Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Joy: "We had a warm and friendly Christmas."

Derrill: Joy saw that the Sister Missionaries had no where to go for Christmas Eve, so we invited them over to share our ham, garlic potatoes, corn, and pies. (Someone had asked for the secret family recipes, but unfortunately I'm not supposed to give them out under pain of Norwegian ghosts paying us a visit.) These are her Engagementary flowers (engaged and kissing for 4 years now!)

After dinner, we had the traditional reading of the Christmas Scroll. Back in college, my mother had calligraphied the Christmas story plus some Old Testament and Book of Mormon prophecies about Jesus' birth onto a long scroll. We read our copy of it together, sang a few carols, and Joy and I used little figures to act it out for Hyrum's benefit.

We also had the traditional pajama present on Christmas Eve. Joy got us some blue pajama bottoms this year with trees and ... MOOSE! We had moose on our red pajamas last year too. It's a family joke. I added some warm, memory-foam slippers to the outfit, and we have to say, we REALLY bought for warmth this year. These are some of the warmest slippers and pajamas known to man. Joy got out her summer blankets the other day for the bed, they're so warm. But soft and fuzzy like nobody's business.

The sisters also got a few gifts with a mission story attached to each one, trying our best to help them feel at home. It turned out that over the course of the evening, we had done something for each of their traditions, so they got a little taste of home.

"Yeah, that felt really special to me."

Christmas Day we spent about six hours opening presents, not because there were actually all that many (that's a two-foot tree), but Hyguy took two naps in the process. He and I were both sick. We had to cancel caroling earlier in the week, which was sad.

"And we sang a song in between each round and ate a yummy breakfast."

Hyrum hasn't really figured out wrapping paper yet, but I did get several videos of him trying. Here you see the conflict: he wants to open the present, but he also wants to play with the rattle ... which we still hadn't opened.

He enjoyed all the presents, though. He particularly likes Joy's presents: the little train, the egg-shaped rattle, and the small basketball. I got him a kitchen playset that he enjoys scattering over the floor, Mary and Jesus action figures, and the Secret of Nimh (which Joy said we are *not* showing him yet). Joy is definitely the winner.

"I just get to spend more time with him and see the things he enjoys playing with at other people's houses. I had an in."

My big present to Joy was a couple framed pictures of Hyrum that I got professionally done. In one, he has a very mischievous smile. The other is a collage of him on my shoulders and him smiling really big. They are very nice. Joy got me three games for the Gamecube that we can play on the Wii: Final Fantasy, The Hobbit, and Zelda Wind Waker. This has enabled her to pull ahead on Harvest Moon since now my time is divided between four games. I did some catching up this Saturday though while she was at the temple.

So we pretty much just enjoyed each other's company and sang a lot about Jesus. It was a warm, cozy Christmas.

Hy tries to figure out wrapping paper, the careful way....

Joy laughing at our new toilet seat. '

Hyrum S. Watson, birth class of '09.
Voted most likely to break hearts in high school if only he learns not to drool so much by then.

"My name is Hyrum Watson, and I approved this message."

Playing with the ball for the first time. Don't let it touch the floor!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Present Poll

So among the other presents I got for Joy was my entry in the Least Romantic Gift category. You see, our toilet seat broke this week. So I got her a new one and wrapped it up as a Christmas present. In fairness, it's a cute toilet seat - has a palm tree. She laughed pretty heartily when she saw it.

The poll question is: what is the Least Romantic gift you have ever given or received your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Life, Death, and Christmas

There has been a lot to think about this Christmas. I hope you'll forgive me for reciting the death toll for a moment before getting to the happier part, but in my more morbid moments it has seemed that Death has been delivering a great many telegrams this semester. If you'd rather skip all that, head on down to the dashed lines separating off Elder Wirthlin's testimony.

As you may remember, my good friend Evan Wade passed away earlier this semester. His death was quite sudden and unexpected. Timed as it was at the cusp of beginning so many wonderful things in life, it has made me feel particularly blessed to have been able to finish my own degree and be sealed to my wife. I commented to Joy the other day that I've been thinking of him regularly. I miss him, far more than I had expected.

