With the birth of Olivia (and possibly any baby), there came the inevitable comparison to Theresa and me, and to her three older sisters. Who did she look like more? Who did the other girls look like more? And, more than six years after our oldest was born, it was hard to remember what the other girls looked like when they were only a day or two old. Which brings us to this little quiz.
The photos above show the other girls while they were still in the hospital, so they're most definitely all only a day or two old. Can you tell who's who? They're in no particular order. Submit your answers in the comments section below. You have until I sort them out myself.
For the record, Theresa got them all right the first time around. I think that proves that she's their mom.
UPDATE 2/1/2012: The results are in. And the winners are...
Date: Laurelle, by 40 minutes
Weight: Afton, by 8 ounces
Length: Katie and Holli, by 0.25 inches
The time is near for our fourth child to be welcomed into the world. All the preparations are being made and nesting rituals are almost done. So, we'd love to hear your guesses. If you'd like a little history on the other three girls for you to make your educated guesses, then read on.
Tonight, I asked (instructed, commanded) Audrey and Eliza to pick up a few toys in the living room before bed, with the promise of an episode of a show before bedtime. I gave them clear instructions with a deadline and reiterated the reward at the end. Then I left them to their own devices.
That may have been my mistake.
I gave them a few gentle reminders but didn't really push the issue like I normally would, with the yelling and directing. They played more than they picked up. Naturally, the deadline passed and the toys were still not put away, and so I quietly ushered them into the bedroom to much protesting and promising.
While Eliza threw a good fit on the floor, I was able to calmly make a point with Audrey about obeying my instructions in a timely fashion. After much more explanation, I was able to calm Eliza down and finally get her to bed.
That's when I started thinking about what had happened.
Was I wrong to have expected them to pick up after only having instructed them only once? Should I have been more persistent in reminding them of their duties? I know sometimes I need to be asked more than once to do something, so can I really hold them to a higher standard?
On the other hand, I don't think I should have to tell (hound, nag) them to pick up every toy and put it away. I might as well pick up the room myself, which defeats the purpose of the whole exercise.
I suspect the correct answer is a moving target somewhere in between.
I was fasting. From the computer.
Three weeks ago, our church, Crosswalk Community Church, called for a churchwide fast for three weeks. There were a lot of things I thought I could do without, but few of them would hurt more than giving up my personal computer time. It just feels like my dedicated personal time and I usually unwind from a long day after the girls are in bed. But that time also usually slips by much too quickly and by the time I get into bed, I would have accomplished little of any value.
So, I decided to give up a few hours of my personal computing time each day with the hopes of using that time more productively. I have many books screaming to be dusted and read, the chief of which is my Bible. So, with great expectations, I set of on this three-week adventure.
Here's what I've learned: There are many more distractions in this house than just my computer. Without trying, I was able to fill the void with TV time instead. It wasn't even one specific show, although being in the middle of the Australian Open gave me one more thing to tune into. When that wasn't on, there were a dozen other shows on two dozen other channels.
After more than a year, I have returned to my blog. It seems like a good time, considering the new year and our penchant for resolutions and goals. So, jumping back on track, I'm resolving to becoming a more regular contributor to my own blog if only to chronicle my thoughts and the events of my life.
So, rather than wait until my blog and the rest of my site is completely complete, I'm just going to open it up to you as it currently stands, and invite you to watch as I try to improve it.
I have a few goals for this blog, which may become a playground for some (hopefully) interesting stuff. For one, I'd like to stretch my creative skills and try to add more variety to this site. Taking a page out of Jason Santa Maria's blog, I'm going to try to make each post at least partially unique. Why should print layout have all the fun?
SVA Dot Dot Dot Lectures: Jason Santa Maria from MFA Interaction Design on Vimeo.
More creative muscle-stretching will mean more typefaces and other design elements likely using any number of different technologies, many of which will require the latest browsers. So, if you haven't updated your web browser lately or tried something other than Internet Explorer because it came by default on your computer, you will need to do so to experience this web site to the fullest. You should do it anyway to experience much of the rest of the interwebs to the fullest.
I'm going to try one post a week, and see how that goes. Don't expect anything too profound, though I will try my best not to be utterly trivial. I'll try to make it a merry mix.
So, here goes.
One morning, as we were sitting at the table for breakfast:
Audrey: Daddy, I saw you pee.
Me (thinking): What?! When?!
Audrey: I saw U-P. That spells "up."
Me (relieved, no pun intended): That's right, honey. Good job!
I'm going to have to be more careful when I go to the bathroom next time, just in case.
I think it's a mild case of Social Media Fatigue.
You'd think that being such a techie myself, and being in the techie field, that I'd be riding the crest of each crashing wave of the next big thing. But I think the inverse is happening... too much of it is getting to be a little too much for me.
If you really want to keep up with me, follow me on Twitter. Since I can txt my tweets, I do that most often. That also feeds my Facebook status, and you can see it here on my blog too.
For my part, I'll try to keep you updated on some of the things that are going on around here. Maybe if I keep the posts short, I'll get more in. Anyway, stay tuned.
We went to Menard's this evening to check out what they had to offer. We looked at flowers first, but then stumbled upon the vegetable section.
Actually, we saw the apple trees first. Having been to the local orchard for their harvest days, we knew some of the breeds by name. So, getting excited at the prospect of having fresh apples from our own garden, we picked out a Cortland apple tree. It was tempting to get a McIntosh to satisfy the geek in me.
Then we found the vegetables, and we went a little crazy. I thought we'd start with a salsa garden, but the strawberries looked really good. So, we ended up with tomatoes, zuchinni, green peppers, strawberries, and snow peas. That should be enough to keep us busy for a while.
I also got us some hardware for the job: stakes to hold up the tree and some fencing to keep the pests out. So, this week, I'll be working on getting our garden set up and ready to go. Hopefully, I'll be able to put the plants in the ground by this weekend and then let the bounty of the harvest roll on in.
I'll post some pictures and updates. I would also appreciate your input and green tips. I don't want everything to die in there.
Audrey: Daddy, Eliza's special to me, and I'm special to her.
Me: That's right. And you're both special to mommy and daddy.
Audrey: Yeah. Daddy?
Me: Yes, honey?
Audrey: Are you going to marry mommy?
Me: Daddy's thinking about it, baby.
I didn't really say that last part because the humor would be lost on her, and it might skew her view of family values. Of course, I explained that daddy was already married to mommy. But it was funny in my head anyway.
And now look where I am. I blame Twitter.
I just wanted to post my last word on Sarah.
We attended her memorial service two weeks ago. It was a good opportunity for us to express our condolences to her family, and to get some closure for ourselves. We didn't get to see her body as the casket was closed, but we were reminded that the spirit and life that we had come to know and love in Sarah was gone. All that remained was a husk. We reveled in the knowledge that she was dancing on heavenly streets of gold.
I pondered, while looking through memorabilia from various times of her life, how many people would show up for a similar service in remembrance of me. I'm sure there were more than a few people who wondered the same thing. But an event like this is bound to make you pause and consider your own mortality.
So, goodbye Sarah. You will always be remembered and missed.
But since the news of Sarah's accident, I find myself deeper in thought than usual. It's surprised even me that I've been dwelling on it.
This photo was taken at Sonshine 2004, one of the many times that Sarah joined the Fresh Fire Youth for the weekend. I don't exactly remember when the Bullers started coming to Holy Life or when they stopped, but when you make a solid connection with kindred spirits, it doesn't really matter where they go to church. You still keep in touch and contact with them. For a lot of the teenagers that pass through the doors of our youth room, it "Once a Fresh Fire youth, always a Fresh Fire youth."
