Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tough Girl

Kate has been taking Tae Kwon Do for some time now.  Yesterday was a big test, to see if she could become a "black belt deputy 2."  The tests involve sparring with others, and of course, breaking perfectly good boards in half with a bare hand or foot (or in this case, two boards, one with each).  A student has to show in practice that they can do all that is required, including breaking boards, before they can undertake the actual test, performed in front of the parents of everyone in her academy class and others.

The day before the test, Kate worked so hard, and hit a board so many times, that she got the cut and bruise you can see on her middle finger knuckle above.  Yet the very next day, she came for testing, and blew through the board with that same bare, un-bandaged knuckle, bruising her forefinger knuckle in the process. She passed with flying colors.  While I have no idea what a "black belt deputy 2" is, it must mean in part "ONE TOUGH GIRL."   One thing I do know, however, is that Kate totally rocks.    I am also starting to realize that since many of my bones are thinner than the board she broke, I may need to tread more lightly in the "parental suggestions for improvement" category.

Like I needed that--parenting is hard enough as it is. Luckily for me, she is just a great girl, so I remain naively hopeful we can get through her impending teenage years with my bones intact. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

For Aldy on His Birthday

November 10, 2011

Dear Aldy,

You are seven years old! I can’t believe that, but what I do believe is that you are the greatest ever.  I am beyond amazed that I have a child who is only seven years old, and yet I don’t feel the need to worry about you at all – you will do just fine in life, come what may. That sounds crazy given how tough the world can be, but I know it is true.  There is just something about you little buddy.  No matter what happens, you will be able to work your way through it, and not just survive, but thrive.

The reasons would make a list a mile long, but let me write a few:
  • You are a really good person.  You are always trying to do what is right, to understand other people, and to be fair and kind and helpful.  You are just a great kid that way.  Those qualities will be really important when you grow up, too.
  • You are a great friend.  I can hear it in your voice whenever you talk about your friends and cousins – you love them, and they mean a lot to you. You are always excited to see them, and your affection is so genuine.  I hope you never take for granted the joy and love that comes with being a good friend.  It is one of the most important things you can ever be.
  • You are true to yourself, and have incredible integrity.  If something is not right or doesn’t feel good to you, you just won't do it, period, no matter how much pressure there is to cave in. It may not seem like it some times, but I love this about you.  Always listen to your heart and the Holy Spirit, Aldy, and do what they tell you, no matter what.  If you do, everything will work for your good in the end.  I know you will resist any pressure to do wrong, sell out, give in, or go with the mediocre flow, and it makes me so happy.  It is an important key to a wonderful life. 
  • You have an amazing ability to focus.  I have never seen anyone with your ability to concentrate and see a project through to the end.  Thousands of Lego pieces, with three-volume instructions? No problem, even if it takes two days straight, with virtually no breaks, to build it. 'Nuf said.  
  • You are really smart.  Speaking, reading, writing, even learning math in Chinese as a first grader. Reading verses from Isaiah without assistance during family scripture study.  Complete computer-savviness even before you could read.  Beating your father at Angry Birds every time.  Calculating Pi out to the 20th decimal point – ok, so maybe beating dad at Angry Birds isn't so impressive, and maybe I made that last one up, but really, need I say more? You just rock.
  • You are persistent, and won’t take no for an answer.  While this can be excruciating for your parents, with some fine-tuning it will be a great skill for you one day.  You already get so much more out of us than you should just because it wears us down to have to say no.  We are very hopeful that our pain becomes your gain – in persuading others about your ideas or inventions, whatever they may be.
  • Simple things make you happy. The other day, you told me “Dad, I love the seasons.” And so it is with you. Short, declarative statements about simple things that make you happy.  The first snowfall. A rainstorm with water coursing down the gutter.  A beautiful day. A funny joke. Unwrapping presents. Riding your bike. Sand and waves on a beach.  The perfect way two things fit together.  Little, simple things make you happy buddy. And that is such a great way to be. Never lose that quality, and you will be in for a long and very contented life.
  • You are by nature polite.  From the very earliest days, you were always saying “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” It may seem like a small thing, but civility and respect are qualities you have always had. The world is in short supply of both, and whenever something is that rare, it is bound to be valuable. Always be that way, Aldy, even if no one else around you is, and it will pay off before all is said and done.
  • You have no guile in you. To this day, you refuse to lie, even when there are consequences to telling the truth. Wow.  I have so much respect for you I can’t even begin to describe how impressed I am by your honesty.  I will always believe you buddy, because you have never given me a reason to do otherwise, and so far, it hasn’t even crossed your mind to do that. You are wonderful. 
  • You say really great prayers. I love family prayer, and waiting to hear what you will say. You  give it so much thought, take whatever time is necessary, and say what is in your heart. Prayers do more good than we will ever know, and yours are special. Keep up the good work!

