Bliss 8
Or "Life in the Car Pool Lane," as we like to call it

The theme of this particular edition of Bliss is "all the exotic places we've gone in the past six months." Of course, the answer is none, making it a questionable theme. But on reflection, "all the great skiing we have done," "all the interesting scuba diving we have done," "all the fascinating cultural events we have attended," and other similar themes all suffer from the exact same problem. Poes this mean our life is dull? Hardly. How could life be dull with Brianna, who has been described by one other mom at the day care she attends as "the demon baby?" How could life be dull when a night with more than five hours of sleep has a slightly lower probability of occurring than space aliens from Pluto paying off the national debt? How could life be dull when things are so busy that we consider it amazing when we have time to watch previews of an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" once a week? How could life be dull when we are about to have two kids in diapers at the same time? Did that last one slip by you? For those not in the know, Kate is indeed pregnant again, this time with a little boy. A son. Hotdiggitydog. This lead to the following interesting conversation between Kate, Teresa Stern, and me:

Me:      "A boy! Someone to do manly things with! Fishing! Hiking! Avoiding showers for a week!
Kate:    "No son of mine is going to skip showers for a week!"
Me:      "Not only will he skip showers for a week, he's going to do it and LOVE it!"
Teresa: "Why can't you do that stuff with Brianna, Dave?"
Me:      "Huh?"
Teresa: "You know, Dave, there are enough sexual stereotypes promulgated by bigoted educational and work
            Institutions without you having to reinforce them in your own home."

The point being that children can cause you tons of trouble before they are even out of the womb, and now we are going to have two. The children-trouble-factor increases as the cube of the number of children, of course, so two Is eight times more trouble than one, three is twenty-seven times, and so on. Which would lead one to conclude that Kate and I are very, very masochistic. On the other hand, Brie is a wonder. She is a bright eyed, curious little girl who Is fascinated with everything. When she gets sleepy, she gets all snugly and hugs you very tightly and rests her small, warm head against your shoulder, and you would rather die than wake her up. When you do something she really likes, she grins widely, showing off her little teeth, wrinkles up her nose and giggles loudly. When something scary is around, like a barking poodle, she jumps into your arms and buries her head between your cheek and shoulder, peeking out occasionally to find out if the scary thing is still there. Not that we're really taken with her. It's just that she is, after all, the cutest toddler to walk the earth since the dawn of time.

She is also very entertaining. We headed back to the east coast for a week long visit with our relatives, Kate's in Connecticut and mine in New Hampshire. While we were visiting with Kate's Uncle Dirck and Aunt Muffy, several of Kate's cousins came over. One of them, Liz Duff, brought a cake she had made herself. As she cut pieces she explained nervously that she had never tried this particular recipe before and was praying that it turned out as planned. It was supposed to have chocolate chips evenly distributed throughout the cake, but as the slices were passed around we found the chips had mostly settled to the bottom forming a thick chocolate layer. Now, personally, we think chocolate tastes just as good regardless of how it is distributed, but Liz was disappointed that it had not turned out as she had hoped. People began to tell her it was a fine cake, and not to worry about It, as Kate broke off a piece and fed it to Brianna. There was a sudden lull in the conversation, one that was perfectly timed to emphasize Brianna's response to the cake, which consisted of razzing and spitting violently with a totally disgusted look on her face. Liz turned beet red as everyone else broke out in helpless tears of laughter.


Not that Brianna always acts that way. She's also easy to keep happy. You simply have to give her everything she wants immediately. She is not only incredibly strong willed (when we go for walks and try to hold her hand, she stops and sits down until you let go and let her go where she wants, unencumbered by parental guidance'), she also has very definite ideas on what she likes and doesn't like. For instance, you can hold her while she's having a bottle of juice, as long as you stand. Try to sit down, and shejumps straight to red alert. We've even tried being a little sneaky; we have a bar stool in the kitchen, and you can perch on its edge while remaining reasonably upright. No way she was going to fall for that old trick, however. It will be interesting to see how her brother turns out.


