March 18, 2008 on 11:37 am | In Yosemite | No Comments

dream of the day is to just pack up everything and find a way to move
all to the mountains of Yosemite.  I wish life were that simple.  If
only things in my life had shaped up differently.  Can’t believe there
was a time in my life when I was there and would have rather stayed in
the Valley at home.  Thank goodness none of our seven are as dense as I
was then.

It would just be so good to find a place there, retire to it, and
find happiness in the waning days there in those incredible mountains.
Life and the pace of it would be so much different.  If only.

I miss Yosemite Blues

March 14, 2008 on 7:03 pm | In Yosemite | No Comments

just checked the virtual Yosemite site. It’s snowing atop Half Dome.
Looks like the snow in the Valley has melted, but coming down still
high up. We heard from our friend David Sunday. He says they’ve had 10
feet of snow since we left in December. Ten feet. The waterfalls late
this spring will be incredibly forceful. I wish we could make another
trip then. Not sure what the calendar holds. It’s been a busy three
months and the next four or five promise to be just as busy.

Oh to be there now though.  Oh to be there.

Yosemite Snow

January 31, 2008 on 7:11 pm | In Yosemite | No Comments

snowing again in the mountains. If you haven’t been looking at Virtual
Yosemite, you should. The snow levels are very high. The spring would
be a heavenly time to go back. The waterfalls are going to be

Keeping my word

January 18, 2008 on 7:19 am | In ParentingYosemite | No Comments

I found fortune at Target. Kari and I recently had been talking about
Mary Poppins on DVD.  I found one.  Didn’t think they were supposed to
still be selling it.

So to help keep order last night, we put it on in the family room.
Big hit.  The three-year-old and the twins sat and watched the whole
thing, almost none stop.  One of the girls sat with me on the couch
nearly the whole time, just resting up against me.  What heavenly
bliss.  She’s the same one who said in Yosemite the best time she had
was when we all just sat down together and watched the final Bourne

Late post from Sat. Dec. 23, 2007

January 5, 2008 on 4:54 pm | In ParentingHot AirYosemite | No Comments

I wrote previously I’d be adding some more from the trip to CA.  As promised:

Saturday, Dec. 22, 2007

We began the day with attempting to get more good sunrise pictures.
We’ve noticed that here in the mountains, the prettiest colors
associated with a sunrise actually are to the southeast of the point of
where the sun will actually peak over the mountains.

After breakfast, we loaded up the kids, two trash bags of three days
of trash, and pulled it all down to the van over at The Narrow Gauge
Inn. We got into the van and headed for the south gate of Yosemite.
There is a pretty nice area for skiing/sledding about two miles from
the entrance to the park, but we didn’t stop, heading into the park

At the gate, the park ranger said we’d need chains about 10 miles
into the park. Before getting to the chain control area, we made a stop
at the camping area on the left past Wawana Hotel area and before the
first camp site. This is where we made our last stop into the park when
we left in June. It was truly beautiful to see it in the winter with
the rocks covered with snow, and the winter light reflecting off the
gentle stream.

Back in the van, we headed further toward the impending icing
situation. When we reached the area, Kari and I got out and tried to
put the chains on. Having been through the ordeal on Friday in the
drive, I’d had a better idea of how they were supposed to go on. Well,
it didn’t work. We wound up letting 517 Chain Installer, a big guy who
I kinda thought was Toby Keith as he walked up, put them on for $20.

The road way after the chain control began was absolutely heavenly.
In parts the road was all white, simply covered over. It was in these
tracks where the vibrations of the chains on the road subsided. Driving
with the chains on would have been okay but for the fact that one of
the cross links was broken and kept clunking the van as we went along.

We got through the tunnel and saw the view of El Capitan and Half
Dome, both sporting freshly fallen snow cover and the view was
incredible. The kids kept wanting to know when we would stop to let
them go sledding. Kari and I got a bunch of photos. Stopped in the
valley to get them lunch, and then we headed back out. We stopped in
the meadow where the bridge crosses the Merced River, and now we have
photos of three different perspectives—one with tons of water, one with
very little water, and one in winter. Each view has been equally
spectacular, but I think I really like the snow-covered one the best.

We were attempting to leave the chains on the van so that we could
go back into the park in the morning to try for badger pass or that
sledding area outside the park, but at this writing, I don’t know what
we’re going to do. Another cross link broke on the way out of the park
so we were done with the chains we were provided. We looked Sunday for
a set, but they would have been $76 and we found upon returning to
Dallas that they wouldn’t have fit on either of our cars…..

