Saturday, December 31, 2011

Continuing traditions: Nausea and bowling for the New Year.

Unfortunately, this year we have tried hard to truly celebrate Christmas with the stomache flu for everyone. Aleah, Colleen, and Kate each have thrown up in their beds now. I have felt car-sick nauseous all last night and today. Uggh

 On a more positive note, we had great fun bowling, thanks to Leila's parents. Definitely, a new holiday tradition. All of the kids scored higher than me though, but I am just waiting for the day when they don't have bumpers. I am a very erratic bowler. Either it goes in the gutter or I get a spare/strike.
Leila consistently knocked down 6-8 pins.  Somehow I still outscored her.  Aahahaha.
Aleah tried to throw the bowling ball like a shotput a couple of times.  But usually took advantage of the gutters to knock down the pins. 
 Emily was consistently the best bowler. I bet she would have won even without the bumpers.  Look at that good form. 

Kate camped out at the ball return and rolled each ball into place.  She also was the cheerleader.  She would cheer and clap for everyone.  

I helped Colleen roll the ball.  When she rolled it by herself so softly that it was not for sure that it would make it all the way down the lane.  

Friday, December 30, 2011

Leila's trip to Abu Dhabi


Our good friends in Abu Dhabi were kind enough to host Leila for a visit before Christmas this year.  Here are some of the highlights.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Nothing says "Romance" like a tire repair kit for Christmas

I debated what I should get Leila for Christmas this year.  I had told her that her trip to Abu Dhabi was her Christmas present when I booked the tickets, but it seemed kinda cold to not have something to unwrap.  Her bike has been broken for a long time and I thought I would put new tires on it and fix it up for her present. So on Christmas Eve, because I procrastinate everything, I went to Ames to get supplies and planned on finishing the job before she got back from visiting her friend in Des Moines.

I had visions of wheeling the fixed bike inside before she got up with a bow on it.  Then, in my mind, we all went for a ride on Christmas morning to exercise off gorging on cinnamon rolls and candy before we devoured Swedish meatballs and mash potatoes.

I stopped first at Kmart, because Kmart would be open on Christmas Eve.  I was in the store for 5 minutes and came out to the car and saw my back tire was almost completely flat.  I must have hit a nail or something.  I could here the air hissing out from a puncture.  No problem, I could fix this.  I went to the trunk and couldn't see where the spare tire was hiding.  I looked under the car.  No spare.  Then I took a deep breath, and got out the manual in the jockey box.  According to the manual the spare was between the seats and under the floor.  Of course.  I got it out and found the tiny jack and started turning it so that it would jack up the car.

That is when I realized I had no way to remove the security lug nuts. Leila told me there was a tool for that in the jockey box later, and that the proper name for them were "security lug nuts." In my mind they were the "@#@#@#$*(&#$&$^^^ nut-with-the-crazy top." I looked in the manual and there was no mention of "@#@#@#$*(&#$&$^^^ nut-with-the-crazy top."

A couple of people stopped and offered to help.  None of them knew how to get the "@#@#@#$*(&#$&$^^^ nut-with-the-crazy top" off either.  It was getting dark.  I went back into the store and went to the automotive section.  No tool for "@#@#@#$*(&#$&$^^^ nut-with-the-crazy top." But there was a tire repair kit with a sealant and an air compressor that ran off of the cigarette lighter.  That could work I thought.

I went out, put the spare and jack away.  Poured in the Fix-a-Flat, plugged in the little air compressor, and waited.  Sure enough, it did blow up the tire.  The instructions said to drive around to spread the goop around inside to plug the holes.  I made it downtown and checked the hole.  It was still losing air somewhat. I thought I could make it back home, so I turned around to go home.

I made it to Target before I realized the tire was not holding.  At Ag, one of the production guys had fixed my lawnmower tire with a kit like this one.  I had seen the same kit used on tractor tires and for 2 dollars I bought one at Target. I also bought a small tool kit, just in case.

To fix the tire, you are supposed to clean it out with the awl/rasp and then coat the rubber plug with glue, plunge it into the tire with the needle-like tool and then pull out the needle leaving the plug in the tire.  I pushed and strained.  I could not get the needle with the rubber plug into the hole.  I tried to make it wider with the rasp and by pushing as hard as I could I got it finally in and plugged.  I filled the tire up again and drove straight home.

The tire has held air since then.  Amazing.  I was impressed by the number of people that offered to help me out on Christmas eve.  I was rather irritable when I got home finally, but since Leila looked so forlorn, I couldn't stay mad.  I did give her tire repair supplies for Christmas.  And she had the good manners to pretend to be surprised and to appreciate her gift.

