Thursday, December 27, 2012

Well, hello there, my it's been a long, long time...

 T-SHIRT CONTEST... name the song and songwriter referenced in the post title and win a TOTP t-shirt.  Genice, I haven't forgotten you.  Your shirt from the last contest should be delivered in 4-6 months.

Once in a while amateur bloggers like myself  go for a long stretch with no posts.  Sometimes I feel like an explanation is warranted, other times not.
Here's a short one.  May sound strange, but I've not posted here in a couple of months mostly because I've had a lot to say.  Trouble was, lots of other folks had a lot to say and I didn't feel compelled to contribute to the noise. 
My last post was just prior to the election.  I did my best to  refrain from sharing political opinions on TOTP this year, at least I think I did, but the polls are long since closed so I thought I'd share a few thoughts now.  Not just all about politics, but here are a few snippets of what's been on my mind.  Thoughts that could have become whole posts, but didn't.  Remember, I take requests, so if there's something you'd like to see a full post on, let me know.
If you say things like "We need to get prayer back into schools!" when discussing politics, but are not praying in your home.  Repent.

If you complain about the national debt, fiscal responsibility, and the nanny state, but do not have your own finances in order and are not giving to help the poor, orphans, and widows.  Repent.

If you think that a POTUS can create jobs, then you are mistaken.

If you think that millionaires should be taxed more and pay their "fair share", would you please define millionaire?  Is it someone who makes a million dollars a year, or someone who took care of their money over a lifetime of hard work and good stewardship and now has assets of over $1 million?

I've been called a "one of those rich one-percenters" by a co-worker of mine whose household income is twice mine.  He says he's not one because he has trouble keeping up with his payments and votes for democrats. (He's from California)    

There are Christians in China even though it has never been a "Christian" nation.  You can still be a disciple of Jesus even if you think the USA doomed from hell to breakfast.  Ain't it so, Granny Rose?

Are we the first culture in history whose poor folks are fat and rich folks are skinny?

I don't believe that banning guns or posting armed guards at schools are answers to a problem.  I think "the problem" is not really a problem, but a symptom of the degradation of our society.  It's a forest and trees thing.

I'm proud to be a Texican. 

I'm really enjoying being married to my wife and the life we have together.  I find myself being more thankful for her and the fact that "she loves me in spite of my ways that she don't understand."

I don't have a problem with people being ignorant of current events and politics because of disinterest or lack of television watching.  I'm perturbed that so many in our society (from all political persuasions) are getting their "news" from facebook, Comedy Central, and email forwards and believing themselves to be well informed.

I shared with my wife recently that this Christmas season just seemed to be sad and without hope for many around us and for our world at large.  But isn't Christmas all about "the thrill of hope" and a chance and reminder for the weary world to rejoice?  So let us put our hope in Christ and as St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians...."Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

I'll leave you with my one of my favorite songs of the year...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


We had several events to dress up for this year. The girls always love an opportunity to dress up! And the boys didn't really care.

The first was our church's Trunk or Treat.

J not really dressed up, but sporting the black plastic teeth. J was a little cautious this year. She kept asking, "Mom, are you sure everyone will be dressed up. You lied last year. No one was dressed up.". My response to that,"Yes. Ummmm, I don't think I did, pretty sure everyone was dressed up last year too.".
G is an angel, or a princess or a bride. Depending on what answer she gave to whom she was answering, or what she felt like at the time of questioning.
A is a candy corn.
W is a cowboy with a horse.
L is a pirate.

Then there was the school dress up day. J was Merida and G was a Barbie princess.

Fairytale Feast. G is Princess from one of her Barbie books. Her sweet friend was Gretel.

A. could wear whatever and she chose to be candy corn. W. went with me to take A and he was wearing his Superman costume/pjs that day too.

And lastly was October 31st. Church had crafts and games. Then we came home and walked the block.

G with her caramel apple.
J making her caramel apple.
W painting with water colors.
A with MN and HS bedazzling a leaf.
J is Hannah Montana. G is Taylor Swift. A is Cinderella. W didn't want to wear a costume, so he wore his I Love My Mummy shirt. L is a pirate.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Great Expectations vs. Reality


