Friday, December 31, 2010

Welcome 2011

2010 was a year of great challenges and great blessings!


Right now, I am enjoying the tail-end of a family get-together in Oceanside. Surfing with my brother and brother-in-law, walking with the kids on the beach, celebrating each other's company and so much more - it has been a great way to end the year!




Saturday, December 11, 2010

L's 5th birthday

Our little one turned 5 on Monday, but we decided to have her party today. It was beautiful outside today, so mostly the kids played outside in the yard. (I spent all morning cleaning the house and didn't think to clean off the deck or even pick up the dog poop - oh well!)

L had a Raggedy Ann-themed party, and Jenetta even dressed the part (thanks to a costume provided to us by Aunt Barb.)

Everyone had a lot of fun. Happy birthday, baby!






This is a long video as Jenetta reads everyone a story, and I'm bummed that I turned off the video recorder just before L gave Jenetta a big hug and told her she loved her. (It's recorded in my mind forever!)










Christmas Concert

We have quickly come to another era in our lives - attending functions at our kids schools. I don't know how many of you know this, but Jenetta is no longer homeschooling O. We finally got a place at the charter school where we really hoped she could attend. So either we made the switch mid-year or it wouldn't probably ever happen. There is a person at my work who waited three years to get his daughter into this school, so we jumped at the chance.

The transition has been mostly good for O. She is very tired from 5 day a week all day kindergarten, and she is definitely behind the others in her class (most of them can read already). But she is learning quickly and has adjusted well.

One thing we really like about this school is that it emphasizes traditional values. The academics are rigorous, (who ever heard of homework for kindergartners???) as are the expectations for parents. But we are ok with all these things because we believe it is the best learning environment for our girl. So, with the traditional values focus, it was very nice to attend a Christmas concert that had a nice mix of holiday songs with Christmas carols and hymns. I think that is probably a rare thing in public schools these days.

O is kind of hard to spot - it was a big crowd of kids, but her class comes in last and you can find her to the left of the bass player.









And L got to get dressed up as well - she made a friend in the audience and acquired her toys :).


Friday, November 26, 2010

Oceanside Turkey Trot


Yesterday before the feast at Jenetta's mom's house, we took a family trip to Oceanside for a Turkey Trot. I actually started the morning by going first for the 5-mile race that started at 7:00. Then I came back home to interrupt Jenetta's cooking and take the family back to Oceanside for the kids race. O enjoyed it a lot and L has decided she wants to do it next year.




Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween

This year, O wanted to be Cinderella, and L wanted to wear the Tigger costume we've had for a while (still a bit big on her). We got all ready and then headed out to show the neighbors the costumes.

Then we spent about an hour at a nearby Baptist church for a Halloween party complete with tractor rides, games, crafts, and a jumpee (with lots of candy, of course).


Probably the highlight fo
r O was a huge maze made out of big cardboard boxes. It filled an entire room and probably had 150 boxes put together with zip ties. What an awesome idea!

Then we went to Chilli's for kids eat free night and then to grandma and grandpa's to show them the costumes before going home to wash off what was left of the tigger makekup :)





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Sunday, October 24, 2010

O's 6th birthday

O's 6th birthday was on Friday, but we were able to celebrate her party today. Jenetta made a cat shaped cake and we had cat-themed games and crafts. It was a lot of fun.


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The bubble wrap was for a "cat walk" game - try to get across the floor with minimal popping by being cat-like. Madeline from across the street was the winner, hands-down.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Awana

A few weeks back, the girls started attending Awana on Thursday nights. It is held at a Baptist church in Escondido, and surprisingly, there are a number of families from our church that send our kids there.

The girls have lots of fun with their friends, and it has been neat to see O memorizing bible verses. I like that the first one they taught them was Ephesians 6:1. Yes!

She is working on John 3:16 now...


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Monday, October 11, 2010

Arizona Weekend

We drove to Arizona this weekend to spend time with family and friends and to attend Jon's 20th high school reunion.

We arrived on Friday evening to a warm welcome at Grandpa Pat and Grandma Shelley's home. They even had a birthday cake for Jenetta and O! They also have a chihuahua named Suzy that our girls can't get enough of - Miranda just doesn't let anyone pick her up! :)


This video was taken by O. She asks to use the camcorder all the time!


On Saturday morning, we went to a pumpkin patch and had a lot of fun. The girls played with livestock, rode on a tractor ride, jumped in a bouncy for a long time, and generally had a great time running around checking things out.

