The Sunset State

A recent project I have been working is getting all of my mission photos organized and put into a nice book (with Kristen's help). Iowa might not have been the most glamorous destination, but one thing there was never a shortage of was amazing sunsets. So I have quite the collection of sunset photos, which now become the subject of our latest poll. Vote for your favorite, and don't forget to leave a comment, you know the drill.

1. Za-Ga-Zig Shrine Temple - Altoona, Iowa

2. Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino - Altoona, Iowa

3. Iowa State Fair - Des Moines, Iowa

4. Winter Farmscape - Carroll, Iowa

5. Solitary Tree - Fort Dodge, Iowa

6. Approaching Storm - Fort Dodge, Iowa


Ten Things…

…I Have Had Absurd Dreams About

We are pleased to announce that "Ten Things..." is going to be a recurring post on our blog. Mostly because lists are just so easy to make (just ask Ann Cannon). This installment is inspired by the ridiculous dreams I have. I am one of those people who remember their dreams quite often and they are always really bizarre. A few disclaimers: (1) I have complete faith in Dave’s abilities as a father, (2) my brother Jason is a lovely person, and (3) I am not completely crazy.

10. Honorary Zoo-Keeper: When I was a kid, I had a dream that I was at the zoo and a baby seal somehow got out of its tank. Luckily, I was there to throw it back in, earning me the title “Honorary Zoo-Keeper of the Day.” One of the perks of this title was that I got to view the animals up close, outside their cages.

9. Cheerleader Extraordinaire: Not too long ago, I dreamt that I tried out for the high school cheer squad and completely dazzled the judges with my amazing cheerleading skills. Of course, I had to keep it a secret that I wasn’t actually in high school or they would’ve kicked me off the squad, which would’ve been devastating.

8. McDonald’s Menu Change: I haven’t the slightest clue what might’ve prompted this one as I am not a fan of McDonald’s by any stretch (and I’m sure Jason would say the same thing about himself). Jason, being such a nice brother, took me to McDonald’s to buy me some food. Once there, we were terribly disappointed to learn that McDonald’s no longer served alcohol, so we had to settle for soda.

7. Airport Fiasco: Before I was even pregnant, I dreamt that I had twin boys, one of which was named Jason. My aunt Debra, the twins, and I were all at the airport and Debra was holding Jason. Suddenly, to my embarrassment, Jason started peeing all over the airport and I couldn’t find the bathroom. So there I am, running all over with this baby at arms length, spraying everything. I’m not sure why his diaper wasn’t functioning properly.

6. A Girl Smidgen: Although the tech who performed our ultrasound seemed rather confident in her assertion that Smidgen is a boy, I remain slightly skeptical, especially when I have dreams like this. I dreamt that Smidgen, a girl, was born and we took her home from the hospital to my Grandma’s house. During my attempt to change her into her pajamas, of course there was a diaper malfunction, only it was not pee this time. And like baby Jason from the airport dream, once this baby started, there was no stopping her…and I, as the inexperienced mother, wasn’t quite sure what to do until we were both completely coated.

5. Vegetarian Vampires: More recently, I dreamt that vampires were on the loose in Price and they happened to find my friends and I particularly appetizing. There we were, relaxing on the lawn (in the middle of the night, of course), when a vampire came and attacked one of my friends. The rest of us abandoned her since she was a distraction for the vampire, allowing us time to get away. After a lot of running and hiding, eventually the vampires realized the error of their ways and decided to try a vegetarian diet.

4. The Muffin Man: We were in Cedar City for Christmas with my family, and I really wanted muffins for breakfast. I accidentally slept in and when I got up, I was relieved to find that there was one muffin left in the basket. So I say, “oh good, there’s one muffin left for me!” Of course, Jason instantly snatches it up and shoves the entire thing in his mouth. I was so mad that I jumped on him and started pummeling his head with my fists. Perhaps I have a bit of pent-up aggression – or an unnatural affinity for muffins.

3. Dave’s Parenting Skills, Part I: I recently dreamt that we brought Smidgen (a boy, this time) home from the hospital. Unfortunately, we happened to be moving into a new house the same day. So I was in the other room unpacking and Dave was taking care of the baby. After a minute, he came in to help me. Eventually, I went to check on the baby, only to find that Dave had neglected to clothe the baby (no diaper, either) and had just propped him up in the Bumbo (which is a seat they can sit in once they can hold their head up – not on the day they are born). Of course, being diaperless, you can imagine what happened. In real life, I woke up and told Dave, “the baby doesn’t go in the Bumbo until I say so.”

