Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thank You Grandma Hanks!

We Just got this BEAUTIFUL quilt in the mail for Lily. Kevin's mom made it for her and it turned out perfect. Its pretty amazing to have such a talented and charitable mother-in-law! I definitely consider myself blessed!

So here's a great big THANK YOU MOM/GRANDMA! From our whole family and also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! (yesterday) We're sure glad you were born!!!

And one more special thank you from me to you for raising such a wonderful son. He shares the same creative streak as you and has also learned how to be service oriented and charitable from your example. I'm lucky to have you both!

This is the breakfast that Kevin made me the other day...just because he felt like it! He even woke up early so he could serve it to me in bed before the girls got me up! I am SO lucky to be surrounded by so many giving individuals!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Brushes, Books, Bikes and...Gorillas!

Its not everyday that the whole household wakes up in a good mood, so, because yesterday was one of those days, I decided it was post-worthy!

Brooklyn and Lily were both sweethearts. I laid Lily on the floor while I was getting her bottle and when I came back Brooklyn had wrapped her up in this blanket and was laying with her while brushing her hair. It was SO cute!

I decided it was a good time to teach Lily how to read (or just how to focus her eyes on something) So I put her on the couch with a book stuffed in the crack for her to look at. Brooklyn joined Lily and started reading it to her. I Love these girls!

Brooklyn was such a good girl that after we visited the Library and Target, we decided to bring her home a new bike! When Daddy got home from work (also in a very good mood) he set to work putting the bike together with Brooklyn.

Brooklyn had a really hard time being patient and taking a backseat to the building process. She kept bringing Kevin parts and trying to put things on by herself. When the seat finally went on she was ecstatic!

Unfortunately, she was a little too short for her new set of wheels and couldn't reach the peddles. But that didn't stop her from having a good time. She just scooted around pushing buttons and having a blast (even though it did stress her out a little that she couldn't peddle the "right way").

Here is a video of her enjoying her "Special Treat"

The good mood continued on to dinner and I was lucky enough to catch Brooklyn and Kevin singing the big bad gorilla version of "The Eensy Weensy Spider".

Anyway, it was a fantastic day full of fantastic memories so we hope this post makes you smile as much as we all are! Enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Heleman 5:12


So this last week I experienced a “first” in my life, and I thought it was pretty cool.  I got to see a power generating station that I helped design!  I’ve done odd jobs here and there before this job, but this is the very first project that I was involved in from the beginning… back in the “hmmm, maybe we could put a new power plant here!” days.  I feel very privileged to have been involved with this project, it involved a lot of work, a lot of learning, and a lot of faith in myself and the skills I’ve learned!

So this is the same site and project that I’ve posted about before (click here).  The pictures before were when the massive foundations were being poured.  This site is unique, because a crazy layer of clay covers the whole area.  When the clay gets saturated from rain, it expands and causes all sorts of problems.  We designed a very neat system of piles and deep foundations to mitigate that problem!  The cool part is that you can’t even see the foundations and all the work that was put into them.  If I didn’t know about them and help design them, I wouldn’t even know they were there! (I think there’s a good life-lesson hidden in there . . .)

This plant is located in the north end of a town located North-West of Dallas, TX named Greenville.  My boss Tim and I flew down last Monday.   I had half-hoped to go down at the end of the week, so that I could drive down to San Antonio and visit Andrew and Sharon . . . but I’ll take what I can get, I was just happy to go down!

Map picture

The first thing that I noticed early Tuesday morning was the 3 giant stacks climbing above the trees, and the first thought into my head was “holy cow! I designed those!!”  It was a very neat sight, and that feeling didn’t leave me the entire time I was there.


These are the stacks that emit the cleaned exhaust 85 feet above the ground.  I designed all the steel supporting the stack and the stack itself.  The silencer (like a muffler) is the fat cylinder extending half-way up the steel, and luckily that was purchased from another company . . . because I’ve no clue how to design that!  You’ll notice that the steel itself is a shiny silver color.  It gets that color from a protective coating of Zinc (put there by a process called “hot-dipped galvanizing”) that is common for steel that’s exposed to the elements, and helps protect it from rusting!  The stacks themselves are a special grade of steel, hence the dirty brown color.  This special grade of steel is better at maintaining its strength when heated, as the exhaust coming out of the engines can get up to 700 degrees F!


