A Bit of Catch Up

I’m working on about 1.5 years of service as a Scoutmaster in my neighborhood. I feel like things are going fairly well — we’re camping 9 or 10 times in a year, we’re learning new skills, the boys are advancing, and we’re having fun. Our numbers are growing, too. When I became the Scoutmaster, we had about 4 boys in the troop. We’re at 10 now, with 6-8 more joining by the beginning of August. More boys is great and difficult. When we go camping with 10+ boys, there are more logistics to manage now (do we have enough vehicles and seat belts? do we have multiple trucks to haul all their gear? how do we not blow our budget on food with all these young mouths to feed? and etc.). Luckily, there are two other adults who serve with me and we make it work.

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A successful lashing exercise. These fellas can now cook with a dutch oven over a fire if they had to.

With spring, comes softball. All three of my girls are playing this year. Our plan was for Lauren (first time!) to play in an 8U league, Leah in a 10U league, and Abby a 12U league. I’ve coached Leah’s volleyball team twice and softball team once, so I decided to coach Abby’s team this spring. In the 12U league, they have the girls try out and participate in a draft. Everyone who signs up gets drafted and the girls are not privy to the actual draft, so they don’t know whether they were drafted first or last. The tryouts and accompanying draft were last Friday (while my troop left on a campout that I later joined) and I actually was awarded the first pick due to dumb luck. I ended up drafting 10 girls and, based on the skills I saw at tryouts, decided to play Leah up into the older league. Now she and Abby can play on the same team, therefore saving Jen and me the logistic headache of getting three girls to three practices and games. We’re all looking forward to playing again.

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It’s softball and baseball season! My kids are lucky and happy to have some great neighbors who are close friends.

I participated in the WatchDOGS program at school last week and, like last year, chose St. Patrick’s Day. Except for a Scout shirt, I literally don’t own any green clothes, so my kids made me embellish my beard so I wouldn’t get pinched all day. Needless to say, it was a hit with all the kids.

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A little St. Patrick’s cheer

Finally, my brother Jason is visiting from Iowa for the weekend. Of the 11 Clark kids, only 3 actually live in Utah (one in Utah County, one in Salt Lake County, and me in Davis County), so having him here was a treat. My sister Chelsey and I met up with Jason in Provo and hiked the iconic Y to enjoy the scenery and awesome weather. It was a fun few hours on the mountain. And about 200 other people. (Way too popular a trail for me!)

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The Y on the mountain was formed by volunteers in an assembly line handing buckets of lime and other materials up the chain. The hike is short, but steep, and offers a great view.

Open Gym

Abby’s rec league and all-star softball coach (with whom we haven’t had contact for many months) recently texted us and alerted us to an opportunity  regarding off-season softball practice. Viewmont High School in nearby Bountiful apparently hosts an open gym every Saturday from 12-2pm for aspiring softball players. The high school’s head softball coach and one of his assistants run the girls through a bunch of drills and even make them do conditioning.

We decided to show up yesterday with Abby and Leah, since both plan to play 12-U fast pitch softball this spring (I’ll supposedly be their coach). I was impressed by the time these coaches put in to working with a wide variety of players, age groups, and abilities. The head coach even tried to get me to have Lauren stick around, although we’re not sure what we’ll do.

They had throwing drills and a number of hitting drills off the tee and also in a cage. I couldn’t help but think how lucky these girls were to be getting skilled coaching during this offseason as they prepare for the upcoming season. And all for free!

I will admit that I love watching these girls play softball, practice, and get better. They have a real love for the game. Jen and I aren’t really anxious travel/comp team parents due to the time commitment and cost, but we’d love to see our girls chase this passion for as long as they can.

We have some friends who have a large barn where they’ve set up a batting cage and pitching machine. We were lucky enough to use it a number of times last summer and it was a blast watching these girls pitch and hit to each other (picture here). Great times!!

Snowshoeing with the Girls

There’s a great little park near our house. It’s called East Mountain Wilderness Park and is roughly 130 acres of scrub oak, grass, and trails. We frequent the park in all season to hike, run, mountain bike, snowshoe, I’ve even made the Scouts learn about orienteering in the park.

With a series of storms this week, we’ve had a ton of snow. The ski resorts up Big Cottonwood Canyon are reporting 63″ (over 5 feet!) of snow in the last 72 hours, and we’ve had close to two feet here at the house in the last week.

These storms make for excellent opportunities to create new tracks in fresh snow. Today I took the three girls while Jen and Austin stayed behind to work on a Secret Santa gift. We did a loop that took us only about a mile and a half, but it was enough to wear everyone out. Along our hike, we found opportunities to summit close hills so the girls could try their hand at snowboarding (they dragged some plastic snowboards along on their hike).

It was a spectacular bluebird day and a great way to formally kick off my Christmas break away from work.

 

Capitol Spiking

I made my fifth trip to Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago. While my trip was business in nature, I spent a few extra days visiting my brother and his family in Fairfax before they packed up and moved to Los Angeles. I really enjoy visiting the nations’s capitol and, even though I’ve seen many of the major monuments, landmarks, and many museums, it’s still a rush to take it in and this trip was no different. This was my first opportunity to go to the top of the Washington Monument, and the views it afforded were spectacular. It helped that we had an overcast day for some great lighting. I also made my first visit to the Holocaust Museum, which was pretty incredible. I have an entire gallery of photos of my trip linked here.

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While our spring time is filled with softball, our fall fills up with volleyball. This year all three girls are playing and loving it. Each only has a single match left (it’s a 6-match season over 8 weeks of time) and they are all bummed it’s ending. I’ve had the opportunity to coach Leah’s team, just like last year. This is the third time I’ve coached Leah in a sport and I’ve yet to be a head coach for one of Abby’s teams. I think when Abby started, I never felt confident that I knew how to coach whatever sport and age division she was entering, so I backed off. At Leah’s ages, however, it’s mostly about motivating the kids and making sure they learn basics while still having enough fun to come back next year. I can do that. I really like volleyball and wish I’d played it growing up or even as an adult.IMG_20151205_130900

 

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

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.
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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!
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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.