Sunday, July 31, 2011

75 Miles by Rob

Yesterday morning I woke up at around 5:45 and rode 75 miles. Joel's bike is nice and lightweight, though I didn't get quite as much of an overall average speed boost from it as I had hoped for. I think that was also because I was pacing myself a bit more for the longer ride.

Here is a brief log of how the ride went:
  • Starting Out
    • Woke good spirits ready to conquer the world
    • Coated myself in sunscreen and hit the road
    • Started to get used to the bike, especially the different shifters than I am used to
    • Noticed that there were lots of dried corn husks/leaves at random places on the country roads. This was a running theme throughout the ride. It must have been corn harvest day or something.
  • 10 miles
    • I remembered which house had the scabby-eyed mangy mutt that chased me on my last ride and I bumped up my speed as I approached. The mongrel darted out of the bushes in the yard and tried to chase me down but he couldn't keep up. Next time maybe I'll bring some pepper spray and teach old Grendel a lesson.
    • There's a half-mile patch of gravel on one of the back roads that I take. The road bike did not do very well on it.
  • 25 miles
    • Made it to Bonham, stopped at The Skotnik's to refill my bottles, kiss my babies, and stretch.
    • Vision blurred from constant sweat pouring into eyes and getting under contact lenses and dripping all over sunglasses
    • Multi-tool fell apart (luckily I didn't need to use it, but the constant rattling of the pieces in my saddle bag was annoying)
  • 45 miles
    • Wind from the south was a nuisance
    • Stopped at a gas station in Whitewright to refill my bottles and stretch.
    • My gloves were completely saturated with sweat and starting to chafe my skin
    • Constant pressing on handlebars made my hands and wrists sore
    • My shoulder started to ache from constant leaning forward
  • 65 miles
    • Stopped in back at home, refilled one bottle, stretched, and then headed back out for a 10-mile trip around "the block" to finish up my goal.
    • Muscles started getting somewhat crampy, becoming much more sensitive to bunchy-flexing such as when I stand on the bike to power up a hill
    • My shoulder and neck were getting worse, needing to be stretched and swiveled around every mile or so
  • 75 miles
    • I rule!
    • Treated myself to a delicious chocolate malt protein shake.
I know there was a lot of stuff in there that sounded like I was miserable but I actually did keep a positive outlook the whole time. I think I'll move my aero bars onto Joel's bike. It'll be good just to have a different position to sit with and to give my hands a rest since it shifts more weight to my elbows.

The rest of the daylight hours on Saturday were spent shopping for mattresses for Zoë and Jude's soon-to-be-delivered bunk bed and eating a late lunch/early dinner at Panera. Back at home we had some adult beverages and watched "Live Free or Die Hard", starring my man-crush. Obviously, the best way to watch such a movie is under the influence, and we had a good time making fun of it. Our favorite part was when the bad guys put on FBI outfits and stormed the central control for the Eastern power grid. They got out of the helicopter and the men at the power grid immediately started telling them "No, no, no, this is a restricted area, you're not allowed to be here" and then promptly got killed by the bad guys. We were wondering what was the point of them wearing outfits that said "FBI" if they were just going to shoot the workers at the grid right after they landed there. They then went down to a control room and there was a guy in front of a control panel (who looked to me like the dad from "Family Matters" that was in the first two "Die Hard" movies) swiveled around in his chair saying "hey, you can't come down here" and then got shot. It was just so sudden and the guy had such an attitude that we had to go back and watch it several times. We started adding our own content to the scene: "Ain't no FBI-wearin' EBG (evil bad guy) with a BPV (bullet proof vest) gonna' bust in on me eatin' my KFC!" and so on...

Today we had a nice breakfast which Gabrielle made while I slept it off. Pumpkin pancakes! We went to The Skotnik's for late lunch/dinner and now we're back home. It was a very nice weekend.

  • Lots of reading and discussing of 7 habits with Gabrielle.
  • We read a book about the human body with Zoë, and I learned some things.
Diet and Exercise:
  • I rested today after yesterday's huge ride.
  • I indulged a bit more than usual, not going overboard...well...except for maybe tonight when I ate all the ice cream that the kids didn't finish. Sometimes I feel like I have to be the clean-up crew when the kids don't eat something that I know is good. "What, you're not going to finish that? Well, I'd hate to see it go to waste..." Bad habit!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Tower by Rob

Twisting to position the radio
Day three of my battle with The Tower and I have finally prevailed.  Although The Tower stands at 50 feet tall and dominates the sky above my house, I stand taller in my victory (you know, like, metaphorically speaking and stuff?).  My hands are calloused from wrangling frayed wire.  My sweat has dried, leaving me feeling soiled and smelling a bit sour.  My spirits, however, are high, and my internet connection is strong.

I had Gabrielle use her telephoto lens to look up at the tower's lights for me to see how many bars of reception it was getting.  While she was out there, she also shot a few candid pictures of me at work.

I also prepared the borrowed bike for my ride tomorrow.  I'm planning on going 75 miles.  I'll tell you how that went tomorrow night.
Lots of lights = good reception
  • My iPod is busted, so no podcasts were heard.  :(
  • I programmed at work for a while, which was good.
  • I learned how to use a presta valve to inflate a fancy bike tire.

Diet and Exercise
  • I rested today to prepare for my ride tomorrow, if you could call hauling a huge heavy telescoping metal pole up 50' resting.
  • Dinner was fish.  Yummy and healthy.

