December 29, 2009

Sweet Stache*

Look what we found in our stockings! Santa knows us all too well.

*Urbandictionary.com defines a sweet stache as a mustache that is totally gnarkill or just looks devilishly good on someone. Yep, we got 'em, and they are mighty sweet!

December 28, 2009

Christmas Eve '09

For Christmas Eve dinner, we like to eat food from different cultures around the world. This year, we decided to go to Christmas Island and have a festive luau complete with Kahlua pork and fresh pineapple. The kids raided the dress up and decoration boxes to add to the ambiance.

Mele Kalikimaka!

Following dinner, we each opened one present. Our Christmas Jammies!

  • Tomas–Lego Stars Wars PJs for him. Santa then brought him a light up, double-ended, blue light saber that makes sounds!
  • Liam–They have to have snowboarders on them. These will be nice to get into and sit in front of the fire after snowboarding lessons.
  • Chloe–These jammies are perfect for Chloe who is really into graphic design and typography.
  • Katie–Katie's pajama pants are her favorite color, green, with cool looking Christmas trees.
  • Me–Plaid PJs for me, and you can never go wrong with flannel.
Oma and Opa joined us for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.


After we took pictures, it was time for one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

Several years back, Chloe and Liam decided to put on a Christmas show for us. They performed it up in the loft overlooking our living room where we sat below. The first couple of years, it was a variety show of different dances and musical numbers. Two years ago, they performed a puppet show of the nutcracker, and last year they put on a puppet version of Charlie Brown's Christmas.

This year, we were treated to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. This is a movie I remember from my childhood. It's been put on many lists as one of the worst movies ever made, but as a kid, I remember really liking it. Last year around Christmas, a local TV station actually showed it, and I introduced the kids to this fine cinematic holiday classic. We all had a good laugh, and we sing the theme song throughout the year.

A very dear friend of ours used to join us for Christmas Eve, but she has since moved to North Carolina. Because she couldn't be here, I videotaped the production. This is for you, Tracy!

Click here for the synopsis. I highly suggest skimming over it before watching the puppet show. Otherwise, I think you'll get kind of confused. Don't feel compelled to watch the whole thing. To get the whole effect, you really had to be there.

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to present Santa Claus Conquers the Martians!


Here's a close up of some of the puppets.

The Martians are coming!

All in all, a wonderful Christmas Eve! Great food, great entertainment, and most importantly, great family!

December 27, 2009

...as a Buggie in a Ruggie

When it comes to Christmas, and gift giving in general, Katie and I have had to do some adjusting over our 20 years of marriage. Katie likes to receive more, shall we say, practical gifts. While I, on the other hand, like to receive gifts I would typically never buy for myself but would love to have. It's actually a little more complicated than that. I like to receive a gift that I know the giver has put some real thought into. So, over the years, I've learned that Katie doesn't really want that collectible porcelain Christmas figurine, and Katie has learned I would rather buy my own dress socks.

This year, Katie and the kids scored a home run, and got me this...


...a Jack Skellington Snuggie! (photo taken with the webcam while blogging) Ever since I first saw that thoroughly obnoxious commercial for the Snuggie, I've secretly wanted one. Our family loves the movie, Nightmare Before Christmas. Tomas picked out the pattern just for me, and knowing that, makes me love it even more. I know I'm going to get a lot of use out of this Snuggie–blogging, TV watching, reading, napping, etc. Hey, this thing is so comfortable, I'd wear it at work and church if I could. Here's hoping it one day becomes socially acceptable!

Thank you, Katie, Chloe, Liam, and Tomas!

For all you naysayers out there, "Don't knock it till you've tried it."

December 26, 2009

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

As always, things around Christmas are hectic, so we didn't make it to see Santa until Christmas Eve. Sadly, I think this tradition only has a couple years left–three if I'm lucky. Chloe and Liam went along to humor me. They have been threatened within an inch of their lives not to spoil anything for Tomas, and I reminded them of the rule in our house that if you don't believe in Santa, he won't bring you anything. So, here is Santa Picture 09. Tomas made the comment, "I don't remember Santa being short." He was a bit vertically challenged, but very jolly.

Another tradition is that the kids have always written letters to Santa, and I'm sure we have them all stashed away somewhere. Since Chloe and Liam believe Santa already knows what they want, they didn't write letters, but Tomas, who is five and just learning to read and write, decided to write his completely by himself.

Here is a scan of the actual letter. Below is a transcription and translation.

Transcription:
Dear Sata,
I woot a Play Mobile
and I woot a Nerf
and I woot Army man sdaf

Translation:
Dear Santa,
I want a Play Mobile
and I want a Nerf
and I want Army man stuff.

Tomas asked me if it was perfect, and I answered, "For a five year-old, yes, it's perfect." 

December 24, 2009

Special Daddy-Daughter Bonding

Christmas Eve 2009


Why? Why is it that Chloe always says I'm embarrassing. I plain just don't get it!

December 22, 2009

America Gets Slammed!

A student I work with is leaving soon on an LDS mission to Sydney, Australia. One day last week, she was talking with a couple of other students. I wasn't trying to be nosy, but when I overheard words like "cookies," "chocolate," and "hot cocoa," my ears immediately perked up. I went over and found out they were talking about the Tim Tam Slam, a supposedly famous Australian custom.

