Thursday, April 30, 2009

BONSAI! A day at the National Arboretum

Today I discovered my righteous desire for bonsai trees during our spur of the moment, Will woke up early from an early nap, what do we do with the afternoon trip to the National Arboretum. Most of the display trees have been in bonsai state since the early 1950s.
I told Brigham about their wonder and he smiled and told me that his dad had once gone through a brief phase in which he thought Bonsai trees were pretty cool, too. Then he told me that we are not Bonsai sort of people. Maybe he isn't meticiulous, detail-oriented or dedicated to quietly snipping branches off of miniature and highly expensive trees, but he can speak for himself. I still think it would make a cool gift. A little tree and a Bonsai manual.
We were the only people in the place. The boys got to run like crazy. We pretended that the miniature trees were magical mini forests, sheltering magical dragons that would miniaturize when people came around. Andrew, in a Scooby-Doo phase, searched everywhere for "clues" pertaining to these majestic creatures. Oh how I wanted to believe, too. If you enlarge the photo you can see all the detail: rocks with real moss clinging to the sides, flowers, a stone person that comes to life as soon as your back is turned and will grant you three wishes.
The place was great for jumping.
There were enormous Japanese carp that would surface and beg for food. There is a feeding station, too, but there was no feed in it today. (Warning: if you pick your child up and pretend to throw him into the water, the fish will dart away with so much splashing that you will feel guilty for startling the hideous little things.)
If I were in an alternative music band, this would be our album cover. Don't you think? (I am referring to the photo of Andrew with the flower bush).
Very artistic. In-dEEd.
The best shot I could get of this pretty little entrance.
My dad and I talked about the passage of time (sure, what do you talk to your parents about on an ordinary afternoon?) and he remarked that it is strange to reach a point in life where you know that you are doing things for the last time; ie driving the last car you will ever buy, a warranty that will expire after you do, etc. He joked this would be the last time he ever went to the National Arboretum. (Sure, death jokes are always funny!) I include all of this because it was funny and we laughed, but someday the kids will look at these photos when all of the people pictured really are gone, including the little selves they were. Their Papa comes on most of our little ventures around DC and he and Nana are otherwise very much a central part of the kids' lives. How wonderful to be so loved by so many.
There is a fountain in the courtyard at the top of this hill and it flows down into a murky little pond at the bottom. Lots of fun for the boys to splash and play and injest bacteria. The columns were taken from the Capitol Building in 1951 and then dedicated at the Aboretum in 1990.
We had a really nice little time.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Twilight: A Movie Review

Wedding announcement photo for Bella and Edward, taken in front of the Botany Pond, BYU campus, after a group date involving skits and dance routines.

Last night, Brig and I watched (endured) Twilight. I read every one of these books, with decreasing enthusiasm. I am always inclined towards a Harry Potter-esque world into which I can escape and was left in a funk after completing my rounds of Harry Potter. Book 7 made me sad in its own right anyway.

Anyway, Twilight was there to fill the void Harry left. I obtained a copy a week or so before Will was born in late October of 2007. It was unseasonably hot that fall, the leaves were beautiful, I was excited about the new baby and I was so happy to be on mild bed rest. Reading about vampires and werewolves in a rainy far-away place was perfect, and my mood was set to enjoy. I was even prepared to overlook that her name was "Bella Swan."

But the movie (and all the books that followed the first) let me down. I could go into a deeper critique, but am pretty sure that it would be even more boring than the movie itself. So, instead I will report the three statements that Brigham made during our viewing:

1) "At least it is realistic. Look, they argue and he acts really weird and gets angry easily, and makes her angry easily, but she loves him because he is good looking."

2) "Sure they are melodramatic. They are teenage vampires. What do you expect?"

3) A few seconds of quiet laughter. "This is the worst movie I think I have ever seen."

I think I might have squeaked by on enjoying it if James Marsden had played the role of Edward. Maybe he doesnt look like a high school student, but at least he is actually attractive.

To those of you who love Twilight, I mean no disrespect. After all, I do watch Medium. I even DVR it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Poem on the Occassion of a Thunderstorm

. . . that has nothing to do with a thunderstorm aside from that it reminded me about a thunderstorm-themed poem my dad emailed us once and of which I was reminded as I sat with the kids at the kitchen table and watched the thunderstorm break outside and counted the silence between the lightning and thunder.

