Sunday, February 13, 2011

Farmington Bay at Sunset

Stake Conference this afternoon focused on how precious time and agency are. Great counsel was given about decision-making and choosing the best over the good.  Maybe I should have done other things this evening with my time, but a long, hard week left me longing for beauty and quiet, a place to unwind and be slow. I headed out to Farmington Bay with the hopes of seeing the graceful flight of some bald eagles, which usually congregate there this time of year.

There were no eagles this day -- the weather has been so unusually warm (almost scarily so) that it may have them elsewhere.  But every time I come here I think "I should do this more often." It doesn't rank very high among the great smells in the world, but sights and sounds more than compensate.

As sun fell toward night, I watched my little town in the warm evening light, and thought about the hundreds of hours I spent not far from this spot, working with a grandfather whose love of "fussing" (finding and applying himself--and us--to any task that might improve the world) and belly-deep chuckle still make me smile.

The lifegiving peaks of the Wasatch range towered in the distance, a nice reminder of yesterday's ski trip with the daughter I love so much. The power of the sun and light amazed me as windows many miles away painted streaks across the bay in front of me.

Without another soul in sight, I watched gold come to life in every drop of water in heaven or on earth.

And the sounds.  Hundreds of snow and Canadian geese welcomed compatriots with the happy honking only a goose can make. Ducks quacked, seagulls did whatever they do, and there was no other noise to interrupt this orchestra of primordial sound.

As I turned to walk back to my car, owls flew around me in the near dark. All told, it was  exactly what I needed.  Perhaps that means I chose the best over the good, though convention might suggest otherwise.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Being Alden's dad is, quite simply, a dream come true.  I find myself wishing everyone could have the experience, because it really is one of the greatest things in life. While food phobia and occasional skillsaw whining keep him a reasonable distance from translation, I could not love this little guy more than I do.  Why?

Well, let me list just a few of the many reasons to love Alden.

He Is Just So Happy.  Whenever you ask Alden how he's doing, the response is always the same: "Great!"  Never, good, or ok, or fine.  Just great, and always with the exclamation point.  And it is true.  You should hear the exuberant joy in his voice -- it sounds like everything you ever wanted a little boy to be -- full of wonder, excitement, fun, adventure, and love all wrapped up together in a miraculous ball.  I may have said this before, but I get so much joy out of the straightforward, basic statements Alden makes with that wonderful voice.  They may be things like, “Mmmm, Coke is good!” or, when told tomorrow is Saturday “Oooh! Saturday is my FAVORITE day!” or “Dad, I love snuggling with you.”
One evening I tried to get Alden to clean up the Legos Keegan had just dumped all over the floor.  He said, “not now dad. I have to build a little masterpiece first.” Which leads to . . .

He Is The World's Greatest 6-Year Old [Lego] Builder.  This one will not surprise any reader of this blog, but I have to say, the concentration he shows when it comes to Lego, or building anything for that matter, is pretty remarkable.  He just loves it and it shows, from the extended tongue, to the super-chapped lips, to the I-did-it grin at the end.

The age range on the box for the item above said "9 to 14 years of Age."  I relayed that piece of information to him and asked, "do you think you can do it?" 
"Yes Dad, I can build anything with Legos. I am really good at it."  And so he did. After several uninterrupted hours, there it was, and he was all grins. 

His talents are not limited to Lego. This past fall we were working in the garden together, but had to stop because a wheelbarrow was definitely needed, and ours had a serious flat. After repeated attempts at re-inflation, we went to Lowes and bought a replacement tire. Arriving back at the house, I handed my then-five-year-old the package, a wrench, and a screwdriver, and said, "do you think you can change out the wheel on our wheelbarrow?"  Off he ran with the package, down to the shed, and before I could really even get to raking the garden fully, he came back and stated, very matter-of-factly,  "Dad, I did it. Come and get the wheelbarrow."  Sure enough, there it was, perfectly done except for a little necessary tightening. He just amazes me sometimes.

He just loves to build, whatever the item may be.  Case in point, his mom bought both a vacuum and one of those steam racks you see advertised on TV.  Alden was so excited he could hardly stand it, ripping open the packages just so he could assemble them, which he did without much trouble, despite the paucity of adequate instructional images. Not bad for a guy who is still just learning to read. Needless to say my mind is racing way ahead of itself on the possibilities here, and for those of you who know of my mechanical prowess, all I can say is that there must be a God and I think he really likes me. :-)

He Loves To Party. Birthdays, Christmas, you name it, he revels in it as deep as can be. Most years Alden's birthday begins about a month before hand, with him insisting that we buy his presents well ahead of the actual day. Having given his promise, he absolutely will not open them before the day, but will carry them about, just looking at the package in sheer, delicious anticipation. 