The corn maze was a bit much. It was hot and challenging and confusing - so we started to bicker and get frustrated. It's just further evidence to us that we would be terrible as contestants on The Amazing Race!
Later, the girls and I went in a "mini maze." That was a lot better for us (since you couldn't get lost!)





Did we mention it is really hot in Phoenix?




Later that afternoon, we visited with Jenetta's grandparents, and Super-Grandma Carolyn took the girls out for a ride on her golf cart.


Later on Saturday night, we left the girls with the grandparents and we went to the Peoria HS class of 1990 reunion. I had a lot of fun - it was good to see old friends. I had really hoped that more of my old gang of 6 guys would have been there - but John, John, and I had a nice evening together nonetheless. It was interesting to see how some things had really, really changed, but in lots of ways, many things were exactly the same.


This is Cody Bailey - Jenetta went to prom with him! :)


Then on Sunday we drove over to Wendy and Craig's home to hang out with them. Our girls really love their kids, and it would be awesome if they could play together more frequently! :) Craig and Christopher took me to the Cardinals-Saints game. I had never been to the new stadium. It was quite an experience. The Cardinals won 30-20 due in part to a very impressive defensive performance. Drew Brees threw two really critical interceptions, and the large contingent of Saints' fans left feeling sad.

Here are two videos I took at the game. The first is of the Saints scoring a 4th quarter touchdown. Brees is getting sacked and he still throws the ball 40+ yards for a touchdown There were a lot of Saints fans in our area, and I've also realized that our camcorder does awesome HD videos, but when you post them online to the blog, they are definitely not HD anymore.


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And granted, this last one is kind of lame, but I post it because being with my friend Craig makes me laugh. He says the silliest things! It is just fun hanging around him! I am really grateful that he offered to take me along with Christopher to the game. Hopefully, I can repay the favor with Charger's game someday...


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in case you don't catch it, he says "Lot's of popcorn... popcorn good... it's been good to us."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Freebie Day

In looking for somethings to do yesterday, we took advantage of Smithsonian Museum Day. Hundreds of museums across the U.S. had free admission yesterday, so we decided to take our girls to the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad.

It was a lot of fun, and they had displays of a lot of really interesting instruments and musical history. The girls did a scavenger hunt and were awarded a prize at the end.

Then we checked out Art Splash in Carlsbad. Artists were doing really cool chalk art in the street. The girls enjoyed looking at grownups doing what they do in our driveway all the time!

We returned home for lunch and naptime. I enjoyed watching the Padres win in the bottom of the 9th inning (one of the few Saturday games we get to watch free on Channel 5).

Then we all had free tacos at Wahoos Fish Tacos for dinner! After letting the girls run around at a nearby park for a while, we headed back home - but not before picking up buy one get one free banana splits for dessert!

Sometimes it is pretty cool being married to someone who knows about deals!

Here are some videos from the museum:


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And this is when we were leaving. They got their prizes and immediately began playing "Jesus Loves Me" on their kazoos. This video was taken when that was still cute. 30 minutes later, it didn't seem so cute anymore! :)


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Monday, September 20, 2010

Uncle Kyle!

(and Auntie Alana and Avery, too!)...

We had an unexpected treat yesterday! My brother in law Kyle Johnstone was returning from a trip to Ensenada doing volunteer building with a team from his work in Calgary. He had a few hours free when getting back across the border, so we went down to Balboa Park to spend an afternoon with him.
His cousin Alana was available to visit as well, so we had a nice time chatting and playing with the kids.

Later that evening, we went to Coronado and had dinner together. Our girls love Kyle (and Judy, too...) so much! It's too bad they don't live closer! We are sure looking forward to the Christmas get-together!





L sure wanted to climb the tree like her sister, but once she got up there, she wasn't so sure about it! :)


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Monday, August 30, 2010

First day of school

We had an interesting turn of events this week. We had planned to fully homeschool O for kindergarten, but an opening came up at a charter school for homeschool families. We got a last minute call that there was a space for her, so O will be attending a full day kindergarten two days each week and be home with Jenetta for the other three.

I drove her this morning and Jenetta took L to preschool. I was stressed because traffic was really bad and we didn't take the optimal route, so we missed all the opening events with all the kids at the flagpole. I had to call Jenetta to figure out what class to take O to, but we found it ok and got h
er all settled in. The teacher called her by name and asked her to sit near her on the floor. All the parents had their cameras out, and I found a comfortable place against the back wall to watch. I was there probably for 30 seconds when the teacher said "Alright, time to say goodbye to the parents!" Immediately O yells out "goodbye,daddy!" She was certainly ready to jump in!

