Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Batch 0

I've been a shooter since I was a kid. My Dad taught me to shoot, and showed me the basics of handling a firearm safely. I have since become a shooting enthusiast, pretty good with rifles, shotguns, and handguns.

Years ago, my father undertook a new hobby that moved him on to the next level: reloading. It's not difficult to learn how to reload, but it's the kind of skill that requires a lot of observation and thinking to get it down right and consistent. My Dad acquired a slew of reloading equipment, and used it to manufacture thousands of rounds in a myriad of calibers.

About the time my father passed away in 2015, I was already toying with moving up to the next level. A friend of mine already had some casings that needed reloading, and he had all the equipment save a few pieces. What he needed was somebody to think through it with him, and get him doing it. Together we figured out all the steps and successfully reloaded 25 .223 rounds. Each of them shot perfectly, which is an impressive feat considering it was our first time reloading and we didn't miss anything.

All of Dad's reloading equipment lay idle until several months after his funeral, when Mom rounded us all up and decided we were going to divide up the guns. I made a pitch for the reloading gear to see if either of my brothers desired it. They both agreed that I would inherit one less firearm, and that should cover the reloading equipment. And thus, I acquired all the equipment necessary to do the job, along with a fair supply of materials to get the job done.

However, I didn't get the job done.

It would take two years before I had motivated myself enough to start building bullets — and this week, was the flash point. I've been shooting more and training more, and it makes sense to collect my brass. For the un-initiated, there are 4 basic parts to what everyone calls a "bullet." For my explanation here, we'll call it a "cartridge." A cartridge consists of 1) the brass casing that holds everything together; 2) the powder, whose explosive expansion propels the 3) bullet out of the gun, and 4) the primer, which sets off the explosion in the powder. Those four pieces, when properly combined form a perfectly safe inert cartridge that because a lethal round once it's properly engaged in the chamber of a firearm.

So, I've been collecting my brass, the only part of the cartridge that can actually be reused (the primer is spent after it explodes, the powder is gone after it burns, and the bullet is long gone out of the barrel). If you collect your brass, you can reload it and use it again, thus reducing your ammo expense and increasing your understanding of ballistics, which leads to an automatic increase in shooting enjoyment.

The problem is that if you collect all this brass, it takes up space if you don't do anything with it. I decided I had collected too much brass — it was overflowing the sizable box I had allocated to collect my brass. That meant it was time to tumble it. To clean brass, you tumble it in a vibrating tumbler with an aggressive media like crushed walnut shells or small steel rods. These brush the case over and over and essentially scratch it clean.

After you've got clean brass, you de-prime it, to get rid of the primer in the bottom. (The primer is the button at the base of a cartridge. When someone pulls a trigger on a firearm, the hammer comes back and at the release, the hammer falls on the firing pin, driving it into the primer, which explodes into the powder.) You use a press to seat the bullet up into a cast die, which removes the primer. Then, you change the die to flare the case (brass) to receive powder and a bullet. After you flare the case, you need to fill the case with the appropriate amount of powder, though a powder thrower. After the powder, all you need to do is seat the bullet and maybe crimp the case (depends on the cartridge). You use another die to seat the bullet and to form the brass case back to a straight wall (to remove the flare we put in it to put the bullet in).

So, if that sounds like a lot of work, it is. It takes a huge amount of attention to detail to get the process correct, but once you've got it, you can set your brain to autopilot to just build ammunition.

So, today, I join the ranks of reloaders. I have officially completed my first batch of 9mm Luger. It's 115 grain bullet set atop 6.5 grains of smokless Power Pistol powder on top of a small pistol CCI 500 primer inside my polished brass. I made 18 rounds due to the fact that's what my reloading tray would hold. It also happens to be the number of rounds I can put in my M&P 9mm if you load the 17-round magazine and chamber the last round.

I've still got to shoot them to ensure they cycle perfectly, but I'm working from my Dad's recipe. I have good confidence that the recipe is good. Still, there may be mechanics beyond the materials that I have overlooked. We shall see. I intend to shoot these round over the course of the next week or so to ensure they all cycle and see what I can learn.
The Speer Reloading Book recipe for 9mm. It's got my Dad's notes in the margins. Puts a smile on my face every time I look at this page and think about how he must have held it just like me, and read just the same bits.

The new home for Dad's reloading press, a single-stage RCBS. 

My 18 new little babies...all dressed up to fly. 

