Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sandy, Duke and Nora

As Elder's Quorum President, S. has been heavily involved in our ward's volunteer efforts to help in Sandy disaster relief.  They began sending work teams up the weekend of November 17th, and have been going strong ever since, including Black Friday.  They're planning another trip this coming weekend as well, which will make the 6th full work day for S. (aside from being the ward's point man for administrative details), but there are plenty who have equaled or even exceeded him.  Not including last weekend, Mormon volunteers from all over the region have totaled nearly 200,000 hours of volunteer service, which is like one guy having a 40-hour workweek for a hundred straight years.

One day in particular, he spent his time mucking out a boardwalk arcade in Keansburg, New Jersey.  He said it was nearly unrecognizable as an arcade, even after shoveling piles and piles of sand out; but as the guys were leaving, the grateful owner ran after them to give them this gargantuan stuffed lion that had been spared.  S. ended up with it, and Nora immediately named it Duke and attached herself to it. 

S. and I were actually hoping to pass it along to someone who needed it more, and tried to throw persuasive hints out, but she wasn't buying it.  We talked about foster kids who didn't have families who would love a big cuddly friend like Duke, etc., but to no avail.  Finally one night, I asked her if she thought maybe we should tell Santa that she didn't really need a present from him, since she loved Duke so much; and that way Santa could give something better to someone who didn't have anything already.  Or she could let Duke go somewhere else and get her own present from Santa.

After a brief pause (in which I felt totally guilty), she told me we could give Duke away.

So, yesterday morning we buckled Duke up in the car to go with S. to his work's adopt-a-family toy drive.  S. hadn't been privy to the change of heart, and asked Nora why she finally decided someone else could have Duke.  "I made a deal with Mom," she said.  He thought that was enigmatically funny.

Now, I do feel that I forced the issue a tad; but I wouldn't have torn him away from her if she really hadn't been willing.  She didn't have to think too long about it, never cried and hasn't mentioned him again since he left. 

I just don't want my kids to take for granted that they have so much, and that more just "shows up".  We haven't always been so blessed.  It was nice to have Duke, but not miraculous-feeling -- I hope that he is a miracle to whoever receives him.

And now we have a great memory of all of us waving to him as he drove out of the driveway!

Thanks to all the great people who pay it forward whenever they get the chance.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Percy Jackson Party

We daringly invited 11 of these to our house this weekend:

They played capture the flag, pinned-the-eye-on-a-Cyclops, and fought Kronos (older brother Ian) with half a dollar-store pool noodle.

We made shrinky-dink Camp Half-Blood necklaces:

We fed them sloppy Joes (unthematic, just fun), blue Jello cake and "magic" blue soda.  I put a drop of blue food coloring in the bottom of each cup in advance, so when I poured the ginger ale it bubbled up blue in front of their eyes.  I can't believe they didn't catch on, but they so didn't!

We sent them home with t-shirts, chocolate coins (drachma), mentos (like Minos?), and bubbles (the Mist).

All to celebrate this:

We love you, Sage!  Happy Eleventh!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tough Mudder

I'm going to totally mooch off of our friend (and photographer) to show you the event that S. did a few weeks back, since we've been too lazy to post about it:

It was a military-style obstacle course over about 12 miles of track.  The spot that sounded scariest to me was having to jump in a tank of 34-degree ice water and submerge yourself to swim under a barrel...not to mention the 12 miles, of course.

So, check out the documentation on This Is Us.  Of course, more of the pictures are of S.'s teammate, whose wife had the camera -- but if you look for a guy in a long-sleeved blue shirt, blue backpack, and white (or whitish, after the mud) stripe on his shorts, S. is visible in a bunch of shots.  The kids and I didn't get to make the trip to watch, but we're glad someone else was able to capture the hard-core fun!

