Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tough Girl

Kate has been taking Tae Kwon Do for some time now.  Yesterday was a big test, to see if she could become a "black belt deputy 2."  The tests involve sparring with others, and of course, breaking perfectly good boards in half with a bare hand or foot (or in this case, two boards, one with each).  A student has to show in practice that they can do all that is required, including breaking boards, before they can undertake the actual test, performed in front of the parents of everyone in her academy class and others.

The day before the test, Kate worked so hard, and hit a board so many times, that she got the cut and bruise you can see on her middle finger knuckle above.  Yet the very next day, she came for testing, and blew through the board with that same bare, un-bandaged knuckle, bruising her forefinger knuckle in the process. She passed with flying colors.  While I have no idea what a "black belt deputy 2" is, it must mean in part "ONE TOUGH GIRL."   One thing I do know, however, is that Kate totally rocks.    I am also starting to realize that since many of my bones are thinner than the board she broke, I may need to tread more lightly in the "parental suggestions for improvement" category.

Like I needed that--parenting is hard enough as it is. Luckily for me, she is just a great girl, so I remain naively hopeful we can get through her impending teenage years with my bones intact. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

For Aldy on His Birthday

November 10, 2011

Dear Aldy,

You are seven years old! I can’t believe that, but what I do believe is that you are the greatest ever.  I am beyond amazed that I have a child who is only seven years old, and yet I don’t feel the need to worry about you at all – you will do just fine in life, come what may. That sounds crazy given how tough the world can be, but I know it is true.  There is just something about you little buddy.  No matter what happens, you will be able to work your way through it, and not just survive, but thrive.

The reasons would make a list a mile long, but let me write a few:
  • You are a really good person.  You are always trying to do what is right, to understand other people, and to be fair and kind and helpful.  You are just a great kid that way.  Those qualities will be really important when you grow up, too.
  • You are a great friend.  I can hear it in your voice whenever you talk about your friends and cousins – you love them, and they mean a lot to you. You are always excited to see them, and your affection is so genuine.  I hope you never take for granted the joy and love that comes with being a good friend.  It is one of the most important things you can ever be.
  • You are true to yourself, and have incredible integrity.  If something is not right or doesn’t feel good to you, you just won't do it, period, no matter how much pressure there is to cave in. It may not seem like it some times, but I love this about you.  Always listen to your heart and the Holy Spirit, Aldy, and do what they tell you, no matter what.  If you do, everything will work for your good in the end.  I know you will resist any pressure to do wrong, sell out, give in, or go with the mediocre flow, and it makes me so happy.  It is an important key to a wonderful life. 
  • You have an amazing ability to focus.  I have never seen anyone with your ability to concentrate and see a project through to the end.  Thousands of Lego pieces, with three-volume instructions? No problem, even if it takes two days straight, with virtually no breaks, to build it. 'Nuf said.  
  • You are really smart.  Speaking, reading, writing, even learning math in Chinese as a first grader. Reading verses from Isaiah without assistance during family scripture study.  Complete computer-savviness even before you could read.  Beating your father at Angry Birds every time.  Calculating Pi out to the 20th decimal point – ok, so maybe beating dad at Angry Birds isn't so impressive, and maybe I made that last one up, but really, need I say more? You just rock.
  • You are persistent, and won’t take no for an answer.  While this can be excruciating for your parents, with some fine-tuning it will be a great skill for you one day.  You already get so much more out of us than you should just because it wears us down to have to say no.  We are very hopeful that our pain becomes your gain – in persuading others about your ideas or inventions, whatever they may be.
  • Simple things make you happy. The other day, you told me “Dad, I love the seasons.” And so it is with you. Short, declarative statements about simple things that make you happy.  The first snowfall. A rainstorm with water coursing down the gutter.  A beautiful day. A funny joke. Unwrapping presents. Riding your bike. Sand and waves on a beach.  The perfect way two things fit together.  Little, simple things make you happy buddy. And that is such a great way to be. Never lose that quality, and you will be in for a long and very contented life.
  • You are by nature polite.  From the very earliest days, you were always saying “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” It may seem like a small thing, but civility and respect are qualities you have always had. The world is in short supply of both, and whenever something is that rare, it is bound to be valuable. Always be that way, Aldy, even if no one else around you is, and it will pay off before all is said and done.
  • You have no guile in you. To this day, you refuse to lie, even when there are consequences to telling the truth. Wow.  I have so much respect for you I can’t even begin to describe how impressed I am by your honesty.  I will always believe you buddy, because you have never given me a reason to do otherwise, and so far, it hasn’t even crossed your mind to do that. You are wonderful. 
  • You say really great prayers. I love family prayer, and waiting to hear what you will say. You  give it so much thought, take whatever time is necessary, and say what is in your heart. Prayers do more good than we will ever know, and yours are special. Keep up the good work!

