I’m Back

As you might (or might not!) have noticed, I’ve taken a break from blogging – about an 18 month break, leaving your Facebook news feed more room for funny cat videos, Trump memes, selfies, and whatever else brews your coffee. From time to time I thought, “I should probably blog about something,” but there was always something else to do or think about. Perhaps it’s time to fill you in on some of the highlights of the last year and a half. Think of this as our Christmas letter…in October. Just go with it.


Jenny, after five years and countless hours of work, has finished UTA nursing school and now works as a full-time RN. She’s a labor and delivery nurse at a local hospital and works with my sister in the same unit. Lisa even trained her for one shift, but I don’t think they had time to cover Lisa’s patented “Jive Talking” dance. Labor and delivery is a lot to learn, especially as her first nursing job, but she’s working hard and doing great. In about a month, she’ll get signed off to handle patients on her own. All hail Nurse Jenny!

House News

After 6 years in our house in Euless, we sold it in March to a nice couple with a little girl who wanted to put her in a good school. For five months, we downsized into a small two-bedroom apartment nearby while the boys finished their school year and M/I Homes built our new home in Grand Prairie. The building process might earn a separate post someday, as it was fascinating but quite stressful. Finally we closed and moved in August. We love how the house turned out. It has all the space we need and more, and it’s right by Joe Pool Lake with untouchable Corps of Engineers forest to our north and west. I’ve already spent many happy hours watching sports and playing games in the media room. Plus we finally have space to host events again.



Things are great with me. I’m still dispatching for SWA on the night shift and helping out with on-the-job training and overseeing the midnight workload. We’re getting several new midnight desks this year and next, which will help spread out the work better. I’m still thankful to have a wonderful wife and sons and extended family and good health. I’m still trying to run three times a week to stay in shape, only now in our new neighborhood instead of the park I ran through for years. It’s been fun to figure out new routes to cover the mileage I need for each run.

Sleep, I’ve found, is severely underrated. I didn’t fully appreciate sleep as a younger man. Being well rested makes it so much easier to deal with the stresses of parenthood, work, and people who make you mad. So I’m trying to be more intentional about getting enough sleep. Sometimes that means missing out on some things, but it’s better than being irritable all the time and falling asleep on the way home from work in the morning.

The Boys

The boys are also doing great. They love the new house and being closer to Jenny’s family and Lisa’s family. Cousins Reagan and Reid are half a mile away, so we see them often. The boys both have excellent teachers and enjoy their school. Brenden has started tumbling lessons as of a month ago, which teach him some body control and also give him a solid workout. Brenden is in second grade. Jonathan is now a kindergartener. (!) In a decade they’ll be driving and chasing girls. Ok, Jonathan might be chasing girls before then, but still.

That’s all for now. I’ve given up on using this blog to deeply analyze the world’s problems, convince all of you to change your minds on some crazy topic, or solve the mysteries of the universe. Those things can be nice, but they wheeze on my Zen, and these days I’m more into Zen than crusading. If I keep blogging, it’ll be more about just us and what we’re doing. If we interest you, stay in touch!

February News

YES, I am still around, just haven’t felt as talkative lately. Here are some updates.

The Boys

Brenden has become conscious of the fact that school, home, and other venues have a power structure and that he is generally at the bottom. Like his father, he doesn’t really like this arrangement. So for a while he kept butting heads with his teacher (refusing to work, playing around and acting silly) and with us (refusing to follow directions, threatening to move out, etc). Our initial hard-line approach didn’t work and seemed to make things worse. I became overly harsh and critical. I didn’t really like who I became when he decided to act up. Something had to change.

We switched back to more of a Love and Logic approach, which takes more thought but works better for him. We’re trying to give him more choices so he feels like he has some control over his life. We’re trying to be more loving and positive, which really seems to make a difference in whether he wants to cooperate with us. We’re rewarding him and Jonathan for good behavior at school. Good news from their teachers earns them marbles, and we take them to do something fun each time they fill their marble jar. So far, these changes have made a big difference in his behavior and his attitude.


Life in Dispatch is going well. We are scheduled to move into our beautiful new office across the street in May, giving us a tornado-resistant facility with lots more space, better equipment and support, and a slightly shorter commute for me. During a long stretch of time off, I set a personal record with eight overtime shifts in a row this month in between all my Olympics watching and facility activities. I also passed my ninth anniversary in the Dispatch office.


