What's In This Blog

I created this blog for my journal. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In this blog I keep many of the things I come across as a member of the church. I also share my experiences on the ACE Train and getting to work, my experiences in Manteca where we have lived for three years, and other things I think are noticeable.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Baby Pictures; I'm a Grandpa


With Mark

Two Week Old Pictures

Pictures of Mark's baby, Elliot Wilford, born December 13, 2011, 20 inches 7 pounds 10 ounces.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Life in Manteca 31: Christmas Weekend

Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Story  Sheri has decided that she does no want to have to make elaborate meals on Christmas day, so we have our big meal Christmas Eve.  This year Sheri went all out with spiral ham and the trimmings, which included a banana cream pie I made, and other cream pies and cheesecake pie Sheri made.  There of course was potatoes and gravy and vegetables.  Anthony and Charity came over, and spent the evening with us.  They had o go home however, as they were singing a duet in their church in the morning.

We mixed our Christmas pageant up a little this year.  Tony was cast as Joseph with Miranda as Mary. Tony insisted he needed a mustache.  (Perhaps he has seen a movie with Joseph with a mustache, I don't know.)  SHeri used mascare, and it turned out very well.  Sheri and I were shepherds.  (A much better part than the donkey which is my usual role.)  Caleb was the angel and Anthony and Charity were the wise men.  (They were Mary and Joseph last year as they had been marred just a week.)  We took turns reading and narrating, when we were not on stage.  We used a doll for baby Jesus.  We could not find our manger after the move, so had to improvise.

After the pageant, we had the opening of pajamas and then into the car for a turn around town to look at lights.  We were most impressed with the lights at the corner of Cottage and Southland.  We are told tere is a home with a very large display annually in Manteca, however this year the owner of the home sustained and injury and could not put them up.  Next year I look forward to seeing them. 
It was then home and to bed.  Sheri and I were tired enough we played Santa early the next morning.

I was up at 4:30 to put the stockings together, and we had Christmas presents at 6.  We were on a time-line as Caleb and I were singing with the choir with an early rehearsal.  We skyped with Jeremy and Kayla, and as a result also had my mom for some of our gift exchange.  Tony was spoiled, Miranda had already gotten most of her before Christmas, Caleb added safety equipment for his long board.
The choir sang it church, and sacrament meeting was short and sweet.  We sang "Still a Bach Christmas"  This was a medley of several songs.  We also sang "Silent is the Night."  Christmas then turned into a lazy day with some game playing and movie watching.

Monday was a holiday for me, and Tuesday was a day off.  However I don't remember doing much in particular.  Caleb went long boarding with Lane McMurtry.  I was back to work on Wednesday.

Movie Night: ***Peter Pan; ***The Lady Vanishes, ****Anatomy of a Murder, ***Skinwalkers

***^Peter Pan 2003,  Available though Intant Netflix.  This movie follows the story of Peter Pan quite well, but puts a bit darker spin on it.  This spin is accomplished by the characters being a bit rougher, and meaner than the characters in other versions of Peter Pan.  It also plays on the idea of believing leading t being able to continue an over come.  There is a scene where Peter loses is faith that Wendy likes him and believes in him, and consequently he begins to loss his battle with Captain Hook.
***The Lady Vanishes 1938: This is an old Alfred Hitchcock available through Instant Netflix.  It's a  spy story, but you don't realize this until the show is almost the end of the show.  What you do know is that a woman has vanished, and her new acquaintance is looking for her.  However everyone else on the train tells her there is no such person.  However, the young woman looking for her gains an ally, and together they not only avoid people after them, but also eventually figure out what is gong on.
****Anatomy of a Murder 1959.  This movies came via Netflix DVD.  This is a James Stewart movie.  It is very much like a "Perry Mason" which I noted began as a t.v. series in 1957.  Jimmy Stewart is at his best, and the movie is very entertaining.  There is a murder committed, and a person who knows that he did it, but claims temporary insanity based on his discovering that the victim had raped his wife.
***Skinwalkers  2002 PBS.  This movie is available through Netflix DVD.  It is not one of the horror films with the same name.  It is based on the Tony Hillerman novel and is a crime show based on the Navajo Reservation.  As such there is spectacular scenery.  The story is quite intense, and there is a definite twist in terms of who is the killer in the end.  There is a detective, as well as an officer working with him, who is also in training to become a medicine man.  I really enjoyed this show, and the look at the Navajo culture, which is part of the theme of the show.  How close the diferent officers are to their cultures, as well as the wife of the detective, makes for an interesting story.  Also part of the theme is medicine men vs. traditional medicine.

