Scouting Missionaries

Today was a day of missionaries. We heard 4 speakers in two different wards speak about their recently-lived and upcoming experiences. In our ward, a retired couple is heading to Germany in a few weeks for the next 18-24 months to help oversee the remodeling of the Germany Freiberg LDS Temple. The guy spent his career in construction and event management, grew up a native German in East Germany, and escaped to freedom with his mother and siblings during WWII. His wife will be the project historian. They are an electric couple and absolutely on fire. It was inspiring listening to them speak today.

We then went to our previous ward in West Jordan where we heard one young woman speak about her mission call to Jacksonville, FL. This was a young woman who lived a few houses away from us and one we used to babysit our kids a few times. She leaves in a few weeks. The other speaker was a young man who just returned from a 2-year mission in Paris, France. This young man was one of the Boy Scouts I led for a brief time and he also lived just a few houses away from us. I hired him to mow our lawn for a few summers and got to know his family well. His father is not an active member of the LDS faith, and his mother struggles to keep it all together. It was very nice hearing him report on his two honorable years served in France.

In other news, we had another Scout campout this weekend. The days right now are gorgeous (mid-upper 60’s), but, being in the desert environment we are, the nights still get cold. It dropped well below freezing Friday night — enough to freeze my water bottle. My sleeping bag, while once up to the challenge of keeping me warm, should now be put to pasture. I shivered all night.

As I reflect on my time served in the Young Men’s organization of the LDS church, I am grateful for the opportunity to have an impact on their lives. My goal while serving in these capacities is to simply help them become good men. Some earn their Eagle Scout awards, some go on missions, some marry in an LDS temple, while some choose their own path. Everyone has their agency and can choose to do whatever they want to in life. I hope I can offer them a perspective shaped by my own experiences, good and bad. I hope that makes them strive to be good citizens who respect others and work hard to live according to their ethics and values, whatever that turns out to be. My latest opportunity to do good is reflected in the picture below. These are great young men who are entering a critical decade of decisions. I’m glad to help usher them through part of this decade.

Pausing for a picture on a hike

Pausing for a picture on a hike – three of my five Scouts

Catching Up

Over the last month, we’ve had a lot of things going on.

Lauren, our youngest daughter, turned 8. That’s a significant birthday in the LDS church because it meant she could get baptized. I had the honor of baptizing and confirming her the day after her birthday in the presence of her friends and our families who could be here. It was a great day. For her birthday, she decided she wanted to build a French Creperie in our living room, invite her sisters and brother as patrons, and serve crepes for dinner. Jen and I were the chefs in the kitchen while Lauren waited tables. Like usual, it was freakin’ adorable.


Menu Creperie

We finished preparing our basement for new carpet following our flood. We took out the old carpet, old pad, and a small section of tile in front of the fire place. The new carpet is in. We went with a short pile patterned carpet. The installation wasn’t perfect, and we’re still resolving a few of those issues, but we’re pretty pleased to essentially have a new basement again. We took the opportunity to paint the baseboards and do a bunch of touch-up painting on the walls before the carpet came.

Empty Basement New Carpet

I ran up to the Kaysville Star about a month ago. I’ve wanted to get up there and it turns out it’s pretty simple. It was only a 1.4 mile hike/jog to get there and afforded a great view of the valley.


We took Abby, our oldest child, to her Jr. High orientation and class signup tonight. Holy crazy! Abby is pretty excited about this new phase in life and wants to play volleyball, softball, cross country, choir, and band. I don’t think she’ll be able to participate in all those, but it’s fun to think about it.

I took my Boy Scouts (I’m a Scoutmaster of the local troop) on my first camp out. We went to a Forest Service camp ground on Pineview Reservoir. It was our “winter” camp and we were fortunate to actually get some snow overnight. We only have 4 boys now but are projected to have 16 within a year and a half given the younger classes coming up. Maybe we should move … ha ha.


Digging Holes

Mostly pictures, but here’s how we took care of our broken sewer line. I stayed home from work on Thursday to watch the festivities. The excavators came by 7:45am and were done by 12:30pm.

IMG_20150205_073737 I put down a single 12’x15′ canvas tarp to catch the dirt and quickly realized it was severely undersized.

IMG_20150205_073754I was glad we had decent access to the digging spot and that this little backhoe could come up and do all the hard work.
IMG_20150205_073813 First dig!


I couldn’t believe just how many roots existed about 1 inch below the surface of the lawn. Putting large trees next to a watered lawn means the tree roots don’t need to go very deep.


Turns out there was an existing clean-out, but it was obscured below the lawn. We didn’t see it until we took the grass off. Oh well, we needed to replace it regardless.

IMG_20150205_075316 IMG_20150205_082855

I ended up putting three additional tarps on my lawn to help contain the dirt. Nine feet down creates a lot of dirt.


The sewer line and water line (copper line to the left of the PVC) were at the same depth.


Replacing the sewer line and clean-out were pretty simple jobs and done pretty quickly.

