Help Thy Neighbor

I don't generally get too serious on the blog, but last night I had an experience that was really faith promoting. It all started when Katie accidentally backed the van into the closed garage door. So it was bowed outward and wouldn't open or close. I came out to look at it and tried pulling it back into place a bit. But it was pretty messed up.

A neighbor was out walking his dogs and saw me, so he came over to help. I wouldn't have thought to ask anyone for help on this because I figured this would require a professional. But apparently he has fixed garage doors before. So we started working on it, and several things were out of place. After perhaps 30 minutes of hard work (mostly by him) it was working again. It was interesting that it all happened when he was outside, which isn't all that common after dark in  mid-December.

This was one more instance of my Father in Heaven looking out for me, which lately it seems like I've had many instances of. I hope I can be there for someone else who needs some help, even if my skills aren't particularly applicable to real-world situations. But I can help anyone determine correct comma placement or choose the correct word between "who" and "whom." So that's something, I suppose.

Where are you, Christmas?

What's the deal with Christmas? Why does everyone get so stressed and nearly kill themselves over it? I struggle to understand why people cause themselves pointless anxiety, and why Christmas has to be a big deal. In particular I don't understand the question "Are you ready for Christmas?" As if it's a storm that's coming.

To me Christmas means you put up a few lights outside (not an elaborate display, just a string on the house) and spend an afternoon putting some decorations up in the house. You do a little online shopping for the spouse and kids, and that's it. Why do we treat it as this huge obstacle to be surmounted? It should be a time that allows us to be cheerful and focus on other people, as well as religious devotion for us churchgoing folk. I just feel like 75% of what people give themselves to do is totally unnecessary (though this isn't necessarily limited to Christmas).

In other news, I just received this amazing sweater and am super excited about it.

Merry Sithmas.

Up Endoscope!

Most of my friends are in their mid-30s, and therefore have more than a decade to go before their recommended colonoscopy at age 50. Once anyone reaches that age, I highly recommend following the medical community's advice to have one done. To ease anyone's fears, I'll tell you all about the preparation in light of the scoping I had yesterday (my third).

First, you are supposed to pick up some meds that help "clean out" your digestive tract. There are a couple different kinds available. Suprep is the more expensive one (it cost me $45 even with insurance), but in my experience it's easier on the system and is worth the cost.

Then, the day before the colonoscopy you go on a clear liquid diet. You can probably have a normal breakfast, but afterward you can only have things like apple juice, Jell-o, Sprite, and chicken broth. No juice with any kind of pulp, nothing with red or purple coloring. In my opinion this is the most challenging part.

In the evening before your procedure you take the first dose of the prep. In the package is a 16-oz tumbler. You empty one bottle of the prep stuff in the cup, then add water until is gets to the 16-0z line. Then you drink it. This is the worst part of the whole thing, because it's this horrible sort of super sweet flavor, maybe cherry or something. It's hard to describe, but it's awful. Then over the next hour you have to drink two more 16-oz cups of water.

Sometime between 20 minutes and a couple hours later, you feel the need to use the bathroom. You'll go several times over the next few hours. This is where the Suprep is better than the other brands, because it doesn't make your stomach hurt or anything. You just use the bathroom as normal.

The next part varies according to your doctor and the time of your procedure. For me, checking into the hospital at 7:30 a.m., I had to get up at 3:30 and take the second dose of the prep, the same way as the first. This is especially hard because you remember the horrible taste of the stuff the first time.

Again, over the next few hours you will go to the bathroom a bunch of times. Eventually there's nothing solid left in you, and you're passing liquid, which is a strange feeling but doesn't hurt or anything.

You go check into the hospital as directed, and you change into a hospital gown with nothing else on. your clothes are stored in a bag with your name on it (they tell you to wear loose clothes and not bring any valuables). You sit on the bed and they cover you with a blanket, then start an IV. You'll probably need to go to the bathroom again as the prep continues moving through your body.

