Thursday, February 19, 2009

Which teaches more? School or life?

February 12...Abraham Lincoln's Birthday
Many of you know of our goal to take pictures in front of all 50 US State Capitals. So far we have had a lot of fun traveling around and gathering these pictures. They are at all times of day and night but each has their own story. this is the story of Springfield, Illinois: Land of Lincoln. It just so happens that this year, Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday was celebrated. And I of course, knowing all random facts, realised that this would be the time to visit this capital. The biggest question...should we pull Katie out of school and Andy out of work for this trip? We decided it would be worth the effort and rearranged clients and teacher conferences and set off. The days leading up to it were full of rain but luck was our lady this trip. Off we went in search of Abe Lincoln, another capital and a little education. After all, what's 2 hours in a car? We arrived and decided we might as well get our picture early before the kids got tired. We arrived in time to ring bells with the city at 12 Noon in honor of Abe. Not quite as spectacular as I was envisioning but we rang nonetheless. We toured the capital where we saw lovely visions in hoop skirts. We also got shiny Lincoln pennies that were being handed out. We ate a picnic on the grounds, made prints of the Lincoln statue rubbings that were in the center square and then hurried off to the Presidential Museum and Library. Quite impressive. this was the only thing we payed for all day and it was a blast. They were handing out free youth t-shirts with Lincoln's face and Gettysburg address posters so the kids were excited with all their souvenirs. (Note Katie wearing the t-shirt the rest of the day) The entire city showed their colors in beautiful costumes. They were walking all over town and we couldn't help but take pictures with some of them. I could totally see getting into this if we lived there.

Check out the soldier. They were some of my favorites.

And then we did it, we found Abraham and Mary Lincoln. They looked fantastic. Baker did not want to take a picture and pouted in the stroller. But the rest of us jumped up there. Mrs. Lincoln used the phrase "I declare, Mr. Lincoln..." and I felt that I had stepped back into Gone With The Wind, which you might remember is one of my favorite movies and books.

Later we were able to convince Baker to pose and the Lincolns were kind enough to take a second picture with us.
Then after touring the White House and Log Cabin, we played in the kids room. Baker was so impressed with all the farm animals that would have lived outside the house. All he and Griffith did was play with them. Katie and Andy read a book about why Mr. Lincoln grew a beard (quite the story, you should look it up) and we were all the smarter for that knowledge. Andy and I were interviewed by a news crew about why we had come to Springfield on this important day and we saw several news crews throughout the day filming all the activities we attended. We heard that Obama was in town, but we never saw him. We headed over to see the flag retrieval at Lincoln's tomb next. It was being done by a Civil War Unit and they played some very touching songs. We grabbed the first soldier we could find and hurriedly snapped a picture. Then we over heard them saying that they would close the tomb so we were some of the last ones let in. We quietly and quickly strolled through the tomb and saw his casket and memorial. It was very endearing to be in this hallowed ground for me. To see someone who truly stood for something and despite ridicule and losing half the nation, fought for someone's rights and humanity. You could feel a quiet spirit and reverence in this place. And Katie immediately popped up with who was buried her and why. She seems fixated on seeing the wax statues of Willie dying in the White House. Also, knowing that 3 out of their 4 sons died of illness young in life and then Abe being shot, causes my heart to go out to Mrs. Lincoln. No wonder everyone thought her mad. I would be mad with grief as well. But what a fantastic resting tribute to this great man. Here is the outside of the tomb

They did a 3 gun salute in his honor before lowing the flag. seeing how long it took them to load these guns from the civil war era makes me wonder how anyone ever won a war. It just takes so long...

The ceremony itself only took the 30 minutes, the impact? well, Katie will probably remember the guns as they were loud and she'll remember the uniforms and putting her hand across her heart as the flag was lowered. My guess, the impact will remain with her for life. Now Baker? Well, he'll never forget the startle of the guns and the drums and the music. He may not remember running out onto the field during the ceremony, but we'll remember the experience...

One of the things we had been told was that you were supposed to rub Abraham's nose at the tomb. It is for good luck. I'm not sure where or how this tradition got started, but you could tell that many did it since his nose is gold, unlike the bronze face. But who could resist a little luck? So rub we did... I mean, really...who needs black eyed peas when you can rub a nose?

And to be sure we all have a fantastic year, we got everyone into the act...yes, even Griffith

And the luck never runs out (like these pictures)

The Soldiers were very patient with our children. They couldn't quite decide which soldier was the coolest to stand with and finally settled on the drummers. Specifically the one in the middle. They were such fantastic kids. We were all tired and hungry and they just kept going and going without a fight (or at least a long lasting one.) We tried to revive them with an M&M treat courtesy of the Keetches and that helped. So thank you Keetches.

