Out of Town

Working remotely full time has its distinct advantages. But it also has disadvantages. The primary one being traveling. Thankfully, I'm not on any type of strict, routine travel schedule. I normally spend a week working at the office in Virginia every 6-8 weeks or so. Last year I spent a total of 41 days away from home for business travel. That works out to spending about 10% of my the year out of town, which isn't too bad compared how often a lot of other people have to travel. In 2009, my hope is that number stays the same or, even better, goes down. However, it doesn't look like that will be the case. I'm already on pace to surpass 10%. So far this year, I've spent 22 out of 141 days out of town to date. That works out to be about 15%.

Hopefully that number will trend downward as the year goes on. That's a lot of time away from my favorite people. :)

Who am I?

One of my favorite Christian "rock" bands is Casting Crowns. I don't listen to Christian music all the time - primarily because most of it is either just too cheesy, a cheap imitation of true worship, or too often average from a musical standpoint. But, I digress. This post is not about the merits and follies of Christian music. Its about a specific song by Casting Crowns. Casting Crowns is one of those bands that really "get it", in my opinion. Their music is worshipful, respectful and real. And I get the sense, by listening to the lyrics that they somehow have walked down a similar path as I am on, so I feel a kindred connection with their songs for some reason.

One of their songs, in particular, is really good. Its called Who Am I?. The whole song is very meaningful, but I really like the chorus:

Not because of who I am, But because of what you've done. Not because of what I've done, But because of who you are.

These words really speak to me. So often, we get caught up in our identity in Christ (which is a good thing) and all the things that we do (also can be good things) and not focus on what God has done or who Jesus is.

Its a good reminder that on my own strength, I can do nothing and there's nothing I can do to make myself more acceptable in God's eyes. Thank you, God, for your incredible, unfathomable Grace.

Before and After

I mentioned in my last post about how we're settling in. We've been taking some pictures around the house now that we have painted, decorated and hung curtains and light fixtures. It looks and feels like a completely different place. Checkout these before and after slides to get an idea of the transformation. (Click the fullscreen icon on the toolbar below for the best view.)

[slideshare id=1296708&doc=house-090415211824-phpapp02]

Next up - the landscaping. From the picture, it looks better than it really is. Lots of work to do, but we can take our time more with the outside.

Even though we've lived there for only 1 month, we already feel so comfortable and at home. I give Cori all the credit for making it feel so homey, so soon. What a wife!

Settling in to the New House

It was two weeks ago today that we moved in to the new house in Frisco. I am thankful that it was only 4 miles down the road, because moving is hard enough, but only having to go a short distance was really nice. Especially all the subsequent trips we made back and forth to get the miscellaneous items that don't fit neatly into a box - like a weedeater or a lamp.

So the past two weeks have been super tiring. Starting with the day we moved in, we've pretty much spent every night working until its time for bed; doing things like carrying boxes up and down stairs, putting beds together, arranging furniture, unpacking boxes, arranging closets, etc.

Another activity that took up a lot of time was replacing light fixtures. That is not easy, let me tell you. The concept is simple, but the execution is challenging, unless you have four arms with built in tool appendages.

We purposely waited to unpack and hang up certain things like curtains, pictures and nick-nacks. We were waiting until we got the walls painted. When we moved in, all the walls were white. While we appreciate the "blank slate", we were anxious to get some color on the walls to give it some warmth visually and to help make it feel more personalized. So last Friday, we were able to have all the walls painted. It makes a huge difference!

Little did I know that once the paint was dry, the real work would begin. Wow! This past weekend after the painters left, we began getting serious with personalizing this place with our own "stuff". Saturday and Sunday we worked like slaves. I worked like a dog and slept like a baby. :)

But it was fun work. And very fulfilling getting the new house to feel like home.

Cori and I are the type of people where our house is "our castle". We would rather have a nice home and drive old, shabby cars and not have the latest electronics equipment or cool gadgets. We feel like our house is our sacred abode where family nurturing and growth happens and we feel its important for us to establish a "homey" environment for that to take place. This is one reason why we are very thankful that we did not have to rent an apartment or house for awhile, which we thought we may end up having to do when this whole process began.

We are far from finished, as evidenced by the plethora of unpacked boxes in the garage and the array of nick-nacks and frames placed in the staging area (dining room) waiting to find a permanent place. But we are getting there and are taking pictures so we can show a before and after motif, hopefully.

