Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holly Jolly

Some of our sweetest moments this year weren't from Santa, though he was sure a hit in his own way. Nora-Baby was a bit on the fussy side (earache? we're not sure) and needed extra love, but what better day to give it than Christmas? To our surprise however, Nora was the fussiest one of the kids -- the other children shared, shared, shared with goodwill all day. OK, almost all day. But it was a very pleasant surprise.

Also sweet was the exchange of homemade gifts among ourselves that is becoming a wonderful tradition. Last year when pennies were scarce we drew names to make something creative to fill up the space under the tree. We did it again this year, and all the bigger kids were really able to make their own contribution this time. The resulting gifts, and the time spent secretly working on them together, were our most cherished parts of the holiday. We took a group photo to show them off, which I've posted below. Ian and Dad painted pottery for Mom and Lucy, while Lucy made Mancala beads for Ian's game out of oven-bake clay painted with nail polish. We ruined a set of clothes working on that one, but all for the greater good. Mom made Sage a giant scrapbook-type poster for her wall, and Sage embroidered Dad a new handkerchief ALL by herself after practice on a scrap with Mom.

The day ended with a Christmas dinner which most of the kids didn't eat, despite not having eaten lunch or much breakfast besides candy canes, but which was yummy for S. and I. We look forward to eating the leftovers.

Love to you all, and a very merry Christmas!
(Posted by K., in her blogging debut.)

The first glimpse of Christmas bounty

S.'s gifts are well-received

The best gift is love

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Best Laid Plans

a week before Christmas I'm
in the basement opening
an old suitcase and there it is
inches from my face running
for the corner a streak of gray
chased by the long slender tail

in the night I lay two traps
each saying take eat be welcome
in my house each easy and cold
and lying in bed I cannot sleep
listening for the fall so sure
of which I am the cause

as I saw her in precaution so I
see her in daylight small
and calm beneath the trap and
only then looking to the corner
and the second upturned trap
do I see at last and clearly
the shape of things I have chosen

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


It's a sign of how long we've been married that it took me a full week after our nine-year anniversary before I found the time or the energy to post these pictures. Last week on our anniversary I played hooky from work so K. and I could spend the afternoon at the Brandywine River Museum. In the evening we opted to take the kids with us to the restaurant so that they would know that it was a special day for our whole family. Years ago, when we were sitting in the Bountiful Temple waiting to be married, I think we both knew that we were on the verge of something of great scope, but I don't think either of us foresaw the days we live in now, with four other voices in the house, in the car, always in our ears. We chose this life with our eyes open, but the details still have the ability to astonish.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Nora's Corner: It's the Great Pumpkin

This was Nora about a month ago:

She's growing right before our eyes.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Better Lucky Than Good

Lately, when K. and I discuss where our family's at and where we're headed, we keep coming back to the word "lucky." The turmoil and doubt of the past couple of years isn't something I'm keen to repeat, but I can't help it--when I think about where I am and how I was led here, I think less in terms of merit than of grace. When the book of my life is written, the best that may be said of me is that I took good advice when it was given to me. I don't come up with very many good ideas on my own, but I seem to know a good one when I hear it. This Thanksgiving, I'm of course grateful for the parents who taught me true principles, and for the friends and teachers who have left their imprint on my character, but I also want to give thanks to all those whose pearls of knowledge somehow fell into my lap. So, if you're out there, here's some hearty thanks

-to the law student in Houston, who said if he could do it again, he would go to Virginia;

-to Spencer W. Kimball, for saying "Have your children and have them early";

-to my Constitutional Law professor, who said that the novels of Patrick O'Brian were "really good";

-to my Trusts & Estates professor, who said it was a great way to practice law;

-to the neighbor who said I should give Delaware a try;

-to the corporate litigator who smiled, shook his head, and said "Don't go into corporate litigation";

-for that calm feeling I got when I turned down a secure job offer for a doomed one;

and especially to the friend who convinced me to go to a party right before spring finals. I probably should have studied--it's been almost ten years and none of that knowledge has endured. Instead I wasted precious study time chatting up a flute performance major with an unearthly glow, and in a few days she would graduate and be gone. Hey Ted, this one's for you. Thanks for twisting my arm.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Harvest Season

One frosty Sunday morning I went on a drive to catch daybreak over the reservoir, and here is what I saw:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sage's Corner: Six

This is a picture of my birthday. I am happy because it's my birthday. Birthdays are so fun, 'cause you get cake and presents. Our family does ice cream, too.