Return of the Internet by Rob

I had to take down my internet antenna tower last week so that the roofers and gutter guys could do their thing.  Once they finished I was ready to raise the 50' tower, but I found that the nice fellows who had taken it down decided that in order to do a proper job of it that they needed to disconnect every single guide wire connection, let the wires and the wire clamps fall where they may.  I have four sets of four wires, meaning 32 connection points.  I had to make a wooden mounting point to get the pole attached to the house, since I couldn't connect directly to the fascia board anymore due to the gutters.  I then had to attach the pole to the house, sort out the wires and decide which ones go where since they are different lengths, attach new eye screws to the front house for the ground connections, and then connect all thirty-freaking-two points.  I haven't really raised the antenna yet since I need a second set of eyes (Gabrielle's) to help me to raise it.  There's a hole at the top of the bottom segment which I can't watch myself as I raise the pole, and if I pull the pole up too much it will completely pull out of the bottom segment and I'll be standing there holding it freestyle-wise as it leans this way and that and tries to slip out of my hands and come crashing down on us in a nightmare of cables and pole and gutter destruction and "Oh, the humanity"!  It has consumed the better part of two evenings, and will probably take another hour of my life.  What's weird is that I have the antenna turned on and it's raised about 12' above the roof mounting point right now and it's already getting 3 out of 4 bars of reception.  "Look, ma', I's on da' internets!"  I think I'm overdoing it with this 50' pole business, but hey, my internet connection deserves the best.  To add insult to injury, I had to skip my planned Wednesday bike ride during which I was going to familiarize myself with Joel's sweet road bike.

In other news, Gabrielle is rearranging and organizing the kids' rooms.  What a mess!  I just ordered a $180 Wal-Mart bunk bed for Zoë and Jude, which will be here next week.  That's going to replace the king-size mattress which is currently dominating the space in their room.  We'll go get mattresses and bed sheets for them tomorrow.  Claire has the pips.  I need sleep now.

  • I can't even count the number of programming, science, and skeptic podcasts I've listened to the last two days, during my workout and antenna raising.
Diet and Exercise:
  • I swear I'm working out less often but I feel like I'm getting more muscle mass.  Maybe what they say about resting is actually true.
  • I got up early for the first time in who-knows-how-long today and did a leg workout.  It felt good!
  • Yesterday's workout was wrangling that freaking antenna.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Home Sweet Home by Rob

I didn't write in The Grafrath Family Journal yesterday because the day was so jam-packed that I didn't get to sleep until 1am.  Briar and especially Scout decided that they were going to be whiny babies on the car ride, and we took a total of about six or seven rest stops, which is way more than usual.  Overall it was a somewhat unpleasant ride back.  Once we got to Sherman, however, we stopped at Cheddar's for dinner since I had a gift card for $50 and as bad as the car ride was, the restaurant experience was just the opposite.  The family was relaxed and happy.  Before dinner we played "telephone" and looked at the fish, during dinner the kids ate their food really well and the service was great.  My fish tacos were freaking scrumptious and Gabrielle loved her steak and shrimp.  Briar and Scout enjoyed edamame as their side dish instead of french fries, Jude shared Gabrielle's steak and shrimp and she ate it all, and Zoë had a burger.  We wentt home and the kids had baths while I unloaded the van.  After that we put the babies to bed and then for some reason Gabrielle and I had an impromptu acting/pantomime session with Zoë and Jude.  Good times were had by all.

Returning to work was as I expected, a bunch of stuff piled up and waiting for me, mixed in with the daily fires.  I worked through lunch and left at 4:30 so I could go to the gym while Gabrielle brought the kids to swimming and gymnastics.  Tonight we started reading The 7 Habits of Happy Kids to the girls, which we plan to do nightly until we get through the whole book.  We talked about it and acted out scenarios to drive home some examples and tried to get them all to understand the principle being taught, but I'm not sure that Briar and Scout are old enough to really understand.  We're working on our family dynamic and we're really trying to get everyone to communicate with each other more effectively and less confrontationally.  Tonight's lesson was about taking responsibility for your own actions.  The basic way that the book put it was when you're bored it's up to you to find something to do, and it's not everyone else's fault.  We expanded on the concept and acted out examples of ways that you can react to something bad that happens in a positive, proactive way.  After that we had another pantomime session, and now everyone is fast asleep except for me because I feel this need to keep writing stuff in The Journal.

  • Yesterday Gabrille and I read 7 habits on the road back to Texas for hours.
  • Today was the 7 habits for kids stuff, and I also listened to two episodes of "Deep Fried Bytes" podcast for programmers, about 2 hours.
  • I listened to an iTunesU recording of "Introduction to Algorythms" by MIT, but I probably won't continue with the series because without watching the video I'm missing some essential content.  The professor would write some pseudo code on the chalkboard and say "so, this is a basic merge sort" and I'm left in the dark.  If you have time to sit and watch videos and you want to take some free college courses from the best universities in the country, check out iTunesU.  If you want to listen to something educational and informative, then it often falls short, although I have found a couple of good collections.  Namely "What Great Bosses Know" by The Poynter Institute and "Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders" by Stanford.
Diet and Exercise:
  • I didn't hold back yesterday at Cheddar's.  Fried fish tacos with creamy spicy sauce and cole slaw are not good for you, but oh-my-goodness-gracious, they are good.  I also ate some peanut butter cup ice cream with nummy toppings like Reese's Pieces after I got home, which is also indulgent, but gosh dang it I was so glad to be home I felt like indulging a little.  Today I got back in the groove of eating what I should, though.
  • Yesterday was a day of rest, but today I had about a 2-hour workout, concentrating on upper-body but also doing some cardio and then stretching in the sauna.  I did "homework", including push-ups and pull-ups.  I haven't had a good long workout like that for at least a week so it felt good.  It's funny how this habit stuff works.  I really felt a strong, itchy urge to get in the gym and pump some iron.  I was tired most of the day from only getting about 6 hours of sleep but once I got my workout clothes on I was energized, and even after leaving the gym I still felt that urge, thus the "homework".

