The Week Ahead

This is a crazy but very exciting week for the Box household. Here is our agenda:

Monday – the boys start swim lessons at the Grapevine public pool. They’ll go five days a week, thirty minutes a day for the next two weeks unless we have something else going on. They took a few lessons last year, but these will be a bit more involved.

Tuesday – We hope to close on our refi around lunchtime! Then we’ll pick up the boys from school and go to Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine. This will be the boys’ first night in a hotel and first night sharing a bed with each other, and I’m not sure how it will go. We’ll do our best to wear them out in the indoor water park.

Wednesday – Play at Great Wolf in the morning, nap, and then swim lessons.

Thursday – Jenny has Mommy Day, so I’ll be taking the boys to and from school and then to swim lessons. (oh boy…help, Jenny, what do I do?!?) While they’re at school, I hope to run or do some yoga and then meet my mom and her parents for lunch. That night, our babysitter is coming over to watch the boys while we see The Dark Knight Rises at Studio Movie Grill.

Friday – I hope to visit the office of Gary Tylock to discuss getting LASIK for my right eye. Yep, I finally decided to go for it. In the afternoon, I’m taking Brenden to his friend Landry’s birthday party at 4:00. Then we’re hosting Brenden’s 4th birthday party at 6:30 while the DVR records the Olympic opening ceremony. Jenny’s parents are taking the boys home that night because…

Saturday – Jenny and I plan to ride in our first organized bicycle ride, The Goatneck in Cleburne. We’ve already gone farther in training than the 27 miles we signed up to ride there, so I’m confident we can finish this one. We’ll spend the rest of the day trying to recover and watching the Olympics.

“The Rules” for Couples with Opposite-Sex Friendships

Unless you live in an isolated cabin in the mountains with your significant other, you’re bound to have some contact with members of the opposite sex. Here in America, we’ve developed a variety of rules of engagement for interacting with them to reduce the chance of, or the appearance of, illicit hanky-panky or any other inappropriate relationships. However, different situations and different couples seem to need different rules. Here are some that I’ve observed in others or applied myself.

Social Activities

One-on-one outings with the opposite sex are generally frowned upon. Even if the two people are as “just friends” as two people can be, such outings could give the wrong impression to anyone who sees them or create unpleasant questions in the mind of one or both spouses. Even though Jenny trusts me, this is one rule that I follow for three reasons:

  • There’s already way too much gossip in the world.
  • I don’t want to give Jenny any reason to doubt me.
  • I generally feel more comfortable around women and connect with them better. I don’t want to set up a situation in which I start to develop a bond that is too close with a female friend.

However, I wouldn’t mind if Jenny wanted to do something with one of our mutual male friends. For instance, she and our friend MadBomber are both sci-fi and comic book fans, much more than I am. If they wanted to go see the latest X-Men movie or something similar, I’d be OK with that. I trust both of them. But I would understand if MadBomber or his wife found that weird.

Some people avoid other mixed-gender situations as well. Some refuse to ride alone in a car or meet behind closed doors with anyone of the opposite sex. My pastor at Fellowship Church held himself and the rest of the staff to this standard, understandably so. I don’t hold myself to that standard strictly, though. I’ve carpooled to work with two different girls with no problems. Most people avoid being alone in a home with someone, which seems wise to me for a number of reasons.

When I’m meeting someone new, especially a woman around my age who might have been interesting in another life, I try to mention Jenny and/or our boys to make sure the woman knows I’m taken.

Hugging

I covered hugging in a previous post.

Seating

At church we sit with the same people in the same row every week. Someone, usually a couple, sits down first. Some of our friends, when they arrive next, intentionally arrange themselves so that girls sit by girls and guys sit by guys. If I’m seated and the couple starts walking down the row toward us, the girl might wait until the guy passes through so he’ll sit by me. The same thing happens sometimes in restaurants, movies, or other venues. But other couples don’t seem to care. So it’s either a personal preference or a differing understanding of the “rule”. Personally, I have no problem sitting next to a girl, and Jenny has no problem sitting next to a guy.

