Archive for the ‘Family’ Category.

Anne’s Piano Evaluation

Anne has had a variety of piano teachers over the years but she’s been with Cindy for the past 8 years so Cindy has definitely had the largest influence over Anne’s piano talents and style. Anne plays with decent mechanics but could probably stand to improve in her musical interpretation. Recently she signed up for a performance evaluation from the Utah Music Teacher’s Association. Anne wasn’t clear on the details but apparently you receive an evaluation on your performance with suggestions on areas of improvement. If you are rated high enough, you could be invited to play in UMTA honors recitals at the local or state level.

Anne and her teacher

Anne and her teacher Cindy

Although Anne was disappointed that she didn’t play well enough to get invited to an official honor recital, I’m glad she at least had the gumption to receive and evaluation and get feedback. She did play well in the recital for all of Cindy’s students. I’m glad that Anne still enjoys taking piano lessons and is motivated to practice on her own. I’ve always stated that my expectations for the kids’ music career are that they develop the ability to play hymns in church. Fortunately, Anne has far exceeded those expectations.

San Francisco 2013

When BYU got invited to the Fight Hunger Bowl, I called up Grandpa Kent and we made plans to go to the bowl game. I thought Sam would like to go and Grandpa said Grandma Connie was interested in going as well. Because Nancy wanted to visit her parents in the Bay Area, Nancy, Sam, and I drove down the day after Christmas while Grandma and Grandpa flew down the day of the game. Nancy spent the day visiting her parents while Sam and I went exploring San Francisco.

Sam riding the cable cars

Sam riding the cable cars

We stayed in a hotel right downtown so it was easy to walk around town as well as walk to the game. We caught the cable cars and headed up the hill to Chinatown. Sam liked standing on the side and hanging out into traffic while riding the cable car. The conductor and I didn’t like it quite as much as Sam. We walked around Chinatown and checked out the shops but weren’t too interested in all the trinkets and souvenirs.

Checking out Chinatown

Checking out Chinatown

We then headed down to the Fisherman’s Wharf area and checked it out. Fisherman’s Wharf is a bit too touristy for my tastes. There are more tourists and souvenir shops than there are actual sights to see. When we first planned the trip we wanted to go see Alcatraz but I forgot to book tickets in advance and by the time we got to San Francisco the tours for the day were all full. We contented ourselves with taking a picture from the wharf. Luckily it was a beautiful day in the Bay Area.

This was as close as we got to Alcatraz

This was as close as we got to Alcatraz

Later that day we went back to Chinatown and met Grandma and Grandpa for lunch. It was a fun trip and the only negative was that BYU didn’t win the game.

Enjoying the bowl game

Enjoying the bowl game

Happy Birthday Emily

Emily’s birthday was a few weeks ago. She’s now 18 although to me it doesn’t feel like she’s an “adult” yet. In my mind she’s still the giggly little 3 year old girl that ran around the quad and played on the swings when Nancy and I lived in student housing all those years ago. Heck, I still feel like a kid around my parents and I’m now well into middle-age. Although we have the normal struggles that come with raising teens, Emily is a good girl and has a very funny sense of humor when you can actually catch her in a non-teenagery mood.

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Happy Birthday Emily!

Congratulations to Emily on her 18th birthday and on receiving a scholarship to Utah State University where she starts next fall!

New computer and merit badge

With 5 kids in school and each one needing to do a class project or report as well as play games, competition for the computer has become fierce. Time to get a second one. If I really had the kids’ interests in mind I would get a laptop that they could use around the house; unfortunately, that would mean I’m stuck with an older, but still very good, desktop computer when what I really want is a smoking hot powerhouse of a new computer to play with. What do to? Build a new powerhouse for me and give the kids the old one of course!

Unpacking the new parts

Unpacking the new parts

Sam is somewhat interested in the new computer (mainly to see whether I will put any new video games on it) so I figured we might kill two birds with one stone and start working on the Computers Merit Badge as we build the new PC. We’ll update our progress here so we can document his efforts for the merit badge. Most of the parts came today although I was a dolt and forgot to order the CPU cooler so we’ll have to wait until Friday before we can really get into the build.

I’ve been going over parts lists and prices and specs for weeks now in preparation. Nancy teases me and says I’m like a kid in a candy store. I suppose that’s true. The planning and anticipation are half the fun. In fact, the planning and anticipation are 90% of the fun because, let’s face it, the actual build is only somewhat fun and installing and configuring all the software isn’t fun at all.

Week in review

This past week was a busy one for the family with the kids in school, and Young Women and Scouts, and volunteering at the hospital. Of course, the highlight of my week was the home opener for BYU against Texas. This year we are glad that Grandpa is finally retiring now that he’s turned 70 and can start going to games with us. Sam always likes to go to the games and the girls like to go if the weather isn’t too bad and if the prospects of getting treats is high. With Grandpa at the game the prospects of getting treats is significantly higher so there was some argument and discussion this week amongst the girls as to who would get to go. Caroline managed to lay first claim so she was the lucky one this week.