2. Dave’s Parenting Skills, Part II: This dream was prompted by Dave choosing not to attend the breastfeeding class that I signed up for. Apparently that caused some undue stress. I dreamt that Smidgen was born and we brought him home. For some reason, Dave was the one who was supposed to do the breastfeeding – only he didn’t go to the class and didn’t know how to do it. I was all sorts of upset with him because who else was going to feed the baby?!

1. Neglected Smidgen: Just the other night, I dreamt that we had brought Smidgen home from the hospital and several days had passed. I was busy tidying the house, when I suddenly realized that I had not fed the baby or changed his diaper since bringing him home. I rushed over to his bassinet, where he lay all swaddled up and he just looked at me with big sad eyes.

Clearly, I have some subconscious concerns about my parenting abilities.


Burgeoning Belly

Like a lot of pregnant couples, we have been sure to document the monthly progress of Kristen's ever-growing belly. I knew that eventually we were going to do something fun with these photos, I was just never quite sure what that was. Until now.

2008: A Belly Odyssey



The Rules Are There Are No Rules


*** out of ****

Kristen and I went to see the movie Leatherheads last weekend. The movie wasn't very well-received by critics, but we took a chance anyway and both enjoyed it, even if Smidgen spent most of the movie doing lunges in Kristen's belly.

The movie is at its finest when exploring the humorous origins of pro football, and how the dynamics of the game changed, for better or worse, with the introduction of structure and rules. It didn't provide a steady stream of laughs, but it had a handful of laugh-out-loud moments and more than a few chuckles.

I love the snappy, fast-talking dialogue that the Coen Brothers are famous for (O Brother Where Art Thou, Hudsucker Proxy), and Leatherheads has some fine moments in this regard, thanks to the romantic banter between leads George Clooney and Renée Zellweger. Also, the 1920s production design of Chicago and the Midwest is an added visual bonus.

There are plenty of jokes that fall flat, and things take a serious turn near the end, which seemed a little out of place with the screwball antics of the rest of the movie, but all is forgiven when Clooney rides away on his old timey hog at the end.

So what sports movie review would be complete without using the sport in question to make a wrap-up analogy? Here goes. Leatherheads is like a long march across the field and into the red zone. But due to a penalty and/or broken play, it is unable to score the touchdown and has to settle for a field goal. It still puts points up on the board, but not as many as it could have.


The House That Ruth Built - Part II

Honeymoon in the Big Apple

Kristen and I went to New York on our honeymoon, and not surprisingly, one of our most memorable experiences of the trip was the Yankee game we went to. Since the Yankees lost the three games I went to as a child, I wanted more than anything to finally see the Yanks triumph in person. With the Yankees trailing the Angels 4-2 in the 4th inning, I went to grab some hot dogs and drinks. As I started to head back out to our seats, I was greeting by throngs of fans trying to take cover from the rain. Kristen and I found a ledge in the concessions area where we stood and ate our slightly damp dogs.

The rain let up and the game resumed after about 45 minutes. But after another half inning or so, the rain started again, and the game was once again delayed. The rain only lasted a few minutes, but the delay was much longer this time, as they were likely waiting to see if the storm was gone for good. We sat waiting long enough that we watched the entire Goose Gossage Yankeeography on the big screen in center field.

The game finally did start up again, and by the 8th inning, the Angels held a 5-4 lead. The Yankees rallied with two runs in the bottom of the 8th to pull ahead 6-5, their first lead of the game. In came Mariano Rivera for the save in the top of the 9th, game over right? Wrong! Rivera, who typically only blows a few saves per season, surrended the lead on a two-run homer, Angels 7-6.

I was a little upset after this turn of events. So much for getting to see my first live Yankee win. Kristen was just tired of watching baseball, since we had been at the ballpark for nearly 6 hours at this point. But I perked up a bit as the Yanks once again started to rally in the bottom of the ninth. As they were putting runners on, Kristen famously declared "if this goes into extra innings, we are NOT staying." Well the Yankees tied it, and on to extras it went, and yes, we did stay.

