Friday, March 28, 2008

You go girl!

Our friend Missy is due in a few days.

Tess and Colm are vibing in her are we all!

What the....?

Spring break in La Grande comes to a close with, what else, a blizzard!
Time to break out the tennis rackets and the bermuda shorts.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sugar high

Sugar is somewhat unique among cats in that he loves climbing trees, yet he never sweats the descent. No firemen rescues for him. He's a bit of an improviser too, not at all averse to coming down a different way than he went up. In the back yard he sometimes climbs the black walnut tree and then follows a limb to its very end and leaps into the apple tree below.

He can make the trip from the elm in the back yard, on to the deck, up on the roof of the house, to the plum tree, then the ash tree, to the street in front of the house without putting a paw on the ground.
Just the other day I witnessed him coming down one of the ash trees in the front. He decided on the way down to check out the roof of our VW bus.

The kids happened to be inside, and for a time neither cat nor kid was aware of the other's presence.

At some point that changed however; and what followed was an example of what can happen when three hearts beat with one desire.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Want to know what if feels like to have a smile a mile wide plastered over you face for at least a minute? Watch this.

Missy first showed us this video on YouTube last year. Then I ran across it again this week. Had to share it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter shots

Here are a few photos from yesterday. Dig the hand painted eggs that Beth made. Also the hand woven basket she made.

All told, I'm guessing we staged at least 10 different egg hunts during the day. Notice the candy egg cleverly hidden in plain view on the chair Colm is walking past.

They'd find'em; we'd hide'em...over and over again.

Easter tales

Big day. It started with the kids getting up before seven and getting giddy over the prospect of finding eggs and candy stashed all over the house. Watching them skip about, sometimes in tandem, sometimes solo, but always checking in with each other, hollering out new discoveries, sharing new finds, I couldn't help appreciate what a good place we're in right now. Tess and Colm really dig each other's company most of the time.
I remember the first Easter that Colm was able to participate in the hunt for Easter eggs. All he could think to do was follow Tess from spot to spot. She would find something and move quickly on. Colm would linger for a moment, look at the now empty spot as if slightly puzzled then quickly regain his intention to follow Tess to the next egg. And so it would go. Her basket filled up and his remained empty. She found things; he observed. It's different now. Colm understands the principal of independent inquiry and of getting there first, but always he is bound to his sister. "Tess, Look!" he says. He wants her to observe what he has done. For the most part she obliges him, and she even sends an extra egg his way once in awhile.
A year ago on Easter Sunday in France, I made this post. Tess made her very first solo bicycle ride on this day. Colm followed suit two days later. They keep slingshotting before our eyes, connected by some invisibly elastic band that keeps them in contact with one another even as it alternately slows one down nearly to the breaking point only to suddenly propel him or her headlong into the lead for a time. Mostly this happens just beneath our radar, during their seemingly endless sessions of fantasy games. Sometimes Beth or I manage to put something on the agenda that captures their fancy....a tennis racket, a paint brush, a guitar, a bowl of flour, bag of seeds, a book, a bicycle...but what do they do in response is always in some essential way, unexpected, surprising, and distinct from what we intend. They are their own persons already, fully outfitted with imaginations and ambitions and questions of their own.
Last night in bed, Tess asked me, "In the school elevator, where is number 2?"
When I take Tess to my school on weekends, we often take the elevator to my classroom. She loves to push the buttons. Three takes us to my room on the second floor. One takes us back to the ground floor. Those are the only buttons we ever push, the only two buttons I've ever pushed. But not the only ones we think about, obviously. Two is a strange button. We're not supposed to use it since it provides access to the TV and radio studio which occupies an intermediate level and which sits on the opposite side of the elevator. Tess has never seen or even heard of this room. She has intuited it existence however. Anyway, I try to explain the situation of door number 2 to her. She listens attentively.
I conclude my little explanation with, "I don't think we're supposed to push number 2."
Tess seems not to be listening anymore. It's as if another question has taken up residence in her mind. It turns out that I'm right. She says, "Daddy, if you move do you have to change your name?"
"When Emily moves, will she have to change her name?"
I tell her that just because you change your address doesn't mean you change your name. "Your name is your name. It never has to change."
"Daddy, what's your middle name?"
I realize that Tess and I are now performing the night time dance version of Staying Awake. Sometimes I'm too tired to really enjoy this kind of thing, but this night I can't think of any place I'd rather be or anyone I'd rather be playing with, so I launch into an extended back and forth Tess on middle names and last names. Along the way Tess discovers that my middle name is Patrick (I honestly thought she knew that already), that Beth's is Joanne, and that Beth is not technically a Cahill, that she has kept her maiden name. This last revelation is of tremendous interest to her. We talk about the decision that woman have to make about whether to keep or change their names when they get married. Tess seems to ponder what her own decision might be. She declares that she is half Cahill and half Wasley. I agree. Then we start making up combination names, Wahill, Casley, Waca, Cahillsly.... Tess really likes this game.
At length, the game subsides and we fall silent for a few seconds. I'm beginning to think about going to my own bed. It's as if Tess can read my thoughts.
"Will the police arrest you if push number 2? Is it against the law?"
"Uh, no." Then I add, "I'm going to ask someone what happens when you push number 2 and then I'll tell you okay?"
Tess nods and then says, "When I'm in high school, I'm going to find out."
It's my turn to nod. "I'm sure you will."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's speech in Philadelphia

