Daily Life

2013 in Review, As Written on New Year’s Day 2014

What were you favorites of the year?

Favorite Songs

  • Avicii – Wake Me Up, Hey Brother
  • Mumford & Sons – I Will Wait (can’t get enough of that song)
  • Lorde – Team
  • Matt Maher – Oh Come Emmanuel (remix)

Favorite Movie – Fading West, the documentary from Switchfoot

Favorite Coffee Drink – Macchiatto, American style with a little bit of steamed milk

Favorite Saturday – Loading the three girls into the bicycle (Stella in the back seat of the bike, Norah and Eden in the trailer) and exploring South Tempe. Our favorite spots are neighborhood yard sales, the canal, Home Depot, and Crepe Bar. I am interested in the trend of leaving the car in the driveway.

Beautiful moments from your year of traveling?

  • Planning to have fun. Usually I zip in-and-out of a city as quickly as possible. But this year I took time to plan ahead so that I could actually enjoy cities that I’ve visited a half-dozen times over the past 10 years, but I never really got to know. While in Kansas City, I enjoyed a cup of coffee at Oddly Correct and then explored the Utilitarian Workshop project that I first discovered on Kickstarter. When in Indianapolis, I enjoyed hanging out with friends at Bee Coffee Roasters and The Libertine with old friends. While doing a parish mission in Boerne, Texas, I took a morning to explore Austin with my cousin Laura.
  • Getting sick in Georgia. This sounds strange because nobody likes to be sick when away from home. Plus I had so much to do with Camp Hidden Lake and Camp Covecrest while I was in Georgia. But getting a 24-hour flu forced me to be still and depend on my first family. My sister Katie, my brothers Paul and Andrew, and Mom and Dad all helped this grown man get through. Also, the drive through the mountains during autumn while listening to classical music in the swanky rental car was a treat.
  • Opening day at Camp Hidden Lake. It was a wild year trying to pull the whole deal together, but on a cold day in November, they handed the keys to Camp Hidden Lake to Life Teen. This might be a one-year lease, or–God willing–we will end up buying it. This could be very awesome.

In total, I probably made 20+ trips in 2013. It was a wild year. I don’t like traveling that much, so hopefully 2014 will be more manageable.

Hardest thing to understand?
All these ethnic patterns in women’s clothing. At this rate, hipsters will be wearing Kokopelli earrings by mid 2014.

Life with Candyce is…
Awesome. I mean that in the most sincere way–she is worthy of awe. I never knew when I met her ten years ago when she was 20-years-old that she had such depth of soul. Our life together is so fun, rich, and rewarding. I love her so much.

What challenges refined you in 2013?

  • Recovering from surgery. Praise God that is over. It’s a painful thing to not be able to pick up your children for that long. And yes, sunscreen is important.
  • Stress from work. It was a challenging but beautiful year for me and all of Life Teen. I am still in the wake of this whole thing, so I haven’t had time to reflect on what I’ve learned. What I do know is that I am glad that 2013 is over so that I can learn to love my job again. I need a new beginning.
  • Sleepless nights. I spent many long nights keeping Stella company as she is tormented by her itchy skin. This has gone on for a year and a half now. We’re working hard to help her get rid of this eczema, but it’s a long, confusing process. It’s a real trial. All I want is for my little Stella to feel relief from the incessant itching; I want her to sleep through the night and wake up refreshed and ready for the day. I want this part of her life to be normal. That is my dream situation–NORMAL. It makes me think of all the other parents out there who have dreams, fantasies for their child. The mom who wishes her son could walk between classes and wasn’t bound to a wheel chair. The dad who wishes his daughter didn’t have asthma so that she could run and play with her friends. I understand that although this is difficult for little Stella and for me and Candyce, her parents. But she isn’t bound to a wheel chair. She can run and run and run and not get shortness of breath. So we are 99% close to a perfect childhood. I have to be happy with that, and understand that this 1% problem that we’re dealing with right now is for a reason, and that God is drawing us to be a closer family because of it.

What am you most excited about in 2014?

Welcoming a 4TH DAUGHTER into our family. This is a bit overwhelming when we got the news on Christmas day when we learned that the baby is a little girl. Honestly–I am still overwhelmed. I just have to step back and watch God’s plan unfold.

There are other things that are worth getting excited about…

  • Simple Living – Our new lifestyle that began in 2013 was a tough transition, but well worth it. I love having no satellite TV, eliminating gluten/wheat and dairy from our diet, and keeping the girls’ bedtime routine. I also need to make running a priority again.
  • Parent Teaching – Our classroom / art room is almost finished upstairs. I am excited to have our daughters develop a love for learning. I want their childhood to be filled with creativity, imagination, and adventure. This art room upstairs is a special project because it is the first room in our home to be renovated with the child-first design.
  • Coffee Roasting – I’ve enjoyed roasting coffee in the last several months and I want to keep the party going. Take your passions seriously.

What quotes are you loving?

