Bragging

A&A 6Yeah. I know. We’re not supposed to brag. It’s not “nice.” Doesn’t look good on us. Makes us sound, pretentious. But, I feel like there are times when it’s warranted. Like now.

You’ve heard me say it before, and I’m going to say it again. I’ll continue to say it until it stops being true. Don’t get your hopes up, it’ll never stop being true. My kids, are awesome! It’s a fact! There’s no denying it. They’re just, awesome! I think they get it from their Mom. Maybe.

It’s not often that I get excited about gifts. “Receiving Gifts” is not my love language. They just aren’t a big deal for me. So, when my kids told me that they were going to make my Christmas gift this year, I just smiled and said “okay.” In all honesty, I was less than excited. In my mind, I was rolling my eyes. At least, I hope it was in my mind.

img_9500As the weeks leading up to Christmas passed, I watched as the kids got more and more excited. This started to make me more excited. They made multiple trips to multiple different stores. They did most of their work, while I was at work. They commandeered the balcony and posted hand written notes on doors and windows saying “Off Limits.” The week before Christmas, I was given strict instructions to let them know when I was on my way home so that they had ample time to put everything away before I got there.

Christmas Day finally arrived and as usual, the kids were beyond excited. Initially, that excitement was directed toward their own presents. As usual, I had my own fun. The kids always pick out the wrapping paper they want their gifts wrapped in. This eliminates the need for tags. Of course, when I wrap one’s presents in another’s wrapping paper, there’s bound to be a little excitement.

img_9482The time came for them to give me the present they had been working on for weeks. Except, they didn’t give it to me, initially. They had a couple of other gifts they had bought for me, that I opened. After “all” of my gifts were opened, they informed me that there was a clue to my last gift located between two specific movies located on the shelf in the living room. I located the movies and found the “clue” that was waiting for me: a handwritten card.

I pulled the card out and began to read. It was all I could do to keep from tearing up. The card read:

img_9483“For our dad who makes us feel blessed every day! You always say that you are the one who is blessed. But having you as a dad is the best gift God could ever give us. We can’t imagine how life is like for you, being a single dad with two crazy kids. But you still lead us to God, you support us in anything we want to do, and you never fail to put a smile on our faces. We want to thank you for being the best dad ever and for loving us with everything you have. We really are the ones who are blessed. Here is something to remind you of the blessings we feel everyday because of our loving God. We also want you to remember with this present that we love you so much and no matter where life takes us, we will always be your Kiddo and Bubba. We love you with everything we have and we are blessed to have you as our dad! Merry Christmas Daddy!”

As I choked out those last few sentences, the kids jumped up and ran to their rooms to get the present they made for me. img_9425-1Needless to say, I was speechless. It was clear that they had put a lot of thought, time and effort into it. I couldn’t help but smile. Yeah, I have AWESOME KIDS! I just don’t know how else to say it. I am truly blessed to be their Dad.

Okay. I’m sure everyone has similar feelings and stories. So here is your opportunity to brag. I give you my permission. Tell me how awesome your kids are! Brag a little. Or a lot! Let it out! Now’s your chance. And…GO!

Expectations

So tonight, I’m at Universal Studios / Islands of Adventure chaperoning several thousand 8th graders as they enjoy themselves in their 8th grade Gradventure. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I was in for. I imagined an absolute mad house of teenagers with a few hundred chaperones pulling their hair out. And then when Alexys informed me that the group I was charged with was made up of four teenagers that didn’t want to be grouped together……..well, yeah. You can probably imagine the nightmare that was playing out in my head. To my surprise (and relief), it’s been nothing like that.