I thought he gave an honest and searchingly reflective speech in Philly today. Will it help him? A lot depends on the disposition or the predisposition of the ears in which it lands. I don't think you can name a politician who made a stronger effort to reach out to a wide range of people in terms that are both candid and credible, not to mention uplifting. Here's his speech, both video and text.

flight of the penguin

Remember that endlessly swirling plastic bag captured on video by the teenage boy in the film American Beauty? Well Colm and I found ourselves similarly entranced by a penguin tied to a balloon in our living room the other day. We both noticed it migrating lazily around the room as we ourselves had lapsed into a lazy little eddy of idleness. The camera was handy so I started recording. If you're looking for a narrative line or even a point of any kind, best skip this one.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Grand Prize!

About two months ago, Beth showed me a travel photo contest featured in the Sunday Oregonian. The grand prize was a five day trip to Cancun, Mexico in the Carlton Ritz Hotel. The contest category was titled "Faraway Places".
"You should enter," she said to me.
She persisted and I gradually warmed up to the idea. I sent in this photo taken last year in France.

To make a long story short...someone from the Oregonian called me today to tell me that my photo won the grand prize.
I'm in shock. More details later.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

the Obama I know

In the spirit of getting useful information out there to anyone trying to figure out what to think about Obama, here's an interesting testimonial from Cass Sunstein, a former colleague of Obama's at the University of Chicago School of Law. It appears in the Chicago Tribune. Interesting stuff.


Colm's best friend, Edan, first coined the term "flashcat" a few months ago. From the beginning it has denoted something fast, feline, and fierce and as such become the perfect name for what the two boys most wanted to be. Since that time, flashcats have evolved into a kind of superhero. Tess and Colm regularly go off on imaginary flashcat adventures most recently involving their rocket ship which appears to the uninitiated observer to be a simple tree house in our back yard. They have begun taking on the mantle of rescuers and since Tess has been studying penguins in her first grade class, penguins have become the favorite creature in distress for the flashcats to save.
Last year Colm chose pirates as his birthday party theme. It was no surprise when Colm asked that this party be a flashcat party.
Beth set to work envisioning a flashcat look which involved a mask, a tail, ears, and a cape. She made a costume for each kid coming to the party. She found in Portland some tiny cat figures for which she made miniature red capes.

She put them on individual cupcakes for the invitees.
We brainstormed some physical tests that the kids could perform to earn their costume pieces. Boxing the punching bag to earn a tail, jumping Chinese jump rope to get a set of ears, and hitting a target with a ball to get a mask. But to earn their capes they had to work together and complete the most important task of all - rescue the little, lost penguin.

We sent Colm out to the mailbox to retrieve a message. He came back with an envelope addressed to the flashcats. In it was an urgent message from a penguin who had been chased from his home by evil rats. The flashcats were told to meet the penguin by their rocket ship.
So began the flashcat treasure hunt. There were six clues in all, each one written on a small piece of paper, rolled up and taped in some inconspicuous place. Tess and Emily were the only kids in the group who could read so it fell to them to read the clued aloud.