January in Texas

January 5, 2008 on 4:45 pm | In ParentingHot AirYosemiteMac | No Comments

It’s spring time. I mean, January in Texas. What a life. What a
wonderful life. I’m sitting under the sign on the porch Kari and I
built last June/July, wearing shorts, T-shirt, Ashleigh and Haley are
sitting on the swing by the pool, Molly is outside with us, and it’s
just wonderful.

In California, not so wonderful.  They say 400K without power now.  More weather on the way. 

Grandma Claxton said there was snow on the ground in Indiana
yesterday. And here I am with the Mac Book Pro on the back porch
enjoying the hard work of last year. It’s a beautiful afternoon. Had a
good nap. Have been moving iMovie video from the December Yosemite trip
over to Final Cut Express. Class is Tuesday p.m. Can’t wait to learn
what’s next.

Trying to figure out what to do for dinner. The girls wanted Wings
for dinner. Still full from a good breakfast, and Arby’s for lunch.

Untangled the pool cleaner hose. I think that’s the first time I am
aware of that it’s gotten balled up a little. Noticed it today when
pulling out these tumble weeds that plague us each fall and winter.
Instead of just clogging up the garage, they now get into the pool.

Kari and I made the decision to have the weeping wall put into the
pool when it was built. So between the ceiling fans turning overhead,
I’m also blessed with the sounds of running water bouncing over the
rock walls of the pool. Very relaxing.

Haley and Ash are having the best of time. Molly getting the benefit
of the two of them being out here with her. We put a shock collar on
her last weekend because she’d been digging her way into the next door
neighbor’s yard. So far it’s working. No more digging.

Molly has been such a great addition to our family. She must be
getting close to 100 lbs now. Kari was fussing about Molly the other
day and said she’d never want to get another Great Pyrenees, but I
would. I’ve actually thought it would be great to get another one now,
but we’ll have to wait on that one. Certainly are good guard dogs.

Southwest is on it’s way in for another arrival to Dallas.  We’re very close to the southern inbound flight path to Love. 

Having new thoughts about the greenhouse. Don’t think four by eight
is going to be big enough to matter. Thinking it should be at least 10
by six or 10 by 8 like the shed, but not sure it would fit in the side
pocket of the yard. Also concerned about how much light the plants
would get there. Would not get morning light because it’s on the west
side of the house, wouldn’t get much late afternoon light either
because it’d be between our house and the next. And yet I also know I
don’t want to put it in the far right portion of the backyard because I
don’t want to see it first thing as I come out of the house. I’m also
thinking of slanting the roof so that one end, either the front or the
back, is as much as eight-feet high, and drops down to six, six and a
half or so. That way it would be easier for me to be in it. The other
side of the thought though is that anything we put in the backyard
isn’t supposed to be visible from the front, and the fence is six-feet

Trying to decide, too, when I want to build it. Today would have
been stellar. The weather, as I’ve mentioned, has been stellar.

Haley has come back outside now with her “laptop” and is sitting on
the chase with it, while I sit her blogging away. As parents we just
don’t know how much we can affect the lives of our kids, just by our
actions and something as simple as sitting on the back porch, under the
patio cover, in shorts, a T-shirt, and enjoying the sounds of the pool
on a warm, January day in Texas.

Mac Book Pro tells me I have 3:42 hours:minutes left on my computer.
I can recall the days when you would have maybe two hours at best. Back
in the days when a 14:4 modem was considered innovative. Just makes me
wonder what the next 10 years will bring.

The girls and I went to North Park Mall to the Apple Store after we
dropped Kari and Logan off at Love for their flight to HOU. I’m
contemplating what kind of external hard drive to get. I’m down to just
50 gigs of memory on this machine and know that the video projects I am
doing are eating up space I could push over there and keep going
without blinking. I learned last week in class that a USB connector to
an external hard drive is nice, but not as good as the 400 speed
firewire that’s built into the Mac Book Pro, or, better yet, the 800
speed firewire port.

I’d been looking at Wal-Mart and found some EHDs for a little more
than $100. But they were USB only. Score a point for me for not getting
another one. I have one My Book but it, too, is down to about 50 gigs
of memory, so I know I’m bound to run out of space soon, the rate I
keep shooting and editing video. Trying to decide if a 500 gig would be
okay for now, or go for the gold and get the tetrabyte one and it be
the in thing a little bit longer…. Kinda like going from 14:4 to 28:8
or 56 K. Do you remember those days? My 14:4 PCMCA card was $199.00 in
1994. Now I’d be in tears if I had to do anything at 14:4.