Jenny is now in her second semester of UTA nursing school and continues to do well thanks to her intelligence and hard work. She has two clinicals this semester, psych in Bedford and med-surg in Mansfield. Like last semester, she is really busy but keeps pushing through. Two weeks until Spring Break!


We replaced our bathroom countertops and sinks in November with solid surface, sand-colored counters and white sinks from Lowe’s. I am very pleased with the results. Our next project is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday of next week: refinishing the boys’ tub and surround. The tub is chipped, the tile is white with weird brown speckles, and the caulk is terrible. Miracle Method, the company that refinished our kitchen countertops, will redo the tub and tile in solid white. Except for replacing the carpet after we move out next summer, this should be our last major project for the interior. We are thinking about having a few trees removed or trimmed in the front yard, and we’ll replace the side fences at some point as well. I feel good about leaving the house better than we found it.

Blog Soup 9/26/2013

Hi! Things are a bit crazy in my house these days. I’m temporarily awake and free to blog, so here is an update on us.

  1. Except for me, my entire family is now in school full-time. Jenny has class all day Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and also goes in sometimes on Thursday or Friday. Brenden is in kindergarten five days a week from 7:45-2:45. Jonathan is in preschool five days a week as well. I’m still trying to convince the boys that I really have spent many, many years in school and don’t need to go anymore.
  2. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are a bit tough for me. I get off work at 6:00, come home to help get the boys ready, take them to school, and crawl into bed around 8:15-8:30am. Then I get up at 2:00pm and pick them up. Plus Monday nights the boys have swim lessons at 5:45 and 6:45 in Southlake. So I’m usually pretty tired the first half of the week, not to mention the rest of the family.
  3. Jenny is probably studying more than she has in her entire school career. The material isn’t difficult for her, but the volume is staggering – tons of reading, video modules, and skills training. Despite the workload, she is keeping up and doing great. Starting in two weeks, she’ll be at Baylor Grapevine once a week working with real patients on a limited basis.
  4. I am embarrassed that Ted Cruz represents my state in the US Senate. If you’re not sure why, this editorial should help.
  5. The polls don’t show it since we haven’t played any tough opponents yet, but my Baylor Bears are one of the best teams in college football this year. They have a real shot at the Big 12 championship and a BCS bowl. Yes, it does feel a bit insane to write such things, but our defense is finally catching up to our ridiculous offense, and that should scare every team we’ll face this season. In our three games so far, our defense has scored more touchdowns (4) than it has allowed (3). We have tickets for the Oklahoma game Nov 7, our first real test of the season.
  6. I really want a media room / man cave with a nice projector, comfy seats, a wet bar, and soundproofed walls. You know, something like this. Since our current living room is open to the upstairs hallway where the bedrooms are and directly under our bedroom, my subwoofer doesn’t get much use when I have some downtime to watch movies or play games. Someday!
  7. Brenden is selling chocolate for his school’s PTA. I loathe cheesy fundraisers like this and would happily write the organization a big check rather than guilt-trip my family and friends and neighbors into buying overpriced junk they don’t want. I actually planned to refuse to participate. However, I forgot one crucial element: the fundraiser people give the kids incentives to sell. Brenden came home with his box of candy bars determined to sell two boxes so he could get get to play in the Game Truck (r) when it comes to his school. So guess what? I’m selling chocolate on his behalf. 🙂 To their credit, the chocolate company has improved its recipe, and the chocolate is now quite good.
  8. I did not sign up for the international desk at work next year. The international flights are interesting and the workload is light, but since you need a special qualification to work the desk, it’s difficult to trade an international shift away if needed. Since Jenny will have EARLY morning clinicals two days a week next year, I need to keep my trading flexibility. I might try it again in 2015 if I think we can make it work.
  9. Once we have the cash, I’d like to replace the Grand Caravan with a Mazda5 and the Fit with a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt. However, right now we’re saving up for other things, so we’ll try to squeeze a few more years from our current vehicles.
  10. The boys now have passports! I’m not sure when we’ll use them yet, but they are ready. We might do an awesome cruise after Jenny finishes school in May 2015. Once the Wright Amendment restrictions are loosened in October 2014, flying to cruise ports from Dallas on SWA will become much easier.