I got a present that was a cat, and I named her Sophie. She was the very best present I got, because she was beautiful and she was so fluffy. I don't know any other reasons why. I was having a very fun birthday. My other present was a bear! I named him Tom. It was weird--he didn't have a tail! And my very last present was a tea set from Grandma, and it had a tablecloth, too. It was glass. It's hard to keep it away from Lucy, so I tried to keep it safe.It feels great when you're six, 'cause you're another number older, and I had cupcakes at my school, and that's all I want to talk about today. This was Sage talking about her birthday.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

View from the Deck

I don't usually keep secrets from K., but I waited for the ink to dry on our mortgage before I told her my real reason for buying the house: I love the deck. I love that it sits directly below the afternoon shadows of the house, I love that it's big, flat, and uncomplicated, I love the gazebo and I especially love the way it frames our view of the yard. The rest of the house is wonderful--no buyer's remorse on any count--but the view from the deck is quite enough for me. I just stand there, leaning on the rails and let the trees speak peace to my soul.K. and I have a polite disagreement about the deck. She thinks the deck is a convenient place to put a sandbox for the kids, and I think the deck is mine, mine, Mine. We had a married couple over the other day and I was doing my usually grousing about how the sand is ruining my deck and the wife asked, "What is it with guys and decks?" I think they represent the male compromise with domesticity--if you need me, honey, I'll be right outside, cooking slabs of mammoth.

From the deck you can see where we've staked out our new garden and have begun to dig. Last Saturday I jumped on a flat-edged spade approximately 100 times, cutting a twenty by thirty foot perimeter for next year's peas and pumpkins. We need to rent a sod-cutter soon before the ground gets too hard, or we'll have to save all our prep work until the spring thaw. Today was already the second frost of the season, and K. went into the backyard to take some photos. The deck is nice, but have I mentioned that I love the backyard?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Lucy's Corner: Special Day

It was three years ago yesterday that I finished a job interview in Elsewhere, walked back to the hotel, and got the message that K. had gone into labor. Never mind that we had carefully scheduled interviews two weeks around K's due date. Never mind that my flight wasn't going to leave for another six hours--Lucy was ready to take the world by a storm.What a storm it has been. It's been only recently that we've stopped calling Lucy "Little Trouble," and I think we stopped only because she somehow got big, and so did the trouble. God made Lucy especially winsome and winning to keep the rest of us from wanting to throttle her quite so often. She's a cheerful explosion, and as the wood and plaster settles to the ground you start to make out the dimples, beaming at you through the dust. I love her dearly and want her to stay small forever.I was at work for most of Lucy's waking hours, but K. reports that the Birthday Girl has been especially happy and bright today. We didn't hire any clowns, but I think she enjoyed herself. What do you think?

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Blue Peter

It's been three weeks since I started my new job, long enough that if I wait any longer to write about it I'll have to start putting "new" in quotes. It would be overreaching to say that my new line of work is everything I could ever hope for in a life's work, but as legal careers go the position feels like quite the coup. The hours are somewhat longer than what I was working for the government, but I have near complete control over my schedule which is amazing bordering on miraculous. I see the kids at both breakfast and dinner, and don't have to worry about opposing counsel ruining my weekends or vacations. The head of our practice group--the partner assigning most of my work--is pretty near ideal as far as bosses go: extremely knowledgeable, always available to discuss questions, but otherwise respectfully hands-off. The work itself should be the subject of another post, but for now it's enough to say that I've found it easy to imagine myself following this path for years to come.

In explanation of the title, the Blue Peter was and is a nautical signal flag--a white square against a blue background--flown from the mast of a ship to indicate that the ship was about to proceed to sea. Sailors in port would keep an eye out for the Blue Peter to let them know that it was time to repair aboard ship, to make haste lest they get left behind, and so it seems natural that the flag has come to represent a spirit of optimism and adventure. In the novels of Patrick O'Brian, naturalist Stephen Maturin is quite taken with the idea of the Blue Peter, the flag bringing to his mind feelings of freshness, new horizons, new life. Happy in my new job, I've been looking to buy a Blue Peter to frame and hang over my desk, a visual reminder of my bright new prospects.

My good fortune must be palpable to others: Today I wore my best suit to work so that a photographer could take my headshot for the firm website. There, under the soft glow of professional lighting, a makeup lady brushed my eyebrows, powdered my nose, and straightened my tie. I'm guessing I looked pretty good, because that evening, while I was waiting for the bus, a middle-aged woman approached me and this is what she said: "Hi, I'm Doris. I'm not a prostitute or anything like that--I just like white men. Are you married?" Oh yeah, the future looks bright.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Good Neighbors

We hadn't been in our new home for an hour before the neighbors started showing up. I was lying inert in a pile of moving boxes when our next door neighbor knocked on the door with a housewarming gift in her hand. Then the retired nurse across the street introduced herself with all our neighbors' names and numbers written down on an index card. Then the couple directly across from us came over with all their small kids and pretty soon we were over in their yard, playing with their toys and climbing their tree. A few days later the nurse's husband--the one who raises South African turtles--dropped off a box of heirloom tomatoes and acorn squash. I only hope we can be as neighborly to all of them as they have already been to us.

