Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

This year has been crazy, fun, exciting, busy, relaxing and stressful.  

To start out, we had a graduating senior, a return missionary, 2 college students, Jive performances, volleyball matches, State Tennis Tournament, a trip to Disneyland, a service project in Mexico and, wait for it, wait for it….. A trip to Hawaii!!!

Andy had a very eventful year this year.  He practiced tennis almost all of last year with his doubles partner with the goal of going to state and with the possibility of winning state.  After going undefeated in district play, he and his partner were ranked #2 in the State Tournament.  We were all on pins and needles during each match of the Tournament and watched all of the other teams to see how good they were.  After the first round, we could tell that it was going to be close but that Andy and Matt had a really good chance of winning.  After several more matches, they reached the finals and played a doubles team from Caldwell.  In two short sets, Andy and Matt became the Champions in 4A Men's Doubles Tennis!!  Andy had a busy year performing in Jive and preparing for Graduation.  He walked across the stage and received his diploma while we held up a huge banner stating, “#AndyDidIt”.  Andy also was accepted into BYUI and has been attending the fall semester.  Andy received his mission call just a couple of weeks ago. He was called to serve in the Nebraska, Omaha Mission.  He reports to the MTC January 20th.  We are very excited for him and we have heard wonderful things about his mission already.

Our long lost son has returned from his LDS Mission in Tijuana Mexico.  Deanna and Clint went down to Mexico to pick him up and get to know his areas and some of the people he worked with while serving. We had an AWESOME time with Coby while we traveled around Tijuana, Ensenada and Primo Tapia.  It was so great to see all of the people he served and taught.  It was cool to see the places he lived in and the companions he had.  Once Coby returned home, he worked as hard as he could to earn enough money for college.  He, like his brother, attended the fall semester at BYU Idaho.  In fact, they were roommates.  I think they have both enjoyed being together over these last few months.  

Savanna has entered her Junior year in High School.  She is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and is planning for what happens next in life.  She has taken on several things this year which is normal for a Junior.  She made the performance choir, Jive, again.  She is also the Key Club President and she has started a new job working as a file clerk in the judicial building of the county clerk’s office.  She is enjoying the fact that she has money and can spend it any way she wants.  She is planning on playing Tennis again this year with the hopes of playing on the varsity team.  Last year she played in the Capital Invitational Tennis Tournament in Boise and took 4th place in Girls 3rd Singles.

Katie played volleyball this last year and has done very well.  She is probably one of the top five players in her 8th grade class.  They split her team into two different teams so when she gets to High School, I think she will shine.  Katie is in 8th grade this year and is looking forward to going to High School next fall.  She has grown up quite a bit this year and is measuring every day to see if she is taller than her Dad.  I’m going to have to start sporting some elevator shoes just to keep my pride and height in tact.

Clint has been working with Integrated Technologies this year and has done very well.  However he will be starting a new job at a new company in January called PMT (Project Mutual Telephone).  He will still be in technical sales but will have new responsibilities and new products to sell.  PMT is a much larger company with better benefits and better support.  He is excited for this new adventure but sad to leave some of his friends at Integrated Technologies.  Clint has been very involved with the lives of his kids and enjoyed all of the trips and activities with everyone this last year..

Deanna has been busy keeping everyone together, everyone busy and keeping all of the schedules synchronized.  Deanna is still working at Sawtooth Elementary as a Kindergarten teacher.  She loves her job and enjoys the little 5 year old students.  Deanna is very active in the School District and serves on many committees.  This last year she won a grant to bring ipad mini’s into her classroom.  They have been a huge success and the kids love it.

We wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Clint, Deanna, Coby, Andy, Savanna and Katie

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Music From My Mother


I was sitting in the living room of Melinda’s house recently listening to Tara play on their beautiful grand piano.  I started to think about how grateful I was that we had such beautiful music in our family.  Thomas, Will, Tara, Megan and Luke all have taken piano lessons and several have been in band playing various instruments.  In Clint’s family Coby and Andy play the piano, with Katie and Savanna still taking lessons.  Coby, Andy and Savanna are singers and have performed with Jive, a high school specialty music group.  In Rachael’s family all the kids can play the piano with Samantha playing the flute very well.  Tiffany’s family are taking piano lesson right now and Analee’s daughter is just beginning.

