Sunday, April 30, 2017

Precious Moments

Sometimes it just gets to me how fortunate I am.  And for some of the things I count as my greatest blessings, others have pity on me.

We have my sister-in-law and her three children (7, 8 & 9) living with us, for the second time now.  Six months last year and going on four months this year, trying to get my s-i-l on her feet.  Slow and steady, she's making progress in paying down the debt that's blocking her from getting her own place.  But for now, we're a big blended family, and I call these kids mine.

I tuck the kids in bed most nights.  I developed a bedtime routine with them, and they love it.  Tonight as I was tucking in Kylie, my middle, I was moved to tears that I've been blessed with so many opportunities to tuck my kids into bed the last year and a half.  No matter how busy I am with work or school, I try to always put it down long enough for a our bedtime routine.

Right now my kids are still so sweet and precious (well, at least when I'm tucking them in).  The preteen rebellion is starting to sprout, so I'm treasuring that they still want to connect, and forging as many bonds in our relationship to help us survive those turbulent years.

Many probably pity me and wonder how I bear this "burden" of extra family living with us.  Some days, it's admittedly hard.  But as I tell my wife, "no regrets."  We have ample space and resources to share, and I count it a blessing to know these kids and have them know they can count on us.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Miracle Mornings, Huh?

Yesterday I listened to a podcast about a concept called "The Miracle Morning."  The podcast was on the website of one of my favorite financial bloggers, Jeff Rose, and he was interviewing Hal Elrod, the author of a book "The Miracle Morning."


Since starting my new job eight months ago, I have to get up a lot earlier.  Many parts of this are good.  My sleep/wake schedule lines up more with the sun, so my insomnia isn't as affected by morning light as it used to be.  But it's hard for me to get going in the mornings at the speed I'd like to.  I haven't done any mid-week morning running, and I'd like to restart that.


Hal recommends a few key changes in how we structurally start our mornings, such as no using the "snooze" button on the alarm clock (set it on the other side of the bedroom if necessary) and a few other things.  Then he goes through a list of six steps to start his day off right, using the acronym "savers" (as in, they are life-savers):




Visualization (goals)



Scribing (writing/journaling)


Part of the podcast felt a little too "self-esteem" / "all about me" focused, but I think there are some very good concepts in here that I can adopt.  So I started doing some of these this morning.  I got up, showered and out the door in record time this morning.  So we'll see how this goes.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Day With Kids

Heidi is at our church women’s retreat this weekend.  I’m just coming off my first busy season at the new job as well as having started my own side business of doing tax returns, so I was exhausted.  I wasn’t up to making a lot of plans in advance.

So I reverted back quite a bit to my single days and just made a lot of “are you free now?” invites.  The one I did plan in advance was hanging out with my nephew Michael.  My alma mater, FPU, was having a kids’ athletics day this morning, so I had reached out to my sister-in-law Heather about taking her and her three kids.  Heather wasn’t feeling well and didn’t feel up to coming along.  When I offered to take the kids myself, she asked me to just take my nephew Michael for some guy bonding time.  Since Michael wouldn’t know anyone there if his sisters weren’t going, I decided to ditch the event and just have us hang out together.

I had planned to run with Amy and Alicia before getting Michael, but Alicia bailed and a glitch with a phone upgrade caused my alarm to not go off, so none of us ran.  So I used my time for some breakfast, Bible reading and prayer.  I went and picked up Michael around 9:30.

Our first stop was Target for a basketball pump, because my basketball was pretty flat.  I gave him the money and had him count out the cash we’d need to pay for it.  I’ll save counting and checking change for another day (he’s 7).

We got back to my house and went out to do a little gardening first.  I had him water Heidi’s garden and help me cut off some dead roses.  The roses are in full bloom now, so he enjoyed getting to smell and admire them.

Then I changed from jeans into basketball shorts and we went over to the nearest school and found the way in to the outdoor basketball hoops.  We were just taking turns shooting and dribbling and passing, but Michael really wanted to play “Around the World,” which is where you try to make baskets from various spots around the key.  Now, I’m no basketball player, so I knew this would not be the most productive use of our time on the court, but that’s what he really wanted to play, so we played.  And since we’re both pretty lousy at shooting, it took FOREVER.  I am so grateful to two people in my life for the skills to finish that horrid game: Leroy, my high school basketball coach and Alicia, my running friend who gave me some shooting coaching three years ago when I agreed to be the kindergarten coach for our church’s basketball outreach program.

We had a kid show up on a scooter who was just hanging around, so I started talking to him and introduced Michael and myself.  His name was Jordan, and he was 10 years old.  I invited him to join us.  Michael suggested we start over (he was at position 3 and I was at 7, out of 13), but I told him Jordan could catch up.  And catch up Jordan did.  I just barely stayed ahead of him.  After Jordan finished, Michael was still at position 4 and getting nowhere near the basket, so I told him we had to go.  At some point during the hour plus we were on the court, he told me he has never made a basket from that point, and that’s always where he gets stuck when he plays at recess.  Horrible game, but I did have fun getting out on the court again and playing some ball with my nephew.