Monday, July 25, 2011

Visiting the Challacomb's by Rob

Day three in Kansas and we spent most of the day visiting Gabrielle's cousin Natalie's family.  Gabrielle brought Natalie some homeschool supplies and wooden puzzles that our kids outgrew.  I brought my famous Greek-style salad and some brownies.  They prepared a delicious lunch of Ceviche with an avocado/mango topping and some sort of mozzarella/tomato/red pepper salad which I forget the name of.  There was also some spiral pasta for the kids, since kids never seem to have the distinguished palate necessary to appreciate the sort of refined things that adults do.  Getting them to eat the brownies later, of course, was not quite as challenging.

Natalie's husband Joel and I then went mountain biking at his favorite trail.  On the way and on the trail we got to spend some quality talking about lots of stuff, like Dave Ramsey, work, homeschool, alcohol, religion, and, most of all, biking.  Joel is a more experienced biker than I am, so I got him to share some of his experience with me.  The trail we rode had multiple routes, all marked with signs signifying their difficulty level, which include green circle, blue square, and black diamond, just like ski slopes.  The green trails are basically kids stuff.  The blue trails were mostly what I'm used to; curvy and hilly with bumpy roots, trees, and some rocks.  There was an occasional huge, steep rock to climb, which I had no prior experience with.  One of them sent me tumbling sideways as my pedal bottomed-out on the rock.  I only got some minor scratches.  It was nothing like my wipe out three weeks ago when I fell hard onto my right shoulder.  I still hurt from that one.  He took me on a short black diamond trail to show me what it was like, and it's essentially constant climbing and descending of very large, steep rocks.  Very "technical", as Joel put it.  I'm definitely going to need more experience before I can tackle that sort of trail with confidence; I had to take my foot out of the stirrup and haul the bike up the rocks several times.  I got some tips on how to do it like a man and stay on the bike, but part of that is having the shoes that clip into the pedals so that you can use your body's momentum to sort of lift the back of the bike up the rock using your legs and feet.

When we got back to the Challacombs' house Joel and I enjoyed some decadent warmed-up brownies with ice cream.  Joel is letting me borrow his old road bike for my century ride coming up soon, which was totally cool of him.  It's a very high quality bike, probably weighing less than half of what my current street-rigged mountain bike does.  I can't wait to take it out for a spin.

While Joel and I were out doing man stuff, the women-folk were talking about homeschooling and whatever else women talk about.  Our kids seemed to play together well, so all-in-all it was a very pleasant visit.

After all that we went to Gabrielle's parents' house to chat on the front porch while the kids played with their cousins past nightfall.  Archie gave me a nice toolbox that he was no longer in need of and I fixed a squeak in Phyliss' bike.  We swung by Taco Bell for a late night snack, went back to Robert and Amanda's house, and now everyone except for me is in bed and I'm writing a really long blog post.  Dang, I should stop!  I have to drive home tomorrow, so I need some sleep.

  • Again, with no real free time between all the day's events I didn't fulfil this goal very well.  On the other hand, I did learn a lot from Joel, so maybe that counts.
Diet and Exercise:
  • Brownies, ice cream, and Taco Bell:  bad for you
  • All the other stuff I had today:  good for you
  • Biking!  I don't know how long we were on the trail, but it was good enough for a light workout.  Yeah, you would think with as challenging as it was at times that I would have worn myself out, but it wasn't as physically challenging as it was "technically" challenging.  As I have noted before, I almost always run out of time before I run out of energy.  I could have kept going for much longer, but we had to head back.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Visiting the Snyders by Rob

Day two in Kansas started with Gabrielle going to do a photo shoot and me taking Emma and Mable for a jog.  We had lunch at Mr. Goodcents, which is another one of our favorite Kansas-only restaurants.  Then it was over to The Denson's to play around on the inflatable water slide.  I joined the kids in the water and good times were had by all.  I swung in a hammock with Briar and Scout after they decided that they were done in the water and we sang songs and relaxed together.  Quality time!

I contacted Chris and Brandon via text message and though Chris' house was under renovation and thus out-of-bounds for kids, Brandon and Christine were able to have us over to their place.  We slipped naturally into easy and entertaining conversation while our kids played together.  It was great to see Brandon again after who-knows-how-long.  Christine recently got a new job and they were talking about moving to a new apartment complex soon.  We talked about diet and exercise, learning web design, and parenting stuff like how hard it is to get your kids to eat what you serve them.

The last time I saw Calvin I think he was just a few months old, and now he's a year and a half, so he's walking around and "talking" up a storm.  It's crazy how quickly they change.  He definitely looks like Brandon, only with fewer teeth and a bit more drool.  By the time we left the entire front of his shirt was soaked.  I was happy to see how well my girls played with him since he's so much younger.  Perhaps an arranged marriage is in their future?

