Saturday, May 3, 2008

... and a visit with Beki

Originally posted June 12, 2005

Hello ... remember me? Gosh, it's been so long since my last email that I hardly even remember me!

[editor's note (heh! who's da editor?): This entry's particular focus on its writer (as opposed to focussing on the kiddies) comes at the request of more than one family relation. Translation: I'm not blowing my own horn for my own pleasure; my arm is being twisted to do this. Ow-ow okay, okay, I'll sing my own praises!] [no, really, it's all true ... I'm being forced to do this!]

So, this morning I hit the electric rooster at 6 am ... and found myself, somehow, being paged by my two daughters at the door: "Papa, wake up," Elena Marie sang, "it's 8:30!" Um, uh-oh, I'm late for work.

But, when I dragged myself out of bed and opened the door, the two kiddies rushed me, each with a book in hand, so, there was nothing for it: we all (except Diane, who was trying, rather successfully, to sleep in the children's room ... long night, don't ask) piled back into the big bed, and I was assailed with requests to read one book (Tumble Bumble, held by Isabel: *point-point-point* at the book cover went her demanding/pleading finger) or another (Where are you going? To see my Friend an English/Japanese book held by Elena Marie) first.

I guess when a parent reads a sibling's book first, the kid gets bragging rights on the playground.

So I compromised: "Elena Marie, I'll read Tumble Bumble first, since Isabel asked first, but then I'll read your book next, okay?" Elena Marie, not looking at all disappointed: "Okay!"

But then a marvelous event unfolded: Elena Marie demanded to read Tumble Bumble to Isabel and off she started,

"A tiny bug went for a walk,
He met a cat, and stopped to talk.

They fell in step, and strolled a while,
and bumped into a crocodile.

The crocodile grinned wide with glee,
and introduced her friend the bee.

The all began to dance a jig,
and bumped into a baby pig.

'Oink!' he squealed, 'that was my tail!'
They apologized to no avail.

So the crocodile sang him a song,
and as she sang, they danced along.

Zigging-zagging down the road,
they bumped into a big green toad.

The startled toad ..."

and so it goes. Get the book, it's one of my top ten books of all time (right up there, but in a very different way, with Helen DeWitt's The Last Samurai and Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher and Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid and Roger Zelzany's Lord of Light and Neal Gaiman's American Gods and Benjamin Hoff's Tao of Pooh (a beautiful successor to the Pooh books by Milne) ... the books I am currently reading and articles I'm writing all the time are about Mathematical philosophy (symbolic logic, using various logics), but perhaps my work is not as gripping to you as it is to me ... oh, Papa, I've created a set of puzzles ... give them a go!)

And so she went, calling out each line with a sing-song intonation, stumbling only over a couple of places, her face, when I peeked at it in my incredulity, was wreathed in smiles as she "read". Isabel also had I look of pleased astonishment ... or maybe she was thinking: "who's the weird guy with the funny look on his face?"

After Tumble Bumble, and after explaining to Isabel that, no, I would not read it again right away, as it was now time to read Elena Marie's book (she, very grudgingly, allowed this; she hasn't come to terms with the idea that her parents must also give some attention to her older sister, but, fortunately the new book was entertaining for both children, again ... just goes to show my dear kiddies have a good taste in books). I read the English side first and then turned the book over and, starting from the (American) back, began reading the Hiragana (Japanese phonics) ... it was amazing how immediate was the return of the sense of the words. I was still very slow reading out the sounds, so the children soon looked elsewhere for fun and hopped off the bed to eat and to play.

After that reading adventure (*whew*), we played a bit outside -- Elena paused along the way, pointing at some ferns that had grown onto the sidewalk: "Papa, you need to cut these."

That's something I've noticed about Elena Marie: she has a very strong sense of order, what things must be done, to do it 'correctly'. One time, we were in the bathroom, and I had finished washing my hands and I reached for a towel, only to be redirected by an imperious: "No, Papa, use the hand towel!"

*Harumphf!* It's so sweet that she's so focussed her intent! I especially love the look of serious earnestness that goes along with these comments. Cute-cute-cute.

Of course, when I burst forth with such exclamations, the unexpected, lavish, attention is immediately rebuffed: "No, Papa, I'm NOT cute; I'm ELENA MARIE!" Whoa. So, I've tried, rather unsuccessfully, to moderate my excitement.