When the doctor is ready, they wheel your bed into the room for the procedure. You meet the people who will soon become intimately acquainted with your nether regions, and they position you on your left side. Then they give you the sedation and you drift peacefully off to sleep.

Some people may remember voices or something of the procedure itself, but I never have. I've always awakened after it's over, and they wheel you back to your room. It takes maybe half an hour before you feel fully awake. The doc may come in and give you a brief overview of any buried treasure or anything interesting they found, the nurse removes your IV, and you change back into your clothes. You'll use the bathroom a couple times, but it's mostly air that needs to come out. You'll probably have a bit of blood too, since they tend to take biopsies while they are in there.

You're not allowed to drive for the rest of the day, so someone either has to come with you or pick you up. I drive myself there and have Katie come get me, and then we just go get the car the next day. The best way to clear the anesthesia is to go home and nap for a couple hours, and then you are starving and really want food. The first bite of whatever you eat tastes amazing. You feel a little weird and bloated as food begins moving through your digestive tract again, but it's temporary.

Anyway, that's about it. If you actually read this far, congratulations! You're ready to get probed.

Are You Happy Now?

I think there are two kinds of happiness: moment-to-moment happiness, and overall happiness.

A given day can swing wildly between happy and sad, but your overall happiness has more to do with overall satisfaction and contentment with life. For example, I have a loving wife and children, and nice home, and a good job. I am happy, and couldn't really ask for more out of life. But one day I might be sick, or the kids will be driving me crazy, or work is especially hard. In those moments I am not happy. But they don't really affect my overall feelings about my life. That is a lot harder to impact. It's kind of like when I'm running and I can look at my current pace or my average pace. It takes more miles of running faster or slower to change the average.

On the bad days I try to reflect on how nothing is really wrong with life, and I have no real cause to complain. I can't say that it always works, but it is helpful to remember that things do get better. 

Just my thoughts. But what do YOU think?


It was like being in a TV show.

Katie was rinsing out the tub when she turned it off, but the water kept coming out. Hot water. So not only was there a small danger of the tub overflowing (fortunately it wasn't clogged), but it was using all the hot water.

For a couple of weeks the handle had been giving some resistance when we shut it off, so we mostly had the kids using the other tub. But that day it broke. I removed the handle, but the only piece of hardware in there I could access was turning freely without affecting the water. Fortunately, our next-door-neighbor does some plumbing work on the side, so I shut off the main water to the house and ran over for help.

Fortunately he was home (he's a firefighter and therefore can be gone for a day at a time) and kindly came over to take a look. He could immediately tell that something called a "cartridge" had gone bad. It's a simple fix with the tools he had. Fortunately, Home Depot had the right replacement part, so I went over and got it, and he was able to get it fixed right away.

Apparently several of the houses in our neighborhood have had the same problem, and our neighbor had even had to replace the part in his own house. So it's just a bad batch, I guess. Apparently you can call the company (Moen) and they will send you a new one, so I could theoretically replace it in the package and return it to the store. Anyway, I'm thankful for good neighbors.

I'm an 8 Again...

Okay, there are two ways to go about this. The first is to read whatever it is that I'm about to write. The second is to just watch this video.

If that link is dead, or you just want to read instead of watch a video for some reason, I recently went to the emergency room. I had only been once before as an adult, although my parents claim I went all the time as a kid.

I had been feeling sick in the gut for a few days, and one day my body decided that it would try to wring everything out of me. I was trying to keep hydrated, but my mouth was completely dry and I was starting to get a dehydration headache. This had happened in just a matter of hours, so between that and writhing in agony I decided to go to the emergency room. Katie drove me, and when we arrived I thought about the part where Brian Regan talked about how valet parking would be ideal at a hospital.

I got checked in after a few minutes. I did get my own room, unlike Brian. Instead of someone moaning behind a curtain there was a woman crying across the hall because she was being taken to jail. She was pretty belligerent to the officers who came to take her away.