Another structure that I designed was extremely complicated.  The trick on this next structure wasn’t so much making sure the strength of the structure was adequate (the equipment it is supporting is pretty light weight), the trick was getting everything to fit!  This picture gives a good idea of how much “stuff” is being fit into this tiny space.


This doesn’t quite give the total picture, as they’re not done installing all the equipment yet in this area.  After all the water pipes, ladders, and electric cable trays are installed, this whole area will look like a finished Tetris board!  This area has caused considerable problems in past projects, stuff not fitting, not having room for pipes and cables etc. I attacked the problem using a 2-pronged approach:

#1 – I bugged a lot of people for information about this equipment.  I coordinated with the Mechanical, Electrical, and HVAC departments to get detailed drawings of all this equipment, so I could get an idea of how big this stuff was, what kind of steel was required to support it, how it was anchored etc.  All of this equipment came from different companies and manufacturers, so a lot of time was spent simply gathering information!

#2 – I created a 3D computer model of everything that went into this area.  This allowed me to anticipate problems and interferences.  I could make sure that a water pipe wasn’t going to run into a steel brace, or that there was sufficient support points for an electrical cable tray. 

I’m happy to say that it worked very well!  Everything (thankfully) fit like a glove!  Here are a few more pictures of the area:

100_1086 In my computer model, I predicted that there would be only about 1 1/2 inches of clearances between these two steel members.  I was pretty close: turns out there was about 1 3/4 inches of clearance! Phew!


This piece of equipment was the hardest to find space for, and it gave me many problems.  It’s basically a massive air conditioner for the engine hall.  And I mean massive! Above it sits a filtered fan that supplies oxygen to the engines.  In between them was a total of about 6.25 inches of vertical clearance, and I fit a piece of steel that was about 6.15 inches deep in between them! Boy it was close!


This area is definitely a personal victory for me.  No one really notices when things go right, but I would have definitely heard about it had I screwed up! I did get some very good feedback from some very important people though: I was able to chat with one of the construction workers who actually erected this steel, and helped place all the equipment.  He told me how much fun they had erecting the steel in this area.  In his words, he said “when we saw the plans and all the equipment that was supposed to go in this area, we kept making bets and saying ‘no way is this going to fit!’, but just when we thought we wouldn’t be able to get this stuff in place, somehow it just fit! We couldn’t believe it! Everything fit! You guys did a great job!”  I don’t think I could’ve gotten a better compliment.  Too bad HE can’t give me a raise though . . .

To return the compliment: those guys are amazing! It’s one thing to design a Lego project, and another thing to actually put it together.  The fact that it went so smoothly speaks volumes of their skill and expertise!

Here are some other cool pictures of the steel!

100_1090 Another crazy connection!!



One bonus of my bugging the other departments for information: I found out that this random cable tray was going to be coming out of the building, and I was able to design some steel to support it! If I hadn’t asked, we never would have known about it, until they tried to install it!



I was told last-minute to design a platform to allow access for maintenance personnel!


Another electrical cable tray that had to be supported with structural steel.


I kept asking the contractor for feedback about my design, wondering what I could do to make my design better, and easier to fabricate and erect.  One thing he pointed out to me was this connection. He walked me over and showed me this and simply pointed out that there is a *#&$^%%-load of bolts in this area, and he had to tighten most of them by hand, since he couldn’t fit an impact wrench into that small area!  It’s something I never would have thought of had I not asked!  I’m going to change the design in the future so there’s more welding and less bolts in a location like this!


Inside the actual building that contains the engines!  They are big, massive, and produce the power that will turn on air conditioners all over North Texas!


Another random structure I helped design: a secondary containment for water, oil, and stuff called Urea (which I’m told doesn’t smell very good!)

100_0836100_0979  100_0978

This dog followed me around the site the entire time I was there.  No one knows who he belongs to, and he hangs around because all the construction workers feed him! I love dogs! Play with them a bit, let them tackle you into the dirt and roll around a bit, and you have a friend for life!

Anyway, it was a very fun, very educational trip.  I learn so much actually seeing what it is I design, so that in the future I can avoid little errors and continually improve my skills!


