Saturday, November 28, 2009


As Mom pointed out in her last comments there are several other vacations that I totally forgot about. Perhaps the most memorable to me is a skiing trip we made to Brighton. We stayed in the lodge at the foot of the ski hill and we could literally ski right onto the balcony and walk into our rooms. Some day I'll dig out some pictures and talk more about that trip. Today I'm going to talk about our trip to Hawaii. The sad part is that this was perhaps our first vacation where we didn't have all the kids. Kira was married and Brandon was on his mission. I had accumulated a lot of air miles on my trips so we cashed about half of them in and off we went with our four youngest children. We had actually considered several other potential vacations and it finally came down to either Nauvoo or Hawaii. When we took the final vote Lisa voted for Nauvoo and the kids and I voted for Hawaii.

Next we discussed in some detail where we should stay. It seemed like everyone always stays in Honolulu around Waikiki but we decided we wanted to get away from it all and after some studying we figured out that most of the real cool beaches are on the north and east shores so we picked out a condo by turtle bay and made that our home base for the week.

If you've ever rented a car before and you're really cheap like I am you will quickly find that Enterprise Rent a Car is about as cheap as you'll get. There's a reason for that, they have the worst service you'll ever find. We landed in Honolulu and got to the rental car place to find that they didn't have a mini van for us. They offered to give us two cars for the price of one but then that would mean that our family would be split up for the week. That didn't sound like a lot of fun to me so we waited; and waited; and waited. Finally a minivan came in and about two hours after we landed we were on our way. We drove up the middle of the island and enjoyed the beautiful view of the mountains, we also drove through some very interesting pineapple plantations. I kind of wanted to go tour a pineapple farm but there were so many other fascinating things in Hawaii that I wanted to see that I knew we wouldn't have time. Our first full day in Hawaii was a Sunday. To keep the spirit of the Sabbath we didn't go swimming and we chose that day to get a feel for the island. We went to BYU Hawaii campus and checked it out. We went to the temple; we found dozens of beaches and scoped out their locations and then we drove up the west coast. That is where many of the locals live and there are no tourist sights over there. We were warned not to do too much over there because some of the locals hate tourists and are known to beat up the occasional tourist now and then. We met up with Scott Warner who was going to school there and attended with him at his student ward. It was very interesting.

It would be impossible for me to remember what activities we did on what days so I will just briefly discuss our days in random order. One day we just went beach hopping. We would go to one beach for a few hours and then hop in the car and go to another beach. Some of these beaches are quite difficult to find and are only visited by the locals. They are beautiful beaches and have very few tourists. They have them all up and down the east coast. Another day we dedicated to boarding
Waimea Bay and the area. On one of those days we went and hiked into a ritual site for the original natives. It was fun traipsing through the jungle and we saw some beautiful sites. Another day we dedicated to Pearl Harbour. You've got to spend at least one day at Pearl Harbour. It is very sobering and I wouldn't do two days because it could put a real downer on your vacation. Probably the highlight of our vacation was the day we spent at the Polynesian Cultural Center. What a wonderful place. You could spend two days there but we made it one very long day. Another day we spent snorkeling in Hanauma Bay that is famous for snorkeling. We saw many wonderfully colorful fish. On one of our beach days we swam with these huge Sea Turtles. It is very freaky when you're snorkeling underwater and they turn and swim toward you. I was sure I was going to get eaten but they were just checking me out. They are big.
We drove into the crater of a dormant volcano. That was pretty cool.

We ended up spending two Sundays on Oahu so the second Sunday we picked a random church meeting to attend. I really like the church meetings they have in Hawaii. After church they had a big pot luck on the back lawn. There was some very good food there and we made many good friends. One summer we sent Ben to a football camp at BYU. His room mate turned out to be a big Hawaiian kid from Laie. As luck would have it, the ward that we attended was having their Ward Conference and the Football kids dad was the stake president and spoke at the sacrament meeting. We introduced ourselves and he invited us over for dinner that evening. They are a very nice family and we enjoyed our visit. They have a beautiful view of the ocean from their house. I far preferred meeting with with the natives over the student ward.

