Friday, January 18, 2019

What Are They Doing?

It began Monday morning.

Spray painted lines appeared on the sidewalk and grass and even on the snow. There were little flags, too, in different colors - red, orange, green.

Later that afternoon a couple signs appeared in one place where the trail crosses the creek: Warning, sewage leak. Keep out. Was someone digging and broke a sewage line?

On Wednesday, wooden stakes appeared here and there, along the trail, along the creek.

This morning, men in orange vests were busying themselves among the reeds in one area of the creek, maybe a hundred yards downstream from where the supposed sewage leak was announced. Other men in bright vests were winding rope from metal pole to metal pole, effectively fencing off one side of the trail. There were also large construction vehicles and a "concrete works" truck parked on the wild grass on the side of the trail.

My normal peaceful morning walk, communing with nature as I watch the birds and squirrels was not as peaceful as it normally is. What are they doing?

When I returned home, I did a bit of researching. What are they doing? That bit of trail is part of Thornton's Heritage Trail, and I found an expense report that refers to "amenities" along the trail, and another Heritage Trail Concept plan that suggests such trail enhancements in that area as "signage, animal tracks in concrete, bird houses and other interpretive open space components." But only the animal tracks requires concrete... and not nearly as much space as has been roped off. I'm still left in the dark. What is going on? How long will it take? And how long will it be before I can walk the trail in peace again?

Thursday, January 17, 2019


Snippets of lace sift from the sky,
Settling silently into woolly stillness
Flawed only by the footsteps of the brave.

Sparkling suds covers the ground:
Like a dish washing accident going awry,
Squishing and sloshing and turning to mud.

Streams and rivers coursing down hill,
Changing white to transparent like magical bleach,
Freezing at night into slick icy slides.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Some Thoughts on Reading and Writing

I have a child who does not like to read. He never has. I don't know if I just didn't read to him enough as a child or if it was something he was born with, but he doesn't enjoy reading. He can read. He completes his assignments for school. But he chooses not to. And that is his choice. But I can't help but think of all the wondrous worlds that he is missing out on. But he doesn't see it that way.

Harry Potter? He saw the movies - the first few anyway. The Ranger's Apprentice? Boring. Fablehaven? Nah. Artemis Fowl? Nope. Lord of the Rings? Are you serious? Series of  Unfortunate Events? You read that to me years ago.. Been there, done that. Maybe I'm too ambitious. James and the Giant Peach? The Phantom Tollbooth? The Indian in the Cupboard? No, no, and no.

To be fair, he has read Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books - the first series anyway. And he will read Captain Underpants books and comic books. Yay.

We were discussing this a little on the way to school this morning, and surprisingly he mentioned that he would rather write books than read them. What? Apparently reading about what other people have imagined is boring, but using his own imagination to write his own stories is more interesting. Hmmm. I guess I never thought about it that way before. Can writing his own stories make up for not exposing himself to good literature?

I did a bit of internet searching and came across a question and answer forum where the question was, "Can I be a good writer without reading a lot?"

Most of the answers tended towards no:
"You can certainly write, inasmuch as you can write words down on a page. But that's not "becoming a good writer." if you have no idea what other books look like, then you'll basically be trying to invent the modern novel from scratch. You won't have any sense of what works and what to avoid; what can be powerful and what's already been done to death; what expectations readers will demand you meet and what surprises will knock their socks off.... Consider: you want to write a book that you, apparently, would rather not read, because it's a book. How likely are you to be pleased with this book, then? How will you be able to tell if you're doing "well" or "not well"? Who, precisely, do you think will be a good audience for your work, and how can you tell if they'll like it without knowing what else they enjoy?"
Yet there were some that swayed the other way:
"Of course you can! I think it is a myth that you need to read a lot to be a good writer. I have never seen a scientific study that supported that claim. You certainly need to be or become a master of language, but language does not only happen in literature, and much of contemporary literature is not even written in a "literary" style, but rather emulates oral history and audiovisual media. And those that read a lot don't usually write a masterpiece on the first try, either. They, too, have to learn how to actively use the language they have until then only consumed passively. Because, as we should all know, eating a lot is not the same as understanding how the food is made."
And others:
"You can be a good storyteller. I'm like you. I rarely read for fun, but watched a LOT of movies and played a lot of video games.... I also imagined that I wanted to write books. But what I really wanted to do was to tell stories and to be creative. I realized that since I never read fiction (but I do read a LOT for non-fiction), I probably shouldn't try to write it. Why write something I would never bother to read? Try writing scripts instead. If you enjoy movies and games, try to write in the format you enjoy."
"Yes, reading books will improve your vocabulary, yes it will expose you to plots and structure. Yet, that will not make you into a writer, it will make you into a READER, a critic who will spot problems with a story and its flow. Like the saying: "those who can’t do, teach"; here it can be used as "those who can’t write, read". A writer is not only a composer but a word smith, a storyteller, a communicator. Yes, a writer can get better at sensing what works or not by reading more, but it doesn’t work the other way around and a reader does not a writer make."
And another comment I found interesting in light of the fact that my son loves playing games on the computer: 
"Also playing video games often may be a detriment to your communication skills... The skills that make you a good gamer are the same skills that make you a poor writer. Games teach you to be impatient, and to make snap decisions. Writing on the other hand, is a much more patient process. It is better to slow down and think about what you are writing instead of just trying to force a bunch of words on paper. "
 I don't think my son wants to be a professional writer. A zookeeper maybe. A stand-up comedian possibly. If he doesn't want to read quality literature, that is his choice no matter how incomprehensible I may find it.  I just mourn that there are so many fascinating worlds and stories that I can't share with him because he won't read about them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A Fairy Tale about a Mother's Embarrassment and Guilt

