The blessing of neighbors

Ideally, I live here. No, not necessarily in humid and buggy Tennessee (although I’d be close to my sister for at least three years while they are in school). But that kind of property, with some barns, a great farmhouse, and with enough land to let my dog(s) roam free.

In reality, I live in the house represented by the orange star in the graphic below. It’s typical suburbia, although with more room to breath than our last neighborhood, where we could just about hear our neighbors brush their teeth.

The house with the yellow star largely keeps to themselves. They are very nice people, but we don’t see them much (their kids are grown and in college now).

The house with the blue star has been vacant for about 9 months now. The renters moved out and the owners gutted the thing and cut down the jungle that was previously called the backyard. They also removed the fence separating our property from theirs. That’s been a blessing and a curse. The kids can now easily visit friends who live on the street behind us without climbing fences or walking around. It also provides much easier access to the mountain, which is directly up Harvey Rd. Unfortunately, that house now has a sale pending, so we may have to change our behavior. In addition, they may want to put up a fence and will probably ask me to pay for half of it. No thanks.

The house with the green star has been largely empty for 18 months while the owners were on an LDS mission in Indiana. My kids have been playing in their backyard, swinging on their rope swing, I’ve been parking my truck on his driveway, and I’ve been borrowing his tools. Well, they returned today.

So we’ve had a pretty quiet last year in terms of neighbors and now we’re going to have to adjust our lives back to the idea of “oh yeah, we live in a neighborhood and can’t just do whatever we want.” Sigh.  Where’s that 750 acres again?

Our neighborhood

Our neighborhood

What’s Happening?

We have two girls playing rec league soccer. Lauren is a natural and has played two games and scored two goals. Neither Jen nor I have a soccer bone (or muscle) in our bodies, so it’s remarkable that my girls can play without tripping over their own feet. Leah continues to improve at softball and is having a great time, although it’s taking a bunch of our time!

Abby observing the action

Abby observing the action

Abby in action

Abby in action

Running

Immediately after scoring her first goal

Immediately after scoring her first goal

On her way to score a goal

On her way to score a goal

I ran in a fundraising 5K race for the Huntsman Cancer Institute on Saturday. One of my co-workers has a wife who is battling thyroid cancer and he built a team of co-workers. It was fun to run in a race environment, although I don’t necessarily like the pounding that road running causes, particularly on a gimpy foot. I’m limping a bit today.

The entire Utah men’s basketball team ran in the race as well as former Utah Valley University and Utah Jazz player Ronnie Price. He was quite quick and ditched me early on. Despite what this picture portrays, he’s taller than me and quite built. He was very friendly and I enjoyed the few minutes I had chatting with him.

Me and Ronnie Price after the race

Me and Ronnie Price after the race

Our neighborhood holds informal “cookie walks” every quarter or so. People bake cookies or snacks and we all meet in the middle of the neighborhood and exchange goodies. Jen made pumpkin bread with cream cheese frosting (which is essentially a can of pumpkin filling with an entire bag of sugar, with cream cheese and more sugar to top it off). Abby and Lauren felt pretty special to have intercepted the mixer beaters after Jen made the frosting and before they got tossed into the sink. Since we only have two beaters but four kids, they both hid in the corner and licked as fast as they could. It was funny to see them stick themselves in the corner.

Licking the beaters

Licking the beaters

Glen Canyon — 200 feet above the bottom

For you geographically inclined, the title should indicate to you that we visited Lake Powell! Jen and I haven’t been there for over 10 years, which was a crazy thought for my wife since she frequented the lake as a kid and teenager. I’ve now been three times, all under the influence of Jen. Typically, I’d have no interest because I don’t water ski or wakeboard, nor do I like 100+ heat with no shade.

We strategically chose the week after Labor Day to avoid some crowds, get cooler weather, yet still have great water. We succeeded on all accounts. We were only on the water two days (Friday and Saturday) but bookended our trip by spending the night at the Ranch in Bicknell to split up the driving and to relax a bit.

We used the Bullfrog as our launching point both days but largely played in Halls Crossing Bay. We had such a great time swimming, jumping off 15-foot cliffs into 190-foot deep water, riding tubes, boogie boards, and skiing. Jen and her dad both slalom ski (I drive the boat in those cases), and my girls were fairly successful getting up on skis for the first time. I am lucky to have in-laws who 1) own a ski boat and 2) are very generous in allowing us to use it as long as it’s not already being used.

