Capturing the essence of Benandmilotude
Voila! Bon Anniversaire! Beaucoup images!
Technically, in French, I think that's "Happy Birthday". But AK woke me up this morning, the morning of our 12th anniversary, singing a Flinstones song that repeats "Happy Anniversary" about -- oh -- 12 times, coincidentally. That got me singing "Happy Birthday" but substituting "Bon Anniversaire" for Happy Birthday because that's what Madame Larzul (sounds like a character from Ghostbusters, yes?), in the 12th grade, taught me that French people do. Right after they smoke, drink, are rude and surrender, THEN that's what they do. If it's your birthday of course. *blink* So yeah, today was our 12th wedding anniversary.
We started by having a very late, clumsy start to our Sunday. We KNOW that it's best for all concerned -- including the poor speakers we interrupt by filing into Sacrament Meeting late -- if we arrange all our church clothes Saturday night. Yet we persist in tempting fate and just going straight to bed at bed time on Saturdays. This leads to Sundays like todays, when we both teeter the whole morning between:
"All RIGHT lets get this show on the road! Lets get dressed! Lets go to church! Ben and Milo, that's a bold fashion statement, but you've got to take off the pajama pants THEN put on the church pants! Max chip the fuzz off of your teeth, that's the 11th commandment you know: "Thou shalt take a flamethrower to thine plaquish bicuspids before thou offendest thy fellow churchgoers"
. . . . .and. . . .
"It doesn't matter, we're going to miss half of Sacrament Meeting anyway, then probably just leave, what's the point? Just sitting here fretting has, like, totally taken 5 more minutes. So now we're even later. We'll probably spend the whole day wishing we'd gone, but now, just saying that, were ANOTHER 3 mintues late! So now it's WAY too late, why are we even still considering going, as if it's still an option. . . . "
We ended up opting for going-but-going-late. Which was the right choice. Then we had to decide between flaking on Gospel Principles (or Gospel Doctrine or Gospel Fundamentals or Gospel Foundations or whatever they want to call it that day) and getting an early start on our Anniversary Picnic. This was tough, because the class (think "Mormon For Beginners", AK's not a beginner, but she goes because it's more her speed than the more academic classes and she gets to play the role of wise old Mormon to all of us Grasshoppers) is taught by a nice couple we like (theater people) who are new to our ward since the reorganization. So we flaked, but apologized to Nice Couple for said flakage.
Before moving from church to our picnic adventures, just a note on the PBS Mormons documentary. It's available for free somewhere on http://www.pbs.org/, so I watched it online last week. It did give me some new perspectives, but mostly it reminded me how much there IS to the LDS church that really never ever ever even begins to come up in my experience of the church on Sundays. Nope. I hardly ever hear the name "Joseph Smith" or the term "polygamy". Yet, that's what a good 2/3rds of the show was about. Which is fine, that's all important. But since it's such a new church, and really just coming out of cult status and into legitimate religion status, every skeleton in the closet is very well documented. If people's experience of the church was like the PBS show depicted, it would not be the fastest growing religion in the US. But it was an even-handed treatment of the church's history. Some of the Mormon stuff IS downright kooky, I just have to remind myself that it's no kookier than any other religion's checkered past. It gets scrutinized much more because, as someone on the show pointed out, it doesn't have the benefit of a long history to soften the images and the stories. This church has no patina, little room for interpretation of the history because it only just happened about 100-200 years ago. It happened how it happened, right or wrong, gotta deal (often apologize) and move on. All the more reason to keep my religion to myself, really. I can't defend a bearded kook's plural marraiges any more than a modern Roman Catholic can defend The Inquisition.
So we came home & got into play clothes, then split up so that a)I could take the twins' bikes in the little truck and b)AK in big truck didn't have to deal with a psychotic poodle while driving Firehose #1, Firehose #2 and Firehose #3 to the store for drinks & treats. We met at Tupac Park, State College's homage to the West Coast rap martyr, and had a little anniversary picnic. AK got me a card with a wonderfully appropriate image of a fat old bulldog serenading a sprawled-out cat on a piano. I got her an e-card that had kissyface little cartoon people making hilarious squeaky noises. Romance on a budget! Becuase WHEN THE HELL did greeting cards start costing FOUR DOLLARS??? After the pics were all nic'ed, we walked over to the Community Garden so AK could show me the trials & tribulations of our vegetables. Cool. The boys kept Emily company, since she's not allowed in the garden. . .
