floor. It looks like I got there in time, though. Marigold is expected to make a full recovery and live to a ripe old age of at least another week or two.

Alyssa got a good swat and spent a very boring 90 minutes waiting for Anna's acting class to finish. Hopefully she has learned something about obedience and the nature of fish. I'm sure she was just bored, being home sick. Fortunately, I think she's well enough to go back to school today.

Monday's kitchen cabinet removal project was a success, in that the cabinets are in the garage and the countertops are sitting on the wire racks and nothing got broken. I even got the plumbing hooked back up without any major leaks, and rewired the switches and outlets without any shock therapy.

There is one small triangular corner section that wouldn't accommodate a rectangular shelving unit, so I have some steel pipe threaded into floor collets. These are about 1/4 inch too tall still, but I should be able to fix that by tightening the collets down a little more. Once that's done, I can put the backsplashes on and put the bar in place. Then it's tile behind, touch up paint,
bring in a fridge, and install the microwave, and we will finally have a fully operational kitchen.

And with springtime in Texas upon us, it will be just in time to begin moving the projects outside.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sacrament Meeting at the Church of Christ

Our Sacrament Meeting yesterday was at the Church of Christ down the street and around the corner. It was a nice big building, although very different from an LDS chapel. The thing I liked best about it was the stained concrete floors. I've become very observant of building materials as of late, and while that building was rather spartan in its amenities, it was a relatively "safe" building. The Weatherford chapel, being 25 years old, was fairly safe, too, having off-gassed many of the chemicals used in the building materials. I'm concerned about what a new building will hold in store for us.

Sacrament Meeting ran for 100 minutes, but that was the only meeting that we had, and given the circumstances and the amount of spirit and emotion, it seemed appropriate. The investigation into the fire has been closed, and the cause was apparently wiring in a light switch.

I was scheduled to teach in priesthood, and I wanted to share the story of I Hemolele and the origins of the Hukilau, as it seems appropriate to the situation. I'm sure I'll get a chance in a few weeks.

Alyssa slept through the night without any coughing fits - at least none big enough to wake either Anna or I. I decided to keep her home again today, though. She's still sleeping, and I'll let her sleep as long as she can. My garage clean out has been changed to kitchen cabinet tear out prep, due to the availability of help this evening. Alyssa will be able to "help" me with this work, too. She loves helping, especially when it involves using tools. She's an expert screwdriver turner.

Kara's day started out with a bit of excitement, as her TPN bottle had a meeting with the floor and, again, the tile won. Her bottle holds a liter, and while this TPN looks like apple juice, it doesn't smell nearly as sweet. We got it cleaned up, for the most part. Running the steamer is on my list for today, so I'll just run it out there and give the floor a good once over. It's due.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Anna's Fishy Project

We made it through another Saturday, and managed to get a few projects done, including some long overdue cleaning. Anna even helped vacuum the floors, and only put up a fuss equal to that of a pinkie-finger amputation. Alyssa still has her cough, although she managed to sleep through the night with only a couple of minor spells that were quickly subdued by a drink of water.

Kara has developed a rash that has her itching unbearably. As with most things, we have some likely suspects but no clear guilty party. It could be yeast. Or cotton. Or dust mites. Or vitamin B12. Or any number of variables. I haven't talked to her yet today, but hopefully it isn't as bad as it was yesterday.

Anna is really taking her fish care responsibilities seriously. Of course, we're only on day 8, but still I'm impressed with how strong her sense of duty is. We changed the water in their containers today, and she ran back and forth between the fish bowls and the replacement water with a little meat thermometer to make sure the temperature was the same, so as not to shock the fish.

The water got cloudy very quickly this time. We suspect it was caused by food pellets falling down into the decorative glass marbles at the bottom of the bowls where the fish can't get to them, and then dissolving out into the water. We'll try without the marbles for the next few days, and see how that works.

If I could only get her to put that kind of energy into helping out around the house. She told me yesterday that her lack of willingness to help was because of how I raised her. I let her know that I would be retraining her in earnest, so she should watch out. She's a good kid, but she has a very strong will and we didn't put nearly enough effort into channeling her energies. Now's the time, as it won't get any easier.

