Sandy Beach

On Christmas morning, 2015, our kids opened a small gift from their Grandpa and Grandma Ellett offering a trip to Disneyland with them sometime during the next year. That became a reality last week, and became much more than a simple trip to Disneyland. It ended up being a week at the beach in Newport Beach, CA, with their Ellett cousins and all the Ellett kids except Ryan, who currently lives and works in Hawaii.

We arrived in Newport Beach on Saturday evening a week ago to what felt like a giant frat party. It was a bit awkward pulling into the community with scantily-clad college-aged kids at every other house holding red Solo cups that held fermented hops, which frequently leads to filthy language, loud volume, and a very family unfriendly environment. The beach was equally crowded. I couldn’t find parking anywhere, and was actually a bit bummed at the spectacle. Luckily, they were all gone by Sunday afternoon and the beaches became vacated the rest of the week.


We essentially had two activities all week: Disneyland on Tuesday and a Giants – Padres game in San Diego on Thursday evening. Everything else was filled with sand, waves, and sunburns. Disneyland was a great experience and, although it lasted 14 long, hot hours, was a ton of fun taking the kids to this magical place. The day was capped off by an amazing electric light parade that was honestly very cool and a fireworks show to wow us.


The baseball game in San Diego was fun, although it ended poorly (in terms of a victory). There were lots of Giants fans in the stadium, so we didn’t stand out too much in our enemy gear. We watched Madison Bumgarner pitch 7 innings of 3-hit ball only to watch the bullpen give the game away. The Giants lost 5-4 on a walk-off single.

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The beach we stayed at was spectacular. The water was unseasonably warm (upper 70’s) and the sand was clean and free of rocks / pebbles. There were enough waves to make it interesting, but not so crazy that our kids were afraid to get in. In fact, I worked with all our girls to dive under crashing waves rather than take them standing up. It was fun watching them all dive in like fish as a wave crashed over them.

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Now it’s back to reality — work, school, Scouts, yard work, etc. Big thanks to Jen’s folks for the great week and to my kids who were awesome.

The Wedding Ring

I was swimming in the Pacific Ocean yesterday after our arrival in Newport Beach, CA. It was a welcomed cool down after the 4.5 hour drive from Las Vegas where we visited my sister. The waves were perfect for some body surfing and just cool enough that it was very refreshing.

As such, my wedding ring started to get a little loose on my finger. I thought it wise to hop out, tie the ring to my swim trunks, and then get back in the waves. On my way back into the waves, Jen’s dad, who knew my plight, stopped me and said, “Hey, I’m getting out; I can take your ring up to the house.” I agreed and proceeded to untie the ring from my swim trunks drawstring.

As soon as the knot was done, the ring immediately fell into the 2-feet of water in which we were standing. Aaaaahhhh! Jen’s dad and I immediately dropped to our knees, aware that it was now or never for this ring because the next wave was on its way in. I felt nothing. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening.

A few seconds later, Mark stood up, lifted his hand in the air, and showed off a shiny wedding ring.

Disaster averted. 10 points for Mark.

It’s Nearly Over (summer, that is)

Abby, our oldest, turned 12 years old last week. For her birthday, we woke her up at 5:30am, dressed in church clothes, and drove to the Bountiful Temple to let her participate in proxy baptisms for ancestors who have passed on without the opportunity for baptism while they were alive. It was a fun experience, followed up with a breakfast at Kneaders. Holy cow, their french toast is enough to put a few pounds on a person in one meal.IMG_20150811_071709 IMG_20150811_075306

Summer is quickly fading away. The kids go back to school in a week (August 24). While it feels like it’s been a fast summer, we’ve kept pretty busy. Abby played on an all-star (rec league) team and participated in 4 tournaments. Mixed with three practices a week and you’ve got a recipe for a busy few months. About half way through the season, the only reliable help coaching the team was the actual head coach, so I started attending practice to help out. I loved being part of the coaching experience, but when it was all over, we were all tired.

