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.

Right?

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.

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04/14/17

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.

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05/11/17

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.
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06/27/17

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.
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07/05/17

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.
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07/24/17

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.
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08/08/17

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.
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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.

Totality

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.