By the way, we made the drive from the Bullfrog Marina to Bicknell on Saturday night. We left the lake just before sundown and were treated by one of the more gorgeous drives I’ve ever taken. The 50 miles from Bullfrog to Hanksville was stunning with the setting sun, mixed clouds, dramatic mountains, and red rock.

 

 

Always Busy

August ends today and it’s been a fantastic month. I should qualify that: the weather. We’ve had a lot of rain (over 2 inches) and very mild temperatures (average max of 82; average low of 60). I’ve been in love with this month. One week of school is in the books. The kids seem to be generally happy. Not thrilled, but not crying about it. Jen is having Lagoon withdrawals. Jen used the emptier house this week to paint the playroom in the basement. Guess it’s time to finally start thinking about that room. It’s only been two years.

Leah (4th), Abby (6th), and Lauren (2nd) in very colorful outfits for the first day of school.

Leah (4th), Abby (6th), and Lauren (2nd) in very colorful outfits for the first day of school.

Yesterday was a pretty productive day. I largely finished the cold storage partition. We made a room that is about 10 feet long and 8 feet wide. Yesterday I hung sheetrock, a door, and insulated the wall. This picture was taken from inside the partition and does not show the insulated wall, but you get the picture. We’ll add some shelves here and store some long-term food storage. I also replaced our dishwasher (inspired by Rural Ways) and was amazed at how quickly it went. Within about 45 minutes the old one was in the garage and the new one was in and running through a cycle. I also replaced headlights on two of our vehicles who had orphan lights.

The door is hung, drywall hung, and things insulated. Progress

The door is hung, drywall hung, and things insulated. Progress

Sunday mornings are pretty relaxed around here and the kids love to use me as a punching / kicking / scratching / tickling bag. It amazes me how much they like to “wrestle.”

The kids love nothing more than when I'm on the floor with them so they can beat on me.

The kids love nothing more than when I’m on the floor with them so they can beat on me.

Here Comes School

Well, school is finally upon us. I think we milked summer as much as we could and will officially kick the three girls out of the house tomorrow morning a little after 8am. Abby starts 6th grade, Leah 4th, and Lauren 2nd. Austin still has a few years at home, which makes Jen very happy but Austin is a bit bummed that the girls are leaving him every day. Despite summer officially ending with the beginning of school, we are going to take the girls out of school for a few days in a few weeks to go to Lake Powell. Jen loves to boat and she went once all summer (despite the offer of “any time!” from her dad),  much to her chagrin. We just had too many other fun things going on!

We went to the Ogden LDS Temple open house last week. We’ve now taken our girls through the Oquirrh Mountain, Draper, Brigham City, and Ogden LDS temples via an open house. The kids can’t officially enter the temples until they are 12, so this is a fun opportunity for them to see the inside before they are of age.

Outside the Ogden LDS Temple before the tour. This temple was built in the 50's but recently renovated.

Outside the Ogden LDS Temple before the tour. This temple was built in the 50’s but recently renovated.

All three of our girls are playing a sport this fall. Abby and Lauren are both playing soccer (Lauren’s first time) and Leah is playing comp-league softball. I’m selfishly a bit nervous about the time (and money) commitment to comp softball. After two practices, Leah is still happy. That’s a good sign. She hadn’t even picked up a softball since her rec-league team won the championship in the spring so I got her and Abby up early one day last week before work, dragged them to the softball field, and made them practice a bit. it’s a good thing we all enjoy the sport. I ain’t no tiger dad, so I’m mostly in observation mode right now to see how Leah reacts to the pressures, time, and energy of a competitive league.

Early morning practice

Early morning practice

Over the last year I’ve been participating in a Office of Personnel Management-hosted leadership training. It’s been a once-a-month training for a year and we’ve covered a myriad of topics, from personality types, to conflict resolution, to emotional intelligence, to diversity and inclusion, to communication, to … well, you get the point. It’s been a fun class and I’ve learned a lot and spent the last year around a bunch of great leaders throughout the state of Utah. We “graduated” last week with a ceremony at the State Capitol with a luncheon, keynote speaker, and a reception following. The keynote speaker was Shannon Bahrke-Happe, a three-time US Winter Olympian (2002, 2006, and 2010). She spoke about lessons learned from Olympic training and performance and how it relates to leadership and business. It was a fun listen. I even got to hold the silver medal she earned at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

An official silver medal from the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

An official silver medal from the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

It’s Nearly Over

Summer officially ends in a week when my kids go back to school (August 25). We’ve had a fun and busy summer and it felt like we haven’t been able to sit still for longer than a day or two. We didn’t go on any official “vacation” as an entire family this summer, but we tried.