Just need one more in the chamber. It'll be a good shooting day.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Daisy's 9 Year Gallery

Hahaha. You may think this is an old post waiting to happen. You would be wrong. Daisy's pictures got pushed back due to summer busyness like Girls Camp and Texas. I almost forgot about them entirely, but luckily there are cute pictures of my kids on the side bar of my blog that remind me that I need to update.

I put it in the calendar and Daisy didn't even know we were going. I simply said, "Get ready, we're going to take pictures." Happily, my kids are almost always up for a photo shoot. (Probably because there are treats at the end.)

I had just been on BYU campus several times for Education Week, so I was loving the beauty there and I knew Daisy would dig the candy at the bookstore. Stupidly, there was a BYU game the same afternoon that I went to take her pictures. This is further proof that I have no clue about sports events, or I would have gone somewhere else.

I know I haven't even blogged about her birthday, but this beauty turned nine over the summer.

Daisy is such a joy in our family. She has a gentle heart with a tendency to slide toward forgetfulness. That probably makes it easier for her to forgive the rest of us. Her teeth are the bomb.com right now. Her one snaggletooth kills me. I remember Robyn having the same problem with her front teeth.

She is sensitive, kind, and an organizer at heart. I just adore this little one. Who frankly, is not so little anymore. Enjoy her cute personality and pictures.

I was not wrong in thinking that she would love the candy counter. The best part is that she loves the cheap stuff as well. She wanted a bag of Frooties more than anything. (Those are simply fruit flavored tootsie rolls.)

Of course, we had to organize them and figure out all the flavors. I think she liked the pink ones the most. (Those include strawberry, watermelon, and strawberry lemonade.)

It was a great trip and a great afternoon. Hanging out with my girls is a favorite.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

America of Hope

Stepping into the past again for a minute. Last May was Hope of America again, but this time for Ivory. We were on a good schedule to be in the flag for the rest of the kids, but since we moved schools, Ivory was in the yellow. (Daisy and Pearl will probably be there as well.) But I realized it doesn't really matter. The program is fun no matter where your kid sits.

We came a little early to make sure we were on time. Not surprising what you will find us doing...

I did take a moment to sneak over and get a picture of my cute Ives. Here she is with Ember and Rachel. I may have taken a cougar tail over to share with them. Yum.

If you are looking at the flag, Ivory was off to the right.

While waiting for the program to start, I looked around and spotted someone I knew. (Jonny. Easy target.) I couldn't help myself. I took a picture of him and sent it to him along with the message, "I'm watching you."

It was funny to watch his head pop up and start looking around. I think Tyler is starting to rub off on me. I don't really think of myself as a prankster.

They had some of the traditional entertainers: The old women dancers. (I'm sorry. After going to see this three times, you'd think I would know their name now, but I always come up blank. They are just the senior dancers. They still have the same lady doing the splits at the end.)

And the Green Man Group. These were Robyn's favorite. They always do a great job. But I would not want to wear stuff over my face. Claustrophobia much.

As usual, they always have a bit of a challenge getting everyone in their seats. The lady was so funny. She told everyone that it was almost time to take the picture, so if anyone needed to use the bathroom, they should hurry and do that. Suddenly there was a mass exodus. I think she was expecting a few people instead of dozens. I took a picture when many of the kids had exited and she was changing her mind and calling them all back.

They eventually got everyone in their designated position. Looking good guys. Although every other year there have been kids up top. I wonder if we just had a smaller group this time around?

The program was similar, but I believe they shortened it in places. They still had their fun dance moves and the song with the sunglasses. (America Rocks!!)

And they ended with the flashlight song. That one is always cool to watch, although with cell phones, the audience has as many lights as the kids.

I also like the effect when the camera doesn't focus.

Check it out. It was still light outside when we left. Amazing. It is about time they got the program to a reasonable time limit. Ives did such a great job. It was really fun to go and watch her.  These kids really are the Hope of America.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Summer's Out for School

We didn't even take a breath between Summer and school. One day, the kids are in Idaho and we are watching the eclipse and the next moment, everyone's grabbing a backpack and heading out the door. (Or at least that is how it feels.)

There have been years where everyone was ready to go back to school. This is not one of those years. I don't think we were quite done playing. It has been such an amazing Summer. (Not that you know because I haven't blogged about most of it, but trust me.) But school and homework wait for no child. When the bell rings, you come running.

