Sunday, August 31, 2008

In Praise of Blogs...But Mostly in Praise of People

If you are reading this you are probably like me, a blog aficionado. I love checking in with “my girls” as I fondly consider the friends—both real and pretend that write the blogs I read. I need to extend it beyond girls though because Adam has a blog that I love and as of about a week ago, so does my little brother Enoch. (Who’s not so very little and outgrew me when he was 12.)

I fell in love with Adam reading his letters (from Finland when he was a missionary) so I love reading his writing. His blog makes me laugh sometimes and cry once (when he wrote a sweet post about Braeden) and makes me shake my head that he’s so smart.

I love reading my sisters in laws' blogs…and my cousins’. It’s great to keep in touch on a more frequent basis. It’s great to see pictures of babies I have yet to meet and to be in on redecorating progress. On a recent post of my lovely cousin Hannah’s, I saw pictures of her brother Tavan who is hands down one of my most colorful cousins. I haven’t seen Tavan for years and through the wonder of the internet I was transported back to catching crawdads in Boulder Creek when we were little and promising we’d marry each other if nothing else came along. Since he was from the city and I decidedly was not, he introduced me to new exciting things like break dancing and rap music. My childhood would not have been the same without Tavan.

I also got a comment on a blog post the other day from my beloved cousin Leslie. She is gorgeous, with gorgeous children, and has red curly hair (which I must admit a weakness for). Leslie is funny and kind and just completely classy. Seeing her comment made my day. I didn’t even know she read my blog. Reading her words took me back to happy memories at her home. It was an enchanting place with a wrap around porch, hammock, orchard, two staircases and a loft in her bedroom. Her mom threw amazing birthday parties and made the best cheese omelets I’ve ever had. Leslie and I “went out with” twin boys when I was in 6th grade and a few years later, in the halls of church during a mutual activity, Leslie soundly slapped one of them when he tried to kiss her. Leslie! Love her and love the magic of blogs that brought that all back to my memory.

I wish I had the words to express my feelings in the last week or so when I’ve read the blogs of perfect strangers (the pretend friends). I read a blog “Light Refreshments Served” and there I read about a family with four small children whose mother and father were severely burned in a plane crash. I’ve checked in a few times and every time go away wishing these kind people who are dealing with tragedy with such grace were more than just pretend friends. I’ve also been touched and moved to tears by the outpouring of love from others that I’ve read about.

All of that should have prepared me for what I read today. But it didn’t. I was reading sweet Hannah’s blog (too bad everyone doesn’t have a cousin Hannah…the world would be a happier one!) and she referred me to this.

Can you beat that?

Are there any bounds to the sheer kindness of people? I don’t think so and for that I’m truly grateful.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pleasant as Well as Challenging*

I went to a small high school. Really small. There were 23 kids in my graduating class. Compared to Adam’s high school yearbook, mine looks like a brochure.

My perception of big high schools is that there were types of people that did different types of things. That’s not how life was at Wells High School. My older sister Marianne played basketball then ran from the court after the game, red faced and panting and took up her drum sticks for the pep band which played during the boys’ game. She had it good as a drum player though. Our cousin Margaret had to hit the high notes with her trumpet playing the Star Spangled Banner after playing basketball.

FFA was a big deal in our school. Mostly because of Digger. He was the teacher. Digger was short for Mr. Digenon. For a variety of reasons that are neither here nor there, I didn’t end up being his biggest fan but he knew how to run an FFA program. At least a winning one. He courted the smart kids. The ones with good grades and supportive parents and the same ones that ran off the basketball court to play in the pep band and brought a sack lunch because play practice was during the lunch hour.

You may have guessed that Marianne was one of his sought after prizes. It mattered not that she wasn’t really an agriculturalist. She was smart. He wanted her. Now, don’t get me wrong, some FFA kids really did walk the walk. People like my brother Enoch and my friends Marie and Wyatt. They actually raised animals, or crops, or both. Marianne only talked the talk (literally—she won state speech and parliamentary procedure contests). That was all OK with Digger and they could fudge their record books to a point.

There finally came a time that Marianne needed a “project” though. For some indeterminable reason, she decided on chickens.

My dad built her a chicken coop and my mom picked up a box of chicks at IFA (Intermountain Farmer’s Association).

Everything was humming along except Marianne hated the chickens. Detested them. They outgrew their baby chick cuteness with alarming speed and were soon ugly. And they pecked at her when she had to deal with them. Now you will remember Marianne was a smart girl (the reason Digger wanted her in the first place) and she quickly outsourced the chickens to our little brothers.