Great Expectations
Beyond just providing for their needs and protection, daddys love to do special things just for their daughters just because.  A couple of months ago we found out that Francesca Battistelli was going to be playing in Waco.  We saw her play a set at Sea World 18 months ago, but this was going to be her tour.  She's the headliner.  We knew that we wanted to take the girls, she's their favorite, but I wanted to give them something more. I looked into it and found out that there were VIP tickets available so I called the company producing the tour to get the details.  VIP tickets would include those cool laminate VIP cards on a lanyard, a poster, preferred seating, and a meet and greet session with Francesca before show.  It was an easy sell.  By midnight on the 23rd of October I was going to be the best daddy in Texas.  The girls would get to meet one of their heroes.  The boys would have splendid behavior.  Leslie and Francesca would become great friends and would exchange parenting stories and emails.
Reality Strikes
We picked the girls up from school, drove to Waco, and had an early supper at Chuy's.  My first time at Chuy's and I was impressed.  Good food, good service, reasonable prices.  Loved the creamy jalapeno and boom-boom sauces.  After stuffing our guts, Jones and Annie changed into their Francesca t-shirts. (Georgia had worn her's to school.)
We loaded up and made our way to Columbia Avenue Baptist Church.  VIP seating was at 5:30.  We were given our posters and put on our cool VIP pass lanyards and were shown to the front row.  I asked about the meet and greet session and was told that they weren't sure if that was going to happen, but that there would be an autograph line after the show.  My plans were already falling apart.
The concert wasn't supposed to start until 7:00.  Now we had five kids on our hands, 90 minutes to kill, plus three opening acts to get through until Francesca time.  Fortunately, I'm married to a woman who makes instant friends where ever she goes.  We met a lady and her seven-year-old daughter who had traveled from Roundrock with the same plans that we had.  The girls and moms spent the time playing and visiting with their new friends while I did my best to entertain the boys.  I was proud of the kids for their patience and good behavior.
Finally, the hour was nigh.
Concert Review
The church was a slightly smaller version of the Ryman Auditorium, my favorite concert venue. 
City Harbor, a guy and gal duo, opened the show.  Great acoustic sound accompanied by the drummer from Sidwalk Prophets playing a box with his hands and a suitcase and tamborine with foot pedals.  Their short set concluded with a great version of one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I liked them enough to by their 4 song EP after the show.  I wasn't sure what the girls thought of them at the time, but it was what Georgia and Annie wanted to listen to on repeat the next morning.
Here is their best song...
Andy Cherry was next.  I didn't like the looks of the guy when he came on stage, but by the end of the first song I was a fan.  Things got loud when he hit the stage.  I'd brought foam earplugs for the kids, but it was a little too loud for Annie and Loden.  She snuggled her hear against my chest and Leslie papoosed Loden against hers.  A one man show, he built his songs using looped guitar riffs and got the crowd involved and singing with him.  He had every one on their feet and finished his set with a roof raising version of Nothing But the Blood.
Sidewalk Prophets came on next and put on a great show.  The kids were more responsive to them since they were familiar with some of their songs from the radio.  They are a great rock-and-roll band.  Much better live and loud than they are on the radio.  I listened to their Live Like That CD all the way through today.  My favorite song is the one they opened with at the concert, Wrecking Ball.  Check it out....

Right after Sidewalk Prophets left the stage, Francesca strolled out by herself and kind of took everyone off guard.  You expect the headliner to have some big intro or something, but we looked up and there she was.  She thanked everyone for coming, then brought out her husband and they talked about World Vision and opportunities to sponsor children in third world countries.  I think this was a good time for my girls to see that Francesca was just a regular person with a husband and kids.  She left the stage and there was a 15 min intermission before her showtime.
By the time Francesca hit the stage with her band it was past bedtime for our kids, but they hung in there.  Annie and West spent most of the time in our laps.  Jones and Georgia and their new friend mostly just sat in their seats and stared with rapt attention as their favorite singer sang the favorite songs 10 feet in front of them.  She shared with the audience some personal stories about herself, her family, and some of the band members, and that it had been a stressful day personally.  Turned out that this was the 20th date on this particular tour. 
Just Frannie and her husband, Matt, while the rest of the band took a break.

Francesca and her band did a great job with every song.  Here's the last minute of "Free To Be Me".....
Reality Settles In
After the show we visited the merchandise tables and were told that Frannie was not feeling well and wouldn't be doing a welcome line or signing autographs. We did the potty shuffle and got everyone into their jammies and seatbelts and started for home around 10:45.
The kids all passed out soon after we left the parking lot and Leslie and I had 30 minutes of driving time to process things on the way home.  Whatever bitterness that had started to growing about not getting our meet and greet session melted to disappointment, then faded to understanding on our way home.  Francesca is a young mom with a son West's age and a daughter born a couple of weeks before Loden.  She'd been traveling around the country on a bus for over a month, had played in Oklahoma the night before, and would be playing another show in Indiana on Thursday.  We were dealing with the hassle of traveling 30 miles to Waco and a late bedtime for one night, while she was in the middle of a two month stretch of late nights away from home.  

