Friday, January 31, 2014

West Philadelphia--Born and Raised

Sometimes I wonder how much the boys will remember living in West Philly.  Will they remember a day like today?  Walking through the crowd of angry customers outside a quick tax refund store on the way to attend story time where the best (and only) behaved kids are the lesbian's only to return home and nudge through the crowd again and hope Christian isn't listening to those five different swearwords, doesn't notice the strong smell of alcohol, cigarettes, and whatever other puff was in the air, and and neglects to see those men starting a brawl.  I wonder if they will remember when water just stops without warning for the entire apartment complex (all 13 floors) and there is no knowing when it will turn on again?  I hope they do.

What I hope they don't remember is fear.

Honestly I have rarely felt fearful here. Yes, there have been a few crazies left over from the crack epidemic, but for the most part I've never felt until tonight.
 I was out with another woman from church visiting some primary kids in the further outreaches of West Philly.  Books were read, paper airplanes made, hugs given and it was time to go.  When leaving, the woman I was driving with  accidentally cut off a very slow moving car as we approached a red light.  The car laid on it's horn and my friend moved over assuming the driver was intending to turn right. The car came up to us and I, forgetting the sage advice of my bro-in-law Mike when i was visiting California to never look at other drivers as it can be reason enough for them to shoot you , turned my head to see a 30 year old man glaring back at me.  I'm not sure I ever felt more vulnerable--waiting for the light to turn,  turning my head back straightforward hoping that we could just move when I heard a pop.
 For three very long seconds I thought we had been shot at, I think I looked first down at me  to make sure I was not shot before I looked up at the window and we realized he had thrown an ice ball, perhaps with a rock.  They sped off and we drove with the green light, but it took until I was back in the apartment safe with Stephen and the boys before my might heart stopped racing.   I know, it sounds lame when it's put in words, but it may just be a life changing experience.

Why? Because up to now if my life I have never really known fear.  Yes, I get terrified at scary movies and it was all the bravery I could muster to run from Stephanie Schumann's house in the dark along the deserted shortcut back home,  but fear of anonymous violence has been a foreign face to me--and that's the way it should be.  I want my children to have their scariest moments to be from playing "Scare Stephen/Dad" where they search in a dark house for Stephen who is hiding and jumps out to scare them when they get close (A game Stephen remembers with fondness from playing it with is dad).  This wasn't some 15 year old prank, this was some 30 year old guy.  On the ride home I couldn't help feel sick that there are women, children and even men who are living here and have a constant alertness, to feel so out of control of one's future must be grating on the soul.
In always thought I wasn't really bothered by violence.  I realized in the past couple years that I can't stand to watch violence against women or children.  I think it's time I stop worrying about whether there is violence in my movies and start doing something if there is violence in my neighborhood. sigh.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cranney Classics

While this blog is to keep in touch with family and friends far away, it's also be somewhat of a record of our family history as each post is e-mailed to the gmail account I've created for the boys.  It somehow seems amiss to keep this history however, without including some of the books that we have poured over again and again.  I can't help but suspect they'd enjoy being reminded of some of our favorites and so each week I thought I'd include a Cranney Classic: a book that we have long loved or just discovered.

As the first Cranney Classic, I have to admit I feet obligated to give the Donaldson side a little attention and include a book written by Julia Donaldson.  Nepotism? I may have picked it up due to the Scottish author's last name, but I honestly found the book delightful and a gentle way of making the fearsome less intimidating. It's a little too old for Simeon to understand the humor and plot right now, but the rhyming and illustrations are such that he doesn't mind reading it along with Christian, nor do I.

