Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Flagstar Bank = Anger and Frustration

Right now I am shaking with the adrenaline associated with wanting to punch someone in the face.  I just got off of the phone with Catherine, a Flagstar representative, and I honestly cannot recall the last time that I felt this angry.  No, I don't want to inflict violence upon Catherine, although she was the least caring and sympathetic person that I've talked to at their company (and I've talked to quite a few over there in the last several months).  I just want to punch Flagstar in the face, if only it had one to punch.

Since losing my job in September, I have attempted to apply for forbearance with my mortgage company, (any guesses who they are?).  Yes, I know they will be doing me a big favor by granting me this.  Because of that, I also think that it should not necessarily be an easy process, as the the purpose of this option is to help me avoid foreclosure.  So I don't mind if they want to make me work for it, at least in the sense of proving that it's needed and providing them with the documentation that they need to thoroughly review my situation.  I get that.  It makes total sense to me and I'm comfortable with spending the time and making the necessary effort on my end.  And finally, I think they should only grant forbearance after applicants follow their procedure, and meet their guidelines.

So if that all makes sense to me, and I sound pretty rational and understanding about the whole thing, then why am I so angry?

Because I have been attempting to complete the application process for over three months now, since September 12th.  I have cumulatively and literally (yes, I know what this word means) spent days on this effort.  I have gathered documents, compiled financial data, composed letters, and printed, copied, and faxed more than 150 pages to them.

I've learned enough from previous mistakes in my life to keep track of details in projects such as this, so at the very beginning of my effort I generated and have been consistently adding to what is now a 7 page Word document.  This document lists every date that I've worked on this process, along with almost every document that I've faxed to them on these dates (some are listed elsewhere), every phone call I've made (time, date, person I spoke with), and every suggestion/request that I've been given from their representatives.

Yet I have not successfully traversed their obstacles, despite having attempted to do so three times so far.  Why?
  • There is no publicly available list of documents that must be submitted to them for this process.
  • Each representative that I have spoken to has a different understanding of which documents they need to receive. I have been told "all you still need is .... for it to be opened", but then still had it closed.
  • There is no publicly available information informing applicants how to fill out these documents.  I have had different representatives give me different information about this, specifically for the Profit and Loss statement and for the 4506-T form.
  • They don't always receive the faxes that I send in and/or they do not process them in a manner that is timely enough to avoid closing the file.
  • There is no one to complain to, as the representatives refuse to transfer you to a manager, or even another representative that you had previously spoken with.  They refuse to even give you information on how to file a complaint.  All they will do is input your complaint into their system, where I feel confident it will be completely ignored.
So now I have been told to submit a new application package.  In short, to start all over again for what will be the fourth time.  But why should I believe that submitting another package of documents for opening my case of forbearance will have any different result than before, after being denied three times already?  Keep in mind that I have been denied this not because I don't meet their circumstantial requirements, but because I have been trying to hit a moving target in the form of being consistently (although I do not necessarily believe it was intentionally) misled about what documentation is required of me and how to fill out that required documentation.

I now have a decision to make - to give up the process and let the chips fall where they may, or to spend (waste?) the time required to generate and gather the list of documents that I have most recently been informed about.  If I attempt to accomplish this yet again, the odds are highly in favor of another frustrating disappointment.

Despite the unlikelihood of success though, I will proceed with another attempt.  Because I am only in control of what choices I make.  And whatever happens with our mortgage and our living conditions (in the event of foreclosure), I can still take some solace in knowing that at least I did my best.  Whether I am able to avoid that worst case scenario though, still remains to be seen.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

No Good Deed Goes Un-pooped On

It has been beautiful outside lately, so I joined Amanda and the kids for a walk the other day.  While we were in the back end of our neighborhood though, we noticed a little terrier-type dog with a green sweater walking down the middle of the road.  There didn't seem to be anyone else nearby who was paying any attention to it, and I figured if the owner was around, then he/she probably would have been trying to prevent the pooch from playing chicken with the traffic.

As it neared us, I got down on my haunches and motioned it over, which it surprisingly did!  It's tag indicated the name of "Bailey", and we recognized the address on the other side of the tag as being in our neighborhood.  So I scooped it up and we proceeded to hunt down the owner and return Bailey to his family.

The dog seemed comfortable and happy enough with me holding him, but unfortunately I was getting a little uncomfortable with his stinky smell wafting up into my nostrils.  Then, about halfway to our destination, the smell began to get a whole lot worse.  I shifted Bailey's weight higher up onto my arm, and observed brown smears on my hand.  The dog had shit on me!! 

