For a Quick Reference

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

DI glimpses and updates.

Okay- I typed up this entry MONTHS ago in early March and never got around to publishing it. Now it's old news to most people, but I still needed to record it. We've been uber-busy the past few months, and my blog has slipped to the bottom of my priority list (along with exercise, my social life, journaling in my hard-cover journal, and so many other things.)

I was juggling 3 callings- 2 of which are very time-consuming, plus extra  assignments for a huge stake performance of the Easter story (Aiee! I need to record that story!), teaching 4 art classes in my studio each week, coaching DI, and extensively remodeling our home.

So here we are. Catch-up time.

We've been crazy-busy from January-March preparing for Sarah and Matthew's Destination Imagination competitions. Life gets pretty crazy during the competition season, and my house looks like a disaster with construction projects all over as the team builds their backdrops and props for the performance. 

They did a phenomenal job at the competition and placed 2nd in the region (which was fantastic since the teams we competed against were all 3 years older than them, and we lost by a very small margin.) They did a flawless performance onstage and scored the highest overall for the Main Challenge, which was scaled into a perfect score. Their Instant Challenge was done solidly well, but the other team surpassed our engineering skills by quite a margin, pulling the other team into the lead by only 3 points. The scale is 400 points, just for the record. It was a very close race.

They also were given two special awards. 

The Renaissance Award is the most coveted award in the program, and only around 2 are awarded each year for each region of 200 teams. It basically means you've blown away the judges with a perfect stage performance or ground-breaking engineering. We were delighted to receive that award! 

The other medal was the Spirit of DI award, which they were given for exceptional sportsmanship. This year we had spent days sorting the Mardi Gras beads we collected from a parade (I should clarify it was a family-friendly Mardi Gras parade with no nudity allowed!), and made gift tags for each necklace that wished the recipient good luck.

The kids passed them out all day at the competition, and loved doing it. It was like playing Santa Claus and the kids loved making 500 people smile with these gifts.

It's very rare for a team to get 2 medals at the competition, and I've never heard of a team getting 3 medals. It was beyond our wildest expectations to receive so many awards. We were all ecstatic.

After the awards ceremony, we headed out for ice cream before making the long drive home. (Early-morning church was such a killer after getting home later than midnight!)

Now we are preparing to compete at the state level. Busy busy times. 

Here are a couple pictures of our team gearing up for the regional tournament. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Daniel's birthday cave trip

Today was a grand family adventure. After living near it for 10 years, we FINALLY visited the Inner Space Caverns to cross it off our Texas Bucket List. This was the family activity that Daniel chose for his birthday this year. 

Here is Daniel with his birthday cake:

He's been to the Inner Space caverns with a friend earlier this year, and was so excited to go back with the rest of the family. The entrance was a really long ramp descending into the ground. 

We spotted dozens of little bats who were coming out of hibernation, and at times they were perched within inches of our heads. They were absolutely adorable! We weren't allowed to take pictures of the bats- it would startle them too much. 

The tunnels were so cramped in some places that when the bats flew past our faces we could feel the air disturbance from their wings as they flew by only a couple inches away from our cheeks. What a thrill! 

The formations were so breathtakingly beautiful. Sarah and I really enjoyed admiring the intricate shapes of the stalactites and other features. 

Sarah was particularly keen to shine lights in all the many dark recesses where unexplored cave continued  on past the reach of our path. She thought sit was a tragedy that the lack of funding has prevented more exploration, and she yearned to go spelunking further. 

This was Temptation Rock, where the kids could touch it to their heart's content. The rest of the caves was untouchable since it's a living cave with active formations. They really loved feeling the shapes of this formation!

The tour was packed with geological information and this cave was so interesting to explore. We loved learning so much about cave science.

 The cave had 95% humidity in some parts where the water was super-active. Some parts of the ceiling looked rather like a shower head with constant rivers of water dropping into large underground lakes.  

The caves were gorgeous and we really enjoyed our mile hike....but everyone's favorite part was the bats.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

RootsTech 2015

I had the delightful opportunity to attend the genealogy conference, RootsTech, in Salt Lake City in February. The beginning of my trip was rather more exciting than I prefer.

My flight connection in Phoenix had a rocky start. The plane we boarded was having several electrical problems, and the power went out twice while we sat on the tarmac. That was a hardly encouraging way to prepare for an upcoming flight! Mechanics came to fix the problem while we waited on the plane, and they caused another we waited for a quite some time without power or climate control. It's an interesting experience to sit on a closed plane with hundreds of other passengers all breathing the same stale air- boy did it get stuffy! When the plane was cleared for takeoff, I was worried about it's flight abilities because the engine outside my window was laboring unusually loudly. It was much louder and more high-pitched than usual- like a table saw being operated next to your head. I was worried during the taxi-ing when the engine seemed to struggle to keep up with the demands being put on it. The engine was sputtering and coughing severely.

I actually texted Nathan my concerns so I could say how much I loved  him, in case we did crash. We were planning out the steps to be taken by him in case the plane did have an accident. I did quip: wouldn't it be funny if instead of attending a conference and learning about our ancestors I ended up meeting them in person? Nathan wasn't much amused by my joke.