  • It was such a busy day with so much socialization and running from place to place that I didn't have time to do anything educational.  I did try reading my Dynamic HTML book while Gabrielle was at her photo shoot but the kids were too distracting for me to sink my mental teeth into anything.  It's OK, I'm on vacation.
Diet and Exercise:
  • Ran Emma and Mable, 30 min
  • Started out my day with The Breakfast of Champions:  cold pizza.  I only had a 4" sub at Mr. Goodcents and later had some salad.  I haven't been perfect but for being on vacation I've been pretty good.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Kansas Trip by Rob

We spent the first 9 hours of the day on the road.  Briar and Scout weren't really that bad, considering their age.  We showed up in Kansas and picked up Zoë and Jude at Grandma and Grandpa Derington's house.  It's great to have Zoë and Jude back in the family.  We could tell that Zoë wasn't ready to say goodbye, especially to Olivia and Calvin, and after we showed up it only took her a little while before she started crying.  Not whiny-crying, but genuine sorrow.  She loves her cousins so much and she always has a hard time leaving Kansas.  It's funny how Jude, in contrast, takes it all in stride.

Dinner at Pizza Shoppe...I mean "Old Shawnee Pizza" was superb.  That restaurant will always have a special place in our hearts, because it's where Gabrielle and I had our first date and also their pizza is freaking delicious.  I walked with Zoë and Jude from Robert and Amanda's house to Sunfresh...I mean "Price Chopper", to pick up some stuff.

  • Read and discussed 7 habits with Gabrielle for hours in the car.
Diet and Exercise:
  • Elliptical and some weights:  35 min.  I used the "sprinting" program, but it wasn't challenging enough for my tastes.
  • Road trips can be difficult for a person who doesn't want to eat a bunch of fatty, sugary, high-calorie foods.  I did pretty good.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dial-Up Internet by Rob

Oh, my goodness, life without a constant internet connection?!  We had to have the roofers take down our monster 50' internet tower so that they could put the roof on the back house and also so that the gutter people who will be coming next week can put gutters on it.  That means no high-speed internet for at least a week.  So, how am I posting this message?  Why, dial-up internet, of course!  Retro!  I missed putting up a post last night since I couldn't get my old modem to work for my desktop.  I'm using my laptop's built-in modem now.  It's all worth it, though, because our new black asphalt 30-year roof looks sharp!!  They even used black pipes for the furnace and water heater vents.  Sharp!!

Gabrielle used the elliptical for the first time yesterday and she loved it.  I used it today and I must say it is a quality piece of machinery.  I plan to use it again tomorrow morning before we hit the road for Kansas.  Things have been pretty off-beat around here without Zoë and Jude, and we'll finally be reunited as a family after over a week apart tomorrow.

  • Yesterday:  Podcasted 45 min, read 7 habits with Gabrielle 30 min
  • Today:  Podcasted 45 min, picked through Dynamic HTML book and decided to take it with me to Kansas, and I expect to read either that or 7 habits after I post this.
Diet & Exercise:
  • Yesterday:  30 min leg resistance workout during lunch
  • Today:  30 min elliptical workout
  • My waistline has been in good shape so I treated myself to my last frozen Reese's Brownie which I saved from my binge day a month ago.  I served it warm with some peanut butter cup ice cream, Reese's hard shell, Reese's peanut butter syrup, and some peanut butter on the spoon.  Oh, YES!  Decadence in moderation is heavenly.  The anticipation, the moment, the memory.  I think I'll cook up another batch for my birthday to celebrate riding my century next month.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Roof, New Elliptical by Rob

It's late so I'm not going to write as much as I have been recently.  I'll just share the major events of the day.

We had hail damage so the insurance company paid for a new roof.  They worked on it all day.  They're not done, so they'll be back tomorrow to finish the job.

We finally bought that new elliptical today.  Gabrielle picked it up when I was at work and we dragged it in and put it together tonight.  That's why it's so late.  I like the machine, though it's completely dominating my bedroom.

  • Science/tech podcasts while I worked out:  1 hr 30 min
Diet and Exercise:
  • Weight is good, circumference is good, food choices have been good.  I'm on a roll.
  • I had a nice 1 hr 30 min workout today.  It felt good.  It seems like forever since I have had a long gym workout.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Budget vs. Quality by Rob

