Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sleeping Arrangements


It's not long until Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day will be upon us. Last year was fun to be a dad for the first time, but this year will be the first year where the little guy will actually have some recognition of me as his dad. Sometimes I wonder what kind of a dad I am or will end up being in the long run. I want to be a good dad. But I know it's not automatic.

I think one of the most important characteristics of a good dad is trustworthiness. I want Sam to know he can ask me anything or tell me anything and he can always know with absolute assurance that I'm on his side. However, this last week I realized that it's harder in practice than in theory. I didn't really think about it at the time, but when we were on the playground I think my trustworthiness dropped a bit. I had been chasing him all around a big playground installation with ramps and walkways and slides of various heights and shapes. He seemed reluctant to go down the slides but I knew he liked them, so I helped him get ready and go. As he was ready to go, he turned around and looked scared. He was reaching for me to save him from what he didn't know, but I just pushed him down anyway thinking he would see how harmless and safe it was. He did see. He was smiling at the bottom. But then he wouldn't go near me when we walked by the slides after that. It was as if I had betrayed him and he couldn't let himself forget that I was a pusher.

I don't want to be a pusher! I want to be trusted. Boss is way better at this than me. I guess that's why she gets to be the Boss.

I'm so grateful for my parents and the absolute trust I have in their love. I know they would give anything for me. I know they have given everything for me and my brothers and sisters. They are wonderful folks and I look forward to seeing them soon.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Beyond boycott

You may have heard about the famous K-mart boycott of 1999, in which Boss, having been irreparably harmed by the insensitive personnel at her local K-mart, turned to the only recourse a private citizen has in such a situation--harsh economic sanctions from a single customer. Oh yes, their bottom line would feel her wrath. But then, alas, they had a sale on cutey little shoes and the boycott was temporarily suspended. And it has been temporarily suspended ever since whenever the inconvenience of not shopping at K-mart has outweighed the benefit of nearly putting them into bankruptcy. (You heard about that a while ago? Yeah. Don't mess with Boss.)

There has got to be more that we can do, right? Sue them? No. That would require far too much effort. And preferably a legal case. Malign them? Perhaps. Yes, perhaps.

Not malign, but tattle, we decided. We have started a new blog at where we can spew forth our consumer grievances in a cleansing act of tattling. We may even vindicate a few we consider to be good guys.

And, because it's so fun, we're opening up the complaining (and occasional admiring) to anyone who would care to participate. If you want to be a contributor to the blog (not just a commenter, but log in and post whatever you want), let either of us know and we'll be glad to add you on. We want you to, so go ahead.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Issue of Blood

Warning: the following post contains the words "tampon," "menstruate," and "breastfeeding." And also "predicament."

The scene: Women's bathroom at church, between meetings. My friend, Samantha Perrywinkle* (who gave birth to Snickerdoodle* a few months ago) emerges from a stall.

Samantha: Do you have a tampon?
Boss: Sorry, I don't.
SP: Figures my first period since Snickerdoodle would start while I'm at church in a white skirt.
Boss: I've been in the same predicament. They really should put tampon machines in here.
SP: Well, nearly every woman in the ward is either pregnant or breastfeeding. Maybe they think we don't need them. . . . Wait, it's not against our religion to menstruate, is it?
Boss: I don't think so. But if it is, I was in the nursing mother's room when they announced it.

*Names have been changed.

My pal Murphy

Apparently there are more participants in selling a house than just the seller and the buyer. [And the realtors who take their obligatory 6%.] My pal Murphy, you know--the one with the law, is also a big participant. He's the one who stepped in when we were cleaning and broke the outside of the window frame when we were trying to figure out how to clean them. And we broke the inside of a different door frame too--the same lesson for 2 people at 2 different times. Murphy helped me break the light switch in the garage. He probably had something to do with our porch swing cracking after three years of perfectly good service. He may have had a hand in the timing too: a couple hours before a showing. During our first open house the light switch in the living room was not working. For whatever reason, the circuit breaker will not reset that circuit--even when there's nothing plugged in! Our faucet is leaking that we installed less than 6 months ago. New chips in the wall after moving furniture to have the carpet cleaned. All the paints we carefully saved for touch ups on just such an occasion have dried up. Broken closet door handle. Doggy doodoo in the basement (that hasn't happened forever!). Broken lawn mower. What's up, Murphy? Go find someone else to visit for a while!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Banana fana fo favich

Do you know this guy? If you don't then you should. This is my brother, Chuyu*.

