Monday, March 31, 2008

Crazy Week

This past week has been crazy. My wife's sister-in-law passed away, so she went out to Utah to visit with family and attend the funeral. Before that, though, we had Easter activities galore -- eggs to color, egg hunts to attend, mass quantities of chocolate to consume -- you know, the good stuff. My wife also had the art show she was running for the stake, and preparations for her trip to make. After church on Sunday, we headed for the airport where we left her, very unsure of herself, to face a flight on her own (she did marvelously). This left me home with the kids, playing Mr. Mom for three whole days.

Following this ordeal, I can proudly announce that all my children are still alive. We spent most of our time doing the usual kind of stuff -- homework, shopping, playing. To be honest, we really had a good time. Did we get everything done on the list my wife left for us to do? Nope. But did we have a good time together and bond? Yep. Even the arguments were kept to a minimum. Nevertheless, there's nothing like a mother in the home, and we are all glad to have her back.

My youngest son was very upset when his mother left on the airplane. He kept saying over and over again how he wanted to go with her, and that she was flying over our house in the "space shuttle." It was quite funny. She did come home on Wednesday, though, and after that we frantically put the house back together in preparation for her parents to arrive. They were supposed to come Easter weekend, but with the funeral, it didn't work out.

So the past several days we've been enjoying our time with the grandparents. Sometimes having family over can be a very difficult challenge -- it often feels like all we do is go from preparing one meal to preparing for the next. This time, however, we hardly noticed any burden -- it went well and we all had a good time.

This is probably the last time my kids will see them for nearly two years. They are putting in their papers to serve a mission, and expect to be gone on that for a year and a half. It will be great to find out where they go, and they are setting a very good example for my children to follow.

The good thing about being a "senior" missionary couple is that they can make phone calls, email, and even travel when they want. This means that we won't really be disconnected for all that time -- our weekly phone calls will continue -- but it does mean that they won't be there when we go to Utah to see the rest of the family. Really weird. Weirdest of all, however, is how old my children will be when they get back. Our youngest will be in kindergarten, my daughter will have been baptized, and my oldest ... a mighty eleven-year-old! Wow.

Anyway, this post isn't exactly coherent, but it's a good data dump for the week. Later!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Every Page

My wife is out of town right now. It sucks, but it's funny what they say about how absence makes the heart grow fonder. Last Saturday night there was an art festival, where some people got up and sang. One guy wrote a song, and the lyrics weren't even coherent. Nevertheless, a phrase he said inspired me to write a little bit of poetry for my wife. Remember, I'm not the best of poets, but I do my best. This one's not really made to rhyme, but more to be read out loud. Hopefully she'll have the chance to read this where she is, and will know how much I love her.

They say our life is a collection of stories -- a book, so to speak, that gets thicker every day.
Some pages are stuck together, glued shut by mistakes we have made.
We don't speak about those days and are content to just turn the page.

On some pages we've got doodles -- margins filled with ink and funny shapes.
They are punctuations on ordinary lives, interesting things that a good life makes.
When read, they remind us who we are. When recalled, they cause smiles to cross our faces.

On still other pages there are pictures, each one worth a thousand words.
Words alone can't tell those stories. They remind us of our lifelong loves.
Some in color, others black and white. Some are worn and smeared by tears.

For me, my book is like any other, but my early pages are written in blue.
I've got doodles galore, poetry to keep, stuck pages that hide my past and it's truths.
But of all the pages in the book of my life, every page worth reading has pictures of you.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My Wife The Andrews Sister

Tonight we had a "art show" with our stake at church. It was basically amateur's night, and some of the numbers were cringe-inducing. Nevertheless, my wife, who was asked to run the whole thing, was also pinned down to perform with a few of her good friends. The song they sang was not a Gospel song, but one that was fun and lively. It was "The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" by the Andrews Sisters. In my opinion, it was the best performance of the night, hands down. The recording here doesn't do it justice, but I wanted to show it for the record.