Mercifully, in the bottom of the 10th, at 1:23 am, six hours and 18 minutes after the first pitch, Gary Sheffield laced a double down the left field line to drive in the winning run. I was giddily snapping photos of the scoreboard, and of the team celebrating at home plate, as Frank Sinatra's New York, New York began to triumphantly blaze over the sound system. Meanwhile, Kristen was already halfway out of the stadium.

Welcome to marriage.


The House That Ruth Built - Part I

The new baseball season recently kicked off, officially ushering in Yankee Stadium's final year of use. Like many, I am curious to see how the new billion dollar stadium in the Bronx is going to turn out, but I will be sad to see the rich history and tradition of this classic park get leveled. So I thought it appropriate to take the time and record some of my favorite memories of visiting "The House That Ruth Built."

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball..."

My fascination with baseball started in 1988. This was the first year I played in Little League, and the first season I remember watching the World Series. I also got my first pack of baseball cards at a friend's birthday party. The Mets and A's both made early bids for my loyalties, but instead I was drawn to the Yankees, who, at the time, featured the likes of Jesse Barfield, Roberto Kelly, Alvaro Espinoza, and Steve Balboni. As you might have guessed, with a Murderer's Row like that, these Yankees were terrible, but that didn't seem to phase me much.

By 1989, my love for the game and the Yankees had evolved into a full-blown obsession. I could often be seen wearing some combination of a Yankee hat, shirt and/or wristbands. I also wore sweatpants that I pulled up to my knees to show off my pulled-up socks, you know, just like the real ballplayers did. I watched every possible game that was broadcast on TV, and frequently fell asleep to the soothing sounds of Phil Rizzuto's play-by-play on the radio. "Holy cow!"

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

In June of the '89 season, my Dad was given some tickets to a game, so my parents took my brother and I into New York to see the Yankees take on the White Sox. This was my first professional sporting event of any kind, and I very clearly remember walking through the tunnel, and into the immensity of the stadium—the endless rows of seats, the green grass, the bright lights. My nine year old eyes were wide with awe.

After we took our seats, my excitement got the better of me as I took too big of a bite out of my hot dog and nearly choked. I had brought my baseball mitt along with the hopes of snagging a foul ball, but I was disappointed to discover that our entire section, which was right behind home plate, was covered by a safety net. I wasn't quite as disappointed when the net successfully stopped the first sizzling foul ball that shot back toward us.

Although the Yankees ended up losing, I remained absolutely entranced for the duration of the game. My parents probably broke the bank on the hot dogs, so an overpriced soda was out of the question. But as we left, I grabbed one of the souvenir cups that had been left behind by another fan. After running it through the dishwasher a time or two, it became a prized possession. And the illustration of Yankee Stadium on the front of the cup became the basis for many drawings.

We ventured into the big city for two more games while we still lived in New Jersey, and the Yankees lost twice more. But I was priviledged enough to witness a Steve Balboni dinger, and I got a stylish gold ring as a promotional give-away, which I still have. It even still fits on my pinky finger, but alas, I'm not really a pinky ring kind of guy.

Part II coming soon...


Ten Things...

...You Should Never Have to Hear in Church

All of these are inspired in some way by our actual church experiences. This list is by no means comprehensive. Please add any that you feel we might have missed in the comments.

10. Non-PC terms for a person or group, whether it be regarding their race, religion, etc.

9. Stories that you have already told in great detail on many occasions (to the point where people who have only been in the ward for one year can repeat the story, including names of all involved).

8. Things that General Authorities, or the scriptures have never really said, but quoted as if they did (i.e. "I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it").

7. Any account that involves the word “naked” unless referring directly to a scripture story--Adam & Eve for instance.

6. Strained comparisons of television, film, or literary characters to figures or aspects of the gospel (i.e. how Gandalf=Jesus, or how the main character on the show Prison Break is like a prophet)

5. Impromptu, unaccompanied vocal solos of "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" by those who have limited singing abilities.

4. Humorous anecdotes involving the Pioneer Trek latrine.

3. Sentences that include both the words “fetus” and “freezer” (please note: mentions of fetuses should be avoided in general, though it does depend on context).

