January 2015

Mystery Lights

In the past we have written about how much we enjoy collective nouns. This is for a few reasons. First, because so many of them are delightfully clever (a paradox of platypus is one of our recent favorites). Second, because they tell us a lot about the history of English and society, in particular the knowledge that was deemed necessary to be a gentleman (see “The Compaynys of Beestys and Fowlys” in the Book of St Albans, a copy of which is now online). And third because once you become aware of them you realize that you have been using them your entire life and perhaps haven’t even noticed them, but once you become aware you can’t stop noticing them. Or at least we can’t. And we were delighted to learn that Everett recently performed a school exercise related to collective nouns.
Now the only thing keeping Chris from reading An Exaltation of Larks with Everett is that it’s in a box somewhere (at least we think it is) and we haven’t been able to find it yet.

We have recently had another experience of noticing something that, in retrospect, has probably been there for some time. Chris was looking east after dark a couple weeks before Christmas and noticed some lights in the hillside across the valley from our house. They were faint but definitely there.
The location of the lights isn’t near any house, and there are no utilities nearby, so it was a bit of a mystery where they were coming from.
He showed them to Everett, and we started checking on them before bed each night. Some nights they were off, and some nights they were on, but they never changed location. Chris used a zoom lens to take a picture of them.
From this they appear to be an unusual pattern of multi-colored strand lights. We came up with all sorts of speculation about their purpose, ranging from simple holiday lights to communication with extraterrestrials. About a week ago on a bright Saturday morning we put the babies in their carriers and hiked up the hill in the snow to investigate. We found a lone pine tree that was loosely draped with colored rope lights that were wired to solar panels on the surrounding trees.
Judging from the discoloration in the plastic we think they must have been there for at least a couple years if not longer. We also deduced, and subsequently observed, that the lights are brightest after a sunny day (due to the higher abundance of solar energy) and that they don’t seem visible after dark, stormy days (which we had several of around Christmas). Mystery partly solved, though we have not yet figured out who put them there. There are probably no aliens involved, but we will keep checking and send updates with any new developments.

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Mountain Fauna

We are growing familiar with the local fauna at our new house. There are also many rodents in the neighborhood including squirrels, chipmunks, porcupines and mice. Lots of mice. We catch a couple per week in our house and we recently noticed that the window wells in the basement are full of them. We also often noticed them running around the yard and even in the road.
There are also snakes – rattlesnakes are sighted often enough to be of concern, and while riding home one night Chris almost ran over a great basin gopher snake on Emigration Canyon Road. Everett seems fascinated by snakes, and the babies don’t seem to mind them either, at least judging from the way they handle their snake bath toy. However, the presence of snakes is a good incentive for Chris to thin the mouse population.

Among larger animals, deer are such a common occurrence that we don’t even have photos of them. There is a doe and two babies that we see often making their rounds through the backyard and sometimes nesting down for the night. Today Chris and Everett were launching rockets in the backyard when we found an antler in the snow at the back edge of our property.
We have also noticed droppings from larger animals, most likely elk, which we haven’t seen but they are known to pass through this area twice a year. Lastly, Chris saw a moose while driving home a couple weeks ago. He managed to get a couple pictures with his phone before it disappeared into the trees. Coincidentally, soon after this one of our neighbors found a moose in her backyard that appeared to die from natural causes.
There is a rabbit who has been showing up to eat breakfast on our front steps for several weeks now. Teddy and Gwen seem to really enjoy seeing him.
Lastly, over the holidays Chris and Everett built a snow fort in the backyard. Chris joked with Trinity and Everett to be careful when they go out there because a family of porcupines moved in. They weren’t sure if they should believe this or not, but they eventually decided that Chris was kidding. However, we have noticed that there is some kind of animal who moved in: there is a pile of mud and straw on top of the snow on the floor of the fort, big enough for a large rodent to nestle in. We aren’t aware of any animals who nest this way, and we haven’t seen who it is, so it’s a bit of a mystery at the moment. Speaking of mysteries, the next blog entry is on the Mystery Lights…

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The Barbers live in Cincinnati and have been Bengals fans for some time. Melissa is also a Bengals fan, or at least she was until we moved to Wisconsin (for Christmas this year she asked for an Aaron Rodgers jersey – should Chris be concerned?). Anyway, Gabby and Grandaddy came to visit us and they were at our house when the Bengals played the Broncos a few days before Christmas. It was a Monday night, and Amanda made a comment that Cincinnati never plays well under the lights. Everett is a Packers fan, but he has a soft spot for Gabby and Grandaddy’s team, so he agreed to intervene on their behalf. He has been reading a lot of Harry Potter lately with Mama, so naturally the first thing he reached for was his magic wand. He cast a few spells, then he and Chris went outside to build an idol in the snow, then more spells.
It was a nerve-wracking game but every time the Bengals got into a pickle (which seemed to be often) Everett was able to help them out of it. As Everett says “It’s time to get the de-pickler!”. This is all well and good, though we note that Marvin Lewis did not acknowledge Everett in the post-game interview. For whatever reason Everett decided not to intervene on behalf of Cincinnati during the next two games, both of which they lost. The wizard giveth and the wizard taketh away.

