Monday, January 30, 2006

The Book of Foo-Foo

I know you're all bored to tears by me blogging about Bagel's new words, but since I'm not writing this blog for you but for posterity, I'm going to post about this anyway, because Bagel's future girlfriends will love reading about stuff like this.

Bagel saw a cookbook and called it "book o' foo-foo." Foo-foo, of course, is "food" in Bagelspeak. Bagel loves to look at illustrated cookbooks, so I had a pile of them next to my bed, where I'd been showing them to him. He gets a real kick out of looking at pictures of food. When he wants to see one, he now can ask for "book o' foo-foo."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

What If Captain Moroni Had A Blog?

Sonshine, imaginative child that he is, is always engaging in flights of fancy that begin with "What if...", as in "What if trees were our toes and toes were trees?" Today it's my turn. What if Captain Moroni were a blogger?

Would Captain Moroni have felt such a strong need to get up on the tower with his ripped-up, written-on cloak (which probably made his wife cringe) and wave his message around for all to see? Or would he have sat at his computer and just blogged about it? Would he actually have sent that letter to Governor Pahoran accusing him of treason, or would he have just posted it on his blog and gotten a lot of "Yeah!"s from his fellow troops?

Does blogging really make a difference? Is blogging a form of political action? Discuss.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Bagel's Vocabulary

Bagel's vocabulary grows weekly, but these are the words he can say that are recognizable:

Daily words:
tsih-tseh (choo-choo): train, train car, or line of toys; or a movie about same.
foo-foo: food.
kih-kih: kitchen.
cuh-cuh: sucker (or other hard candy).
baba: bottle or cup.
nah-nah: Mommy (but only when he wants me to do something).
shoo-shoos: shoes

Occasional words:
ba': ball (vowel is different from that in "baba").
ba' ba': apple.

foo-foo in kih-kih: he wants to be taken to the kitchen to eat
want baba
what's this
lookit this
where foo-foo?: how come you're not giving me food when I am so clearly a baby?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Profile of Princess

Princess is a wonderfully talented, hyperachieving little girl. She regularly comes home from school frustrated that her class is just learning multiplication and her teacher won't teach her any division. I poked through the upcoming lessons in her Saxon Math book that we'd gotten her, and division didn't play a prominent role in them, so I decided to teach her some division. Now she's doing single digit divisors into double digit dividends. When she gets bored of that (which I estimate will take about a week) we'll do multi-digit dividends and after that, double digit divisors.

Princess loves to follow "the rules" and when there aren't enough rules for her to follow, she'll gladly make some up. She is also very foresighted and thinks far ahead, which makes her really good at financial planning and budgets. For some reason, though, her slavish rule-following doesn't seem to stop her from being a bit, well, ethically challenged. We've had to deal with problems of her taking things that don't belong to her. The first time, it was a simple case of taking something that she wanted for herself. After she got in trouble for that, she's developed more sophisticated ways of stealing-- and better rationalizations too.

Sonshine placed an order through Princess' Scholastic book order. He paid for it with his own money. He asked about it every day. But Princess kept insisting that the book order had not arrived, even though it was past the date that the order should have arrived. Finally, today, she confessed to me that she was lying to Sonshine; the order had come in, but she was telling him it hadn't so that she could give him the thing he'd ordered as a birthday present.

Sonshine's birthday is in approximately two months.

We had to explain to her that the item was not hers to give; that Sonshine had paid for it with his own money and she had only delivered the order; and that Sonshine was going to be, not pleased with the gift, but mightily pissed when he found out she had stolen from him and lied to him for months to give him a birthday present. She has something on the order of $30 in her wallet, which she has carefully saved from her Christmas money and her earnings from selling sachets, but she just wanted to get a "free" gift for Sonshine because she could.

I am not looking forward to the day when she discovers Machiavelli's The Prince.

Recipe: n-Alarm Chili

You can make this chili as hot as you like by varying the value of n. My preference is n=2; that seems to be an acceptable level of hotness for my kids. My husband, however, likes his chili with about a half a pound of grated cheese on top (I'm not exaggerating). He ate the cheese off the top and kept sprinkling on more, and he set such a wonderful example for the kids that next time it's Chili Night at the Organic Baby Farm, I think I'll just serve bowls of grated cheese instead. It'll take much less time to cook that way, and the food won't get wasted.

n-Alarm Chili

1 lb. pinto beans
1 whole onion + 1 chopped onion
2 bay leaves
1-2 lb. ground beef
n dried red chilies (so-called "japanese" chilies)
2 15-oz cans (or 1 28-oz can) diced tomatoes
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano

Rinse the beans; soak overnight. Boil beans, whole onion, and bay leaves in sufficient water for 2 hours or until soft. Drain water and discard onion and bay leaves.