When I went to my inbox, all I found was this one, but it was sad enough and enough on another topic I think about often (well, a few topics) that it would work as an adequate sub: the sentimentality of a place. Places, more than people, arouse in me a sense of sadness and remembrance of the past. How strange it is to live in a place where others once lived, and then to move on and have the home contain other people. I could wax very boring on this subject but luckily for all involved I only have a few minutes to dash this off before I plop the kids in the tub, who will only get out when they hear their daddy come home to "ressle!"

May I also mention that this poem explains most things about the Smith sisters. Our dad raised us on this poetry. And the poem my sister describes that she will write is a synopsis of the poems that were our regular bedtime reading from the time I was Andrew's age. And maybe I am glad that I am not kidding, though Brigham may sometimes wonder what I may have been like without the World War I poetry acting as the literary backdrop to my childhood.

Two Hours From Now

Two hours from now there will be dawn
in the place of my childhood, light in the room,
but another will turn slowly with sleep-ridden eyes, not knowing
the continuity of flesh or what lingers
in the wisps of the night as the high plains sunlight
touches the window, or the little walk where my father
used to sit with the papers on Sunday.

Only I in this eastern city remember a brief while
and then go my ways, knowing no one can put two things together.
The old house, I suppose, insentient, calm, does not remember, nor its inhabitants,
or the quarter lost under the front porch,
or the room in which I wept from a quarrel
or the stove in the kitchen by which I studied.

Mother is gone.
Father sleeps on a hilltop in another town.
We are all lonely.

Why do I write to myself as dawn is breaking two thousand miles away?
Nothing will be solved. The house does not remember,
nor the dead, nor will the window curtain waiver.
I have followed the dawn to no purpose, there are only the paws
of a lost puppy imprinted in the cement of the sidewalk.

I, the living ghost, stare at them across a lifetime and do not speak.
There is also a toy boat still hidden in the attic.

Ok, so this next bit is to help any of you who read the poem (you really should though) wipe away the tears. This was my sister Jessica's emailed response:

That was a really sad poem. Where did you find it and who wrote it? Thanks for sending it.

It has inspired me to write a follow-up poem -- it is called, "Two Hours from Now I Hope I'm Dead". It's about a rabbit who just had his leg amputated and he hobbled through a garden gate and stepped in a snare (with his remaining limb) and is screaming in pain knowing that no one will ever find him, and as he watched the eyes of the other rabbits passing him over and resting on the bunnies who are whole, he thinks to himself, "Why don't they come put me to bed, why don't they come?", and then someone drops poison gas on them all and the whole bunny colony is wiped out.
It's a touching poem -- maybe Emma, Luke, Samuel and Andrew would enjoy it as a bed time story.

I think they would, Jess. For a good time, read the following:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Something to work on

This is part of my effort to develop some useful skills. Only possible because I basically have a personal trainer overseeing and assisting every single step.

This quilt will have a brown biding (with slender cream leaves/flowers on it). The blue polka dot fabric is going to be the backing as well as the trim on the front. Should I just use white trim instead so that the polka dot is a fresh, entire new look?

Can you tell it is for a boy?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Some days are diamonds

Even though I don't have a formal job, I don't wake up each and every day with the feeling that I am on vacation. I occassionally think, though, that I ought to more than I do.

I have virtually no schedule imposed upon me, other than meals and naps, which can be skipped or delayed or snacked right on through. The two days of school Andrew attends at the homes of friends is pretty lax about arrival and departure times (we are always late to arrive, usually late to go). In between, we can do whatever we please.

I woke up this morning feeling like I was on vacation, a feeling left over from the family dinner party the previous night and Brigham's 6pm arrival time. The anxiety-driven dreams that Emma had awakened Andrew at 6am and taken him downstairs to play and watch tv were nothing more than that. In fact, Emma arose at 8 and I had to rouse Andrew at 9. He was grumpy only until he registered Emma at the foot of his bed.

Dressed in matching outfits (well, I was not wearing navy shorts with red bikes on them), we bought doughnuts ("choc-let! spinkles!" demanded by Will) as we blew out of town on our way to the zoo.

The stop at my parents' house to meet up with my sister and the rest of her kids proved fatal to the journey. The kids ran through my parents' backyard, discovering "secret passages" in what my dad terms the "wild" parts of the property (they are), jumped on the tramp and hit each other with foam swords. I mostly sat on the deck in the sun and talked with my family.

