Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to build a zombie army in the 21st century

A new and frightening experiment has begun in our home. Jacob is trying to start a zombie army.

In the old days (before the 20th century), you'd use black magic or voodoo to raise a group of undead humans to do your bidding. In the 20th century things got out of hand with the advent of radiation-induced zombies (often by accident, so they were nobody's army, just shambling hordes bent on eating the living) or pharmacological zombies (why can't we just say no to drugs? Darn medical-industrial complex).

Jacob is experimenting with a new method. For the past couple of days, he gets up a couple of times in the middle of the night and then wakes up between 5 and 6 a.m. Angie and I are starting to crack under the strain of no sleep. We shamble around the house in the morning and try to make breakfast without making any mistakes, like OJ in the breakfast cereal or salt instead of sugar in the tea. Speaking of tea, I tried to drink from an empty mug this morning. The kettle was still boiling.

After breakfast, we shamble about moaning, "Sleep, sleep!" for most of the day. We hope he'll fall asleep and we can nap too, but he never lets us get household chores done while he's awake. So while he sleeps, we clean and cook and vacuum (he pretends that he's afraid of the vacuum cleaner) and make shopping lists. Just when we've got things done, he awakens and demands to be read to or have his next meal or go outside. He's making us docile and depriving us of our ability to think. Pretty soon we will be doing whatever he tells us. Maybe we are already...

Yes, sleep-deprivation zombies are the wave of the future. You could be next.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Movie review: Sunshine


Danny Boyle's Sunshine is a movie where a group of astronauts and scientists are on their way to the sun to deliver a bomb that will restart the dying star. It is set in an ambiguous but seemingly near future. Seven years before this group was sent another ship, Icarus I, was sent and failed to restart the sun. They are determined to get the job done.

The movie starts out quite realistically. The science doesn't seem too far fetched once you swallow the premise. The acting is uniformly good. The film has a very interesting visual style. The roasting hot proximity to the sun is well depicted. As you might imagine, the mission does not go according to plan, so they wind up dealing with a variety of crises, including the discovery of the first ship orbiting the sun. They decide to dock with it so that they will have a second bomb in case the first one doesn't work. This decision isn't perhaps the most well thought out but it is not too outlandish.

The real problem happens after they dock with the Icarus and discover that they can't use that ship or its supplies. The alteration of plans has been a waste. Worse yet, a psychopathic survivor from the first mission manages to infiltrate the Icarus II and starts killing people off one by one. All of the sudden, we go from a serious psychological sci fi drama to a space slasher film, including the space monster chasing around the young female officer. This turn is especially egregious since the crew who investigate the Icarus I talk about how they shouldn't split up because the space alien will pick them off one by one. Poking fun at a cliche and then incorporating it into the story only highlights how low the storytelling has fallen.

I'm tempted to listen to the commentary track by Danny Boyle to see if he acknowledges in any way if and how much of an error this is, or he has some sort of excuse for the dumb ending. History doesn't show much promise: Ang Lee didn't apologize for his incredible "The Hulk" catastrophe and Bret Ratner didn't for the bad ending of "Red Dragon." Maybe ignorance really is bliss.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Jacob's new room

We moved Jacob into his new big boy room last week. We decided to move him early so that he wouldn't blame his sister for kicking him out of the nursery. I'm sure he'll find other things will give him cause to put the blame on her.

His new room has a toddler bed, which is about one foot high and has the same mattress as his crib. The first night he slept in it he woke up a few times and stood on the mattress as if he couldn't get out. He never could before in the crib, thanks to the bars. After a couple of daytime naps, he figured out that just because he is on the mattress doesn't mean he is stuck in bed. He can get in and out of it readily on his own now. He is super-stealthy about it as well. We often don't know he's up until he accidentally slams his door open or bangs on it when it is fully shut and he can't open it.

He has two new bookcases from Ikea for his books and toys. The books take up almost two shelves. Luckily, part of the stock is from the library so it will keep rotating and he'll always have new stories to look through. Lately, he flips through a book, puts it back on the shelf (!?!), makes the "again" sign language sign, gets the book back off the shelf and starts reading again. If we are lucky, he doesn't make us read it to him over and over.