Brown ground beef in skillet and drain fat. Chop dried chilies. Add meat and chilies to beans in large pot. Add chopped onion, tomatoes, herbs, and spices. Simmer 15-20 minutes to cook onions and develop flavors.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Today's Carb-o-licious Fantasy

As soon as I get out of the hospital after the birth, I am going to IHOP. I am going to eat a three-foot high stack of pancakes. With REAL syrup.

After that I will begin working on a case of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The End Is Near

Yesterday afternoon I suffered from a sudden inability to walk around without incurring extreme pelvic pain. Sitting was better, but I could only sit for so long before I had to lie down. And I couldn't put my legs together without pain, either. I had to recline on half a dozen pillows in a semi-sitting position to get any relief. When I woke up this morning, Knuckles was kicking me. That wouldn't be so astonishing, except that he was kicking me in the ribs, somewhere his feet haven't been anywhere near for the entire pregnancy.

All you ladies who've been pregnant before know what this means: Knuckles is engaged. For those not in the know, "engaged" means he's now committed to coming out headfirst (as opposed to some other part first) because his head is now stuck in my pelvis. That's generally a good thing, although it is very uncomfortable. This is the one time in his life when you hope his engagement lasts less than a month.

This is also the point in the pregnancy when you feel an overwhelming desire to tell your doctor, "I don't care if he's six weeks premature, I want him out NOW!"

Give me a few days to adjust to the increased level of pain, then I'll be back on my feet and running after my boys again.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

State Quarter Designs

The three finalists for Utah's state quarter have been announced. You can view them here.

My preferences for them are: (1) the beehive, (2) the Golden Spike, (3) winter sports.

I gather from KSL's online poll that a lot of people disagree with me and prefer my last choice, the winter sports design. I made that my last choice because while winter sports are certainly an important thing here, Utah is not all about winter sports. While many Utahns participate in these sports, many do not; and the entire southern part of the state, which is a desert climate and doesn't get enough snow for winter sports, is excluded.

Likewise, while the joining of the railroads was definitely a seminal event in the founding of the state, it just doesn't capture enough of Utah's uniqueness. Our state, while influenced by the railroad joining, is not about railroads. The inclusion in this design of the words "Crossroads Of The West" was a plus for me, but it kind of implies that Utah is layover country, which I suppose is better than flyover country. Can you imagine an Iowa quarter that said "Iowa: Miles And Miles Of Nothing But Corn!" Well, I don't want Utah's quarter to basically say, "Utah: Miles And Miles Of Railroad To Pass Through Before Getting Somewhere REALLY Important!"

The beehive, though, is a symbol that does summarize a lot of what makes Utah unique. No matter what people here do, they do it with an intensity and a tireless vigor that makes the honeybee an apropos symbol. Plus, it has the added advantage of already being the state symbol.

The "downside" to the beehive symbol, I guess, is that a few bad apples are complaining that the beehive is just too "Mormon" for their tastes, and they don't want anything remotely "Mormon" to represent their state. I feel really sorry for anyone who's so devoted to an anti-Mormon crusade that they'd want to eliminate all traces of Mormonism from the state's history. But I suspect that these people are in a minority even among the anti-religious, because recently a lawsuit was filed in opposition to juxtaposing the "secular" beehive with a "religious" cross in a memorial for state highway patrolmen killed in the line of duty. So I think we can safely ignore these people's objections, along with those who might think the big Golden Spike is sufficiently phallic to be offensive, or that snowboarding is evil because somebody they know was seriously injured in a snowboarding accident.

Shipping Delays?

Well, the good news is our white Christmas finally arrived. The bad news is, it's just a few weeks too late. Problems with the shipping carrier, I hear...

We got about a foot of so-called "lake effect" snow last night, and it's still coming down and will be all day. They didn't cancel school, but we ended up leaving late because we were waiting to hear from FH that he had gotten to work safely and didn't need us to go pick him up from the side of a road somewhere. FH got stuck about a mile out from home and had to be pulled out of the snow by a friendly stranger with a tow rope, so we figured we'd wait up for him.