The linked blog has 61 photos, and S. is in these if you count 'em: 2, 7 (off on the left), 8, 16, 23, *24, 26, 27 (upper corner), 28, 29 (lower corner), 30 has just his arm, *40, *45, 47, 52, 53, 57, 58, 60, and 61.  *Nice heroic solo portraits :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Body Beautiful

So recently K. and I have been skimming through Tim Ferriss's book, The 4-Hour Body, looking for some diet and exercise tips, and then this morning, out of the blue, K. sends me a quick message saying "I would like to remain at a safe distance from Tim Ferriss in person.  He's just not my type."  Go figure.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Summer arrives
With a length of lights;
Summer blows away
And quietly gets swallowed by a wave.
 - "Summersong" by the Decemberists

For me, the defining feature of summer is that it slips away.  Fall is about the slow, bittersweet advance of longer nights and colder days, winter exists to be endured, and spring is the soul's coming to life and loving the world again, but somehow it's summer that makes me feel the turning of the earth, ever rolling out of the present.  The sunlight lies to you, claiming to be endless, but before you know it the fireflies have come and gone and all the things you meant to do are either done or deferred.  You look at the calendar and hope that the memories are enough to sustain you as you brace for the year's long slide into night.

These days, I can actually feel time getting away from me.  Sometime in the last year it feels like I turned a corner, with my body and mind finally tending toward a slow decline.  I can't remember names the way I used to, the extra weight is harder to lose, and even my running has a new, leaden quality that wasn't there a year ago.  I started running five years back, knowing these days were coming and now, without any fanfare, here they are.

Of course, these are the complaints of someone who, with any luck, has forty or more summers ahead of him.  Two weeks ago my mother was told that her cancer is incurable, and now we are trying to absorb the news that she has, in all likelihood, just two years or less.  I'm trying very hard not to live in denial, but I just can't seem to understand what this means for her, for me, and for all of us.  Two years or twenty, the future twists out of my grasp like a wisp of smoke, impossible to imagine, let alone to hold with any promise.  What will these final years be like?  What will be left undone, or unsaid?  What will we keep of her, and what will we miss the most?  My imagination feels dull in the face of these questions, and I'm afraid I won't be ready for what's coming.

And yet, in spite of all the uncertainty and the accumulating reminders of mortality, it has been a bright, wonderful summer.  We've grilled with neighbors, swam in pools, and ridden our bikes in the sun.  We've dipped our toes in the Pacific and the Atlantic, visited old friends, and seen a sister married.  Maybe it's easier to remember the highlights, but they were there.  So many times K. and I look at our children, really listen to them talking to each other, and hope they remember, later, what a happy childhood they had.  We try to remember for them, and think how lucky we are to be here, right now, and to have this time.

Waiting for the wedding party at the Portland Temple 

Dad takes our reversal of roles like a stoic 

Ian and Erik at Devils Lake

The stairs from our cliffside house led straight to the amazing tidepools of my youth

We started collecting all the hermit crabs, but eventually the bucket got crowded

Some of my very favorite people

Our family takes a lot of pictures

Especially this lady

The engineer considers the ocean currents

Bob flees the lovebirds

And the snake finally swallows its tail--me taking a picture of Joe 
taking a picture of Mom taking a picture of Mish and JJ

My girl belongs outdoors.  She just does.

Ours were the rickety stairs on the left (not the far left)

Lucy and the Larsen cousins

Ian with new cousin Jack (and cousins Erik and Alex in the background)

Feats of strength: breaking firewood on boulders

Mom with Nora

K's cousin Becky put us up the night before our flight back

Front yard picnic with our neighbors, the Taylors

The annual Fourth of July parade

Ian's first boy scout camp

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thoughts on Independence Day

Sage at Fort McHenry

The last verse of the national anthem reads, “Oh, thus be it ever, when free men shall stand between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!  Blessed with victory and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!’  And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

In some ways it’s a bittersweet thing to be an American, but a great privilege.  There seem to be so many expressions of patriotism that are sort of a fist-pumping modern version of the rockets bursting in smoky, red air.  As Salon puts it, being a patriot does not require you to “fly the flag from your porch and the antenna of your car every day”.  Today we celebrate with fireworks which were meant to imitate and remind us of the cannons’ blasts, and probably to singe us a little so that we’re grateful for the peace we do have on our own soil.