Chuyu is the youngest boy in a family with five girls. He used to say he felt like he had six mothers. That's probably why he turned out so great.

Want proof? You've probably heard the story about Easter weekend when he dressed himself in a pink bunny suit made with his own two hands, bought several bags of candy, and handed treats out all over Provo just to make people smile.

But do you know this story? Chuyu was the first to arrive at our parents' house in Burton last December for Christmas. My family arrived a few days later, still well before the Christmas crowd of 30 (or so). One morning, when Mom and Dad were at work, I decided I'd surprise mom by cleaning the whole house and making meals and getting everything ready for the big event. All in one morning. And then I had the tiniest little meltdown after realizing that I couldn't do it all. And John said, "I'll help you." And he did. He dug in and peeled 20 pounds of apples for the three huge pans of apple crisp we enjoyed all week. And then he cleaned and bustled and cooked for the rest of the afternoon. I don't remember what I got done--probably bon bon testing on the couch. But Chuyu was cheerful and sweet, and he didn't even turn into a freaked out frazzled mess like I usually do on such occasions.

Want more? Last summer, during our family reunion vacation in Tennessee--when he was still pretty shy about strangers--Sam took an immediate liking to Chuyu. We have video of Sam climbing off my lap, walking across the room and throwing his arms in the air toward Chuyu, as if to say "please, save me!" And Chuyu did. They got to be good buddies.

I think of Chuyu as my buddy too. After I graduated from college, I spent part of the summer living with Mom and Dad in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Chuyu was still living at home, so it gave us a chance to hang out. I still remember fondly one afternoon driving around with him in my new car, listening to music. I stopped at an empty parking lot, and let Chuyu take the car for a few laps. Later, we stopped at a convenience store and he bought me a can of sardines. (Yeah, I didn't really get that part either. But it was sweet.)

Chuyu is currently waiting to receive his mission call. It's been a long time coming. Before he could even put his mission papers in, he had to get some orthodontic work done in preparation for major oral surgery. With one frustrating setback after another, the process stretched on for four long years. And yet, his desire to serve a mission never waned. He's enthusiastic and committed, hardworking and compassionate. I have no doubt that he'll be the most coveted companion in his mission. Probably the world.

I love you, Chuyu. Happy Birthday!

*Names have been changed.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


I've never been a huge fan of poetry. I usually find it inaccessible. Style gets in the way of comprehension, and I feel a little lost. Like that poem we read in 12th grade English about a snake. Remember that one? Only, I didn't know it was about a snake until Mrs. Bloodaxe* asked what the poem was about, and the rest of the class said in unison "a snake," and I said "huh?"

So the point is I'm not so good with poetry. But Coach's recent foray piqued my interest, and I remembered that despite my aversion to the genre in general, I do have a few favorites that have stuck with me for years. Here are two:

All God's Critters (Got a Place in the Choir)
by Bill Staines

All God's critters got a place in the choir--
Some sing low, some sing higher,
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire,
And some just clap
their hands,
Or paws
Or anything they got.

Sentimental Moment Or Why Did The Baguette Cross The Road?
by Robert Hershon

Don't fill up on bread
I say absent-mindedly
The servings here are

My son, whose hair may be
receding a bit, says
Did you
really just
say that to me?

What he doesn't know
is that when
we're walking
together, when we get
to the curb
I sometimes start to
for his hand


"All God's Critters" is actually just the first stanza of this song. But even without the music, I love the imagery of all the animals in the world, clamoring to sing with God. And I think of myself as a chipmunk or a squirrel--maybe a racoon--with stubby little paws that I can't quite get together in rhythm. But it's good enough.

It makes me cry a little; that's the kind of sentimental fool I am.

And speaking of sentimental, can't you just see Hershon's scene? In the restaurant? And then at the curb? I've loved this poem since I stumbled across it five or six years ago. But now that I watch my own son (whose hairline isn't quite receding yet) growing a little faster than I want him to, now I think I get it.

And on that note, I'd like to leave you with one more of the Coach's poems.