Luckily it wasn't a large volume of poo, as it wasn't running down my arm and under the rolled up sleeves of my shirt or anything.  But I forced myself to continue holding this crappy, stinky dog for another entire block.

When we finally arrived at our destination, the owner (a lady in her mid to upper 50s) was grateful.  Before we departed though, I requested a wet paper towel or something to wipe the bulk of the excrement off of me, to which she happily obliged.  I guess getting pooped on is a small price to pay to help make the world a little better place, especially for the holidays.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"You Wanna Get Outa Here?"

I just got back from meeting my brother and his friend Troy at a nearby bar (The Post Time Lounge).  You know the character that's played by Ryan Gosling in the movie Crazy Stupid Love?  Well, my brother is Jacob Palmer in real life, only more manly.  No joke, it's almost amazing to watch really.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book Review - 90 Minutes in Heaven, by Don Piper

I got this book as a 40th birthday present from Jeff S., a good friend of mine from church.  I was already backlogged in the reading department (including Agape Leadership, below), so it took me a while to get to it.  In the meantime though, Amanda tore through it pretty fast and really liked it.  So I was even more excited to be able to finally get to it.  And it did not disappoint me.

This book follows the true story of a pastor who gets in a horrific accident with a tractor-trailer, and subsequently dies.  Through another man's obedience to pray for him (when stirred to do so) he ended up returning to life.  The author takes great care to explain the details of his accident in order to provide as much credibility as possible to his claims of being clinically dead, and also his experience of heaven.  The rest of the story follows him through his long and painful physical recovery from the accident, and the process of figuring out what to do with the experiences he encountered and in finding purpose behind them.

Admittedly, since I'm a Christian, I did not truly approach it skeptically.  I already believe in Heaven, and the way Mr. Piper describes what he encountered does not conflict with what I have read in the Bible and/or what I believe.  But as with other books (such as "This Present Darkness"), even though I already held these beliefs, reading about them in this manner gives me an entirely different perspective to them.  Having a mental image of what it will be like to experience Heaven for myself changes the way I visualize the big picture of life and encourages me to make decisions that could have a positive affect for myself and others on that fateful (and joyful) day that I get to meet my maker.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Exercise Viagra Crack

I need exercise like Hugh Heffner needs Viagra.  Especially when life is frustrating, depressing, annoying, and/or difficult, which is pretty much every damned day.  The endorphins that it provides lifts my spirits.  The increased blood flow nourishes my brain.  Even the skin on my face feels awake and alive.  It helps me to think and yes, it also increases my libido (making the metaphor all the better).

I need exercise like a junkie needs a crack pipe.  Without a regular dose of it (2-4 times/week?), I slowly slide toward melancholy at best, depression at worst.  Until I eventually become like a spoiled drama queen with PMS. 

I hate that this is the case though.  And I hate the fact that although I know that this is the case, I still don't make doing it as much of a priority as I should.  And I also hate the fact that I rely too much on Amanda to work out with me.  But if she isn't able to, or if our schedules don't sync up (together, with the kids' nap times, etc), then I partially blame her for my frustration and the encroaching bad mood.  This then only compounds the negative effects though, because now I'm not just in a pissy mood, but I'm emotionally taking it out on her (if even only to a small extent).  This then adds friction to our relationship, which puts both of us in a worse mood.

So what is the solution?  The only one that I can think of is to set a designated time (4:30pm seems to work well while I'm unemployed), make it a priority, and just do it whether Amanda can join me or not.

And I'm not talking about an hour or two of a high intensity, gut busting, sweat pouring workout (although those are especially nice).  I'm just talking about at least 15-30 minutes of getting my heart rate up and my body moving.  Taking this little daily dose will improve my productivity level, my mood, our marriage, and pretty much every aspect of my life.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Loving the Learning Overload

Found my old C++ book today (Teach Yourself in 21 Days), and am finally going to sit down to learn it.  Day 1 is done so far ("Hello World!").

The foreseeable problem with this is going to be with making sure that I also spend time with the following:
  • Reacquainting myself to Verilog (I've used VHDL almost exclusively for the last 7 years).
  • Learning Altera's Quartus II tools.
  • Using C for programming my (just for fun) robot project, as well as designing a power supply for it.
  • Using BASIC for my school robot arm project (an evening Mechatronics class at Sierra College).
Oh yeah, all that and looking for a job too.  Ugh.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Unemployment Update

Well, the job search is still in progress.  I’m still getting numerous solicitations for contract positions around the country, but Amanda and I have decided that we’re not quire desperate enough to separate our family for the duration that it would require (2-6 months), and most of them are not lengthy enough to want to relocate for either (max is typically 12 months).