We were also hoping that the later start would give the plows a chance to get to more of the roads on the route to school. And of course there was always the off-chance that they might cancel school after all, although out here in Utah we're not the snow-day wimps they were back East. When I lived in New Hampshire, they would cancel school at the drop of a single snowflake. Utahns just don't do school closure for anything less than two feet of snow, and even then it'd be a tough call. But then again, we have far superior roads. What passed for "major streets" in Manchester were winding, tree-lined two lane roads. I think you could count on one hand the number of four-lane roads in the whole city, and Manchester is the largest city in the entire state, with a population then of about 1 million. That was about 10 years ago; I don't know if anything's changed since. It's difficult enough to drive in the snow, but driving on streets like that would cause so much traffic that they might have closed the schools just to keep people off the roads. In Utah, the roads are much, much wider and infinitely better maintained.

Gratitude Moment

Today's Gratitude Moment is brought to you by the White House press corps.

I am grateful that I don't have Scott McClellan's job. I would be the first, last, and only White House Press Secretary ever to utter the words "What kind of a dumb-@$$ question is that???" in a press conference.

I bet, though, that a lot of people would be happy that somebody finally said that, even if it meant I was fired on the spot.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Shameless Blatant Advertising

The online tutoring service I work for,, is launching a new service today called Online Homework Help. This is similar to their current service, Live Homework Help, except that subscriptions are offered to individuals instead of just to libraries and schools. Plus, we now have a bitchin' new online classroom environment that beats the hell out of the old one. The downside is that while they're running the pilot program from now through June, we tutors still have to provide both services... simultaneously. Still, I'm hoping that as more and more homeschoolers and kids with attentive parents sign on, I'll get fewer requests for sexual favors by unsupervised kids screwing around in the computer lab.

Anyway, they are offering a free one-day trial, so if online tutoring services were something you were thinking about purchasing, or if you're a cheapskate who needs help with homework, check it out. And if you are interested in being an online tutor, when you apply be sure to mention my name as the person who referred you. (It's not that hard to figure out my real name if you don't already know it, but if you send me an e-mail, I'll be happy to let you know.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What's A Food?

It's Legislature Time in Utah again, and one of the hot-button issues of 2006 is the proposed repeal of the sales tax on food, HB 109. There are lots of arguments for it, mostly appealing to people's sense of fairness, because everybody eats food. All sorts of church leaders are in support of it.

Fine. My problem with it is this: define "food".

There are some things that clearly should be considered "food:" flour, chicken, potatoes, noodles. There are some things that clearly should not be considered "food:" plastic dishes, paper, furniture. But what about things like the following:
  • pre-cooked chickens
  • bakery cakes and doughnuts (from a local in-store bakery)
  • pre-packaged national-brand cakes and doughnuts
  • herbal supplements
  • prescription drugs
  • toothpaste
  • gum
  • candy
  • Hamburger Helper and other boxed dinner kits
You could make a much longer list, of course. Some of the items on that list are clearly edible, but they are not what you might call "staple foods;" they're more like "luxury foods" and a good portion of their price is not the food itself, but the convenience of having somebody else cook it for you, either wholly (as with the cake) or partially (as with the Hamburger Helper). On the other hand, saying that you can only consider an item "food" if you're not paying for value-added convienience, if taken to its logical extreme, would make cows untaxable but milk and beef taxable. Other items on that list are put in the mouth, but not swallowed. Toothpaste is not considered dietary and doesn't require a federal Nutritional Facts statement, but gum does. And how about herbal supplements and prescription drugs? For FDA purposes supplements are considered a food, and they have a Nutritional Facts statement, but prescription drugs are not and don't. Are either of those foods? are they luxury items that aren't essential for living? are they medicines?

Unless you can come up with some sort of firm guideline (other than somebody's arbitrary decision) as to what a food is, this sort of thing is a nightmare to implement. So sure, repeal the sales tax on food... just as soon as you can tell me what a "food" is.

Why Do I Bother?

This morning I woke up early as usual, trying but failing to find a comfortable sleeping position, so I thought I'd listen to the radio and get some news. I used to like to listen to NPR for news in the morning, but the last few years they've been so unbearably biased against that icky, icky war in Iraq and that poopy-head President Bush that it's just been impossible to listen to them. But I don't like getting my news solely from AM radio stations either, because unlike NPR they have more of a sound-bite format that doesn't give me the depth of reporting that I really like to have. (Newspapers are totally out for me because an open newspaper seems to be an invitation for a small child to dance in the middle of it, and I haven't yet found an internet news outlet that I really like.)

