50

A couple of weeks ago we went to Bear Lake with my family to celebrate my parents' 50th anniversary. It was an interesting weekend for several reasons. We had never stayed under one roof before with my family. My only sibling who is a parent is my sister, who has a two-year-old. So we were a little anxious about kids being loud and keeping people up. Katie doesn't care to spend too much time in the company of extended family, preferring the comfort of our own home. And there were just the usual stresses of fitting everything in the van that we needed for a long weekend, and the three-hour drive with them.

My parents rented a very nice cabin with three floors, up on the hillside overlooking the lake.

We got to catch up with everyone, as my sister and one brother had never even met James, and my other brother had only seen him once in passing when we visited Salt Lake overnight. We also spent time talking with my parents about their personal history, asking questions about their early lives. I wrote down as much as I could for safe keeping.

We played in the lake. I was busy wrangling kids, so this is the only photographic evidence I have.


Then Sam punched a pinata and decapitated it with one stroke.

I can't believe this kid is going to be 12 in a couple months. Anyway, I thought it was a nice trip, and it helped us overcome a little of the hesitation we have at the prospect of traveling anywhere with 4 kids in tow. Now that James is starting to walk, we'll be a little more easily mobile. I enjoy having little kids; from about 18 months to age 5 is my favorite. But at the same time it will be nice to move into an age of more independence soon and be and ready to start having some more family adventures.


Is Ignorance Bliss?

Katie just informed me that she watched a documentary on 9/11, which made me think. I often hear people talk about shows they watched that hold no interest for me. I'm not sure exactly why that is, but I feel there isn't much to be gained from certain subjects. They may hold some perspective as to the triumph of the human spirit, but I feel like the negatives outweigh the positives. Here are a few things I don't really want to get into detail about.

The Holocaust
Climate change
Crimes against children
True crime in general
The dangers of [x common thing in your life that will kill you]

When it comes to man's inhumanity to man, I feel like I get it. I know people can be horrible; I don't need to know all the details about specific Nazi war crimes to understand the depths to which people can sink. I feel like maybe this leaves me ignorant, but I don't know. If I see a headline about another Catholic priest involved in a child abuse scandal I don't think I need to know anything about the specifics. I know it's horrifying, and that seems like enough.

Curiously, as one example Katie won't watch The Dark Knight with me, which is fictional, but she thinks it's "evil." And it is pretty intense, but for me the triumph of the human spirit is worth the slog through the rough stuff. There's a distinct difference in my mind between this and some real events that are hard to watch. Maybe because I don't necessarily know how it will end. But there are also plenty of bad fictional things I'm not interested in either.

So is there something wrong with not wanting to know every detail about some of the horrible things that happen in the world? Again, I am aware of the things that happen; I see the headlines. I just want limited information.

The Most Interesting Baby in the World

Yesterday was James's birthday, and it seems like a good time to reflect on the experience of having him join the family, and this crazy parenthood thing in general.

James is a really happy baby most of the time. He's super smiley and has some rather suave looks.



He's just started saying a couple words. As with many babies, he started saying "Uh-oh" quite a while ago, but I never know if it counts. From a linguistic perspective, he's communicating an idea verbally, so yes. He also says "Cat," or "gah" and uses the term for dogs too. And it seems like he is constantly asking, "What's that?"

He started off doing the same monkey crawl Clara did, using one knee and the other foot, but he might be settling into more of a regular crawl. He's been standing for a while now, and the other day he took one tiny little step while free standing. Our kids don't generally walk for another month or two after hitting the year mark, so he's more or less on schedule.

As far as the family stuff in general, we decided this is it for us. We're too old and mentally fractured to try going through this again. So we're trying to enjoy this time knowing that we will miss it soon. When James is 10 Sam will be 20, so we could have a kid in college, one in high school, one going into middle school, and one in elementary school. Way to drag things out, I guess. It's still hard to think of myself as a father, and a supposedly responsible adult. These changes come upon us gradually, but incremental growth is what life is all about. Right?

Van Ambition

My summer has consisted of two intense colds bridged by an ongoing sinus infection, and now I seem to be developing bronchitis. This is very odd for me; I don't recall so much summer illness ever before. But with illness comes the opportunity for interesting dreams. And while I was half asleep for the last portion of the night between coughing fits, I had another one.


