Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Little About Katie

Katie - Family Letter - Circle of Courage Spotlight - Grade 1

Most people are born when they are babies. Pretty much all people, really. Most babies are born at the hospital. Not all babies, though. Katie was supposed to be born at the hospital, but then she was in such a hurry to be born that her mom didn’t have time to go to the hospital. Instead, they filled up the bathtub with nice warm water and Katie was born in the bathtub at home. Most times babies cry a lot when they are born. Katie didn’t cry at all when she was born. She was so happy in the warm water of the bathtub. It has almost been seven years since that happened and she is still a very happy person even when she is not in the tub.

Katie likes to help other people. She also likes to cook. She really likes it if she can help other people cook, because then she get to do two things that she really likes. It’s like being happy two times. She also likes treats. So if she gets to help other people cook treats, then she is happy three times. Just last night she helped her dad make a delicious Mexican rice drink called horchata. Usually she stands on a stool to make her taller so she can help other people measure all the ingredients or mix things for treats on the stove.

Katie loves to laugh and tell jokes and dance around and be silly. She could make us all laugh even before she could talk and say words because she knew how to make funny faces. She loves to watch shows that are funny, but she hates things that are scary. She especially hates scary movies. Actually, she hates all movies, but if a movie is scary then it is like she hates it two times. It makes it tough to go do a family movie night at the movie theatre, so instead we watch shows at home. There is this one show all about the earth and the different animals and we can all watch that together because it isn’t a movie and it doesn’t have any bad guys or any scary music, and it certainly doesn’t have any bad guys playing scary music. Katie’s favourite part of that show is when they show the baby penguins or the little bear cubs or any of the animal babies because they are super cute.

You may have noticed that Katie loves stuffed animals. She used to have a big doll house that she got for her birthday a few years ago but she hardly played with it. Instead, she sold her doll house to somebody else and spent a bunch of the money to buy new stuffies. Stuffed animals are usually cute like baby penguins and little bear cubs and they are super soft and Katie loves that.

There are lots more things that we could tell you that we love about Katie but I think we have probably run out of time and there are so many things to say that you would have to stay sitting there all night without any breaks for a snack or potty or anything, and even then we probably wouldn’t say everything about her because she is pretty special. Just try to remember the important things: Happy babies, warm bathtubs, helping cook treats, no bad guys playing scary music in movies, stuffies, baby penguins, and little bear cubs. The End.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Journey to the Center of the Universe

Some people are confused where we come from. Some people in Calgary think we are from Ontario. Some people in Ontario think we are from Calgary. Most people in the USA think we are from Canada and leave it at that.

R and I were both raised in Calgary (although she was officially a BYU baby), and we both went away to other places for University, and then we took off on an adventure to Ottawa shortly after we were married. We honestly had the time of our life out there for 5 years, doing everything together. We both served in the youth program at church and we lived really close to my office and I was home early enough each day for us to cook together and we loved all the time we got to spend together. We went on road trips and overseas trips and all sorts of fun stuff.

But we still did lots of trips back west to visit her family in Calgary and my family in Idaho/Utah and we missed being with everyone. I remember one time it was time for us to fly back to Ottawa after a good visit and we were saying to each other, "Why are we leaving? We should just stay here." Well, eventually we did come back. We were starting our family and we came back to Calgary to spend every Sunday over at Grandma and Grandpa's house with all the cousins running around. It was awesome.

But the move to Calgary included a change in my career and that meant long nights studying finance and then long days commuting downtown so there was less of the cooking together and the trips involved a lot more carseats and strollers. Those early years with diapers and toddlers were tougher, but we still had a great time and now suddenly 9 years has gone by since we left Ottawa to come back to Calgary. I still find myself saying that we recently came back, but I suppose a decade doesn't count as recent anymore.

Now it looks like we are heading East again. At work I was offered a really good opportunity right at the epicenter of it all, on the corner of Bay Street and Wellington in Toronto. We had been looking towards the next step in my career, but this took us a bit by surprise. The timing was challenging because the kids had just started a new year at school and R's mom had been in the hospital with some significant health challenges, so it was not an easy decision to make.

But we took it. And now we are determined to really make the most of it.

I just finished up my first trip out to Toronto for the week, working with my new group. I will be back and forth between the Calgary office and the Toronto office for November and December, and then in January I will be there full-time, living in a temporary apartment until we find a place to rent for the whole family to join me in March.

I think everyone has up and down days when they think about this move. I am probably the most excited about it, because I love this sort of thing. Plus, I have a clear vision of what I am getting into. I have already seen my office and I know the people I will be working with. Still, it is tough to think about leaving behind so many people and places that I love. I think it is even tougher for the rest of the family, because they don't know who they will be friends with and they still can't picture the different places and things that we will yet discover together.

