Monday, October 31, 2011

Is this really a Day Off ?

Here's some pics of what my "day off" today consisted of ...

(and this doesn't even list the 5 loads of laundry I completed!)

I don't know about YOU but this sure doesn't feel like a "day off" ...
more like a day of WORK !!!

It was sorta fun though ... but maybe next Monday I can just relax!  :)

...

He Saved Kitchen Fat ?!

That was the question my wife asked me about ...
Bing Crosby.

Here's the backstory:
We've been listening to Christmas music on the Pandora app on our new iPad over the past week.  Every 9 or 10 songs, we hear one by the amazing Bing Crosby from one of the many albums or tv specials he did in his heyday.

This particular time, after singing a duet with a very popular female singer of his time (her name escapes me at the moment), Bing went into his typical discussion of the plight of the American Soldiers overseas.  I do not intend any disrespect to what he did about or for the soldiers.  I think it's great that he used the platform to ask listeners to support these brave men and women.

In this instance he was asking everyone to save their kitchen fat.  Why?  I have no earthly idea!  I am sure there was a very good reason, but that's not the point of this post.  The point is that I commented on his plea for everyone to "save kitchen fat."  Karen asked me "Why did he do that?" to which I responded "It's just something he did back then."

And then's when Karen looked at me even more puzzled and asked
"He saved kitchen fat?!"

Laughter ensued and it took a few minutes for me to clarify what I was trying to say (which is not really important considering we enjoyed the moment much more with a lack of communication!)

...

Got any Halloween Costume ideas ?

Unless you've randomly stumbled on this blog and "don't know me from Adam" you are keenly aware that my family is 8 people strong.  There's me and my beautiful wife Karen ... and our 6 children!  (Josh Jr - 12, Ben - almost 10, Brooklyn - 8, Savannah - 6, Catalina - 4, and Myra - 16 months)

"She's a WITCH !!!"
(quote from Monty Python)

This family grouping and size makes for some interesting options if we all agreed to dress alike or with the same theme for Halloween.  So listed below are some of my personal favorite ideas for the Case 6-Pack +2 Halloween Costumes.  Please comment below or send me an e-mail with any other creative ideas.  We may not ever get to use all of them (there are only another 6 Halloweens before Josh Jr is at college or on a mission) but it's still fun to daydream about!




Halloween Costume Ideas for
the Case 6-pack (of kids) +2 adults:
 - Standard 8-pack of Crayola crayons
For the smaller kids we would make the costumes look like the crayons had either been broken in half or used so much they were worn down.  As the tallest member of our family (for now) I would be the white crayon since it never gets used!
 - Snow White and the 7 Dwarves
We'd probably have to do this in the "opposite world" way, where Myra would be Snow White and we'd all be GIANT dwarves.  I call Sleepy!  :)
 - A medium Pizza
Stick with me on this ... if our costumes were all about the same size we could lay on the ground with our feet together and it would actually look like a whole pizza!  Yeah, Karen didn't like the idea either.
 - A 6-pack of soda and 2 glasses
Of course Karen and I would be the two full-sized glasses, but it would be most fun to create the plastic circular connector thingamabob (if you know the proper name please comment it below!) that we'd slip each of the kids' soda-heads into.  Then they'd have to walk in unison together to go trick-or-treating!  :)
 - ROY G. BIV and a pot of gold
For those who don't know, Roy G Biv represents Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.  That's right!  It's a rainbow ... and little Myra can be our pot of gold at the end!  :)

For now we're still going solo on our costumes, but hopefully this coming year we can coordinate and have some fun while doing so.  Let me know your ideas and maybe we'll use one!

...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What happened to your Passport ?

Regular readers of this blog will know that a few months ago my wife (with a little help from me) won a Caribbean Cruise from a local radio station.  As a result of this victory it became necessary for both of us to update our passports: hers was expired, mine was damaged and unreadable.

Not MY passport, but this is
almost exactly what mine looks like.
After a long ordeal with birth certificates and correctly filled out forms and new passport-sized photos, etc. we finally got our papers all mailed off.  Karen's passport came in the mail just a little over a week ago (it took less than a month total).  About a week prior to that, I received a letter explaining that more information was needed before my passport could be processed.

The need?  A signed letter from me "explaining the reason behind the damage to my existing passport."

So here's the letter that I printed and signed and mailed back.

To whom it may concern:

In regards to the damaged condition of my not yet expired passport, here is an explanation of what occurred that led to its unusable state.

After receiving the original passport, my wife and I stored both of our individual passports in a drawer in our kitchen near the refrigerator.  During the course of normal kitchen use, some sort of drink (most likely kool-aid or apple juice) spilled on the counter and dripped into the drawer where the passports were being stored.  While we cleaned up the mess on the countertop and front of the drawer, we did not think to check the inside of the drawer until such time as we were moving out of that house.  At that time the liquid had all dried up, but the damage was already done.  My wife placed the passports in separate Ziploc bags until we recently submitted our application for a replacement, pursuant to our plans to go on a cruise through the Caribbean sometime in the next several months.

