Family Vacation to Moab, Utah

Earlier this month Marathon Girl and I took the family on a camping trip to the La Sal Mountains east of Moab, Utah. We had a great time camping, river rafting, and visiting many state and national parks. Highly recommend the trip to the area if you've never been. Here's some  photos from our 6-day adventure. 

 View from our campsite one evening. The peaks are the La Sal Mountains. Warner Lake is in the shadows near the bottom of the picture.

View from our campsite one evening. The peaks are the La Sal Mountains. Warner Lake is in the shadows near the bottom of the picture.

 About 1.5 miles from our campsite was Oowah Lake. It was a beautiful hike to get there. 

About 1.5 miles from our campsite was Oowah Lake. It was a beautiful hike to get there. 

 Three of my kids playing around on the hoodoos in Goblin Valley State Park, Utah.

Three of my kids playing around on the hoodoos in Goblin Valley State Park, Utah.

 Me, Marathon Girl, and one camera shy kid. Goblin Valley State Park, Utah.

Me, Marathon Girl, and one camera shy kid. Goblin Valley State Park, Utah.

 If you look really close, you can see the head of one of my kids hiking around Arches National Park, Utah.

If you look really close, you can see the head of one of my kids hiking around Arches National Park, Utah.

 Taking in the beauty of Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Taking in the beauty of Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Visiting the Spiral Jetty

The summer after Marathon Girl and I were married, we took a trip to the north end of the Great Salt Lake to visit Robert Smithson's earthwork Spiral Jetty. At the time, the Spiral Jetty was something most people didn't know about or had no clue how to get there. We drove out and spent an hour walking on salt encrusted rocks amid pink waters and enjoying the silence. Since it had been about 14 years since we went out, we thought it would make a fun day trip to take the kids out to see it.

I knew before we left that the Great Salt Lake was near record low levels but seeing just how low it was really surprised me. As you can see below, the water is at least a half mile from the jetty.

spiral-jetty-2016

The dry lake bed didn't deter the kids from running out there and walking on the black basalt rocks that the Spiral Jetty is made from.

Apparently the cool thing to do is to write your name on the packed sand between the rocks. As you can see, one of the kids decided to use a pseudonym. He's always been a bit of a joker.

After that the kids wanted to hike out to the lake. About a third of the way to the water, the bottom of the lake bed turned from mud to rock hard salt. 

salt

Near the lake we spotted a glove on a pool waving to the water.

glove-pool-great-salt-lake

Once we reached the shoreline, the kids had to play in the one small section of mud. Kids will be kids, I guess.

Aside from some minor sunburns, the trip was a success and the kids had a good time.

My favorite part about going out there, however, is how quiet it is. Just the desert, the lake, and the Spiral Jetty. No cell phone service, paved roads, lights or any other sign of civilization. You can sit on the rocks overlooking the area and think. Think without distractions. A place like that is difficult to find today.

Rest in Peace, Grandpa

I've been in Denver the last couple of days attending my grandfather's funeral. Having served his country in World War II, Grandpa had a military sendoff and was laid to rest in Fort Logan National Cemetery. Just driving through the cemetery itself was sobering to realize just how many people have served our country.

Even though it was a somewhat solemn occasion, it was nice to see some cousins, uncles, aunts, and many others that I haven't seen in decades and spend time with them. My dad's family is spread out from Alaska to Florida and having everyone (or most everyone) together doesn't happen very often. It was also nice to hear stories about Grandpa that I had never heard before. I was also glad I could bring three of my kids so they could say their goodbyes and meet people that they've never met before.

Rest in peace, Grandpa. You lived a full and wonderful life. Your life has touched more people than I think you know.

See you in the next life.

James Warren Keogh (1923-2013)

My grandfather, James Warren Keogh, was in many was a mysterious man. Quiet and soft spoken he was never one to talk much about himself. And when he died last week at the good old age of 90, a lot of the stories I wanted to hear about his life went to his grave.

A World War II vet, Grandpa served in the Pacific alongside his brother Jack. He fought in the battle of Iwo Jima but like most men of his generation never really talked about his experience. When I was about 10 I stumbled on an old army sack filled with medals including a Bronze Star and a tattered Rising Sun Flag. I asked my dad about what I had found and he couldn’t tell me anything about how Grandpa got them.

Though he didn’t talk much about the war, Grandpa was always willing to tell stories about growing up in Michigan and attending Detroit Tigers games as a young man. He saw greats like Joe DaMaggio and Ted Williams play. He loved playing baseball and his love of the game carried over to his old age where he played on softball teams into his late 70’s before the games finally became to physically difficult to participate.

