April 30, 2008

Square Roots















The last two days have been very "toothy" for our family. Yesterday, Jeni had one of her molars extracted. About two years ago, she had a root canal performed in Houston and somehow the dentist left a piece of a metal tool embedded inside her tooth. He told us that the piece was probably about a centimeter long and that this happening is somewhat common. I'm not so sure about that - the pain it caused Jeni and the massive bacterial infection that spread into her jaw don't sound so common. Our good friend, former mission companion, and now Dentist, James Anderson, did the extraction and did a great job. The metal piece was much longer than what the first dentist had said it was, probably about an inch!

Today, Maddy had two of her baby teeth pulled since two of her permanent teeth are trying to get through and are having a hard time. That makes eight pulled teeth for Maddy, nearly the same amount I had to have pulled as a youth.

So if the tooth fairy loses a tooth, who cashes her out?

April 28, 2008

Return to Katrina

You might have read several years ago in the Church News about the stakes in Houston, Texas that sent work parties into Slidell, Louisiana a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the Coast. I was fortunate to be among about 200 members from our Stake in Pearland, Texas that took that trip by charter bus. We stayed 2 nights and slept in tents on the grounds of the Stake Center there. It was an amazing experience, and I recently came across across a picture from that time that made a big impression on me and thought I'd share it here, along with a few thoughts.

Our group was assigned to a single story home owned by a young couple with 2 small children from the local ward. The flood-waters from Katrina had risen to nearly 6 feet in a matter of 5 minutes and then had stayed for 2 days. When the water finally subsided, this family (who had evacuated prior to the flooding) returned home to find all of their possessions completely ruined. Their drywall was covered with mold so our crew spent the day completely tearing off the drywall, removing insulation, removing the carpet and padding, pulling out cabinets, furniture, etc. We completely gutted the house and it took our team of 8 plus the couple that entire day. Below is a picture showing what was moved out of the house. Behind the pile, you'll see members of our crew plus, just to the right, you'll see the husband and wife, arm in arm. (Click on the picture for a larger view).
















This is the amazing part to me. If you look closely at the couple's faces, they both have very large smiles, almost ear to ear, as if this was some ordinary, everyday event. As I have studied their faces, I wondered how they could be so happy, even with the enormous pile of debris, their entire life's belongings, laying right in front of them, ruined, destroyed! A scripture from the Book of Mormon came to mind as this was occurring.

"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." (Helaman 5:12)

Just looking at the faces of this couple, whose names I do not know, will always be a reminder to me of this. With chins up high and smiles wide, they were on a sure foundation. They felt it and we felt it. It brought peace amidst the storm. This has had a lasting impression upon me and helped me to reflect on the things I need to do as a husband and father to ensure that we are built upon that same foundation so that "when" (not if) the mighty winds come, as literal as that may be, we too can stand with testimonies firm, smiles wide, unmoved in our conviction that God is in charge and that all will be made right in the end.

April 26, 2008

Volcano

While at Disneyland, we ate one night at the Rainforest Café in Downtown Disney and splurged for a Volcano dessert. If you haven’t had one, its 3-4 scoops of vanilla ice cream surrounded by 3 huge pieces of fudge cake and then topped with chocolate and caramel sauce and whipped cream. They used to put a real sparkler in the top, light it and then bring it to you while all the workers yell “volcano!” Now, they still yell but the sparkler has been replaced with some crafty shiny thing. I’m guessing someone must have gotten burned with the sparkler which is terrible, not only because of their burn but because they probably didn't get any of the dessert! Below are the pictures before, during and after our experience, which lasted less than 5 chocolaty-gooey-filled-mess minutes.





































April 25, 2008

Favorite Quotes

So my plan to update our CS Lewis Quote section of the blog each week has failed miserably. Like everyone else, life gets so busy! But, we do have a ton of favorite quotes and we continue to gather more, so to help keep the section fresh, we're going to include quotes by several of our other favorite authors and writers as well. So now it will become a "Favorite Quotes" section. Enjoy!

April 23, 2008

Street Show

Somehow while at Disneyland, Joey and I both got pulled into a “Dating Game” show in Frontier Village. I was bachelor #1 and Joey was bachelor #3 and before we saw the bride to be, we were all blindfolded. By the audience reaction and the bride’s voice, it was pretty clear that our “bride” was actually a man dressed up as a woman, even though we couldn’t see her / him.

Our first question was “If you were a desert animal, who would you be?” I was first and didn’t have much time to think so I said “Cougar,” named after my soccer team when I was in elementary school. Joey answered “Chicken” which I thought was pretty funny.

The second question was “What love song would you sing me if we were alone in the moonlight?” I thought hard, trying to think of something clever but the pressure was on and I completely choked. All I ended up with was “Unchained Melody” because Simon Cowell had recently said on American Idol that that was one of his favorite songs of all time. Jeni later told me I should have done “Dude looks like a Lady” by Aerosmith and Maddy even suggested “I Love You Just the Way you Are” by Billy Joel. Too bad they weren’t on the stage. Joey’s answer was hilarious - "Who Let the Dogs Out."

