This past weekend, after Mary and Frank and Michael left, I decided that the boys needed to get out of the house. So, I asked Christine if she wanted to drive out to Enchanted Rock. She said “yeah!” … so we asked the kids if they wanted to go… and of course, they wanted to go…

Then I mentioned it to our neighbors, and offered to take their kids with us, if they wanted to go, so we picked up Jackson around 2:00, and headed out to Enchanted Rock.

The drive to the park is about 100 miles from Austin, so I drove… and drove some more. The boys watched Bionicles on the way.

As we got closer, I turned off the movie, and told the boys to look out the windoes, and tell me what they saw. And that whoever saw the big mountain without any trees on it first was to yell as loud as they could… because that’s when we’d know we were there!

We arrived around 4:00, paid the entrance fee ($6 for adults, kids get in free = score).

After parking, we got ready to hike up the hill. Grayson insisted that he carry the supplies backpack, because it was his backpack. So, I let him. A 40 lb. kid carrying a 10 lb. backpack up Enchanted Rock – I couldn’t believe it. And he did pretty well, btw.

Here are some photos from the hike:





At the top, we sat down and had a snack, and played around a little:

Then we hiked back down, got in the car, and drove home. Got home around 8:30. Next time we’ll leave the house earlier 😉

Oh, and Grayson’s so funny. For some reason he started calling it “Parrot Rock”, so that’s what we’re calling it until he gets it right!

All of the photos are here, if you want to see them all (there’s about 150).

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Last night, we joined some friends of ours for the Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Austin State Supported Living Center.

The SSLC serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are medically fragile or who have behavioral problems. State supported living centers provide 24-hour residential services, comprehensive behavioral treatment services and health care services, including physician services, nursing services and dental services. Other services include skills training; occupational, physical and speech therapies; vocational programs; and services to maintain connections between residents and their families and natural support systems.

Jack, Grayson and Grayson’s friend Roman all made gifts to donate to the residents of the SSLC before the event. Christine picked me up from work, and we arrived around 6:30 p.m.

When we got to the area where the event was being held, we were treated to some music from Sarah Hickman (who also happens to go to our church and is a wonderful artist).

The kids wrote letters to Santa with help from the residents and volunteers.

Jack told the volunteer “I’m a little nervous, so I can’t think of anything I want. How ’bout we just tell him Merry Christmas, and to drive safely, and I’ll draw him a picture?” and then proceeded to draw a reindeer for Santa.

Grayson on the other hand knew exactly what he wanted. He asked the lady helping him to write “Dear Santa, I would like a soft stuffed animal, and another pillow pet, and a toy baby Jesus.” I chuckled at that point… and Grayson then told me and his volunteer that baby Jesus was born on Christmas, and he wants a baby Jesus to play with this year. Too cute.

After letters to Santa, the kids all decorated their own ornament and got Christmas themed tattoos on their hands.

We were treated to 5 or 6 songs from the “Austin SSLC Choir” which was made up of residents. Two of them had guitars and a few had bells, and they all sang their hearts out. It was special to see them bringing so much joy to the 100 or 150 residents and community members that turned out for the event.

We found the donation area for the gifts, had some hot apple cider, and then found our group of friends and sat down for the rest of the music.

Then, they lit the tree. You should have seen Grayson’s face. When the tree was lit, his chin hit the floor. He was so much in awe… it was awesome.

So, be in awe, this Christmas season… of the immense love and joy that God has for each of us, and if you can, try to put a little bit of that love and joy into everything you do. That’s what I took away from last night…

So precious.

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I love taking photos. Really, I do. The photos I love taking the most, are photos of kids… because they’re just perfect, every time… kids can be dirty, stinky, frowning, smiling, jumping, running, falling, or just sitting there, and they’ll still be just perfect.

Here are some photos I took on my brother’s birthday at his house in Bellville:

And here are some non-kid photos from the day that turned out pretty good:

Happy Birthday Bro.

The rest of the photos can be seen here.

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A friend is expecting a new baby in June, and asked me for some “good parenting tips” so I started writing… just want to share what I wrote her:

Best advice I can give:

1. Love your child every day, more than the day before, and cherish every moment with them.
2. Expect them to change all the time, and yet never be anything but your baby, no matter how old they are.
3. Even when they are starting to get annoying as they get older (like whiny three-year olds for example) remember that they aren’t as sage and wise as you are, and they are just acting how they think they should act, to get a desired response. Pick them up. Hug them, and tell them you love them, and then enforce the rules, but with love.
4. Spend as much time with them as you can, because at some time in the future, you won’t get to spend as much time with them as you want.
5. Remember that your love is what pushes them… in everything they do… so give them lots of love and attention, and always know that they love you back just as much.

Or the short version:

Say “I love you” to your child every chance you get and show them your love in everything you do for and with them.