If it helps, we have learned two valuable lessons:
#1. We will keep our passports no where near the kitchen or other liquids that could spill on them.
#2. We will keep our passports in a sealed Ziploc bag to keep them even more safe.

Thank you,

I hope they find this amusing and not inappropriate ... otherwise Karen might be going on the cruise with someone else that didn't tick off the wonderful workers in the United States passport offices.  :)
 
...

Too Early for Christmas Music ?

I'm certain that I have blogged about this before, but there is a VERY GOOD reason why I've been listening to Christmas Music a lot over the past few days ... I got a new CD and it is awesome!

My cousin, James Case, is a super-talented singer who has been blessed with a very low range that allows him to really belt out some deep bass notes.  He has been a part of several a capella groups over the years and I believe he is in two different groups right now.  But the one I've heard more music from is the group Eclipse.

Eclipse has been around for over a decade, but James has only been a member of the group since around 2006.  That means he didn't get to participate in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, where Eclipse performed a special number for the Opening Ceremony and then was invited back to do another during the Closing Ceremony.

James is on the far left
 James has been a part of the group for their two most recent CDs.  I already own the Gospel centered CD "Grateful Praise" (which is just amazing!) but I now also own their newest CD "It's Christmas Time!"  I had previewed the songs on their website and couldn't resist pre-ordering the CD.  All of the songs are wonderful IMHO (in my humble opinion) but my favorite has already become "Shake Up Christmas" ... and not just because it's one of the songs that features James' deep bass voice.  It is also just a really catchy tune and the message is very positive too!

I'm so proud to be related to such a talented individual ... but even if I wasn't I would have blogged about this awesome group and CD!

Merry Christmas ... in October!  :)

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Why Did You Even Bother Asking ?

I probably shouldn't blog about this.

I probably should just "hold my tongue."

I'll probably regret posting about this.

But right now ... I ... just ... don't ... care !!!

This past Tuesday at work I had a meeting with my boss and my five peers that all report to the same boss.  Our meeting was centered on his OE Survey* results.  He had received pretty low scores (compared to his peer group and his scores from last year and the entire enterprise results).  I was among those that rated him low in several categories, based on my interactions with him thus far this year.  I was honest in my written feedback and even more honest in my scoring of his performance on our 1-5 scale (1 being "Does Not Meet Expectations", 5 being "Exceeds Expectations").
*OE Survey = Organizational Effectiveness survey.  This is an annual, anonymous survey completed by all employees with 25-30 statements to be ranked on the scale mentioned above.  The survey itself is actually VERY useful, but not if you discard the results or pretend they don't mean anything.

My main reason for writing this blog is to explain what to do if you DO NOT care about making improvements or learning from the feedback you've been given.  I know what these are because my boss did basically ALL of them!

First, DO NOT APOLOGIZE.  EVER.  FOR ANYTHING!  If you say you are sorry then it automatically assumes you "own" responsibility for the results.  And that's no way to be a strong "manager!"  You can't have people reporting to you that think you're not absolutely perfect.  Chaos would surely ensue!

Second, ACT SHOCKED AND SURPRISED BY THE RESULTS.  If you don't pretend like these accusations are "out in left field" or came "out of nowhere" then you'll have a hard time disregarding the suggestions for improvement.  It is also important to clarify that you just need to "report back to your boss with some answers and explanations" otherwise people will try to make this about YOU.

Third, DO NOT ALLOW PEOPLE TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS.  How can you possibly penalize the people peons who report to you (and should worship you from afar for your sheer amazing awesomeness) if you don't know which ones had the audacity to score you so low?!  You can't.  So you better find a way to get them to fess up to their comments, otherwise ... they might get away with saying truthful things bad lies about you.

Fourth, SHIFT BLAME WHENEVER POSSIBLE.  It is often easiest to do this by blaming your own boss.  This may help you with #3 above.
Here's how: If you get feedback from your boss that someone said you blamed her for your results, you can DENY IT.  Then just ask which person thought that so you can clarify what they misunderstood.  Your boss will likely trust you and tell you ... and then you can penalize that direct report idiot who snitched.

Fifth, RELY ON YOUR "FAVORITES" TO HELP YOU DISMISS THE FEEDBACK.  If you do this right, they (your favorite employees loyal followers) will make you feel better and will also make the employees mean spirited people feel bad for what they've done.

And finally, DO NOT THANK THE GROUP FOR PARTICIPATING IN THIS MEETING OR FOR THE HONEST FEEDBACK.  If you thank them they might get the wrong idea that you actually want their input and feedback.
We can't have that now can we?!

...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Toilet Paper Inequality ?!

Disclaimer:  This blog post is intended to be mostly sarcastic and with a mock sense of seriousness.  I do NOT intend to create a war of the sexes, but it's not worth blogging about if I can't poke fun at the differences among us!  I apologize in advance for anyone I might offend with my attempt at humor.