Then we ventured on to the Dog Park, so Emily could chase herself into a canine cardiac arrest. When we arrived there was a young couple with 2 Doberman Pit Boxer Bull Mastiff Rottweilers which they obviously couldn't control. There was also a nice older lady with a nice older dog, and between the 3 of us mature responsible dog owners we managed to make the young couple feel uncomfortable about the fact that whenever they took their full weight away from their dogs' flesh-mangling choker collar, their dogs tried to eat each other. That left us, Emily, Oscar and Oscar's owner. Emily did this. . . That was followed by this. . .
. . . which degenerated into this. . .
All the while Oscar observed with the wisdom of his years. He offered:
You Go, girl.
Once it was clear that Emily would collapse from lack of oxygen long before she let common sense tell her to STOP CHASING THE BALL, we retreated back to Tupac Park. Ben and Milo set to lecturing and loving-up every other citizen in the park regardless of their age or their obvious preoccupation with something that was NOT named Ben or Milo. Milo latched on to a young man named, and tell me if this is a first for you or not: Sherlock. Here, a man the size of a house has shoehorned himself into "The Clubhouse" in order to teach Milo and Sherlock how to play cards. . .
Tonight on Fox,The World Series of Poker: Kindergarten Edition
Here we see Milo Hults and his definitive poker face, giving nary a hint as to what he's holding. Young Sherlock is either troubled by the hand he's been dealt, he's showing a convincing bluff, or he's legitimately concered that he can't hold his wee-wee until the next commercial break.
AK knitted while Max and I played frisbee. I taught the Pack 40 Webelos how to play Ultimate Frisbee last week (I am so uncool, I had to look up the rules on the internet) and it actually managed to hold their wee MTV attention spans and keep their PlayCube XboxStation Butts active for about 20 minutes straight! Max has done it enough he's getting mediocre at it, so I try to keep the frisbee handy in the truck so we can simulate an active lifestyle at least once a month
Emily made it very clear that she was very near death, dealing as best she could with the increased gravity that followed her around since the dog park and dragged her purebred red apricot pedigree'd butt down to the ground everytime she passed over shady grass. Here she is using her freak mutant 12-foot tongue to try and cool herself off. . .
I'm serious. It's cropped off in the photo, but her tongue goes from there to Iowa. It's the only organ, from any species, that's visible from space.
When AK wasn't knitting, she was taking pictures with my camera. She really liked the clickety clickety noise it made when she held down the button :). So she managed to fill up my 29 GoogoNanoUltraByte memory card pretty quickly. Here Max is using his Sixth Sense and whispering . . .
I see frisbee people.
Men Don't Cry
I will, as my Motocross buddies used to say, "hang it out" here (riding wildly on the edge of control requires great risk and also great commitment, we'd say he's "hanging his ass out" where it's likely to get cut off, run over, injured) . . . .and say that the title of this blog is one of the most vicious lies to be propagated by our consumer culture. We're told to be quiet, don't stand out, follow & don't lead. These are some of the ways we can get the good job & the security & the safety. These are the ways we can be safe from the awful spectre of, um, not having status and a new car and a nice house and a big screen TV and an iPodBerry. Fitting in requires acting like the other sheep, doing your job and only your job, doing nothing to bring undue attention to yourself.
Living this life gains us the security I've ridiculed but also gains the legitimate treasures of a 401k, health insurance (losing it's legitimate value by the day) and steady pay. It does not seem to allow, however, for a man experiencing a full range of emotion. It certainly does not allow for expression of emotion even slightly outside of excitment, laughter, or the Real American Man's substitute for all other emotions: the stiff upper lip.
Well f' that. There are multitudinatious pros and cons for me with the LDS church. I discover more on both sides the more I look into it, the more I "investigate" they call it. But one of THE primary pros for me is that these are strong men. The men in this church, generally speaking, are men that I both respect and relate to. These are tired, struggling men who -- like me -- may or may not know what career they are supposed to have or where they belong in so many arenas of life. But these men know that their families are the highest of priorities, and they know that they pass the vital wisdom of life onto their children not by speaking or scolding but by doing and living the lessons in their own life. Every Sunday they model for all of our children the behavior of complete, whole men.