It turns out no one in our family was much good at the chickens and they all met a sad ending, with the last one finally being shot in our yard on a Sunday afternoon by Enoch. That was 5-10 years later and since no one liked or wanted the chickens, my brothers had finally set them free to fend for themselves. One tenacious one held on and when I came for a weekend from college and found it pecking in our yard, I said it looked like a slum and Enoch shot it before my parents knew what had happened. I think he’d been just waiting for the chance. That’s another story entirely and don’t tell PETA.

Now fast forward several years to Marianne’s adorable daughter Deseret.

Emma and Deseret

She loves animals in a way that must seem very foreign to her mother. As luck would have it, Marianne’s husband, Robert also has agricultural urges. He very rightly wants to teach his kids to work. I think it’s a great idea but I’m glad I haven’t had to deal with sheep or pigs like Marianne occasionally has. (Granted their 30 acres are more accommodating to such pursuits than my suburban flower-pot sized yard.)

Robert built Deseret a chicken coop and they got chickens. (Probably at IFA?) Deseret has the charge to care for the chickens and I think does very well with the duty.

One day, a chicken got out and somehow, their dog got a hold of it. Marianne sent Deseret running to save the chicken. The poor bird got away from the dog and ran right into the house.

We were in no way raised in a house that lodged animals and my sisters and I have persisted in a no animal policy for our homes. I think I can understand the horror of having a chicken in the house.

Two of Marianne’s daughters (much like their mother and aunts would have) ran to a bedroom and the top of the bunk beds. Marianne instructed Hyrum, the-five-year-old-man-of-the-house, that he needed to get the chicken because he was a boy. (Exactly what my mom told Enoch once when he was about the same age and a snake was in our house. Sure we’re feminists…to a point.) Hyrum wisely positioned himself on the other side of the room and said he’d get the chicken if it came over to that side. Marianne told Desi she had to get it. It was her chicken after all. Desi tried but to no avail. The ill-fated bird jumped into a cupboard that happened to be open. Marianne donned one of Robert’s gloves and grabbed the bird and threw it out the door.

Unlucky bird! Marianne threw it straight back to the dog. They chased the dog off again and this time had the good idea to put the dog in the garage. As for the chicken, it got back into the house through the door that had (again) been left open in all of the excitement. The chicken was in the pantry. Marianne again used the glove and took the chicken outside.

I can only imagine the story the bird had to tell that night in the chicken coop.

Now I have to brag a little. I have had my own brush with agriculture and I am a proud mama.

Look what I picked in my garden today.

Zucchini are notorious for being prolific, and that’s what I needed with my fledgling food growing efforts. I’m considering putting balloons out and throwing a party for my new arrival. The problem is, I don’t know if I should get pink or blue balloons…

*This is taken from the FFA Creed which Digger made us all learn as high school freshmen in his class and which my mom would quote (tongue in cheek) to Marianne when the chickens were getting her down.
I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.

Camp Wethehekawe: Day Five

Camp Wethehekawe didn't really go out with a bang. More of a whimper.

Recreation is a tiring business.

Also, there are some things you have to do that aren't fun, no matter what, when you're the mom. So a lot of the time yesterday was spent going to Costco, baking bread, ironing, doing the laundry and scrubbing blood out of the carpet after Mark gave his friend a bloody nose. And then there was walking down the street to confess my son's deed to the friend's parents...

We were going to go to Jetty Island yesterday or "the jetty" as Adam and his family call it but I was corrected in a very disparaging tone by someone so I'll call it Jetty Island. The weather didn't seem beach worthy though so we made sugar cookies instead.

There's something about making sugar cookies in August. There's no holiday you have to conform to so you can cut out gingerbread man shapes, hearts and fall leaves with abandon. Easter chicks and acorns and stars jockeyed for position on the cookie sheets then we decorated them all garishly with pastel icing and sprinkles...lots of sprinkles.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Camp Wethehekawe:Day Four

We got a later start today. Camp Wethehekawe or no, the children have to eat so I went to the grocery store. It was uninspiring.

This afternoon though, we took the Lowell-Larimer Road to the Snohomish River. It is the closest thing my suburbanite children get to rural life besides their brush with it every year in Nevada. Mark decided to tell us which animals were horses and which were cows. Thanks for clearing up the confusion. Emma has read The Black Stallion, Misty of the Chincoteague and King of the Wind this summer so she fancies herself the horse expert of the family. She informed her brothers that a stallion is a dad horse and a mare is a girl. Mark chuckled and said, “Mayors are horses?!” Emma, in her best long suffering voice, explained that she said mare, which is spelled differently than mayor. Mark was undeterred in his joke though. He said, “It would be funny if mayors were horses though.” Emma sighed deeply.

Our plan was to pick blackberries along the river like we do every year but this has been a strange weather year with nothing blooming or ripening on time so I wasn’t too surprised when there were not very many ready for picking. It was a pretty walk along the river though. I love living in such a pleasant place.

How about those snazzy shirts?