After a discussion on what was going on, they got to work getting me an IV of saline, and they gave me morphine just like Brian Regan got. It was a low dose, so I didn't go all weird, but it was super nice to feel the relief. Then they did a CAT scan, which I'm really looking forward to being billed for, and then I sat around for another hour or so and got a second dose of morphine and another liter of saline.

With the tests they did, they decided it was just my crohn's acting up rather than an infection, so they consulted with my gastroenterologist and got me some meds to get things back under control. And I was on my way. Within a couple days I was feeling pretty normal again, so things are okay. Overall I'm glad I decided to go instead of trying to tough it out (although again, I haven't gotten the bill yet, which may change that opinion). I probably would have ended up a desiccated mummy by the next day anyway had I stayed home. Yay for medical science!

Agent Isaac

Today this young man turns 12.

When Samuel joined our family, Katie and I were living in Provo in an apartment. I was in my final year of college, working two part-time jobs. It was a busy time, and as with many (all?) we felt like we had no idea what we were doing. I also came down with crohn's disease a few months after he was born, and that first year or so was kind of a blur. Now it seems so quaint to look back and remember having just one child to give all our attention to.

I think I'm coming around somewhat to the idea of birth order heavily influencing personality, because he seems to fit in there in the best way. Samuel is our helper, which shouldn't be a surprise. He has a good sense of responsibility and is often asking us how he can help. He can watch the other kids for us somewhat (we haven't left him with the other 3 kids for an extended period). James really loves Sam and often asks where he is. They play well together.

I remember one day when Sam was in first grade or so, I read him Happy Birthday to You by Dr. Seuss. He pointed out that there was no conflict in the book, something I hadn't even realized until he told me. Needless to say, his reading skills are off the charts. His recent standardized testing shows that he's reading at a 12th grade level and is in the 99th percentile. And while he doesn't think he's good at math, he is doing much harder work than I was at his age.

Samuel has a keen sense of justice and always has. He wants things to be fair, whether that is for his benefit or at his expense. He is scrupulously honest and never lied to us, even as a little kid to escape punishment. That means he also gets after his siblings when one of them is treating another one unfairly, which can lead to some contention.

One of Sam's most impressive achievements has been earning his black belt in taekwondo. He has stuck with his martial arts for four years now, even transitioning to a new studio when we moved. He's always thinking of how he could defend himself in different situations, and it's done wonders for his leadership abilities and fitness. He also decided to join band this year in school after talking with Katie. I was never in band, so I had no opinion (I don't want him trying to do too much, though), and he's started learning the trumpet. I think it's great, so long as he doesn't burn himself out with too many activities.

Samuel is everything you could hope for in a son. He's responsible and dependable, and someone I can always trust to look out for the little guy. Happy birthday, firstborn.

Red Delicious

One of these things is not like the others...

I honestly expected that we would have another boy. Over three generations of my family, the men had produced boys at about a 3:1 ratio. But I was excited when we learned we were going to have a girl.

I don't remember much about Katie's pregnancy with Allison. But when she started to go into labor we figured we would have a few hours, as we did with Sam. And one thing they drill into you during birthing classes is that deliveries always take FOREVER. So her contractions were 20 minutes apart when I hopped in the shower early in the morning, and when I got out a few minutes later they were two minutes apart. We were renting a house from a friend who lived in the connected apartment, so he came over to hang out with Sam while my parents drove over, and we rushed to the hospital. Because of insurance stupidity, we had to cross town and miss several closer facilities. Meanwhile, Katie notes that Allison was trying to join our family in the car.

The delivery was particularly stupid because we pulled up at the hospital and I ran to grab a wheelchair. The idiotic people in the hospital acted like they had all the time in the world, and we were typical panicky parents. They made Katie get changed into a gown, not bothering to check and realize that she was fully dilated. It was far too late for an epidural, and in the end Allison was born 15 minutes after we got there. The doctor happened to be there for another delivery, and basically walked into the room to catch her.