Where did this all come from?  Let me tell you the story.

When I was quite young we had an old piano in the house.  I remember Van playing lots of popular music on it.  I don’t remember who he took lessons from.  But by the time I was about 8, Leon, Lynn and I began taking piano lessons from Mary Abrams in West Point.  She was very patient with us and I looked forward to going to her small house up a long lane in the west most part of West Point.  She was a widow lady and I think her living came from the lessons.  Most kids in the area took lessons from her.

Lynn and Leon stopped lessons some time when they were in the early teens, but I kept taking for quite a while.  We would have recitals at the church each year and half of the ward turned out to hear our memorized pieces.

As I went to Jr. High I began taking lessons with a man in Ogden named Wayne Devereaux.  He was a wonderful musician and brought me along in my abilities. The lessons were given at the old Ogden Tabernacle. It was a big deal to drive from West Point to Ogden and I know my parents sacrificed to allow me to study with him.  He assigned much more difficult exercises and introduced me into concertos and much more difficult music.  But alas, after a couple of years I got lazy in my practicing and didn’t progress as I should.  Finally, I just stopped going.  

My mother especially encouraged me to play the piano.  I’m sure much hard earned money went to see that we had the opportunity in music.  I didn’t appreciate that at the time and wasted the opportunity that was given me.  

Mom and Dad tried to help the boys as they got to the end of their high school years by giving them a car.  It certainly wasn’t new but they took great pride in them.  I didn’t get a car.  My parents decided to take that money and give me a piano.  Little did they know at the time the great blessing and joy that would bring to me in the years ahead.  Many times my mother commented that it was only a few years and the cars they bought the boys were sold and gone.  But the piano they invested in for me has not yet stopped yielding me and my family much musical joy.

I learned to love music and loved not only playing classical pieces but many popular song and pieces.  When we lived in Chicago I gave a few piano lessons to the children of some friends, the Nelsons.  When we moved to Buhl, I continued giving a few lessons.  That’s when I would sometimes sit at the piano and teach my little Melinda a few notes and songs.

After we moved to Twin Falls and the children grew old enough to play, we started what seemed like a never-ending string of piano lessons, oboe lessons, trumpet lessons and drum lessons.  One of the first teachers was Jane Lebowitz.  She was an elderly lady who smoked like a trooper.  But she really was great in teaching basic beginning piano.  Later I drove the kids to Filer to take lessons from Mrs. Garrish.  She was great as well.  All the kids would go in a pile and have to wait while the others took their lessons.  We would pass the time reading and sometimes take walks around their country home.  In the spring we would take our paper bags and gather asparagus while we waited.  
As the kids got older we heard of another teacher right in Twin Falls.  Her name was Teala Balini Percin.  She and her mother were very accomplished pianists and had a great reputation.  So off we went to her house.  She also was particular about the skills and music.  She brought the kids to a much higher level of performance.

It was while we were studying with her that we started participating in not only piano recitals but in music festivals.  Festivals were where you played privately before some judges and they critiqued your skills and performance.  The goal was to get a “Superior”.   After so many “Superior” performances you were given a gold cup. That was the goal of each of the children to achieve that accomplishment.  They all did quite well.
I think Melinda really loved music and because of her piano, was chosen to participate in Madrigals.  At the time, this high school singing group was very popular and they really had some fun opportunities to perform in the community.  Melinda played the piano.  Her musical abilities grew so much with this experience.