Around Thanksgiving, Grammy had multiple strokes and the doctors also found there had been a heart attack at some point. This also was unexpected, and I find myself quite unprepared for the thought of Christmas without Grammy. In the last twenty years, that's been about the only time I've gotten to see her. Thankfully, Dad reports that Grammy is, to all appearances, fully recovered and doing miraculously well. But the realization of the fragility of mortality was hit home again. (This picture from the Ensign is of Grammy, though she doesn't actually need a wheelchair, then or now.)

A few weeks ago, Aunt Elizabeth died. I don't know that I ever met her or my great-uncle who is now left to mourn her loss. Uncle Calvin reported that she was "was released from the prison of her body" in hospice care after weeks of strokes and terrible pain. He is comforted that her death relieves her of the burden of that suffering, bringing her somewhere without the pain.

Last week our stake president succumbed to the battle he's fought with his cancer the last few years now. I didn't know Calvin Gehen well, but he had a powerful spirit with him at each stake meeting. He radiated peace and compassionate service, in part because you would sometimes never know how much he was suffering to be there. Being with him reminded me in many ways of the opportunities I've had to shake the hands of one of our apostles. Joy is hoping to sing in the choir at his funeral on Tuesday.

A couple weeks ago, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin passed away. This was not particularly surprising since he was the oldest of the apostles. Though I've known a number of people who knew him (my friend Darrell married his granddaughter and my first mission companion was Elder Wirthlin's home teacher - which provided some interesting stories), I never had the privilege myself.

So today, since I'm sick and unable to attend church, I thought I would get around to watching Elder Wirthlin's funeral, which the Church has graciously put on their website. It was a beautiful service. (Other friends of Darrell will see him and his wife walking out of the funeral at 1:11:42-1:11:56. She's in a red sweater.) In my favorite talk that he ever gave, he told of the Savior's suffering in Gethsemane on Good Friday, reminding us that no matter how bleak the Fridays are that must inevitably come to all our lives, "Sunday will come." During the funeral service, I realized that he gave that talk just after his sweetheart had passed away, surely going through his own Friday. How important the testimony of resurrection morning is!

Among the words offered during the funeral, Pres. Boyd K. Packer shared with the family Elder Wirthlin's final testimony (it's about 30 minutes into the video), which he had spoken approximately the week before. Let me share a piece of it with you:
From time to time if we are living worthily, the Spirit of God touches our hearts, and minds, and our lives, and improves us forever. The warm feeling penetrates our hearts, a silent, still small voice speaks to us, communicating through the burning of our bosom the knowledge given to us from God. It draws us closer to Him, sanctifying us and strengthening our desire to return to His presence. During such unforgettable moments, revelation comes to us and forever alters our view - sharpening our focus on what matters most. We sense more profoundly our eternal relationship with Him as the literal Father of our spirits. We also feel more acutely our complete dependence on the merciful atonement of His Son Jesus Christ.

I had such a revealing experience. It was Christmas time in Bavaria in the Alps in 1937. I have always loved Christmas. There is a special spirit about it. The chill of the winter air is the perfect counterpoint to the warmth that should fill our hearts as we contemplate the message of salvation found in the birth, resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I experienced that warmth many years ago while serving as a missionary for the church, just prior to the outbreak of WWII. As you might expect, the possibility of armed conflict was very intense, but as Christmas approached, our thoughts were drawn to the Savior. We rejoiced in the privilege of serving Him during that sacred season in the famous city of Salzburg, Austria.

On Christmas Eve, Elder S and I visited the village of Oberdorf, nestled securely in the beautiful Bavarian Alps. It was a clear, crisp winter night. We walked under the canopy of stars across the smooth stillness of newfallen snow to a humble little church where a familiar melody beckoned us with a message of peace and hope. [Pictured is the church to which he refers.]

Inside, a choir was singing in German a carol that brought warmth to our hearts on that cold winter night. Though we were far from our homes and families, we were filled with our Heavenly Father's love and comforted by His Spirit, as we listened to the calming strains of Silent Night, Holy Night.

Perhaps it was like the night that more than a century earlier inspired the assistant pastor in that quaint village to write the words to one of the most beloved hymns in all of Christendom. [He then tells the story of how the words and music came about.] As we listened to the choir's harmony while standing in the very same church where the first rendition of the sacred song was sung, we were spiritually moved. We were filled with the true spirit of Christmas.
He told of how the Holy Ghost touched him and his companion at that time. As they walked the 15 miles back to their home, they spoke of a strengthened resolve to do what is right, to find a wonderful person with whom to spend eternity as husband and wife, and to keep their lives in focus with the principle and teachings of the Savior. He closed by saying, "I pray that our hearts and home may resonate with His marvelous message of love and peace during the holiday season. Forever with the apostle John, I testify that God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son...."