Listening to it, my wife wanted me to add a disclaimer. She says she is "super embarrassed" and that they couldn't hear each other or the piano, so any time they are out of tune, you can chalk it up to that. Also, my own disclaimer is that it sounded a lot better in person than it does in recorded form (I was standing at the back of the auditorium and was zoomed all the way in).

In any case, I think my wife is awesome.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sad News

We got a call yesterday (our 10th anniversary!) from family back in Utah telling us that my brother-in-law's wife just passed away. She was in her 40s and had been deathly sick ever since I've known my wife, and years before that, too. There were no children, and it was remarkable she survived so long given her horrible medical history (and medical mysteries).

She was found at home by her husband in the middle of the day after having been discharged from the hospital a few weeks before. We don't know much more about the circumstances of her passing, and we need to find out the funeral plans. I believe we will just fly out my wife and I'll stay home with the kids.

Sad news, even though it was a long time coming.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

10th Anniversary

Today is my 10th anniversary being married to my good wife. She is a remarkable woman and the past 10 years have been nothing short of wonderful. We were married in the Jordan River Temple near Salt Lake City. My lovely bride then was so very beautiful and it has been my pleasure to watch her grow more beautiful every day.

Today, however, we haven't exactly been able to celebrate as we would like. These past ten years brought 3 children into our lives that require time and attention. To that end we tried to get someone to watch our youngest so that we could spend the morning together, just she and I, but this morning the person who was going to watch him called with the sad news that her daughter was sick - we elected to keep him with us.

We went out to Mimi's cafe for breakfast, then went to go play tennis together. Neither of us are very good, but we still enjoy it and my wife got me a new racquet today. (I got her a new piano hymnbook. The funny thing about this is that we had both agreed to not get each other anything since we're planning a big trip next month, and we both went back on that independently.)

We then spent the rest of the morning shopping. It's a strange thing that we would choose to go shopping on a date, but it's something we do regularly. For us, it doesn't really matter what we do, as long as we do it together and without the kids, so we sometimes take the opportunity to get things done we can't seem to get done otherwise.

By noon, though, we were home with my wife feeling under the weather. We put our youngest to bed - he, too, isn't feeling well - and had a bit of lunch. My wife then had to go rehearse with some friends of hers for a performance she's doing on Saturday. I stayed home and worked. Then she came home when my daughter got home from school, and she went out again to go grocery shopping with my oldest son when he got home from school.

Then when our youngest woke up we watched a little TV then I took the two of them to my daughter's gymnastics practice. That's where I'm typing this right now. When this is done, we will rendezvous at home and have dinner quickly before we have to go over to the kid's school for the science fair night. Eventually tonight we hope to get the kids to bed and actually have some alone time.

Some might say it's not the best anniversary but that's all right. To me, this is my life, and I'm happy with it. I love my wife and my children, and who better would I spend my anniversary with? In any case, next month we're going to spend 10 days in Hawaii as our 10th anniversary trip. It will be awesome, and we are looking forward to it.

Do you want to know the best part about being married for ten years? Looking forward to the next ten years with my beautiful bride.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Can't Type ...

I got this email from my brother. I'm not sure if this is his cat or what (probably not), but it still made me laugh.

I can't respond to any more emails today, something has crashed on my computer ...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I Was Once a 3rd Grader

I remember being a 3rd grader. I was new to my elementary school, my family moving just before the school year began to a new town (an old town to my parents -- they were born and raised there). I remember having very few friends. Those I did have tended to be the "bad" kids -- I recall vividly the joy I had shocking the little girls by uttering swear words I had learned from my new friends, and the corresponding guilt I felt later. I remember being in trouble at school often due to all this, and because I tended to get into fights with other kids.

I don't remember my teacher's name, or any friends that I had. I don't remember playing with any friends outside of school, either. I remember being a nerd, who did well in school, but struggled socially. I came from a big family, so I mostly just played at home with my siblings.