We came back to the house and I cut up some watermelon for us since he was drooling over it.  Then I had him help me cook up some quesadillas for lunch.  He was super excited to get to help dole out the cheese and flip the quesadilla.  My crowning moment was when he told me that mine were better than his mom’s!  I also loved how polite but serious he was in having no interest in trying mine when I doctored it up with some spices and fancier cheese.

Heidi had made some quinoa-based chocolate brownies.  I like them, but kids can tell they’re healthy, so Michael wasn’t a fan.  But I had some cherry tomatoes and he was crazy about those, so those counted for dessert in his mind.

Then I introduced him to the game of Qwirkle.  He was just barely able to mentally get his head around the rules.  We didn’t keep score, because I figured I’d cream him, but he held his own in getting Qwirkles.  I should have kept score, though, because he was certain he one just by nature of using up his last tiles before I used mine.

I took him home around 2:30 and sent a bags of cut-up watermelon and cherry tomatoes for him to share with his sisters.  When I got back, I realized that I could use some more exercise, so I sent my friend Amy a text message asking about taking her 10yo son Noah out to play some basketball.  As the youngest and least-coordinated of three boys, he would definitely appreciate it.

As it turns out, Noah was off getting a haircut with his grandpa, but his sister Aislynn was available.  So I told Amy I’d pick her up to do a craft project at my house.  Amy hates the mess of crafts, and Aislynn is in a major craft craze these days.  I decided to also invite Katelyn, one of Aislynn’s church friends (who’s also like another niece to me) to join us, so I picked up both girls and brought them back to the house.  I cut up some poster board and showed them what we were doing.  We cut out dozens of small pieces of construction paper and started gluing them to the poster board to make various pictures (combination of Picasso and mod podge).  Katelyn made an American flag, Aislynn made a park scene and I made a flower.  They were both a little stumped on creativity, so before we started our second one, I took them outside to look at my roses and to let them each pick one to take home.

Then we headed back inside where they each made their own flowers and I made an “I [heart] U” sign to welcome Heidi home tomorrow.  I was really happy with how all the artwork turned out.  I had done a craft like this in elementary school and had been wanting to try it again.

Then I had the girls go outside again with some paper and colored pencils to draw a few flowers until I had to take them home.  We dropped Katelyn off and then I stayed and had dinner at Aislynn’s house.

It was a fun and full day.  Each of the kids said so many ridiculous and funny things that just made me smile at their innocence, but my favorite had to be one of Aislynn’s.  Upon seeing my guest room where I keep craft supplies, Aislynn blurts out: "We don't have a guest room.  But we will when Jaden [oldest brother, 14yo] moves out, and that will be so great!"  So glad having the cool-factor of having a guest room trumps having her brother around, and that she's already planning his exit.  It was all I could do not to bust up laughing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Angela Lansbury

Heidi and I went to San Francisco on Friday to see a Broadway show.  "Blithe Spirit" was being performed at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre and Angela Lansbury was performing.  She is one of my favorite actresses.  I have always admired her classy demeanor from growing up watching Murder, She Wrote.  A deal came up for this play on and we decided to go for it.

We left work early to drive out to Dublin/Pleasanton and take BART into the city.  We had dinner at Urban Tavern, a nearby restaurant.  They had a special dinner menu for those going to see the play.  The food was amazing.  It was a beautiful restaurant, and the service was wonderful.  We took our dessert to go and walked the few blocks to the theatre.

The play was fantastic!  It was incredible seeing this 89-year-old woman verbally and physically interact with little to no evidence of her age.  The witty dialogue was hilarious, especially the barbs Lansbury threw out.  We were in the back row of the mezzanine, the seat rows were a little too tight for our knees, but we had a decent view.  The theatre was so ornate.

We took BART back out of the city and finally made it to our hotel at half past midnight, dead tired.  In the morning we took our time getting up and eventually made it out to Dean's Cafe, a local place we found for breakfast, known for their huge omelettes.  They make them with four eggs, so we shared one (along with a couple of their specialty waffles). We stuffed clams, bacon, avocado and mushrooms into ours, and it was delicious!

We drove around the city a bit before heading home, even stopping to enjoy a farmer's market.  We made it home by late afternoon and still had the rest of the weekend ahead of us.  It made for a wonderful mini-vacation out of town.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Watching Ava & Caleb

We watched Dan & Holly's kids this weekend, 3-year-old Ava and 19-month-old Caleb, while the parents went to Vegas for their 9-year anniversary.


Lots of neat moments of cuddling and playing and doing life together.  Heidi and I generally got along fine on most parenting issues.  That's one thing I'm a little nervous and insecure about, so this weekend helped that.  I enjoy having her as my partner in life.


On Saturday afternoon, we ran into Lee and Marilyn in the Costco parking lot as they were arriving and we were leaving.  They came and joined us at the park for awhile before nap time.