The Tim Tam Slam is the practice of sucking hot cocoa, or some other hot drink, through a Tim Tam, an Australian chocolate covered cookie. Once the cookie begins to melt and collapse, you eat the cookie. The students said that Tim Tams were now being sold in the U.S.

Well that evening, I happened to be in Walmart. Usually, I avoid going into Walmart at all costs, but it was late, and it was the closest store open. As I headed towards the checkout, a sale sign caught my eye. And, there they were–Tim Tams made by Pepperidge Farm! I had to give them a try.


At home, Katie, the boys, and I gathered around mugs of hot cocoa with the Tim Tams. We each bit off the corners, counted down, inserted one end of the cookie in the cocoa, and then sucked away. We were surprised how fast it went, but as soon as we felt the cookie begin to collapse, we shoved them in our mouths. Although this first attempt was a bit messy, the best way Katie and I can think of to describe the experience is "a flood of chocolate bliss in your mouth." It was so amazing that we couldn't stop! We finished off the package, so nothing was left when Chloe came home.

I've since been spreading the news about the Slam. Last night, we had the Mc's over for gourmet hot cocoa and Tim Tams. Here I've posted the experience for posterity.


Later this week, my in laws are coming to town. I can't wait to introduce them to the Tim Tam Slam.  And of course, I know better than to video my mother-in-law doing the Slam and post it here. I would lose my hard earned status as favorite son-in-law. (Sorry, Jon. It's true.)

So America, go out and pick up a package of Tim Tams and slam away!

And to that blessed soul in Australia who thought this up, thank you!

Unrelated side note: HOLY COW! That bald spot on the back of my head is bigger than I thought. The next time an infomercial comes on for the Hair Club for Men, I just might pay attention.

December 18, 2009

Squawkin' Around the Christmas Tree

This week, Liam's guitar class performed with the school band, orchestra, and choir for their Christmas concert. Most of the kids have only been playing their instruments for three months. And although they did a great job, there was a heck of a lot of squeaking and squawking going on. Each clunker note was very endearing.

It brought back memories of my first band concert. My elementary school band played the slow movement from Dvorak's New World Symphony. As I remember it, I was pretty good at the trumpet, and our band wasn't half bad. However, this memory might be a little faulty. My guess is that, in truth, we sounded very similar to what I heard at Liam's school.

Here is Liam's class playing "Jingle Bells." The video quality's not so great because I used our old digital camera, but you'll get the idea.



Liam's class also played "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer." The kids had to sing while playing, which proved to be the undoing for many of them. But still, I loved every strange chord. I'm looking forward to many more concerts.

To show off Liam's true guitar skills and send out a little holiday cheer, here's a little something we recorded using the webcam on our computer.

Enjoy!

December 12, 2009

A New Christmas Tradition

When I was little, I remember my mom making an elaborate gingerbread house each Christmas. After the holidays were over, she would pack it away to be used again the following year. However, I would always find out where the house was kept and secretly break off pieces of candy and frosting to eat. I always started with tiny little icicles on the back thinking no one would ever notice. But, it never took very long before I was systematically removing all the M&Ms first and then moving on to the gumdrops. By the time the next Christmas came around, it looked like a derelict abandoned gingerbread house. To think about it now, my mom could have gotten one more use out of the house if she had created a couple of candy and frosting ghosts, added some candy corn and black licorice, and displayed it for Halloween.

This year, the Mc family invited us over for Family Home Evening to make gingerbread houses. We bought a kit from the store since we had no clue what we were doing. Mary Ann, however, made theirs from scratch complete with real "glass" windows made from melted Jolly Ranchers.

Below is what Tomas, Liam and I came up with. With the kit, it goes very quickly. Tomas and Liam's strategy was to pile on as much candy as possible. This proved problematic especially with the chimney which kept sliding off. I think next year we'll be adventurous and try making ours from scratch, but I think the boys and I will have a few architecture and engineering lessons first.






(click to enlarge)
Tomas and Liam can hardly wait to get their hands on this.









The Mc's built a series of three attached houses and decided to go for the Hundertwasser style. Hundertwasser was an Austrian artist and architect. He came up with some pretty wild things. We saw several of his works in Vienna this past summer. You can read about it here. When Katie, who arrived late because she was teaching class, and Chloe, who joined the fun later because she had a lot of math to finish, the Mc's let them help with Hundertwasser gingerbread house.

In my opinion, the final result is a culinary masterpiece. Hundertwasser would be very proud. I think next year we should try Gaudi or Gehry. Or, I would love to try something in the style of Otto Wagner, the art nouveau architect. His buildings are some of my favorites in Vienna. 






That amazing detail is going to be fun to pick at!






We had such a great evening together. I think this needs to be a new tradition. So, the first Monday of December is now gingerbread house building for FHE. However next year, we'll invite the Mc's over to our place. I felt kind of bad for the giant mess left in their kitchen.

December 11, 2009

The Christmas Season Can Begin

For most of the past twenty years, we have attended the BYU German Department's Adventsingen* in the Provo Tabernacle. This is a program of German Christmas music and readings held on the first Sunday in December. Katie and I have also sung with the men's and women's choirs for probably more than half of those performances. Last year, Katie took over the direction of the entire production, and she does a great job. This year the evening was especially wonderful because it brought back many wonderful memories of our Austrian trip this past summer.

Here we are in our Trachten (traditional German clothing). Katie is one of the few women who can pull it off and look mighty sweet in a dirndl.

