Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More Time With the Boys

I am at home with four out of five of my Princes - the oldest is at Cub Scouts with our Queen.

I like spending time with them - as long as I can keep my cool and just enjoy their silly behavior, I get rewarded with an ample amount of one-on-one time and many moments of kid wisdom. These boys were sent here to teach me a few things...

This is my four-year-old; he sat and visited with me several times during the last 15 minutes. He likes to give gifts and write letters to his young friends, especially the little girl around the block. He did a good job getting ready for bed, so I am letting him stay up a few minutes longer to wind down.

Over on the right here is my two-year-old. While I was getting him ready for bed, I noticed that he sort of smelled bad. So, I suggested a quick bath, and he readily agreed. He is a very happy fellow, quite talkative, and absolutely idolizes his older brothers. There are endless reenactments of various scenes from Star Wars, Harry Potter, Spiderman, etc, and this one is always willing to accept even the most menial roles. "And the award for best supporting actor goes to..."

I came home from the office early today so that I could take my seven-year-old to the dentist. We had simultaneous appointments for check-up and cleaning, and we both came out with a clean bill of dental health. He was excited because he found a travel chess/checkers set in the box of toys behind the reception counter. After the appointment we stopped of at the library to drop off some things, and he spent a few minutes visiting with the librarian and putting a couple of things on hold. We enjoyed a nice visit about the things that matter most to him on the way to and from. I was especially impressed with his mature understanding about the death of President Hinckley (see the other post below) and what would happen in the coming days to the leadership of the church.

Now we're full-swing into the bedtime routine, and my ten-month-old is resisting the hardest. He thinks he needs to eat hourly. When they're his age, they demand a great deal of attention. He's sitting in front of me in his portable bed, peeking over the top and occasionally fussing in an attempt to convince me to get him out and play. But I'm not falling for the ploy - the Queen says he didn't have a nap today, so he should go to sleep quickly. Perhaps if I stopped clacking away on the keyboard...

I like being a Dad - and these little Princes have me convinced that there is hope in our future, in spite of the crazy world we live in.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Adams vs. Jefferson

I just finished another book, Adams vs. Jefferson, written by John Ferling. Although the author conjectured too much for my taste, he also cited many sources and laid out an excellent picture of the political and cultural climate surrounding the election of 1800. He spent a great deal of time painting an accurate picture of the decade prior to that pivotal election, and even spent a chapter or two at the end letting the reader see how things unfolded until July 4, 1826, the day both men coincidentally died.

I openly side with Thomas Jefferson in the debate that was at stake. He was a Republican, and believed in small federal government and state autonomy. It was important to have a strong check on the federal government by the individual states (a condition that barely exists if at all today.)

John Adams was a Federalist, and believed in stronger government and greater control, a strong monarch-like executive, and stronger ties with Great Britain. His positions were so unfavorable by the election of 1800 that a quarter century of Republican Presidents would follow him.

Of deep interest to me is the amazing coincidence that Jefferson and Adams died on the same day, July 4, 1826. This must have been Divine Providence. Adams and Jefferson had become friends again after about 1812, but in the public eye they were enemies. The dual death on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence erased the image of enmity, and allowed Adams, Jefferson, and Washington to become the "triumvirate" of the founding era, where they have remained for all those who study US History.

The party system emerged quite rapidly after the new government was formed. Politics had many of the same elements and quirks as it does now. The battle for the Presidency in 1800 was very bitter. Adams was so crushed when he lost that he left town on the 4 AM coach the day that Jefferson was sworn in, rather than pass the baton.

All in all, this was an excellent read - I recommend it to any student of US History or politics.

Tribute to LDS Church President Gordon Bitner Hinckley

Tonight at about 7:00 PM LDS Church President Gordon Bitner Hinckley passed away from natural causes. He was 97 years old.

I have thoroughly enjoyed our time under his inspired guidance. I can't begin to imagine the burden of responsibility that he and all others that have occupied his position bore - they certainly must have learned to call on divine help in their calling.

Since I joined the LDS Church in 1991, I have experienced the passing of three Church Presidents - Ezra Taft Benson, Howard W. Hunter, and now Gordon B. Hinckley. I would have to frankly admit that I connected with President Hinckley more than with the other two, probably just because of the length of time that he served and his disarming nature.

President Hinckley, we love you and know that you are having joyful reunions. Thank you for your tireless service!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

So Are They Funny? Judge for Yourself...

Big Water Rocket

Big water rocket 18.75 Liters - booster

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I think I may have to acquire one of these for science education in the homeschool...

Church Basketball?

