Saturday, March 17, 2018

Spring Break: Day 3-5

Day 3 and 4 of our project, Joy and I managed to fill in the cement cracks for 2/3 of the driveway - all I had prepared on Day 2. We were very pleased and surprised at how quickly we were able to fill the cracks. Joy poured the cement and I used the trowel to smooth it out. I think next time we have a free weekend we'll be able to fill in the rest of it and be done!

Joy got to spend her afternoon Thursday with Nicholeen Peck at the conference and she really loved the time. She even got to help her mentor at her booth and answer people's questions! She hopes she'll be able to help again next year. The kids and I had a nice time together, working, shopping, and preparing to leave.

Friday was a very busy day. We dropped Joy off at her conference and I took the kids to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (aka the US Mint). We got to find out about how they make the currency. They've done a really nice job of it - informative, entertaining for my 6 and 10 year-olds. Sadly, however, they discourage bringing anything and everything into the building. Especially cellphones. So no pictures. The metal detector and guards are all at a second building a ways away from the main building (pictured), but they have two trams to carry you back and forth.

There's a nice little "people in your neighborhood" movie where the people who do the work talk about their jobs and how much they LOVE working at the BEP. The kids enjoyed some hands-on exhibits where you can zoom in on the money to detect flaws or see how the ink has shiny metallic bits in it. They had actual people to talk to who were very good with the kids and a self-paced audio tour where you saw the money actually being made. Real nice. The kids were impressed.

After lunch we went to the Kimbell Art Museum. Since Superstar completed his Cub Scout Bear that week, he is officially now a Webelos Scout and just HAPPENS to need to go to an art gallery! So he was very happy I was dragging him there.

This was my favorite painting - some Dutch 1600s landscape. I tend to rather like Dutch and Flemish painting from that era.

There were several places for kids of varying ages to make their own art. Princess and Superstar made fish collages. JT made a birthday wish and stamped it with a Chinese fan picture to hang on a tree.

We learned that Princess is particularly interested in sculptures. She and Superstar's favorite was a golden statue of the crowned Virgin Mary with baby Jesus. We talked for a while about comparing and contrasting two pictures of "some guy" - one in a slightly impressionistic style, one in cubist style. Princess posed with an Aztec god of spring and rejuvenation (below).

On our way out, I suddenly realized we had passed a Monet, so we went back to see the Monet Weeping Willow. The children were not impressed.

Mo' Monet, Mo' Problems

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Random Silliness: Home-Style Potato Salad

The kids were being silly - their usual silly selves. They were singing about the "Home-Style Potato Salad" container on the table. Over and over again.

Finally Daddy said to Superstar: YOU'RE Home-style potato salad!
Superstar: Well, I *am* home, but I'm not potato salad.
Daddy: Oh? I see someone hasn't been doing his family history!

At that Superstar fell down off the table onto the floor laughing and laughing at the idea of potato salad in our family tree.

As he recounted the tale to Joy a few minutes later, I added that the potato salad was in her side of the family - six generations back, Great Grandpa had married some potato salad. Down he went again!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Spring Break Plans: Day 2

Over the last few months, Joy and I have been writing a vision of what we want our family to look like 20 years from now and deciding on things we need to focus on today so we can get there. Well, a week long spring break seems a great time to practice, right?

1. We want our family to learn together, so we voted on what we wanted to spend time learning together. It was a close vote that required several elimination rounds to get down to just woodworking and playing a National Geographic Wii game to learn about other countries. After breakfast and reading scriptures, we have played their quiz game, so far studying North America and Africa. A success! (so far)

2. We want our family to work together, so Joy and I decided it was time to repair the cracks in our driveway, pick up all the scattered sticks in our lawn, mow the lawn, and possibly get some other outdoor projects done, like weeding the rose bed. I confess, I jokingly thought to myself "Okay, but what will we get done on Tuesday after we finish with that?" On Day 1, Joy and I cleaned out a few cracks with a hose and a pair of rose bush clippers, then poured in the wrong stuff. So on Day 2 we borrowed a high pressure water pump so I could undo the work we did on Day 1 and clean out more of the cracks. Hopefully we can actually fill in some of those cracks tomorrow. WHAT A LONG PROJECT! Two days in and we've got 2/3 of it prepared....
I decided to wash a little note in our driveway

3. We want our family to reach out to others, so we planned a very social week. We had a new family in town over for dinner last night and the missionaries over for dinner tonight. I tried brining a turkey with great success. Tomorrow we're going to drive around town trying to find a few people we haven't seen at church in a while to offer a friendly word. Thur and Fri Joy will drive to Dallas for a homeschooling conference so she can hear from her mentor, Nicholeen Peck. Then Fri-Sun we'll spend with our good friends. A success! (so far)

4. We want our family to have lots of fun, so we planned to have at least two "family fun" turns. Yesterday we got in 1.5 and today 2 more, so we're close.

