Monday, April 15, 2019

Note: Most of the pictures here are worth clicking on for better resolution.

Nick: I'm trying to get a short notice climbing trip out to Vantage this weekend...Interested?

   Me: Yeah, I'd be down for that. Details?

Nick: I don't have it all laid out yet...I'll keep you posted.

Two days later we were on the road. It was pouring rain.

I had never been to Vantage before, but I had definitely heard a lot about this oasis of climbing in the middle of an otherwise mundane desert. Tall columns of basalt were said to provide infinite opportunities for short, high quality routes, and most of my climbing friends spoke highly of the area. The only hang-up might be the weather, but we were confident that things would work out.

Several hours later we pulled off the freeway onto a forgotten street marked with a dead-end sign. A couple miles further and I was maneuvering my Toyota minivan into a glorified road turn-out that could have been mistaken for a used Subaru dealership, each car competing with the next for the number of stickers on the back windows. Vehicles were scattered haphazardly along a makeshift dirt road with bearded men and crunchy women wandering to and from the two latrines stationed at the far end of the climber's camp. The cool air smelled of woodsmoke, dirt, and weed, creating a unique laid-back atmosphere that falls somewhere between Camp 4 in Yosemite and an outdoor music venue. The rain was still falling, but only lightly, and we were cautiously hopeful as we set up our camp.

Once our site was established, we hefted our packs and aimed our sights toward the cliffs. As we meandered around small boulders and sagebrush the sun started to make its appearance, further stoking our optimism while at the same time creating out of the sky a dramatic composition of clouds and light that, in itself, could have made the trip completely worthwhile.

After about a quarter mile we came to a narrow cleft in the ground, almost invisible if you don't know where to look. We squeezed ourselves into it, and at least one member our our group had to remove his pack to fit through the narrow notch as the walls closed in around us.

Descending deeper and deeper into the earth, the notch seemed almost like a secret passageway of the kind I used to write about as a child. Back then, they opened up into other worlds, with dinosaurs or tropical jungles for my imagination to explore. In this one, however, I was met at the end with an equally fantastical scene, not of mystical creatures, but of an endless wall of gorgeous climbs, their bolts and chalked holds spaced closely together, its continuity broken only by a great sea of fleece and down jackets packed even closer together, each with a small set of legs protruding out from the inside. This, I reasoned, is what sport climbing heaven might look like, the occupants sharing beta and mimicking moves as their fellow cherubs worked their way up and down the various routes.

As for the climbing itself, there isn't much to say. It was lovely. The weather cleared and we were able to do enough in two days to keep my hands stiff for the next week. We did a nice mix of trad and sport, crack and face, mostly on pretty moderate level routes. The highly featured cliffs led so some interesting moves and positions that you don't see very often in other types of rock, and I'm pretty sure that we were all happy to be out again after a long winter of climbing on nothing but wood and plastic.


As for our activities closer to home, it was a pretty normal week. Rach and I went to a high school production of "You Can't Take It With You," and went out afterwards for appetizers and good conversation. Also, Rach had a girl's night out with her friends while I was away climbing, and although I haven't asked her about it, I'm assuming she had a good time catching up with people.

The kids are enjoying the nice weather and spend more hours playing outside now than they do watching tv- a nice change for everyone. They participated in a North Idaho Easter egg hunt by hiding eggs with gift cards in them, and then posting clues in an online Facebook group for people to find. Afterwords, they enjoyed ice cream sundaes at the resort. This next week we are preparing to head down to Rexburg for Easter, and are looking forward to seeing family down there.

Life is good.

Have a good week!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Today, I took a lead from Rachel and tried cycling. I say "tried," because it didn't go so well.

It was on a stationary bike at the gym. The course I chose was of "medium" difficulty- not long or steep- only about 6 miles, but I pushed hard the whole time. Sweat was dripping off my forehead, creating a visible puddle beneath me. I'm sure that people passing by could hear me gasping for breath. They probably looked at me with wonder. They probably thought to themselves "who does this guy think he is?" I didn't care. I had my earphones on and the music was blasting, pushing me forward. I was going to rock this.

When I finished the ride, I made a mistake. I stood up. And then, like a palace of snow on a warm day, I felt the foundation give way and started going down. My legs were simply gone, having somehow been replaced with noodles of spaghetti. It was pathetic, and the only thing that stopped me from creating a scene was my floundering for the handle bars of the bike to help me up again.