Grandpa spent his professional careers working as a geologist for the federal government. He could tell you anything and everything about rocks. He liked rocks so much that he xeriscaped his yard with rocks and native Colorado plants. You always spot his house a mile away because it was the only one in Lakewood without any grass in the front yard.

Grandpa was always generous with time and enjoyed having grandkids (and, later great-grandkids) around. When I was around 8 years old, I flew out by myself to spend a week with him in Denver. It was the trip of a lifetime. We spent the week hiking in the mountains west of town, going to natural history museums, eating at Casa Bonita, watching him play softball, and attending my first (and only) Denver Broncos game.  A couple years ago when Marathon Girl and I took the kids on a family vacation to Denver, he was more than happy to spend as much time as possible with our family and his great-grandkids.

Grandpa is now with his brother, Jack, and other family members. And though he’s in a better place, his living legacy includes six children and tons of grandkids and great-grandkids. Most will be there to say one final goodbye this week Denver. Maybe, just maybe, we can all piece together parts of his life that remained a mystery to many of us. Even if that never happens, his kind, gentle influence will still continue to live on through his family.

See you next life, Grandpa. Maybe then you'll tell me some of those stories I always wanted to hear.

The Third Grade Email Dilemma

Last week our oldest child came home from school and proudly announced that he had a Gmail account and wanted to email his friend. This announcement took me and Marathon Girl by surprise. Email? In third grade? I assumed this day would come but I thought it would be something I’d be dealing with in toward the end of elementary school—not at the close of third grade.

Curious to see what was going on, I logged into my laptop and the next thing I know he’s typing in a username and password and there’s an inbox full of email messages from him and his friends have sent over the last couple of days. Then he proceeded to show me that he could email any student in the school district. He typed in the name of a girl who lived next door to us before we moved. Her name came on the screen and he typed her a quick message and clicked Send.

“I don’t know how I feel about you having a Gmail account,” I said.

“It’s not a regular Gmail, dad,” he replied. “It’s a school account that works with Gmail. It’s totally safe. The block out the bad stuff.”

Turns out the kid was right—well mostly right, anyway. After doing a little research I learned that the school district, starting in the third grade, gives kids in their own district email account that is run through Gmail. And apparently they do have decent safety standards because I tried to sending him test emails from work and other email accounts and all were bounced back as being undeliverable. Still, nothing is ever 100% secure in the online world. I work for a company sells computer security software to businesses. It’s a great product but I’m also well aware of the limitations that such products have.

So we’re letting him use email—for now. We really don’t want to discourage him (or any of our other kids) from learning computer technology or using email—especially where our oldest has such a gift for learning anything related to computers, smartphones, and tablets. The challenge is to find the balance between letting him learn and keeping him safe from all the online garbage out there. We have basic computer rules at home (Mom and Dad have access to everything they do online, the computer is a public space, no interactions with strangers, etc.) but now we’re going to have to incorporate some email rules too.

My only real complaint about the email incident has to do with the school district. It would have been nice to be notified that our kid would be getting an email address before he got one so we could have talked about email safety and rules ahead of the game.

Even though I’m a technical person, I always figured keeping up with my kids and new technology would be a challenge. Thankfully, I got an early reminder that it’s time to up my game.

The Amazing Technicolor Cast

When I was in first grade a classmate, Carson, broke his arm during recess. I can’t remember the circumstances surrounding how the accident occurred but what I do remember is him showing up to school the next day in a shiny, white plaster cast. During the day we all took turns signing our names on it. As happens with kids of that age, his cast became the envy of everyone in the class.

The envy didn’t last long. Within a couple of weeks Carson was complaining about his arm itching. And then there was the smell. Since he couldn’t get the cast wet, his arm under the cast was hard to clean. I remember sitting by him at lunch and telling him his arm smelled and him explaining to me that it was hard to clean. I think I still scooted down bench a foot or two to eat my lunch.

At some point the cast came off and life in first grade returned to normal. What I do remember from that incident is that Carson seemed uncomfortable enough wearing a cast that I hoped I’d never break an arm or any other part of my body that would require me to get a cast. Even though everyone could sign it, it just didn’t seem worth it.

Fast forward to 2013.

Last Sunday my 5-year-old daughter fell off her scooter and broke her arm. Thankfully, she didn’t need pins or any other surgery. The doctor took x-rays and put her arm in a splint. A few days later she went to get a cast.

How times have changes since I was a kid.

I came home from work on Thursday and discovered that not only did she have a cast that looked like an exploding rainbow, the material it’s made from is waterproof. She can take a bath or shower, swim, or do any other water activities without worry. For the most part, she’s going on with life like nothing ever happened to it. And though I still hope I never break an arm or any other part of my body, I have to say that wearing a cast doesn’t seem as bad as it did when I was in first grade.