His toys are neatly shelved for now. He has not spent a great effort in spreading them all over the room, but I am sure the day will come. We are hoping to find a train set for him to play with. Thomas the Tank Engine is one of his favorites, so we are on the watch at craigslist. Also, we think he is ready for Duplo blocks, so we'll keep an eye out for those as well. I went to a couple of garage sales and a flea market yesterday, but only found a toy elephant and a toy saxophone.

The next thing we need to work on is the wall decorations. We've already moved the picture of us into his room. We need to decide where Aunt Gertrud's quilt will hang and where to put his National Geographic map (thanks, Aunt Helen!). Plenty of wall space is still available, so we will hang some other items too. Angie heard on Pregtastic (a podcast by, for and about pregnant women) that it is a good idea for siblings to have pictures of each other in their rooms. Of course, the only pictures of #2 are ultrasounds. I don't think he will comprehend who's in the picture.

I would attach pictures of his room but the little guy is napping. Once the walls are looking good, we'll create a montage.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Play Date at Our Home Again!

We had another play date here at the home of the Reningers. Last time, we ended the play date when toddlers starting crying left and right. Today was a new story.

We had a new mom, Elana, with her daughter Justine. They joined Sharon and Chloe, Terri and Caroline, and me and Jacob. We had a good time in the family room playing with a variety of Jacob's toys.

Chloe loved to climb on the rocking horse. The only trick was the rocking horse has wheels, so he doesn't rock back and forth. This didn't stop Chloe. She figured out how to go forwards and backwards since her legs were the perfect length. Then she turned the horse around and Justine came and helped to push her forward. It was so cute, if only we had caught it on video. Maybe next time.

Everyone was great at sharing the toys, especially a little inflatable ball that was handed back and forth several times. I left Jacob's Easter basket out. They played with the plastic eggs which were empty. After several disappointed openings, we parents started putting items in the eggs, which made them into rattles as well as containing surprises. The other thing they shared from the Easter basket was the purple shredded paper that was the grass. The tots were a little too good at sharing that, as the carpet rapidly became strewn with grass! As we (the parents) tried to clean up by sweeping the grass into piles, the children would spread the paper grass around again. Eventually, we won out.

Jacob started to get really tired and was only a little whiny. But he definitely made the signal to go. He led the way out of the family room and was ready to climb the stairs to bed. I made him be polite and say good-bye to our guests. A good time was had by all. Next week, we meet at Elana and Justine's!

Friday, April 17, 2009

New Member Brunch

Jacob and I made it to the new member brunch in our stay-at-home parent group. A good time was had by all. We arrived slightly late due to missing a turn. But not too late. One other mom and the host were there with their girl and boy, respectively. Later, another mom showed up. We had a good time. The food was nice and the conversation fun.

Jacob had a good time running around and playing with the new-to-him toys. The boy had a pretty fancy box of toy tools. The power drill actually made a drilling noise and the flashlight really lit up when you threw the switch. A good assortment of other items made for fun times for the kids. At one point, I think Jacob was accidentally hit by a toy hammer, but he only cried for 30 seconds. He did not destroy anything this time. On the other hand, he had a juice box that he kept squeezing so juice would spray all over. Mostly all over himself.

Towards the end he became very cranky and clingy. I knew it was the end so we made our goodbyes. We took a slightly longer route home and he was asleep by the time we pulled into the garage. He slept well but the day became a two-nap day. In between naps, he played out in the back yard. I need to get him to play with balls more. So far, he'll just go get a ball I throw and walk it back to me or just bring me the ball when I ask him to throw it or kick it to me. I need to figure out how to teach ball skills to the child!

After his second nap, Aunt Maryellen and cousin Autumn were here for a visit. Jacob loves playing with Autumn and vice versa. Lots of laughter ensued. We went to a local pizza joint for dinner and to Rita's for dessert. The village center was fairly full of people since the temperature was in the 70's. Yay first taste of Spring! Yummier than custard! We begin and end this blog with food.

End of Easter Break

How can Sunday be the last blog I wrote? It seems like forever. I do want to keep the blog up, but will need to rename it. Or maybe "lent" can be an acronym for something. Joseph Reninger's Life, Entertainment, News and Trivia? Descriptive but bland. I am open to suggestions...Anyway, I will provide some updates since Sunday.