I've been looking forward to this Christmas all year. It's the first time I get to play Joseph. I've been a shepherd many times; I'm far too young to be a wise man; I've even been a dumb ox sometimes; but I've always looked forward to being the dad. No, Joseph wasn't the father of Jesus, but he was the man with whom God entrusted His Son, as He has entrusted me with a precious delight named Hyrum.

After all, besides death, this year has brought life. Wonderful, sweet life that has filled and changed our hearts in marvelous, miraculous ways. We are not the only ones so blessed. My dear friend Marcy and her husband have a dear little Emma after years of praying; our dear friends the Petersons just welcomed their third little one into the world; my former home teaching companion and his wife just received their first blessing; and there are countless more Corbins and Daniels and Timothies and Janes and Millies and more.

Each year, their families and friends will celebrate their lives, putting on cone-shaped party hats and singing old songs off key and eating good food and giving presents to each other because they are so thankful that this precious child is still with us. Every year, we also celebrate with funny little red cone-shaped hats, singing old songs off key, eating good food, and giving presents to each other on society's best guess as to His birthday. For behold, a virgin conceived, and she bore a son, and she called His name Emmanuel: God with us. I am so thankful that we all get together as brother and sisters, friends, neighbors, and family to celebrate the birth and resurrection of our Savior as well, whose sacrifice and sacredness conquered death, inaugurated hope, and promised peace. God be praised for the matchless gift of His Son.

Lights, Camera, Hyrum 2

You've seen the pictures from Thanksgiving. Now behold the glory of the Director's Cut edition - not just stills, but actual movies starring the one, the only, the inimitable Hyrum!

Bob the Builder, meet Hyrum the Dump Truck

Watching the world pass him by and longing to be part of it.

Look out, ladies. Here comes Hyrum!

He tracked her across the cultural hall. (Though in all fairness and political correctness, he chases little boys and dogs and cats with the same vigor and determination ... much to their united chagrin. It's kind of fun to watch him chase a puppy around a house, but less fun when 2-3 year old boys get scared and cower behind their moms for fear of the approaching Hyrum. The funny part comes, though, when mom picks them up: as soon as they are out of arm's reach, they become intensely curious and want back down to examine the Hyrabeast.)

Everyone practices saying "aaaaaa" with Hyrum, to the delight of all.

Lights, Camera, Hyrum 1

He hasn't tried walking without holding on to something yet, but he does make regular progress. A few hours after this video was taken, he managed to push the chair up to the oven.

Santa is fascinated by Comet's antics.

Hyrum, evincing his skill and subtle touch with electronics....

Dr. No 2

No, this isn't a remake of the classic James Bond movie. It's a remake of an announcement. Last month, three guys said I was worthy to be a doctor. Now the graduate school has agreed, and I have some pretty letterhead declaring to the world that I am a doctor. There will likely be another announcement when the diploma shows up (Mar) and yet another one when I'm hooded (May). I'm just digging doing the doctor thing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tasteful Research

First, a link: What did Santa really look like? That's a nice research program, or programme as they like to spell it around here.

But that isn't what I came here to tell you about. When I got to work yesterday, I met one of the professors here in the Nutrition Dept on the elevator and I recognized her at once. You see, her picture on the staff bulletin board is right next to this blank spot where my picture will go in January (how cool is that??). So we got talking about our work and she generously shared some of what she knew about the projects Per and I have taken up. Even though we were already to her office by that time, I knew Per had bemoaned the lack of chatter in the hallways here, so decided he would approve the extra few minutes it took to follow up by asking what she researches.

Oh, whatever comes to hand, Prof. Utermohlen replied modestly. Since moving to the Nutrition Dept, she changed her research focus to how taste and smell sensitivity affect personality, eating habits, and in fact whole cultures. Her profile tells me she is also a pediatrician.

