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.

Baptism

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.

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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.

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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

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.

This is winter?

I’ve got a bunch of random cell phone photos from recent events. We’ve had such a fun fall and early winter (if you can call this “winter”) with lots of activities. First, our kids got to participate in a live nativity at the Kaysville Tabernacle. They spent all of 10 minutes acting their part, and by acting I mean sitting still looking pretty.

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We also went to the Kaysville Light Parade, which really is a sad excuse for a parade. But the kids loved seeing the 10 floats or so, it wasn’t very cold, and there was hot chocolate at the city offices awaiting them at the conclusion of the parade.

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Abby and Leah both played volleyball with Farmington City for the last 6 weeks. Leah was on a 4th/5th grade team with her friend and neighbor, Sierra. This was Leah’s first year playing and she was awesome. I had the good fortune of being her coach and had a blast. Luckily, at this age, learning drills from YouTube makes me a qualified coach. Let’s just say I’m a better coach than I am a player in this sport.

Abby completed her second year and was on a 6th/7th grade team with her friend since infancy, Siena. Abby loves volleyball as well and she had an excellent coach who she also had for soccer. If we can keep her with that coach for the next few years, she’ll come out ahead, for sure! I’m not good enough to coach these girls in volleyball as they get older.

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I saw this painting, “Not Alone” by great-grandma Minerva Teichert, in an LDS church in Riverton last week. This is the second church I’ve seen this painting in and I always feel touched when seeing this particular scene. It shows Mormon pioneers with their covered wagons and angelic hosts accompanying them on their trek. It alludes to the Old Testament story of Elisha and the Israelites as they prepared for battle against Syria. The odds were not in their favor, yet the prophet Elisha knew they had more help and even stated, “They that be with us are more than they that be with them.” Then the Israelites were treated with a vision of the heavenly beings on the mountain ridges there as support (story found in 2 Kings 6).

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Jen got brave recently and darkened her hair from her natural sandy blonde to a dark brunette. She looks hot as ever and was quite the contrast to her cousin with her constantly bleached blonde coifs.

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Finally, there’s a house in Fruit Heights that goes all out with their Christmas lights. We enjoy driving by with the kids to show them the display. Well, the neighbors, not wanting to be outdone, simply put up one simple light display, the word “Ditto” with an arrow pointing to the over-the-top house. We got a good laugh at the sight.

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Birthdays on the Freeway

Now that I’m working in South Jordan for three months, I have to travel down I-15 if I choose to drive my own vehicle to work. With a high volume of vehicles and a high rate of speed often comes theatrics. In the last few weeks, I’ve seen:

  • A car blow a tire and manage to not swerve into any cars while pulling over onto the shoulder.
  • A car in the left shoulder facing the wrong direction — it had spun probably a minute prior.
  • A tow truck hauling a pickup truck backward (trucks have rear-wheel-drive so the free wheels are the front) and, due to the speed of freeway travel, the bed liner of the pickup and all the contents literally lifted off the bed and floated in the air before slamming onto the roadway directly in front of the trailing traffic.
  • Large wood chunks (debris) in the middle of the lane.
  • Half a dozen near misses of trailing vehicles nearly rear-ending the vehicle they were trailing.

I’ve driven to work for 12+ years now on various roads and don’t remember this many traffic issues in so short a time. Perhaps the roads are getting more dangerous, or perhaps I’m just more aware. Regardless, I am grateful I haven’t been involved in any of these observed incidents.

On to better news: Austin turned 4 on Saturday. This kid is such a joy to have around and everyone seems to love him. He flirts with the teenage girls, plays with the teenage boys, gives his momma just enough snuggle time to melt her heart, and offers his help when I’m doing a project. He’s often found approaching someone and asking, “Do you want to play with me?” He had a great birthday and was so genuinely happy, grateful, and delighted with everything that happened on his big day.

The new 4 year old wearing his new kicks and shirt and holding his new (left-handed) baseball mitt.

The new 4 year old wearing his new kicks and shirt and holding his new (left-handed) baseball mitt.

Cupcakes adorned with army men

Cupcakes adorned with army men

We sang to him (like 5 times during the day) but he had some fun with the candle before telling us what he wished for. See the video.

Jen also got him a Nebraska Huskers hat — he’s apparently had a fascination with them for a while now. While I served my LDS mission in Nebraska, we don’t openly cheer for the Huskers or have any other memorabilia hanging around the house. But he was delighted to get his hat. See the video.

Livin’ the Dream

We’ve decided that the longest day of the year isn’t the Summer Solstice. No, it’s really the Sunday with 1pm church where you move your clocks back an hour to accommodate Daylight Savings Time. I don’t know how many times we looked at a clock today and said, “It’s only 10:30am?”

Fall here has been spectacular, although we’ve had a bone-dry October. Our secondary water was turned off Oct. 5 and our lawn could have used a few waterings since then. However, I don’t have any interest in using culinary water for that at this house, so I just let the brown spots appear. I’m pretty sure it — and I — will survive.

The mild Fall meant we had a very enjoyable Halloween. The kids didn’t even wear jackets under their costumes and came home with a bunch of loot. Although I actually have 4 kids, and although all of them dressed up and begged neighbors and strangers for candy, I didn’t get a picture of Leah. She went trick-or-treating with a friend and was gone at picture time.Costumes! My sister got a hot tub recently and hosted a family party. It was Ammon’s first time in a hot tub and all indications were that he liked it. Not that he can really feel the heat on his paralyzed legs, but it was fun regardless.

Full House AmmonThe World Series wrapped up recently and we had the euphoria of celebrating the victory of our favorite team. Both Jen and I lived in Northern California as kids (her in Sunnyvale and me in Sacramento) and we’ve followed the team since then. The crazy thing was that my brother, Adam, is a life-long Royals fan. I never honestly even considered the idea that our two teams would meet in the World Series. Exciting postseason. In the picture below, Jen’s sister (also a big Giants fan) was watching with us via Facetime. It was fun to enjoy the conclusion of the series together.

IMG_20141029_211530I am currently “on detail” as the GIS Coordinator at the headquarters of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. That basically means I get to do a different job in a different location for three months, after which I’ll head back to my normal job. I now have to travel about 36 miles to work each day and go back and forth between driving and using public transportation (train / bus). I just happened to email the hydrologist a few days ago about some project ideas and said, “Hey, I’d like to go to the field with you.” It didn’t take long for him to find an excuse to get out. We drove from South Jordan up to the Wellsville Mountains west of Logan so we could check on the condition of a stream channel that has been impacted by cattle. It was a gorgeous day and made me happy.

IMG_20141030_125153 Finally, Abby (front row, third from the right) had a piano recital on Saturday immediately following her volleyball game. She played “All of Me” by Jon Schmidt and rocked it. She loves playing and had a knack for the instrument.

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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