I can stand a little spin, if it isn't so egregious that I quit just rolling my eyes and start talking back at the radio. The kids think I'm nuts when I do that.
"Who are you talking to, Mommy?"
"The guy on the radio, he just said something really outrageous that's only half true."
"Can the guy on the radio hear you?"
"Ummmm.... no, sweetie, he can't."
"Then why are you talking to him?"
I bet Sonshine thinks Sean Hannity can hear me, though. God knows I talk to him enough...

Anyway, this morning I decided to listen to the radio. I started with the AM radio station and their early-early-morning news program. They had a story about the airstrikes in Pakistan that may or may not have killed al-Qaeda's #2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Important news, to be sure. But they they started going off about how illegitimate it might be to go into Pakistan and make air strikes without telling them first, even though (per their own report!) Pakistan had already given us blanket permission to do so. Then they started talking about who in the CIA would have made the decision to strike, which is good to know. But they turned it into some sort of accusation that President Bush and Porter Goss weren't personally making every tactical decision in the War on Terror. Well, DUH, people. You can't run anything as complicated as a supermarket without letting your underlings make important decisions, let alone a whole entire government. I could just imagine them breathlessly reporting on the goings-on at a supermarket: "Unnamed sources tell us that important decisions about how much milk to put out on store shelves are not being made by the president of Associated Foods, nor even by the store manager, but by the dairy manager, who is just a few levels up from the checkout clerk! These decisions affect our milk supply and may result in no skim milk being available during the week it's on sale!"

So I tuned into the local NPR station, hoping I'd find something better, something at least a little more professional. Well, I did find something that was a little more professional-- they had a report on a lieutenant who recently died in Iraq. They talked about his family and the mission he was on, and how he went back to Iraq for a second tour. Good, good, good; all facts. But then the focus of the story shifted from what the guy did to how he maybe might have felt about the war in Iraq. They talked to a relative, who said that he was torn between a second tour and staying home with his family (who wouldn't be?) and was clearly against the war and projecting some of that onto the deceased soldier, as people tend to do when their loved ones die. But they didn't talk to any of his men who would have been with him closer to the end of his life, or to his widow, who would have known him better. It was pretty obvious from their choice of sound clips that they were desperately trying to make it sound like the guy was vaccillating about whether to go for a second tour, and that for some odd and random reason he happened to be leaning toward going when he died. That he actually decided to go back to Iraq for a second tour and actually went back seemed, according to this report, to be an oversight that he would have immediately corrected if he'd only gotten the right piece of dirty information about President Bush.

They're trying, you can tell. They're trying to represent many different points of view. The problem seems to be that they just don't understand mine and all the ones like it. I get the impression that trying to get them to understand would be like trying to reason with a teenage girl at the wrong time of the month. (I've been a teenage girl, so I know how futile an exercise it is.) Anyone who's tried that knows that there's just no point in bothering to try.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Taxes and the Unmarried Couple

This article from the Tooele Transcript Bulletin is about the tax consequences of being an unmarried couple with children. Evidently, the rules have changed, and you can no longer claim your shack-up honey's children as dependents for tax purposes.

This rule evidently has the largest impact on poorer people, who qualify for an Earned Income Tax Credit. Their returns are reviewed because of a high probability of fraud (the report on which this article is based asserts that about 2/3 of the claims reviewed were found to be totally legit).
“The median Adjusted Gross Income of these taxpayers was $13,330, and the median refund was $3,519. Thus, the refund constituted, on average, more than 26 percent of the claimant’s [income] for the year, and the taxpayers were required to wait, on average, more than eight and a half months to receive their refunds.”
I am not a tax accountant, but I've done my own taxes for years (sometimes actually with a pencil), and as far as I know, the EIC is a tax credit that actually results in you getting back more money than was withheld from your paycheck. So this is not money they actually earned; this is free government money being handed out to the working poor. All you have to do is file your taxes, and the more dependents the better. So these poor schmoes were evidently smart enough to realize they'd get more money if they claimed their honey's dependents as their own on their taxes.
Given the new rule, unmarried couples may need to change the way they file their taxes. If guardians have no biological or marital ties to a child, they are not eligible to claim them as an exemption, use them to claim head of household status, or to file for Earned Income Credits.

“The key word is ‘Earned,’” Reader said, “as in you have to have some wages and you have to have dependent children. It’s a credit for the working family.”

A typical couple who would be affected by the change might be unmarried, where the mother has children from a previous relationship and her partner is the primary breadwinner. In previous years, the breadwinner would be able to claim the children to reduce his or her taxes. Beginning this year, that’s not allowed.

One solution to the problem that would be an option for most couples is to form a common law marriage at your accountant’s office.

