Notes From

Notes From: Mexico City

Notes From” is a series where I share notes and observations from recent adventures.

  • Mexico City is just so massive. With 20 million residents in the area it spreads out so far. There is lots to look at on the way in.
  • Food options are remarkable. Candace noted that it was “probably the best food city we’ve ever visited.” I agree. Luckily we averaged 25,000 steps a day to counterbalance.
  • When you travel around the world and look back at the photo album on your phone, there are usually overall color themes. For instance, Switzerland photos are mostly green. Lake Tahoe is mostly dark blue. Jerusalem is mostly light brown. But Mexico City knows no color limits. It’s the most colorful country in clothing, food, and culture. For a guy who lives his life mostly on a grayscale, there was a lot to take in.
  • Taylor Swift was in town for concerts but we opted for Lucha Libre instead.
  • When you’re an early riser like us, you can pretty much have the city to yourself in the morning. The streets are quiet and open. I’m sure the late night streets are hopping but I wouldn’t know.
  • The metro train system works pretty well and is inexpensive. (5 pesos per ride which is currently about 30 cents.) Well, it works good, until stations are just shut down for some unknown reason and you just have to get off and figure it out or go back to where you came from. Adventures!
  • The flight from Las Vegas is just over 3 hours. The time difference is just one hour. (Both of these things are less than major cities on the East Coast of the US.) The entry is simple with no visa required. These things make it a great international city to visit and enjoy.
  • Even with a short flight, I remain a big fan of the AirFly for travel. This little travel gadget lets you use your wireless AirPods with the TV and movies on the plane. AirPods perform way better than the plug-in ones from the airline and they are so much more comfortable. It’s also way easier to move around with a wire around. Plus, if you’re watching live TV, you can make a bathroom visit while still listening to the show. Highly recommended.
  • The “National Museum of Anthropology” was so well presented and very enjoyable.

Overall we really enjoyed Mexico City. We’ll visit again soon.


How do I know whether the thought I have is my own or if it’s from the Holy Ghost?

Elder Dale G Renlund, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, recently spoke to a large congregation of educators and students. The talk was titled “Observation, Reason, Faith, and Revelation” and covered many ways that we can learn and know truth. It was a wonderful message.

In the middle of that talk was one point I wanted to highlight. It’s a question that is pondered by many seekers of truth. It is a question I have asked and been asked many, many times. I thought this was a wonderful response so concisely delivered. Here is the text from his talk:

At one time or another, many of us have asked ourselves, “How do I know whether the thought I have is my own or if it’s from the Holy Ghost?”

This is a reasonable question. 

Perhaps a better question and certainly more actionable is this, “Should I act on this particular thought?”

The prophet Mormon answered this second question. He taught, “every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil…”

These are the criteria whether we should act on a particular thought. It promotes believing in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It promotes loving and serving them, and promotes doing good. 

If the thought meets these criteria, does it really matter whether it was planted by the Holy Ghost in that exact moment or if the thought arose thanks to a lifetime of experiences and prior decisions. 

In reality, it doesn’t. 

But observation and reason provide a filter through which we determine whether to act on an impression. 

I do believe that you can decipher between your own thoughts and the promptings of the Spirit. It might be different for you than it is for me. This ability to recognize comes with study, with prayer, with pondering, and with some trial and error.

But until we reach that point of perception, the above advice is really helpful. Rephrase the question as one of action and get moving.

Should I take this job?

Should I date this person?

Should I move to this new location?

Should I accept this call?

Should I reach out to this person?

Should I return to faith?

Should I accept this doctrine?

Rather than wait and waffle, I believe that God usually wants us to just make the decision and move forward and he will bless our efforts.

Trust your future self by acting now.

For those who would like to hear the full talk, you can watch it below or read it here when the text is edited and posted.


