Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Saintly George

On Sunday afternoon we all headed down to St. George, where Eric had to take a medical licensing exam the next day. We figured that I could drive so that Eric could study, and the kids and I could enjoy southern Utah for a day. 
     While Eric slaved away at the (9-hour–long!) test, the boys and I visited the hotel swimming pool, a dinosaur museum, the LDS St. George Temple, and some other interesting places. Throughout the day, I appreciated the historical significance of the city and its natural beauty, but I was especially impressed with the genuine goodness that I felt from the people there. 
     If we end up moving for Eric's residency training, I'd like to move to a city with "the spirit of Saint George," a place where people seem sincerely happy. Have you visited or lived in that type of city? One where strangers talk to you about the new library downtown or raising boys or French toast just as if you'd been friends all your lives?
 


Friday, December 26, 2008

A Merry Little Christmas

"This was the best Christmas ever!" Jacob told us yesterday afternoon. And maybe it was! Eric finished his residency interviews last weekend, and so he was more available this week (OK, very busy, but in town!). During the snowy days leading up to Christmas, we spent our time mostly indoors together, playing and preparing. Here are some highlights from Christmas week: 
Messiah sing-in, Salt Lake: Flushed but triumphant, Eric and I relax after playing Handel's Messiah last Saturday. It was actually the first time that we had played winds together in an orchestra. Maybe when our kids are older we can establish a Brinton ensemble? 
Nativity play, Nana and Grandpa's house: Jacob played Joseph, Zachary was a Wise Man, and Michael played a fuzzy little lamb. But seriously, don't you think that Eric's donkey costume takes the cake? He even stayed in character long enough to give rides to the boys and their cousins. What a guy.  
Christmas morning, home: The kids comply and sit for a picture before opening gifts. At noon we headed to my Grandma Yvonne's house and enjoyed Christmas brunch and bingo. Grandma prepared traditional favorites from my great-grandparents, who owned a cafe in upstate New York, plus some stuffed French toast from her favorite bed-and-breakfast.   
First time skiing, Tanner Park: Yesterday Jacob tried out his Christmas present--a used ski package we got for a steal at the Ski Truck trade-in store (at the state fairgrounds). We'll definitely be frequenting the rope pulls and the "Ski Free after 3" lift at Alta this season. Brighton also offers free skiing for kids under 10. I can't tell who's more excited, Jacob or his parents!

I enjoy any day with these precious kids, but Christmas with them was especially wonderful (in the literal and connotative senses). We hope that you and your family enjoyed the holiday as well, and best wishes for a happy New Year!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

On the road again...

We went enough miles in this trip to necessitate an oil change (except I should come clean here and reveal that I really only change my oil every 6k--slacka, slacka, slacka).In Ohio we stayed in an affordable hotel with a pool, internet, and hot breakfast. Those hotels.com receptionists are amazing!
We were all interested in visiting Winter Quarters, the site where thousands of Latter-day Saints stayed during the brutal winter of 1846–47. Some Brinton ancestors are buried in the Mormon Pioneer Cemetery across the street from this visitor's center. When I think of them I wonder how they might react to our sometimes casual behavior toward church membership and religious freedom. Would it sadden them to know that we don't think very often about their sacrifices? Who was this Great Aunt Sarah who suffered here? 
For the last night of our trip we went to my sister's, where my brother-in-law Donny told stories about Navy showers, flex fuel, and shopping on Black Friday. The resulting laughter, combined with Sandra's good food, made us wish we could stay longer. Maybe we'll have to plan a trip to CO soon? 

OK, let's face it: road trips aren't all pansies. When we arrived at my parents' house I was so tired that I came within inches of applying dog shampoo to my hair. We were at one point parked in a traffic jam in Pennsylvania for three hours with no food or water (three cheers for my emergency preparedness skills!). We endured six screenings of "Scooby Doo and the Riki Tiki" and that many visits to fast food venues. We emptied our wallets on those incessant toll roads. Oh, and our van smells like fruit snack vomit. 

But it was the greatest experience that this family has ever had, bar none. Jacob suggested that next year we take a road trip to Greece. "What about the ocean?" I asked. After thinking for a second, he brightened: "I guess that we'll have to take a jet ski!"

