Monthly Archives: April 2006

The Seemingly Arbitrary List of Things in Our House that Belong to May, According to Eli

1. The chair at the dining room table that she sits in when she’s here
2. Every mug we own, because she may have once drunk her tea from it
3. The black rocking chair in the living room (it actually did come from her house so this one I get)
4. All his books that have her handwriting inside the front cover
5. The guest room
6. The stuffed dinosaur he has
7. The dinosaur stickers that he plays with as he gets his diaper changed

One morning this week as we were blearily sitting down for breakfast, Eli tells Rachel she can’t drink out of the coffee mug she has because it belongs to May (this is what Eli calls Stephen’s mom). I thought for a moment he was actually going to throw a tantrum about it.

Sometimes I wonder what else is on his mental list and I wonder why he doesn’t keep such a long one for the rest of us. The only thing he consistently points out for Stephen is HIS dining room chair. The only thing he points out as belonging to me are my Birkenstocks. He knows that other things around our house came from other people. He recognizes that my dad bought him a keyboard for Christmas. He knows that his favorite stuffed duck and his favorite pirate book came from my mom. He knows Nanny bought him his favorite Blue’s Clues video and that Tim gave him a stuffed bunny. But I can only surmise that it is by the Mighty Power of the GrandParent TM that he keeps such a long list for May.

I am by no means complaining (and no it’s not just because she reads this site), I just find it fasinating that he has latched onto this list of things that are “hers”. I guess when he sees these objects they bring back pleasant memeories for him. And really, isn’t that just the best thing about grandparents?

That and they let you eat ice cream anytime you want.

Big Head Dog and the Monsters

Time to take a break from my science ranting and bring you another example of how children’s toys scare me. Today’s exhibit: Big Head Dog.

Big Head Dog

Big Head Dog fits snugly in the palm of your hand. His oversized head will nuzzle you lovingly as you stroke between his tiny nub ears, marvelling at how large his head is. He loves to run and jump and play with you.

Big Head Dog from the side

The only problem is, his big head keeps his front paws from touching the ground. Oh, he can make his front paws touch. But then he has to shove with all the power in his stubby legs to push his over-sized head about, leaving wet slobbering trails across the floor.

Big Head Dog comes to us courtesy of Eli’s one and only Happy Meal to date. Many people have concerns about genome splicing and the like. Why has no one confronted McDonald’s about this moose/terrier chimera?

In other scary toy news, I have discovered a new biological method of reproduction.

One Peep, Two Peep, Yellow Peep, Yellow Peep


Science Unfair

Creator or Not?Divinity vs Man — YOU DECIDE,” the science fair project said. I stared at it, glad that the student wasn’t there to bear the brunt of my anger and sadness.

Let me back up. Last week I was a judge for the state science and engineering fair. Well, I should caveat that: I wasn’t a full judge. A professional organization I’m part of was giving a special award for optics, and I was one of our judges for that special award.

I hadn’t been to a science fair since 12th grade. My own science projects vacillated between decent and bog-standard. One year I joined the ranks of the thousands who had built a tornado box. My best project was undoubtedly the one where I attempted to find any correlation between how well you remember your dreams on any given night and how well rested or tired you feel the next morning. My protocol was decent and I took a fair amount of data. It was disqualified at the regional level: I didn’t know I needed to have all of the participants sign waivers saying it was okay for me to experiment on them. The most fun project was the Faraday motor I built out of a bar magnet, a pool of mercury, and a car battery. Zzzzap!

An aside: at my school’s science fair, a guy I didn’t like very much came up to my Faraday motor and started poking his finger in the mercury. “That’s cool,” he said. I never did tell him how poisonous heavy metals like mercury are. When I took the project to the regional science fair, an official told me that I had to remove the mercury from my display and instead show it in a corked bottle. “That mercury’s unsafe,” he told me. He let me keep the car battery with its bare terminals and live wires in the display.

Back then I didn’t really know how science worked, so I wasn’t able to do truly outstanding projects. If I could go back in time I’d be much better now. If nothing else I now know cool things to do with lasers.

The fair had a junior and a senior division. The senior division covered grades 9 through 12; the junior division, grades 6 through 8. In the morning we looked at the senior projects, first without the students there, then with the students present for interviews. The afternoon was for junior projects.