July 2023 Stockpile

Here are random things to post from the stockpile:

Pairi Daiza in Belgium

Our family spent a few weeks in Europe earlier this Summer. It was an awesome time to be together and learn new things.

Among our favorite activities was the Pairia Daiza zoo in Belgium. I’m not usually a zoo person, but this place was special and amazing.

The grounds are so impressive and we loved that there was so little oversight of guests. I think we saw two workers the whole time. Just enjoy the animals.

But best of all, you can stay the night inside the zoo. After everyone leaves, you can walk around and it’s like a private zoo for your family. We spent 30 minutes with just us six and 50 active penguins. It’s really awesome and worth checking out.

Our room overlooked the polar bears and we enjoyed watching their morning breakfast as they dove for fish. This was the view from the one of the beds:

Road to Carthage podcast

As part of the Joseph Smith Papers Project, there is a new podcast that focuses “on the historical events that led to the assassination of the prophet (Joseph Smith) and his brother by a mob, as well as the aftermath of that tragic event.”

Even as a student of this historical event, I learned so much. I especially enjoyed learning about when they opened the sealed court records from the trial of the killers after it sat there for 100 years.

The podcast can be found here.

Another option to keep cool

Is everyone else melting? Revisit my post from a couple years ago about staying cool during a hot Summer. I can’t tell you how good a pre-cooled 65 degree bed is at the end of the day.

Also, I added a link to some fun reusable water balloons that Candace bought to use around the pool.


A few months ago I had an emergency appendectomy. I have never had a surgery. I’ve never stayed in a hospital. It was all new to me.

I’m mostly back now, which is nice. My thanks to all the nurses and doctors who bring skill and care to care for others.

My first Torta Ahogada

I recently had my first Torta Ahogada. In short, it’s a pork-filled sandwich that is drenched in a (not too hot) salsa. It is Guadalajara’s signature sandwich.

Candace and I enjoyed it very much.

You can read more about the sandwich and it’s history here.

If you’re in Las Vegas and want to try one, you can find a great option here. (Conveniently on the way to/from the Las Vegas Nevada temple so you can care for both the spirit and the body on the same trip.)


Three Tips for Social Media and Young People

The American Psychological Association has released a health advisory regarding social media use in adolescence. You can read it online or download the PDF. It is full of good advice, warnings, and things to watch for in this realm. Every parent should read it… preferably with their teenagers. It leads to good conversation and learning

Also, adults should take a lot of this advice into their own lives. There are way too many adults that are absolutely locked into their own social media feeds.

I agree with much of what was written in the document. If I were to give three pieces of actionable advice for parents, it would be these three things:

  1. There is no reason that phones should be in bedrooms over night. Buy an alarm clock for waking up. Buy a HomePod for listening to music before bed. Designate a time and a place outside of the bedroom where phones need to be plugged in to charge over night. The sleep is way too important and the escape from social media and notifications is just as necessary. (See #7 on the list.)
  2. Do all you can to understand the monitoring options available to you. This could mean you need to setup a parent account on the social media app so your child can be connected with you. This makes it possible for limitations to be set and also it can help you review where you child has spent their time. It’s best to review it with them. I find that most kids like help and prefer to be on the same team. If you have iPhones, setup Screen Time. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely better than nothing. At a minimum it will let everyone know where their time is spent on the phone. (See my post “Technology and Families“)
  3. All social media is not created equal. Some use brings opportunity where friendships are built, accomplishments are encouraged, and connections are made. With this understanding, I would say that right now TikTok is absolutely the one to avoid. Do not allow it on the phone of your teenager. This has nothing to do with the political ban aspect. I also understand why the app is very entertaining. The issue is that the app is simply too effective in all the wrong ways. Young brains don’t have the ability to use technology with intent. It captures even great kids. Make a deal with your kids to keep it off their phones, even if it means a little more time in other social media apps.

Overall, I’m glad that good organizations are doing the research into these important matters. I’m grateful our society provides experts in areas where we all need some help.