Today would've been Sarah's 19th birthday, when she should be celebrating the beginning of the rest of her life. If you're her friend on Facebook, you'll know that her wall has been inundated with innumerable well wishes, a testimony to the life that she led and the legacy she leaves.
It's not often that a student inspires a teacher, but lately I've caught myself wondering about my own life. Now, I don't think my life is insignificant in any way, but I have been questioning how well I've been living my life and how wisely I've been spending the days I've been given on this earth.
I also don't think that it would increase in value if I devoted every waking minute helping starving children in Africa. There is, of course, nothing wrong with doing that, but if we all flocked there, who would evangelize our own country? There's as much a call for businessplace evangelism as there is for global evangelism. It all boils down to balance.
The question that I've been asking myself always comes back to this: What am I doing with my life? What more can I do? What have I been doing with my life thus far? I know that's more than one question, but I have been asking myself those questions a lot.
I don't expect to have any answers right now, but maybe those questions will help direct my choices and my life. Maybe if I find myself here again, I might be able to have more positive answers. Maybe the questions alone are enough for now.
I think Seth Barnes said it best in his blog. "[S]ometimes God loves us so much, he asks for our best. And in receiving Sarah into his loving arms, he got the best we had."
Happy birthday, Sarah. You will be missed.
But when you're a youth pastor ministering to teenagers, total transparency and complete honesty are required for your ministry to be effective. Otherwise, they'll see right through your facade.
We just learned that a girl, actually now a young lady, who used to attend the youth group when we were youth leaders in Brookings, was killed today in an auto accident while on a mission trip to South Africa.
Needless to say, we are both shocked by the news and deeply saddened by it. Hers was a life cut short long before her time. She was one of those students who inspires her teachers. Looking back on her life, she has accomplished and overcome a great deal.
I don't know her well enough to presume anything, so I won't say that she would've wanted it this way. I mean, who really does? But I will say this: I should be so blessed to be caught doing the work of the Lord when my number is finally called.
We love you, Sarah. You will be missed.
0-3 and I'm going to add more to the list.
I'd really like to add the Tour de Kota to the list. Now, before the diatribe gets unleashed, gimme a chance. It's just one of those things... you know, like wanting to climb Mount Everest. Now, I'll admit. There's a certain amount of machismo involved here, but I also think this would be a great summer activity.
If you're not familiar or from South Dakota, the Tour de Kota is our very local version of the other tour. It's 425 miles of biking through seven stops in South Dakota. Most of those miles should be over plains, but I'm sure there will be a few slopes as well.
So, I'm not going to underestimate this undertaking. I'll probably start hitting the gym, treadmills, and bikes hard soon, so maybe that'll help me get started training for this. I know actually riding time on the roads, etc will be crucial, so I might have to get creative with my routes. Maybe I'll ride to Brookings on the weekends.
So, anyway, that's my next bullet point on the bucket list.
First of all, there's the food. My, my, the food. When I was growing up, I took the bounty of the land for granted. We would eat out at almost every occasion, and we wouldn't think twice about the variety that was available at any number of eating places or food courts.
When you go, be adventurous with your diet, if possible. I know if you have severe allergies, especially peanut, then you might want to be a little bit more careful. Some places are still cooking with peanut oil, and there will be plenty of peanuts to go around. But if you just ask, there are more and more places using palm oil.
Try as much as you can. The beautiful and delicious thing about Malaysia cuisine is that it's not just Malay, Chinese, or Indian. It's Malaysian, which means that each has a little bit of everything else. The Chinese food has a little bit of Malay and Indian in it as well, and vice versa. So, be adventurous.
Not just with the food. There will be a lot of things that you will get to do. Even as a Malaysian, there were a lot of things that I had never done before and things that I had taken for granted. Like visiting beaches or climbing hills, go and do all the tourist-y things. Like parasailing and shopping. Go to the museums and parks.
In short, if it looks like fun, do it :)
For one, bring cash instead of travellers cheques. Banks have a hard time converting those things into cash, and you can probably get a better exchange rate from someone who's in a position to negotiate. That means private money changers.
Also, bring large bills, nothing smaller than $50 bills. Twenties may be common here, but fifties and hundreds are actually preferred by the money changers. I don't think you'll get a better rate for turning in two fifties versus five twenties, but you might have an easier time changing one fifty versus one twenty. And some money changers will not take any bills smaller than a fifty. Besides, it's easier to carry a few $100 bills than a wad of twenties. Who are you trying to impress anyway?
And, make sure your bills are nice and crisp. Well, at least not worn and tattered. I had a fifty given back to me because it was too worn out. They're probably a little suspicious of counterfeit bills. Something else to think about.
Secondly, travel light. This is even true if you're traveling with kids. We did it with two little girls, and most of the time on the planes, they were content to draw on paper or watch the movie on their own screens. They don't need their own rolling carry-on luggage, which only adds to what you'll have to end up carrying for them. You'll have less to keep your eye on and less to worry about, and you'll be able to move a little faster in the airplanes and the airports.
Travel light especially if you're going to another country with a great exchange rate compared to the US dollar, like Malaysia. At RM3.65 to the dollar, we were able to shop at most stores and get great clothes for great prices. Of course, there are those stores where the clientele are a little bit more elite, but for the most part, we got really good deals. Everyday low prices, as my dad would say.
So, you can easily shop for almost anything you might need on a daily basis. Even if you needed extra luggage, like we did the first time we went home, you can find them at great prices that are sometimes negotiable.
Hmm... that's it for now. Let's call this Part I. We'll pick this up later.
Well, settling in.
The girls are finally adjusting back to Central Time. They're taking their naps and going to bed at the right times, and waking up at almost the right times. It might take a few more days to get reacquainted with the schedule, but I think we're doing okay.
We're happy to be home and into the familiar swing of things again. I have my friends at work, and Theresa has her friends at the mom's group. We have our friends at church, and that just feels right.
Of course, for me, going back to Alor Setar was another rush of old and familiar sentiments as well. All the main roads were familiar, and I could even drive myself around town. For your information, we drive on the correct side of the road, on the other side of the car. And we have roundabouts.
It was hard for me to leave my family again. It was so great to see them and interact with them again. We got to spend a lot of time together while we were there, I think partly because the girls were with us. My parents have not seen much of Audrey and Eliza, so they took advantage of every moment to get to know their grandchildren a little more.
It was also a treat to see the girls warming up to my parents too. They stayed at a distance at first, but towards the middle of the trip and more so at the end, Audrey and Eliza had warmed up to my mom and dad, and even my aunts and grandma.
So, next trip? We're definitely planning on going back. It's just a question of when. If we keep to our traditional four year lapse, Audrey will be in 2nd Grade and Eliza will not be far behind. We'll have to make it a summer trip next time around, just to accommodate the school schedule.
We'd also get the opportunity to visit the beaches on the east coast of the Malaysian peninsula, which is allegedly supremely pristine. Going back in the summer months will also have the added bonus of putting us right in the middle of the Malaysian fruit season. Mmmm... durian.
And we might also have one or two more in tow. Just saying.
So, we're already planning. If you'd like to come with us, you would be more than welcome. The weather is great. The food is delicious. The shopping is endless. And the experience will be unforgettable.
Well, we're stuck here at Changi International Airport in Singapore. Of course, I use the word "stuck" affectionately, because this really is a nice airport. The customer service is quite amazing, and they have free internet here.
Anyway, I just wanted to update you all on what was going on. I know I owe you a post on what we did in Alor Setar the last few days, but that might have to wait for a while. I don't have photos to show you, and it's quite late. I think we're going to try to pull and all-nighter to try to get our bodies back on South Dakota time.
