Sunday, July 16, 2017

Wedding #2 - Salt Lake City

We got tucked into our home-tel none too soon before we drove back south to Salt Lake City for cousin Ari's sealing. Ari is the eldest son of Joy's cousin-sister Laurel (who we call Lala) and Rich. We stayed with them back when we first got married. Back then, I befriended the 10-yr old Ari by playing Star Wars Battlefield with such ineptness that I won the Traitor award for killing more of my own squad than the enemy. Ari is an amazingly talented young man who dances better than I even dreamed of doing. He recently returned from a mission to South Korea, whereupon he swiftly and successfully wooed Paula.

We arrived early so we could take the kids on a tour of Temple Square. At the visitor's center we listened to the Christus statue presentation and watched a movie about family, listened to someone practice on the Mormon Tabernacle Organ*, and ate lunch under the Seagull monument. There was apparently a massive car crash on the 15 coming north to SLC, so the rest of the family was delayed and I waited in the children's playroom at the temple for a while before someone came to relieve me and the ceremony was set to begin.

Meeting family we haven't seen in ages is great. Reuniting with family we haven't seen in ages at the temple of God is even better.** The sealing ceremony was beautiful. I hope Ari and Paula wrote down some notes of what the sealer told them before they were married for time and eternity. That was the first thing Joy and I did after our sealing: stand in the hallway scribbling everything we could remember on the envelope that our wedding certificate came in. I told Joy we'd have to dig around in our journals when we got home to find those notes again.

While waiting for the bride and groom to change and come out to meet the rest of the wedding party for pictures, we got some pictures of the kids playing on the steps of the Salt Lake Temple. We got to join some of the family pics, but the kids eventually got antsy enough I took them off for a bit more Temple Square touring.

We visited this statue of Hyrum Smith, the Three Witnesses, John the Baptist restoring the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith, and these gorgeous pink flowers. We also learned a little about how they built the Salt Lake temple and saw the model of its construction before we were all in desperate need of a long sit down and to refresh our blood sugar levels before driving down to Orem for the reception. (see next post)

* - I got to play that organ back in 1997 as part of a class I took at BYU on organ registration (that means picking the right sounds for the organ to make to get a particular feel).
** -  The only downside is that the temple workers had to make a very soft announcement over a microphone every so often to remind us in the waiting area to keep it to a whisper to preserve reverence - an announcement she had to make so often I jokingly expected her to mention not to leave bags unattended and to report any suspicious behavior to TSA. Way to be reverent, Derrill!

Memorial Day in Lehi

Before we got to our home-tel, though, we stayed a couple days (May 28-30) with Joy's cousin-brother* Mike and their family in Lehi, UT, just north of Provo/Orem. (Incidentally, that's also our 12th wedding anniversary. I love you, Joy!) After lunch with my uncle Sherm's family, we drove the 4ish hours across the Utah desert through unfamiliar territory until suddenly we hit the I-15 and we were HOME. I may have never claimed Utah as my home - I've only been a wayfaring visitor despite 4 years at BYU - but it sure feels good to be back!

Mike and Genevieve threw a Memorial Day BBQ and we got to spend some good quality time with a lot of that branch of the family right off the bat.

But first, a trip to Smith's Monday morning. You'd think the kids had never seen a grocery store before, they were so excited! Then again, maybe I'm the odd one for not being excited because I think Joy was also rather happy about it. Among our culinary highlights of the trip was Grandma Sycamore's bread; SO much better than Large Mrs. Baird's in Texas.**

I tried to help the kids understand Joy's complex family tree so they could figure out how they were related to all these nice people they hadn't seen in 3-15 years. Half-siblings and extended cousin-brothers just don't fit the usual diagrams! Superstar eventually got it down well enough to try to draw the genealogy lines during sacrament meeting one Sunday.

Our home-tel in Brigham City (*****)

We had a wonderful experience with our Airbnb, a place called The Temple View Inn. I called it our home-tel (home-hotel). The family is moving out of the place and using it as an airbnb for some extra income, so we had this four bedroom home to ourselves. The Airbnb website doesn't so the place justice:

For the kids, the highlight was this narrow attic playroom. (Superstar says, no, his highlight was the Wii. "I had no idea they would have a Wii.") Okay, but the kids spent many hours in the playroom and it was the first thing they mentioned when we talked to other people about our home-tel. Lots of toys of many kinds, a TV/VCR with a stack of Disney movies, and most importantly a keyboard. The kids are begging us to get a keyboard. Why, when you don't play the piano we have? or the toy piano we already have?