IMG_20150205_092526 IMG_20150205_092550 IMG_20150205_093843

While excavating and before knowing where the water main was, the backhoe teeth grabbed the copper pipe and stretched and kinked the line. We were lucky it didn’t pierce the line and make a muddy mess. They turned off the water, cut out the kinked section, and we were back in business.


Compacting the backfill. They did this 5 or 6 times during the backfill process.


Capping the clean-out.


The lawn looked surprisingly good given what had just happened. The clean-out is visible and we’ll put some sod down this spring and I’ll be able to mow over the clean-out w/o hitting the blades.

IMG_20150205_125754I need to do some sprinkler repair work now. We broke two lines while digging the hole for the sewer line. I would have done that on Thursday but I didn’t have any 1″ PVC laying around, unfortunately, and I wasn’t in the mood to run to Home Depot to get supplies. Instead, I made it to work by 1:30pm.

Total cost: $1350 for excavation and sewer line repair, $65 for city permit, $88 to have the line snaked / cleaned out and the camera to confirm the existence of roots in the line, $35 for the canvas tarp (that ended up in the garbage when they were done). The sprinkler repair and sod will cost a bit more, but not for a few months.

Cooking in the Ballroom

Abby’s been in ballroom dance this school year. They meet twice a week before school and learn all the basic dances (swing, tango, cha cha, etc.). Her school recently competed in a 4-school dance competition. This was the first competition or performance for many of these kids, so it was mostly just a fun and lively event.

I tell her I did the same thing, but it was in college and the music had a twang to it. I actually really enjoyed country dance — it was a great PE credit. Like Abby, I also participated in a competition. My folks didn’t get video of it, though. So, Abby is officially one up on me.

In other news, I’ve been trying my hand at cooking a bit more. Jen manages the thankless task of feeding us all week long. I often help prepare the meal, but she plans it out and actually implements the plan. So, the burden usually falls to her. I told her a year ago that I’d take care of Sunday dinners, which she happily conceded to me. Unfortunately, I then forgot that commitment for about 4 months. Lately, I’ve been pretty good about remembering and actually preparing. She got me the America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School book for Christmas a year ago and I really enjoy reading through the how and why of a recipe. Lately, I’ve made lasagna, breaded Parmesan chicken, and … scones! Not fry bread, but actual scones. I’d never had them since they aren’t really a cultural food us western Mormons eat. In fact, we make fry bread and call them scones.

The cookbook had a nice recipe and I followed it to the T and they turned out perfect. The scientific / engineering tendencies I have urge me to follow a recipe — after all, someone already figured out all the bugs; why would I deviate from the plan? I actually use measuring cups and spoons and the idea of a “pinch of salt” bothers me at some subconscious level. Here’s how they looked.

Blueberry and raspberry scones

Blueberry and raspberry scones

We found a good opportunity to try our shadow poses while on a walk with the dog. The girls are always game for a pose.

Leah with her posed attitude

Leah with her posed attitude

Lauren and Me

Sleeping in Sewage

I started coming down with a little cold Tuesday afternoon and ended up taking Wednesday as a sick day. I was taking a mid-morning nap only to be awakened by my wife whispering, “There’s water in the basement.”

Any homeowner knows water is the culprit to most of a home’s problems. I got out of bed, dressed, and sauntered down to inspect what was going on. Apparently the basement shower drain and the drain in our utility / furnace room backed up. Those drains are tied to the main sewer line that heads to the city’s line in the street.

Jen had already done a lot of the clean-up of the standing water, but the carpet, walls, baseboards, etc., were all wet.

We called a couple plumbers to come out and inspect the line. The first two I called said, “Oh, we’re busy until Friday. Can we come then?” “No,” was my reply, “we can’t use our water now!” Finally, we called a large national chain, Rescue Rooter, because they had an online deal of $88 for a sewer line clean-out.

They arrived within a few hours and began working. None of my clean-outs in the basement were big enough for his snake, so I pulled the toilet up so he could use the 4″ line there. He got about 35-40 feet down the line before hitting an obstruction. His snake fought through it and eventually went the full 110 feet he had in his line. As he retracted his snake, some roots came up with it. “Uh oh,” I thought. “We’ve got roots in our sewer line.” I’ve watched enough This Old House to know this is a common problem, but also not an insignificant problem. Roots in the line mean there’s a breach in the line, and cleaning them out is only a temporary problem. In addition, it means every time you use any drain in the house (sinks, washing machine, showers, toilets, dishwasher), water is leaking out of the line into my yard.

He called another guy in the company to bring a snake that had a camera on the end. This was a free service, undoubtedly in an attempt to have us use them for any future repair. His camera snake was great; it got about 35 feet down the drain and we saw the roots. He then ran outside with a wand and located where exactly the camera was underground. As we stood in our front yard, we marked the spot where, nine feet down, there was a break in our line.

The break is where the black ABS pipe leaving our house joins with PVC before taking the last 50 foot journey to the large cement city sewer line.

Rescue Rooter quoted me $4700 to fix the problem. So much for that tax return! I said, “Thanks for your service, but I’d like to shop around.”