“It’s almost like they made the rule so everyone has to run out and get married,” Reader said. [emphasis added]

No, that's not what it's "almost like." It's "almost like" they're no longer going to look the other way while people find a girlfriend with children and move in with them so they can get all the milk without buying the whole cow. That, after all, is the point of shacking up-- to get all the benefits of marriage without actually getting a marriage. Well, color me unsympathetic if people who are too lazy to step up to the altar and put in what little bit of work it takes to get a marriage legalized are kicked off the gravy train. And it is a VERY little bit of work, too:

“We can marry them basically at the tax table,” said Rodney Carter, also of H&R Block in Tooele. “We have the option of ‘married filing joint.’”

Carter explained that Utah recognizes common law marriages which are remarkably easy to create. To form that type of union, a couple may file joint taxes and exhibit other forms of financial entanglement. Under this strategy, either party within the couple may claim the children as dependents, for head of household status, or EIC.
They don't even have to go down to City Hall, pay the modest marriage license fee, or find some judge or mail-order clergyman to marry them. All they have to do is act like they're married, which they are already doing anyway in every way but on paper. But they don't want to do it, because it would mean they would actually have some sort of legal obligation to each other. So it all boils down to that they want all the perks (which, aside from the obvious sexual and financial ones, include being able to "borrow" your honey's kids for tax purposes) but they don't want any commitment whatsoever. And somehow, when it comes down to tax time, they'll be smart and gladly claim all the exemptions they think they can just to schmooze a few grand off the government; but as soon as the government closes the loophole, they're suddenly too dumb to understand why their tax returns are getting reviewed. Riiiiiiiiiight.

They'll share their bed, their house, their income, and their kids, but they won't share a lousy tax return??

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Aesthetics Are Funny Things

This morning I was writing up patterns for the contractors I'm about to bring on board to my business to make my products. One of the things I'm going to have them do is the scrubbing sides for my best-selling soap holders. As part of the pattern I provide guidelines as to how much the contractor's gauge can vary from mine, so I have to measure the scrubbing side to give them a target size.

And that's when I realized why it is that the large size soap holders have sold far and away better than the regular size. The aspect ratio of the large size soap holders is much closer to the Golden Ratio than the regular size holders' aspect ratio. I put them out side by side at the Winter Gift Market, asking the same price, and people chose the large size much more often than the regular size.

There are other factors, of course-- for starters, the larger size will hold a wider variety of sizes of bars-- but the large size sacks' sales have outstripped regular sacks' sales by such a margin that it cannot be explained solely by their versatility. I'm inclined to think it has a whole lot to do with the aspect ratio. People just like Golden Rectangles better than other rectangles.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Oldies But Goodies

My kids, like all red-blooded American kids, like to watch Saturday morning cartoons. And I, like all red-blooded American parents, sat down and watched with them to see what they were watching. Let me assure you, it's all crap. Approximately 50% of the shows seem to be about scantily-clad anime girls being catty to each other as they transform into animals or use their magic powers. The other 50% of the shows are based on video games and/or heavily merchandised toys. Everything that's on today is the sort of thing I would have turned off as a kid, in favor of going outside in my snow boots in the height of summer and playing astronaut on the swingset.

I told the kids frankly that I didn't like their cartoons, and I told them why. I spoke of the glory days of cartoons, of Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry, when cartoons were actually funny and original and worth watching. When even grown-ups could laugh at humor that was simultaneously mature and slapstick, chock full of cultural references that helped reinforce classical music and history. And the kids just blinked at me.

And then I got them an Animaniacs video from the video rental place. Suddenly, they understood exactly what I meant. They were laughing their little rears off from the start of the video to the end, when they rewound it and did the whole thing again. Sonshine even made a Brain finger puppet out of paper. (I guess Brain's subliminal video mind control idea worked.) But the best part about it is that they agreed with me-- the cartoons of yesteryear are head and shoulders above anything that's being produced today. No matter how sophisticated the video games get at showing murder and mayhem, there's still nothing more entertaining than a well-timed pratfall.

My Third Worst Nightmare

I am deathly afraid of indoor plumbing.

(It doesn't stop me from using it, though.)

When we lived in our mobile home, the plumbing there was so crappy that we sprung leaks in it all the time. I developed a fear of water noises that is so severe that when we moved to our new house, I kept waking up at three in the morning when the neighbors' sprinklers turned on. I just couldn't sleep; I heard water noises, and they immediately and irrevocably wake me up. Even things that sound like water noise wake me. It took me months and months to adjust to having a computer in my bedroom, because FH insisted on leaving it on all night and the fans sounded like water to me. I kept waking up and walking all over the house looking for the plumbing leak. And I could never sleep through rainstorms. All that water falling down, right outside my window. It's a good thing we didn't live in Seattle.