One of my favorite heroes of our history is John Adams, the farmer-president whose infamous grumpiness I respect so wholly.  He was willing to get dirty, to be friendless, and his unwavering sense and expectation of loyalty in some cases got him into trouble -- but for the most part he was staunch and pragmatic, a man who thought deeply and pushed hard for the greater good.  I’ve sometimes wondered what he would think -- what any of them would think, Lincoln and Jefferson and so on -- of our lightning-fast, increasingly complex world now and how we conduct the business of governing it.

The United States didn’t really have the first constitution, the Magna Carta predated us; and we didn’t have the first democracy in history, of course; but we sorta did have both at the same time in a way that was unprecedented.  Greco-Roman representative democracy and the British divisions between monarchy, lords, and commoners were different than the system our founders set up.  We have less class stratification between the houses and branches of government, more power in the people to give their input, and hopefully the ability of even the most common to not only have a right but an incentive to think through the issues and participate.  

I often feel right now that our government isn’t particularly flexible, since bureaucracy and mind-numbing legislative complexity (can we say pork and special interest? taxes?) have snowballed over time, but I suppose it really is quite flexible compared to much else.  There has been civil war and disagreement, but for the most part the U.S. has been able to transition power from person to person and group to group without much of the danger that we still see in many other places.  And it has been able to do this while accommodating some of the greatest demographic diversity in the world.  (With a shout-out to Brazil and India.)

So, when I see national pride expressed on unthinking bumper stickers about knee-jerk protectionism or in terms of military might, I’m not very thrilled.  What I think is one of the greatest American gifts, though, is that we have passion.  Many passions.  I think passion combined with drive AND with a democratic framework is a pretty special American trait.  So I guess it makes me sad when people only know the first verse of the national anthem, nod to it and go grill their cattle carcasses -- it’s not just the Brave and the great bombs bursting (wasn’t that referring to the enemy bombs, anyway?) that make our country great, but the humility to recognize that we don’t quite deserve everything we’ve got, and that our loved homes are protected by god (whichever yours is) in whom is the ultimate trust.

I really do tear up at that last verse; it makes me think, somehow, of those converted Lamanites who threw down their weapons and submitted themselves to the enemy -- not because they were weak, but because they were strong, and trusted in God, and literally stood bravely between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.  And their children fought for liberty because they really understood it, probably were so receptive to their mothers’ teachings because many of their fathers had been martyred the generation before.  Think of that, understand that in all likelihood the men stepped to the front lines to protect their wives and children, and realize that those widows were still willing to teach their children to trust in God.  His power has made and preserved us a nation -- let’s remember whose arm that is as we watch those bombs bursting in air tonight.

Friday, June 29, 2012

First Pics Are In...

...From my camera, at least.

I can't wait for the professional ones, not to mention full video of the choreographed dance at the reception.

We did a day with our long-lost friends H. and J. and their kids, then the wedding at the Portland Temple and reception that evening, and then a few days at a beach house in Lincoln City.

That's the quickie for now!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Results Are In: He's Cooler Than The Fonz

Fathers probably have less dignity to lose, so I have no picture of S. in a humorous, slightly compromised state.  Instead, I offer this (5th annual) caricature in breakfast food.

Yes, he's got a bacon moustache and is sticking out his strawberry tongue at us all.  We love you, S.!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Blessed Are the Mothers...

. . . for they are loved well, and often, and beyond all dignity.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Harry Potter

All about Ian's themed party at Karrot Soup!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


The Sacred Grove, "early in the spring"

Palmyra Temple, where Scott and I spent a few happy hours; and the replica of the Smith's first log cabin

The very bricks under which the plates were hidden, or so we were told

Whitmer farm (I think), where much of the translation work was done 


The kids getting their crazies out...in front of the temple...before our long drive home

Who knows how much they'll remember, but we all felt the goodness of what started here.