Quality varied, as you might expect. There were a number of my favorite standbys. What does different colored light do to plant growth? How does music affect plant growth? What do colas and other liquids do to teeth? Then there were the interesting ones. A mathematical approach to generating Sudoku puzzles. An investigation into how shelf-life of products affects economic collusion where the student had performed a microeconomic experiment with high school students. Solar death rays were popular, though one of the students had used hers to perform calorimetric experiments. Cooool.

I had to leave after lunch, so I spent some time on the junior division displays before I left. One student had performed polarimetric experiments on honey to detect adulteration — a winner is her!

Then I saw it. “Creator or Not? Divinity vs Man — YOU DECIDE”

The title claimed we could decide, but the project left no room for vacillation. It started with a hypothesis that “The universe was created by an intelligent designer.” It went on to make the standard big number argument, and closed with the conclusion, “The universe was created by an intelligent designer.”

The big number argument: there are twenty amino acids. The average human protein has around 460 amino acids in it. Thus the number of possible combinations is a huge number. The age of the universe in seconds likewise is a huge number, but less huge than the number of possible amino acid combinations. Thus you would have to have been randomly generating these protien chains at the rate of bunches every second from the Big Bang to now before you got human protein chains. Clearly that didn’t happen; therefore, an intelligent designer did it. Quod erat demonstratum.

I’m not even a biologist, and I can see the holes in that chain of reasoning. For one, protein assembly is hardly random. For another, protein assembly didn’t go from zero to human. For a third, saying that a specific chain is highly unlikely is like saying that the randomly-computer-generated license plate that North Carolina handed me, with its 1-in-175 million chance of occuring, is so unlikely that it has to mean something.

This isn’t science. This is a piss-poor chain of logic wearing the discarded clothes of science and strutting around in an attempt to impress. What’s worse is that this project was presented at the state level. It had to pass at least a regional science fair. Not only must the student’s “science” teacher have accepted it as a project, the regional science fair judges must have given it better-than-passing marks.

I’m thankful I wasn’t around for the junior student interviews. Berating a sixth grader would do no one any good, and certainly wouldn’t fix the broken science education system on display.

Update: I mis-remembered the name of the project. A commenter at Pharyngula pointed out the correct name. He also pointed out that the project won an Honorable Mention in the Junior Division’s Math and Computers section. Oy.


I have a confession to make. My name is Misty and I am a cross-stitch-a-holic.

whole bed.jpg

When I was a teen my mom cross-stitched cute little pictures of grapes and pears for the kitchen. She progressed on to dilapidated, country gas pumps and old cars. I liked the hobby but lacked the interest in farm equipment. I worked on a Jesus sampler in a desultory fashion for about 6 years. I carried it from Arkansas to Alabama to North Carolina.

While in North Carolina, I realized I needed a hobby to keep me busy while Stephen was working 100 hour weeks at grad school. So out came the sampler. When I finished the Jesus sampler, I wanted to work on something that would please Stephen so I took him shopping for my next project. This is how “The Map” came into our lives.


While Stephen was ogling “The Map” in the store, I thought to myself, “That’s not so hard, there’s lots of empty space on there.” So we bought it and I started the project. Not too far into working on it I realized I had made a huge stitching error. So I set aside the map and didn’t work on it for several years.

Stephen teased me about not finishing “The Map,” A LOT. So one day, I got it out. I took a good look at it again and decided that the error wasn’t as bad as I had originally thought and that only someone looking at it very closely would see it. So I started working again and realized it was something that I really loved. I mean, really truly enjoyed. It was something I looked forward to doing while I was at work. I daydreamed about what project I would do next. It was my secret obsession.

Why was it secret? Cause it was an old lady hobby. I knew that only old ladies did handwork. Twenty-somethings go to clubs and get tattoos, they don’t stay at home and do handwork. At least that’s what I thought. Then I found a cross-stitch store in Cary, North Carolina. It was very close to where I worked at the time so I went during lunch one day.

To say You Count with Freda was a revelation seems like an overstatement. But really that’s not too far from the truth. I don’t know if the products I saw that day were always available or if something happened between the time I started cross-stitching in high school and the time I picked in back up in North Carolina. But there was some truly beautiful stuff in that store. More than just country pink and blue, more than just old-fashioned samplers, there were fantasy pieces, oriental pieces, large eye-catching detailed masterpieces in linen and silk. I had no idea you could make pictures with cloth and thread.

And the people in the store were young! Maybe not as young as me (24-ish) but the owner, Freda, was in her early 30s. So I started to feel not so weird having this hobby.