Princess slept in the coastal-Africa room while the boys took the Cars room. We were upstairs with two rooms to choose from: one decorated like Nauvoo with a 50lb sunstone doorstop, a carved hope chest, pictures and busts of Joseph and Emma, a crocheted-lace Nauvoo temple, and LDS church history books; the other in white and blue with wedding pictures. We could see the Brigham City temple from the Nauvoo room. We made Nauvoo our main bedroom and used the blue room for naps.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Being 4-F has never been so adorable

Princess: Daddy, are you going to go fight for our freedom?

[Hmm, that's an unusual question for just before bed. Maybe it's because we're reading the war chapters in the Book of Mormon. The good guys are fighting for freedom, so she probably wants to be reassured I'm a good guy.]

D: Well, if America calls for me, sure.
Princess [worried]: Oh, but they wouldn't, right, Daddy? They have lots of other warriors?

[Ah. That's her worry. ... Of course. Silly daddy.]

D: Yes, yes they do, Princess.
Princess: But, what if all the warriors die and they need some more? Would you fight for freedom?
D: I would if they asked me, but, they're not going to ask me. You see, they want people with good health to fight for freedom.
Princess [brightening]: And you NEVER have good health!

D: "Well, I wouldn't say neeeever. But, yes, they want someone ..." in better shape [let's not go there] stronger [hey, I'm strong!] whose wrists haven't abandoned him [too long explain] who can actually run "Yes, someone who doesn't get sick and hurt as much as daddy does."

[She was greatly relieved. She snuggled up close to me and gave me the most angelic smiles.]
Princess: I don't want you to go fight and die, Daddy. I want you to stay with me forever and ever.

Image result for 4F george bailey
Fellow 4-F, being thankful

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What did we do the last 5 weeks?

6222 miles in the last five weeks!
TX, CO, UT, NV, and LA all got stopovers

Why? Mostly to visit family we haven't seen in three or more years.
2 weddings and a funeral.
We left to visit Joy's family primarily, but ended up seeing every single member of my extended family except for my grandmother as well.

The kids got so used to living in the car, they started asking where we were driving today as their first question of the day!
We went to a different ward every Sunday - Princess particularly enjoyed that because she got good at making new friends in every Primary while I enjoyed comparing Sunday School teachers teaching the same lesson I heard last week.

We stayed at a nice place in Brigham City that was three blocks from the Brigham temple, so Joy and I made it to the temple every single week.

Superstar read about 6600 pages and I've done a bit more than half that much. 
We all listened to Fablehaven 2-4 in the car.
Unfortunately, my computer is in the shop right now so I can't  post a bunch of pictures today or I totally would. I'm hoping to share more over the next couple weeks, so stay tuned!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I blew it

The tire, that is.

About 10-15 miles outside of Plainview, TX on Friday, May 26, we paused for a potty break on the side of the road. As we rejoined traffic, I noticed the car was a little harder to control than I remembered it being. As we got up to freeway speeds (75 mph or so) the car was bouncing and bouncing as if we'd lost our shocks. I started slowing down and pulling over just as Joy suggested I might want to do just that.

I didn't have time to say, "That's exactly what I'm doing" when the tire went BANG.

We had just found the spare tire (hidden in an all-but-inaccessible place) when a good Samaritan drove up. He used to work for the call center that calls a tow truck to help stranded passengers and he knew a thing or two. He helped me finish getting the spare out and mounted, only to realize that the spare was kind of flat and appeared to have a tear in it as well.

So this friendly guy drove me to Plainview where WalMart didn't have a tire our size (though they could get it in by Tuesday...). Thankfully, a smaller tire store did have our size and we were soon heading back up the road to where my family waited patiently for me to repair the tire.

After he left, though, we discovered that leaving our emergency lights on for 2 hours had drained the car battery. So we called our Samaritan back to give us a jump. That was, thankfully, the last of our troubles for that trip. That tire made it to Utah and is still going strong, so I guess we got it on correctly.