I ask Superstar if he is enjoying his spring break. He jumps up and says "YES!"
I ask Princess, and she says, "Oh, yeah!"
I ask JT if he is, and he says, "Yeah."
One of my favorite moments so far has been getting 11 hours of sleep last night.
Joy is glad I'm taking the week off to spend time with us.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Princess Remembers: The Golden Spike

Enjoying our ice cream Daddy-Daughter Date, Princess reminisced about our trip to Utah last year. She talked about visiting the Golden Spike National Monument. Her favorite part was seeing a real train and walking on the train tracks. She said the golden spike must be bigger than the chocolate syrup bottle, or maybe even bigger than a door!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Back on my feet

Shortly after helping out in Houston last year, I noticed some pain in my left foot. It was just uncomfortable in the morning, but by the time I was finishing my afternoon class it really hurt quite a bit and I didn't want to put any weight on it at all. It was definitely getting worse, so late October/early November I finally betook myself to a podiatrist.

Diagnosis: Tendonitis. I had strained the tendon that goes down your leg and wraps around your ankle on its way to the middle of the foot. It's one of the tendons that lets you point your foot. Near as we can figure, I must have strained it one of those days hauling debris on the uneven, mushy mud.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

How we make decisions: The Alamo

Yesterday's trip to the Alamo was fun, enjoyable, peaceful, and a perfect example of how Joy and I make biggish decisions.

Last August I told Joy that I really wanted us to go see the Alamo. With the Dallas temple closing in October, I wanted to plan a couple days for us to drive down to San Antonio, see the Alamo, do some temple work at the San Antonio temple, and maybe see a few other things. We planned and we discussed for MONTHS and just couldn't make it work. It didn't fit and we were too busy and it was a mess. So we didn't go.

Fast forward to February. Last week I had planned to go to the Dallas temple on Tuesday, but I was behind on 4-5 different projects at school and wasn't feeling well and I just couldn't see my way clear. So we planned that Joy would drive me up Saturday with the kids. Then we had a rather large snow storm that canceled classes. I got to spend 3 days lying flat in bed getting caught up on those projects.

When Friday night came, we talked for a while, prayed about it, and confirmed the plan that we would all drive up to Dallas the next day despite the prediction of more rain and flooding.

Saturday morning at 5am while we're up and getting ready to go, Joy says, "The thing I keep feeling from the Spirit after our prayer is that we ought to bring a day bag just in case we get stuck in Dallas overnight." While we prepared a bag of clothes and pull out our 72 hour kit to take with us, she wondered out of the blue what the weather was like in San Antonio.

Slight rain and otherwise sunny. ... 90 minutes later, we had the kids awake and in the car and were on our way to San Antonio.

So that's how we get things done. We talk, we counsel, we plan and nothing happens until suddenly we just make a decision and git'er done. It's how we went to South Africa and Italy; it's how we bought our house and car; and now we're talking about how we're going to rearrange all the furniture in the house once my leg is better.....

The kids had a great time and kept talking about how they felt the Spirit at the temple and what they liked about the Alamo. Good times.

JT visits the Alamos

JT crosses the line
I had this odd, fun conversation with John-Thomas while we were at the Alamo yesterday. We were wandering through the chapel, looking at the engraved names of the men who died there when JT said:

"When are we going to see Elmo?" [here is emo Elmo at the Alamo]

I explained the difference between the letters E and A and that we were at the Alamo. I explained it 2-3 times because he was quite insistent that we were going to see the Alamo, and he wanted to meet Mr. Alamo.

Mr. Alamo?
The Alamos at home

It was Joy who finally decoded the mystery. Typically when we take a long drive, it is to see a family: the Petersons, the Watsons, the Lazenbys ... the Alamo. Makes sense. Where is Alamo and when can we see him?