This is also interesting because despite Aaron Rodger’s leg injury, the Packers made the playoffs this year and they are scheduled to play the Seahawks today. Seattle is favored by 7.5 points according to “the computer” on “the internet”, but Everett has assured us that the Packers will win and if they get in a jam then he will help them. He says this will be easy.

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Scientific Dada

Mealtime in our household is no longer what it once was. For example, we (Chris & Melissa) used to sit together and eat slowly and talk about what we did that day and interesting topics from the news or any number of subjects. This no longer happens. Instead, here is an up to date description of meals:
-Melissa fixes dinner. Everett announces that he doesn’t like it, even if it’s been his favorite food for the last 6 years and he asked Melissa to fix it (this is only a mild exaggeration).
-We put Teddy in his chair and give him his dinner. He refuses to eat.
-We put Gwen in her chair. She screams and cries and straightens her body to keep her bottom off the seat. If we force her into her seat then she screams and cries louder and then and throws her dinner plate (and everything within reach) onto the floor. After a while she will sometimes settle down and eat, but within a few minutes she says “Up! Up! Up!”, and if we get her out of her chair she walks about 8 inches over to Melissa’s chair and says “Up! Up! Up!” and then wants to sit in Melissa’s lap and eat her dinner. The only compromise we have found is for Gwen to sit in a regular grown-up chair at the head of the table. She can’t really see much, so she often kneels on the chair, and this naturally leads to standing. We constantly tell her she may not stand on the chair but only lasts a couple minutes. Tonight she fell off her chair. Fortunately she is ok. We decided today that it’s time to start putting the babies in time-out as a consequence for bad behavior.
-Teddy is determined to use a fork to eat his food. Nonetheless, he throws the first three forks we give him on the ground while saying “Uh-oh”. Eventually he has a few bites of food, then wants a cup of water so that he can conduct experiments. He puts bites of food in the water and mixes it up with the fork. After a while he dumps the cup in his lap and wants to start over. When we tell him no he cries and throws his dinner plate on the floor.
-While this is happening, Everett is doing anything but eating his food. He talks about his day, tells us how much he doesn’t like his dinner and wants to get up every few minutes to get things from the kitchen, go to the bathroom, etc. After not eating dinner he is ready for dessert.
-When there is a clearing in the overall level of commotion, Chris and Melissa try to shove food in their mouths as quickly as possible.

Fortunately the children do cute and funny things from time to time. This morning Chris was talking to Melissa about scientific data when Everett suddenly perked up and said “Who is Scientific Dada?!?” (he was confused by the fact that Chris pronounced data with two short a sounds). It was one of the funnier things we have heard in a while and this be be Chris’ new nickname!

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Yes and No

The twins are now both walking and talking. Of course, their receptive language skills developed first. A couple months ago Chris was putting both of them to bed when he said rhetorically “Go to the bookshelf and get a book and we can read it for bedtime”, and he was pretty surprised when they both did it! Everyone was also surprised in October when Gabby and Grandaddy were visiting and someone asked aloud where Teddy’s pacifier was. Gwen found it, pointed at it, picked it up and gave it to him.

Gwen started talking first – for many months she has been making a sound like “wassis”, which we think meant “what’s this?” Then she started adding a few more words (such as “Tede” for her brother) while Teddy seemingly took no interest in talking until about a month ago when he started adding words by the day. Gwen was also the first to discover the power of the word “no”, although the way she says it is more like “nnnnnnnnnnNNNNo!!!” Once she got the hang of that she started experimenting with other styles, like saying no and shaking her head, or saying no and turning away, or saying no and holding a hand up dismissively. Yesterday she upped the ante a bit by saying “No Dada!” when Chris was doing something she didn’t approve of. This has become a running joke with Everett. He now says to us “Ask me something and I will pretend I’m Gwen,” and before we can finish a question he says no just like she does.

Meanwhile, Teddy has learned to express yes by making exaggerated nodding motions with his head while looking at what he wants. Only in the last couple days has he started to say no, and nowhere near as forcefully as Gwen. However, he has developed quite a vocabulary and has started spontaneously identifying things like his teeth, arm, hand, the car, the chair, etc. He is also the first to come up with a name for Everett: Daa Daa (not to be confused with Da Da). Finally, he has started saying “Hi!” to us and to strangers. He recently learned to do this when he wants to look cute after he has done something he wasn’t supposed to.

Here are some other words they say on a regular basis:
up, down, deer, puppy, owl, cheese, apple, sock, eye, ear, nose, baby, uh-oh (especially Teddy), snow, cup, trash (Teddy likes putting things in the trash)
go = Pepperidge Farm goldfish
owside = outside
mo = more
base = I want to go play in the basement (both of them)
pees = please (both of them)
baa = bath (both of them)
mmma = milk (though Everett has been trying to get them to say gnkn)
bi? bi? bi? = I want a bite of your food (both of them)
keeku = thank you (Teddy)
dedee = ducky pacifier (Teddy), though he now identifies the tiger pacifier with the same name
ba-ee = bunny (Gwen). We have had some heavy snow over the Christmas holiday and there is a bunny who now shows up often on our front steps. If we ask Gwen about the bunny she runs to the front door. And if she sees the bunny she exclaims “Oh! Oh! Oh!”
pow = pounce (on Dad)
nainai = night night (before bed)

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