It’s important!

This just came in the mail…

Any time an envelope says Important Information, I know it must really be important. Because they wouldn’t be allowed to put that on the envelope if it wasn’t true, right?

Back to BYU

After a few months living at home, Alex is heading back to BYU for the summer semester. He (wisely) decided that staying in Longmont wasn’t helping him “move forward” with his college and career goals, so he registered for three classes and will be starting next week.

Now that he has a car, it’s much easier for all of us– we don’t have to plan a couple of days to drive out to Utah and back. This morning he loaded everything into his car. I remember the days when everything I owned in the world fit into a single car…

He even had enough room for a passenger. And this is a Honda Civic coupe!

After everything was settled and Laralee had double-checked every last detail, he was ready to head out.

And he’s off! (He even learned to drive stick shift in the last week, so he’s rolling smoothly along without killing the clutch.)

We’ll miss having him around, of course, but I know he’ll have a good time during the summer.

Solstice

Fifteen hours of daylight today! I thought the summer solstice would be an apropos time to take a few sunset photos. I biked a few miles to McIntosh Lake and waited for the sun to dip to the horizon. It was pretty cloudy, so unfortunately I couldn’t actually see much of the sun, but I managed to get a few decent shots.

I’m always a little sad to know the days will be getting shorter now, but there’s still a lot of summer ahead…

Tongs

This… speaks to me. Maybe I’ll do it.

All hail the hail

Alex and I headed out to play some ultimate today. When we arrived at the field, there were overcast skies and it was sprinkling lightly. No big deal, although sometimes it’s a little tricky playing with a slippery disc. We started our game.

Then the rain started coming down a bit harder. Still not a big deal; by that time all fifteen of us were pretty wet, but when you’re already wet it doesn’t matter if you get a little wetter, right? We played on.

Then the lightning started coming closer. We paused to count the time between the flash and the bang, to approximate the distance, and decided it was okay. Over the next few minutes, though, it became not okay. The flash-bang dropped suddenly to just a few seconds, and the skies were lighting up all around us. We called off the game and started picking up the cones. A huge bolt of lightning hit right across the street with a deafening crack of thunder. Yep, time to clear the field!

Then the hail started. While driving home, the skies opened up and the rain was coming down in sheets. Hail mixed in with it, and there were roughly quarter-size chunks of ice everywhere. It was coming down hard, too. My car was rattling and banging with the impacts. The roads were covered in ice.

With all the rain that had come down, there were rivers of water running across the roads and along the gutters. People were hitting them at full speed and splashing water 10-15 feet in the air. (People! Slow down!)

When we arrived back home, Alex and I changed out of our absolutely soaked clothes and decided to head out for some pizza. This is the view as we walked through the neighborhood to our local pizza parlor:

Yeah. That’s less than thirty minutes after the pouring hail. Crazy.

Lies, all lies

For Father’s Day, Zaque had a mug custom made for me. It says “My son kicks my butt in Munchkin”.

It’s pretty clever, and of course it only invites retaliation. On his birthday I’ll have to come up with something good.

On the afternoon of Father’s Day, he and Alex and I played some Munchkin. I trounced them both. Twice. Take that!

Lavender

Occasionally I’ll find a spider in my basement office. They’re usually fairly small wolf spiders– very common around here, and completely harmless. I just squish them with a tissue and go on with my work.

A couple of nights ago, Laralee went down to my office to get something, and came screaming back upstairs. “There are so many spiders in your office!” I went down and, indeed, there were maybe four sitting quietly in various spots. Maybe the cool evening air made them come out of hiding, or maybe they come out of hiding every evening and I just don’t notice because I’m not in the basement. In any case, I squished them as usual.

Then Laralee got a spray bottle and added some essential oils to it: lavender and peppermint, I believe. She proceeded to spray the heck out of my office, hitting all of the baseboards and corners and spider hidey-holes. For good measure, she doused the rest of the basement. Imagine a bomb exploding, but instead of throwing shrapnel it throws lavender smells. It was something like that.

Now, two days later, I’m back in my office. There are no spiders. And it smells like a flowery garden. Yay lavender!

Best girl

I sure do love my favorite daughter. Apparently she thinks I’m okay too, although I question that little dig at the end.

Another car

Alex is getting the hang of his new car but today he decided he might like a McLaren instead.

I’m not sure what model this is, but it’s almost certainly worth somewhere north of $200,000.

Yeah, that’s a sweet, sweet ride.

Jet skiing

A few years ago we went to Horsetooth Reservoir and rented a pair of jet skis for a few hours. It was a blast, so we decided to do it again this summer. We had a reservation for this afternoon, and last night Zaque learned that he’d have to work all day at his new job. I looked into moving our reservation, but there was a “no change, no refund” policy and even though the rental place was willing to bend the rules a bit, we weren’t going to be able to make it work with Zaque’s new schedule.