We hurried once the flag ceremony was done to be able to tour Abraham's house before it closed. At this point the kids were more than a little tired. They slept for the 6 minutes it took us to get there and then we woke them up. we walked into the visitor center to get tickets (free, but required) and walked in on the birthday celebration. Once again, the timing was perfect. And not only were they serving cake, they had platters of cheese and crackers, punch, fruit and veges. All that was needed to revive the family. We also got into one of the last tours. And, to top it off, they had all the children authors there to sign copies of children's books written about Abe Lincoln. And from 4-4:15 they handed them out free to any child in the visitor center. So of course we walked our two up there and got great books that would have cost 25 dollars otherwise. And Katie has been reading them ever since we got home. In fact, it may have sold me on getting the ones about other presidents in the same series since it was so great. Anyhooo...since Katie skipped school, we also claimed one in the name of Griffith that Katie presented to her kindergarten teacher. Then it was off to the ball. We didn't have tickets and they had told us at the entrance that we could come back and be on standby at 5:30. So we headed over thinking that if we didn't get in, we would just go home. But once again, timing was perfect and we were 13 on the list and got in. Katie was very sad when she saw the beautiful dresses that everyone had on. Tell the truth, so was I...but again, the experience outweighed everything and in we went. Here we are waiting in line to get in.

They began the ball with the grand parade in front of Mrs. Lincoln and Abe. This is just a sampling of the ball gowns and uniforms and tuxes we saw.

Katie and Baker also dressed up in the children's section. Katie's face lit up when the museum lady suggested it. And I loved her for it as it made Katie's day...until they told us she couldn't actually wear it and dance in it. I understood and I think Katie did too, but she was sad. You can imagine how many times she told me I would need to make her a dress for next year's ball. There were several children there dressed up. Some looked like they were on daddy dates. It was a very magical evening.
The ball was such fun once the kids got into the dancing and we got over not having the appropriate attire. Baker and I danced the night away (one great reason to have boys!) And Andy helped his little princess across the dance floor.
Even Griffith got into the night and loved watching everything that went on and eating all the fun foods that were served everywhere we went.
The hit of the evening was Baker. In his little Abe hat, everyone oohed and aahed about how attractive he was. There were a few people who even wanted their picture with little Abe at the ball. And after a few promises of cake from us and coaxing from the others, he patiently stood (albeit, not with too many smiles) and posed with beautiful dressed up ladies. One day he'll love the attention he gets from women, but for now, I love that he's all mine (well, and Abbey's :) )
At the very end, they danced a quadrillion (?) and Katie wanted to do it so much that we formed our own little square and tried to copy what they were doing. She kept asking if we could join one of their squares, but lacking the dresses, we just stuck to us. Regardless, it was fun. We left soon after the dance, ate dinner, changed clothes and headed back to reality. Katie still continues to talk about John Wilkes Booth and his jump after he shot President Lincoln and about Willie who died and about how the house reminded her of Joseph Smith's house in Nauvoo. She talks about how he was the President who made it so blacks could be free and wrote the "emanipation proclawhatever." She proudly wore her t-shirt to school and gave a mini report on all that she saw and how she met Mr. Lincoln (not the real one she is quick to add). She gave the class a penny and a book, a poster of the Gettysburg Address and spoke of his courage. Now I ask again...which teaches more? school or life?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Dear Griffith

Happy Birthday to our little surprise. After full on expecting a girl, this little boy has proven what a delight he is to our family. It is his 1 year birthday and he is in for a lot of firsts...
Daddy loves to cook breakfast and here is his tribute to Griffith's first Birthday. And then, after a long day where we were not able to do one thing that was planned, I quickly decorated a Monster Truck Birthday cake (since Griffith loves to steal Baker's trucks).

Then it was song time and blow out the candle time. After Baker's fiasco of grabbing the candle during his first birthday, we learned and held Griffith to prevent any accidental burnings. Everyone got into the act and helped Griffith to make a wish and blow it out.

Griffith didn't really understand the concept of eating this big red monster truck, so instead spent his time finishing of his mother's famous Macaroni and Cheese (courtesy of Kraft)But once he realised how yummy this red sugar love was, there was no stopping him..

The body of the truck went first, followed soon after by anything his chubby little hands could shove into his mouth.

