Brenna’s Blog

Hey, hey LBJ July 16, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 1:03 am

This past Saturday, Matt was part of a Vietnam War reenactment. I know, right, who reenacts the Vietnam War? In Matt’s defense, his involvement in this reenactment has nothing do to with some obsession on his part. His dad is a Vietnam vet, and it’s kind of a bonding thing. I think. My intention is not to tease, mostly because I’d get in trouble, but also because I think it’s sweet that Matt’s willing to take part in something that’s mostly his dad’s thing. I intended to follow Matt’s strict prohibition against laughter of any kind when he came out of his room after getting dressed. I probably could have complied if he were dressed up in a US soldier ensemble. Alas, seeing my boyfriend dressed up as a Vietcong soldier was a bit too much. Workers unite!

I have to admit that I don’t really get the concept of war reenactments. When I tried to explain my qualms to Matt he looked at me sympathetically and nodded, “You’re right, we should just forget about all that bad history stuff.” And to that I say, you look silly dressed up like a Vietnamese farmer. So there.

He’s right to some degree, of course. It is important to remember history, especially the bad parts. But do reenactments help us remember? Or do they just remove all the ugly parts of war, leaving at best a glorification of the violence that occurred, or at worst, a complete fabrication in the minds of people who weren’t there? The reenactment included reenacters from every major American confrontation and several foreign wars, including IRA members, and Polish soldiers. These groups stage battles representing their particular skirmish. For the World War II battles, there are no Nazis allowed. There are a few “German soldiers,” but they must be injured and accompanied by a nurse. Makes for a pretty quick battle. This policy brings to light the issues I have with reenactments. People blanch at letting men dress up as Nazis, because it seems to take something heinous and real, and turn it into something pretend. Necessarily, some of the rawness and ugliness is stripped away when Nazi soldiers are brought into this contrived setting.

Honestly, I don’t have that much trouble with reenactments in general. I don’t get the appeal. I’d rather read a non-fiction historical account or visit a museum. But really, of the things that tick me off, reenactments fall fairly low on the list. World hunger and violence against women and children ranking much, much higher. But I do think that taking issue with Nazis being present at reenactments is quibbling. The Nazis did terrible, awful things, but many armies have done many terrible, awful things during many wars. Where do you draw the line when it comes to war crimes? Who chooses which foes are too awful to be present at the reenactment gathering?

After I muffled my laughter at Matt’s black Vietcong uniform (paired with Rainbow sandals, naturally), I pretend pouted. “Matt, I don’t want you to go off to war,” I whined. He rested his hands on my shoulders, looked at me sincerely, and said “Don’t worry…we win.”


Sunday School July 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 4:32 pm

This week I finally felt like I was getting a handle on teaching Sunday School. By the end of the class each of the kids could recite the verse and tell me what the story was about. Of course, it helped that there were only four kids. But three of those were boys who would spend the whole class building guns and jumping off the shelving units if I let them. During story time, they each got to hold a “quiet zucchini,” which had to stay near someone who was quiet and sitting on the rug. I was actually really surprised that one worked.

We’re still working on not jumping off of tables, chairs, and toy trucks. I’ve been using “safe is______,” a lot. “Safe is not throwing toys.” “Safe is sand in the sandbox.” “Safe is feet on the floor.” Halfway through class, as Toby was poised to fling himself from the window of the playhouse, I gave him a look and said, “Toby, safe.” The little boy next to him shouts, “Safe is feet on the floor!”

Gun building activities are only avoided when there is a game or craft interesting enough to hold the attention of all the boys. It doesn’t bother me too much, although I’d rather not have the parents walk in on an all out gun battle at the end of Sunday School. I walked over to the block area, also known as the gun factory, and heard this conversation:

Toby: “My gun is bigger than an ANT!”

Troy: “Well, my gun is bigger than an ANTEATER!”

But my favorite interchange came during snack time when my co-teacher told the class that she has seven guinea pigs living in her room at home. Troy stared at her for a moment, then said, “Do they freak you out?”


A Very Merry Unbirthday to Me July 12, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 8:52 pm

There is something to be said for watching the joy on a child’s face when they ride Dumbo for the first time. There is also something to be said for only being responsible for one person’s bathroom visits-my own. In the past, my trips to Disneyland have always included small children, a large group of teenagers, or my family. There are pros and cons to navigating Disneyland with each of these groups. Small children tend to enter into the Disney marketing magic more fully than anyone else. High school youth group trips to Disneyland always provided the most entertaining car rides. Except for that one time that the youth pastor locked his keys in the car and then broke the window to get back in. That ride was more chilly than it was entertaining. And as far as travelling with my family: free. Enough said.