I have now confirmed the following with at least two different men who can back me up on this:
Women use WAY more toilet paper, yet MEN still change just as many rolls on the toilet paper dispenser.

This is a gross injustice of responsibility
based on proportions of usage and need!

I should not have to change the toilet paper roll except maybe once per month!  Instead it is at least once every two or three times that I "sit" at the toilet.

In the soon-to-be-famous words of my 8-year old daughter Brooklyn ...
That's not fair!

I respect that women need toilet paper EVERY time they use the bathroom.  That is not my complaint.  They also use more shampoo and soap and other "things."  Also, not a problem or something I would ever complain about.  Most men use more razors than women because they shave their face every day.  No sense being upset about any of these differences.

MY problem is ... why am I seemingly always changing the toilet paper roll EVERY time I need to sit?!  I just changed it the last time I sat!  Or the time before that!  How does it always run out when I'm using it ... especially if I never use very much?!  It's like the trash can being just full enough to bag and take out as soon as I have something to throw away.
Where's my justice?!

...

Can I do this in ONE wipe ?!

While playing games with our good friends Aaron and Britney Summers a few Saturdays ago, we (Aaron and I) realized we had another odd thing in common and I got to wondering if it was maybe a "guy thing" since neither Karen or Britney seemed to be with us.

Aaron and I both find it to be a sort of challenge to try and change a dirty
(see: poopy) diaper with only one wipe !!!

We talked about this at length (much to the disdain of the ladies) down to the specific details that we also share commonalities on.
We both:
 - fold the wipe over dozens of times.
 - feel like we've failed when we have to get a second wipe, even if it's clearly not going to happen with just one.
 - experienced a change after the first child with this (we did not care how many wipes it took to begin with, but after a few more kids it became a game of "beat the wipes" or something).
 - agree that boys are much easier to get one-wipe wins against, because with girls the "stuff" is not just on the outside of things.

So my manly men readers who dare to admit this ... are you a one-wipe competitor?  Or do you side with the ladies who will use 100 wipes as long as "it" doesn't have to come close to their hands?  (And then they still obsess about excessive hand-washing afterward, even if they used 100 wipes!  I'm all about washing your hands after changing a diaper ... but it's not like you're headed into surgery!)

...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why do I hate IHOP ? (Just for yesterday).

My in-laws decided to take my whole family (all 8 of us) to IHOP for dinner last night.
On Mondays and Tuesdays they do "kids eat free" which makes it reasonably priced for our large family.

They always have very tasty food, not just the pancakes, so I've always enjoyed going ... but it's even better when it's "free" (my in-laws refused to let us pay anything).

Last night ... I noticed as we were walking in that they have an "All you can eat" special with their regular pancakes.  So I decided that I would challenge Ben (who is almost 10) to see who could eat the most.

It was a bad idea!

I'll spare you all the details, but here's how it went down:
 - After our first platter (with two eggs, four strips of bacon, and two large pancakes) we had to wait FOREVER for our second set of pancakes.  I believe that long wait was my undoing.
 - Ben wolfed down his "second set" (three even larger pancakes) in about 3 1/2 minutes, while I took my time and finished them in about 5 minutes.
 - Our third set arrived just as Ben finished his pancakes and he just dove right in.  I slowly ate the top pancake and decided it was time to throw in the towel.  Ben had finished about 2 pancakes worth (we had to guess because he hadn't eaten them one at a time.

Ben (@ the Denver Zoo)
This is like the face he made
when I told him he could stop
eating his pancakes.  He won!
It turned out to be a good idea to stop because Ben wasn't going to give up but his stomach was already killing him!  :)

Congrats on your one-pancake victory Ben!

...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Brother Case, can you pass today ?

I posted before about what a great experience it was when my son received the Priesthood, but it got even better this past Sunday!

It was supposed to be Josh Jr's first opportunity to pass the Sacrament in church and we were all excited for him.  As it turned out, he was also chosen to be the Bishop's Aide (this is a Deacon that sits on the stand with the Bishopric and becomes their runner if they need anything) so the experience was very new and different and fun for him.

But the coolest part for me was when one of the other Deacons came up just before Sacrament Meeting began and asked me the title of this blog post.  I was so excited for the opportunity to pass the Sacrament with my son the very first time HE was getting to pass it!  For me, it is always an honor to be involved in blessing or passing the Sacrament, but this was an even better experience because of the timing!

I am so proud of the young men in our ward, but one of them in particular has my admiration more than the rest!  Congratulations Josh Jr on your first opportunity to exercise the priesthood in the service of others!
May your life be filled with many more opportunities to serve and bless the lives of those around you!

I didn't take a picture of my "little guy" in his suit
but this is the most recent one I have.
He's getting so tall!  And still super cool!  :)
...

Is that your ACTUAL score ?

I played golf with my father-in-law last week ... and based on a discussion with a friend of mine at work, I decided to keep an HONEST score (no mulligans, no extra shots, etc.) regardless of what I shot.  That way I'll really know if what I'm shooting is getting better over time.

