Thursday, October 30, 2014

Story Time

Last night after dinner the kids asked me to tell a story. At first I told them a short story about how I almost forgot to take the garbage bins out the curb, but then I remembered and I did it. They complained that the story was boring, so I said that I would add in some more fun details, but some of them might not be true. As it turns out, taking out the garbage bins turned into quite a rambling adventure, where I ended up eating lunch on the moon with a dragon. They enjoyed this version so well, that they asked me for another story, and another. I asked them to tell me something that I should put in the story to help get me started. Some stories were better than others, but we liked one so well that they asked me to repeat it again today:

Scott suggested the story have a duck in it.

There was was a pirate who had two friends. One of them lived on the other side of the mountains. The pirate wanted to go visit his friend, so he got on his duck and he turned on the key and he blasted off towards the mountains, up, up, up. But the ducky was so powerful and flew so fast that he went way higher then the mountains, up, up, up until he crashed into the moon, where his other friend lived -- the dragon that was every colour... except for eleven... and a half.

The pirate told his every-colour-dragon-friend (except eleven and a half) that he was trying to visit his friend on the other side of the mountain but now he was far away in space and his ducky was crashed and he didn't know how he could ever get there and he was getting very late. The dragon said to follow him, and he showed the pirate a door into a tunnel that went down, down, down all the way to the other side of the mountains to where his friend had been waiting for a whole hour. When the pirate explained all the things that happened, his friend said, "How could a tunnel go from the moon to the earth? Wouldn't it have to go through empty space and stuff?"

Then the duck said, "I WANT MY CUCKOO-POTATO!"


Katie said the next story should have syrup in it (we were eating french toast)

There was another story about a big lake of syrup that was pooled up in the mountains and held back from flowing down the hill because of a big wall. But the wall started to break because it was made out of cereal and it started to get soggy and then the syrup all flowed down making every super sticky. The people were so surprised that they went "Ah!!!" and grabbed their hair with their hands and then their hands stuck like that and they had to run away from the syrup with their hands stuck to their heads.

So then the government got so many planes and helicopters and they got all the pancakes in the whole world and they dropped them on the syrup and blocked it and made it so yummy that everyone wanted to eat it, but their hands were still stuck so they couldn't grab any of the pancakes until they had a long bathtime.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Favourite Wall

[Oct 5 2014]

The kids count down the days until General Conference weekend because it is the biggest craft-fest ever. We pull out the little picnic table in front of the TV and then we hit the crafts hard for 4 hours/day each day.

This time, the kids had their sticker books and crafts that needed very little help from us, so we could work on a craft of our own. We repainted the kitchen, nook and family room. In fact, even the kids helped out when we got to the roller sections.

When we took a break from conference-crafting to eat a meal, Scott did his standard routine of getting out of his chair and leaning his hands against the wall--

D: Scott, let's not touch the wall because it leaves finger prints.
R: Right. This wall here has lots of finger prints.
D: Yeah, I think you touch that wall like crazy.
S: It's my favourite wall. Everyone has to have their favourite wall

Funniest thing I heard all day. I wonder if its still his favourite wall now that it is painted "smokey" colour.

Monday, October 20, 2014

First Lumberjack Job

On Thanksgiving Monday Scott and I went to work cutting wood.

First, he carried the bow saw into the back yard and we felled a tree. It was a spindly thing about 12 feet high that has been dead at least all summer and looking pretty sad. We were sure to call "timber" even though I could hold the thing up with one hand.

Scott slung the bow saw over his shoulder and we hauled our freshly-felled timber to the garage, where I was working on reorganizing the garage. I had laid out a set of shelves on the ground, so I put Scott's log across the shelf and showed him how he could safely use the bow saw to cut it into lengths. For the next hour he sawed away at that log, cutting it into 16 sections of 8-10 inches each, while I worked nearby building some shelves. He was nearing the end of his labour when the Bishop and his wife walked by on their way home (they live a few houses down from us). She immediately took interest in Scott's work. She said that she had been planning to make little placeholders for her grandchildren for Thanksgiving dinner and she had wanted to cut little discs from a thick branch of a tree. She said that Scott's logs would be perfect, and offered to BUY two of them from him. She dug around in her pocket and found a quarter, a loonie ($1) and a toonie ($2). She gave him the toonie.