Tell me how it’s possible.  Battery power now at 3:48.  ?????

Okay, guess I better figure out what we’re going to do for dinner. I
have a ham I bought for New Year’s Day, but we never cooked it. Too
late for that now, but I have to figure something out soon. Kids will
be asking soon; postulating that they might blow away from starvation….


Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008

January 5, 2008 on 6:54 am | In ParentingHoneyDoYosemite | No Comments

morning. Here in Dallas the weather is decent. Overcast, warm. In
Yosemite, well, the complete opposite. The weather service is talking
about white out conditions. How heavenly. If only we could be back at
The Logger’s Retreat with a load of food and all our stuff already atop
the hill and no need to go anywhere for several days. It sounds like
that is what it will take to get through the next few days.

Kari and one of the boys head to Houston today for a gymnastics
tourney. I get the opportunity to remain here with six of the kids.
Trying to map out some activities to keep everyone busy enough so that
we have a good time the last Saturday before they go back to school.

We had family over to steak and cake last night in honor of one of
the kids’ birthdays. Good times. Exchange of some more Christmas gifts.
I’ve kinda enjoyed the staggered gift-giving this year. Has made it
last a little longer and feel like I’ve actually gotten more this year
for some reason.

All our Christmas is down and I’m being called to do some honey-dos
around the house. Need to find a good match for our interior color and
do some touch-up work. So much to do.

On top of that, I’ve designed the greenhouse I want to build in the
backyard. Know now how much wood, nails and nuts and bolts I’m going to
need. Just trying to figure out now the right time to start the project
and how much it’s going to cost.

Class for FCE is Tuesday. Had to move today’s because of Kari
leaving, which is fine, just wish I could move this along quicker. Need
to spend some more time with the manuals and work to figure some stuff
out on my own, too. With work and the stuff coming with work, I’m kinda
torn between mental activities. And I’d like to just have some down
time again, too. Getting up at 430 a.m. the other day to fly to Houston
at 630 was no picnic, either.

For its part 2007 was the year of the airplane for me. I’d never
flown as much before as I did in ‘07 and the way ‘08 is going, it looks
like I might surpass even that. No complaints, just a change in

Saw my life-long friend Terry Abbott Thursday in Houston. He’s been
such a good friend for 20 years now. Funny how time flies. And how much
the world has changed.

Will see about updates while Kari is gone. Trying to tame the
building/design side of my brain that keeps telling me to go buy the
wood I need for the greenhouse and get going.

Goodbye 2007

December 31, 2007 on 8:08 am | In ParentingThe NewsHoneyDoYosemiteMac | No Comments

Well, as Lennon said, “Another year over, and a new one just begun.”

Half-day here at the office today.  Great things ahead for 2008 and a fond farewell to 2007.

So much has changed in my world as a dad this past year.   No surgeries!  Woo hoo!

I made my mid-life conversion from a PC to a Mac and have never been
happier.  No more blue screens of death.  No more virus updates.  And
all kinds of kewl apps.

My dearest wife/Santa brought me a one-to-one training lessons from
Mac for the entire year.  Hour-long sessions once a week.  I had the
first class on Saturday and I cannot recall a more useful Christmas
gift ever.  Thank you, Santa.

We made two incredible trips this year to Yosemite.  Both with all
seven of the kids.  Incredible memories.  Incredible pictures.  And
inspiration for all the children.  We’ve been back a week from the
Christmas trip and the kids all are still talking about it.  Every time
we get in the car, the three-year-old asks if we might be going to the
airport to go to new house in Cal-forna.

I made two job changes this year, and finally landed somewhere where
I can use my talents, where I’m close to home, and doing something that
can make a difference again.  What a blessing.

We added a dog to the household this year.  Molly, the Great Pyrenees.  She is truly one of the things we didn’t see coming.

After waiting and much debating, we finally got the pool added this
year.  And instead of paying thousands for a patio cover, Kari and I
did something we never would have anticipated–we built it ourselves in
June.  Yes, we built a major addition to our house, all by ourselves.
(Thanks, Armando for doing the wiring).

Now we set our sights on 2008.  What new projects will come about?
Kari’s mom begins her battle with Chemo in the coming days.  The
demands of the new job begin to unfold by the hour at work.  And the
changes coming in our lives with the growth of our kids.  One of them
becomes 16 in the fall and has aspirations of driving.  Right.
Thank you, God, for the blessings of a new day, a new year, and new
hope.  So many prayers have been answered this year.  So many dreams
fulfilled.  So many new hopes for the future are in our hearts.  May we
always seek comfort and guidance in you.