On the very first hole I was on the green in 3 shots (par 4) so it looked promising that I could 2-putt for a one-over 5 (which is my goal on every hole ... just play one-over golf).  But I chunked my first putt and left about 12 feet to the cup.  Then my second putt was what my dad calls an "Alice" (when you hit the ball way too soft and it has no shot to go into the hole).  I saved a double bogey with an 8 footer that broke quite a bit right-to-left.

I was very tempted to "cheat" and try that very first putt again to see if I could score better ... but I didn't.  I took the 6 and we moved on.  And the rest of the round was SO much better!  (Until the 8th hole that is, but I was cocky by that time and deserved another double bogey to humble myself!)

Overall ... I shot a 44 for 9 holes !!!

The check marks on the bottom section were to
keep track of "fairways" hit off the tee
(or "greens" hit in regulation).
I kept coming up short on the greens on my approach shots, but my chipping was about the best it's ever been and I was able to one-putt 4 of the last 5 holes to salvage two pars and two bogeys.  It was a fantastic round and likely the last I'll play this calendar year, so that's a great way to "end the season."

I know this won't necessarily continue (I mean the personal best scores, not the honesty of keeping score which will continue) but it was great to know exactly what I had shot on the course.  Thanks Mark F for the good "chat" on honest golfing.  I think the pressure of knowing I had to "own" what I shot made me play better.

...

Can I have my Garage back please ?

On Monday (my day off) this past week,
I took back my garage!

During the summertime (this was the first of what I am sure will be a pattern for many years to come) I let my children take over my half of the garage for their bikes, tricycles, toys, etc. by parking my car on the driveway every day.  I took advantage of the space too by keeping an extra set of golf clubs and the lawn care essentials (lawnmower, edger, fertilizer spreader, etc.) in the garage.

It is AMAZING how much space there is in a garage
when there's not a car in the way!  :)

After a few cold days and some snowy weather just about two weeks ago, I decided that summertime is officially over and I want to avoid scraping ice off my windshield at least on the drive to work each day.  So after I hung bicycles, etc. back in their winter storage places, the boys helped me clean and organize the rest of the garage.  Brooklyn helped sweep too, which was funny to watch with the wind blowing everything we swept right back in our faces!

In typical ME fashion, I neglected to take any BEFORE pictures, so you'll just have to trust me when I say it was overflowing with "stuff" that needed to be taken care of.  Below are the AFTER pictures, including some of the creative use of space I have found for storing all sorts of "stuff" we needed to keep.






I'm fairly proud of my garage, but mostly I am excited to be parking my car back inside again.  Bring on the snow and ice because it won't hurt me!  At least not in the mornings anyway!  :)

Karen likes it when we back the cars into the garage
because when we drive out she thinks it feels
like we're flying out on a roller coaster or airplane!
 ...

Are we setting the bar too LOW ?


What you see above is the bumper sticker that is currently being sported by dozens of vehicles in my neighborhood.  This alone is not unusual, because Vista Ridge is the local high school less than a mile from my house.  What is unusual (from my perspective) is that this is the one-word messaging that is supposed to represent the spirit of the school.

COMPETE ?!

Is that really as high as you're setting your goal?!  Aspire to something in the middle?!  It seems as though they have eliminated any pride or pressure to perform well and they would rather just ... compete.

Here's a quote by the most recent #1 pick in the NFL draft (Cam Newton, starting QB for the Carolina Panthers) ...
"I don't like that word, competing.  You don't go into the game to compete.  You go into each game to win."
Seems as though if he had gone to Vista Ridge HS he might not ever have amounted to much because his priorities would not have fit into their "way of life."

Perhaps that is a little too harsh, but it just screams to me that new rhetoric of "every kid is special" and "every kid should get a trophy" and "let's celebrate graduation from every grade in school ... because that might be their last year!"
Is it any wonder that more and more people are "growing up" to be less self-reliant and more entitled to something they haven't really earned?!

So I started wondering what other bumper stickers they could produce that will further inspire lower standards and goals.

Here are my Top Ten ideas:

#10.  EXIST !
#9.  SHOW UP !
#8.  ATTEND !
#7.  JUST TRY !
#6.  FIT IN !
#5.  FINISH !
#4.  PLAY !
#3.  PARTICIPATE !
#2.  ATTEMPT !

And my personal favorite, therefore ranked #1 ...

WHATEVER !

...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why did the music stop ?

Last night we hung out with three other adult couples (there was a surprise birthday party beforehand with two additional families and 27 total kids ... in one house!) after we had all put our kiddos to bed.

The game-playing was to be at our good friends' (The Summers) house, which is maybe 3/4 of a mile away from our house (1/2 a mile if we take the shortcut through our neighborhood).  Being as the night was nice (still chilly, but not freezing), Karen and I decided to walk back to their house for the games.

And I had a brilliant idea!

I decided that it was worthwhile to carry our new iPad while we walked, with the goal of listening to Christmas music (Jazz Holidays on the Pandora radio app).  And it was great to have our own soundtrack as we merrily (pun intended!) walked on our way.