Allison was our littlest baby, at just over 6 pounds, and from the beginning she had her distinctive red hair. We had discussed names but never finalized one before delivery. So we were in the hospital trying to figure it out. We liked the name Martha, and Amelia, and my friend Todd had suggested Allison at one point. In the end I think Katie basically told me to pick. So I chose Allison. And I had liked the name Evangeline, but just gave her Eva for her middle name.

Allison was a good baby, pretty quiet, and was a much better sleeper than Sam had been. She was also a lot chubbier than Sam, and it's funny go to back through photos and see the contrast.

One of the most interesting things about Allison is that she can literally wear anything and look good. She even put underwear on her head the other day and somehow managed to make it work. She gets compliments on her hair wherever she goes. I honestly hope she's not too gorgeous as she grows up, or life could be as challenging as if she struggled to fit in appearance-wise.

But more important than her looks is her personality. Allison has a sweetness and shyness about her that is very endearing, and wins her a lot of friends, but she can also go from 0 to crabby whining like a switch was flipped in her brain. It's quite a process to watch. Like Sam she seems to just absorb knowledge and is turning into a very skilled reader. She also has a visual talent that must come from Katie's side of the family. She likes drawing and creating notes and other messages for people, and she has almost a photographic memory. When something is misplaced in the house I often ask Allison, and she can remember where she has seen it.

Clara often beats up on Allison, oddly, and she never fights back. She usually sits there and takes it rather than removing herself from the situation. Which is weird, but better than hitting her little sister, I suppose. This summer she gained a streak of independence, determinedly learning to ride her bike without training wheels and taking off around the neighborhood for hours at a time with her friends. This bothers Katie, but it was how I played as a kid.

She's a great kid, and it's wonderful to have Allison as part of our family. Oh, and Red Delicious is the nickname she likes best. I know it's the worst fruit, but let her have it.

Cyclone Warning

And then there were three. As we prepared for our third child, we learned something interesting from the other women we knew who had had three. The third pregnancy was apparently much more difficult than previous experiences. And so it was with Katie. She deal with some painful (but not dangerous) medical issues and just had a very uncomfortable pregnancy (relatively speaking, I mean, since they are all beyond anything I could comprehend—CYS accomplished). But then it was time.

The children in Katie's family all have K-sounding names, and I've always liked names like Clara, Kara, Kira, and whatnot. And at the time the current Doctor Who companion was a Clara, so I liked it even more. So we had her name picked out in advance, as opposed to Allison, who will be up next.

Clara and Clara

Clara was born around 11:00 at night, if I recall correctly. Our friends around the corner helped watch Sam and Allison while my parents drove down from Salt Lake (we were living in Lehi). I came home a few hours later to crash. A couple days later we brought her home in the minivan we had gotten a couple months earlier. That was a change, but I've never cared about what I drove as long as it got the job done.

Having three kids meant more competition, so I don't know if that has had an influence on Clara's developing personality. Our first two didn't do things like color on the walls and run around naked, but she was more wild from the get-go. One day I called her Cyclone, and it stuck.

Clara is the child who chases the cats and hits her older sister (and James). But she has a sweet side as well, wanting to play with Allison all the time, and she has started using her imagination to play quietly on (rare) occasions. She basically survives on milk, chocolate or plain, and I'm glad we got her started on that young. Katie doesn't like milk, so we didn't have Sam or Allison start drinking it early enough to like it.

Clara is tall for her age (now about 3 1/2), and has the same blonde hair and lanky body that Sam and I do. She seems reckless, but I recently realized that she is reckless in a way that doesn't endanger herself. She doesn't climb bookcases or play with knives, she just colors on things, hits the cats, and spills water on the floor. She's the child that you might love even more because of her naughty side. But to be fair, with the older kids starting school, Katie says she has gotten very sweet and helpful when it's just them and James. So I'm sure once she's a little older I won't worry any more about her.