From there we went to Forest Park where the kids played...

and their tired mother sat on a park bench with an old friend…

So that was it today. Pretty simple.

We came home and got Mark in his “armor” as he calls it for soccer. Anyone could wear shin guards. It takes a Mark to wear armor. He was very excited for soccer and has been reminding me all week how many days I had until I was a soccer mom.

As my first act as soccer mom, I forgot a water bottle. Luckily we found an IKEA cup in the car and filled it with water at the YMCA and could pretend I was a good soccer mom.

While I think Mark’s temperament is right for soccer, I’m not sure his body composition is. He’s wearing the shoes Braeden wore during his brief soccer stint as a 7 year old. They are too long but just wide enough. Poor stout Mark. Does Stride Rite make soccer cleats? That’s where I have to get all of his shoes…extra wide.

Any experience Mark lacks in soccer, he makes up for in sheer enthusiasm. He said things like, “BAM!” and “BOOM BABY!” when he got the ball in the goal. He talked non-stop to the other boys around him and at the end confided to his coach, “I am sweaty!” And he was. He worked hard.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Camp Wethehekawe: Day Three

Camp Wethehekawe is not just about documenting one week so that I can show my children someday that, "See you did have a fun childhood. Look at everything we did...that one week..." It's also about me, expanding my comfort zone. Today we went to Seattle. That's sort of a scary proposition to me. It's not being in Seattle that frightens me. I feel pretty safe there. It's me driving and more importantly navigating in Seattle that is unsettling. My children are always very brave...and compassionate...companions. Today Braeden gave me several pep talks. "C'mon Mom. Remember, you got us all around London. You can DO this." I'll just let him think I got us all around London when really Adam gave me a geography tutorial every night based on where I wanted to go the next day.

Anyway, widening horizons. Adam helped to soften the growing pains of my comfort zone by riding with us into Seattle (he drove!). Our first stop was the Fremont Troll.

It's weird and not at all attractive but it seems like if something like that's in your city, you should at least have the decency to go see it.

Next we had lunch at the Pyramid Brewery near Adam's office. It was a hopping place because the Mariners were playing a home game this afternoon. Braeden thought we should skip our other plans and go to the game but I wasn't that excited. I think taking Mark to a baseball game (keeping Mark occupied at a baseball game) is a two parent job.

Lunch with Dad

Adam pointed us to the bus tunnel and he went on his way to work. After we said good-bye, Mark said, "Too bad Dad can't go on our adventures with us." It is. Oh to be independently wealthy! We appreciate our bread winner. He makes it all happen.

Mark was thrilled by the bus tunnel and the fact that the bus was "actually moving!" (Not sure what he was expecting.) Braeden and Emma insisted on being annoying and comparing the bus tunnel to the London Underground which Mark didn't get to go on. My meaningful glances didn't get through to them so I finally had to tell them how annoying they were being. I meant it in the nicest possible way though.

He could be the poster child for mass transit. It made his day.

The less impressed "world travelers"

We rode the bus then walked up the hill to the Seattle Public Library. It has always been an architecturally interesting building to me on the outside and I wanted to go inside. It was a little unsettling. I think I need to go back with my brother-the-builder, Ammon, and have him explain to me how it really works and that no, it won't all fall over any minute.

Mark loved the puppets...

...and also watching the mechanics of the elevator. He could have stood there all day if Braeden and Emma hadn't been itching to get to the room where all the big maps were.

Braeden and Emma loved looking at the maps and could have stayed there all day if Mark hadn't been itching to get back to watching the elevators.

I was thirsty beyond all reason and the drinking fountain that dribbled out tepid water was not doing it for me so I solved the problem and said it was time to leave. We were parked back by Adam's work so he came out for a short break, we got refreshments at Uwajimaya (the Asian store/food court across the street from his office) and were back on our way. If you're ever tempted to try the snow pea version of cheese puffs at an Asian market, just keep walking by. That's all I'm saying.

Waiting for Adam outside his office.

Our next destination was West Seattle to go to the movie. Why West Seattle? Surely there are theaters elsewhere? There were but the only offering they had that seemed remotely applicable to Mark was Fly Me to the Moon. The New York Times review that we read said:

Parents wishing to stupefy their youngest children for an hour and a half might consider plopping them in front of “Fly Me to the Moon” — but only if a fourth viewing of “Wall-E” or a second trip to “Space Chimps” or a really bright flashlight shining in their eyes is completely out of the question.
The theater in West Seattle was playing Kung Fu Panda and that seemed like a little bit more reasonable choice.

The view from the West Seattle Bridge.

The theater in West Seattle was OLD. It may have been there before talking pictures. It may have been the first building built in West Seattle. It may be the oldest building this side of the Mississippi. The chairs were hard and uncomfortable. It was more like sitting in the Salt Lake Tabernacle than a movie theater. We liked the movie though. Call us easily entertained but Jack can he not make you laugh.