The last question was actually to give our best hog call. So I let out a big "Sooooeeeee" as did bachelor #2. Joey said “Come here porkchop!” They decided to let the audience vote on the winner and Joey won by a landslide. As soon as they took his blindfold off to introduce him to his new mate, he ran away screaming. Turns out his answers and his response were scripted with someone whispering in his ear what to say and do. It was a lot of fun and there are some pictures of it below. I’m glad I didn’t go into drama or show-business. I definitely don’t have Jeni, Maddy or Joey’s flair for performance. The lesson behind all of this - NEVER make eye contact with any performers at Disneyland.

























































April 22, 2008

Fanta Filet

While at Disneyland, we ate dinner one night at the Blue Bayou, the restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The atmosphere was really great, the food was ok, and the pricing was outrageous. Though we probably wouldn’t do it again for a very long time, we made some fun memories. Joey ordered the filet mignon which he ate every last bite of and he accompanied it with a large glass of orange soda. I’m not sure why that struck me as so funny but I don’t think I’d see that combination anywhere other than at Disney. His response was "Well Dad, I'm not going to order wine!"

The Craigs

We were so glad on our way to Disney to stop by and see our good friends, the Craigs. We’ve known Ken and Katie for nearly 8 years, having met them in Las Vegas through Church callings. Ken and I served in the Stake Young Men’s Presidency together and Jeni and Katie served together running the Stake Youth Choir. We’ve stayed close over the years and they are truly one of the great families you'll ever meet.

Katie is a certified midwife and has had almost all of her 5 children at home, home-schools them all and is an accomplished flautist and entertainer. Ken is incredibly witty and helped start a comedy group called The Garrens while at BYU, which is where he met Katie (she was also in the group.) Ken is one of the most humble, good natured, fun people you’ll ever meet and was recently called as Bishop of his ward in Las Vegas. If you’re looking for a stomach ache from laughing too hard, you have to read his blog (see the link above under Family and Friends).

Below are pictures of Jeni and Katie and of all of our children. We love you Craigs!














April 21, 2008

Disneyland

Disneyland is one of our favorite places on Earth and we’ve been fortunate to have spent many vacations there or at Disneyworld. I’m not sure what it is about the parks that appeal to us so much but there’s such a great atmosphere there – it really has been one of the happiest places on earth for us. So, what better place to go over our kids’ spring break! We drove to California, via Las Vegas, and spent 5 straight days enjoying Disneyland and the California Adventure Park next door. We could easily have stayed another 5 days. Some fun memories from this trip include…

1. Jeni joined us every day in the park and never needed a wheelchair!
2. Ro and Joey being pulled into a street show - embarrassing
3. Ro falling backwards over a railing into a pile of bushes
4. Eating dinner at the Bayou Café inside Pirates of the Caribbean
5. Maddy getting completely soaked head to foot on the river rapids
6. The kids getting their caricatures painted in watercolor
7. Joey playing with swords while talking to a girl classmate on his cell

Below are some pictures of the kids by the Main Gate, me and Joey enjoying our last treat before leaving, and Jeni by one of the rides.


































April 10, 2008

Mission Reunion

Last Friday, Jeni and I hosted a 15 year Washington DC South Mission Reunion at the Stake Center next to our home. It was well attended with close to 100 people there and we were grateful to reconnect with many old companions and friends. A few of those came over to our house afterwards and we looked though some old pictures. Here's one we found of our last day in the field right before we flew home. Did we really ever look so young?



April 08, 2008

Broadway

Soon after Jeni and I were married, she introduced me to the world of theater. Jeni had been a MDT (Music, Dance, Theater) major in college on scholarship and so she taught me the ins and outs of how it all worked with the on-Broadway shows, the traveling casts, etc. The first Broadway musical we saw together was Phantom of the Opera in Seattle. Tonight we took the kids to see the opening night of Annie which was amazing.

At intermission, Jeni struck up a conversation with some elderly ladies sitting beside her, one of whom happened to be Elder Wirthlin's sister! It amazes me how comfortable people feel talking to Jeni. During Spamalot we ended up sitting next to a girl who was in the cast and was taking the night off and she and Jeni talked for a while also.

Since our first show in Seattle, we've been able to enjoy the traveling casts of several others including the ones shown below.
























































































































I'm so grateful that Jeni exposed me to these shows as well as the soundtracks to several others that we've not yet seen together. My top 10 Broadway songs are, in order...

1. The I Love You Song, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
2. Prayer, The Scarlet Pimpernel
3. Lily's Eyes, The Secret Garden
4. Past the Point of No Return, Phantom
5. For Good, Wicked
6. Empty Chairs and Empty Tables, Les Miserables
7. Easy as Life, Aida
8. How Could I Ever Know, The Secret Garden
9. Some Things are Meant to Be, Little Women
10. Moon, Notre-Dame de Paris

If you are familiar with these and know of any others that you think we'd enjoy, let us know!