Continuous Tumbling
by Coach
The boy dances for no reason.
Smiling, forcing laughter for fun, toe-headed like a picture.
But he’s real.
Bouncing and swaying, isn’t that move advanced?

Picking nose is like a double back flip.
Eating cheerios too.
Pincer grasp with olympic precision.
That’s the boy. The boy. My boy.

I know some of ya'll are accomplished poets. (Amy, I'm looking at you.) So come on, let's share some poetry.

*Names have been changed.

the tree

In my current class we read a book or two each week and have a writing assignment to respond in some way. The freedom in how to respond is pretty absolute. Our instructor is a poet who graduated from the Writers' Workshop (the top creative writing program in the world), and I think she's pretty amazing.

As we were discussing one of our assigned books, it was clear that Margaret (the instructor) had loved it, but none of the students had. We found it inaccessible, while Margaret loved it for its poetry-like ambiguity. I said I wished I could learn to appreciate poetry that way, and she took a few minutes to explain her views on the subject. She said that writing poetry is an amazing experience because you can take a particular feeling from some experience and then express it in a form that has no reference whatsoever to the original experience. I said, but how will people know? And she said it didn't matter. Good poetry speaks to people different ways, but is widely found to be substantive in one interpretation or another. So, I tried my hand at it this week, and this was my first poem.

the tree

The master strode by; said not a word.
With calculated bruskness, the almond blossoms died—amputed with oiled steel.
Why that branch?

The wires coil from hand to tree. Tissue bends to will,
leaves grovel.

Soil vibrates angrily; sodden with nutrients and drenched in airy loam, he spills bits on the floor through slats.
The master’s
eyes widen.

I heard no crack. Besides, the drains could not bless my sloshing fear.

Surely not. So constrained. So miserable.
He joins me sitting oblique to the tree. The spinning table shows what he calls
Constrain. The small branches reach higher, the master bends the low branches lower.
They will surely crack.
How can he know the limits?

I had seen tissue split
leaves yellow
The room was warm—not like my cold shed.

Sun moved. Breeze stirred.
Master immovable in his consideration, changed shadows.
the tree.


the tree.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Last year for Easter we got to have Sonnet. It was a fun Easter, as you can see. Sam was not yet a year old, so he wasn't walking yet and needed quite a bit of help with the egg gathering process.

But now just look at him! He's all grown up and ready to go off to college. Err, to start counting to one.

I'm just a big fan of comparison pictures. And a fan of my family. So I couldn't help throwing up a few photos. (Not the same as throwing up ON a few photos.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


We just read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night for my class, and I enjoyed it overall. It's a story told from the perspective of a child with a pervasive developmental disorder (like autism or asperger's). This boy doesn't like to be touched and can't interpret facial expressions or normal social interactions because of his disability. At perhaps the most alarming (or telling) part of the book, he describes his "happy" dream in which a virus kills off anyone who looks at or otherwise socially engages other people so that the only people left are like him. With nobody left to touch or look him in the eye, he can walk the streets and be alone. And that makes him feel safe and happy. And, naturally, gives the reader the creeps.

However, I sort of wish the people down the street would get the virus. Well, maybe not die, but perhaps get sick enough to move into the hospital. Okay, I'm joking. [mostly]

It has recently come to my attention that our neighborhood is full of white trash. And they are devaluin' the property!!!

Boss and I have somehow aged 50 years while in Iowa City. We have become the cranky old couple that don't like people cutting through our yard, or playing their stereo too loud as they drive by, or leaving all of their worldly possessions heaped in their driveway for weeks at a time and for no apparent reason. We had to laugh when we were driving down the "strip" in Coralville and we saw a police escort leading the way for a bus of basketball players coming into town for a game. We indignantly complained to one another about what a waste of community resources it was and how those police should be out fighting crime. Hee hee. And then we laughed at ourselves.

Now, if only I can make the prospective buyers of our house believe that the perpetually smoking and sunbathing neighbors next door are really just a hilarious thing...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Life changes

Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

These lines are the first in the book I just read for my current class: The Year of Magical Thinking. But before you go out and buy it, let me tell you I've already shared the best part of the book (I didn't really like it much). The surreal part about these lines is that I struggled to read them from the emergency lights in the institute building while I was stranded there during the tornadoes--the tornadoes I wasn't expecting when everything was going normal when we started class at 7:00. The tornado that skirted along only a few hundred yards from the building I was in.

