January 25, 2010

Return to Soldier Hollow

A couple of weeks ago, Liam and I went cross-country skiing at Soldier Hollow. This past weekend, we returned, but this time, we tried tubing. We went with a group of the students I work with.

Soldier Hollow has the longest tubing lanes in Utah with a lift service to take you up the hill. At first, I thought the ticket price of $19 for two hours was a bit steep, but when we finished, I felt we got our money's worth.

I did learn one thing, however. Liam and all the students wore real snow gear while I wore jeans. I didn't think I would be spending much time in the snow because you ride down in big tubes, and I wasn't planning on taking any big risks. All I wanted was nice smooth rides down the hill. Well, a light snow was falling, and each time I got to the bottom of the hill, I was plastered with an inch of snow. It wasn't long before my jeans were soaked. Next time, I'm making the investment, and snow pants it is.

One thing that puzzles me. I weigh a good two and a half times what Liam does. According to the laws of physics, shouldn't I slide down the hill faster? How come each time Liam and I raced, I lost? Maybe my big old backside was digging into the hill creating more friction while Liam just zipped on over the snow.

This video confirms once again what I have known for many years. I should just keep my mouth shut while videoing. I sound like a Muppet.

Next time, I'd like to try this out. It's called skouching. This video clip, filmed in Utah, was on the national news. Now, when we finally get a new couch for the family room, I know how to recycle the old one.

January 23, 2010

Chloe's Behind the Wheel

I don't get it. When I turned 16, I couldn't wait to get my license. Chloe has been 16 a couple of weeks now and hasn't shown much interest. I finally dragged her to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get her learner's permit. Katie and I need her to get her license. There are errands to run and brothers to be picked up and taken places. As it stands, she will have to wait six months after getting her permit before she can get her license and then another six months after that before she can drive one of her brothers without Katie and I also being in the car.

I took off work early to bring Chloe to the DMV. As we approached the door, we saw the sign that said:

New Laws
in effect
please expect
Thank you

Other than the odd capitalization and lack of punctuation, I didn't think much of it. We still had three hours before the place closed. Little did I know.

After making it through the first line in a swift 45 minutes to show we had the proper documentation and to get Chloe's photo taken, we were then given a number. We then sat in a large crowded room to wait for our number to be called.

We waited...

and waited...

and waited some more.

Remember the phrase going postal? I haven't heard it used much lately, but I think the new updated version could be going DMV. You could feel the tension building in the room. I definitely had my eye on a guy dressed completely in camouflage with bright orange hunting accents. Chloe and I were ready to hit the ground if he made any sudden moves.

Only two and a half hours later, our number was finally called. We jumped out of our seats and approached stall #4. The DMV employee told us we would only have time to fill out the paperwork and we would have to come back another day for Chloe to take the test. That's when I felt like going DMV. But, I composed myself and calmly, yet firmly, replied, "No. She will take it today. We've been here hours." The lady said, "But I'm sorry. There won't be time." And I repeated myself, "No. She will take it today. We've been here hours." That's when she finally said to me, "OK. You stay here, and we'll do the paperwork. Your daughter can go over and get in line to take the test. However, she'll have to hurry because the test will take a half hour." So, off Chloe went to take the test, and I said a silent prayer she would pass it the first time.

Well, I finished all the paperwork, looked up, and saw Chloe signaling she was done and had passed the test. I knew she was a good test-taker, but wow, that has to be some sort of record.

Chloe now has her learner's permit and is on her way to getting a real license. We will have to put in 40 hours of practice time, and I'm sure that will make for some great blog entries.

At the DMV, Chloe and I passed the time brainstorming ways the DMV could help make the experience more pleasant for patrons. We decided to think outside the box and not talk about obvious things like having all eleven stalls open when it's that crowded instead of only four. Or, how about being open on Fridays?