My family went to University Mall in Orem, Utah. I ended up dropping off Katie and the kids and parking the van somewhere. I think we were looking for some Sunday dresses for Allison, but the store manager had boxed up all the dresses her size and donated them to charity. So we went out to try to find the van. It was night, and we couldn't find the van. I ran all around the mall looking, and finally found where I had parked it, but it was gone. 

We called the police but had a hard time getting through. We found someone we knew who helped us go to the police station. The police eventually found some surveillance footage of the parking lot. There was some dog doo in the area where we had ended up parking, and it had something to do with some antibiotics and a rich old lady who lived on the other side of the mall property and her business. For some reason this old lady had apparently stolen our van.

I was demanding a new van in payment, as well as a second car as a penalty for the old lady. She loved the theater, so apparently we put on some kind of big production to make known our demands. I woke up before we knew exactly how things turned out, but it seemed like we would probably get what we wanted.

Of Monsters and the Moon

I had a couple interesting dreams last night.

First, it was as though all of Stephen King's creations existed at once in a world and were trying to get me. It was one of those dreams that doesn't necessarily terrify me, but it does leave me feeling exhausted. I remember trying to find where I could go that they wouldn't find me, although I really don't remember anything about specific monsters.

Second, it was the Rapture, in a pretty protestant-style situation. The good people were allowed into heaven. What you did was to wait until the sun appeared like a square cursor on a computer screen, and then stare at it, and you and whoever you were touching ascended. I was trying to gather my family. Katie put on warm clothes, because at altitude it's freezing, of course, so I followed suit. It felt like things kept delaying us, but we finally were ready.

I said goodbye to the house, and I felt very emotional about it. We ascended, which really only lasted a few moments and then were were on the moon. So warm clothing wasn't necessary (let alone supplemental oxygen). It was as though it were a waypoint on the way to Heaven. We were in a large building, and it was really pretty indistinguishable from Earth. There were mundane concerns like finding a place to live, and it was kind of disappointing that it felt more like a government bureaucracy than a religious experience. At one point it sounded as though we would be able to return to Earth, as it would be the Celestial Kingdom, which shifted things more to an LDS theological perspective. That's all I remember.

Developments

The thing about having young kids is that things tend to change frequently, and we've had a few things happen. So this is more of a family journal type post.

Since last summer Allison has been wanting to learn to ride her bike without training wheels. We've worked on it a few times, but I didn't think she was ready. She got a new bike for Christmas, and it still seemed kind of heavy for her. But a friend brought her smaller bike over and Allison just started practicing balance, and then started using the pedals, and within a few minutes she had it. She tried her own bike after a while and got that down too. It was amazing to see how fast she picked it up.

James finally started crawling. Our kids have an interesting history there. Sam never crawled but went straight to walking, holding our fingers for several months until we were at a church activity one evening and he just took off to chase other kids. Allison crawled normally. Clara did her monkey scoot thing which was amazing. And last week James finally started crawling as well. He seemed to do the normal crawling at first, but now he seems to be settling into a crawl like Clara did, swinging his left leg wide and planting on his foot, then scooting on his right knee. We'll see if that keeps up.

Katie has been substituting for the organist at church, so she's been going over to practice in the evenings. Last Friday she took Allison and Clara. They were running down a ramp in the chapel when Clara tripped and bashed her head into a bench. We took her to the urgent care, where she had to get stitches. Surprisingly that was the first time any of our kids has had to get stitches. I say it's surprising because of how many times I had stitches as a kid. So far none of our children has quite my reckless nature when it comes to personal injury, but Clara and James are still pretty young.

That's it for now.

Camp Frozen Dune

So, that happened. Camping, I mean.

Friday afternoon the boy scouts gathered at the scoutmaster's house to caravan to the camp site. Questions about where we were going were answered by naming some person that apparently everyone in Idaho knows. "It's at so-and-so's place." Oh. Okay, then.

Eventually I was able to get someone to point out where we were going, more or less, on a map. And eventually we were off. The property was a patch of dirt in the scrubland just a few minutes from some local sand dunes.


We basically got there in time to set up camp and cook dinner. Then we hung around the fire and the kids told scary stories while I tried to watch the Jazz game on my phone (there was surprisingly decent reception). Of course it rained a bit, which is pretty much a legal requirement when you camp, and then it cleared up and the temperature plummeted. We all scrambled for our tents and, in my case, shivered for the next 8 hours.