Aside from those, I’m also getting solicitations for full-time positions in parts of the country that I have no desire to live, such as the Detroit, MI area, Tucson, AZ, the Los Angeles. area, etc.  Again, we’re not quite financially desperate enough yet to want to move somewhere that we don’t think we'll enjoy living in.

I am realizing that there are many improvements I need to make in my daily routine though, including:
  • Be more dedicated to searching around and spending less time responding to solicitations.  
  • Create a schedule and stick closer to it (I originally had planned to do this, but did not follow through). 
  • Set aside more time to work on professional development projects (relearning “C”, relearning Verilog, designing a PCB, etc).  This is challenging not only in the prioritization of time, but also in deciding which task to spend time on.
 In addition to the job search and professional development, time also needs to be spent in requesting forbearance for our mortgage (a ridiculously lengthy process), and looking at health insurance options.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Do Not "Like"

I am amazed at how lazy I am becoming in regards to commenting on people's blogs (when I even take the time to read them).  I want them to know I have read them and appreciate their post (as I want people to do to mine also), but I'm often not sure what to say - "very insightful"?  "great post"?  "I totally agree"?  These seem generic, pointless, and unnecessary when I can usually just click "like" on Facebook. I can't believe that I've become so lazy though.

I know the general trend in electronic communication is to keep it short and sweet, due to the prevalence of Facebook and texting, and as an engineer I approve of the efficiency and effectiveness.  But I really hate to see the unfortunate (although expected and understandable) side affect of modern communication methods become the degradation of extensive and thoughtful expression, especially in myself.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Pre-Inverview Sleep Disorder and Dumb Quotes

I really sleep like crap the night before an interview.  Since I had one today (at Grass Valley), I tossed and turned all of last night, probably getting a total of 2-4 hours of sleep at best.  The same thing happened on the night before my interview at Intel (last Friday).

I'm happy to say though that I survived the 6 hours of quizzing/drilling/questioning by 11 different people (usually 2 at a time) today with my sanity and dignity (mostly) in tact. We'll see if it leads to a job later in the week, when the hiring manager gets back from vacation.


Here are two of the stupidest quotes I've heard in a while:

"... because what are you without your stuff? 
Or better yet, without your stuff who are you?" 

It's from this advertisement for Norton, which Tyler Durden (from Fight Club) would punch right in its face.

Then there's this one, from a kid's movie that I only saw a few snippets from, but hated every one of them:

"...the story about a boy, who became a man, by becoming a bear."

Oh, of course.  That makes perfect sense.  If you appreciate dumb, reincarnation promoting, lame plot movies, with Phil Collins singing crappy theme music throughout it, that is.  This one happens to be called "Brother Bear".

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why Are You Still Afraid?

I took my daughters to a nearby park on Wednesday morning while Amanda was helping with Lucas' first grade class.  It was Sept 14th, the week after I received my layoff notice.

One of the pieces of playground equipment that Clara decided to climb was like a spiral ladder, with one bar for each of the steps.  Well, this was a little bit challenging and scary for a two year old, so I stood by her and offered my assistance and instruction ("now reach to this bar with your left hand.  There you go...").  I also stood prepared to catch her, in case she lost her grip or balance.

She had made it all the way to the top step/bar, and all she had to do at that point was step over to the main portion of the equipment platform. She was fairly high off the ground though, so she was (justifiably) afraid.  To help alleviate or at least minimize her fear, I reached over to her and held one of my hands flat on her chest and the other against her back.  I was next to her, so I couldn't hold under her arms comfortably.  My presence and touch wasn't sufficient to combat her hesitation though, so she refused to take that last big step to stability.

I was thinking to myself though "What on Earth are you afraid of, when you can feel both of my hands on you?  Don't you know by now that I'm easily strong enough to hold you up, since I do it all of the time?  And you should know by now that I would catch you before you fall, and that I would never let you get hurt, especially when I'm standing right here next to you.  So why are you still afraid, child?"