So, I'll fill you in later. The next time you hear from me, I'll probably be back home.
See you on the flip side.
Let the drooling begin.
We only had a few short days to cover as much ground as we could. But it had already been a long day and the heat was getting the best of us. So the first order of business was to take a dip at the pool downstairs.
Audrey and Eliza took to the water easily, and had fun splashing in it. Audrey was even tall enough to be in the shallow end of the adult pool. She thought it was the coolest thing to be able to tiptoe to and fro.
Of course, there was a certain amount of lazing and playing around, in between shopping sprees. I'm so glad Grandma Jenni came along to help with the girls.
And in between all that shopping and lazing, we even managed to fit in a little but of eating. I've definitely been trying to eat a little bit of everything while I'm here. That's my uncle with me there, who made a detour from their Thai vacation to visit us in KL.
They brought books for the girls, and Audrey loves reading. She loves being read to even more, and she loves her aunt Fay Cheng. So having Aunt Fay Cheng read a new book to her was just bliss.
Here's the family on the sixteenth floor of the KL Plaza Suites. You can see the Petronas Twin Towers in the background. It's quite a sight at night from our balcony.
More importantly, you can also see The Pavilion, one of KL's newest malls. The shopping is decent there, although there are a lot of high-end stores with prices that are comparable to US prices. So, not exactly a mad rush of a shopping spree.
The food court on the lower level is quite amazing, though. You could eat something different every meal everyday for weeks. My aunt and uncle from Australia, along with my little sister and I enjoyed Teppan Yaki for our last meal in KL.
Besides eating and shopping, there are other things you can see and do. Really! I promise.
Instead of just admiring the Twin Towers from afar, you can also visit it. Besides having a shopping mall at the base of the towers, you can also take a short tour half way up the towers to the skyway bridge. It's 41 storeys above the street, and offers quite a view of KL.
I even got Grandma Jenni to go. Tickets are limited each day, though, so you'll have to be there early to get your tickets.
Another fun activity is the fish spa, or fish pedicure. Those seem to be on every corner and in every mall, so you can't miss them. It's all the rage around here.
They supposedly nibble at your feet and eat the dead skin, leaving smooth and healthy skin. It's fun to try at least once, even if you don't believe in its virtues.
So, after five days of shopping and eating and shopping and eating, we managed to pack all our new clothes into our bags and make the long drive home to Alor Setar. What a whirlwind of a week. We're exhausted, but it was so much fun.
It was especially nice to see my aunt and uncle from Australia. They've been there about twenty years, so it was certainly a treat to see them in person and hang out for a while. We even got our first fish spa moment together. How cool is that?!
But sadly, we had to leave them and Fay Cheng, who had to go back to work. The girls really took to her and were always excited to have her around. So, we'll just have to make it a point for them to see her more, one way or another.
Even Theresa was sad to leave her coffee buddy behind. Here they are at the Coffee Bean, sharing their last cup of caffeine together before Fay Cheng left for work. You could always count on them to tell you where the closest Starbucks or Coffee Bean was.
Off to Alor Setar to wrap up the trip. That's another entry.
We started out the week going up to Genting Highlands for some entertainment. That area is popular for its casinos and theme parks, attracting regulars from as far away as my hometown in Alor Setar. Put those schoolbuses to work at night.
It's a long and windy road, though, with several speed bumps along the way. But once at the top, the view is quite amazing, if the mist doesn't turn the scene to white.
We stayed at the First World Hotel, where the facilities and amenities leave little to be desired.
We took the first night for surveillance, and planned our second day there. Since it would be our only full day, we wanted to make sure we made the most of it. Here's the lobby area of the hotel.
So, the next morning, after our free breakfast (the french toast line is slow and not worth it), we got a few all-day pass wristbands for us and Audrey for the theme park. Here, Audrey would get on her first rides.
We started with the indoor rides and then moved outdoors. We rode on elephants, rockets, cars, horses, balloons, and trains. Here are some of her favorites (They all seem to be):
The first ride Audrey got on was conveniently located next to the ticketing counter.
When outdoors, it's important to consult a map to ensure efficient use of time and energy to maximize riding time.
Mom and grandma on the elepants with the girls. They're certainly turning out to be thrill-seekers.
Theresa and I with the girls leaving on a jet plane. There's no fear of heights or vertigo in these girls.
Case in point. Audrey rode on that ride several times in a row on multiple occassions. Since there wasn't ever anyone in line, the ride operator would just let them ride consecutive turns.
We took a break from all that motion to take a family photo.
And also feed the fish. Those little guys are not lacking anything.
Back to more spinning in a teacup. Actually, Ribena is grape juice.
The double-decker carousel can be quite a lot of fun. Being the low time in the middle of the week, the girls were able to ride different animals on consecutive rides.
Audrey definitely got her money's worth out of her wristband. We had to assure her that we'd ride some more after lunch and nap to get her to lay still in bed.
While the girls were sleeping and Grandma Jenni was watching them, Theresa and I went out to the theme park to get on a few rides ourselves. It's been a while since we last went on a roller-coaster, so the sensation of our stomachs in our throats was almost foreign. We quit after we were tossed, tumbled, and turned on all the adult rides.
Well, all but the one where we had to be weighed before getting on to ensure that we didn't exceed the maximum limit of 70 kilograms (that's a little over 150 lbs). We didn't even try, but we did weigh ourselves separately later just to be sure, and we were right. We would've endangered ourselves on that ride.
After the girls had napped, we went on more rides with them... indoor rides, as it was raining outside and the rides were closed.
Our little social butterfly of a daughter wasted no time in making friends with the little passenger on her train. It was quite adorable to see Audrey explaining the intricacies of the ride to this little girl.
Here they are on the carousel, one of the many rides we enjoyed while it rained outside. We rode the merry-go-round, the carousel, the gondola, the reindeer express, and topped off the night watching daring feats of lion dancing.
It's quite an impressive show, even for a sometime-local like me. By now, Audrey and Eliza were over her initial fears of the dancers and beating of the drums.
Audrey watched intently and enjoyed it very much. She would later ask to see more lion dances while we were out shopping.
It took a little convincing to get them to bed that night, but they finally went to sleep and we were able to squeeze in a few more minutes of shopping before calling it a night.
That night wasn't much of a night. Audrey woke up in the middle of the night crying, possibly from a bad dream, while Eliza was too wound up to go to sleep at all. The nerves in our room were frayed, but both kids and all three adults finally got a few hours of sleep.
We checked out the next morning and then checked into an apartment in KL. More shopping and sight-seeing. Next entry.
Here are Audrey and Eliza examining the gate. It helps to keep the dogs in and the riff-raff out.
We had to run errands one of those days, including stopping at my mom's office at the church. So Theresa watched the girls while they played in the kindergarten playground... the same playground where I used to play as a child.
Speaking of playgrounds I used to frequent, here's another one not far from home. We used to come here in the evenings to vent our energy. This is a large concrete mound with a smooth side for sliding. It's more fun that the little slides.
Then, yesterday, we made the short trip to visit the Lye Huat Gardens in Changlun. It's actually quite a fascinating place. We got to feed the fish, and look at all kinds of animals. They even had a little display of old bicycles. It's quite an interesting collection of artifacts.
This morning, we had dim sum for breakfast and Audrey took her first shot at using chopsticks. I think she's doing okay with her cereal bar.
Then after breakfast, we made it out to the Rice Museum to learn a little bit more about this amazing grain. It's actually quite a nice place. I especially enjoyed the revolving floor and the mural there. It's worth the trip if you're in the area.
Here we are as rice farmers. That would be our alternate vocation.