These memories echo very well what my oldest son seems to be experiencing at school (minus the moving part and the swearing part). He is struggling socially, but is doing well academically. He's been getting into fights and other trouble lately, lies nearly all the time because of it, and generally feels like everybody is out to get him. Indeed, he seems to be an echo of me, especially in all the bad ways.

So, I decided to call my Mom last night to talk about things a little. I asked her a bunch of questions about what I was like as a young kid, such as:

-- Did I lie a lot?
-- Was I an angry child?
-- Was I bossy?
-- When did I start noticing girls?
-- How well did I do in school?
-- Did I get along well with others?
-- Did I have a lot of friends?
-- Did I ever feel lonely as a kid?
-- Did I ever go on play dates?
-- Did I get into fights? How often?

Her answers surprised me, since my memory of those days are fuzzy at best, but after hearing what she had to say, I was shocked because what she said brought memories flooding back to me, and I knew she was right. As it turns out, I was *gasp* normal. Who would've guessed?! I sure didn't remember that.

Turns out I did lie a lot as a child. She says all kids do at that age, but particularly if they are backed into a corner. I was an angry kid, but exhibited that mostly at home, throwing tantrums. However, I was also very aware of public perceptions, so I managed myself well in public. According to my mother, I didn't start noticing girls until I was, like, 15 or something, which she was perfectly happy about.

My grades were always good, but even though I was (and still am) a nerd, I always had friends. She said I never had a lot of friends, but I always had several and would play with them on occasion. She listed them by name! She did confirm that I didn't play with these friends very often, because I did have a large family, but I did do so occasionally. My Dad was listening in the background and said that boys don't need a lot of friends, just one or two good ones. I can only concur with that assessment, as that's what I recall as I entered my teens, too.

I recall getting into fights regularly, but she says I only got into fights a few times, and she only had to come to the principal's office once -- and that wasn't even for a fight, it was because I was climbing the bathroom stalls (don't ask).

My Mom shocked me by mentioning things I did that I didn't know that she knew. She never pressed me about it in my youth, because she knew the truth, even though I would blatantly lie about it. I was shocked by this! Who knew that moms know everything?! I'm gaining an appreciation for that.

So what I learned was that my son and I, while much alike, aren't the same. His propensity for making inappropriate noises, gift for exaggeration, and flippancy about dishonesty are not genetically inherited traits. They are learned behaviors. My wife and I need to understand him better. We need to understand why he feels like everybody is out to get him at school, why he feels like he has no friends, and why he persists in anti-social behavior that drives people away from him.

My wife spoke with his teacher and had the idea that he should visit with the school psychologist (counselor? psychiatrist? whatever). I mentioned this to my Mom, with feelings that doing so would mark him as "the kid who needs mental help" and that he'd come out either blaming all his problems on himself or blaming all his problems on everybody else. She surprised me by suggesting it was a great idea, and even took it one step further by suggesting that if that doesn't help him then maybe we should pursue more professional help, as suggested by his pediatrician.

In any case, what is probably likely is that he is just going through a phase, experiencing an awakening of all his faculties and he's struggling to figure it all out. He's a smart kid, and will always be smart, with a brain that goes a million miles an hour -- he's got to learn to rein that in and use it to his advantage, rather than using it to annoy everybody around him and to cause trouble. Alternatively, it might be that there's truly a bullying situation going on, or worse, at school that he simply can not handle and that we are, as yet, unaware of. The aftermath of the events of a few weeks ago clearly haven't gone away, and he needs some support and adult guidance to get through it.

Regardless, it seems clear that he just needs time to work through this, a supporting environment, and our unconditional love. I'm willing to give him all three.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Disneyland

Last week I took my family to Disneyland and California Adventure. We went to each park for one day, and had a wonderful time. Here is what the whole experience was like:



I'll have to write more later.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

On Being Bullied

This post could be considered a companion to this earlier post.