But yesterday’s trip to Disneyland was just Matt and I. I have to say, it might be a hard one to top. True, Fantasyland rides seem more thrilling with a three-year-old there to scream at the “scary” parts, but it’s also nice to have a traveling companion who doesn’t dissolve into tears when the line is just “toooo loooooong.” It’s hard to top high school youth group car trip, but Matt and I came close with an exciting detour through South Central. “I told you that was the 5! I told you to get off!” “Yes, you were right. Now let me look at the map.” Ahem. Thankfully, my GPS service (Dad) was just a phone call away.  And, yesterday was my birthday, so: free. Plus a lovely dinner. Thanks Matt!

There were no lines over fifteen minutes long. There was no squabbling over where to go next. There were no broken car windows. It was just so much fun. Although, it is funny seeing someone else’s Disneyland culture. In our family, we bring our own food, we carry backpacks instead of getting lockers, and we don’t visit Tom Sawyer Island. That last one isn’t a hard and set rule or anything, with three girls it’s just never happened. In Matt’s family, park food and lockers are a given, and forgetting to visit Tom Sawyer Island until it’s too late is cause for despair. Okay, not despair, but maybe what my reaction would have been if we had forgotten to visit The Matterhorn.

And here’s how the locker conversation went:

M: “Let’s go get a locker.”

B: “Why, what are you going to put in the locker?”

M: “The food.”

B: “No, I need the food. I’ll carry the food.”

M: “My camera case. The sunscreen.”

B: “How much can those possibly weigh?”

M: “Okay, fine, the sweatshirts.”

B: “So you’re going to pay five dollars for someone to hold your sweatshirts for the day? I’ll carry the sweatshirts.”

M: “Yes, I’m going to pay five dollars for a locker because when you are at Disneyland you spend ridiculous amounts of money because that is what you do, and I let you bring the food.”

For the record, I just think that five dollars would be better spent on a ridiculously overpriced Mickey Mouse ice cream bar. I kept corralling us to one ride after the next until the locker argument was moot.

B: “So, do you still want a locker?” I asked sweetly as we were exiting the park at 9 pm. “They’re right over there.”

M: “Yes, I’m going to go get three lockers and put nothing in them just to spite you.”

We used to have this tape that my mom would play in the car when I was little. It had a song about how being a grown up is so much better than you could possibly imagine. “Take fifty grand to Disneyland, it’s better than that.” I knew even then that it was tongue in cheek. But yesterday, after spinning in teacups, and eating Mickey ice cream, Matt and I sat down at a little cafe and ate tapas (smoked salmon baguette sandwiches, pita and tzatziki, hangar steak, and roasted artichoke) while I sipped my first margarita. There are times when it is better than that.


Fireworks July 10, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 5:26 am

My hometown friends and I have developed something of a Fourth of July tradition. Well, more of an understanding. If we show up at Mark’s house, there will be food and fireworks. He lives just above our city’s community college, which hosts the local fireworks show. We used to sit up on the roof, but that was nixed this year. Too many kids old enough to want to be up on the roof, but too young to scale the rickety ladder. The front yard is a good vantage point, though, raised about five feet from the sidewalk. We joined the small crowd out on the lawn.

Mark’s family is the kind you can drop in on. Like you could stop by at 10 pm, pour yourself a bowl of cereal, turn on a movie, and Katie would simply stick her head out to say a quick hello and tell you that there is left over pasta in the fridge. “Help yourself!” is the ever present refrain. So I was hardly surprised when a couple with a baby standing down below on the sidewalk were invited up to watch the fireworks with a better view. “Come on up! How old is the baby? Sixteen months? How fun.” We all exclaimed over the baby and made small talk until the show started.

This little pajamaed boy had never seen fireworks. We didn’t have to wait long for his reaction. Utter, complete, totally unbridled joy. He laughed and laughed, until his voice went hoarse. Then he cried. Then he laughed some more. Every new explosion was a new fit of screeching giggles, echoed by the laughter of the whole crowd on the lawn. My boyfriend, Matt, found the baby more entertaining than the fireworks. “Matt, aren’t you going to watch the fireworks?” I asked as he turned around in his chair, waiting for the baby’s reaction to the next explosion. “I’ve seen fireworks,” he said, waving at the baby.

The fireworks ended. The baby faded, eyes drooping, head resting on his mother’s chest. “Same time next year?” Mark’s dad offered the young couple as they buckled the baby into the stroller. They nodded and smiled, thanking him for letting them take up lawn space. They left happy.


Halong Bay July 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 4:51 pm

I was looking back through my journal from Thailand, where I studied abroad last year, and realized that towards the end I got extremely lax about writing. So, I’m putting this down before I forget all of it. 