Spending all that time together has really helped the girls take a liking to Grandpa Sonny and Grandma Linda. Eliza, who is so shy, has even taking a liking to my dad. She especially like sitting with him at watching the dogs. Before the end of the trip, we'll get her to give him a hug and a kiss.
To jump straight to the photos, read Theresa's blog and then check out the album on Facebook. I'll post a few of my own as soon as I've had the chance to go through them a little more.
Well, the last few days have been spent crossing things off my "must eat" list. There were even a few things that were not on my list that had to be added and then crossed off. I've been treated to all things new and familiar, and not many that can be found within a decent driving distance from Sioux Falls. I won't list them all, but suffice it to say, if you were Malaysian, it would make your mouth water. And it's only been a week.
On the third day of the Chinese New Year, the whole family packed up and we left for the Stella Maris Apartments in Tanjung Bungah in Penang. For about USD$70 a night, we got an apartment right on the beach with three rooms, with two to three beds in each room, a kitchen with dining area, two bathrooms, and a living room with a balcony that looked right over the ocean. That is an amazing steal.
So, while the shopping was good, and we did our fair share of that, there were times when we just wanted to laze in the room and go to sleep to the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach and the breeze of the ocean blowing through our wide-open balcony doors. It was certainly a time of rest and relaxation.
With the family being so close to us all the time, it was certainly nice to get to talk to them a little bit more. My aunt from Australia made sure she took time off at the same time so that she could spend time with us while we were in the country. My littlest sister Fay Cheng took some time off to be with us as well, so it was great to have her here. She's become the new best friend to Audrey and Eliza. In fact, the girls have grown quite attached to her.
They've also warmed up to my mom and dad, as well as my aunts and grandma. I think seeing them everyday makes them more familiar more quickly. It's nice to see them interact with each other, and how they behave around these new relatives.
Shopping has been good. We spent some time at the Queensbay Mall when we first touched down in Penang on the eve of the Chinese New Year. We've also spent some time at the Gurney Plaza doing our shopping and mall-ing. I'm sure we'll be doing more of that here in Alor Setar as well as in Kuala Lumpur when we're there.
Audrey has been up since 3:30AM, and consequently, so has Grandma Jenni since she wanted to sleep in grandma's bed last night. Eliza has also been up since 5:15AM from all the barking that my mom & dad's dog has been doing. He's still only three months old, so they couldn't leave him behind. And I've been up since 5:15AM or so with a growling stomach, so I had to raid the fridge.
So, we're all going to need naps this afternoon to recuperate and recharge.
Chinese New Year was really good yesterday. We spent our first night at my grandma's house in Sungai Petani so that we could be close to the festivities first thing in the morning. We were exchanging ang pows and greetings right away.
There's was a flurry of activity in the kitchen since we arrived, with all the women cooking up a storm. Besides, I am only home once every four years, so they're helping me cross things off my list, and even a few things that were not on my list. One of the things I really miss about Malaysia has been the food.
We got to visit with some aunts and uncles and cousins yesterday when they all showed up at the house. It was nice to see them again for so many years of being away. Now I'm even the uncle now giving away red packets. Such is the order of things.
We also got to take the girls out to the park for them to run around and expend some energy in the hopes that they would sleep better tonight.
Obviously, that didn't work.
It all started out when our first short hop from Sioux Falls to Minneapolis got delayed for almost 30 minutes. With our layovers already minimal as it was, any delays would certainly be cutting things a little close. When we finally landed at MSP, we were greeted with anxious airline agents with carts to zoom us through the terminals to our next gate. That was actually really fun. We would not have made our connection otherwise.
The flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo was more than 12 hours long. The girls did really well, with any outbursts kept to a bare minimum. We had to get creative with keeping them entertained. We had to get creative keeping ourselves entertained. There were a couple of movies shown, but only on one shared screen so you weren't really watching it for the complex plot.
We didn't have much time when we touched down in Narita, either. We boarded the plane as soon as we could find the terminal, and then it was another nine hours or so before we touched down in Singapore. That's when we finally got a little respite from our globetrotting adventures... that is, once we figured out what we needed to do to make sure our bags would make it to Penang the same time as we did.
We found a transit hotel, got a room, and hit the mattresses as soon as we were assigned one. A few hours of shuteye will hopefully help us get a headstart on the jetlag. I mean, who would want to be asleep during Chinese New Year, anyway? I even got in a very hot and refreshing shower, and wow! was it nice.
They're calling our flight now, so I'll update you all more later.
Just can't wait to get in the air again
The life I love is eatin' real food with my fam
And I can't wait to get in the air again
No, of course food isn't the only reason we're going there. It's a great motivator, for me, at least. And that's just what fit in that verse.
Here we are on the starting blocks to a very long journey. For those of you who are interested in our trip, we will be flying out of Sioux Falls and we'll be heading to Minneapolis. It'll be a nice short hop to get the girls excited about flying and used to the concept.
An hour layover there, and we take a twelve and a half hour flight to Tokyo. I don't think I'd mind the long trip as much as a long wait at an airport. At least we're making our way towards a goal.
An hour and a half later, we'll be on another eight or nine hour flight to Singapore. Since the flight arrives at about midnight, there won't be anymore departures, so we'll have to find a room at the transit hotel there. We'll take the first flight out in the morning to Penang. Total travel time - an estimated thirty hours... give or take an hour or so.
So there you have it. Our long journey to the other side of the world, fourteen time zones away.
See you on the flip side.
Just do a web search for "best job in the world" and there cwill be plenty of articles about an opening for island caretaker at Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It pays about US$100K for a stint between July and December 2009.
If the articles are to be believed, the qualifications for that position are minimal, and the benefits look to be phenomenal. I mean, who wouldn't want to laze on the beach all day and then blog about it once a week. I'm already blogging almost once a week. If I can work in some beach time into this deal, it'd be perfect.
The application has to be in a 60-second video format, so you can just pop on using a digital camera, and plead your case. You have until February 22nd.
First up, Windows 7. Microsoft has released the first public beta of Windows 7, the next version of the very popular operating system from the Redmond, Wash. software giant. It's also next in the long line of the Windows operating systems. And "Windows 7" is the final and official name.
Obviously, Vista didn't take off with the smooth launch that was expected. Even so, I actually thought that they'd iron out all the early kinks to overcome that initial negative stigma. I mean, look at XP. That's been around since 2001. That's quite a track record.
Now, we'll see what Windows 7 can deliver. If you're interested in trying it out for yourself, check out the download site and get up and running. The whole process was a little painful at first, but I'm up and running. I'm even blogging on it right now. There are a lot of goodies to find.
Also on this computer, I'm running Synergy so that I can use one keyboard and mouse to control this computer, as well as my main computer. Let me just say, this is working out really well. It's a cool and even free application. So, if you have more than one computer and hate jumping back and forth between keyboards and mouses (mice?), then check out Synergy.
Anyway, that's a little glimpse into the techie side of me.
So, what's new lately? Well, you should probably check out Theresa's blog for all the details. But here are some highlights.
Audrey is now completely potty trained, that is, she no longer takes her naps or goes to bed with diapers. That was the last step and now she's completely diaper-free. That will definitely save us a little more in expenses. My baby girl is definitely growing up fast.
We're also counting down to the big trip to Malaysia in 17 days. My mom already has an itinerary written up to make the most of our time there. There will be plenty of rest and relaxation, shopping and eating, sightseeing and exploring. The schedule is not necessarily set in stone, but it does give us a guideline.
We'll be spending a few days in Penang, a few days in Langkawi, a couple days at Genting Highlands, and a few days in Kuala Lumpur. The rest of the time will be spent just hanging out with family doing some casual shopping and serious eating. Besides, we wouldn't want to come back from our vacation and need a vacation to recover.