And my jacket actually fits! Katie brought it back from Germany when she and the kids were there three years ago, and I had to stay home because of my new job. Somehow she got the wrong size, and when I tried it on, there was no way I was going to get it buttoned. I figured one of the boys could have it when they got older. However, since losing some weight this past year, I can wear it.

I look forward to Adventsingen each year, a wonderful tradition. I know the stores, advertisers, and crazy people in my neighborhood who turn on their Christmas lights the day after Halloween would like the Christmas season to begin earlier and earlier each year. But, for me, this is when it starts. The music, the reading of Luke 2 in German, and the setting–it all just puts me in the right mood.




*There's a little controversy here about whether it's spelled with one "s" or two. I vote for only one since this program was originally patterned after the Salzburger Adventsingen, and that's how they spell it.

Who Needs a Snowblower?

It snowed during church. When we got home, I asked the boys to help me shovel the walks. We did a quick job of our sidewalks and driveway and then moved on to the our neighbor's sidewalks on each side. After clearing a path on the sidewalks, Liam and I decided we had done enough and wanted lunch. As we headed indoors, I looked back and saw Tomas still going at it. I told him he could quit and come inside, but he answered, "Dad, the job's not done until it's done."

Whoa, hold on! Where did that come from? I know I probably never said anything remotely like that to my parents, and I'm pretty sure Tomas probably didn't learn it from his older brother and sister.

Tomas said he wanted to finish the neighbor's driveway. I said OK and went in for lunch. Ten minutes later, I went outside to check on Tomas, and he was still going strong. I asked if I could help, but he told me he wanted to do it all by himself, so back inside I went continuing to check on him every ten minutes. After about an hour, he had completely cleared the neighbor's driveway with his little kid-sized shovel. And, he did an excellent job, too.

I believe this behavior is to be strongly reinforced. I have been praising him up and down (and ignoring the eye rolling of his siblings). I keep telling my kids the reason we had them was to help with chores. Why is it that Tomas is the only one who gets it? Maybe we can rent him out.





Think about what he'll be able to accomplish when he graduates to an adult-sized shovel!

December 08, 2009

Turkey Day Thanks

We FINALLY have our computer back. It's been gone while HP was fixing the left click button on the touch pad. Why I had to send it in to them and couldn't get it fixed at an authorized repair place (like a car) is beyond me and still irks me, but the main thing is that it's back and I have a lot of catching up to do.

First of all, Thanksgiving happened. Over the river and through the woods we went to Oma and Opa's house in Preston, ID.

We took a chance and brought Scooter with us. For the most part, he was well-behaved except for constant barking at random things.




(click to enlarge)
Is that a mop? He does have eyes. I took him to Preston's Plush Puppy for a haircut, but I haven't taken an after shot yet.






Uncle Jon took Liam, Tyler and Isaac to the field across the street for the Turkey Bowl. It was Liam and Tyler against Jon and Isaac. Since I wouldn't have been a help to either team, I was the sports photographer. I don't know what the final score was, but Liam said his team won. And that, of course, would be thanks to Uncle Jon.



    And man, it was dang cold!












    After the Turkey Bowl, I ran in the annual Preston Turkey Trot. This year, I won my division. Actually, I came in first overall! (Of course, I was the only one who ran the race.) I actually did a 5K Thursday through Saturday. I signed up for the Skinny Santa Challenge at work. To win, you can't gain more than two pounds during the holiday season.

       



      "I am the champion, my friend!"–but what a dumb look on my face.












      Here are the kids at the Thanksgiving table. If you look closely, you can see they obviously loved the rolls. I think that was their main food staple for the weekend. Well, rolls with pie. But hey, it's Thanksgiving.







      The cousins had a great time together. In the pictures below, you can see them playing in a tent they set up in the basement with Katie's help. Another classic Thanksgiving tradition is the annual trip to visit Toyland in the local Kings. Each kid gets a few dollars to buy something. Liam and Tyler got suction cup dart guns, Isaac got refills for his cap gun, Audrey got a princess crown, purse and earrings, and Tomas got a Speedracer car. Fun treasures!






      Kings is the kind of store that has a little bit of everything in it, and some of the stuff you wonder why they have it and how long it's been there. And the really fun thing is how you can find the most random items next to each other. For example, it would not be unusual to find florescent orange hunting caps next to ceramic cartoon character figurines next to knitting yarn next to hard boiled egg slicers. You can even find things like these.




      Now, don't they just look purty? I wouldn't let Katie and Chloe buy them though. It's too close to Christmas, and who knows what Santa might bring them.







      So, those were the parts of Thanksgiving that I remembered to take pictures of. Here are a few memories I didn't have the camera out for.
      1. Playing Bananagrams, a game introduced to us by Jon and Kristen (very addicting)
      2. Not shopping on Black Friday, but opting to sleep in instead (aaah, sleep!)
      3. Watching BYU beat the University of Utah (BYU should have won by a lot more, but a win's a win.)
      4. Putting on a skit for the family get together talent show where Katie was the Swedish Chef and the kids and I were fat turkeys (I sure hope no one was videoing.)
      That was Thanksgiving 2009. It was a nice break spent with family. To close this entry, I leave you with this picture.


       Ah, what a classy family. I'm not sure why it's black and white. That's how Opa sent it to us. Either that's how I set the camera up by mistake, or Opa changed the photo to have that old timey Keystone cop silent film look.






      November 25, 2009

      C-H-L-O-E! Gooooo Chloe!