I distinctly remember thinking about the Dairy Queen (photo 1) on Hwy 6 a couple days ago. I thought, that's a great place with local character, and I wish we had gone there more often. I'm going to miss it. Then, that night, I was disappointed to hear that it was pretty much destroyed. Also, our Menards was ruined. The Menards where we bought the supplies to paint our house. And the flower shop (photo 2) where I got Boss Valentine's Day flowers when we were engaged. And the parking spaces (3) we used for Boss's class near the library. And the gas station (4) where the bonsai stand had been last summer. And the place that aligned our tires (5).

All hit by a tornado. I admit that the destruction isn't "Katrina" level, but it's so much more real when you know (are?) the people affected.

Perhaps the most disturbing part about it all is how close we came to family disaster without even realizing it at the time. I was teaching the institute class and I didn't even have the students go to the basement when the sirens went off. The students were laughing at me. "You're not from Iowa, are you," they snickered when I looked troubled by the alarm. But afterward, hearing that there were 150 mph winds and knowing that the path was dangerously close to our building, I regretted caving to their pressure. We should have been having class in the basement.

There's no "for reals" tornado alarm. I've heard the sirens before. In fact, I probably have permanent hearing loss from sitting through lectures my whole M1 year when the alarms were constantly going off in the recently constructed building we held classes in. So, how is one supposed to know when to take alarms or sirens seriously? I guess you just have to stay vigilant and climb under a safe structure, just like they taught in Kindergarten.

Friday, April 14, 2006

We're like hairdressers on fire around here

As you can see, Sam has been busy lately. And the rest of us have too. Since matching a few weeks ago, we've been working on the following family task list:

I. Sell house.
II. Find apartment in Akron.
III. Arrange to transfer to grad school in Akron or Buffalo.

Looks like a short list, doesn't it? I thought so too, until I got to item I (sell house) A (clean house) part i (interior) subsection a (bathrooms) item 2 (upstairs) part a (chores that must be done while on knees scrubbing with a toothbrush) number 1 (grout). Then it didn't seem like such a picnic.

As exhausting as this process has been, I am happy to report that we have made progress on all of the items on our task list.

After contemplating selling our home ourselves, we decided to list with a local realtor. We followed her advice about tidying up a bit, and managed to transform our home from this:

To this (cue angelic choir):

Perhaps you recognize the chocolate cake displayed on the table in a completely un-staged, natural fashion.

We've had several prospective buyers come through this week. So far, I hate them all, because they insist on coming during Sam's nap, or show up half an hour late (after I've already awakened Sam and exhausted all his patience walking around the block in the freakish April heat (Seriously! 88 degrees! In Iowa! In April!)). But I'm sure I'll become fast friends with anyone who makes an offer. Unless the offer is too low. Then I'll still hate them. (Clearly I don't have the stamina to sell real estate professionally. This may be the last home we ever sell. Ever.) Anyway, I believe the point of this paragraph is this: we are making progress on list item I. I hope so anyway.

Now on to item II, shall we? We drove to Akron a couple weeks ago to look at apartments. While there, we were able to enjoy one of Akron's most coveted amenities: proximity to Grandma and Grandpa. This is how great they are: Mom promised to cook us breakfast every Saturday NO MATTER WHAT, and Dad ran all over the county looking for a book on CD for us to listen to on the way home. Nice, huh?

Mom and Dad also watched Sammy while Coach and I looked at apartments. They took him with them to General Conference, aware that he might not make it through the whole thing. ("He won't nap outside his crib," I assured them. It would be up to them to decide if they'd tough it out with a tired baby or take him home.) Of course, in the classic kids' tradition of proving their own parents wrong in front of their grandparents, Sammy laid his head down, told Grandma "night night" and snoozed comfortably on the chapel floor for 3 1/2 hours. No blanket, no backup blanket, no second backup blanket, no Bear's Big Blue House or Go Dog Go to read, no stuffed dog, rabbit, or bear--no sippy cup of water to clutch to his bosom. No crib. No--Sam slept without any of these necessities. And he has not done it again since.