Now, not to brag or anything (hint- I'm about to brag), but I'm no wimp. I realize that I'm no professional athlete, but for a 36 year old dentist with a family I like to think I keep myself in decent shape. I can run a 19 minute 5k, onsite 5.12 rock climbs, and bench press close to twice my body weight. And yet, I cannot remember the last time I felt so...wasted. Because of this, I reasoned with myself that I must have accomplished something amazing that day. In fact, I had probably set some sort of record with my herculean effort. I took a picture of the screen summarizing my ride so that I could share it with all who wished to bask in my greatness. The first person on my list?...Rachel.

Later that morning, sitting across from her at a restaurant I told her of my amazing ride. She looked impressed. She then asked the question I knew she would..."So, what were the stats?" I was ready for this, and with a flourish I whipped out my phone and showed her the picture I had taken. She looked at it for a couple of seconds, and then raised her eyebrows and said "cool," and handed the phone back to me.

"Cool? That's all you've got? I mean, those are pretty good stats, right?"

"Yeah, I guess." She was being gracious, but everything about her body language said something to the effect of "That's cute. You are able to ride a big boy bike now!"

"Ok," I asked her. "I know you've done this course before. How did you do?"

She considered for a moment. "I can't remember."

"Look it up," I demanded. Oh, the double edged sword of technology- a perfect record of all of our successes and failures at our fingertips. It keeps us honest, I guess. Mostly.

She appeared reluctant, but then pressed a few buttons on her phone and handed the screen across the table for me to see. At first, I couldn't comprehend what I was seeing, but then it set in.

She had averaged more than 3 miles-per-hour faster than me, and on a day that was simply routine training for her real races that she would be doing later on. I was dumbfounded.

Correction- I AM dumbfounded.

I mean, I knew that Rach took this biking thing seriously, but here she was making me look like a child on a tricycle after giving something my very best effort. I have to say, my respect for her grew that day.

Rach- you are amazing. That is all I can say. And now, I challenge you to a race- on foot! I need to regain some of my dignity :).


As far as our week, there were two major events. First of all, we went skiing for the last time of the year. Conditions were horrible, but the kids wanted to say goodbye to the small resort where they learned to ski since we probably won't be going back there much anymore (we already got passes for next year at a larger resort). Also, did I mention that conditions were horrible? We couldn't have gotten any more wet if we had jumped into a lake with our snow clothes on.

Here is an actual selfie that I took on my way home:

On a happier note, we finally made good on our promise to the kids to celebrate the workbooks they completed over their summer vacation. We were just a little late, I know, but it was the school fund-raiser night at triple play which is what the reward was supposed to be in the first place. It was a fun time.

Evelyn with her best friend, Sonja

Have a good week!

Monday, April 1, 2019

The school districts are out to get us.

Growing up, I didn't realize how much parents rely on school. I didn't realize it because both of my parents were teachers. If school was out, then they were out. To me, the whole world just sort of ...stopped moving during holidays and vacations...or something like that. I never gave a second thought to all the rest of the people. The ones who had normal jobs that didn't allow for 3 week Christmas vacations or random snow days without warning, or lengthy summer vacations, or spring breaks extended on both ends by "faculty training days." The fact that normal people had to work on these days, while at the same time finding ways to take care of their children, was completely beyond me.

Fortunately, Rachel's job is super flexible and allows us to handle these times with relative ease. We have it better than most. But's not super simple either.

Anyway, as you might have guessed, the kids just had their annual spring break. I am wiped out. In the past week I have gone skiing three times, rock climbing twice, and on one long road trip to visit my parents with the kids. Rach stayed back for some time to herself which included; shopping, time out with friends, taking herself out to breakfast, lounging around, and going to the movie theater.  On top of this, I have maintained my regular schedule at the office, actually gotten a workout in at the gym on most days, kept up in my online college course as well as in my guitar lessons/practice, and held down the house mostly on my own while Rach had some down time. It was exhausting, punctuated by brief moments of actual fun and relaxation. But mostly exhausting.

Today was the first day the kids were back in school.

It was heavenly.

Rach and I resumed our standing Monday breakfast date. I got to sit on the couch for a few minutes and read my book. When the kids got home I made burgers on the grill and we celebrated the coming of spring with a nice outdoor BBQ. Once they are all tucked in, Rach and I will pour some nice drinks, sit on our deck, and talk into the night watching the sun set behind the mountains. Really, it is a wonderful time of year in a beautiful corner of the world that we happen to live in. Things are back to normal, but only here could "normal" feel so extraordinary.

