Friday, December 22, 2006
Tempus Fugeut (Time Flies)
It wasn't that long ago when Dylan's hand was this size against mine, palm to palm. Now, only little Katie, my youngest, has a truly tiny hand when compared to mine. Looking at this image fills me with a certain sentimentality that's both melancholic and happy. It reminds me of how quickly time goes by.
Looking back on 2006, I have mixed emotions of incredible intensity. I'm reminded of how quickly a stable-seeming world can turn completely on its head and how everything important to you can be lost in a moment. On the other hand, I know that you can endure. And through enduring you can rise above the tribulations and, at least, catch hold of hope once more.
So what about 2006? It boils down to one thing for me - the kids are doing well. They are healthy. They seem happy. They are growing more and more every day -mentally, emotionally, and physically.
My "mission", if I ever had one, was always to protect, provide for, and nuture my family. Protection is a simple concept. As a big, strong guy, I need to offer a shield for my little ones from potential harm. (Of course, I've also mentioned on my blog how harmful I believe overprotecting one's kids can be. Kids need to be exposed to a certain amount of risk so that they can learn. For example, they need to be able to ride their bikes fast, but with a helmet.) The big thing I've had to learn about in 2006 is that there's both physical harm and emotional harm in the wide, wide world. I'm only used to thinking about the physical kind. As I've grown emotionally myself, I've done as much as I can to protect them from emotional harm as well.
Providing is also a straightforward idea. The kids require food, clothing, shelter. I think an overlooked aspect of providing is that kids also need the intimacy of a close and available loving parent. As an example, it's one thing to sit down at a table with a meal to eat. It's an entirely new (and better) sort of providing to sit at a table with a meal and loving, engaged conversation. Providing at this higher level naturally leads into the third aspect of my mission as person - nuturing.
Nuturing, however, is a word that's a little tougher to define. My desk dictionary here says "to support, encourage and educate, as during the period of training or development; foster; nourish". This is really where I try to focus energies and thoughts about parenting. And I think this attitude of nurturing seasons most of my other projects as a parent. It's really hard for me to explain this idea, but it involves a degree of mindfulness about how I spend time with them.
That's not to say that I do this perfectly. I'm actually lousy at it and I fail frequently. But it's constantly on my mind and important to me. Here's an example - every year, the older kids and I take a dad & kid trip together for a long weekend. I initially did this simply because I wanted to ensure that none of the kids felt lost in a crowd of three other siblings. However, I also wanted to build in opportunities for lots of conversation so that they could learn about my values and that I, in turn, could learn about the things that they enjoy. In a sense, I wanted to make sure that I was not one of those dads who never knew his kids favorite color, music, or flavor of ice cream. I also wanted to build cherished memories that'd last a life time.
This time we have together is very finite. It's like a jar full of marbles. As each day goes by, we take a marble out and throw it away. Soon, the jar will be empty.
So hang upside down from the jungle gym, Katie, and make those muscles strong. I'm here to catch you today. And one day, when I'm not there, you find that all that play made you strong enough to hang in there on your own.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Well, the old Pontiac Bonnaville turned 100k miles last week. It's been a great car and has had less than $2000 of repairs on it over the years. Although I never think of cars as investments, since investments don't lose money by default, this car has been a good use of my dollars. I'm glad to be able to hand if down to Dylan when he turns 16.
Friday, December 15, 2006
'Tis the season for singing
Dylan and Emily are both very good singers. (They get that from their mom. I have a decent voice, but nothing compared to hers.) They're also both in their school choirs. Dylan is not only in the choir, but is also in the top men's vocal group at the high school - MOVE (Men Of Vocal Excellence). Emily's middle school also has an advanced vocal group and she's a member of it. It's called the competition choir.
You can just make out Dylan to the left of the leftmost microphone stand on the back row of the first picture. (Sorry about the picture quality...) This picture was taken at the High School's second concert of the season. The first picture was taken at the high school auditorium for their big Christmas Cantata. The second picture, at right, was taken when MOVE and LOVE (the Ladies Of Vocal Excellence) performed at Tenessee Tech University in Cookville, TN.