Tomorrow I have the day off, in honor of President's Day. For some reason, the girls don't have the day off from school. So as long as Alyssa's cough is better by then, I'll have the whole day to myself. I think I'll clean the garage and play my ukulele. And not necessarily in that order.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Up In The Night

Alyssa has allergies, or a cold or something, and it's making her cough. I kept her home Thursday morning for a couple of hours, but the cough calmed down so I took her in to school. Thursday night she started coughing just after I went to bed, and I was up until 1:30 before she finally got quieted down enough for us both to sleep.

As a result, I kept her home Friday. She thought that was a good idea, for about an hour. Then she realized that when dad's working and Anna's not around, it can get pretty boring at home. I did my best to keep the videos rolling and take Play-dough and puzzle breaks, but by about 1:00 she was begging me to take her to school.

I thought we would be OK last night, but it was even worse. I was up with her until 2:00, then again at 5:00. She can't seem to cough and spit, so if there is enough stuff in her throat she will eventually cough until she throws up, which happened several times last night. I ended up sleeping in her bed, and I'd just reach down and pick up the barf bowl whenever it was needed. Nothing but mucus ever came up, so that was good.

Anna missed out on that fun last night, as she was spending the night with a friend from school. This little girl is on the shy, quiet side, and Anna says she doesn't have very many friends at school. Anna was also invited to a slumber party for another friend in her class, but decided to skip it so she could honor her previous commitment. She also noted that because the second girl is more popular and would have a dozen other girls there, while she was the only one invited to the first girl's house.

I let her know I was proud of her decision. She is a very sweet girl, and seems to go out of her way to be a good friend.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Very Bloggable Valentines Day

Yesterday was quite the Valentines day around here. Kara had a good day, the girl's had three Valentine's parties between them, we got yet another fish, and our church burned down.

I was on my way to one of Alyssa's Valentine's parties when I heard on the radio that a church in Weatherford had burned to the ground. I had a strange feeling that it was ours, and the full report a few minutes later confirmed this. No news yet on a cause, or where we'll be meeting this Sunday.

Alyssa had two parties yesterday, one in her Special Education class, and one in her regular 2nd grade class. I worked extra on Monday so I could go to both of them. I felt this was important so I could see her in her classroom environment and meet some of her friends. This is a picture of Alyssa and her best friend, Andrew. (For the longest time, Kara thought someone in Alyssa's class had a cold, because she says his name "A-choo.")

Alyssa and Andrew also meet with a regular 2nd grade class for part of the day. Alyssa goes to this class for reading time, PE, art, music, recess and science. The school just increased the amount of time she spends in the regular class, because she is doing so well. This is a picture of her with some of her friends from that class. Whenever Alyssa is there, these girls all compete for her attention.

When I was in elementary school, the "retarded" kids met in a little wood building on the corner of the school grounds, and ate lunch in the far back corner of the cafetorium. We knew they were there, and some of the kids made fun of them when the teacher's weren't watching, but that was about the extent of our interaction.

At Alyssa's school, these kids are brought into the classroom when it's appropriate, and they are treated like mini celebrities. They each have a teacher who helps them the whole time they are in the class, but Alyssa's friends all help her, too. There have even been reports of Alyssa wearing them out on the playground.

The vodka in the sauna seems to be doing the trick. I put some in a spray bottle and sprayed a bunch of the exposed wood inside, and it took several hours for the terpenes to clear out afterwards. Kara's sauna didn't make her sick like it has in the past, so I'll keep spraying and praying, and hopefully we'll get it to where she needs it.

As for the fish, we decided that things hanging on the wall should be done in threes, so I took the girls to get a little red betta last night. Rosebud is it's name.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sometimes, the Solution is Hard Liquor

I went to the liquor store on Monday night, and bought two big bottles of their cheapest Vodka.

Don't worry - I didn't drink any.

The problem I have is terpene, which is a strong chemical that occurs naturally in many plants, and is what gives wood that "woody" smell. It's also the basic ingredient of turpentine, and is the main reason that even natural, unfinished woods are not as safe for the chemically sensitive as one might expect.

Ethyl alcohol is a very powerful, natural solvent, and vodka is a fairly economical solution of pure alcohol and water. Rubbing alcohol is not pure alcohol, but has acetone and methyl isobutyl ketone added to make it undrinkable, so it is unusable for our situation.

Anyway, I soaked some rags with vodka and set them on the sauna bench, which had been moved to the living room. The alcohol dissolved the terpenes and then evaporated. By morning, the whole house smelled like a sawmill. And once the rags were removed and the bench had dried, the wood smell was nearly gone. Success!

