Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thank you Someone

I detest apathy.

You know, the kind that lets the grass go to seed and the merry-go-round slow sadly to a halt. It is that kind of apathy that sits idly by as the weeds grow, only to let out a whimpering bark, no bite, when the merry- go-round finally recedes from view into the brush.

I do. I detest apathy, which is why I am so happy in Cleveland.

Someone mowed that grass. Someone painted that playground. Someone else planted flowers by the sign in the middle of the night. No one saw him, but someone cares.

You know who you are. You might be the one who runs the organization, or ties the bows on the baked goods, or arranges the chairs and puts the coffee on before the other ‘someone’s arrive. You might have stuffed envelopes, or made phonecalls. You are the PTA and the PTO and the HOA and the boosters and the classroom coordinators and co-chairs of thisandsuch – that little thing you do that you probably wouldn’t even put on your resume.

“Oh, yes, and I do a little volunteering when I can.”

That is what they say, those ‘someones.’

And, now it is Fall again. The grass is starting to grow and the paint might be chipping and all those organizations shift into gear - meeting in dining rooms and libraries and coffee houses.

Maybe you are the type of person who looks at the picture and sees opportunity. You want to mow the grass, play with the child, start a grass-roots organization to save the art of playtime for all children in America. Is that you?

Maybe your calendar seems full and your heart seems full and you would rush by with no time to spare. Is that you?

This Fall, open that lovingly-stuffed envelope. Go to the meeting. When you walk by that little girl in the park, give her just the slightest push on that merry-go-round.

If her smile is not enough, print this out. Let me thank you. You know who you are.

Thank you.

Here is a 'thank you' bouquet. I should also be thankful that we had a little time to pick the flowers before the mower came.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Exotic Rituals (Pig Roast #9)

Consider it a cultural event.

Our family has a pig roast every year. Or, at least, we have had a pig roast every year for the past nine years, which I think makes it an official annual event.

As a child, I enjoyed our local county fair. I thought of it as a rather ‘big deal’ until I became an older teen/ young adult and decided that such things were rather ‘small townish’ – pedestrian at best, horrifyingly hillbilly-ish at their worst.

And then I left my small town and traveled abroad, and fell in love with the history and culture and ‘exotic rituals’ of so many small festivals. I bounced on a rock suspended by bamboo poles at the ‘Inoko Festival.’ I swam through the streets of Jakarta, buoyed along by the waves of reeds celebrating fertility. I sat on a stone wall on top of a mesa at 4:30am to watch a tribe welcome the sunrise - following a tip by a local tribesperson who really should not have told us at all. We hid respectfully in the shadows, behind the mesmerized children.

I digress. A pig roasted by suburbanites could not possibly compare to events of such intense historical significance.

Our pig roast shadows a long forgotten, anthropologically insignificant event. The ones that leave a little trace and no higher story. The evidence leaves historians puzzled. They wonder why that artifact existed, seemingly used only occasionally. It doesn’t fit the greater myth.

We don’t know why they did that.

Maybe those ancient elders were not so unlike us at all. Perhaps sometimes they did things simply because they needed a reason to do something. Perhaps they knew that cousins exist through shared bloodline, but ‘cousins’ become meaningful through shared experience.

Some rituals are meant to leave more of an impression on the attendees than on history.

When I saw my husband and his brothers lift their roasted pig high above their heads to clear the back fence, I wondered if so many rituals begin that way. Long after the fence were to fall away, the youngsters watching continue to raise the pig high in the air – and only later special meaning becomes attached to the motion.


To my children, nine years might as well be nine hundred. The event holds significance beyond a simple backyard bbq, and they follow their elders with great interest, memorizing the patterns to repeat them as lore, tell them as myth, if only in their hearts.

As I travel with my children, I love to see their eyes devour the details of different cultures, ancient traditions, and exotic rituals. I also wonder if those ancient elders weren’t just a teensy weensy bit happy when those wide-eyed progeny finally curled up to sleep.

With great relief, we put away our exotic rituals for another year.

Pictures from this year might be available eventually, when my husband's computer recovers from the malady by which it is afflicted.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why I Blog

Dear MIT Mommy,

Kawa was very surprised by your dynamic journey to the Wyoming on your blog between June 11th and July 6th.. I guess It will be neccesarry for you to prepare for winning succsession of your family's every summer(?) plan.

Your regular canon camera gave us not only very beautiful and strange views ,but waked up my precise memory in the more than fifty years ago.

When Kawa was in the ages as like as Andrew, a large part of Japanese just became to be able to buy a TV and watch several contents made in USA as a symbol of free and open and prgressed culture.

There was a prgram of TV broadcasted weekly "The Wild K.ingdom" produced by Walt Disney himself .

It was long term program as one of the above mentioned very interesting animal life .movies just in the national park,Wyoming.The program gave very large influence to our Japanese.

Thank you for my time trip to fifty years ago !!??


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 8 - A Mammoth Walk with Silly Kids

The biggest mistake you can make when attempting to take pictures of your children is to tell them that it is 'very important.'