Our neighbors across the street have been in France for a month. It’s been really weird not seeing their five kids roaming the neighborhood, sharing popsicles with my kids, and hanging out with us. Three of their kids are in the French immersion program at school so they got to really practice what they’ve been learning.20150718_174951

Fruit Heights hosts a Founder’s Day celebration the first Saturday of August every year. They also host a free 5K, 2K, and 1K for families. I love free races because I ain’t made of money, and it also makes it easy for my kids to participate. Me, Jen, Leah, and Lauren all ran the 5K, and then Abby and Austin got involved by running the 2K and 1K, respectively. In addition, Leah and Lauren ran again and participated in both races. Leah ended up winning the 2K race, even after running the 5K with me. We may have a runner on our hands if she can figure out how to manage her internal temperature (she gets hot easily).20150801_091934 Abby had a rite of passage of sorts last week. Our informal rule is that the girls can’t shave or wear any makeup until they turn twelve. Like any kid, Abby was a bit excited to move on to grown-up things. However, as we told her, once she starts shaving those legs, there’s no going back!

I took the local Boy Scouts up to Bear Lake the last week of August. I always forget just how blue and gorgeous that water is until I arrive. We enjoyed some cool, windy, gorgeous, hot, perfect weather while up there. For some of these boys it was their first trip to the lake. It’s my fifth, so I’ve been a fan for quite some time now. It was a fun time at the lake and I’m glad we went here this year. Next year we’re planning to head to a camp between Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP. Talk about some cool places for Scout Camp!Two fires

Approaching storm

The week after Scout Camp, Jen and Abby went to Girls Camp. They camped in a lodge with actual bathrooms, kitchens, and floors. This was Abby’s first year at camp and Jen was one of the assistant camp directors, so they got to spend time together up there. I went up the last night/day to help wrap things up and haul things home.IMG_20150806_085112

Abby’s First Flight

Two things here — first, I took Austin on his first real camping trip. Sure, we’ve camped in tents in the backyard, but never in the wild. Jen’s brother Ryan moved to Hawaii to work and play and he wanted a last camping trip in the Utah mountain before he took off. Jen’s dad, two brothers, me, and Austin all went up the Skyline Drive behind Bountiful and camped at a nice dispersed camping spot on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache NF. Following a brief hike up to a near-by summit, we were treated to an awesome sunset. It was a perfect night for camping.

Austin and his Uncle Ryan watching the sun set.

Austin and his Uncle Ryan watching the sun set.

Austin's first camping trip

Austin’s first camping trip

Secondly, Jen and I have this silly idea that we want to have each of our children take their first flight before they go to junior high. We don’t have any logic behind this idea, but thought it would be fun. We figured we’d take eventual overnight trips with our kids to Boise, or Denver, or Phoenix, or something. At this point, two of our kids have flown, and they were more significant trips. We took Leah to Washington, D.C., while I attended a meeting at my agency’s headquarters. A few weeks ago we took Abby to San Francisco while I attended a meeting at Google’s campus in Mountain View. We actually flew into San Jose since it’s just a few miles away from Google’s campus.

My meetings began on a Monday morning at 7:45, so we flew on Sunday morning and got to California in time to attend part of church in the same congregation Jen attended as a child in Sunnyvale. We enjoyed taking Abby around to Jen’s old neighborhood and the two houses she lived in as a kid. That afternoon we drove the 45 minutes up to San Francisco to meet my brother who works in the Bay Area. We walked around and viewed some of the touristy sites, such as Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Golden Gate Bridge. It was really nice to be able to see Adam and walk around with him. I hadn’t been to San Francisco in 10 years, so it was great to be there again.

I spent Monday – Wednesday holed up on Google’s Campus in meetings and learning about Earth Engine, some totally smoking technology that allows us to process and analyze satellite imagery in ways we couldn’t before due to cloud computing. Enough about that — just know that professionally, I was pretty jazzed about the group of people I associated with, the tools we talked about, and the potential for our work in the agency.

