January 2004

Karstin's Piano Festival
Karstin was invited to play at a piano festival held at Saddleback College. She did a great job as we expected. She played her piece just like she practiced it. Being in that room meant we had to listen to the other kids. In all sincerity, I love music, and I love my kids, but those other kids weren't mine and their music wasn't always worthy of my presence. Grandpa Albert joined us and he enjoyed the other kids' playing as much as I did. Karen really struggles to keep me in line; it is hopeless when her very own father says the same obnoxious things I do.

Fun with the Swann's

Our friends Steve and Janice Swann sold their big orchard-ranch in Fallbrook and plan to be real estate tycoons. Whilst they plan their next move, they got a big motor coach parked at the Back-Bay in Newport Beach. They invited us over; a great time was had and good food was eaten.

February 2004

The Cruise: Sting Ray City
We went on another cruise thanks to Martin Door. We started in Miami and went to Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Belize. Grand Cayman has a place called Stingray City. It is a sandbar a few miles offshore where stingrays congregate for the sure feeding they'll receive from the anxious tourists. Diana and Dave Haslam, and Bob Mehr and his boys went with us. I thought it was going to be very lame, but it turned out to be one of the coolest things we did. You hold a piece of squid in your hand and they'll suck it right out. There were lots of people who didn't do things just right so they ended up with Sting Ray hickeys or abrasions. I enjoyed swimming through the people and while under water, grabbing their thighs. You could hear the screams under water. You could hold the rays and were invited to kiss them. I tried to kiss only the females.

The Cruise: Dune Buggies
Costa Maya is a resort created along the Yucatan coast with white sand beaches and aqua blue waters. We took a dune-buggy tour where we were able to do the driving (only in Mexico). We ended up in a cool little private beach and had a blast.

The Cruise: Scuba Diving

Cozumel had some of the best diving I have ever seen. I took dozens of pictures and Karen, who did the editing, struggled to narrow the selection… they were all so good. We all had so much fun diving; and it was not a ship-sponsored excursion, which means in true Mexico fashion, it was on the edge of the safety envelope… correction, most safety rules were thrown out. Our dive "Master" would look at our gauges when we tried to let him know we were out of air and he would give us the okay sign. When you dive you start with about 3000 lbs of air. You need to start quitting and ascending at 500 lbs of air. If you live your life on the edge, you go till 300 lbs. I finally surfaced against the dive master's wishes with 30 lbs of air. The water on the surface was very choppy and most of us got sick either on the boat ride out or on the way in. To say the least, the water was well-chummed.

The Cruise: The Dining Room
The highlight of any cruise is the dining room. You get a chance to spend the evenings with friends and family like Dana and LouAnn Lake and Bryan and Heather Lake AND be served five-star cuisine. For example, the waiter asks, "Would you like Filet Mignon or Lobster tonight?" My response is, "Two steaks and three lobsters please." On a cruise you find yourself trying to accumulate some hunger so that you could quench it with all the food in front of you.

March 2004

Homework Garden Closes
For a series of events too long to describe, Karen was forced to close her Homework Garden business due to some zoning disputes with the city. After all the ugly events are concluded, she is now a full-time at-home mom and could not be happier.
April 2004

Spring Break
Spring break was rolling around and Karen was naturally planning an extravagant, highly involved-with-dad trip to…the Bay Area?, Florida?, Ohio?, Utah?, well I wasn't interested. So I campaigned for something local and simple. Disneyland was mentioned and I figured, "That's local, no airport, no long drive… let's do that." It turned into a three-day trip to the Magic Kingdom with a family purchase of annual passes and two nights in a local Holiday Inn (that way the kids feel like we went away to somewhere). The name "Magic Kingdom" might stir thoughts of a al Jehovah's Witness destination. I would probably have preferred such. But I did it… we did it. We joined in for photo opportunities with the rest of Asia and these are available for your viewing pleasure.
May 2004

Mother's Day Fashion Show
Penelope's kindergarten class (Mrs. Foster) did a fashion show for the moms. It was a memorable event for mom but especially for Penelope.

Jeff Burdg Baptism
Kristi Burdg is Karen's visiting teacher. She has a great husband who is not a member of the church. Jeff decided to take the missionary lessons this year and was baptized in May. He went from being a great guy to a super-great guy. It is so fun to see them both grow in the gospel.