The Warm Lights of Home

One of the things I hate about this time of year is that I generally drive to and from work in the dark. For some reason it makes me feel like an entire day passed me by—all because I didn’t get a chance to see the sun.

But since we moved this summer I’ve discovered that the drive home doesn’t seem as dreary or dark. Our new house sits on a small rise. As a result, you can see it (if you know where to look) from about a mile away. Seeing the warm lights of home in an otherwise dreary and dark world actually brightens my spirits and makes me feel like there are still plenty of things to do even if the sun set a long time ago. It’s a reminder that there’s a family who can’t wait to see me and spend the rest of the day together work.

So thank you warm, bright lights at home for reminding me on cold, dark winter nights that there’s still plenty to do and something worth coming home to—even if the sun has long set.

My Kids: Hardcore Football Fans

For the last couple years I’ve bought a family pass to Utah’s forgotten college football team. It’s turned into something that the oldest four kids really look forward to. And even though I spend more time keeping up with the kids than watching the action on the field, it’s something I look forward too as well.

This season has been an ignominious one for Weber State. They’ve only won one game and are struggling on offence, defense, and special teams.  Today was the team’s last home game. If anything it was a garbage game as both Weber State and Northern Colorado had nothing to play for but pride. To make things worse, Mother Nature dumped 12 inches of snow in the last 24 hours and the forecast called for temperatures to be below freezing. Because of the freezing weather, I decided to give the kids a choice: we could go to the football game or we could go to the game or a nearby entertainment center and play laser tag and (indoor) miniature golf.

Much to my surprise the all four kids voted for the football game. There wasn’t any hesitation to their decision either. They all wanted to spend the afternoon at the game no matter what the weather. So I dressed the kids as warm as I could and packed blankets and other warm things into the van and off we went.

Even though we only made it until half time (it got too cold for the younger ones), everyone had a good time playing in the snow, drinking hot chocolate, and huddling under blankets for warmth. Yes, Weber State put in another lackluster performance, but that’s not what mattered. What was important that the kids had a fun-filled afternoon with Dad and we all made lots of memories together. In that respect the cold, the snow, and watching Weber State lose was worth it.

Can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Living with the In-Laws: Week 3

This week I realized that Marathon Girl and I made one mistake when planning our stay with the in-laws. Since we were originally planning only staying three or four weeks we didn’t bring much in the way of toys and other things to occupy the kids. While we’re trying to get them (and us) out of the house as much as possible, there have been a time or two we’ve wished we would have brought over the Wii or some more toys over. Thankfully, we have a series of vacations and other activities planned through the end of the month that should keep us busy enough that it won’t be an issue through the Fourth of July.

And no, there’s no update on our short sale. We’re hoping and praying for good news soon. Maybe next week I’ll have an update.

Living with the In-Laws: Week 2

We just passed two weeks of living with the in-laws. First, the good news: As of now, we don’t seem to be getting on each other’s nerves. The arrangements we worked out before we moved in regarding meals, etc. seems to be working rather well. The kids seem to be adjusting to the temporary living situation and now that school is finally out for the summer, I think a lot of the morning and evening chaos will be reduced.

Another plus is that we’re doing more family (me, MG, and the kids) activities after I get off work and are spending more time together as a result. Relationships seem to be improving and growing stronger. We also have two mini vacations planned for this month that, if all goes as planned, will take us to Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska. (Sorry, Liam, no planned trips to Michigan at the moment.)

Now the bad news: As far as we know, the status of the short-sale hasn’t changed and we’re still looking at a nebulous July closing date. This has me worried. Since things are moving at a snails’ pace, I can see the date getting pushed back to August or even later. I’d really like to get the kids can settled into their new surroundings before the new school year begins. Living with the in-laws for an indefinite period of time simply isn’t an option. If it looks like things might fall through or get pushed out to the fall, we might look at renting a place temporarily or looking at other homes. I’m not opposed to buying a different home if necessary but the market out here is awash in short sales and it’s hard to find a good one that’s not going through the bank in some way. I was kind of surprised that our old home sold in seven days but after seeing what’s on the market day-after-day, I’m becoming less and less amazed.

Here’s to hoping our home goes through soon.

 

Temporarily Homeless

Well, it’s official. We sold our home and are now living with the in-laws for about six weeks until the short sale we hope to buy closes

Heaven help all of us.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my in-laws. I couldn’t have married into a better family. We all love each other and have a great relationship. This is why I want to make our stay at their home as short as possible.

The hardest thing about temporarily moving in with them is that I no longer feel independent and self-sufficient. I shouldn’t feel this way considering that I’m otherwise supporting myself and my family and have done so without a problem ever since Marathon Girl and I tied the knot.