Friday, December 12, 2008

New York, New York

If there were a crowning prize for our trek across the country, it was the thrill of New York City. I wished that I didn't have to sleep, that I could just walk through the streets taking in the grandeur of Broadway alongside the charm of street vendors (selling roasted chestnuts, no less!).
   
The kids relax at the Empire Hotel, which sits within an apple's throw of Lincoln Center. The shower door there, in all its artsiness, only had glass on one half of the shower's length. While I try to appreciate modern art, that was just going a little too far (or not far enough?). 

This is the highest point that you can climb up the Statue of Liberty now--we're at the top of the pedestal. Eight years ago, when you could climb to the crown, you would have been able to see far enough to appreciate that the Earth is curved. You would have also been able to see the World Trade Center in the area just behind Eric, in lower Manhattan.

Eric and I went out for sushi with my BYU roommate Leah and her brand-new husband, Yancy. Leah works in PR, serves in the LDS Manhattan temple, and rides the subway anywhere she wants without a map. She's basically coolness, defined. Oh, and also, she used to blast Cats from her dorm room and jump on furniture with clawed hands.  

I have never attracted so much attention as I did when walking with my three boys in Central Park. Inevitably, strangers would approach me, count the children, ask if they were all mine. "So much work, so much work," one woman told me. "They're so much joy!" I responded. Stone-faced, she walked away muttering, "so much work, so much work." I wonder what she would have made of my mother?

Here we are at this year's beauty of a Norway Spruce at Rockefeller Center. We also enjoyed the amazing Rockettes at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, where we could not keep our eyes from the stage. Even baby Michael clapped enthusiastically along with the audience. After a trip to FAO Schwarz, the trip was a wrap. Not bad for 36 hours in the city. And what a city!  In Jacob's words, "I love New York. It's close to the Arctic and has millions of taxis." 


Raynors!

The first day that we spent at my family's Maryland home, my brother Brian played "Love at Home" on the recorder. This was very sweet, until we all noticed that he was using his nose to blow through the horn. And that pretty much sums up what it's like to be in a home with seven young boys: delightful, in a gross sort of way. Can you tell a Brinton from a Raynor? (Little Mike was missing, probably off chasing the dog as he was inclined to do.) 

One of the things that I loved about growing up in my family is that on Sunday afternoons we would sit around the piano and sing and play for several hours. My sister Michelle continues the tradition with her newfound guitar prowess. 

Here I am with my mom in West Virginia. Isn't it great to be with your mom for a while? There are some things that only they understand. And even though she teaches early-morning seminary and runs a full house, she found time to make up our beds, prepare apple cobbler, and sing at the piano with us.




Sunday, November 30, 2008

Road Trip

Jack Kerouac reports that he wrote the influential On the Road in just three weeks, which seems unreasonably short. Yet driving across the country during this past week left me so inspired that I feel as if a dozen novels brew inside. My appreciation for America's vastness, its diversity, its greatness is suddenly renewed. And with gas at $1.53 or so a gallon, it was a fine time to make the trip.
   
Here's Jacob in Wyoming near a field of bison (which were apparently behind him when I took this picture!). I figured that I would take a picture of each of the kids in each state that we drove through and then compile the photos in a notebook. I actually forgot about my goal in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, so we'll have to catch the "I" states on the way back.  
Here Jacob and Eric meander through the Desert Dome at the famed Omaha Zoo. The zoo's focus on biome had us all entranced, as we found our way through a swampland, rainforest, butterfly forest, and shark tunnel.
Here's an accurate synopsis of our nutrition during the trip: only foods with "corn syrup" as a main ingredient, please! As a teenager, my ward's tradition of bringing donuts to seminary cured me of ever craving them again. I think that this road trip has cured me of both McDonald's hamburgers and Teddy Grahams. 

One trip highlight was touring the Kirtland Temple, a structure built by some of our church's founders. Historians recently discovered that the doors were actually a deep green apple color, so they were repainted accordingly.

Now we're hanging out at my parents' home in rural Maryland, where my mom made us beef stew and folded our laundry. At church this morning Jacob told his Sunbeam teacher that there is a huge bridge connecting his house to the Statue of Liberty (he's got geography on the brain). It's an ideal destination for an ideal drive across the country.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Family visit

My family's visit this week was like a "greatest hits" event full of our family's favorite activities. We went hiking, to a gingerbread festival, to Temple Square, to some museums, and miniature golfing. We enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner, a game tournament, and of course, the traditional "Crazy Night" homemade pizza. 
Here's our early Thanksgiving dinner. With two sisters and a grandma around, it was the easiest holiday meal ever, hands down.

