Ten years

josh_yoli_cascada1

we wrote letters
	and raked leaves

we pleaded 
	and prayed

we vowed in Santa Cruz
	and signed in Coral Gables

we made
	babies and bunuelos

we gained 
	family and friends 
	and facebook

we lost 
	tios and tias 
	and little Jubilee

we endured
	tornados and tantrums
	surazos and suegros

we watched
	Petra and parades

we explored
	D.C. and Del Rio
	Copacabana, Cotoca
	San Antonio, Samaipata

we saved
	and we spent

we loved
	and we left

we gave 
	and we grew

from just me and you
	to those four and us two

vows and visas
looks and laughs
tea and tears 
ten times ten
let us love 
again
and again

Sprucing up the house (Or is it firring?)

Every year my mom has a lovely Christmas tree at her house. She and dad usually pick one out from a tree farm the day after Thanksgiving. This year, though, they are several states away, and we decided to get a tree ourselves.

Unfortunately we didn’t get out soon enough. Our tardiness combined with the terrible drought this summer meant pickings were slim at the tree farm.

We walked for an hour or two looking for “the tree.” We never found one that was altogether perfect, but we did find a nice small one that had no dead branches or brown needles.

Yoli and the girls got it decorated Tuesday evening. Yoli had also taken some free scrap branches that the tree farm was giving away. On Wednesday she used them to make a wreath, and on Thursday to decorate the mantel over the fireplace.

Here are some photos of how it turned out:

Josh christmastree

Yoli christmastree

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The Fellowship of the Readers

Regular readers of this blog know that reading aloud is a big thing in the Renaud Empire.

We have gone through many children’s books over the past couple years, including “The Hobbit” twice.

For quite some time I have harbored a secret desire to read aloud the Lord of the Rings. In my head, I figured it would still be a few years before I could try.

Occasionally the girls have asked me about the story, either because they have seen me reading the books, or something else prompted them. I knew they were curious. Jadzia especially likes to ask questions, and I always refused to answer her. “You’ll just have to wait until you/we read the story someday.”

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I just had to read it. I figured I would start with the first chapter and see how it went. After all, the first chapter is close in tone to The Hobbit, and the girls loved The Hobbit.

And so began our LOTR odyssey. The audience is primarily Jadzia and Yoli. Ludi would stick around sometimes, but I think this is just too far above her right now, and she has no interest (although she loves the Hobbit and has been asking me to watch the old animated movie).

The hardest parts have been the travel scenes where there is no action. Jadzia can’t quite grasp all the environmental description. But when action or good dialogue comes, she is very interested. I think I had the hardest time keeping her concentration until we reached “At the Sign of the Prancing Pony.” From that point forward, she has been fairly engrossed.

Reading the scene where Frodo is attacked at Weathertop was really cool. I was really into it, and Jadzia was clearly gripped.

But I worried I might lose her in the “Council of Elrond.” It is a complex chapter with so many characters telling all sorts of stories. Some of the stories are current, some are tales of ages past. It’s actually one of my personal favorite chapters, but I knew it would be difficult for a kindergartner.

In fact, she made it through quite well. We took it slow, and I explained as best I could. Ultimately it was okay if she didn’t grasp it all. Her favorite bits were when characters from the Hobbit came back in — the dwarf Gloin, Bilbo, and the mention of Balin going to Moria.

I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised how much she remembered. I didn’t have to say, “Hey, do you remember Gloin?” I simply read the bit where Frodo talks with him at dinner, and Jadzia realized it herself. “Oh, it’s Gloin from The Hobbit!”

The past week we have been reading about the fellowship going south, trying and failing to go over the Redhorn Gate, and turning to Moria. Today we read much farther than I had expected. We finished up “A Journey in the Dark” and read all the way through “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” in one sitting. Jadzia had been intent to find out what happened to Balin. Why had his messages to Dain stopped? (At least she remembered that from “Council”)

Of course she found out his fate (her own guess had been right) — and after a while she got a bigger shock: the fall of Gandalf.

Confession time: Two days ago I practiced reading the scene of Gandalf and the Balrog on the bridge. I guess it’s kind of like when I do public speaking. I wanted to be prepared.

And I think it did me good, because it was a really exciting session and Jadzia was pacing all over. Yoli had to call her to sit close by. She had no idea what would happen.

My concern was that Jadzia would be really sad or upset. She is very tender-hearted and cries easily when she’s watching movies with sad parts. But she didn’t break down. She understood Gandalf had fallen, but her first question was: “How will they get Gandalf back?” She is very good at predicting things in stories.

We’re 300+ pages in, but many more to go. I don’t have any big concerns until we reach Return of the King. The tone gets higher there and the Gondorian speech is really old-fashioned English. But we’re a long way from that point. I’m most excited to get to the end of The Two Towers, which has a great sort of cliffhanger that gripped me the first time I read it (only about 10-12 years ago).

Anyway, I suppose we’ll see how it goes from here on out.

Fun away from home

Last night Yoli and I had a little “date night.” My parents guarded the Renaud Empire hordes while Yoli and I headed up to church for their Stars of Grace volunteer appreciation event.

The last time we were able to go to one of these appreciation dinners was about five years ago. The births of our kids had kept us from going since then.

It was an entertaining night. There was a video in which one pastor has a nightmare that there are no volunteers and he has to do everything himself, from directing traffic to teaching children’s ministry to leading praise and worship. The kids’ part included brief cameos by Jadzia and Ludi who participated in a free-for-all filming session a couple of Wednesdays ago.

The main event was a session by comedian Ken Davis. He had a pretty good set that kept everyone laughing. For Yoli and I, the biggest surprise came after he had asked for single men in the audience to raise their hands. He picked out one named “John” and interacted with him over the course of the set. After it was all over, he gave John a stack of DVDs and stuff. Imagine our surprise to see that “John” was actually my good friend John Wike! We spent the rest of the night hanging out.

There was also a photo booth for taking pictures. The folks told us that we would hear three clicks and that each click meant a photo had been taken. Yoli and I got in there and pushed the big green button and waited for something to happen… and nothing ever seemed to! Then the folks were telling us “good job, you’re done!” Out popped the photos and we looked like deer caught in headlights.

So we took them again at the end of the night with much more traditional photo-booth-esque results.

All in all, it was a lot of fun.