Even if the schools are out to get us.

Enjoy the pictures, and have a good week!

Watching the pond skimming and ski jumping competitions at Silver Mountain. Jack wants to try to be in it next year. We'll see.

Evelyn was so cute helping Lindsey. Skiing as a family is one of my favorite things to do right now. The four oldest kids are good enough that they can ski pretty much the whole mountain on their own. Lindsey still needs a little help, but she is getting it. The rides up the lifts provide some of the best one-on-one conversation time that I have had with the kids.

Green canyon hot springs near Rexburg

These two are besties. Here, they were caught steeling chips while the rest of us were swimming.

A walk around the BYU-Idaho gardens. This is probably my favorite place to visit in Rexburg. Jackson had fun climbing on top of all of the buildings. Where would he get that from...?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Well, it's time for my annual self-induced guilt trip for not keeping up with things on the blog. It happens about once a year, where a lot of time goes by and I don't write anything, and then I look up and I see our printed Hazard Chronicles on the shelf, which makes me want to write again but by now I have started to forget details of certain things, which leads to not having anything to write about, which leads to the thoughts that I am letting all these memories slip by unrecorded, which leads to feelings of failure, regret, and inadequacy, which leads to a renewed resolve to do better, which finally gets me on here to start writing again.

So, here I am.

March seems to be flying by. The weather is finally starting to warm up and we are all excited for the coming of spring. The kids are out on their bikes again, or jumping on the trampoline, or wandering the neighborhood with friends who are also coming out of cold-weather hibernation. I have started running more and doing some climbing-specific routines in hopes of getting in shape for the summer. Rachel also finished a pretty intense workout program, and in doing so beat me in a bet that we had regarding our fitness goals. As much as I dislike losing, I am proud of her.

The biggest event as a family would be the renewal of our annual season ski passes, this time at a new and much larger resort than we have been going to. This one (Silver Mountain) has steeper runs, more variety, a winter village, a bike park in the summer, and the largest indoor water-park in Idaho. It is also only a 40 minute drive from our house instead of an hour- a difference that feels more significant than it actually is, but which is certainly nice considering how often we get out. We have already had some beautiful spring skiing there, and it will definitely give us something to look forward to for next year when the snow starts falling again.

Yesterday I went and watched Evelyn and her challenge team participate in a robotics contest that took place across our school district. Her team won first place for teamwork and it was clear that they were all having a good time. It was also rewarding as a parent to watch her in her element with people she liked being with. She has matured so much lately and is turning into a pretty awesome young woman. Her other big accomplishment this month is finishing her babysitting class with the Red Cross, a situation that is really a win-win deal for our whole family. She now has a source of income that, considering how often Rach and I get out, can start adding up pretty quickly. Meanwhile, Rach and I are probably saving hundreds of dollars each month in being able to pay her a little bit instead of paying someone else a lot.

Alright, well, that was a quick update. I need to get ready for work now, but I'll try to be better about getting on here at least on a weekly basis.

Have a good week!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Houston Family Reunion

The easiest way to recognize a post written by me is that it is written at least a month after the event happened! This is a great place to write a shout out to Logan for how awesome he is with keeping up on the blog and writing about our family adventures. Thank you, my Love!

About a month ago I flew out to Houston for an extended Almond family reunion. I was lucky to go a few days early to have some time with Deanna and Dave and their family. I loved catching up with Deanna and having some quality time talking and getting things ready for when the rest of the group was scheduled to arrive. Fun fact:  I am officially the age that Deanna was when I came to live with her in Texas! We had a lot to catch up on.

Family began arriving on Friday and the fun was nonstop until Sunday! There was a perfect blend of activities, food, and down time to enjoy each other's company. I will let the pictures do the talking on this one!

This trip was a great recharge for me.  I enjoy being out and having the ability to be spontaneous and not have any worries about anyone except for myself. This does not happen very often and I recognize it as a blessing when it does. I am extremely thankful that Logan took on both of our responsibilities at home for me to be able to have a week with my family.

On to the pictures!

Yoga on the back deck in the early light of morning is the perfect way to start the day!
Relay races were a hit!  This is the best picture that includes most of us. Family is awesome!

Relay race madness!

Just the right amount of time to visit

I have wanted to try an SUP for a long time.  I didn't fall, even though the bets were agents me (thanks Robert!)
Deanna and I had some much needed time together!