The trip to Malaysia is at the front of our minds. We're starting to plan things and talk about things more. Theresa is already starting to pack up some of the girls' stuff.
I'll definitely be blogging as much as I can while we're there, so you can be warmed vicariously through the blog.
That is, I'm sick and tired of this cold, snow and wind.
Thank God Theresa's mom was here to help watch the kids, or it would've been a much longer weekend for the both of us, I'm sure. I was feeling an aching in my stomach by midmorning, and took a long nap after a short lunch. And I barely remember trying to down a slice of french toast for dinner before retreating to the couch downstairs to continue my nap.
Of course, it wasn't long before I was forced to move my shuteye upstairs into my own bed. It doesn't have a fireplace, but I suppose it's better for long-term sleeping.
When I woke up this morning, things were definitely looking up. I was feeling a little better, and brave enough to venture out into the cold, wind, and snow to make it to church. It would be my first time on the church's worship team, so I was definitely excited to be going.
While at church, my stomach started cramping again and it was definitely hard to make it through church. I definitely wasn't myself. I couldn't even fully enjoy dinner at the Pizza Ranch. I hate when I can't enjoy food.
I was back to napping after lunch, and finally woke in time for dinner. Thankfully, my aching, headaches, cramps, and shivers were all gone. I was feeling much better by dinner time. I was able to help make dinner, give the girls a bath, and put them to bed.
I was even going to clear the driveway, but some good Samaritan had already cleaned it off for us. That definitely saved me about an hour of shivering and shoveling in the cold. What a blessing that was!
So, here I am winding down the day and recovering for another week. Thank God it's a short week. Merry Christmas, everyone!
The gift - a snow shovel. No, I didn't fabricate that.
Now, you may be thinking, "That was not as much a gift to you, as it is a way by which he can make sure you're taking care of his girls."
If that's what you were thinking, you wouldn't be alone. I don't mean me, of course. It's those other people.
Nevertheless, if it's a chore I have to endure anyway, I would welcome any help to get it done more quickly and efficiently. Since I'd already missed my chance at a snowblower, anything that will take the shoveling load off my back would be a blessing. And this shovel was a blessing indeed.
After raving about it when I saw it in action after our last snowfall, I had already determined to get one for myself. Besides, the work (and snow) multiplies exponentially when the driveway is triple-wide. So, eager to try out this new snow-pushing wonder, I bundled up again tonight and even brought my tunes along to keep me company.
After scraping through the initial snowdrift that had accumulated by the garage door, it wasn't long before I was on a roll. This new implement really made the work go more quickly and smoothly than my old shovel could ever have done. With that old thing, I had to shovel a scoop of snow, and then walk it over to the edge of the driveway to toss it onto the frozen lawn. With an extra-wide driveway, it just ends up being a long night. Additionally, wet and, therefore, heavier snow makes that just about back-breaking work.
But armed with my new snow pusher, I was able to make strategic sweeps back and forth across my driveway with minimal lifting. I would frequently look back on my progress and be amazed at how clean the driveway looked. I would've had to spend considerably more time to achieve the same results with a traditional snow shovel.
I knew I was making good time when I got to the end of the driveway by the sidewalk and the album I was listening to had not yet ended. Normally, I'd be listening to quite a few more before the job was all done. Actually, my iPod did literally freeze up on me and simply quit playing after about eight songs, most likely due to the below-freezing operating conditions.
Time for a personal media player with a solid state hard drive.
Anyway, thanks, Larry, for the new shovel. My driveway looks fantastic. And I got done just in time too - there was a throbbing pain in my fingertips by the time I was wrapping up. But I should've known it was going to be laborious, correctly prophesied by my little daughter at her bedtime:
Audrey: Daddy, can you lay down with me tonight?
Me: No, baby. I have to wrap Eliza up and get her to sleep too.
Audrey: But, when you put her in her crib then you can lay down with me.
Me: I'm sorry, honey. I have to shovel the snow and clean off the driveway.
Audrey: That's going to be a lot of work.
Me: Yes, baby. It is.
I know Theresa is more disappointed than I am that she was not able to execute her well-laid plans, but there's always next weekend. Who says you can only celebrate for one day? We're lobbying for a whole week's worth of festivities, and, so far, the idea is catching on among a select few.
And by "select few," I actually mean, our family.
I took some pictures of the girls this weekend and I thought I'd share them here. These first two are for my mom, who routinely updates her computer's desktop wallpaper with photos of the girls that are posted on Theresa's and my blogs.
Here's Eliza playing with one of Audrey's birthday presents. When big sister isn't looking, she likes to get her hands on what she can. Swiper, no swiping!
Here are the girls helping Grandma Jenni put up Christmas decals on our glass doors. Any reason to tap and bang on the glass, they'll take it.
Tonight, while mama was out, I tried to get a few updated self shots with my girls. That kind of effort only goes so far without someone else distracting them.
Here's Audrey feeding Eliza out of their favorite water bottles. Big sister Audrey can be quite the mother hen at times, especially when it comes to Eliza.
And a classic case of "monkey see, monkey do." Eliza impersonates Audrey's gymnastics scale with her own version, on almost any vertical surface she can find to lean on. What a cutie!
So, that's my weekend in a tight, warm bundle.
I had only cleared off enough of the driveway for the van to get out in the morning. I mean, there was less than an inch on the ground, but I figured I'd better clear it off and get a little bit of a headstart on the chore. I was going to get to the rest tonight. Besides, my ears had already completely frozen through and through, and the rest of my face was numb from the cold.
Anyway, while I was at work, the plows came by to clear the streets. If you don't know what a snowplow is, count it a blessing. Usually a welcome sight, they have the unfortunate side-effect of leaving a little snowbank along residential driveways that sometimes encloses. Leaving those snowbanks for later and repeatedly driving over them will only pack them down and make it that much harder to remove them.
So, armed with my shovel and driveway pick (again, if you don't know what that is, add that to your list of blessings), I bundled up to the hilt and started moving the snow. The night was calmer than the morning, so I didn't freeze as quickly. The snow was dry and powdered, so it was light to move albeit no less of a chore.
After about an hour of labor, I heard footsteps behind me and the metal scrape of a shovel against my concrete driveway. My neighbor from two houses down had come over to help me with my driveway after he had gotten done doing the same with his. And before you know it, with the extra manpower and the right tools, we were done within minutes. What a blessing that was!
We exchanged names, but hurried to get inside. You have to understand, when your face is frozen, elocution is nearly impossible.
All this just to say, Thanks, Kevin. That's midwestern hospitality.
So we took matters into our own hands.
After we made a few calls to Travelocity, and after their customer support staff made a few calls to the airlines, and after we all got the run-around, I thought maybe we should start exploring our options. There were just too many things that we didn't like about the changes that were made to our original itinerary.
We would have two 10-hour layovers. With two little girls in tow, that would just make the long trip even longer. Not that they behave badly. It's just that people get tired very quickly on long trips, and children have an especially hard time being reasonable when they're exhausted. Napping will be an especially creative trial.
So, the less time we can spend doing nothing, the better.
A quick search at Kayak revealed that Orbitz had an especially low rate, relative to other travel services, for a much shorter flight with much shorter airport waits. We'd be able to salvage a whole day, redeem the time, and possibly do some shopping for clothes and curios just in time for the Chinese New Year.
So, after weighing all the options, possibilities, and probabilities, I called Travelocity to break the news to them. I mentioned our predicament and asked if we would be able to get a full refund in case we did decide to cancel our reservation. He politely asked if he could put me on hold to make sure that the airlines would credit back the price of the tickets. Of course, I could wait a few minutes if it meant knowing for certain if we'd be getting our money back.