Meet James Hiller

Meet James.

I thought it might be interesting to do a post about each of my kids as a sort of snapshot that could be fun to look back at later. So I'm going in reverse order for some reason.

James was the kid we were expecting seven years earlier, when in fact Allison showed up. Katie had his name all picked out and everything. We always planned on this being our last child, and I thought sooner would be better before we got even older, so there's only 2 years between Clara and him (4-year gaps between the other kids).

James joined the family one hot summer evening at almost midnight. I decided to give him the middle name of Gideon, after my favorite person in the Book of Mormon. We had just moved to Idaho 4 months earlier, so we didn't have a lot of family around. But we usually keep to ourselves after having a baby anyway. I can take time off of work and do the cooking and more or less take care of things for a while as Katie recovers.

James has mostly followed the pattern established by our other kids. He started crawling quite late (around 10 months, I think) and had no teeth until he turned one. But he started walking a little sooner than the other kids, and started talking around his birthday. With 3 older siblings he seems impatient to do what they do. He's 14 months old now and says words including "cat," "mom, "dad," "water," "up there," and probably a few more I'm forgetting at the moment.

Where James stands out for us is his cheerful nature. None of our other kids was super colicky or anything, but he was probably the best baby in overall demeanor. Katie used to call him Guy Smiley. He's running around with the other kids playing chasing games, making animal noises, and generally being pretty adorable.

This is still my favorite photo of him.

I like this one too.

His personality is still coming along, but I think he's going to be a handful like Clara, who will be the next to get her own post. I'm glad you came to our family, buddy.

Odds and Ends

Taking a page from the Book of Jen, I've also got a lot of unfinished blog posts. Maybe none of them is individually enough for a whole post, but together they make something. Or nothing. Whatever. Here we go.



I don't have time for a lot of hobbies. I figure that once you have kids you place most of your focus on them, and just try to have maybe one thing for yourself. Most of the time I consider running as my single hobby. But there are a couple other things I enjoy that could be considered a hobby. And I just realized that I don't always have someone close to me who shares in my interests. But let's see what I discover as I write this.

Running: I started this hobby because of a friend who wanted to do a triathlon. In the end I just wanted to run. I didn't care about the cycling or swimming. I haven't kept in touch with him much the last few years, and he hadn't been running too much because of some injuries. I do have one other friend who runs that I can talk to about it.

Jazz basketball: I grew up watching the Jazz, and got especially into basketball during their Finals years, then lost interest for about a decade.

Sci-fi/fantasy reading

I'm really not sure where I was going with this, except maybe wanting to have "not having anything in common with people" in common with someone.



I feel like I've posted on this before, but I don't want to go search.

I think I tend to like the underdog in a lot of ways.

The Addams Family instead of The Munsters
Pepsi instead of Coke
Aerosmith instead of The Rolling Stones

Also, I was thinking of the ways we are all unique when you look at the statistical improbability of your exact self existing. You just multiply the frequency of some factors in your life. Here are mine.

Born in 1980. Out of 108 billion total humans estimated to have ever lived, the odds of being born that year were 0.07%. The odds of being born in the US further reduce that to .0028%.

Other odds
Being left-handed: 10%
Green eyes: 2%
A- blood type: 7%
LDS family: 0.9%

So if we just count those few factors, there are 0.7 people out of the 108 billion who have ever been born who meet those criteria. Round that up to 1, and that's me I guess.

I've always liked this idea. When you take everything that sums us up, even mathematically, we are pretty unique.


Fashion designers are the cause of everything that is wrong with the world.

Okay, hear me out.

Women's clothing doesn't have pockets, because for sexist reasons we feel they have to meet some kind of aesthetic standard.