Once upon a time, a mother received a phone call from her teenage son who was at school. An incident had occurred involving the son, and the boy's teacher felt that she needed to know about it. While talking with her son, the mother's first reaction was embarrassment, as though she were the one guilty because her son had done this. After talking with her son for a few minutes, it soon became evident that he was also embarrassed, and that it had been an accident, albeit one that could have been prevented with a few simple precautions.  Rather than yelling or making a big deal about it, she calmly discussed with her son what needed to be done to remedy the situation, and whether or not it was ever likely to happen again, and both mother and son went on with their day.

Later, the mother wondered why she had felt embarrassed. Why had she felt guilty? Had she taught her son about this? Yes. Had the son known better? Yes. Was there anything at all that she could have done more to prevent this situation? She didn't think so. At this point she realized that she didn't need to feel embarrassed. She wasn't guilty. At this point, the responsibility for this incident was squarely on her son. He was old enough to know better. He was not a puppet dangling from strings she controlled; he had agency to make choices and act for himself. She didn't need to feel embarrassed or guilty in the slightest. And so she let it go and didn't worry about it anymore and lived happily ever after.

The End.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Conversation Flying Through My Head

Do you ever find yourself imagining that you are trying to explain some modern invention to someone from like 500 years ago? This morning, the conversation in my head went something like this:

What on earth is that?


That! Up in the sky!

Oh. That's an airplane.

An... air... plane?

Yes. It's a big machine that transports people long distances.

There are people in there?


How many people?

Some airplanes only carry a few people. That one probably carries four or five hundred.

*shudder* Why ever would a person want to get on an big machine in the sky?

Well, sometimes we want to go places that are far away more quickly than it would take us to travel there by land or sea. For instance, if I wanted to go to my parents house, it would take me 8 hours to drive there, but only an hour or two to fly there, not counting the time sitting around in the airport.

What is an airport?

That's the place where the airplanes land and take off. It is where people go to get on an airplane.

How many airplanes are there?

Thousands. There is probably an airplane taking off somewhere in the world every minute all day every day.

How does it get up there, and once it does, how does it stay up? Why isn't it falling?

Well, when an airplane takes off, it goes really fast, and the wings are shaped so that the air pressure lifts the plane up. It feels kind of weird when it actually lifts up off the ground...

Wait, you've been on one of those?

Well yes, a few times.

And you're still alive to tell the tale?

Of course! The first ones built over a hundred years ago were dangerous, but airplanes today are perfectly safe... unless of course they get hijacked and flown into a building or something happens to the pilot...


Friday, January 11, 2019

More Photos

Before Hannah left on her mission, we had a little family photo shoot. It was after Stake Conference on the church lawn, and we did our own photography, except for the family photos... which we asked random people passing by to take for us with varying results. In other words, these are not professional by any means. But it was fun!

And yes, we got one good serious family picture.

Christmas Photos

I don't have any pictures from Thanksgiving... I didn't realize we even brought the camera until a couple days after we got home and Kristy sent a picture of it wondering if we had left it behind. I guess we did bring it and one of the boys brought it into the house with the other stuff, and then set it on a shelf in the room Steven and I were staying in... which also happened to be the room where they keep a lot of photography equipment, and so we saw it but thought it was theirs. Thankfully Kristy was willing to mail it to us before Christmas!

Anyway, here are a few photos from Christmas that might be fun to share: 

Peter's favorite random comment nowadays is "cats". One of his YM leaders gave him a pair of space cat socks for Christmas, and Peter was absolutely delighted. I think he wore them every day for the next week!😧

My sister Heidi has an awesome YouTube channel, and one of the videos she posted was of these adorable Rice Crispy Christmas Treats. They looked so cute, I decided I'd try to make them too over the winter break. I didn't get as much help from my teenage boys as I might have liked, so some of the trees went undecorated, but everyone enjoyed eating them!

Every Christmas, my children receive pajamas for Christmas that they get to open on Christmas Eve. Here is this year's version. 

Steven got this beanie propeller hat for Peter... He had it delivered to his office, and then apparently wore it at work the week or so before Christmas. The movie line that comes to mind is from Meet the Robinsons: "Dude, I can't take you seriously when you're wearing that hat!"

Josh also received a cool hat for Christmas. This one looks awfully toasty with it furry ear flaps, like something he could wear in Siberia.

Another cool gift that Peter received was an Arduino. What's that you ask? Good question. According to, "Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. It's intended for anyone making interactive projects." In other words, it is a cool electronic thing with lots of tiny pieces that a person can put together and program to do stuff, or that can get scattered throughout the house and stepped on if not taken care of properly.