Here are a few points that need to preface this discussion:
-- My oldest child is very young compared to his 3rd grade peers at school.
-- He is very obviously their intellectual superior in every way (this is not to brag, but it accurately describes what he is), performing somewhere 3 to 7 grade levels above them on most subjects.
-- He is very obviously their emotional inferior in every way, performing at least 1 grade level below them.
-- He has led a sheltered life away from inappropriate media of all forms, so is ignorant of nearly all things that most consider to be immoral.

Okay, with that setting the background, let me share a story with you.

My son apparently has a crush on another little girl in his class. He doesn't even know what it really means to have a crush, but he knows she's pretty and she's fun to be around. About two weeks ago, there was some kind of incident where the two of them fell down and they didn't extract themselves from the situation in a timely manner. My best guess is that he was rolling around on the ground being silly, but she took it to be something else entirely.

After the situation was over, the little girl ran to a teacher and told her that my son had been trying to "hump" her. As you could expect, everything went berserk at that point. He ended up in the principal's office and the parents of this little girl are naturally very upset. My son, for the record, didn't even know what that word meant, nor did he have any intention of doing that act; he was just being silly.

Well, later that night, my wife and I had a discussion with him about leaving the girls alone. A few days after that, we actually had a very frank and honest discussion about sex. Judging by the size of his eyes during the talk, he really was quite ignorant of all things related to that topic. Nevertheless, he's a smart kid, and he knows now probably far more than his peers do on this topic.

(As a point of information, we know he has learned this knowledge from us, his parents, in a controlled environment; and not by watching TV, looking at pornographic material, or listening to raunchy talk from friends. This is the right way he should be getting this knowledge. The little girl, evidently, has older siblings who are careless in their speech and attitudes, which explains how she knew that word and what it means.)

My son has now been educated and he has been doing better at school leaving the girls alone, so it would be good to move on. However, it is not to be. Now he reports to us that many of the kids now tease him and hit him at least once a day because of the incident. They regularly talk behind his back, laughing at him, he says, and even "the whole class" piled on top of him at one time to "get him".

At this point, we could choose to get upset about what is going on, but we know that our son is prone to not being truthful and to exaggeration. We went to a parent/teacher conference with his teacher yesterday, and expressed some of these concerns to her, and she indicated that she has not been privy to regular beatings. Regarding the "whole class", apparently it was a few kids who pushed him because he was throwing sand in their hair. Now we know the whole story, we weren't so concerned about him being the frequent target of bullying.

But then something happened yesterday that got me thinking. I walked up behind him and he literally flinched at my approach. This was unnerving. The poor kid seems afraid of something, so I sat down and I asked him if he was afraid I was going to hit him. He said no, but it seemed he's jumpy for a reason, so I asked him if kids at school hit him. He then expressed to me that there are several kids that regularly "try" to hit him, or actually do hit him. I asked him to demonstrate to me how it was he was actually getting hit, and he related to me how one boy in particular would come up behind him and punch him in the ribs -- he showed me how it was done. Then he said that this boy then runs off to his friends and they laugh about it.

This scenario seems pretty dramatic, and knowing his propensity for exaggeration (and that he doesn't seem bruised or anything), I didn't completely fly off the handle at his story. Nevertheless, there is probably some bit of truth to the story. I actually know the little boy's parents, so I determined that I would call the mother and talk to her about it.

What followed was a fascinating study in blind parenting. Not only did she deny that such a thing could possibly be happening because "I know my son, and he would never do anything like that" (really, she actually said those words!), but that it was actually my son's own fault for provoking her son because he regularly annoys her son and tries to make him his friend. This last part I could totally understand -- my son can be amazingly annoying (remember the emotionally immature part?), and he does really want everybody to like him.

Nevertheless, her blatant denial that her son could possibly punch another kid simply because she "knows" him and he's "a good kid" is ludicrous. First, a child's behavior at home is, in my experience, never that child's behavior in other environments. Second, her son is a big kid, very strong, with an ego to match; he doesn't have an ounce of patience in him nor does he have any interest in befriending my son (which is fine by us, to be honest). Our two boys are on opposite ends of the eight-year-old spectrum in every category -- their teacher literally has them sitting on opposite sides of the classroom.