      She doesn't get it from Katie, and she certainly doesn't get it from me. So, where does Chloé get her athletic ability? We might have to go a ways back in the genealogy to find the answer to that question. It might just be from the same place she gets her mathematical prowess.

      About a month ago, Chloé made the sophomore girls basketball team. She will also be doing some playing up on the JV team. Today was their first game, and it was a very close game until the last quarter when Provo sort of fell apart. Katie and I didn't have to do any consoling because Chloé took it all very well.  She did, however, make the first basket of the season.

      Chloé felt the game was a good learning experience. She thought there were some things she did well, and some areas where she needs some work. Very mature, I'd say. She also learned long ago not to ask me for any basketball advice. Chloé has progressed way past the days of playing on an elementary school team when all I could point out to her was that she needed to learn to dribble the ball without looking at it. I figured out that much.

      One thing I did notice is that Chloé did look good in her uniform. She's got quite the snazzy ensemble–home uniform, away uniform, warm up suit, practice jersey, t-shirt, and the all-important Nike tennis shoes. See what I mean?





      Chloé striking her "Yeah, I know I look good" pose















      I'm looking forward to the rest of the basketball season. It's going to be a lot of fun, and I'm sure the bulldogs* will have many winning games.

      *I'd make a comment about Provo's mascot, but when I went to a high school whose mascot was the burro, I probably shouln't.

      November 23, 2009

      Rise and Shout (Sort-of Opera Style)

      I was able to get six tickets to the BYU vs. Air Force game, two in really nice seats and four up in the nosebleeds. Chloe and I took the nice seats, and Liam sat with a friend and his two boys. It was a cold afternoon, but at least it didn't snow.

      This game was a lot more fun than the last one we went to against TCU. In contrast to that game where BYU got badly walloped, we won. Also, I didn't have a certain 5 year-old with me begging to go home after the first quarter.

      (click to enlarge)
      Things to notice:
      1. See how close Chloe and I are to the field. We also sat in chair seats.
      2. In the middle right, you can see where Liam and friends sat. They are way up top in the corner.
      3. Liam and his best friend, Tanner, LOVE their blue wigs.
      4. Chloe insists she didn't spend the entire game texting a couple of boys. But, I've got proof.
      5. The mountains were incredibly beautiful when the sun hit. Too bad my camera couldn't get the whole effect.
      6. We followed two guys riding a love seat mounted on an electric wheelchair to the stadium. I think my parents need one. It goes about as fast as they do to walk the dog.








      A while back, I wrote that I wanted to record us singing the Cougar Fight Song in our best opera voices. We didn't get the chance at the TCU game because after BYU's one-and-only touchdown, our videographer forgot to press "record." Luckily, BYU scored several times against Air Force. Chloe was extremely embarrassed and would only allow me to video us once. I could have definitely used a couple more takes, and I didn't go full out opera. But, oh well... Here it is. Before you watch it, I have to tell you to keep an eye on the dad and kids sitting behind us. The dad actually has a decent voice, but you can't hear it on the video.







      Now, I know I'm going to receive a lot of flack from some of you because I messed up the words, which is probably an unforgivable sin since I work for the BYU Alumni Association. But, I am THE worst when it comes to remembering lyrics. Ask Katie and the kids, and they'll tell you I'm always inventing new lyrics to songs. Katie thinks I need those speech bubbles all the time to pop up around me. Wouldn't that be cool!

      November 18, 2009

      Just Doin' My Duty

      If you haven't figured it out by now, let me tell you that I'm a very big fan of Annie Lennox. Read about it here. As a true fan, I take my obligation seriously to spread the word. So, here is her latest, a duet with David Gray. I give the video two big thumbs up. Their voices go so well together. The more I listen, the more I like. Now, I'm only hoping she gets back in the studio, releases another album, and does some tour dates in the US.

      (Annie–If, by chance, you're reading this, please come do a concert in Utah. We'd love to have you over for dinner, too.)

      And now to the video. Sit back and enjoy!

      November 15, 2009

      Girls DO Make Passes...

      Unfortunately, it looks like Liam inherited my eyesight, and he got his first pair of glasses this week. For right now, he'll only need them to see the board at school. And luckily, he looks like this.



















      And NOT like this.

      November 07, 2009

      Give Us a Break!

      Question: When your week is full of meltdowns and you feel like your life is going to pot, what should you do?

      Answer: Go to the Melting Pot!

      And that's just what Katie and I did. It really was just one of those weeks. The best part of my week was that I broke my toe, and it now looks like a miniature eggplant. Katie's week wasn't any better. So when Katie called me at work and said, "We need a break. Let's go to the Melting Pot," I thought it was the best idea I'd heard in a long time.

      So, we said goodbye to the kids and headed north. On the way to Salt Lake, we had a little extra time to do a little hit-and-run IKEA shopping. We are firm believers that IKEA can always brighten a mood. The amazing thing is that we were in the store for only 30 minutes and left having only spent $7.95 on an IKEA cookbook. That's a first!  And, we came away feeling much better.

      For the rest of the ride, Katie read to me from the cookbook, and we talked about the must-try recipes. When we arrived at the restaurant, we new things were looking up when we found a parking spot right in front of the restaurant. We were also seated in the same booth we sat in the first time we ate there—another good omen.

