Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve Eve

Random post. Fair warning.

So it's the day before Christmas Eve and things around the house are settling into a fine holiday daze. The kids have been off school since last week, and are alternately stir-crazy with boredom or so anxious for Christmas to come that they can hardly stand it. Many have been the discussions about whether each of the kids has ended up on Santa's "Naughty List" or his "Nice List" -- taunting each other about the former, but deep down believing they're on the latter.

Now that I'm mostly home for the Christmas break, my children have different approaches of utilizing my presence. My younger son finds new and interesting ways to make me feel guilty for not being able to spend all my time playing Legos with him. My daughter doesn't seem to care about my presence one way or the other, so long as her reading time isn't interrupted. My oldest son? He spends his days trying to figure out some way to convince me or his mother to let him play video games all the time.

My wife will have them doing all sorts of crafts and other yearly traditions tomorrow, but for now things are pretty settled. We've got Christmas music going in the background, and I've been trying to wrap up my work responsibilities for the next few weeks. My wife is upstairs downloading even more Christmas music from whatever free sites she can find, and we're all just happy to hang out together. We've been playing board games (the non-electronic kind, much to the dismay of my older son), and my wife has been engaging the kids in baking (and eating) and doing crafts.

Truly it's good times. To me, though, it is odd that the kids will never know in their youth what it means to live in a place where it snows a lot, and gets miserably cold, and you have to worry about your car starting, and shovel the walk, and get to eat icicles (while their parents tell them not to), and walk to school in the snow (or just walk to school), and go sliding down a frozen driveway, and get so cold you can't feel your fingers, and build snow forts, and have massive snow fights, and build snow caves and igloos (really, few people can actually do this, but I did when I was a kid!), and have to take extra shoes with you to school so you could change out of your soggy boots, and goof off in the snow.

But they will know what it's like to do absolutely nothing, and watch Christmas movies, and sit in front of a fire, and drink a lot of hot cocoa, and read books during down time, and just be together as a family. And you know what? That's okay with me.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Weird Dream

Last night I had a weird dream. It was absolutely chock-full of references to things I've seen on TV or about other common-place things. It started with me sitting in a room that looked very much like a church, but later I concluded it was a school. There were benches or pews set in rows lined up throughout a large room which had at it's head a very large object covered in a sheet. Some fellow at the front of the room was expostulating about how wonderful his invention was and how he gave it a lot of smarts. After all his talk, he unveiled his mighty creation, which was ... a large robot chicken.

It was beautiful, with feathers and everything, but was more erect with a short neck. However, it was clear things were a little weird because it had a machine gun mounted on its chest. Of course, the thing went haywire and immediately killed its creator, who died, strangely, in a burst of feathers. It then turned on the group and everybody ducked down behind the pews. We heard machine gun fire and then we were calmly directed by a robotic voice to leave the room row by row, section by section. It didn't quite happen that way, but certain groups were allowed to leave while others were held hostage by the mighty robot chicken.

I myself managed to get out, but being somewhat familiar with how robots can break, I circled around the back of the building and found a way in. There was a long, white, brick-lined hallway down which I found an accessway to the rafters of the stage behind the robot chicken where quite a few people were fearful and hiding. Somehow, me and another fellow managed to reach down far enough to literally wrest the head off the top of the chicken. We frantically worked to take it apart, noticing that, yes, the robot chicken kept running around with its head cut off. As we pried the robot head apart, we noticed it was composed mostly of plywood with a few lights and cameras mounted inside of it. Indeed, the computer "brain" was nowhere to be found.

We looked around and saw the robot chicken -- sans head -- make its way across the auditorium, destroying pews and scattering people as it went. I looked down and saw the equipment that had a diagram of the robot chicken and it showed that there were two seats in the upper right chest of the chicken where people could be held. Why it was over where the human heart would be, I don't know, but that's where it was. It was unclear to me if the two people who could sit in those seats were in control of the chicken or not, but me and the other fellow somehow knew that the two people inside the robot chicken were being held hostage by the nefarious device, to what end we did not know.

Soon we managed to identify the exact coordinates of one of the people, and teleported him to where we were on the stage above the rafters. The fellow was non-nonplussed, not seeming to really care that we had "rescued" him, as if it didn't matter one way or the other, but he told me how the chicken could be destroyed. The robot then destroyed the side of the auditorium and started making its way across the parking lot, destroying cars as it went and causing people to run in every direction.

I just happened to have a military radio with me, so I made a call and as we watched from the window to the side of the auditorium, a helicopter came along with a bucket beneath. It flew over the chicken and dumped water on top of the rampaging robotic monster, and we saw a beautiful light show as it short-circuited and eventually fell over. Yes, the headless robot chicken had been drowned by nothing less than rain from the sky.