John-Thomas wants to tell you about the Jungle (June 8)

I want to say something to it. Let me tell you. I love to go to the slides. Yeah, I love to. For my birthday, can I go to the Jungle? I know that you go around and then you climb up and that's how you make it!

(The Jungle is a climbing structure in Logan that Superstar and JT enjoyed while Princess and Joy went roller skating.)

And while JT is talking to you, let's go back  to the Straws to hear puppy-JT speak:


Wedding #1 - Grand Junction, CO

McKenzie's pun is that she caught "the last Straw."
The timing of this year's vacation was determined by a couple family weddings. My only uncle, Sherm Straw, has but one son, and he was sealed in the Washington DC temple last month. That's the same temple where my parents were married. So we left Stephenville just as soon as I was done with my work for the semester and drove up to Grand Junction, CO to attend Brandon and McKenzie's reception.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

What JT wants for his birthday

JT turns 3 years old next week and we've been getting ready. We had a delightful little conversation with him over some pre-birthday ice cream. It all started when we let him know we had bought his birthday presents.

He asked what they were. We said we wouldn't tell him because they were a surprise.
Then he whispered in my ear, "You can tell me the surprise Daddy."

We wanted to encourage him to enjoy the surprise. I described how, when he opened his presents, he would say "Aaaaaaaaah!" from being happy. This confused him.

JT: "I say Aaaah?"
D: You will be happy and surprised. You won't be sad. You won't be angry. You won't be scared.
JT: "Scared? Daddy, you remember the dinosaur? He said Raaaaaaar!"
D: At the airport in Qatar? Yes, he was very scary, wasn't he?"
JT: "Yeah!"
D: Don't worry, JT. None of your presents are scary.
JT: My presents not scary? Awwww.

He drooped his shoulders and looked utterly depressed, like all the joy of his birthday had deflated!

That's our littlest - someone who loves being scared and then overcoming and embracing his fears.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Moana - the video game I want to see but won't get

I'm envisioning the Moana civilization building/resource management simulation. It takes place in the time of the ancestors... (wavy flashback lines)

Monday, February 27, 2017

My Favorite Child - Superstar

I have to admit it. I have a favorite child. My favorite child is Superstar.

Happily, I get to spend the most 1:1 time with him. I walk him to school most mornings and then we play a game together at night once the other two are in bed. Every day there are new and wonderful things to discuss.

Sometimes Superstar wants to talk to me about math. We're currently playing a game to see how many numbers he can make using only four 4s. For instance, 4+4-4-4 = 0, 4-4 + 4/4 = 1, 4/4 + 4/4 = 2, and so on. Superstar is up to the 70s, regularly calling on factorials, square roots, the gamma function (!), and much more. I love that he comes up with different solutions than I do and can explain them in unique ways that show such a deep understanding of underlying mathematical truths.

Sometimes Superstar wants to talk to me about Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull. He has been studying the first three books since Christmas. I say "studying" because he is rereading each of them multiple times before passing on to the next book to make sure he gets everything out of them he can. And yes, this means he's reading two grade levels above his own. And loving it. He recently explained to Princess about what he does at his gifted and talented (GT) program, and concluded that it was fun, but not as much as independent reading time.

Sometimes I tell him about what I was teaching in seminary, and he gets it. He asks questions that tie in the New Testament truths I'm teaching with what he is reading the Book of Mormon. He has always genuinely wanted to do what is right, even though his young mind and heart don't always know the way to get there.

We play tag as we walk the mile to school (especially when we're running just a little late and I want to hurry him up).

Most video games we play, he is a match for me. I'm holding on to my edge in most games, but it's CLOSE. Especially with me giving up my individual play time, he's going to rapidly get ahead and start trouncing me at everything. He still loves Mario games the most, but he also pulls out board and card games - last night was 7 Wonders.

I took Superstar home teaching with me yesterday. In our lesson, we brought some construction paper hearts and had everyone write or draw some things that helped them feel loved. Everything Superstar drew were things he does with his dad. That means a lot to me!

How could I not love such an engaging, intelligent, shining Superstar? (Realizing that the blog didn't do much for, like, 18 months, below the fold are some pictures of Superstar we missed sharing)

My favorite child - Princess

I have to admit it. I have a favorite child. My favorite child is Princess.

There is nothing so wonderful as having a human kitty cat. Princess is a lap cat, more specifically. Her favorite place to read scriptures or watch movies or eat or anything is in my lap. She squishes herself into the tiniest ball she can manage, complete with pillow and blanket, and just snuggles.