After he was done, he capped it off with a sippy cup of actual milk, which he promptly rested on the cake. Ahhhhhh, to be one and be able to grab fistfulls of cake and shove it in. And not care if we get dirty or fat. Why don't we do that anymore? I bet more people would be happy.

Then at the end of the day, Griffith got to sit in the bubble bath. What a way to end a birthday. Happy 1 year buddy. We all love you.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What an Amazing Man!

All right! This is killing me. Andy and I had a conversation about why I haven't written the 2 page love tribute to Andy and looks like he beat me to the punch. I have never laughed so hard. So, if you have read this and desired to comment on it, note that Andy wrote this as a joke. And that my love tribute will come at a more fitting time...Heather
I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to publicly thank my strikingly handsome husband for the kind and thoughtful words that he posted last week. He is such a warm and loving soul. I can't imagine life with out him. Not only is he an excellent husband but he is a fantastic father. Case in point. Katie's school was celebrating the inauguration by having a red, white and blue day at school. As a family we decided we would adopt this celebration and decided we would have a red, white, and blue meal at home. As many of you know, I don't particularly like mornings. While I can function if I need to, I'd prefer to have a little time to myself where I can lay undisturbed in my warm little cocoon.

Now I would venture to guess that most of us like this, however, it is only made possible if you have somebody in your life that provides you that gift. For me, that person is Andy. Not only does he help around the house (at least occasionally), but he loves making breakfast. It seems all of the Brimhall men are especially adept at making this particular meal. I believe it stems from the fact that their Dad used to make breakfast for them, especially on special occasions. For all intents and purposes it was their way to bond. Andy has definitely internalized this mantra and made it his own. He had both Baker and Katie cooking pancakes, eggs, and several other breakfast creations by the time they were two. He'd let them crack the eggs, stir the batter, and even at times flip the pancakes. Mornings have quickly become his time to connect with the kids; their special daddy time. So I shouldn't have been surprised when I emerged from my room the morning of the inauguration and found my little family celebrating. Unbeknownst to me, Andy had gotten down the red and blue food coloring and made made three different bowls of pancake batter (red, normal, and blue). Then, using the three different colors, he artistically captured the importance of the day. Katie and Baker were thrilled. They are constantly amazed by their father's abilities (except for the times when he accidentally loses half of the hash browns on the floor because he tried to flip them like the chefs on TV). I too share in their amazement. He is a wonderful father and I am lucky to have such a cherished friend. I love you Andy and appreciate all that you do. In the words of my favorite artist (Rod Stewart): Have I told you lately, that I love you?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

As many of you know, February 2nd is an important day. First, we all pray that Punxsutawney Phil fails to see his shadow so we can celebrate an early spring. But more importantly, we celebrate the birth of one of the most amazing and beautiful women to grace this planet. And this year, of all years is a special year. My gorgeous wife is turning:


As a way to celebrate her birthday I wanted to write some of the things that I admire most about her.

H-eart: Heather is one of the most kind hearted individuals I know. Whether it is babysitting, making little birthday bags, or just talking to somebody on the phone, there is not a day that goes by where she is not serving somebody in need. In fact, the running joke in the ward is, "How does Heather get everything done?" Some may think she, like my brother, may have had one too many Red Bull's, but the reality is she just has an extraordinarly large heart and she sees, and more importantly feels, the suffering around her and does everything she can to make a person's day better. I think her heart is one of the things that I most cherish about her. E-yes: One of Heather's body features that I love, among many, is her beautiful eyes. A comment that I get on a regular basis is, "Oh, your kids are so lucky because they got Heather's eyes!" I couldn't agree with that statement more. She has beautiful eyes. Not only are they big and beautiful but they sparkle when she is being mischievous or when she is excited. I'm am so glad my children have her eyes. A-cumen:For those of you that don't know, Acumen is another word for wisdom or intelligence. I was trying to figure out how to fit this quality in her name and was happy to learn about this word from the thesaurus. Whether I am using wisdom, intelligence, acumen, or just plain street smarts Heather has all of them in abundance. She knows more in her bones than I know after years of studying books. She is a wise and knowledgeable person. She has such a vast knowledge of so many different subjects it astounds me. As an example, many of you may not know this but she has an Associates in Theatre and Drama, a minor in Zoology, and a bachelor's in Human Development and Family Science. We recently found out that Katie tested at a very high level at school. I'll give you one guess where she got her brain. Although a lot of Katie's intelligence is natural (and Baker's and Griffith's for that matter), they also reap the benefits of having a caring, nurturing mother who spends a great deal of time teaching them. Not only is Heather an amazing intellect but she is a wonderful teacher who is incredibly bright and patient. T-enacity:When Heather wants something, Heather gets it. It is one of the qualities about her that most attracted me to her initially. One of my favorite stories about Heather stems from this picture. This is the night we were going to the hospital to get induced with Baker. Katie really wanted a certain toy from the prize booth. Poppy and I, being the proud males that we are, vowed that we would win her that toy. Several attempts later, and several dollars as well, we came up empty handed. Heather seeing that it was useless to leave a woman's job to a man, got a quarter went over to a machine, and three minutes later came back with a fist full of tickets. At times, it seems the elements even obey her will.
H-ot and H-andy:This first picture is one of my favorites of Heather because I feel like it captures her personality so well. She is a vixen (using the third definition of course because the first is absolutely not true). But unlike most vixens she also is incredibly handy. If there is anything that needs to be fixed, she learns how to do it, and gets it done. In fact the other day I came home and she had a snake out fixing our toilet. What an amazing woman. This second picture captures her ability to take charge and get things done. When we lived in Texas I went on a week long field trip to Monterrey, Mexico. While I was gone Heather went to Lowe's, bought new flooring, and installed it all, by herself, before I returned home from my trip. I was astounded. I knew she was good but that moment cemented in my mind, how good she truly was. I also realized, once again, how lucky I was to marry such a strong, powerful, and resourceful woman