I don't regret the time or money we spent taking the kids to the show.  Front and center seats were awesome.  It was a great time for all of us.  I was reminded of some things though:
Even sort of famous people are still people.
By default I'm the coolest daddy my girls have no matter what kind of tickets I can get.  They're stuck with me.
Being a mom is a hard job full of emotions that I can observe, but can't understand.
I love my wife.
My girls probably think that a $2 doughnut date before school is just as special as dinner out and a Francesca concert.

Friday, October 12, 2012


What with Pandora on my phone and a 37gigazillion mp3 player, I rarely put a CD in a player anymore.
But I found this one a while back and have been listening to it all week.  It's a mix-tape-cd that I gave to Leslie 10 years ago shortly before our engagement.
Scott Meyer said in one of his recent sermons on marriage, "Marriage isn't supposed to make you happy, it's supposed to make you holy."  Amen, Scott, but it sure is a lot more pleasant if you can have some happy too.  I've figured out that one of the keys to marital bliss is reminding myself of why I wanted to marry that girl in the first place, remembering what I was feeling when I took the time to chose a bunch of songs to put on a CD for her.
Here are a few of my favorite lines from some of those songs:

I've never been good with my thoughts and even worse with my words,
but you read like familiar poetry that I have never heard.
I wish I could tell you,
but I just can't find the words.    -from Sandra McCracken

 I've got my mind made up I've got to love you or leave you fast,
'cause I've been thinking straight but I don't know how long that will last. -from Derek Webb 

Now I know how the river feels when it reaches the sea,
and finally finds the place it was always meant to be.  -from Diamond Rio
I know you're wondering what else is on it, so here's the playlist with links to the youtubes of some of them.

Springtime Indiana- Sandra McCracken
For the Longest Time- Billy Joel
She's Always A Woman- Billy Joel
It Ain't Necessarily So- Willie Nelson
Rainbow Connection- Willie Nelson
Daring Daylight Escape- Derek Webb
Theme of Love- The Acappella Company
The Way You Make Me Feel- Michael Jackson
Now I Know How the River Feels-  Diamond Rio
Stand By Me- Ben E King
Robin and Marian- Nickle Creek
Jesus, Let Us Come to Know You- Dave Branson and Carrie Tungate

Friday, October 5, 2012

Yesterday Was A Good Day

Running down the rails last night I was thinking back over my day and was reminded of how blessed I am with my home and family.  Here's a review of my day:

I got home around 6 a.m. after a long night at work.
I spent some time with Blacker, who is recovering from her spay surgery.
Then I got to snuggle with Loden and watch him practice his smile skills after his breakfast.
Then I got to wake up my girls and fix breakfast for them.
When Leslie got home from taking Jonesy and Georgia to school it was my turn to go to bed.  Annie tucked me in.  She's the best tucker inner, snuggling, patting me, and talking about whatever comes to her mind.
I slept until 1:30, got up and had cookies and milk for breakfast/lunch.
We loaded up with the boys and went to pick Annie up from pre-school, went to HEB for gas, then to pick up Jonesy and Georgia from school.
After we got home, Georgia and Annie went with me to put gas in the pick-up and then to Walgreens to watch me get a flu shot.  They were impressed that I didn't cry.  We also purchased ice cream and candy bars to smash up for toppings for dessert.
When we got home, Leslie had to leave to go to a conference with Georgia's teacher.  No, she's not in trouble.
While Leslie was gone I fixed supper and the kids decorated our front yard for Halloween.  Jump ropes hanging from the tree, black crepe paper and orange duck tape stuck to everywhere they could get it to stick.
When Mama got home we had supper.
As we finished our meal I was ordered to go back to work.  After I got ready to leave for work we had our dessert.
I got a round of hugs and kisses before I left.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Flabbergasted- Money Stuff Part 2

First time I've ever used the word flabbergasted here on TOTP, but I was a few days ago, flabbergasted that is, as I read this article in the newspaper.
Some observations and propositions....
Observation:  It seemed that the assumption of the writer was that divorce is so normal that people should prepare for it throughout their marriage.
Proposition:  If divorce is an option on the table from the day a couple says I do.  It is more likely that someday they will opt for that option.

Observation:  The advice was to put time and effort into preparing your finances while things are stable so that when you eventually split the sheets you will be prepared.
Proposition:  If you put the same time and effort into serving your spouse and communicating together about your finances, perhaps she would still love you when you're 64.  (another t-shirt the song and artist)
Observation:  Ms. Rodgers saved $2000 in her tampon box preparing to leave her husband.
Proposition:  If she had spent half of that money good marriage counseling and the other half paying for a massage, a makeover, and a long weekend vacation seducing her husband perhaps she might still be married. 