But then, in the middle of the street, and with the iPad safely cradled in my arms, the music ... just ... stopped.

I started freaking out.  Karen kept on walking ('cause it was a big hill and she didn't want to lose our momentum) while I carefully opened the cover to see what had happened.  The app was still open and nothing seemed to be amiss ... and then it hit me!  We were no longer connected to WiFi @ our house!

I laughed and laughed about how silly I was for not thinking ahead of time that that was going to happen.  I knew our WiFi wouldn't carry us all the way to the Summers' house, but it didn't dawn on me until it actually, randomly happened!

**On a side note: Aaron logged me in to the WiFi @ his house and it lasted much longer from his connection than ours did!

...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Power AND Bliss ?

I've been thinking lately about sayings you hear all the time and how they contradict each other or seem to present only a limited set of options.

Here are just a few of my recent musings or observations (my apologies if someone wiser has already made these observations ... I give them full credit for any ideas that I accidentaly plagiarized here) :

 - If "Knowledge is Power" ... and "Ignorance is Bliss" ... can you not be Blissfully Powerful?  Why do I have to choose one or the other?

 - If "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" ... and "Birds of a feather flock together" ... wouldn't it be smarter to get THREE birds by just heading over to the bush with the one in your hand?!  Or if you just stood there long enough wouldn't the bush birds just fly on over?!  And what about those Angry Birds?!  They sure don't knock them pigs out very well!

 - On the one hand you should "look before you leap" ... but we know that "He who hesitates is lost" ... so do you prefer to be lost or do you just avoid "leaping" ?!  And what if you actually have a map?

 - You're not supposed to "put all your eggs in one basket" ... and ... you also shouldn't "count your chickens until they hatch" ... so apparently you need lots of patience and space if you like eggs (or chickens).

And my favorite lately, because MONEY seems to be on everyone's mind more and more and more ...
 - "A fool and his money are soon parted" ... but "Money can't buy happiness" ... so don't you think maybe the "fool" is closer to happiness when he loses his money?  Hmmm ... then why aren't more people who go bankrupt smiling?  They always seem so sad.  Maybe it's because "absence makes the heart grow fonder!"  He just misses his money.  :)

...

Why ya gotta be so Mean ?!

This post is for me.

It is short.

It is to remind me that sometimes people are mean.

But that doesn't mean you have to let it get you down.

Even people in "authority" over you do not "control" you.

You can rise above.

You can "be the better person."

You can feel good about your success.

You can now ... move on.

...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Got A Capella ?!

Last night was AWESOME !!!

For my birthday (it was in September, not yesterday), my mother and brother (and dad I guess, but fathers never really know what they got someone for a gift) bought me tickets to the Straight No Chaser concert at the Pikes Peak Theater here in Colorado Springs, CO.


I could blog for hours on the event, but I'll summarize it's absolute amazingness with the following bullet pointed list:
 - The "mash-ups" (combinations of two or more songs) were unexpected, clever, and masterfully done!  Best example: Billie Jean (by Michael Jackson) and Poison (by Bell Biv Devoe)
 - The "talk" in between music was funny, engaging, and enhanced the overall experience.  Best part: When one person shared the secret password at the Air Force Academy Subway restaurant - Eaglebeak.
 - The "variety" of songs was balanced, thoughtful, and delighted the whole audience.  But what would you expect when the title of the tour is "Songs of the Decades" ?!  It was still impressive.
 - The harmonies and overall sound was transcendent!  Two Best examples: an otherworldly, slow, spiritually inspirational version of Madonna's "Like a Prayer" ... and ... another song that I'd never heard before about following the light toward heaven ... which made me literally CRY !!!

As I told Karen on the way back to our car after the concert ... this was the BEST birthday gift I have ever received that was NOT from Karen ('cause her gifts are always the best no matter what 'cause she's awesome!)

...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Is the grass really greener over there ?

I received a very nice compliment today from an employee that used to report to me.  She said that I was the best boss she had ever worked for and that she realized it rather quickly after leaving my team.  (Side note: I usually hate to say "my team" because it's really our team, I just happen to be the person whose title puts him in charge of the team.)

She went on to say that the grass is never really any greener "over there" and concluded with "You never really know what you have until it's gone."

I do not write this to brag or boast.  I'm not trying to pat myself on the back or anything of the sort.  If that is what you think then you must not know me at all.

I AM trying to point out that as a "Boss" (I hate that term too!) that is about the best kind of compliment you can receive from a former direct report.  So if your current "boss" is pretty darn good, take the time to tell her (or him) with a heartfelt and sincere "Thanks."  Be specific.  Be honest.  Be complimentary in a way that you know your boss will receive the message.  Reward the positive behavior and it will continue.

Shout out of thanks to my current team for the delicious cake and pie today to celebrate "Bosses Day" (which was technically Sunday, but today was my first work day this week).

...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Is that a new iPad2 ?