Christmas Creches

New this year

This is a sample of Sheri's creches.  After seeing the Palo Alto exhibit, Sheri started collecting her own; and we add one or two or three every year.  Of course they are not as nice as some at the exhibit, but they remind us of Jesus at the Christmas season.  I think she has over thirty now.

home made, or relief society made
One of Sheri's favorites
Upper right is our first, that Sara gave us for a wedding present, After 28 years only three pieces left

Movie Time: Christmas Movies

***^Santa Claus I  I have always liked this movie, and the play on words from different Christmas poems and how they fit in.  I also liked the elves and the magic.  The Elf security team is a bit overboard, but a fun show.
**^Santa Claus II  The second movie goes a bit too far, with the toy
Santa who takes over the workshop.  The battle between the toys and the elves is mostly just stupid.  However the battle between the two Santas is classic, and the romancing of a Mrs. Claus is fun.
***Santa Claus III  I had never watched this movie before, and was pleasantly surprised.  I enjoyed it more than number two.  Mr. Frost is so evil, until he is warmed by Julie's magical hug.  This was a fun show
***Elf  I have always thought this was just a stupid setting to give Will Ferrell a platform to do stupid stuff.  I must admit, it has that element which kept me from really watching it.  I finally did this year, and the story is really cute.  My favorite character is the fellow elf at the department store.  She adds a touch of beauty and class to the show. 
***The Christmas Story  This is a classic tail available through DVD delivery fro Netflix.  The scene of the cold flagpole and the tongue is a classic.  I still makes me laugh.  I came close to doing the same thing as a child on a dare.  However, when my tongue pulled started to seal to the pole, and pulled back and only lost a few cells of tongue skin, and did not become firmly attached.  You would think the firefighters would have unsealed his tongue with some warm water rather than giving the kid such a jerk.  This is still a fun story.  "You'll shoot your eyes out kid.
 **^DreamWorks: Holiday Classics  This presentation is available through Instant Netflix.  It has four different shorts; two presenting the Madagascar characters, then a Donkey Shrek-tacular, and finally a film with "Dragons" and the characters of "How to Train Your Dragon."  Of these films, that one that captured the holiday spirit is one of the penguins in Central Park Zoo "Madagascar Penguins and a Holiday Caper."  The private of the penguins, notices that the polar bear is all alone, and so he determines to get him a Christmas present.  He has to leave the lair secretly, and gets into trouble himself as he is sold as a chew toy to an old woman.  The other penguins come to his rescue and they perform a holiday service for the bear.  The only redeeming song from Donkey is Puss N' Boots singing Fleas Navidad.
****A Christmas Memory:  This is a made for t.v. movie featuring Patty Duke and Eric Lloyd (Charlie in Santa Clause.)  This is an enjoyable tale of Truman as a boy being raised by four older aunts and uncle.  He has a special relationship with one of the aunts, and they make fruitcake for everyone (30 cakes which they deliver or mail.)  It is also a story of moving on as one of the aunts arranges for him to go to military school.  his is a very good holiday movie
***^Christmas Story:  This is a Finnish film, and it is a very good story explaining where their Santa Claus came from.  He is an orphan, who is finally adopted by a carpenter.  The carpenter not only teaches him the trade, but also leaves him a chest of money.  He then starts as a toymaker who wants to leave toys for everyone, and finishes with a bit of magic.
**The Family Stone:  This movie was not only predictable, it belittled those who didn't agree with the moral standards of the movie calling them assholes.  The story is pleasant, but I don' think I will ever watch it again.
*****It's a Wonderful Life:   A movie for annual consumption.  My favorite part is when they say George is the richest man in the world.  That line chokes me up for some reason.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Music Review:Christmas concerts (to mmboe)