So we played, and, it being Wednesday, Diane collected the cute-cute- uhhhhh kids and headed out for an adventure, "and I, I took the stairs often travelled by, and that has not made a bit of difference" ... or a quotation somewhere, lexically, close to that. Anyway, I went downstairs to exercise to Dance-dance-revolution (Ultramix2, for those of you counting). "Love is dreaminess" was the first song up. My review of the song was on the 'light' mode, this time I danced it on standard, and the arrows came so relentlessly that I almost threw up my hands somewhere in the middle of the song, but pressing forward away from there, I went on to get the 100-combo -- can you imagine that? After half the song, there were still more than 100 steps to go! I burnt 50 calories with that one song ... legs saying: *ouch*! The songs didn't seem to get any easier, but I guess I started getting my 'gahrouve' on, yo! Which means I didn't acquit myself too poorly (Did you ever notice that the phrase 'too poorly' is two words, where each word has two 'o's in a row, but each pair of 'oo's is pronounced differently (now, please don't confuse 'oo's with ooze, because those two things are two different things)).

So, I went through my dance routine, which started with 'Love is Dreaminess' and then ends with the same song. On the way back, I took the routine up a notch: I moved the skill bar from 'standard' (complex steps) to 'heavy' (insane steps ... not my descriptor), and, amazingly to me, I passed every song (even the ugly 'route 80s') ... except for 'Love is Dreaminess'.

I was dancing along ... dancing kind of like a dear running alongside a superhighway when it decides to cross, and while I was thinking: "If I could JUST. PULL. THIS. TOGE" the dance meter sputters out: I FAILED THE SONG.

[two minutes of unintelligible screaming editted out]

So, I needed to walk away from my exercise. I took Elena Marie's advice and went outside to trim back the ferns ... and the bush overgrowing onto the driveway ... and pull up some rather nasty weeds (can you believe one one-foot tall weed sent out an exploratory root 10 WHOLE FEET across the lawn from its base ... awful stuff weeds! Another weed had a deciduous base root the size and shape of a tree branch ... that particular weed was a 30-minute job -- and I was armed with a spade!).

Good break! I went back in to conquer that song.

Two minutes later (after the thought "Okay, now, keep it toge ...ARRRRRRGGGHHHH!!!!!") I hit the showers. Beaten, but not defeated (or is it vice versa?), for I made a bit more progress and I saw I was on the final third of the song. Next time ... or perhaps the time after that, I will OWN that song, like Anakin OWNs the dark side of the force ... or something like that.

Okay, enough of me!


We all uprooted and headed to Vermont to visit Beki and Howland.

It was the best visit ever! They went out of their way to make our stay comfortable, which it was, but it was also a fun and adventurous, too! What would we see next? (Diane and Elena Marie in chorus: "Another tree!") Well, we went during one of Beki's horse competitions, and it was great ... during the competition Diane was plein de questions (that's German for 'full of questions') about everything about what was going on, so she had a great time. And I got to eat a hamburger right from the grill, so I had a great time ('me man, har-har, me eatums hamburger!'). The first event that we saw was the cross-country jumps. And the horse threw the girl we where watching. Yikes! And Beki was already on the track! Double-yikes! Beki was yanked from the course while the EMTs were called out to look after the girl. After some time, the judges gave Beki the go-ahead (gosh, that must be so hard: to get back into the proper frame of mind after being unexpectedly stopped mid-go), so she continued on while the EMTs ferried the girl off the track.

One small problem: the EMTs path crossed the course, and they blocked Beki near a jump.

Beki called out a few words that I didn't quite catch. But these words could be heard clear across the course, in a *penetrating* sort of way.

She and her horse, Neo, did great. And we, intending only to stay just for cross-country, stayed on to watch her do stadium jumping and hour later, and she did great! She placed in the competition (her trainer placed 1st, so her trainer must be really good), and she credits the good luck kisses from her nieces for her stand-out performance.

Elena Marie and Isabel had a blast. They got to pat Neo (it transpired thusly:

me: "Elena Marie, do you want to pat the horse?"
Elena: *hide-hide!* Isabel, walking right up to Neo: pat-pat-pat.
Elena: *peek-peek* Elena: edge-edge-edge. Elena: danty pat-pat on Neo's neck.
Neo: nuzzle-nuzzle of Elena's cheek.
Elena: running away quickly).

Elena accompanied Beki whereever she went (Beki walked the stadium jump course to get a feel for the distances with her new shadow named Elena Marie), except, of course, when Beki asked Elena to come along, then Elena felt the too-heavy burden of attention, requiring her to run away squealing and hide behind a convenient object, like her papa's leg. And so it went.

And THEN! I asked Beki if the children could ride with her a little bit. Isabel hopped right up on Neo, holding her tiny-tiny arms up for balance. But, as I didn't have a crow-bar handy, to pry Elena Marie from my leg, she chose not to accept Beki's offer to do the same.

Another day, Beki took us all to Ben&Jerry's Ice Cream factory. At the end of the tour, we got two samples of ice cream, and I learned something new: my bunsoh, Isabel, LIKES ice cream. I, after a time, tried to remove the sample from her hand so I could wipe her mouth.

Ya know, the epigram "like stealing candy from a baby" makes absolutely no sense, unless it means: "darn near impossible".

