Thursday, May 31, 2007

But There Are Flowers

Today on NPR (Pacific Time) I heard a haiku by Issa Kobayashi that I have not been able to get out of my head.
He said:

"In this world
We toil on the roof of hell
Gazing at flowers."

He may be right. There are many days when I wonder what is about to bubble up and engulf me. But there are flowers. And they are so beautiful.

Monday, May 28, 2007

For Our Dear Departing Dentals

Through our ward (local church congregation) we know quite a few dental students who are attending the University of the Pacific. They are amazing. Faithful. Giving. Dedicated. Terrific parents. Wonderful friends. Very smart -- with one exception. Many are from Arizona, and they insist on returning to Arizona in the middle of June after they finish school. How they can do this after experiencing the nice, COOL San Francisco weather is beyond us. Who willingly lives in a place where you are one power failure away from death by heatstroke? Perhaps they are inexplicably drawn to the beauty of Metropolitan Phoenix. In a last ditch effort to save them from this fatal attraction, we post a few pictures from Brett's commute.

A San Francisco morning commute.

A San Francisco evening commute.

'Nuf said.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The New Math

It seems obvious even to the casual that Kate really loves her little brother. Yesterday, we learned that what seems clear is always more complicated than that. Grandma, commenting on Kate's affection, asked Kate what she loved most about her brother Alden.

Kate thought for a minute, then responded, "Well, he helps me with my math."

Grandma: "Oh, how does he do that?"

Kate: "I've learned that BOY + 2 = T-R-O-U-B-L-E."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

President Kate

Today my parents arrived from Salt Lake City. Kate was so excited when she found out they were coming that she squealed as only a seven year old girl can.

While we were waiting for the flight to land, we had our first discussion about politics. It began when I picked up a book about the actions of a certain president whose name shall not be spoken. Kate asked me what it was about, and when I told her, she initiated a 20 minute conversation about what makes a good president versus a truly atrocious one. Arrogance, hubris, hypocrisy, lack of respect for the law and constitutional rights, lying, and a complete unwillingness to study, consult experts and consider different opinions before taking precipitous action, all figured prominently in the discussion.

Grandma, who has been a straight-ticket Republican since Eisenhower, found out about our little discussion as soon as she entered the car. Kate recited the whole thing at rapid-fire speeds which brooked no interruption. When an exasperated Grandma was finally able to get a word in edgewise, she asked Kate "Don't you think it would be hard to think about and do all the things that the President has to do? Do you think you could do it any better?"

Kate didn't miss a beat: "ABSOLUTELY! I know I could!"

That's my girl. I know she could too.

Children and Parks

We had a rare errand-free hour on Saturday, and headed straight for a favorite park. Everyone should have the chance to be with children in a park. Sunlight, breeze, body, motion: a happy confluence of the simple and magical that is life at its elemental best.

The Security Blanket

In case you were wondering, here, in all its glory, is the security blanket. Bed without these is simply not possible, and is dicey even with them. Why four, you may ask? Well, it started out as one, but Alden insisted on carrying it everywhere. Of course, that meant it was nowhere to be found when needed for its actual purpose. And so there was a second purchase. And a third. And then a fourth. We now have about 6 in our house, and that seems to be a magic number. (It is just too hard to carry any more than four.) I hope we can use them all by the time he is ready to graduate to the hard stuff.

An Ecstacy of Mush

Spoon, fist, finger--once you get to a certain point, it is all the same. He was in heaven. After the first bite, he was more anxious than a nest of robin chicks after a regurgitated worm. I don't think he'll be quite as picky as his brother.

Truth or Fiction?

Tonight Kate spent quite some time in the bath. When she was done she related an elaborate story, lasting at least 20 minutes, about the Great San Francisco Bay Tsunami, and her home becoming a Noah’s Ark for all kinds of animals and aquatic life. She prefaced the story by noting, very carefully, that it was fiction, but that about a third of the way through, it turned to fantasy, especially the part where she started helping unicorns and people like Rapunzel. I asked her what the difference was between fantasy and fiction. She said that fiction “is something that has never happened, but could happen.” Fantasy, however, was something “made up that could never really happen, like sea horses galloping on land or unicorns flying through the air.” I doubt any English teacher could improve on that distinction. She is quite a girl, with quite an imagination. Maybe we have a little writer on our hands.