Penelope's 6th Birthday
For Penelope's sixth birthday we crashed the Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts. We literally planted our party in the midst of this festival. Because it is run by hippie art-folk, they said that it was "cool" with them. So we had a party and had the kids go around to the different booths and do the art stuff. How many six year olds do you know have made crafts from hemp? (female editor comment: "Remember I'm not the writer this year")

July 2004

Karstin's B-Day party (Christmas in June?)
Karstin turned 13 in July. Naturally we had a Christmas-Styled birthday party for her in June. Why? One word… drugs… maybe not. She wanted a party and realized many of her friends would be doing other Summer-things and would not be available. So we had it in June. The theme was Christmas naturally. It was a half-Christmas celebration… sixth month; December is the twelfth month… get it? Ya…well. It was lots of fun. Everyone decorated Santa hats, ate the Santa cake, wrapped people in toilet paper (to make them look like presents, I of course made doodie jokes), went caroling, and it was all topped off with a visit from Santa Claus (Our friend Larry Anthon).

Savannah's 6th Grade Graduation Party
Savannah's sixth grade class had their graduation party. It is a time when these kids let their hair down and go crazy… then again, if anyone could find a time when Savannah's hair isn't down and she isn't crazy, they will get a free chocolate bar. Mom felt the need to chaperone and ended up really enjoying herself.

Albert's Hawaii trip with Karen
Karen's father retired from the UCR some time ago as a Plant Pathologist. But that has had no effect on his workload. I'm not sure I fully understand why… maybe we'll get another chocolate bar to the one who can explain it to me. As part of his workload, he had to go to a series of seminars in Hawaii. Naturally, this would take place a five-star resort. I think it is called the Orchid Mahu Palace or something like that. The Tri-Cal Foundation, who sponsored the gig, knowing Albert is widowed, told him he could bring his girlfriend. In true Arkansas-fashion he brought his daughter, Karen. While on the big island of Hawaii, they visited Tom and Dorothy Heers' place (my side of the family) and had the chance to see my parents, Boyd and Dale Lake. As missionaries in Hawaii this is something of an upgrade from say, Russia, the Philippines, Christmas Island, or Nigeria. I guess after four missions, the fifth gets to be a stint in Hawaii.

June Man-Cation
The obvious highlight of June was the opportunity to attend the June Man-Cation in Yosemite. We went to Jeff Frazier's luxury cabin at Bass Lake and rode motorcycles all over Yosemite Valley. Attendees were me (Brace), my brother Dana, and my buddies Jeff Frazier, Mark Wells, Jack McDonald, and Craig Something-or-other (obviously a close friend). As you can tell from the name man-cation, the women aren't invited. We eat out, and without the need of help in cooking; we can't see a reason to invite them. (I am hedging on the fact not all of this script be read.)

Valerie Perkins' Graduation

Our beautiful niece, Valerie Perkins graduated High School. She sang the National Anthem at the ceremony, and she was the clear highlight. Then again, seeing the airplane overhead with a banner that read, "Congrats Tenisha- Love Granny" was a close second. The photo of Valerie in her red robe may look grainy, but it was quite a distance - our little digital camera rocks.

Girls' Camp
Karstin went to Girls'Camp. It was truly an exciting event. So exciting, I'll spare details of it so your blood pressure might remain tranquil.

July 2004

Houseboat Trip
Our friends, Jerry and Sue Ellen Hall invited us and the Carroll family on a trip to their houseboat on Lake Mead. The Carroll's have four girls, we have three, Jerry brought his daughter, and another girl came for good measure. So let's see… four plus three, plus one, plus one more… there were about 80 kids on this boat. We found a quaint cove where we staked down the large houseboat with many ropes and steel stakes. Jerry also brought his cool ski boat. It was quite the week; I decided after a week with all of those kids that I'd go back to the doctor and get another vasectomy just for good measure.

A couple of days before the end of the trip, a storm came up in the late afternoon the likes of which hadn't been seen in the area in many years. We spent four hours wrestling with ropes and waves and boats. In the end, no one was seriously hurt (I had one broken rib), but the ski boat was sunk. It was a truly memorable experience that made us grateful that we were protected from anything more than property damage. The month previous the houseboat had a gas-leak that caused an explosion that gave our friend Annelle Wells some 2nd and 3rd degree burns on her arm (not to mention a groovy hairdo). I suggested to the houseboat owners Mark Wells and Jerry Hall that it be renamed "Blasted & Sunk." Another good name would be to call it, "The Howard Dean Campaign."