      We learned from our first visit to the Melting Pot that the full fondue experience was too much for us. This time, we decided to just have the salad, cheese fondue, and dessert fondue. And believe me, that was plenty. We had such a great time. It was nice to be just the two of us. We talked about the events of the past week, and all the problems seemed to shrink and fall into perspective.

      We had a coupon for $20 off, but we didn't read the fine print closely. It's only good Sunday through Thursday. Well, that's ok. We'll just have to come back the next time things get stressful. With the end of the school sememster and the holidays coming, I don't think it will be too long before we need some more fondue therapy.


      Here I am enjoying the Yin Yang dessert fondue.
      You may be wondering why I didn't post a picture of Katie.
      Well, Katie has the most amazing knack to have her eyes
      closed in practically every picture.

      November 01, 2009

      Halloween 2009

      October seems to always be one of the busiest times for our family. At work, I'm usually dealing with homecoming events or Parents Weekend. For Katie, she's most likely buried underneath a pile of papers to grade. And every year, the kids seem to have more and more going on. And all this seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. Then comes Halloween. A typical Halloween is pulling an all-nighter to finish up costumes, fixing some elaborate recipe for the church Halloween party, running to the store at the last minute to get candy, and getting pumpkins carved and decorations up minutes before the first trick-or-treaters arrive. It can get so crazy that I don't really enjoy the holiday. However, this year turned out different.

      First, we made it to Pumpkinland early in the week. Our yearly tradition is to go to a local nursery to get our pumpkins. For $3 a person, you can go through their corn maze, see some animals, play on a playground, and go through Light Alley. While some may think it's the ultimate in tacky, we find it charming. It has a down home feel to it, and we don't have to travel out of the city to experience the little family-owned farm.


      (Click to enlarge.) 
      Pumpkinland was a bit nippy but still fun. The third boy in the collage is Tomas' friend, Jeffrey. You can see Katie and the boys in the corn maze. In Light Alley, you can see the boys in front of Cinderella's carriage followed by inflatable M&M characters and scarecrows. I don't remember them from the Disney movie; they must have been cut. Also in Light Alley, I saw the moose made of lights hanging by, what looked like to me, a noose. Still charming, but slightly creepy!

      Having Halloween on Saturday was very helpful, and no one had anything pressing to do or anywhere to be. So, we enjoyed a late waffle breakfast followed by pumpkin carving.

       
      Tomas and Liam are the only ones in the pictures because the rest of us were still in our PJs and not presentable for the world to see on this blog.


      Below are the final products. See if you can guess whose is whose.


      The answers are from top left clockwise:
      1. Liam's barfing pumpkin (of course)
      2. Tomas' scared skeleton pumpkin. Katie helped with the carving, but he did a great job cleaning it out.
      3. Katie's skeleton pumpkin
      4. Curtis' Spirit of the Y pumpkin.
      5. Chloe's M&M character pumpkin
      I was really amazed at how all the costumes came together so nice and easy (and well in advance of the church party).


      Tomas wanted to be something military. Katie and Tomas found this sailor outfit at the local Army/Navy surplus store. Usually, as a matter of pride, we are against purchasing costumes. We prefer the homemade variety. But, this is what Tomas wanted to be and Katie couldn't beat the price.


      Liam wore this WWI fighter pilot costume (also thanks to the Army/Navy surplus store) for his school research project last year. Liam is our kid who's not one for change and will will stick with something if it still works. Therefore, we didn't have to come up with anything new. We're always sure to get our money's worth out of him.


      Here's Chloe with a couple of friends at the church Halloween party. If you can't tell, Chloe is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. She and three other friends at school were each a different turtle.  They were voted best costumes at school. I don't have a photo of all of them together, but Chloe assures me it will be in their yearbook.


      What do most Mormons do on a Saturday afternoon? Answer: go grocery shopping. Katie and I were feeling the Halloween groove and decided to go in costume (to Chloe's horror). The above photo is the ghost of Marie Antoinette deciding which cake to let them eat. By the way, all that exercising Katie's been doing over the last several months has paid off. That is her high school prom dress.

      And here is a side note I took from Katie's Facebook page:
      "I'm basically a poster child for pacifism, so why are my kids dressed up as a WWI fighter pilot, a pint-sized recruit for the U.S. Navy, and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle for Halloween? Guess it's more fun than dressing up as Gandhi."


      Still shopping. I had two requirements for my costume. It first had to be easy to make, and secondly, it had to be comfortable to wear. I actually stole this idea from a friend who wore something similar last year, but he's since moved to Oregon. In this picture, I forgot to suck in my stomach. But, if we are going for the complete University of Utah stereotype, it could be considered a beer gut. I was amazed at how many people asked me if I was a Ute fan. Really? Come on, people! Think about it.

      Katie, the boys, and I had a great time trick-or-treating. We have a wonderful neighborhood and the weather was perfect. Chloe went to a Halloween party with friends. After we got back, Katie and I watched the vampire movie, Twilight. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Maybe it was because I was in such a good mood after such a fun Halloween with the family.

      I'm taking it as a good omen of a great holiday season to come.

      October 26, 2009

      Rise and Shout? I'm Pooped.






      The lit Y on the Mountain.









      It was Homecoming Week at BYU. Because I work for the Alumni Association, I put in some seriously long hours. The events I was involved with went very well. I especially had a great time with the Student Alumni Association. They were in charge of the Hike and Light the Y tradition. Between 600 and 700 people made it up to the Y. The Student Alumni group also marched in the Homecoming Parade. Even though I may be 44 years old and my body felt completely worn out at the end of the week, the students keep me feeling like I'm 20 inside.