We've had a lot of firsts in the past 17 months. I know every parent feels that their kids grow up so quickly. But cut me some slack -
we've been on a slightly accelerated pace! :)

It has surprised me how emotional I am about this today. One day at a time, right? It's not like she's learning to drive or graduating college or walking down the aisle. But I feel as though I can see those things coming! O is ready to take on the world!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jenetta's New Vlogging Experiment

So as most of you know Jenetta runs Frugal Freebies and Deals. Well in addition to the blog she is experimenting with vlogging and we would love for all of you to check out her you tube channel.

One of the latest is on making homemade vanilla. Let us know if there are any topics you would like her to record a video on.


Friday, August 6, 2010

New Job

Some of you already know this, but for those who do not, August 16 will be my last day at Innovative Body Science. I like the people there, and the work was tolerable (if not always interesting to me), but I will be moving to a new position on the 17th that I am very excited about.

I did probably 40 interviews during my period of unemployment. One of the companies I interviewed with was more of a "courtesy interview." The CEO of this company is the father of one of my friends, and he knew I was struggling. He was actually assisting me in getting an interview at a company where he used to work. When it became apparent that this wasn't going to happen, he suggested that I come in to talk with him personally. I was shown around, and they were all very polite, but it was pretty clear at the time that there really wasn't a place for me there.

I was very upfront with my current employer that although I wasn't actively looking for another job, if something came up from one of my past interviews that paid better, I would have to go for it. Well, in late June, I was contacted again, and after a lengthy phone interview and 5 hours of interviewing with 4 people, I was offered a position. My current employer has been understanding and supportive (but understandably disappointed) through all this. I actually could have made the switch last week, but I wanted to stay on and cover for my supervisor who leaves on vacation this weekend. I felt that doing something in their best interest and asking my new employer to be patient was warranted under the circumstances.

Even though my time at Innovative Body Science was short (just over three months), and they paid me a salary about in line with what I was earning 10 years ago, I am very grateful to them for two key things. First, they gave me a job when we really needed it. Our retirement was cashed out, we were in serious debt, and we were faced with having no money available to pay our mortgage. We were planning on skipping upcoming mortgage payments. But just in time, I got hired and we were able to make it. I know God is behind this, and we thank Him for it over and over. He provided for all our needs and helped to relieve our stress when it seemed too much to bear.

They also gave me an emotional boost by hiring me when it seemed that no one else would. I must have put out 400+ applications, and the constant rejection and stress was really weighing on me. What seemed to be the worst was when I would interview and be told "we'll get back to you..." and then NOTHING!!! This happened a lot, and surprisingly, even after multiple interviews with other staff members at a business, I would still not hear anything back. That just seems so foreign to me! I can understand when I am one of 1000 online applications, but when I am one of 2 or 3 to be called back in for a second interview, you think they would have the courtesy to at least email or text me saying "No thanks..."

I was starting to doubt whether or not I would ever be able to provide for my family. I was wondering if maybe my background was so weird and scattered that I would never be worth anything more than an entry-level job. My confidence was at an all-time low. But then I got hired and was asked to produce immediately in a field I had zero experience in. There are a few things I do not appreciate about my current job, but I am grateful for it all the same.

My new job is with a company called TrellisWare. They make communications equipment for military and emergency services applications. Their engineers have designed hardware and software for streaming voice, data, and video in applications that some do not feel is possible to even achieve. I am very excited about the opportunity ahead of me. Everyone I've met there has been very welcoming and encouraging. You can definitely tell that they have assembled a winning team, and I'm honored to be a part of it.

I will be supporting the development of a logistics/operations department. The company is growing and the need for this type of support is becoming more apparent. That being said, the company is small enough that there really isn't an upper management position directly over me, so if I am successful there, it is clear that there will be substantial opportunities for me to grow with the company.

There are other perks that go along with this job. The company is located next door to where I used to work at Sony, so it will be much easier for me to meet for lunch with my buddies from church again. They would like me to take an hour lunch, and the building has a full locker room, so I will be able to run and exercise on my my lunch break a few days a week (there is a great exercise course I used to run when I worked at Sony). I'd like to get back into half-marathon running shape again, so this schedule looks to help accommodate that.

But probably the best thing about it all is that instead of being a bit short each month to make our budget, we will be several hundred dollars ahead each month. So accelerating our debt payoff plan will be a huge blessing! The company benefits are also incredible. They gave me a "benefits at a glance" sheet. It is a 3 page spreadsheet with 10 point font. There are a lot of really good benefits offered to TrellisWare employees.