Observation:  The article is about getting in shape financially for a divorce.
Proposition:  Divorce is far less likely if you are in shape financially prior to saying "I do" and continue to work on your financial health throughout the marriage.

Disclaimer:  I understand that everyone reading this knows people who have been through a divorce and whose suffering was compounded because they were not financially prepared.  I take issue with and grieve over the state of our culture, where financial problems are the leading cause of divorce and failed marriages are so commonplace that this sort of article has a place in the daily paper.

“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.'"
 -Jesus the Christ, Gospel of Luke ch. 14

Scott Meyer is in the middle of a series of messages on marriage.  Check them out here

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Grocery Shopping

This is a different sort of post for me.  I'd thought about writing it for a while and never did because I didn't think everyone who looks in here at TOTP would be interested.  After talking about it with my wife I've decided to go ahead.  No, it's not about anything controversial.  It's about grocery shopping and how we've learned to reduce the amount of money we spend on food.
If you cringe at words like budget and you think Dave Ramsey is a moron then you probably don't want to read this.  This may be the first in a series of posts about money.  Jesus talked about it a lot so I will too.  I've discovered over the last couple of years that, in a lost world suffering through "economic crisis", discussions that start with talk about money have lead to more opportunities for me to witness for Jesus than anything else.
Like me you've probably read plenty of other articles or seen fluffy consumer reporting on how to save money on groceries.  They usually boil down to the same things: use coupons, use a list, buy in bulk, etc, but I've discovered that those same things that can save you money can also cause your grocery bill to go up.

Coupons and "It was on sale."
Saving money can cost you more.  There is a difference in saving money and sticking to a budget.  A budget is not what you spent, it is the predetermined amount you will spend on groceries for a given time period before you go to the store. Coupons can save you money, but they can also inflate your grocery bill.  Yes, it's weird, but let me explain.  If you use a coupon for $1 off of a $5 jar of pickled pigs feet, you save 20% on your purchase, but you also spend $4 that you wouldn't have otherwise spent if your family doesn't like pork or pickles.  If you are shopping on a budget, then beware of buying something just because it is on sale.  You need to ask yourself if your family will eat it and if there is room enough in that trip's budget to buy it.  Remember, the point is not just to save money on individual items or to get a good deal, the primary goal is to lower your grocery bill so that you can stick to your predetermined grocery budget.
I use them, but I don't spend much time or worry on coupons.  I don't subscribe to any coupon service or print them online. I buy a big city Sunday paper when I can and get my coupons from there. 

Lists, Menus, and Recipes
Shopping with a list can lower your grocery bill.  Basing that list off of a projected menu might allow you to keep things under control, but is unlikely to lower your total at the register.  Basing that list off of recipes will likely increase your grocery bill.  So how do you make a list without thinking about a menu or recipes???
When making your list, base it on things you need and things you have a coupon for.  As you shop and find out what else is on sale, you can begin planning your menu based on the things you are purchasing.  If you have picky eaters in your house, you'll need to let them know that being picky is a privilege reserved for rich folks.
Begin your "rough draft" list by limiting it to staples, those things that  our household consumes every week. If you are a new at shopping with a budget, estimate the cost as well. 

I call it my base list and it might look something like this...
$6 milk x 2 gal
$6 cheese
$2 eggs
$2 bread
$2 tortillas
$6 fruit
$6 vegetables
$3 coffee
$5 cereal/oatmeal
$1 dry frijoles
$1 rice
If you are shopping with a set budgeted amount (you should), subtract this total from your budget.  Your mission will be to get as much as you can with what is left.
Below the base list, make a list based on the rest of your coupons.  Then add whatever items your family has requested.  Remember that just because it's on the list doesn't mean you have to get it.  My kids know that they can add something they want to the list, but that if I don't have a coupon or it's not on sale I won't buy it.
I go shopping with three envelopes.  (Yes, I confess that I'm a grocery nerd.) One with my coupons, one with my grocery budget cash, and an empty one. After my rough draft list is complete, I rewrite it on the empty envelope reorganizing it based on where things are in the store.  Frozen, dairy, canned, produce, etc.  As I shop I move my coupons from the coupon envelope to the list envelope.