Think of this as an adventure. An extended vacation to a place, to really explore it and get to know it. We are not likely to stay in Toronto for the rest of our lives, so we should try to take it all in. Do all the things. See all the places. Eat all the food. Do it together. Get the know the city so well that people will wonder if we really are from Calgary after all.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Little About Scott

Scott is shooting up like crazy. He is now up to R's shoulder. He is thin as a rail, but you can tell when you grab his hand that he is so much thicker than Katie now. He is about 60 pounds or something like that. He is a total fiend for anything to do with sports. He is reading the Harry Potter books and he is onto the 6th one now. Last year he was just getting into chapter books and now he is blasting through 700-page novels. Wild.

I was running Scott's bball practice last night and it was soooo much fun. I had the kids doing this really complicated 5-man, full court passing and shooting drill and they were getting it. Crazy how much they have improved this year. After practice was over, a few of us lingered and did a 3-on-3 game of fast breaks. We had an adult on each team and the kids would tear off down the court after every rebound and we would lob passes to them for breakaway layups. We kept at it for about 30 minutes and Scott was beet red and exhausted at the end. I carried him up to bed. It was so great. Kids are great. So is basketball.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

First Triathlon Win!

[Aug 15 2015]

This summer we planned a family trip to Placid Lake in Montana with all R's family. We went down a few days early and met up with my brother and my parents. I noticed that there was a triathlon going on at the lake nearby, so I mentioned it to my brother. He said that he and his kids were already registered, even before he heard we were coming. but he had a health incident with his heart and would not be able to participate. I signed up my kids and arranged to race in the place of my brother. There were two races for adults, one with 600 yard swim and one with a 300 yard swim (but both had a 10 mile bike and a 3 mile run). I raced in the short swim version, because that is what they had already signed up for, but inside I was thrilled because I am a terrible swimmer. I bought myself a sweet triathlon outfit on sale for this event, which meant that I would only need to put on socks and shoes to do my transition, and I was ready.

7:55 for 300 yards was 15 overall.

1:42 was 8 overall

30:08 for 16 km was 1 overall
(I passed everyone but the leader in the first half of the bike. Saw him coming out of the turnaround but never caught him.)

0:36 was 12 overall
(would have been faster but I forgot to take my helmet off and had to throw it to a bystander.)

23:30 for 5.4 km was 3 overall
(I caught the leader in the first half and held off the challenger in the last half. Kaitlin beat my run time by 19 seconds.)

Although the morning was hazy and cool, the water was deliciously warm like a bathtub. It was a wonderful start. Plus, it was so shallow that in the kids race Scott walked most of his swim and I was able to walk next to Katie and make sure she was okay. I stayed with her for the whole time, including a very challenging 5km bike course that went through the woods for most of it. The path was narrow and the ground uneven, so bent over from behind Katie to grab her handle bars and help her stay on the path. Even if I hadn't just run my own triathlon this would have been exhausting. Finally we pulled back onto the road for the final stretch back to the transition. Katie was one of the very youngest competitors in the whole race and nearly everyone was finished by the time we returned, so her cousins all did the run with her, being kind enough to let her beat them to the finish line.

Finish Line Video

Kaitlin at the finish line

Becca at the finish line

Krissy at the finish line

Katie transition to bike

Dad chasing after Katie

Connor winning the Kids Race

Bailey, Scott, Afton & Cannon at the finish line

Katie at the finish line

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Books I Read in 2015

Extreme: Why Some People Thrive at the Limits - Emma Barrett and Paul Martin (Audio Book)
My reading list always has some bizarre titles on it. I this one was a recommended book on Audible, which is my service for audio books. The author's British accent is delicious and worth the price of admission, smoothly recounting harrowing accounts of explorers freezing to death at the poles or dying at crushing depths. The conclusions are fascinating, although it seems like the analysis is mainly based on anecdotal evidence, rather than clinical trials. Each story seems more like a plausible launching point for more research, rather than the basis for conclusions, but hey, I am no expert here. I think I still haven't quite finished it off, but there is no over-arching narrative here, so I don't think that I missed a surprise ending or anything.

The Rent Collector - Camron Wright
This is the second book I have read about a family that experienced great hardship in Cambodia (the other book was To Destroy You is No Loss about the Khmer Rouge's seizure of Phnom Penh). This book didn't have a harsh Marxist Dictator oppressing everyone, but life in the dump seemed pretty harsh on its own, and it was fascinating to think about how a family could adapt to this situation and have deep and meaningful relationships, despite the backdrop. Good book.

1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed - Eric H. Cline
This book discusses the causes of the end of the Bronze Age in the Mediterranean, which is a topic I previously knew nothing about. The book is perhaps more scholarly at times than I really required, but it was fascinating to learn how a sophisticated and very interconnected world like that could suddenly collapse in the face of a series of disruptive challenges, including drought, mass migration, and interrupted trade routes. The lesson is that nothing lasts forever, and because there really isn't one factor that causes this sort of collapse, it is hard to say what it might take to have another one.