Here's our top fifteen ideas in random order:
  1. Beverage and snack cart—If we had been on a plane, we would have at least gotten peanuts and a soda after two hours.
  2. Door prizes—Raffles always get people excited. Prizes could range from inexpensive DMV key rings and stress balls to ski passes or to a car given away once a month to a lucky winner.  
  3. Balloon animals—I love watching people make balloon animals. It can be somewhat hypnotic, and balloons always make people happy.
  4. Disneyland-like distractions—Disneyland has perfected this idea. They provide distractions to help patrons pass the time while waiting in line. There could be cute animatronic animals teaching traffic safety.
  5. Play the Cougar Fight Song every hour on the hour—"Rise and Shout" always puts me in a good mood, and it will get everyone out of their seats for a moment. In other parts of the state, I guess they could to the University of Utah song or maybe YMCA.
  6. Yoga meditation and stretches—Once an hour, a DMV employee could lead the crowd in some relaxation and meditation exercises and some stretches.
  7. Do the wave—Every time someone's number is called, do the wave to send them off and wish them good luck.
  8. Play BINGO—We got this idea watching the board with light up numbers showing who was next to be served. 
  9. Provide Nerf toys—While we were waiting, I could tell some people were getting very frustrated. Shooting Nerf guns or hitting someone with a Nerf bat could help relieve some tension, and no one gets hurt.
  10. Provide shoulder massages—I personally don't like strangers touching me, but Katie would love this. I'm sure there are a lot more people out there like her.
  11. Show a movie—We were sitting there long enough to watch an entire movie. I suggest "Cars" or "The Great Race."
  12. Vibrating pagers—You know those things you get when your waiting for a table at a restaurant? If the range isn't very far for those things, I bet there's some sort of system where people could be given a 20 minute cell phone text alert.
  13. Mix-n-mingle activities—"Find someone who drives the same color car as you. Find someone who has the same birth month as you." That sort of thing. Wouldn't it be nice to leave the DMV knowing you made a new friend?
  14. Play charades—People could act out driving rules and safety tips–fun and educational at the same time.
  15. Line dancing instruction—I noticed we were already sitting in long rows. So why not? 
Well, there they are. I know some of them might seem a little crazy, but seriously, something's got to be done. If things don't change by the time Chloe goes in to get her real license, I'm taking a pillow, my Snuggie, a book, my iPod, snacks, a large drink, and a game. I'll be prepared.

    January 17, 2010

    The XIX Olympic Winter Games Revisited

    I got to chaperon Liam's class on their cross-country skiing trip to Soldier Hollow. I've been cross-country skiing probably ten times in my life, and let me tell you, it's not like riding a bike. I seem to forget how to do it each time. Luckily, nothing's broken.

    Soldier Hollow was the venue for the cross-country skiing events of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Wow, I can't believe it's already been eight years. At the time, Chloe was eight, and Liam was four. We took them to Soldier Hollow to watch several of the events. I remember the place being overrun with Norwegians. They really love their cross-country skiing, and as it just so happens, Norway won every race we saw.

    One of my favorite memories of the day involved some of the Norwegian fans. Liam wore his Mike Wasowzki hat he got from his Aunt Lori. All the Norwegians seemed to be wearing some sort of wacky headgear, and they loved Liam's hat. One group even offered $200 for it. Had it been me, I would have been doing some serious bargaining.  But, this was Liam, our little boy who really gets attached to things. There was no way on this planet Liam was going to give up the hat, even though he could have bought twenty hats for $200. But, oh well. Liam wore the hat every single day for several winters. It's now a family heirloom and a reminder of a great experience.

    Liam and Chloe with one of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics' mascots, Copper. 
    And of course, the $200 hat.

    Cross country skiing at Soldier Hollow 2010
    Liam's a natural, and I'm...not.

    (click to enlarge)
     top, left to right: 
    Liam in front of Salt Lake Winter Olympics 2002 sculpture 
    representing a snow crystal, Liam skiing in front of another 
    Olympics sculpture (he's tiny) 
     Liam and I on the bus flanked by two pictures of Liam skiing 
    the Soldier Hollow lodge with Liam skiing by down amongst 
    the trees, me standing (for the moment)

    Ah, what a lovely view.

     If my skis are in the air, where's my butt? 

    Liam and I had a fantastic time. Every bump and bruise was worth it. Only five more years until Tomas gets to go cross-country skiing with his class, and you can bet I'm signing up.

    January 08, 2010

    Hook 'em Horns

    Lori, aka Aunt Bita, came to visit. She made sure we were prepared for the big game. Not only did I wear a Longhorns tie to work, but I watched the entire game, yelled at the TV, and said the phrase "Hook 'em Horns" at least fifty times throughout the day while making the appropriate hand sign. If you know me, this is not like me. Possible brainwashing? I think so, y'all.

