Saturday, May 31, 2014

Kindergartenorama, or All Good Beginnings Must Come To An End

 The morning carpool. These three kept their parents in stitches most mornings on the way to BYU. One of my favorite stories about them involves their imaginary friends. K has had an imaginary friend, Nadine, for a long time. Nadine actually sickens and dies each month along with the waxing and waning of the moon (you guessed, it. At BYU kindergarten, all of the children are above average, aka quirky). L joined in with two imaginary friends, Nobody and No One. Not to be outdone, Joss cooked up Bob and Hobo Joe pretty fast. One day, in what I can only assume was a waning crescent phase, K and Joss were already loaded up in Rob's truck when Nadine threw up all over the only empty seat. The kids informed L when she climbed in that Nadine had vomited on the upholstery. L was beside herself. "But I don't waaaant to sit in imaginawy bawwwwf!" she wailed. Never underestimate the real chaos that imaginary friends can cause.
 Joss on his last day of BYU preschool
 Signing in. Each school day there is a question for the kids and they have to sign their name and then place it on one side or the other in order to answer the question.
 Joss and L measuring their height. L's dad is 6'8" and she's six months older than he is, so she could easily pass him up. We're learning that kids who are tall early, are not so crazy tall later on. Rob found that unlike last year, the kids were much better readers this year and he couldn't switch their name tags around. They were on to his game.
 This was at BYU from his term on books. Each kid had to learn about books and make their own book. The culminating activity was to have a book signing with family and friends.
 Joss wrote a book about the time his mother let the boys have a marshmallow fight down in the basement with super sized marshmallows. Doesn't he look natty in his authorial duds?
 And here is the whole BYU crew. In the afternoons, the two on the left went to kindergarten at Westridge, and the two on the right went to Wasatch. One of my favorite things this year was to have Rob imitate lunch times with Z and Joss. How they would torture each other in the elevator. How they would try to finagle more dessert. How Z would try to cram all the vegetables in her mouth at once so she could spit them out and move on to the more fun parts of their multi-course meal. The time that she put all of her baby carrots in her mouth and Rob made her chew them up, but she wanted dip, so she kept sticking her fingers with hummus and tzatiki in her mouth too. Really, it was the best thing ever for Joss to have these three other youngest children to hang out with this year. They all kept each other in check.
 You can see he needs some keeping in check. Here he is trying to smash up rocks at the culminating activity for rock term.
And here he is showing off his Cookie As Big As Your Head; this was a prize for passing off all the letters in the alphabet and many other sight words. It was a big achievement and really launched him into reading. He has had such a fabulous experience in kindergarten, I don't know how first grade will ever measure up.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Canyonlands Needles: the Hike, the Water Hole, and the Rain

It rained during the night, but had cleared up by Sunday morning, leaving a damp ground that was not so bad. We had a campfire church meeting for the kids, singing primary songs, and the adults met in our tent and we read part of a keynote address from Rob's cousin. Then we went out on this scenic loop:
 This is very nearly the whole group. I think we're missing two people here.
In the afternoon, there was a big need to go get in some water. We'd heard about a place outside Canyonlands on BLM land, and we tried to find it, but couldn't. About six of us went back to the campsite and then the others found this great orange puddle.
 This was tucked back off a trail, which is why our scouts had missed it.
 The kids were pretty happy to get wet.
 And there were these very handy places for the adults to sit too.
 Having our own environmental scientist on hand was nice. As he said: if it's orange, nothing is living in it. Pretty clean in terms of bacteria.
 And a pretty soft entrance too.
 Joss and the littles jumped off the short side . . .
 And then the bigger kids kept upping the ante to go higher and higher . . .
until they were jumping in all the way over on the left side. Go Sebi! I couldn't have jumped in there!

Here's Maddie jumping in.
By the time we were all back at camp ready to eat dinner, it was well and truly pouring on us. Thankfully we had two pavilions to hide under and eat. But eventually the kids discovered that there was a natural waterfall going in one corner of the campsite and they all ran over and splashed around until they were cold and drenched. That was really the highlight of the trip for several of the kids.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Canyonlands: Needles

Molly had made reservations for a campsite in Canyonlands months ago for Memorial Day weekend. But as is the custom, we were thinking about skipping out when it comes to the week of. This time it wasn't just the weather, there was also a dread flu bug running through our families. I personally couldn't think of anything worse than having the flu while camping in the rain.
But in the end, we decided to go and we hit one spot of absolutely crazy weather just before Moab, and then it all looked fine. We were staying here, down in this little hollow of rock in the Needles area. I think it was the Squaw group campsite.
 The kids immediately discovered that they could scramble up the rocks next to the campsite and explore up above all of the adults who were busy setting up tents, cooking meals, or just being grateful that the kids weren't underfoot. We did have to howl to them once or twice to come down or get away from the edge, but no one fell off, and they had a grand time up there. 
 On Saturday we took a few short hikes. This one was around an old herding campsite.
 The kids from the first night of camping. Three families came on Friday and two more joined us on Saturday.
 These folk came despite being on the cusp of a move across the country. Very brave!
These kids have been friends for a long time, and it shows. They zip together like a zipper and it feels like there are half as many kids. Then they zip off and around. They do show up to meals, though!
There were plenty of flowers in the desert in springtime. 
My favorite.
 We stopped by the rangers' station and watched a movie and chatted up one of the rangers about skulls. After this, Will came down with the flu. He, poor thing, had to hang out in a hot tent being sick. Thankfully we had three tents for our family, and so he could hang out in peace. It was also helpful that the bathrooms were close by and they were really nice -- tiled floors and corian counters. No showers, but I am learning that's what the camping is all about.
  Then we went back to the campsite where we were there to receive our friends. Here Sebi, Kate, and Joss are up at the top of what the kids named Mount Stupid Turtle (it was originally called Mount Stupid, and then they decided it looked like a turtle).
Once they got their tents set up, we decided to climb up to see what the kids had been doing every time they took off. The views were spectacular and we sat up there and talked and made the fathers go chasing after the kids to make sure no one fell down a crevasse. No one did.
The scenery was breathtaking. You can see from the sky in these photos that it was sort of touch and go all day, but we managed to escape without rain on Saturday.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Visit to Chicago

