Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Day of Reckoning

Today was the day I've dreaded for the last 5 years. And I'm so glad it's over! After six months of mind-numbing studying, and an especially grueling month of taking practice tests, I took the MCAT. It's pretty surreal that it's over. I feel like a new man.

I signed up back in January, which apparently was late, because the Utah slots were all filled. I was forced to sign up for a spot in Vegas instead. We drove down to Hurricane Wednesday night and stayed at the Worwoods. I was a little bummed to find that the ducklings, now fully grown, were eaten by raccoons the day before we arrived. We pulled up to the their house to find an animal control officer showing my Uncle Danny how to set a raccoon trap.

This morning we woke up early and drove the remaining two hours to Vegas. We checked in at a crappy motel and dropped by IN-N-OUT for some authentic Western cuisine. I did some last minute cramming and then we drove over to the testing center. The waiting room was crammed with nervous students, and I wasn't impressed with their choice of language. Seriously, these people want to be physicians? Probably plastic surgeons. Checking in required an ID and a biometric fingerprint scan and my mother's maiden name (minus the last one).

The test took 4 and a half hours. I'd taken 14 practice tests, and it didn't feel much different than those, except I'd never taken the time to do the written part. Halfway through the exam there are two writing samples, each a half hour long, and they drained me way more than the physical sciences section. They weren't incredible essays, but the graders don't expect much for a first draft. If it weren't for that dang written portion, I wouldn't have to wait a month for my test results. The biology part was more organic chemistry heavy than I expected, and I was shocked that the physical sciences portion didn't have much acid/base chemistry.

After the exam we drove around the city. Vegas is wack. We hit up H & M, which was pretty small, and got some food. We decided to try to find another mall, called Town Square, and punched the name into the GPS. It directed us to the outer city limits to a gas station that happened to be called Town Square. We decided it wasn't worth it to keep driving around and came back to the motel.

In other news, I milked a goat on Monday. It's harder than I thought to coax the milk out of them goat teats.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Brazilian Tan

On Tuesday I decided to take a few hours off from studying to surprise Ashton and paint our bedroom. When we first moved in we painted it this horrendous blue color called "Summer Breeze." We were going for an icy blue that would seem almost white, but it ended up looking like a bedroom for a baby boy. We'd wanted to paint it for a while, but both of us have been super busy, and Ashton's at a point in her pregnancy where she probably shouldn't be hanging out in a room full of vapors. So after my lab meeting I made a quick stop at Honk's (88 cent Tuesday!) and picked up some painting equipment. I masterfully taped off the moldings and edges and got painting. I finished first coat just as Ashton got home. She was delighted, as expected, and we decided to head to the temple while we let the walls dry. The new color, "Brazilian Tan," matches our living room, and has a much more soothing effect than the poorly named "Summer Breeze."

On Wednesday we decided to put the crib together, to see how much room it was going to take up, and to see what our options were for rearranging the living room. The crib came with some pretty easy-to-assemble pieces, but the instructions were tiny and confusing, and what should've been a simple task became a four-letter frustration. Finally we got all the pieces to snap into place, and we were shocked to see how big it was. Suddenly our plans to put it by the stairs weren't going to work out. Last night we moved furniture around into a fairly comfortable arrangement, with the couch finally facing the television. It's not as accommodating for guests, and it's a little tighter on space, but it's all right. And it's always refreshing to move the room around.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


We're developing quite the little garden in our yard. Ashton's planted numerous flowers, and I'm attempting to grow tomatoes, snap peas and bell peppers.

I got a 38 on a practice MCAT this morning. That always feels good. What if I did that well on the actual test?

My new climbing shoes came in the mail yesterday. I'm stoked to try them out.

The Shins switched out two of their members: Marty Crandall the keyboardist and Jesse Sandoval the drummer. They were replaced by Ron Lewis from Fruit Bats and Joe Plummer from Modest Mouse. Apparently James Mercer wanted to take the band in a different direction. This is really devastating to me. It's not the same band anymore; it's more like a James Mercer solo project. I'll never see the original Shins in concert again. I might be looking for a new middle name for our upcoming baby.

Apparently Sandoval is opening a taco cart in Portland, OR. I want to go get one and express my sadness.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Galya's been sleeping in this little space between a hedge and the house, protected by the back deck. Yesterday I looked at her back there and noticed three white eggs poking out from under her. Upon closer inspection we discovered that she had laid 17 eggs in total, and had been hiding them back there for who knows how long. She has been displaying some erratic behavior, like bobbing her head while darting back in forth in a zigzag "evasive maneuver," and puffing up her chest and ruffling her feathers any time anyone goes back there. Now that we know she's fertile, we might make more trips to the duck pond. . .