We picked Adam up from work (it was now after 6:00) and we went to...IKEA. How else do you round out a good day? Also we needed new drinking glasses.

One of the blogs I read had a funny post about IKEA and not liking it if you're Irish. Well I'm pretty strongly Scandinavian so maybe that's why I love the place.

Who needs Disneyland?

It needs to be said though. By the time we'd cozied up to our ridiculously cheap dinner at IKEA, we...were...tired.

Some weren't able to hold their heads up without support.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Camp Wethehekawe: Day Two

Probably not our best day so far. We even got off to a shaky start with me obsessively finishing my book before doing anything else…and it had a depressing ending.

Then Braeden and I went to the gym…which may or may not have negated the effects of the piece of cake I had for breakfast.

After lunch our “camp” day got under way. Braeden and I went to Michael’s for supplies. Emma and Mark were lumps under blankets watching a movie, still in their pajamas, and didn’t want to be bothered. See I told you it wasn’t our best day.

Braeden and I selected the white t-shirts and the tie dye kit (we chose the “Moody Blues” color scheme) and headed back home to be creative…or messy. One of those two.

I covered the table and assembled the troops. We painted our pet rocks then tie dyed our shirts. There was a certain amount of waiting involved with both projects.

It got boring.

Then, since there was a camera on hand and my offspring can't resist a camera, it got silly.

My children love taking pictures of the inside of their mouths. Not sure why.

Then a little bit creepy.

The actual tie dying was a sloppy fun process.

The shirts are now in Ziploc bags and we’re waiting for them to be done so we can see how they turned out.

Then we turned our attention back to the pet rocks:

It turns out pet rocks are maybe not the medium we should pursue if we are looking for an art career.

My rock. It's supposed to be a turtle. It really doesn't look like one though.


Emma wondered if hers looked like it had chicken pox. Umm.....

Mark's. It has sunglasses because it "goes to the beach--all the time."

Besides artistic ability, they take patience for drying in between coats of paint and details added and Emma is the only one around here that has that. And she didn’t even have that much today.

Dry rock! Dry!

When we were done, the children scattered. I was left with the mess. When it’s clean up time, things transform to Camp Where the Heck ARE They. I was glad though. There had been enough paint flying around and I’d rather clean it up myself.

That was when the moody blues really set in though. Braeden and Emma were a little sulky because their neighborhood friends aren’t available to play with. I asked Mark to clean up his block structure from last night and he cried until he was sent to his room to recover out of earshot. “How would YOU like it if someone made you CLEAN UP the best block spaceship you’d ever made in your LIFE?” I don’t know. I guess I’d be equally desolate.

I’ll persevere with Camp Wethehekawe though. The show must go on. I’m sure tomorrow will be just fabulous!!!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Camp Wethehekawe: Day One

Today we took a hike. Well, it wasn’t really a hike, more of a walk on a level paved trail. I’m not sure if you can call that a hike. We walked from McCullom Park to the Mill Creek Town Center through the woods. It’s a pretty walk.

We had lunch at Central Market (I had a Panini…I love whoever invented Paninis!) and the kids wanted to go to the University Bookstore. Before going in I warned my children, “Now we are NOT buying books. We. Are. Not. So don’t ask.” They all assured me that they would not ask. And they didn’t. For about 30 seconds. Then the choruses of please please please Mom started. Grrrrrr.

Our walk back to McCullom Park was about the same as the walk to Mill Creek. A little bit of bickering. A little bit of complaining of the I have to use the bathroom and Do you want me to starve to DEATH? variety. Mostly though, there were gentle, disjointed conversations about nothing as we ambled along. Not a bad way to spend a day.

One of our main objectives was avoiding stepping on slugs (Braeden and Emma took a lot of these pictures...I'm not sure a slug is picture worthy but there you have it). Mark and Emma started explaining in complicated ways how each slug we came upon was related to the other slugs along the way. (This one is the grandpa of that first one...this is the sister) Mark decided they were all on their way to "Sluggy's" birthday party. Sluggy is the name for every slug Mark sees in our yard and the reason he's opposed to slug bait. "Don't hurt Sluggy!"

Emma wanted to feed the ducks. I told her we didn't have anything to give them and she said she had some wheat in her purse. She carries a purse with reading and writing material and apparently...wheat in a small box. What will never be clear is why? Why?

Braeden gets this sign reading trait from his dad's side of the family. They are sign readers extraordinaire.

Yes, those are corndogs and yes they are nasty. One integral part of Camp Wethehekawe is keeping the campers happy though.

The requisite Uncle Rico poses. "Thanks Deb, I feel real relaxed..."

Collapsed on the pavement, one of Mark's two settings. The other one is running up ahead then back again then up ahead...

Hello autumn.


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