While I was being jazzed, Abby and Jen toured San Francisco again and also spent half a day in Santa Cruz. Had I been at a more lame meeting, I would have been bummed to have missed out on their sightseeing. As it was, I think we were all happy to be where we were.

We don't always dress up to fly, but when we do, I fall asleep.

We don’t always dress up to fly, but when we do, I fall asleep.

On the Golden Gate Bridge

On the Golden Gate Bridge

Abby and Dad selfie while Adam was snapping a picture of the cables holding the bridge in place

Abby and I taking a selfie while Adam was snapping a picture of the cables holding the bridge in place. The result of the selfie is in the preceding picture.

The geographer in me loves this quote.

The geographer in me loves this quote.

On our brief tour of Google's campus

On our brief tour of Google’s campus

At least they were thinking of me while they were on the beach

At least they were thinking of me while they were on the beach

Abby didn't want to venture in too far.

Abby didn’t want to venture in too far.

Abby and Jen toured AT&T Park, the home of the Giants

Abby and Jen toured AT&T Park, the home of the Giants.

Picture Dump

With summer quickly setting in, it must mean the school year is out. The lead-up to the last day of school was pretty busy this year. Leah participated in an inter-school French spelling bee and ended up winning as the best speller between multiple schools in grades 4-6. She also participated in an inter-school decathalon where she competed in physical activities (such as standing long jump, situps, pushups, etc.). Their group came in 5th out of 16 teams. Kudos to them.
Long JumpWinner

Abby performed in the school’s ballroom program and had a few performances. She’s officially held a boy’s hand now, even though it was forced.Ballroom

Leah wanted an “end of school year” party so she invited all the girls in her class to come over for an evening of treats, games, and general 10-year-old girl silliness. She’s got a lot of great friends at her school.
Late NightTradition has it that the last day of school means the kids get off the bus and are met with tons of water balloons from many of the neighborhood moms. It turns in to a fun water fight and the bus driver even flips a u-turn and drives slowly down the road so the kids can bombard his bus with balloons. Fun tradition.Water PartyAbby completed the 6th grade and has had a core group of friends this year she’s done nearly everything with. They are good girls and we’re glad they hang out.6th Graders

Leah turned 10 years old in May and we got her some caped Sergio Romo socks. She promptly wore them to her next softball game and rocked it.20150525_083218 I traveled to Logan, UT, to visit Utah State University recently. They have a shop called “Aggie Air” that builds and flies UAS (unmanned aerial systems). We are partnering with them to fly over the Fish Lake to image some invasive aquatic vegetation. Aggie Air seems to have it together and I’m looking forward to observing the mission this fall.IMG_20150526_085735 IMG_20150526_093602 At a graduation open house in our old West Jordan neighborhood.20150607_190637 The girls got to attend a day camp where they walked on monkey bridges …20150608_101247 Shot BB guns …20150608_104442Tried their hand at archery …
20150608_110706 And went canoeing. Glad the girls get a taste of what the Boy Scouts get to do all the time!20150608_143921 Both Abby (12U) and Leah (10U) are playing softball this year for Kaysville City. Both girls have done very well collectively (team) and individually. Abby tried out for and made the all-star team and will be playing softball all summer. Leah decided she wanted to have a summer, so she didn’t even try out. Having coached Leah’s team, I can vouch for her talent and say Leah would have been snatched up in an all-star tryout.IMG_20150610_200351

I took the Scouts camping to some dispersed camping on Skyline Drive above Bountiful. We were rewarded with some awesome views. This is looking south towards the Cottonwood canyons.PANO_20150613_100732 One of the adults who accompanied me on this camp brought sticky rice, steak (he cooked over the fire), and a bunch of Thai spices. Probably the most unique and tasty camp food I’ve had. It was awesome.IMG_20150612_190415 I was up before the sunrise (early in the 5 o’clock hour … sigh) so I got up to watch the earth come to life. Freakin’ amazing sauce.IMG_20150613_055352We took the boys on a hike to a nearby summit. I’d camp in this area again. Well worth it!