Then I had the realization that God was telling me that that's how He feels about me.  Why should I be afraid when I know God is way big and strong enough to hold me?  I should stop being scared and trust His strength, even in potentially difficult situations (like being unemployed).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My First World Problems (sob, sob)

A couple of months ago I read a post on The Chive titled 20 First World Problems.  It was a list of MEMEs (pictures with funny captions) showing people with sorrowful expressions and words over them that described a miniscule problem in our spoiled culture.  I thought it was silly and fun at the time, but now I find myself being totally encouraged by it!

Lately when I have encountered something frustrating or angering, as soon as I start uttering a curse word under my breath or start to get angry, I involuntarily say the phrase "First World Problem" to myself.  I can almost picture the text describing my situation overlaid on a picture of me with a crybaby face.  This has really helped me to put the situation in perspective and then just get over it much more quickly.

Monday, September 19, 2011

They Took Our Jobs!

For those of you that don't get it, I'm referring to a South Park Episode.

But I'm not here today to talk about South Park.  Last Friday (9-9-2011) I was given my two weeks layoff notice from Northrop Grumman.  Work has been slow (virtually nonexistent) for a while though, so to be honest, the only surprise for me was that this day didn't come sooner.  It still sucks though, and now I'm one week into looking for new work and trying to enjoy the extra time that I have now at home (pretty successfully I might add).

I have been getting plenty of encouragement from my friends, family, and acquaintances though.  Additional encouragement was even offered by a amazingly timed Dilbert cartoon on Sunday:

Mostly though, I am trusting God in this.  While not negating the necessity of my own efforts (I don't expect to sit back on my butt and expect God to have someone call me up and get a new job for me), I know that God is able to handle problems much bigger than mine.

On the flip side though, I know several other families from church who have gone for a couple or years (or more) without finding work.  These are people who I consider to be God fearing, Christ following Christians too, who I totally respect for their faith.  So why should things be any different for me then?

Really, I don't know the answer to that.  In all honesty though, even if we do end up losing our house through foreclosure, would it really be that big of a deal?  Our payments are way too high and we're completely upside down in the loan-to-value of it anyway.  In fact, I would consider us to be plenty blessed as long as we have each other, our health, food to eat, and some kind of roof over our heads to protect us from the elements.  I am truly thankful too, to live in a country that has many safeguards to protect against a scenario where I would find myself homeless or without food.  These include unemployment, food stamps, and even welfare (if it came down to it).

These are all situations that would inspire and require a great deal of humility, to be sure.  Hopefully it won't come to that though.  I'm just thinking through all aspects of this and going down the worst case paths in my mind.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Does it Really Seem Like 11 Years?

Today is Amanda and my 11 year wedding anniversary.  It doesn't seem anywhere near as big or exciting as last year's.  In fact, now that we passed the big 1-0, I'm guessing only every 5 year increment will really seem like a big deal.  Still though, every year is definitely worthy of some celebration.

We bought (somewhat) expensive tickets to a play for tonight, and we'll go out to a decent dinner before that too.  So we're not being completely cheap about it, but we didn't get each other much in the way of gifts this year.  I did try to surprise Amanda with one gift though - getting our wedding videos (VHS and a smaller tape (8mm?)) converted to DVD.  Unfortunately, Lucas blew the surprise part of the gift earlier in the week (I'll be sure to go alone for any attempted surprises next time).  It was fun for us to watch the videos this morning though, even if the kids were completely bored after 5 minutes of it.

My mother-in-law asked me this question on Facebook today
"It doesn't seem like 11 years, does it?"
which is actually what inspired this blog post to begin with.  So to answer her:

One one hand, 11 years sounds much longer than it feels.  This is due to me loving and enjoying being with Amanda even more than the first day of our marriage.  We haven't changed all that much in our appearances either.  I weigh maybe 5 pounds more than our wedding day (I have to eat significantly less than I used to though).  I have all of my hair, even if there is a growing amount of salt mixed in the pepper now.  Amanda is still petite and sexy also.  She keeps herself in shape and ages really well.  So I would answer "no" to that question when thinking of these aspects of the passed years.

On the other hand though, the events that we watched on the video seem like another whole lifetime ago.  Look at those fresh young faces in the video!  They don't have any idea what it will be like to be parents yet..  They are living in an entirely different corner of the country, with no idea of where they're going yet. We point out Aunt Katie and Uncle Steve to our kids, but they look so much younger than they do now too.  I point out my dad whenever he steps into the camera's view, because he died before any of our kids were born.  We see Amanda's grandma in the video too, who just recently passed away..