All too soon the week came to an end and we had to drive back to the airport. Usually on these vacations I'm looking forward to going back home and getting into our normal routines but not this time. I was quite sad having to leave the peaceful life we had for the week. It was a very beautiful place and we really enjoyed it. Sadly enough the Lord has arranged it so that we need to earn a living in this world and my employer was expecting me to show up and earn my paycheck. How sad.

At the time of Christ Africa was home to many races including whites, Asians, Pygmies (not considered black) and two races now called Khoisan and Xhosa. The blacks (Bantu) occupied just a corner of Africa. Due to a freak of nature the Bantu's gained a huge advantage over the other races and in a movement that closely parallels the European take over of the America's, the blacks engulfed the majority of Africa pushing the whites to the north, eliminating the Asian's and reducing the Khoisan and Xhosa to small settlements where the blacks didn't want to live much as the native Americans have been pushed to reservations in the deserts and other undesirable localities.

A couple of cute girls I found hanging around the beaches. We were actually looking at a water spout that shot high into the air when the surf came in.

The east coast.

Alex walking along an empty beach.

Three of the prettiest girls I know.

This is a beautiful island.

We found the coconuts fascinating.

More scenery

The snorkeling was incredible.

You can't tell from the picture but this guy was at least five feet from nose to tail. He could really hurt you if he wanted to.

Probably the cutest snorkeler you'll ever see. She really wanted to get out there with us.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


So I think that is pretty much my autobiography. As I remember stories that I want to tell I will probably add them to the account but with Alex heading off to college I’m pretty well current. We used to go on some sort of vacation pretty much every year but as soon as kids hit high school it became very difficult. The first problem was with the kids going to Mount Carmel High School. If you wanted to be in the band program (as Kira was) then marching band was mandatory. In addition, band took up so much time that you couldn’t graduate in four years (at least not with all the University requirements) unless you took summer school. With summer school you couldn’t miss more than two days or else you were dropped from the class. So summer school took up all of July and Marching band took up all of August so out of necessity we were tied close to home. Westview has a better system but if you want to do sports then it is mandatory that you attend summer training. So with summer training, scout camp, girls camp then summer vacation was out. Over the years however there have been a few vacations that we have done as a family that do stick out in my mind. I think I would like to talk briefly about some of those. The problem is that they are all sort of jumbled up in my mind and I'm not sure which memory belongs to which vacation. The other problem is that these early vacations were before digital camera's and all of our print photo's are in boxes and only partially organized. I'm not up to going through all of them looking for photo's so you'll have to do with the pictures that I can easily lay my hands on. On one of our trips we camped at Zion’s Canyon. We hiked up the narrows a little bit and had a blast. The narrows are a portion of the river where it passes between two very steep cliffs. About half of the time you actually have to walk in the river. It was a hot day and walking in the water was a lot of fun. It was also extremely peaceful waking up in the morning and looking out onto the sun shining on the high cliff walls all around us. From Zions canyon we drove through Bryce Canyon but we didn’t really stop for more than to take a good look at the beautiful vistas. On another trip we stopped at Yellowstone Park and camped there. What a beautiful park. They had built a boardwalk out over a large area that had recently been burned in a forest fire so you could see how the vegetation was all growing back. It was fascinating for me to see the geysers and hot pools. I think my favorite was a place where you could sit on the bank of the lake and catch a fish and then turn around and lower your fish (still on the hook) into a hot pool and cook it. On one of our trips to Canada we stopped in at Rosemary and celebrated Canada day with our friends. It was wonderful for the kids to meet up again with old friends. I remember that Alex even won the greased pig contest. I think the locals were a bit upset to see a California boy catch that pig so quickly. I guess Alex still has a lot of the country blood still running through his veins. Of course there was the trip we all made to say goodbye to dad. What a great time it was getting together with all of my brothers and sisters for the first time in a very long while. When we still lived in Rosemary we always stopped in the interior of BC and camped. One of my favorite memories is stopping in those beautiful forests and taking a deep breath of the pine scented air. We always camped in a little tent trailer that I bought from the Gibbs. One time we coordinated with Lisa's Dad and Carol and met up at Shuswap Lake and camped there. That is when they decided to take Kira home with them for a week and then flew her back home to us. So began a tradition. After that when each of our kids turned six they flew them to Vancouver and kept them for a week. That is a tradition I hope I'm able to do with our grandchildren. Another time we drove down the Pacific coast and camped in the Redwoods. Those are some pretty massive trees. We stopped often and found all the cool things like the tree where you can drive your car through it. We also saw the oldest living tree and the world’s tallest tree. The oldest tree probably would have been the world’s tallest tree if it hadn’t been hit by lighting at some point in its life. We camped in the redwoods and in the morning we got to meet the infamous "Banana Slugs". Talk about gross. Those things seriously are the size of a banana. I remember waking up and seeing a huge shadow of something on the outside of our tent. I was quite curious about what it could be. Imagine a slug literally the size of a banana. Gross. We then drove on down the coast stopping various places. We stopped in this one town that Lisa found in her "book. They had several fancy old style houses and stores. The one place where we didn’t stop was the Hearst Castle. We really do want to get to that place some time. We have many wonderful memories and just talking about it makes me want to load up the tent and hit the road. What a shame that we need to earn a living.

