Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sometimes they get along...

Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

My kids are like all kids -- they fight, they argue, they tease, they tell on each other. But sometimes, they get along. And those times are magic. I love to watch them interact. Sometimes I'll stand at the door, just out of sight, and listen to them. Have you ever noticed that kids spend more time making grand plans than they ever do actually carrying them out? My kids will sit on the trampoline, or the front porch, and imagine these fantastic scenarios. In the most recent version, they are all orphans who escape from the orphanage and the evil headmaster (apparently played by yours truly), and they head out into the world, where they perform various heroic feats. Each of them contributes.

 Sometimes I think it would be so entertaining to write down what they are saying. But, other times, I think that the real magic happens because they start all over again each day, with a fresh new idea. Occasionally, I have those moments when I wonder why I didn't opt for a lobotomy instead of children, but, then they go and do something wonderful, and they suck me in all over again. 

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Whatchoo bloggin' 'bout Willis?

Usually, I am the first  person to shower at our house. But not on Sundays. On Sundays, I'm the last, which means I have to go after Emma -- our youngest, and the only one who still bathes (the rest of us shower, don't be disgusting).  
Well, Emma doesn't like to bathe alone. She likes to play in the tub, and of course, she never quite gets around to taking her toys back out. That means that by the time I get to the shower, it's rather crowded in there. 
Today, I took inventory of the menagerie:
5 Barbies: One "normal" Barbie - by which I mean, in full possession of all limbs and head, and also naked - which is the natural state of all Barbies, five minutes after they are unpackaged. One Mermaid Barbie, minus her fin, with purple streaks in her hair. One ethnic Barbie -- not sure the nationality -- with permanent bikini. One very flexible Barbie. One poor Barbie with only one leg and one and half arms -- but still smiling. 
3 Ninja Turtles: Leonardo and Donatello, in traditional costume, and Michelangelo in full skater garb, including knee and elbow pads and helmet.
1 Upright grand piano: Just like that one grandma used to have.
1 Basket of green apples.
1 Treasure chest.
1 Horse. 
1 Cow.
1 John Deere Tractor.
1 Pump/well apparatus and bucket overflowing with water.
1 Duck.
1 Farm girl.
1 Playground Slide.
1 Soup ladle.
1 Bear.
3 Corn stalks.
1 Red wagon.
1 Green Dodge Charger (only three wheels).
1 Velociraptor.
1 Allosaurus.
1 Blonde Little Person.
6 Stackable cups.
1 Red plastic cup.
1 Non-descript gray flag.
1 Rescue action figure (in wetsuit, with diving knife and adventure mullet).
The Entire Alphabet.
All numbers (Well, you know what I mean: 0-9. Actually, there are three sixes. I'm not sure if I should be frightened or not...)
1 Ford pickup truck.
And finally, something that looks like a hot dog, with goofy eyes and a scary grin, and over size arms (come to think of it, I'm not sure what the "normal" size would be for arms on a hot dog), stubby legs and a fedora.

I always thought of our tub as rather small.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Emma June

Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

This is Emma. She's the youngest of my three kids -- she'll be five in a couple of weeks. I was trying to think of a word to describe her. Her sister, Jordan, is beautiful. Her brother, Matthew, is funny. Emma is cute, maddening, super intelligent, exuberant, moody, dangerous, adorable, volatile, frustrating, stubborn, obnoxious, sweet, mean, devilish, angelic, cuddly, prickly, quotable, one of a kind. Thank goodness.

If Jordan is my model and Matt is my buddy, Emma is my rock star.

It's true what they say - the youngest does get treated differently. Emma is our last, and I am enjoying her immensely. We're leaving behind the diapers and high chairs and sleepless nights. I don't miss those things, but watching my baby girl grow so fast -- she goes to kindergarten this fall -- I pause, and try to hold on. My other kids are older and developing their own interests and I am drifting more into the wings. But, Emma still needs me. She still wants to spend as much time with me as possible. She holds my hand when we walk. She sits with me on the front porch and she sings when I play the guitar. She dances for me on the front grass.

And besides that, she says the funniest things: The other day I was dancing with her, when I took her in my arms and dipped her, giving her my best Pepe le Pew impression. Her response? "Dad, don't hold me like a woman."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