Alden, who shared the long bath with her tonight, is still of simpler thoughts. All he wanted to do afterwards was “dance with Shrek” before going to bed. And so they are in their shared room, Shrek soundtrack blaring, dancing away. Contrary to Kate’s bright lines, truth and fiction seem to inhabit the same space in our house on many happy days.

Who needs "perfect" with eyes like these?

Meet Alden, who has never even had the desire to be perfect. Sorry bud, but it’s true. You and easy have never even been in the same state, let alone the same ballpark. Start, for example, with the fact that you won’t go anywhere outside the house, or to bed for that matter, without your “security blanket.” I know that sounds pretty innocuous, except that it has never actually been a blanket. It started as two freshly bought Disney DVD’s, whose pristine plastic backs were just primed for nice long scratches – you know, the type that come from tossing them down the street to see how far they slide. (Believe me, there was no sense arguing on this, unless we wanted to drag you around by your kicking feet.) But that is not all. The list of ‘must carry’ items has steadily grown. It now includes 7 Disney and Pixar DVD’s, in their proper cases; 1 Scooby Doo lunch box; two tubes of toothpaste -- SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer, respectively; “Mr. the King” from the movie Cars; and at least one book of the moment, or the occasional ball. Just try carrying that, plus you, plus a bag of groceries or two.

Then there is the fact that you won’t eat anything but Apple Jacks and French Fries these days. Ok, Ok, so you’ll also eat anything with more than 50% sugar, and occasionally you’ll participate in rice and fish sticks. But that’s it, and you’re getting dang skinny. Yet, if we put any other kind of food on your plate, you throw a grand mal seizure. We do know a lot of dentists these days, and I often think about getting one of those handy devices that pry your mouth open for wisdom teeth extraction. It could be useful for, say, jamming food in there. . . . Of course, I am just kidding, we have never forced you to eat anything. Besides, Kath pointed out that you can’t swallow if your mouth can’t close. (So much for Intelligent Design . . .)

Yet you rescue yourself from the doghouse of “difficult” every time. Sometimes, it is the fact that you pat me on the back when I’m carrying you, or the sudden recollection of the way you run when you’re happy – at full speed, with both arms behind you, chest and head thrust forward, and a wide open smile on your face -- in perfect Chariots of Fire form. At other times it’s because you are constantly picking out even the smallest of trademarks --“look, there’s Pixar (or Disney, or Noggin, or THX, or the all time favorite, Nick Jr.),” and I realize that you are every marketer’s dream child. Two weeks ago it was because you ran over to a garbage can in McDonalds, and as I steeled myself for the worst, you began reading off each letter in the words “thank you” that were printed there. (“Look dad, there’s a “T!”) How can you not smile at a two and a half year old that can recognize almost every letter in the alphabet?

But most of the time, it is because I can’t get out of my head the way you say “I wuv you dad” when I put you to bed. I love you too, buddy.

The Perfect Child

You are looking at the perfect child, Keegan Bailey. Well, ok, he doesn’t sleep through the night yet, but that is mostly our fault for being too busy to teach him. Other than that, I don’t know how he could be a better baby. Poor kid has been very sick this week, with a cough that hurts you viscerally every time you hear it. Yet Keegan will get done with one of those coughing fits and just look at you and . . . grin. The worst he gets is a quizzical ‘what the heck was that, am I ok?’ kind of look. It only lasts a few seconds, then he goes back to smiling and sticking whatever he can find into his mouth. I am so in love with this child I don’t even know where to begin. He is amazing.

Singing to the Dawn

There is nothing quite like being the dad of Kate. It is the best thing in the world to be. Case in point: a few nights ago, Kate decided to sleep on the couch. The next morning, at about 6:30 a.m., Kathleen nudged me awake, and said “can you go check on the kids, I think I heard something.” I went out to the living room, but there was no sign of Kate, though I could hear her voice, muffled, somewhere. Eventually, I looked out our front door onto the porch. Sure enough, there she was, facing east, singing away in full voice. It was a beautiful morning, with the dawn lighting up a storm mounting over the Marin headlands to the west. I asked Kate what she was doing. “Oh, it is such a beautiful sunrise, and I heard the birds singing, and I wanted to join them. So I am just singing to the dawn.”