Take action.


Never Forget You

The wonderful thing about journals is that you can go back to a certain time and remember exactly where you were and exactly how you felt.

The heavy thing about journals is that same time travel.

It was twenty years ago today that my nephew Evan passed away from SMA. It is a muscle weakening disease. The most severe (and rare) type affects babies right after birth. At the time of Evan’s death it was a total surprise to our family but we are all very aware of it now.

This night remains one of the most influential experiences of my life.

Since that time, our family has added many more grandkids. I’m convinced that the close relationship between them and the unconditional love they receive from aunts, uncles, and grandparents, can be traced back in many ways to what we all felt that night.

For me personally, Evan’s passing is the personification of hope in the resurrection and the atonement of Jesus Christ. More than once, I have leaned on his influence in my own efforts of “trying to be like Jesus.”

With the approval of my sister (Evan’s mom), I share with you a blog post from the week of his passing two decades ago. There is also a song I wrote and recorded to remember him.

Please read about my loved and missed nephew and hear his song: Evan’s Lullaby.


Mush Ado About Nothing

Ninety minutes North of Anchorage is a place called Happy Trails Kennel. It is the home of Martin Buser, a four-time Iditarod champion. They have dozens of strong dogs, lots of warm clothes, and this week they welcomed the Stucki family for some mushing.

We had an exciting ride through the white fields and over the frozen lakes. The dogs were so impressive to watch. They’d respond so quickly to commands. They never slowed down. As we raced along the tracks, you’d see them swipe a bit of snow from the side so they could hydrate and keep running.

This trip was to complete my goal to visit all fifty states in the USA. Alaska was the last state to see and everyone came along to mark the occasion. It took 42 years (and only really matters to me) but I did it.

What are the rules?

When it comes to visiting a state, I had a couple guidelines. 

First, there has to be an act of commerce or community. You can have a meal, visit a location, or make a new friend. In other words, there needs to be an experience of some sort. 

And the second rule: airport layovers don’t count. 

A few memories

In June 1991, I took my first flight in an airplane and visited Texas. The occasion was a wedding reception for my uncle and new aunt. I got to travel because at the last minute, a family member couldn’t make it. At that time, you could just swap out the ticket for someone else with no issue. Simpler times.

In Houston I learned what humidity was and that it was not for me. I also tried Gumbo for the first time and realized it was for me. Ironically, both of them made me sweat.

My first time in New England was 19 years ago this week. I wrote about it as one of my very first entries on this blog. Blogging was still pretty new back then so it’s fun for me to go back and read it. 

Candace and I recently went to Arkansas. We used a Dwight Yoakum concert as the reason to visit. We were definitely the least “country” in the audience. I was surprised how little I know about that state. It was totally new to me.

What did I learn?

As I look back through my journal entries about state visits, I’m encouraged that there is so much good throughout this country. Every town has a history and every community has a different feel. Sometimes it’s dramatically different just across the state line.

The common theme to remember is that there are great people “from sea to shining sea.” It’s worthwhile to travel a bit and be reminded that we all have more in common than we have differences.

I’m glad that we live in this beautiful world.


Screen Time is Unreliable

In 2018, Apple released Screen Time for iOS. I was elated. I wrote a post encouraging families to take time and setup their Apple accounts the right way so they can take advantage of it. (ie, stop sharing one Apple ID.)

As a father of four great kids, I am a big proponent of helping families be comfortable with technology and using tech intentionally. In addition to talking with kids about technology and being an example of proper use, “Screen Time” can be a helpful tool to start and maintain good habits.

The problem is that Screen Time has been so unreliable for 5 years and counting. And even worse, it’s only unreliable some of the time and there appears no way to fix it.

How is it broken?

Let me count the ways. No seriously, the list is long.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time just to put it all out there but it just seemed overwhelming to put it all down. The post just lived in my drafts.