This season I ha e enjoyed finding and recording concerts with the DVR.  This has mostly included PBS and BYUTV.  BYU TV usually replays a **Christmas concert from some past year.  This is usually good, but not thrilling.  PBS showed last year's ***^Tabernacle Choir concert with David Archuleta and Michael York.  This is a very nice concert with jumping dancers.  Miranda has watched it several times as she is an Archuleta fan.  He really likes "Joy to the World" and the descant he sings.  Michael York tells the story of the choir, as well as the Christmas story.

Of course I have watched all the Christmas Tabernacle Choir *****"Music and the Spoken Word" presentations.  They are all fine, with bells and dancing.  The one I most enjoyed was Jane Seymour guest narrator telling the Christmas story.  But there is one every Sunday morning at 9:30 in California.  As this is church time I record them.  They concluded this with their program yesterday.  They concluded with Lloyd Newell talking of "Away in a Manger."  This is one of my favorite.

The worse concert I recorded was the (no stars) Tree Lighting at the White House.  They had an African Choir, The Sons of Judah, which was so out of tune, and so out of balance with the men trying to compete with the women, that it was painful.  Not even a military jazz band, Santa Claus and Kermit the frog could save this mess.  It ended up being a commercial for talking about bringing the troops home.

I also recorded a Christian university music program, ***^"Christmas at Belmont."  This is a Nashville based choir.  They presented several Nigerian and African carols which were really  very moving.  The interspersed orchestral and band music throughout and it was very well done.

A Lutheran University, **"Christmas at Concordia" showed a different religious orientation.  This choir bogged down in slow moving hymns and was not as enjoyable.

I also recorded **Bells at Temple Square.  I did not enjoy this as much as I missed vocal music.  The bells, after a few number just stimulated my tinnitus, so I gave it up.  I also recorded the **Bell Family Christmas concert.  There is something I don't like about them.  Perhaps it is that they come across as too perfect, I don't know.  It just seems fake to me.

Last I recorded Andrea Bocelli and David Foster, ****"My Christmas."  It is very fun to listen to Andrea Bocelli.  They had a full orchestra behind them and sometimes a small choir.  Bocelli sings with such a clear and pure voice, it is very enjoyable.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Life in Manteca 30: Week Before Christmas

Sorry this is coming out so late, but I had some computer issues.  Computer is now fine, so let me write about the last couple weeks. 
Miranda passed her driver license test, on the first try, and is now a fully licensed driver.
The week before Christmas was eventful.  The Saturday was highlighted by a trip to Temple Hill to see the Nutcracker Ballet.  A coworker's daughter was in the performance, and had gotten us tickets.  It was a children's performance, but even so it was very entertaining.  They had a character as the author of the book, who came out and told what was going to happen.  This made it easier to follow.  The only confusing thing was they had two Claras.  One was older and could do more complicated dances, while the other portrayed her most of the time except for a couple of scenes.  They had modified some of the dances for children, but this didn't detract at all from the story and the good time.  Our party was myself, Caleb, Alyssa, Tiago and Miranda.  Five Guys for burgers, fries and peanuts on the way home.

This Saturday was also marked by Ken's graveside services.  They were in Modesto, and there were at least 30 people from our old ward there.  It was good to see Liza and her kids, Lizzy, Duncan, Rory and Walker.  Walker is so tall now.  Martin, who is on a mission, was not there.  We sat with the Jefferys from our current ward. 
uk, Liza, Laurie Ainge, Ruth Gardner, Sheri, Andra McCormick, Viviana Dorff and Charron Perry Barney
Sunday I taught the Christmas story for the last lesson of the year.  There was one extra week, as we had gotten to the end, so this is the lesson I chose to go back to.  I love the Christmas story, that the Lord of us all would come to Earth as a baby in the most humble of circumstances.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Condescension of God; Christmas Song

The Condescension of God

Behold, the condescension of God!

