Thursday, July 31, 2014

26 Reasons

On July 31, 1988, I vowed my love and commitment to Kelly, held his hand, and we jumped over a make-shift broom together. I don't remember exactly what I said to him that day, but I can still give you plenty of reasons why I love him. Here are 26 of them - one for ever year.

1.   He makes me laugh.
2.   He hogs the blankets.
3.   He apologizes for it in the morning.
4.   He is an amazing dad.
5.   He snores so loud he can wake the Papua New Guinea.
6.   He loves animals.
7.   He is really sentimental...but seldom shows it.
8.   He is incredibly loyal.
9.   He is very tolerant of bearded priests kissing him.
10. He was incredibly loving, patient and kind with my Theia Matina.
11. He understands that to marry the Greek is to marry the Greek family.
12. He is a gifted photographer.
13. He loves to be in nature.
14. He got over his anxiety about flying to go to Greece with me.
15. He got kissed by many, many strangers there.
16. He always sees the glass as more than half full.
17. He is always my designated driver.
18. He vacuums.
19. He loves Christmas songs.
20. He brings crap home from work because he knows the boys will like it.
21. He is way better at technology than I am.
22. He loves to hike.
23. He thinks I'm smart.
24. He has no self control when it comes to sweets.
25. He drives like a bat out of hell.
26. He loves me back.

Monday, July 28, 2014

All Grown Up

There comes a day in every father's life when his young 'uns grow up. Well, over the past couple of weeks, our four little girls have started laying.

As we expected, their green are eggs.

If you're thinking they look a little small, well, you're absolutely right. Like their older sisters, these girls are starting out small.
 But that's OK. Little eggs are better than a rooster any day of the week!
Your humble author and his favorite hen, the lovable Thalia.
(Yeah, yeah, choking the chicken...I get it.)

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Quiet House

Recently, I posted on my Facebook page how early in our discussions about becoming fathers, Kelly had mentioned how he wanted to be the house where all the kids hang out. It was definitely not a goal of mine.  It's safe to say I lost that battle - there's always some kid or another running through my house...or even spending the night.

Well on Wednesday, Kelly's brother, David, came to take the boys to his place in the mountains. And with their departure a calm, a quiet has descended upon our house.  I was so busy that day with other tasks that I hardly noticed they were gone. But by the evening, I had settled in to the new reality. It was nice. I ate something, I read a book, I cleaned up...

And then around midnight I got the call: a tearful Niko begging me to come and pick him up.  It was heartbreaking to tell him that there was no way, that he'd just have to deal with it.  Gus ingeniously suggested that a morning and evening FaceTime call on the iPhone may help - and it has. Since that night Niko has been all smiles during our chats.

Now on the third day of their absence, my ability to cook dinner without complaints, run errands uninterrupted, or to work without having to remind someone to keep it way down, have proven far less powerful arguments for not having the boys here with me than I might have expected.

This morning as we FaceTimed, Niko decided that he wants to come home on Sunday, rather than stay for two weeks as had been considered. I told him, "That's only 3 days away!" Maybe, just maybe, I was reminding myself as well.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Call Me Ishmael

If someone asked you to describe my traits, I suppose along the way most people would mention that I'm vegetarian. With an exception of a bite here or there, for 25 years I didn't eat any type of meat - no chicken, no fish, nothing.

Recently, I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. The doctor was perplexed about how a 150 lbs. vegetarian runner could be pre-diabetic. Then he took a look at the family history. That, added with an over-reliance of carbs, gave us the diagnosis.

He strongly suggested that I change my diet to include fish. I sought a second opinion from my niece, Lyndsey, the nurse. "Eat some fish," was her advice. I went to a dietician. After discussing my diet she added, "How do you feel about eating fish?"

So after much reflection and on the advice of three medical professionals, I have started eating fish. I am no longer a vegetarian. I am a pescatarian.  I have very mixed feelings about this. (By the way, Gus is disgusted, and Niko is hopefully intrigued.)

Last Friday, I ate fish for the first time in I don't know how long. I had a tuna salad sandwich - my first in decades. At hearing the news of my lunch choice, my cousin Laura said, "All the fish in the sea and you choose tuna?"

Baby steps, people, baby steps.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Hiking With Conner

Our buddy Conner has been spending a lot of time with us this Summer. (And vise verse.)  We love having him around. The other day after Vacation Bible Camp, the boys asked if he could come to our house and spend the night. Sure! What's one more boy?