After a safe landing (and many grateful prayers offered in my heart), I ran to catch the public transit that would carry me to Aunt Mary Ann's home where I'd be staying for the week. The train would take me to the bus station where I'd catch a connecting ride to the suburbs.It was late at night and the city was dark.  The train stop where I disembarked was located on a totally shady area of SLC, and the train platform was dotted with loiterers and homeless people. Homeless people aren't inherently a safety problem necessarily- I see plenty of homeless people in Austin without fearing for my safety. But these ones were different. In Austin I never had a problem with someone getting too close for comfort- they always kept a couple feet away. In SLC they would approach me very closely and invade my personal space, which made me very uncomfortable since I was laden down with two heavy pieces of luggage. (I was thinking, if they had a knife or something, there wasn't any space left between us to let me maneuver away.) I quickly trotted across the street to the dark corner where the bus stop was located.

I waited in the dark, worrying about how to defend myself without pepper spray.  I waited and waited while the cold winter air nipped my extremities. After 15 minutes, I realized the bus wasn't going to come. I checked the online bus routes again and found an alternative route that would get me  home, and the stop was located only a block away from where I currently stood. So I hefted my bags over my shoulder and quickly walked down the dark streets, past dark buildings and closed businesses. While I walked, more homeless people approached me, and loitering men started making cat calls. Yikes.

I impatiently waited at the next bus stop as the minutes ticked by. After waiting what seemed like an eternity, I realize this bus wasn't going to come either. (I later was told by locals that the Utah bus system is famously unreliable, and teased for ever planning on using it.) Sigh. I gave up trusting the public transit, and headed to a well-lit downtown hotel where I could make phone calls in the safety of the hotel lobby.0

Aunt Mary Ann was so relieved when I called, and reprimanded me for trying to use the unreliable bus system in downtown SLC. She had been worried sick when they received my email earlier that notified them I wouldn't need a ride from the airport since I was confident I'd manage on my own just fine with the public transit (after all, we've never had a problem with bus routes in Austin). Anyway, my attempt to NOT be a burden actually caused them way more stress as they had worried frantically about my safety. And they were eager to come find me and take me home.

So. Lesson learned. Sometimes when one tries to be helpful and do things independently, it doesn't always lighten the burden of others. When others offer help, just accept it graciously from the beginning.

Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Bliss were such a welcome sight that night when they arrived to pick me up off the city streets!

Mary Ann was attending the conference as well, so we drove together each morning and evening, and sometimes ran into each other at classes.

The RootsTech classes were just amazing, packed with so much information on a myriad of topics. I loved every moment in these classes, and soaked up all the new information like a sponge. I learned enough to keep me busy for years, but have only scraped the tip of the genealogy iceberg. I really look forward to coming back again next year and delving deeper.

One of the fun things I learned was how to find digitized newspaper collections and effectively search them for articles of my ancestors. It was a treat to read that my ancestor  Thomas Darley had a prize-winning dairy cow named Blackie that consistently placed in the top three milk-producers for the entire Cache Valley. He was only beat by one farmer- his younger brother. His brother beat him every year. Such fun. It was even more fun to read the other articles on the scanned image. Victorian-era newspapers are a riot to read! This one described in detail an ice cream social held by a local lady, and listed her decor of choice and the attending guest list. Oh my heavens! What 'news'!

My heart thrilled at the variety of new archives and other material I learned to use in my research- I must be a true geology geek. I was on a intellectual high all week, just drinking  up everything around me. I filled up notebooks with pages of notes, and learned as much as I could, dreading the end of each day when we must stop learning and head home.

One of my favorite finds was a souvenir I couldn't resist purchasing- a Tshirt that proclaims, "I seek dead people". I wore it to the Family History Library later that week while I spent a day researching my ancestors. It drew a lot of humorous comments and was popular among the other researchers onsite that day.

The entertainment was fantastic! By a stroke of luck, we scored front-row seats to Alex Boye's performance. That was definitely a highlight of the conference for me, since I just love his music. He was such an energetic entertainer, dancing across the stage and singing with such passion. I think I was smiling and laughing the entire hour. He is one of my favorite singers!

If you ever see him perform live- watch the piano player. He is a riot and definitely deserves his own show. That man could steal the show with the all the dancing he does while playing the keyboard.

After the conference, I had planned to stay a few extra days to do two things-
1- Spend a full day researching and copying primary documents of my family history stories
2- Spend a full day doing temple ordinances for the thick stack of family names I had carefully packed along.

It was such a wonderful treasure to spend some time in the Church History Library, where I was able to check out some of the original journals of some pioneers who crossed the plains in the 1800's. What a treat it was to see the handwriting, little sketches, and weathered pages! I also loved reading the microfilmed records of the Perpetual Immigration Fund accounts. It's invigorating to get so close to a piece of my own family history.

I was quite content to spend all day there and was reluctant to leave when they closed. My heart was filled with yearning to come back again at the earliest opportunity possible, even though we only visit Utah about once each year.

My last day in Utah was spent in the Salt Lake City temple- my very favorite temple of all. I'm in love with the history of this great building, and in love with the detailed decor and furnishings inside. I was so happy to have a day of no obligations so I could just stay for hours doing ordinances for deceased ancestors. The Spirit was so overwhelmingly strong that day, and I had many very sacred experiences while I served in the temple. What a blessing it was to have a day to dedicate in service of our Lord.

I'm so grateful that I was able to participate in this wonderful trip. I was fed mentally and spiritually each day until I could hold no more.