Unfortunately, the first child to want to drop out of piano was Blake.  He really struggled to hear the notes or feel the rhythm.  Huge mistake!!!  I let him quit. He wanted to play drums so we bought drums and he had drum lessons.  It wasn’t long before Rachael and Clint were too involved with other activities, mostly sports, and they wanted to quit.  Big mistake!!  I let them quit.  I can’t really remember why I let that happen, maybe because with six children it involved a lot of extra running around.  I don’t really know.  But I really missed the boat with that.  Tiffany and Analee were still taking but soon Tiffany stopped practicing and soon quit going to lessons.  
I started to wise up with Analee.  Even when she was in high school and really involved in sports, I made her continue with lessons.  I told her that I didn’t care if she practiced but I wanted her to continue lessons.  I had a vision I guess, that warned me that she would need this skill in the future and would bless the wards she would be in because she could play the piano.

When I met Gordon, one of the talents that I really appreciated with him was his singing voice.  He sung in concert choir at BYU and had been chosen for a special quartet in his mission.  They called themselves the Mormon Sons.  He had played the trumpet in high school and even had his own dance band.  He played the guitar and sang the ballads that his dad had loved and played.  He has always enjoyed the participation of our family as we have sung together.  Our favorite ballad is Old Folks, Young Folks!  It always brings a smile as we sing about the Bible Stories.

I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I wanted the children all to be great pianists.  I took them to concerts and tried to have good music in our home.  But in the end, most of them were average or a little above in their abilities.  A lot of that was because I wasn’t very strict in making them practice as they should.  But some of it was their choices and abilities.

HOWEVER, I have realized that all that time and money and effort was not lost.  Each family has a love for music and appreciate the abilities of others.  Some like Clint, have branched out and developed their singing talent.  Blake, Clint and Analee have picked up the guitar and have a good time with that instrument.  Rachael and Melinda and Analee have participated in small singing groups in their wards.  Tiffany bought a piano and began teaching a few students and now helps with her children.  Analee did the same.

In each home there is music.  Tara Sant is amazing.  She is writing her own music and it is beautiful.  She has a touch on the piano that is a real gift. Tom and Will are great on the piano as well.   Samantha Wight has a gift with the flute.  Savanna not only clogs but has seen a real opportunity as a performer in Jive. Coby and Andy play the piano well and also are such good singers. 

So Mom and Dad Blake, I thank you!  After all these years I really appreciate what you have given my family.  It is a legacy of joy for us all.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Year End 2014

It seems that every year I write a blog post that goes through all of the stats about my life online.   So, I went to last years posts and..... didn't find anything. So I went to the year before and ..... nothing.  I'm sure I've writing posts about the end of each year but for some reason, I can't find even one of them. Oh well, I'm sure it happened at some point so here we go with the things that happened in my life on the internet.

We will start with Youtube.  Here are my top most viewed videos in 2013 and 2014 because I guess I didn't do this last year.  So, coming in at #1 was a video I took while going on a zip line in the Snake River Canyon with a Leadership Group in 2013.

Coming in at number 2 is .....  Andy's Prom Pictures!!!

Coming in 3rd place, which was a surprise, is the Carters doing the Harlem Shake.  That was in 2013 by the way.

And finally, even though this did not make the top three, I'm most proud of this video that we made with Jive in 2013. It is a promotional video to advertise the Jive performance in the Spring.  It was a lot of fun to make and learn how to produce a "real" video.

Ok, that is it for Youtube for 2013 and 2014.

Now to some of my new favorite websites from 2014.

I have been watching some online videos to help me learn about how to use a MacMini that I bought this year.  On one of those videos the youtuber mentioned a couple of sites that would be great for building an intro for videos.  He mentioned a site called FIVERR.  So, I checked it out and found a bunch of really cool stuff you can buy for just 5 BUCKS!!!!!   So, I decided to try it out.  My first try was to have someone create a logo for me for my webstore called  I sent off the request and this is what I got back for $5 bucks.

Not bad but not great.  So, I submitted another one to animate a logo for the company that I work at Integrated Technologies.  This is what I received back for $5.00.

Now that was awesome!!! So, I decided to send off a request to have our family made into a caricature for our Christmas Card.  This is what I received back for only $15.00

We loved it so we printed it up about 30 times and sent it off to all of our friends and family this year.  So, if you want a fun website, check out