That is why I married her.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas at the Gardunia's

Our tree this year

 When Leila and I were at BYU, before we got married, we often went out on double dates with Craig, my roommate.  She was usually Craig's date, but that is another story.  Before Christmas we went to Salt Lake to see the lights and eat Chinese food with Liesl Talbot.  After we dropped Liesl off, Craig, Leila and I were in the car, driving back to Provo.  Craig turned to Leila and said, "Leila. . . (Long pause in which I thought "please don't ask her what is going on between us, because I don't know quite how to answer that.") ...what are your Christmas traditions?" Leila audibly sighed with relief because she was thinking the same thing as me.  We still chuckle about it.

Ninja snow man and other homemade decorations. 
A for Aleah and marbleized ball. 

I think about that this time of year, because it was funny, and because we don't have really defined Christmas traditions still.  Let's scratch that  The more I think about it, we have great Christmas traditions, they just seem ordinary to me and I tend to be more like Eeyore.  Each year we have a tree. In Texas we cut down scrub cedar for our Christmas tree each year from the abandoned lot near my office by the railroad.   We give each other presents, that we open on Christmas, not Christmas Eve.  My siblings and I have a gift exchange mediated by my sister Anna.

We always have a family picture taken in November which is given to Grandparents as part of their Christmas gift and we often start Christmas cards or a letters, but often don't get them mailed out on time.  But we mean to each year, and we do think of all of our friends and family that live so far away.  We make cookies and pie for Christmas dinner.  We usually have ham, Christmas, ie funeral potatoes.

Aleah as Mary 2007 - she kept the blanket wrapped around her head for days.
On Christmas Eve the kids and I dress up and act out the Nativity scene.  I am the donkey and the girls fight over who will be Mary.  (Because secretly I think it is funny to be the ass). Leila traditionally gets overwhelmed by it all at this point and designates herself as the narrator.  After the kids go to bed, Leila and I stay up late wrapping presents and getting stockings done.  And at our house Santa brings you something in your stocking - traditionally olives for me.

Our house Christmas 2009 - no decorations or snow this year.
One of our Christmas traditions that I would like to get rid of is the Christmas stomach flu.  (Now, to me the flu is nausea and vomiting, not Influenza.  This started soon after Leila and I got married when we went to her folks for Christmas.  That was a rough trip.  On the way there we were in a car accident on the freeway up to Snoqualmie pass.  Then we got to Gig Harbor and it was a full house, and the then the throwing up started.  First Eric, then me, then Leila, and so on.  Another year we went to Utah and Emily and Aleah threw up Christmas Eve and Christmas.  This year, Aleah has started Christmas out with this tradition by throwing up all last night.  Let's hope it doesn't spread to the rest of us before Christ

She has

Photo of half finished christmas presents in the woodshop.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Goals - Guaranteed to fail

I have a bad history with goals.  Secretly, I feel like if I vocalize a goal, write it down, tell Leila about it, that pretty much is the end of that endeavor.  I have thought a lot about that this last week.  And the end of the year seems to loom larger to me than Christmas right now.  That and I am procrastinating finishing Christmas gifts.

My friend Erin wrote this year not on the goals she had, but the person she wanted to become over this next year. I love her goal to get "some swagger."  I love this idea and started writing a list of the things I want to become over the next year or the things I want to learn or do.  But they all distill down to daily, or repeated action, that end up not being sustainable, and I quickly drop them for short term time fillers.  If my goal were to watch Jon Stewart every day after the kids go to bed, I guarantee I could do it for a year.  If my goal were to read a SciFi book a week, you could bet I would do it.  Instead I, like most people, try to make goals that are good for me, and apparently I don't really want to do those things, or else I would, right?  I like sweets.  I love watching TV.  I don't really like to exercise. Apparently I don't like to read my scriptures every day, another goal I fail at repeatedly.

I envy people who have the strength of will to keep up a daily, good-for-you activity.  While thinking about how to make myself build good habits and improve myself, I stumbled onto a blog category of 365 day projects.  There are a lot of photo-a-day blogs.  The link is to a metasite that compiles these blogs; I bet Kodak's film department head curses the development of digital cameras every time they look at such a site. That is a lot of pictures, beautiful pictures.  I found a series of eat-better/local/organic/vegetarian-for-a-year blogs, many inspired by the book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," which I read a few years back.  Here is another about a family's experiment of a farm for a year that turned into their life.  When I was searching for a list of blogs to write about it became a game to find a phrase and add "for a year" to it and see if such a site/blog existed.  For exercize buffs: Running for a year, yoga for a year,  or go the otherway with Daily Mcdonalds aka Supersize Me.  How about a "book a day for a year" - yep, someone has done that.  "No environmental impact for a year", someone has tried that too.  The list could go on and on.

Am I building up to making this blog a record of my Jon-Stewart-watching-every-day-for a year goal?  No,  but I do want to find a way to motivate myself to do the daily work that is required for many goals.  As Juma Ikangaa once said, "The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare. " I had that on a poster on my wall when I was 16.  I felt like I accomplished a lot of things that year.  I practiced every day.  I read my scriptures.  I fell asleep doing homework most nights.  I was a stress case though.