She gave me two beautiful examples of the effects of a discriminating palate. She asked me to guess which country's people had the least discerning taste buds. "The British," I hazarded. When she said I was right, I quipped that that certainly explains their cuisine. (Have you ever heard British and cuisine in the same sentence before? Neither have I.)

She explained that it does much more than that. Because of this, the English were ideally suited for exploring and colonizing other countries. They could take a lot more "gastronomic torture" in stride, living on hard tack and salt pork for months on a time and adapting to whatever the local fare was without difficulty. Ergo, they were more likely than other European powers to live among the colonized people, and, as Acemoglu demonstrates masterfully, more likely to "export" their good government institutions rather than imposing the more extractionary institutions regularly used when mineral exports were the primary objective. Fascinating.

She then had me guess who had the most discriminating sense of taste. My first thought was the stereotypical French, but I plunked for the Japanese instead. I was only close that time. The Japanese eat "fresh fresh fresh fresh fresh food" and so they can tell when something isn't "fresh fresh fresh fresh fresh."

But no, the people with the most highly developed taste buds in the world live in the equatorial regions of S. America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Why is that? Well, she explains, food spoils quickly in tropical climates. You have to be able to tell early on in a meal if it's already gone bad, or you're likely to die or be sick. So the people there develop a highly refined sense of taste.

Is that some cool research or what? Oh, the trials of having too many interests to be able to pursue all of them....

(PS - The hard part of writing this post was avoiding referring to the "best tasting people" in the world. Cannabal Quarterly still hasn't developed a consensus on that issue yet....)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Preparing for Christmas (and misc.)

We are so stoked! A couple months ago we had the main room of our new home cleared out. We didn't enjoy it very long though. There were all these boxes in the rest of the house and it was difficult to navigate. So we put all of them in the center of the main room so we'd be tripping over them and get to them eventually.

Last night, we got the last of them unpacked and cleared off our floor. We have a floor again! Hyrum can crawl all around to his heart's content. Joy keeps saying how glad she is every time she walks in the door.

We've got the tinsel and some decorative balls put up around the house. This week we'll get out the tree and hopefully find the lights. I'm REALLY looking forward to having some lights out that people can see. I also have my German Rauchermensch up - he's one of the three wise men, and you put a little incense cone in his belly so he smokes.

We're also preparing for Christmas baking. Steve and Emmy already did the family fatigmand fry. (A thousand thanks! Blessings on you, on your house, and on your camel! May your toilet always flush clockwise and ... yes, dear, I'll behave.) Mom and I will make German stollen and Danish kringla when we're there in January. This week will be pie baking (pumpkin and choclate pecan) and some gingerbread cookies for Joy.

Early next week we'll go caroling with some friends. (If you would like to be among those friends, let me know. I always say, the more the merrier.)


Steve introduced me recently to Brandon Sorenson, a new fantasy author. I've been devouring his first book, Elantris, recently and really enjoying it. I recommend it for fantasy readers. He has developed a very detailed, interesting new world with a fairly complex storyline. There were a couple plot twists that were highly predictable (I have a very firm guess as to how some it will end) but he's thrown in some fairly major surprises I hadn't expected. The characters are drawn well and are very interesting.

Depending on what comes this Christmas, I may dive into some Star Trek (Captain's Table series) next.


Joy has enjoyed her birthday present, Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility. "It has really great graphics. I like growing a garden in 3D! And I love the little animals, especially so far the turtle and the monkey. If you become good enough friends with them, they'll become your pet."

I've been enjoying her game a lot too. Unlike the Gameboy version, the day goes by too quickly to be able to do everything I'd like, so I have to prioritize each day. They also have a pretty strict stamina system that only lets you grow so many crops at the beginning, forcing you to spend the rest of your day socializing.


Tomorrow I turn my dissertation over to Per for signatures, and then to the graduate school for approval and VICTORY!

Self-Explanatory Fun

Guess Who's Talking Now

It's official. Hy has spoken.

The problem is, it was a gradual transformation, so we're not sure on just what day. As we've blogged, when he's hungry or tired or needs comfort, he crawls over to Mom mumbling "mamamamamama..." When he wants to play or is really happy, he calls out "Dadadadadadada."

Friday, he let out with quite perfect "Dada!" when looking at me, and a quite perfect "Mama!" when he headed straight for Mom. So he does recognize that those are our names, and he calls us by them. He called me first in the morning on Friday, but since he's been using our mumble names for so long, it's tough to call whether one of us is first.