Don't ask me why, but I always end up playing a game or two of church basketball every year, usually when one of the guys calls me and tells me that they might forfeit if I can't come. I played tonight, and we had to forfeit anyway because we were short by one player. So the other team loaned us three guys and we played anyway. You would think that it would have been just for fun, but somehow there is always at least one poor sport that spoils it for everyone.

In this case it was a big guy that was fairly agile for his rotundity, but constantly pushing his weight around. No problem for me - I'm small and quick and I just stay out of his way. About halfway through the game, he was bringing the ball down the court and I reached in and swiped it from him. He fumbled around with it for a half-second, and then it went out of bounds, clearly with him touching it last. The referee correctly gave my team the ball, but this guy had to argue with the referee, who just ignored him. So he decided to take matters into his own hands. He went out of his way to push me in the back two times in subsequent action, and another player on my team several more times. The referees took some notice (when they were in a position to see it), but it didn't seem to matter to this moron. We discussed it with his teammates who were playing for our team, and they agreed that he was a real downer to play with - a very poor loser and cheapshot.

I'm not big into competitive athletics - I played ball when I was 10 or 11 for a couple of years in an organized league, and it just didn't come easily for me. Part of it was that my Dad was so intense - not like the obnoxious parents that scream at coaches and refs, but he was pretty hard on me. He probably didn't understand that it wasn't my thing. Of course, I had been the one to ask if I could play, because I had some neighbor friends who were going to play. Dad had played a lot of baseball and basketball when he was younger, and I get the picture that he understood the fundamentals pretty well.

I enjoyed playing yard hockey or scrimmage football in the yard or the field with friends, and I really enjoyed playing basketball in the neighbor's backyard, but that was entirely different than playing in an organized league where the stakes and emotions seem a little higher. It was just for fun in those settings, and I wanted it to be the same in the league play, but it just wasn't. You know, we got pretty competitive in field hockey, and got pretty bruised up sometimes, but we never went out for blood, and we respected each other.

Later on in high school, I went out for cross-country and track, preferring to push my endurance rather than bump and bruise with other egotistic numskulls in contact sports on the court or field. I used the time running to think about what mattered to me and organize my thoughts. I became fairly good, reaching a personal best of a 5:00 mile. I was competing against myself, and it was very good for my health and self-esteem. I have continued to enjoy the health benefits of this type of activity. I have run seven marathons, many half-marathons, and other races of lesser length. I have climbed many high mountains, and I love to hike and camp.

One of my favorite recent books, An Education For Our Time, by Josiah Bunting, stresses the value of contact sports. And truly, there must be something to what he is saying. For him, contact sports allow us to simulate something akin to combat in a non-life-threatening environment. Greek and Roman statesmen believed the same to be true. So did the chivalric orders of the middle ages. And almost any formal classical education contains the physical study of warfare and team sports in the curriculum.

So why does the church ball experience, or the NBA, the NFL, etc, etc, not seem to measure up to what Josiah Bunting has to say? Why does it seem like such a negative experience for me whenever the stakes are raised? And why did my dad like his own sports experiences when he was younger?

I believe that the experience that Josiah Bunting and my dad value is more difficult to find in organized athletics today. There are several elements necessary for the experience to have the same educational power that it once did.
  • The game must focus on the fundamentals. Every sport has a certain set of basic guidelines as to how it is played.
  • Players must be willing to respect the rules of the game. If a rule is broken, or a foul is committed, all agree that there are consequences.
  • The team must employ strategy and stick to their gameplan.
  • It's about teamwork, and not about the individual. Players shouldn't seek personal glory, but team success.
  • It's not all about winning. In a contest of two teams, one team comes out on top. But the other team needs to take defeat with honor. You learn as much from losing, maybe even more than winning.
  • You need to seek physical excellence from the game. It is a great opportunity to be physically agile and strong.
  • There must be integrity on the part of every participant, the players, the coaches, and the officials.
  • In the end, each participant needs to remember that it is just a game. They should be able to shake hands and congratulate each other and then return to the activities of normal life better for the experiences they have had.
I think that these types of sports can have value, but I've met many men who feel the same way I do about them - they have little or no value to their lives. And that is truly unfortunate.

As for me, I think I will avoid these experiences, for the most part, and stick to my running. For the warfare study, I'll keep paintball and shooting as a big part of my personal field of focus. And of course I will occasionally enjoy a backyard game, just like the old days.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Jackrabbit Factor

I arrived home in time to share dinner with the family and then The Queen and my oldest Prince shipped off to the church for different activities. I remained behind to shepherd the other four through dinner, some playtime, and finally bedtime. They are all in bed. The Queen and Prince aren't home yet.

The youngest sat in his chair and ate peas and carrots while I finished a book.

