One Couple's Stumblings Through Parenthood and Marriage

Monday, July 31, 2006

Yo VIP, Let's Kick It

Shoot me for quoting Vanilla Ice, especially in connection with the Temple.

On Friday night Annie and I had our shift to help out at the open house for the Sacramento Temple. It was the last night of the VIP tours, just before the open house officially opened to the public. We had a really fun time.

It was a slower night, and since Annie and I were working the host center, we got to see a lot of the workings of how it is all organized, and eat a lot of the food (which was fantastic). I must say, we were both thrilled at how beautiful the Temple looks. The building itself is gorgeous, and I love how they incorporated the hills and oaks.

When you first drive up, even before you get off of Highway 50, you get to see the 11' Angel Moroni statue. We both got goosebumps. The rest of our five hour shift was spent cleaning up, serving people, and sneaking off to get glimpses of different parts of the property (don't judge us!).

We can't wait to go their with our daughters, with our friends, and with our family. So much to see and talk about!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Free Training for the PLA

I am going to petition China's People's Liberation Army for reimbursement of the range fees and cost of ammunition discharged when we took their citizens and future soldiers, Kevin and 7, to the firing range yesterday. I know, I know, it may come to a surprise to you that we took them. But we thought long and hard about it, and both Annie and I agreed that we would give Kevin the benefit of the doubt and go ahead and put a gun in his hand.

Before shooting, my dad gave both the boys a thorough education in gun safety, and they listened attentively. Then he demonstrated by firing his .357 Magnum and Sig Sauer. They were very impressed. So much so, that Kevin said he didn't want to try it, saying, "No, it is too powerful." 7 wasn't so reluctant.

You can see here that he took to holding a handgun pretty well. He squeezed off six rounds, only shaking his hand from the recoil once he was done. He then moved on to fire the Sig Sauer. Kevin watched intently the whole time and didn't ask to try until 7 had shown that you could survive firing a gun.

7 did pretty well. He even made a bullseye with the Colt Python. Not bad at all. His ease at shooting made me wonder if he was a highly-trained commie spy ...

Kevin (shown left) finally warmed up to the guns, but preferred the little 22 rifle. He got pretty good at loading and rapid firing it. He even gave 7 a brief lesson in how to aim it.

My moral dilemna now is knowing that I have trained Chinese soldiers, since China practices compulsory military service on all her citizens. I have brought card-carrying Communists into my house, fed them, taught them, and placed loaded firearms in their hands. Eek. What would McCarthy think?

Thankfully they are good lads, and Kevin at least won't end up a Communist (as I said, 7 may already be a commie agent under deep cover). Kevin believes strongly things have got to change in his home country. I take some solace in that.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Starvation and Slurping

Our Chinese student Kevin has his eccentricities - such as his obsession with guns, DVDs, and Mariah Carey. But our other student, Seven (7), has his quirks, too. I won't bother discussing his obsession with shopping for clothes and video games. That deserves its own post. No, today I want to discuss his eating habits.

In Chinese culture, you demonstrate your enjoyment of the food you are eating by slurping it. The more you like it, the more you slurp. I have come to compare it to a cat purring. Just like a cat can't help but purr when it is enjoying a pet, a Chinese youth can't help but slurp if he is enjoying his food. Such is the case with 7. You should hear him lay into an over-sized bowl of top ramen - slurp-o-riffic. Add to this his rampant smacking, and you have an auditory delight with every meal. The problem has been that 7 doesn't like American food, despite our best efforts. This has resulted in 7 outright skipping meals. It has gotten to the point that Kevin has expressed to us his concern for his fellow student. He is concerned that 7 may be starving.

We were delighted, therefore, when we were able to have our students meet with a Chinese sister missionary serving in the Davis wards. Last weekend, this wonderful woman sent a huge tupperware container of authentic Chinese food to our house, with the intent that 7's impending demise might be forestalled. Annie and I tasted it and it was fantastic. You can only imagine, then, the level of slurping and smacking that ensued as the emaciated 7 crawled from his room, pulled himself to the table, and buried his face in a steaming bowl of rice, peanuts, green beans, tomato, chicken, and peppers. The Slurp & Smack Fest was epic. It was so loud and disconcerting that Annie and I were driven from the room.