I thought she was going to slug me. She actually said: "It's clobbering time!" as she wound up for the punch. So I decided that was a good time to stand down from my face-cleaning duties.

The factory also, in the ice cream sampling room, has a little tunnel connecting that room to the main entrance and shops. Isabel discovered this tunnel and spent the next ten minutes cavorting about from one end to the other. I dare you to find a happier kid that day, because it would be like stealing candy from a baby! Really!

Elena Marie accompanied Beki to the barn over the next couple of days, and it turns out she's quite the helper. Beki: what stories do you have from our visit?


So, now we're back. Diane and I had some special time together: she bought the DVD of 'The Incredibles', so we watched it, snuggled together, eating popcorn, while the children slept. We started going through the special features of the film ('cause it was so much fun to watch the movie), but we eventually had to stop our exploring, as Diane found my snoring to be a bit distracting.

And this month we have several new adventures to come, including a visit from our wedding's matron of honor: Jo Ann is coming from California to visit for a week.

So there it is. That's the news from Lake Yoyo-begone Virginia, the Commonwealth, the sun-shine state.


beki said...

Hello all,

I hoped you enjoyed Doug's email as much as I did. I'm finally fulfilling my responsibility of writing about their visit to Vermont, which for me can be summed up in one phrase-- dream come true!

Howland and I have been to VA many times over the past few years, and we love our time there. Its "the big city," and we get our fill of
culture, ethnic food and Starbucks. Sometimes we get lucky and get to edge in on a play group, birthday party, or like last time, get the kiddies all to ourselves for a little while as there parents go off and do something grown up!

As much as we love our time in VA, I had been feeling lately, like I would like Doug, Diane, Elena and Isabel to see something of our lives in VT. Its a whole different planet. "All the women have beautiful, long grey hair and push around baby joggers," remarked Diane. She really knew she wasn't in "Kansas" any more when she was walking around in Montpelier and saw a dowel, air drying, clothes rack, right in the front window of a local store. She commented, "In VA, if a store even had one of those, it would be stuffed way in the back some where gathering dust..." So, we live in different places. We are so fortunate to be able to experience something unlike our daily routines.

I forgot to ask the girls, before they left, what their favorite part of their visit was. I'm not sure if Isabel would be able to really say, but I bet Ms. Elena would have an opinion. I definitely remember my favorite parts of their visit though!

With Isabel, I loved having two little pony rides with her. She was so brave and balanced. I didn't even really have to hold onto her. Neo understood the gravity of his job at that moment, and was very gentle and slow. She seemed to really love it, and I love that I can say that Isabel and I had her first pony ride together! Look out everyone, she's a Libra, just like me, so invest now for her future in riding, cuz, ahem, it ain't cheap!

With Elena, there are so many more choices, because she is older, more mobile and more talkative than Isabel. We had some really sweet moments at the barn together, just the two of us (which unfortunately, are not captured on film, as I couldn't seem to press the shutter on D&D's digital camera firmly enough to record these magic moments). She really wanted to do almost everything with Neo-- brush his body, comb his mane, pick his feet, give him mints...And he, again, was a prince. He just stood quietly and lowered his head so she could reach. I loved that.

One day at the barn, it was raining and raining outside, and Elena was ready to do something fun, so she asked if she could run in the indoor arena. No one was riding, so I said of course. She proceeded to run up and down the whole length of the indoor, several times. On her last attempt, I told her that I would time her, and she ran the whole way up and the whole way back without stopping-- 43.40 seconds. Pretty fast for little legs and determination! She was rosy cheeked and proud when she was done, and we both did a victory dance near Neo's stall.

But probably, my most favorite moment with her were on our walk in the woods. Poor Doug got stuck with the job of maneuvering the empty baby jogger over roots, trees and rocks, while Elena and I bounded off having a ball. Elena, led by both dogs, followed the trail, ran, looked at things on the ground and on the trees, and she seemed so content and fulfilled. She didn't need many limits, and the trail provided her with enough to think about and slow down for. She waited as she wanted to for safety and security, and mostly just bounded off ahead until Doug or I would call her back when she was out of sight. "Auntie Beki, can I run?" She asked heading down the trail. I said, "Okay, baby, but don't get mad if you fall because there are rocks and stuff in the path." "OKAY!" She replied and ran off. Ummm, Doug wasn't totally sure that was the best plan.... Anyway, she balanced very well, watched where she was going, and seemed to love our time in the woods. Afterward, she and her Papa stayed out on the playground for awhile enjoying a nice evening together.

So, in this green state of hills and rivers, a little bit of paradise came to visit for a long weekend. I look forward to our next time together, either in VT or VA, and all of our adventures to follow.

I hope that your life's adventures are sending you on paths of clarity, comfort and joy. I also hope that we all see eachother soon.


Rolene AuClaire said...

Love back to you, Douglas. Great times. Great letter. See you this summer, I trust.

Aunt Rolene