And that is not even the half of it when it comes to Christmas.  This year, he repeatedly asked when we could get "decorations" -- this started before Thanksgiving.  When his mom finally told him we could put up Christmas lights on the house, he said “Oh, Thank you!” He ran around telling everyone how many days until Christmas, and frequently says "I just love Christmas." Then, late the night of Christmas day, a
fter what seemed non-stop mayhem and pandemonium, he was headed out to bed.  Reaching the door frame, he yawned, paused for a moment, then looked back and said “Wow! That was really fun having Christmas.” 

More than a month later, I saw him toting our video camera around with him from room to room.  I asked what he was doing.  "Looking at our video from Christmas.  'Cause I really miss it."

He Is All Boy. This story has been told so many times I can't recall if I have related it here before or not, but it bears repeating.  One night, Alden and Kate asked for “a sleepover,” which meant sleeping in the same room. It really is an excuse for them to stay up late and play together, but it is kinda cute that they want to do that, so we let them.  On this occasion, it was to be in Kate’s room, which I must note has a lot of pink and  Barbie's galore.  When the time came, Alden walked in and within five seconds said “Ugh, its all girl things.  I’ve got to go get some boy things!”  There began a long procession of trips back and forth to his room, first for the V-19 Torrent Star Fighter, then the F-22 Raptor, then the bionicle, then the transformer, etc. Finally, after about five trips, he said “Ok, I can stay now.”  

He Is a Great Brother.  He will hug and snuggle Kate as many times as she asks, and that could take a toll on most boys, since she is the Queen Mother of all cuddly love. And he is so patient with Keegan, playing with him hours on end, dutifully repeating everything Keegan tells him to say when they play Transformers, or Star Wars, as the case may be.  Moreover, even though Keegan repeatedly destroys in five seconds flat the "masterpieces" Alden has just spent hours in building, Alden very rarely uses physical violence to express his disapproval. Keegan has no clue how lucky he is.

He Will Never Lie.  I know I have said this about him before, but he continues to amaze me. He  seems completely incapable of telling you something he doesn't feel or believe, no matter how badly you want to hear it. We are now reading the New Testament together as a family, and I think of him like Nathanael, "in whom there is no guile."  It is one of the many ways in which he is a miracle.

He Is Just So Stinking Smart.  I think we have reported that Alden is doing a Chinese immersion program in Kindergarten, which he is slated to continue up through 6th grade. He absolutely loves it. We have a nightly tradition of sitting around the dinner table and asking each person what was sweet about their day, and what was sour.  For at least the first three months of school, Alden's "sweet" was "going to school."  And get a load of his tests:

Maybe I am just another  obnoxiously proud parent, but dang, that is pretty amazing. And you should try attending parent-teacher conference. The whole thing was conducted in Chinese!  Alden was the only one who knew what was going on, and had to translate, which was probably the point but was something to behold. (Huge, huge thank you to our chronically under-funded public schools and hard working educators, who do such great work with slim resources.  My son is so engaged, which is such a big relief.)

Last week we went to Alden's Chinese New Year celebration/program. Here are a few pictures.

As you can see, he is absolutely smitten with his teacher (he was so excited to give her this little box gift). In fact, all the kids just love her to death. She has been here in the US less than a year, and is only now learning english, but her methods of teaching are all very active and participatory, and it really shows.  We are so grateful to her.

During the program, I ran into an old friend who happens to volunteer one day a week in Alden's class. She told me how much she loved Alden, and then told a couple of stories I have to share (thanks Leslie!).  Part of my friend's duties one day involved showing the kids a picture of a computer and a picture of a crayon, and asking, 'which one is heavier?'  Alden looked at her sideways for a moment then said: “Well, they’re both made of paper . . . .”

Leslie also related that one day she showed the kids various shapes, and asked them to name the shape. Alden was the only one to get “trapezoid,”  pronouncing it perfectly.  Both Kath and I turned and looked at each other with puzzled expressions when we heard this. Where does he get that?  Leslie also says that he is doing math naturally in his head. When shown a grouping of squares in even rows, some with dots in them, and some without, he adds the dots by rows rather than counting them out.  

Of course, he got his math genes from me . . . :-0

He Will Always Make You Smile. With Alden, there are daily events that just leave you smiling (or laughing uncontrollably, as the case may be). By way of example, one night a few weeks ago, he was rough-housing with Uncle Rob, and wouldn’t you know it, his privates came in sharp contact with Uncle Rob’s shoe.  It was his first time, and he got real quiet, walking around half bent over, looking very concerned.  Finally, when it wouldn't go away, he pulled his pants down to look at the jewels, as if needing reassurance there was no grotesque disfigurement involved.  Uncle Rob chose that moment to say, “Oh No!  It looks like we’ll have to amputate!”  The look of sheer terror on Alden's face was something to behold. I am still laughing to this day.

And then there was this evening. He headed off to bed, but soon returned with an alarm clock from his room that wasn’t working.  He asked us to fix it and set it for “early in the morning.”  "Why?" we asked. “Because I want to see the sunrise, it is just so beautiful on the clouds.”   

How can you not love this wonderful little boy? He just melts me. I am a very, very lucky man.