Blaine and Family visit from Florida

Blaine Lake, my brother, his wife Jeannette and all of their kids (except for the missionary Jeff) came to town. This is significant because "all their kids" numbers somewhere around seven or eight. The fact that he is an OB/Gyn means he can deliver his own kids for free, so why not have lots, eh?! Among other things, we went with Lindsey and Allison to Disneyland.

August 2004

Catalina Trip
Our friends the Rubalcava's and Bob Schiller invited us to Catalina to be photo subjects in the visitors' guide. Bob's marketing company has the contract for advertising for Catalina Island. They use photogenic families to juice up the visitors' guide. I understand we were second choice after Janet Reno and Herman Munster. The biggest picture of us they used is the one of us all on horseback. I protested having to wear the white helmet. I was convinced that any grown man who rides a horse with a helmet is a pansy. The only thing less manly than that is to go kayaking in calm water with a life-vest. Of course both pictures of me in the visitors' guide show me in these compromised situations. They might as well show me in a spring dress. The next s of me will be when I'm grand marshal of that parade in San Fran.

A Beach Trip
Karen took the girls and Kartin's friend Tiffany Sunnell to the beach. The reason this is noteworthy is Karen's dislike for sitting in the sand. She has discovered the advanced technology of a thing called a "beach chair", which keeps her precious fanny above the hated dirt.

Penelope Lake
Penelope is growing like a weed. She is the sweetest six year-old we've ever seen. She likes to eat steak (medium rare), tacos, and anything with sour cream. Her sister Karstin continues to turn into a little lady. Penelope's piano lessons are coming along. Her teacher is Aleli Tibay and schools her in the "Suzuki Method."
September 2004

Board Game Party
To make sure we have no idle time around the house, Karen schedules social parties for the girls. The turnout is usually 10-15 and is fun for all. September's gathering was to play board games.

Book of Mormon Symposium
There is an organization whose website is www.bmaf.org that will gather professors and intellectuals for a symposium of essays and lectures. I wanted to go and Karen thought it would be a great idea to bring along the kids. We stopped in St. George and saw our friends the Swann's and their latest real estate project. While there, Steve and Janice volunteered to have the kids stay with them while Karen and I went to Salt Lake. Upon receiving this offer, we jumped right in the car and sped off, in case they were to change their minds. It was a terrific two days of lectures and discussions. The kids had a great time and we really enjoyed seeing Steve and Janice again. Steve's interests are so similar to mine that upon hearing about the symposium, I would guess we'll be there next year.

October 2004

Penelope's 1st grade Bug Show
Penelope had a show at school that was bug-centered. I missed it myself, and by the looks of the pictures, what a treat I missed indeed.

When it comes to carving pumpkins, I have a real talent. No, I don't use those cheater-stencil things. I use finesse, skill, and creativity.

Costumes for Mom, Dad, Karstin, Savannah, and Penelope were interesting this year. Our ward trunk-or-treat party was as big as ever. The band was plugged in and we jammed! I dress up so that the costume would distract from what was being heard. I don't know how it sounded, but it sure was fun. Karen was busy taking pictures of many people there. Take a look at my black friend Dave Payne, the Hodson family and Truman with his dad.

October Man-Cation
We went to Yosemite again. Jeff sold his cabin and bought a fixer-upper. Did that discourage us? Heck no! The food was great, the weather perfect, and the bikes were a thunderin'. This trip was attended by Jeff Frazier, Jack McDonald, me, Dana Lake, and Dana's buddy Lynn Johnson. And I'll tell you…. King Kong ain't got nuthin' on Lynn! That guy snores like a chain saw. When we rode our way to the valley floor, we passed through a mile-long tunnel. Towards the end of the tunnel, Lynn and I revved our engines really loud (we've got the loud pipes). Jack, at the end of our bike line, said the noise was deafening (though still not as loud as Lynn's snoring). The tunnel lets out at a rest-stop/ viewpoint. Because of our loud revving, every face (about 200) was looking our way as we came out of the tunnel. Such things make people like me and Lynn giggle like teenagers. Dana, the mature one of the group decided he needs to get some louder pipes for his bike too.

November 2004

Family Reunion
My mother's side of the family has a reunion every year at this time. My Aunt Doreen usually hosts it, but is currently living with her daughter and son-in-law, so she couldn't host it this year. There was talk by my brother Don and his children that we would use a local church institute and maybe our showroom at our office for the reunion. I suggested that we use my house. It was agreed. My wife said it would be great, but said I would need to do a few home improvements first. I got a honey-do list that took me about 40 hours to complete (with help from my buddy Corey Harris). It was nice to see family from far and near. They enjoyed watching our snake kill and eat a live rat.