A few months ago I asked on Twitter to see if I was the only one:

I tweeted about it because iOS was released and brought with it only one new Screen Time feature and even that seemed not to work. At least I wasn’t seeing it.

I ended up reaching out to a friend at Apple and they told me that it did indeed ship with iOS 16. I was surprised. It turns out that every single device with every single member of the Family Sharing group has to be updated to the latest operating system. For a family of 6, that’s a lot of devices. We were mostly there, but I had an old Mac mini that was logged into my iCloud account but couldn’t be updated to the latest macOS. With that weakest link in the chain removed, the new feature started working. That was good to see.

But there is still plenty broken. Now that I know I’m not alone, I figured it was time to get the list out there. (I hope to do this in a way that doesn’t put a spotlight on my awesome kids. I’ll clean up where I can, but please ignore where I miss.)

  • Screen Time usage data takes forever to update. Seriously, it feels like it uses the old MobileMe infrastructure somewhere. As best I can tell, this data isn’t uploaded regularly or synced automatically. The only chance of it working is both the parent and the child having a phone with good data coverage. When I open the app, it tries to get the data from the child phone. If they’re at school behind all the block walls and metal roofs, there’s no chance it’s working.
  • When the data does sync, the UI doesn’t show it well anyway. I can tap on multiple days, but it jumps back to a random day. When I try to swipe to a past week, it jumps right back to the current week. And even more fun, this happens with two of my kids but not the other two. See this gif example:
  • When stats do show they are often not accurate. If a Finder window is left open on a Mac, you’ll see constant usage reported. You can get around this by just looking at one device at a time. Phones are what I care about the most. On that note…
  • “Share Across Devices” does not turn off/on reliably. If it was up to me, I’d have no screen time on child macOS accounts on the Mac. When I try to disable it on Mac, it just turns back on.
  • There is no way to remove old devices from the Screen Time account. (I tweeted about this three years ago.) You can remove it from iCloud, erase the device, drop it off a cliff, but it still shows up in Screen Time.
  • When an app goes to downtime, via a schedule or usage limit, the “one more minute” works infinitely. Kids can either use it over and over, or sometimes they use it once and it just never ends.
  • My kids use GamePigeon to play little games with grandparents through iMessage. In screen time, you can’t allow iMessage only apps for play anytime.
  • You can list some apps to be “Always Allowed.” It will ignore all limitations from downtime or usage. I think this is key for helping kids use phones as proper tools. We’ll make the effort to go through all apps and see which ones should always be there. However, the list constantly resets leaving only the three default ones. (Phone, Messages, and I can’t remember the last one.) We have to go through the full list again.
  • Speaking of scheduled downtimes, they constantly reset. You can choose to follow the same schedule everyday or change it depending on the day of the week. For our family, we allow for more game time on Friday and Saturday, and more focused usage on Sundays. To do this, we manually set the schedule for each day. The schedule is constantly lost and we have to redo it.
  • Sometimes Screen Time will turn off completely for everyone as if it’s not setup. I’ll go to my parent account and it will invite me to setup screen time like it’s the first time. I try, and then I’m told that it’s already full with six members.
  • Kids have the ability to request more time for an app. We receive the request and okay it. It works about 75% of the time.
  • iOS/macOS upgrades usually reset everything, starting from scratch but not in a clean way. We turn something on and all the broken parts come back again.
  • Speaking of setting up from scratch, there appears no way to do that. Sometimes I wonder how many of these things are broken because of upgrades and I’d love a fresh start at screen time without making it be a fresh start of iOS for everyone.
  • You can set app limits for specific apps. For instance, you can say no more than 30 minutes on Instagram. Sometimes this works. Sometimes the setting disappears. I add it back and then there are two of them. Most of the time though, they stay there but are totally ineffective. I’ll have a limit for thirty minutes but it actually does nothing.