The meteor that recently turned night to day over Utah was the size of a washing machine and was traveling about 300,000 miles per hour. If you could drive that fast then a trip from LA to St George would take about 5 seconds.

I wonder why they call these things "banana" slugs?

I have no idea why Ben is carrying the Brooks bands flag. This is the Rosemary parade.

Kira and her good friend Amy in races.

I miss the fire department.

Lets see if I can get everyone's names straight. Left to right: Boyd Shaw, Lori (holding Zoe), Kelly, Carol, Jim, Alex, Sarah, Brandon, Alycia, Zach, Kira (holding Jordan), Ben, Mike, Lynn, Doug, Andrea, Fred (that's me) and Lisa.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I wasn't going to talk about Alex leaving home since he left long after I started blogging. I finally decided that he deserves his own special entry just like the others. Alex is so very different than the other kids in many ways. He usually likes to do things his own way and isn't too interested in what you have to say but in the end if I decide to offer my suggestions he seems quite willing to try them. I have no idea if that is why he is actually the one who has completely followed my advice about dating and college or if that is simply what he wanted to do. While Alex has dated far more than any of the other kids he has only really had one girlfriend. Sure he has had a few girl friends who lasted for a week or two but Mackenzie was a part of our lives for quite some time. It was a sad day in our house when they broke up. We like to joke that we like Mackenzie more than we like Alex. Oh well, teenagers really shouldn't be going steady anyway.

Alex went off to college with no strings attached and as far as I can tell he is following my A, B, C rule completely.

Alex is a combination between Brandon and Ben. He is totally into sports like Ben and played Football, Basketball and Volleyball in High School just like Ben but he also was much more into his academic classes similar to Brandon. He was very social and loved to party like Alycia but also had a bit of a shy side to him like Kira did. Most people would think I was nuts for saying Alex was shy but I saw it all the time and I would watch as he carefully hid the shyness and insecurity and forced himself into uncomfortable situations. It was near impossible to get Alex to call an adult on the telephone. He was deathly afraid of that.

The amazing thing about Alex is how dedicated he is to doing the right thing. He certainly had his "wild" side and loved to joke around and get a bit crazy but as far as I could tell he has always been very serious about following the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has always taken his responsibilities very seriously.