We got together with her sister Heather and her kids for Heather's birthday.  We picked her and the kids up and went to Chick-fil-A on Saturday evening.  Not too fancy, but good food and somewhere with a playground to keep the kids occupied.


We all went to church on Sunday morning.  Ava was having meltdowns over the prospect of not going to her church, but eventually calmed down.  When we picked her up, we received very positive reports on both kids.


We went to El Pollo Loco for lunch on Sunday.  Caleb conked out before we got to the restaurant.


I WD-40'd all the doors in the house since the squeaking was driving me nuts.  I asked Dan beforehand to make sure he'd be okay with it (i.e. that they didn't use the squeaks as kid motion detectors), and he gave the all-clear.

Caleb let me fork-feed him some mac & cheese.  This is apparently huge because Caleb has always refused help from his parents in eating food, always insisting on doing it himself.  Heidi even came in to watch and take pictures of this phenomenon.


I let Heidi and Caleb sleep longer in their Sunday nap while I got up when Ava awoke.  I didn't let her watch Netflix like she usually gets to, which resulted in despondent tears, but I was able to redirect her to the chalkboard easel and she got busy making pictures of family, etc.

We read stories and sang songs for bedtime.  I'm a little worried about Ava's theological education because she didn't know "This Little Light of Mine," but we sang it several times to sink it in.  Heidi noticed my Pentecostal roots coming out in how wildly my light was moving and shining.

I didn't get MLK Day off from work, so I had to leave at 6:30a to get to work on Monday, but I was still able to get some time with Caleb before I left since he woke me up at 4:30a.  I changed his diaper, brought him into cuddle for a bit, and then took him back to deposit into his crib.  There was wailing every time I tried to leave, so I calmed him down again and firmly told him he was okay and to go to sleep.  Heidi and I both tried to hide our shock when it worked and he stayed and slept for another few hours on his own.

We were and are exhausted, but it was a great weekend, and now we gear up for watching Heather's kids this next weekend.

Friday, December 5, 2014

New Job!

I've only been sharing it in person up until today, but it's time to tell it to the masses:

Today is my last day working at NRC. It's been an incredible 3 1/2 years, and it's bittersweet to leave. This has been a great learning opportunity and has given me so much career growth. I'm taking a week off, and then I start work at L&P up in Madera on M 12/15. Still in agriculture, still the Controller, but my job duties and role are going to be a lot different. I'm excited for the new challenge!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Men in Action XIV

Tonight we had our Men In Action awards dinner celebration.  Men in Action is a 12-week leadership class our pastor designed to challenge guys to be men living out their faith, being knowledgeable in the Bible, and loving their families well.  He designed the class in response to being frustrated at seeing a lack of qualified leaders in our church.

I went through class # 4 several years ago, and I decided to retake it for class #14.  Over 300 guys have now graduated from this class, and other churches are now using this material.  Pastor Jim encourages alumni to retake the class either as a personal refresher or just to encourage the new guys taking it.  It is a fair amount of work.  You memorize the books of the Bible and the fruit of the spirit.  You have a personal initiative (e.g. controlling your temper) that you find an accountability partner for.  You create a Life Focus Statement to identify ministry goals and opportunities, and map out a timeline of God's faithfulness in your life.  One of the capstone projects is an elder case study.  You’re given a scenario of something an elder board would have to deal with in a church.  You have two weeks to research the underlying legal, moral, biblical issues and then you meet in groups of three as a mock elder board to deliberate and decide on these issues.

Another one of the bigger projects is called "My Life Focus," and involves analyzing your past experiences, spiritual gifts, skills, education, passions, dreams, etc. to create goals and a draft plan for ministry to your family, church and community.  The valuable part of that, I see now in hindsight, is that doing that again showed me how God has grown me since I did this about seven years ago.  Many things on my dreams list last time have come to pass, and my passions and dreams are more refined.

I struggled with motivation in this class.  Work and seminary hit harder than expected this season, so I almost dropped out, but didn’t only because of peer pressure.  I didn’t want to have to deal with all the guys in there saying for years to come, “Oh, we wish you would have finished it with us.”  And I was hoping for it to hit me more with relevance now going through it as a married man, but it didn’t.  Finally, it was just an overcommitted season.  Heidi and I had done so well saying “no” to regular commitments for our first eight months of marriage, and then we took on too much because we saw how well we had been doing.

But I finished.  I was on the fence above going to the awards dinner tonight, but Heidi wanted to, to celebrate this and to see what I had been learning.  I was able to finish up at work so that we were only a little late.  They handed out completion certificates to the 30-something guys who finished out of the 47-ish that started the class.  Then they had some special recognitions based on class votes for most powerful testimony, and most likely to be an elder, etc.  My jaw dropped when I was one of the two guys nominated most likely to be a future elder.  I was very humbled and grateful that I appear to be getting a few of those biblical qualifications right in how I interact with others.

It was a tough class to get through, but tonight made it worth it.