So it seems like Amanda and I have been through so much together over these last 11 years, and our lives are so different now than what they were on our wedding day.  And there are people who we care about who are no longer with us now too.  So yes, it seems like at least 11 years.

As far as our marriage goes though, it feels like it's been at least 11 wonderful years together.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Best. Birthday. Eva. - Part 2

After our 2-day, 1-night getaway to Nevada City, Amanda and I planned to pick up our kids from the Walker's house (our good friends who were watching them for us).  We stopped at our house first though to drop off the car and check to see if they might be there.  When we walked in the door, we did indeed find our kids there, playing in the backyard.  But with them was someone else, a big surprise for me - MY MOM FROM FLORIDA!  I was a bit stunned at first, what I was seeing took a few seconds to register in my brain (mom, lives in Florida, but yet here, huh? how?).  It was funny and weird how it just didn't compute for a little bit. 

She had put the surprise together and made it happen in two days time.  My brother was a big part of the answer to her prayers (donated frequent flyer miles) for her to be able to come out here.  It was great to see her!

The next day (Sunday), she and I planned a date to get some coffee together at Origin Coffee & Tea, which is a non-profit coffee house that fights against sex trafficking.  It was great to have the quality time together.  I was expecting to have the Walkers over for dinner when I arrived home, but when I walked in the door I found many more familiar faces in front of me.  "SURPRISE!!"  It was the first surprise party that I had ever been the victim, er I mean recipient of :-).  We had pizza, we had conversation, we ate cake.  A good time with great friends!  And a fantastic way to add icing on the cake of what was my best birthday ever.

10 years ago, I had a fun weekend celebration for my 30th birthday.  Unfortunately though, we lost the film from it and so I have no proof or physical media to remember it with.  This way more than surpassed it though.

Now I want to, no I HAVE to give a few thanks.  First to God for giving me so many blessings (health, job, family, and so many great people in my life).  To my brother Steve for helping my mom make it out here to visit.  To my best friend Brian and his family for watching the kids, Saran wrapping my car, picking my mom up from the airport, and keeping the party under wraps.  And to all of the great friends that attended the party.

But first and foremost, above and beyond, I can't believe how awesome Amanda is for pulling this all off.  Not only is it amazing that she thought to do it and put forth the effort, but that is was so successful and such a blessing to me.  Thanks babe, I appreciate it and I love you.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Son's Honesty = Dad's Humility (and possible motivation)

Lucas asked Amanda this question the other day:

"Mom, why do some guys have bumps on their arms and stomach?"

He was referring to their muscles of course.  When Amanda relayed this to me I tried flexing to show that I had these "bumps", but it was no use.  I used to have them, damnit!  So now I am motivated to start trying to get these "bumps" back.


Then, today in the car Lucas asked me "Dad, are you the boss of anyone?"  Now, I am currently in various leadership positions at church and in Toastmasters, and in the past I have held leadership positions in almost any club or organization that I have participated in over the years (including the HOA in our Florida neighborhood).  But after thinking for a minute, I realized that I have never actually been the boss of anyone at a professional job (post-college). 

Is this normal, acceptable, humiliating?  Is it due to my profession (there are plenty of engineers who are more experienced and capable than me who still aren't in charge of anyone)?  Whatever the cause, should I care?  And if so then what can I do to change it?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Best. Birthday. Eva. - Part 1

I turned 40 this year.  Feeling middle age seems more like a reason to mourn than to celebrate, so I didn't mind too much that I ended up going in to work on my actual birthday (a Thursday).  When I went out to my car to leave though, I found it covered in saran wrap, courtesy of my best friend Brian.

In honor of my birthday, Amanda was "sweet" enough to make a chocolate version of my sister' rum cake recipe for me.  It was moist, rummy, and oh so yummy.

That night (Thursday), we hired a babysitter (a neighbor from across the street) so we could go out to dinner together at Lucilles Barbeque. We followed it up with a nice walk along a trail, then we rented and started watching The Next Three Days at home. 

Amanda also had the idea for us to get out of town for the Friday night after my birthday.  So we solicited the assistance of our good friends the Walkers to watch our kids for the night, then we commenced to planning our escape.  We had a really difficult time deciding where we wanted to go though.  The requirements were a) I didn't want to drive for more than an hour, b) I wanted to be outdoors a decent amount (hopefully hiking), c) Amanda had been hiking a lot on her recent getaway to North Carolina, so she didn't want it to be only outdoors, and finally d) we didn't have a lot of money to burn, so it couldn't be too expensive either.  We finally decided on staying in Nevada City, at a place called The Outside Inn.  What a perfect decision it was too.
Relaxing out front.