Shop At The Grocery Store For Groceries 
Crazy concept, huh?  I think there are too many non-grocery distractions at places like Wal-Mart , they rarely have in-store sales, and often have limited selections that will limit your coupon use.  I don't have anything against Wal-Mart, but you will spend more on groceries there than you will with a purposeful trip to HEB. 
*We usually get the meal deal at HEB, but remember if your family won't eat it, then don't buy it.  
If the item you have to buy to get the free stuff is prepackaged meat, be sure to sort through the bin and check the price marked on the packagesFor example, last month if you bought pre-packaged fajita beef or chicken you could get frijoles, tortillas, cheese, Big Red, and salad for free.  The beef packages were priced from $18-$25 and the chicken packages were $9-$15.  I could get the same free stuff whether I spent $25 on beef or $9 on chicken, so I sorted through the bin to find the least expensive package of chicken that I could.
*You should never pay for salad dressing, mustard, ketchup, barbeque sauce, and soda pop.  Those items are on the meal deal or a combo-loco often enough that you should stay stocked up without ever having to pay for them.
*You should never pay full-price for bread, salsa, pre-packaged salads, cereal, or ice cream.  There are usually in-store coupons for those items.  You may not get to buy the same brand every time, but you will save money.
*You should never pay more than $1 per pound for chicken.  HEB regularly runs whole chickens on sale for 87 cents/lb, breasts for $1/lb, and drumsticks for $1/lb.  If chicken is not on sale, don't buy it.

Maybe you are one of those who think that eating all organic all the time is going to save the planet and keep you from dying.  That's fine, I enjoy growing my own vegetables and shooting my own protein, but if you insist on buying all-organic at the grocery store you need to understand that you're going to spend more on your groceries and you will still die someday.  Ask a starving kid in Tererzikistan if he would reject food because it wasn't certified as "organic" by some government agency he would look at you like you were crazy.  If  the celebrity that you trust most to give you life advice says that he only eats "orgainc" understand that he can probably afford to buy the whole store.  Understand that worrying about and shopping for good organic is a rich people problem.  If you aren't rich people, you can't afford to worry about it.  Non-organic won't kill you and perhaps you could make being "organic" one of your financial goals.

Additional Tips
*Get to know your store.  Become familiar with where things are, what "normal" prices are, where they put the sale items.
*Clean out your pantry and refrigerator before you go shopping.  It will help you see what you do and don't need to buy and will make unloading your haul less stressful.
*Don't go shopping in a hurry.  Allow yourself enough time to make smart choices.  
*Potatoes have gotten bad press in the "carbs are evil" era, but they are versatile, full of vitamins, and cheap.  The same can be said of beans, rice, carrots, and pastas.
*Mixing grocery and non-grocery shopping will cost you more money.  Don't do it!
*We get paid twice a month, so we budget twice a month.  I usually do a big grocery trip every two weeks and spend about two-thirds of our budgeted grocery cash .  When I get home, I give the remaining cash to Leslie and she uses that until the next budget cycle to buy things that might run out like milk, fruit, and bread or things that come up like Sonic cravings or something to contribute to our home group meal.

Grocery shopping alone isn't going to make or break your finances, but it can be a small victory that will help spur you on to winning with money.  When you win enough small victories in your household budget it can be like getting a raise.  So get after it and PUNCH IT IN THE FACE!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Annie and Preschool

Annie has been waiting for preschool for, at least, the past six months. The day finally came! She was extremely excited. I surprised her with a donut date before school. No problem getting up or getting ready. No crying. And No tallies or color change. She had a wonderful day and tonight by bedtime she had her lunch packed and her clothes picked out for Thursday. This evening I received this email from her teacher : I just wanted to let you know that Annie had a great day today. She is quite the mature conversationalist! :) At the end of the day, she helped me pick up the cubbies and put the nap mats on the shelf. I really enjoyed having her! Mindy.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

1 month Comparison

Loden is one month old today. Justin and I see a little of each of us and his siblings in him. Eight years ago, it didn't occur to me to have a monthly picture with each child in a monthly onesie and in the same place. That would have been good for this post, but here's some pictures of everyone at one month old. Youngest to oldest.



Saturday, August 11, 2012

2.5 Weeks With 5.0 Kids

I'd like to begin this post by saying thank you to Granola for helping us out through the last two weeks.  She is a mild mannered woman who likes peace and quiet, but she persevered through two weeks of new baby, crazy kids, and small house and gave us extra hands, clean dishes, and clean clothes with love and patience.

I have a video for those of you who have wondered what our house is like.  We don't have it all together and our children are not quiet or tidy, but they are a lot of fun.  We were in the middle of  'Take Turns Choosing Songs and Dance Hour' last night and as I looked around our house I decided that this should be documented and shared.  I love my wife for her patient strength and endurance.