I'm sure I'll leave some things out, but here's a list of things we've accomplished in the past two weeks:

  • Install light fixtures
    • Kitchen - over island (still a mess, pictures coming soon)
    • Kitchen - over sink
    • Breakfast nook
    • Front porch carriage light
    • Ceiling fan/light in living room
  • Assembled basketball hoop (much harder that it sounds or looks)
  • Assembled two bookshelves for kids' rooms
  • Put together 3 beds and 2 dresser mirrors
  • Curtains
    • Living room
    • Kitchen (still in progress)
    • Bennett's room
    • Chloe's room
    • Gavin's room
  • Several frames of artwork, a couple of wall shelves and numerous wrought-iron "things" all over the house
  • Installed a new dishwasher (and then cleaned up a huge water leak mess caused by the fact that I didn't realize one of the hoses was leaking. I made like 3 trips to Lowes and actually ended up installing twice after having to pull it all out to properly seal the hose. Also cut my finger real bad.)

I'm so tired of my seeing my toolbox. I want to just fling it in the creek out back, but I don't think I could throw it that far.

I'll end with a couple things I've learned through this whole process:

  1. Mortgage loans are much harder to get these days (tighter regulations, more expensive in terms of closing costs, origination fees, etc.)
  2. Directions that come with light fixtures, ceiling fans, shelves and basketball hoops are worthless.
  3. The guy who invented the Phillips head screwdriver: genius. The guy who invented the slotted type: not so much.



By the Grace of God, we have found a house that will soon be our new home. In two weeks, we'll say good-bye to this house and all the memories we've made here and move to the new house. We're ready to start some new memories there for sure.

This is our new house on Snowshill Drive in Frisco. We love the street name because it is such an oxymoron. Its not on a hill. And chances are slim that there will ever be much snow around these parts.

New House

They say that home is where the heart is. Well, I think our hearts are already there. This past weekend we started packing. The first phase was the de-decoration phase. In one day our beautiful home underwent an amazing transformation from cozy, homy abode to a stark, barren shell. And all we did was take down pictures, artwork, nic-nacs and curtains.

I was pretty surprised by the sudden difference in the feel of this place. Now that all of our personality has been removed (other than furniture), I'm ready to get to the next house and make that one "our home".

In the design world, there's this concept of form vs. function. There's a fine balance in there somewhere. Even though this place is still fully functional, the form is gone. Its like viewing a website with only the text - no pictures, colors or style.

I am thankful for a wife with the talent to work such magic on this shell and make it a home. Next time your wife asks to buy some new decoration for the house, don't be so quick to balk at it. A little decoration goes a long way. :)


For awhile now we have felt unsettled and have wanted to move. Reasons? An extra bedroom for the kids; a bigger yard for the kids, preferably with a climbing tree or two - or ten. :) But this is Texas, so we won't get our hopes up. We also really want our next house to be the house the kids move out of when the time comes and come back to with grandchildren many, many years from now. We really want that consistency and "grounding" for them to grow up in and feel that now is a good time to make that transition. So, last month we put our house on the market. When we put our house on the market the first time back in 2006 and moved to Virginia, the house sat and sat and sat and didn't sell for over 6 months, which led to us moving back to Texas and staying in this house.

Since then, we have enjoyed our house and it is a great home. Cori has done an awesome job decorating it and making it truly beautiful and homey. Turns out she did too good of a job.

Thirty-five days (not months) on the market and we received an offer. It was a good offer and we accepted. That's the good news.

Bad news is - we hadn't really even started looking for a house until this past weekend. So now all of a sudden we are in scramble mode. We're closing on March 16th and need to move somewhere at that time. Ugh!

I realize that this is a good problem to have and I feel fortunate that we live in a market where there are numerous options of affordable housing. We are blessed.

Our problem is that we don't want to just move anywhere. This was supposed to be our final move. This next house is the house we want to stay in for years to come, meaning we wanted it to be big enough for us to grow into and also be in a neighborhood we felt we could plant ourselves in long-term.

Since Sunday we have looked at about a dozen houses. Two very seriously, both of them in foreclosure. One, we decided against because there was way too much work to be done and the other one, which was absolutely perfect in every way, we were beat to the punch by another bidder.