So Laralee, Alex, and I planned to go, but then just before we were leaving, Hannah texted to see if she could come over to the house and hang out, and Laralee invited her to join us. She’d never been jet-skiing before, so she grabbed a swimsuit and hustled over.

Horsetooth Reservoir is almost seven miles long, and the marina is near the southern end. Since it was a Thursday, there wasn’t much boat traffic on the lake (apparently weekends are crazy). We had a lot of space to play. Alex and Laralee started out driving.

I was with Alex, and as soon as we passed the no-wake buoys he punched it and we shot out across the water. The jet skis topped out around 40mph, which doesn’t sound like much until you’re pounding across waves with the wind tearing through your hair.

To my great surprise, Laralee followed suit and was screaming around the lake. The last time we’d gone, she was much more timid and didn’t put the pedal down, so to speak. But this time she was zipping around, with Hannah shouting and laughing behind her.

We had our waterproof camera with us, which doesn’t always take great pictures, but we managed to catch a few good shots.

After a while, Hannah got up the nerve to drive, so she swapped with Laralee while I swapped with Alex.

Alex and I made a few turns that were a little too sharp, and tipped the sled a few times. I figure if you don’t take a couple of dunks, you’re not driving hard enough. The lake water was cool, but in the hot June sun it felt great.

After we finished, we decided to grab dinner in nearby Fort Collins. Pizza won the vote, and we decided to go to a place called Totally 80’s Pizza. Not only was the pizza really good, but the decor was awesome. It was pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a place dedicated to the pop culture of the 80’s.

They had a life-size Han Solo frozen in carbonite…

Signed photos of the cast of The Princess Bride

A mint-condition Trapper Keeper (under glass, because you know that thing must be valuable)…

And as we finished our meal and headed out the door, I was thrilled to see my favorite line from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:

Yep, it was a great day.

Raise

Trump must really be screwing up the economy if the sixteen-year-old girl I pay to clean my office is complaining about it.

123456

My 2008 Civic hit a bit of a milestone today.

I figure I’ve got another hundred thousand miles still to go…

Ham

Last week, while I was in Arizona, Zaque was at youth conference with about a dozen other high-schoolers, and on their last day they conquered Mt Cameron, one of Colorado’s 56 Fourteeners.

It looks like there’s some ham at the top of that mountain.

Wedding!

For the past three days, Laralee, Alex, and I were down in Phoenix for our nephew Brandon’s wedding. He’d been Alex’s roommate for a semester at BYU, and during that semester, Brandon was dating Kayla and eventually proposed to her (Alex helped with the proposal and was even there for the Big Moment). When La and I went to pick up Alex, we met her and spent the evening with the two of them. It was a lot of fun, so we were excited to be a part of their big day.

Unbeknownst to Kayla, one of the items on Brandon’s checklist of “the perfect wife” was having a wedding reception that involved a mariachi band. He served his mission in Mexico and loved the Mexican culture. So when he first mentioned the idea and Kayla didn’t immediately veto it, he knew he’d found the perfect wife.

The reception was held at a neighbor’s house; they had a huge yard and big trees that shaded a wide area. In the 106-degree heat of Phoenix in mid-June, it was a good venue. The tables all had sombreros and colorful blankets:

There was indeed a mariachi band:

And there were babies everywhere… sheesh. I think this one is the newest addition, the daughter of Brandon’s sister Danae.

The happy couple was all too happy to see the “third wheel” who’d accompanied them on so many dates.

Here are the two roomies/cousins:

As it happened, there was another reception right across the street. It was a huge Mexican party as well, and since the bride was the sister of the husband of my niece, I felt like I was probably somehow related to her so it would be okay to crash the party. Laralee and I snuck over and I grabbed a snow-cone from the vendor they’d hired for their party.

They also had an enormous (as in, five feet high) swamp cooler blowing across their lawn, making their party literally cooler. Even by 9pm it was still in the upper 90’s, although overall I was surprised how comfortable it felt. We had a great time with all of the relatives, old and new.

Saturday morning was the wedding itself. At first I thought it was a little strange (okay, a lot strange) to have a reception before the wedding, but after talking with Kayla about it, I found myself agreeing that it’s smart. The party takes so much preparation and effort, and then the wedding itself is short and simple by comparison. So instead of being worn out on your wedding night, you can head off on your honeymoon with a ton of energy. We drove over to the Gilbert temple, which of course is beautiful.

Laralee is working on her “Kyra selfie” and is getting a little better at it.

It must run in the family, because Kaleb and Luke both have one:

After the ceremony, the happy couple ran the gauntlet.