Goodbye 2007.  Welcome, 2008.

Back in Dallas

December 26, 2007 on 5:20 pm | In ParentingYosemite | No Comments

have additional posts to add from our trip, will be posting shortly.
Sent a thank you to our Logger’s Retreat host yesterday.  David
Holland-Moritz is the nicest of hosts and did wonders to make sure our
stay was a memorable event.

It was simply divine intervention that we got to the house Wednesday
night, were able to enjoy snow all day Thursday, and have the drive in
such a way that we could at least carry our luggage down the mountain
on Monday when we left.  Had we arrived Tuesday or Thursday when it was
snowing and been required to carry up our nine large bags of stuff, I’m
not sure we would have made it.

But we truly enjoyed our stay. We needed the rest forced by two days
of basically being socked in and not able to drive.  And we resisted
buying tire chains on Sunday that worked, because it doesn’t look like
they would have fit either of our cars back home. …

We also were fortunate enough to meet Robert Smith and his associate
Steve at Yosemite Tours on Highway 41.  They gave us great deals on
Teddy Bears for all the kids and the conversation was lively about the
area.  Great place to stop on the way up or coming back out of the
park.  And the rate for a tour by their bus, $75 for adults, but kids
under 11 are free, was something to ponder.  If we didn’t have seven
kids, it would have been a real bargain–and the fact that our kids
didn’t want to tour, they just wanted us to pull off somewhere new so
they could get on the sleds….

It was hard to drive out of those mountains Monday a.m.  The kids
were only happy to go because they knew Santa was coming to Dallas that
night.  But they all would have been begging to stay otherwise.  The
three-year-old did not want to come back to Texas.  And she remains
convinced any time you mention the days of the week that, “On
Tuesdays/Wednesdays, I go to California.”   She’s ready to go back.  I
am, too.

As we drove back down into the valley toward Fresno, I recalled the
ugly Christmases we had in Atwater in 1979,80, 81 after having lived at
K.I. Sawyer AFB from second grade to sixth grade and I realized why I
was glad to have gotten out of the Valley.  But I do regret that Texas
is so far away from Yosemite.

And I kept thinking about my late Grandpa Andy Sheptak who held a
love for Yosemite.  Grandpa was proud that Kari and I went to Yosemite
for our honeymoon.  I know he’d be even happier to know that in the
past six months we’ve taken all seven kids there twice now.  Certainly
not a financial undertaking we can maintain, but it was good for the
kids no less.  I’m certain that as they grow older they will make many
trips back, eventually with their own spouses and then their own
children.  This is a legacy my own parents can be proud of, but it
would no less be enjoyed in the heart of my Grandpa Sheptak.   And
probably is in his spirit at this very moment.

On as equally important a note for all parents out there reading
this blog, I asked my younger twin daughter Haley Monday about her
favorite part of the trip–I thought it would be sledding, the snow,
etc.  No, it was “When we all watched a movie together.”  The Bourne
Ultimatum no less.  Haley liked the movie, which is the best of the
three, but she was talking about all nine of us sitting in one room
together and enjoying the time of a movie–something we didn’t have to
pay thousands of dollars to cover airfare and lodging to do.

I began dubbing the digital video over to disc last night.  Got some
great stuff for the season.  And I begin my Final Cut Express classes
this Saturday a.m.  Santa, thanks for the one-to-one year-long lessons
from Mac.  I hope to make you proud of what I will learn to do with
these classes…52 of them for $99, how is Mac making money for that?  At
only $2 per hour.  My only guess is that they’re not planning on me
making all 52 classes….

Kari and I about have the house put back together, the snow clothes
put up, and me headed back to work.  Looks like 2008 is going to be a
whirlwind of activity at the new job.

Gotta go.  More posts from the trip coming….

Yosemite Trails Dec 2007

December 25, 2007 on 9:36 pm | In ParentingYosemite | No Comments

Dec. 21, 20r07

We’ve taken all seven of the kids to Yosemite for the holidays. We
return to Dallas on Dec. 24. The kids are having a ball. It snowed the
first day we were here, essentially trapping our 15-passenger van atop
The Logger’s Retreat mountain top, but thankfully I’d gone Wednesday
p.m. to get groceries and stocked up.

The kids have been learning how to weather snow. The boys certainly
had never seen the likes of this, claiming at one point to have never
even have made a snow man. The girls, while having made snowmen before,
certainly hadn’t been able to sled like they have the past two days.
It’s been worth every cent paid to get everyone here to be able to
enjoy the environs.