I then went downstairs and proceeded to pull up the obvious wet carpet and pad. We’ve since found a few plumbers who will fix the line for half the quoted price and also called our homeowner’s insurance. While they won’t pay for the fix to the line (because it occurred outside the footprint of our foundation), they will cover the damage done inside due to the backup. So now, for the cost of our deductible ($1000), we get new carpet in our entire basement and we also had a restoration company come by with fans, air filters, dehumidifiers, and strong backs to do all the hard labor when the time comes to replace the rest of the carpet.

It’s now Friday and I’m still home on sick leave. I can’t imagine pulling up carpet and pad saturated from diluted sewage did any good for my cold. :)

Seeing Family

My younger brother Dave made a quick stop in SLC this week. He lives in Fairfax, VA, and was in town for a wedding Friday night, then on to LA for business Saturday afternoon. We were lucky enough to be able to house him for a night. I have siblings in Virginia, Iowa (x 2), Tennessee, Kansas, and California, so when we get to see any of them, it’s a real treat.

See the photo bomber?

See the photo bomber?

We’re mired in an inversion along the Wasatch Front so we took Dave up near Snowbasin Ski Resort Saturday morning for a leisurely snow hike / walk. The air was clear, the snow was packed, and soon our jackets came off. It’s always nice to get away from the city and people and into the woods for views like this.

Mt. Ogden and Others

The family

The family

Jen’s grandma from Florence, OR / Mesa, AZ is here for a few days, so we’ve still got family around. The kids are loving this!

Now on to New Year’s

And just like that, the formal Christmas holiday is over. And in an unlikely twist of fate, we had a very white Christmas. It’s snowed once this entire season and the snow decided to come in around 2am on Christmas morning. We woke up to 4+ inches of beautiful snow. The kids were elated. As an adult that had to drive to my folks’ house and back on Christmas night, it drove me nuts. We were lucky to drive the 80 miles from Elk Ridge to Fruit Heights on a van that needs new tires and on a freeway that at times was snow packed. We’re in the market for a new minivan so we are a bit leery about dumping $400 into new tires on the current van.

About a week ago Jen and I were driving into Salt Lake Valley and, with the seriously gorgeous weather we’ve been having, we decided to hike Ensign Peak on Christmas Eve. Neither Jen nor I had ever made the half-mile trek up the hill, although some of our kids had through school excursions. It was about 42 degrees when we started our hike but it was pretty windy on top and a bit chilly. Jen dropped her smartphone on the trail and didn’t realize it. Luckily, a runner stumbled across it and called the last number she’d called, which was me. He ran up to the top of the peak where we were and handed us her phone. It was a Christmas (Eve) miracle. :)

I hoofed my camera and tripod to the peak and snapped a few family photos.

I hoofed my camera and tripod to the peak and snapped a few family photos.

Normal Family

Temple Square from Ensign Peak.

Temple Square from Ensign Peak.

Lauren on Ensign Peak looking southeast.

Lauren on Ensign Peak looking southeast.

We all really enjoyed our Christmas. Austin. Jen, and I all picked up a cold prior to the holiday and weren’t feeling very good, but we still had a great day. Jen’s parents, sister Katie, and brother Ryan all spent the day with us. Ryan orchestrated the creation of “coal” for Lauren’s stocking. The coal was really Oreos, butter, and marshmallows hardened like Rice Krispy Treats and made to look like coal. It was a fitting gift for her, and she took the joke well.

Mom and Dad Clark with 6 of their kids -- 5 weren't present!

Mom and Dad Clark with 6 of their kids — 5 weren’t present!

Leah and I played about 10 hands of this game.

Leah and I played about 10 hands of this game.

Mark and Marcie and all eight of their grandkids.

Mark and Marcie and all eight of their grandkids.

Five of us were playing Monopoly and we happened to all land on this corner at the same time.

Five of us were playing Monopoly and we happened to all land on this corner at the same time.

Mom, Dad, and Uncle Jack (dad's brother who is 12 years older) at a family dinner.

Mom, Dad, and Uncle Jack (dad’s brother who is 12 years older) at a family dinner.

At Temple Square

At Temple Square

Christmas Eve -- remember, this shows gifts for my entire family, plus Jen's parents and two of her siblings.

Christmas Eve — remember, this shows gifts for my entire family, plus Jen’s parents and two of her siblings.

Before being allowed to see what Santa brought.

Before being allowed to see what Santa brought.

Lauren opening a gift.

Lauren opening a gift.

On a lame note, our garage door broke on Christmas Eve. One of the two torsion springs that help the door open and close under control snapped and the cables on the side were going out as well. They don’t sell the springs at your local home center so I happily decided to call a professional today. An hour and $200 later, our garage door opens and closes better and quieter than it ever has. I have a screw drive opener and I just accepted the fact that they were loud openers. The service man added some grease to the track and it quieted right up.

We've had about 3 days of smog this winter, and I ran in one of them.

We’ve had about 3 days of smog this winter, and I ran in one of them.