Aunt Connie came down from Boise to see the family. Within minutes, little Michael snuggled right up to her, and everyone else gravitated toward her. When Aunt Connie starts talking, I don't want to get out of earshot--she's completely intriguing.  
 
We hiked two trails in Big Cottonwood, where we coincidentally found a letterboxing cache. Our unexpected find has inspired me to research geocaching, and we plan on going soon. 
 
This is the beginning of a game tournament. Winners took home a bubble gum machine, glow sticks, and bottle rockets. Dad clinched the booby prize, a can of refried beans.

Spending this last week with my family has helped me appreciate the friendships that I have with my siblings, but especially with the "older kids" (Amy, Kim, Sandra, and James). I remember the first time we invited James to an after-the-younger-kids'-bedtime board game party. Over a rollicking game of Balderdash, James laughed so hard that he had to lie on the floor for several minutes before resuming play. Since then, we've spent hundreds of hours in late-night game sessions, including dozens of game parties with our church buddies. 
     The sisters are an unrivaled team in any acting or guessing game because we think alike. We finish each other's sentences and ruin each other's jokes. James is a wild card, always coming up with these one-liners that have us girls cracking up. (Example: the other night at dinner, the waiter mentioned that his name is Jacob and his younger brother's name is Zachary, just like my boys. After Waiter Jake left the table, James leaned forward, eyebrows cocked, and whispered, "Is he from the future?" Sitting back, James grinned smugly while we laughed our tortilla chips onto our plates.) 
  Tonight my house is quiet: my siblings are gone and my kids are asleep. And I'm up (too late!) feeling grateful for fun memories, old and new.

Adios, Hermano

My sister, niece, dad, and brother have been visiting this week in celebration of my brother James, who left for a two-year church mission today. After two months of training, he'll travel to Chihuahua, Mexico to teach and serve the people there. I look forward to supporting James on his mission because I have a testimony of the Church and of Jesus Christ. But I sure will miss him.  

James, Sandra, and Dad head out for a temple trip.

Jacob was casually saying goodbye when I mentioned that he wouldn't see Uncle James until he was almost seven. Jacob's eyes grew wide and he ran to James and hugged him.

Dad affixes the official name tag.

I put them in matching white shirts and ties so that I could get a (spectacular! Friend-worthy! at least framable!) picture of them in front of the Missionary Training Center, but they were too tuckered out to appease. Maybe next time!

Pues adiós, hermanito. Vamos a jugar baloncesto en dos años, ¿no? Lo anticiparé con felicidad.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

For fun!

My friend Jen "tagged" me with a request to list six lesser-known things about me. Here goes:

1. When I was at BYU, I played on an incredible flag football team for three seasons. You can probably guess by my stature that I was the obvious choice for center. It's true. 

2. I love to be up in the morning and get some things done in that peaceful, quiet time. When I was in junior high I would get up at 5 am and practice oboe for three hours before I had to leave for school. Now I mostly exercise, read, and do housework during that time. If I wake up past 6:30 am, I just am not prepared to face the day.

3. When I was a teenager, my family assembled blowguns in our living room to make some extra cash. I also stuffed envelopes at a grungy direct-mail center, taught piano lessons, and worked at the city pool to earn money for college. I enjoy work. 

4. I have nearly died from exposure twice, and I feel like sincere prayers helped deliver me both times. Once I was locked inside a room-size freezer at Baskin-Robbins (I was able to find a door-release after several frantic minutes). The other time I was with my Californian friend, who overturned her car into a snowbank up Spanish Fork Canyon (I actually lost consciousness that time due to the cold).

5. My childhood idol was Nancy Lieberman-Cline, a professional basketball player and youth advocate. I would go to her free day camps, and once I even played her one-on-one. She's one of those amazing people who, even with her fame and talent, reaches out to others.

6. I have wanted to be a mother my whole life. I was just looking at pictures of me and my siblings when we were younger, and in almost every picture, I am holding a baby or small child (that's me in the center holding James). I love playing with and teaching my little boys now, and I hope to always have small children as a part of my life. 