E-xample: As I've grown older and travelled around the world, or at least the United States, I've realized that I truly could not have found a better woman to mother my children. Based on many of the qualities that I've mentioned above, and many that I simply don't have the space to list, I am glad that my children have such a wonderful mother to emulate. She is such a wonderful example to them, and to me, of how to live a Christ like life. If my children, especially my daughter, grows up to be a strong, powerful woman like Heather I am going to be a very happy man. Just one example, of many. As always our children, like most, get into trouble. I know it is hard to believe but it happens. When they fight, they are sent to time-out, but what happens next is precious to me. Heather has taught them to walk up to the person they've offended, square their shoulders and apologize for what they have done. In a society where personal responsibility is dwindling and everyone seems to look for someone else to carry the blame, it is so nice to meet somebody that does not flinch from virtue and good old fashioned morales. I love her for that and know that my kids, in the long run, will be eternally grateful for her amazing example.
R-esponsible yet Rambunctious: As I mentioned above, one of the qualities that come from her good old fashioned morales is her willingness to be responsible. Although comical this picture does an excellent job of portraying Heather in the role that she plays, not only in our immediate family, but also in our extended family. If you can't tell she is running off to set the timer. Heather takes care of everybody and everything, while I generally sit around and wait to be told what to do. She is the glue that holds us together. She often jokes that she wishes that I were more the man of the relationship and that she didn't have to call about bills, or call to get something fixed, and although I think I am improving, or at least taking one step forward for every step back, she is always there to pick up the slack. As a result she often gets the raw end of the stick but the amazing thing is that she rarely, if ever, complains. She is truly a remakable woman. And yet, despite the incredible amount of responsibility that she shoulders she still maintains a zest for life that is closely unmatched. She does things, like wear a nightie to the Relief Society Pajama Party, just to make people laugh, in an attempt to improve their day. I have thousands of other stories where she is the life of the party. She has an electric personality that is contagious. Everywhere we have been people have flocked to her and enjoy being in her presence. She is truly one of a kind.

For those of you reading this post I would like to invite you to share one of the qualities that you most admire about Heather. Please feel free to leave a comment sharing your thoughts and feelings about this awe-inspiring woman. I'm sure, like me, your life has been en
riched by your contact with her. My only fear is that she will never truly understand how much she means to me and how much I appreciate all that she does, for me, and more importantly for our children. I should also mention how grateful I am to Dad and Mom Baker for their role in raising such a wonderful daughter. I am truly blessed as a result of living with this woman!

Here are a few more of my favorite pictures of Heather:
This shows you how resourceful and willing to do what most would never imagine themselves undertaking. She went on a walk with 7 kids to the park and all of them were under the age of 6.

Finally, I don't know how she does it, but somehow she has found a way to resist my devilish ways. Perhaps she has a superpower that I have yet to discover. Either way, I am very grateful that she tolerates me and keeps me in her life. I am a better man for it. I love you Heather with all my heart.

Happy Birthday Heather

We all love you and are incredibly grateful that you were born into our lives!