Wednesday, June 29, 2011

She's Gone :(

This has been a difficult weekend. We took Sarah up to college and dropped her off. We left Saturday morning with Lisa and Sarah going in the van and I followed in the old Camry that we bought for Sarah. After checking with the Toyota dealer and our favorite mechanic (Midland Auto) we decided that $1,000 might fix the more serious problems with our existing Camry or it might not. For $1,500 we could buy another old (1993) Camry where we know that the A/C and the windows work. Unfortunately there were a couple of other issues that we couldn't see.

Somewhere around San Bernardino we stopped for a potty break and Sarah hopped in the Camry with me. No sooner were we back on the road when we started up the long climb up the mountain. With Lisa going 80mph, the A/C fighting the 90° heat and the steep climb I noticed the temperature on the gauge starting to climb. That was only the beginning of a long hot trip to Utah. I stopped once and saw that the overflow tank was still full so I just assumed that I needed to lighten the load on the engine but even driving 40mph with the A/C off and the heater on full blast it still overheated. I had Lisa stop and wait for me and I send Sarah on ahead with her mother and I suffered alone.

I finally gave up and stopped on the side of the freeway to let the engine cool down and that is when I noticed that I had no coolant. I had flushed the radiator, replaced the hoses and put new coolant in the engine just before I left so I knew that stuff was all good but here I was in the middle of nowhere with an overheated engine. I dumped my drinking water in the engine and looking around I noticed that there was a small dump of a store on the other side of the freeway. I'd parked under an overpass and this must have been the only store for 50 miles.

I climbed up onto the over pass, crossed the freeway and walked the quarter mile to the store hoping to fill my water bottles but the jerk in the store wouldn't let me into the bathroom unless I bought something. Boy was I mad but he had me over a barrel (which he knew) so I bought a gallon jug of water and off I went. So that is how it went for the next seventeen hours. Sometimes I could drive ten miles before I had to refill my radiator and sometimes I could drive further. My record was 200 miles. At no time was I able to drive faster than 60 and usually I had to have my heater on full blast. Can you imagine driving though Nevada with the temperature over a hundred and the car heater on full blast? I drank nearly as much water as my car did. At one point I actually stopped at a mechanic on the side of the freeway to have himm look at the car. He was rather rude, was going to charge $100 just to look at it and I had to wait half an hour before he would even look at it. I decided to take my chances and I headed on out.

You'd think it would get better as the sun went down but the problem actually seemed to get worse as time went on. Thankfully Lisa and Sarah got there at a reasonable time and got most of the stuff out of the van loaded into her apartment.

Sunday Alycia and Trevor drove down to Provo to show us their new apartment. They think they've died and gone to heaven. The apartment they live in now is not much bigger than a closet and they just signed a lease on an apartment for a two bedroom apartment with a huge kitchen and nice large living room. I think they're going to really enjoy it. Sunday Sarah went to her new ward and we went with the Sanchez's.

Naively I thought that Monday morning we could unload everything into Sarah’s apartment, send her off to class and then head back home. By the time we fixed the Camry, got it registered in Utah, bought Sarah a year’s supply worth of groceries and everything else it was way too late to leave. The mechanic we took the Camry to couldn't make it overheat but they put a new radiator cap on it, checked out the thermostat and put new coolant in it. Wouldn't it be hilarious if all those problems were caused by a $10 radiator cap? 

We spent another night at the Sanchez’s and then headed back to Sarah’s Tuesday morning to help her with a few last minute things and then hopefully be on the road by noon. We left at eight o’clock that night. Lisa wanted to spend another night but I just couldn’t miss another day of work. I’m way behind as it is and I’d told everyone that I’d be back on Tuesday.

It made for a very long night and I had to let Lisa drive for a few hours but at 7:30 this morning we pulled into the driveway. I slept for a two or three hours then it was off to work.

From what I can tell Sarah is loving her new home. She thinks it’s weird to attend a student ward and say’s she prefers a family ward but she loves her classes and her professors. I’m thinking it’s going to be a great year for her.

It was sure tough saying goodbye to her. I know she’s going to be back her in a couple of months but still. I miss her already.