Anyway, I am super-excited about this new possibility, and I eagerly anticipate being at TrellisWare for a long, long time!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

I'm famous



Ok, not really...

But I posted a while back that I got a random gig as a "model" for the Madden 11 video game cover. Well, it will be released next month. Look for me in stores or on Amazon! :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Busy summer days

There is always so much to do in the summer! Long, warm evenings, activity packed weekends, trips to the beach, VBS and other events for the kids... So it's been a while since I've posted. Here are some highlights:

We've started harvesting from our garden. Most of the lettuce is bitter (or gets eaten by gophers), but we've enjoyed beans, cucumbers, peas, and LOTS of zuchinni. Jenetta has been getting really creative in her use of this vegetable. It has found its way into muffins, applesauce blends, and salads, but my favorite is breaded and fried with ranch dressing :) Our surviving corn should be ready soon, and it looks like we will end up with about a thousand tomatoes (I planted way too much of that).

I'm noticing how old this photo is already. The watermelon plants in the foreground now completely fill the front box and are growing down the sides, and the tomatoes in the far back to the left are 2 feet taller now! Wow!

The girls are doing well. They are enjoying their summer and playing with friends outside more. Grandma Joy has been on her summer break, so they've been able to spend some fun times with her. We got to go to a makeup Padres game as a family, and that was fun - a 5:30 Saturday start time makes for a much better evening (not to mention avoiding the ER!) L's owie on her face healed nicely, but she will have a pretty noticeable scar by her eye. (Just fitting in with the Penners, I guess..)

O is swimming without floaties and has ridden with me on her tummy on my surfboard a few times. She likes flopping on the boogie board and riding in the shallow whitewater. I think next year I will get her a softtop surfboard of her own.



We got free passes to the county fair, so that was a lot of fun for the girls. We did a few rides, but to keep the cost down, we mainly took advantage of the many, many fun free things you can do at the fair. The girls had a blast (and took a two hour nap when we got back home)!

But probably the biggest new thing that has happened is that last weekend the girls' paternal grandmother arranged for our kids to play with their siblings whom they have not seen for almost two years. The oldest is 7, and the first thing he asked O was if she remembered that she used to bite him. :) That sounds like our O! He is a half-brother, and O really enjoyed running and playing with him. They also have a younger sister who is around 2.5. She had fun, too, but she is so young that she didn't engage much with our two - mostly she just played with the wood chips at the park :) We played together for a few hours and then went to Lakeshore Learning Center for all four of them to do free crafts.

It was a good time, and there really hasn't been any negative repercussions of the get-together.
It was just kids having fun playing together. From what we have heard, it meant a great deal to the boy - he misses his sisters. O was a little bit depressed or low the day after the get-together, but she's been normal ever since.

We certainly don't want to hide anything from our girls, but it will be interesting seeing how these relationships develop over the years. It seems clear that our girls will have a drastically different childhood experiences.

God is good. He has taken care of the needs of our family. We are in a place of living day to day and enjoying the good things He has provided for us.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Whirlwind

We've had a crazy few weeks!

Did you ever have those times where you are so busy that you never feel you get a chance to recover and rest? That's how I've felt for a while now.


Last week was really busy - I just over-scheduled and did too many fun things with my friends at night after the girls went to bed.


Last weekend, we went to Las Vegas together. I had to work a tradeshow at the Sands Expo, and my boss was kind enough to suggest that I bring my family along and put them on the expense account for meals. She expressed to me that she wanted me to feel welcome and for me to have a good time with my family.


And while I REALLY appreciated the generosity (it's so nice to feel appreciated after 7 months of rejection), in many ways, it probably would have been better to leave the girls at home with Jenetta. There is just SO much stimulation there with lights and sounds and smells and crowds. Plus with the work of the trade show, I felt pretty much exhausted when I came back to be with them and of course, they were missing me and were jacked up and wanted to play. So I never got any rest.

And maybe Jenetta and I are "old before our time," but the whole Vegas party lifestyle doesn't seem very appealing to either of us. The sheer volume of public intoxication is staggering! People walk around with huge containers of liquor and sip on them all day long! The girls were exposed to things that were uncomfortable for me to witness, let alone for children to see. It just made me glad that we live in a nice community with good friends, and I'm happy to just chill out at the beach.

We came home very late on Monday night, and then all week, I had to play catch-up at work. So that wasn't very relaxing, either.