The clues were:
  1. a door too small to pass through
  2. a place not even a mosquito can enter though you can just by using your hands
  3. keys that cannot open doors or locks but which make music if you hit them
  4. a black hole covered by six steel strings that hum when you touch them.
  5. look in the long mirror and see it.
  6. trapped inside a floating skin about size of your head. When you find me, you'll hear a loud pop!
In truth, the clues were a bit much for the youngest ones there, who sometimes drifted while the older girls worked on decoding the words. But when we got to the final stage of popping balloons to find the lost penguin, the game was really on. In the end, the penguin was rescued from the rats, everyone earned his cape, and to celebrate we played musical hula hoops and then sat down for flashcat cupcakes and juice. Later we went outside and smacked a flashcat pinata with a bat.

Colm could not have been happier. Beth had pulled off another inventive birthday extravaganza and managed to put her own signature stamp on it... flashcats!

As one who has done a fair amount of theater in my life, I can tell you that there is no difference between the exhausitve preparations, the creative process, the investment of time and energy, the worry and fretting, and the post production swoon that accompany theater productions and what Beth goes through when she creates for the kids here in our house.
There are presents and there are gifts. Presents come in nice packages; they are fun, and they lie strewn about on the floor after being opened. Gifts pass directly from one heart to another. Beth understands giving; you could say that it's one of her best gifts; our kids (and me) are fortunate to be so gifted.
p.s. None of the above is meant to disparage presents in any way...if you were to ask Colm what his favorite present was this year, I don't think there'd be any hesitation on his part - he loves his guitar. Thanks Charlotte and Warner! He'll be working on a song for you one day, I'm sure.

Friday, March 14, 2008

pi times five equals Colm

pi = 3.14 = March 14 = Colm's birthday (and Einstein's)
Here's the new, older Colm.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

the Obama Kool-Aid test

Some people I know have posed the question to me as to whether my enthusiastic support for Obama means that I've drunk the Kool-Aid. As expressions go, the Kool-Aide reference packs a fair amount of freight and manages to be jokey while tapping into one of the most gruesomely pathetic examples of group-think (Jim Jones) in recent times. None of which should obscure the legitimacy of the question. Is there any substance there, people ask? or is it just Obamania?

To wit I have only one response - read his own words and judge for yourself.

In past blog posts, I've linked to some of Obama's campaign speeches, but he has given policy speeches as well. And then there are speeches like this one in which he reflects on the role of religion in politics. I urge you to read it.
This kind of speech resonates deeply with me because it evinces a depth and breadth of thought that suggests to me that here is a man who is not a johny-come-lately to our national discourse; rather, he is someone who despite his young age has clearly been immersed in the task not simply of crafting and solidifying political positions but of promoting a more honest, frank, and humble conversation about what we believe and what we claim to know.
It seems to me that Obama understands and even embraces doubt and is therefore conversant and comfortable with a wider spectrum of points of view - this has gotten him into trouble with some Democrats who view the political process as a protracted war against the other party where no quarter can ever be given. The trenches of political conflict are pretty inhospitable to this kind of sensibility which makes his success thus far remarkable.
To people who think that it's all a pose, all I can say is that while you may turn out to be right, it's not at all clear to me why you should expect to be right. I suppose I have taken his words to heart and in that sense, I have drunk deeply. But to someone dying of thirst, a clear, cool glass of water is more than a pleasure, it feels like exactly what the moment calls for.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

politics: the kids go negative

Tess says to Beth, "Do you want Obama to win?"
"Well I want Hillary Clinton."
Surprised, Beth asks her why.
"I hate boys," says Tess.