We seem to have recovered from sickness, though Jacob has all the signs of teething again--drooling, cranky, bitey, not sleeping well. Hopefully he will be over it soon. He was a little destructive on our play date Wednesday. He bashed in a toy drum with its own drumstick (though it already had a hole in it) and kept pulling off a lampshade from a toy lamp. Luckily he neither broke the lamp nor wore the lampshade on his head. We have a New Members' Brunch tomorrow with PATH. Hopefully it won't be too violent. Check back tomorrow.

Rosemary headed back on Tuesday after a wonderful visit. We had a fun time hanging out, even if that did mean being sick together for some of it. On Monday, we went out to visit my mom in Front Royal, which was a lot of fun for all. Mom wanted to celebrate Rosemary's birthday with her (though it doesn't come till next month), so we did the usual restaurant followed by dessert at home. We'll send a present from the Reninger household of Columbia later.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Update

Jacob has updated photos on Facebook, including getting ready for Easter Sunday Mass this morning. It's been a rough day because Angie is sick, Rosemary is sick, and Jacob is on random nap mode. He slept for the second half of Mass this morning (it was just he and I since the ladies were to sick to go). I made an all too brief appearance at Brian and Teresa's fabulous Easter brunch. I did put in a good show of Jacob and Angie, but he wouldn't stay asleep and I had to leave early. I was really bummed out by that. Brian and Teresa are so awesome, we want to hang out with them more.

Jacob was cranky most of the day (except when watching videos online--we have to get him off the habit). One highlight today was skyping with Nate and Helen. It was fun to catch up with them. Which reminds me, I need to put together a DVD of the wedding footage that I took last weekend. Now that Lent is over, I think I will definitely blog less often than every day, though no promises. I do want to do more video editing to catch up on old videos (like from our honeymoon in New Zealand!!).

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Good Friday for us

Last night was a rough night for me. Even though I went to bed extra early (about 10 p.m., which is extra early for me), I couldn't fall asleep because I had a fever and what felt like a lead ball in my stomach. I don't know if I had the same thing that Jacob had, but it sure was nasty. I didn't throw up, but I didn't fall asleep either till about 2:30 a.m. Consequently, when I got up in the early morning with Jacob (who slept peacefully all night long), I was still not feeling great. When Angie finally got the truth out of me, she said I should sleep and she would stay home and take Jacob to his appointment. I went back to sleep and got up at 10:30, or was it 11? I felt much better.

This is all second-hand from Angie: Jacob had some Cheerios and juice for breakfast. He was a handful in the morning until they got in the car for the doctor's office. When she got there about ten minutes early, the parking lot was empty! She decided to wait and see if someone would show up by 9. Luckily someone did. She and Jacob went in.

At first he was okay, but then he remembered where he was and went to the door and wanted to go. Angie wouldn't let him. He banged on the door and cried out in vain. Since they were the first appointment they got in right away. After the usual measurements they found out he's about 34 inches tall and 26.5 pounds. All is well with him, though he was less cooperative than usual. Dr. Anthony was very patient with Jacob. They were friendlier by the end of the appointment. When the nurse with the immunization shot came in, he cried and cried. He eventually got the shot and resisted even getting a band-aid on his little thigh. Finally, he got to sit down and read a book. Once Angie had him dressed again, he didn't want to go!

He fell asleep on the way home and took his usual 3 hour nap. He had a good lunch and was in better spirits today. We went walking with Rosemary and her dogs to the playground without the sandbox. Jacob kept finding sticks to give to each of us. He was more interested in that than in swinging or sliding! We came home and had a good dinner and all is well again.

Rosemary, Regina and I went to stations of the cross and adoration of the cross at St. Louis's in Clarksville. It was good. We also stopped on the way home to get some Easter treats at Angie's request, along with a pie crust for pecan pie, another Easter treat. The buzzer just went off, so the pies are done. I'm off to turn the oven off!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Holy Maundy Thursday!

Lent is rapidly coming to a close! I can't believe we are already almost at Easter Sunday. Time is flying.

We've finally made a major Lenten donation to SQPN, producers of the best Catholic podcasts on the net. I guess if you listened to every show that they put out, you'd spend all your time plugged into your iPod or at your computer. My favorite is Catholic in a Small Town, a show hosted by a young Catholic couple raising three kids in small town Georgia. They are quite hilarious. In their latest episode, they talk about buying ten chicks for their sons for Easter, along with the largest bag of feed ever.