The Martian - Andy Weir
I hadn't even heard of this book or the Hollywood movie that was based on it until a friend at work mentioned that he had just read it and really enjoyed it. I devoured the book in the course of just a few days and then watched the movie about a week later. My personal preference would be to have less cussing, but I have nothing but good things to say about this story. The bulk of the book, especially at the beginning, is just the protagonist's log entries of his effort to survive, and that is the best stuff. On a literary level, those parts read like a good friend of yours sending you a really long email, but that doesn't mean you can't love it. I wish more of my friends would send me gripping emails like this from Mars.

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie - Jordan Sonnenblick
My sister Allyson and I share a Kindle account and this popped up from her side of the library. It looked like something targeted at her teenager kids, but I am not above such things. I really enjoyed it. I think the author tried a bit too hard to have a teenager's voice, and I think the resultant word choices were sometimes distracting, but overall the story about being an awkward teenage boy coping with the family strain of a sick younger brother was compelling and heart-wrenching. I learned later that the author is a school teacher and the story is inspired by the experience of one of his students. I recommend it.

The Watch That Ends the Night - Hugh MacLennan
I had ordered a used copy of this book off Amazon and it sat in my bedroom for about a year or more, until I couldn't remember why I had decided to order it. It was published in 1959 and I had an old hardcover library copy that had been signed out only twice. I read the whole thing on our anniversary trip to Mexico and it is the best book I have read in a long time. I particularly appreciated the historical setting in English Montreal during the 1930s - 1950s, which happens to cover the short period when my grandparents lived in Montreal and my mom was born. There are a lot of symbols and parallels and I can't say that I quite grasped the significance of each one but the author spends some time wrapping it up for you at the end. Individual people, married couples, nations and civilizations all show the ability to have growing pains, crises of faith and ultimately a spiritual rebirth, but all this take place within an accessible narrative that was pretty engrossing. No wonder this book was twice honoured: 1) Canadian Governor General's Award for literature in 1959; and 2) A Tragically Hip Song in 1992 called Courage (for Hugh MacLennan). I am pretty sure that I was sparked to buy this book by reading about the lyrics of the Tragically Hip song, which paraphrases this passage: “But that night as I drove back from Montreal, I at least discovered this: that there is no simple explanation for anything important any of us do, and that the human tragedy, or the human irony, consists in the necessity of living with the consequences of actions performed under the pressure of compulsions so obscure we do not and cannot understand them.” This book is not even considered MacLennan's finest. There is more reading here for me to do.

Tunnel in the Sky - Robert A. Heinlein
In the Q&A at the end of The Martian, author Andy Weir said that his favourite book growing up was Tunnel in the Sky (published in 1955). I had never heard of it, but I figured that was a good enough reason to give it a try. Fantastic book. The futuristic setting is explained quickly but with enough detail that the rest story can stand alone without the reader constantly questioning the framework. The beginning reminds me a little bit of reading the book Hatchet when I was a kid, except in a much more menacing environment, with a Lord of The Flies dynamic going on. I learned later that this book was published just one year after Lord of the Flies. Really good. Highly recommend for young readers.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Tri-Smore 2015

[June 20, 2015]

Little Spectators

Alli Swimming

Scott & Hayden Swimming

Boys Onto Bikes

Katie Outside

Alli Running

Boys Running


D and Troy in the Pool

Fans Waiting for Dads

D Off Of Bike

Troy From Bike Transition

D to the Finish

Gareth to the Finish

Girls Getting Ready

Girls into the Pool

Katie from Pool to Bike

Adalia On Bike

Katie on Bike

Katie Running

Adalia Starting Run

Adalia to the Finish

She Makes Friends Easily

I got a call from Katie again yesterday. She said, "Hi Dad. I am near your building right now. I am on the bus with Mom." R was a parent-chaperone for a school outing to see the play "Legend Has It" at the Epcor Performing Arts Centre downtown, just a few blocks from my office. Katie told me that she had her lunch in a backpack and they were going to eat their lunch and then go watch the play.

When I got home for dinner I heard more details about the day. While waiting to leave on the theatre trip, R had seen Scott go past on his way to the library. Today Scott played the piano at school in a talent show of sorts. He had played the piano in this same event last year, but this time around he was a bit freaked out and kept saying he wanted out. In the end, R helped him figure out what he was most nervous about (standing and introducing his songs to the group) and made a plan to have the teacher introduce the songs for him. He played the Star Wars Theme and Rudolph. Everyone started singing along for Rudolph, which both surprised him and pleased him. Also, when the time came his teacher offered to introduce the songs for him but he was okay to do it himeslf. At home he told us that sometimes he doesn't want to do something but then he does it and he is glad that he did.

I learned more details about the theatre trip too. Katie said she made a new friend on the trip. A boy. Katie couldn't quite remember his name, but R said that they were walking and holding hands by the end. Katie told me that recently she'd had another new friend that was a boy for a few days, but not so much anymore.

The way things are going, this girl may need a chaperone to come with her to school every day.