To keep them entertained, I dragged the Three Musketeers on a very short hike up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Lisa Falls.

One of the guys wasn't as enthused about hiking as the others. Let's see if you can guess which one from these photos.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Memories of Auntie Sonja

On the evening of July 5th, I received a call from the daughter of my high school AP English teacher. She was letting me know that her mom had passed away. Knowing how much she meant to me, her family very kindly chose to tell me of her death personally, rather than let me read her obituary in the morning paper.

Sonja Beere and I were rather unlikely friends. We met, after all, when I was her student. But sometimes personalities click, and friendships grow. Her passing has affected me much more than I could've imagined. I am grateful, however, to have a treasure trove of memories. In her honor, I would like to share a few:

What's Phallic? 

Sonja was a fantastic and gifted educator. Her students' papers were returned with copious notes neatly written in the margins. Affirming that our observations were correct, "Yes!" and True!" were common feedback. She treated her students - her kids, as she called us - with respect and maturity.  Which is why it was so funny when, after explaining the symbolism off the Congo River in Heart of Darkness, she was caught off guard by a young man asking what "phallic" meant. After a couple of vague attempts at clarification and growing discomfort, a couple of the guys told the kid they'd explain it after class. Man, was she grateful.

Happy Birthday, Nephew!

I happen to share a birthday with Sonja's brother - a fact she never forgot. On my 18th birthday, in front of the rest of her class, she gave me a present. It was a small stuffed bunny with a package of jelly beans. The next year, she showed up on our doorstep with a bouquet of balloons. Starting on my 20th birthday and continuing all the way through to my last birthday 3-1/2 months ago, she always sent a card with a $20 bill in it. 

You Did WHAT?

For all her ability to make one feel good about oneself, she was the first to self deprecate for a laugh. One day she was eager to share a story with me. She had recently attended the wedding of a former student. It was, she said, the strangest, most casual wedding she'd ever attended. Small - just the wedding party, parents, officiant and her. After the vows were exchanged, the groom approached her, thanking her for attending and for the gift, then meekly asking if she would also be at the wedding the next day, or just at tonight's rehearsal.  I thought we would never stop laughing.

A Part of Our Family.

When I returned to live in Salt Lake, Sonja and her husband, Glen, became regulars at my parents' home for holiday dinners. We loved having them, and know they loved being there. It wasn't a big, fat Greek dinner if the Beeres weren't there!

In Greek tradition, when someone you love passes, you toast their psyche - their soul. At her viewing, I quietly recited the first line of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in Middle English, as she had taught me, and I kissed her forehead for the last time. That night my parents, sister and I toasted Sonja's psyche with a shot of Dad's homemade mastikha, which had quickly become her favorite beverage whenever she was at the Katis house...just like everyone else in our family.

Sonja Beere, you will always have a special place in my heart. (Yes! True!)

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Great Tradition

The week before Kelly and I moved to California, my brother, Dan, and his family came to Salt Lake for vacation. My niece Lyndsey was 10 at the time. Kelly and I took her hiking.  She loved being with just the two of us, and hiking.

So it became a tradition: whenever we were all in town at the same time, Lyndsey would go hiking with us. It's a tradition we've continued now that Kelly and I live here. Whenever Lyndsey, Jerid, and their girls are in town, we all go hiking together.

Last week during their visit, we hit up both Stewart Falls in Provo Canyon, and Dog Lake / Lake Mary up Big Cottonwood Canyon.

It's a great tradition.

Look who came!
Like herding cats...


Monday, July 7, 2014

Bearing Fruit

Watering my yia yia's garden when I was a kid was always a highlight of those long-gone summer evenings. I was in charge of moving the hose from one neat little row to the next, nimbly running to the other side of the garden to make sure the water had reached the last plants. She and I would inspect the plants, looking carefully for any signs that our efforts were bearing, well, fruit.

Those are some of my favorite memories.

Tonight while I watered admittedly less neat little rows in a garden that has far more weeds than hers ever had, I took great delight in showing the boys that our efforts are, well, bearing fruit.

Our first cucumber
Soon to be tomatoes
Pumpkins on their way
Of course, we've been getting zucchini for weeks...
Apples on their way
Pears too
And what backyard farm would be complete without hens thwarted by chicken wire? They should be laying some lovely blue/green eggs in the next few weeks...not to count our eggs before they're laid.