Today's topic will be the debate between buying quality products rather than budget products.  You may or may not know this about me, but I'm a tight-wad.  I am extremely adverse to debt and I will stretch my money as far as I can.  For example, I will soon reach the 200K mile mark in my 1997 Saturn.  I'll drive it until it explodes.  It becomes a very difficult decision for me to make when I must decide whether buying a particular "budget" product which may end up costing me more money than a more expensive and higher quality product.  Sometimes I know going into the purchase that my specific desires can only be met by the features offered by a higher-end product, and those are easy enough purchases to make.  My HD camcorder, for example, was expensive but I knew what I wanted and I was willing to pay an appropriate price for it.  Today I was faced with three more difficult product choices:
  1. Sunglasses: I bought some $15 sport sunglasses for biking from Wal-Mart because the $20 sunglasses from Target that I got a year or so ago are starting to flake and peel.  On my first ride they broke.  I'll be returning those pieces of junk.  We have been in several sports equipment stores looking for ellipticals in the last week and I have seen their sunglasses, then their prices, and then I ran away.  Gabrielle remembered getting some quality sunglasses from Sam's Club before so we checked it out.  I got a solid-feeling aluminum framed pair of sports glasses for $36, which is still a high price for me, but low enough that I did not soil myself.  The tiny emblem on front of the glasses says "VEZA" which is supposed to make them sound like they're from a really cool company, but they're really just Member's Mark, which is the store brand.  I predict that the ROI on them will be high, but perhaps a month from now I'll be cursing myself for not buying Oakley's.
  2. Ellipticals:  You can spend anywhere from $200 to $4000.  Do you want something that's going to fall apart the first time you use it or a gym-quality machine which will outlive your grandchildren?  There are so many levels in between, and so many mixed reviews of all of them.  It was a very difficult decision to make, but we have finally settled on the Nordic Track 990 PRO, from Sears.  It just seems like the best bang-for-your buck, and we like the way it moves.
  3. Bed sheets:  Thread count?  What?  So, this one is made out of 200 threads and this one is made out of 400 threads...but this one's made out of 600 threads!  Ooooh!  That's 200 whole threads more than the 400 thread model!  Well, let's analyze the average price-per-thread and decide what threadyness we should choose.  Ugh!  I would not have been shopping for them if our old sheets didn't have a huge rip under my feet.  Gabrielle thinks it's because we skimped on the thread count and/or bought the Target store brand when we got them.  I think maybe it's because I have scrappy toenails or something.  Nevertheless here we are with an expensive new bed sheet set.  Maybe $70 isn't expensive to you but personally I don't give a flip whether my cotton comes from Egypt.  Oh well, I guess the theory is that these will last longer than the previous set and maybe with more threads they'll withstand my snaggle-toes.

Today's education:
  • Wiki-surfed again, learned a lot more about Belize than I previously did:  30 min
  • We went shopping and I got called into an "incident" resolution so I wasn't able to do an hour of education today.  FAIL!
Today's exercise and diet:
  • It was a day of rest.  Grow, muscles, grow...enjoy your reprieve, for soon you shall BURN!!
  • Diet - so/so

Monday, July 18, 2011

Taking a Chill Pill by Gabrielle

In the endeavor to better ourselves, Rob and I have taken up reading "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People". While reading this book, I've had to confront one glaring bad habit that I do often enough that it bothers me. I like to debate and I have very strong opinions about almost every topic, but I hate to argue. The hitch here is that I find some conversations will turn into arguments because I and/or the person I am speaking to raises my and/or their voice, we start talking over each other, and inevitably the conversation gets heated. It's a frustrating problem for myself and I am sure for those involved in the conversation with me. I now realize that I can have an opinion on an issue, be able to discuss it in a level-headed manner, and make my points without letting the discussion get out of hand. That way I know in my mind that I handled the situation as best as I could have.

Oh, I know I can lie and tell myself, "It's passion. I cannot help but be passionate," or "If I don't get fired up about it, I look like I don't care," but those are merely excuses and I've actually used them before to defend my behavior. It takes a stronger person to stay in control. Losing control only shows weakness in my ability to focus my emotions and discussion technique. Sometimes I've dug my heels so far in, I won't give up for fear of looking weak or giving off the vibes that I am not strong in my convictions. I feel this need to keep fighting because maybe if I fight hard enough the other person will give up. I could end it all, but I want to win and I'm willing to be wrong to do it. Though this doesn't happen all the time, I feel awful when it does so I would prefer that it NEVER happens and that it is not even an option for me.

I can absolutely be dedicated to something without getting riled up. I witness this in every discussion Rob has. He takes a firm stance on many issues, but is able to get his point across in a clear and concise manner. Guess what? Most people that have had the very lovely opportunity to talk to Rob one-on-one find that he is very articulate and makes powerful arguments, even when he is on the opposite side of the spectrum. He does it without aggression and does not even need to raise his voice. Rob speaks and people listen. If Rob, a mere mortal, can do it then there is no reason I cannot.

Don't get me wrong, it's not as if I walk around picking fights with everyone I don't agree with. I can have plenty of lighthearted discussions, or even heavy-duty ones, and they are absolutely splendid. But on the occasions where I'm losing control of my emotions, those are the ones I get upset about. After all is said and done, I'm mad and hurt and pulling at straws trying to place the blame. This never happens with conversations where I stay in control. In fact, those conversations are always so refreshing. The irony is: by controlling my emotions/attitude I am taking control of the conversation. I can make it or break it with my reactions.

These are some of the common behaviors which I often come to regret:
  • I raise my voice
  • I get angry
  • my "feelings" get hurt
  • I'm focusing on what I should say next and not listening as I should be
  • I start looking for somewhere to place the blame
  • I go through the argument over and over in my head
  • I tell myself that the other person reeled me in so they essentially caused me to react the way in which I did
I acknowledge these faults and want to change them.

I want to be an inspiration and light for those who may not be willing to talk about their views, but want a voice. I feel that I can be that person, but I have to be able to follow a different "script" than I currently use. I've decided I will control my voice and my arguments. I will listen to everyone involved in the conversation. I don't want to be such a harsh critic of others' views. I am literally choosing to be frustrated if I'm frustrated. I'm letting it bug me. When I'm upset after an argument, it's just my guilt about the way that I behaved during the argument that manifests itself as me putting the blame onto those I was talking to, or even going so far as to blame Rob for not jumping in the conversation and saving me. When I look back, I see that is what is happening. I need to accept that sometimes it's worth stopping and at least taking a few beats before blurting out the first thing that comes to my mind and gesticulating all over the place. Possibly even something as simple as shutting my yap would do just fine.