Also, we received another Lenten appeal from the DC Archdiocese, so we are writing them a check as well. Which reminds me of one thing from the weekend in San Francisco. When we got to the cathedral of St. Ignatius, we look in the pew and found envelops for the SF diocesan fund drive. Yikes! Luckily it was Palm Sunday so there was too much liturgy for another appeal to be made. It was a close call, though.

Tonight, we can't make it to Holy Thursday Mass because Jacob has been throwing up all morning. He's on a mostly liquid diet right now and seems to be better, though cranky. His 18-month appointment is tomorrow at 9 a.m. The doctor's assistant said that they'd do the physical and maybe defer the immunization shots if Jacob doesn't seem up to it. Say a prayer!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Matrix turns 10 years old!

Today is the tenth anniversary of the theatrical release of The Matrix. The movie is pretty amazing for a number of reasons.

1. The revolutionary visual style: Sure, we'd seen bullet time, liquid metal effects, cyberpunk dystopias, sci-fi noir, sci-fi messiah movies, Keanu Reeves, and wire-fu. But never in such an elaborate and well thought out combination. The result is a mind-blowing and mind-bending experience on the first viewing. I remember seeing it opening night and then going again that Sunday. It is the one and only time that I saw a movie twice on opening weekend. The movie is just amazing to watch.

2. Science fiction with substance: Science fiction is generally considered a second-rate genre. As if it is meant only for teen-age boys and adult males who are still that age. The Matrix provides a lot of philosophical questions to grapple with. What is the nature of reality? Are we just minds in a vat (a popular philosophical conundrum)? Is there Fate with the capital F? Does it really work? Could Keanu Reeves really be our messiah?

3. Action film credibility: Finally, after more and more ridiculous action films, someone came up with an excuse why a person can be a perfect shot all the time or fight of one or a dozen bad guys without being hurt. Being able to download combat skills or anything you need (like becoming an instant helicopter pilot) is a lot more realistic than someone who can just do everything.

I could go on and on about other things like cultural impact, etc. but you get the idea why this is probably the greatest film of the 1990s (except for maybe Shawshank).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Jacob is cute again!

Auntie Rosemary arrived late last night to spend the week with us. This morning when Jacob woke up, he wasn't super excited to see Rosemary (though I credit that to his having just awakened). When we got downstairs and opened the blinds to the back porch, his enthusiasm changed entirely.

Rosemary brought her two Pyrenees dogs with her. They were hanging out in the back yard. As soon as Jacob saw them, he made a bee-line to the back door to point and shout and laugh at the dogs. We went out briefly this morning to pet the dogs, which would have been the highlight of the day, except we went out later.

In the afternoon, we spent a good deal of time in the back yard. Jacob had a lot of fun running around after the dogs. He had a lot of fun using the grooming tools on the dogs. He also had lots of fun splashing in their drinking water. I tried to convince him that he was getting their water dirty, but he wouldn't listen to me. But then the piece de resistance came. Jacob did this:

I hope this embeds properly. Enjoy!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Better late than never

So it's been a while, especially since I wrote two blogs before leaving for San Francisco and then they didn't post like they were supposed to. What is up with that. I definitely need to learn more about this blogging software. It's time to start adding pictures, video clips, etc. My apologies for the tardiness and the low-techiness.

The weekend was fabulous. The wedding was really beautiful. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and even the stuff with the kids went more or less smoothly. After the marriage ceremony, we had a tea ceremony that was quite interesting. Helen's dad explained that the husband and wife go around a table where the guests are seated. As the wife serves tea, each guest places a red envelop on the tray. The husband collects the envelops. Inside the envelops the guests put some money for the newly married couple. We also had a round of toasts which was a lot of fun too.

Helen's family is also very much into playing board games. Her brother Herb brought Settlers of the Stone Age, made by the same fellow who created the Settlers of Catan. It was quite fun though it did keep us up late two nights in a row. Nate won the first night; despite his many various and sordid attempts to win the second night, Nate lost to Helen's sister Hana. Playing with them was pretty hilarious and a good time was had by all.