Jen and the kids have taken advantage of season Lagoon passes. They’ve been a fun opportunity to go have great experiences with the kids. It’s a riot sitting next to Austin on a roller coaster and having him hold his hands in the air for the entire ride. We’ve been to Lagoon 12-15 times this summer (I’ve only been about 5 times … dang job).

We went to Mackay, ID, for the 4th of July holiday. Then the very next week I began a series of three business trips in 5 weeks. I spent three days in the field gathering data for a project I’m doing. Two weeks later I spent the week in McCall, ID, on the Payette NF. Two weeks later, I flew to Portland and then drove the 110 miles south to Eugene for a meeting. While these were all great trips, the rapid timing of all makes things tough on me and the family back at home. I have no trips planned as of now.

Abby celebrated her 11th birthday this week by getting sick. She actually threw up the morning of her birthday (like, 1am) but still felt well enough to open presents. One of the presents? Wicked tickets. See Abby’s reaction to getting the tickets below.

We went to the BYU football scrimmage a week ago and then enjoyed a lunch with the team under the auspices of the “Thursday’s Heroes” program. After lunch we went around and took some pics with some players, including starting QB Taysom Hill from Pocatello, ID. Austin fell asleep (oddly) so we had Taysom sign his hat. When Austin woke up, he was a bit concerned that some “boy” wrote on his hat.

The family with Taysom Hill, QB.

The family with Taysom Hill, QB.

Finally, I’ve started a bit of construction in the basement. We have a large under-porch storage room that should be an ideal cold storage room. However, the entire room ceiling and about 2 feet of the outside wall is exposed to the sun, making it pretty susceptible to environmental influences. We decided to take the ten feet at the end of the room (the end that gets more shade and is a bit more temperature stable) and partition it off from the rest of the room. I used rigid foam insulation and stuck it to the walls and ceilings with liquid nails. Last night I framed in the wall that will hold insulation and a door. Once all that’s done, we’ll be able to free up some space in our main-level pantry because we eventually want to make that a mud room. Ah, it’s never done, is it? Always doing something to the house. Oh yeah, I still have a gutted bathroom on the second floor. Lame.

Wall is framed in!

Wall is framed in!

McCall

I had the cool opportunity to visit McCall, Idaho, this week. One of my former bosses is now the Forest Supervisor of the Payette NF, headquartered in McCall, and I spent the week shadowing various people (supervisor, district rangers, program leaders, staff officers) in their work. I was also the recipient of excellent and gracious hospitality from my former boss and his wife, who was also my co-worker 10 years ago.

Payette Lake Pano 2

On the BeachMcCall is at the southern edge of Payette Lake and is very touristy — one of those towns that doubles in size during the summer. They have long, snowy winters, but man, the summer sure seems nice. We had a cold front flow through while I was there that brought the temps down to a high between 65 and 70 (low of 41). Seemed a bit cold to be swimming in the lake, but I saw plenty of people braving the temperatures. They also have this chalkboard on the beach where people can share their thoughts about their own bucket lists, I guess.

Sawtooth Peak BeargrassKeith and I took a drive up the Lick Creek drainage and were rewarded with some great vistas. This area burned in 1994, which created some great open views of the mountains. The white whispy plants are beargrass.

World Cup WorthyElbow Agony of Defeat Keith and Karen have a 7-year-old son Bryce, who plays on a summer soccer league. Apparently, Keith has taught him the most important thing: elbow your opponents in the face when things aren’t going well. I guess that’s better than teaching him to bite his opponent, ala Luis Suarez. Unfortunately, the agony of defeat was just about all Bryce could handle.

Smokejumper Plane Chute InspectionI spent two hours touring and meeting employees in the McCall Smokejumper Base. That was a cool experience. The work these people do is pretty awesome. They get called out to the very early stages of some fires, get on a plane, and then parachute down to the mountain — with their gear (chainsaws, pulaskis, shovels, food, water, etc.) — and provide the early initial attack efforts on wildfires. Talk about a rush. After each jump, the chutes are hung in this tower and inspected very carefully. If they find defects, they mend the chutes themselves to make them airworthy again.