I was then able to help him figure out that the Alamo is like the Temple - we don't go to the temple to see Mr. Temple, right? Right. Okay. Then he was cool with it, if a bit disappointed. The people we go to see are a lot more fun than the buildings we go to see.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Gift of tongues

Slightly more than a week ago I saw another friend posting about the Duolingo language learning app. I decided to check it out and was quickly hooked. I then spread the contagion to Joy and to Superstar.

I'm brushing up on my mission German, filling in the many holes in my Spanish, and starting Mandarin with Joy. Joy is brushing up on her mission Spanish, starting Mandarin with me, and has started poking around Dutch as well. Superstar is mostly working on Spanish, but he's also played with Italian and German a little.

Each of us has been diligent for an entire week so far. I can tell a real difference in my own comfort level. I've read the Book of Mormon twice in Spanish, but when it's time for me to actually say something and form a coherent sentence, it took several minutes of concerted thought. Now I can actually share some basic thoughts about my day with Joy and be understood.

So three cheers for Duolingo!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Favorite Books for 2017

I officially finished the last of my 2017 books today and wanted to jot a few thoughts of praise for a year of really good books. I finished about 30+ books during the year.

#1 - George MacDonald by C. S. Lewis
MacDonald was Lewis' inspiration and part of the reason he switched from atheism to Christianity. This book is a collection of quotations from MacDonald's writings - including his overtly religious and his fantasy and fables. I highlighted about 1/6 of the book and look forward to rereading it over and over. I already shared some other quotes here.

#2 - The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, and I try to sample some of the work of the most recent winners. This is easily my favorite of the works I've read in that endeavor. It tells in introspective retrospective the story of a butler looking back on what his life has meant. We see his attempts to sacrifice everything he held dear for the golden ideal he held - though it is never phrased in those terms - only to wonder at the end whether that sacrifice was really worthwhile. It is a very subtle work, with a great deal hiding beneath the surface. I think I will have to read it with Joy next to get a deeper understanding.

#3 - This is How You Die (Machine of Death #2)
For Christmas 2016 I got this book of short stories about a machine that tells you with 100% accuracy how you will die. Rather than focusing on the machine itself in this second collection, the authors tried to find very different directions to take it. I shed a few tears at the extremely touching first story about a twin sister who [spoiler spoiler spoilers]. I ROFLd at the supervillain's henchman who is assigned to do away with the people who come to stop him in increasingly interesting ways; because obviously, someone who dies by gunshot wound is easy to know how to kill, but what if they die of hypothermia or a bug bite or by Victoria Falls? Then there's the choose your own adventure where you are a guy trying to commit suicide... (that one was tough going!). Cyberpunk, small town America, turning of age story, B-movie horror... A few of the stories I needed to skip over because I am not a mature enough audience for them, so buyer beware. But a few of those stories have stayed with me, so it gets the #3 slot.

Honorable Mentions go to some fellows I enjoyed enough to buy more than one of their books this year:
Nathan VanCoops - I'm really looking forward to the third installment of his time traveler series
Drew Hayes - Who introduced me to the litRPG genre.
Andrew Rowe - I read three of his epic fantasies and am looking forward to more. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

What Nephi doesn't say

[This is part two of a discussion of Hardy's analysis of Nephi and Boyce's charges against that analysis. In part one (see last post) I was trying to speak positively and to praise where I could. That, sadly, is not my point today. I am having a discussion with some other seminary teachers about why I don't recommend Hardy to seminary students.]

The authors of the Book of Mormon (and Mormon in particular) mention repeatedly the difficulty and frustration of being able to include so little of what happened among the Nephites. Nephi has much the same difficulty: an 8 year trek through the Arabian peninsula to the land of Bountiful is shortened to essentially one chapter and one event that was particularly harsh for his family. The next 30-40 years of 2nd Nephi are summarized in a few verses so that he can spend the rest of that book entirely on recording and expounding on the teachings of his father, his brother, and his favorite prophet. If his record is to include only the most sacred writings, then there has to be a great sifting and winnowing to keep only the most important records.

In his book, Understanding the Book of Mormon, Grant Hardy encourages us to ponder the details of what was left out and to construct a narrative that explains what was left out and why. As he put it:
[Literary interpretation] is not a matter of discovering truths about a world so much as assigning thematic significance to component parts of a work. It is a search for coherence and sense. It involves making connections by subsuming more and more elements in a work under a network of thematic elements.