Emily's choir performed at a local church with an almost entirely religious program. The middle school choir director had laryngitis that night and eventually lost his voice completely that night. Also, the various choirs (6th grade, 7th grade, etc) were very disorganized, chatty, giggly, and everything you'd expect pre-teens to be. (Kids...) Emily's competition choir, however, sounded great!
Emily has several close friends in the competition choir that she really enjoys hanging out with. Here she is with Taylor, Courtney, and Bailey. Taylor is in a white blouse because she's in a different choir, while the girls in dresses are in the competition choir. Don't they look grown up for 8th graders? Yegods!
And here's one last picture of Emily in her pretty dress. Doesn't she look great!
Thursday, December 14, 2006
December is when I usually get serious about what's under the Christmas tree for the kids. Finding the time to shop is tough unless you're willing and able to drag the kids along with you. My choice is to make the shopping trips as fun as possible rather than a bummer for both me and the kids.
The hat and sunglasses department
was a natural place to play and have some fun. Here's Emily doing a little posing for the camera. You may just be able to make out the crumpled wad of coats in the shopping cart behind her. Well, not everyone is energized by shopping. Those coats actually conceal something more... Anna Lynn (whose hand is just barely visible) is napping. LOL!
Of course, Katie Jo has as much energy as a thermonuclear bomb. She never slowed down the entire time and tried on every hat, scarf, and necklace in the place.
We had a good time and found some gifts for folks on our list. However, it's very hard for me to find the time to do some shopping for them because they're always with me. Since I travel for work on the weeks they're with their mom, it's a struggle to find time for secret shopping trips.
Still, I wouldn't trade my time with them for anything in the world.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
...Ain't my job...
This one definitely falls under the "I'm so lazy that I'm not gonna do the right thing"...
And just to mouth off a little on doing the right thing, I have to ask - why, when it's completely obvious that I'm staying in the hotel at least one more day, would the cleaning people take all of the soap, shampoo, etc out of the tub??? This morning I got the shower nice and hot and got into the tub only to find that there was no shampoo or soap. The cleaning lady had left a brand new one on the counter. Great... That doesn't help me while I'm in the shower. And I'm already soaked. And it's one of those very slippery when wet tile floors. And, I don't care if it is a hotel, I still don't like walking across the bathroom dripping wet to get that stuff.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
I've been tagged!
My daughter Emily
tagged me on her blog. Now, I have to respond to her tagging me and then tag 6 other people. And since she got tagged by her mom, I'm sure that her mom and all of her mom's blogging friends aren't available for me to tag. Ugh!
Alright- the rules are we must list 6 weird things about ourselves, then tag 6 more people. Each player has to clearly state the rules and then leave a comment on each person's blog, telling them that they've been tagged and to read your blog. Here are my 6 weird things:
1. I used to be able to blow air out of my tear ducts. When underwater, I could blow a little stream of bubbles out of my eyes.
2. I can see better in the dark than most people and I can spot camoflage better. That's because I'm color-blind
. And don't ask me about the time I wore a pink suit to church when I was a teenager, it's a still major trust issue between my mother and I.
3. Until I had them surgically removed, I had four extra fang-like bicuspid teeth. They were spotted coming in at the same time as my wisdom teeth and were removed when I was 14, at the same time my wisdom teeth were removed.
4. When I was a kid, I love my hamster pets. I loved them so much that none of them lived more than a year.
5. I am personally responsible for 0.00007631% of the total climate change detected by scientists in the last couple decades due to the enormous amounts of methane I vent out my rear-end both day and night. That's approximately 1200x more than the average human being, btw, but actually 0.5x LESS than the average Republican Senator.
6. I cannot tolerate zits, especially white heads. I think it may be an obsessive-compulsive disorder for me. Not only are they impossible for me to tolerate on myself, but if you have a visible white head I will not be able to concentrate on anything you're saying and will only stare at the zit wondering why the heck you haven't gotten rid of the disgusting blob of putrescence and microbial corruption.