Then I started with the buying. I was good at first, I only had about 3 projects at any one time that I had materials for that was either waiting to be started or already in progress. When we moved to Alabama in October 2002 I was sad that I was leaving one of the best stores ever created but I had amassed enough stuff to keep working for a while so I didn’t mind too much. And I had finished “The Map.” I gave it to Stephen as a graduation present. It only took six years.


Just before we moved I started working on Mother’s Arms (above) by one of my favorite designers, Nora Corbett. So I was in a stitching frenzy to finish it. I wanted it completely done so I could hang it in the baby’s room. I wasn’t even pregnant yet but I knew that would hang in the nursery. I finished it and had it framed well before Eli was even thought about. I worked on a few other projects off and on but felt sure that I wouldn’t cross-stitch after Eli was born. So I worked very hard to finish the very last project while I was pregnant.

I was sad for a while, because I thought I’d have to give up my hobby for my kid. And I did for a while. I didn’t every actually try to nurse and cross-stitch at the same time but I knew instinctively that it would be a disaster. But then some time passed and it became clear that Eli wouldn’t fill my every waking moment. So I started working again and for Christmas this past year finished Shimmering Mermaid (also by Nora Corbett) for my mom. She loves it!


Unfortunately, I’m so much slower now than I was pre-Eli. I’ve continued to buy the things that interest me but I don’t have the same amount of time to work on stuff as I once did. So my collection is large. I probably have 3-5 years of stuff to work on, right now, without buying another thread or bead.

Here are a few other projects I’ve finished over the years.

lo how a rose.jpg



The best part is I’ve sucked my friend Ashley into my obsession. Before Christmas this past year she decided she’d make some presents. So she started cross-stitching stuff. I have a sewing circle now! I have a partner in crime! I have someone who understands about the husband getting mad when you spend $50 on stuff you might not complete before 2010! She and I got hooked on a designer named Terrance Nolan. Between the two of us I think we have nine of a possible 13 of his Wee Beesties collection. So far I’ve finished one and a half.


blue butterfly.jpg

Currently, my thing is samplers. I used to hate them because they seemed so old-fashioned. Why would you spend so much time doing what is essentially the ABCs? But even that has changed with the fashion. Or maybe Eli sings the ABCs so much it has rattled my thinking.

stary night.jpg

in progress 2.jpg

The Remember Me Sampler (above) is an English adaptation of various European band samplers with a beautiful verse by Robert Bridges called “I Love All Beauteous Things” at the top and updated colors to make it feel more modern. What is in the picture above is the top half.

The whole thing has 58 of those green leaves.

I only have 39.5 more leaves to go before I can start another project. I can’t wait!

He Gets It From Misty, Honest

When he was very young, we loved to hear Eli talk. “He said ‘dada’! Say it again!”

Yeah, we had no idea. He is a never-ending fountain of words. He has baby Tourette’s, only instead of cursing, he says, “laba laba laba laba laba.” The words begin at six A.M. Six. A. M. He wakes up and begins entertaining himself by singing every song he knows. Repeatedly. “Biku, biku liiiitle staaar.” “Ay bee cee dee, eee eff gee. Aych eye jay kay, ellellelleminnoooow-a pee.” Camp songs. When he gets older he will make a wonderful Girl Scout. Some times he greets things in his room. “Hello, star! Hello, sun! Hello, couch!”

When he began talking and singing, every time he finished a song we would say, “Yaaaaay!” and clap our hands. Now he does it for himself. “Now I know my ay bee cees, next time wanna sing-a me. Yaaaaaaay!” If I could go back in time I would make a killing in the stock market. Then I would use a portion of my new fortune to buy my old self a clue about encouraging Eli to talk and sing like this.

It’s not always bad. Some mornings Misty and I will turn up the monitor and listen to him sing and talk. We revel in how cute he is, and how he is clearly the smartest, most adorable toddler ever. Other mornings, usually the mornings after we have stayed up far too late reading, we cover our heads with pillows and mutter, “Just stick the damn binkie back in.”

We use Eli’s new-found power of speech for evil sometimes. I know we shouldn’t, but it’s so hard to resist. “Go tell your dad that your diaper is full!” Eli obediently heads my way and babbles, “Daddy, daddy, diaper full!” “Okay! Go tell your mom she needs to change your diaper!” Back he goes, saying, “Momma! Momma! Change-a diaper!” It’s passive-aggressive child rearing with a side order of cuteness.

To go with the talking, Eli is now pretending to read. He eats two types of cereal: Chex and Cheerios. The Chex box has a recipe for barbeque Chex mix. Eli will point at each letter on the cereal box. “B. B. Q. Chex!” Then he demands that the box be turned so he can read another side. “B. 2. Riboflavin!”