Oh PS.  If you ever go on a trip somewhere . . . make sure and email your itinerary to your family.  I got into the habit of doing that, just so people would know where I am, and BOY did it pay off!  Waiting at my hotel was a package full of Milky Ways, Reese's, and Kit Kat bars, courtesy of Janna! Woo Hoo! Thanks for the grub Janna! That was a very fun treat!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lily is 2 Months Old!

Lily is officially 2 months old, so, today I took her to the doctor's office where she got her second Well Checkup. She is now 23 inches long and weighs 12 pounds. That puts her in the 75th percentile for both weight and height, and her head is measuring exactly average. The doctor was very impressed with how strong she is and said she has the strength and alertness of a 4 month old. I attribute both qualities to the fact that she has to constantly be on the look out for her big sister Brooklyn (who WILL smother Lily if left alone for too long!)

Lily is now laying in half push up position whenever she's on her tummy and she is smiling and cooing A LOT! She likes to hear her daddy's voice and follows him with her head and eyes whenever he is talking. There is no question that she knows her mommy. When I make eye contact with her she smiles from ear to ear...but nothing makes her smile like her big sister! Brooklyn likes to lay on top of Lily with their faces against each other. Sometimes she's too heavy and it makes Lily upset, but most the time she doesn't put all her weight on Lil so Lily just lays there and smiles and tries to talk to Brooklyn. I love watching them together. Sisters definitely have a special bond.

Some more good news is that Lily is now sleeping between 7 and 9 hours a night! Lil and Brooklyn are sharing a room so her new sleeping habits are VERY helpful in keeping all of us from being grumpy in the morning!

Lily will receive her baby blessing on May 2nd and we are all excited for the visitors that are coming. She will be able to meet both of her grandpas for the first time and will get to spend some time with Grandma Hanks again. She will also get to meet her aunt Janna, cousin Audrey, aunt Sarah, and cousin Noa, and then she will be graced by the presence of her newly-graduated, "King of the Universe" Uncle Brian!

Well, those are all the updates for now so I leave you with well wishes and this very special picture of our adorable 2 month old daughter. Enjoy!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Foto: Like Mother, Like Daughters? Not Quite!

This picture is of me holding my little sister Sarah when I was the same age as Brooklyn. (2 years old)

This picture is of my big sister Becca holding me when I was the same age as Lily. (Newborn)

And here are my daughters, Brooklyn and Lily... Let's just say, they didn't get their genes from me! And for anyone who has noticed that I tend to have chunky babies, you can now see, they have NOTHING on their Mom!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Yet Another Fun Filled Weekend!

We had visitors for Conference Weekend!!! Brian and Natalie packed up their kids and made the drive from Ann Arbor, Michigan on Thursday and as soon as they arrived, the fun began!

The kids had a blast playing together all day, and sometimes when they were supposed to be sleeping as well! We only have 2 bedrooms in our house , so Brooklyn, Wes, and Sydney all shared a room. They loved it!

I think the only one who didn't appreciate all the extra bodies was Lily! All the kids were fascinated with her and determined to give her as much love as possible...whether she liked it or not!

On Saturday we all crowded in the living room to watch Conference. I don't remember hearing anything, but it was still nice to be together and watch the kids try their hardest to be reverent. :)

Here we are huddled around the television. The kids did everything from coloring and painting, to building forts and putting together Mr. Potato Heads! The adults were "multitasking" by playing games and searching the Internet on their computers and i phones while watching Conference and reffing children!

In between sessions we tried to get the kids outside to work out their wiggles.

We let them run around and play in the grass, and then we enjoyed some good old-fashioned sidewalk chalking.

On Sunday the kids woke up to bunny-shaped balloons and candy-filled Easter eggs, complements of Aunt Natalie! They all liked the balloons more than their baskets and had a lot of fun bopping each other with them.

After the Michigan Hanks Family left on Sunday afternoon, Brooklyn, Lily and I curled up on the floor and enjoyed some snuggles and a little bit of quiet time.

It was a fun filled weekend and we were so happy to have family around for the holiday! And to our mothers who may be concerned...Don't worry! We'll be downloading the Conference talks to our i pods and fully intend to listen to every last second!

Oh yeah! And for your viewing pleasure...I thought you all might appreciate being able to watch Brian bust out his hula-hooping moves. Enjoy!