Some notes before you watch.....
Loden is 2 1/2 weeks old and is pretty laid back so far.  Good for him.
West has adjusted pretty well to having a little brother and sharing his mama, but he gets mad when we make him take his fingers out of his mouth.
Annie got hit with a broom just as I started recording.  You will hear her declare that, "It was the broom's fault!"
Georgia thinks that when she dresses up in her poodle skirt she should act like a poodle (canine).  She's also wearing her Laura Engalls bonnet because they love Little House on the Prairie.
Jones is dancing with brooms and wearing leg warmers in August.  I don't know the wherefores on that one.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Loden James Brown

Loden James Brown
July 25, 2012
2:39 p.m.
8 lbs 1 oz - 19 1/2 in.
We are all home safe and sound, thankful that our family is all under the same roof once again.
I'm finding it a difficult task to come up with words to describe how full and content I feel so I think I'll do like the song says and count our many blessings .

*  Leslie has had 5 relatively problem free pregnancies and deliveries.
* Foundation Methodist Church put on a great VBS that gave the girls a fun something to do over these last few days.

*  Friends have been willing to cart our other kids around and take care of them.
* Our good friend and home group hostess, Julie, was Leslie's nurse (Loden was the first of our kids to be born at the big, scary, labyrinth that is Scott and White Hospital)
*  We have a great doctor who has delivered all five of our babies.
*  We moved here knowing no one and expecting our first child, and have since been blessed with great friendships and wonderful churches. 
*  I didn't have to fill out the presumed father or protested paternity sections of the birth certificate information paperwork.
* We have a little while to get settled at home before school starts.
*  We have over 2000 diapers stored in our garage.
*  We have an air-conditioned home, running water, and food in our pantry.

We'll post more pictures and tell more stories in the days to come.
Thank you for all of your love, encouragement, prayers, rides, Sonic drinks, visits, Facebook posts, comments, and likes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Coffee and Culture Shift

 I drink a lot of coffee.  Just regular coffee.  Not Starbucks or coffee flavored milk.  Just coffee.  I carry a thermos with me on the train and I usually fill it at the house, but sometimes I fill it at the convenience store because it's, well, convenient.  Most places just charge for the price of a refill, so I can fill up my thermos for less than $1.
Coffee has fueled America for the last 150 years or so, but lately I've noticed a shift in the culture of coffee.  With the meteoric rise of mocho-late-chinos, Monsters and Toro Rojo caffeine is still ever present, but some recent experiences have me wondering if plain ol' coffee is fading into the sunset of Americana history.

"You filled that up with coffee?", the new CEFCO clerk asked me with a look of confusion.
"What is that, like a coffee jug or something?"
"Yeah, I guess so.  It's just a thermos."
"And you can fill it up with coffee and it'll keep it hot?"
"Yeah," said I as  it occurred to me that this guy thought that he was seeing a new invention, the latest in hot beverage technology.
"So you can like, just take it where ever, and have coffee with you, huh?"
"Man, that's awesome.  I'm going to have to tell my grandpa about that.  He likes to go fishing at night.  It would be cool to be able to take some coffee with us and fish all night."
"I bet he already knows about it.  They've been around a while."

 Two weeks later .....

Another CEFCO clerk looks at my thermos with confused admiration.
"So you fill that up with coffee and you can have it to drink all night."
"And that thing keeps it hot?"
"And you just drink it out of there?"
"No, I have a cup."
"How long does it stay hot?"
"Till I drink it."
This answer confused her and concluded our transaction.

Two days later.....

4:00 am in Ft Worth.  On the way to work  we stopped at the Whataburger to get breakfast.  I ordered a breakfast combo meal.
I was handed a cup along with my orange order number thing so I went to the beverage station and soon discovered that there was no coffee to be found.  I returned to the counter and noticed that the coffee pots behind the counter were empty and cold.  The gal who had taken my order was busy talking on the drive-thru headset, so asked another guy if they had any coffee made. 
"There should be," he replied, showing no interest in finding coffee for me.
"I know there should be, but it doesn't look like there is," I said as he walked away ignoring me.
The girl finished on the headset and asked with a look of annoyance, "You want coffee?"
"Yes ma'am.  That's what I ordered," I said gesturing to the big picture of the #21 breakfast-on a-bun combo complete with a steaming cup of joe.  "And if I paid for it, I'd like to have it."
"Why do you want coffee?"
"I don't know," my frustration growing, "I just do."
"Yeah, but why do you like it?"
She had found one of those coffee urns with the pump top and was checking to see if it had any coffee left inside.
I through my hands up in frustration.  "Fine, if you don't want me to have coffee then I don't have to have it.  You can just give me some orange juice or something."
"I'd have to charge you extra."
I just sighed and said nothing.
"I just want to know why you want coffee."
"It's 4:00 in the morning.  I'm going to work.  It helps me wake up.  It tastes good, feels good, and I like it with my breakfast."
I guess my answer was satisfactory, because she pumped enough coffee out of the urn to fill my cup and handed it back to me.  I stepped away from the counter, took a sip and almost spewed it out of my mouth.  Lukewarm coffee is nasty.
I returned to the counter to find her speaking to the drive-thru mic again.  When she finished, she acknowledged me with a look of confusion as I set the cup down. "Your coffee is cold, can I just get a coke?" ........