We're just as glad that he developed both of our names simultaneously.

So Hyrum is now starting to be capable of speech, just after his 9 mo birthday.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Utah, part 4: Hy's version

Hi there. Hy here. I think I'm going through withdrawal. Every day in Utah there were lots of new faces around, and a lot of them just wanted to spend time with the baby. When it all got to be too much, I'd crawl over to Mom's leg mumbling, "mamamammamama," and she'd put me down for a nap (in my trailer). It was WONDERFUL to see all the family.

Now it's just Mom and Dad. Can't some of you come out and visit me? I've been exploring the house diligently, but I can't find you anywhere. Where did you all go?

There were some things Dad missed in his portrayal of our trip that I wanted to share too. F'rinstance, I attended my first birthday party. The sad part was that I wasn't the center of attention, but I soon found a way to remedy that. After M. opened his gifts (I thought opening the wrapping paper was pretty cool), I crowded around Cousin S. to help get the toy out of the box. And if I just happened to play with it first, well that was just the way it goes, right? Eventually M. got bothered that I squoze myself inbetween him and his presents, so Mom fished me out. Sorry, M.

I found a new wonderful piece of technology: the broken fax machine. The broken fax machine beeps when I hit buttons, but doesn't call random numbers with static. It's loads of fun. Maybe Dada will post the video he took of Hyrum's Technical Support Line.

Here I am with Auntie Em, putting my finger where her mouth is ... or something like that. Dada caught me.

We went to Funland. It was fun for everybody else. I watched them skating around this big ring with Disney songs playing and strobe lights and a disco ball, and I finally burst out into song too. Dad caught me just at the climactic moment, singing:

"Just wait and see! Some day I'll be
Part of Your World!"

I like to share my Dada. Here he is playing with another boy. I was playing with that boy's older brother. He kept coming back asking for Dada if he could "Fly?" That's my dad.

Aunt Fran gave me this wonderful Santa Claus outfit. They say he's a jolly old elf.

Here I am, an adorable young elf.
And I smiled when I saw me,
In spite of myself.

Actually, Dada has discovered what a narcissist I am. I'm not sure what that is, but Dad says it. It used to be that when I looked at myself in the mirror, I smiled. Now I run up to the mirror, well crawl really fast, and kiss myself with big slobbery kisses.

Dada was entertaining me in the car while we waited for Mama. My favorite car game is peek-a-boo. Dada ducks down below the window, then pops up again with a big smile on his face. I try to encourage the old man. It's good exercise for him, and he seems to enjoy it so much. I do what I can.

Here I am giving Mama a foot massage. Her feet hurt after all that skating, so she soaked it. Grandma Jule gave me a patriotic ducky that tried to help me massage Mama's foots. I don't know why Mama didn't like my massages as well as she liked Dad's....

Mama: What is that smell?
Abby: I think Santa farted!
Christopher: They'll never know it was me!
Hyrum: Check please!

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Request for Ithaca Drivers

Please don't give pedestrians that little extra bit of room when it's snowing. Please.

It's wonderful behavior in spring, summer, and fall. If it's sunny out, the extra bit of room on the road we share with you because Ithaca doesn't believe in sidewalks is appreciated and comforting. In rain, that extra bit of room means you don't splash us. In snow, it's a different story.

You see, the wheels of the cars that have come before you have cleared the snow off the road in two straight lines. Underneath your car and in between the lanes is a thick pile of sludge: half-melted snow, ice, salt, and dirt. When you move over just a little bit to give the pedestrians and bicyclists room, you inevitably drive over that line, spraying sludge up to the waist (if you're going slowly) or even dousing us from hat to boot in sludge. For someone hiking 3 miles to work, it doesn't help as much as you intend it to. I know you are being considerate and trying to ensure our safety. This is just to let you know that there are other factors involved as well.

Please and thank you.

(PS - If you swerve far enough that your left tires is in the other lane and your right tire is now in the line where your left tire was, that's okay too, as long as you're safe.)

