Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I must say, my 2010 has not been off to a good start. We started off the year with a funeral, which should tell you something right there. In addition, I had a couple of very disappointing personal experiences in the first couple of weeks of the year: one relationship, one financial. It hasn’t helped my mood that we have been in the midst of our annual icky inversion the past couple of weeks. It has been regularly mentioned on the news that the Salt Lake City area and counties along the Wasatch Front have the worst air quality in the nation!

Last Saturday seemed to be the last straw. Ryan’s weekly job is separating the clothes for laundry. We went downstairs into the laundry room (where we usually only go once a week), and our ceiling had collapsed, and was continuing to drip. EVERYTHING was wet! Everything on the counters and floor, as well as streaks of water stains down the front of one cabinet. It was a mess! Papa and Ryan had planned to go to the International Auto Expo, so I still sent them off to do that. Rara came over and helped me get everything cleaned up. I had planned to spend the entire time that Ryan was gone working on my school work. Instead, we cleaned the basement.

Rara traced everything back and found the problem: a small crack in the tank of the upstairs toilet. Apparently water had been slowly dripping and seeping for quite a while, building up in the ceiling. We made a quick fix to that and called the plumber. Since it’s a holiday weekend, the charge for an initial visit would have been quite large. We felt that we had made enough of a fix to make it a couple of days until the holiday weekend was over.

So…now to the sunshine. Kristin and I have been thinking about something fun that we could do again with Ryan and Abby. We decided that since Park City is always above the inversion, it would be fun to go up there. I mentioned the Utah Olympic Park. The more we talked about it, the more we thought that would be a great idea. Plus, we had 2 for 1 coupons from the Entertainment book!

The Utah Olympic Park is located just off of I-80 and Kimball Junction. Most people know that it was the site of the bobsled, luge, skeleton, Nordic jump, and freestyle skiing events during the 2002 Olympic games. But what most people don’t know is that it is the official training site for not only the US athletes in those areas, but for several other countries, as well.
We went on a guided tour by bus, and were able to go to the actual sites and starting points for each of those events. Our tour guide was a former Olympic athlete, so he was able to provide a lot of fun details about the events and training. At one point, he commented that kids start training for Nordic ski jumping at about 10 years old. He looked at Ryan and said, “How old are you?” When Ryan answered that he was 9, our tour guide told him that he was just about ready to start. This happened just after Ryan had told me that he was too cold and wanted to stay on the bus. He has decided that he’ll stick with the Summer Olympic sports!When our tour was finished, we went back into the Alf Engen Ski Museum & George Eccles Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum. We enjoyed learning about the history of skiing, remembering some of the highlights of the 2002 Olympic games, and participating in several activities which simulated the various sports. Since the Vancouver Olympic games start in about three weeks, we are excited about all of the new things that we learned about winter Olympic sports.When we finished seeing all of the fun things at the Utah Olympic Park, we drove to Park City’s Main Street. The Sundance Film Festival starts later this week, so the banners were up, and they are getting ready for the crowds and celebrities.We had an extremely yummy lunch at Red Banjo Pizza (also using the Entertainment Book coupon). Ryan and Abby stuck with their regular plain cheese pizza and garlic bread. Kristin and I tried the chicken & artichoke pizza with lemon juice squeezed on it, as well as the zucchini sticks. Yum! When we finished lunch, we walked down Main Street to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and bought some absolutely scrumptious things for dessert.

Thanks, Kristin & Abby, for a fun day! We enjoyed experiencing the sunshine – both literally and figuratively. We really needed that!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy (?) New Year 2010

It has already been an interesting start to the New Year. As mentioned in the previous post, we had a lot of fun entertaining Alice & Claire with Rara & Papa over New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, while their mommy and daddy celebrated, and took a much-deserved break.

But the new year has already had a poignant development. My dad has a cousin who has been mentally and physically challenged since birth. To respect his privacy, I will refer to him as “M.” His parents and sister passed away several years ago. He has one remaining brother, but he has also had his challenges in life. To also respect his privacy, I will refer to him only as “L.” M spent much of his life living in the American Fork school for people with mental and physical developmental issues. When it closed, M was taken in by one of the teachers and his family. He lived with them until they were no longer able to care for him (only about 3 years ago). At that point, M moved into a group home for the mentally/physically challenged, located in Orem. Although he is in his mid-50s, we often say that physically he is in his mid-80s, and mentally he is closer to 4 or 5 years old.

My dad is the “family patriarch,” since all of the older generation is now gone. He and my mom (and usually Ryan) have had a tradition where they take M and L out to lunch and then shopping the week between Christmas and New Years. They had already scheduled to go last Wednesday, December 30. We had made plans to go to “3VE” with Kristin & Abby, so Ryan was kind of disappointed that he wouldn’t be going on the lunch/shopping trip, but he definitely wanted to go to “3VE” more.

As I also mentioned in this post, we rode FrontRunner (the commuter train) from Bountiful to downtown Salt Lake City. Just as we had boarded the train and started heading in to Salt Lake, Dad called. It was about 1:00. He asked where I was, and if I could go to their house and get some phone numbers. He said that M had “passed out,” and they needed to contact some people. That was about all he said. I told him that we were already on the train, and he told me not to worry about it

We went on and enjoyed our afternoon. When Ryan and Abby were making their books at the Discovery Gateway, I called Mom to check on everybody. By this time, it was about 5:30. She gave me more details to the story. They picked up L in Salt Lake, and then picked up M in Orem. About halfway between the front door and the car, M said that he needed to stop and rest. They stopped for a minute, and then proceeded to the car. M was having a hard time getting into the car, so L went around and lifted him in from the back, while Mom & Dad helped lift him in from the front. Apparently L felt like he was doing all of the lifting, and said, “I need a little help here, M. (pause) M? (pause) M? (pause) I don’t think he’s breathing.” They realized that he was not breathing, and was beginning to turn blue. L started to give him mouth-to-mouth, while Dad ran into the house to see if he could call a couple of people (when he called me for numbers when he couldn’t track the numbers down at M’s house), and Mom called 911. The 911 dispatcher asked them several questions, and was ready to dispatch an ambulance, just as Dad came back to the car. Dad said he knew where the hospital was, and that they were very close. He said they could get there faster than an ambulance could come to them.

