From Coffee Coffee, Leucadia, CA

I’ve absolutely loved the past two mornings here in San Diego. I’ve slept in with the cool ocean air breezing through our window.

Jeff and I had fun driving the Airstream out here. From Yuma to Carlsbad, I was the driver and he was the DJ. I was thrilled to hear Milli Vanilli and Coldplay. I can’t explain it…but “Girl You Know It’s True” gets me pumped. Maybe b/c it was one of the first songs to make me want to dance in elementary school. I got nostalgic and started to think forward to my upcoming 15 year class reunion. I don’t know if anyone in my grade, school, or state who loved Milli Vanilli as much as I did.

We just finished CYMC 2012 in Scottsdale. Our biggest convention in 27 years. There’s so much that I could write about, but I’m on vacation and all this brings me back into the office where it feels worky worky. But I am still proud of what we’ve accomplished, so I’ll make a quick list of what making me happy:

  1. – It’s a cool little website we launched at CYMC. I wrote the copy and designed the wireframes. Gabe illustrated, Ryan colored and coded. A quick, fun project with great guys.
  2. College Life – A creative solution to the problem of Life Teen kids graduating high school and then wandering away from their faith. It’s good to have Paul George back on our team. He’s a brilliant soul.
  3. Twitter – We had some good #cymc buzz on Twitter before, during, and after the Convention.
  4. Community – There are many high-caliber people who’ve gotten involved in Life Teen over the past 5 years. These people are the hubs of community in their towns and online.
  5. Phoenix – We had a huge turnout of local youth ministers. XLT PHX this fall is going to be well attended.  I’m stoked about a new schedule this fall.

It’s good to be here in San Diego. Everytime I get here, I wonder why I don’t live here.

Baby Eden Jane

So Baby Eden Jane was born three weeks ago. She’s awesome. She’s a little miracle. And she doesn’t seem happy when I hold her. That’s okay, because it makes me happy that she likes being held so close by Candyce.

Terrible, Intense

The two weeks following her birth were crazy with sickness. So we never had that blissful newborn experience in our home. Instead, it each of us got some version of stomach flu. I’ll spare the details, but it was an ugly 10 days. It was so frustrating too, because here we are at the beginning of the summer, and we’re sick like it’s the peak of the flu season in February or something. This was the most vulnerable and fragile our little family has ever felt, especially because we had a newborn baby in the house too. So much anxiety.

The first stable moment we had as a family was the last afternoon before I returned to work. We went to Bahama Breeze to get some iced drinks, and then we came home and watched a kids movie on TV. Candyce, Norah, Stella, and I all sat on the same couch sipping our cold fruity drinks. Nobody was vomiting. Nobody was crying. Everyone was happy and healthy. At last.

I’ve learned in life that if I retell a bad/sad situation over and over again, it’s because I’m still trying to heal from the trauma. I’m trying to make sense of what just happened so that I can move on in life. Most of the time you tell your story and you’re off to new adventures on a new day. But both Candyce and I have revisited that first week-and-a-half of Eden’s life countless times. We retell the each day almost in shock that it really got that bad. Only now, three weeks later, are we able to talk about something new. It’s good to feel normal.

My Mom

It was really nice to have Mom in town for the past week. This is the longest time she’s ever spent out here in Arizona. Having extra help around the house was priceless.

On the drive back from the park, I asked Mom why my life feels so hectic. In the last three months, Stella and Norah have needed so much attention. I can’t make it from one side of the room to the next without disappointing someone. I try to be as patient and compassionate as I can be, but all I have never seems enough.

She put it simply: “It’s because you have little children with a lot of needs. It won’t always be this way. And now you have a newborn too. It’s a transition and that’s never easy.” It wasn’t anything that I didn’t already know, but somehow those words coming from my mother gave me hope.

Yes, HGTV Makes Me Obsessed

Being homebound for the past several weeks has given me a rare opportunity to gorge on Home and Garden Television. If there is anything I am addicted to, it’s before and after photos of remodeled rooms, homes, and yards. My favorite show is Curb Appeal with designer John Gidding. It blows my mind how he can take an awkward or boring house and transform it into something so gorgeous.

I made many trips out of our front door to hold baby Eden and get some fresh air. I spent many moments standing still on the street in front of our house, staring at the front of our home and seeing so much potential. I bought this house at a great price six years ago largely because it lacked curb appeal. My goal was to get gangster on the house and change up its whole look. But when the Real Estate market is bombing and the planet is spiraling into a financial crisis, it’s hard to spend $20k on making your house pretty. Now the worst of the meltdown is over (hopefully), so I can again dream about making my house cool.

I think I’ve found a solution to the awkward blocky thing that’s going on: two toned-paint, plus light colored trim. This could really work. Of course I have some cosmetic work to do too: trimming out windows, changing architectural details, adding iron details to the second floor windows.

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.


Getting Ready for our Baby, a Blog About a Blog

Right now the Smith family has two big months we’re trying to work through. Next month our baby girl is due. And there is always so much preparation that is necessary before this new little life enters the world. Yes, some of it is obvious stuff like making sure she has her clothes, diapers, bedding, etc. But most of “getting ready for the baby” is rallying to get life chores completed because you know that once an infant enters the household, there’s hardly any time for anything else.