I foolishly encouraged my husband to attempt a picture of all three of them. I am not sure what we were thinking. Here, Gladys runs away from him down the boardwalk.

I am not sure how they came up with three seperate and rediculous faces without coordination.
They just know.

For some reason, we spent an unusual amount of effort at Mammoth Springs attempting to take the perfect picture of the kids. Our darling children were not too accomodating of this idea.

They mostly wanted to run down the boardwalk like children. You would think they had been cooped up in the truck for thousands of miles (oh, right, they were).

George couldn't keep up even going down. Going back up was slightly more challenging, but we managed to walk every inch of the boardwalk.
This bird posed for us very nicely.

The children only stopped to check out some scat (a fancy Ranger-word for poop).

Eventually, we got lucky. This shot was taken later in the day (they must have forgotten we wanted the picture). We were on our way back from a quick trip into Gardner, MT.

In the evening, we enjoyed our best sight of the day - Grandpa! My father joined us at the campsite in time for dinner and a goodnight story.
Thanks Grandpa!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 7 - Welcome to Yellowstone

We pulled into the Old Faithful area parking lot with George and Gladys snoozing in the back. Jay and I looked for a place to turn around, as we had missed the turn to our campsite inspite of our high-tech navigation system. Jay and I focused on the signs and traffic.

"Mom! Dad! Is that a geyser??"

"Yeah, Honey, I think you just found Old Faithful," I said flatly, "I guess we've seen it. Let's go home."

"Noooooooo!!!" he replied immediately, knowing well I was teasing him.

Of course, we wouldn't go straight home. We are proper tourists. After checking into our campsite and a morning tour of West Thumb Geyser basin, we returned to Old Faithful.

We did what we were supposed to do.

We waited - faithfully, of course (for over an hour). And, as expected, we took the classic picture of 'Old Faithful' above.

What we have learned as experienced National Park tourists, is to always check out the Junior Ranger program. At Yellowstone, they also have an absolutely awesome 'Young Scientist' program. The ranger provides a backpack with tools (such as an infra-red temperature gauge that allows you to take the temperature of the hot springs from the board walk - so cool!!) The kids really enjoyed it, and my husband and I fought over the geeky toys.

The program takes 4 - 6 hours to complete, which seems like a lot, but the kids left understanding more about the Yellowstone caldera than I probably learned in geology class in the 5th grade. Even George can happily point out a 'geyser.' And, truly, it was SO FUN.

The hottest hot spring we measured was 181 F. The Yellowstone River ran around 56 F.

Andrew and Jay are on the right side enjoying their science lesson.

While our kids were enjoying the science games, we accidentally wandered by Beehive geyser just in time to see it erupt (which it only does once a day, and not on a very regular schedule).
We decided that it may not be very faithful, but it was very, very impressive.

This is the silent cone after its impressive eruption.

We left 'Old Faithful' around 7pm and headed back to our campsite at Fishing Bridge via Firehole Canyon.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Sound of Satisfaction

Why is the sound of ice falling in a cooler so relaxing?

It is a satisfying sound, like my own high heels making time across a wood floor, like the small hiss-hiss of a sleeping infant, like the twittering of my children in the next room, sharing a secret among themselves.
It is always the last thing I do before I head off for a picnic, or a camping trip. Yes, that must be it. This time, although brimming with excitement for our weekend, I felt little interest in packing - again.

So, I filled up the cooler first.

As you can see, there is a cooler and diapers in the truck.

Now that I am ready to go, I can finish the rest of my packing.

Have a great weekend!

I can't wait to put up more of my travel log, but it will have to wait until we return - we are too busy having fun I suppose.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Grand Tetons

I took this shot with my regular old Canon camera.

The morning we entered the Grand Tetons, my children were having the usual conversation.

“Where are we going?” Gladys asked, mostly for sport I supposed.

“The Grand Tetons, Gladys, we TOLD you that,” Andrew said immediately.

“What’s a Teton?”

“A mountain. The Grand Tetons are mountains,” Andrew replied in his all-knowing almost-seven-years-old sort of way.

I listened nonchalantly. “I wonder if there was someone named Teton.” I thought aloud. Yeah, I was imagining us learning about this man named Teton.

My husband gave me that look. You know, that ‘why are you saying that out loud’ kind of look.


“I thought you took French.”

“I did take French,” I replied, “Six years of French.”

“So, in all that time, you never learned the word teton?” he said with the kind of emphasis that explains everything quite clearly.

“Oh, no, I think only the boys learned those kinds of words.”

“If you think of it in a historical perspective,” Jay went on. “You have to imagine that the first European explorers who came through here had been on their horses for a very, very long time. I don’t suspect they brought their wives.”

“Probably not, I agreed,” and we both laughed. It wasn’t until we saw the far side of the mountains in Idaho that we agreed they really do look a bit like ‘tetons.’

“What, Mom?” Andrew asked.

“You’re right, honey, the Grand Tetons are mountains,” I replied in an all-knowing nearly-40 more-naïve-than-she-likes-to-admit sort of way. I imagined my second-grader on the first day of school writing a report 'what I saw on my vacation'. Hmm. What would he title that I wonder?