So now I want to hear about my sisters: Kim, Sandra, and Michelle. Tag.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election day

If you know Eric and me well, you understand that we have strong feelings about politics. (Case in point: A few days ago a close friend told me that she was thinking about voting for the candidate running against who I was supporting, and I nearly broke down crying.) Apparently our constant political discussions have influenced the boys. While they were playing recently, I heard Jacob (4) tell Zachary (2) "I'm not voting for you!" I've had intelligent conversations with Jacob about reducing unnecessary government spending. And tonight both older boys were fascinated by the electoral map as it lit up with election results. 

A particularly intriguing, curly-haired Jewish professor I had at the U taught me this: you can't change beliefs. After core beliefs are formed, they then become standards by which you measure all decisions. My parents formed my core beliefs about individual freedom and conservatism. According to Dr. Horwitz, I now measure all new knowledge by these beliefs.  

What do I think about this early learning (indoctrination/molding)? As a person committed to absolute truths, I feel like I need to teach my children the things that I understand. I also appreciate that others are equally committed to their core beliefs, which makes it difficult for me to find fault in any sincere politician/citizen. I certainly feel sorry for them for their ignorance, however, just as they pity mine!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween

The ever-so-wise animated cat Garfield has commented that Halloween is the holiday when you don't celebrate anything but "candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy!" Today as we went throughout the rituals of the day, however, I was thinking about how Halloween celebrates a lot of things: imagination, generosity, neighbors, childhood, and joy. The magic of the day had my boys entranced, creating an enjoyable escape for all of us. Here are a few highlights:

The boys get a pumpkin boost to check on our spiderwebs and watch Dad do some pipe repairs.
Baby cow Mike manages a smile without having to remove the thumb-ifier.
The kids eat lunch at a fun neighborhood trick-or-treat/lunch.
The sun finally went down, and we hit the trick-or-treat trail.

After a fun night of talking with our neighbors and enjoying the boys' running commentaries ("This one is the spookiest!" and "Is that a real skull?"), we came home and watched a few cartoons while we sorted the candy.

Yesterday my sister-in-law and I were laughing about the meaninglessness of Halloween. But today I'm thinking that it's a pretty great tradition. 

Halloween Cousins Day

Every month or so, we get together with the Brinton cousins and have Cousins Day. Yesterday we had a Halloween party, where these cute (and scary!) munchkins enjoyed each other and the fun of the holiday. This picture absolutely cracks me up because their varied expressions make you wonder what each of them is thinking. I love that my niece Allie is spreading her recycled-umbrella "bat wings." And doesn't Superman Spencer look just as endearing as Clark Kent? (He is!)  

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Final Cut with my beau

Last weekend Eric and I went down to Provo to attend an annual student film festival, Final Cut, and eat at an unbelievably good Japanese restaurant, Osaka. Both activities are things that we enjoyed while we were dating at BYU: Final Cut became a tradition after we saw the rave short "Peluca" there (the main character in "Peluca" was later adapted to become Napoleon in Napoleon Dynamite); Osaka was the first (and only) restaurant where the server knew my name and what I wanted (chicken sukiyaki). It was a good feeling, then, to go do these fun things with a handsome young man in his little red sports car.

It was an ever better feeling to go back with him now and to be in Provo again with him, watching Final Cut, and eating our sukiyaki and sashimi together. Magical Provo! It was like going home and breathing in a wonderful, familiar smell. 
  
Here's a picture of us going to a show in 2002. Eric has a funny smile because he was embarrassed that he had braces on.
Here's a picture of us after our date this weekend. Eric has a funny smile this time because he was being weird.
Oh, Eric. He's the spark of my life, the best way to make any day ten times better. I love 'im.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On chilling out: dancing like it's 1999

Once in high school my buddy Wes and I entered a swing dance competition with 100 or so other couples. "Here's our strategy," he told me. "We're going to dance so wild and so fast that the judges won't have a chance to tap us out." That's what we did, and we ended up evading the judges long enough to win. 

Late that night my friends and I drove home like champions, plastic leis tickling our necks as the summer air streamed into my '89 Honda Civic. I remember thinking that there was no better feeling than being 16. 