  • Last But Not Least, You Are A Great Brother.  You are so patient with Keegan. You let him pal around with you talking non-stop like he does, pestering you with questions, insisting on doing things his way, and yet you rarely lose patience with him. And you love Kate so much, and are so good with her.  Family is the most important thing on this planet, Aldy, and you already know how to do it so well. Thank you. 

I love you so deeply, little buddy. I am the luckiest dad in the whole world.  Happy, Happy Birthday!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Back to England -- In My Mind

Well, with a couple of exceptions, I left off blogging in the middle of England (geographically as well as mid-trip) -- in Sheffield to be exact.  I need to finish recording that trip here before I forget everything, and really, the north of England is beautiful, absolutely worth a visit for anyone considering a European destination, so I thought I would share those memories with anyone who still cares to stop by this poor neglected URL.


After traipsing around my Dad's old haunts in downtown Sheffield, we headed to the very nearby town of Dore, to visit English family of my aunt Dot (formally Dorothy, but she could never go by that in a million years). Here they are:

Mary, in the center with my mom, is Dot's sister in law, and a very spry 86. To her left is her daughter Jane, with Jane's husband Duncan just behind.  Kate (not pictured because she had to leave before lunch), is Jane and Duncan's daughter, had just become a Solicitor -- an english lawyer that does anything and everything but appear in court.

After a lovely visit in Mary's home, we wandered off with her, Duncan and Jane to the center of Dore, which is quite the quaint little town.

There we dined at a true English pub, the Hare and Hound (really, can there be anything more quintessential than that?), where we had Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding. It was was fabulous, as was the hearty laughter that only the self-deprecating British can truly achieve.

Memories of my Grandma Winnie flooded through me as we ate.  She had cooked dinner for us almost every Sunday of my youth, and more often than not it involved a very good helping of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, smothered in gravy, with a vegetable side, usually carrots or peas. Crowded around the small round table in her modest kitchen, we ate every last scrap of the pudding and every last drop of gravy, only peripherally aware of its roots in this distant land.  It remains one of my favorite dishes to this day (along with her Chicken Pot Pie), and I will never turn it down when given the opportunity.

We spent only a few hours with Mary, Duncan and Jane, but there is something about family in another country, no matter how distant the connection--even a short time together seals a bond that you hardly new existed before meeting.  The fibers of your DNA just seem to know that these people are a part of you, and that really means something, even if you have never seen them before, and may never see them again.  It was a very sad goodbye after we finished.  Dad is so fond of Mary and her family, and the likelihood that he would not see them again, paired with the love and connection he felt for them, hung heavy in the air.  Yet what a wonderful thing it is to love other people, and share a Sunday brunch with them, as if thousands of miles and decades of time don't matter much at all.

A last note for the record -- turns out in addition to being quaint, Dore is historically significant as well.  Here in 829 the "must have been tough as nails with that name" King Eggbert defeated King Eanred of Northumbria, becoming the first Overlord of all England.  Here is the sign to prove it:

With that, it is off to York.