Thursday, November 24, 2011

... thanks, thanks a lot....

I've got a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which are a warm, dry place to sleep tonight and plenty of food to eat. I'm safe and fed, which is better than a lot of people out there in rain and worse.

Here are just a few of the things I'm thankful for:

- my daughters:

thing one...

and thing two

- my wife:


- my family (here in washington, in hawaii, and in alabama), old friends (around the world), all the paddling folks I've met and the new friends I've made, and the opportunities I have to paddle.

I wish the best to all of you out there, both folks I know and folks I don't. We're all in this together, this "life" thing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

... i stood stone-like at midnight...

(from an overheard conversation)

Not everything is a walk in the park!
Sunday, 11/20/11

scene: I've read the evening's books and have fallen near-asleep while telling a Belle story. K is lying next to me, and M is carrying L to bed.

L (suddenly teary): I don't want to grow up!
M: You don't want to grow up?
L (more teary): No!!
M (tucking her in): Why not? Why don't you want to grow up?
L: Because I don't want to have a baby!
me (half-asleep on our bed): ?!??
M: ?!?? What? Why not?
L (still teary): I don't want to have a baby!
M: You don't have to have a baby.
L: Cause I don't want to!!
M: Ok, that's fine. You don't have to have a baby.
L: Why?
M: Because you don't have to. You can decide. You have to try to have a baby.
L (apparently intrigued now): You have to try to have a baby?
M (relaxing, I imagine): Yeah. It's a choice. You have to try.
L: How do you try to have a baby?
me (slightly less asleep now): (snicker)
M: Uh...
L: Can you show me?
me (yikes! eyes tightly shut): (snort)
M: No, I can't show you.
L: Please, show me how to try and have a baby!
M: I can't show you how to try and have a baby, L.
L: Why not?
M: Because.
L: Well, how do you try to have a baby?
M: How?
L: Yeah.
M: Uh... parts from a man and parts from a woman... get together and start to grow a baby in the woman's tummy.
L: Parts from a man?
M: Uh huh.
L: And parts from a woman?
M: Uh huh.
L: But...
M: You don't have to have a baby.
K (lying beside me): That L!
me (awake): Time for you to get into bed too!

Friday, November 18, 2011

... aloha o'e...

or, watching as mommy's ferry disappears across elliott bay.

Last weekend we went to Jack Block park in West Seattle to spend some time before we could reasonably justify going to eat fish and chips. And while there, we were able to watch the ferry M was on crossing the bay.

It's a sad, poignant image, only slightly undercut by the fact that she was leaving us for something like 4 hours and during that time was never more than 6-8 miles distant. But still....

And then we climbed steps.

What passes for style when I'm in charge!

Windsprints! Ready... Go!!

And there were some fall colors.

That was last weekend. This weekend M is taking off for Portland for another trip without us. And this time she'll be gone overnight. Who knows what might happen!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

... have you heard, the word is...

... book!

This weekend we achieved a milestone: K read to L.
I don't think you understand, so let me repeat myself:

K read to her little sister!!!

And when I type "read" I mean READ. Like as in sounding out the words (for the most part) and getting them right (for the most part). Dang it, I'm starting to think this Montessori thing might be worth doing on a global scale!

In order to adequately capture just how important this feels to me, let me back up and say that one of my earliest and most precious (in the valuable sense, not in the excessively refined sense) memories is that of sitting on the couch in our house in Puunene, "reading" with my parents.

Both parents were book people. We didn't even have a T.V. for several years after I was born. I remember watching John F. Kennedy's funeral on a borrowed T.V., and then later, we had a television that possibly my grandparents bought us, which would shock you if you touched it (which, now that I think about it, is great motivation for just leaving the thing going all the time!). And kids, when I say "T.V." I'm talking about something about 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet that weighed about 300 pounds and showed grainy black and white moving images on a 9 inch by 9 inch screen. It was AMAZING! If you're having trouble getting the idea, and you've ever had to pretend to be impressed by an ultrasound of a 2 month old embryo, it was a lot like that. If someone told you what you were looking at, you could kind of imagine it, right there on the screen in your own living room! "See that? That's Captain Kangaroo's spleen. And there's his kidney...."