(PPS - In case anyone is wondering, I did eventually dry off today. Thanks for asking. I comforted myself that I had stored a pair of nice, dry socks and a second pair of shoes at work after the time I walked to work in the pounding rain.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Utah, part 3: The South

When we had landed in UT (back in part 1), the rental car place tried to convince me to upgrade to an SUV for only a little bit more. No thanks. They tried to convince me to upgrade to a luxury car for only a little bit more. No thanks. Then they confessed that they didn't have the car I ordered and outfitted us with a minivan at the same rate. Now, I've had a favorable switch pulled on me plenty of times, but this was the first time I experienced someone trying to be underhanded about it. Between that and the fact that they charged extra for Joy to drive it too so that there really was no price difference between them and their competitors leads me to decide we aren't going to rent from Dollar again.

But because of this fortuitous fluke, we loaded our stuff, plus Joy's cedar chest, plus my brother and his wife into our van and drove off to St. George the day after Thanksgiving. My mom's mom lives there and we had a friendly second Thanksgiving dinner there. This is the expression on the newly minted great-grandmother's face the first time she saw her great-grandson.

Steve showed Mom the Wii's capabilities (some of them anyway). Before leaving, Steve decided to also show us just how commodious Mom's cape is, and what he thought of my picture taking.

Because there were too many of us to accommodate at Grandma's, we took Hy to a hotel. That was a miserable night. Hy was up and crying until well after 1am with us locked in the bathroom so that we wouldn't prevent him from falling asleep eventually. On the other hand, Joy and I had some nice time chatting and getting some reading and some projects done in the bathroom - Joy could work on her new calling as branch music coordinator, for instance.

Saturday we ran a couple errands (and bought a disappointing cannoli) before we did something I've always wanted to: complete my set of four-generation pictures. I had dreamed of it being 5 once upon a time, but great-great-grandma Straw passed away just before I met Joy.

Then we drove to Las Vegas where my aunt (Dad's side) lives. Steve and Em drove Mom since Dad was flying back from CA that day, so Joy and I had some time to ourselves. We found some bad traffic on the freeway once we got to Vegas, so I bailed, called my uncle, and got directions on the city streets. We arrived just after the other car, but had been 10 minutes behind before, so I probably caught us up a bit. Dad also beat us there.

This was the first time since I moved out to NY that I got to come to the family Thanksgiving (which they had put off special so they could meet Hy). It was sad that Grammy couldn't be there, but Dad reassured us of her progress. We had a wonderful feast and Hyrum was a wonderful source of everyone's entertainment (once we gave up on his taking a nap after half an hour, that is).

Joy invented a new game with him of saying "aaaaaaa" a gravely sound in the back of the throat and letting him mimic the sound. (That's what he's doing with Cousin Laurel in the upper-right picture.) He gave up when Dad gave out a deep bass version, though. He happily played in everyone's lap. One of the funner parts for me was listening to Dad's family tattle on him, confessing just how Excited he is to be a grandpa and how he's always talking about Hyrum. Go, Pop.

Hy is also fascinated by my brother who is part of a male a capella group. Steve has been learning how to do vocal percussion, which he would practice on Hyrum to entertain him. Hy is ... not sure what to make of this, but appears willing to practice with him in this picture. That, or he's using a Jedi pinch on him. We're not sure which.

After dinner, we got lost (bad, google maps! Go to your room!), called Joy's uncle on the other end of Vegas, and finally found our way to their place. We got to go to church with the Tritsches before tagging up with the other Watsons again and driving back to Provo on one giant tank of gas we had filled up the night before. Cha-ching. It was pretty late when we got back, so Hyrum was a willing sleeper.

We spent Monday with my brother again, though we took a couple hour detour to spend time with some goods friends. He was in 10+ classes with me at BYU and Cornell and their oldest son was in our nursery class. We missed them a lot, so it was nice to spend some time together. Son #2 (no names are being given to respect their privacy, so if you recognize them, you must already love them; and if you don't recognize them, you would love them if you knew them) enjoyed letting me throw him in the air, and I wrestled with them a good while. Their dad got some nice pictures I'm sure he wants to send my way....