Why yes, yes it is!  :)

After months (separately) and weeks (together) of discussing the purchase of an iPad2, Karen and I "bit the bullet" and bought one today.  The true wisdom or silliness of our purchase remains to be seen, but this much I can tell you so far ... we're both digging the AngryBirds and PhotoBooth!  :)

A little backstory here:
About three months ago I got the idea to begin saving money to surprise Karen with an iPad for Christmas.  I knew they run between $500 - $800, so it was going to take a tremendous effort (and some fortunate "bonus(es)" at work to make this dream a reality.  But I wanted to do this for her because she deserves it and I know I'd get some use out of it too.
Little did I know that, around the same time, Karen was plotting something similar for me.  She knew how I had talked about the iPad that my friend (Mark M) at work has and how excited I was when I told her just a few of the things it can do.  So she began saving money and planned to get me one for my birthday.

So on my birthday our mutual "secrets" came out and we both laughed at how similar our minds were/are.  We agreed that we would let our budget get us an iPad as an early Christmas present (coupled with a little money from what each of us had saved towards its purchase).

I'm sure I'll write more about it later, especially once Mark and my sister Jaimee and anyone else with an iPad teaches us about all the really cool apps we can get and use.  Until then, here's a few pictures that really show you nothing of the new iPad ... but Karen's having fun with it.  :)

You can't really tell, but the cover is blue.  It's so tiny too !!!  :) 

Obviously Karen was looking for a VERY
challenging Disney game!  Ha ha! 

...

Is that a HOLE in your suit ?

Yep.

It was a hole ... in my swimsuit!

On the very first day of our swimming in Thermopolis, I noticed that my swimsuit had a smallish hole in the "you-know-where" area.  I pointed this out to Karen and we agreed that it was small enough to be patched with needle and thread once we got back to the hotel at lunchtime.


And so I kept swimming, cautiously, and mostly by myself.  Then, just sitting there in the hot tub, I simply moved a little (so my son could sit next to me) and I noticed that the hole had gotten larger.  It was now past the point of saving, so I did my best to hold it together and get Karen's attention to discuss our options.


In the midst of talking to Karen I reached down the side of the swim trunks to shift them over and cover the "open" area a little better ... and the stitching around the pocket just ripped another huge hole!  So now I had TWO large holes in the front and side of my swimsuit!


Fortunately there were reasonably priced swim trunks (in my size too) available near the front entrance of the pool building.  But I still felt bad for needing a new swimsuit.  That is, until Karen reminded me that I have been using this same set of swim trunks for over 5 years!  Between trips to Thermopolis and dozens of visits to the local pool, I realized I had gotten more than my money's worth from those torn up trunks.

Also fortunately, the remainder of the trip included
ZERO wardrobe malfunctions!  :)

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Why WY, Part Two ?

Here are the pictures (not all, mind you, these are those worthy of showing others) of our recent family vacation to Thermopolis, WY.  In my prior blog I posted about why we drive 8 hours (each way) to the middle-of-nowhere Wyoming to these hot springs.  These pictures will support that blog and story.

The Case 6-pack in front of the Thermopolis Hot Springs
(L-R) Myra, Josh Jr, Savannah, Brooklyn, Cat, and Ben

Catalina enjoying Grandma Penny's curly fries @
the A&W Restaurant in Thermopolis, WY

I love this picture!  Mostly because it
reminds me of what Myra was doing all
along this walkway!  She was "chasing"
her siblings and refused to let me carry her!

This is a "swinging" bridge that goes over
the river that runs through Thermopolis, WY.
We'd never walked over it before ... but it
REALLY does swing!  (Grandma hated that!)

Every time we leave Thermopolis we take a scenic
drive through a nearby Bison Ranch.  It is always
a treat to see these amazing (and HUGE) animals.

This is just a picture of the Hot Springs
near the swinging bridge and terraces.
The water comes out around 135 degrees!
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Why WY, Part One ?

This past week (10/9 - 10/12), my family and I headed out to the middle-of-nowhere-Wyoming for a mini-vacation.  Accompanying us, in their own car (probably more for their sanity than ours), were Karen's parents and sister Jodie.


Many people at work or church asked me "Why are you going to the middle-of-nowhere-Wyoming?!"  And my answer, while not always this brief, was often one or two words: Thermopolis ... or ... Hot Springs.

If you don't know, then you don't KNOW.
So let me inform you ...

Thermopolis, WY is home to the world's largest mineral hot springs.  I believe they lay claim to this because the flow of water out of the hot spring(s) is the largest (by volume) of any in the world.  It is an impressive 3.6 million gallons of water a day!  That means the water used to fill (and refill) the various swimming pools in the area regenerates virtually every hour.  So the pool stays very warm and the HOT tubs stay VERY HOT !!!

Karen's family (The Lockard Clan) used to travel to Thermopolis often when she was a child.  They would visit Yellowstone, which is just a few short hours away, and then spend 1-2 days at the Star Plunge Pool.  When we got married, this was one of the family traditions that just sorta stuck with us.  Even some members of my family of origin (my mom and dad and maybe a few others) have gone with us over the years.  I don't know exactly how many times we've gone, but it has got to be closing in on 10 times by now.