Mushrooms are the only vegetable that produces vitamin D.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Turtle Eggs

When Kira moved to Canada one of her biggest concerns was what to do with her turtles. It was going to be very expensive to import them but being the animal lover that she is she couldn't give them to just anyone. She finally decided to ship them to us until she could arrange to bring them across the border by car. If you do it in person it isn't so expensive. I figured, "what the heck" and agreed to turtle sit for her. After all we had Sarah at home who would love them and she could be responsible for them. 

Well it has now been three years and the two turtles she sent me (did you know you could ship turtles by UPS?) are at least twice as big as they were and the two turtles are now three because one of Sarah's friends moved and gave her turtle to us. I made it clear to both Kira and Sarah that once Sarah left the house the turtles would leave as well. They were either going to join Kira in Canada, go to a friend or go back to the pet store. Sarah thought that was very unfair since we didn't make Alex get rid of his snake or Ben get rid of his tortoise but I told Sarah that if she wanted me to feed the turtle once a week and clean their cage once a year then I would keep them. As for the tortoise, he just ate grass in the back yard. I never fed him.

Earlier this week Sarah called me up at work to tell me she thought her turtles had laid some eggs. Martin was apparently a girl. I assured her that turtles don't lay eggs in captivity so she texted me this picture. It sure looks like eggs to me. When I got home I checked them out and sure enough, we're the proud owner of six new turtle eggs.

I quickly looked up "turtle eggs" on the internet and as best as I could tell, turtle eggs are not supposed to be laid in water. My guess is that the turtle climbed up on the rocks and laid the eggs and they rolled into the water. Hopefully being in the water for a day or two until Sarah noticed them didn't hurt them any. According to what I read, if we keep them nice and warm we could have babies as early as August 25th. 

So now what do I do? I swore I'd have no turtles when Sarah went to college and now I could have nine. 

Turtle soup anyone?

One out of every three new jobs in America is created in Texas. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Fred Leavitt graduating from the
University of Alberta
Today if you will indulge me I'm going to take a moment to brag. Saturday we threw a party for our kids. Not only have we had five of our children graduate in the last month but now all six have graduated from High School, all six have started college, and including spouses we have three graduate degree's and eight bachelors degree's. The only remaining two include one on a mission and a freshman. I think they deserved the big party. Just to summarize:

Fred Leavitt graduating from the
University of California San Diego
Justin - Bachelors in Neuroscience
           - DDS in Dentistry
Kira   - Bachelors in Music Performance
          - Masters in Music Performance (Oboe)
Brandon - Bachelors in Bio Chemistry
                - JD Law
Serene - Bachelors in English 
          - minor in Editing
Benjamin - Bachelors in International Business
         - minor in Spanish
Sharley - Bachelors of Fine Arts in photography
Trevor - Bachelors in Political Science 
            - minor in Jazz Guitar
            - now attending BYU Law
Lisa Shaw graduating from
M E Lazerte High School
                                                               Alycia - Bachelors in Social Science Composite Teaching
  -minor History Teaching
 Alex - High School
          - now on a mission in Chili
Sarah - High School
           - now attending UVU

So the party we had wasn't much of a party and the kids had to do most of the work themselves but it is always fun to just have some friends come by, visit and eat lots of food. When my kids are at home it is always like a party.

Justin Palmer graduating from the
University of Florida (Dentistry)
Sadly the party is now over and everyone but Grandma have left. Trevor and Alycia pulled out and headed for Salt Lake at about 8:00. Brandon and Serene pulled out at about 8:30 and headed for Texas and we drove Justin and Kira to the airport at about 10:00. Right now it is very quiet around here.

We got back to the house and just plopped onto the couch and have hardly moved since. We've eaten a few left overs and I think we will be eating left overs for at least a week.

Kira Palmer (Leavitt) graduating from
Brigham Young University
Now we need to start getting ready to take Sarah up to UVU. She's going to start school the end of June and I'm really not looking forward to it. Some one once said that to have kids is to decide "... to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” That is how I feel. 

Kira Palmer (Leavitt) graduating from the
University of Florida
Just for fun I grabbed some pictures of some of the graduations. I've also got some pictures from the weekend. 