    Too bad Texas lost. Oh well, it's still a blast having Lori visit.

    Sweet 16

    The day has come. Chloe is sixteen. And, I think I'm handling it all very well, thank you. I knew from the day she was born and I first saw my little princess, I was going to be an overprotective father. Can you blame me? Just look at that face.
    Chloe at three months.

    However, I really haven't had too much to worry about. Chloe has turned out to be a wonderful young woman with a good head on her shoulders.  She's not without her moments, though, but neither am I. Sometimes, we have our moments together. But hey, that's family.

    To celebrate the big day, Katie and I planned a surprise party at Spark Restaurant and Lounge, a local trendy hot spot. We invited a bunch of Chloe's good friends, and  we ordered fancy hors d'oeuvres and specialty drinks. Chloe seemed genuinely surprised. While the friends hung out in the loft, Katie and I stayed below and out of the way.

    The friends–and what a great group of friends they are.

    The only activity we had planned for the evening was for each friend to bring a gift that cost less than $5. The gift had to represent some connection to Chloe–an inside joke, a fun memory, something they share in common, etc. From down below, we couldn't hear the stories, but there was sure a lot of laughter. That all seemed to go over very well, and for the rest of the time, the friends were more than content to just hang out.

    Chloe with each of the guests (and her hip parents).

    The birthday cake–Chocolate Fudge Torte 
    topped with chocolate curls, white chocolate
    butterflies and trick candles.

    Um... Chloe liked the waiter, too. A lot.

    Chloe and her friends had a great time, and it was the easiest party we've ever planned. Best of all, there was no mess to clean up. I think Katie and I also earned a whole mess of "coolness" points, of which I am seriously deficient according to Chloe. Our sixteen year old offered us the highest compliment, "I didn't think you could pull off something so cool." Booyah! That's what I'm talking about! High five, Katie!

    Happy birthday, Chloe! Enjoy being sixteen. You are good. You are smart. You are fun. You are beautiful. Thank you for blessing our family.

    Side Note: Chloe has since been on her first date. Some have requested that I write all about it on the blog and post some pictures. As fun as that would be, I think I would lose any and all "coolness" points I may have and even go in the hole. I think I would be safe, however, in letting you all know her date was with the kid in the Aeropostale shirt. He's a very nice young man, and Katie and I like him. Chloe practically bounced off the walls for an hour after getting home, so I think that's a sign the date went well. 

    January 07, 2010

    He's Got the Whole World in his Head

    Liam,our family's little brainiac, just won his school's geography bee. Liam's brilliance comes from his mother, and I have given him the gift of recalling useless trivia. A perfect match-up for this kind of thing.

    It was a bit scary at first when he missed a question in an early round, but each kid got two misses before being banished to the row of shame. Luckily, he survived to the final round when each competitor started again with a clean slate.

    Aunt Bita, who was visiting from Texas, enjoyed seeing her nephew in action. We had to restrain her a couple of times. Every time he got a question correct, she wanted to yell, "Hook 'em Horns!" (She is pretty persistent in her pursuit of having all her nieces and nephews attend the University of Texas in Austin.)

    At the end of the final round, Liam and a girl were tied, and it came down to sudden death. Liam looked pretty calm. I, however, was shaking so badly I could barely work the video recorder.

    The final question was "Which Asian country has eight of the ten highest mountain peaks?" Liam and the little girl wrote their answers on dry erase boards. When the girl answered, "Thailand." I knew immediately that Liam won. There was no way he would miss. Since Liam was a toddler, he has loved what I call superlative trivia (the biggest..., the oldest..., the deadliest..., etc.) And I was right, Liam knew that Nepal has most of the highest mountains in the world.

    Now, it's on to state. It doesn't really matter how he does at state. It's all gravy. We're just proud he participated in the first place.

    Way to go, Liam!

    Starting top left going clockwise: 1) Liam with the other 
    finalists 2) The proud family 3) Chloe the videographer 
    4) Aunt Bita with the boys

    Here's the highlight reel.

    January 04, 2010

    The List for 2010

    I've been thinking about this for a while now. We even had a lesson about it in church today.

    New Year's Resolutions...

    I've made resolutions before but only half-heartedly, and once February rolls around, they're long forgotten. I'm sure I'm not alone. However, I want this year to be different.