I was having a perfectly good crazy dream last night, featuring fish that morphed into water-breathing dinosaurs when fed the right seaweed, cable TV service that offered noodle home delivery as a feature, and my brother (as a child about Sonshine's age) returning from his mission to the Ukraine wearing Underoos two years too tight. And then something went wrong with the plumbing to the fish tanks, and all hell broke loose. My dream turned into a nightmare so scary that I was forced to wake myself up.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Website Modifications

I installed a module on my business website that will allow wholesale customers to order online with wholesale prices. I'm still doing a few tweaks to it, but it seems to be working. It would probably work a lot better if I knew how to program in PHP. I'd love to learn, but I just don't have the time.

In fact, I barely got this module installed at all. Princess left the twist tie off the big bag of suckers, which is kept in a low enough cabinet that Bagel can reach it. Suckers are Bagel's favorite-- in fact, all candies are "cuh-cuh" ("sucker") to him-- so he was all over that bag. I'm still, a whole day later, finding half-eaten and fully-eaten suckers laying around the house, and untouched suckers hidden behind furniture or under piles of laundry. Bagel would go up and get himself a couple, and then Sonshine would see that he had one and insist whinily on having one as well, and then I had to stop what I was doing and confiscate all the suckers. Bagel didn't like that and went digging through the trash can to get all his half-eaten suckers back. Then he discovered that there are all sorts of really cool things in the trash cans, so he started digging through trash cans just on general principles.

Between the suckers and the trash cans and the whining for total equality, I'm amazed I didn't screw the whole thing up any more than I did. As it was I had to restore my cart from the backup twice, mostly because there are something like half a dozen directories called "includes" and which one you install the file to makes a difference.

Annoyingly Repeated Comment Of The Week

This week's Annoyingly Repeated Comment is brought to you by Knuckles the 33-Week Fetus.

I'm carrying Knuckles pretty low and far out, which is consistent with my last two pregnancies. Only Sonshine carried further out than Knuckles. But Knuckles is entirely outside my normal frame; he's literally carrying like I had a basketball tucked under my shirt.

So everywhere I go, people ask when I'm due and goggle when I say "March." OK, technically it's March 3, and they will induce labor on that day rather than let me go over term because of the gestational diabetes, and none of my pregnancies has ever made it to the due date anyway, so it's highly likely I'll have a baby by the end of February. I know, though, it seems amazing that my belly should be this large, and it doesn't surprise me that people who don't know me should be thusly astonished, especially when my neighbor (who's about a month behind me in her pregnancy) is only now just starting to look like she has meat on her bones, let alone is 7 months pregnant.

Somebody asked my neighbor once where she was hiding her baby, and I piped up that she was hiding it in my belly. So I've got a sense of humor about this whole thing. But for some reason it's starting to get really annoying when people say to me, "And you're due in March?? How many babies do you have in there??" It's funny, it's witty... the first 1500 times you hear it. After that it gets kind of boring.

I should be used to it. After all, my maiden name was Brilliant, and I endured 20 years of people saying to me "Brilliant... are you? Har har har!" as if the previous thirty-five million people I'd met hadn't already said it. There's a snappy comeback to that one, though: "Why yes, I was born Brilliant." I can't think of any snappy comeback to the "how many babies" question, though, probably because I'm so tired. So if you can think of one, please leave it in the comments.

UPDATE: one of the OB nurses suggested that the funny answer to "How many babies do you have in there?" is "Six!"

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My Second Worst Nightmare

My worst nightmares are the ones where my kids, especially Sonshine, wander out into roads, railroads, or other dangers, and get hit by cars or trains because they don't listen to me calling to them to stop. But my second worst nightmare is this (emphasis mine):
A ten-month-old baby girl is recovering this morning from chemical burns after getting toilet cleaner on her legs.

Deputies say the baby's mother said she was doing housework yesterday when her daughter somehow got under the sink and got into some toilet bowl cleaner.

Authorities say the chemical burns on the baby were reportedly severe.

Deputies say they found the little girl and her mother living in extremely filthy conditions. The state Division of Child and Family Services have been notified.

You get behind on your housework, so you're cleaning up. Your kid has a horrible accident, so you take her to the hospital. But then you're turned over to the authorities, because your house wasn't finished being cleaned.