Friday, May 8, 2009

Another Funeral Postponed

A few nights ago I was sitting on my bed, studying for the MCAT, when I hear Ashton yell, "Oh no, it went down the drain!" Then she started yelling my name in a very panicky voice, bordering on hysteria. Oh crap, I thought. She dropped her ring down the kitchen sink. I came out into the living room and she explained, "I accidentally dumped Asher down the drain!" I'll admit I was relieved it wasn't her wedding ring. The death of a 15 cent fish just doesn't make me as squeamish as the thought of losing a diamond (albeit a small one). I could see that Ashton was really distressed, however, and I confess that there was a whole lot of sentimental value that went down the drain with Asher.

We've had Asher since November 5, 2007. He's survived 14 siblings. He officially received the title "Love Fish" when we were dating. I remember a particularly frustrating moment in our relationship, before we got engaged, when I declared that if Asher died, then I was done trying. God blessed that fish to live, and it seemed like he was going to live indefinitely, until a careless mishap sent him to "swim with the fishes."

"Oh wait! I can see him!"

Peering through the hole of the black filter in the sink, we could see light reflecting off Asher's scales.

"He's flopping around!"

He'd now been holding his breath for a good 60 seconds. I pulled the filter out, stuck my hand down the drain, and as carefully as possible picked Asher up. I brought him up and dropped him in a vase of water, and he began swimming around again. He's a tenacious little bugger. We still don't know if he sustained any permanent damage, but he seems to be doing fine so far.

This morning we went back to claim Red Slab. We found out the actual route we were climbing is called the "Mantle Route," and we decided in the interest of safety and time to just top rope it today. I got a couple really good climbs in though, and I came off the mountain a lot more energized than last time. And look how small Greg is in this picture.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cheng Day 2nd

Today marked two years since the baptism of Cheng and Jian, my Chinese brothers. It's crazy to think that that much time has already passed. And of all the holidays I created on my mission, Cheng Day is the only one I've remembered to commemorate, because it was quite the monumental day for me. It marked the pinnacle of my mission. Cheng and Jian were the humblest, most sincere investigators I worked with, and teaching them was bliss.

We celebrated by going to P. F. Changs, just like last year. Rather than gorging ourselves on Chinese delights (or their Americanized versions), we stuck with the staple chicken lettuce wraps and Great Wall of Chocolate. It's a tradition I wouldn't mind repeating every year.

God bless you Cheng and Jian!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Auckland and Red Slab

My little brother got his call to New Zealand this last week. I must say it came as quite a relief. I would've been really jealous if he'd been called to anywhere in Scandinavia or Western Europe. Sure the work is hard in those areas, but they're a lot nicer than Ukraine! When he pulled his call out of the envelope he stared at it with wide eyes while everyone yelled, "C'mon, just tell it what it says!" We had some technical difficulties with the phonecall to Chicago and the webcam to Portland, and he wasn't about to announce it until everyone could hear it. Finally he spilled and we all erupted with congratulations. New Zealand. Snap. Talk about going as far away from home as is physically possible. And crazy that Ashton's brother is currently serving there. Hopefully he can resist the islanders' notoriously lackadaisical approach to the work and rules of a mission.

On May Day we went climbing at Rock Canyon. As we approached the canyon we noticed that, for once, Red Slab was unoccupied, and we decided to give it a try lead climbing. It turned out to be a little tougher than we'd expected. Lead climbing has a way of making a simple 5.8 become a lot scarier. Greg made it up about halfway and got stuck. Some know-it-all chattering moron (who happens to be in my ward) showed up and set up camp right next to us; he even plopped his tarp and rope on top of mine. This newcomer distracted me a little (I was belaying), and as Greg made the brave venture up, he didn't have enough slack. Suddenly he was slipping and yelled down, "I'm gonna fall!" I pulled the rope tight but he was a little higher up than his last quickdraw, so he fell a good 4 feet. He racked the family jewels pretty good on the rock, and came down in a lot of pain. He later told me that all his hate and anger were directed at the chatterbox (which made me feel a little better), but I could tell he was less than thrilled with my belaying. Accidents happen. I went up the wall next to see if I could finish the climb. I got to the tough part where Greg had been stuck and had to take a breather. I was able to get past it, but I only put in two quickdraws after it before I got stuck. The climb wasn't necessarily difficult, but just knowing that if I fell it'd be a good ten foot drop was kind of emasculating. I finally came down the rock, and had to endure the pseudo pep talk from our resident expert, the chatterbox. That guy was insufferable. Everything he said was self-praise or "FYI." Next we sent up Jesse, who had never actually done lead climbing before. He made it to the top like a champ, although he crisscrossed three different routes to do it. By the time he got up there everyone was too cold and tired to do any top rope climbing, and I wanted to get out of chatterbox's earshot. When I got home I was so bitter I shaved my beard.