Friday, March 27, 2009

Hans' Pinewood Derby Experience

It started last year.

Hans, our youngest son, had just finished dead last in his first Pinewood Derby. He wasn' t upset, exactly (he always has a good spirit about him), but we could tell he was a little disappointed. That year his dad helped him.

This year, he asked his stepdad to help. The pressure was on!

On to 2009. Two weeks ago, Hans was surfing the net for Pinewood Derby racer styles and came across a racing carrot! He loved it and decided that was the style for him.

So last Saturday, in preparation for the this year's race, Hans and I gathered our pine block, wheels, and axles, and headed to the home (and shop) of our good friend, Jeff Dahl. Jeff and I walked Hans through the initial phase of shaping. We had Hans draw the pencil outlines, taught him to use a bandsaw, and then he cut the basic outline. He and I then whittled it into carrot shape, sanded it down, and - voila! - a carrot appeared. The best part is that Hans did almost all of this himself.

We then brought it home for painting. Hans did all of that, too, but Ellie made a really fun and cute rabbit out of clay looking as though it were hanging on for dear life to something going really fast! It was extremely creative (we have very talented children). She baked it in the oven and then glued it on the back of the carrot. At about that same time we happened to run into our next door neighbor, Rod Farrington, who, unbeknownst to us, was a Pinewood Derby expert. Even more coincidentally, his brother Mark actually created some years ago a Pinewood Derby instructional video that was commercially available for sale!

Well, Rod's eyes lit up when he saw our carrot. He thought it was great and wanted to help. But all we had left to do were the most important parts - the weighting and the wheels.

Rod gave us lots of advice and we put together a final version that was real nice looking and perfectly weighted - but didn't roll straight! We then went down to his brother Mark's shop (he lives only a couple of miles away) and added Mark's expertise to the mix. The long and short of all of this is that we started over again! We got a new block and Hans once again did all the cutting and painting but this time we cut out better axles for the wheels, making the racer roll straight. By the time we were done with version two, it was a lean, mean racing carrot machine!

Last night was the race.

You could cut the tension with a knife. (not really)

The boys were ready for blood! (just kidding)

All the other dads were worse than Little League dads. (not so much)

The Carrot took second in its first two heats. Hans was pleased, but the competitive bug had overtaken him!

We added some strategic graphite to the wheels and a little to the bottom of the body so it would glide without resistance when it rode atop the racetrack's wooden guides.

He then promptly won every other heat for the rest of the night!

Race after race, each boy complained when they were put in the same heat as the now nefarious carrot. Even some dads began to question the tactics of this virgin Pinewood Derby dad.

But everything we did was legal and by the book!

Finally, after the cumulative times had all been calculated, Hans took FIRST PLACE!

Needless to say, Hans was very happy. Ellie was almost as thrilled, since her rabbit strode the crest of the winner. In fact we all shared in the victory and the fun.

There was a wonderful spirit there and some good natured teasing with the other dads.

It was GREAT!

Get ready NASCAR!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Utah Legislature and the Aftermath

The 2009 General Session of the Utah Legislature ended last March 12. It was one of the most successful sessions personally I have ever been a part of. We at the Salt Lake Chamber were successful in getting almost everything passed we wanted, most of which was focused on getting construction jobs restored through increased highway and building construction funding, an incentive to get people to buy new homes, and restoring funding to two great projects, USTAR and the World Trade Center Utah. We were also successful at amending some troublesome bills regarding guns in the workplace, excessive damage rewards for trial lawyers, and slowing down the so-called "Card Check" initiative.

Overall, the Utah Legislature did a great job. First and foremost, it balanced Utah's budget. The Utah Constitution requires the state to balance, so the Legislature and the Governor can NOT deficit spend, unlike our friends at the federal level (who simply print more money when it suits them). In order to accomplish this, the Utah Legislature reduced anticipated state agency budgets by an average of 8% WITHOUT dipping into its savings account (known as the "Rainy Day Fund"). It also did so without raising any taxes, although it did raise the motor vehicle registration fee by $20 per vehicle. Through all of this, it restored key construction projects and the 16,000 plus jobs that go with them, it passed reasonable liquor law reform (including eliminating private clubs, which have always been stupid, in my view), and it did NOT pass more stupid immigration laws. All in all, I was very proud to be part of that process.

At the same time I was able to land a brand new client, renew another one, and place myself in a good position to pick up two or three more in the next few months.