Blog Soup April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day! Lots going on this month. Here are some of the random thoughts running through my head:

  1. WE HAVE SARAH MCLACHLAN TICKETS FOR TONIGHT. I think I can safely say she is my favorite musician. (See, Alex? I can do it!) Ten of her albums sit in my iPhone. Jenny and I saw her once several years ago, and it was truly a spiritual experience, like we were connecting to something Other and Beautiful and The Way Things Could Be. That time we were way up high at AAC. Tonight, I think we’re near the front at the Meyerson. Breathe, Box, breathe.
  2. Like many of you, I was horrified by the fertilizer plant explosion in West, which was so powerful that two coworkers heard it from their houses in Cedar Hill. I bought kolaches from The Czech Stop several times, and I passed through the little town dozens of times driving to and from Baylor. Jenny bought her wedding dress from a little shop there. On top of our personal experiences there, most of the dead were firefighters who were fighting the initial fire when the plant exploded, and one of my best friends growing up now works as a firefighter in Axle. If he’d been on duty in the area when the fire broke out, he probably wouldn’t be here today.
  3. Apparently our friends at Westboro Baptist Church plan to protest some of the firefighters’ funerals and a big memorial service at Baylor this week. When they tried that for a funeral of a former Aggie who was killed in combat, about 600 Aggies showed up and built a human wall to keep them away. A group near West is organizing something similar, and I might go join them for the Baylor memorial. They want it to be a silent, arm-in-arm stand to protect the families rather than a shouting match. That seems like a better approach to me.
  4. Congratulations to Jenny for getting accepted to UTA Nursing School! She has been taking prereqs for six semesters now, and she finally got the official word (as if there were ever any doubt!) that she can start full-time nursing school this fall. She worked really hard to get ready to apply and did extremely well in her classes, and I have no doubt she will rock that school. The program lasts four semesters, so she expects to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in May 2015. You better believe there will be a major graduation party.
  5. Due to sequestration, the FAA has imposed mandatory furlough days on the air traffic controllers, reducing the workforce on any given day by about 10 percent. As a result, SWA took some minor delays during the day on Sunday (a lighter than normal traffic day), but multi-hour delays yesterday evening into Los Angeles. One of my flights landed four hours late. For those who’ve been screaming for spending cuts and smaller government, was this what they had in mind? Probably not, but this is what’s happening, and it sucks.
  6. Something else that sucks is our yard! It turns out that ignoring your soil for four years, refusing to water or fertilize it, and hoping your grass won’t grow tends to produce poor soil that is more hospitable to weeds than to grass. So…I finally did something about it and bought some milorganite. It’s an organic fertilizer that adds nitrogen and lowers the soil’s pH a bit to make things less cozy for the weeds that form much of our yard. I’m trying hard to avoid poisons like Roundup and typical fertilizers that cause environmental problems (see West, TX for one example). This seems like a more effective and eco-friendly approach. We’ll how this organic stuff does.
  7. We’re also thinking about replacing the monkey grass out front with some different plants that like full shade. Texas Smartscape has a nice database of native plants that do well here without copious amounts of water.

Valentine’s Blog Soup 2/14/2013

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Here is today’s helping of Blog Soup (r).

  • I know some people who consider Valentine’s Day a bit of a sham holiday, manufactured by the Hallmarks and florists and jewelers of the world to guilt-trip people into buying stuff. So they don’t really celebrate it. And yes, some of them are married. I mostly agree with them. However, we celebrate it anyway. I’m certainly not the best about doing romantic things for my wife, and to me V-Day is a good reminder to cherish my wife throughout the year, not just on holidays.
  • Jenny loves flowers but isn’t too big on chocolates except for certain ones. Reese’s peanut butter cups are always a hit, but she doesn’t like the assorted chocolates that come in the heart-shaped boxes they want you to buy…too many weird and disappointing things hiding inside.
  • To celebrate, Jenny is making us a tasty dinner at home tonight, and then we’re going out Saturday to see the Les Mis movie and enjoy a nice dinner alone. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)
  • Despite my high hopes for the Cowtown half, I have developed a bit of irritation in my left knee and haven’t run in about two weeks. So I most likely won’t be running Cowtown. Although I hate to admit it, and will smack you if you say “I told you so,” my body doesn’t seem to like the really long distance running. I’ve been fighting minor injury after minor injury for months now – a hip ache, patellar tendon irritation, kneecap irritation, toe joint swelling, and a sprained ankle. Each time something happens, I need to take time off from training, which hinders my progress. It might be time to retire from the half marathon distance and stick to 5Ks and 10Ks. But hey, considering 5 years ago I couldn’t run a quarter mile without terrible knee pain, running a pain-free 10K seems like good progress to me.
  • We are working on plans for this fall and next year regarding work for me and school for the other three of us. Jenny will have clinicals twice a week during all four semesters, some of which could start at 7:00 or even earlier. They could also be on the weekends. Unfortunately, she might not know her schedule until a few weeks ahead of time. This presents a childcare challenge. Both boys will be in school this fall five days a week, Brenden in kindergarten (gulp!) at Bear Creek Elementary and Jonathan still at Colleyville Christian. I’m not sure yet what we will do on her clinical days, but regular class should be covered. For next year, I will probably switch to the 9:00pm-5:00am shift to make sure I get home before she has to leave. Leaving for work at 8:25pm isn’t much fun, but it’s great to get off work at 5:00am and have the road pretty much to yourself.
  • My awesome sister Lisa and I have both learned an important lesson from social media: people want to be entertained, not challenged.
  • Quentin Tarantino’s new film Django Unchained is up for several Oscars. The story of a freed slave turned bounty hunter, it’s part spaghetti western, part revenge tale, part love story, part social commentary, part history lesson, and all Tarantino. Although fascinating and brilliantly acted and filmed, it’s difficult to watch due to its in-your-face racism and brutality. At times I was utterly repulsed by the violence, but at the same time I felt guilty for wanting to shy away from it. The film makes you watch horrifying things that actually happened back in the days of slavery, things that are thankfully no longer part of our daily lives and that are much more convenient to simply forget. So it almost felt like I needed to keep watching to make it real instead of just something I heard in history class.
  • I wonder how many future bookings Carnival will lose over the ongoing Triumph fiasco. On the bright side, this might be a good year to find a deal on Carnival.