I don't know if I've mentioned Hy's affinity for "technology" much. He WANTS to play on this computer. He wants to play with remote controls. He wants to play with fax machines and cell phones and cables and the VCR and anything else with buttons. Emilee cleverly distracted him with a spare keyboard they had laying around. Sister Fran also gave him his very own keychain gadget (a ninja remote that had been washed and dried in the dryer) that doesn't work anymore, so he can happily push buttons and play with a remote. Here's Hy playing with another cell phone, rather triumphantly. "I must interject here that there is an amazing reason why so many people enjoy visiting the these friends of ours. They have a talent of making you feel that you are so important when you spend time with them. S and A I just want to say that we had a really enjoyable time visiting with you. It was as good as visiting with family which we also loved and felt at home with"

"On of my favorite things about that Monday was when I did some errands that day, buying a few Christmas presents and dropping off presents at my brother Doug's home. He and his sweetheart Shannon were home (surprise) and so I was able to spend some time with them. I sure so love my bro."

Hy was not quite as magnificent a traveler on the way home as he was going out to UT. We chalk that up to his inconsistent sleep during this last leg of the trip. Since coming home, he has needed a midnight feeding regularly, although not tonight despite my staying up waiting for it. Hm. Go fig.

We're keeping Hy on UT time for now since we'll be rejoining my parents in January for some Christmas in CA action. Why January? Because leaving again in two weeks is just too soon for him "and for his mommy," Joy chimes in. So we'll get to be here, together, for Christmas and put those traditions we worked on during our first Christmases to the test on the actual Christmas Day.

What a wonderful time we had in UT! Being that close to so many family members we love so much made it seem like a much nicer place to live and raise our family than I had imagined when I was at the Y. Joy has noticed a decided positive swing in my comments about her home state. Will we go back there? Hard to say at this point. Right now, it sure looks it would be a wonderful thing ("warm happy smile").

Thank you so much to everyone who let us into their homes and hearts. "I'd like to add a special thank to Lala, Fran, and Steve and Emmy for putting us up so many nights. We can't wait to come back." Thanks for putting us up, for putting up with us, for food and shelter, for loving our son, and helping us have a wonderful two weeks. We miss you all and felt every time we moved on to the next family that we wished we could have spent more time with each of you, and we wish we could have gotten to see other friends out there, if only time and illnesses had allowed. Take care, everyone, and keep the state warm for us! Next I reckon I'll turn the time over to Hyrum for his favorite memories and pictures.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Utah, part 2: The North

So now we're back at home, but warm and happy thoughts of UT linger. I hope my brother's muscles have recovered.... He woke up with me about 6 in the morning (Mon, Nov 24) to drive around Utah lake to pick up a chest Joy's brother Doug had carved for her and that a kind cousin has been storing for her the last six years. S and I hauled it upstairs and into the van (where it ... almost fit) and got back in time for his work. We passed it off to my parents later in the trip so it can stay in storage with my stuff. Assuming we ever leave Ithaca (a probability 1 event), there will only be one other place for us to haul stuff from. After a bit of economics work, we drove up to Logan, Mendon, and all points north to be with Joy's sister and her family.

We really love Fran's kids, Abby and Christopher. When Joy had stayed with them for a couple weeks years ago, Abby cried when she left. Christopher (a very tall 6 yr old) wrestled with me a lot. Abby was less rowdy than in past visits, but we had a wonderful time early Thanksgiving morning while Hyrum needed to be fed just talking and then reading the scriptures together. We read most of Alma 42 and she was really touched by the scriptures and the power in them. It was a really great morning.

Tuesday, sister Fran wanted time with her nephew while her own children were at school, so we took off for the Logan temple where we were selected to be the first couple at the session. It was a very nice time there. Joy remembered very fondly how her grandfather would drive up to the front door and drop grandma off while he went to find a parking space. We would have done that too, except we were trying to get ahold of her mother and forgot. I redeemed myself by picking her up from the front door. (Isn't redemption what the temple's all about anyway?)

After the temple, we picked up Joy's mother (left) from her convalescent home and met Fran (right) and brood at the clan-famous TINY SPICY. The restaurant isn't called Tiny Spicy, but the primary reason for going to this Mandarin restaurant is their chicken dish called Tiny Spicy. Rather than the usual orange color a sesame or General Tso's chicken would have, this chicken is deep red. It's Very Good and worth its addictive reputation. We spent the rest of the evening playing Life: Pirates of the Caribbean style.