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Random Stuff

Thank you for all of the anniversary and birthday well wishes.  It's good to have friends to share in the joys and trials of this life. 

I worked with a conductor that I'd never met a couple of days ago and he was asking me about my family.  After telling him about my kids, he told me that he had a bunch too.  He had several from different women and that he and his current girlfriend had a couple.  He had two fourteen year-olds, one that was twelve, and two six year-olds, and one that was two.  I didn't know what to say to that, so I didn't say anything.  Then he continued by saying, "...but I'd like to have one more.  You know, one that I could raise that lives with me.  Like my own personal kid."  Really???  I was speechless.  In my opinion, kids without dads in the home ranks as #2 in the list of what's wrong with this world today.

Joel T. and my mom were the winners of the T-shirt contest from the last post.  Let me know through the comments section or an e-mail if any of you would like to order a TOTP shirt of your own.  If there is enough interest I can place an order and make them available for around $10.

I'm going to be updating some things about the format of the blog next time I'm in the hotel.  Updating some of my favorite links, the layout, etc.  I was a relative late comer to the blogging world.  Most of the folks I know who had a blog have abandoned blogging in favor of facebook (I was a late comer to that too), but I still prefer blogging and TOTP will continue.  All of the cool bloggers have left Google's Blogger in favor of wordpress and others, but I'm going to stick with what I've got because I know how to use it and it makes mobile viewing easy.  Does wordpress not have that option??? 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Our 9th Anniversary

Leslie and I with Dan Scott.  Many of you have heard about him and his struggles over the last year (you can catch up here), but did you know that he officiated our wedding?  Saith Dan, "Hey, Latayne, tell them what I say about that."  And Latayne says, "Everyone he's buried is still dead, and everyone he's married is still wed."

I'd like to acknowledge upfront that I know most of the readers of this blog have been married longer than Leslie and I and probably don't need any marriage advice from us.  In fact, some of you are examples that we've looked to and said, "We want to be like them."  But I'd like to take the occasion of this anniversary to reflect on a few of the reasons I think Leslie and I are still married and still like each other.  For you readers, to perhaps encourage you in your marriage. For me, to look back on later when I need reminding, and for our children to look at someday when they're interested.
    Marriage fascinates me.  Mine, yours, and random couples I see at restaurants and the grocery store.  I confess that if I know you and you're married I've probably discussed your marriage with my wife.  But more than everyone else's we've discussed our own marriage.  Continually.  Since before we were married until now.  What's working for us and what isn't.  What we've seen in others that we'd like to emulate, and pitfalls we'd like to avoid and our plan for avoiding them.  It's like premarital counseling never stopped.  We just keep talking about it.
    No, we don't set aside time to do this.  It just happens during the course of our day to day.  "Hey, I saw this couple at the store today..." or "JoeBob and Sue decided that.." or "What would you think about...?" and we talk about it.
Language We Choose to Use and Money We Choose to Spend...
      In my line of work the divorce rate is up around 75%.Many of the guys I work with refer to their wife as "my old lady."  I resolved that I would never do that, and instead I choose to speak honorably about my wife even when she's not around.   I believe the words I choose when she's not around affect my words and actions when she is around.
    We don't say mine or your's very much.  Leslie hasn't had earned reportable income in almost 8 years, but we get OUR paycheck on the 1st and 15th of each month, and budget OUR money together.  I run the locomotives, but it's her work and willingness that makes my work, and therefore our income, possible.
    And speaking of money......  Getting rid of debt, having a budget and a plan (thanks FPU) reduces marriage strain.  We can't afford everything we might want and we have a pile of kids in a relatively small house, but we don't fight or stress about money, statistically the #1 leading cause of wrecked marriages.  (You can read a great article on the big four marriage issues by clicking HERE.) 

