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!