Wednesday I took the whole day off and we went to a place called "Fun Park" that has rollerblading, bowling, laser tag, and a pitiful collection of arcade games. I don't skate thanks to my mission accident on ice, but the kids and Joy had fun there. I got a little work done despite it being my day off. Hyrum was really excited to watch everyone rollerskate/blade. Abby skated up just as I was taking a couple shots, and they're priceless.

Then we had a good game of bowling. Joy beat me for the first time. I had a HORRIBLE first 5 frames, but once I decided to forget approaching the lane properly and just chuck the ball from the line (a lot of my game depends on how frictional or slippery my shoes are), I got a couple strikes and several spares on the last 5 to almost catch up. I had given up on catching her and was only intent on doing better than the six year old who had bumpers. That's how pitiful a game it was for me. (I should mention that Christopher and I tied at Wii baseball twice so we had a nice competition going on that day already.)

That night we decorated for Christmas and took some great pictures. Hy is saving his favorites when he tells about the vacation in his own words, so watch out: some great pictures will be forthcoming. Fran had bought Hyrum a Santa suit, and it's really adorable on him. I took a few pictures with Joy and him, and then Christopher really wanted to get in on them. Joy asked him, "Would you like Santa to sit on your lap?" This was the resulting shot.

Thursday we drove just a little bit south to Brigham where the big family gathering was held. In its hayday, hundreds of cousins would descend and fill the cultural hall. This time around, we did justice to the multi-purpose room. I found it very entertaining how few people Joy knew. She knew the older kids in most families, but if they were under 20, she probably didn't. Several of the more important branches of the family tree were there, though, and we had a nice time getting reacquainted.

Joy's mother and grandmother were at the head of the table. Grandma Elzinga saw us and just had to hold the baby (her 92nd great-grandchild). She showed him to a few family members, then returned him to Joy, commenting, "I forgot how heavy these things can be!" Joy later took this picture of me with her grandmother in the kitchen cleaning up. (Why with me? Well, the baby was on me and Joy had already hugged her goodbye, I guess. There are other pictures of Grandma and Hy, but I think this one turned out the best.)

We also made a happy re-acquiantance and first acquaintance: Joy's brother Dustin, whom she hasn't seen in ages, and his newlywed wife. I've never met either of them. It was a casual hello until she blurted out, "Macademia!" in the serving line and we chimed in, "Oooooh, Macademia!" We then proceeded between us to redo most of the Vestibules' hit recording "Bulbous Bouffant," and fast friendships were instantly formed. For those of you unfamiliar with alleged songs that have been played on the Dr. Demento show, here's a link to an animated version. We talked about other things too, of greater interest to us likely than to any of you, like their romance. I will wait on posting this until Joy has had a chance to insert her own comments about the luncheon ... here:

" I was actually suprised at how few of my family were there, but I was able ask after some of my favorite cousins that I haven't seen for a while whose parents were there. We got there a little late, so it felt that before we even got around to visiting with everyone, people were already being ushered in to get pie. Then before I even finished eating half the room was cleaned up. I guess when you have 14 children and resulting grandchildren (over 70) and great grandchildren (over 90), and even have great great grand children, you have to know how to get things done. It felt more like home later when we went over to grandma's to visit with Aunt Noni and grandma Elzinga. Uncle Howard was there who Hyrum liked very much. My favorite part of the actual Thanks giving fiest was getting to know my sister-in-law and brother better."

After filling up on pie and Hyrum MUNCHING ON HIS FIRST ROLL OUT OF HAND (admittedly, he only ate about 5 crumbs, but he opened his mouth and bit down on something we were trying to feed him from our hands for the first time), we went back down to my brother's place. Next stop: St. George, Vegas, and back to Provo.

On a sobering note, my own grandmother (Dad's mom) suffered multiple strokes Tuesday night and Wed. We heard about it on Thanksgiving. Dad flew back to CA to be with her. In what can only be described as a miracle given the number of strokes and even a heart attack they uncovered and the length of time before she received medical treatment, she was able to walk just fine very quickly and was released back home on Friday. For her and Dad, the most frightening aspect for her was how her speech was affected, though that has mostly come back as well. How thankful we are Dad was able to go spend time with her and that she's alright now. It could have been MUCH worse. We really missed her at the Watson family dinner held in Las Vegas as a result of the trama that she had been through, but felt so blessed that things turned out so well in her recovery (leaving the hospitals with not physical restrictions on activity).