That’s a basic list that I’ve gathered. I’m sure you have others. And if your experience is like mine, you probably have different child accounts that behave in different ways. (ie, it’s broken on some but not others.)

Why write this now?

I have a hard time writing an article where I don’t give a fix at the end. That’s one reason I’ve waited so long to write this post. This article feels incomplete.

I just don’t know how to fix this and I could use some help. It feels like I’m in a malfunctioning airplane with my family and I have a parachute that is guaranteed to work 90% of the time. I suppose it’s better than nothing.

Perhaps putting this out there will bring up a good solution on how to get things working. Or maybe I just want to hear that others are seeing this as well so I know I’m not alone.

I may get to a point where I take the nuclear option and just have everyone reset their phones and build from scratch. It’s a lot of work, but protecting kids is worth it.

Feel free to contact me on Twitter, Mastodon, or email if you have any feedback.


Some Books I Enjoyed in 2022

As I mentioned before, in our house we all try to keep our Kindles loaded and available throughout the year. (I am a heavy user of iPad, but for reading, it’s all about the Kindle Paperwhite.)

Here are a few of the books I read in 2022 that you might enjoy:

Okay for Now: A book about a young boy who moves to a new town and tries to find his place. It’s amazing the way that your emotions change for him as you read the story. I love how the author kept writing “Do you know how that feels?” More than once, I felt that question.


Be Sure You Are Fast Charging Your Stuff

If you have upgraded your iPhone or Apple Watch over the years, you’ve probably just removed the new device, put away the box, and used all of your existing cables and chargers. If you have done that, you may be missing out on fast charging.

What’s so good about fast charging?

If you have the right chargers and cables, you can charge your iPhone “up to 50 percent battery in around 30 minutes.”

For an Apple Watch, it’s even better. It “can go from 0 percent to 80 percent in about 45 minutes.” This is especially helpful if you wear your Apple Watch to track your sleep patterns. After a long day, a quick charge before bed while you shower can give you enough power to last the night.

What does fast charging require?


  • iPhone 8 or later. This is any phone purchased after 2017. You can identify your iPhone model here.
  • Apple USB-C to Lightning cable. This probably came with your phone, or you can buy one here.
  • An Apple power adapter with >18W or a third party charger that supports fast charging. You can check your current charger right on the charger itself. (See the example above. The white on grey text can be hard to read so get a good light or a good child to help you out.) If you need a fast charger, I like this one. It’s the same one that I recommend for the travel charger packs.

Apple Watch:

  • Series 7, 8 or Ultra can handle fast charging
  • Fast Charger to USB-C Cable. One of these probably came with your new Watch so be sure to replace the old cable in whatever stand you’ve been using. You can tell it’s the new one because it has USB-C connection and aluminum (instead of white plastic) on the circle charger end of the cable. (see above for example) If you need one, buy it here.
  • An Apple power adapter with >18W or a third party charger that supports fast charging. You can purchase the one above. If you charge both of your devices on your night stand, you can also buy just one charger that can fast charge both devices at the same time. I like this one.


If you take the time to check these things, you’ll appreciate the fast charging when needed. The good news is that you probably have some of these things already but just never swapped out the setup that you’ve been using. These also make for great Christmas gifts to help someone else enjoy fast charging.

And that concludes my PSA for the day…


A Page for Photos

I receive a number of emails asking about photography and camera gear. I’m happy to help, but the responses can be a bit repetitive. I decided to make a new page solely for recent photos and the camera gear that I am currently using. You can find the Photos page here.

It’s true that “the best camera is the one you have with you.” However, I also support having a dedicated camera because the photos are so great. The iPhone has made a lot of progress, but it’s not there yet.

A few more simple thoughts on photos:

  • Take more photos that include the faces of people you love.
  • At least twice a year, take a panoramic photo of your kid’s room. Perhaps it can be one of your journal entries with a view. It will bring back so many memories.
  • One good photo will turn an activity into a memory that lasts.