After Thailand, I traveled with a friend to Vietnam and Cambodia. Our last stop took us to Halong Bay, Vietnam. Hundreds of small islands, covered in bright green foliage, jut out of the bay. It’s a gorgeous spot. Which, of course, means that tourists descend upon it en masse. Nearly every one of those tourists travels the bay on a two day boat tour. The boats are identical. As far as I can tell, the itinerary is identical, too. Day 1: Kayaking, visit quaint fishing village, swimming near the boat. Day 2: Cave tour, more swimming, visit to another quaint village.

Halong Bay is absolutely beautiful. Everyone should visit. However, at the end of three months overseas, and two weeks of intense traveling, volunteering to be trapped on a boat with sixteen strangers is possibly not the best idea. Not only was I completely exhausted, and pretty much over gorgeous scenery, I also had a broken rib. Without easy access to anything stronger (um, make that legally stronger), I was dulling the pain with about 15 advil a day. We failed to recognize the eight hour bus ride with a Michael Bolton CD playing on repeat as the ominous foreshadowing that it was. As we stepped onto our boat, I was a bit horrified to realize that the only common area was filled with large tables that would be shared with other passengers. In my tired and grumpy state, I would have to make “traveler talk.” “Where are you headed?” “Where have you been?” “Where are you from?” “What was your favorite place?” All those innocent, friendly questions that travelers feel compelled to ask out of politeness, or occasionally genuine curiosity.

Blaine and I sat down at a table with an Australian couple. I glanced at the book the woman was reading, “An Atheist Manifesto.” The woman looked up, “So, where are you guys from?” “California,” I answered with a smile. “So, is it hard for you? You know, travelling as an American citizen?” Uh oh.

There were actually some really interesting people on the boat, including a couple who was spending the year bouncing around the globe. They had quit their jobs, sold everything they owned, and jumped on a plane. Still, at the end of day one, I strongly considered staying in my room through dinner. Blaine convinced me to venture out. And we ended up chatting with three 20-somethings from Singapore for several hours. We talked politics, religion, and culture. All three were studying to be teachers, so we talked for a long time about educational systems. I asked about educational equality, and they were shocked to hear about inequalities in the US system. I told them that schools are partially funded by property taxes, meaning that schools in wealthier areas have more resources. The girl from Singapore looked at me with wide eyes, “But…then how will the poor schools ever catch up?”

The fishing village was staged. The caves had multicolored lights and dolphin trash cans. On day two, we gave up on the scheduled fun. Instead, we stayed inside the boat and played cards with the Singaporeans.


Mermaid Doctor

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 12:27 am

In high school, I helped out with a set of teeny, tiny triplets. Each of them had ears the size of my thumbnail when I started out feeding bottles and changing diapers. They are just as cute now, but not quite so little. Now they are five year olds who can ride bikes and swim. I’ve been taking each of them out on separate adventures, because we rarely get to spend time one-on-one. I told them they could go wherever they wanted, which has yielded two trips to Jamba Juice, and two trips to a water fountain at the beach. The fountain is the kind that shoots streams of water out of the ground on a cycle. We play with it kind of like whack-a-mole, guessing which holes will spout water next, then jumping to cover those holes.

Probably the most fun part is getting to join in on whatever they want to do. It’s amazing how well behaved kids are when they get to make all the choices. With three five year olds, there is a certain amount of necessary structure that just has to happen. With one kid, one adult, and no time frame, Sam is free to decide that he wants to climb over piles of rocks all the way down the beach, or walk on the edges of all the planters.

It’s also pretty entertaining just to listen. Today I learned that Quinn wants to be a mermaid doctor someday. I guess she should be commended for wanting to work with such an under-served population. I also learned why fire is orange: “Because God made it that way.” Hmm, it appears that some children have been asking a lot of questions lately.


The Book Fairy July 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 4:39 pm

My mom has adopted a little boy my younger sister babysits for as a kind of pseudo grandchild. As a former first grade teacher, and children’s book store worker, my mom has an inordinante love of children’s books. I don’t remember my parents ever giving into whines for candy at the grocery store or toys at Target. I also don’t remember ever being denied a book. Now that the youngest “child” at our house is 18, Cayden is the new target of her children’s book addiction. I’m not exactly sure where she gets all these books. My sister says she scans thrift stores for our childhood favorites. Perhaps friends with kids my age are dumping their book collections. Whatever her supply, Cayden somehow ends up with a new book or two a week.

Last week, my mom was on training retreat before leaving on a trip to Turkey. Cayden’s mom was in charge of this training, so he came to visit the first day. He walked in with his dad, saw my mom across the room, and shouted, “THE BOOK FAIRY!”

Maybe we should get her a wand.