I hadn't been camping in 20 years, so maybe I just forgot how cold camping was. I had brought several jackets and plenty of warm clothing, and I put on as much as I reasonably could, but I pretty much lay there all night shivering. The air mattress was better than being on the ground, I'm sure, but I basically didn't get any sleep. I got up around 4 to find a bush, and the one positive thing I can say is that the sky was incredible. I don't know if I have ever seen stars like that. I eve caught a couple shooting stars, as Friday night was supposed to be the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower.

I was happy when people got up and moving around 6:30, and I could get moving again. I went on a run with one of the guys in the ward who is a crazy ultramarathoner, and we packed up after breakfast. We stopped by the dunes themselves to let the boys run around and jump off them for a while.



Sam is the one in the air there.

He had fun, which is what is important. But I'm hoping we can go in the summer next time.

Fix-It Weekend

Last weekend was kind of an interesting one where lots of things seem to happen close together. It started Friday, when Katie informed me she had driven to the school and had gotten a flat tire. I had her use the tire inflator to get enough air in it to get home. Later I couldn't see an obvious nail or anything in it, so I took it back where we had gotten it for warranty-covered repair. They had to replace it, but of course they didn't have the same tire in stock so I had to pay for an upgrade. Blah.

On Saturday the kids went outside to hide plastic eggs with candy, and Sam put one in the furnace exhaust pipe, which drops down into our basement. I spent all day trying to flush it out, using a shop vac from either end to suck it out, then an air compressor, and even a hose to flush it out with water. I never managed to find it, but things were obviously moving through the pipe well enough so I patched things back up. I ordered a 30-foot flexible inspection camera that attaches to my phone, so when it arrives I'll see if I can find it.

While going to get the PVC pipe to repair the cut pipe I had used to try to find the egg, I noticed one of my windshield wipers was messed up. When I got to the store I took it off and left it sitting on the hood, telling myself to remember it was there. Of course I didn't, so on Monday morning when I drove to work in the rain I had no wiper (on the driver's side, naturally). I had to stop for a new one on my way to work.

An interesting but not ideal weekend. Tonight Sam and I go on his very first campout, with the scouts, so we'll see how this one goes.

There and Back Again

Last weekend my family visited Salt Lake City, the first time we had returned to Utah since moving. All in all, it went pretty well, although James struggled with a drive that was longer than anything he had endured before.

A couple weeks previous I had traveled to Texas for a work convention. So what to me has been more travel than usual has made me think about traveling. It's something I've never really understood. I mean, I get travel when there's a necessity, and I do understand the occasional vacation. What I don't understand is people who travel frequently for fun. It's just so exhausting, and I think you spend more time in preparation and sitting places waiting than you do enjoying your destination.

I guess I have a strange feeling that you should live where you live, and spend the vast majority of your time there. But maybe I'm just jealous because I have four kids now and don't have the money to travel for fun. I suppose I will chalk it up to "Some people like X activity, and some people like Y activity."

Something Fishy This Way Comes

I want to write this down before I forget it.

Last December we made a payment to a doctor for one of our maternity bills. The check bounced, which is of course our fault. Later we paid off the full amount when we got our tax refund, but a week or two later they ran that check again, so we paid twice. Katie talked to the bank and the billing company, and each blamed the other.

I finally went to the bank and determined that someone physically brought this check in a second time to cash it, which happened 10 days after we had paid the full amount. The management company said they didn't show this payment and eventually shifted the blame to the medical practice itself. They finally looked into it, and one of the partners called me. He showed that they did get this additional payment, but he also claimed that his bank automatically ran the check the second time. That doesn't square with what I understand. I believe someone was trying to embezzle money through the practice. At any rate, they are refunding our money, so I don't really care. But something still seems fishy.

Revenge of the Banana

This all started with a banana. As I've noted before, bananas are something I want to like but struggle with. But I think I've discovered how to like them better.

It's because I have this thing with maintaining my weight. My philosophy is that if I put on a couple pounds I work to eat better and get rid of it before I get overweight. But most people scoff if I make any kind of comment about trying to eat healthy. "Pssh, what do you have to worry about?" Well, I don't think I should make it harder on myself.

Anyway, I've been on one such cycle recently, trying to minimize foods with added sugar and stop with treats for a while. But breakfast is hard, because I love me some cereal. I love to have it in the morning, and then have a bowl before bed. But it's hard for me to figure out what to eat for breakfast without it. I love eggs, but you can have only so many before you get sick of them too.

So I decided to get some plain oatmeal, which I feel is pretty darn healthy. (Oh no! Carbs!) The first morning I had it (no salt or sugar added; literally plain oatmeal) it was horrible. The second day it was still pretty horrible. I've played around with a few things like slicing hard-boiled eggs on it (not bad). But the other day I noticed a banana on the table and, desperate for anything to change up the flavor, sliced some into the bowl. Delicious!