42% of college graduates will never read another book.

Brandon Leavitt graduating from
Brigham Young University
Brandon Leavitt graduating from
Pepperdine School of Law

Benjamin Leavitt graduating from the
California State University Fullerton
Sharley Leavitt (Cotter) graduating from
California State University Long Beach

Trevor Crowley graduating from the
University of Utah

Alycia Crowley (Leavitt) graduating from the
University of Utah
Alex Leavitt graduating from
Westview High School

Sarah Leavitt graduating from
Westview High School

Ben found a real cool "Woody" pinata.
The thing was huge and we had a lot of fun with him.

Brandons birthday was last week so we
celebrated it while everyone was here.
Evan and Landon love Woody.
The girls were not as impressed.

The tables were all pretty.
Serene made some little cupcakes
that looked like graduation hats.
We had ping pong
The cousins are always glad to get together.
The little kids all took a turn trying to beat up Woody.
Sydney hates to see anyone get hurt and she was not happy about trying to hit Woody.
We all told her he was full of candy so she did try but it was only half hearted.
When the little kids failed the big kids took a turn.
You may notice that one of Woody's legs is about to fall off.
Justin finally managed to remove Woody from his head.
Frank is about to whack the new Pinata.
Evan brought the Pinata back to life.
I really felt left out on this one. Chandler is giving Sarah a back rub.
Sarah is giving Tyler a back rub. Mackenzie is giving Brandon a
hand rub.
back: Fred, Brandon, Hayley, Landon, Justin, Ben, Trevor
middle: Serene, Lisa, Sarah, Sharley, Alycia
front: Sydney, Kira, Evan
Landon flying high
Playing Lips after things have settled down.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Last Graduation for the Year

Thursday was the final graduation of the year. Actually it was the last High School graduation for our family until Evan graduates in 2025. Weird. The weather was a bit overcast which was great because we didn't cook. Sarah's graduating class had 595 kids in it and it went surprisingly well once it got started. The problem is that if we didn't get there two hours early then we wouldn't get a seat. As it was we were barely able to get a row where all thirteen of us could sit together. We were even lucky enough that we could get a seat where Evan could park his wheel chair. 

After the ceremonies were over we all went down on the field and I followed Sarah around on the field taking pictures of her with her many friends. Normally we take the kids to "Soup Plantation" where they can have all you can eat food but this time we had made some pulled pork ahead of time and we all went back to the house. It was a fun time and we enjoyed visiting. 
In our community they always plan an all night party after graduation. Grad night starts and 9:00 and goes until 6:00 the following morning. The idea is to keep the kids entertained in a safe place so they are less tempted to go off to less controlled parties and get hurt. Lisa has always chaired the entertainment committee for each of our kids but this year they were severely lacking for volunteer help. She ended up chairing or co-chairing three other committee's as well. I normally have stayed home with the other kids but with Sarah being the youngest I volunteered to deal poker in the casino. Having never played a game of poker in my life this did require some training. Kira and Alycia came and helped at the midnight shift. Some of the activities that Lisa has for these kids are tatoo's, crazy hair doo's, tons of food, a casino, all kinds of arcade games, a dance, a money machine, blow up jumper time obstacle courses, a make your own music video, pool tables, ping pong tables, a climbing wall, a flight simulator and who knows what else. Kira and Alycia did tatoo's. I got a tiger on my for arm. Trevor came with Kira and Alycia at midnight and I was going to take him home but he got lost among the kids and ended up playing games with kids until their shift was over. Normally there is no in and out traffic at this event but Trevor kind of blended in. 

Unfortunately not all of the family could make it. Kira and Grandma of course arrived last week. Alycia and Trevor arrived early afternoon on Wednesday and Ben pulled in later in the evening. Ben had to work on Friday so he headed back north later in the evening on Thursday. 

He came back down on the train on Friday night, Brandon flew in from Texas at around 9:30 and Justin flew in from a conference he was attending in Las Vegas at around 10:30. Ben came down on the train at 9:15. I went to pick up Ben and Kira picked up Brandon and Justin. 