It’s just that if given the choice between living in a cardboard box and moving in with someone, I’d take the cardboard box every time. But my kids would probably have a hard time with living-in-a-box thing.

So let the adventure begin.

For everyone’s sake, let’s hope it’s a short one.

Kids 1984 vs. Kids 2011

1984 During the winter months the first thing I’d do after waking up is head straight to the living room where I’d send next a heater vent. There I’d sit there until the furnace clicks off and my legs and toes were toasty warm. Once the heater clicked off I’d hurry off to my bedroom where I’d get dressed and get ready for the day.

2011

When it turns cold, the first thing my kids do after they wake up is tiptoe downstairs and lie on the heater vent near the foot of Mom and Dad’s bed. They share the vent until the furnace clicks off and which point they race to the table for breakfast then, after eating, hurry off and get ready for the day.

College Football = Family Time

As a kid my dad took me and my brother to Utah State football games. Some of my fondest memories as a 5-year-old were sitting about as high as one can sit in Romney Stadium watching the action on the field.

We moved soon after that and though I watched a lot of football with my dad, we didn’t attend any Utah State games for another 10 years or so. The only reason we went back was because Utah State offered family passes to their football games. Since they were cheap, I was able to talk my dad into getting one. I think the family only attended the first game. I believe my dad and I were the only ones that used the pass after that. Most of the time we watched the Aggies get their butts kicked by unheralded college teams like Pacific and Cal State Fullerton but we had a good time anyway. It was football, after all. It was hard not to have a good time.

Looking back, I realize the games we went to as a kid and a teenager were fun not because of the football but because I got to hang out with my dad. Now that I have young kids of my own who like watching games the occasional game on TV and playing football in the yard with me, I thought it would be fun to take them to some college games. The problem was finding a close and fun place to take them.

The popular college football tickets in this state are to Utah and BYU games. Having attended games in both stadiums I know from firsthand experience that neither are places I want to take young kids. The passion and intensity that can be found in both places is great if you’re in college or an adult who has his or her identity wrapped up in a football team, but there not so good if you’re a dad trying to spend a fun Saturday afternoon with the kids. (Utah State games aren’t much better.)

Last year I got word that my alma mater, Weber State, was offering family passes for its home football games. I bought one on a whim even though I wasn’t sure if my kids were going to enjoy it. At the very least I figured it would give me an excuse to go to a couple of games—even if I ended up going with just one or two of the kids. Besides, I figured the kids would have a good time since Weber State games are about as family friendly as a football game can get. On a good day the stadium is half full. That means if your kids get bored about halfway through the game, there’s plenty of empty bleachers to play on and tons of other bored kids to befriend. And the fans that do show up for games never have high expectations. If Weber State wins, everyone goes home happy and somewhat pleasantly surprised. If they lose, everyone shrugs their shoulders and goes home happy. It’s kind of the way sporting events should be.

Much to my delight, the kids loved going to the games. Granted they seemed to enjoy the kettle corn and root beer I bought them just as much, if not more, than the action on the field but the loading up the van on Saturday afternoons and making the 90 minute drive to Ogden become something they really looked forward to.

This year renewing the family pass was a no-brainer. The tickets arrived in the mail yesterday and the kids were thrilled when I showed them what was in the envelope. We marked the games on the calendar and the kids went to bed tonight chattering about kettle corn and upcoming football games. And to be honest, I’m just as excited about it as they are.

When they look back at these days I hope they realize the reason I take them to football games isn’t because of the action on the grid iron. It’s because I enjoy spending lots of uninterrupted time with them. Football games just happen to be a fun way to do just that.

Pause: A Generation Gap

A while back I was playing Monster with my kids (read: chasing them around the house) when one of my boys turned around and held his hand straight up, palms facing each other and yelled “Pause!”

“Pause?” I said. I’d never had any of my kids pause a game of Monster before.

“You know, like the Wii games,” my kid said. “You pause them when you need a break.” Then he held up his hands again and I realized he was making the pause symbol with them.

I nodded and went off chasing the other kids all the while wondering when Pause became a phrase kids used to stop real world games. Back when I was kid—one who grew up with video games—you called Time Out. Since then I’ve noticed that all kids (at least the ones who play with my kids) all of them use the word “Pause” instead of “Time Out” or some other phrase when playing real world games.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not complaining. I just find it fascinating how games my kids and other play in the virtual world influence the way they play games in the physical one. So far I haven’t seen them use the world “play” when they start up again after taking a break, but have noticed that they sometimes they turn their Wii games into games they mimic in the real world. That's Something I never did either. Back in my day video games on the Atari 2600 or other consoles weren't as interesting, in-depth, or fun as they are today. In the meantime I’m keeping my eyes open for more signs that the virtual world is bleeding over to the real one.