I spent March 23rd-April 4th in Texas. Here are some highlights:
We met regularly as a family and went through the “Come Follow Me” manual. I really enjoyed being with family and being able to talk about the gospel together. We did this at night and it was the perfect way to wind down a day.
Waggie- he is such a great dog! He’s still in puppy mode and I loved seeing him so excited. Every time I would pick up my car keys, he’d start prancing around, and when I would open the front door, he would sprint out ready to go anywhere with me.
We played lots and lots of games. I’d take 10-15 minute work breaks and we would play knockout and almost every night we would play a board game or two. I think parcheesi was the favorite this trip. Pictured below, is a game we made up. It’s called, “How fast can you run to the Counts’ mailbox and back?” Sawyer, Miller, and Breyer were all excited to play and estimated how quick they could run to the top of the hill, touch the Counts’ mailbox and return. I gave Breyer 3 minutes, Miller 2, and Sawyer 1:45. It was hilarious, and everyone enjoyed the challenge. Breyer and Sawyer just made it, and Miller was a few seconds over. Smaller races happened throughout the visit. Another favorite repeated 10 times, was the race around the outside of the house, a la Sophie and Uncle Aaron. I gave them a little head start and then would release Waggie, and he would chase them down and beat them back to me. Amazingly, when we would go out the back door, Waggie loved it so much, he would line up on the start line, ready for another race.
Another game that has arisen due to the coronavirus, is risk. Over the last few weeks, we’ve played many a round on our phones with Tanner and Porter, as well as cousins Luke and Evan. Now that I’m back, Breyer calls wanting to play, and sometimes texts using Mom’s phone or Dad’s Ipad. I get lots of unicorn and cat pictures during the games too. One of her texts went like this: “Risk tonight?” and when I didn’t respond right away, she followed up with, “Join us” “Please” and “You might find a girlfriend there”. Every game we do play is started off with her asking “Want to be allies?” Its a good time.
Another memory owed to Breyer is that of Karaoke. I’ve never sang karaoke, nor wanted to, but she loves her karaoke microphone and so we had a few karaoke nights. Breyer and Cooper were the best. Cooper did a hilarious Barry White impression, and Breyers best was Whitney Houston’s “I will Always Love you.” She sang it with much gusto and passion, but kept throwing in her own absolutely hilarious lines too, including near the crescendo this unforgettable line,
“I hope life treats you kind
And I hope you have all you’ve dreamed of
And I wish to you joy and happiness
But above all this, I wish you looooooove and a kitten!”
I didn’t take any vacation time, although in retrospect I wish I had. Instead, for two weeks, I worked in the garage, setting up my equipment and making a bureau into a standing desk. It functioned well, and I loved working outside-ish, hearing the birds and feeling the breeze. I put up really good numbers and had good success working during this time, but I should have taken advantage more of the time I had in Texas instead of working from 8:30ish-5:30ish every day.
I introduced some new foods which has us in stitches. First, after hearing Dad talk about some stuffed peppers he made, I offered that stuffed radishes are also quite delicious. Of course, I was then questioned what do you stuff radishes with? Stammering, I muttered peanut butter, and my bluff was called, which meant I had to make some. I scooped out the center, put a dab of peanut butter in, and this is the reaction I received:
Those brave enough to try, all agreed that the combo actually wasn’t bad.
Breyer really got into the spirit of April Fools and had pranks going all week, but I think I took home the prize. I had nothing planned, but while preparing some beets, I realized that the tail of a beet looks very similar to that of a rat. With my hands all bloody looking from cutting beets, I dropped the end on the floor, shouted rat, and mimed slashing the ground, then stood up and announced that he got away, but I got his tail. Skepticism turned into amazement as I held up the beet end. Miller proved most gullible. That was only with my siblings though, and when I tried it that night with Mom and Dad, they didn’t fall for it.
The meal I was making at the time has since entered family legend. Mom was working and I thought I would help out and make dinner. Its tough when its not your kitchen, and I hadn’t prepared anything in specific. Inspired by my quest to cut down on meat, I used some leftover pinto beans, and blended them up with some milk and a powdered cheese packet. I then added this mixture over scalloped potatoes. For a side, we had beets and butternut squash, both roasted. The vegatables were received well, but the bean/potato dish was not. At all. The taste wasn’t bad, but I neglected to realize that while the blended mixture looked okay, after being baked for 45 minutes, it looked completely unappealing and added a crusty brown layer to the top. That presentation left 1/2 the family boycotting the dish, and relegated me to eating leftovers for two days.
Veggie pizza at least was a success.
I wanted to go canoeing, and Breyer was the only one who wanted to go. We went to Lake Granbury and paddled around for a little while Dad fished. The weather was beautiful, and she talked and talked, as she is apt to do, while we appreciated the serene setting.