I have an interesting story to tell about picking up Ben. I took the truck and everything was working well until I was almost to Via de la Valle when suddenly the lights on the dash board went very dim. I was trying to figure out what was going on when the battery light came on. That is when it dawned on me that my alternator must have conked out. My battery was obviously not charging and with the lights on I knew that my time was limited. 

I turned off the radio and anything else that could draw excess power and to my horror when I got to the train station Ben's train was late. I knew if I turned off the engine I'd never get it started again so I sat there idling waiting for Ben to arrive. Luckily he was only about 5 minutes late so I rushed him into the truck and off we went. 

It wasn't long before the lights were too dim to be off much use so I turned them off leaving the running lights on in the hopes that nobody would hit me. I had a few moments of panic when I had to get off the 5 and switch to the 56 but I managed to keep the engine running. Next the radio lights died off and shortly after that the "Service Engine Soon" light came on. That meant that my battery was so dead that the truck thought my truck was turned off. 

Finally the ABS light came on and almost instantly the engine started lugging. I coaxed the truck about another quarter mile at which point we had to call for help. 

Trevor came to the rescue. He pulled up next to me and we charged my battery for what seemed like ten minutes and off I went again. A few hundred yards down the freeway I was dead in the water again. 

This time we gave it what I thought was a good long charge and again I may have made it a mile. 

The third time I was bound and determined to make it home so I used the timer and made sure that we gave it a good ten minutes charge. After what I thought was much more than ten minutes I checked the timer on my phone and it was barely two minutes. Those first charges were certainly less than that. 

This time we made it almost to our exit before the engine started lugging but it is a steep hill to our exit and there is no shoulder and I knew that getting Trevors car in there to help would be extremely difficult. With Ben's encouragement I decided to not go for the exit and to pull over one last time in a little pull out where the cops always hide to give tickets. Another ten minutes charge and off we were. 

It must have been divine intervention that turned our light green just as we got to the exit and then again at the next light. Our luck left us on the last light however where I sat with my foot on the brake and the gas with the truck in neutral trying to keep the engine going. When the light finally turned I revved up the engine to make sure it didn't stall and it nearly died when I released the clutch. I pumped the gas hard and eeked out one last burst of energy that got me through the intersection and we rolled at a slow crawl over the crest of a hill. 

I used to play games with the kids when they were younger and at the crest of this hill I would turn off the engine and we'd coast home. Ben and I both knew that we could coast home from this point but since those days when the kids were younger the city has put in four new stop signs in addition to the one that was already there. 

As we pulled up the first of these signs another car arrived at the four way stop before we did and he took so long at the stop that I had to brake. I needed my speed to make it up to the next crest (naturally we had to run the stop sign) and so with the lack of momentum we were once again moving at a snails pace. Ben got so frustrated that he jumped out and pushed me and then jumped back into the truck. 

We cruised through the next stop sign with no interference but imagine my distress when I saw three cars arrive at the next stop sign all at the same time. I allowed the truck to accelerate down the hill planning to play a game of chicken with the other cars. The first one quickly bowed out and let me go but the other car actually ran the stop sign right in front of me. That was fine with me as long as I didn't have to wait for him but then the jerk decided to stop at the next stop sign. I have not idea why he ran one but stopped at the second one. This stop sign was critical because it was at the bottom of a deep gully and I needed all the speed I could muster to get up the other side. Anticipating that the car in front of me would stop and slowed down as much as I dared at the top of the hill and then let her rip right through the stop sign and up the other side of the gully. Once again we crawled over the top fo the hill and then it was home free to the house. I now have two dead cars parked in front of my house. That really stinks. 

The good news is that I think my only problem is a worn out fan belt. We were much too busy with partying today to worry about another vehicle. 

Friday night with Brandon, Ben, Justin and Trevor all home it was of course Settlers until 3:00. With Grad Night the night before and then going to bed at 3:00 Friday night my mind is bit of a blur today. 

Most people know that the "coca" in "coca-cola" comes from the cocaine that was in the original drink but did you know that the cola is because originally coca-cola was made from the Kola bean found in east Africa? The extract from the Kola bean is very high in caffeine. The kola bean was an important part of the diet of the original native Africans who lived there. Coca-Cola was originally green.