By way of other updates, our house smells like scouting.  Stephen got home late last night from a Klondike Derby and all his clothes--to the last three pairs of socks he was wearing are permeated with campfire smoke.  As much as I'm a fan of rustic, Monday morning we're making a trip to the laundry mat.   I met Stephen when he was 21 and in some ways I wish I could have known him when he was a boy. Seeing his obvious enjoyment of the trip despite numb toes and a sleepless night however, I feel like I'm getting a glimpse of his boyhood adventuresome self. 
 Don't feel too bad that I only have glimpses though. Watching Christian and Simeon sneak out of their room to fight the "bad guys" of their nightmares at four in the morning with their foam swords and shields, I think I'll be seeing more than just mere glimpses of boyhood adventures for many more years to come.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Utah Clean Air Rally

I wish we could be there.  We'd take the whole family and probably make some outlandish outfits that would make passer-bys assume we were extremists and dismiss us, but in the middle of the night when they heard their kids coughing they'd think of us.

Instead, we're doing the next best thing and asking my sister if I can pay for the train ticket of my social butterfly of a 13 year old niece to ride up there and have her make a party of it with her friends.  I wonder if I could convince them to wear those outfits . . .

I'm afraid pictures are scarce these days as we continually forget or lose our phone--but trust me (I am a very unbiased authority on the matter) when I say these kids are the cutest little kiddos ever.

Simeon is experimenting with new sentences--usually commands, but we're just glad he's talking.  The family Christmas gift was an electric keyboard and he has loved playing away on it, not that it keeps him from pretending the window sill is one, but it helps to distract him from his neglected place of middle child, so we're keeping it.  

Christian is my story boy right now.  He will do anything for a story so we've been getting the dishes cleared and some help when I mop the floors.  He usually refuses to take a bath, but once we have him in, we can't get him out. He can pretend and dress up for hours.  It's so fun to see his imagination entertaining himself now.

Joshua is starting to do his baby blabbering and continues to surprise us with his smile in the midst of all the chaos at our house. His eyelashes are so long they curl at the end and his cheeks are getting just the right amount of chunk that he is becoming irrestible to kiss--I really hope something changes before he's a teenager.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Missing us?

Well if you're family in Utah, probably not as we just spent three weeks crashing your homes and parties--it was delightful.  We had a mini-reunion for my dad's birthday on the 28th with everyone there.
It had obviously been far too long since we have had a reunion as several of the nieces and nephews asked what my name was again. I tried to convince them that my name was "favorite," but none of them bought it, not even Jonathan who said, "I don't even know who you are," to which I replied, "I took you to another country and back without your parents."   (Oh the joys of Tijuana).   Here is an incredibly pixelated picture of the entire Donaldson clan so that you can't see how miserable we are when it comes to family photos.

Stephen's brother Caleb returned from his mission in November.  Before he left, Christian loved to steal his cell phone and dance to it's music.  When we met him again, the kids weren't sure who he was.  It took about two seconds, and then they were chasing him like they had known him their entire lives.

Simeon loved loved the music room at the Cranneys, especially their children's violin that he used as his personal cello.  
The air quality made me question wanting to return to home to Utah to settle and simultaneously brought out the dormant, but passionate environmentalist in me (and thus a violent environmentalist in Christian who decided he wanted to"kill" all the polluting cars--hmm, I might have to tone down my griping if we don't want an eco-terrorist on our hands).

Another reason the trip was wonderful was grandparents.  There's nothing in the world quite so wonderful and grandparents that love their grandkids.
 We should have taken more pictures, but we were having so much fun.  We especially enjoyed what turned out to be our last visit with Stephen's Grandmother Cranney.  We dropped by with the kids while she was sleeping.  We were talking to Stephen's uncle and aunt who were there until she woke up just as we were going to go.  She had the most peaceful loving face as we talked together.  Christian sang "Away in a Manger" and she joined in---it couldn't have been sweeter.  Three days after we came home she passed away at the age of 95.

Really the trip was just wonderful, yes it was a pain to fly into Las Vegas (tickets $75 as opposed to $335 if we flew to SLC), but what's the point of having two wonderful families with cousins and uncles, aunts, grandparents and great grandparents if you don't every once in a while, spend Christmas with them?