Things don't always go how you expect. We thought our house would have sold in 2006 - it didn't. This time, we really didn't expect it would sell. We thought we'd let our 4-month listing contract expire in April and then just wait awhile longer. That didn't happen either. This time it actually sold.

One could look at this as God's great sense of humor. To be sure, there's irony there, but ... God is not Brian Regan. :) He's not a comedian.

I know this whole ordeal will work out according to God's will. I don't really see how at this point. A lot has to happen in the next week or so. If not, we may be moving into an apartment until we can find "the house". If that's God's will, that's ok with me. I hope its not, but I realize it won't be the end of the world.

There are people far worse off with much bigger life issues to deal with. I thank God that my biggest problem right now is that my house has sold and we haven't found another one to move into yet.

I am extremely blessed. I've said it dozens of times and its one of the truest things I know: I don't deserve to be this happy.

Pink Tie Event

Friday night from 6:30-9:00pm Chloe and will attend the 2009 Daddy Daughter Dance sponsored by the City of McKinney Parks and Recreation association. Our big date takes place at the McKinney Recreation Center along with 125 other "couples".

I am really looking forward to it and for Chloe, it is the highlight of the year. I have really enjoyed seeing her excitement about it ever since I told her about it earlier in the week. I gave her the cutout advertisement from the parks and recreation magazine that looks like this and she has carried it around with her constantly all week - she even has it by her side when she gets in bed each night. She looks at it as she falls asleep. Needless to say, she is eagerly anticipating this grand event. She calls it "the ball".

So she already has her dress picked out. She's going to look like a true princess, that's for sure. Last night, I asked her if she wanted to help me pick out which shirt and tie I should wear with my suit. I don't wear suits very often, so she probably had never seen my full tie collection. I thought she was going to fall over when she saw I had a pink tie. She was pretty surprised and I immediately knew she wanted me to wear it, cuz it was the obvious choice to match her princess dress.

But then something strange happened. I asked her which one I should wear and she said the black one. Hm. Really? Then I asked, "Are you sure you don't want me to wear the pink one?" She said, "Yes, but I think the other daddies will think its silly."

Isn't that sweet? She didn't want me to feel silly wearing a pink tie, thinking I'd be worried what other people thought about me, a man, wearing pink. I'm amazed at her ability to think like that, being only 4 years old. I'm more amazed by her choosing something that she thought I would like better, even if it meant the opposite of what she wanted.

What a sweet little girl! I sure am looking forward to our date at the ball tomorrow night. I'll post some pictures at a later time.

36 Reasons

My beautiful wife had a birthday on Friday. I made her a little card telling her all the things I love about her - one for each year of her age. I've recorded it here for posterity (and also to brag about how great she is!)

  1. How you're such a cookie monster
  2. The way you make tea
  3. The way you mommy
  4. Your soft skin
  5. Your pretty eyes
  6. Your silky brown hair
  7. Your beautiful hands
  8. The way you look when you sleep
  9. Your perfect feet
  10. How you make our house a home
  11. The way you tease me
  12. Your love of learning
  13. Your passion for educating our kids
  14. How you listen to my stories
  15. Your blog
  16. The way you dance with me
  17. Your love of books
  18. Your compassionate heart
  19. Your past
  20. How you've changed over the years
  21. Your style sense
  22. Your ability to dominate in Nertz
  23. Your sense of humor
  24. Your love of simpler times
  25. How you love your bath time
  26. Your kickboxing prowess
  27. How you love reading to the kids
  28. How you share the CNS with me
  29. Your efficiency
  30. Your constant support and encouragement
  31. How you think I'm smarter than I really am
  32. The way you laugh
  33. How you've taught me to appreciate history and literature
  34. How you are always so diligent
  35. The Kermit smile
  36. The way you love me

If you know Cori, then you know that she is refuting all these things. She never gives herself enough credit - and that's one more thing I love about her. I'll add that to next year's list. :)

The Wisdom of Yoda

This morning I was disciplining Chloe because she was not acting very kind, shall we say. I was explaining to her that the reason why she was acting like this, which was not her normal self, was because she was being selfish and only thinking about what she wanted. So in walks Bennett with his 2¢. He said, "Chloe, remember what Yoda says: 'Selfishness leads to fear; fear leads to hate; hate leads to fate; fate leads to anger; and anger leads to death.' Remember that from the movie, Chloe?"