Today I read an amazing little book called The Jackrabbit Factor, by Leslie Householder. I was already familiar with The Secret, having purchased a copy of the DVD about a year ago. They both expound on a concept known as the Law of Attraction. The nice thing about The Jackrabbit Factor is that it is written from the perspective of a Christian. A lot of people who saw The Secret express concern that it takes God out of the equation (I don't agree with that perspective - I liked it) and so The Jackrabbit Factor can help them to understand the ideas, if they will listen.

For anybody interested, I will just refer to Leslie's website:

Happy reading!

Monday, January 21, 2008

What a Storm

Winter blew in a blizzard today - fortunately it was a holiday for many. Even so, my normal 30-minute commute became almost an hour. The most amazing thing I saw was the guy in the rear-wheel drive Trans Am, spun off on the downward sloping shoulder, one hand holding the cell phone to his ear, and the rear wheels spinning at high RPM, slush flying everywhere. Clearly not much winter driving experience there...

I have already taken my boys to the nearest large parking area to spin around and get the feel of what it takes to control a vehicle when the traction is greatly reduced - I intend to do a lot more of the same as the years go by.

Today was a very busy day at work, but a fairly good day after arriving home. The cold kept the boys from spending much time outside, but they built a clubhouse under the back deck from wood and snow. We enjoyed conversation over dinner, then moved on to Family Home Evening, which we try to remember every Monday night. There Mom shared a lesson on opening our hearts to the Savior, and the boys took time to recount what they had done throughout the day. After a couple of silly games, we enjoyed some chocolate chip cookies and moved into the bedtime routine.

All but the youngest are neatly tucked into their beds, and the house is mostly calm and quiet.

Today I read A Train to Potevka by Mike Ramsdell, who grew up in my hometown. It's an easy read - sort of a spy thriller mixed up with a story of personal redemption.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I Am A Nerd - How About You?

I am nerdier than 98% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!



* First used in Dr. Seuss’s book If I Ran the Zoo (1950) as the name of an imaginary animal.

And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Katroo
And bring back an It-Kutch, a Preep and a Proo,
A Nerkle, a Nerd and a Seersucker too!

* Possibly from Mortimer Snerd, the name of Edgar Bergen’s ventriloquist dummy.
* Possibly from the acronym N.E.R.D. on the pocket protectors of employees of the company Northern Electric Research and Developments; it should be noted, however, that speculative etymologies based on acronyms are almost always false (such as “port out, starboard home” for “posh” and “to insure promptness” for “tip”) and are known as backronyms.
* Possibly a pronunciation of the word “drunk” spelled in reverse (“knurd”), used to mean a person who does not drink at parties; however, this seems somewhat contrived.

nerd (plural nerds)

1. (slang, derogatory) A person who, although having good technical or scientific skills, is introspective and introverted

* (socially unaccepted person, all are slang and derogatory) dag (Australian), dork, dweeb, geek, loser, twerp

The NerdTests' Space Quiz says I'm an Uber Space Nerd.  What kind of space nerd are you?  Click here! says I'm a Cool Nerd God.  What are you?  Click here!

The Five Lessons

I just finished a great little book entitled The Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me about Life and Wealth. It fits right in with a lot of other things I am focusing on right now. It was authored by Richard Paul Evans, bestselling author of The Christmas Box. To summarize the book, these principles are the keys for truly wealthy people throughout the ages, and if we follow the five lessons or principles, we will be free to focus on God, family, and relationships.

So, the five lessons are:
  1. Lesson One - Decide to Be Wealthy
    1. Thoughts become reality
  2. Lesson Two - Take Responsibility for Your Money
    1. Know how much money you have
    2. Know where your money comes from
    3. Know where your money is going
    4. Know what your money is doing
  3. Lesson Three - Keep a Portion of Everything You Earn
    1. Start and Build a Nest Egg
  4. Lesson Four - Win in the Margins
    1. With Extra Income
    2. With Savings
      1. Mind-Set One - the Millionaire Mentality Carefully Considers Each Expenditure
        1. Is this expenditure really necessary? (Or is it possible to get the same personal effect without using money or using less of it?)
        2. Is this expenditure contributing to my wealth or taking from it?
        3. Is this an impulse purchase or a planned purchase? Am I being pressured to make an expenditure I'm not certain about?
      2. Mind-Set Two - the Millionaire Mentality Believes That Freedom and Power Are Better Than Momentary Pleasure
      3. Mind-Set Three - the Millionaire Mentality Does Not Equate Spending With Happiness
        1. The successful nest egger fosters gratitude as a strategy against materialism and unhappiness
      4. Mind-Set Four - The Millionaire Mentality Protects the Nest Egg
        1. Is the person I'm trusting with my wealth sufficiently skilled to handle my money?
  5. Lesson Five - Give Back
    1. Share what you have and what you know with others - it will come back to you multiplied
I'll post some links later for those who might be interested in more information along this line of conversation.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Time With the Boys

I am at home with the boys, having a great time, while our Queen is at a board meeting for an organization that directly impacts our boys. She is there in an attempt to influence a change in the organizational bylaws.