Perhaps not whole in that their careers are together and on-track, perhaps not whole in that they have robust portfolios that will ensure means & comfort for them & their children's future. In my case, if someone asked me "Who are you, Chris? What are you really all about?" I am less prepared to answer that than I EVER have been so you could barely call me whole or complete could you? But I live a whole and complete emotional life. I experience and express the full range of human emotion. I allow myself to be touched and moved and enraged and concerned and proud and sad and ecstatic. My sons see that, and they see it in the other men every Sunday, so they have no reason to doubt that crying is what men do. My sons learn that there are appropriate times to express every emotion they feel. They are not learning, as so many of our "heros" today are teaching, that most emotions are simply inappropriate for a man.
My Dog Loves Me. This I know.
Drooly sneakers tell me so.
Organic. Next best place to bury your face, you know, if the crotch is otherwise occupied or somehow out of reach or busy painting RC cars.
The Pennsylvanian Lawn Koala
A friend of mine is designing for me the rest of my totem tattoo, so it includes the rest of the animals in my totem. I wonder lately if I shouldn't include the groundhog, perennial symbol of the State of Pennsylvania. As I see them doing their groundhoggy things in the open fields across the road from the golf course (where I'm sure they've been evicted from), I feel a certain affinity with them. Not the hundreds of run-over dead ones, just the live ones, which AK describes as peaceful ground-koalas. I couldn't find a photo representative of our State College variety. They look like this one, but darker and more well-fed.
It is a wonderful 4th of July today. Orders are rolling in, the fridge is stocked, I have an auction closing for a record amount this evening and I've managed to paint another one for Ebay just in time to list when this one closes. AK has steady-but-not-panic-inspiring amounts of work. Max is in CA with grandparents, probably at an A's game followed by stunning fireworks. Which is great for him, but we miss him after only a couple of days. AK finished todays work in time to take us to the store for some sparklers & the makings of homemade wings & cobbler. Which I am VERY excited about right now. . . .
AK The Accuweather Addict assures me that this will be a very wet, thundery and lightningy 4th of July evening. So we have skipped the usual Penn State fireworks display, even the church potluck we thought about attending. I feel the 5-year-olds in the house will be as excited by their very own sparklers as they would have been by anything that required expensive parking, hiking with lawnchairs or buying lots of overpriced food from vendors.
We had a rockin visit with Cousin A and his family in Philly, where Ben and Milo got to hang out with 15-year old identical twin boys! Fine food and great company, accompanied by Daddy's near constant state of panic that his own little Smilo and Bazoobidge might some day also become pubescent teens. I'm all about the denial right now. Denial good. Denial friend.
Happy 4th to you and yours!
Pupp Daddy Dog spends his days working as an entrepeneur and as a Dad. He is passionately in love with/obsessively neurotic about his family. Imagine Kicking Bird mixed with Albert Brooks. Oh, and throw in some Notorious B.I.G.
Alaska is the frustrated but caring cat at the center of our canine universe. All of us alternately worship, rely on and ceaselessly whine to her. Her need to control everything is confounded by the fact that she really pretty much does control everything, so in her few free moments, she knits and searches desperately for things to fuss about.
Max is smart and handsome, with a big heart. He is not only growing like a weed, but he has the attention span and concentration abilities of a weed. Despite my best efforts, AK keeps feeding him and he keeps growing. Our plan is to keep him so busy with school, sports & the arts that he won't notice he's a teenager and is supposed to hate us. T minus 2.5 years to teen launch, so far so good.
Ben and Milo are phenomenal little creatures who remind us minute-by-minute not only how little control we have in this world, but why we should cease our controlling efforts and just laugh at all of God's jokes. Lately, Milo likes to dance and is good on the piano. Ben likes to mimic Max and enjoys manipulating adults and anyone else who has no idea how quietly brilliant he is. Both of them would love your full and complete attention. Really, stop reading silly blogs and join the fan club now. Ok? Ok.