Phone Calls

I’ll bet this one depends largely on the nature of the call for most people. I know lots of people who have short conversations with an opposite-sex friend for some specific purpose – where is our group meeting for dinner, where do we park, what does your spouse want for her birthday, etc. But lengthy conversations between the two of you seem to be much less acceptable and something I avoid.

Internet

The explosion of the Internet, particularly Facebook, has presented couples with a new set of situations and potential dilemmas. The ease of connecting and interacting with people of both genders is both a blessing and a threat. It’s so easy to look up old friends from the past, but what if that friend is also an old flame? Is it OK to friend your ex or email with him/her? Jenny and I have done both. Naturally, we keep the interaction someone limited and make it clear that we are happily married and have no intention of rekindling the flame. However, from what little I’ve read, many relationships have ended in recent years because of Facebook reconnections with former lovers.

What about connecting with opposite-sex friends? I doubt many people have a problem with such semi-public interaction on Facebook or Twitter, but what about email or private Facebook messages? Are those OK? If so, how much interaction is acceptable? A joke or random question? A longer email? A multi-message conversation about more personal issues? Where is the line, and how do you know when you’ve crossed it? I’m not sure where people stand on this one.

For us, we don’t have a problem with private messages as long as the content remains appropriate and we don’t get too emotionally involved with anyone. One way that Jenny and I protect ourselves is by giving each other our passwords. At any time, Jenny can check my email or Facebook account and see what I’m up to, and vice versa. So if I’m writing a private message to a woman, I keep in mind that Jenny could read it and try hard not to say anything that might bother her. I also consider the possibility that my female friend’s husband or boyfriend might do the same.

Some of our friends handle this threat differently: by sharing an email address and/or Facebook account. The shared account makes interacting with them a bit more complicated since you never know who’s going to read your message first and sometimes don’t know who is replying. But a shared account does add an extra level of transparency.

The Biggest Threat

A strong emotional connection, to me at least, is probably the biggest threat in a mixed-gender friendship. Especially as a guy who feels more comfortable around women, I shouldn’t allow myself to get anywhere near as close emotionally to any woman besides Jenny. If I’m telling a female friend things that I wouldn’t reveal to Jenny, I’ve crossed the line and need to back off quick. Some friends of ours ended their marriage over such a situation. The guy found himself developing a too-close friendship with another woman. His wife didn’t like it, but the guy refused to end or scale back the friendship, so they finally divorced. I want to make sure that never happens to us, so I keep this principle in mind for all my interactions with female friends.

What are your thoughts? What rules of engagement do you follow when dealing with people of the opposite sex?

Dallas Jingle Bell Run 2011

Day 21 of our Christmas Countdown brought us to the Dallas Jingle Bell Run, a 5k race that started and ended next to the Hilton Anatole. Around 5000 runners and walkers participated this year, many of them wearing holiday garb – Santa hats, Christmas lights, reindeer antlers, jingle bells on their shoelaces, a full reindeer costume, Buddy the Elf, and a weird Christmas dress that looked like Mrs. Claus’s lingerie. (!) Although some hardcore runners were there (15:07 for the winner, around 5:00/mile), the overall vibe was festivity and fun with lots of walkers, casual runners, kids, and dogs. Some of my friends from work and church ran or walked. Here are a few highlights:

  • Although I didn’t meet my primary goal time goal (partly because the first half mile was so crowded and I started from the middle of the pack), I did PR, which was my other goal. Considering I couldn’t run a quarter mile without horrible knee pain just a few years ago, I’m very pleased. I also kept my pace roughly consistent from mile to mile instead of starting like a jackrabbit and fading at the end like I’ve done before. Note to self: don’t try to PR at a race with 5000 people. Wait for the 100-person fundraisers for a small charity instead.
  • Brenden got to experience his first Port-A-Potty. In the dark. Have you ever tried to use a Port-A-Potty in the dark? How about with a three-year-old who could easily fall in with a poorly placed step? He wasn’t a fan. Neither was I, but it beat an accident at Mile 2.
  • At the start/finish line, they offered free Myoplex protein drinks. They were banana cream flavor, which sounded odd and turned off many of the runners, but were actually quite good. I drank one and took home two more. I refrained from tricking Jenny into trying one.
  • Jenny got a great workout by pulling the boys in their new red wagon while I ran ahead. Unfortunately, between the boys stealing each others’ food and glow sticks, Brenden being cold the whole way but refusing to put on his coat or walk to warm up (really?), and our friend’s 14-month-old daughter who was unhappy most of the way, it wasn’t exactly a fun experience for Jenny. As we swore last year after the Water is Basic 5k, we’re going to wait a while before taking the boys on another race.
  • Rumor had it that the post-race party inside the Anatole had pizza and beer. My kids and wife were DONE, so we went home instead.
  • My buddy Marvin from work finished his first 5k. He wasn’t sure he could do it, but he trained hard and pressed on until he reached the finish line. Bravo, Marvin!