Waiting out the storm in the car with Grandpa

Waiting out the storm in the car with Grandpa

We met Grandpa in Provo about 1.5 hours before kickoff and had lunch at an Asian restaurant which, although not the cleanest place in town, was pretty good. As we were leaving the restaurant a huge black cloud was rolling in and the wind was whipping. By the time we had left the parking lot of the restaurant the rain was coming down hard and as we drove by Provo High School trees were blowing over on the sidewalk. We went slow through the rain and got up to the gates of the parking area when the guy closed the gates with two cars in front of us. I guess they didn’t want the parking attendants standing out in the storm so I can’t blame them for that but it meant there was a whole street full of cars with nowhere to go.

The storm didn't dampen our spirits

The storm didn’t dampen our spirits

I wasn’t about to lose my prime parking spot so I did some fancy maneuvering in the car and found an entrance to the lot that was still open. The cop guarding the gate let us in but told us to stay in the car until the storm had passed. We didn’t need to be told because with the way the storm was howling we had no plans to leave the car and get soaked and blown to pieces. Even though we had ponchos with us they wouldn’t have done much good the way the rain and wind where whipping around. We sat in the car and listened to the pre-game on the radio. What we hoped would be a short wait eventually turned into a two hour delay until kickoff.

Enjoying the game

Enjoying the game

The kids were pretty good and patient even though waiting 2 hours in the car through a rain storm isn’t their idea of a good time. Eventually the rain and wind let up and people started filing into the stadium for the game. The game was fun with only a light sprinkle or two for the rest of the night. Best of all the Cougars were awesome and had a great game.

Sam the Tenderfoot

Sam the Tenderfoot

The other noteworthy event of the week was Sam’s first rank advancement as a Boy Scout. He earned his Tenderfoot award at the Court of Honor on Wednesday night. When they presented the award, they asked for the parents to come forward with the boy. Of course I thought it was more important to stay back and man the camera so Nancy had to go up by herself. She was pretty miffed at me for leaving her behind and as soon as the Scout leader presented the award Nancy hustled off the “stage” (it was an outdoor Court of Honor) and I didn’t get the chance to snap a good photo.

Doing the Scout Oath

Doing the Scout Oath

Sam isn’t super interested in Scouting. Frankly, he’s about as interested in it as I was at his age. I’ve been working with him a little bit on his rank advancements here and there; however, he isn’t really self-motivated to do the work. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to bribe/push/force him to get his Eagle like I was forced to get mine (I couldn’t get my driver’s license until I got my Eagle). For now, I’m just going along with him on the campouts (11 year hold Scouts must have a Dad with them in over to go on overnight campouts) and trying to balance helping him with Scouts vs. pressuring him to do Scouts.

Back to School

Sam and Diana are still on year-round school so their track started a week earlier than the older girls.

Back to school 2013

Back to school 2013

Sam is in 6th grade now so he’s a Big Man on Campus while Diana is starting the 4th grade.  They’re excited to go back to school and Nancy is excited as well.

2013 Vacation – Part 2

One of the days we decided to hike to Manoa Falls. We read about the hike online and decided it would be good to get out into nature a bit. Manoa Falls is also next door to the University of Hawaii Arboretum so Grandma and Grandpa decided they would meet us at the arboretum after our hike.

Ready for the hike to Manoa Falls

Ready for the hike to Manoa Falls

At the Manoa Falls trailhead

At the Manoa Falls trailhead

It was a beautiful hike to the falls and the kids had fun at first but one thing we didn’t anticipate was how muddy and wet the trail would be as we neared the falls. We’re glad we all had decent walking shoes on because some people were trying to navigate the muddy trail in flip-flops. We managed to make it up to the falls and back with only one slip and fall in the mud.

On the trail

On the trail

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I’m not sure what I was expecting the falls to be but after trudging through the mud I thought that the falls, while beautiful, were a tad underwhelming. Still, the hike was fun and it was cool to see the beautiful jungle landscape.

Manoa Falls

Manoa Falls

After the falls we walked up the road to the arboretum and met Grandma and Grandpa. We had to sit on a bench and wash all the mud off our shoes but it wasn’t too bad and eventually we got cleaned up enough to enjoy walking around the grounds of the arboretum. The arboretum turned out to be the highlight of trip for most of the grownups. The kids weren’t super interested in the landscaping and all the native plants.

At the arboretum

At the arboretum

We had fun walking around and playing with all the different settings on our new camera taking pictures of the amazing flowers and the cool scenery.

Enjoying the beautiful landscaping

Enjoying the beautiful landscaping

I would definitely recommend a trip to the arboretum for anyone on the island of Oahu. Take your camera and your mosquito repellent and enjoy the beautiful grounds.

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The flowers and views were spectacular

The flowers and views were spectacular

2013 Vacation – Part 1

In August we were fortunate to be able to take a nice vacation to Hawaii with Grandma Connie and Grandpa Kent. This is probably the last time we’ll be able to take a big family vacation together as next year Emily will be off to college.