For the next hour Scott could talk of nothing but his great fortune in getting paid so well for doing such fun and interesting work. He said, "I am such a lucky boy" probably 15 times. It was the cutest thing. Our own little professional lumberjack.

I had the power saw out for my shelf project, so I offered to quickly cut the logs into the smaller sections that she needed. I earned nothing for my efforts. I am more of a pro-bono lumberjack, I suppose.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Propst & Tuttle in Calgary

[Sep 13, 2014]

16 years ago I dropped Elders Propst and Tuttle off at the airport in Saratov at the conclusion of the trial where their kidnappers were convicted. I didn't see either of them again until this year, when they arrived at the airport in Calgary to speak to groups in connection to the "Saratov Approach" movie. Tuttle came out for opening weekend in January. Both Propst and Tuttle came out for our joint West/East Stake youth conference.

Apparently, no one had informed Propst that we had just had the freak summer snow storm of the century, because he arrived in sunglasses, shorts and flip-flops. The person next to him on the plane showed him pictures that people had sent him from the storm and Propst started to worry. Of course, most of the snow was already melting, but we there was still some left at the higher elevations -- like the Temple.

They flew just before noon, so we hit Tubby Dog for some lunch. Tubby Dog is a hole-in-the-wall spot on 17th Ave known for hot dogs with outlandish combinations of toppings. We all agreed that I probably got the best one, laden with chili, bacon, cheez-whiz and a fried egg -- elegantly entitled "Sherm's Ultimate Gripper".

We stopped in at the house for a few minutes en route to the youth conference, mainly so Propst could press a shirt and make himself beautiful. Scott was absolutely enthralled when Propst pulled out his iPad and logged into the Clash of Clans game, especially since Propst had all the fancy upgraded troops that Scott has been dreaming about. The whole kidnapping/movie thing might give Tuttle and Propst a certain amount of celebrity status, but it was Clash of Clans that really made Propst a star.

We arrived at the chapel near the end of the movie, which the youth were watching in the gym. We had the DJ who would run the evening dance handle the audio, and I had perched the projector at the top of a 10 foot ladder to hit the 40-foot screen on the stage. Waiting in the hallway, we bumped into a teary woman leaving the gym who has a son serving a mission overseas and just couldn't quite handle it, although she had seen the film before.

Once the credits rolled, the lights went up and I introduced our special guests, who opened it up to the youth for some Q&A with the comment that "there are no bad questions." That statement was immediately tested, as the first question was "Do you like waffles?" Strong start. Propst and Tuttle took it in stride and answered the question before moving on to perhaps a more pertinent question. Propst likes Belgian waffles and Tuttle is more of a pancake guy, for the record.

There were some really good questions, and Propst & Tuttle shared additional details that really put a personal touch on the whole experience. One thing that stuck out to me was how they said that they prayed constantly during the whole experience, and Propst said that he promised God that if he made it out there alive, he would take every opportunity to share this story with people to strengthen their faith. In the 15 years since he came home he has averaged at least 1 speaking engagement per month, more at the beginning and more with the film's release. Another message was that a missionary experience changes you, whether you get kidnapped or not. If you decline the opportunity to serve, you miss that chance to learn and grow as a person, and it is unlikely that you would have another opportunity quite like that in your life. They both said that they would not trade their missionary experience away, regardless how it turned out, and that's one big reason why they chose not to cut their missions short when they were released. In the Sunday service that that we had the next day, several people commented on the film that we watched, and one girl said that she had never really considered serving a mission, but now she wanted to have that experience for herself. Pretty neat to hear.

After the film was over, we launched Tuttle off to the airport asap to catch a plane to Portland, while Propst stuck around to pose for some photos in our Russian-themed photo booth. Who doesn't love a good Russian photo booth?