      The culmination of the week was the football game. BYU was playing top ten ranked TCU. I took the kids and one of Liam's friends to the football game. We were so high up we were literally sitting in clouds for part of the game.

      I got a great idea from a friend of mine, Farrah, who had seen my earlier post about singing Happy Birthday in our best opera voices. Farrah suggested we sing the Cougar Fight Song in our best opera voices and post it on my blog. I was looking forward to doing this all week, and I had the kids well prepared. So after BYU's first touchdown, we sang our hearts out. But... Our videographer forgot to press the record button. Oh well, that was good practice, and surely we'd get more chances. Right? Or so we thought. That turned out to be BYU's one and only touchdown, and TCU clobbered our team. What a bummer to the max! Chloe, Liam, and Tanner stayed to the bitter end, while Tomas and I left in the third quarter to hang out in my office.

      Therefore, everyone will have to wait for the Cougar Fight Song opera style. (sorry Farrah) However, here is a pretty good substitute. Last night I was upstairs and could hear singing down in the dining room. It turned out to be Tomas singing along to one of his favorite songs. I quickly got the camera and recorded him. I was completely surprised he let me. Liam would have hit the floor, and Chloe would have run from the room. Tomas learned the words completely on his own (well, most of them). After he was done, he wanted to sing with one of Katie's favorite songs. In Spanish! So, this one's for you Opa.

      Enjoy!

      Tomas singing his favorite song "Fireflies" by Owl City and Katie's favorite song "Yo No Se Mañana" by Luis Enrique.

      My Footprint Follow Up

      This past week, I participated in the No Impact Challenge. I thought I'd give an update on how I did with my goals.

      1. I will walk or ride my bike to work three times this week. Because it was BYU Homecoming and I work for the Alumni Association, my schedule was crazier than crazy. I was only able to walk to and from work twice. But, I will complete my third day walking tomorrow.
      2. Other than food, I will not purchase anything new this week. No problem here. Didn't buy anything. I'm now going to try and live more by President Kimball's saying, "Eat it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."
      3. I will donate at least 50 items to Deseret Industries. I haven't actually brought it to DI yet, but I do have a box of stuff prepared and ready to go. DI is on the way to work, but I'll have to use the car to bring the box there.
      4. I will not watch TV for the week. I admit I'm addicted to TV, but I really enjoyed not watching this week. I found that even in a busy week, I had some time to read a few chapters in a book.
      5. I will drink water from reusable water bottles. I did pretty well until I hiked the Y with the Alumni Association board. I forgot to bring any water with me, and all they had was bottled water. I made sure to recycle the bottle, and I'll try to plan better next time.
      6. I will air dry my clothes. I actually love doing this. It was like Vienna when we didn't have a dryer and dried all of our clothes on racks. It also reminded me of when I was little and my mom hung our sheets on a clothesline. I loved the smell as I ran through them.
      7. I will take a sponge bath one day this week instead of a shower. I must say this was my least favorite thing. I felt gross all day. It's ok when you're camping, but I love my daily shower. The challenge did make me aware of how much water I use, and I tried to take shorter showers.
      My walk to work isn't a particularly scenic one (or so I thought). Between our neighborhood and my office, it's pretty commercial. However, I decided to take a camera along and see what I could find. It turns out, there is beauty all around.







      Click to enlarge.











      I enjoyed the challenge. If we all start with small changes and build upon them little by little, we can make a huge difference. They are planning to do another No Impact Challenge in November. I encourage everyone to read through the materials, choose a couple of things you can work on, and go for it.

      October 19, 2009

      Making Less of an Impact

      I've decided to take part in the inaugural No Impact Experiment which challenges you to lower your impact on the environment and become an environmentally engaged citizen. If you haven't heard of No Impact Man, take a look at his blog. I read through the No Impact Experiment Guide that offers tips and resources. Even though there is no way I could ever take it as far as Colin Beavan did (and I guess still does), I've come up with a list of goals for the week. And even if I say "No thank you," to the "if it's yellow, let it mellow," I think my list will be pretty challenging.

      1. I will walk or ride my bike to work three times this week.
      2. Other than food, I will not purchase anything new this week.
      3. I will donate at least 50 items to Deseret Industries.
      4. I will not watch TV for the week.
      5. I will drink water from reusable water bottles.
      6. I will air dry my clothes.
      7. I will take a sponge bath one day this week instead of a shower.
        Click here for a link to a video recommended in the No Impact Experiment Guide. I really like it and plan to show it tomorrow night for Family Home Evening.

        October 18, 2009

        Family Pics Fall 2009

        We have never been good at taking family pictures, and professional photos where we're all dressed in matching khaki pants and denim shirts just isn't our thing. However today, we actually had some spare time, so we grabbed the camera and headed to the canyon.

        October 11, 2009

        Sunday Rolls

        Like I said in my earlier post, I have a nasty head cold. After church, I came home, took some medicine, and took a long nap. Four hours later, I emerged and dragged myself down to the kitchen to come upon this scene.This just makes me happy. Katie and the boys were making crescent rolls for dinner. Since Liam was old enough to walk, he has been our little sous chef. Tomas now wants to help.

         



        Cutting the dough.















        Rolling out more dough.
















        Brushing the rolls with butter.






















        The finished product. And they were good!