My goal for this year is to build good habits.  I would like to be the sort of person that can do something good, every day, even if it is hard.  I think I will try to find something small that I can do everyday, and I will try to report in periodically, but I will not inflict 365 days of blog posts to it.

As a postscript, I ran into a website of poems compiled by the US Poet Laureate for a poem a day, that I couldn't help sharing:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Scratch - Something worthwhile for kids on the computer.

My mom is working for NSF this year as an Einstein fellow.;  As part of her job she reviews grants and attends conferences focused on education of math and computer science.  When she came to visit for Thanksgiving, she introduced us to a program called Scratch for learning computer science methods.  My kids are entranced by it, and it is pretty cool.

My kids spend a lot of time using paint on the computer anyway, but now they can animate their digital drawings, add music, sounds, and automate actions of their characters.

Here are some recent Paint drawings from the kids, I will let you guess which one's were Kate's and which from Emily.

This is Emily's first project.  Almost every key does something to the character.  The middle keys play music and other keys change the character.  Emily has talked about doing an animated storybook with it. You have to give permission for the Java plug-in to run and then you can explore Emily's Scratch project.  The little kids also play around with it, but haven't run any commands, they are entranced by the enhanced paint options and  preloaded characters.  Kate just clicks like mad until the screen is a scrum of characters.

Learn more about this project

Monday, December 05, 2011

Jury duty

The phone rang at 7:30 this morning. My first thought was that I had forgot to call Aleah's school to tell them she was going to be late/absent.   She woke up in a dreadful funk and was coughing, wheezing, and oozing, so I sent her back to bed and figured I would bring her to school when she was feeling better.   The woman on the other end of the phone asked for me by my full name, like my mother would when I was in trouble,  and reminded me that I hadn't called in for jury duty on Friday.  The Judge was expecting me at 8:30 she said.  I told her there was no way I could make it.  I had the kids.  They were sick.  She said the judge could hold me in contempt and send the marshalls with a summons.  I decided I could try.

I called a couple of families with young kids from church and found no one that could take the kids on short notice.  Then I remembered the Shooks - no kids, but retired and home.  They agreed, I bundled them in clothes and coats, dropped them screaming at their front door, and drove to Des Moines.

I was already a half hour late.  I parked in the parking garage next to the courthouse, and then realized I needed to go another mile to the federal courthouse.  I didn't have time to hunt for more parking, so I ran.  Wheezing through security, the guard informed me that it was against federal law to bring my cell phone inside and I would have to return it to my vehicle.  I was over a half hour late and didn't want to run all the way back  so I stashed it under some dried grass next to the river.  I felt like I was burying evidence.

I raced upstairs, checked in, sprinted down to the courtroom for rollcall.  Made it.  Then waited for an hour until the judge, the defendent, the lawyers, and police settled in.  There were two plainclothes policemen sitting in opposite corners.  Each of them were checking their email on their blackberries.  Apparently the ban on cell phones only applies to civilians.

The judge was in his sixties.  He gave very clear instructions about the indictment, the commitment and responsibility of being a juror, and then they turned what looked like a wooden bingo contraption and drew names.  Only half of us would be chosen initially.  The rest would wait, and assuming that the lawyers didn't exclude all of the rest would be free to go.  Of course, my name was on the top of the list.

Each of us were asked about our age, jobs, family, places we lived the last 10 years,  and if we had any reasons for being excused.  I had already discussed my situation with the clerk and she told me that it probably wasn't good enough to keep me off the jury so I didn't mention it.  Then they followed up with specific questions about previous court cases we had been involved with.  One fellow had two felonies, he  was a little bitter about it.  Apparently the police overstretched their bounds, so he said.  Some of the jurors worked together in the same company.  One woman had a vacation in California scheduled.  He asked if she could rearrange her flights.  We had filled out forms and mailed them in weeks ago.  He asked me follow up questions about Nicaragua, my educational background in genetics, and whether I had ever been arrested.  I told them about getting arrested as a kid driving an ice cream truck and getting robbed in Nicaragua.  That got a chuckle.

Each set of lawyers asked further questions.  The prosecutor tried to exclude the felon.  His motion was denied since enough time had passed that he was eligible to serve.  The defense asked repeatedly to each juror if we understood that the defendant was innocent until proven guilty and whether we agreed that the burden of proof was on the prosecution.  He was a more personable lawyer than the prosecutor.  He asked me again about Nicaragua.  He asked us if we were biased by cultures or lifestyles that are not directly related to the case that may be distasteful for us.  I raised my hand and asked him if he meant that we were going to need to judge whether certain lifestyle choices were related to the case given evidence presented by the prosecution.  He clarified and asked me more questions.

Then we waited, while the attorneys passed lists of jurors back and forth between them.

The judge finally announced around lunch time the final jury selections.  I was free to go.  Thank goodness.  I didn't feel like arranging babysitting and spending this whole time off as a juror.