    I've heard the saying "a goal not written down is only a wish." Well, if writing them down helps, I'm sure posting them on a blog that I know at least a couple of people read will certainly motivate me.

    Here they are.
    1. Spiritual–Once again, we're studying the Old Testament in Sunday School. I am going to try my darndest to make it through to the very end. In the past, I've either gotten weirded out by some of the stories, hung up in all the genealogy and nit-picky laws, or lost in Isaiah, and I've given up and went back to other more easily understandable books of scripture. Since I would like to gain some spirituality by reading the Old Testament, studying and pondering are a must. Maybe, I can also get some help with Isaiah from Katie.
    2. Intellectual–I am a very slow reader. Katie, Chloe and Liam can all read circles around me, and it won't be long before Tomas is faster. This is probably why I have not read many of the classics–actually very few. I think a good goal would be to read six classics this year. But, where should I begin? I think I'll start choosing something from a list I found online of the 101 best books ever written.
    3. Physical–This year, I lost 20 lbs. Woohoo! But, I plateaued big time. Bummer. It's time to ramp up the exercise regime, which basically means to start exercising. I would like to see if I can get down to the respectable weight of 195, so I'm going to start training for a 5K. My goal is to complete it in under 30 minutes. I then want to move on to the Freedom Festival 10K in July (and be happy to finish).
    4. Marriage–Date night must return! A couple of years ago, Katie and I were really good at it when we had season tickets to the symphony. We didn't let anything get in the way of symphony night. Dates will have to be scheduled, and then I'm going to get creative because "cheap" is big word these days.
    5. Family–And while I'm at it, I need to have some scheduled one-on-one time with each of the kids. Once again, scheduling in advance is the key. Our family gets busier each year.
    6. Home–Painting, painting, and more painting! We have so many unfinished painting projects around the house. It's bugging the heck out of me. So, while Katie finishes up the outside, I'm going to town on the inside.
    7. Financial–Make a will. Why haven't we ever done it? No idea. Laziness? Fear? Well, it's time.
    8. Creative–I haven't really done anything creative with my hands in a long time. This summer, I want to learn something new, maybe take a course. Book-binding sounds interesting.
    9. Social–I need more friends (and I'm not talking about the Facebook kind). There are lots of people Katie and I would like to know better. I just need to take the first step. I was thinking about a chocolate tasting party. I'm sure chocolate will help me win friends and influence people.
    10. Environmental–We're becoming greener each year. This year, I would love to plant a garden. We have a square foot gardening book to help us begin.
    As I check things off the list, I post an update. Now, I'd better get to work.


      January 02, 2010

      Ringing in 2010

      For New Year's Eve, our inner party animals came out.

      The Mc's laid out quite the spread with a variety of fantastic dips, crackers and chips. Mary Ann also made meatballs, two kinds of cookies, and petits fours. And if that weren't enough, we brought cake.

      Take that, Martha!

      Since the year was dying, I thought a Death by Chocolate Cake would be appropriate. I wanted to bake something packed with so much chocolate that after eating a slice you'd roll over and die a most happy death. The creation was five chocolate cake layers separated with chocolate mouse topped with a dark chocolate glaze and milk chocolate curls.

      Drum roll, please.


      This thing weighed a ton.

      While the adults ate and talked and ate some more, the kids played downstairs. In my opinion, this is the perfect way to celebrate New Year's Eve.

      At one point in the evening, however, Rob rounded up the kids to play demolition. He took the gingerbread house down, placed it on the kitchen counter, gave each kid a heavy kitchen utensil, and let the them have at it. Click here to see the before picture. Unfortunately, I didn't witness the destruction because I was stuck to the Mc's comfy couch. But later in the evening, I did see the aftermath. All I can say is, "Oh....my...." Luckily, Rob documented the event with the camera, and Mary Ann emailed me pictures.

      On your mark... Get set...


      Poor Jos, left in the rubble.

      At midnight, we all went outside and lit sparklers.

      Rob was in charge. Everyone had fun. No one got hurt. 

      And that was it.

      Welcome 2010!

      Sidenote: Chloe couldn't handle our kind of fun and went to the tri-stake New Year's Eve dance instead. She seems to be more interested in cute guys these days. I know! What's up with that? Whatever...