About attitude…

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” – Henry Ford

About standards for life…

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

 About life purpose, a quote made popular by Nelson Mandela, rest in peace.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

This Is My Life in 2013

Three words to describe the first half of 2013. 

Busy. Busy. Busy. I can’t keep working at this level. Something’s got to change.

How is the house coming?

Slowly but surely. In fall of last year, I tackled the last segment of the family room remodel: the fireplace and “wet bar.” We now have a new fireplace, finished wainscoting, and a new acrylic floor. Now it’s time to hang the TV and finish the carpentry details. Earlier this spring, a friend of ours gave us an armoire which made us think hard about an office/storage room that we had been ignoring. Why put a beautiful piece of furniture in an overcrowded room with beat up carpet? So I emptied the room, pulled up the carpet, and added new floors. We grabbed some key furniture and storage options at local thrift stores and yard sales. That’s where we stopped for the summer. Also, I am okay with having two concurrent remodeling projects.

Favorite leisure?

There hasn’t been time for leisure this year. So it’s been about bringing leisure into the key parts of life. For example, for several weeks of the spring, we ate our family dinners in the backyard.  Sometimes we would make campfire. Other times we’d lay on blankets and look at the stars. Or Candyce and I would sit back in our Adirondack chairs and watch Norah and Stella dance and do tricks to the music that played on Pandora. It was a family meal, entertainment, and outside play all at the same time. Dinner outside–it’s such a simple idea, but it added such richness to our lives.

Most gratifying moment?

For most of May and June, Stella has asked me to hold her and walk around the neighborhood to help her fall asleep at night. This has kind of been our thing since she was little, but this is a new chapter because she’s more alert and mature. We’ve enjoyed looking into the night sky to look for airplanes, satellites, and shooting stars. When we took a vacation in Big Bear, it was much cooler than when we were down in Phoenix. So I made a bed of cozy blankets in the wagon and pulled her along the ridge of the mountain. It was so heartwarming to hear her talk to herself about the thing that she saw in the sky. I love that girl so much.

When have I been afraid?

Nobody likes to admit being afraid because nobody wants to show weakness. But the fear is there. I had a skin cancer scare on my back near my shoulder blade. I had so much anxiety through those weeks of testing. Is this a ‘minor cancer’ or a ‘major cancer’? Lucky for me, it was minor. But then there was the long, drawn-out healing process that took almost three months. I couldn’t do anything for fear of damaging my back: no holding kids, no moving stuff, no reaching, no hugs with friends. Those rules seemed to last forever. In the end, that whole thing made me really aware of my humanity.

Anything random?

While recovering from skin surgery on my back, I enjoyed watching old episodes of MacGyver with Norah and Stella. Who knew that a 4- and 2-year-old could like a 25-year-old TV show? I’ve recreated memories from my own childhood by making a big bowl of popcorn and sharing it like Dad always did. So of course, this whole scene is nostalgic and awesome. Just as importantly, though, is the fact that this is the first live-action man show that I’ve watched since Norah was born almost five  years ago. That’s a long time.

What’s changing in life?

When we first had Norah, Candyce and I were still in the 20-something lifestyle. We were out and about, except we had a baby with us the whole time. Now that we have three kids 4-years-old and younger, we stay home a lot more. The little girls are happier here, so that makes us happier too.

Anything else changing?

Our diet has changed drastically because we’ve discovered that Stella has some strong food allergies. After several months of painful trial and error to figure out that wheat/gluten, nuts, and eggs give her most of her skin irritation. It was a joy to finally narrow down these foods as problematic, but that was just the beginning. How do you make three meals a day without using wheat, nuts, or eggs? Wheat is in everything. But it looks like Chef Candyce has pulled a good menu schedule for the family before the chaos of the summer settled in. This whole project was a huge burden for our family this year. The good news is that Stella has less skin irritation, which means she sleeps better and wakes up happier the next day. She’s a happier girl, and that makes all of the struggle worth it.

Breakthrough moment?

Realizing how fast life is going by and feeling like there was no way to put on the brakes. We tried canceling TV, saying “no” to social events with friends, and after that we ran out of ideas. That was back in January. Then in June, Candyce and I decided that we wanted to homeschool our girls. We had many reasons why we felt good about this direction, and I’m sure she’ll write a blog about it. But what I’m most excited about is to avoid the rigidity of the school year.

Fondest memory with Candyce?

We’ve had a few fun dates. Our 6th anniversary staycation at the Scottsdale Resort. It was fun bringing baby Eden along with us so that I could give her attention that normally gets diverted to Norah and Stella. While enjoying our anniversary dinner, we reminisced about all of the beautiful weddings that we’ve been to since our own wedding. We counted memories 18 weddings. That’s three weddings a year! Also, we saw a “Wall of Sound” performance from choreographer Travis Wall. I enjoyed it immensely. This is a big deal, because I was traumatized by watching a Bob Fosse show back in the 1990s, and I haven’t paid to watch people dance ever since.

What are you crushing on?