There are more issues I've come across in my behaviors that I want to change and possibly write about, but right now I wanted to focus on this one. It's an important goal for me. In the future, I want to speak out more on issues that are important to my heart and not only share my opinion with others, but to educate in a manner that allows people to listen and speak freely without getting riled up. I want to become the person who I aspire to be and one of the ways to do that is to employ this technique in my marriage (because Rob truly deserves only the best), with my children, and utilize it in all my discussions on politics, religion, ethics, or whatever happens to be the topic of the day. I am in control of me. That's it. I might fall back a few times along the journey, but I feel I can conquer and destroy this bad habit completely. If I can walk away with my opinions, emotions, and conscience intact after a discussion, then I did my job. Heck, I might even learn something. We all have things we want to change about ourselves and the only way to do it is to do it.

Taking Interest by Rob

I had a very eventful day today.  I got up and rode 25 miles, basically to Tom Bean and back.  I then took Briar and Scout to the local water playground, while Gabrielle stayed at home to work on pictures from her recent photo shoot.  Despite the oppressive 100-degree heat we really did have a lot of daddy-daughters quality time.  The water playground is sort of like a bunch of sprinklers and stuff spraying water all over, but there's not a pool.  It's good, safe fun...until a kid decides he's going to run all over the place and slips and falls and gets a concussion.  Not saying that happened, just saying it probably has, many times.  Before we played in the water I brought them for a "carriage ride", which means they rode in a bike trailer that I towed around the paved park trail a few times.  After the water park we went and played on the regular playground, mostly on the 4-way bouncy animal thing.  We took turns being the shark, the frog, the whale, and the elephant.  Usually the shark was the bad guy, but sometimes he would denounce his wicked ways and be nice to the other animals.  After spending all day in the sun it was nice to get back home and take a shower.  We all went down to a mall in Frisco and tried out some more ellipticals, then had an incredible dinner at at On the Border.

The moral of the story is that Gabrielle vocalized something that I have known about myself for a long time and wanted to do something about but never really did.  I need to become involved and interested in my children's lives, in more ways than routine logistics and maintenance. What that means is that I spend plenty of time doing things like brushing teeth, telling them to eat their food, taking them to karate class, lecturing them on how to behave and why, and resolving their immediate issues, but very little time actually connecting to them in a personal way.  I do play with them, but that's often on my own terms, such as tossing them around during our "dancing in the dark".  I admit I haven't shown much interest in hearing about what their "My Little Pony" and their "La La Loopsy" dolls are up to.  So, here comes my new resolution:  show more interest in the things that my kids are interested in, and participate with them in more personal ways.

Today's education:
  • Read 7 habits with Gabrielle in the car, 45 min
  • Wiki-surfed, 30 min, learned a lot about the sport of rowing.
Today's diet and exercise:
  • As previously mentioned, rode 25 miles, plus several laps around the park for "carriage rides"
  • Allowed myself a bit of decadence with our dinner at the restaurant, but didn't go overboard.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday by Rob

First Gabrielle and I got up (the twins were at Chanti's) and went for a baby photo shoot.  Standard stuff.  Next we shared a 6-inch Subway sammich and then went to Sears where we tried out some of their Nordic Track ellipticals, which were nice, but I was really hoping to try out that Schwinn I saw online.  We moved on to shopping at Wal-Mart, got me a new pair of cheap sunglasses.  We went to Chanti's, had dinner, argued with Joe about strip clubs, and went home.  Sorry I didn't invest more time into this post but I have to go to sleep, since I'm waking up early to go on another long bike ride.

Today's education:
  • Read 7 habits with Gabrielle in the car:  1 hr
  • Listened to management podcast:  15 min
  • Wiki-surfed, learned about Zionism:  30 min
Today's diet and exercise:
  • Ate healthy
  • Light workout: 15 min

Haircut by Rob

Gabrielle just cut my hair.  She has been doing it ever since we were dating, and she has gotten much better at it since then.  I remember one particular haircut experience when she forgot to shave the hairline in the back above my neck.  Good times.  Anyways, in the last month I have started using "hair product" to get that teased/messy look.  I guess I started doing it around the time of my photo shoot.  She has been suggesting it for years and I always dismissed it as pretty-boy sissy stuff, and said I don't like having crud in my hair all day or that hard crunchy feeling, which I am sure comes from repressed memories of middle school hairspray.  So, I put a bit of styling gel stuff in it, mess it up a little bit, and I like it.  She likes it, too.

Today's education:
  • I find that a self-improvement-centric mindset of always trying to do the right thing and make good decisions based on a firm foundation of sound principles blends into every area of my life.  Everyone has an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, so you know what I'm talking about.  I mention that because today I wrote a very clean little class in C#.  I could have done it quick-n-dirty but I knew that the right thing to do was to take a bit more time to think about what I was doing and why, and then to make an object rather than a bunch of strung-together procedural code.  I don't know how long I spent on it but I was so pleased with my end product I am going to consider that my self-education achievement for today.
  • I also listened to some podcasts while driving and working out, of course.
Today's diet and exercise:
  • Another successful day of good food choices.
  • Hit the gym after work:  1 hr
  • We shopped for an elliptical at Academy Sports and on Amazon.  The main issue is space, but I think we can work it into our bedroom with a little furniture rearrangement.  We didn't buy one but I had my eye on a $400 model that felt just about right to me.  There's also a $600 Schwinn on Amazon that has a whole hell of a lot of 4- and 5-star ratings.  The only problem is I want to actually use it for a minute to get the feel of the thing before I buy it, and you can't do that online.  Maybe we'll find the model in a store somewhere.