September 7, 1997. 
4:50 am
The exact moment I became a father. It is a moment indelibly etched in my memory. Sharon was strapped to a table, after twenty-four hours of labor, while a cesarean section was performed by the doctors at the University of Utah Medical Center. My job was to hold the little vomit dish by Sharon's head, in case she got nauseated when they were tugging on her organs. She did. My other job was to make sure I didn't see anything that the doctors were doing, in order that I might not get sick either. We had only one vomit dish. In that respect, the large curtain was a blessing. My own father had passed out, at my birth, at the administration of the epidural, so I was taking no chances. 
Jordan came out purple, and messy and kind of gross (I'm not sure what I was expecting). Oh, and heavy. She weighed eight pounds, one ounce. It doesn't seem so big now, but when you have been up all night, and you're using your right hand to comfort your wife (flopping and shivering and puking, while still strapped to the table next you), and the nurse comes to place your new daughter in to your left arm, the result was inevitable: I almost dropped her. 
The nurses quickly took Jordan back and rushed her from the room and, I imagine, placed a call to Child Protective Services. The next three days were the easiest of my fatherhood. I came to the hospital for several hours each day to be with my wife and baby, and then went home and got a good night's sleep. In the meantime, the good people at the hospital took good care of Sharon and Jordan.
At least I thought they were good people then. It turns out they were insane. The day came when we all went down to our red Dodge Neon, parked in the loading zone at the hospital, the nurse checked to see that we had our baby seat installed properly, and wished us good luck. I remember distinctly wanting to go back in to the hospital and lecture them for being so irresponsible as to let me  -- ME! -- take this baby from their protective care. But, I didn't.  
The gravity of the situation descended on me heavier with each mile between Salt Lake City and my in-laws' home in Fruit Heights. I hadn't realized that holding that eight pound, one ounce little girl in my arms, placed the weight of the world on my shoulders. 
   A little less than two years later -- June 21, 1999 --  I got a call at work. Sharon, now pregnant with our second child, had gone in  for a routine check-up. The baby was not responding and they were going to take him. He was 5 weeks early. We finally decided on a name, as they were prepping Sharon for surgery. We knew that we would name him Matthew, but we had not settled on a middle name. I had been leaning toward Jerald -- the name of my own father, who had passed away six months earlier, before we could tell him that Sharon was pregnant. At the last moment, in a wave of vanity, I decided on Christopher. I think Sharon knew all along that that would be his name, but she let me work through it myself. Matt was in the NICU for almost a week, then he was on oxygen at home for another two. I'll never forget the oxygen tube, taped to his big fat cheeks with band-aids.  I was excited to see what my second child would look like. He looked exactly like Jordan. In fact, he was the same weight as her and only a half inch shorter. 
My grandfather died at the end of June, 2003. He was the greatest man I ever knew. I didn't make it to his funeral, because that was the day -- July 3, 2003 -- that Emma June, our last child, was born. Emma would have been my grandpa's 60th great grandchild. Like Matthew, Emma came early -- this time it was four weeks. Unlike Matthew, Emma did not weigh the same as Jordan (although she did look exactly like the other two), she was 22 inches and weighed 9 pounds, 7 ounces! She was in the NICU for five days. It's quite an experience to walk your nine pound, seven ounce "preemie" around the Intensive Care Unit ("see that little half pound kid there? You could totally take him!").
My children have grown into wonderfully beautiful, fun, exasperating, infuriating, hysterical, magical, maddening, hilarious, intelligent -- sometimes too intelligent for their own good, loving people. Jordan is smart and beautiful. Matthew is the perfect brother -- annoying to his sisters, but also their best friend. And Emma -- well Emma is a blog all her own. Without them, my life would not be a life. I love them with all that I am. 
I have many people to thank for making me a father - it's not all about biology. First, my own dad. What I learned from my dad, is that it's never too late to mend a relationship with your children. I loved my dad growing up, but our relationship was never close, until the last five or so years of his life -- after I got married, and particularly after Jordan was born. I'm so grateful that we finally became truly father and son. I hope he sees my kids. I hope I can do the things that would make him proud. 
I think about you every day, Dad. I love you, and I wish you were here.
My father-in-law has been the father in my life, since my dad passed. I could not have asked for a better man. He is a man of rock hard integrity and faith. He is an example to all of us who look up to him. He has accepted me as a son - with all my shortcomings, and I love him as though he were my own father. Thank you Terry --for my wife and my children. And for myself.
Grandpa Fillmore. My mom's father was the best man I ever knew. Growing up, he was the example to me, of what a father, a husband and a grandfather should be. 
Sharon, my beautiful wife. You made me a father, and you share, with me, this amazing journey we call parenthood. I love you more than there are words to express. What you ever saw in me, I will never know. But, I am eternally grateful to have you at my side.
Finally, I thank my Father in Heaven. I am constantly aware that I am blessed more than I will ever deserve. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Well, I guess I've put this off long enough. Grab a cold one, this could take a while. 
Here we go:
I'm not even sure how to start. We -- myself, my wife, and three kids -- went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on May 23. Ever since then I've been trying to decide how I feel about it. I've tried every way I can to avoid using the
 "D" word: disappointment. Actually, I think I've come to terms with it, and I like the movie better the more I think about it -- also, I went back and saw it again that same night. I would suggest this to you die hard Indy fans out there (though, perhaps not the same night). It's a better movie the second time around, because you are no longer in shock. 
So why was I in shock? I had basically prepared myself for the plot. I knew it would be different -- very different. Or so I thought.
This movie is nothing like the other Indiana Jones movies. At all. Getting our hopes up astronomically high never fails. You are always let down. But, I couldn't help myself. This was Spielberg, Lucas and Harrison Ford together again making an Indiana Jones movie. That's about as close to a perfect scenario as I can think of for getting one's hopes up. 
So this "review" is a bit rambling. That's because I'm conflicted. I want to be able to say this is the greatest movie of all time (or at least since Raiders of the Lost Ark). But, it's not. But it's not the worst movie ever, either. It's actually a pretty good adventure, and there are some moments of brilliance. Shia Lebouf is fantastic! Harrison Ford will always be Indiana Jones, and I'll watch him any time he puts the hat back on. 
Karen Allen reprises the role of Marion Ravenwood, and it's great to see her. The truly great moments of this movie are the same as in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade -- they are the interactions between the main characters. The plot is of secondary importance (good thing too here - because the plot really stretches credulity, even for Indiana Jones). 
I have decided, after way too much thought, that the real black sheep in the Indiana Jones series is not this movie, or even the other favorite whipping boy, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (I wish everyone would stop bagging on Temple of Doom - it's actually a very good movie) - no, the black sheep is Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was much grittier and realistic than any of the other films. It was the greatest movie of all time (Citizen Cane be darned!).
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull would be better as a series.
 I am completely open to the idea of Indy in a new set of adventures, and the end of this movie seems to hint in that direction. One bit of advice: we need a little more Spielberg and a little less Lucas. George Lucas seems to have lost his way. It pains me to write that, but this movie has his fingerprints all over it. Lucas was once a great story teller, but he seems to be more interested in what his minions, at Industrial Light and Magic, can do with a computer (and fleecing his loyal fans for every last cent), than in telling a compelling story.
To sum up: 
Is it worth seeing? Absolutely. Will I own it on DVD? Of course. Would I pay to see it in the theater again? Yeah, actually I would. 
One more thing to remember. A spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, if you will:
Remember, nineteen years have passed since the last story - for the characters as well as for us. In the world of Indiana Jones, there has been a horrific World War. Atomic Bombs have entered the picture. Communism has become a force to be reckoned with. The cold war is about as close to being a hot war as it ever gets (with the exception of that little Cuban Missile Crisis -- which Kennedy did not just solve, he also helped cause, sorry, I had to get that off my chest). Indiana Jones has been active in the events that have swept the world over the last nineteen years. And finally, The first three movies were set in the 1930's and were an homage to the "B" movie serials of that era. Those "B" movies were adventure movies, set in exotic locales, and often moved from one cliffhanging situation to the next. This new movie is set in the 1950's and again the film makers decided that they would pay tribute to the "B' movie genre of that time period. In the 50's that meant a more science fiction type of story. Just remember that, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will go down much easier. 
Go see it. 
Trust me.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Photostory Friday: The Sepia Years

Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

The "sepia" phase. My children are my favorite subject. They are the reason I started taking pictures. I rarely take a picture of them directly facing the camera, in fact I take a lot of them walking away from the camera - and it all started with this shot. I had been photographing them on a trail near our home, when I had to stop to reload the camera (there was a time when we still used film in our cameras - it seems so barbaric now), and Jordan and Matthew headed off, hand in hand, down the trail. I quickly loaded and shot this. It may be my personal favorite, of any picture I've ever taken. With the kids not facing the camera and saying cheese, they become part of the entire narrative. The picture becomes a story. 

Also on the trail that day, my then two year old son Matthew, holding hands, and worshipping his mother - from below. She maintains, to this day, that Matt is the most affectionate of our three kids.

My son, also on the trail, a year or so later, and after a good rain, was fascinated by the new friend he found. As usual, I was fascinated by him. 

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Photostory Friday

Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

My sister-in-law, Pam, pointed me toward this little event, so I thought it only fitting to start with a picture of her kids. Pam had asked me to take some pictures of her children, Noah and Annie, so we were in my basement trying to figure out a way to get some cooperation out of Noah (if ever there were a child with his own agenda, it's Noah), and were just about to give up when I told him to kiss his sister and snapped the picture. Annie (also a little unpredictable) reacted with shock and awe.

This shot was taken on a beautiful summer morning, at Island in the Sky, in Canyonlands National Park. It had rained early that morning, leaving puddles all over the rock (you rarely see puddles in the desert, in August). I had that portion of the park entirely to myself, and it was one of the most beautiful mornings of my life. This is one of the few photographs I have ever taken that turned out exactly the way I thought it would.

My "artistic" phase. I mostly take pictures of people, but my other passion is the piano. My old piano is pretty beat up, but I think the scars give it character.

Jordan. My oldest daughter, and best model. Jordan had just turned eight, and we were taking some pictures of her in her baptismal dress, on a trail by our house. The sun reflected so brilliantly off of that dress. Jordan's innocence and purity are so evident in this picture. I've taken thousands of pictures of Jordan, but this is one of my all time favorites.