But I digress. My parents were both readers. I can remember the exciting evenings we had in that plantation house, sitting around reading. Seriously. After dinner my dad sat and read. Crazy, huh? And because both mom and dad were such readers, we kids wanted to read to. Oh how we wanted to read. And be read to. And pretend to be reading ourselves. And (eventually) actually read. "I am Cubby Bear. I can climb trees...."

Trust me, it may sound like a version of hell to you, but it was glorious and wonderful to me. Books opened up magical worlds and I still love to dive into them, and I still have some psychological issues admitting that maybe I don't actually "need" all the books I feel compelled to buy.

So, K has been learning her letters and her sounds, and has been pseudo-reading for a while now. But just recently M mentioned that she really was reading. I didn't necessarily entirely buy it, but then I got to sit with her and help her through Go Dog Go. And then she read it to her sister.

... two big dogs coming out...


Seriously! Wow!!

I understandably feel that my work as a parent is nearly done. And we managed quite admirably, if I do say so myself! And we'll just skip past the teenage years, if that's alright with all of you....

Friday, November 11, 2011

... and i thank you...

11/11/11 - Veterans Day

edit: Added a note at the bottom, about the girls' other grandfather, also a veteran.

Thank you, Dad, Grandpa Biddle, and all the other veterans, both in and out of my family, who believed in and fought for our country and the things that make it so great.

My father, late 1970s or early 1980s

Dad was 16 and attending Punahou in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He told stories about seeing the puffs of dark anti-aircraft smoke over Honolulu, and about being torn regarding whether or not he should go to a previously scheduled appointment. This appointment was with some man and was related to Dad's Eagle Scout work. Everyone was supposed to stay off the streets and stay off the phones. Dad didn't want to leave this guy hanging, so finally called him. When he reached him, he was told "in nor uncertain terms that I should 'GET OFF THE PHONE!'."

The U.S. Army took over the Punahou campus, and Dad and his classmates attended school in temporary classrooms at.... Maryknoll? I'm not sure. And he went off to the Merchant Marine Academy after graduating, finishing up there in mid-1945 and expecting to be shipped out to the Pacific. I think he'd already been given his orders to report to San Francisco when the war ended.

He served in the Naval Reserve all the time I was a boy, and during that time I was vocally anti-military. This was the last 1960s and through the 1970s. Hippies and Woodstock and Kent State. Vietnam and Richard Nixon, the Paris Peace Talks, Chicago 1968.... I was now attending Punahou, and things were quite different, everyone was challenging the status quo. It was not the same place Dad had attended. (One year we had a chaplain who put Wonder Bread and Coke on the altar to represent in a modern way the staples of communion. I believe this guy was later charged with participating in the burning of the ROTC buildings on UH campus....)

I was young and though I may still believe some of what I argued then, I wouldn't argue it in the same way as I did. I'd like to think I'd be more understanding of Dad's perspective and his sacrifices.

It's only in the last 20 years or so that I've begun to get some understanding of what he must have felt, both as a citizen who witnessed Pearl Harbor, and as a father whose son resisted some of the things he believed in and stood up for.

Grandpa, on his Army horse, Oahu

Grandpa, Civilian Defense

My mom's father was in the Army, the Cavalry in fact. He was part of Pershing's push into Mexico, chasing Pancho Villa. He told wonderful stories about those experiences, nearly all of them tales of his own ineptitude. He was a good story teller. After that, he ended up in Hawaii in the Army, fell in love, and stayed.

Like my dad, Grandpa witnessed Pearl Harbor. He was a civilian by that point and living with my Grandmother and mom in Kaimuki. He immediately tried to reenlist, but they wouldn't take him. He was working for the phone company, and I believe it was a combination of his age and his work (vital to the war effort) that kept him out of the Army a second time. But he joined the Civilian Defense Corps and served at home.