And then there's this one. Colm and his friend Edan are talking to each other. Edan says, "Who are you going to vote for ?" (these are four year olds)
"Obama," says Colm. There is a pause, then Colm asks Edan, "Who are you voting for?"
"Hillary Clinton."
"My mom says Hillary is sneaky."
They find some toys and move on.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Spring fever

The kids have been battling coughs, eye infections, headaches,and, most recently, fevers. Colm hit 103.5 yesterday. He laid around like a whipped dog all day, bravely turning down all offers of food and drink. He slept, watched videos, slept some more... Last night sometime in the middle of the night, his fever broke. As soon as we woke up the difference was palpable. He took a big long drink of water. His voice was chirpy again, and when I brought up the subject of breakfast, he was interested.
The sun came out too. I went out back to finish pruning the apple trees. As I worked I noticed Tess and Colm carrying armloads of stuff to the tree house. They went about their work as I did mine. I felt good to be outside, and it was great to feel the kids outside and absorbed in something of their own creation. You can always tell when they've left this world for a better place. They don't make a lot of noise; rather, they murmur intently to one another. I can't make out a word, but just the sound of their voices is reassuring like a slender steam trickling by. I too get lost in my work, first cutting and then gathering branches. Time seems to slip by on greased skids. Then Tess calls me.
"How do you spell rocket?"

I look up. The apple tree in which the tree house sits looks like it has blossomed back packs, shirts, christmas ornaments, ribbons, picnic baskets. The ladder is brightly colored with chalk. A large white bear wearing Tess's overcoat is tied at the foot of the ladder. On the tree's trunk hangs a clipboard. Tess is wearing a cape, standing there with her pen poised. Colm, also in a cape, is busy with something up in the tree.
I tell her how to spell rocket. I give her time to finish whatever it is she's writing and then a amble over for a closer look.
The kids tell me that they are flashcats and that this is there rocket. I notice all the clothes. Tess informs me that they don't live here. They've just landed here.
I ask them why they've come. There is a pause. Each seems to consider the possibilities. They look at one another and smile.
We've come to rescue a penguin, says Tess. Colm nods smiling.
Don't find many penguins in these parts, I tell them. You might check the front yard and the sidewalk though because sometimes new critters pass by there. You might get lucky.
Colm grabs his bow and arrow and the two of them head for the gate, their robes trailing gracefully. As they leave I look at the "rocket". It resembles the insides of two bedrooms in our house more than it does a rocket but that's only because I haven't the faintest idea what a flashcat's rocket would look like.
They return much later. I meet them at the door and than them profusely for having helped the penguin. They accept my thanks.
May I offer you lunch as a token of my gratitude?
Hot dogs? says Colm. It's nice to see his appetite back.
Hot dogs for flashcats, I say.
They enter with the assurance of super heros. Like all ordinary people in such stories I feel blessed just to be in their presence.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Just in Time - a poem

Just in Time

This place in time
this moment in space
it swings on hinges -
a vacant parking lot,
an empty seat in the clinic,
a deserted beach.

Any where any time
it is odd -
odd to be in time,
just like it’s odd
to be too late,
to find a car already there,
the seat and the last magazine taken,
Frisbees slicing the view
and sodden candy wrappers at your feet.

Just like its odd to occupy a place
as if it were your birthright,
the slot by the curb,
the chair by the window,
the sand swept clean.

It’s odd to be alone in this way,
if only for a moment,
to feel the coin drop,
the spheres move,
and tumblers fall into place
and everyone else in the world elsewhere
or maybe on the way,
nearly here perhaps
or not nearly early enough.

Yet here you are
just in time
haunting a spot,
forever leaving,
perpetually mistaking
the space before you for
the time it took to get there.

by Kevin Cahill

Monday, March 03, 2008

Obama unplugged

Here's an unscripted speech made by Obama in Beaumont (hat tip to Andrew Sullivan), Texas on Feb. 28. He really gets on a roll about three minutes into it. The subject is education and parenting. The guy gets it.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Family values...ball skills

This morning Beth noted my obsessive interest in "helping" our kids learn how to catch and throw a ball by noting that ball handling skills were right after the Golden Rule and family togetherness one of my family's top three core values.
It's true. Beginning with my father and extending through all my siblings, we are, all of us, committed ball chasers and whackers and tossers.
So I offer this video to those who wish to judge for themselves whether the family ball handling tradition will remain unbroken or whether it might, like some forms of mental illness, skip a generation.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

the sound of music

or something vaguely reminiscent anyway. Here I am jamming with the kids, doing Old Macdonald had a farm.

Here's Beth and Tess knocking off Twinkle Twinkle (take 12 or something close).