        Raiding the Dress Up Box

        I promised myself I would post at least one thing each week. Well, a  week has gone by. Either because I'm totally sick with a head cold or it was a boring week, I can't remember anything that's gone on. I decided to look and see what was on the digital camera. And look what I found.







        Click to enlarge.










        Ah, yes. Now I remember. The cousins came for a visit.  I guess Aunt Kristen can't wait for Halloween. She and a bunch of the kids went down to the basement, and this is what emerged.

        Here are my guesses as to what they are dressed as:
        • Kristen: Cher, ready to shoot a video for her song Halfbreed. (Remember that 1973 #1 hit? My mom bought us the record, and we played it ad nauseum.)
        • Audrey: the psychedelic princess from Tutti Frutti Land
        • Tomas: Captain Jack Hummingbird
        • Liam: the disco whirling dervish
        • Tyler: the incognito space alien performing in a tourist luau show
        Although the competition is tough, I think Kristen is currently in the lead for craziest aunt. I think everyone needs a crazy aunt (or in my kids' case, three). I have an aunt who would brush her very long hair over her face so that she resembled Cousin It and chase us kids all over the house. I think it was also she who talked me into eating dog food. Remember Gaines Burgers? They looked like individually wrapped hamburgers, so it didn't take much convincing to get me to try it. I'll have to write her to see if she remembers this. Good times.

        October 03, 2009

        Sing It Opera-style!

        A tradition in our house is to call family members with birthdays and sing "Happy Birthday" in our best opera voices. Now, when I say "best", I'm not necessarily saying "good." All you have to do is sing like you think you're an opera star and completely go for it. I highly recommend it to everyone.


        This past week was my mom's birthday, and we decided to kick it up a notch. With the web cam in our new computer, the kids and I recorded a lovely version and posted it on my mom's Facebook page. Now, she'll have it to play and replay whenever she needs a good laugh.


        A little side note: Katie's missing from the video because she was at a meeting. Otherwise, she would have lent her lyric coloratura soprano voice.

        Now that we've upped the bar on our birthday wishes. I'm pretty sure other family members will expect something similar, or even better. And I think we're up to the challenge.


        I am just moving up in the world of technology. I now text, have a Facebook account, use Skype, post videos on Youtube, and blog. I still don't get why anyone would want to Twitter, but I'm not ruling it out for the future. I feel like The Jetsons here we come! I just hope the flying cars make it in my lifetime. That would be cool.

        September 29, 2009

        Flies Buzzin' Around a Cowpie

        That describes 5 year-old soccer, and it's the best. Our little fly is in the middle on the blue team. Notice that he's kicking at something, but the ball is behind him.






         Click to enlarge.










        For the Blue Thunder's final game of the season, Tomas' goal was to kick the ball at least ten times. I must say he was really on his game. Instead of hiking his shorts up to his armpits and running the opposite way of the ball, Tomas actually made contact with the ball 20 times. And best yet, he kicked the ball a good ten feet to score a goal.

        Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture. I don't seem to have what it takes to be a sports photographer. I only get clear photographs or have Tomas in the frame when nothing exciting is happening.


        September 27, 2009

        Studs and a Nerd

        A couple of weeks ago, I posted Chloe's school picture. The boys brought theirs home today, and here they are.



        Tomas, kindergarten. Katie did a nice make up job to cover the black eye he got on the neighbor's trampoline. (click to enlarge)









        Liam, 6th grade






        After seeing the pictures, Chloe said, "Tomas and Liam are studs!" By this, I'm pretty sure she meant they are good looking and not the dictionary definition of "stud". Even so, quite the compliment for the boys considering it came from their sister. I'm quite positive my sisters never had anything like that to say about my school pictures (or any other photos of me for that matter).

        For fun, I've decided to also post my kindergarten and 6th grade pictures. I don't see much of a resemblance with either of the boys, which I guess is a good thing. In my opinion, my kindergarten picture isn't so bad. However, by 6th grade, my life as a nerd was in full swing.




        Me as a kindergartner. Kinda cute, eh?









        Me as a 6th grader. What happened? Oh well... In the words of Katie, "Embrace your nerdiness!"

        September 20, 2009

        Arr! Avast Me Hearties!

        Arrr, arrrr. Ahoy shipmates, shiver me timbers!

        Did ye know this past Satterdee be International Talk Like a Pirate Day? Aye, tis true. Thar be such a thin`. 't’s been around fer quite a while an' seems t` be gettin` more popular. Last year, th' day fell on a Fridee so Katie taught her college class verily in pirate talk dressed in scurvy pirate garb. This year, th' local grocery store put on all kinds o` pirate activities. An' I jus' read a post in one o` me favorite blogs, Cake Wrecks, devoted t` th' day. Me opinion be that 't won’t be long before we be havin' a new national shore leave.

        Since th' lasses war ou' o` town, th' boys an' Me decided t` celebrate by goin` t` a new pirate-themed gally, Pirate Island Pizza. Th' boys only had t` swab the'r room an' th' main deck o` th' house t` earn the'r reward. An' Me must say, they did a jolly good job.

        We agreed that while 't’s nay th' Blue Bayou in Pirates o` th' Carribbean at Disneyland, tis much better than Chuck E. Cheese. Tis th' kind o` place most lads and lassies will love an' most parents put up wit' (lots o' screamin' kiddies, if ye be knowin' what I be sayin'). After we put grub in our gullets, we figgerd we’d return again next year for Talk Like a Pirate Day and bring the lassies.