On the day of the move I saw a gigantic black and yellow spider stretched across the back of the deck, her abdomen bloated like a snake's head. The next day I saw her in a nearby bush, smaller and clearly protective of the egg sac she had just laid:
I don't know how she got around with all those eggs, since the sac ended up being about as large as a medium-sized marble.
We thought the spectacle, being so close to the house, would freak the kids out, but a recent reading of Charlotte's Web gave the spider and her magnum opus an aura of familiarity. K. still wants me to move the sac further afield before we're knee deep in creepy babies, but I feel full of neighborly magnaminity--half the fun of owning your own yard is letting other kids play in it, right?

On the other hand, we discovered that the bushes lining our driveway are being slowly eaten alive by bagworms, and this is where my live-and-let-live philosophy gets thrown out the window. We first became acquainted with bagworms two years ago when we came to Elsewhere for a summer internship. On one of our exploratory Sunday walks we noticed two blighted bushes--no leaves, but covered with pulsing, prickly pods like the one below:
Apparently, the bagworm slowly works its way around the bush, weaving bits of leaves and bark into its silk bag so that it has some protection during the slow process of turning itself into something slightly less repulsive. Some of our bushes have had an entire side stripped bare, but even partial damage is readily discernible.
I don't know if I would feel more sympathetic to the bagworms if they looked more appealing, but we couldn't kill those things fast enough. They were surprisingly difficult to pluck off, sometimes taking the whole twig with them, but even they weren't as tenacious as Lucy once we put her and the other kids on the job. Pretty soon our driveway was the site of a bagworm massacre.

I felt a twinge of remorse for our treatment of the bagworms--some of them are probably still alive and lying in a maimed, half-formed state until a heavy rain washes them away. Under the laws of nature they can probably claim precedence since they were prospering long before we showed up. Still, we have an expensive piece of paper that says the land is ours and they were making our bushes look ugly and that is apparently enough of an intrusion to justify their complete extermination. I'm not saying it was wrong, but I wonder whether it should seem normal.

Later that day we were walking in the backyard and saw a big, bright, fuzzy caterpillar slowly feeding itself a length of pine needle. I'm not saying that looks are everything, but we let him live.

Friday, August 31, 2007


Hawaii proved to be too rich a subject for our camera battery--after a flurry of picture-taking the day and a half before my sister Christie's wedding, the battery went on strike and would only take a handful of shots before needing to be recharged all over again. We had to borrow my parent's camera for half the trip, which is why this post has no actual pictures of Christie the bride or Joe, her very excellent groom. (Note to the family--now would be a good time to do that photo-sharing we talked so much about.)

When you go to a well-known tourist destination like Hawaii, I'm not convinced that your photos need a lot of captions--certainly the sun, waves, and smiles can all speak for themselves, and common knowledge can fill in most of the blanks ("The kids rode a boogie board at the beach; they liked it a lot.")

Sage and Lucy met their charming little cousin Ellie for the first time on this trip--a spirited game of tag was not too far behind.

You'll notice that I'm wearing regular khaki shorts in the picture below. All beach trips with our kids follow the same pattern:
1) Yay! We're finally at the beach. Let's go to the hotel and unpack our things.
2) OK, we'll go to the beach first, but we're just going to look at the waves.
3) OK, you can walk along the beach, but don't get your shoes wet.
4) Your shoes are wet. I'll hold them while you stick your feet in the water, but roll up your pants so they don't get wet.
5) Your pants are wet. Yes, you can wade around in the water as long as I don't have to come get you.
6) Now my pants are wet.
A couple days after this picture I stepped on a sea urchin while snorkeling with K., souring somewhat my love of reef exploration. The spines pierced straight through my aqua socks--but you should see the other guy :)

Know Your Relatives: Can you spot Grandpa, Lucy the Flower Girl, Ian the Ring Bearer, and Uncle Bryce in this picture?
Sadly, this shot of everyone's backs is the only actual wedding picture our camera afforded us before lapsing into another coma.

And this is from a cool excursion we took with my Dad to 'Iao Valley State Park.
Tropical Storm Flossie brought a lot of wind and fog that day, which actually enhanced the valley's natural awesomeness.

See for yourself:

And here's some of the usual suspects (including Grandma and Grandpa, and cool uncles Bryce and Bob) overlooking a surf spot on Maui before catching our flight to Waikiki Beach. Pictured or unpictured, it was so good to see my whole family after a long time away, and you couldn't ask for a better occasion to bring us all together.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Daytrips from Elsewhere

Not much text this time--since we got our digital camera K. and I have probably taken over 1000 pictures. I've just discovered that Flickr is holding some of my better shots for ransom until I upgrade to a paying account, but here are some that managed to escape capture:

Hopefully the next post will have some pics of white sand and blue water...