Other high excitement in our lives? We went to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire with Scott and Sherry Patton (Scott and Kate were students at Caltech together). The Faire was hot, but interesting. The most remarkable thing about it is the staff. Dressed as residents of Victorian England... or as stone age barbarians, or as Mongols, or as Medieval knights, or in just about anything that looks either (a) historic or (b) weird or (c) like they've arranged the contents of a band-aid box In something that would vaguely resemble clothing If there were more of It... the vast majority of them wander the park, adding to the "flavor" of the event, and occasionally joining in marches, battles, musical jam sessions, plays, or watermelon seed spitting competitions at passers-by. Is this remarkable? Well, yes, but not the truly remarkable part. lA/hat makes it fascinating is that they make up roughly a third of the population in the large park that hosts the event. "A third of the people are staff? An economic impossibility" you are no doubt crying. It would be an economic Impossibility If they paid the staff. But... and I want to meet the marketing genius that pulled this one off... not only do the organizers of the Faire not pay them, they require the poor, demented fools to PAY A FEE to dress in rags and act like complete imbeciles. It makes one seriously think of walking down the sidewalk of a busy street and saying to complete strangers "hey... if you give me a hundred dollars, I'll let you jump around and babble nonsense syllables and generally make a horse's ass of yourself."



We also managed to take one, three-day vacation, dropping Brianna off with Kate's mom and heading for a small beach-side resort, Cambria. Cambria is about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, far enough to Insulate it from the crowds. We stayed in a small Bed and Breakfast called The Beach House, wandered the beaches, visited the shops (mostly art galleries), ate out (they have several fine restaurants), and just relaxed. One Cambria art gallery in particular definitely ranks up there as one of my favorites of all time, "What Iz Art." We wrote about this place in a previous form letter due to their shellacked sardine earring sets (All Natural! No Preservatives!). They've moved into a larger place, painted one huge wall with a view of earth from space, with a blue (?) honest-to-god real doorway hanging at an odd angle in the middle of the stars about ten feet off the ground, added more weirdness to their inventory; just basically went further off the deep end. A very worthwhile experience. I really enjoyed one chart they had, which we will shamelessly and inaccurately reproduce here: We didn't actually buy anything at What Iz Art, of course, but it was a fun place to visit. They should charge admission. In any case, the vacation was over too soon, but I have to admit, we did miss the little Brie-Bo, particularly giving her a bottle at one a.m. when she is all relaxed and sleepy in your lap, an obvious sign that we need professional help badly.


We missed her even more on another pseudo-three day vacation; we headed up for the annual "work weekend" at our ski condo complex. We hoped for some time for simply having fun, but other than getting run off the road by a driver who decided to pass another, slower car but made a slight error injudgment in that he hadn't even cleared the car by the time he was going to run head on into us, we didn't do much of anything. We had time for dinner out one night, and the association dinner the other night, where we got together with Rich and Terri Boyle (friends of Kate's who are also Mountain Shadows owners). Otherwise our time was spent on the work weekend tasks or on fixing up our own condo. Not that the work weekend was without its humorous points. The yearly association meeting Sunday morning, for instance, where we were entertained by several laughably inept association board members standing up and making long speeches on obscure subjects like the benefits of toe flossing; speeches that undoubtedly made sense to any visitors from the planet Zargon, but which left us with the distinct impression that there existed an ancient English dialect we were not familiar with. Kind of like Shakespeare plays where they don't update the language, saying things like "He doth make the banal privy to thy own forthright of dowry." Except with Shakespeare plays, it begins to make sense after a few minutes if you can totally concentrate on the play, whereas here total concentration merely resulted in a migraine headache.


Other than a few birthday parties (Including Brianna's first and a surprise birthday party for Kate), occasional dinners out, and many games of "pass the disease around", there isn't much to report on the home front. I did get promoted to Technical Group Supervisor, a position usually reserved for people on the cutting edge of senility (i.e., veerrrry old). Oddly enough, it came at a time when Kate and I are really looking for work outside Southern California. The riots, the smog, the crowding, the housing prices, and the fact that parents aren't allowed to do all the fun things that make SoCal an Interesting place to live have conspired to make it an unattractive area to try and raise kids. Since we are going to have another one shortly, we thought it was time to get out,just soon enough for the crashing real estate market to make it impossible. Not that we don't like a challenge. So, along with about a hundred thousand other senior engineers, we are busy applying for the three or four jobs openings left in the country. But we're not in a major hurry; our jobs at JPL are stable for the time being, so we're willing to wait for a good opportunity before we move, something like lead french fry cook at MacDonalds:


"We'll offer you $5.25 an hour and no benefits."

"I won't move for less than $40 an hour with full medical coverage."

"$5.25 and all the french fries you can eat."

"I'll take it."


(That was a joke unless you know a MacDonalds that Is hiring).