Several minutes go by and he comes back on the line, victoriously announcing that the reservations had been canceled and the total paid for the tickets had been refunded.
"I'm sorry. Did you say that reservations are already canceled?" I had to ask again to make sure I heard him right.
It's a good thing we had a backup plan, or I might have reached through the phone to suffocate him. I do not distinctly remember telling him to cancel the flight, but merely to check on it. Well, thank God we were able to book our flights for a good price and for a great itinerary.
Now I just pray and hope that there will be no more surprises or changes to our new plan.
One of the highlights of my Thanksgiving was getting to spend more time with my family. I do look forward to getting those extra days off from work, but not just for the sake of getting those extra days off from work. The longer weekend meant that I could spend more time with all my girls, doing nothing in particular but just spend more time with them. I'm thankful for my girls.
The family reunion was also a highlight of the event. Even though most of Theresa's family lives within 50 miles, we don't see each other on a regular basis. Mostly holidays and birthdays, but sometimes even those can come and go unheralded. So, having almost everyone under the same roof brought out the teasing and laughter. Of course, having Theresa's brother, Kevin, home was also a welcome treat. I'm thankful for my family.
The food, of course, was simply delicious. It may not have been presented the way Martha Stewart may have at her table, but it was a splendid meal regardless. It's truly amazing that a meal can be so bountiful. There were enough portions for everyone to have second helpings, and more than enough leftovers for everyone to Thanksgiving dinner for several more days. I'm thankful for the bounty of the land.
And, tomorrow, I go back to work and all things return to some semblance of normalcy. There are some unknowns and some anxieties there as well, but I'm doing something I enjoy and I work with people I like. What more could you ask for? I wouldn't go so far as to call it the ideal position, but I challenge you to find one. I believe your job is only as perfect as you make it. Walk into your workplace with optimism and joy, and you'll light it up and bring that perfection to fruition. I'm thankful for my job.
Of course, none of this would even be possible without Christ. My family, my job, my life are all gifts and blessings from Heaven. Every breath and every day is a gift from Him. What can I do of my own strength and power to attain what I have been given by Him? What do I have, in talents or possessions, except what was given to me by Him? More than anything, I'm thankful for my God.
If you didn't know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. In a nutshell, the challenge is to write a work of fiction of 50,000 words or more within the month. Put as much carp down on paper (electronic or physical) as possible, just to get the creative literary juices flowing, and then edit later to add the extra touches of flair that will earn you that Pulitzer prize.
In other words, write drunk and edit sober. Figuratively speaking, of course.
I'd heard about it before, but I didn't remember to plan for that this year until it was too late. So, I had to forfeit this year's challenge. Maybe I'll take it up again some time next year. I'll just make March my NaNoWriMo.
The plot, of course, is going to be the hardest thing to come up with. Do I go with some science fiction space story? Or do I explore the amatory exploits of a dashing playboy? Maybe some heartwrenching period drama that will pull on all your heartstrings? I guess I have until March to come up with something.
If I do get around to it, you can be rest assured that I will report my progress and post my debut efforts here.
Well, it's ruined when you have to explain the joke.
Anyway, Blizzard has released the second expansion pack to their golden goose of a game World of Warcraft. Called "Wrath of the Lich King," this expansion keeps the addicts coming back for more. Just when you thought you could get out from under the thumb of the man and regain a sense or normalcy, they release more features and upgrades to keep you running in that hamster wheel.
After even the initial release of the game about this time four years ago, the game immediately became quite profitable for Blizzard. The franchise was built around a fantastical world, and after building a loyal following for ten years, it's not surprising that this game took off the way it did. It now boasts more than 11 million monthly subscribers from all over the world. It has definitely set the standard for MMORPGs and has become the game to beat.
And the game to copy. There are numerous facsimiles, but even offering lower or no subscription rates, none have come close to dethroning WoW.
Kevin and I started playing WoW a couple of years ago, and after putting about a year into it, I got out and stayed off for a while. Then we got back into it some time back, and now, it's starting to wear off for me again. I don't think I'll be getting the game any time soon, or renewing my subscription when it expires in January. Not for a while, anyway.
Who knows? I might get back into it after another year off from it. It's a good thing my characters won't get permanently deleted.
So, if you were driving by Best Buy tonight and it looked like they were maybe having a little soiree, that was just the midnight release of the expansion pack. The real parties are at the gaming centers and basement LAN parties across the country.
And the second. And the third. And maybe the fourth one as well. All rolled into a giant blizzard that's sweeping across the upper midwest, including all of South Dakota. Early this morning, I-90 was closed in the western half of the state and there were already many accounts of the severity of the white-out.
More than 30 inches of snow. Wind gusts upwards of 65 miles per hour. So on and so forth. If you really want to see the dump of snow in all its glorious color, you only have to check out the local news network's web site. It's quite a magnificent sight.
My sympathies to my West River peeps.
Of course, it won't be long before we get our fair share of snow. I'm certainly not looking forward to shoveling any of it, and certainly not three wide driveways' worth of it. I might be able to get away with shovelling just two, though. I knew I should've bought that snowblower last spring when they were on sale. Now I'll end up paying a premium for one, or stress my back scooping it every other week for the foreseeable future.
Anyway, to those of you who are living closer to the equator where any precipitation flows down drains rather than crystallizes before entering the lower atmosphere, then enjoy any warmth you can squeeze out of a concrete pillar. You won't get any sympathies from me.
It's days like this when I'm glad we're going to hot-and-humid Malaysia right in the dead of winter.
Due to some extraneous circumstances at work, I've had to spend some extra hours at work. On the one hand, it feels empowering to be an important part of something so significant. I mean, this is nothing that I would've been a part of at my previous place of employment.
But on the other larger hand, I'm missing time with my girls... all three of them. On Friday night, I almost didn't make it to my anniversary dinner date with Theresa. I got out of work just in time to take her out for a bite. A movie was out of the question after dinner, but that just gave me another excuse to take her out again the next day.
Then, I'm missing valuable time with Audrey and Eliza, both of whom are old enough to miss me, and know when I'm not home when I'm supposed to be. Audrey got upset today when she found out that they wouldn't be picking me up after work. At this age, every day is a growth milestone, and the more time I spend at the office, the more I'm going to miss their chatter, cuteness, and cuddling.
I know these extended hours won't last, so there's a light at the end of this tunnel. But, in the meantime, I'm just missing my babies.
Originally, our flight was to arrive at midnight, early on the day before the Chinese New Year. We were going to spend the night at the airport hotel and then take the first flight out to Penang, closer to my hometown of Alor Setar and to Sungai Petani, where we'd be spending the New Year. We'd arrive with enough time to take advantage of the sales and maybe get a nice outfit to commemorate the occasion.
Well, with airlines cutting the number of flights across the board, ours was affected as well. We would've missed our connecting flight in Seoul, Korea so we had to be booked on a different flight. So, after a few calls to Travelocity to get our trip rescheduled, we finally got shuffled around. And what a mess of a shuffle too.
Instead of flying from Sioux Falls to Chicago to Seoul to Kuala Lumpur, we're getting diverted. So, we're flying from Chicago to JFK in New York with a good ten-hour layover there. Then we take the red eye to Seoul and wait another ten hours or so before we fly on to KL. By the time we arrive there, we would've lost almost a full day getting rerouted and waiting at airports. It's all very execrable, although I know it's not entirely the airline's fault.
So, we're going to try to make the best of it. Maybe we'll try to get out in the Big Apple and do something fun. A friend recommended that if we only did one thing in New York City that we go to Ground Zero. I know the thought of it is quite morbid, but it might be worth a look. I'll probably bring a book or three, too.