His talking comes and goes. I was away for several days on a business trip last week. When I came home, he was already in bed. The next morning I got him out of bed. “Momma! Momma!” he cried, wriggling out of my arms. He ignored me for most of the morning. We dropped him off in the nursery before church. I returned to get him after Sunday School. “Daddy!” he shrieked and ran for me. I knelt down to get him. He hugged me tight and said, “I miss you, daddy.”

At Least He Didn’t Take It For a Joy-Ride

I got the call as I was pulling out of the parking lot. “Eli’s locked himself in the car!”

We’d taken Eli to the pediatric dentist for the first time. I’d met Misty and Eli there, where Eli was busy shrieking with excitement as he ran around the mockup of the Apollo capsule that was in the waiting room. (You do know that Huntsville calls itself “Rocket City,” right? We’ve even got a rocket Jesus.) The whole thing turned out to be very low-stress, as they just counted his teeth and asked us questions about him. This was more of a get-acquainted visit, to let Eli get used to the platonic ideal of the dentist with toys and fun nurses and no scary drills or anything anywhere, pay no attention to that high-pitched whine behind the curtain. “Say ‘aaah,'” the dentist told Eli, and “Aaaah!” he said excitedly before trying to bite the dental pick.

Misty was letting Eli play with the remote control key fob while we talked to a friend we ran into in the parking lot. Misty then put Eli in his seat and I went to my truck to drive back to work.

Only, it didn’t go the way we’d planned. Eli locked the car with the remote control, and when Misty strapped him into his car seat, the keys fell into the seat next to him. She shut the door, went to open the driver’s door…and realized what had happened.

I don’t normally carry keys for the car, and it’s a twenty-five or thirty minute round trip to go back home, get keys, and return. I made a hasty u-turn and found myself right behind a police car. “What about the cops? Think they could open the car?”

“Maybe,” Misty said doubtfully. Imagining how upset Eli was going to get, I decided to risk the short-cut. I followed the police car until it pulled into a brick building. I pulled in behind him, hoping I wouldn’t sound too crazed. Then I looked at the building. It was a police station.

Well, how about that? However, the nice man behind the counter explained that the police didn’t carry slim jims any more. I ran back to my car. Maybe no one would notice me spinning out in my haste. Misty called, and I told her what the policeman had told me. “That’s funny, I just called and they said they were sending someone to help.” Right then a fire truck turned onto the street in front of me, siren going and lights flashing. I followed.

Sure enough, they lept out of the truck and went to work with their own slim jim. I joined the small crowd around our car. “Are you the locksmith?” one of the firemen asked. “He’s the husband!” Misty replied. Eli was laughing and giggling inside. “We’ve made a game out of it,” Misty said, “so he won’t be upset.”

The firemen had that door open in thirty seconds. We pulled Eli out, no worse for his experience. He wasn’t sad until the fire truck drove away.

You are the Branches

Two people I am very close to are going through seasons of pruning in their spiritual life right now. One is very open and honest about her season and she and I talked about it at length this week.

I have been through pruning seasons before but unlike my friend, I was not aware enough to know that God was working in my life. I saw the fruit of it much later but while I was in the midst of it I didn’t know what to call it other than agony.

The passage in John 15 where Jesus is talking about the vine and the branches is one of my favorite in scripture (maybe my very favorite, okay I have a lot of favorites, it’s in my Top 5). There is something there for me in that passage that harkens back to the original Garden when God walked there “in the cool of the day”. I’m not a gardner, I don’t claim it as one of my hobbies or necessities, I don’t expect I ever will. However, the poetry of these verses makes the discipline of gardening very vivid for me.

As I reread it this week I was struck particularly by verse 3 which says, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” I was suddenly aware that this verse makes all the rest of the verses bearable. I don’t think God would take the trouble to prune someone that wasn’t worth keeping, that he hadn’t already redeemed. Pruning is never comfortable. It’s hard work on our part even with God’s help and guidance. So with this verse in place, I can see beyond the pruning discussed in the other verses, to the growth of character on the other side of the season.

I have watched these two people struggle with their pruning, not against God but against the difficulty of their individual situations. They are doing it with grace and perseverance. I am proud of them and glad of their examples for me and others. I hope the next time I experience this kind of season I can recognize it for what it is and call it by name so that I know on the other side is spectacular growth of character in Christ.