But it struck us - How is he able to slurp dry rice? This led us to pay attention to what else he can slurp. Take last night for instance. He tried Annie's spaghetti and didn't like it (Kevin had three helpings!). His dinner, therefore, consisted of four pieces of garlic bread (we offered him other food, but he wouldn't have it). He was so enamored with the bread (which he ate with a fork), that he managed to slurp it. How in the world do you slurp garlic bread? I watched him out of the corner of my eye, and it is still a mystery to me.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Papa's Tricks

Kelly was complaining that I was giving Genna short-shrift in my posts lately. How dare you accuse me of favoritism, Kelly! HOW DARE YOU! It just so happens that Julia has been my favorite for the past week - until she began vomiting on me. Now it is Genna. Gee, I hope my kids never read my blog ...

Here is a three-photo spread of Genna to demonstrate the favor she has in my eyes right now. Undoubtedly, she will enter some new phase of tantrum-throwing within the week, so the mantle of Favorite Child will pass to Kate. But, in the meantime, let us return to Dillon Beach and look at some cute Genna and Papa (Grandpa Walker) photos.

Follow this sequence to see how clever Papa is. When you want to spend quality time with your grandchild, invite her to the water's edge. Few things are as alluring to a child as the surf.

The child, Genna in this case, will be so eager to play in the surf, that her pants will become soaked and sand-filled, leaving you with no option but to remove them. But how does this benefit Papa?

Easy! A pantless Genna will become very cold in Northern California waters. Only wrapping her in spare sweatshirts and snuggling her will restore her core temperature. Clever Papa. And, of course, you can see that Genna doesn't begrudge this sequence of events one bit.

We have much to learn from those generations who have gone before us. I wonder if Papa has any tricks to get little girls not to throw-up on you.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Neck Saga, Part 17

I still suffer from my literal pain in the neck. Near as I can tell, two types of steroids, an ibuprofen regimen, a cervical pillow, cervical traction, chiropractic, acupuncture, and the sacrificing of goats has done nothing to cure my condition, though each may have contributed to less pain, though that is hard to gauge.

My latest effort involves seeing a Bowen therapist. This particular therapist came recommended by my mom and sister, so I saw him today. Bowen therapy finds its roots back in the 50s, but didn't become established until 1989. It is therefore not recognized by the state of California as its own modality, and must operate under the aegis of Massage therapy.

I just had my first session with Steve Sanders a couple of hours ago, and I must say that I was impressed by it and him. You don't have to strip down (only take your shoes off and empty your pockets), and it is relatively inexpensive ($65 per hour). He recommends a 3-session treatment, and says that he is able to cure any number of maladies. What impressed me about him was that he also believes that Bowen therapy has its limits, and that other treatments (including surgery and medication) may be a better alternative for many conditions.

He said something during the session (which seems quite a bit like massage to the untrained eye) that endeared himself to me. He said, "The problem with Bowen therapy is now you have people going through a four day course, calling themselves Bowen therapists, and then they starting aligning your shakras! Oh please, come on!" I loved it!

After working on me - manipulating my soft tissue, muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc. - I had a significantly increased range of motion in my neck and I felt as loose as a goose (and that is loose!). We'll see what happens. I'll let you know if I experience a sudden cessation of pain or if my head spontaneously rolls off my shoulders.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Cats, Twins, and Guns

You can tell how interested someone is in a thing by how quickly they whip out their camera to capture an image of it for posterity. This was demonstrated last night by the Chinese students and teachers we had at my folk's place.

I picked up Seven and Kevin from UCD and brought them to my parent's. The first thing Seven noticed was my mom's abominable cat, Princess. Quicker than Doc Holiday, Seven whipped out his camera and took picture after picture of the cat. Princess's ugliness couldn't be resisted.

Then the teachers staying with my parents saw the twins. Pictures were taken of them throughout the evening - hopefully for the exact opposite reason of the pictures taken of the cat ...

Finally, at the end of the evening, my dad got to show off his hand guns to the boys. They were thrilled and quick to take pictures of them. But I have a bit of a problem when it comes to the guns.

When I first discovered the boy's enthusiasm for guns, I volunteered that maybe we could take them to the shooting range. But Kevin can be a bit ... hmmm ... rowdy? when it comes to firearms. On the first evening in our house he pretended to cock a shotgun and fire it at my gut. Then last night, he saw me walk into the room and he picked up my dad's .357 Colt Python and pointed it at my face. I shook my head at him and my dad lowered Kevin's arm, but the boy seems to have a fascination with shooting me. I don't know that I want to give him the opportunity to do so. Hopefully I have found a way out - we asked the teachers if we could take them shooting. They will ask the program director, and hopefully the director will say no. If he says yes, then we might mysteriously run out of time and never get around to the shooting range.