Friday, July 15, 2011

"When I Grow Up..." by Gabrielle

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher. I literally would take my worksheets from school and lay them out in rows and columns on my bedroom floor, pretending they were on desks. The "students" would have ten minutes to finish their work. I'd pick up the papers and grade them. Then we'd go outside for recess. I'd watch over the schoolyard, yell at the misbehaving children, and have nice conversations with the teacher's pet. At the end of recess I would blow my whistle and yell, "Time to line-up!" (Blowing the whistle was my favorite part. Oh, the power that little whistle yielded.) I even had a chalkboard in my room. Hanging from two thumbtacks, every time I wrote on the chalkboard it would bang against the wall. Sometimes, when my students were really misbehaving or not paying attention or talking too much, I would purposefully write just a little harder and a little faster so the chalkboard would bang even more, all the while raising my voice as I gave instructions. That would always get the students' attention.

When I was an adult, I thought for sure I'd never be a teacher. Yet, here I am homeschooling my girls. Life takes you in directions you never thought possible. After we had Zoë and Jude, we read about homeschooling and once we educated ourselves with tons of information about it, there was no going back. I was going to homeschool my children. So, with my chalkboard firmly secured to our Grafrath School for Gifted Girls classroom wall, I am able to have a nice little schoolhouse complete with school desks, chairs, worksheets, and now even school lunches (see here). Though I am lacking a whistle. Hmm, maybe I should purchase one...nah.

I'm always in the mood to try something new when it comes to photography. Lucky for me I have four beautiful daughters that all love to model for me. I combined that with the fact that they are constantly thinking about what they want to be when they grow up, and I came up with a fun photo session where we'd act out what they wanted to be when they grow up (click on the photos to see a larger version):

-Zoë: The Scientist. She has wanted to be a scientist for a while now. She can do it too. She loves math and science. She has a curiosity to know how stuff works, and why it works like that. She will even listen to long lectures, given by Rob and/or me, about life/ethics/morals/science-y stuff. I'm really trying to have her (and all my children) focus on critical thinking and not just accepting what others tell you. Do the research for yourself, then come to a conclusion. In the last year, she has taken that and run with it and I'm proud to say she is following the path of skepticism just like her mom and dad.

-Jude: The Author. This has been a recent development. For a really long time she has told me she wanted to have kids and be a stay-at-home/homeschooling mom. She was content with that idea, until she realized she loves to write. Lately she's been writing children's books for the twins and she does an outstanding job in storytelling. We are amazed with not only her artwork, but the process of her creating a story without any help from Rob or me. On her own she came to the conclusion that she can still be a homeschool mom and also be an author.

-Briar Rose: The Doctor. Briar is fascinated with the human body. She loves to look at Claire's "Human Body" posters in the massage room at her office. Claire also has a book with real human skeletons and muscles and whatnot that Briar will look at, flipping through the pages with much interest. She is not disgusted by it nor does she make fun of it like some kids would because they're uncomfortable. This interest and her being able to look at these pictures and not be grossed out really makes me think she will truly have a career in the medical profession. All three of my sisters are nurses and my mom is phlebotomist and Claire is a massage therapist, so I wouldn't be surprised at all. She's held onto this idea for awhile, so I hope she keeps it up.

-Scout Finch: The Ballerina. This is the one oddball of the group. Scout has never taken a ballet class in her life because there aren't any "dedicated" ballerina schools in this area. The closest one is about 45 minutes away. For as long as we live where we do, she will probably never have an opportunity to take a ballet class which makes me wonder why she is chose ballerina and why she's been clinging to it for the past couple of months. I think I'll ask her right now why she chose it. Hold on...Okay, I'm back. She said, "Because I'll get to be pretty." Good enough for me.

I want to add that soon I will be writing a little "Behind the Scenes" entry about how this photo session went. All the trials, the tribulations, and the fact that it is nearly impossible for me to keep 4 little girls from messing up their hair.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Without Zoë or Jude by Rob

It's pretty weird having it be just us and the babies in the house.  Grandma and Grandpa took Zoë and Jude to Kansas for the week, as I mentioned yesterday.  It didn't take long for Gabrielle to get a case of half-empty-nest-syndrome.  She called me up at work and we met at El Chico for lunch with Briar and Scout, then she went shopping and spoiled them and herself (as much spoilage as can be done at Ross).  When they got home Gabrielle and Briar started saying they didn't feel good, so Gabrielle took a good long nap and Briar flopped and complained.  Once Gabrielle woke up she felt a bit better so we danced in the, that's not innuendo, it's when we turn down the lights, turn up some dance music, and have a family fun exercise and dance party.  Everybody had a good time, and now it's time for bed.  G'night!

Today's education:
  • "Deep Fried Bytes" programmer talk podcast while Gabrielle slept and I fixed myself some sauteed onions, green peppers, and mushrooms to store in the fridge and pull out any time I want for making yummy and healthy omelets: 2hrs
Today's diet and exercise:
  • I ate all the right foods, avoided all the wrong foods, and prepared some future delicious snacks and meals.  I like to be able to grab tasty and low-or-no calorie snacks when I get the munchies, so I make sure there's always a variety of that sort of thing handy.  Egg beaters + salsa + a little dab of light sour cream + a little pepper jack cheese + a whole lot of those pre-cooked veggies I mentioned earlier = YUMMY!  I also made some sugar-free cherry Jello using Coke Zero, which is a new experimental treat that I'm looking forward to trying tomorrow.  Gabrielle cut, peeled, and washed a bunch of carrots and celery for me, which are the two most perfect raw snacking veggies I can imagine.
  • As I previously mentioned, exercise was dancing in the dark:  30 min.