I'll probably have to rub vodka on the rest of the exposed wood inside the sauna several times to get the same results, but I'm very encouraged by the results so far.

And I don't have to wait until the sun comes out this summer. That starts sometime in April here in Texas.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A Delusional Update

Winter has returned to North Texas. After hitting 74 on Wednesday, we were lucky to get to 47 on Thursday. Today there is fog and drizzle, and it's just the kind of day that makes me glad my commute is exclusively an indoor affair.

I just hope Kara's drive to Dallas is uneventful. She says the truck drives like a dream now that she's had it tuned up, but I'll have to take her word on it for now. I was going to take it to the church last night for Alyssa's "Great to be Eight" primary activity, since I thought it would just be the two of us. But Anna was asked to help out in the nursery, so I just took the car.

The truck is a '94 Ford Ranger Extended Cab with jump seats, so there's room for all four of us if needed. But when it's just the three of us I prefer the car, because the girl's always fight about who gets to sit in front with me. If I put them both in the back, where they sit facing each other, then they fight just because they can.

After two days of use, the jury is still out on the sauna improvements. The glass panels are making a big difference, but it's hard to tell if it is enough. One of the features of this sauna is a far-infrared heater unit, which is housed in a little poplar cabinet. Kara relies on this heater, but it is now the smelliest part of the sauna. I can't really wrap it in glass, so I think what I'll do is wait until later this week when the sun returns, and set it outside during the day.

The sun is great at forcing out chemicals, natural and otherwise. I'm starting to think that solar chemical removal will be one of the few advantages of having a long Texas summer.

Another advantage will be that tall, skinny Anna can wear shorts and put away her high-water pants. You know, the ones that came down to the ankle last September but now stop about four inches too soon. And since the waist is still a little loose, the next size up is not an option. Besides, Anna ranks shopping for clothes right up there with a trip to the dentist.

Yes, shorts will be nice.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Introducing Lilac and Marigold

As part of her ocean-themed bedroom, Anna wanted some fish. However, I wasn't very excited about having a fishbowl that could get knocked over by all of the clutter that finds its way to every horizontal surface in her room.

So several months ago, I had the idea to find some wall-mounted vases to put the fish in. Anna loved the idea, and we started looking. Unfortunately, finding a couple of vases that would work for fish bowls was a little tricky A few weeks ago, I finally found some on closeout at Wal-Mart, but decided I wasn't up to doing the fish thing just yet, so I put them away.

Every few weeks, Anna asks when we're going to get her fish, and she asked again yesterday. I admitted to her that I had found the vases, and agreed to take her to get the fish that night if she would help me with my work. I'm such a mean dad; always trying to get my kids to help me.

Fortunately she did, and last night we picked out a couple of bettas. These are pretty fish that like living alone in small containers, and they're fairly easy to care for. We have had a few in the past, and they worked out well.

On the way home, Anna was trying to think of some names. She didn't like Banana and Balyssa, so I suggested she think of names that came in pairs, like Bert and Ernie or Oscar and Felix or Zack and Cody. She especially liked the last one, but decided on Marigold and Lilac.

The fish are mounted on the wall and have stayed alive for almost a day. Hopefully we can keep them that way for at least a few months.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Tempered Glass Cannot Be Cut

I learned yesterday that once glass has been tempered it cannot be cut. It will shatter instead. I didn't necessary learn this the hard way, but it could have been much easier.

When I measured the glass for our sauna, I wrote down the actual measurements of the wood panels I was to be covering, and then subtracted a bit for the mounting hardware. Unfortunately, when I placed the order, I accidentally gave the larger measurements. So after picking up the panels on Wednesday, I found they were all just a little too big. I called the shop and asked if they could cut the glass. I failed to mention that the glass was tempered, so they said "sure."

I got up a half-hour early yesterday so I could leave as soon as the girls were on the bus to take the glass and have it cut. After driving 20 minutes through Ft. Worth rush hour traffic I was educated on the uncutability of tempered glass, and had to drive back home with nothing to show for my efforts. Except for the advice "if you can't make the glass smaller, make the hole bigger."

I got a router for Christmas in 1999, and although I was very excited about it I never actually had an opportunity to route anything until yesterday. I chose to trim a quarter inch off of the ceiling of the sauna where the wall panels attach, and this worked very well.