We went to Back to School Night last week for the Bigs and last night for the Littles. I, of course, have been back to school for a couple weeks now making copies galore. I definitely feel useful.

It will take us a while to get back into a good morning routine but all the faces at the table were pleasant this morning and I got lunches made on time. We even left a little early and didn't forget pictures. We are on a roll! Let's look at all these cuties headed off to expand their brains and horizons...

Pearl is getting so big. I can't believe she is in 2nd Grade already. I remember thinking June was so old when she got there. Pearl is already reading very well and is great at Math. I think she will have an excellent year.

Daisy had the most changes in the oral department. Check out her picture from last year. She still had her baby teeth. They finally came out, but only one adult tooth has bothered to grow in. We believe there is another one in there, but have yet to see a sign of it.

Ivory rules the school this year. She is one of the big oldest kids. She is still doing A.L.L. and is excited to see all her friends again. No gymnastics this year, so I'm thinking she will have plenty of time for all that extra homework.

Robyn is no longer the new kid in Jr. High. She has it down. She is taking Jazz Band along with Percussion and I am looking forward to some awesome concerts. I'm totally digging her new transparent glasses.

Finally Miss Ambition herself. June is loaded down with honor classes and a schedule to keep two people busy. But if anyone can do it, she can. She has a positive attitude when it comes to almost everything...except bedtime. She tends to ignore that one. She is living life so fully, it must be hard to sleep.

I'm so proud of all my kids. They work hard and do their best. They aren't perfect, but I love their imperfections. It is what makes them...my kids.

p.s. I included honorary son Radi in filling out a list a favorites, but he didn't make the 'bus' this morning since we left early. I'll try to get a picture of him and put it on here. He has been one of the things that made Summer so sweet this year.

Here we go. It wasn't the first day of school, but we got him eventually.

Monday, August 21, 2017

It Hasn't Happened in 38 Years

Well, naturally: Maleen.

Yes, 38 years ago, Maleen was born. Turns out she's one of a kind, and that's...

No, it just happens that Maleen is the same age as the last total solar eclipse in America. Yes, it's been that long!

We had a conundrum about how we were going to celebrate this milestone. Idaho Falls, one of the premier viewing locations in the country is only a four-hour drive north of here. There was talk of AirBNB home rentals at $1500 per night in IF! Bonus, I'm from there, so I had free room and board with Mom and my brothers.

However, we were also starting school this week. Back to school night was Monday night, and classes start on Tuesday. There was a good chance we'd be back on Tuesday — assuming we didn't hit too much traffic on the way back — but there was little or no chance we'd make it for back to school night. Then there was the traffic: Idaho Falls, booming metropolis of 65,000, was expect to triple in size. Officials prognosticated shortages of everything from gas to water, from food to toilet paper.

So, we put it to the girls: who wants to go? The vote was originally 4-1 going. 5-2 if you count Mom and Dad. Over time, it became 4-3, then 3-4. Before it got any lower, I figured I needed to get in the van and GO! So, after the June's dance, we piled in the car (Dad, June, and Robyn) and headed for the land of the eclipse. It was late when we drove up, but there was a steady channel of cars pushing northward to Idaho Falls until 2:00 a.m. when we finally arrived.

We ended up going to church with Grandma. Church in Idaho is always great. Firstly, I'm usually going on some event weekend and other people from my youth end up there on the same weekends as I. The eclipse was no different. It's odd because I know all these people have grown up, moved away, and have families of their own. Yet, when I'm in town, there they are! It's like they never left. They must think the same was as I do.

Note to self: when you're packing your Sunday best, pants are included. If you don't pack pants, you have to go to church in your jeans and a suit coat. While this may pass for "dressed up" in Texas, in Idaho, they just wonder about some bizarre fashion craze that hasn't hit sage-brush country yet.

Sunday was great. We spent the day with the Ks and the Js, and we had a wonderful time. It occurred to me after the trip that this was probably the last time we would get to play with Kaysen. He'll be leaving on his mission soon, and it's likely that the next time we see him, it will be his farewell.

We all retired on Sunday night, ready for the eclipse on Monday. We were all excited, and none of us quite knew what to expect.

And so dawned Monday. By 10:00 the crew was assembled in the driveway on lawn chairs, sipping sodas, and staring into the sky with our solar glasses on.

I even had my binos ready for the event. I got some great photos of the eclipse projection. Yes, that's my dapper shadow with the projection of a 35% eclipsed sun on it...projected via the binos.