What are you supposed to do, let the kid suffer longer so that you can finish cleaning up the house? Because in my opinion, if you did that you'd deserve to get your kid taken away. At least the woman was engaged in the act of decreasing the filthiness level of the house, and did right by her kid instead of covering her own @$$ while her daughter suffered.

I don't know how "filthy" the house was or if it's comparable to mine-- I'd call my house "filthy" but it's mostly clutter; it's not attracting cockroaches or anything, even though Bagel has probably stashed a few half-apples or sticky suckers in every room in the house in places where they won't be spotted for a long while. Still, though, I have rings around my toilets and tubs, and I'm not exactly inviting people in to show them off. I just shudder to think that if (God forbid) any accident should befall my kids, they'd be taken away from me because my house isn't perfectly tidy.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I'm Hungry

I've been on this crazy low-carb diet for about a month now, and I am so sick of it. I want to EAT.

On this diet, I can eat pretty much anything I want, but I have to spread my carbohydrates out throughout the day, and I have to control my portions of anything that has carbs as a major component. This is rather challenging. In real life, this boils down to the following tenets:
  • I cannot have regular soda or juice or candy. Period. They have so many carbs in a regular portion that if I wanted to have them, I'd have to have them with salad and nothing else, or else I could have nothing but a few sips or bites of them.
  • I cannot eat but a few mouthfuls of many of the foods I like, including (but not limited to) bread, mashed potatoes, and rice, not to mention candy or any sort of dessert. This has the effect, famously alluded to in the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", of "arousing my appetite without bedding her down." I especially miss bread. I make this lovely herbed wheat bread that I am no longer able to eat in quantities large enough to satisfy my appetite. And peanut butter and jelly is a big no-no. Root beer floats aren't so bad, though, if they're made with diet root beer; and ice cream actually doesn't have all that many carbs.
  • If I try to substitute a low-carb version of something, it is inevitably lacking in either taste, texture, or satisfaction. Low-carb candies suck like a brand-new Hoover. Diet soda tastes funny. Splenda makes my tea dry out my mouth. I want my Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, my IBC Root Beer, and my honey.
  • Keep the kids away from the red sugar-free drink mixes. Those red drinks give my 5-year-old the most horrific mustaches that won't go away without exfoliating his face, which we can't do because of his eczema. The other day we actually sent him to school with the one from the night before, because his assignment was to wear something pink and he didn't have anything like that in his wardrobe.
Right now I would like nothing better than to gorge myself on homemade wheat bread and all the other carb foods I miss so much. Carbs or no carbs, it's gotta be healthier than the crap I have to eat now.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Today's Scripture

A reading from the Book of Rejoicings:

12 And behold, the children mourned; for they said, the car is no more, it lieth in the garage, and it will not start again, and our father must buy a new one.

13 And the car lay dead in the garage for three weeks.

14 And when the third week had been fulfilled, behold the husbandman cometh with his wrenches; and the husbandman removeth the starter, which was broken but which hath a lifetime warranty.

15 And still the children mourned, and the wife also; for they said, behold, the starter is a California starter, which is different from all other starters for this make of car, for it hath offset gears. And the store saith that it hath the starter in stock, but the store lieth, for no store yet hath carried this starter.

16 Thus spake the children and the wife, and the husband also. And the children wept, for they would have to walk to school for many days until the ordering of the starter was fulfilled. And the wife wept also, for she was heavy with child, and the journey to the school exceedeth one mile, and behold she would have to journey three times each day, for her son was in Kindergarten.

17 And the time was fulfilled that the wife and children should go to the store, which saith that it hath the starter. And behold, the store lieth not, and the starter did appear. And verily, it was a shiny new starter, with offset gears.

18 Thus the children rejoiceth, and the wife also; but the husband beheld not the starter, for he was at his meeting.

The Crazy Week-Long Trip To A Funeral

My grandfather, George Furtado Simas, passed away on Christmas Day in the morning.

He was a good man, self-educated, constantly reading. He had Alzheimer's disease and in the end just forgot to eat. He had a living will that specified that he was not to be given a feeding tube, so we let him go. I don't know why God calls some people to this sort of experience at the end of their lives. Perhaps it is a time for quiet reflection, to go over all the events of your past, a sort of "life flashing before your eyes" in slow motion as you regress back through your memories. Perhaps there are lessons we know not of, that can only be learned when in a mental state that seems strange and pitiful to us. Perhaps it is for the benefit of others that the elderly are asked to sacrifice their lives, to teach us about caring and unconditional love. I'm sure God must have a very good reason, because so many of our elderly have this experience. No matter why he had to go through what he did, I have no doubt that he had the best Christmas of his life, spending it with not only Christ himself, but also all his long-dead relatives and ancestors welcoming him to the next life.