We’ve been to Oahu before but there is always so much to do that we haven’t seemed to tire of that island yet. We had a wonderful view of the sunset from the beach outside our hotel.

The view from the beach

The view from the beach

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view

Wouldn't it be nice if...

Wouldn’t it be nice…

We made a list of 10 possible activities and then had each person vote on what they wanted to do. Each day we did one or two activities on the list. By the end of the trip we had done every single activity. One day we made a trip to the Pacific Aviation Museum. It was interesting seeing all the cool planes and aviation history of the islands although it seemed like the ladies lost interest in planes and helicopters much more quickly than the men did.

Checking out the aircraft

Checking out the aircraft

Waiting for everyone else to finish checking out the aircraft...

Waiting for everyone else to finish checking out the aircraft…

Beijing 2013

A couple of weeks ago I went to China with some colleagues from work. We have some developers in our China offices joining the team and we went there to meet and train them. I’ve been to Beijing a few times over the past 20 years and it’s always interesting to me how some things change and some things stay the same. Some noticeable differences between now and the first time I visited nearly 20 years ago:

  • Nearly everyone wore either the Mao suits or the padded pajama-style clothing 20 years ago. Now, nearly everyone doesn’t. I saw a few old-timers still wearing them but most people wear western clothing.
  • The roads were clogged with bicycles 20 years ago. Now they’re clogged with cars.
  • The sales-English of the vendors at all the tourist spots has improved significantly. 20 years ago a “look, look” and “handmade” were about all they could muster in Engligh. Now the purveyors of dong-xis and t-shirts and souvenir Mao watches and fake jade have significantly expanded their vocabulary to the point that I could have reasonably intelligible conversations with them. The annoyingness of their omnipresence hasn’t changed though
  • The air quality is significantly worse now than it was 20 years ago. So significant that NASA posted satellite pictures of the pollution the week I was there.

I’ve been in the bad Beijing air before so I thought I knew what I was getting into but it was surprising how bad it was the week I was there. Shockingly bad. Chokingly, coughingly, the-whole-city-smelled-like-a-campfire bad. The first night we were there we went to the Beijing Olympic Park to check things out. It was bitterly cold and there were very few people there except for a few hardy peddlers selling kites and fake Olympic medals and the like.

The "water cube"

The “water cube”

I still thought the buildings looked pretty cool through the choking fog/smog. It would have been cooler if the water-cube had been changing colors but that night it was just a static blue.

The "birds nest"

The “birds nest”

We picked one of the working days to do some sightseeing at the Great Wall and Forbidden City. After hitting those tourist spots for what is probably the 3rd or 4th time I can now understand why my Mom refuses to go there anymore after living 12 years in Beijing. Although impressive, they do tend to get boring after multiple trips. But I was a good sport and enjoyed watching my colleagues prowl around the Great Wall and Forbidden City for the first time. I mean, how can you go to China for the first time and not visit the Great Wall?

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Wow – blue sky. A sight not often seen near Beijing in the winter.

We were lucky in that the night before our sightseeing trip a storm blew in and blew out all the polluted air. It made for a perfect day of blue skies and sunshine – a rare sight around Beijing in the winter time. At the Great Wall I couldn’t help but draw a parallel in my mind between the Chinese’s historic attempts to control their borders and the raging debates in the US over the same subject. I wondered if the US puts up a big huge wall on its southern border, will it turn out to be a big tourist attraction in the year 4013?

Yup - it's a great big wall

Yup – it’s a great big wall

My colleagues were pretty adventurous in terms of trying new foods so before driving back to the city our hosts took us to a rural restaurant where I tried donkey meat for the first time. It was actually quite tasty.

The forbidden city

The forbidden city

The air was still pretty good by the time we got to the Forbidden City but it was getting worse by the minute. The Forbidden City is as impressive as usual. They still have the same “students” doing an art exhibit and selling art to tourists as they did 20 years ago, the same folks hawking souvenir books, and the same audio self-tour (which I recommend) although Roger Moore is no longer the narrator – he’s been replaced with a nondescript female voice that. Not listening to Roger Moore was kind of a bummer. I always thought it was cool to have the voice of James Bond guide you around the forbidden city.

At the forbidden city

At the forbidden city

At the end of the day we hiked the hill behind the forbidden city and looked out as the smog and pollution of the day started to get heavier and heavier. The next day it was chokingly bad again.

Starting to get smoggy again

Starting to get smoggy again over the forbidden city

Overall it was a good trip. The Beijing developers are smart, the training went well, and they were excellent hosts. Of course what international trip would be complete without the obligatory catching of a cold bestowed upon me by a plane full of coughing people? The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Sam’s attendance

Sam missed only 2 days of class in 4th grade. Good enough to get an attendance award. I’m not sure he was too happy about getting his picture taken in front of the class. Next stop, 5th grade.

Sam receiving his 4th grade attendance award

Sam receiving his 4th grade attendance award