Routers make a lot of sawdust, and routing upside down above eye level sent that sawdust all over my head. But for some reason I think the sensation of a shop vac pulling on my scalp is kind of cool, so wasn't all that bad. Once I found a dust mask.

In the end, the sauna modifications went OK, if not smoothly. The only glass I had to vacuum up was the an empty quart jar that had fallen off a shelf (that's Tile Floors 5, Mason Jars 0). I think adding the glass will make a big difference in the sauna's usability. I won't know for sure until Kara comes home tomorrow, but from what I can tell it should work.

And now I'm looking forward to a slightly less adventurous weekend, full of boring stuff like laundry and dishes, and maybe a quick game of Cootie.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Heavenly Heat - the Sauna Story

The beautiful weather continues here in Willow Park, Texas. Yesterday was in the mid-60s, and today we hit 70. I had to fix a flat on Anna's bike yesterday, and after I broke a sweat I decided that jeans would be inappropriate for a ride to the park. Fortunately, my shorts were easily accessible.

Alyssa got to go to Casa Manana twice today - once for Anna's class, and once to see Jack and the Beanstalk. Alyssa and I walked through the Will Rogers Center complex on our way to the museum this afternoon because she wanted to see the cows again. I agreed, although I explained that we probably wouldn't see any because the Fort Worth Stock Show is over now. All that was left were big tractors mucking the many, many stalls. I wish I could have directed one of those trucks full of prime fertilizer over to our house!

I got two of the kitchen cabinets replaced today, and it looks like I'll have a little extra time to prepare for replacing the big cabinet. My help for tomorrow evening has had to cancel, so my schedule won't be quite as tight as originally reported. This will give me more time to focus on the sauna.

Kara has been doing daily saunas as part of her treatment, and they make a big difference. Our sauna was made by Heavenly Heat, which only uses untreated poplar and glass. Unfortunately the poplar, like all wood, has a strong smell that she reacts to.

We bought our sauna over eBay a year ago, before I fully understood just how badly she could react to something as seemingly innocuous as untreated poplar. The one we bought was still in the crate, so that's the only picture displayed in the auction. We looked up the model online, and the only picture of it showed a sauna with all glass walls in a wood frame, so that's what I thought we were getting.

I should have asked.

Our sauna has three wood walls, and only one wall of glass. She's only used it a dozen times or so, and each time it has made her sick. She is using a glass sauna either in Dallas or at the home of a friend who lives a few miles from us. However, this friend goes out of town on Thursday, so Kara will need to use our sauna starting Friday.

My plan is to line the walls with glass in the hopes that it will block enough of the wood smell from coming in. We've repeatedly run it and let it air out, and the smell is much less than it was even a month ago, so hopefully the glass will further reduce the smell so that it will work. Adding the glass is much cheaper than buying new walls. And since I've ordered tempered glass, if this doesn't work I can always make a bunch of coffee tables or something.

Coffee tables with fossil-filled cut limestone legs.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Home Remodeling for Delusionals

It's very difficult remodeling a house without outside help. The kind of help you pay for is OK, but there's usually a limited supply of funds, even when there's no limit to the help that is needed.

Free help from friends/neighbors/church members is great, although the supply is even more limited because people have their own Jumbo/LARGE to do lists. And while jars of homemade apple butter help, it's essential to make very judicious use of free help so it is there when you really need it.

As mentioned earlier, I am in the process of replacing the kitchen cabinets with wire shelving. Here you can see a "before" and "during" shot of one of the smaller cabinets. I think it will look quite nice when it's done (tile behind, paint touched up, etc) and I'll be sure to post a picture when I have one.

Four of the five counters are small, and I can get do the work myself. However, number five is a very large counter that covers four cabinets, the
dishwasher, and includes the kitchen sink. This I can not lift on my own, so I have enlisted the help of my Home Teacher and his three teenage sons.

One of the challenges of remodeling with free help is that beggars can't be choosers, so you need to take whatever help you can get, when you can get it. Saturday would have been the ideal day for this task, as it would have given me the whole week to get everything ready. But Saturdays are ideal for a lot of things, and therefore are usually booked solid.