On occasion, far too often I’m afraid, I get the chance to step back from the daily struggles of parenthood and look more closely at my children.

They are impossibly, achingly beautiful.

I don’t say that just because they are handsome young men because it’s much, much more than that. They are a mysterious, inexplicable swirl of Jenny and me and her family and my family and God and genetics and chance. No matter how much we try to shape them into some vague notion of responsible, loving, mature young men over their couple of decades in our care, they are separate and independent and amazing little people with their own personalities, wills, and choices to make. It’s amazing that I get to play a small role in their lives.

It’s so easy to get beaten down and distracted by daily life with children – the constant messes, the moments that make me shake my head in bewilderment, the frustration that occurs when I measure childhood logic by grown-up standards, the soul-sucking drudgery of making their compliance with my directions my ultimate goal rather than something more meaningful, the fear that this will be the time when they really do hurt each other and do permanent damage, the numbness that develops after tuning out countless fits and learning how to judge the seriousness of a cry from the other room.

If those are the only parts of parenthood that we think about and remember, it’s hard to be happy as a parent.

But today we went to the boys’ open house at school. Brenden showed us around his room like he was proud of it. He played with a friend on the big-kid playground and yelled gleefully for the friend to chase him, a natural leader like I never was. I saw a drawing he’d made of our house, and it actually looked sorta like our house. Jonathan played dress-up in his classroom for at least the dozenth time. He loves being either a fireman or Superman. He loves his teachers. They love him. He plays with cars in the corner, not because we taught him that boys are supposed to like cars, but simply because he does. They are real people. They didn’t even exist a few years ago, yet now they do, growing and changing every day.

We came home and put them to bed. I remember late last night going up to check on Jonathan when he was coughing, just like I’d done other nights when he’d woken up with a nightmare. He wasn’t scared of the large, dark man he could barely see because he knew it was me, that I loved him, and I was here to help. It’s awe-inspiring to hear my two-year-old say, “Thank you, Daddy,” after I give him a drink or tuck him back into bed.

Tonight I put Brenden to bed, and he figured out how to break my concentration and relentless focus on the task at hand. I’d finally brought his piggy bank, a gift from our friends Chris and Demona upon his birth, into his room so he could collect his own coins. He found the concept of a piggy bank amusing. As I’m asking him which song he wants me to sing, he starts saying, “Piggy.” I don’t know why he thought it was funny, or how he knew it would break me, but I laughed. He knew he had me then, so he kept doing it and laughing hysterically at my helplessness. I temporarily lost my “control” of the situation, and I just let it go. I sat by his bed laughing with my son. It felt like we were actually friends instead of parent and child. And I liked it. We agreed upon “Old McDonald Had A Farm.” And yes, Old McDonald had a piggy tonight.

After they were asleep, I looked through the pictures Jenny had taken of the open house. I was blown away by what I saw. Their lives, their personalities, leapt through the pictures into my soul, as if I were seeing them for the first time. Those beautiful boys belong to us, to God, to the world. I don’t deserve them, but I’m glad they are a part of my life anyway.

I want to see them this way much more often.