When it was all over, and once Propst and I had downed some delicious poutine, we retired back to our place to chat and play some more Clash of Clans.

Scott was supposed to go to bed, but shortly afterwards we saw a small hand jut out through the upstairs railing with a note (written on the back of a sticker) that read:

"Wath clan ar you in?"

Scott ended up coming back downstairs to sit with Propst and examine his elite-level clan. It was the start of an alliance, as Propst recruited his son Sam to be in Scott's clan, and Propst showed up in our clan periodically in the weeks that followed to hand out level 6 balloons and other awesomeness.

While Scotty was downstairs, Katie was upstairs, saying her prayers as follows--
Thanks that Travis and Propst could come to our house. And that Propst could stay for one night. Even though it's not two nights.
The next day Katie said "I love Propst. I wish I could live with him."
D: Do you mean you want to leave and live at his house far away.?
K: No, I mean he could live at our house, silly.

Propst and Tuttle aren't planning on moving in, but they might come back to Calgary visit us or at least to take a crack at Sherm's Ultimate Gripper.

Friday, October 17, 2014

An Afternoon in NYC

[Sep 29 2014]

After a weekend on the fringes of Pennsylvania Dutch country, we drove back to NYC in the old pickup, so Tay could survey the apartment damage and I could catch a plane out of JFK Airport. One the way out to PA it had been dark, so it was nice to see all the fall colours in the daylight. Dalton is at 1,000 ft elevation, and the descent towards sea level was evident in the foliage, which still hadn't really changed at all in New York.

Things got greener as we rolled toward the Atlantic, and things got more crowded as well. In Dalton the only neighbour in view was the empty fairground. In Harlem, we had to make two passes down Malcolm X Blvd before we found a place to park, and we could only stay there for 20 minutes. We passed a minivan full of Red Cross workers at the curb before passing the Mandatory Vacate sign on the door heading in.

There was a Disaster Recovery Guy in the apartment taking notes on the water damage when we got there. In every room it was evident where the water had come streaming down the walls and rippled the drywall and warping all the doors. The worst spot was in the kitchen, where the water had burst through the ceiling and rained debris down on everything. Fortunately, they have renters insurance that will cover cleaning and replacement of their items, and they had a place to stay until their vacation trip to San Diego in 2 weeks.

From Harlem I jumped the R train down to Madison Square Park to meet my cousin Kristy and her adorable little Pickle for delicious burgers and shakes at the original Shake Shack. The Shack was was seriously delicious and Pickle was seriously adorable, filling my hands with load after load of dusty little park rocks. And then suddenly the rocks showed up wet... with a hair in the middle. Sort of gross. Buy Kristy had some hand sanitizer, so I think we were good.

I tagged along with Kristy & Pickle for the afternoon while they waited to pick up Middle-Daughter Lolly from school. Apparently, Kristy and I have identical ideas about tourism -- when someone visits your town you need to feed them all your favourite snacks. She lined them all up and I knocked them all down. From a strong start at Shake Shake, we hit a sandwich shop for fresh oatmeal chocolate cookies. A whole bag of them. I took the top half off the bag while we Pickle climbed the silver orb at the playground.

After that I ate this super-amazing and famous banana pudding from the Magnolia Bakery, also famous for cupcakes and Lazy Sundays. Of course, Kristy didn't want to take a bite of the pudding. And Kristy wasn't going to have even a bite, because she had just been snack-binging on a girls' weekend in Rhode Island. I even ate some of her Rhode Island salt water taffy. I eat everything. She even tried to buy an Ostrich egg at the farmers market, but they were out of season. I was sort of relieved, because 1 ostrich egg = 5 chicken eggs.