Alex got very close to Alycia the year before she left for college and then in his senior year he got very close to Sarah. He was also very protective of her. I have to tell one story about Alex that exemplifies this well. I hope I tell the story correctly but if I'm not completely accurate in the details you will certainly get the main idea. Sarah has often been the victim of teasing through out her life. I think it is partly due to her very gullible personality and partly due to immature boys who have a crush on her but are too stupid to flirt and so they tease instead. In one of her classes there were two boys who teased her mercilessly making fun of her being Canadian and of being Mormon. Finally it got so bad that Alex could see something was wrong and during one of their breaks she told him about the boys. Alex says in a very harsh tone, "who is this guy? Show me who he is!!" Sarah points him out and so Alex gets a bunch of his football buddies and explains what's going on. Of course Alex's football friends all love Sarah and they say, "guy's, today we're all Canadian Mormons OK?" They then proceed to find and corner one of Sarah's tormentors. Surrounded by a circle of huge linesmen, Alex gets in the boys face and says, "so I hear you've been giving my sister a hard time!?" The poor boy is terrified and literally shaking in his boots. At first he denies everything but when Alex actually quotes some of the things he has been saying he changes to serious apologies and promises to never do it again. One of Alex's faults is that he doesn't always know when to stop and in this case he brought this boy literally to tears. Finally Alex makes the kid promise to apologize to Sarah and to never give her a hard time again. The boy proceeded to do just that and of course with Sarah's forgiving nature she readily accepted his apology and I believe they actually became some what friends after that.

After tormenting the first kid, Alex and his friends went looking for the second guy but apparently he got wind of what was happening to his buddy and he was nowhere to be found.

The one thing that was very different about Alex was his deep reluctance to leave home. All of the other kids were either very anxious to get out of the house or if not anxious, they were at least excited about it. Not Alex, he dreaded it from day one. He refused to even talk about it. We had to force him to pick out some schools to attend and in the end Lisa more or less picked the schools for him. In the end when he did get accepted at a few different schools he picked the University of Utah. Finally, just mere weeks before heading off to school we saw some excitement in his face.

Picking a major was just as frustrating. Lisa spent hours grilling him and asking him what he thought of various occupations. Finally it took two serious football injuries to get Alex actually thinking about medicine. He thoroughly enjoyed biology so that gave us some idea that he might like that kind of thing but after tearing his AC joint in his shoulder and then breaking his arm he became good friends with his orthopedic surgeon and at least for now he is planning on medical school. He promises to rethink that idea if Obama gets his socialized medical plan in place. Since I think it is ridiculous to get a useless undergraduate degree his bachelors degree will be in exercise physiology. While psychology, political science or zoology may be good for getting high grades what kind of job can you get with one of those degree's? You have no choice but to go on to graduate school. I think it makes much more sense to get a degree that will get you a job just to play it safe.

So in between Alycia's wedding and Peters wedding we drove Alex up to Salt Lake City and got him settled into his dorm room. His first week was a tough one because he was just not meeting anyone and I could see him getting a bit homesick. Finally his ward started getting some activities and he joined the LDS fraternity and he quickly became thoroughly engulfed into the college life. He is actually a councilor in his wards Elders Quorum and I can tell he is taking the responsibility very seriously.

As it turns out some of Trevor's good friends (who actually live in the same building as Alycia and Trevor) had some openings in their apartment and invited Alex to move in with them. They live in the same ward as Alex so we strongly encouraged Alex to move in with them. It is saving us a ton of money but while he lives very close to campus it is a little more traveling for him.

So that is it. Alex is gone and Sarah is an only child and hating it. It is very quiet around here but the breakfast cereal lasts much longer. I guess Sarah was right, Alex was the one eating all the food.

I know Alex is doing the right thing for his future but I sure do miss him. Can't wait for Thanksgiving and then Christmas is right behind it.

Do you notice the new hair doo? This is when Alex changed from a boy to a young man.

Alex was so worried that he wouldn't be a good shot with a gun. He figured being a good shot was an essential part of being a Leavitt. He needn't have worried. For his first time shooting he did very well.

How embarrassing

My third Eagle. Thank goodness. That was a tough one.

Mackenzie and Alex went out for some time. We all love Mackenzie.

Just a few of Alex's many dates.

This is my favorite girlfriend.