Karstin's Young Women's Personal Progress
Karstin set out to get the "Young Women in Excellence" award before her 13th birthday. Most girls receive this award when they are 16 or 17 so she thought she might be the only 12 year old to ever receive it! She got it… the main reason is that she set her mind to it. Once she does that; get out of the way. Karstin continues to work hard on her piano studies, attends the Orange County High School of the Performing Arts in Visual Arts and works hard to keep a 4.0, and is a wonderful big sister to Savannah and Penelope, not to mention a great babysitter for us.

Savannah's Polar Express Birthday Party
Karen and Savannah came up with a clever birthday celebration. Her girlfriends would come over to our house bright and early in their pajamas, get a waffle breakfast, and go to the train station; take the train back toward our town, and go watch the newly released movie, "The Polar Express."

December 2004

Wizard of Oz
Savannah was in a play and played the part of a munchkin. She was far and away the prettiest one there. In fact, she is so pretty she made the rest of the munchkins look like winged monkeys. A wonderful surprise was Grandma Mains and Aunt Debbie flew in from Colorado to see her. They enjoyed seeing her play her role. Although it was tough to watch the thing when she wasn't in it (it wasn't tough, it was torture).

Sing Noel
December means Sing Noel in our Stake. There is a choir for the adults, the young women, and the children. I sang in the adult choir, Penelope sang in the children's choir, Savannah & Karstin sang in the young women's choir, and Karen led the 75-voice Young Women's Choir. It was lots of work but it turned out very nice. Karen had help from friends. Alese Harris, assistant director, Kelly Burdg helped with staging, Kara Lyn Williams played piano and Daria Sarraf played the Harp. If you would like to hear some of the songs, let us know and we'll email them to you. You can see from the selection of photos of the young women that they didn't allow any ugly girls to sing with them. (You do remember who is writing this? It isn't me - Karen)

Gift Exchange Party
Karen planned another social event for the girls and had about 15 kids over. They all brought white-elephant gifts, brought goodies and made noise and messes and crafts for hours.

The Christmas Tree Story
The house is ready and decorated for Christmas. I thought I'd save some time and trouble this year when it comes to the tree. The mess and hassle of live-trees had worn out their place in me. I decided to get a pre-lit artificial tree. The fact that it is pre-lit should save time and make it easy to set up, right?! I went ape and got a 12' high tree. It only took about 5 hours to set up. Every bloody branch had to be shaped and bent just right. It stayed up for a month because I didn't want to go through the work to take it down. After all that time up, I think we got only one picture of it.

Portola Hills Christmas
Six missionaries visited us on Christmas morning. We had invited the two in our ward and they called to ask if four others could come. We happily invited them as well, and I made waffles for all. They ate like missionaries (which means almost as much as Penelope). Our friends Wade and Leslie Sticht gave us a present of homemade chimes. They used ½" electrical conduit cut to specific lengths and hung on rope. They then marked out on large paper the words and corresponding chimes. Every one had one or two chimes and we played Christmas hymns for an hour or two. It was more enjoyable than we thought possible. Notice the beautiful missionary picture to the left our our front yard. Our friend, Joyce Warner, came and helped the girls finish painting our nativity. You can see it on our front yard in the picture to the left.

Family Caroling and Concert Party
We had our annual family Musical Christmas party. We were treated with the presence of the Perkins, Albert, Trumbull's, Cheri, and Lori and family. Food was great and the music incredible.

Christmas Dinner at Ben and Leslie's Home
Leslie Ashby, daughter of Don Lake, my brother, was kind enough to host a Christmas dinner and gift exchange at her house. We had a great time and the kids loving playing together.

We truly are blessed to be a family and are blessed to count you among our friends. May the Lord bless you and yours in 2005.

All our love,

Brace Lake, going on 24 years at Mr. Martin Garage Doors
Karen Lake, at-home mom, Savannah's teacher, no commute
Karstin Lake 13 years old - 8th grade, Orange County High for the Performing Arts - 30 minutes away in Santa Ana
Savannah Lake 12 years old, 7th grade - BYU online High School - no commute
Penelope Lake 6 years old, 1st grade Portola Hills Elementary - 2 blocks from our home

Our home address is
28532 Chimney Rock Circle
Portola Hills, CA 92679