Anyone have a kevlar vest and helmet that I can wear for the next week and a half?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Julia, the Placemats, and the Cabinet

At the beach house Julia roamed free. It was surprisingly child-safe, so we could let her rum amuck without fear of injury. We felt safe doing this because she would nearly always end up in this cabinet. It is used by the owners to hold place mats. Julia would have none of that. She would throw the doors open, toss the place mats to the ground, and claim the cabinet for herself by climbing inside. I particularly like the lighting in this shot that Annie took. Julia is cute, too.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Model in the Making

In Kate we have a model in the making. Her confident stride, her use of the beach setting, her wind-blown hair, her choice of wardrobe (Cinderella swimsuit), all speak of a sophisticated fashion sense and ability to play to the camera. I just need to channel this emerging talent into wholesome endeavors. Maybe L.L. Bean catalogs and Mervyn's spreads?

Monday, July 17, 2006

7 & Kevin

Wow, it has been a bit of a whirlwind getting to know our two new students. It is quite a different experience having 16-year-old Chinese youths in our home, as compared to Japanese college students.

The process of picking up our students was a cumbersome one. These poor kids had to endure a 13 hour flight and then a 7 hour drive from Los Angeles. Combine that with a flat tire and several stops, they were traveling for over 24 hours. But, in the end, each of us American host families was able to emerge from the UCD campus with at least one Chinese student in tow.

On the way to the car I asked our two new housemates their names. They offered their Chinese names first, which were surprisingly hard to pronounce. They then said that they had English names. Hallelujah! The first said his name was Kevin. Great! The next said his name was 'Seven.' What? I inquired. He responded by saying "One, two, three, four, five, six, SEVEN! My name is Seven!" He said that he didn't like the first name his teacher gave him, which was Andy, so he just chose this name. Yes, I thought, I am going to like these boys.

They are so enthusiastic and inquisitive. After we got back to the house, I took them with me to pick up some Rico's Pizza (which was Seven's first time eating pizza), and Seven asked where all the policemen were. Interesting. Later, when driving by a park, Seven asked if it was free. Interesting. During dinner (it was hilarious watching them eat pizza), Kevin pulled out his electronic translator, typed something up, then turned the screen to me, asking, "Do you have this?" The screen read: guns.

They were thrilled when I said yes, and even more thrilled when I mentioned my dad's collection. According to them, Chinese citizens aren't allowed guns (though both the boys are avid fans of gun-based computer and video games). They were shocked that we could go to stores to by them. We may take them to a shooting range while they are here.

Some interesting notes: they have never had tuna or peanut butter. They were amazed by my lawnmower (they live, like most every other Chinese citizen, in tall apartment buildings). They use Windows XP on their computers at home. They were very nervous about prayer, and asked that we show them how to do it (before meals). They are very focused on the salty or sweet nature of food. The vast majority of Chinese families have only one child, and those children (at least those involved in our program) live at their schools. They have seen nearly every movie that we own and they about know Kelly Clarkson.

I'll tell you what. If all of China is populated with kids like this, who are inquisitive, energetic, good-natured, and eager, then there is hope for that country.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

At the Tide Pools

One of my favorite things to do at the beach is visit the tide pools. Bringing the twins along makes it extra fun, because every shell, rock, crab, and seastar I point out to them is brand new and worthy of oohs and ahhs.

Kate and Genna are little stompers. Despite the cold (look at their hats), they were in sandals and eager to jump into every puddle and pool. Like father like daughters.

Friday, July 14, 2006

New Guests

Today I will be going to UCD to pick up our two newest guests. We will be having two 16-year-old young men from China staying with us for the next two weeks.

Both hail from the Sichuan province of China, which is one of the most affluent and developed of that country. It is bordered on the west by the Himalaya, but it is most known for the Yangtze river that flows through the middle of it (Sichuan is a very large valley). From what I can find out online, our two students will be of Han stock, and will be speaking Mandarin.

Here are two brief bios:

Jinqi Yin: Hobbies: "Playing badminton, playing computer games, reading books."

Cool. He sounds like a pretty normal teenager. We can accommodate that.

Jinglun Li: Hobbies: "Go fishing, observing and catching living beings."