And now (just nine years later!), Eric was recently surprised that I was tapping my fingers on the steering wheel in rhythm to a song on the radio. "Oh, cute!" he said. "You're relaxed!" Others regularly ask about my welfare, offering concerned upturned eyebrows and furrowed frowns. Strangers bombard me with "there's never a moment's rest, is there?" or "now, don't you have your hands full?" Last week my physician asked me questions about how stress is affecting my health. I always find these queries strange, at best, and sometimes intrusive. Honestly, I'm not feeling stressed.

Enter Kim. Tonight my perennially carefree (and fun!) sister came over to take Jacob on an aunt date. When they came home, she introduced us to some youtube videos, including several variations of "Hamster Dance Spiderman." We spent the next 45 minutes trying to learn Spidey's smooth moves, and I'll have to admit that I revisited the clips after the kids went to bed (I have to get that lunge twist combo!). The experience tickled my serotonin receptors for sure.

I want to say that I "felt like myself" tonight, yet I always think it strange when people use the phrase. Aren't you always yourself, no matter the mood or stage of life? There are just aspects to the self that are less desirable and that we consider outside of ourselves? Lacan's "mirror stage" enlightens the analysis, as I can imagine an alternative stage in which I (the "real") am wholly (and, paradoxically, also fragmentally) represented through the "mirror" of dance. But I like to (romantically) think of myself as the dance's representation, even though I realize that the "real" encompasses much more.   

In short, I've been missing out because I'm too stressed to enjoy life. The Hamster Dance Spiderman helped me learn this. Try it out yourself if you feel like it: Hamster Dance Spiderman.

P.S. Do my thoughts still exist if I don't blog about them?


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Paradise Powell

When we were packing for Lake Powell, I almost didn't bring our swimsuits. It's October! Halloweentime! Plus, the weather forecast for Bullfrog Bay looked mighty similar to the forecast for Salt Lake. It turned out to be a summer-like paradise down at the houseboat, and Nana and Grandpa made it an especially fun trip for everyone.

Top five Lake Powell adventures:
5. Hanging out with my 16-year-old brother-in-law, Sam, and his buddies. I couldn't believe how those boys could cram so much fun into a three-day trip. (I also couldn't believe how dirty they could get without feeling like they needed to take showers!) After spending this week with such quality young men, I hope that we have a whole gaggle of boys.  
4. Running along the coastline with the red rock mountains as a backdrop. One day I took a nine-mile run and felt totally recharged. I felt like a runner on one of those posters with a one-word inspiring title, like "determination" or "endurance." Doesn't it seem that those posters always have photos of people running in the desert?
3. Boating and jet skiing! The boys and I kayaked around the bay, and we took the jet skis out several times. And can I just mention that Eric looks so dang handsome in a wetsuit?    
2. Building sand castles. I love watching the boys focus on projects like this, especially when they come up with ideas like, "we need to build a special place for them to keep all their treasures." 
1. Hiking up to the sand dunes. The boys were thrilled to hike through Moki Canyon to some huge sand dunes. Grandpa scaled the dunes more times than anyone; Jacob is following in his legacy and becoming a fast, tough hiker. Who knew that a big pile of sand could be so fun?

Once at a wedding, I heard someone advise the couple to take lots of vacations because that's where good memories come from. I agree wholeheartedly, especially when the vacations involve Lake Powell!






Jacob's ascent

This kid is an animal! He scaled two huge dunes on his own, then slid down (or "sledded down," if you ask Zachary).

video

Monday, October 13, 2008

Question

If you were up until after midnight cleaning the house and working on an e-newsletter (with a pressing deadline!), and if you went down to switch the laundry and found child-size orbs of excrement in your washing machine, would you laugh or cry?

Just wondering.  

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Elder Uchtdorf's inspiration

Two weeks ago while speaking at the general Relief Society meeting, President Uchtdorf counseled sisters that we can overcome feelings of "discouragement, inadequacy and weariness" by 1) creating and 2) being compassionate.  I have pondered these ideas many times, especially Pres. Uchdorf's suggestion that we create. He likened the satisfying effects of creation to the happiness that God feels. With this counsel in mind, I created something this week: a wizard costume for Jacob. After finishing the robe part, I thought about how genuinely satisfying it is to create. I will keep this testimony in mind the next time I feel discouraged or inadequate. And today? I'm creating a banana creme pie!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Coolest park

We just discovered Murray City Park, home to the coolest playground ever!


The boys had mixed reviews for the chair spinners, though. Zachary grinned the entire time, and Jacob chanted "I want Mommy."

video