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Last week, Christine and I, Jack, Grayson, Cyndi, Marc, Rowan, Caelyn, Elise, Maly, Jennifer, Steve, Brendan, and Mia all headed to Garner State Park for a Spring Break camping trip.

We spent a day at the Frio River… and yes, it lived up to its name:

Rio Frio!

We danced under the stars.
We climbed a mountain, and looked down at the world.
We cooked out on an open campfire.

We had a blast, and can’t wait to do it next year:

Father and Son

Photos are here and there are a few on my Facebook wall.

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In mid-October, I took Jack and Grayson, and we picked up Maly and headed to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to be part of their “Flight of the Monarchs” night. We had a lot of fun!

First, we met my Aunt Margo… my Dad’s sister, who I haven’t seen since I was in college 15 years ago.

Then we went into the main center and made caterpillars.

After that we walked up to the top of the observation tower, and I held each of the kids up high, so they could see the surrounding land all around us. They all thought that was pretty cool.

Then the kids were off. Off and running to be exact. I could barely keep up with them… running, running. Running. All over the place. Then we found some yard art.

An iron spider to be exact. And a friend. We played on that for a while, then right as it got dark, we headed back to the car… to home, and to bed.

Maly spent the night with us and the next morning, the kids all ran outside in their t-shirts and underwear, and played and got dirty… and looked for butterflys… Never saw any, but we looked.

What a great weekend!

(more photos here)

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 282 user reviews.

A week ago last Friday, Christine, Jack, Grayson and I got on a Southwest plane headed from Austin to Orlando. The plan was the hang out with Jodie and Hayes’ family for a few days, then head to my trade show for a few days, then go to Denver for another trade show and to see Joan, Ted, Lydia and Leo for a few days before heading home. Call it “mixing business and pleasure”, if you will.

In Florida, we stayed with Jodie and Hayes for a few days, and hung out with them at their house for most of the day on Friday (after the boys napped all the way from the airport to their house, and a late lunch at McDonald’s that is). Hayes cooked some of the best burgers I’ve ever had that night, and the kids got hot dogs.

On Saturday morning, we’d planned to wake up and watch the Space Shuttle launch from their backyard, but it was scrubbed due to leaking Hydrogen or something… So, instead I slept in, and then we went to the beach, where we had a blast with them at Ponce Inlet.

We all got a little sunburned, and a lot worn out… the sun and the sand can sure take it out of you. After a day at the beach, we ate at a Chili’s with the extended family (pretty much all of Jodie’s family and most of Hayes’ lives there in Florida).

On Sunday, we got up, and headed to the Orlando Science Center, where the kids had a lot of fun. Our original plan was to hit the beach again, but we decided to save the kids from another sunburn filled day… We saw dinosaur bones, and learned about electricity… had lunch, and then picked oranges. Afterwards, we headed to Downtown Disney and the Lego Store before dinner at T-Rex (which is like a Rainforest Cafe with dinosaurs instead of monkeys).

We checked into the Marriot that night, and settled in. I went to a business thing, and the kids and Christine got to sleep pretty late.

On Monday, I did “work” things, while Christine and the boys met Jodie and her beautiful kids, Emma and Morgan, and spent the morning in the pool at the Marriot… which happens to be the biggest pool in the world or something.

Christine had her hands full with the kids all day… I was working… then on Tuesday, she took the kids out while I worked from the room and the lobby of the hotel, and then we headed to the airport around noon. We were lucky we’d left so early, because we ended up having to walk all the way across the Orlando airport after turning in the rental car, before waiting about an hour to check our bags (all 7 of them) with Southwest. The Orlando airport is a zoo. We boarded the airplane, all a little frazzled. The boys wouldn’t sleep, and couldn’t get comfortable, and Christine and I were tired too.

We rented a car in Denver (we weren’t sure if we were going to until we landed) and drove a little out of our way to get to the hotel… and checked in around 9:30 p.m. or so. The staff at the downtown Sheraton were awesome though, and got us into our room quickly, and brought up a crib and fridge quickly too. We got the kids to bed, and I stayed up late catching up on work from the day that I’d not had time to do.

On Wednesday, I worked in the morning, while the kids explored downtown Denver. They hit the public library, the Museum of Art, and the Capitol grounds, before we all went to lunch together. I headed to the lobby to work while the kids took naps (Christine did too). We then met Joan, Leo and Lydia out on the Denver Mall for dinner.

I took Grayson home from dinner early, because he just wasn’t feeling well. We watched Madagascar 2, and all of us went to bed late.

On Thursday, I got up and headed to another trade show, while Christine took the boys, and loaded up the car, and drove out to Arvada, Colorado (the pinnacle of Denver suburbia) to stay with Joan and Ted for the remainder of our trip. Grayson was so exhausted that he finally just laid down in the middle of the living room and crashed. While he napped, the rest of the kids headed to the pool and playground.