The weather was perfect for our trip to the zoo

Sushi with Deanna and the crew
After the official reunion ended we headed to Austin for a quick trip to Loralee and Robert's lovely home.  We enjoyed time together, a dip in the pool, and a visit to a cute little bakery.

A bit of rain only enhances the hot tub experience!

I feel like I had the perfect mix of experiences for relaxation and rejuvenation!  A few of the highlights included: sun infused early morning yoga on the deck with my mom and the bluebirds, my first SUP experience, a quick and energizing bike ride with Kendra and Brandon, soaking in the hot tub in the rain, talk time with Shannon and Marissa on the drive to Austin, catching up with some of my favorite aunts, uncles, and cousins, enjoying brunch at a cute French cafe, and just enjoying every second!
Until next time!

Birthday party time!

In Logan's last post he mentioned that birthday's last FOREVER around here.  Well... He was right! Honestly though, the parties with friends are my favorite.  I love planning activities and decorations, and lately it has been fun planning with the kids. Ev had more of a hand in planning the party this year than in previous years and I loved it! Hands down the cake is my favorite part.  I love planning for and creating fun cakes.  I could have been very happy working in a bakery as a cake creator!

Evelyn had her three best friends at the party. This group has been together for years and I loved listening to their fun conversations with the realization that they have a lot of shared history to work from. This was a landmark party for us in that the younger siblings did not attend.

This picture makes me smile because it perfectly catches each person's personality!

These games are always a hit!

Hedwig was the talk of the party!

Have a great week!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

There have been two overwhelming themes (yes, overwhelming is the right word) to these last few weeks. The first is birthdays. Maren and Evelyn were both born in February and it seems like one party for each of them is never enough. Rather, we have to have the family party, and the school party, and the friends party, and sometimes another family get the picture. Birthdays are wildly celebrated around here, taking up multiple weekends and requiring an inordinate amount of time and energy. To be honest, I don't really get it, but I guess that's just the way it is.

On top of this, however, we have the second major development- Rachel's week long trip to Texas to hang out with her extended family. It sounds like she had tons of fun and got to catch up with people who she hasn't seen in a while. Meanwhile, the kids and I (and a host of babysitters) held down the fort in Post Falls. I'm going to let Rach write about all this in a different post.

One of the things we did while Rachel was gone was visit the science museum in Spokane

For now, let's talk about Evelyn.

Ev, as she is quick to remind us, is officially a "pre-teen." And I've got to say, at eleven years old she seems to be far more confident and responsible than her age would indicate. Also, she is way cooler than I ever was. These are good things, but as a parent I look at them with an uneasy sort of excitement. She has started to dip her toe in the world where fashion and boys and friend drama and cliques are all actual things, and just as I thought I was getting the hang of this "dad" thing I am realizing that I don't know if I have the tools I need to deal with this. Fortunately I am still "the coolest and best-looking dad," according to Evelyn, and her and her friends still let me in on their thoughts and actions. Those days though, I fear are limited. Evelyn is quickly becoming a young woman, and will soon be faced with decisions that I can't make for her, some of which can have some pretty real consequences. I am reminded of a song on Broadway- a duet sung by two parents of teenagers. It goes like this:

Does anybody have a map?
Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this?
I don't know if you can tell
But this is me just pretending to know

So where's the map?
I need a clue
'Cause the scary truth is
I'm flying blind
And I'm making this up as I go

Yes, that song in pretty accurate. Oh, I realize that there are "maps" out there, but I lost confidence a long time ago in "one-size-fits-all" solutions, and finding the right map for the right set of circumstances seems to be the never-ending pursuit of parenting no matter who you are.

But here's the good thing: I trust Evelyn entirely. The truth is that my nervousness of what "might happen" with her is about on the same level as, say, getting in an airplane crash or having a child involved in a school shooting. You hear about these things and alarmists will tell you to be worried, but the truth is that they don't actually happen all that much. With Evelyn, I am mostly just excited to sit back and watch her as she continues to grow into herself. She is currently thriving in pretty much every way, and watching her navigate new challenges is met most of all with a mixture of parental pride and a small dose of amusement.

We had our family party for Ev last week and her big presents from us were a cell phone (yes, her very own Galaxy), and babysitting courses to provide her with a source of income above and beyond her regular allowance. She was very excited about both things.

Ev randomly asked me if I could get her a cantaloupe. I did, and this fruit princess was on our table that night for dinner.


Yesterday we had Maren's "friends" party. She wanted to do it at our home, and to have a "bird" theme. I think we did well.