Front of the hotel.

 To begin with, the hotel itself was great.  It had numerous landscaped locations around the building to relax, and the themed rooms were fun.  We took a decently long hike on a trail that was within walking distance from the hotel.  Along it we found a small brook with a pool in the middle of some rocks.  We went down to check it out and jump in for a quick swim too!

In Nevada City
Amanda in front of stream/pool

The city itself (a very small town really) was bustling with people walking around and enjoying all that it had to offer.  We enjoyed dining, shopping, a farmer's market, and just walking around.

We met and talked to numerous friendly people, and for such a short mini-vacation we just felt fully relaxed and immersed in it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Adventure?

In my men's group from church, a couple of the guys were talking about their experiences either in the military or in law enforcement.

Then, at work, I had the opportunity to attend a lunch-and-learn where one of the employees discussed my company's efforts to prepare a bid for developing and executing another trip to the moon, and eventually to Mars.  During this talk, he also highlighted his personal experiences, such as flying in a Mig-25 into the upper atmosphere (space?), meeting and working alongside Buzz Aldrin and other famous people.

I can't help thinking "what the heck have I done that is exciting?".  Where is my adventure?  What stories do I have to tell?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mr. Mom, part II.

The second weekend after Amanda got back from Ohio, she turned right around again and headed to North Carolina.  She has been planning a college roommate reunion for quite some time, and had long since purchased the tickets for it.  So I was alone with the kids again for a long (4 day) weekend.  Here is the daily log:

Day 1:  Brought Amanda to the airport at 4:30am.  The kids actually went back to sleep when we got home, and even slept in!  Great start to the day (a bit more sleep).  For breakfast I made blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes (1/2 of each).  We all loved it!  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were lunch.  Then for dinner I bought Save Mart chicken fingers and wings, along with broccoli salad, ambrosia salad, and hawaiian sweet rolls.  They scarfed that down too.  Not a very exciting day really, but it wasn't bad either, especially since all of the meals were successfully enjoyed by all.

Day 2:  Had the men's group over (only 2 guys this week), then had Amanda's left over french toast casserole for breakfast (the kids didn't like it so much, but I loved it).  Then we attempted to go to Wacky Tacky, but they were only letting parties in (birthdays or whatever).  The kids and me were pretty disappointed, especially since they were looking forward to it all morning. 

So we changed gears and decided to go to Whitney Park instead, which has the biggest play gym equipment that I have ever seen.  I noticed a Buick T-Type in the parking lot when we pulled in, and as we were parking, I noticed a gentlemen walking toward it with his son.  So I went over and asked if I could show the car to Lucas, since it's almost exactly like the vehicle that we're building the model of (a Grand National). He was happy to show it off.  After playing at the park for a while, we brought our cache of left-over tokens (from Clara's birthday) to Chuck-E-Cheese, and ate lunch there too. 

After nap was in the books, we went to get hair cuts (Lucas, Clara and me), followed up by renting Rango from RedBox and watching half of it while eating our smoothie dinner (with crackers, cheese, and bologna).  Then I gave the kids a bath and got them to bed at (gulp) 9:30pm.

Day 3:  We finished watching Rango this morning, then had a hodgepodge breakfast of cereal, eggs, english muffins, and strawberries.  We then headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Center from 11:00 - 2:00.  The kids enjoyed it, but it was a bit of a long hike for them.  We came home famished and had hot dogs with sauerkraut, beans, dried snap peas, and chips for lunch.  Unfortunately, Clara caught a short (15 - 20 minute) nap on the drive back, which caused her to not be able to nap at home, which sucked for me and made her a bit cranky the rest of the day. 

When everyone else was awake from their nap, we transferred all of the old sandbox sand into the basketball hoop, then washed out the sand box.  When it's dry tomorrow then we can add the new sand.  The girls were playing in the little pools while Lucas and I added one layer of paint onto his GN model.  Clara had taken off her diaper though and ended up pooping on the floor of the backyard.  We ended the day with Panda Express for dinner (Lucas' idea), then a scoop of ice cream at home for dessert.  I probably should have given them a bath, but hated to get them to bed later (was already just after 9pm) and had just given them one yesterday.