Because women's clothing doesn't have pockets, there is no convenient way for them to

Carry things, I guess. Something about female powerlessness in society. I still hate what women's clothing does to them, and how it plays into the sexism still so rampant in the world.


I've often said that Halloween is my favorite holiday, because it's just about having fun. There's no reason to feel guilty about not keeping the true spirit (Ha!) of Halloween.

But now I officially have a least favorite holiday: July 4th.

In a way it's the ultimate American holiday. Not because it's literally THE American holiday, but because it embodies so much of the stereotypical character of Americans. We aren't known for subtlety or consideration of others. I'm okay with fireworks shows, and setting off my own fireworks for the kids, but what frustrates me is the way people set them off until 2 in the morning with no regard for anyone else.

Ha! Just look at the date there and you'll see the genesis of this post.


Almost every morning when I drive to work I see this older gentleman out running. He's tall but a little hunched over with age, with a little weight on him, but his large frame carries it well. He always has a look of intense concentration on his face. I

I haven't seen that guy for a while. But I get to work a little later now that I have to get the kids off to school. I imagine he's still getting out there. I was going to talk about how I love seeing people out exercising when they are heavy, or older, or otherwise afflicted in a way such that their effort means more than it does for the young and fit. It's inspirational.


Another number-themed title. As another birthday has passed, I suppose I should reflect on the year that has been. Moving from 36 to 37 isn't much of a psychological impact, so I don't really have much to say about that. It was also on a Sunday, which if you are LDS means you'll go to church and probably steer clear of most recreational activities. And as my birthday is early in the month, that means it was what we call fast Sunday, which usually means you skip breakfast and lunch while focusing on a spiritual purpose such as a need for yourself or a loved one, and make a donation to the poor with the money you saved on those meals.

This year we were trying to be financially responsible, so I got myself a little something with money from my parents, but otherwise we didn't do gifts. Katie baked me a cake using a secret family recipe

Ginger crumb cake is the best.

Rules of the Road

It's been a long time since I've posted anything about running, so I figure I can indulge myself a bit. It's been a difficult summer, with one illness or injury after another, and I feel like I'm barely maintaining basic conditioning, let alone improving. This year marks a decade since I started, though, and I've learned a few things over that time that might have been nice to know earlier. Here are a few random tidbits I've figured out over the last ten years that may be of interest to anyone just getting started.

  • The single most crucial aspect of running is consistency. If you don't set a schedule you won't be consistent. If you're not consistent, you will never progress.
  • You can do more than you think you can. It's all about incremental improvement. When I first started, a 10k seemed intimidating, never mind a half marathon or more. Now half marathons are routine, and I just need to conquer the idea of marathons being routine. I've run a couple but haven't made that stride yet.
  • Injuries will happen. You have to persist. It took me 4 years to conquer shin splints, but I did it. I ended up going to a physical therapist earlier this year, who was able to identify some things I could improve on.
  • If a dog comes after you, the best thing to do is stop and talk to it soothingly. They almost all turn into friendly puppies. The other day after running out and barking at me a dog ran along with me for about half a mile.
  • If you have been running consistently and don't like it, maybe you should try cycling or another form of exercise. As much as I advocate it, it's probably not for everyone. It should make you happy to get out, rather than being a source of stress.
  • Don't let weather stop you. You can run in rain, snow, wind, and sun. You can run when it's below zero or over 100 degrees (maybe not 100 degrees Celsius, though). If you allow yourself to get uncomfortable sometimes, you can deal with other inconveniences in life better. 
  • Related to the weather thing, a tip for running in the winter. You should be cold when you start, so you probably need less warm clothing than you think. You don't want to overheat and have to shed clothes later. It takes me maybe 10 minutes to warm up, and then I'm perfectly comfortable in short sleeves and shorts down to about 20 degrees. Below that, or with serious wind, I will wear running gloves or at least long sleeves. Only when it's down to about zero do I want an extra layer.
  • You can also run when you're sick, most of the time. I don't usually run if I have a fever, but if I just have a cold or whatever, I still get out. I might reduce my mileage a bit if it's bad.
  • I used to hate hills, because they mess up my time, but I've had to get used to them since moving to Idaho. They are your friend, and make you faster as you learn to deal with them. I've now been able to do as much as 1200 feet of climb over the course of 13 to 15 miles, something I couldn't have imagined before. And for all that uphill you do, you get to enjoy sweet downhill as well on the way home.
  • Explore your area. Don't always run the same route. You can get to know neighborhoods that you might not see otherwise.