This could be the start of a beautiful (and very one-sided) relationship.

Look at My Watch. You Feel Yourself Getting Sleepy...

I wasn't going to post this, because it's boring. But then I realized that I don't care; it's something that has been on my mind, so I'm writing it.

I might be part magpie or raccoon or something, because I've always liked shiny things. Like watches. I remember getting a little blue watch in second grade and wearing it for years. I loved that thing. Maybe there's a correlation between liking watches and me being obsessed with getting places on time.

Anyway, several years ago I decided I wanted a watch with a digital representation of an analog dial, I don't know why. It just seemed novel. In 2013 I got one of the first commercial smartwatches, a Pebble. It let me do the digital/analog thing, as well as showing notifications from my phone, letting me control music, showing weather, and acting as a display for my running apps on my phone. It's first and foremost a watch, and with a simple e-ink display it gets several days of battery life.



I've been looking to upgrade my watch, and unfortunately I bet on the wrong horse, because Pebble is dead. So I'm looking at other options. One of the most common things I see is that people apparently want a fitness tracker. I'm not sure why we are so obsessed with counting our steps and quantifying sleep, but apparently we are. Personally, I want to get my notifications from my phone. I don't care about fitness trackers that don't work anyway.


I like Android, and the latest watch OS includes Google Assistant, so you can talk to your watch and get answers, which I think would be awesome. And getting a little GPS map on my wrist while driving seems safer than trying to use my phone while driving. You can do lots of other stuff, but with fancy LED touch screens and WiFi, the battery life on these things is miserable. You can maybe get a day's use if you don't do too much.

One alternative to that is to get a dedicated GPS running watch from a company like Garmin. They have advanced running metrics (more than you get just using your phone) and can display some of the notifications from your phone. Beyond that it's limited in its ability as a smartwatch, but it would be maybe a couple weeks of battery life. Basically I am choosing between battery life and the ability to do some things like respond to texts from my watch. What I really want is an Android watch with the Garmin features that can give me two days or more of battery life. Apparently that's not possible right now.

By this point I'm acknowledging that this is the ultimate #firstworldproblems post, and super boring. But as I said above, it's my blog. #noregrets

Sock It to Him

Sam started learning martial arts about three years ago, when we were living in Lehi. He took to it immediately, and was good about practicing. It helped hi build some confidence and self-discipline, as well as physical abilities. A lot of kids start that kind of thing and don't stick with it, but it's been a big part of his life.

When we moved he started at a new place here in Idaho Falls, with a style similar enough that he was able to pick up where he left off, and he earned his first degree black belt last fall. It was an incredible achievement for him, and the culmination of a lot of seriously hard work.



He's had this mentality of always wanting to be ready to defend himself, and he's even been complaining all winter about his heavy coat and boots limiting his mobility. That being said, he's never shown any aggression or bullying tendencies. I have complete trust in him in his interactions toward others.

Yesterday Katie informed me that he had hit a kid at school. I immediately figured he was defending himself, so I wasn't concerned. When I had a chance to talk to him about it, he told me the story.

There's a kid in his class who has been bothering him for some time, both at recess and in class when they had to sit next to each other. This boy is the kind of kid who will constantly pretend to poke you with scissors, getting as close as possible, while acting like it's all a joke. He was swinging his hands at Sam in karate chop motions yesterday at recess, and there were lots of kids around and Sam didn't feel like he could get away. So he socked the kid as hard as he could, right in the gut, and he dropped like a sack of potatoes. Sam apologized and made sure he was okay, and apparently the kid wasn't even really angry. His teacher heard about it, and she didn't care, knowing how this other kid is (she also adores Sam). I was proud of him for sticking up for himself.

I guess Sam heard indirectly that the kid said he probably wouldn't mess with him anymore. This is what I call the Ender Principle, for anyone who has read Ender's Game. If you have to fight someone, beat them badly enough and quickly enough that one confrontation is all it takes for them to leave you alone (but don't accidentally kill them). Nice job, Samuel.

Seriously Unpopular Opinion Alert

I've become much more keenly aware lately of the differences of opinion I have with other people. With the presidential election in particular, people whose opinions I value and respect have differed from mine, when I feel the reasons for my feelings are so obvious that anyone who thinks otherwise must be ignorant of the Truth. And I recognize that those feelings are wrong.