I'm venting and it sounds like everything was awful. The girls really enjoyed swimming and meeting other kids and playing at the pool with them. Jenetta took them to a chocolate factory and to Circus Circus, so that was neat. All their meals and snacks were paid for by my company, and I have a job at a place that is run by generous and thoughtful employers. I was even eventually able to get on top of the pile of work on my desk and got it down to a manageable stack! :)

Then last night, we had the unexpected blessing of getting four tickets to the Padres vs. Orioles game. These are great corporate seats - right in line with the first base path, just behind home plate, about 16 rows up. It was fun to talk baseball with the girls. I think O understood a little bit of it. They definitely enjoyed cotton candy! (Won't be doing that one again!!! - I think peanuts would be better next time - they were so hyped up!!!)


But in the third inning, we decided to take them to the park in the park. There is a spinning ride there that they love. (And they enjoy rolling down the grassy hill and getting grass stains all over themselves!) :)

The girls played for a while and I watched the game on the big screen behind the outfield wall. Then L had an accident and hit her face on a concrete planter. I actually have video of it, but it is brutal to watch. I think I will be deleting that file! The Petco Park emergency staff were super helpful and they cleaned up the blood and gave us lots of Padres stuff, but it was obvious that she would need stitches. So we took her to the Coronado ER because it is generally slower there. We were there about an hour and a half for everything (which is pretty good for a Friday night at the ER). 5 stitches later, L is fine, and it only hurts when she laughs or smiles.

But needles to say, last night wasn't very restful, either. :(

So this morning, we let the girls go play at the neighbor's house, and I'm planning on relaxing in front of the TV. I haven't been able to watch any World Cup games yet. We'll see how that goes! :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Changes...

I spent some time yesterday looking at pictures from a year ago. I was overwhelmed by a strong sense of compassion for our girls. Not only where they physically unhealthy when they first came here, but they were so awkward. You can see in the pictures that they just don't know what is going on or how to respond. Jenetta and I talked about it, and she said it seems almost like a crime to uproot a child and tell them that they will be living somewhere else now with different parents. How strange and incomprehensible that must have seemed for them!

Recent photos show them just being themselves - normal kids. You can see a clear difference in their body language in photos from them versus now.

This morning I took O with me for a run. We hadn't run together since early April. So I noticed a lot of changes with that, too. First, we were both out of shape. O complained almost right away of being tired and not wanting to run. Our usual competitive games didn't work either. When I would run ahead and encourage her to come catch me, she just screamed and wanted to hold my hand. That need to compete and be in charge seems to have decreased a lot. She just wanted to be with me and enjoy running/walking together.

Maybe I'm reading too much into one morning. But Jenetta and I talked about it, and O's crazy excess energy has definitely decreased over the past few months. She still likes physical activity and loves riding her bike (and she can still be a pain at times), but the overflowing spring of energy and excitement within her seems to have decreased from a raging river to a gurgling stream. Maybe she doesn't need the running as often as possible to calm her down. She doesn't seem to have the excess energy to burn anymore.


Not really related to this post, but noteworthy is our upcoming trip to Las Vegas next weekend. I am part of the team from my work going to a Spa products trade show at the Venetian next Sunday and Monday. I was to go up on Saturday and return on Tuesday. Since I had a hotel room to myself, my boss suggested that I bring the whole family along to play in the pool and to get a vacation. We talked about it, and decided that even though the hotel would be free, the extra expense for eating out just wouldn't fit in our budget.

I was really touched by the response from my boss. She wants me to feel welcome at the company and really wants me to bring my family. She also wants to get to know our girls and Jenetta better, so she would very much like me to bring them. She told me to put their meals on the company expense account for the trade show. I am very grateful for this gesture. Even though I will be busy for much of my time there, it will be great to see my family in the mornings and to be with them for dinner and in the evenings. Vegas, here we come!


Thursday, June 3, 2010

My birthday

Because Monday was a holiday, we ended up celebrating my birthday a day early. In the morning, I took the girls to the beach with David, Courtney, and Isaiah. We had a great time hanging out and playing together. O even paddled out with me on my surfboard for a few belly rides. It was great!

After naptime, we went to Grandma Joy and Grandpa CJ's pool to swim. Both girls are so brave in the water! Then we feasted and enjoyed my blue angel-food cake.

At work the next day, I got an unexpected bonus. I was informed that even though I had only been there a few weeks, I was getting Holiday pay. I think the last time I got paid for a day off from work was my last year of teaching - 1998. It's been a long time! It allowed me to not work so much this week - which is good, because there are lots of things for me to take care of at home! Thanks for all the birthday wishes. I really appreciated it!






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