She gives the BEST good night hugs. She throws her arms around my neck and squeezes with all her might. Sometimes I have to tickle her to get out.

Princess loves to cook with us and, when she decides to be, is the best cleaner. I took her with this weekend to help someone move, and she was as diligent and useful as anyone could possibly be. Everyone was duly impressed not only with her dedication, but her strength.

It is no surprise she's reading a full grade ahead of where she would normally be. She still loves sleeping with her books and is eager to read to us or be read to. Her latest art project is cutting out construction paper snowflakes and writing love notes on them. Valentines Day, you can imagine, was a big hit.

A few weeks ago Joy and I were talking about our religious fasting for the month. Princess said, "Fasting is really important to you, isn't it?" We agreed and talked to her about it. I thought nothing more about it until yesterday when she announced she was going to fast with us so that God would bless my dad. She is considerate and tender. She thinks of people who aren't immediately in front of her and misses them greatly.

She giggles. She laughs. She loves life and all it has to offer. How couldn't I love my pink-loving Princess?

My favorite child - JT

I have to admit it. I have a favorite child. My favorite child is little John-Thomas.

There is nothing so wonderful as having a human puppy dog. I return from seminary or school - or maybe just taking out the trash! - and JT is right there at the door. He screams at the top of his lungs that DADDY IS HOME!!!! He runs across the house announcing to all the world my triumphal arrival.

I mentioned JT has been actively potty training for a few weeks. His big motivator is that he gets to play any game he wants for 10 minutes. He likes spending much of that time flipping through the Wii games, revisiting what each game does before rotating through one of his many favorites. He seems to be much more capable at using the Wii U controller than the Wiimote, so he may be the best of our children at playing video games at this age.

JT is the happiest of our children about going to church. Sacrament meeting he could do without, but he sure loves nursery! He regularly asks me at night if he gets to go to nursery tomorrow. He also regularly asks to go to the park, the beach, or Six Flags, so that's the company nursery keeps.

JT loves superheroes. He appropriated Superstar's enormous Spider-man blanket and at the store the other day couldn't rest until we agreed to get him a Batman pillow that's a bit bigger than he is. (We were buying pillows for Princess and me anyway.)

JT loves to read. He loves to read to us and he loves to have us read. He loves his brother and sister and is delighted when he gets to be with them. He is also the first child by that age who was willing to go to sit in timeout on his own.

Looking at the blog, I realized I skipped 18 months almost completely, so here are some of JT's missing shots:

Sunday, February 26, 2017

A gradual transformation

Not quite two years ago, I started having this feeling that I needed to reach up a lot higher than I was doing. This has turned into a gradual letting go of a lot of things from my life  that I've been relying on a bit too much. I've finally gotten to the point of removing some of them altogether. For the last three months, I haven't had any desserts, sweets, or other treats. And for ten days I haven't played any games by myself - I still play with my kids or Joy, but my personal time with DS or other video games is officially over.

So far the main thing going up to help fill in the time is family history. I've been organizing the people Joy and I have already found to do temple work for and finding additional people along the way. I've counted up about 90 people who need individual ordinance work done; we have 10 couples ready to be sealed and 9 kids ready to be sealed to parents. So now we're trying to figure out how we can get to the temple more often to get their work done.

I can also happily report that I have been doing a stellar job getting my grading done so far this semester. Last year, between illness and a shortened schedule, I was perpetually behind on my grading, so it's a relief as well. The house is a bit cleaner, and something like half a year ago Joy noticed that the kids would come up to me on my computer and ask what I was working on instead of asking what I was playing. Little signs of progress.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Hungry, Hungry, JT

As one of his several rewards for potty training, John-Thomas has been asking to play Hungry, Hungry Hippos with Joy. She recounts:

We'll get all of the marbles and put them in the center. Then he'll say, "Hungry!" and push the levers on the hippo. You only get to push them once before he yells, "STOP!"

He picks up each hippo head, and he'll use a different voice for them and say, "I'm hungry." "I'm hungry." "I'm hungry." "I'm hungry" all the way around.

We have to take all the balls out before we start again. And he insists that the yellow ball should go inside the yellow hippo. I say, "Poor blue and green hippos! There's no food for them."