Family photo shoot

As a kid, I remember none of us really enjoyed a family photo session. It felt like we had to pose a thousand times, in a dozen combinations of people, wearing uncomfortable clothes, hoping everyone was smiling and no one was blinking. Ahh, the difficult life of a kid. Nowadays photo shoots are a little easier because you can immediately see the results on the camera (“Dang it, I had my eyes closed!”) and retake the shot.

In any case, we were visiting the kids in Utah, along with Mom and Dad, and felt like it was a good opportunity to take some family shots. The weather was beautiful– in fact, it might’ve been too sunny with some harsh shadows– and I feel like we had a pretty good time. Behold the various combinations…

Here’s the whole fam.

Here are the proud great-grandparents. It’s worth noting this is the only shot in perhaps a hundred I took where Ollie was actually smiling. I guess Gigi has the touch!

I really like this four-generation shot. It’s pretty cool that the four of us span eighty years.

I wanted a shot with my boys.

It was inevitable that we fell into old habits and took a few goofy shots. Zack loves his mom!

I’m proud that Kaitlyn joined the family and hasn’t missed a beat doing silly poses with us.

Surely one of these will end up on this year’s Christmas card. Yay for photo shoots!

Graduation! (without the pomp and circumstance)

We have two more college graduates in the family! Alex and Kaitlyn finished their journey at BYU. They chose not to attend the official ceremony– after all, no one really enjoys those things– but we took the opportunity to snap some photos by the university sign.

Despite a cool “Y” sweatshirt, Ollie didn’t seem very excited about all the hoopla.

He also didn’t understand the mortarboard. But then again, who does? It’s all about tradition, I suppose…

Kyra graduated a few months ago, last December, but also chose not to “walk”. Although we had a little graduation party for her (and something like three graduation dinners), we neglected to take any pictures. So she donned the cap and gown and posed with Grandma and Grandpa.

It was great that Mom and Dad could come out to celebrate the graduation. I’m so proud of all three of these kids and their accomplishments. Well done, and enjoy the rest of your life without homework and quizzes!

Shorts day

Yesterday Dad asked if it was a “shorts day”. It wasn’t. But today it was 70 degrees!

The rest of the week is supposed to be in the 40’s with rain and snow, which seems more par for the course. But we enjoyed a nice warm day today!

Sock party

Alex and Kaitlyn have a long-running tradition of hosting a sock party every January. Apparently it’s a smashing success, and it’s a good way to wind down the college semester after finals. Taking a page from their playbook, we decided to do the same. April seemed like a good month for it, since the holidays are over but it’s still kind of cold and grey and wintry outside, and people are looking for something to do.

A couple weeks ago we handed out invitations with some instructions:

As with all our parties, we had no idea how many people would show up. We don’t ask for RSVPs and plans change anyway. In the end I counted at least thirty people. Imagine a bunch of full-grown adults sitting around laughing as we watched our friends unwrap the worst socks.

The wrapping was half the fun. True to the rules, people did some very clever things wrapping their socks. A set of sushi socks was enclosed in an old Chinese takeout box, complete with a fortune cookie! There were old tuna cans, a used bag from Subway, socks stuffed into a two-liter bottle, and even a pair of gaming-themed socks inside an ancient copy of Mille Bourne. It was hilarious.

At the end of the night we took some foot photos, but I was only able to get about half the crowd in this shot.

Honestly, we were really just looking for a reason to throw a party and get together with friends, and it turned out to be a bigger success than we’d expected. Maybe it’ll become a new annual tradition for us too…

1.2 degrees

If there’s one thing photographing the ocean teaches you, it’s how difficult it is to hold a camera perfectly level. I took nearly 1,200 pictures on our Hawai’i trip, and nearly every one featuring the ocean on the horizon had to be corrected for rotation. Here’s an example:

(At first glance this appears to be an incredibly boring photo, but I was catching the whales in the center of the shot.) Like most of my ocean shots, the horizon is off by 1.2 degrees, slanting downward to the right. Of course it’s not noticeable when taking the picture– it’s only when I pull it up on my enormous monitor that I can see the slant.

I guess it’s good to know that I’m consistent, always around 1.2 degrees off. And it’s also good that straightening the horizon takes just a few seconds…

Burn pile

For over three years, we’ve had a huge pile of tree debris and brush sitting beside our driveway. It was placed there by a forest management guy named Herb who was handling the fallen trees from the legendary windstorm of 2019. Technically it’s our neighbors’ property, so they paid Herb for the work, but Herb ended up deciding not to finish the job, and left a number of massive piles scattered across their land. They’ve been eyesores to us, so we finally talked to our neighbors about it and got permission to burn them.

Here’s what the main pile looked like this morning:

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the pile is probably six feet high and at least twenty feet in diameter. It’s pretty massive. And I was standing on the driveway when I took the picture– that’s why we get to see it every day when we leave or return.

Our trusty friend Allen came over today with his propane torch, and showed us the proper way to burn debris. (“I’m kind of a pyro”, he kept mentioning.) When he first lit it, the flames were impressive and probably shot ten feet into the air.

He continued around the pile, lighting it at different points. The heat was intense.

Once the main pile had settled a bit, he torched another nearby pile. It’s not as big, and a little farther from the driveway, but still something that should’ve been taken care of years ago by Herb.

Now Pepper and I are glancing out the window now and then to make sure nothing gets out of control. Already the pile has been reduced to a lot of ash, and is generally just smouldering. In the end, I’m not sure if we’re going to actually gain anything with this project; it might just end up looking like a big ugly pile of burned debris. But hey, I learned how to do one more manly outdoorsey Montana thing!

It’s all in what you graph

For a few years, my investments have been humming along. When I login to the brokerage portal, I get a nice graph of the money locked up in stocks. I check every month or so, just so make sure retirement is still on the table. For some reason, back in February the brokerage decided to add my mortgage debt to the graph. The result is sort of disheartening.

Now, instead of looking like a reasonable retirement plan, it looks like I’m setting myself up for failure. Hmm. Maybe it’s good to have this perspective, though?

Neck and neck

It’s been three months, and I’m still going strong in my quest to learn Spanish this year. It’s been fun learning words and phrases, even though most of them feel a little useless at times. I’m not sure how often I’ll need to tell someone “El museo es cerrado” (“The museum is closed”). But hey, you need a foundation of some kind, right?

To be honest, the most fun part of this journey has been doing it with friends and family. At the end of December I “recruited” people to join me in learning a language. Kari and Mom agreed. Pepper, Kyra, and Kaitlyn signed up. Even Alex decided to join us, although he’s absolutely fluent in the language. Brandon and Marie. Katie was a late addition to the group (mid-February) but has already put a ton of lessons under her belt. Each week we’re randomly assigned to “friend quests” where we have to accomplish something with the help of a friend. Pepper seems to get quests like “Complete 10 lessons”, while I end up with “Get a perfect score on 30 lessons”. All in all, though, the “gamification” of learning a language has proven to be a blast.

Marie and I have been jockeying for position for a couple months now. For whatever reason, we seem to do the same amount of work in the app, so our experience points (XP) are always right around one another. As a result, I often get notifications like this:

So of course I have to jump back into the app and do a few lessons to build up my XP. Then she gets a notification and busts out a few lessons. On and on it goes. It’s become a running joke between us. The good news: both of us are learning a lot as we compete for those XP.

I also have my eye on Mom and Kyra, who aren’t far behind. Pretty soon I’m going to be seeing multiple notifications a day about how I’m a slacker and need to do more.

Yo necesito muy XP!