A Bunch of Kids, the Digital Age, and Dating
    When you have two kids and a bump showing the world that the third is on the way you start hearing things like "Don't you know what causes that?" and "What, you don't have cable?"  We are expecting the arrival of our 5th child next month, and we've been hearing those comments over and over for the last 5 years.  My responses are always the same...."We like what causes that.  Don't you?", and "No, we don't have cable." 
    I won't discuss our sex life here (you're welcome, Leslie), but I will talk about cable.  I believe that TV and video games cause brain and culture rot and suck vast amounts of time from people's lives.  I don't like video games so that's not an issue for us, but I do like TV and movies.  But since the conversion to all digital over the air broadcasting, we don't even get a TV signal in our home since we still have an old style TV.  We do have a DVD player, Netflix, and Hulu.  Yes, we still watch stuff, but in our home all of our viewing is intentional.  There's no channel surfing for hours since we don't have channels.  If we choose to watch something we know how long we are choosing to sit and allow our brains to rot before we ever click play.  That leaves lots more time for talking and making raising our babies.
    Couples are encouraged in books and magazines to have a regular date night.  Get a babysitter and go to a movie once a week.  I think that's a great idea, and lots of people we know do this, but we don't.  It's just too hard to plan with my job and too expensive.  Maybe we're weird, but when we go out on the town we enjoy having our children with us. And I'd rather watch a movie at home than at a theater.  That way I don't end up paying for a nap, we can push pause to go potty, and  I can wear my luckypants and let my belly flop.  We do try to take a kid free trip every year or two and once in a while things work out for just the two of us to go out, but for now date nights just aren't for us.

Reason #1
    The numero uno reason we are still married is that I caught a good wife.  Or maybe she caught me.  Or maybe, like Merle Haggard once sang, we're still chasing each other.**free Time of the Preacher t-shirt to whoever can name the song I'm referring to and post the lyrics of the chorus in a comment** Leslie is nice to me and is patient and forgiving of my faults.  She laughs at my jokes.  Sometimes even before I tell her to.  She doesn't nag, doesn't "give me permission" or "forbid" me to do things.  She makes me want to do the best I can for her.

    In honor of our anniversary I'd like to share one of my all-time favorite songs, performed by two of my favorite artists.  And for all of you with young children, you should get Jewel's new kid's album, "The Merry Goes Round".  It's good stuff.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

40 days and 40 nights

It's been a good long while since my last post.
Wherefore this blog is as much for my children to read about this season of our life someday in the future when they're old enough to appreciate it as much as it is for me to share what's going on and what I'm thinking with the handful of you that are still subscribing, I'd like to recap what we've been doing for the last 40 days.  A lot of you have probably seen pictures on facebook, but here's the narrative to go along with the pictures.

I only worked one day between May 19th and June 10th.  That was the longest break from the railroad that I've had in over 8 years.  It was a time of refreshing, travel, and fun with family and friends.  We had a great time, but probably won't be able to make Leslie's tattoo payment this month.

My mom came to visit and celebrate the end of the school year with Georgia's graduation from Kindergarten and Jonesy's 1st grade awards ceremony.
 It was touch and go the last 6 weeks, but Georgia did graduate and is officially a first grader.

On Thursday (May 24) after our celebration lunch at Bush's Chicken, Annie, West, Blacker, and Justin traveled with Mimi to San Angelo while the other girls stayed at home to finish their end of school year activities.
Hank and Auntie Sheila rendezvoused with us in San Angelo for some good sibling and cousin time.

This is Annie trying on a flower girl dress and a picture of Sheila wearing the same dress in the mid-80's.

Leslie and the other girls arrived on Saturday.  Jazbo came home on Sunday after a fishing adventure.  Leslie and the kids went home on Monday for one more day of school and Dad and I prepped for our trip to the coast.
We departed on Tuesday (May 29) morning bound for a salty sea adventure.  We had arranged a guided fishing trip with Capt. Jack on Wednesday.  He is a retired firefighter who worked under my Granddad at the fire department in Odessa years ago.  He now works as a guide out of Rockport. It was a fun day of fishing that was different from anything that we had ever done before.  We caught speckled trout, limits of redfish among other sea creatures, and watched dolphins throughout the day.  You can see some videos from our day in the sidebar.  One of my favorite parts of the day was hearing Capt. Jack speak so highly of my Grandad and his servant leadership as his fire chief.

Leslie and the kids arrived that afternoon and we spent the next few days on the beach in Port Aransas.  More fishing, sand, and surf.  Lots of good food. 

On the way home we stayed a night in San Antonio and celebrated West's 2nd birthday with some of Leslie's cousins.  Dinner on the River Walk and swimming at the hotel pool.  We traveled home on Sunday after shopping and more good eats in San Marcos.

After a day of recovery on Monday, I returned to work on Tuesday, but only worked the one day and didn't go back until the next Monday.

On Thursday(June 7) I traveled to the 5th annual Guys I Went to College With weekend at an undisclosed location.  3 days and nights of good times, good food, talking about memories and making new ones.  No pictures available.  I didn't take any.

I've been back at work for a week now.  Loden is due to arrive in a few more weeks.  Life is good.  Amen.

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