Meanwhile, our youngest little Prince (almost 10 months old) is playing at my feet, jabbering a lot, looking up at me for my reaction as he grabs some new item, masticates on it a bit, studies it, etc. He is delightful to be around. He was quite sick on our recent vacation, and then his voice almost completely went away for a couple of days here at home, but he seems to be feeling a lot better.

The other four boys have two of their young friends over to play, and they are all downstairs. I can hear my oldest officiating and setting down the rules for some make-believe scenario from Harry Potter.

I spent a few hours today in the neighborhood garage. My friend Tiny has a great shop at his house where we often gather to do man stuff (work on cars, make repairs to some piece of machinery, create a new invention, watch a movie on the surround sound theater, make something that goes boom, etc.) Two other friends had lined up to make quick repairs to their vehicles. The first repair went rather quickly - it was done shortly after I arrived. The second repair took longer - we replaced the master brake cylinder and bled it, pulled the rear wheels and replaced the rear bearings, and I had to return back home to hang out with my boys before we were finished.

The Queen and I discussed my efforts and thoughts about change last night. My plan is beginning to come together. I will work hard on having positive interactions with my boys every day, avoiding (as much as possible) anger and other negative emotions. And I will make an accounting for these interactions frequently in this forum, thereby making myself accountable for my progress to all who follow this thread. Furthermore, I am going to encourage the older two boys to post occasionally to the blog. As the project continues, I anticipate that we will write a book about our journey (maybe 1-2 years down the road.)

I fully expect this to be a phenomenal journey, and I expect that we will learn many things that will benefit other people if they are willing to listen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Resonant Leadership and Presence

My latest reads have been "Resonant Leadership" and "Presence." My observation is that they run in a similar vein with the materials I have read from the Arbinger Institute (Bonds That Make Us Free, Leadership and Self-Deception, etc.).

The first step in making important changes is always to recognize the need for a change. That is where I am at. I am not a bad person, but I recognize the need for change - I just have to make the change. It is important to clarify that I have had this realization - from the stories and examples I read, apparently few people reach that realization. The next step is to envision clearly where I want and need to go and what steps are needed to get there. Accountability is key in the process - I have to identify others to whom I can be accountable and make sure they hold me responsible for commitments I make.

Here is what is at stake: I believe we are all destined for greatness, but unfortunately the system in which we live tends to mold us into mediocrity. What mission is in the destiny of Rex Vallis? Unless I take the steps I am outlining above, I will never know, because I will live a life of mediocrity.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Search for Patience

Vacation Day Seven:

Vacations - these are the times that try mens' souls. Today was day seven of a family vacation.

(The "try mens' souls" comment was taken wrong by my Queen - it was merely meant as a humorous attempt to convey the difficulty that I allude to a few paragraphs below - I love to vacation with my family.)

This one did not involve flying - we loaded everybody up into the family chariot (minivan) and made the journey of less than 300 miles. We are owners in Worldmark, a timeshare of sorts, and we booked a 3-bdrm condo many months in advance. It's a good way to travel, because it provides you with a sort of home away from home, rather than cramming everybody into hotel rooms.

Anyway, we have made the best of this one, in spite of some rather acute colds, coughs, etc. We have spent time in State and National Parks, and really spent a great deal of time outdoors enjoying the relatively warm weather (it was single digits at night at home, whereas the nighttime low here at the condo wasn't quite freezing, and the daytime high today was over 60 degrees.)

My biggest challenges come with the chemistry between myself and my two oldest sons, who are 9 and 7 years old. It is a constant rivalry, never letting up for more than a few hours at a time. This becomes more apparent to me since I spend more constant time with them on vacation, and since even a large condo like this is tighter quarters than our home. I realize that it is completely natural, and will most likely find a good outcome in the way of boys growing and learning, but the constant at-each-others-throats just gets under my skin so badly that I can't let it go - I am constantly intervening and probably not helping. The intervention is probably needed - just not in the form that I usually employ. I get angry, often yell, take away privileges, etc, etc. I am convinced that I will get this figured out - just haven't found my touch yet.

Tomorrow is the journey home. Thank goodness for DVD players.

(An editorial comment after arriving home - the rivalry continued in the backseat of the van - and the DVD player was cut off for periods of time in an attempt to control behavior - I'm not sure who suffered more, the boys or the parents!)