As I mentioned, Waggie would come running every time I went outside. He wasn’t the only one who loved going on rides though. While I never really went anywhere, Breyer also loved hopping into the car for a quick loop around the neighborhood. During our drives, she would talk and talk and I would listen and listen and learn. Lots of funny sayings and stories came from these trips, and I also learned that Breyer wants a sister. Who knew! It was eye-opening to hear her open up about new subjects and talk so frankly about what she wants to do and what is important to her. She isn’t sure if she wants to live in Montana when she is older, but is still leaning that way. Modeling is the dream career, but 12+ kids remain her ideal. So many times she would have these boy/girl twin name combos she would share, which always made me chuckle.
We played lots of basketball and foosball. The ping pong table is in need of some repair, so it sat this one out. I acquitted myself quite well, winning a majority of knockout games against Sawyer and Miller. Miller and I also were rivals in foosball, with lots of close games. During my visit, in two weeks I went once to the gas station to fill up, and once to play frisbee golf with Sawyer, Miller and Waggie. The city park course was still open and fairly empty. We played 18 holes, had a good time, and in this, I admit both Sawyer and Miller whooped me.
Me and Breyer had a spa night, and used some face masks I brought. Face masks and risk is a great combo for the record. A ward member stopped by and dropped some clothing off, and Dad snapped this candid of me:
I wanted to do one movie night, and we were able to gather as a family and all watch “Life is Beautiful.” I’ve talked about the movie before, so I’ll just add that once again there were lots of laughs followed by lots of tears. You know its a good movie when 13 year old Miller and 9 year old Breyer both enjoyed a foreign language film, having to read subtitles for 2 hours.
I heard back from UCONN and the University of New Hampshire regarding law school. Both offered around 75-80% scholarships. I am very grateful for the offers and have absolutely no idea what I’ll be doing. I bought a ticket to visit New England April 9-14th, but that looks like it will be cancelled.
This was truly a great trip. I loved literally every second.
Nevertheless, I felt like I needed to return to Utah, and it wasn’t quite time for me to spend the rest of the summer there.
Dad helped me tune the car up, topping off lots of the fluids and buying a spare tire. Alas, the DMV was closed as I had hoped to renew my registration, and I was left to drive 1170 miles back with expired tags.
I was cruising again and making very, very good time until I hit New Mexico. Sirius XM had just made their services free due to coronavirus, so I was able to get BYU radio and listen to General Conference. I was looking at a 9:30 pm ETA until outside the town of Waterflow, New Mexico, population 1600, I hit a giant pothole hard going on a curvy one lane road, and knew immediately that I was in trouble. 1/4 mile ahead was a 4-way stop sign, so I passed that and pulled over. Sure enough, I was losing air rapidly. At this moment, I was so very, very grateful that the day before my Dad put in time and effort to help me secure a spare tire. For there I was, in the middle of nowhere, and the thought of having to be towed (especially with so much closed due to corona), makes me shudder. If I didn’t have a flat tire, I can imagine an angry word or two, and a great feeling of despair. Instead, I was filled with gratitude and timed myself, making the change and getting back on the road in 15 minutes. The highways were mostly empty and I avoided all trouble. Near Moab, the car in front of me was pulled over for speeding, going only 6 or so over, and I counted my blessings, as I was doing about the same speed. During the trip, I couldn’t help but feel how this trip was different than all the ones I’ve taken before.
Always, when I’m going to Utah, I feel the anticipation of so many adventures, and so much promise in the upcoming semester/months ahead. This time, I don’t know what I’m going towards. Everything is shut down; I am not returning to any dates, or to school or even to church activities. There is a huge probability that my time in Utah is coming to an end and I’ll be leaving to New England soon. There is great excitement in the unknown, but still a longing for the path that inevitably will not be taken. Time will tell what will happen.
One of the best parts about my visit was having church with twice with the family at home. I have reflected often recently on a discussion that President Lim and I had years ago. While living in Proctorville, President Lim was my hometeaching companion. I recall the visits we made together very fondly and am grateful for the many lessons he shared with me. On one, on our way to the household of Jamie Wolfe, he talked about how the church has made spiritual self-reliance more of a focus and shifted the responsibility to the individual. Mind you, this was sometime in 2012-2013 and he talked about how much has changed over the years in terms of scheduling. Church used to be split up over many nights. When we talked, we were attending only a 3 hour block every Sunday. This allowed more family time and allowed the individual more time for personal study, etc. He predicted a time when church would not happen, and everything would happen on the familial and personal level. Now, church has not happened for weeks, and this status will likely last for many more weeks. I am confident that similar events will play out in the future, whether another pandemic or something entirely different, like the restriction of religious liberty, and we will need to be self-reliant. Now is truly the time to prepare for then, and to make sure that we are in a position to be ok during a long-lasting shutdown.