Hmmm. Something is lost in translation here. Are we going to have a teenage youth stalking our children with nets, bear traps, and blowguns? There isn't much fishing here unless he wants to drop his line in one of the nearby irrigation ditches. But there are a lot of animals for him to 'observe and catch.' We just need to clarify how broadly he intends to interpret the term 'live beings.'

Now, there are a few complications that I foresee. They come from a communist country, and for both of them this is their first time in the U.S.A. I wonder how the culture shock will be, given Annie and I's rampant consumerism. Second, I wonder how they will take our religious lifestyle (prayer, church, etc.).

My first thought was to make them feel at home. I was going get my hands on a few posters of Mao Zedong and some Chinese copies of the Communist Manifesto and place them in conspicuous parts of our house. But that didn't sit right. So, instead, I am going to hang pictures of Bill Gates and Donald Trump, and on each of their nightstands they will find copies of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. That should help a lot. We'll be wonderful ambassadors.

Can anyone offer some advice on how best to make our new housemates feel at home? I can't let them on our computer, because they are most likely government-trained hackers who will use our internet access to mine NSA databases. Also, I feel compelled to ask them about the Chinese gal who faked having 5 babies in her womb. I'll hold them accountable for her lies. We are going to have bonafide commies in our house ... don't tell the Department of Homeland Security.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Disturbing Song

Just prior to dinner the girls were pretty riled up. Genna grabbed the nearest stick/wand and began dancing, choreographing her own moves on the fly.

Not just dancing, but to song as well. In Disney's Aladdin, the hero courts Princess Jasmine by taking her on a magic carpet ride. During the ride he sings her a song, "I can show you the world ... take you wonder by wonder ..." Admittedly it is a very catchy tune. It has been the culprit of many an ear worm I have suffered from.

Genna began singing this song. "I can show you the world ... if you don't die."


Annie and I looked at each other. "Genna," Annie asked, "what did you say?"

"Die," Genna replied. "Die. Mommy, I said die."

Yes, she meant exactly what she said. Suddenly what had been an adorable scene turned sinister. I'm not sure if Genna is now going through some existential crisis, or some nascent antagonism towards all these princesses is now emerging. It merits close monitoring.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Kate & Horsey: A Love Story

Horsey was a gift to Kate from Auntie Chrissy a couple of years ago. The stuffed animal was a spontaneous present. Little did we know that the purchase would spawn such a touching love story.
This picture illustrates the love Kate has for the pink equine far more eloquently than words can. The two are inseparable. Only laundry time can split the two up for more than an hour at a time.

Were you able to look closer, you wood see that poor Horsey has seen better days. She is balding in several places (Rogaine is useless). She is permanently stained with the oils, foods, and dirt of the three-year-old that loves her so. One ear is pushed forward and the other back because Kate will sit for minutes at a time, rubbing the ears. She will also sit for quite a while, simply rubbing Horsey softly against her lips, kissing Horsey, and engaging in general snuggling.

We thought that this affection would wane with time. Not so; it has only strengthened. One sure fire way of getting Kate to lose all semblance of control is to misplace Horsey. This has actually provided some good leverage for us - behave or Horsey goes night-night. Works like a charm. Kate has almost replaced Horsey with other animals (in a Woody - Buzz Lightyear-style manner), but in the end, not even pink kitty or red dog can supplant her beloved Horsey.

We hope that this little animal will survive the next few years. We can't find a replacement (originally purchased at Target) and she will only become rattier as time goes on. But then, love is eternal, is it not?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Fourth of July

We are a patriotic family. Even while at Dillon Beach we all made arrangements for Fourth of July celebrations. This included an ambitious parade, red-white-and-blue cookie making, fireworks (utterly frightening for the girls), and dresses and crowns (for the girls at least).

Here are the girls demonstrating their love of country and showing off for the camera. Does it get much more all-American? Does it get much cuter? Check out Julia's hair; Annie did it up in 'fireworks fashion' using a lot of hair twisties. Her nieces and sisters were similarly done up.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

We're Not Dead

No, not dead. On vacation. We just got back from the longest vacation we have ever taken as a family (or a couple for that matter). We had a blast at Dillon Beach.

I am still processing the 130+ pictures we took (be prepared!), but I wanted to recommend a book. During the trip I read America: The Last Best Hope, Volume 1. This book by Bill Bennett covers U.S. history from Columbus until the beginning of World War I. It is one of the best histories I have ever read of the U.S. It is Pro-America, which is a wonderful change, though he goes to great lengths to present an honest history.

Read it! I challenge you all!