The day after the session ended Trish and I attended Carl Paulsen's birthday party at his and Carol Jean's home. We had a nice dinner, great conversation, and Stewart paid a very moving tribute to his Dad. It was great to see all of them. They are such a wonderful family. I am proud and honored to be part of them.

The next morning Trish and I went to Las Vegas where we stayed in our Westgate timeshare. On the way down we spent the night at the home of my cousins Kenneth and Becky Gull in St. George. We are not, of course, gamblers, so one could ask why did we go to Las Vegas? Well, it was cheap. It was also warm (70 degrees every day we were there). And we got to sit by a pool each day.

For Family Home Evening :) we saw the show "Love" with Cirque du Soleil and featuring Beatles music. We loved it! What a great soundtrack. And those acrobats of Cirque are simply amazing! The next day we toured the new Westgate Towers on the Strip and upgraded our timeshare, buying more space and shifting from Park City to Orlando. Then they gave us a ride back to our resort in a stretch limo (a first for both of us).

The best part, though, was getting away to spend quality time together. It was a great getaway!

Draper Temple - Dedicated

The Draper Temple was dedicated in a series of 12 dedication sessions over three days - March 20, 21, and 22. After the months of open house activities and service opportunities, it is nice to finally see "our" temple opened. Trish served the morning of the first day of dedication sessions, March 20. She was privileged to serve as an usher right outside the Celestial Room. She got to meet President Monson and President Eyring.
We then attended the dedication session on Sunday morning at 9 am. We got to watch it from the marriage waiting room on TV screens. We were privileged to sit next to our bishop, Ted Hill, and his wife Becky. Later that afternoon we took the children to a dedication session that was broadcast to our Stake Center. One of the highlights of the day was Trish and Ellie (and to a lesser extent, Peter) manually personalizing all of our white handkerchiefs with embroidering.
For both of us and our children, this has been a wonderful opportunity to serve, to get to now so many more of our neighbors, and to re-dedicate ourselves to the House of the Lord. Trish and I have already scheduled a time to visit in two weeks.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Draper Temple

We have been very involved in the Draper Temple Open House. Trish and Robin attended an early "VIP" open house reception on January 13, where the First Counselor in Robin's former Stake Presidency acted as a personal tour guide inside the temple. Our stake was also asked to provide volunteers on January 19, February 17, and March 20, the opening day of the dedication. Robin has served three volunteer shifts so far - two as a member missionary host and one as part of a security team, watching the temple from 10 pm to 2 am. Trish has served one member missionary shift with Robin and will serve again as an usher on March 20. We took the kids through on January 23 and Trish took a non-member friend through last Thursday.

It is a beautiful temple. In two of the rooms there are original wall murals that are absolutely gorgeous. The baptismal font is spectacular. The wedding prep and waiting rooms are very nice and can accommodate a large number of weddings. But otherwise this temple is very small. It will serve a smaller but more focused population. It will require more volunteers and fewer paid staff to clean and repair. Sessions will be by appointment only. It is clear that Draper and Sandy residents will be given a keen sense of ownership of this temple.

We forget here along the Wasatch Front how blessed we are with these big temples that are the workhorses for the entire Church. We are looking forward to a new and more intimate relationship with this new temple.

"Everything Happens When You Turn 12!"

Ellie, our 11-year-old who will be 12 on May 7, was so excited yesterday at Church when she discovered that she would be eligible to participate in the upcoming Draper Temple Celebration for the youth in the new Draper Temple District. The event will be held in the Conference Center on May 29 and 30. Rehearsals begin March 18 at Mutual and will continue each Wednesday until the performance. Because she will officially join Young Women in the middle of preparations for the celebration, she has been asked to start coming to Mutual on March 18. She loves to dance and sing and so when she found out she was going to start Mutual a bit early, she exclaimed "Everything happens when you turn 12!"

There are 19,000 youth in the temple district. Each stake will have 5-10 minutes on stage. That's it. Even so, it will be a wonderful experience for our youth.

We attended the First Birthday party for Keaton Riggs yesterday at Micah and Amanda's. It was really fun. Keaton was head first into the cake. What a cute little guy! They have done a wonderful job with their home. The basement is a great family room for all occasions. Robin arrived late to the party, having attended the annual meeting of his High Priests Quorum. The subject of the meeting was temple work, very timely, given that we are all so involved in the dedication coming up on March 20-22. At the meeting, Bishop Hill told him that he was where he needed to be - in a place where he can continue to strengthen his spiritual armor on behalf of his family. It was a very insightful comment.