December 13, 2014

Gingerbread House Extravaganza 2014

The 6th Annual Gingerbread House Extravaganza was an overwhelming success. We had a lot of fun with the Mc family and are also very grateful they invited us over to their house for the festivities. Some day when I'm making the big bucks, I'm going to knock out a few walls in our house to make it more entertaining friendly.

Before I show this year's creations, I have to back up a year. It looks like I never got around to posting the 2013 gingerbread houses. First of all, Katie and the boys made a Hundertwasser inspired house. If you don't know the work of Austrian artist and architect, Friedenreich Huntertwasser, check out this link. I think Hundertwasser would be proud.

I decided to make the Santa Barbara Mission. I think all fourth graders in California have to make a model of a mission as they study California history. Since we moved to California when I was in fifth grade, I missed out. I made up for it with this creation. It is certainly a work of fantasy since I don't think it ever snows in Santa Barbara.

And now to 2014...

Here we have several photos of the crew hard at work.

The kids are all growing up so fast. I miss the days when most of what they did somehow ended up on the floor. Somehow, my socks ended up relatively clean at the end of the evening.

Katie paining her piece of the wall.

Rob and Maddie working on their very cool tree (see below).

The Mc boys with some help from Tomas created this wonder. They didn't fool me however. I know what they were up to. The Mc kids like to nibble on their houses throughout the season, so I totally get why they crammed as much candy on the house as possible. I personally would start with the Bosten baked beans. Anyways, I think the house is amazing.

Rob, Mary Ann, and Maddie worked on a mid-century Eichler inspired gingerbread house. I had never heard of Eichler before, so I googled him (click here). I LOVE his style. If I could build a dream home, I would like something like his style. Although, I'm not sure how a more flat-roofed home would do here in Utah where we can get considerable snow in the winter. The Mc version looks authentic to me. I love the Christmas lights.

A little over a month ago, Tomas, Katie, and I were talking about the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. As we told Tomas about the history of the wall and remembered when we got to see the wall, we all came to the conclusion that we needed to create the Brandenburg Gate and wall in gingerbread. I worked on the Brandenburg Gate and Katie and the boys did the wall. 

Here is the inspiration for one of the wall sections.

And one more photo of inspiration.

I'm most proud of the Quadriga (a chariot pulled by four horses) on top of the Brandenburg Gate. And yes, I did carve out each horse individually.

All in all, I was very happy with this year's gingerbread effort. The Gingerbread House Extravaganza is one of my favorite traditions, and I really hope it continues for many years to come.

December 01, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Since Oma and Opa moved down here, we didn't go up to Preston for "five whole days" (like Liam used to exclaim).

The annual Turkey Bowl was held in our park. Once again, I was the sports photographer. Instead of getting out the big camera, I used my new phone. The teams were the same: Tyler and Liam versus Jon, Isaac, and Tomas. The game ended in a tie–mainly because we wanted to eat, and also because in the end, it's just better to stop at a tie.

Chloe and Audrey cheered from the sidelines and watched silly videos on Chloe's phone.

Here the highlight reel.

And here we have the winners...

After the game, we headed over to Oma and Opa's new place for Thanksgiving dinner.

We all had a great time and ate ourselves sick.

And then, Liam got sick. (not from the food!)

Everyone headed up to spend the rest of the weekend in Logan for the family reunion. That is, everyone but me and the sicko. I was sad to miss the party and especially the Preston Christmas Parade, but I was able to tackle a mountain of neglected homework.

November 25, 2014

Waiting for Godot

Way back in college, I remember reading the Beckett play, Waiting for Godot. I remember thinking, "This is weird. I totally don't get it. I never want to see it."

Tonight, many years later, guess what we saw? Yep, Provo High put on a production of Waiting for Godot, and Liam played the role of Vladimir, one of the main characters.

I thought this was a very brave choice for a high school. An absurdist play with not much of a plot? Definitely not your normal Utah high school type production. To illustrate, Mountain View just staged Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I was nervous it would be just us with a few other parents in the audience. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised, and there were only a few empty seats.

The director did some very creative things with the play. It was staged in the round, and several kids tag teamed to play each part. It worked really well and wasn't distracting.

Now I'm not being biased, but my favorite scene was with Liam and his friends, Alyssa and Sam. I knew Sam could be quite a character, and Alyssa is quite a little actress. However, I was really impressed with Liam. This is the first substantial role I've seen him in, and he did a great job--so well that I completely forgot it was Liam and believed he was Vladimir.

