Our poor tree

»  mark    22 Dec 2009 @ 22:08    

Poor Christmas tree! After weeks of redecorating, rough handling, and dry air, our tree is on its way out. I sent it a postcard to give it encouragement to make it just a few more days to Christmas. But it is so brittle and dry.

We’ll have to find some new tactics for keeping our trees alive longer. We have a hard time getting them to make it to the end of December.

Peach me!

»  mark    12 Dec 2009 @ 22:04    

We recently started buying the seasonal Clementine oranges, and the kids have been devouring them! And who can blame them? When I lived in Korea, I used to devour those plentiful and oh-so-sweet fruits like they were my last meal. I never tire of telling my kids about the six-day stretch when my companion and I ate 111 medium-sized oranges (a full case).

Anya has taken to calling these little oranges peaches. So she likes to hover around looking for someone who has either started peeling an orange or is in close proximity to an orange and then she turns on the sad, imploring, eyes. “Peach me! Peach me!” Who can say no to that?

The case is solved!

»  mark    10 Dec 2009 @ 22:39    

A few months ago, our family stroller was stolen from our front porch. Not your average umbrella fold-up, mind you, a very nice dual-seat jogger. We were a bit put out by this, but decided though the odds were against ever recovering it (“What makes you think the Soviets were involved?” – Policewoman talking to Pee-Wee), we would give the police a try.

So we filled out the report on-line with the Salt Lake City Police Department. Though it took quite some time to finally get somebody on the case, we got a lead on it when somebody responded to a KSL Classified reward poster Olya put up with a description of the stroller. Somebody wrote saying they had seen a stroller just like that at a Kid 2 Kid in Holladay. We contacted the store and they promised not to sell the stroller until the police could investigate.

The day after that, the man who sold the stroller to the store returned with another one. The store owner, recognizing the man, made some lame excuses about being busy and asked him to browse around while she helped other customers. He did so and she called the police. They talked to him and didn’t arrest him, but his story was really shaky.

After that, we didn’t hear anything for awhile, as there was some confusion whether this case should be handled by Salt Lake Police or Salt Lake County. But after some phone tag, we got word that the investigation was done and we could go claim the stroller if it was ours. We recognized it by a few unique marks and took it home. Turns out that the individual who took it will stand trial for a string of thefts.

Thanks to Olya’s classified, a tip from a mom who saw our property in Holladay, and some quick thinking by the Kid 2 Kid staff, strollers all over the city can sleep better tonight.

Tree line

»  mark    8 Dec 2009 @ 22:14    

Our family Christmas tree is up. And it didn’t take long before the kids decided that our tree needed re-decorating. I’m not sure why, it really was quite charming. But for whatever reason, they get up each day and pull down a handful of ornaments.

When we find these ornaments scattered around the house, we put them back on the tree, only a little higher than their original placement. The result is what I call the “tree line”, a very visible line about the height of Anya’s outstretched fingers that marks the border between the densely populated top part of the tree and the sparse bottom of the tree.

Any ornament that strays too low is removed by the kids and relocated to the North.

Candy day

»  mark    1 Nov 2009 @ 21:29    

Although we hardly talk about some holidays (mostly the ones that only seem to be around to boost the American candy-makers), Maya and Elijah have been gleaning bits of information from their friends about Halloween. And Maya is convinced that it should be renamed Candy Day.

Can’t argue that. There really isn’t much more to it… or is there? Well, Olya and I decided this year to make more out of it. We thought it would be fun to make it more of an Autumn Festival with old fashioned games and a party with friends. Since my folks moved to the canyon and don’t have a neighbor within 2 miles, we asked them if they’d be interested in playing along.

So we went to visit Grandma and Grandpa with the kids all dressed up in their costumes and the promise of games and fun. We weren’t disappointed. Not only did we avoid the inevitable fight over the pounds of sweets they would have amassed at Trunk or Treat, but the kids got to show off their costumes in a warm, hospitable environment void of weirdos and creepy things that we really don’t want them thinking about.

Olya and I think this ought to be a new family tradition. The kids had a ball, and the adults seemed to enjoy the party too. Kudos to the party planners!

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, Kiva.org. 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.

Ramadan 2009

»  mark    22 Aug 2009 @ 02:02    

The holy month of Ramadan is here again and I’m faced with the question that I posed after observing Ramadan last year: Would I ever do it again?

Decisions like this can’t be made overnight, of course. After considerable thought and consulting my wife, I’ve decided it would be valuable to participate, even though I won’t attempt the 30-day fast this year. In the spirit of the month, I am going to set some goals like last year and modify my daily routine in the hope of spiritual improvement. So here are my goals.

  • Change in diet
    While not the same as fasting, I think a change in personal diet will help to remind me of other commitments. So, for the next month, I’m going to limit consumption of sugar (desserts, ice cream, etc.).
  • Charitable donations
    Just like last year, I plan to donate to humanitarian causes during this time.
  • Prayer
    I will strive to pray more frequently.
  • Scripture Study
    Once again, I probably won’t read all of the Qur’an, but I’d like to focus on getting through another book of revelation, the Doctrine and Covenants. We’ve been reading segments of it throughout the year at Church, but I haven’t been very faithful at my reading assignments. So I’d like to read this work in entirety during the next month.
  • Refrain from worldly influences
    Many advocate limiting television, movies, and music to make time for more prayer and meditation. Once again, I will be trying to do without media and add to that the goal of retiring to bed each night by 12 o’clock.

This will be a big challenge for me, but I’m excited to try. Ramadan 2008 was a life-changing event for me. What more could I hope for this year? Ramadan Mubarak to all!

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