Overall, it was a good event, although pretty stressful for Jenny. She took some pictures of Brenden pulling Jonathan toward the finish line. I’ll post them here if they turned out OK.

Next up: training for the Cowtown Half in late February. I’m also slightly intrigued by the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred bicycle race in Wichita Falls in late August. I couldn’t do the full hundred miles, but they have some shorter distances that might work (25 mile, 50 mile).

Christmastime is Here

On Wednesday night, after the boys went to bed, Jenny and I scrambled to put up the Christmas tree and decorations as a surprise for the first day of December. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Jenny worked out 25 days of activities for us to do leading up to Christmas Day. Day 1 was the tree. Last year Jonathan was 10 months old when we put up the tree, so we used our 4 1/2 foot tree and set it on a small table. This year Brenden requested the big tree, a 7 1/2 foot beast that we used for our first Christmas in the house. I’m impressed that he remembered it. We did most of the decorating but left a few non-breakables for the the boys to hang on the tree the next day.

Thursday morning we let them come downstairs to see their surprise. Jenny made a video of it. There’s nothing like the joy and enthusiasm of children. (Note: the first part is dark because we didn’t think about lighting. The rest is much easier to see, and the audio is pretty good throughout. Listen for both boys.)

This is the Christmas Countdown that Jenny mentions in the video.

This should be a great month. We’re almost done with our shopping thanks to Jenny’s hard work in November. We’re spreading out our family Christmas celebrations throughout the month instead of trying to see everyone on Christmas Eve or Day. Jenny is almost done with her anatomy class. And for the first time, Brenden seems genuinely excited about Christmas.

25 Days of Christmas 2011

Now that the boys are a little older (remember that Jonathan was only 11 months on Christmas Day last year?) and more capable of doing things, Jenny is putting together the 2011 Box Family Advent Calendar of Greatness. In layman’s terms, she’s planning a fun Christmas-related event each day in December through the 25th. In the Advent Conspiracy tradition, we’re trying to keep the Christmas season focused on Jesus, giving, and family rather than stuff for ourselves. Here are some of the highlights so far:

  • Nov 30 – Put up the tree as a surprise after the boys go to bed. Brenden has requested the big tree this year rather than the 4.5′ tree we used last year when Jonathan was a baby.
  • Early Dec – Take the boys shopping for our Salvation Army angels. We try to adopt angels that are near the boys’ age, and this year we’ll get their input regarding which clothes and toys to choose.
  • Dec 3 – Make Christmas cookies with my mom, sister, and her kids at my mom’s house like Lisa and I did as kids
  • Dec 10 – Instead of exchanging gifts among the adults, Jenny’s side of the family is visiting the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History together and having dinner afterward – experience over stuff.
  • Various – Drive around looking at Christmas lights, watch one or more Christmas movies, do other etc.
  • Mid Dec – Bake something tasty with Jenny’s parents and take it to her grandfather in his nursing home
  • Dec 21 – Dallas Jingle Bell Run as a family
  • Dec 24 – Christmas Eve service at Irving Bible Church

Plus we’ll get together for Christmas dinner with my immediate family and my dad’s family in Wichita Falls. It will be a busy month, but we’re excited about the festivities, and I think the boys will have a blast.

What are your plans for next month?

New Nephew Haiku

My sister gave birth to a boy yesterday, my new nephew! Mom and baby are doing great. I’m sure he digs poetry, so I wrote him a birthday haiku:

Reid Phillip Wagner
Happy birthday, little dude
Think you’ll like it here

Congrats to Lisa and Phillip!