  • Last But Not Least, You Are A Great Brother.  You are so patient with Keegan. You let him pal around with you talking non-stop like he does, pestering you with questions, insisting on doing things his way, and yet you rarely lose patience with him. And you love Kate so much, and are so good with her.  Family is the most important thing on this planet, Aldy, and you already know how to do it so well. Thank you. 

I love you so deeply, little buddy. I am the luckiest dad in the whole world.  Happy, Happy Birthday!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Back to England -- In My Mind

Well, with a couple of exceptions, I left off blogging in the middle of England (geographically as well as mid-trip) -- in Sheffield to be exact.  I need to finish recording that trip here before I forget everything, and really, the north of England is beautiful, absolutely worth a visit for anyone considering a European destination, so I thought I would share those memories with anyone who still cares to stop by this poor neglected URL.


After traipsing around my Dad's old haunts in downtown Sheffield, we headed to the very nearby town of Dore, to visit English family of my aunt Dot (formally Dorothy, but she could never go by that in a million years). Here they are:

Mary, in the center with my mom, is Dot's sister in law, and a very spry 86. To her left is her daughter Jane, with Jane's husband Duncan just behind.  Kate (not pictured because she had to leave before lunch), is Jane and Duncan's daughter, had just become a Solicitor -- an english lawyer that does anything and everything but appear in court.

After a lovely visit in Mary's home, we wandered off with her, Duncan and Jane to the center of Dore, which is quite the quaint little town.

There we dined at a true English pub, the Hare and Hound (really, can there be anything more quintessential than that?), where we had Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding. It was was fabulous, as was the hearty laughter that only the self-deprecating British can truly achieve.

Memories of my Grandma Winnie flooded through me as we ate.  She had cooked dinner for us almost every Sunday of my youth, and more often than not it involved a very good helping of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, smothered in gravy, with a vegetable side, usually carrots or peas. Crowded around the small round table in her modest kitchen, we ate every last scrap of the pudding and every last drop of gravy, only peripherally aware of its roots in this distant land.  It remains one of my favorite dishes to this day (along with her Chicken Pot Pie), and I will never turn it down when given the opportunity.

We spent only a few hours with Mary, Duncan and Jane, but there is something about family in another country, no matter how distant the connection--even a short time together seals a bond that you hardly new existed before meeting.  The fibers of your DNA just seem to know that these people are a part of you, and that really means something, even if you have never seen them before, and may never see them again.  It was a very sad goodbye after we finished.  Dad is so fond of Mary and her family, and the likelihood that he would not see them again, paired with the love and connection he felt for them, hung heavy in the air.  Yet what a wonderful thing it is to love other people, and share a Sunday brunch with them, as if thousands of miles and decades of time don't matter much at all.