The mountains have been breath-taking in all the snow. The
snow-capped pines are just fantastic. And yesterday, as the mountain
clouds lifted it was just heavenly.

David Holland-Moritz, the owner of TLR, has been here. We didn’t
know if we were going to have water when we left Dallas. But he used an
Artesian well to fill up the 2,000-gallon water tank, so we’ve been
fine there. He recommended that we leave the van at the bottom of the
hill the first night and in some ways I wish we had, but then being
caught up here at the house has required us to find other things to
enjoy, like the surroundings here at the house.

I don’t think we spent this much time here in June; we spent more
time on the go. This has made this a little more relaxing, though the
kids definitely have been going through a little cabin fever and
anxiety over the fear that California mountain snow is like Texas
snow—gone the next morning. Well, there still is about six inches on
the ground and though the sun is melting the snow on the drive, there
still is plenty to work with ala snowmen and sledding.

It is not supposed to snow the rest of the time we’re here, which is okay and of course, I wish it would all at the same time. 

This really is a wonderful place to come to and get away from the
nuttiness of the regular day world. The kids were relatively good on
the plane on the way out.

They are simply having the best of times sledding. I’m sitting on
the porch with the Mac Pro Book playing Christmas music while they
play. Kari, Ash, Ricky and Logan all have gone down by the camping area
to make a snowman.

The pictures we’ve taken so far are tremendous. I’ve really
concentrated on video as I will definitely turn this into something
memorable for each of the children.

I have a double ear infection and it hurts pretty bad. We’ve been
using ear drops Dr. Ragel prescribed and I’ve been taking Levaquin to
try and kill what ever is ailing me. I guess working in the garage last
weekend has caught up with me. But I’m also enjoying meeting Kari’s
request of us not rushing off too and fro and taking time to enjoy
downtime. Vivaldi on my computer playing through iTunes is just magic
outside here on the porch. If Vivaldi had ever conceived of a better
use for his music, this would have been it. Such spirit. Though I must
admit, without a tree here and lots of decorations, even one
decoration, it really doesn’t feel like Christmas. But that’s okay. The
kids will remember this weekend for the rest of their lives and they no
doubt will be coming back here with their kids with only the fondest of
memories. So for what Kari and I invested into this trip, we’re going
to reap dividends in the hearts of these children.

This is the closest thing I’ve come to my childhood winters since
leaving Northern Michigan in 1978. That was a long time ago. So much
has changed. To think of sitting here with a laptop that has 5,006
iTunes songs on it at the moment, to have an iPhone, let alone a phone,
to have emailed people digital photos of the snow yesterday, to have
the software on this machine to be able to make some wonderful movies
for the kids, this is what life is all about.

There are few things more in life I could ask for. I have my health,
a great job, a loving wife, and seven great kids. Okay, going to go get
the camera and get Jerrod to play news anchor for me… Be back in a

10:59 a.m. 

Friday was an eventful day. At 1230, we had everyone down for naps
and Jerrod and I snuck out to go to the grocery store. We got the van
down to the end of the ridges in the driveway only to be met with an
icy one-third left of the mountain in shear ice. We tried and I tried
to convince myself I could get the van down and then came to the simple
conclusion that it just was not going to happen. As Jerrod and I walked
to the foot of the drive, we heard sounds coming down the mountain. It
was the well crew. Two guys who had been working since seven a.m. and
now were stuck behind us mid way down the mountain. Well, I offered
them $20 to help us get the van off the mountain and it was quite an
ordeal. I’d tried to put the chains on the van and they were slipping
off. There is no way I would have ever gotten the van down in one piece
they way that I’d put the chains. Well, we finally got the chains on,
the guys got the van to the bottom of the hill, we got the chains off,
and then headed to Oakhurst for groceries. We got back up the mountain
in time for Kari to have gotten David to drive to the Narrow Gauge Inn
and meet us. He didn’t have room for us and the groceries so we moved
the food over to his car and he drove them to the top while Jerrod and
I walked. What a hike. We got back about 3:40, a three-hour venture
just to get four or five bags of groceries. I made spaghetti when I got
back. Kari and Jerrod took a walk while I cooked. It being the shortest
day of the year and in a snow covered trail, I thought it reminded me
much of The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost. It was really a beautiful
evening, though I have to say we all were getting a little edgy on them
being gone as it was getting dark and not knowing exactly where they

After dinner we watched The Bourne Ultimatum with all seven kids.  We put the kids to bed after the movie. 

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