I have enormous gratitude for my father and grandfather and wish they were here so I could tell them in person, as an adult. I can only hope they understood that a boy may not understand all that he is given by those who precede him. My personal goal is to aim for that kind of understanding with my own daughters as they begin to question what their old dad thinks and to challenge what he's done and is doing.

Note: I wanted to add that my father-in-law, the girls' other grandfather, also served in the Navy and was implicitly included in my gratitude. I don't have a photo of him to include here, and as this has generally been written from my limited point of view, I hadn't called him out. But I think I ought to, and am doing so now, because he too did his part and deserves our gratitude and understanding.

Monday, November 7, 2011

... time waits for no one...

... but this doesn't really seem to matter much to L.

L, on the beach w/ her uncle
(note the discrepancy between outfits)

The girl who, all summer long, insisted on long pants and long-sleeved shirts, not to mention often knitted hats, this icy weekend decided on shorts and a t-shirt when we went down to the beach. Photographic evidence to follow, but first, a recap of our weekend.

This was a special weekend for several reasons, not the least of which is I went out of my way to make my older sister feel good. I did this by making sure the house was a mess, with toys scattered hither and yon (me: Hey M, where's K's baby doll? M: It's in the corner. me: What corner? M: Yon corner!) and clutter piled everywhere.

I suppose a bit more background is necessary.

M had an event on Saturday night, which meant she was out of the house starting around 9.30a, and didn't return until after midnight. Which meant that I was on my own for... nearly (12 plus 3 minus 30.... hmm....) a bunch of time. Probably close to as long as she was on parenting on her own when I recently went back to Maui for 9 days. I'll leave anyone who is mathematically inclined to do the appropriate factoring, etc. Anyway, I was on my own, and frustrations were running high. The girls have gotten into a bad habit of wanting to watch a video and to eat candy. And nothing else. The house was a mess, the yard too. And Kim and Jim came up from Olympia to help distract us.

Which worked fantastically. The girls (and I) enjoyed their visit. And Kim got to say "Now I don't feel so badly. I used to think I was incompetent when I was juggling 2 young children, but...." And that empty space after her "but" implied that I was AT LEAST as incompetent as she had felt, which was good. Hmm....

Anyway, part of what we did on Saturday was to go down to the beach at Alki. It was sunny and windless and thus, beautiful. It was also freakin' cold. (There was ice covering the surface of the water table, if that helps put things in perspective.) Preparing to go down there, I needed to get the girls out of pajamas and into clothes. K took care of this herself. L took the opportunity to have a couple of breakdowns. Which we worked through, and she chose shorts and a t-shirt. Which I shrugged about and said "ok."

We went downstairs and Kim and Jim both started to say "Wow, aren't you going to be col..?" and I made the universal "we've discussed it and come to a common agreement!" gesture of slashing my hand across my throat and they got my drift and we were on to the beach.

Here's proof:

Drawing in the sand
(two distinctly different sized utensils)

A horse, running in her pasture

One definition of a "two horse race"

"Hurry! Hurry!!"

Later, the girls and I needed to do things like eat dinner, which was made possible by the shopping trip Kim and Jim did for me shortly after they arrived and discovered that I could offer them raw sugar and an onion for lunch. Which didn't strike them as entirely what they were craving (for some odd reason - she's my older sister, if that helps explain her behavior!). So they went out and bought bagels, cream cheese, milk, bananas, bread.... I thought about asking them to also take the car and get the oil changed, but that seemed like it might be pushing it.

So, after they left, we did bath and then dinner of grilled cheese and watched a video together and then it was time for bed, and they were sleepy and it was nearly 7.30p which was grand, except if you did that math I suggested above you probably also realized that Saturday night was when the switch from Daylight Savings back to ... Daylight Spending(?) took place, which meant that thought I was putting the girls to bed at 7.30p, they were going to sleep as if they went to bed at 6.30p, which meant that... well, L got up around 4.20a, K around 5a, and I took them downstairs because M had climbed into bed at 12.30-ish (11.30-ish) and wasn't quite ready to get up at 4a (lame-o!).