My favorite image was of my dad sitting out in the yard in a lawn chair spraying the kids with a hose as they tried to run past. It turns out that he used the "power wash" setting when they tried to obtain the "gold." Games with dad always involve an element of terror and potential physical injury. "Andrew was very brave. He ran right through the power wash," he reported.

After I coerced Will into sleep, Missy and I watched probably 30 minutes of Jim Gaffigan videos on youtube (which I tried to add here but am unable to) while we occassionally glanced out the window to see that the screaming and crying we heard was just Tommy.

Right now, the kids are playing ("I'm going to shoot you in the face!"), my parents are lying in bed watching a true crime show about a murderer, and I am playing on the computer undisturbed.

Meanwhile, Brigham will be home in a few hours from a long day of work and two hours of commuting via three different modes of transportation.

Poor sucker.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A midmorning moment on tax day

The kids are half dressed. We ate the first meal of the day at 10:30 ("Brunch!" I try to tell myself encouragingly). Will has been sleeping like he is part of a torture system designed to break me. Taxes are due. I cannot download the DC tax forms. Doing it will be complicated anyway since Brig's employer (the Federal Government) waited months to record the change in residence from DC to Va, so we have improper withholdings in each state). I am terrible at math. I am hopeless with computers. I am not allowed to be on the computer when my kids are awake, under penalty of toddlers destroying it. Will constantly smells like he is rotting. This is because his tube is. His tube that won't stay closed and spills stomach contents all over him and the house, which now smell like they are rotting, too. I want to pull the tube out, but I know this is only to help give me an outlet to my frustration with it so I don't since i know it is best for Will to smell like he is rotting and spill stomach contents on everything and soak all of his clothes and have to be changed every few hours because at least he gets fed. So instead I vented by calling the tube a "freaking tube!", which at least had the benefit of making Andrew laugh and then led to a teaching moment when he asked me if freaking was a bad word. I told him it was. He told me that I should just take a deep breath. I guess that was teaching moment #2.
The end.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Eve

Andrew's cousin and favorite person, Emma, got baptized yesterday. Afterwards, we went out to eat at a Japanese Steak House. I have decided that the fear of a huge fire a couple of feet away, men with sharp knives chopping up food right in front of you and the thrill of having them throw food at your face all combine to make it a perfect dining experience for young kids. Here are the videos Katie took.
Notice how Andrew tries to catch the food intended for Emma. Unfortunately, we missed the times when the chef threw food at Andrew's little wide-open mouth.

Andrew was not ready to end the food throwing portion of the meal.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Past

Family photo in front of the White House Easter Roll. Brig had to sleep out to get tickets.
Will spent much of his stroller-time that first winter blinded by his own hats. I think that this experience might explain why the child is so assertive/demanding now.

The only reason I was able to get so many action shots of Andrew rolling his egg was because he ran back and cut in line to repeat "the race!". I took advantage of his behavior to recreate the scene before having to physically overpower him.

Both of the boys have changed to much in the last 12 months. I expected Will to look different, but was surprised at how much Andrew, too, had changed.
I was not able to find photos of Easter morning. I can't even remember if we did anything. I have no memory of the two Easters previous to last, either. Sometimes I feel like I am writing about fairly boring or inconsequential aspects of our lives, like that Andrew was terrified of the poor adults whose thankless job was to wander about the White House lawn in giant mouse costumes scaring children and so we were unable to get a photo, but I realize that someday, details like these won't be boring to me at all. They will be all I have left of what once was so normal and that now is over. It only takes a few years. Then we will all be dead, and a few years after that, forgotten.
And that is my message of Easter Past.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Book Plug: The Wall by Peter Sis

We had a great visit with Momo and Grandpa last week which I still need to record here, but in the meantime I thought I would make a book recommendation. It was written by a man who grew up behind the Iron Curtain. I was shocked that it won awards, not because they were undeserved (they were very very deserved) but because the book seemed to me to be so politically incorrect. And by that I mean that finally someone is writing something true about communism rather than trying to apologize for it, minimize its threat, or otherwise blame America for the Cold War.

Communism, more than any other economic-political philosophy, has done more damage in the name of "compassion" than any other in modern history. It exemplifies one of the reasons why all the talk about compassion in politics grates on me: it seems to tend to have the opposite effect than intended.

The book is for kids, but I think that adults would do well to read it, too. I really think that the average college student would come away with a better understanding of life in the Soviet Union after taking 10 minutes to read this book than they do after four years of higher education. Unfortunately, I am not even exaggerating for affect.