A last note for the record -- turns out in addition to being quaint, Dore is historically significant as well.  Here in 829 the "must have been tough as nails with that name" King Eggbert defeated King Eanred of Northumbria, becoming the first Overlord of all England.  Here is the sign to prove it:

With that, it is off to York.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mirror Lake with the Bells

Last weekend we escaped the heat to join our neighbors, the Bells, for a day at their campsite on Mirror Lake.  The Uinta mountains are only an hour and a half drive away, and every visit leaves me thinking, "What am I thinking?!! I should be here every weekend!" Now if I could just get the yard to cooperate with that notion, life would be grand.

On the way up, we stopped at the Provo River falls on the Upper Provo River. The kids love scrambling around here, and Aldy wanted a picture. So good to see him like this, given that two weeks ago he was in a hospital bed.

The Bells have one of the sweetest hammocks ever. Doubles as a group swing. Very popular attraction.

Here is the crew down at the lake, enjoying the mild temperatures, and watching the entertainment.  That consisted of Jacob, doing his best survival guru impression, and showing how a log could be used as a handy personal flotation device.  Kid will be an adventurer some day, no doubt about it.

Sarah was a very persistent little fisherman . . . er, fishergirl?  Here she is telling Keegan, "I'll catch a fish for you, Keegan."  She could be a keeper, bringing home the fish and frying it up in a pan.

Keegan, bless his tender little heart, would probably make her let the fish go.  He loves creatures of all kinds, and if they are not too delicate, always manages to let them go after a proper period of confinement.

This girl, whoever she is (waaaay to old to be Kate, right? I mean, she looks so much older than the Kate I know, certain similarities -- smart as a whip, reading fiend, beautiful-- notwithstanding), wants a dog real bad. Swears she will clean up the poo and brave blizzards to walk him.  The only problem is that her mother is allergic, and, tragedy of all tragedies, we have recently learned that hypo allergenic dogs, so diligently researched by a certain pre-teen, are now clearly a myth.  Great. What is a fella to do?  Guess we'll have to make do with occasional visits.

How is that for a trail of flowers?  Little white fellas were everywhere.

The Bells do love their fishing!  Sarah was still hard at it when we left, with Tyler trying to help is sister understand the fine art of casting.  All in all, a great day. Thanks guys!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Almost Heaven, W . . .

yoming. Wind Rivers, Wyoming, to be exact.  (Sorry West Virginia, but you didn't stand a chance.)

We packed the kids into the lean, mean camping machine for a four-day camping trip over the July 4th weekend, and had this place almost to ourselves.

It was a killer campsite, just off the lake, with jagged peaks all around and a sweet tent site.

We have seen many a beautiful place in our travels, but this is about as good as a mountain range and a mountain lake can get.

The boys had a great time at the lake's only beach.

Kate was the brave one -- that snow does not travel very far before dumping into the lake, and boy did you know it from the first toe dip. She was undeterred -- at least until it came to the armpits. For some reason, that was a barrier even she couldn't break.

Will it float?  Happily, they couldn't get it dislodged, so we didn't have to find out the hard way.

King of the Stump. I have never seen someone so comfortable in bare feet on forest floor and rocky dirt as Keegan. You would think those feet were pure rawhide instead of the baby soft load of tickle that they really are.

The Highline Trail through the Winds, a roadless wonderland of wilderness, begins its 100 plus mile trek right here, along the Green River Lakes.

We didn't quite make the 100 mile . . . . er, two mile mark, before certain little legs gave out.  Luckily, there are some pretty fine resting spots along the way.

Keegan, however, wanted everyone to know that he went "extra" distance, and was "a champion hiker." So now you know. He is a real trooper, and such a joy to hike with, where every flower is a wonder, every stream a playground, every animal a friend and every insect or bug something to be "saved." I would like to give salvation like that (aka slow and torturous--though well intentioned--mauling) to a few million mosquitos we got to know altogether to well. That was the only downside to this otherwise Yosemite-esque local, though.

From this spot, the Green flows fully formed as the river that will create Flaming Gorge, Dinosaur, and Canyonlands, hundreds of miles away. The amount of rock it has carried away and buried in the sea is just staggering.