We arrived at Universal Studios around 4:30. Half an hour later than expected (not a bad thing, just different). After going through security, we started discussing which rides the kids wanted to go on first. At this point, it’s an open park and the kids are required to stay with their chaperone (and they hated that). I did my best to remain as invisible as possible. Allowing them to make their own decisions as to what we did next. To their credit, they all got along quite well (for not wanting to be grouped together). We rode a few rides, got some ice cream, and then headed over to the stage area to wait for the coveted hour (7pm) to arrive when they could bid farewell to their awesome chaperone, and spend the rest of the evening wandering around the two parks by themselves. And sure enough, when the clock struck 7, it was like cock roaches when someone turns the lights on. I gave them their final instructions (next meeting time and place…..don’t be late…….be early instead), and they were off. And I was left alone. And all of a sudden, a song started playing through my head………..”🎼 All, buuuy myyyy seeelf, 🎶 Sigh. Time to hit the Chaperone lounge. Get a water, a snack, and chill out in the air conditioning before venturing back out to keep an eye on things and be visible in case one of the kids needed something. As I wander throughout the parks, I’m thinking about how different the night could have turned out, had I let my original expectations dictate my attitude. And being glad I didn’t.
So the time has come for the first check in. So, at 9 o’clock I sent a group text reminding everyone of the 9:30 time hack. And by 9:15, all four of my charges have checked in, and probably didn’t need the reminder text. They’ve been having a great time, and are off to continue their evening of fun and freedom, leaving me once again with my thoughts. Which is why I’m currently typing.
So I’m thinking about my original expectations about the evening. And as I sit here trying to put my thoughts together, I look up and see that I’m sitting in front of a huge green ham. I’m sure there’s a green egg somewhere, but at the moment I don’t see it. And I’m thinking about how that story relates (in part) to where my thoughts are wandering. I’m thinking about how neat this adventure has been. The first two hours went NOTHING like I had expected. Rather than attitudes and grumbling, we had a great time! I had no clue what to think as I waited for them to check in at 9:30. But I promise that I was NOT expecting them all to check in by 9:15. After check in, Alexys spent a little time hanging out with me…..even though she still had a friend with her. And she didn’t appear to be embarrassed that she was sitting with her Dad. In fact, it was almost as if she enjoyed it (I know, enjoy it while it lasts. It won’t be long til she wants nothing to do with me). And then I smiled as she asked if I could hold their bags while they went on a couple of rides (aaaaahhhhh, the alterior motive presents itself). I said okay and watched as they skipped away to find a ride.
So, expectations is the thought of the night. And how they impact the way we think and act on a regular basis. I wonder how often we allow an expectation to ruin what would otherwise have been a fun evening/event/opportunity? Or maybe in a relationship? Do we allow an expectation to start or prolong an argument? Naturally, I think this has happened to all of us. And if we take a minute to think about it, identify a situation where we allowed an expectation to negatively impact what we are doing. And I’m sure we could also justify our own actions or reactions based on those expectations. But what if we took a moment to step outside of ourselves, and think about whether or not the failure to meet the afformentioned expectation was really a bad or wrong thing. Or was it just different from our expectation? Maybe it didn’t meet the expectation, but was that really a bad thing? Worth causing a problem or argument? Let’s take tonight as an example……..
I’m a pretty positive person. I like to try to make the best of things. But I’m also human. I’ve also been accused of being a bit of a Drill Sgt with my kids, and those that I’m put in charge of (for field trips or outings). So when Alexys talked me into chaperoning for this particular adventure, my initial thought went to having a list of rules and instructions that the kids would have to memorize and recite back to me before leaving for the park. Buddy system for bathroom breaks. No more than 5 feet away from me at all times. Don’t listen? “Front leaning rest buddy! And give me 20!”. Yup. Totally prepared for this. Then Alexys says “Dad, you know we aren’t going to stay with you the whole time, right?”. Really?! No problem. We’re not going. Problem solved (sort of). After calming her down, I settled on a compromise and began ordering GPS tags off of Amazon so that I could know their location in the park at all times. Get too close to an exit? I’m on your heals dragging you back in. Then I go to the chaperone meeting and find out that the groups are anywhere from 2 – 8 kids per chaperone. WHAT?! How stupid is that? Why would you give one chaperon 2 kids and another 8? That makes no sense at all!! Even it out!! So now I’m wondering how many I’m going to have. And why didn’t they have that information for the meeting? Yes, I know it was a strategic move. Because all the parents assigned 8 would quit. So I go home and ask Alexys how many are in our group. “I don’t know Dad. I should find out tomorrow”. So naturally, when “tomorrow” comes, I ask. And find out that I have four total (including Alexys). But theres a kicker. None of the kids “like each other” and don’t want to be in the same group together. Yeah. This just keeps getting better and better (how long do I have to do this?). Okay, so I’m back in Drill Sgt mode. Preparing my “suck it up and drive on speach”, ready to present prior to boarding the buss. “Okay, I know you all don’t like each other. And none of you want to be together. And I certainly don’t want to be with a bunch of whiners either. But this is the hand we were dealt. So we all need to deal with it”. Yeah, you can imagine how that would have gone over. And the tone it would have set for the rest of the evening. Instead, I just let the evening play out, and see where it goes. And as I mentioned before, I’ve been pleasently surprised. But it could have been a lot different.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that expectations are a bad thing. I think they are really good things actually. They can also motivate someone to action. And that can be a GREAT thing. For example…….prior to allowing the kids to run free, I let them know what my expectations for check in at 9:30 was. I expected to have them all check in as close to 9:30 as possible. The head chaperone expected me to have a report back to her by 9:50. But they also knew the consequences for their decisions. Check in early, and your off to spend the rest of the night with their friends. Check in late, and they’ll be spending some time with me until they can convince me that I can trust them to make the next check in. Don’t check in at all? I have your picture. The entire security staff will be looking for you. And we will find you. And then you get to be my special friend for the rest of the night. Of course, I’m confident that knowing my expectations is why they all had checked in by 9:15. 😉
Okay, so what’s my point? I guess my point is that if we can take a step back and evaluate our situation, and our expectations, before we initiate action, then maybe (just maybe) things turn out better than we expected. Maybe we don’t get upset so easy. Maybe we get a pleasent surprise. Or maybe you sit here and think “hmmmm, I expected something more and just waisted how many minutes of my life reading the ramblings of some guy that thinks too much”. And if that’s what you’re thinking, no worries. Just remember that while you waisted a couple minutes of you life to read it, it took me about 2 hours to write. And with that, I’m expecting my kids to check in soon. So I’m going to head to the next meeting location.