Our visits usually follow a similar pattern ... Day One - drive to Thermopolis (7-8 hours depending on traffic and weather) ... Days Two and Three - Swimming @ the pool ... Day Four - Drive home.
The "swimming at the pool" usually works like this:
 - swim in the morning (until 11am or Noon)
 - take a siesta (1-3 hour break) for lunch
 - swim a few hours in the afternoon (usually 2pm - 5pm)
and then we do one of these two options:
 - swim even longer and eat a late dinner (7-8pm)
... OR ...
 - eat an early dinner (@ 5pm) and head back for swimming (7-9pm)

We've ALWAYS gone to the Star Plunge pool, even though there is another newer pool in town.  The Star Plunge pool has LOTS of activities for the kids to enjoy including:
 - a large slide that wraps around the whole tower/building
 - a smaller outdoor slide which is great for even the littlest kids (Myra LOVED it and she's only 16 months old)
 - a diving board (but no "diving" is allowed so you have to do cannonballs, etc.)
 - and a basketball hoop in the outdoor pool.
It also has LOTS of places for adults too, including:
 - a "Lobster Pot" (indoor super hot tub)
 - the "Vapor Room" (steam/sauna for 21 and older)
 - and an outdoor hot tub that is often hotter than the lobster pot!

As far as food goes ... There's a McDonald's in town, so that's usually our lunch or dinner on one day.  There used to be a Subway, which was ALWAYS lunch for one of the swimming days ... but it's now a Blimpie or something like that, which was a sad situation considering it's $5 ANY-tober @ Subway this month!  There is also an A&W Restaurant that is attached to a bowling alley (weird combination but it works) and we ALWAYS eat dinner there one of the nights we're in town.  The rootbeer is so delicious and the food is pretty good too!

The town also has several other activities besides the Hot Springs (like a Dinosaur museum, Bison Pasture, Swinging Bridge, and lots of wildlife to watch), but you'll have to read my next blog post for a little more on each of those.

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What does that Abbreviation stand for ?

While driving to Thermopolis, WY for a short family vacation in some fun hot springs, I noticed that certain abbreviations are used in many different areas and you really need a frame of reference or context to understand what they are abbreviated for.

Here are the few examples I thought of while driving, but feel free to add your own in the comments section below:
 - Dr
    -- This can signify status and a title based on education ... Doctor
    -- This can indicate a type of street or road ... Drive
 - St
    -- This is often part of an address ... Street
    -- This can be a title for a revered religious person ... Saint
    -- This also refers to a college or geographic location ... State
 - Ft
    -- This recognizes an additional, special voice on a song ... Featuring
    -- This can signify a place of strength or military establishment ... Fort
    -- This is often a term of measurement ... Foot or Feet
 - BA
    -- This is a type of degree you can earn in college ... Bachelor of the Arts
    -- This represents a hitter's prowess in baseball ... Batting Average
 - E
    -- An indication of direction relative to some fixed point ... East
    -- This can suggest the level of difficulty of a game, climb, etc. ... Easy
    -- This single letter reminds you that it's time to fill the tank ... Empty

And lastly, I have to mention (and this is for my mom!) that one abbreviation in particular has NEVER made sense to me:
How does "Pound" become Lb ?!
There's no L or B in the word anywhere!  So of course I would pronounce this as "Lib" when I was 5 years old!  :)
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What is that guy doing ?!

I am certain that was the thought of many of my fellow motorists this past Saturday afternoon as I was driving home from work.

These pictures will explain a little about why I think that.


I currently have no windshield wiper blade on the passenger side of my car.  This forced me to drive home with the "arm" in an upright position (as you see it in the pictures above).  It is most amusing when I had to actually use the windshield wiper (not wiperS 'cause I only had one!) except that it kinda looked like the arm was either waving at or flipping people off.

The wiper blade currently on the driver side is actually the one that is supposed to be on the passenger side.  Here's the story why:  I came out to my car at work and noticed (as I was wiping snow off the windshield) that the pin which holds the wiper blade on the arm was missing.  This left me with only two options: call for help, or get creative.  So I swapped the smaller wiper blade from the passenger side to the driver side (so I'd be able to at least see out of part of the windshield).  I then lifted the arm of the passenger side windshield wiper in the upright position (see the pictures if this sounds confusing).  I tested "running" the wipers and it looked like they would hold.

What an odd experience to drive cautiously over all the bumps and the road while only sporadically using the wipers, for fear that the arm would spring back down and scrape the windshield!

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Would you like to share another one ?

Today, my oldest son Josh Jr (12) received the Aaronic Priesthood and was ordained to the office of a Deacon in our ward (Oakwood) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I am so proud of him and of his decision to enter into the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood.  It is a sacred and personal choice, which required a meeting and interview with our Bishop (that happened on the Wednesday evening shortly after we got back into town from Thermopolis).  Bishop Porter advised me after the interview that he was very impressed by Josh Jr and his knowledge of God's plan for us on this earth.  He also was impressed that Josh Jr had a good understanding of the purpose of obtaining the Priesthood (which, in it's most basic form, is to serve others).