2. Where your child (or anyone, for that matter) was conceived (i.e. Moose Pass, Alaska).

1. Real life parables involving lazy people and their unfortunate encounters with exploding coal furnaces.


Hoops Rant

Some friends and I recently started getting together on Saturday mornings to play basketball. So as I was driving home from work yesterday, I had the idea to practice my shooting a little bit before Kristen got home.

There is a park nearby with some outdoor hoops, so I headed on over. It was overcast and little chilly, but certainly not unbearable. The hoops at this park are adjustable, and all six of them had been lowered down to like seven feet. Okay neighbor kids, I get that you want to be able to dunk it, but do they all need to be lowered?

I was thinking ahead though, and brought along a wrench and step stool. In order to raise the basket up, there is a little hook that needs to be cranked. So I got on my step stool, tightened my wrench, and started cranking. And cranking. And cranking some more. It felt like the hoop was raising about a millimeter a minute.

Finally, after about fifteen minutes of cranking and resting (so my arms didn't fall off), the gauge on the back of the standard pointed to 10 feet. I grabbed my ball and tried a shot from the foul line, but my arms were so tired from all the cranking that all I hit was air. I chased the ball down, and lobbed an innocent layup. However, the wind had started to pick up, and blew the ball off course.

Then it started to snow.


A Bittersweet Parting

When Dave and I first got married, we acquired a lot of cheap/free furniture to help fill up our apartment. Frequenters of the Logan D.I., we would often stop in to see if they had anything good. My favorite acquisition came from one of these spur-of-the-moment stops.

It was July 2004 and we were on our way to the Stadium 8 in Providence to see The Bourne Supremacy. We had time before the show started, so we stopped in at D.I. to check out the selection. In perusing the furniture section, I beheld a glorious sight: an avocado green crushed velvet rocking & swiveling wing chair. And at a mere $10, I was sold!

It took a few minutes, but I convinced Dave. Unfortunately, D.I. wasn’t willing to hold the chair for us until after our movie (or until we could get a larger vehicle to take it home in). We didn’t want to risk losing such a great find, so we paid our $10 and the workers attempted to load the chair into the old ‘92 Honda Accord. Of course it wouldn’t fit INSIDE the car. So we had to load it in the trunk and tie the lid down.

The sad part of the story (and the part that Dave will never let me forget) is that we didn’t have enough time to take it home and unload it before the movie started. And we couldn’t exactly just park our car at the movie theater for hours with the trunk open and that fabulous chair hanging out the back. So, we had to postpone our trip to the movies. In my opinion, it was worth it.

Despite Dave’s protests, the chair moved with us from Logan to Sugarhouse and from Sugarhouse to South Jordan. I just couldn’t bring myself to part with it without a darn good reason.

Well, last weekend marked the end of an era. The green chair, which has spent the last year in our bedroom with clothes draped all over it, has moved to a new home – my parents’ basement. Even though my mom insists on putting a slipcover on it (no Ma, avocado green does NOT clash with turquoise walls), at least it is staying in the family. Dave was just happy to see it go anywhere. And, the chair’s former place in our room has a new occupant: a bassinet, and in a matter of 6-8 weeks, a Smidgen. And THAT is the darn good reason for getting rid of it.


Ulysses, We Hardly Knew Thee

March 18-22, 24-28, 2007

Ulysses Everett McGill Barton recently died of unknown causes for the second time in 11 days. McGill's surprising second death came only five days after already dying once and miraculously coming back to life. Clearly not a catfish, those two lives were all poor Ulysses had in him. Or maybe Dave and Kristen didn't want to deplete Petco's tiger barb supply any further.

With no apparent physical conditions attributing to his death, McGill's grieving parents have been forced to come up with psuedo-pyschological reasons to help cope with his untimely demise(s). Perhaps Ulysses couldn't deal with the enormous pressure of living up to the expectations of having a name chosen by nine people. Or perhaps he became depressed upon finding out he wasn't bona fide.

Ulysses is survived by his parents, Dave and Kristen, his brother Garth, and his yet-to-be born human brother Smidgen.


Happy April Fool's Day

This video isn't an April Fool's joke in the truest sense, but still, it certainly feels appropriate for the one day of the year that celebrates foolishness. I think the last time I laughed this hard was when I first saw Mars Attacks! at the dollar theater when I was in high school. I am actually hesistant to rewatch this for fear that it might send me into uncontrollable convulsions of laughter again.