So the cabinet replacement party is scheduled for Wednesday night. This means that I have a lot to do to in the next three days - backsplashes removed, steel pipe (for under the sink and the triangle sections) cut and washed, and all the many pipes and hoses disconnected. This is all on top of lining our sauna with glass, by Friday. But that's another story that I'm not prepared to share just yet.

So enough of the blogging. Time to get to work.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

A fine game of "Alyssa Says"

Alyssa has turned into quite the little game master. On Friday night she moved all of the chairs into the living room and invited everyone to sit, which we did. She then proceeded to play a game something like Simon Says where she told each of us to stand up or sit down, and to put our hands on our heads or noses or ears. She did a great job directing the game. The only real trouble was keeping Anna from trying to take over.

Tonight we found that four chairs had been set out, back to back, for a game of musical chairs. Anna, of course, didn't want to play. But with Alyssa asserting herself like this, we insisted. I put in Mary Poppins and skipped to one of the songs, so I could start and stop the music via remote.

For the most part, we played with enough chairs for everyone, but we played a few rounds the "right" way. I made sure that everyone had a chance to win, and managed to bump Anna onto the floor a couple of times, which she thought was hilarious. In the end, Anna was the one who had a fit when it was time to finish.

Today was a gorgeous day, and I just couldn't stay inside. I thought about taking a walk, but that just didn't appeal to me. So I invited the girls to go into the back yard with me to look for fossils, and they were both all over it. I went out to start looking while Anna got her shoes on. She ran out into the yard and screamed, then started laughing - she had nearly stepped on a little brown rabbit.

It's been raining quit a bit this winter, and when it does the limestone breaks down rather quickly, exposing new fossils. We found quite a few. Not all of these were from today, but most were. In the photo is the ammonite Kara found last year, three spiral shells still in limestone, a clam, 16 sea urchins (no spines, just the shell), something that looks like a scallop, another kind of spiral shell, and something that looks a bit like a cornucopia.

According to, these fossils are all about 101 Million years old. It's been quite fun for all of us to go out and look for these things on a nice day. And it gives us a good excuse for not filling in the yard with grass.

Friday, February 2, 2007

A night in Neverland

Last night I took the girls to see Peter Pan at Aledo High School. I was quite impressed by the timing and precision and dead-on execution. And then when we got to the school, the play was really good, too.

It was one of those evenings where the plan, though workable, had nearly a dozen potential points of failure. But, almost miraculously, everything came together. (Cue the A-Team theme...)

The first thing that needed to happen was for Alyssa to have a nap, or she'd be sleeping on me through the whole play. It was a cold, snowy afternoon, and I knew that would help. Anna commented that she could probably use a rest, too, although she didn't want to take one. Big mistake on her part.

Alyssa will sometimes just climb in bed on her own, but most afternoons she's too worried that she'll miss out on the fun, so she gets back up again. I gave her a little while to wind down before I tucked her in, and she requested that Anna come in the room with her. That usually helps her stay put, if I can convince Anna to get in bed, too. I asked her nicely, and she refused. I then threatened to take away all computer privileges unless she laid down 10 minutes so her sister would go to sleep. She reluctantly agreed, and was out before Alyssa.

I got dinner made and loaded in portable containers so they could eat on the way, and gave myself 20 minutes to get them from their beds to the car. I actually managed it in 21.

The school auditorium was quite large and very nice. It's good to see our property taxes put to a good use. The costumes, sets, and acting were impressive for a high school musical, and the pit orchestra was better than what I usually heard in college. There was no mistaking this for a professional production, but it was quite entertaining.

The girls were both fantastic. At first it looked like Alyssa was going to try and sit on my lap during the whole performance, but after some firm insistence (and a bribe promising contraband from the concession stand at intermission) she sat in her own chair and was thoroughly engrossed in the whole play.

Anna was just beaming the entire time.

After the play, the cast came out in front of the stage to meet the audience. Anna convinced me to stay so she could go and get some autographs. Alyssa wanted to meet Nana, the dog, but she never came out. So we settled for meeting the crocodile.

This morning, Anna noted that she should probably learn to dance, as she loves singing and acting, but musicals also require dancing, which she doesn't know how to do. I think she would benefit from a dance class, although I'm sure she'll never be a Ginger Rogers or Martha Graham. While quite talented, she is not terribly well coordinated. Which is exactly why, if she could keep from getting too frustrated, a dance class would probably do a lot of good.