Here is a photo of Liam and Alyssa that I stole from the show's Facebook page.

Estragon and Vladimir

At the end of the first act, all of the actors laid down on the floor and closed their eyes. They stayed that way throughout the intermission. Audience members started taking photos of the actors

Liam is on the floor on the far left.
I decided to join in and get a shot of Liam. Chloe went up to Liam and touched his face. Liam didn't move a muscle.

 Here's a shot of Liam and Alyssa after the show.

In the end I thought, "This was weird. I totally didn't get it. I'm so glad I went to see it."

October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

Here the Halloween 2014 round up. 

Tomas decided to go as Charlie Chaplin. Katie thought it was going to be an easy costume this year. However, she wanted the jacket to be ill-fitting like Charlie's was. This required taking a jacket from DI almost completely apart and reassembling. Tomas spent the week prior to Halloween practicing his Chaplin walk. He looked great, but once again, he chose a costume that mostly only adults got. Tomas went trick-or-treating with his two best buds. Jeffrey was an awesome skeleton, and Sebi looked groovy as a 70s dude.

Liam got invited to the school's Halloween dance by Alyssa. Liam would not share any details as to how she asked him or how he responded. Knowing what little I do about Alyssa, I'm sure the invite was cute and creative. I'm just hoping Liam returned the favor.

For the dance, couples came in costume together. Liam and Alyssa went as Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers. Scott and Ramona are characters from a series of graphic novels that have also been turned into a movie. From Wikipedia, I learned the Scott Pilgrim is a slacker and part-time musician who falls in love with Ramona, but must defeat her seven evil exes in order to date her.

For Liam's costume, Katie knitted a special hat, purchased a special T-shirt, and sewed a patch on a coat. To me, I couldn't really tell he was in a costume. But, maybe that's the genius of it. Ramona is known for her different hair colors.

Here is a photo of the movie characters.

When Alyssa arrived to pick Liam up, Brooke also came to the door. She was dressed as Mary Poppins. I assume her date was Burt.

When we asked Liam how the date went, we got the usual two-syllable reply, "Uh huh." I think that translates to: "Yes, I had a great time."

Katie and I were supposed to chaperone the stake Halloween youth dance. However, I got the date wrong, and Katie had a conflict. I ended up going by myself dressed in the wizard costume. Each year, I say I'm going to do something different, but I always run out of time. 

September 07, 2014

Rock Stars

So, I was sitting at the computer upstairs doing homework, and I could hear Liam practicing his guitar in the basement. I wasn't really paying attention, but then I noticed that someone was playing drums along with him. I asked Katie if Liam had a friend over, and she said no and that it was Tomas on the drums. I was quite surprised because it didn't sound half bad. Tomas has never taken any percussion lessons. His only experience has been playing Lego Rock Band and watching his brother. I snuck down to the basement with my phone and shot this video through the crack in the door. If the boys find out I did this and posted the video here, they'll have a fit. However, I'm not too worried. I don't think many people, least of all Tomas and Liam, read this blog.

Liam is just improvising and Tomas is playing along. I apologize I shot the video vertically, which I know is a big no no, but that's the only way I could film through the crack.


I have a friend whose son is in a major, world famous, rock band. I'm sure he's worth millions upon millions. Maybe this is my retirement ticket. Liam and Tomas could form a band that hits it big and take care of me in my old age in a manner I would enjoy becoming accustomed to.

However as I rethink that, the rock star life is not a good one. I'll settle for honest professions without all the bad stuff (and if they can send Katie and I on a trip to Europe, that would be fabulous).

September 02, 2014

First Day of School Photos 2014

Tomas is in 5th grade. His teacher is Ms. Brown. Tomas is happy to be back at school. It looks like the homework load will increase dramatically this year, but he's up to it. In addition to focussing on science, technology and math since he attends a STEM school, Tomas will begin learning the violin this year. (I don't know how my ears feel about that, but oh well.)

Liam is a junior. He's taking AP English Language, AP Calculus, Physics, Honors Drama, AP US History, Technical Theater, and Seminary. That's a pretty full schedule. Once again, Liam will be busy this year performing with Acting Up. Also, he had his drivers license for almost six months which means he will be able to drive with people in the car other than family members. This Should be interesting.