Joseph leads the donkey, Going from door to door,
Pleading, my wife is with child, Can’t you spare room and board?
No room, no room.  No room!
Mary on the donkey’s back, Opens not her mouth to complain,
But Joseph can see in her face, Contractions are causing pain.
No room, no room.  No room!

No wait, I have a spot, Where I keep the cattle and grain.
Nice, it is not; But it will keep you from the wind and rain.

Behold the birthplace of our Lord!

Joseph cleans out the filth, With fresh straw lines the stall,
Helps his wife off the donkey’s back, steadies her to avoid a fall.
Mary and Joseph, alone in the night, Naught but animals looking on,
 Will be the first to hear the baby cry before the dawn.

Behold the angels sang!  Behold the angels sang!
Glory to God on High, and on earth peace, good will to men.
Glory to God, and on earth peace, good will to men.
Shepherds heard their song and went to see
The babe in a manger laid; The King of men to be.

Father, hold me up, So I too can see.
Father, there are tears in your eyes.  What is it you see?

Behold the lamb of God, the Savior of us all.
Behold the lamb of God, is today born in this stall.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Life in Manteca 29: Another Christmas Weekend

This was a longer weekend with lots of fun.  we started the weekend early, on Thursday, as Sheri brought the kids to San Jose and we went to the Cupertino High School winter concert.  It was great.  The stage was decorated with poinsettias.  We missed getting them this year.  The music was great as always.  The highlight was the harpist.  She played a solo, but even more fun was the song she played with women's advanced choir.  She was really strumming as the choir sang.  She is very talented. There were some fun song, "Fa La La La La" making a parody of Deck the Halls which Capella sang and Men's Chorale sang a song about mistletoe.  Tony was very good during the concert.  He really like Carol of the Bells and has been singing his version around the house.
  This is a link for the song when Jeremy was in the choir.

Friday saw me decorating my office, something I haven't done ever I think.  Friday Alyssa and Caleb did their own Winter Formal as Saturday when the high school had Winter Formal they were both busy.  I picked them up at De Vega Brothers Restaurant and took them to the bowling alley.  Then they came to our house for dancing.

Saturday was highlighted by the ward party.  Tony participated in the reenactment of the nativity story.  Caleb sang "O Little Town of Bethlehem" by himself and we all sang other congregational songs to go along with the story.  We finished with the Bishop bearing his testimony.  It was a fun evening.

We had planned a family party Sunday, but the Normans came down with the flu so it was cancelled.  However Charity and Anthony came over to eat part of the pot luck items.  We had green salad, chicken enchiladas, yummy potatoes and baked beans.  I enjoyed the combination.  With he cancellation of the party, I went to the Messiah concert performed by the Turloch Stake.  It was an enjoyable evening and I have had the songs going trough my head the last few days.  The did the "Last Trumpet" with a very good trumpeter.  I missed that they did not sing "Worthy is the Lamb."  The ended with the "Hallelujah Chorus."  Tony (who was going t stay over with Charity and then changed his mind, said at the end "Forever is really long."  He's fun.  He and I spent the concert in the foyer.  I also sang "Oh Holy Night during Sacrament meeting earlier in the day.  The sad think about going to the Messiah Concert is we missed the Baer family when the came over caroling.  Sheri and the older kids were home. 