So here’s my rally list of things I need to fix

  • Sprinkler heads
  • Drip irrigation system
  • Broken irrigation pipe
  • Leaking shower head
  • Leaking bathroom faucets
  • Leaking toilet
  • Plugged dishwasher
  • Outgoing sewage pipe

So basically, anything that has to do with water or plumbing is broken and needs to be fixed. Then I have to rally to get my taxes complete…and then some do some banking projects. (And I am optimistic that I can construct a toy storage solution that will make me a celebrity on Pinterest.) So much needs to be done!

Plus I’m trying to rebuild  The idea is that I am breaking the decade-long blog into different life chapters. My hope is that this renovation of my blog can solve a couple of problems. First, it’s hard to reconcile the frequent and detailed blog updates of past years with the sporadic updates from today. Back then, I was single and flying around the country. I had plenty of things to write about and all the time in the world to do it. I updated my blog twice a week. It’s hard to write at that frequency and detail now that I have a family. The second problem I’m trying to solve is to make more room for photo updates straight from my iPhone. This way I can keep some sort of life narrative going even in the busiest moments.

If this doesn’t work, I just may have to put this blog on indefinite hold. I just don’t know if it fits into my life anymore. Yes, it is mostly because I don’t have free time. But it’s more than that. I used to write because I didn’t have anyone to talk to about all that was going on in life. But now I am married, and all of the thoughts that swirl in my head make their way out in beautiful conversations with Candyce. She’s gives me clarity and peace. There’s nothing left to write about.

More than anything, I see how fast my children are growing up, and I would rather spend my time with them than maintaining a blog for an hour a day. Nothing matters more than little Norah and Stella.

A 25 Minute Blog about Chaos

I have 25 minutes to write a blog. I’m just going to write and see what happens.

Little kids. I’ve been kind of in denial about how much time and attention my daughters need. Before I was married, I had new dads tell me how rewarding it was to come home from work have his kids greet him at the door with gleeful cheers and hugs. Yes, that does happen and it is heartwarming for those precious 15 seconds.

What happens for the next 60 minutes is a mess. Imagine me holding a little girl  in both of my arms because I just scooped them both up on my way out of the garage and into the house. I am then expected to visit with them both and entertain them both–at the same time. Actually, that only happens for a few minutes until something crazy goes down…

  • …like the day when Stella slapped me in the nose and my eyes water…
  • …so I put Norah down to try to get a game started for both of them and then she flipped out like I abandoned her at a dirty bus stop…
  • …so I picked up Norah and then put down Stella–then Stella acted shocked and very disappointed in me. She marched out of the room in stunned silence, squatted in far side of the house and cried out her despair. Then she flopped down on her belly and rubbed her face into the tile floor…
  • …so I carried Norah over and try to console Stella together. I leaned over to pick her up and Norah got nervous that I might put her down, so she lifted up her feet to avoid the inevitable planting on the floor. I lost my balance and wobbled around and lost my flip-flop and ended up stepping on Stella’s hand…
  • …Stella screamed more…
  • …Chef Candyce left the kitchen to see what all the commotion is about. I’m too flustered to even explain the situation.

Different versions of this “Daddy’s home!” scene plays out each day. But from my point of view, it all feels the same: chaotic.

It’s ironic. A courtship between a guy and a girl is all about being charming and composed. The wedding day beams with grace and dignity. Then a few years later you welcome this beautiful baby into your life. And that’s when the composure comes unraveled. Outside of the house, I’m put together pretty well, but inside the house, I am a mighty bull that gets wrangled to the ground by two hyperactive monkeys.

Toys. I had this quaint idea about kids and their toys. I would select a few fine toy from some designer online toy boutique. Then Norah would fall in love with the toys and care for and adore them because they are her prized possessions. Her little friends would look forward to coming over because Norah had unique and inspired toys that made them feel unique and inspired. Plus clean up would be easy because it’s just about putting the three toys on the bent-wood Eames shelf in Norah’s play studio. (I don’t think that Ray and Charles made a bent-wood shelf, but somehow this made its way into my fantasy.)

So far, this toy fantasy hasn’t happened at all.

Play food. I have fresh produce in three varieties. Let’s talk about apples. I have a hollow plastic apple, a polyester plush apple, and a crack your skull wood apple. Now imagine every other fruit and vegetable with those same varieties. It looks like a grocery store semi-truck jack knifed and flipped in my living room, spilling 1000s of food items onto my floor.

Dolls. I live in an orphanage of baby dolls. Without exaggeration, I think there are 30 baby dolls in my house. Maybe 50, if you count the ones stored carefully in the airtight plastic bins in the garage.

Barbie. Somehow the boomin bods of Barbie and friends showed up on my living room floor. Candyce explained that the girls needed some toys for their new plastic play pool. So she grabbed a couple mermaids off the shelf on her way out of the toy store. But these aren’t just sweet mermaids like little Ariel, these are sexy babe Barbies. I have nothing political or abrasive to say about tan Barbie and her tan friends. They can be hot if they want to, but they showed up in my house about 5 years too early. And this bothers me.

Okay, 25 minutes is up.