  • The 2001-2003 VW Eurovan Weekender. There’s something timeless and cool about a VW van. The Eurovan was their last, most modern van and it defied all the norms of minivans 10 years ago. This makes me happy so I look at them online.
  • The outdoors. After spending the 15 years after high school in big cities all the time, I’ve felt the urge to get into the wild more. (See my board on Pinterest of cool destinations.)
  • And Candyce, of course.

What wisdom gives you clarity at this moment in life?

  • It’s not about having a balanced life; it’s about knowing priorities. It’s that simple.
  • You can’t control situations. You can only control yourself. What actions can I take to make things right?

What do you want from the rest of 2013?

I want a schedule that’s not as packed. I need more time to live. Life is short.

This is what a 30-minute blog update looks like

Ironman – My sister-in-law Lauryn placed 2nd in her age/girl group in yesterday’s Ironman race here in Tempe. The girl swam 2.4 miles. Then she rode her bike for 112 miles. Then she finished with 26.2 miles. That’s a 4-hour marathon at the end of the day. The girl is tough as nails! I am inspired to be more fit.

Woody Wagons – I’ve always loved cars, but I’ve had a particular affinity for woody wagons. When I was young, I loved the boxy woody wagons from that 1930s that became sleek during the 1940s. When I was in high school, I fell for the less-is-more woody wagons during the 1950s. After college, I fell for the long and low woodys in the 1960s. Now that I am a Dad in my 30s, I’m really diggin the 1996 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon. Why? Mostly b/c this is a woody that I could really buy and not just adore. And when it comes time to buying, I want something that is fast, reliable, and safe. The roadmaster has a Corvette engine that is both quick and reliable. Plus it has modern safety features and comfy new leather interior. I’m aware that commoners will look at the 1996 Estate Wagon and remember that they made fun of that wagon while they sat tall and proud in the 1996 Ford Explorer on their way to soccer practice. I’m okay with that. Their distaste today keeps me from having to pay tomorrow’s collector car premium. In other words, a great car is cheaper when not everyone agrees that its cool. It’s a supply and demand thing.

Getting it Together – In my 20s, I always felt overwhelmed by the routines of life. Maybe I was traveling too much or I was just too distracted by pursuing women, but I always felt overwhelmed by cycles calendar year. I never felt like I had enough time to plan for any holiday–Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year. Every holiday, including my own birthday, felt like it was rushed upon me with short notice. But now that I am married and have a family, I can actually see holidays coming and plan accordingly. Life is more fun this way.

Family Room Renovation – For the last couple of months, I’ve been redoing my family room: new floors, new fireplace, new wall paneling, and new built-in shelves. I’m about 75% there and it feels so good to have the most lived-in room of the house finally looking right. I want to get it all done in time to enjoy stockings hung from the mantel.

TV – It’s fun to watch TV shows and movies as I renovate my family room. But I am well aware of that magic on the screen doesn’t pass through into my own life. To be entertained through shows, movies, and video games is to accept the reality that your life partly defined by fictitious characters.

Staying Put – Candyce and I have always been adventurers, but during the last few months, our #1 priority has been to stay home. We’ve turned down invitations to great parties and outings with friends. We’ve had no regrets. It’s hard to figure it all out, but since Norah turned 4 earlier this fall, it’s dawned on both me and Candyce that life is going by terribly fast. We want to slow down and savor our life together, and staying home more than we leave home seems to be helping slow down the clock.

“I’m perfect, here’s my blog.” – I’m inspired by the designers and fashionistas who keep such picture perfect lifestyles and share them on their blogs. I’m also okay with the fact that my blog is very much like me–imperfect.

It is a mistake to apply American democratic procedures to the faith and the truth. You cannot take a vote on the truth. The value of democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes. – Pope John Paul II

DIY Gangster: Toy Cart

DIY Gangster: Toy Cart

So basically our house was out of control with toys. So I got gangster on that corners of mountain of toys with a creative solution: a rolling toy cart. Take a look at my labor of love through the sunny weekends of April.

Why this is awesome:

  1. Half of toys are reachable, half are not. Why? Because sometimes kids get a little adventurous and go pillaging for a perfect toy, only to find nothing but the bottom of the toy box.
  2. The canvas bags are not see-through. That means that you can toss whatever you want into those soft buckets and you don’t have to look at the mess within. This is a huge deal for me b/c every gift the girls get now is actually a set of multiple toys. A toy cash register comes with 30 pieces of play money.  A baby doll comes with three outfits. There isn’t enough time in the day to re-gather these toy sets and then place them tidely back together. It’s a lot easier to throw those little items in a canvas bucket and then go on with your day.
  3. The canvas bags can be brought to the floor. Seriously, my girls are thrilled when I lower new toys to the floor.
  4. The toy cart is on wheels. So if we feel like claiming this room for guests or a dinner party, we roll the cart down the hall and out of the way. Magic!
  5. Big hooks. Each side of the cart have long sturdy hooks that are there for all the things you never knew you should hang. No, seriously, I didn’t realize we had 10+ hangable toys until I got these magic hooks.