Brothers

Okay. So my last few posts have been of a pretty serious nature. And I’ve been wanting to write something a little more light hearted for a while now. Just not sure what. Then this happened. And I figured I just had to share it. But before I do, let me give you some background. I have an older brother, and a younger sister. Yes, I’m the middle kid. And no, I didn’t get away with ANYTHING when I was younger. But when I think back to when we were all kids, I remember very little of the fights and arguments we all had. Mostly, I remember the fact that it was usually two of us against one of the others. And if it wasn’t that, then we were all getting along, and probably getting into trouble. All of which was, you guessed it, my fault. 😛

As the years have passed, we have all gone our separate ways. Started our own families. And thanks to technology and social media, never to far away from each other. My sister and I will talk periodically. Whether it be through text, Facebook, or on the phone. We always laugh during our conversations (although I sometimes have to remind her that she’s supposed to be laughing and not taking me seriously). We talk about life, the kids, the fact that miles prevent us from spending more time together in person and how much we don’t like that. We talk about the weather. How great her husband is. Whether or not I have a new love interest in my life. You know. All the important stuff. And when we do get to spend time together in person, it’s like we live next door to each other. My sister is awesome. And I love her dearly.
Then there’s my brother. I would classify our conversations as potpourri. They typically will start out going in one direction, and before you know it, we’ve made three u-turns, twelve wrong turns, j-walked in front of cops after getting two flat tires. Probably spending the night in jail because of said j-walking, inevitably with a 300 lb biker dude named bubba, who has less than reputably intentions. Only to be bailed out by our sister, who then lectured us because she had to sell her kids toys so that she could have gas money to drive 3 states over where she put up her life savings as bail, knowing full well she probably wouldn’t get it back, because as soon as Mom & Dad found out, they’d kill us and we would never make our court appearance. All of which started because one of us wanted coffee, and the other one didn’t feel like fixing a pot. Yeah. That’s pretty much how we are. And then once in a while, one of us will send a random text. And what follows, becomes a conglomeration of nonsense that could only happen between him and I. Take for example……the following:
On this occasion, I started it with a picture that I found. It read:
“I hate math tests. Because all through the chapter, it’s like really easy. And then you think you’ve got it. And then the test is like: IF I THROW A TRIANGLE OUT OF THE CAR AND THE CAR IS GOING 20KM/H, AND WIND RESISTANCE IS A THING THAT EXISTS, HOW MANY CUPCAKES CAN PEDRO BUY WITH ONE HUMAN SOUL?”. 
Chris: Seriously dude? The answer is quite elementary. The answer is phish, because purple.
Stephen: Nah. You’re forgetting about the wind resistance. Because of that, you have to multiply by the square root of pancake. Then divide that by green. Then add the phish, which gives you corn field. 
Chris: Indeed! But you’re also forgetting the effect of said wind resistance on the car. Thus you must divide the square root of pancake by blueberry squares to account for the vortices’s created by the open window. Once you’ve accounted for this, then you have to multiply “turn your head and cough by Dr. Jellyfingers” to the third power. Only then can you divide by green and finish the equation.
Stephen: Wait! Turn you head and cough by Dr Jellyfingers? You would need strawberry circles to get that. Which means you would have to divide hot dog by jellybean. Then multiply that by marshmallow.
Chris: But you’re forgetting to compensate for the Heisenberg Theorem, wherein strawberry circles are bypassed by using blueberry squares to punch through the space/time continuum. Unless you’ve gotten hold of a Heisenberg compensator, you must multiply turn your head and cough by Dr. Jellyfingers. Only then can we find out the cupcake to human soul ratio.
Stephen: Dude!! You can’t punch through the space time continuum without accounting for the black hole effect. And a Heisenberg Compensator won’t do anything for that. 
Chris: Unless the Heisenberg Compensator is powered by a flux capacitor!! Then you have the power to warp the black hole into a zero point singularity which will easily punch through the space/time continuum.
Stephen: That only works if the flux capacitor is powered with an Omega Particle. Which means you then have to multiply blueberry pancake by rose petal. And then divide that by the square root of peanut butter.
It ended there. And as you can tell, he has a much better imagination than I do (and I think I was hungry). But I’ve read this exchange several times since then. And I’m reminded of the unique relationship that my brother and I have. And how even though we don’t talk all the time, we can still have fun together, and bring continued joy to each others life. My brother and I share many commonalities. We’ve both been through some pretty traumatic events. And I think that’s partly why we have become as close as we are. And why we can be silly, and still feel like adults, sort of. My brother is awesome. And I love him dearly.
So what’s my point? Who cares? I’m not even sure there is one. But I will leave you with this. Life is a gift. Siblings make that gift even better. Don’t take it for granted. And don’t be afraid to be silly every once in a while. Trust me. It does a body good. 🙂   PEACE!!!!