They drove off into the sunset… well, in fact it was the early afternoon blazing scorching Arizona sun to start their life together. It was tons of fun, and I wish them all the best.

First car

It’s always a big day when you get your first car.

After some thought, Alex decided he’d really like a car while he’s at BYU. There are only so many times you can bum rides off friends, or hope someone needs groceries at the same time you do. Or, more importantly (according to Alex), it’s simply not cool to ask a woman on a date when you don’t have a car. So clearly a car would open up a lot of possibilities!

Today we spent the afternoon shopping and test driving. He decided he wanted a Honda, because they’re super reliable and relatively cheap. I suppose he’s a little biased because we’re a Honda family with our Civic, Accord, and Odyssey. So he and I poked around Craigslist, he made some calls, and we drove a few. We came back home to talk about which one he liked best, how we might talk down the price a bit, and so on.

After a bit of coaching, he called one seller and did a bit of haggling. To his (and my) surprise, she accepted his lower offer without even countering, and it was a done deal! We headed over to his credit union to get a pile of cash, and then drove home his new (old) car.

It’s a 2007 Honda Civic, just a year older than mine. It’s essentially the same car, minus a few features (mine is the “nicer” model), and it’s a pretty shade of blue. Oh, and it has a manual transmission. So we had a few moments of “How the heck do I do this?” as he figured out how to drive a stick shift.

We went out for dinner and he managed to stutter his way along the city streets, only evoking a single driver honking at him as he killed the car at the stoplight when it turned green. Overall he did really well, and he has that “I have a car!” glow about him now. I remember that feeling with a lot of nostalgia.

You’ll transform into a cow

Late last night I was reading a great article about financial planning (yeah, these are the sorts of things I do sometimes) and the discussion shifted to how to teach our kids how to be fiscally responsible and pick up “good habits” as soon as possible. Since I’m not sure how good my own financial habits are, it’s hard to know whether I’m passing along good things or not.

Nonetheless, there was a great comment that spoke to me because I felt the same way back in the day:

It was only after college that I got hit with the reality of office life, bills, debt, and losing my naive idea that somehow I’d make it big in life if I’d just finish college. I always thought of myself as an interested and curious kid who could learn easily, so I thought after graduation there’d obviously be a place for me in a cool organization with a nice pay package. In reality, there’s literally nothing at all waiting for you– you have to go and get it, and there’s a big grind as you start from scratch.

Going from being a kid to being an adult was like having someone tell me I’d transform into a cow in five years, and it’s really important, and I should learn all about it. So sure, I could read the textbooks and articles and do the exercises about cows, but there’s nothing that prepares you for the actual experience, nor convinces you how life-changing it’ll be.

So true. College was an amazing experience for me: challenging and eye-opening and a ton of work mixed with a ton of fun. And as I hit the end of my college career I sort of figured everything would work out (which may be why I waited until spring break of my senior year to even start looking for jobs). It was quite a shock to find out there was nothing waiting for me unless I made it happen myself. Of course in retrospect it’s easy to think, “Well, duh. Everyone knows that.” But the truth is, a twenty-something who’s known nothing but school for sixteen or so years, with a few low-paying jobs and minor responsibilities mixed in, can’t really fathom that post-college experience until it happens.

I just hope I’m preparing my kids well. They’re great, and I know they’ll be successful in their different ways, but sometimes I don’t even know how I can help them. I guess we’ll see what happens in the next few years…

Lit

A fun thing to do in my seminary class is use words the high-schoolers use, pretending that I’m hip. If I slip something like “I’m going to a lit party” into my conversation, they will literally groan in unison because I’m so uncool they can’t believe I’d use “their words”. So I throw in the occasional “on fleek” reference and other things, just to get a reaction. Good times.

Speaking of lit parties, this meme cracked me the heck up.

The pink biker

I don’t know what kind of race this is, but if I ever find out, I think I’ll enter.

Livin’ on the edge

I enjoy Kraft Miracle Whip on various things, which often causes Laralee to roll her eyes because– in her words– “it’s not real mayo”.

As it turns out, I must not actually use it all that much, because we’ve had a bottle of Miracle Whip in our fridge for well over a year and I’m still using it. How do I know? The expiration date is more than a year ago:

She insists I’ll probably get salmonella or something horrible because mayo (and, by extension, Miracle Whip) is quite perishable. But it still tastes fine to me, so I continue living on the edge and taking crazy risks like this.

Where next?

I have three favorite places in the world.