        (Click to enlarge.) Me and me best mates!

        Soccer Update

        Liam's soccer team actually won a game! Instead of getting completely trounced, as is usual, we dominated, winning 8 to 1. Now, I must be honest and admit that our opponents weren't playing with a full team, but it's a win, and we'll take it. My boys actually began to play with confidance and even use some of the skills we've been working on in practice.

        Too bad I didn't have a camera with me, and Katie and Chloe were out of town. After the game, we were so happy, I took the Liam out for a celebretory Jamba Juice.

        Way to go, Steel Benders!

        September 14, 2009

        Staycation to India

        India is on our list of places to see before we die. We love everything Indian from the food to the art to the history to the music. And yes, even Bollywood. Since we're still climbing out of the financial pit from our month in Austria, we won't be heading over to the Asian continent anytime soon. So instead, we decided to take a little Indian staycation by going to the Festival of India at the Hare Krishna temple in Spanish Fork.

        "Hold on a minute," you might be thinking. "A Hare Krishna temple in Utah?" Yep, they've got one, and it's been there for quite a while. It's quite impressive for a small Utah town. And the Hare Krishnas seem to co-exist quite nicely with the Mormons.

        Katie and I have been going out there for quite a few years now. One of our favorite events is the the Festival of India put on every September. Every year, it seems to get bigger. I don't know how many people we saw, but it looked in the thousands. This time, we took Tomas with us.

        In the collage below are some shots of the temple. Notice that Katie wore her punjabi suit given to her by a former Indian student. On the main floor of the building, they have a vegetarian restaurant and gift shop. Upstairs is where they have a large room that I presume is used for religious ceremonies, chanting and yoga. On the night of the festival, they had a band singing Hare Krishna chants. The audience sat on the perimeter of the room, and those who wanted to danced in the middle. You can bet that if Chloe were there, I would have joined the dancing since it is my sworn duty as a father to embarrass her at every given opportunity.








        Click to enlarge.












        The next collage shows Tomas with the animals. He had a good time feeding the llamas. In the bottom picture on the left, the llama gave Tomas a big lick on the back of the head just after I snapped the photo.

        We enjoyed a great vegetarian meal. We had some sort of curry with garbanzo beans over rice, broccoli with something that tasted like meat but was most likely tofu, and something that tasted like thick sweetened Cream of Wheat. We've never been out to the temple to their restaurant, but now I want to give it a try.

        As the sun set, we sat on the hill and watched the pageant of the epic Ramayana (the Hare Krishna equivalent to the Mormon pageants put on in the area). In the story, the hero, Rama, defeats the evil Ravana, an evil demon with ten heads. In the top middle of the collage, you can see Tomas and I in front of the 25' high wooden representation of Ravana. At the end of the play, Rama and his brother shoot arrows of fire at Ravana. The crowd cheers as evil is destroyed from the world.

        In the picture below, you can also see some of the characters from the play. The costumes are really cool. The actors mime to a prerecorded soundtrack, and it's a bit corny. But, the play has charm, and we love it. I think it would be sad if it ever became a high tech, slick production.



        Here is a little video clip of Ravana catching on fire and the following fireworks. If you look closely, you can see the arrows on fire flying.



        It was a great little Indian vacation. I have a feeling we're not going to have much money for a while to do another big trip. So, I see in our future a Scottish staycation to Payson for the Scottish festival, a Swiss staycation to Midway for Swiss Days, and a Greek staycation to Salt Lake for the Greek Festival.

        Who knew Utah was so international?

        September 05, 2009

        Go Steel Benders!

        It's soccer season. Not only has Liam moved up to the next age group, but he's left the recreation league to play on a competition team. I'm helping out as sort of an assistant coach. I've been Liam's coach before, but I felt coaching in the competition league might be beyond my skills and knowledge. Since I don't really know what I'm doing, I'm more of the the team motivator and cheerleader. Really, I'm just doing it to spend time with Liam.

        Liam's team, the Steel Benders, is made up completely of boys from the rec league and most of them have just moved up to this age group, so basically, our team is young and inexperienced. The team has played three games, and it has been an wide eye-opening experience, to say the least. The first game they were soundly beaten, the second game they lost because they just ran out of steam in the second half, and the third game they were thoroughly clobbered by a team of gargantuan brutes. 

        Our boys are handling it all very well. They know they are a new team competing against teams that have been together much longer with boys who are older. I'm proud of them for staying so positive. 

        It's me who is having a hard time. I've never understood those parents who get out of control at games, jumping up and down yelling awful things at the officials and the other team. Now, I do. Good thing I have Katie there to remind me bring it down a level. But, when I see a kid a full head taller than Liam tackle him to the ground and then use Liam to clean his cleats, the inner beast just comes out. So far, I've only yelled out things like, "Hey!!! Come on now!!! Ohhhh!!! Foul!!!" (I know it's not good to overuse exclamation marks in writing, but as I was screaming, I was certainly overusing them.) Honestly, I just wanted to take the big kid's neck in one hand and the ref's neck in the other and bonk their heads together. Where did this come from? Luckily, I kept my composure.


        As long as Liam and the boys are improving their skills and having a good time (which they are), that's all that matters. I will continue to be the motivator. I will just try to keep the inappropriate exclamation marks to myself.






           Our brave Liam!!












        See what the giant did?!!