On Friday, I quickly hit the trade show, then checked out of the hotel early, and waited for the family to pick me up. Meanwhile, they hit Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Dinosaur Ridge. Talk about some cool stuff! Jack told me all about all of the dinosaur footprints and bones they found on the ride back to the Wagner’s house. That night, Ted cooked filet mignon on the grill, and we all caught up a little after the kids went to bed.

We were treated to this sunset from the front porch of the Wagner’s new house:

Gorgeous.

On Saturday, we got up and headed to Boulder, taking the scenic route through the mountains. We stopped at the Barker Dam for a few photos…

Our goal was to hike to Boulder Falls, but they were closed due to fallen rocks, which was just as well, as the kids were hungry. After lunch at a brewpub in Boulder, we left Joan and Ted, Leo and Lydia in Boulder and headed to the Denver airport. Turning in the car was easier there, but the bag check line at Southwest was just as bad as Orlando.

We got to our gate about 15 minutes before we started boarding (even though we were at the airport a good two hours before our flight), and got on the plane with some tired kids.

Grayson slept all the way home, and Jack and Christine played games together. It was a great flight, and we were glad to be home.

Seven days on the road, in two cities, with me having to actually work 5 of those days, makes for a very tired family, and we’re enjoying catching up on our rest today. We loved seeing our friends, but I don’t think we’ll mix business and pleasure again until the kids are old enough to buy their own tickets and get their own hotel rooms. Or until I can afford to just not work, if I don’t want to. 😉

You can see all of the photos here:

Ponce Inlet Beach Photos
Orlando Photos
Denver Photos

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The kids had a blast today outside using the sidewalk chalk… and while they started with coloring our limestone patio, they ended up coloring themselves:

Blue Man Group

What fun!

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On November 16th, 2008, we celebrated Jack and Grayson’s birthday together at Kiddie Acres here in Austin.

Boy did we have fun (parents and kids included). We took a butt load of photos that day, but my favorite has to be this one:

Marc took that one, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Notice that as Grayson blew out the candles with Jack, he spit a little… you can see it coming out in that photo. Yes, it landed on the cake, and yes someone ate that piece of the cake. Not sure who ate it, but I love that it happened, and no one seemed to notice but Marc and I, and we didn’t say anything to anyone. No harm, no foul, right?

Anyways…

LOTS of photos of kids having fun here.

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My best friend Josh was born today, 33 years ago.

Yes, 33 years ago. He’s getting old, but don’t hold that against him. He’s still as cool as he was back in high school:

Well… at least, he still tries to be as cool as he tried to be back in High School.

Happy Birthday Josh.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 191 user reviews.

We had a very good Thanksgiving this year, out at the lakehouse with Debbie and Raymond. Cheri, Greg, Paige, Patrick, and Matthew were there too, and our friends Joan, Ted, Lydia and Leo joined us as well. I took a bunch of photos but haven’t downloaded them to the computer yet. So here are a few that Peggy took:

Like I said, Thanksgiving was very good this year 😉

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 252 user reviews.

This year, we went over the Cyndi and Marc’s house for Halloween to trick-or-treat in their neighborhood.

Jack was Optimus Prime:

Grayson was Mickey Mouse:

Christine had to hem Jack’s pants, because they were too long, so I had to find the sewing machine for her… and I guess that she figured since she had the sewing machine out, she’d just make Grayson’s outfit from scratch. And he loved it!

Rowan was Bumblebee, Kaelyn was Minny Mouse. Chris and Tonya’s kids were there too, and they had a blast too, and were really cute in their outfits.

Grayson was sick, and didn’t feel well, so after I took this last photo of the night:

Grayson and I jumped in the car, and headed home so he could sleep, while Christine and Jack stayed out until 10:00 p.m. collecting candy.

Lots of photos here.

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 245 user reviews.

Since the kids were on vacation this week, Christine and I decided to “get some things done” while they were out of town.

We ended up feeling like we didn’t get much done, but we enjoyed our little mini-vacation from the kids, and loved hearing about how much fun they had on their vacation to Camp Momo.

We did accomplish a few things though:

  1. We rearranged the guest bedroom, so we can actually get to and use the file cabinet that is in there to store important papers and stuff.
  2. We test drove four or five cars.
  3. We washed three or four loads of laundry (trust me doing that many loads, that I’m actually involved in, in one week is a big deal).
  4. We went to dinner at Jeffrey’s with Tony and Lisa, and Andy and KK, Jack and Christine. What a night!
  5. We “borrowed” a car on Thursday night, drove to Josh’s house to get his opinion, had dinner at the Austin Pizza Park, sampled his latest culinary creation: TUBS (The Ultimate Bacon Sundae) which comprised of home-made candied-bacon ice cream in a bacon bowl with a strip of chocolate covered bacon perched atop the scoop of ice-cream. While delicious, it was clearly “too much bacon” for me. Josh gave his thumbs-up on the car though. We also visited Tony on the way home, since the weather was so nice, and Tony gave his thumbs-up too.
  6. On Friday, Christine drove to Bellville and picked up the kids from Camp Momo.