Today at church was a whirlwind day for him (and our whole family, but obviously the biggest impact was for him).  My Blog Title Question is what the Bishop asked him at the pulpit during Sacrament Meeting.  A little background is appropriate here.  In our ward, the Bishop prefers to have any young man who is receiving the Priesthood come to the pulpit and share one of the 13 Articles of Faith.  Josh Jr knew this moment was coming and he felt prepared, but a little nervous.  He had chosen to share the 4th Article of Faith (listed at the bottom of this blog if you don't already know it or are not a "Mormon" yourself), which is longer than others but also his personal favorite.  He struggled after just the first few words ... and then the emotions set in.  He tried a second time and the words failed him yet again.  My heart was beating as hard as his and I wanted so badly to come to his aid, but I was so impressed with what happened next.  His voice trembling and filled with trepidation, he pushed through and recited, word for word, the whole thing!  I was so proud (and I think everyone in the audience was as relieved as he was).  It was after that when our wonderful Bishop eased the tension by asking Josh Jr if he wanted to share another Article of Faith.  Josh Jr was quick to reply with a loud "No!" while shaking his head.  The whole audience chuckled and the services continued on after the Bishop said a few more kind words about my great son!

Many extended family members attended his actual ordination (performed by me in the third block of church meetings in the afternoon) in the Deacon's Quorum.  It was also nice for Josh Jr to invite Brother Dave Tusler (his other scout leader and teacher in Sunday School) to join in the circle for his blessing.

I am so excited for my son to begin passing the Sacrament next week and also participate in other acts of service at church and as he grows in the scouting program right along with his Young Men's responsibilities.  He looked every bit the part of "a young man prepared" and I hope he remembers this day long after he is grown and has his own son to bless the way I was able to for him today.

(The 4th Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints ... as composed by Joseph Smith, in response to a question he had received about what the "Mormons" believe:
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are: First, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; Second, repentance; Third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; Fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.)

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Has it gone too far ?

None of my children have ever lived in a world where the internet and cell phones DID NOT exist.

I worry this is where we're headed ...


 ... sigh ...

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Did I Imagine It ?!

Today was my oldest son's 12th birthday ...
Happy Birthday Josh Jr.

So while Karen was away at a "girl's night" event, Josh Jr and I watched the original Karate Kid (starring Ralph Macchio ... with Elisabeth Shue as the love interest).  It was fun to watch with my son and see his reactions to a film that was pretty cool back in my day.

But the ending left me asking "WHAT?!"

There is all this build up and then the fight with the "bad guy" is over in just a matter of minutes.  And the "bad guy" brings the trophy over to Daniel-san and says "Hey Larusso, you're all right" and then ... it ... just ... ends.

What happened to the scene in the parking lot with the evil Sensei who berates the Cobra Kai from his dojo only to be stopped short of doing something terrible by, none other than, Mr Miyagi?!

Did I just imagine that ending?!  Or did we get some crappy copy of the movie that cut out what ended up being my favorite part?!

The "birthday" boy young man

My wife said that she thinks that is the opening scene in the second movie ... which might be true ... but darnit if that wasn't the "cool ending" I had kinda been prepping Josh Jr for during our watching of this film.  And then when it just ended I was appalled ... and I'm afraid I ruined the "happy ending" for my son by shouting at the TV saying "Where's the rest?!"

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Remember "Deep Thoughts" ?

I used to love Saturday Night Live back when I was in middle school and junior high.  Hans and Frans.  The Church Lady.  Simon and his drawrings.  But my favorite was always the Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey.

There is an official website if you'd like more quotes, but I am going to just post an early one that has always been one of my favorites.

“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.  That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.” ― Jack Handey ―


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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Where's the Pacifier ?!

My youngest daughter Myra (only 15 months old) still goes to sleep with a pacifier.  That's not a problem really ... except when you can't find one !!!

Myra, with her pacifier, playing one-person Musical Chairs
Any parent with experience knows that you'd better have more than just one pacifier (or you'd better know where the ONE you have is at all times!)  We have three pacifiers for Myra.  This evening ... we couldn't find any of them!





If it hadn't been well past our older kids' bedtimes, we'd have employed the same tactic we've used to find them before: offer a quarter for each pacifier found.  It has worked (a few times) surprisingly well before.

But alas, I was left to search the house myself (Karen would have helped but I didn't tell her I was looking so she knew nothing of my one-man search party).  I found all three pacifiers ... ONE in Myra's bedroom (under her bed and under a blanket) ... ONE in the "office" (under the kids' computer chair) ... and the last ONE was on the sink in the front bathroom (not under anything!)

Only other parents can truly appreciate the joy it was to find each one, especially in the fact that if she wakes up in the middle of the night I'll be able to toss another one into her bed rather than fumble around in the dark amidst her blankets trying to find one!

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