Our last morning in the Grand Tetons, we woke up early to look for animals. Wild animals are always more active in the morning and evening, and morning tends to be the best time for viewing, because traffic is light.

This is a homo-sapien familiere of the Ohio class. Yes, he got a few good shots out there. The kids, still groggy and in their pajamas, thought my pointing out 'Daddy' as an animal I spotted was simply hilarious. The picture would NOT be better if he had been a moose. At least not in my opinion.

The area saw a lot of rain this year. This trail was washed out, but we took pictures anyway.

I loved watching the kids go exploring.

They discovered many new plants. This one I don't recall seeing myself - red asparagus?

Gladys and George enjoyed this gorgeous spot.

We could see the bottom of the lake so clearly, you can hardly see the water!

My children threw several tons of stones into the bottom of that lake in the course of an hour or so.

Here are the snooty photographers who we stood next to for probably 30 minutes and would not make eye contact with us. We found them before 6am at this spot, which is where I took the picture on the top of this post. We were not in their way. I can only imagine our lenses were not big enough for their taste. Or, perhaps they had spent a great deal of money on their photography tour, only to find a few Joe Shmoes found the same spot down that dirt road with their 4x4.

Okay, their pictures were probably better - but we had WAY more fun.

If there were dirt roads to be travelled, we found them, often at 5:30am.

Good bye, Grand Tetons! By the end of the day, we were in Yellowstone.

I think I had told people we were 'going to Yellowstone' on vacation. Was this a trip to Yellowstone? By this time, I had forgotten.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 5 - Colter Bay

This is Colter Bay at Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming. The bay is breathtaking. But, wait a minute, I left you at Walmart yesterday.

Goodmorning! This is me with George on Monday, June 15th in Riverton, Wyoming. We had a delightful night's stay at Walmart. As you can tell, we took the upgrade to the quiet side of the parking lot with the fantastic views.

I'm going to skid by much of mid-Wyoming. However, in spite of the gray, overcast day and relatively dry landscape, the colors popped. They were just in unexpected places.
I did not write much in my journal that day. The mountains were beautiful. A bird pooped on me. The battery in the camper died, so Jay went to buy a new one (and George and I hung out at Colter Bay).

George and I sat together for a long time on the dock, waiting for the others to return from finding a battery. We pointed out the pretty boats and threw small stones into the water.

We talked.

"Do you see the mountains, George? Where are the mountains?"

He looked at me.

"The mountains, George, where are the mountains?"

When was the last time we saw mountains, in the distance? You know, ones you could point at? Surely, we drive through the Appalachian Mountains frequently enough, but I don't believe he remembers seeing any mountains like the Grand Tetons. Surely, he must have seen mountains.

"Those are mountains, George. See the mountains?" I pointed.

George learned many new words on our trip. I wonder if they remember them even better when they see it for themselves, instead of in books.

Maybe. I heard him say 'yellow' for the first time too. Or, maybe he had said it before, and I finally took the time to hear it.

I did not spend a lot of time wondering about it. I just had a really nice day.

We took the boat cruise.

We took a walk.

We looked at the water.

We laughed.

We ran fast.
And, we actually stayed at a campsite.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wyoming: Oil Wells and Parking Lots, Rainbows and Snow

One of my personal goals for our trip out West was to reset my children’s view of the ‘outside.’ If you ask a typical child in Ohio what ‘outside’ looks like, they will give you a very good description from their three-foot vantage point. They will tell you that there are cars and trees and grass and sidewalks and a road and dirt and bugs (giggle) and worms (giggle giggle) and dead worms (hee hee) and poop (bwaa ha ha ha).

They know exactly what it looks like outside their window.

Some places, like this parking lot in Wyoming, look a lot like Ohio. The children are having a 'dance break.' After the first 1500 miles, you start doing all kinds of silly things.

My children enjoy reading about the National Parks and the United States and other places, so they “know” what other places look like.

It doesn’t look the same in real life. It just doesn’t. My kids need to see very, very different places in books and THEN see them in real life. Because, truly, the pictures in a book are only hints to what a scene feels like and smells like and, well, you get the picture.

It is hard to believe that there is not much grass in India until you have been somewhere without much grass. You expect grass. You might even start thinking that grass is normal.

You might also think that it never snows in June.

You might think that you know which direction a river is flowing just by watching that river. That is, until you realize that the dam is on what you thought was the up side of the river. Trust me, watching a river flowing uphill is very jarring. I will assure you that the Powder River flows uphill – at least from the perspective of a casual observer.

Once you realize grass isn’t a given (or the flow of a river), you might even start to realize that many other expectations are just not to be expected either.

Oil wells might even appear beautiful in the right light.

Eventually, you will realize that the unexpected is sometimes even better than your original plan, if you will only stop to look.

You will also realize that sleeping in Walmart parking lots is free. I've slept at many expensive hotels around the world, except I don't remember that part because my eyes were closed.