The Amazing Race

I had the most wonderful time this past Wednesday. I volunteered to assist with the youth group in their 2nd annual “Amazing Race”. They needed drivers to drive teams around Orlando doing various challenges. I thought “they need drivers, how bad could it possibly be?”. Wow did I underestimate the situation. Here is how the day went…………..

It started at the church with a briefing for all drivers and other “associated persons”. We were told that we were not to assist the teams in any way except driving. We were also told that there would be some challenges that we would need to accompany the kids on. But for the most part, we were just observing. After the briefing, the drivers went to their vehicles and waited for the teams. Teams consisted of 5 teenagers wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “The Amazing Race”. For those of you that have seen the tv show, yes, the shirts looked just like that.

The race started with the teams putting together a 24 piece puzzle which they then turned over to reveal another word puzzle. This puzzle directed them to the church welcom center where they were given another word puzzle. After completing this puzzle, they got there first clue. They were to proceed to a church members home for their first challenge. It was a scary sight, seeing 5 teenagers sprinting for your vehicle and then piling in through every possible opening. So the race begins. I was driving the “Purple” team and we were the first team to leave the church.

We arrived at the church members home and the kids were asked the question “Fire or Ice”. They chose fire, a bowl full of the hottest salsa I have ever tasted. They switched to ice and all five of them proceeded to attempt to eat a gallon of ice cream. Shortly after, the “Pink” team arrived. One of there members took the bowl of salsa and drank it in two gulps. They then left. My team just stared in disbelief. They then decided that between the five of them, they could put away one of the bowls…………so they did. It was a sight to see, and cudos to all of them. I would have kept at the ice cream, and I’m lactose intolerant.

From there they had to run (not ride in my car) to a park that was approximately 1/2 a mile away. At the park they were given a raft which they had to inflate. They then had to swim across a lake to a dock on the opposite side. They could only take 3 team members at a time. One would have to come back and pick up the remaining two team members. Team Purple was the second team in the water (after team Pink), and the first team out of the water. We were back in the lead, and headed back to the church.

At the church we were given our next challenge. One team member would be shown a picture on a tv screen for 30 seconds. They would then be asked several questions about the picture. If they got all of them right, they move on. If not, they get a new picture, and new questions. They had to do all of this while trying not to get struck by lightning. (During this event, a really really bad thunderstorm moved through the area.) My team started the challenge and moved on to the next one after the second picture. (My kids were awesome!!)

This is where it gets interesting………and painful. I took my team to Down Town Disney where we met with a “Host” who gave them their next challenge. The were to do the following……….

Using all three forms of Disney Transportation (Monorail, Bus, & Water Taxi) they had to make their way to the following locations on Disney Property: Disney Boardwalk, Epcot, Wilderness Lodge, Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Upon arrival they had to get a team picture (including the driver) in front of each location. They also had to get their pictures taken on all three forms of transportation. Extra bonus minutes would be awarded if they were to get the driver of each form of transportation in the photograph. After they finished, they were to return back to Down Town Disney.