It was great to get to know Helen's family and to see Angie's family. Grandpa Schuett took Jacob for about 400 walks, which Jacob enjoyed thoroughly. Grandma Schuett made some fabulous chili on Saturday night which everyone enjoyed.

If only life could be one long vacation, how happy would it be?

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Very Special Day

Today is the day that my brother-in-law Nate and his fiancee Helen are getting married. Angie and I are very excited for them. They were already dating when Angie and I met many moons ago. We've watched them go through easy times and hard times, break ups, reunions, family vacations and all the other opportunities life has to offer. They have weathered many storms and sailed on many calm seas. They are ready to go on until they sail off into that final sunset together.

Helen, welcome to the family. Nate, you are a very lucky guy. We wish you all the best today, tomorrow and to eternity. Remember to always take care of each other and keep smiling!

p.s. Jacob wants a cousin!!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Paschal Candle Making--Finishing up

The next morning, the candle was nice and cool with a couple of holes in the middle, just like we left it the night before. I melted some of the leftover wax (about an inch in one of the small pots) and poured it into the holes we had made last night. It poured in quickly and there was no sign that the holes were filled. So I melted another couple of chunks of wax. I poured that in and still no sign. So I melt some more two more times before finally seeing the holes were filled. This took a good two or three pounds of wax, a lot more than I thought it would. Experience is a good teacher. I let the candle cool again.

Now the candle is ready to be pushed out of the mold at church. Last year, this was quite an ordeal from what I have heard. I wasn't helping push it out. I think they used a big stick and several strong people to get the deed done. Since I am writing this before going to church, I don't know what the results are. I hope it came out okay and it looks alright. Since we are traveling to San Francisco, I'm probably going to have to drop off the candle and not find out until we get back how it went. Maybe someone will call me to say it's a do-over or it's perfect. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Also, I am probably going to pre-write a couple of blogs so I make my blog-a-day goal. So readers may not hear till Monday what the results are. I hope the suspense isn't too much.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Paschal Candle Making--Melting Wax and Pouring

A paschal candle is typically very large for a candle. The diameter is 3-5 inches and several feet tall. That means a lot of wax goes into making it. We've wound up using almost 15 pounds of wax for the candle (luckily the store sells an 11 pound block and a 4 pound block). Melting it all isn't easy and could take forever if there's only one pot.

Luckily, last year's candle maker found this out and managed to put together a pile of pots to use for melting the wax. One large lobster pot is used to accumulate the melted wax from three or four other pots, depending on how many burners you have on the stove. I know the web site recommends using a double-boiler for safety, but that slows the melting process down and would require 4 double boilers in this scheme! So smaller chunks of wax are melted in the small pots and poured into the big pot. The small pots easily melt in five minutes or so, resulting in many pours into the big pot. I think it took us about half an hour to 45 minutes to melt all the wax for the initial pour.

The main pot did get above the 175-185 degree temperature recommended for pouring the candle, so we did have to wait a bit for it to cool down. Good thing we had a candle thermometer to keep track. While it was cooling, we double checked the set up for the candle mold.

To hold a four foot mold up straight, we used a five-gallon bucket. Last year we filled it with sand, but this year we had a change and a breakthrough. We didn't have any sand handy here at the house, so we used the small white decorating stone chips that have been sitting in the garage for decades. That's the change; the breakthrough involves putting the mold into the bucket. Instead of trying to dig a hole, I put a cardboard carton inside the bucket before filling it with stone chips. The candle mold fit nicely into the box. After we were done pouring, we pulled it out and the rocks filled in nicely.

The mold was loose enough in the box that we could angle it slightly to the side (something recommended so that air bubbles don't get trapped in the wax right after you pour). We poked a hole in an aluminum foil pan and used that as a funnel to pour in the hot wax. It worked pretty well until we took it away and both tried to look down the mold to see how high it was filled. Yes, we clonked heads together. Eventually it was full enough. After tapping the side of the mold with a screwdriver (to help the bubbles come off the mold and come to the top) for five minutes, we stood the mold upright and let it start to cool. After about half an hour, I checked and poke some vent holes as recommended on the web page. We have a big bamboo stick that was used last year that worked well. Half an hour later I repoked the holes. Then we left the candle in the garage overnight.

The next step will be in the next blog...