The first is Flathead Lake, Montana. It’s an enormous lake outside Kalispell, with Glacier National Park just to the east. On our epic family trip in September 2001, we stopped by Flathead Lake to look around and enjoy a sunset. Zaque was only weeks old at the time, but Alex and Kyra enjoyed running around on a few docks. Here’s a picture I took with my ancient Sony digital camera:

For a long time, I felt like Flathead Lake– and, by extension, Glacier– was the most beautiful place in the world. Then I went backpacking with Thom and Katie in the Enchantments, which are a tiny part of North Cascades National Park. I’d been there with Thom a couple of times before, but on this particular trip (their wedding), for some reason I was captivated by its true beauty. Although it was October, the weather was absolutely perfect. The larch trees were turning colors, the towering grey granite was inspiring, and the lakes and streams were crisp and cold. It was amazing. Enchanting, I guess, heh.

This was the view from our campsite:

For the next year or so, I kept thinking about making another trip out there; it wouldn’t be difficult to talk Thom into it, as it’s one of his favorite places too. But I worried that the weather wouldn’t be as nice, or the trees wouldn’t be changing, or there would be too many bugs, or whatever, and it would ruin my memory of that breathtaking place.

Then I went to Hawai’i. It left everywhere else I’d ever been in the dust. Again, I wonder if my timing was lucky and the weather was perfect just then, but I suspect the weather in Hawai’i is nearly always perfect. Although I enjoyed the entire trip, it was Maui that really captivated me. The ocean and surf were incredible, the climate was a stunning mix of humid and arid, and the landscape was unbelievable: rain forest, desert, lava formations, waterfalls beyond count, an extinct volcano.

The waves on the north shore were awesome.

The Road to Hana, well-traveled as it is, was certainly the highlight of our trip, and probably one of the highlights of my life. I loved the crazy curves (white knuckles and all) and stopping over and over to hike into the rain forest to another waterfall. I can’t wait to return next summer with the kids.

All this brings me to the point of this post.

As I contemplate my retirement, I often find myself thinking about where I’d like to live. We’ve been in Longmont for sixteen years now, and it’s a fine place, but I can’t help but feel it’s time to move on. Colorado is fantastic, and in a way I’d hate to leave, but there are so many other places we could go. I’ve been hinting to Laralee for years that perhaps we should hop around the country, renting places for a year apiece before moving on to another state. She’s a bit of a homebody, so she’s definitely not thrilled about the prospect, although she’s been warming to the idea, so maybe it’ll happen.

They say everyone has a “dream house”, and I suppose it’s true to some extent. For me, it’s not so much about the house as it is the location. Proof: we’ve lived in our current house for sixteen years but still haven’t painted many of the walls. There aren’t curtains on the windows, and our yard is essentially a huge plot of plain old grass. Neither Laralee nor I are much for decorating– we just enjoy “home” and don’t care too much what’s on the walls. So when I think of a dream house, I think more about what’s around it.

Just for fun, I peek at Zillow now and then to see what sort of houses we might find. To be clear, I’m not looking for rentals– I’m looking for a place for several years at least. And to be even more clear, my searches are quite narrow in focus: I look at Maui and Flathead Lake. (There is, of course, no housing up in the Enchantments, or I’d look there too.)

If I had to choose a dream house, it would be this incredible place in north Kihei, which is the southwest shore of Maui:

It sits on a big plot of land, a few hundred feet from the ocean, looking west. Like many houses I’ve seen in Hawai’i, it’s very open and has more windows than walls. I guess when you have views like those on Maui, you want to drink them in.

So I love this house, but it comes with a hefty six-million-dollar price tag. That led me to look at a few other (less expensive!) places in Kihei, but unfortunately it’s a prime location in Maui and therefore the “affordable” places tend to be (1) not on the beach, and (2) more like oversized shacks. Heading northeast, I found a magnificent place on the north shore, just outside Hana:

It sits atop a cliff overlooking a rocky shore, and even has a guest house. And it’s much more affordable: only half the price of the Kihei house, hah! As I continued thinking about living in Maui, though, it occurred to me that it would be tricky to see our kids (and, eventually, grandkids) very often. And although Kihei is close to shopping and culture, Hana is pretty much a tiny town on the edge of civilization. Living out there would be beautiful, but everything we’d need would be an hour away along one of the craziest roads I’ve ever seen. As they say in real estate, it’s about location, location, location.

And that brings me to Flathead Lake, a much more practical place to retire. Last night as I was surfing Zillow, I found this majestic house:

It’s a good size, sits right above the lake, and has a nice boat dock… which means I may be able to convince Laralee we need a sailboat. And it’s even more affordable than Hana or Kihei. Our kids and grandkids and family and friends could all visit– it’s a bit of a drive to northern Montana, but certainly easier than a cross-Pacific airplane trip.

Laralee isn’t crazy about the prospect of winter in Montana, so I suggested we rent a place in Maui during the winter months. She didn’t shoot me down instantly, so I can hold out hope that plan might work.

Is all of this just fantasy? Maybe. But how cool would it be to retire and live in one of my favorite places in the whole world? I just need to remember my new mantra