Decorating the tree

It was my turn to put up the Christmas tree and get it ready for decorating this year. Nancy and I tend to view setting up the tree as a chore rather than a cherished tradition. 20 years ago we didn’t buy a pre-lit tree and each year since we’ve bickered over whose turn it is string the lights. Fortunately, the setting up is the only thing that’s a chore. The actual decorating part is indeed a cherished tradition.

Diana decorating the tree

Diana decorating the tree

Emily was still at college and Anne was off taking photos for the school yearbook so we only had the 3 youngest kids available to decorate the Christmas tree this year. We had the usual assortment of handmade or “memory” ornaments that seems to grow by one or two each year: the canning jar lid with the photo inside, the Popsicle stick frame with a photo, a “First Christmas Together” ornament that someone gave Nancy and I for our wedding (sorry, can’t remember who), etc.

Sam and Caroline decorate the tree

Sam and Caroline decorate the tree


I used to cringe at those goofy kid-made ornaments, thinking they would just clutter up the otherwise beautiful tree; however, over the years I’ve grown to like them and it’s fun to dig them out again each year and let the kids put “their” ornament on the tree.

Now I just have to remember to refer to this post next year when Nancy and I argue over whose turn it is to put up the tree…

2014 Christmas Card

Nancy had her niece take the photo for our annual Christmas card. Contact me on Facebook or via some other mechanism with your mailing address and I’ll be happy to send you a Christmas card this year.

2014 Christmas Card Photo

2014 Christmas Card Photo

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.

EmilyBirthday2013

Happy Birthday Emily!

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

Christmas 2013

We had a fun Christmas morning. The kids all asked for “footie” pajamas. When I was a kid we called them “buntings” and they weren’t cool to wear unless you were in Kindergarten or younger but I guess they’re the cool thing to wear for teenage girls these days.

Caroline on Christmas morning

Caroline on Christmas morning

Emily and Anne. Emily wouldn't turn and look at the camera...

Emily and Anne. Emily wouldn’t turn and look at the camera…

Everyone enjoyed opening gifts from each other, from Grandparents, and from Santa. I didn’t do a very good job of Christmas shopping this year but Nancy bailed me out by getting herself the exact presents she wanted, wrapping them, and putting them under the tree so I could give them to her on Christmas morning.

Diana on Christmas morning

Diana on Christmas morning

morning

Enjoying Christmas morning

I lucked out and got a big bag of Fruity Pebbles and some new BYU slippers. What more could a guy want?

Cool new slippers

Cool new slippers

Nancy’s First Skiing Lesson

Having lived in Utah for nearly 20 years now, Nancy has asked me about skiing a few times: whether it’s fun or not, what’s it like, etc. I used to ski fairly regularly as a teenager but a job and family, as well as being fat and middle-aged, meant that skiing was always pushed to the bottom of my activity list. This year for our wedding anniversary I decided to take Nancy skiing. Nate’s wife Xia has also never been skiing so we decided to sign Nancy and Xia up for private lessons at Brighton.

Nancy and Xia ready for their first lesson

Nancy and Xia ready for their first lesson

Lori and Tasha and Tasha’s friend also came with us. We dropped Nancy and Xia off for their lesson and then Nate and Lori and I went and skied. Well, Nate snowboarded and Lori skied but what I was doing can’t really be called skiing. If there is a sport where fat middle-aged men inch their way down the hill on wobbly knees then that’s the sport I was participating in. Skiing seems too grandiose a term for it. Lori is awesome on the slopes. She’s in superb physical shape and her years of skiing with Bryan have really paid off because she has great form and is equally adept at gliding beautifully down the slope and pounding through the moguls. Nate shreds along on his snowboard and I only saw him wipe out once, which equaled my own wipeout total for the day. The problem with my wipeout is that it happened right under the ski lift and the particular lift in question happened to be stopped for a moment so I had a captive audience for my total fire-sale wipeout with poles and skis and hat and goggles flying in all directions.

Nancy and Xia seemed to have a good time and learned how to do the basic snowplow and turns. Learning how to ski in your mid-forties can’t be an easy thing but Nancy was cheerful and doggedly determined. I was proud of her at the end of the lesson as she was able to take the lift up to the top of the bunny hill and ski her way down with big snowplow turns. Here she is inching her way down the practice slope:

It was a fun day for everyone. Thanks to Lori and Nate for hanging out with a fat old poser like me for the day when they could have left me in the dust at any moment. The time and expense involved in skiing means it’s still not likely to be my winter hobby; however, now that Nancy is learning we may go more often than once every 20 years.

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.

2013 Vacation – Flora photos

We really enjoyed our day at Manoa Falls and the arboretum. It also gave us a good excuse to fiddle around with the various settings on the camera. The following are a bunch of pictures we took of the native Hawaiian flowers and landscape in an attempt to be “artistic”. I don’t think I’ll be quitting my day job any time soon to become a professional photographer but it was fun to pretend like I was one for a day. If I was really on top of my game I would have remembered the scientific name of each plant when I photographed it (there were little labels in the ground that showed what each plant and flower was) but you’ll have to settle for pictures only.

artistic1

artistic2

artistic3

artistic4

artistic5

artistic6

artistic7

artistic8

artistic9

artistic10

artistic11

artistic12