We’re Back

April and May are definitely our most busy months of the year. During that time, Lauren is still playing soccer and both Leah and Abby start their softball season. Leah asked me to coach her 10-under softball team (why, I don’t know … it’s not like she takes coaching from me …), so I’ve been neck deep in that while trying to watch and teach Abby some of the nuances of the sport. Plus, the kids are all in school with about a million things going on during this last month, such as assemblies, field days, French spelling bees, etc. Then I get to wrangle 6 Boy Scouts in weekly activities and monthly camp outs. We’re glad summer is nearly here so we can relax a bit.

This has been such an odd year. We had a balmy winter with very little (!) snow in the valley and many warm days. Then we have had a soaking month. In fact, a weather spotter in Ogden reported 6.5 inches of rain in the last 4 weeks. On a bell curve of normal, that would totally be on the right tail. I haven’t artificially watered my lawn yet this year and actually have to find dry days in between wet ones to mow and landscape. I’m not complaining about this at all — I love this weather pattern.

Now, on to the pictures and their context.

Reflections Newsletter Map

While I was temporarily working for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache NF in South Jordan, I got a call from the Pleasant Grove Ranger District asking for an update and replication of a recreation map. This was the last task I did before returning to my normal job, so it was a treat to head back to the Forest office a few weeks ago to see the newsletter with my map inside. I’m no cartographer (the one who makes maps look decent), so this thing isn’t going to win any awards, but it will certainly serve its purpose for the visitors of American Fork Canyon.

Family at Temple

Lauren, my 8 year old daughter, has now been to 5 LDS temple open houses prior to their dedication: Draper, Payson, Brigham City, Ogden, and Oquirrh Mountain. She’ll hit her 6th this summer when Provo City Center is complete. Needless to say, there’s been a bumper crop of temples along the Wasatch Front, which is an indicator of need.

Conference Center Rooftop

We got our first official tour of the LDS Conference Center last Sunday. The youth in our ward participated in the Oquirrh Mountain Cultural Celebration back in 2008 so I’ve been all through the building, back stage, upstairs, downstairs, etc. However, I’d never had an official tour, and my kids had never been inside. The pic of them in front of that of the water is actually on the roof. What you can’t see well is the urban garden off to the right. Lots of trees, wildflowers, shrubs, and other plants that cut down on the amount of impervious surface a building of this size creates.

Welcome back, Hunter Pence

Finally, due to the World Series victory for our Giants last Fall, our kids have been totally into baseball. Jen made that shirt Austin’s wearing for our Spring Training trip to Phoenix. Unfortunately, Hunter Pence was injured and didn’t play while we were down there. Right after our trip, we purchased the MLB.TV premium app and have been able to watch all “out of market” games the Giants play, which is every game except for those against the Rockies and Diamondbacks. We load the live HD game on our phones and then use the Chromecast dongle to broadcast the game to our TV. Needless to say, it’s been fun to watch as many games as we have. My girls sit in Sacrament Meeting in church and make lists of all the players and their positions. Perhaps not the best use of sacred time, but not as bad as every other kid playing shoot-em-up games on their iPads.

Chair of the Prom

My brother Ammon attended his senior prom at Salem Hills High School this week. He had the fortunate experience to be crowned king this year. We went down to Elk Ridge on Saturday to snap a few pictures and see him off. We didn’t have great light for photos but we managed to snap a few fun ones.

Ammon and his date heading out

Ammon and his date heading out

Even the men embellish their suits

Even the men embellish their suits

Ammon and Nathan

Ammon and Nathan

Ammon and Olivia smiling for the camera

Ammon and Olivia smiling for the camera

In other unrelated news, we took this chair from my folks 4.5 years ago and Jen decided to tackle a restoration project. It’s prettier now. She also made the pillow. She’s talented — just a bit misguided considering her spouse choice.

Grandma's Chair

Grandma’s Chair

Restored chair

Restored chair