I've digressed, haven't I? So anyway, we went to Akron, saw several nice apartments, and came back home and stewed for a week. Then we got online and found another apartment--a wonder apartment!--that seemed to have everything we were looking for for less money than any place else. Mom and Dad checked it out for us (see, I told you they're great!), and verified that the complex was neither built out of lincoln logs nor next to a sewage treatment plant. It seemed too good to be true. And it was, a little bit. Although the apartments are apparently nice and cheap, the property management company is a little, well, difficult, going so far as to insist that we sign an agreement promising to abide by all of the terms of their lease, but refusing to provide us with a copy of said lease. "It doesn't leave the office. Them's just the rules, ma'am." Yeah.

But anyway, managerial insanity aside, we sent in our application and the application fee (sort of a deposit on the deposit! How fun!), and plan to be spending the latter half of this summer by the pool. Come see us there!

As for item III, I persuaded my academic advisor to accept a class offered by another department so that I can have enough credits to earn my degree from Iowa but finish my classes at University of Buffalo so our whole family can live in the same state so I won't go crazy. (You can see why my advisor found my argument so compelling!)

And there you have it. That's where we've been. You'll notice that I made no mention of staying up-to-date with this season's 24, or working on the term paper that's due next week. That's because these are things I have not done. So no spoilers! (Unless you tell me what my term paper is about. I could probably use the help.)

And finally, have you seen this? This wonderful, fabulous, cozy little haven of a nursery that Coach created for Sam? If you haven't you really should, cause it's something else. I'm sad to leave it behind. And I know Sam will be too. He'll get through it though, as long as we bring along his blanket and his backup blanket and his backup backup blanket and his stuffed puppy and bunny and bear and all his favorite books and a sippy cup of water.


When tornadoes hit Tennessee a few weeks ago I was relieved that Toby and Ree were not affected. I also realized that although I sort of had categorized Tennessee as a "safe place" to live, there probably are none. I thought TN was below the tornado belt, above the hurricanes, east of earthquakes... but I guess weather changes are getting to every nook and cranny of the world.

Last night we had tornadoes in Iowa City. I was downtown at the Institute building (thank goodness for standing in holy places, right?) when hail began to pummel the building. I thought the skylights might break as the half-inch pieces rained down. Soon the power went out and I was stranded at the building--not that I would have wanted to leave right then anyway. But after the "all clear" the parking arm was locked in the down position and crews are still battling power line problems across Eastern Iowa this morning. Boss, when the cell phone didn't give the "network busy" signal, got in touch and told me funnel clouds had touched down about two blocks east of me, a half mile west, and about a mile and a half south.

Our family is safe, but some were not so lucky.

I will always have this dramatic memory of Iowa.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Singing Babies

The title of this post sounds inviting and warm, but do not be decieved. This post is about a sinister perversion of everything that is good about singing and babies.

We've long been fans of the dollar store. Okay, more Boss than me. And it seemed like a $1 DVD would not be a terrible risk, so Boss went ahead and bought the Singing Babies DVD for Sam. It took approximately three seconds after turning it on that I knew that my life was changed forever. As the babies row, row, rowed their boats across the screen, their lips moving separately from their artificially constrained bodies, Sam laughed. And I knew what Sam likes gets played a million times a day whether Dad likes it or not.

Let me see if I can explain what is wrong with these babies. I don't think any verbal description can do them justice, but I'll give it a whirl. The idea is that a group of multi-national babies sing common nursery rhyme songs and puppets dance in front of green screens. Animation and cuteness with a spiffy soundtrack rounds out the awe shucks production. However, the execution makes this video more suitable for Halloween. Someone thought that making babies lips move independent of their other features would be endearing. This someone is on drugs. Babies mouths can't gape like that while their chins remain firmly fixed. This someone has enough business acumen to gather the required capital to produce a DVD, but imagined that purposely making one of the babies sing off key would be a delight to everyone everywhere. It's not just an off key baby, it's an on key voice that has been deliberately manipulated to be off-key. Someone thought that combining normal footage of playing babies and bouncing puppets would make up for the eerie skin crawling I get when one of the possessed artificial babies blinks their alien eyes.

Okay, you get the idea. I don't care for the creepy singing babies. My nightmares will never be the same.