Monday, November 28, 2011

A Day of Laughter at the Museum

My friend John - a former professor of mine - once told me that whenever he and his wife traveled with their children, they always made a point of visiting museums. He said frequently the kids complained, but now they're adults a visit to the museum is on the itinerary no matter what city they visit.

I want my kids to have an appreciation for fine arts. I look forward to the day that my sons and I can stroll together through the amazing museums I consider myself so blessed to have visited: from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art to Chicago's Field Museum, from San Francisco's The California Palace of the Legion of Honor to Moscow's Pushkin Museum.

But, like John, I know that in order for that to happen, it's up to me to introduce the boys to the fine arts.

So Saturday I took them to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) at the University of Utah. For a smallish city like Salt Lake, this museum is really pretty impressive.

I knew I had 30-minutes to an hour tops. I didn't expect a 5- and 8-year old to look thoughtfully at each painting and comment on the play on light. Although at a sculpture consisting exclusively of Federal Express boxes and correspondingly-sized shattered plexiglass pieces, Gus did ask the ultimate artistic question, "This is just broken glass; how is it art?" That's pretty good commentary for an 8-year old!

But it was when we entered the Asian exhibit that it all fell apart.

Almost immediately we came face to backside with a dancing Shiva from the Chola Dynasty of India(300 BCE - 1300 CE). Niko took one glance at it, pointed at it's derriere and shouted, "Oh my gosh! A bum!

And then he lost it. He was laughing hard, doubled over, gasping for breath. This, of course, made Gus start chortling. As curious on-lookers tried to ascertain what was so funny, I snatched Niko up before he lost total control and crashed into a 19th-century Reclining Buddha from Burma.

The front side of Shiva...

Quick! Into the hall of Dutch and Flemish religious paintings. There's nothing funny about Madonna and child, which was the first painting we came across. Only, when you're 5-years old and that painting is Peter Paul Reubens' The Virgin Nursing the Christ Child, you shout at the top of your voice, "BOOBIE!" If Shiva was funny, the Virgin Mary's breast was the greatest comedy of all time.

I glanced around the hall, a few rather amused older women smiled at us. I hoped they were cutting me some slack seeing how I was trying to introduce my hooligans to fine art.

My plea that he was laughing at the Holy Virgin Mary only made Niko laugh harder. To his credit, Gus was clearly trying his darnedest to be mature about it, but as painting after painting revealed another breast here, another buttocks there it became increasingly difficult to stifle the chuckles. The laughter only really subsided when we moved into the ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian hall.

We left UMFA after 45 minutes. Wait, we left UMFA after 45 fun-filled minutes. At least their first real exposure to a fine art museum was fun!


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Brother, Oh Brother

I'm told there's a special relationship between sisters. But I know there's a deep bond between brothers. Growing up with four older brothers, I've experienced the good, bad and ugly that comprises that brotherly bond.

Watching the relationship between Gus and Niko ebb and flow has been one of the most fascinating aspects of being a dad. Like all brothers, I suppose, one moment they're best friends and the the next they're mortal enemies.

I know from personal experience, it'll get worse as Gus enters his teenage years, and Niko remains a little boy. That can be tough on a younger brother. I remember being both perplexed and hurt when I learned that my 15-year old brother John had negotiated with our parents to a move to the basement "suite" to share a room with our 19-year old brother, Dan, leaving me alone in the bedroom we'd shared my entire life.

I couldn't understand what sophomore wouldn't want to share a bedroom with a fourth grader!

Already I've started to see signs of the inevitable sibling split in Gus and Niko. Although Niko pretty much still adores Gus - his brother's name was his first spoken word - Gus is beginning to seek greater independence, free from his little brother's adoration.

But I know that like John (and Dan, Ted and Mike) and me, the basis for the bond was created long ago and runs deep. And maybe like my dad before me, it's my job to now and then remind of them of that.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank You

I am thankful:

For Kelly, who has stood by me - barely flinching - for almost 24 years
For my boys, who make my life worthwhile
For my family, who love me warts and and all
For far too much to ever give voice

And for all of you - for reading, for responding, for encouraging.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Night at the Museum

Something that greatly concerned me about moving back to Utah was that we were leaving behind a treasure trove of cultural options in California: The Getty, the Page Museum (the La Brea Tar Pits), LACMA (not that we ever went there....)

But last week we took advantage of our memberships to the Natural History Museum of Utah to go on a members-only preview visit to the brand spanking new museum. All the boys could say was, "Wow!"

The boys had a fantastic time, and we're glad to live in a place with such a world-class museum!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Be a Kid

In my opinion, one of parenting's biggest challenges can be striking a balance between activities that make for an enjoyable childhood and what parents like to do. Not that there's anything wrong with a kid who enjoys Vivaldi and has an opinion as to whether Jackson Pollack was a genius or a hack, but I always hoped my kids would be kids.

If Gus is any indication, we're succeeding.

At the hockey clinic

Upside down on the monkey bars!

It's a square knot, ma'am

Getting his wings