If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears.
In order for us to play cooperatively, we had to set up a local area network. Of course, it's not quite so easy as running ethernet cables to connect our notebooks when you consider that we were each in separate vehicles. So, the next best step and the logical solution was to go wireless instead.
Here's where the experiment was theorized. And fortunately, this is Kevin's bailiwick.
If we could create a wireless network, and we conveniently had an extra wireless router on hand, perhaps we could play then. The challenge, of course, was to keep both vehicles within the 400+ feet of the IEEE 802.11g range. Going down the interstate at 75 miles per hour, we thought that as long as we could keep both vans within eyesight, we should be fine.
So, we set out on our trip. After a bumpy start to our experiment, we were able to get off the ground and before you knew it, we were gaming over this local mobile wireless network going down I-29. The Doppler effect was a concern, but we didn't notice any lagging that affected our gameplay.
So, that really made the trip go by quite quickly. And we know for next time, if we ever had to do that again. Of course, we couldn't get on the Internet but this opens the door for countless "LAN in a Van" events. Intriguing, don't you think?
This very interesting article chronicles Senator Ernie Chambers's quest to sue God for making terroristic threats, inspiring fear, and causing destruction.
The judge wisely threw the case out, not because it's blatantly stoopid, but because God was not properly served notice of the lawsuit that was being brought against Him. Either way, I'm glad that the case got dismissed, although I'd really like to see this case gain some momentum just for the sheer entertainment value that any court proceedings might provide.
What the Senator argues now, is that since the courts threw out the case on the basis that God was not properly served, they acknowledge the existence of God. Consequently, and by default, they also acknowledge that by virtue of His being, He is also all knowing. Therefore, He already knows of the suit that's being brought against Him.
That train of logic is actually sound.
But just that last part.
The part about God terrorizing Senator Chambers's constituents is downright crazy. To actually believe that God waylaid His own people also goes against the very nature of God. If the senator can admit that God has certain traits just by existing, namely being omniscient, then he should so concede that God is also loving and only wants good things for His creation.
The question has been asked countless times through the ages. Why do bad things happen to good people? Well, don't be so quick to blame God. We live in a fallen world, a junkyard compared to the Eden that God created for Adam and Eve. The ruler of this world is Satan whose sole purpose in this lifetime is to steal, kill, and destroy. He knows he's going down at the end of the age and he's going to take as many with him as he can.
Of course, for those who love Him, God can turn those negative circumstances into something that will ultimately bring glory to His name. And thank God for His strength to persevere.
As far as this lawsuit, Senator Chambers has not decided yet if he will appeal the courts' decision. Either way, I think this is an interesting case to follow.
What's unique about Nebraska's version of the law is that there isn't a cap on the age of the child that can be dropped off. While good may have been intended, it has inadvertently made it also quite otiose.
What's happening in Nebraska now is that parents and guardians are dropping off their almost-legally-adult children. Of the about two dozen children who have been dropped off at hospitals under the umbrella of this safe haven law, only a small handful are actually under the age of four. All others are much older children.
The big story that got a lot of attention a few weeks ago was when a frustrated father of 10 dropped off all but one of his children. After losing his wife to a brain aneurysm, he was overwhelmed and did not see any way out. So he dropped off his youngest nine children, aged 1 to 17. Wow.
Then there's the story that just broke about the second out-of-state drop-off. A Detroit mother drove 12 hours to leave her 13-year-old son in Omaha. A week before, Iowan grandparents dropped off their 14-year-old charge also in Omaha.
Obviously, it's not working the way the lawmakers intended. It won't be long before some more specific rules are added to this broad law.
So, I decided to take one that has some decent specs, and installed Ubuntu on it. For Linux aficionados, Ubuntu may not be the die-hard's cup of tea. But for someone who's looking for an alternative operating system, it's worth a shot. The latest version, called Intrepid Ibex, will be released at the end of the month.
There are quite a few cool things that you can do with it. There are a lot of videos on Ubuntu that will showcase the many features and plug-ins you can get for it. Some of them are really quite spectacular.
If you have a spare computer laying around that you're not doing much with, or if you want to invest in an ultra mobile PC, Ubuntu might be the lightweight operating system for it.
(At dinner time)
Audrey: My daddy hit me.
Everyone, but daddy, thinks: Child abuse!
Mommy: Really? Why did your daddy hit you?
Audrey: Because there was a bug on my arm.
Everyone, especially daddy, thinks: Whew!
This week, US$2 million was paid for each of two Malaysian tankers hijacked by Somalian pirates more than a month ago. Thankfully, there was only one casualty in this whole ordeal. It probably could've ended up worse than that.
National Geographic published an article a few months ago about the pirate activities closer to home. My Malaysian home, that is.
I'll admit, that story was an eye-opener for me too. I mean, I'm not so naive that I don't know it's not still prevalent. But there were a lot of revelations that were even new to me.
UPDATE: In an interesting interview posted on the New York Times web site, a spokesperson for the pirates gave some insight into the life of a pirate and the motivation behind their activities. My first thought is, "Pirates have spokespeople?!"
This morning, it was a pleasant surprise for me to see the Community Blood Bank Bloodmobile parked on Dakota Avenue in front of City Hall. So, I decided that I would donate my pint during my lunch hour.
I don't know what drives me to donate blood when I can. It all started at INTI College for me. The local blood bank made their rounds to the colleges in the area, and I was just fascinated with it. I think I donate all but for a couple of semesters when I was there.
I haven't actively sought out blood banks in the area, but when they were out and around, I'd take my time to donate. I donated one year on the anniversary of 9-11 at the Mall of America while Theresa was at a scrapbooking convention, and another time at the Mall again after Acquire the Fire while the kids were roaming the Mall.
So, today, after a quick bite of lunch, I headed down to City Hall and half an hour later, I walked away feeling a little better about doing some good. And with a cookie.
That's really why I do this.
As a former youth leader (once a youth leader, always a youth leader), it breaks my heart to read these stories of the kids taking their own lives. The articles outline a few reasons why the suicide rate is quickly becoming one of the highest in the world, and they are all intertwined.
There's a sense of hopelessness on the reservation stemming from drug abuse, alcoholism, and gang violence. The youth can't seem to find a way out of that, so they take the quick way out. Since they don't believe in a spiritual heaven, they also reason that the spirit life must be more tolerable than the hell on earth they're enduring. And with every suicide and funeral, the deceased are remembered with such great honor and respect, more than they ever received in life, their peers and friends would copycat the suicides in hopes of receiving the same accolades.
I know the intricacies of those theories are more complex than that, but you get the idea.
If you remember, please pray for everyone at Rosebud... for the youth, for the parents and children left behind, for the missionaries and churches there fighting to snatch lives from the grips of the enemy. This field is white unto harvest.
I actually love this song. Well, not really the song necessarily, as much as the melody. There are a lot of secular songs like that for me, like Hotel California and American Pie, among others.
I heard this a few weeks ago. It must've been an oldies radio station. This particular song poses an interesting question, albeit not completely theologically sound. What really caught my attention the first few times I heard it was the second verse:
If God had a face what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints and all the prophets?
If you could see God, you really wouldn't need faith. And the Bible says that without faith, it's impossible to please God. So faith in something unseen and hoped for is the very foundation of a relationship with God.
But, consider for a moment, hypothetically, if you could see the face of God and live, would you want to behold His glory if that meant that you would have to believe in every word of the Holy Bible?
It didn't happen deliberately, although I'm sure God had a hand in how everything fell into place. It all started out with the Men's Retreat hosted by Faith Temple. It's really a special time for real fellowship with other brothers in Christ, with other men that I would not normally meet on a regular day.