Once we picked up Lolly, it was time for me to go. I had designs to do a bike lap through Central Park, and I was running out of time. I jogged down to the corner of the park and $15 later I was walking a Trek hybrid down the walkway for a 1-hour rental. Had I given the bike a cursory pre-rental inspection, I would have noticed that the chain was dangling down near the ground and both tires were nearly flat. I fixed the chain easily enough, but I didn't realize the PSI problem until half-way around a tight corner when the tires started bending over. Not to be deterred, I cranked through the 6 miles as fast as I could go, stopping for pedestrians at the frequent red lights. Good thing I did, because the guy in spandex who buzzed past me at one red light was parked on the side of the road talking to the park police when I caught up to him again.

It was cutting it all pretty close, but I hopped the train to JFK and got there about 1 hour before boarding, so the WestJet agent stamped my boarding pass 'Priority' so I could go right to the front of the security line. Pretty awesome. Oh, and I ate a huge hoagie on the plane.

Because I am a hungry tourist.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dusk Run for Cinnamon Buns

Sometimes we go to the store for a snack if Mom is gone or busy for the evening. It is always an adventure.

Co-op is the closest store to us, but there is a big hill. Last time we were all on our bikes and it was hard to help Katie up the hills because I was a bit tied up with my bike. At one point, I took my feet off my pedals to slow down and help push her up the hill. I was still straddling my bike as I crouch-jogged beside her and I the edge of the pedal caught me on the ankles bone and took a massive gouge out of me. Katie was crying a bit, but when I pointed out that I was the one bleeding into my shoe and I wasn't crying, she stopped crying to think about that.

That was last time. This time, Scott suggested that Katie ride her bike while he and I run. He has taken to running quite a bit lately. After the success of the ward 2km run, he did the Terry Fox run at school, where they bring a $2 donation and run laps of the field for 30 minutes to see how far they can get. Scott did 13 laps (I think), which was about 1 lap short of 5km. That's a pretty good pace (6:30 min/km), and one mom who was there volunteering that day told R that Scott was noticeably fast, keeping up with the grade 4 kids.

Scott's suggestion turned out to be a good one for our trip to the store. Katie set the pace on her bike and Scott and I jogged along behind. Her pace was slower than is Terry Fox pace, so he kept racing out ahead and then waiting for us to catch up. Then he got a cramp and settled in behind the bike. After about 1.1km, we got to the top of the big hill and we ditched Katie's bike behind a fence -- just like last time -- and we all ran another 0.5km down the hill. Once again Katie was setting the pace (a little over 7 minutes / km), because Scott said his knee was bothering him from running so fast earlier. He has been complaining a lot about being sore lately. R wonders if it's growing pains. I told him to just slow down a bit and it would be okay.

After searching around and finally inquiring, we learned our bakery item of choice has been discontinued, so we had to find something other than a 6-pack of glazed donuts. We settled on a box of cinnamon buns -- plus a pumpkin pie that was so cheap I couldn't pass it up. Then we set out running back up the hill to retrieve the bike with darkness setting in fast.

The grade ranges from 5% up to almost 8% in places, but the kids managed a pretty steady pace of 8-9 min/km all the way up the hill. Katie started flagging with 1/4 still to go, but I pointed out how far she had come up such a big hill and that she was almost to the top and she tore off again faster than ever. By the top she was really running out of gas, but she never stopped running. We retrieved the cached bike and helmet and set off for the home stretch. Despite a minor uphill grade, Katie was even faster on the bike going home than she'd been going out, and she left Scott and me trailing far behind in the dark.

When we finally made the turn down the pathway to our house we couldn't see a thing. Scott started to get worried about Katie. I think he was more worried than I was, although I was a bit surprised that she was so willing to plunge through the darkness alone on her bike. Scott called out to her and she sang back a giddy reply that she was already waiting for us at the gate. I turned on my phone's flashlight feature and handed it to Scott while I navigated Katie's bike through gate to the back yard. Katie was ahead of Scott and was absolutely delighted at the size of her shadow, which started with tiny little legs on the grass and grew to an enormous body and head on the side of the house.

"I am so huge! Hahaha! Look Scott! I'm so huge!"

Total Distance: 3.4 km
Total Time: 28 minutes