Unfortunately, I've been tagged late in the game so almost all of my blogging friends have already been tagged. So this is the end of the road for this game of tag.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Fall Fun 2006
I can't believe it, but somehow I forgot to post pictures of things that the kids and I have been up to during October. So here are some pictures of things we've been up to.
It was another beautiful fall day in late October when Lakeview Elementary hosted their annual fall festival. We did the usual festival stuff, such as jumping in all of the inflatable play areas and eating lots of fair food. There were lots of games to play and friends to hang out with.
I even managed to talk Katie into doing the cake walk. She's normally very shy about that sort of thing. (Of course, I didn't have to talk Anna into it. She was ready to go.) In the end, Katie really enjoyed the cake walk and got away with a box of cup cakes.
And the girls managed to extend their fun into the evening by dragging their bestest friend, Zoe Lyttle, along for extra play time. It was great fun for everyone.
Another fun thing which was more for dad than for the kids was our Sunday School Halloween costume party. I totally zero'd out and put together a really lame costume. Basically, I had a nice pair of silk pajamas (a gift from Dr Pineapple and Samantha), add to that a nice velvet bath robe and, voila!, I'm Hugh Hefner. So rather than show you my lame-o costume, I chose to show you the winner of the "best costume" award - Mike Lyttle as the somewhat obscure Duff beer man
, a repeat character from the Simpsons.
There were some other outstanding costumes, like Brett Karsten's Braveheart, Keith Harned's Blue Man Group, and Bobby and Rhonda Robinson's Rastafarians. Great job y'all!
Thursday, December 07, 2006
I gave the keynote address at the PASS 2006 Community Summit a couple weeks ago and a colleague took pictures in which I actually look sane and non-dorky. Wow! He's a miracle worker!
The first picture (left) was taken on Wednesday. It was on that day that I welcomed the crowd of about 2500, prepped them with an overview of the event to come, and rallied them to support the organization with their time, talent, and presence.
I also had a much shorter talk on Thursday morning where I introduced Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft.
As an FYI, there are even more great pictures of the PASS conference
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
I don't usually post this sort of thing, but these pictures are truly amazing
Take a look and let me know what you think.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Membrance Monday - Amsterdam
I've been to Amsterdam a couple times now and I have to say that it's one of my favorite cities in Europe. The weather isn't particularly cooperative much of the time. But both times I've been, the weather has been really nice.
The city is surprisingly small and navigable by foot without any problems. The famous canals were mostly just landmarks for me, but many people in Amsterdam use water taxis and even own boats.
The city is full of beautiful old churches. However, it's ironic that in a city full of churches AND where there is a national, sanctioned church that very few people actually go to church. My experience is that the average Dutch person is nominally Christian and was probably baptized as a child. After that, they may have gone to church a few times at Easter or Christmas and that's about it. It seems wrong that beautiful churches are empty and that public taxes (in an already tax-laden nation) are devoted to support a religion that very few support.
As a counterpoint, I also found it strangely ironic that while many of the nations of Europe have state supported religions, the European Union refused to include any reference to Christianity in their recently failed attempt at a EU constitution. I believe that there's no question that Christianity is a major influence, generally speaking, on the character of both Europeans and Americans. Yet, the EU refuses to acknowledge any aspect of the Christian-
influenced history of western Europe.
Now - back to Amsterdam. There are some really beautiful things to see and do in Amsterdam. A very touching and emotional experience for me was a visit to the Anne Frank
house. Another amazing
experience was the Rijksmuseum
. The Rijksmuseum is an incredibly beautiful building in its own right, but it's contents are even more incredible. This is the central repository of the works of the Dutch masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer.
I've always enjoyed art. But it's simply an amazing experience to stand an arms length from the actual painting itself that you've seen countless times in books, magazines, and post cards. Rembrandt and Vermeer are, of course, household names. Two of my favorite pieces were Vermeer's "Kitchen Maid
" and "Woman Reading a Letter
I'd love to go back some day. The good news, in that regard, is that Amsterdam is a high-tech town in one of Europe's most technologically advance countries. I'm sure that Microsoft will be doing more events there in the future. So I'm sure that I'll get the chance to go again.
I'll definitely be seeing the museums again!