And yet as it meanders along the vast glacial valley of its ancestors, this river is a fisherman's ( and a photographer's) paradise.  Moose, beaver, bears and other creatures great and small live along its banks. Fish big enough to treat my kids legs like oversize worms surely lurk in the velocity of its current.

We were treated to three nights of spectacular sunsets, gourmet dinners, warm fires, more S'mores than anyone has a right to eat, and

amazing alpenglow in the wee hours of twighlight, by a lake so still that the only sound comes from big fish slurping up (possibly bigger) bugs before the dark of night. And then we were greeted by . . . .

this sunrise over our campsite. A thunderstorm threatened, so we quickly packed during the early morning hours and quietly took our leave, but without truly leaving.  The Green River Lakes will be with us for some time to come, I think. With any luck, we will find our way back here, either to backpack before our old legs give out, or to canoe a still lake in the peaceful evening, even if they do.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

One More For The Road

Fittingly, given my post last night, this Fathers Day ended with a spectacular sunset.  Kate and I ran out of the house and drove up the road five minutes, then spent 20 minutes or so talking as we watched God paint living sky and dying sea with the roses, yellows and oranges only He can make. I told Kate one of my deepest beliefs is that God made sunsets to tell us He is always there and that He always loves us.  It was as good an ending to a Fathers Day as I can imagine.  So here is one more sunset photo, for the road.

Melts Me

Keegan made my whole day today.  I was buckling him into the car, and he said, "Dad, you know what I love about you? "

"What?" I asked.


He is the best. His favorite thing to do is snuggle in the wee hours of night or day.  He can’t sleep alone to save his life, he just really needs someone (usually Alden or his mom) to cuddle with.  One night a couple of weeks ago, none of those options were available, but I was in bed, and I asked him if I would do. “Oh, I guess so” was the less than enthusiastic response.  But then he got in and snuggled up, and after a few minutes, he quietly said, “Dad, did you know that butterfly kisses are really special?”  Immediately followed by, “I am going to give you two butterfly kisses!” Which he did.  

So what's not to love about being the dad of Keegan?  Not a thing. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011


We spent this evening getting reacquainted with a dear old friend, and had a wonderful time. Recently I read a story about a hospice nurse of twenty years who had compiled a list of the most commonly expressed life regrets. Not making more time to spend with family and friends was one of them, and I feel that in my bones most days. Another was not keeping a diary or journal.  I don't know why blogging has been so hard for me of late, but clearly I need to take time to do what is important or I'll have regrets when I leave this world.

Tonight, however, there were none, as we slowed down and enjoyed good conversation and being around our wonderful house with the sound of kids playing in the background.  We sat in our back yard as the sun painted pink and orange light on the Bountiful Temple, which on a very good (OK truly remarkable) day, can look like this:

Later we walked out to our front yard just in time to see the sun set over the Great Salt Lake.  I will never get tired of that sight.  Here are a few examples why, and why I really should slow down and enjoy this special place every night:

I could go on, but I am sure you get the picture (sorry, couldn't resist).  Honestly, where else can you see something like that just by stepping out your door, or driving just a few minutes up the road?  How blessed are we.

I did have the chance to drive out near the lake one evening a couple of weeks ago. Stilts and Avocets have taken over the world out there, blissfully ignoring fences and failed farm tools, their innate memories knowing that they were here long before we came and that they will still be coming here long after we leave. Here are a few photos.

This last Avocet was very concernedly trying to gather her chicks under her wings as I drove by, but this one little fella just would not come to save his life.  Must have been from Jerusalem.

No need to drive to enjoy the beauty of birds though.  Lazuli Buntings, Rufus Finches, Jays, Western Tanagers and Grossbeaks frequent our deck, thanks to bags of seed from Costco, bless their corporate heart.

Here are a few photos taken from inside the house:

In the words of the great Sachmo -- What a Wonderful World.  Here's to no regrets.