 Earlier this year my sister moved to Chicago. She helped open up a Chicago office of her Manhattan firm even though she really didn't know anyone in the city. Mom and I went back to visit her in May, just to check out her new digs and see where she was. I'd never been and really didn't know much of anything about Chicago. Sebi kept referring to it as Gangster City. Mom and I met K at work and saw her swanky office in the downtown, then we walked past this giant silver coffee bean (Cloud Gate) to the Art Institute.
 I loved this VanGogh in person. It's not one I would have expected, but that's exactly why I go to museums. The texture of the worn floorboards especially impressed me, and I would have rented this room on the spot.
 Seurat was great in person too, but how could it miss after Ferris Beuller's Day Off? I took a picture of the little boy blowing his horn for Will.
 There is so much great stuff there! I was disappointed that the Hopper was out on loan, but . . .
 I got to see American Gothic! It was a good, surgical museum trip where I didn't get sidetracked first and spend all my best energy on the first floor antiquities. We had Chicago style pizza and went home and to bed.
 The next morning K had reserved a zip car and we picked it up and went by a Swedish bakery in the next suburb. We got a smattering of many things and ate them as we drove out to Oak Park to take a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's first family residence. She has those pictures, but it was a great house. The tour was good, but whitewashed, omitting FLW's many indiscretions, mistresses, and eventual divorce. He had six children and one of them invented Lincoln Logs, so it wasn't all for naught . . .
 It was a drizzly day, so it was the perfect time to have a car. We had a stellar Indian buffet for lunch and came home and ate dinner and watched Julie and Julia and I crashed again.
 Saturday we headed down to the Magnificent Mile. Here is mom in front of the Water Works.
 We rode up to the top of the Hancock building and looked out at the view.
 I was so ignorant of Chicago that I didn't realize it was on a lake. Yep. It is. Lake Michigan, I think, though I'm flying without a guidebook here.
 This building has stones embedded in it from all over the world.
 And these two summed up our family: the Berlin Wall next to the Great Wall of China. There's a piece of the Salt Lake Temple around the corner.
 Then we went to find our architectural boat tour.
Nedra: Oh! We have to go back over the bridge to get our boat.
Karen: No, Mom, that's Wendella. Those are the funny ones. We are doing the Architecture Foundation tour -- the nerdy one. 

And indeed, it was the nerdy one. We could tell because everyone was there early and standing quietly in line. Our guide was great and taught us all kinds of things. Again, I didn't realize that Chicago is a hotbed of architectural design. This building above was my favorite as soon as I saw it (same colors as a Podesta Baldocchi box from my childhood). Turns out it was designed during Prohibition and is symbolic of a champagne bottle.
 We learned that the Chicago River was so polluted that they engineered a reverse flow miracle to dump all the waste out the other side (which didn't endear them to their neighbors). I think now that they should try the trash water wheel experiment like Baltimore. So cool! I think it's fantastic.
 In the meantime, Chicago's recent success was to get this river upgraded from "toxic" to merely "highly polluted". I guess sometimes you've got to look hard to find your successes.
 We went all the way out to Navy Pier (now I'm just making stuff up -- I can't remember if this is really what it's called; but it's plausible, right?).
 The building in the middle is currently one of the tallest in the US designed by a woman, and those strange fin-like patterns are supposed to mimic the water in the river. When we disembarked, we walked down to Navy Pier or whatever it's actually called. We saw an exhibit of Louis Comfort Tiffany religious art. 
Did I even know that he did religious art? No. It was really good. By then we were well and truly tired.  We had a very pleasant dinner at Julius Meinl (a Viennese place we always shop at when we're there -- they have restaurants in Chicago. Who knew?) then went home and watched About Time. And if you haven't, you should too. But do not be fooled into thinking that it's a romantic comedy. It's not. Excellent movie.
Sunday we made soup and went to church and ate soup and mom and I headed back out to the airport. I am so proud of K for making it in a big city. She found a great apartment and furnished it and has had to figure out everything from internet to groceries to the gym and where the knitting club meets. And she's enjoying it too. I started developing a list of R-rated Movies That Will Make You A Better Person. If you have any additions, please let me know!