Day 4: Brought the kids to Wacky Tacky in the morning.  I think I got us there sometime between 10:30 and 11:00.  I brought my laptop and set up a table to try to get work stuff done while they played.  I had to take breaks though to a) make sure they were alright, b) give them snacks and water (I remembered to bring both), c) take care of Clara when she got hurt a couple of times and d) play with them a bit too, especially in the spongy ball pit.  We stayed until between 1:00 - 1:30.  I think we had PBandJ again for lunch, along with some other healthy sides like cheese, yogurt, canned peaches, and cherries.

After nap, it was time to get to business.  First we hit Big5 sporting goods to pick up a regulation frisbee (175grams) and 8 cones to possibly play Ultimate Frisbee with the high school kids tomorrow (Tuesday) night.  Then we deposited a couple of checks and stopped at Boston Market for dinner.  Before giving them an evening bath, we dumped two bags of new sand into the sandbox.  After bath it was time to start cleaning the house so it will look good for Amanda when she gets home.  Clean up went smoother this time, especially since there was more time to get it done. 

I got the kids to bed around 9pm, just before Tammy came over to hang out while I went to pick up Amanda from the airport.  As before, her plane arrived early so I had to pick her up at the ramp instead of meeting her as she came down the escalator like I would prefer.

Summary:  As a whole, I think this weekend with the kids went smoother than the last one.  I took the kids to do one fun thing per day, and I made a concerted effort not to raise my voice or lose my temper as much.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mr. Mom for (almost) Five Days

Amanda's last remaining grandparent, Grandma Eggert, passed away on Tuesday night, 6/28 (or 6/29, depending on the time).  So Amanda caught a last minute flight to Ohio to be with her family while I watched the kids here at home.  She was gone for 4.5 days total.  Ideally, the kids will view their time with dad as somewhat fun at the least, and unforgettably great at best.  However, since I found that I myself was forgetting what we did only one or two days out, I decided to make a record of it.  So here is what we did:

Day 1:  Dropped off Amanda to airport, cinnamon/Raisin bread French toast for breakfast, Carl's Jr. picnic at Royer Park, swim class (got there in the nick of time).

Day 2:  Donuts for breakfast, went to Home Depot for a few things, played in the front yard and brought Eliot (our bearded dragon) outside for some fresh air too.  I also added more sand to his enclosure while he was out (we've been meaning to for months now).

Day 3:  Men's group from church came over in the morning, we had cereal for breakfast, smoothies for lunch (Lucas helped make it), then watched Karate Kid (the new one) in the evening with Papa Murphy's pizza for dinner.

Day 4:  Bagels for breakfast, was not able to make it to (either) church on time, found a new park (Westwood Park), brought Taco Bell to Royer Park for lunch.

Day 5: Was thinking that Amanda's flight arrived at 7pm, but at about 9am I realized that it was actually due to arrive at 11.  I really wanted her to come home to a clean house, so it was panic time.  Unfortunately, the last thing the kids ended up experiencing (although hopefully not remembering) was dad cracking the whip for the kids to help clean everything up. 

I had hoped to get to the airport with enough time to be waiting for her as she came down the escalator into the baggage pick-up area, but her flight ended up arriving early.  So we picked her up at the arrival ramp instead.

Special time with kids:  Worked on a puzzle with Emily,  Started a plastic scale model (of a Grand National) with Lucas, reading to Clara.

Chores completed:  Several loads of laundry,  several piles of dishes, shredded a pile of documents,
replaced light bulbs (hey, it counts).

Summary:  I enjoyed being Mr. Mom for the weekend, but the most difficult aspects of it were a) getting everyone ready to go anywhere, especially in the morning.  b) fitting in the planning and making of meals c) fitting chores of any kind into the mix while still taking care of the kids (especially Clara, who is more demanding at this age).

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Minds of Men, Regarding Marriage

On a recent work day morning, I overheard a couple of middle-aged men talking in the work cafeteria about a baseball player (Casey Daigle) whose career is struggling.  After googling the player, the man learned that his wife is Jennie Fitch, an Olympic softball player.  He then proceeded to describe her appearance (blonde, shapely, etc) and mentioned her inclusion in a SI swimsuit issue.

He then stated "No matter what he goes through with his job, it's hard to have any sympathy for him, because his life must be GOOD."

She could be a total ditz or a complete bitch, but this is the way men (generally) think - sex first.  Now, we do also have a capacity for other things that contradict this attitude, such as logic and even love, but (unfortunately) lust and sex are always present and prevalent.  Starting from the age of adolescence, up until testosterone all but disappears from our old and weakened bodies, the physical appearance of beauty in a woman captivates our attention and our desires.