    I got home from work and showed the kids “Daddy’s new car” (realize we still hadn’t decided to buy it yet).

    Jack and Grayson came out into the front yard, where Jack proceeded to tell me my old car was “ucky” and he thought it looked like “poop”.
    I asked him what he thought of the new car, and he said “it’s cool… it’s a racecar!” (any car with a spoiler is a racecar to him).

    I then pulled the key out of my pocket, and said “Watch this!”

    Jack’s mouth opened as wide as it could while the top of the convertible automagically retracted into the car, and when it was all done, Jack just stood there and said the best one word a Dad can here from his son: “Cool.” No exclamation.

    Just. Stoic. Coolness.

    We loaded the kids in the car, and drove off into the sunset… Actually, we drove to a Hawaiian Snow Cone place, and got out and had snow cones (a first for both boys) then we drove around for a while with the top down, before heading to McDonald’s for dinner and some playground time. On the way home, Jack asked us to “make the car change” constantly, and no matter what we did, as soon as it changed, he wanted it to change again.

  7. On Saturday, we drove out to Lakeway for some time with Debbie, Raymond, Cheri, Greg, Paige, Patrick, Matthew, Peggy, Payton, Scott, Christi, Derrick, and their friend Brian.

    We took a boat ride with all of the kids, and put them all in a big three-person tube, and pulled them behind the boat (I’m sure Greg’s back is killing him today).

    I drove back to the dealership to actually buy the car… it’s official, we own a 2005 Saab 9-3 AERO Convertible, and we’re loving it.


    (we’ll get some photos of our actual car online someday, I’m sure)

    We then took a dip in the pool before dinner, and headed home, with the top down all the way.

    The kids LOVE this car as much as we’re loving it, I think. (There’s nothing like two kids in car seats in the back of a convertible in 100 degree weather in Austin, Texas.)


    Grayson was sleeping, Jack was holding his hand
  8. On Sunday, we woke up a little late, and Jack, Grayson and I went out for a drive on the town with the top down. We found breakfast, and fed a homeless guy while we were eating (bought him a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit to go with his cup of coffee).
  9. I cleaned out the Honda for Payton… will take it to get detailed and serviced this week.
  10. I made 13 CDs (mixes of lots of different music) for the Saab’s CD changer (I haven’t listened to an actual CD in ages) because I have no idea how to connect my iPhone to it yet.
  11. We met our newest neighbors Chris and Tina, who moved in across the street about three weeks ago and have a 4.5 year old son, Quinten, and a 2.5 year old daughter, Chelsea. After seeing that they’re totally moved in and pretty much decorated, we got motivated and…
  12. Stayed up until midnight on Sunday night decorating the living-room, searching for some furniture on Craigslist, and finishing the organization of the guest room.

So, that was our week and weekend. While we “didn’t get anything done” I sure feel like we did a lot!

Watch the movie of Jack and Grayson getting down to 50 Cent in the back of the convertible on the way to Lakeway:

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On April 25th, Rowan and Caelyn came over to visit for the evening while Cyndi and Marc when out for the evening.

The kids had a blast together.

We ate dinner, and everyone had good manners… which was pretty amazing considering when we get them all together they usually go nuts and lose all semblance to humans for at least an hour.

After dinner, Jack and Rowan played with cars and drove all over the house, while Grayson and Caelyn played hide and seek and made either other laugh over and over and over… too cute.

Then we took baths in shifts: Grayson and Caelyn together, then Jack and Rowan. Everyone did a good job getting cleaned up, and Rowan even showed Jack how to scrub his knees and toes and back and under-arms…

After baths, Grayson went to bed, while Christine, Jack, Rowan and Caelyn and I watched a movie.

Then Marc and Cyndi showed up and took R & C home, and Jack went to bed.

It was a full night, but a fun night, for sure. The rest of the photos are here.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 261 user reviews.

Leo, Jack’s best friend, turned three years old recently and he had a party the weekend of April 20th. Joan and Tim threw the party at Zilker Park, and the kids had a blast. We played on the playground for 45 minutes or so, and watched the train go past us a couple of times. Then after eating some yummy lunch, we all rode the train:

The kids had a blast on the train. And after the train, we went back over to the party zone to eat cake (Joan made a really cute little Thomas the Train cake) and hit a pinata. Talk about a great day at Zilker!

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 178 user reviews.