Okay, so this isn’t so bad. Right? Well, let me fill you in on some things. First of all, every one of my teenagers are very competative. Second, Disney transportation………not so quick. Third, apparently many of the destinations………………………….are within running distance of each other. So, we took a bus to the entrance to Disney Boardwalk. From there we ran to Disney’s Yacht Club Resort (not to far). We then ran to Epcot (approx. 1/2 mile). We then hopped a Water Taxi to the other side of the lake (Boardwalk borders a really big lake) and ran to Disneys Hollywood Studios (approx 1 mile). We then took a break and hopped a bus to the Contemporary Resort. Here we got on the Monorail to Magic Kingdom where we hopped a Water Taxi to the Wilderness Lodge. From here we took a bus back to Down Town Disney, where we were dropped off on the opposite end from where we needed to be. So yes, we ran to the other end…..about another mile or so. Okay, so we ran about 2 1/2 to 3 miles. Not so bad right? Well, did I mention that my kids were competative? Did I say that we “ran”. I’m sorry, I meant we “sprinted”. I was a bit tired. Anyway, we were the second team to finish this event.

We then drove to the “Mall at Millenia” where the teams were given a picture of the Pastor, and asked to locate him in the mall. No small feat since this is a pretty big mall. When they found the Pastor, he gave them a picture of someone else they had to find. When they found that person, they were given yet another person to find. After finding that person, they all came back to the Food Court for dinner. Chick-Fil-A, yum. At this point, we found out that we were given a penalty. Apparently, each team was supposed to have a person who had never been to a church event before. Ours didn’t have anyone one new. So we had to sit for 10 minutes. We were the 4th team to leave the mall for our next challenge.

When we left, we went to Lake Eola (a very big lake). Hear the kids had to get pictures of random people in the area of the lake doing the following:
A man proposing to a woman
Two people having a “thumb war”
Someone showing the “Vulcan Salute” (Think Spock from Star Trek)
and last, but certainly not least……

Six people doing a human pyramid. Yes, you read that right, and yes, they completed the task……….1 1/2 hours later. We were so far behind it wasn’t funny.

We then drove a half an hour back to Winter Garden to a bowling alley. At the bowling alley, each team member had to bowl 1 frame. The team would be penalized 1 minute for each pin that was missed. We were the fourth team to arrive at the bowling alley. The other teams were finished bowling and were still waiting to leave. The wait time ranged from 15 minutes to 90 minutes. My team missed a total of 14 pins. We were the second team to leave the bowling alley, and it was once again a race between the Pink and Purple teams.

We drove to a church members house where we learned that 1000 pennies had been placed in the bottom of their pool. 10 of them had been colored with a Sharpie marker. They had to find one. When we arrived, the Pink team was leaving. It took my team a grand total of 3 minutes to find a “Sharpied” penny.

We drove to yet another church members home where 400 plastic forks were stuck in the back yard. On each fork was a letter, and a number. Teams first had to find the letters that spelled “Twilight”. Once that was done, they then had to do a math equation with the numbers. When we arrived, the Pink team was working on the math equation. Purple team took 5 minutes to find the word, and about 30 seconds to work the math equation. Pink was still working the math when we left. It was then back to the church………….and the finish line.

Purple team was the first team to leave the church, and the first team across finish line. We so rocked this race! Overall the experience was absolutely awesome. I had quite a few “Characters” on my team. The things teenagers come up with. It was so much fun. It started at noon and we crossed the finish line at about 10:30pm. It was so much fun.

I won’t lie. I really didn’t know what to expect. I had committed myself to spending about 11 hours with 5 teenagers I had never met. I was told that I would have fun. I figured I would. What I didn’t realize is just how much fun I would have. It’s an experience I will not soon forget. And yes, I will do it again next year. (After all, I have a title to defend now. :-)) And for those of you with a sadistic mind, yes, I am still paying for all of the “running” I did. Ugh.

Talk to you all later.

This was to good not to pass on……..

“I love this!.. I thought some of you would especially appreciate this one!
In addition to communicating with the local Air Traffic Control facility, all aircraft in the Persian Gulf AOR are required to give the Iranian Air Defense Radar (military) a ten minute ‘heads up’ if they will be transiting Iranian airspace.
This is a common procedure for commercial aircraft and involves giving them your call sign, transponder code, type aircraft, and points of origin and destination.
This conversation was overheard on the VHF Guard (emergency) frequency 121.5 MHz while flying from Europe to Dubai .. It’s too good not to pass along.
The conversation went like this…
Iranian Air Defense Radar: ‘Unknown aircraft you are in Iranian airspace. Identify yourself.’
Aircraft: ‘This is a United States aircraft. I am in Iraqi airspace.’
Air Defense Radar: ‘You are in Iranian airspace. If you do not depart our airspace we will launch interceptor aircraft!’
Aircraft: ‘This is a United States Marine Corps FA-18 fighter. Send ’em up, I’ll wait!’
Air Defense Radar: (no response … total silence)
God bless our troops. “