In my conversation with her, I honestly indicated that I do not know what really happened. I admitted that my son is prone to lying and exaggerating. I outlined how my son can be immature and, yes, even annoying. Then I asked her if she could just simply ask her son to leave my son alone -- a painless request that would take her about ten seconds. She flatly refused! She said she wasn't going to tell her son to stop doing something that she was convinced he wasn't doing. I pressed her, indicating that simply asking him to leave my son alone wouldn't do any harm, and is an easy thing to do -- again she refused! It was astonishing.

My son can be an annoying know-it-all that makes funny noises, says weird things, and is really uncoordinated. Nevertheless, none of these things means he deserves to be hit on the playground. Again, let me state that I do not know for a fact that he has actually been hit. My son can't produce any witnesses. He tells us that he tells the teachers on duty on the playground and they don't believe him (we had a very interesting discussion on why that might be the case). Therefore, we've instructed him to make sure somebody sees what's going on when it happens, then he does need to tell the teachers on duty what has happened, and be sure that they believe him.

So much drama. It is far too much for a kid his age. He should be blissfully unaware of bullies and the differences in the sexes, yet this has been thrust upon him -- and I honestly don't believe he deserves it. He's so socially unaware of the results of his actions that he can hardly be considered accountable for them.

I remember that I, too, was bullied as a kid. It wasn't fun, and I had several playground altercations. What I learned as a kid, however, was that if the other guy knows he's not going to get away without getting hurt, too, then he'd leave you alone. The playground can be a jungle. Nevertheless, my wife got very unhappy with me when I suggested that he should return the punch, and hit a lot harder than the other kid (but never throw the first one). I quickly back-pedaled in order to maintain harmony in my home.

However, I'm suspicious that I still might be right, as I believe he deserves the chance to defend himself, and if he doesn't squash his victim-hood now, he'll be the target of bullies until he leaves high school -- and that's no way to go through life. I'd rather he walloped the other kid, and good -- at least then the teachers would believe there really is great animosity between the two of them. There's no reason he should be living in fear at school, and cowering when his own father walks up behind him.

In any case, it's tough to know what is the right thing to do. What do you think?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ingrid's Avalanches

Okay, check this out! We actually caught an avalanche in action on Mars! Call it good luck or dumb luck, either one, I'll take it. That's pretty awesome. And the woman who first noticed it in the pictures gets her name plastered on them. Pretty cool.

On Parenting

My wife and I were watching Stargate and a very funny interchange occurred between a few members of one of the "SG" teams. The wife of one of them was expecting a baby, and the team leader was talking about his four children. I edited it slightly to remove the swearing, but this is how it went:

Team Lead (played by Adam Baldwin, who also played an equally lovable character in another science fiction show I enjoyed, Firefly): All night screaming, projectile vomiting, nuclear diapers. You have no idea. The reason they make them so cute is so you don't suffocate them in their sleep.

Other Guy: Sir, you have 4 kids.

TL: Yeah, why do you think I enjoy my job so much? Don't get me wrong. I love the little buggers to death, but trust me, having four kids makes going through a Stargate and facing off against alien bad guys look like nothing. This is relaxing.

OG: Then why'd you have 4?

TL: One's pretty bad, but you figure you gotta have two so they can have a brother or sister. Then you have two boys, and your wife says she wants a girl so you figure three kids can't be worse than two, right? What you don't realize is your brain is fried because you haven't slept. After three, four is no big deal. You're so deep in nothing seems to matter anymore. It's chaos. You just try to make it through each day alive. In the end, you spend all the energy you have left trying to get them into bed, only to lie awake praying they don't get hooked on drugs, or hurt, or worse. Or wind up dead in an alley somewhere.

OG: I can't wait, sir.

TL: Yeah, the miracle of birth. I'll tell you what a miracle is: birth control that works.

My wife and I laughed really, really hard. We love our kids, but sometimes these emotions are present, too. Very funny.

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