Of course, things are complicated. Several months ago, after yet another mass shooting, I wrote the following and very nearly posted it on social media. Then, realizing it would not foster open discussion but simply incite rancor, I decided against it. Here it is.


I'd like to share an opinion for once, bearing in mind that it may differ significantly from yours. And that's okay; we can disagree without animosity. Let me first say that I like guns, I enjoy shooting them, and although I don't own any I believe we have a constitutional right to own them.

I would gladly give up that right if there's even a chance that it would save one child's life.


I don't judge anyone who owns guns; every gun owner I know is sensible and responsible. And as I said, I like guns. But I don't know any way to legislate gun ownership for only the mature. I don't demand proof that gun control would reduce gun violence before action. I don't think we should wait to explore every avenue before we try anything. Rather, we should try everything, right now, to prevent these tragedies from happening. Let's stop the bleeding first, and then see what kind of ownership laws make sense as we conduct well-grounded, impartial research.



This has really become part of a larger issue of safety vs freedom. Much has been spoke about the immigration ban coming from the White House, ostensibly a measure to protect us from terrorism. There were several things shared online that highlight the flaws in this approach. First, an article from the New York Times that calls into question the specifics of countries from which immigrants are banned. Then some statistics tweeted from (of all people) Kim Kardashian.



Aside from the fact that the immigrants pose virtually no danger (immigrants from the countries that are on the banned list have been responsible for zero deaths on American soil, whereas countries under no restriction provided convicted terrorists such as those involved in 9-11), there are far more pressing issues of safety.

You guys, the Republicans just passed a measure through the House rolling back a ban on gun purchases by severely mentally ill people. Seriously, I don't even know how to get my point across here. Americans shoot and kill 5,000 of their own countrymen for every American killed by a terrorist. Why can't we use fact-based information for a discussion?

I may post something else about my feelings on Trump in general, but for now this is all I can say without going into some sort of manic state.




Nostalgia and the Double Standard

The other day while driving, rather than use my phone for music I popped the first CD I ever owned into the stereo. August and Everything After, by The Counting Crows. After 20-something years I still enjoyed listening to it. 


At the same time I recognized that the singer's voice can be really whiny, and some of their songs kind of ramble aimlessly, especially on later albums. But I still enjoy them for the most part.

It reminded me of how things we grew up with are given a different standard than things we are introduced to as adults. Many of us have a ridiculous movie we've enjoyed since childhood, but when showing it to a friend or spouse who hadn't seen it before, they think it's terrible. What is it about things we associate with our youth, that they get a pass on quality? 

There are other things too, from Kool-Aid to Kraft macaroni and cheese. I love all of them unashamedly.

Winter Update

Our adventure of Idaho winter continues. There's a solid layer of ice on all the non-main roads that has hardened to the point that no amount of traffic can weather it away. Things are hunkered down waiting another couple months for some semblance of spring.

One of the funniest things is the road leading out of our neighborhood. The layer of ice there is about 4 inches thick, with tire ruts on both sides of the street that actually reach the pavement. So you have traction there but can't help but feel that the car will get high centered on the ice.

The ruts, however, seem to have been formed by some of the many large trucks that abound in this habitat. My little commuter car isn't quite wide enough to comfortably fit on those ruts. As a consequence, I bounce back and forth in a way that reminds me of a car on rails at an amusement park. If you try to turn farther than the rail allows, you bounce back rather abruptly. It somehow makes me think of people crossing the plains in wagons, following the tracks made by those who went before.

We had a few days when it got down to -15 or -20 Fahrenheit. Our house had condensation freezing on the inside of the windows. I began to rethink the placement of our bed, right under the window, since it's considerably colder right there. Lessons for next winter, I suppose.

Running outdoors is something of an adventure as well. I didn't get out on those coldest days, but I've been out when it's been a little better, maybe a few degrees below zero. A couple years ago I purchased overshoes that have little steel studs on them for running on ice. I didn't have many chances to use them in Utah, but I use them all the time here. It's been good, but one day when it was below zero and the wind was blowing I realized I need to layer more if I don't want to freeze. My whole body felt numb by the time I got home after ten miles.

Still, we're happy here, and oddly the air still doesn't feel as dry as it did in Utah. Katie gets cracked and bleeding hands in the winter, but it hasn't been as bad. The kids have plenty of snow to play in (or did before it started sublimating and hardening). The cabin fever hasn't been too bad, but maybe a few more weeks of this will change things.

End.