Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve!

Scotty got to stay up until 10:00 pm to watch the ball drop live from New York -- no 2010 YouTube videos for him this year. We even saw the ball going up -- in the afternoon we watched the ball being raised up in Times Square. In the evening Grandma & Grandpa and Karla came over after Katie went to bed and we played games and we used our new ball-shaped ice-cream maker to create some delicious vanilla ice cream.

We played this new game where you are supposed to choose cards that might match with the clue that is given, and then try to guess which card was the correct one. Scotty was on a team with Mom and she let him make most of the decisions. They didn't get many points. He would have been sad, but we let him eat Turtles chocolates every so often and that helped buoy his spirits again.

When it was over Scotty dutifully sprinted off to bed. One of his first late nights (at least, one of the first when he was allowed to stay up that late).

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Books I Read in 2012

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
The first book was really good. This one was also a gripping read. Sometimes, imperfect main characters can be really irritating. In this case, I appreciated that these characters were all a bit broken, given that they lived in such a terrible system.

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
I didn't like this one as much as the first two, but I didn't hate it as much as some people I've talked to. I thought it was interesting to find the parallels between the revolution and the games themselves, to try to determine whether they were fighting for their freedom, or whether there was just another game and another games master pulling the strings.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen - Christopher McDougall
While it may have been overly sentimental and less than entirely scientific, this book inspired me to actually consider running as something enjoyable, rather than simply a means of transportation that was grossly less efficient than cycling.

Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists - Gideon Defoe (read twice)
Pirates! In an Adventure with Ahab - Gideon Defoe
Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists - Gideon Defoe
Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoloeon - Gideon Defoe
Scott and I watched the Aardman animated film and I wanted to check out the source material. Loved these books so much. If I were to ever write a book, I would want it to be like these books. I especially loved the Adventure with Communists. Beards were truly luxuriant, as advertised.

A Study in Scarlett (Sherlock Holmes #1) - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Having enjoyed the BBC series, I decided to read the original story. I was quite surprised to find Mormons at the center of the intrigue. Who knew?

Roughing It - Mark Twain
Something I read about A Study in Scarlett led me to this book by Mark Twain, since it covers a similar time and place in the American West. The book was fantastic, but O My Goodness was it LONG. His description of meeting Brigham Young was a highlight, for sure.

The National Dream - Pierre Berton
I really enjoyed Berton's 2 books about the War of 1812, so I had been thinking about reading this one about the political and surveying efforts that preceded the construction of the Canandian Transcontinental Railroad. It fits nicely with my recent exploration of 1860s-1870s history.

The Gangs of New York: An Informal History Of the Underworld - Herbert Asbury
I think I stumbled across a reference to this book when I was browsing through info about various movies on Wikipedia or IMDB and was curious about it. I have never seen the film, since it is filled with some pretty gory scenes. Well, the book is also chock-full of violent episodes -- although the author doesn't indulge in overly-gruesome descriptions. It blew me away to read how lawlessly violent things could be in New York just 140 years ago. By comparison, we live in some kind of fairyland today.

The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit - J.J. Lee
I came across a mention of this book while checking some info about ordering a suit online. I devoured the whole thing a matter of days and just loved it. You don't have to love suits to love the book, but it helps.

The Sign of the Four (Sherlock Holmes #2) - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Technically, this was an audiobook, which we listed to on our road trip to Brad's wedding. Each of these books has followed a 2-part formula of 1) Sherlock nabbing the culprit; and 2) a lengthy explanation of the culprit's back story in some far-off locale (ie: Utah, India, Andaman Islands). In both cases, Part 1 is the best part, but I can understand the appeal of these far-off places to the original audience.

Pirates! In an Adventure with Romantics - Gideon Defoe
Wow. Just when you think that maybe this author is a bit of a one-trick pony and possibly out of gas (do ponies require gasoline?), he writes a book that is better than any of his previous efforts. Lord Byron is absolutely booming.

Killer Koalas from Outer Space and Lots of Other Very Bad Stuff that Will Make Your Brain Explode! - Andy Griffiths (Author), Terry Denton (Illustrator)
Scott picked this one from the library and it was probably one of the funniest things I've read in a while. I questioned whether it was age-appropriate, but I did not question whether it was funny. Our very favourite page is this one:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Big Fat Southern Utah Christmas

The Macks Inn theatre troupe that we loved so much in Island Park has now relocated to Hurricane, Utah. They happened to be playing a show while we were all together for Christmas. Although it is a dinner theatre, we took the no-meal option and ended up sitting on the front two rows. This was especially great for Joel, who ended up being the only adult sitting on that row and was the focus of attention for a sultry number by an Elvis look-alike. Before the show started he was panicked about being in the front because he thought something like this might happen. He was right.

During the break the guy playing the lead character (who is named Ramona) came out and hassled Tay for eating snacks that he brought from home. I think Ramona even ate some. That dude is the funniest single character I have ever witnessed on stage. An absolute riot. I think we agreed that the show wasn't quite as funny as the one we saw in Island Park, but it would be tough to live up to that night -- which was pretty much the hardest I ever laughed in my life.

Fun With Uncles

Somehow we have never managed to document a Fun With Uncles event on this blog. I don't know how this could have happened, since this is one of the oldest and best Christmas traditions ever.

Back when neices and nephews numbered only five or six, we instituted the first-ever FWU event. Ostensibly, it was designed as a means for the men of the family to occupy the children with an activity while the ladies had an afternoon to go out and do something fun. We settled on building gingerbread houses as an activity, and the moms stuck around to watch because they didn't want to miss out on the chaos.

