Train ride

»  mark    26 Sep 2009 @ 22:20    

This weekend we decided to do something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time. We bought a family ticket on the commuter rail FrontRunner that connects Ogden and Salt Lake and took the kids on a train ride.

I was pleasantly surprised at the speed and comfort of the train, since I take TRAX now almost daily, the rapid rail (tramway) that goes south toward my new office location. The commuter rail, by comparison is quiet, smooth, and gives you the feeling it is hardly moving, a deception that is proven by the fact that at its top speeds you can look out the windows and watch the cars you are passing on I-15 (and I know they don’t follow the speed limit).

We took the train to the end of the line, Ogden’s historic Union Station, and spent an hour looking around the railroad station, old car museum, and railroad museum. The kids enjoyed watching the model trains move around the museum and taking pictures on decommissioned rail cars and locomotives. Enjoy the pictures!

Eid 2009

»  mark    21 Sep 2009 @ 00:37    

Well, another Ramadan is in the history books. Although I was aware of what was happening and participated to some extent, I must report that things were quite a bit different this year. The full-day fasting does make a significant impact on the overall observance, probably because it fills so much of your daytime and evening thoughts. Here’s how things went for me.

  • Change in diet
    Grade: A-. This was not as hard as I thought it might be. I did give in for one birthday cake and one ice cream but took half portions. I felt great will power on many occasions because sugar really is quite abundant in the average American lifestyle.
  • Charitable donations
    Grade: B+. While my donations for the month are nothing like the zakat (2.5% of annual salary), I am satisfied with my contributions. I already make charitable donations throughout the year, so I don’t feel I need to do as much during Ramadan.

    This year, instead of donations to large relief organizations, our family picked out a few individuals to help directly through one of my favorite websites, If anyone is interested in microlending, this is a good way to get involved. While our contributions are not entirely alms (they are loans), they do serve the same purpose, relieving suffering and helping people out of poverty, and it is humbling and gratifying to choose the beneficiaries of your charitable actions.

  • Prayer
    Grade: B-. Improved, but not the soul searching I had hoped for.
  • Scripture Study
    Grade D. My new schedule at work proved very formidable, as my morning routine was devoted to making the train on time. Evening wasn’t much better. This is going to be a struggle for many weeks to come.
  • Refrain from worldly influences
    Grade: A-. I did without TV exclusively. I only listened to score updates from the Utah State/Utah football game, and limited my music listening at work to mostly classical and instrumental. I did watch a few shows with my family, but went without many others.

So, in summary, although things didn’t turn out as I hoped, I don’t feel my observance was a waste of time. It is always beneficial to set goals and review one’s life, and I did find my choices to lift me out of some of my common daily ruts. Eid Mubarak to all.

And Elijah gets sad too

»  mark    17 Sep 2009 @ 23:21    

Elijah, though a typical boy who loves cars, construction equipment, and weapons of sundry kinds, can on occasion show you his tender side.

Not long ago, in an effort to encourage Elijah to use the potty more frequently, and tired of changing messy diapers, we resorted to bribery. For each time he sat down and really took it seriously, we would buy him a toy car. The program started slow, but after a couple successes, Elijah started doing better and began building his personal fleet.

About a week ago, he knew that he was due a car, and spotted a large pickup truck in Costco that he thought would suit the payment fine. This truck was easily 5 times the size of any of the cars we had purchased so far, and was in fact a scale model with working steering wheel, doors, and tailgate. I had a feeling it would be too nice for Elijah (he’s a touch on the rough side with toys), but he agreed that this truck would represent several successful ventures on the potty, so we agreed.

The truck immediately found its way to most-favored status, an honor that comes with an invitation to sleep under his blanket, to join him for all meals (on the dinner table, or at least sharing his seat), and be carried just about wherever he goes. Well, it wasn’t too long before the truck took a hard spill and one of the front wheels came off. As it couldn’t be glued back on the axle and any small piece like that was destined to end up in Anya’s mouth, we had to tell Elijah the bad news.

The truck had to go. We explained the problem to him and he listened closely. He must have sensed that we were not disposing of his toy maliciously or out of revenge, and he agreed to let it go. Then, in a way I’ve never heard from before, he slumped down and wept openly.

Kids employ a number of cries on various occasions. This wasn’t the pouting, or the complaining, or the I’m-tired, or the that’s-not-fair cry. This was the heartfelt, sorrowful, deep, loss-filled mourning, both unsettling and heart-melting at the same time. If you recall the movie Cast Away, when Chuck is on the raft and has just lost Wilson out to sea, that is similar to how Elijah sobbed at the loss of his beloved truck.

That image and sound will stick with me for some time. Our children are capable of a wide array of emotions. We don’t see them all the time, but they are there, untested beneath the surface, waiting for the appropriate time to come forth.

Elijah funnies

»  mark    14 Sep 2009 @ 23:04    

Kids say the darnedest things. I know it sounds trite, but I never tire of the unique and the bizarre things spoken by our young-uns. Here are a few from Elijah.

Us: What’s your favorite color, Elijah?
Elijah: Black.
Who ever chooses black? He’s the only one I can remember.

Us (in the store): Elijah, which color of toothbrush do you want?
Elijah: Black.
We couldn’t find a black toothbrush, so Elijah settled for a purple and green one, the darkest color we could find.

Elijah: Papa, I’m milky.
Interpretation: Papa, I feel like a cup of milk, please.

Elijah: Papa, I’m watery.
Interpretation: I’d like some water.

Us: Elijah, are you fruity or vegetabley tonight?
He didn’t fall for that.

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