So I said, "Bennett, please leave - I'm talking to Chloe."

I don't think Yoda phrased it exactly like that, but I think Bennett got the jist of the idea. The way he said it was so "father-figure", it was funny. He really thought he was helping her by imparting his advice like that.

Silly kid. :)


I fell in love 10 years ago today. That was the day Gavin was born. That was one of my best days! Soon after he was born, stabilized and spent some time cuddling with Mommy, the nurses took him to the nursery to give him a bath, take measurements and perform some minor tests. I got to go with while Cori rested.

For as long as I live, I'll never forget the time he and I shared in the nursery. I got to be right there with him, studying his every feature, watching his every move. I kissed his cheeks and his little hands and feet and tummy. I touched his soft skin and talked to him the whole time. He was so small, but perfect in every way. It must have been close to two hours that we spent together and I treasure every minute of it. It was our bonding time.

Since then, I've had about a million more times of bonding. And I've loved every minute of those times as well.

As a toddler, he went everywhere I went. He was the epitome of Daddy's Little Helper. He insisted on helping me do whatever I was doing. Fixing the vacuum, mowing the lawn, clipping the hedges, washing the car - it didn't matter what it was, he was right there. I loved it too. I never considered him in my way.

I think the best part of all that is just having time together. That's how relationships develop. That's how you bond with someone - by spending time together. Doing every day things together.

It seems that Gavin understood that as a child - he just wanted to be with me, whatever I was doing. I'm so glad he did. And I'm glad I let him and didn't consider him to be a nuisance, because I'd have missed out on that time together.

He's still that way, too. Loves to help. We still spend lots of time together. Almost every night after Bennett goes to bed, he still has 30 minutes before his bed time and he asks, "So Dad, what do you want to do with me?" I love it! :) When he says that as a 10-year old, I'll still look at him and see that little guy next to my side asking, "Daddy, what I do help you for?"

So obviously, I've completely enjoyed the past 10 years. Its been by far the best decade of my life. I really cannot believe its been 10 years since Gavin was born. It has gone by so fast. And that's what makes me a bit sad. Because I know the next 10 years are also going to go by fast, maybe even faster. By then, he'll be an adult, in college or working or who knows what, but most likely not living at home any longer. I try not to think of that time, because I know we have 10 (maybe less) more years with him before he goes off on his own as adult.

I plan on making those years count, just as much as the past ten. I'll be spending as much time with my little helper as I always have. We have a lot more to do - teaching, learning and helping each other.

Happy Birthday, Gavin. I'm thankful you are my son, my little friend. I love you with all my heart!

Where Bubbles Go

Last evening I was working on a freelance project at my desk in our bedroom. Chloe was taking a bubble bath in our bathroom downstairs. The tub is about 20 feet from my desk, so I could work while keeping an eye on her - and answer her 2,489 questions that she felt were more important than what I was doing. After being in the tub about 20 minutes or so, she realized that all the bubbles were starting to disappear and asked if she could have more. So I turned the water back on and put in some more bubble bath liquid. She asked what happened to the bubbles and I just said, "Well, after awhile, they just go away."

She must have felt I was trying to keep the real truth from her. She asked, in a completely serious tone, "Where do they go? Do they go in my butt?"

So I tried to explain to her that that is indeed not where they go - all the while keeping a straight face. The things kids think of! I love how their minds work. :)

India Pictures

Apologies for the delay on posting some photos of my trip and for the lack of posting in general. Life has been pretty crazy since I got home. Here are a few photos in particular that I'd like to share and explain.

This is the view from my hotel room window. I spent a lot of time just looking out the window watching what life is like for these people. Fascinating to watch anonymously from the 8th floor.

Views from the hotel

This is the infamous alley Dave and I walked through behind our hotel on that first day.

An alley just behind our hotel in Chennai

This is me at Tiger Cave.


This is Daos and two of his children. Meeting and talking with him was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

Daos and children

This is one of my favorite photos. Children love getting their photos taken. I took this photo from the car as we drove past.

The Boy

This was the best part of the trip - coming home. :)

Me and the kids

In total, I took about 360 photos on the trip. I uploaded about 100 of them to Flickr. I also created a slideshow on Flickr of all my pictures for your enjoyment.