Sunday was a flurry of highs and lows (L) and K behaving remarkably mature, and M needing to cook and then go to a baby shower that afternoon. But before this, we decided to treat the girls to breakfast out, so went to Luna Park, which has a collection of lunch boxes on display (the Happy Days one is my favorite, I think), as well as a coin-operated Batman car ride, awesome milkshakes, jukeboxes, and booths. In short, a perfect place to go with kids. Except they didn't find anything they wanted to eat. L order a fruit bowl, K the Mickey Mouse pancakes. L saw the pancake and wanted one as well, K said the pancake didn't taste good and ate my bacon, L tried K's pancake and said it didn't taste good and pouted and M and I ate as quickly as we could and retreated. Not our best dining out experience!

The girls got to watch 3 Thomas the Tank Engine videos that morning (they're 12 minutes each, if that buys me any sympathy and/or understanding), and then I resisted the calls for more videos and/or candy. For the rest of the day!

Yay Daddy! Who's the man?

What we did, more or less chronologically (chronically):
  • had several breakdowns (L)
  • wanted candy (K&L)
  • had several other breakdowns (L)
  • made salad and muffins (M, for her shower)
  • had several.... (L) you get the idea
  • went upstairs (me & L after a breakdown and we lay in our bed and read until she fell asleep, at which point I went back downstairs and helped "explain" to K that she was not going to get any candy and/or videos.)
  • drove away (M, for her shower)
  • watched some horse videos on my computer, including a 2-part one of a colt being born. I hesitated, but K's already seen similar on Saddle Club, and we're getting to the point where she's curious and aware enough that I think it makes sense to let her see. I nervously waited for her to notice the other videos of horse sex and/or "How to deliver a baby in a car," neither of which I was excited about watching with (or without) my 5 1/2 yo daughter), and though she didn't notice (or want to see?) the horse sex one, she did ask for the delivery of a baby, which I hesitantly agreed to. But it was done using a life-sized model, and didn't interest her much. But she's a very aware girl, and I know more of it sank in than was immediately evident, so I'm trying to anticipate and prepare for questions, or at least get ready to redirect her in M's direction. (K&me)
  • cleaned the kitchen while K did more art (me)
  • woke up (L)
  • wanted candy or videos (K&L)
  • explained "No!" (me)
  • did art (K&L)
  • had several breakdowns (L)
But here's something else that happened:

After a ton of frustration with a bead project, during which L had several collapses, threw beads and crumpled up a drawing she'd done, she returned to the kitchen table and worked at it again and finished it. This was huge. She's at a stage where she gets very frustrated at not being able to do things as well as K can, and then throws stuff, breaks things, crumples papers.... So coming back and continuing to try... that's huge. HUGE!

We did bath, which involved a lot of mermaiding and some hairwashing and some photo ops:

two "mermaids" conversing(?)
the cool thing about this is that they put on their goggles
and submerge their heads and don't think about the fact
that they're holding their breaths.
I've counted to 20 before, and L can easily stay down that long!

Later, I cooked fish and made rice and the girls ate pretty well and M came home w/ some cupcakes from the shower and the girls got to have cupcakes and then L told me she was tired and rather than say something funny like "Well, why do you think that is?" I picked her up like she asked and we snuggled on the couch until M and K joined us and then we went upstairs where we finished the evening with some books, a brief Belle story (but this time K wanted to go back to the barn, a return to horses, which is a significant shift), and then bed.

But before bed, one last heart-warming (and representative) father-daughter exchange:

L (snuggled against me in bed): Daddy, why do we call it gath when we gath?
me (realizing this wasn't going to really explain anything): Uh... because it's gas.
L (uncomprehending but accepting): Oh. (pause) Daddy?
me (enjoying the snuggle): Uh huh?
L (grinning around her pacifier): I juth gathed.
me: I know.
K (laughing on the opposite side of the bed): Uh, we KNOW! Pa-lease!