This is Chloe's first semester since coming back from her mission. Because she only went one semester before her mission, I guess you could still consider her a freshmen. However, she has enough credits from high school that she's technically a sophomore. Her current major is Exercise and Wellness with a minor in Spanish. Her current course load looks like this: American Heritage, Book of Mormon, First Aid, Nutrition, and Spanish.

And here is my first day of school photo. I am starting my second year of the EMPA program. This semester I'll be taking a public administration class and a human resources class.

September 01, 2014


To celebrate Labor Day and to see Grandma Jo and Grandpa Gene one more time before they go back hibernate in California for the winter, we went up to Midway to stay overnight and to the Soldier Hollow Sheepdog Championships.

It was a perfectly beautiful day. The championships have definitely grown since the last time we attended about seven years ago.

I took this panorama shot with my iphone.
We bought a program so we could learn more about what we were watching. It's pretty amazing what the handlers have trained their dogs to do. Border Collies are pretty darn smart.

Everyone through the gate. Some of the dogs had real problems with this. I wanted to tell them to use the sheep password from "Babe."

This dog has his sheep all lined up and in step.

I believe this is the team that won. They made it look easy.

Sitting in the stands. Even though Grandma is the only one smiling, I think they all enjoyed it. Katie and the boys are just tired of me and my camera.
Our Canadian friends have told us about the Canadian specialty, poutine. It looks like they're finally making it down south. The fries with cheese curd and gravy was pretty good, but we thought we could probably make a healthier and tastier version.

You can tell those dogs really love what they're doing.

The dog had his herd gathered in very close.

I thought we'd see some crazy dog people at the event–kind of like crazy cat people. However, this guy carrying his dog around in one of those baby wrap things was as close to crazy I saw.

We also watched the Splash Dog Competition. 

This was one of my favorite dogs to watch jump. The photo doesn't capture it, but he looked graceful.
 Grandma made the following observation as we watched the dogs:
"It's impressive how the handlers have trained their dogs instead of the dog training their owner."
Yeah, Bella has Grandma and Grandpa well trained.

I had two thoughts as we headed home.
"Where was the pig?"
"Why don't we have a dog?" 

August 17, 2014

She's baaaaaack!

Hermana Isaak returned home. Now that the 18 months is over, it really does seem to have gone by quickly.

All the grandparents and the Burtons joined us to meet Chloe at the airport. There were at least 30 missionaries returning at the same time, so the place was packed with families staking out their spots. It was funny to see the looks on peoples faces coming down the escalator who obviously were not LDS and had never been to Salt Lake before.

After a wait which almost seemed as long as her mission, we finally spotted Chloe.

The first hug was obviously saved for Mom.

After all the hugging was complete, everyone wanted to know about THE Book of Mormon. It was one of our favorite stories from Hermana Isaak's mission. You can read it here. She just happened to have famous book handy in her bag and pulled it out to show everyone.

I got a photo of Chloe with Hermana Child, a favorite companion.

Here she is with the grandparents.

And with the Burtons.

Look who's now the shortest.

Audrey can't wait to show Chloe Frozen. We're happy to let Audrey do that, and we would prefer it be over at the Burton's house. (Yes, the boys and I are so over that movie.)

I don't think Nathan really remembered Chloe. He got to get reacquainted with the cousin who has been part of his daily prayers for the past year and a half.

Yep, we haven't changed.

DeAntra, the first person Chloe taught to join the Church, showed up to greet Chloe. She brought a GIANT polkadot balloon, which unfortunately couldn't fit into the car on the ride home.

Here's the entire happy gang glad to have our Schmoe back.

We almost made it out of the airport without getting a photo of our family with Chloe.

We are so proud of the mission Chloe served. She definitely gave it her all. She had a great impact on the lives of so many in Alabama, and she was an invaluable tool in the Lord's hands. Hermana Isaak was a wonderful example to us and we were definitely blessed for her service.

Here are a couple of videos of Chloe's arrival. It was intended to be just one continuous video, but I received a call on my cell while recording that turned it off. We got Chloe giving everyone hugs but me. Oh well. I don't really like being videoed anyway. I also think I sound really lame telling everyone to back off so Katie could get the first hug (Katie certainly deserved it, but who in the world was that lady in black that jumped out and immediately hugged Chloe?).

Sorry, it was shot vertical; we were in a rush.