Thankfully, I think that 39 years of wisdom has taught my mind and heart that while lust and sex is wonderful, it's a very small part of the overall benefit of a relationship.  Love has taught me how much more important good companionship is, and having a woman who is a good mother and who you can trust to raise your children, and being with someone who not only knows and understands you well, but also stimulates your mind and your spirit.  Logic tells me that sex lasts maybe 30-60 minutes, and takes place on average 2-3 times per week, which adds up to at most 3 hours per week, which is only 2.5% of our waking hours at best.  So even if the sex is so incredible that you cry tears of joy from it, how much does it matter compared to everything else, in the grand scheme of things?

But again, those are issues of logic and love.  And it doesn't take looking at the headlines too long to realize that the lust within a man's heart can wage a surprisingly strong battle against them.  So when I find my wife attractive, when I desire her not only because I love her but because I want her, I thank God for giving her outward beauty, as well as inward beauty,.  And I pray that I will always feel that way.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentines Day Advocate

Yesterday was Valentines Day.  Every year I get amazed at how few men put any effort into this holiday.  Out of probably more than a dozen men that I have asked, only one (ONE!) said that he is taking his wife out to dinner, and another is making his wife Eggs Benedict (which hardly counts in my opinion).  I've heard the argument that love shouldn't be a man-made, pressured-into holiday, but shown randomly and unexpectedly instead.  And I totally agree.  But after years of marriage, doing romantic things for each other tends to unfortunately slip away.  And that's why we men NEED Valentines Day - to remind us how our wives love being wooed and gushed over.  To light a fire under our arses and get our romantic juices flowing again (assuming they were flowing while dating).

And not only is this good for the marriage relationship, but it's good for the kids to see as well. Daughters and sons WANT to see daddy pursuing mommy and being romantic to/for her. It not only helps boys learn how to treat women and daughters to know how they should be treated, but it also helps them both to feel secure about mom and dad's love for one another.

OK, so how about this for a summary:
If there is a husband that is actively romantic on a somewhat regular basis throughout the year, then he is officially excused from participating in the commercial holiday called Valentines Day. 

However, for the other 95% of us lazy bastards, DO NOT avoid joining me in using Valentines Day as inspiration to continue to pursue romance in your marriage.  You don't have to join the crowds at a restaurant either, you just have to put forth some thought and effort to let your wife know that you care and that she is worthy of wooing and pursuing.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pondering the Paradox of Prayer, part 1

My boss' boss' wife passed away from Cancer on Monday.  Everyone who knew them had known that this was probably going to happen somewhat soon, but somehow it still seems to have come as a surprise. She was fairly young, probably in her mid to late forties?

I used to play tennis with Jaime (her husband), and he was my direct boss when I first started working at Northrop Grumman.  We've been to their house for a few department pool parties, and seen Sonya before while out and about town.  Reading what I just typed, it's evident that while my wife and I know them ok, it's not like we're their best friends or anything. But Jaime is someone I like and respect, and it's somewhat heart-wrenching to us that she's gone.

I think perhaps the hardest part about her death though, is the fact that not only have many people been praying for her and their family (their church, several co-workers who are Christians, etc), but my kids have also been very dedicated to praying for her as well.  I've very proud of this last fact, because while Amanda and I have prayed for Sonya with the kids (before bed mostly), they have taken ownership of the cause themselves too.  This became evident when one of their Sunday school teachers, upon hearing that Sonya had died (on Facebook), mentioned that they had asked to pray for her in Sunday school.

Now that the cause is gone though, they are left to process what happened.  Did God forget about their requests, or did He just ignore them?  Did He even hear them at all?  Why pray if in the end it doesn't matter anyway?

I think it basically comes down to trusting that God knows best.  We can't understand what's going on and cannot fathom why He does some things, or why He lets other things happen despite our fervent requests to the contrary.

It's similar to Amanda and I knowing what's best for our kids.  While we want them to always come to us with their wants and needs and trust that we can help them, sometimes their desires conflict with our plans, and sometimes we know that what they're asking for isn't in their best interest.  In those cases we refuse to heed their requests, despite their pleas.  It has nothing to do with whether we love them or want them to be happy though.  We just see things from a different, wiser (hopefully), and broader (big picture) perspective.  So it is with God.
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