I'll probably think of more later.


So I happened to move to a place in the totality of the 2017 eclipse. It was certainly not a factor in the decision to move, but when I learned about it I was excited. I don't know nearly as much about astronomy as I would like, but I still enjoy it. I imagined myself driving slightly farther north to Rexburg, where it would be the best possible viewing.

Then I started hearing about how crazy other people were about this event. Phrases like "once in a century" were thrown around, and hotel rooms were supposedly going for $1,000 per night or more. Rumors started circulating that the city was expecting 500,000 people and hospitals were preparing for an influx of more patients. The city was even bringing in 5 life flight helicopters from Utah. Expectations were that driving up to Idaho the weekend before the eclipse would be awful.

Then I learned that I would be traveling to Las Vegas the week before, and would get home the night before the eclipse. Moreover, I would actually be flying into Pocatello and would have to somehow get home in crazy traffic Sunday night.

I kept an eye on the traffic while I was in Vegas, but it never seemed to get bad. And when we flew in on Sunday night, the freeway back to Idaho Falls was perfectly passable, if reasonably busy. So the doom predictions were a little off.

I live a few miles outside of town, and we were advised to work from home on eclipse day, so I don't really know what it was like in the downtown area on Monday. After the eclipse I know the freeway was backed up for the rest of the day, as those who arrived over the course of several days all left at the same time. But it was another Y2k situation in which the predicted apocalypse failed to materialize.

As for my experience with the eclipse itself, well, I expected it would be cool but not life altering. There was a lot I didn't understand. I knew that in Salt Lake they were supposed to have 92% coverage or something, so I didn't really understand how that compared to 100% coverage is like the difference between 0 and infinity. I also didn't really understand that it was a 2-hour event of the moon slowly covering and uncovering the sun; I was only thinking of the 2 minutes of totality. I heard things about the temperature cooling and animals going weird, but didn't see how 2 minutes would cause that.

Once it started we went outside every few minutes with eclipse glasses to monitor the progress of the moon covering the sun. I slowly started to notice a difference in the lighting outside, as it took on a dusky appearance. Several families gathered in a neighbor's yard with lawn chairs and children running around. As totality approached the air got surprisingly cool and breezy. Shadows began to appear sharply defined, and then to take on weird crescent shapes, particularly leaves.

There was a radio on, counting down the seconds to totality. And then it hit.

I can honestly say I have never seen any natural phenomenon that can compare to this. I'm not a world traveler by any means, but I've seen some awesome things in southern Utah, Hawaii, and even Korea. This was on such a large scale that it blew away anything I had seen.

I hadn't planned on taking photos, not having a "real" camera, but I couldn't help but see what my phone would capture. It failed to really represent anything, but here is the best shot I got.

Katie and I were trying to enjoy it while dealing with Clara being a little bit scared, and James also wanting to be held, so I wouldn't say I was able to enjoy it quite as much as I would otherwise, but it was an astonishing experience. I thought it was ridiculous of people to travel around "chasing" eclipses, but now I get it. They say when people travel to space and see the entirety of the Earth in front of them, it changes them and creates a bond between them and the rest of humanity that defies political, racial, and religious barriers. I feel like this experience gave me just a taste of that sensation. It really was incredible.


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.


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.