We continued our weekend on Monday.  We held a family-sing-along concert and invited a few other families over.  We had 33 people here (if my counting is accurate.)  I think that is a record for us.  The Binghams, Peterson, Halls, Larsons family across the street and us.  Lots of children close to Tony's age so he was happy.  Sheri made him sing the first five songs and then he was upstairs in his bedroom with his friends.  We all had a really fun time, and sang a bunch of songs.  Miranda played piano.  We let her rest a couple songs and Caleb played guitar and ukulele.  We potlucked cookies.  Miranda made cupcakes.  My only regret is a lack of pictures. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Music Review: ***The King's Singers (to mmboe)


Caught a concert of the King's Singers on BYUTV.  I had never heard of them before.  They re a very good acapella group with bass, 2  baritones, 2 tenors and I high tenor.  Ocassionally the bass does percussion.  I was so impressed with their "Tis a Gift to be Free" that i have included a link to a Christmas version of the song.  As for the concert, I enjoyed most of it.  There was a song they did with a BYU chorus which was just too much something for me, but the concert had humor, and great harmony.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Life in Manteca 28: A Christmas Weekend

This weekend was busy with Christmas movies, date and parade.  We had Jesse with us for the weekend, and he is more than a match for both Sheri and I as he is a two-year-old tease who can get any place.  He was climbing shelves to get a better crack at Christmas decorations on a higher shelf.

Friday started with a WinCo trip.  We needed cereal and fruit, and they sell both at better prices than anyplace else I've found. I had Jesse so Sheri met me there coming home from work.  Miranda was babysitting in Tracy and she had to run her.

Saturday we tried to stay ahead of Jesse.  He would dump toys with the words, "mess."  He is talking so big now.  He got every Christmas tree ornament in reach.  He is a funny guy.  He would bump the inside of the car and say "ouch" and when I asked if he was OK he would laugh and laugh.  His laugh is infectious. 

Saturday was a cleaning day.  Caleb had Natalie over with her date, and Alyssa.  They went to Bass Pro Shop but didn't wait in line for Santa Claus.  They came home with ginger bread houses decorating kits and had a competition against each other as couples decorating.

Saturday at five was off to the Christmas parade in Manteca.  There were many floats, and bands.  I really enjoyed the bands.  The theme of the floats was Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.  Tony like the "robots" which were the vendors as he thought they looked like robots.  We saw President Crockett and the Larsons.  We were by Taco Bell, and they had a long potty line when I took Tony.  He was barely able to hold on.  The parade concluded with Santa Claus in a fire engine.  We enjoyed both the Sierra High School band and the Veritas band and also Annie's band.  We went to the Larsons after and Tony was playing Annie's trombone.  He could actually get noise out of it and change the pitch.  I was impressed.  We picked up McDonalds on the way home to conclude the day.

Sunday started with choir rehearsal.  This is the first eight a.m. and we are having them until Christmas.  We had to take Jesse back to San Jose and planned it so as to go to the Palo Alto Creche Exhibit.  I was most impressed.  They had some creche exhibits so small you needed a magnifying glass, and then there was a life size exhibit that put you in the middle of the scene.  I felt like Mr. Krueger seeing the Christ child in the cave with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds.  I really enjoyed the displays.  I was noticing how there were so many one piece exhibits, meaning the entire manger scene was in one piece and didn't require setting individual pieces. Valpariso Choir sang.

We concluded the evening with friends.  We visited Vern and Karen where we had dinner, and Capri showed us a couple songs, and Cambria helped Tony make some monster puppets.  Terry and Ben were there and dinner was great.  We then visited the Ures at the request of Charity to pick up some old Christmas decorations they had ready for the D.I.

It was a fun weekend in Manteca, Cupertino, Palo Alto and San Jose.

Church Christmas Devotional, 2011


The above link is the the First Presidency Christmas Devotional which can be accessed through LDS.org.  It also includes new videos the Church has produced about the life of the Savior.
As I watched the Christmas devotional, I was touched by the condescension of God.  That the greatest of all would be born in such humble circumstances amazes me.   The video portrays Jesus as a new born babe in the manger, among the animals, and then later as a toddler.  I am so grateful for this gift from God, for Jesus truly is worthy, and as such can also make me, a sinner, worthy.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ken McNeil Passed Away this Morning

Ken and Liza's father in the background
Ken McNeil, one of the best men I have known in my life, and one who improved the life of so many others by his good works and example.


This obituary tells it much better than I could.