You just gotta love the unconscious mind.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Winds of Change

The past few weeks have gone by without much happening. The Christmas season is very much upon us and we have been enjoying the season as best we can. Lately, the weather has been terribly cold (for around here ... in the 40s) which has encouraged us to stay inside to keep warm. Hot chocolate, a warm fire, and a half-done puzzle on the coffee table are regulars in our home now as we enjoy spending time together as a family. Truth be told, though, the whole season has so far gone by so fast that we don't really feel like we've been able to truly experience it as we wish we could.

I've lamented my personal feelings about the unfriendliness of time before, but lately I've been feeling it quite keenly. My children seem to be growing up before my eyes. In particular, my youngest child is mid-way through his only year in preschool, and recognizes every alphanumeric character and recognizes every letter sound and can even do rudimentary math. How did he get so grown up?! Worse, though, he's been experimenting with "grown-up" behaviors, such as blatant disobedience and lying. We could do without that ...

But life doesn't ever sit still. At work, I feel like I've lost the whole year ... it feels like it should be February or March, not December, as I'm not done, yet! with that with which I need to be done. I look over this past year and my memories don't seem complete on the events that have occurred; they're like photographic flashes of places and people, rather than a continuous narrative of experience. For example, I'm certain my wife and I took an exceptional vacation for our anniversary in the spring, but that seems like a very vague and disjointed event, the details of which are not well-affixed in my memory. Our summer and fall excursions to Yellowstone and Big Sur, respectively, also feel like strange and distant experiences during which some other person took good notes and lots of pictures (um, I guess that was probably my wife ...). I know we had great times this year, but it feels like things have just happened so fast! It's not terribly fair.

In all honesty, I've been really content with life. Our little family is healthy and safe, we've managed to hold our own in the midst of the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, and we're doing those things which we love to do. My kids welcome me home with a running hug and are always happy to see me. It's one of those times of which I wish I could take a snapshot so that I could go back and re-experience all the emotions and thoughts and feelings whenever I want.

But it is not to be. My kids do continue to get older, with all the blessings and troubles that that implies. My body continues to gain more creaks and groans as time goes on. The kids keep getting taller and heavier, which only contributes more to my aching back when they insist on jumping up to give me a hug or that I give them a "horse-back" ride (only for my 4-year-old, mind you).

Even at church, things continue to change. We have each had our current responsibilities for several years, her as the stake music chairwoman, and me as the bishop's executive secretary. Recently, we have each received new callings, she as the ward activities committee chair and me as the family history teacher. These new callings are currently additive for both of us. For me, the new calling is a temporary duty, but for her it is additional duty until her old duties can be handed to another. It is a time of excitement, uncertainty, and hope.

Despite all these changes, though, the one thing in my life that I would never put on hold is the one thing that just continues to get better and better: my wonderful wife. Every day, I fall more deeply in love with her. Every day, the fine features of her face are more firmly etched in my mind, and the tender love of her kind and giving personality etched in my heart. Not a morning goes by that I don't tell her I love her; not a night expires without the words "I love you" being uttered. My first thought in each morning is of her warmth beside me, and my last thought of each night is a prayer for her well-being.

So it is that the winds of change continue to blow (right now at a frosty wind-chill of 38 degrees Fahrenheit). There's nothing I can do to stop them, except to bundle up against it, try to face into it with dignity, and do my best to land gracefully when my feet are blown out from underneath me. I just hope the blown out from underneath me part doesn't come for a while because the hot chocolate in my mug would spill ...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mr. Family History Man

That's what I'm turning into. Consider the following:

-- Last month, my dad asked me to mail him a CD with a copy of the latest family tree that I put together. Instead, I sent him a DVD full of pictures, family histories, and census records ... oh, and the family tree.
-- Two weeks ago, the bishop asked for suggestions for a new teacher for a Sunday course on family history and I made a good suggestion of one of our current gospel doctrine teachers. Nevertheless, in the finest tradition of no good deed going unpunished, can you guess who the new teacher is? On top of the calling I already have as the executive secretary?
-- Last week, a guy at church asked me if I could give him a few suggestions on how to get around the website. Guess who had this fellow over for dessert this past Tuesday to walk through the process of submitting names to the temple?
-- Today I announced my intention to start my family history class in January to the bishop and his counselors and that I hoped to announce the class in Gospel Doctrine on January 3rd. Guess who is speaking on the subject on January 10th in sacrament meeting?

I just gotta learn to keep my big mouth shut.

Even so, my parents are now more excited about family history than they have ever been, people in the ward are coming out of the woodwork with excitement about taking my class, and my friend from church is going to take his own grandfather's name to the temple to do the long-awaited work, years after wanting to do it. And the sacrament meeting talk? Well, ... um ... I can't think of anything good to say about that.

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