They arrived at the hospital, and M was rushed in, with several people performing CPR as they whisked him away. Mom & Dad & L waited for a couple of hours while he was somewhat stabilized and a variety of tests were performed. Mom & Dad were able to talk with L about the possibility of having to make the decision to let M go. After a couple of hours, and several tests, the medical personnel suggested that Mom & Dad & L go, but assured them that they would keep them posted on any developments.

M never regained consciousness. Yesterday afternoon (January 1), Dad received a call that M was going, and the decision about life support would need to be made. Dad went and got L, and they went to the hospital together. They were able to sit in M’s room and talk for a while, and then had the life support turned off. M was gone within about 30 minutes.

There were three “tender mercies” that surrounded these events, for which we are all very grateful. First, M was with his brother and my parents when it happened. They were able to care for him, and know that everything had been done that could be. Second, Ryan was not with them. I have not given the full account for obvious reasons. If Ryan were there, it would have been a horrible series of events to remember, and would have likely stayed with him for the rest of his life. Third, M held on for a couple of days, enough for L to make peace with letting him go, and knowing that his passing was for the best. Although it was a rough way to start the new year, we are all grateful that everything happened the way it did.

2009 End of Year Celebrations

Tuesday, December 29, was Frances’ birthday. We usually go out to dinner as a family, but because of the girls, Frances’ work schedule, and money, we altered the plans a little bit. Rara, Papa, Ryan, and I tended Alice & Claire most of the day so that Marc & Frances could go out to lunch and a movie together. When they came to pick up the girls, Frances opened presents and we had an ice cream cake that Rara made. MMMMmmmmm!!!!!On Wednesday, December 30, Ryan and I met Kristin & Abby, and Laurel (in town visiting from Colorado Springs) at the Woods Cross FrontRunner station, and we rode into Salt Lake. We had lunch together at Jason’s deli, and then enjoyed talking and getting caught up on things. Ryan and Abby were very patient while the mommies talked. The picture didn’t turn out very well, so I’ll check with Kristin to see if hers turned out any better.This year, instead of a one-night “First Night” celebration, Salt Lake had a 3-day “3VE” celebration. Laurel left after lunch to rejoin her family, and Kristin, Abby, Ryan, and I stayed downtown for the festivities. We started at the Clark Planetarium with a cool movie called “Black Holes” in the dome theater. Ryan and Abby chose to stick around the planetarium for a while to explore the “moon” and other exhibits.After the planetarium, we went to the Discovery Gateway museum where they had a really neat lesson and activity about old books. They had a treasure chest filled with real books and replicas of books from other civilizations. One was even estimated to be 2000 years old! The kids put on archival gloves and were able to handle the books.Once they learned about the different kinds of books on display, they were able to choose one to make themselves. Ryan has had a fascination with all things Egypt, so he chose to make the Egyptian Heiroglyphs on real papyrus!We took Trax to the Gallivan Center, and arrived just before the 6:00 pm newscast began. There is a window behind the anchor desk where people gather to wave and hold signs. There was not a soul there, so Ryan and Abby were thrilled to stand there and wave (and, I admit, do other crazy kid things) during the newscast. There was a large screen above the window where they could watch what the cameras saw. They kept looking up to make sure they were being seen, while Kristin & I suggested which direction they move each time the camera angle changed. Here they are behind Mark Koelbel as he did the news.It was difficult to beat that excitement, but we did. We strolled onto the plaza and watched the firedancers for a few minutes. As we were watching, Mark Koelbel and Christina Flores came out to do a story about “3VE.” The kids were thrilled to be just a couple of feet away from the newscasters they had just seen on TV!We walked through Gallivan Plaza, and admired the artistic sculptures made from recycled materials. There was a chicken wire/Christmas lights/bubble wrap tunnel, a beer bottle bench, and very cool HUGE kaleidoscopes made from large cardboard boxes and Ziploc bags of colored water.We headed for the Gallivan skating rink, where Ryan and Abby enjoyed skating. Even though it was snowing, and extremely cold (my hair actually turned into long icicles of hair!), they were disappointed when it was time to go. Kristin & I had fun watching them, as well as the “Rail Jam” snowboarders just on the other side of the skating rink.We took Trax to the Temple Square stop, and enjoyed walking around Temple Square and looking at the lights. The snow was softly falling in big flakes by this point, so it felt like we were in a giant, beautiful snow globe. We had to hurry to catch the train home, so we weren’t able to stay for very long to enjoy the musical groups there. But we enjoyed our quiet, relaxing walk. It was the perfect way to end the evening. Instead of going back into the “3VE” activities on the 31st, we chose to help Rara & Papa tend Alice & Claire again while Marc & Frances went out to celebrate New Year’s Eve. We had a lot of fun playing with the girls. Once they went to bed, we played “Ticket to Ride” for about THREE HOURS, and then welcomed in the New Year.Copper & I went home, and Ryan stayed at Rara & Papa’s for the 1st annual grandkids sleepover. (We’ll see if there’s a second annual one.) It was a fun way to end 2009!