On the first one that I ever attended (in 1999, I think), Pastor Dave, who has been an amazing spiritual father to me, let me play my guitar and accompany him while he led worship at the Men's Retreat. By the second session at the retreat, he let me take the lead with Ed on the piano. There's a guy who's anointed on the keys.
It was around that time that our full-time worship leader was headhunted and moved away. So, with that position open and my pseudo-audition at the retreat, Pastor Dave asked me to be one of the worship leaders at the church.
And what a trip it was!
It's been such a blessing to be able to lead God's people into His presence through worship and praise, using the gifts of music and song that He has given me. Now I'm totally hooked. We're definitely looking for a church here in Sioux Falls where I can plug into the worship team, not so that I can lead but so I can serve.
I bring this up now because it's just been a nostalgic time for me since I'll be going back to that Men's Retreat this weekend. With the resounding acoustics in a cavernous log cabin and the baritone voices of the men at the retreat, it's really an amazing experience. God shows up.
The iPod nano is getting fresh coats of paint, an old new (or new old) body, and some interesting features. It's getting the accelerometer that was previously exclusive to the iPod touch and iPhone, so that will open up the doors to new UI possibilities.
There's also the "shake to shuffle" that will allow you to switch songs just with two shakes of your iPod nano. Now, if you go jogging a lot, that might get a little annoying. But with a little creativity, you could play Name That Tune while you're putting on the miles.
There's also a new release of iTunes, and a Genius inside that will make a playlist of similar music for you based on the one song you select. That would make listening to your music a little more interesting.
Of course, I won't do the event justice. You have to watch the special event coverage for yourself.
I don't mean to have consecutive Bucket List posts, but I didn't want this one to get too old. So I'm posting this one before I forget. I promise this isn't going to be just all my bucket list points.
Now that we have a nice TV and more channels than were coming through the rabbit ears, I've been following the US Open more closely than I have in a long time. And watching all the matches has re-ignited a desire I've had for a long time now to attend the US Open.
I don't know when we'll get around to it, and who the big players will be at that time, but it should still be a good time. I expect there'll be as much excitement off the courts as there will be on the courts. I'm looking forward to visiting Flushing Meadows.
So, here's to starting my own list, and let's see how many I can done before this life is done with me.
When Kevin was here for Labor Day, we found ourselves at an outdoor outfitters store. To kill some time, we decided to peruse the camping department and one thing just led to another.
Wouldn't it be great to go hiking and camping, and make a week of it? A guy's week (or, long weekend) away, at a different trail every year. To get away from the routine and the technology that have become ingrained in our daily lives. To find an obscure road that's a rough scribble on a tattered map and just letting God reveal His creation to us.
I've never really thought about doing anything like this before. Not that I'm opposed to roughing it in the great outdoors, but it just hasn't ever crossed my mind before.
So, as Kevin and I left that store, we verbally committed to (more like, just really wanted to) organizing an annual hike. Some time in the spring or fall when it's not too hot or too cold. Some place maybe West River where the topography is more fascinating than the rolling plains around here.
If you have any tips for a week or weekend hike around these parts, do let us know.
Well, I put myself in check very quickly lest I wish her life away. It's moments like those that I think of songs like Butterfly Kisses and Cinderella, poignant songs written by fathers whose daughters' lives have zoomed by.
So, I'm definitely learning to spend as much time with them as I can, in quantity and quality. If that means I'm blogging late at night, and my gaming hours start after the girls are in bed, then so be it.
But now that Audrey is talking (and talking back) more, she's starting to say some pretty interesting and funny things.
[After nighttime prayers]
Audrey: Oh no! We forgot to pray for Uncle Kevin to have a good wife.
Me: Oh! And please let Uncle Kevin have a good wife.
It'll definitely be a significant change for me. I've only really known Brookings in my 13 years of being in the States. By the way, I arrived in the US exactly 13 years ago today (Where has the time gone?).
It's not easy to just pick up and leave Brookings. We have a lot of family ties so seeing them less will definitely be hard. Our girls will miss their grandma and grandpa terribly, so we'll just have to make the best of it when we do get to see them. Maybe webcams will give us a little reprieve.
It's a short drive (4.3 miles) to the office but I'm not sure how long that will take with the added rush hour traffic on the road. So, for the first few days and weeks, I'm sure I'll be experimenting with different routes and leaving at different times.
Well, I'll be sure to let you know how things go, and how I adjust to the new work environment. Stay tuned.
Not that I really mind. I kinda like the way it looks. Simple and contemporary. That's my style.
But still, there's something to be said for having something more visually appealing on a page. So here it is - an older album from our visit to the pumpkin orchard last August, I think. How quickly they grow up!
Slow down, baby girls.
Theresa has been such a great trooper with organizing our stuff. We had quite a few boxes moved around and it made for quite a maze, especially downstairs. But with the ample storage room that we have downstairs, Theresa was able to quickly put them all away to their designated places. Now the family room is a very comfortable living space.
Grandma Jenni has definitely also been a great help, being the extra set of hands with our stuff and our girls. It just really helps to have someone else there to keep an eye on the girls too.
With the piano moved downstairs, we've been able to hang our giant mirror and move the loveseat. That's probably the last major thing upstairs.
Then, with Grandpa Larry's help, it was a team effort to get our TV mounted above the fireplace. It took us a few tries, but we got it all done, and that adds a major element to our basement. Now the basement is very cozy, and we'll be spending a lot of time there.
I definitely feel blessed with the house that we have. Thank You, Jesus.
But I did want to hop on and tell you about a little story. Actually, I wanted to keep an account of this little story for myself.
Last Monday night, Theresa went out to dinner with the Sioux Falls mom's group. And while she was out, Grandma and I took the girls out to Sears to look at TVs and then to Best Buy to get me a new wireless router (Our previous one got lost in the move. I'll probably find it in a few months.).
Anyway, the girls were so well-behaved through the entire outing. Audrey was good at the store, and Eliza wasn't fussy when we put her in her carseat. We just had an all-around good time.
When we got home, Audrey went to bed without a tizzy, and after she was comfortably buried in her blankets, sheets, and comforters, I took Eliza out onto the deck for some fresh night air while we waited for Mommy to get home.
It didn't take more than a couple of minutes before Eliza laid her head on my shoulders and fell fast asleep. If you're like most people, then you probably love having a baby sleeping in your arms. I certainly do, and I did that night too. I stayed out there for quite a while in the warm night breeze watching the flight of the fireflies in our backyard and the storm looming in the distance.
It was just perfect.
It's moments like those that make me realize that moments like those will not last very long. I certainly hope for more of them, don't get me wrong, but I know they'll grow up fast. And they'll do most of their growing up while I'm at work. The night and weekends won't be enough time to make up for the time, but I will certainly try my very best. It won't be long before I'm walking them down aisles.
I do run across several things to blog about daily, but I just don't really take the time to do that. With work being so busy, I try to unwind as much as I can when I'm at home. Consequently, some things get left by the wayside and blogging was one of them.
But now with the new year, it seems like a good-enough time to start this up again. So, this is my one (of many) New Year's Resolution. I will blog often and regularly... hopefully once a day. It will be a challenge at times, but I'll keep you posted on my thoughts and happenings.
Date: Nov 22, 2013
Number of Photos in Album: 1
Album for profile photosDate: Aug 25, 2013
Number of Photos in Album: 2
Date: Jan 25, 2009
Number of Photos in Album: 113
Location: Country Apple Orchard, Sioux Falls, SD
Date: Oct 6, 2007
Number of Photos in Album: 17