Robyn had conscripted the local quadraped into the experience. I'm not sure Pip knew (or cared) what was going on. She was happy to be in a lap. 

The sun slowly approached the mark. 

We didn't know exactly what to expect during the total maximum of the eclipse, but it was incredible. It started to get darker and the temperature rapidly cooled off. We saw shadow bands like light on the bottom of a pool reflecting across the driveway. And then, all at once it was dark. Yes, dark. We could see stars and planets in the sky. We took off our solar shades and stared in awe at the sun through the binos. 

Here's the solar eclipse, though the photo doesn't do it justice. The camera sort of wigged out under these strange light conditions. On the right, you can clearly see Venus...at 11:30 nearly mid day. The sky was dark. Breathtaking. 

The pictures we took don't do it justice. It's something you experience, and no picture will ever capture the experience. 

Then we had to get home: the girls literally had school the next day. But when to leave? The shortages largely fell short (pun intended). But there was no shortage of cars. By 12:00 noon Kathryn was ready to go — she had business in Salt Lake City. So, she hit the road. After an hour, she had made it to the on ramp for I-15 (about 7 minutes from the house), and concluded that it was best to turn around and return home. 

The girls and I waited until about 2:15 checking the traffic reports every 10 minutes. When it looked like the projection was coming down, we said it was time to go and hit the road. 

It took us about 5 hours and plenty of backroad navigation to get back home. This is usually a 3 and a half hour drive. So it wasn't terrible, but it certainly added to our travel time. That said, even with terrible traffic, it was spectacular. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. 

So, you know where I'll be on April 8th of 2024. Or at least you know where I'll be within a 60-mile band from Texas to Maine. See you there.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Monkey Highlights Six, a.k.a. the 4th of July

The Fourth of July ended up being a strange holiday for us. Youth Conference was coming up right after the holiday, and I had gotten myself invited after some pleading and begging. (They did need some extra leaders so I think they were happy to have me come.) We needed to get our littles up to Idaho since both Tyler and I were going to be gone with the bigs. I originally thought I would take them up right after the holiday, but eventually it seemed better to take them up before the holiday and celebrate up there with Granny V.

It felt pretty roomy in the car with only three kids. One child per row...that is the way to travel.

The kids even took a picture of their awesome mom driving.

Grandma was so excited to see us. So we fisheyed her.

The Fourth of July is always a great event in Idaho. We have been there many times and my favorite part is by far 'breakfast on the boulevard.' It is close enough that we walk. We brought umbrellas for shade, but that didn't protect us from the photobomber back there.

Jami, J.R. and Henlee joined us for the festivities. Check out this delicious breakfast. Nothing beats the strawberry rhubarb syrup. I think I could drink it straight.

We stayed and watched a bit of the parade. It was a pretty typical parade. There were horses, bands, floats, and the like. I did like these topiary animals.

We relaxed for much of the afternoon. Pearl drank enough soda to chill her bones and then she needed extra time in the sun.

We crafted for a bit. We worked on making cute owl pencil holders. Here are the bodies.

And here are the wings drying for later use.

I actually took off early and was not able to finish mine, but the girls did such a cute job on their owls. Look at these wise birds. Daisy plans on bringing one to school.

Like I said, I decided to split early. I was worried about having enough time to pack and get ready for Youth Conference. I left in the early evening and was just entering the valley when fireworks started to go off. Tyler and the girls were already on top of the parking garage (where we watched the  Summerfest display). In fact, he even sent me a picture since they were scootering down the levels.

Maybe you noticed more about that picture than I did. Truthfully, I was driving and I didn't look that closely, but it turns out that picture is more than just a grown man on a small kids' toy. In fact, it is showing off some beautiful road rash Tyler picked up when his scooter didn't turn like it was supposed to. Would you like to see it a little closer?

Nifty huh? Good thing we weren't headed out to go camping in Moab in only two days. That would really be annoying.

The good news is that I arrived safely and we watched fireworks explode all over the valley. I can't believe how many there were....everywhere. I'm sure I've become a little jaded. Sometimes all I can see is money evaporating into the evening twilight. How much could we do with that money if we put it towards schools and parks? Perhaps a new sound system for the Jr. High? That would  be pocket change compared to what was ignited that evening. I still love the Fourth of July and I certainly love our country, but as a nation, we could do with some financial allocation seminars.