We decided to go to the funeral despite my advanced pregnancy and gestational diabetes, because we wanted to be there for my widowed grandmother. San Diego is a two-day car trip from northern Utah. It can be driven straight through, since it's only about 13 hours' drive, but if you have kids, can't drive all night and/or get up very very early in the morning, or need to get out frequently, it's best to do it in two days. Since all of the above applied to us, we knew we'd have to do the drive in two days instead of one. So that's four days of nothing but travel. Add a day for the funeral and you're already up to almost a week. We decided to tack on an extra two days to visit FH's folks in the L.A. area while we were out there.

The trip was a horrific ordeal worthy of at least the third circle of Dante's hell, replete with screaming demons children squabbling over the least little sip of water or mouthful of bubble gum. We didn't have the time I usually put into planning this sort of trip, so we just sort of threw everything into suitcases and left. Some of it we just threw directly into the van. The kids fell into that latter category. We had brought a DVD player and a small screen, but FH had only brought the least favorite and most scratched of their DVD's and had not made provision for the screen to be firmly affixed to the back of the seat in front of them, so we spent most of the trip fielding complaints about the movie selection and the quality of the car theater experience. Bagel liked the extended ride, though. He spent every waking hour of the trip staring out the van window. He even learned a new word, "noise," just to complain about the noisy heater in the first hotel we stayed in.

We left after dinner on Tuesday and made it to Mesquite, Nevada, where we had reservations, and arrived in San Diego on Wednesday. FH still had a lot of unused hotel reward points, so we were able to get a free room at a nice place in Downtown.

The funeral went well enough. Bagel provided some comic relief when he somehow managed to get his diaper off without removing his pants. The diaper was clean, so it didn't make a mess, but I just couldn't help laughing out loud when I discovered the diaper hanging down one leg of his pants. My brother had a nerve-racking experience. He ran out of gas on the way to the cemetery. He immediately called a cab, because he was a pallbearer and his car also contained two other pallbearers. The cabbie took him for a long, long ride, first around and around the cemetery without finding the entrance, then to everywhere in the cemetery except the place where we were. He eventually gave up and went back to the reception. In the meantime, my brother-in-law who had stayed with the car to wait for a friend to bring gas had gotten the gas and went on his way. Had my brother stayed with the car, he would have gotten there much sooner; but he had no way of knowing that he'd get a dishonest cabbie. After the reception, my brother spent a couple of hours on the phone with the power company, which had decided not to credit any of his online payments for the last three months, wouldn't take his debit card, and was threatening to shut off his power while he was down at the funeral, all the time accusing him of being a deadbeat who refused to pay his power bill. I am impressed that he managed to hold it together through all this frustration. I would have exploded in a way that would have made people cover their children's ears.

After that, we went up to Los Angeles, where we stayed with FH's sister and her family. They are an island of American sanity in a sea of Filipino craziness. They were happy to see us and glad we could stop by. Our other, more traditionally Filipino relatives were actually upset at us because we did not visit on the dates and times they would have preferred or stay as long as they wanted us to. Perhaps they would have preferred we not stop by and see them at all?!? As it was, we were able to attend an hour or two of my mother-in-law's New Year party, but only at the cost of arriving in St. George at 11:30 pm.

On the trip home we discovered that we were missing a headlamp lens. Of course, you can't just replace the headlamp lens; you have to get the entire headlamp assembly, which is expensive. And naturally, it wasn't the older and more opaque of the two headlamps that broke; it was the newer one, the one we replaced a while back when a rock hit it and shattered the headlamp lens. And of course it is a special-order part at any auto parts store, so there was no chance of us replacing it until several days after we got home. Without a lens, the bulb was exposed to the elements; and since it rained the entire day, it didn't have a snowball's chance in hell. Thankfully, the part is an easy one to replace; even I can do it, if I have a Chilton manual to look at. I got a nice deal on an aftermarket headlamp on eBay. We've had good luck getting parts on eBay, when we buy from reputable sellers. But even at half the price Autozone wanted, it didn't come cheap.

All in all, I'm glad we went. It meant so much to my grandmother. But I really, really wish we could have gone without actually going, because it was the actual going part that was really miserable. There's nothing like a family car trip, complete with midnight earaches, gross casino bathrooms, and the smell of rotting hamburgers that have been dropped under the seat. And it's a good thing there's nothing like it, or it'd be much, much more difficult to avoid.