Near the end of the inaugural FWU, when we had made a thorough mess of things with a few sagging shanties to show for it, I asked young Emily (aged 4 or 5), "Are you having fun?"

"No!" she moaned back.

Things have only gotten better with time -- we've been at it for a decade and now there are 3 times as many kids and we probably have just as much fun as ever. This most recent edition was essentially run by Allyson, so one might argue that it wasn't exactly Fun With Uncles, but we all know who was slogging it out in the trenches, gluing graham crackers together with zip-loc frosting applicators.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Steep and Historic

It wasn't the warmest week in the history of St. George, but we still ventured out to enjoy the sun in the historic city center. The kids were enthralled with the selection of historic (ie 1970s) candy in the considerably more historic Judd's Store (circa 1911).

The store is part of the Green Gate Village Historic Inn, which has several vintage vehicles and a gate that is green. Apparently, in 1877, Brigham Young ordered white paint for the new St. George Temple. When the shipment finally arrived by wagon he was disappointed to learn that the paint was green, not white. Unable to return it, he gave the green paint to local St. George residents to gild their gates and fences. The inn has on display the only remaining gate from this period. Scott did not recognize the significance of his surroundings, I'm sure.

We enjoyed the creek area until Scott got sick of his rocket pop and then we went for a tour of the historic St. George Tabernacle, completed in 1876. The tabernacle has some of the steepest, most historic stairs around. The tour guide was kind enough to let Mom play the little pump organ (historic) and the main pipe organ. I was given the opportunity to address everyone from the pulpit. I read a verse from Malachi, which seemed to fit the historicity of the place.

(Thanks to Jamie Sue for some of the photos!)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Santa came through and got Scotty the red remote control monster truck that he has been dreaming of. Some time in early December Scott told me that he had 4 chances to get the monster truck: 1) Santa; 2) Mom & Dad; 3) His own savings; 4) 6th Birthday. He figured the probability of getting a truck was pretty high. He was right.

He also got several other things that were on his list, including a bow and arrow set. Every time we go in the dollar store he asks for one of these and I always refuse because I know the one in the dollar store is going to be junk. We went one notch higher and bought it from Kmart. After 3 days more than half of the arrows were still intact. Scotty also reeled in a considerable amount of Lego, which is the toy that he plays with the most.

I loved this shot of my niece Emily unwrapping her first-ever mobile phone. So much joy. So much texting.

Katie's Christmas was a monochromatic, purple affair. She got purple clothes, purple accessories, a purple back pack. The few exceptions to the purple rule were pink, which didn't bother her one bit (pink is her #2 favourite colour).

She had a lot of fun with her new doll that will repeat back what you say, but in a baby voice. Uncle Joke was happy to provide some more Bear Poops references for the doll to repeat. Hilarity ensued.

Unbelievable food.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Waiting For Santa

While we were setting some things up late on Christmas Eve, this is what my Dad was doing.

Christmas Eve in St George

A fabulous dinner, decorating cookies, singing carols, eating peppernuts, new jammies, time with family -- Christmas Eve was amazing fun.

Once again, Katie monopolized the purple frosting in addition to monopolizing Charity's attention. After dinner was done we had sung our way through the nativity, the kids each got to open one present given to them by a sibling. Katie had blown her worst-ever hissy-fit in the dollar store a few weeks before Christmas because she wanted a pink guitar that she saw there. R did not give into her dramatics on that day -- instead, she and Scott planned to go back and buy it as Scott's present to her. She was absolutely delighted to open up the present. Katie's gift to Scott was a red airplane that came with an elastic launcher. Sadly. the plane didn't glide very much, but Scott's enthusiastic thank-you hug was top-notch.

Christmas Eve at the Park

It was not the warmest day ever, but it was a fair cry warmer than the -29C they were getting back home in Calgary. Wearing a hoodie was a small price to pay for the chance to play in the enormous sandbox that doubles as a volleyball court.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Katie & Charity

For those first few days before Christmas, Katie followed cousin Charity like a shadow. She always wanted to be sitting next to Charity or doing something with Charity. It was a bit intense, but Charity was a really good sport. Things evened out a little bit when some more girl cousins arrived, but I thought it was just adorable.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Last Night in Vegas

With the benefit of a car, we were able to make a trip up to North Las Vegas to the Children's Museum. We went by way of the Strip, and the kids were very impressed with the buildings in both their daytime and nighttime versions.

They absolutely LOVED the Children's Museum and we spent 3 or 4 hours there in absolute bliss. It is hard to say what Scott liked the most, but he probably spent the most time in the little grocery store or in the mechanics garage. He rolled underneath the car, reached a hand out toward a boy that he had never met and called for a wrench. The boy dutifully complied.

Katie loved the grocery store and she spent a very long time dragging a suitcase around from the airport area, but most of all she loved the dance stage. She put on a purple and pink dress and took to the stage to dance with the other girls. What she lacked in size of movement she made up for in persisitence -- while the other girls came and went as they got shy or distracted, Katie stayed in one place and just kept swaying those hips.

On the way back we were caught in some heavy traffic on the Strip, and we kept Katie awake by giving her the camera to shoot about 400 photos from her vantage point in the back seat. Once she saw the Excalibur Hotel, she started repeating "I want to go in that castle" over and over in the saddest voice.

The evening ran a bit late because we skipped dinner in favour of a side-trip to see the volcano erupting outside the Mirage Hotel. At certain moments it did not seem like it would be worth the frustration, but Scott picked it as the high point of his Vegas experience.