6 - 2 = 4 by Gabrielle

Man, it's weird not having Zoë and Jude in the house. I love all my girls so much and I am unbelievably used to living day-to-day 24-7 with four girls running around and me interacting, playing, "podcasting" (these are when Zoë I have very long talks about things philosophical), and refereeing the occasional fight. My parents came down yesterday to pick up Zoë and Jude and bring them back to Kansas to stay for a little over a week. I know they are going to have a terrific time, and that they'll love every second of seeing their uncles, aunts, grandparents, and cousins. I think the week will be harder for me than it will be on Zoë and Jude (this is their first time being so far away from home). My mom has lots planned so they'll stay nice and busy. But, as you can imagine, my heart was happy but heavy when I had to wave bye to them as they drove with my mom and dad up to Kansas.

My mom called and they arrived in Kansas in the evening. She said the ride went really well and that Zoë and Jude did excellent on the over 8 hour drive; they didn't complain and there was no fighting. My heart swells with pride because I know that trip is not an easy one for an 8 and 6 year old. They even did it without a DVD player to keep them company. Rock on, Zoë and Jude, and keep up the good behavior! Love you.

I'm feeling a little under the weather right now and Briar has a fever, so who knows what tomorrow will bring. Claire is supposed to pick up Briar and Scout so Rob and I can have some "alone" time, so let's hope I get over this little sick thing, and quick!

In-Laws! by Rob

I know, what a negative connotation to put as the title. Well I only have good things to say about them so if you were hoping to read some good ol' fashioned in-law bashing then you're going to be disappointed.

Today Archie and Phyl drove down from Kansas to stay the night and pick up Zoë and Jude. They're going to bring our big girls back with them to stay for a week. That's going to be weird, having just the twins at home, but it's going to be a good experience for the big girls. They'll really get to know Grandma and Grandpa Derington, and they'll get to hang out with Calvin and Olivia a lot.

Take a look at what time I'm posting this. Yeah, we've been talking all night. I really appreciate that we were able to have a long, in-depth conversation about a very sensitive subject for most people: religion. I am happy to say that we were all able to communicate our feelings and beliefs openly, with love and understanding. I enjoy having open-minded conversations about religion and philosophy, but I don't like to be pushy with my beliefs, so for the most part I don't bring it up unless I'm asked. That's an open invitation for anyone that has a few hours to spare.

Today's education:
  • Programming/Techie podcast: 30 min
  • Registered for the COMPASS assessment test online, as a prerequisite to my college enrollment. My test date is 8/1.
  • Browsed the Grayson County College Fall 2011 courses. I don't know how my transferred credits will fall in line with my degree program so I can't really make any serious decisions. It's still fun to look, though.
  • Looked up book prices for some of my prospective courses. I looked on the GCC library web site and then I looked on Amazon at their used book prices. Yeah, I think I'd rather spend 1/2 price or less by buying through Amazon, thank you very much.
Today's diet and exercise:
  • I'll admit that I made some bad food choices (muffin, doughnut, candy drawer). It's weird how bad choices can snowball. Here's how the mental dialog goes: "Ah, screw it, I already had a muffin, might as well have a doughnut...well now I'm really overboard, I guess some of this candy isn't going to hurt". Moral of the story: if you allow yourself a "cheat", stop at one!
  • Bike ride: 50 min

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

True or False? by Gabrielle

Recently I decided to do something I hadn't done in a very long time: wear false eyelashes. The last time I wore false eyelashes, I was the maid of honor in my sister's wedding. When I saw her walking down the aisle, I could feel the tear drops a-bubbling and a-brewing and at that point the realization hit me that I not only had to worry about the fact that I was going to start crying, but I also had to worry about messing up the glue for the false eyelashes. It's bad enough to have mascara running down your face, but how embarrassing to blink and have these spidery creatures falling from your eyes as you cry. It was a stress I should've been without, so it left a bad impression on me. I didn't think they were worth the hassle.

The other day, I was on and came across some beautiful false eyelashes. I thought I'd give them another whack since I don't commonly find myself in situations where I'm emotional and on the verge of crying at any given point. That would be my rule number one for false eyelashes: do not wear them if there is even the slightest possible chance you will cry that day.

As I perused the eye lashes on Sephora, I made sure to look at the photo reviews. You would not believe how massively big some of these false eyelashes can be. I personally do not like the look of the ridiculously huge and/or feathery (literally with feathers) eyelashes unless you're wearing them as some sort of costume. They weigh down the eyelid and somehow make the eye itself seem dwarfed when compared to the massive over-sized lashes. The lashes should be a compliment to your eyes and make-up, not the other way around. Your eyes are the star of the show!

I chose the Genevieve lashes (click on my photos in this entry to see them up close). I find them beautiful and long, but they don't steal the show, they are merely an accent to the overall look of the eyes. They are a bit on the pricey side, $15. You can find them here. The next time I go to Sally's Beauty Supply, I'll check out their selection and see if the quality and price are noticeably different.

Something I noted after receiving the lashes and wearing them: keep the eye make-up simple. The first day I wore the eyelashes I did blue eyeshadow. Even though I thought it looked good, it was an extremely dramatic look which I know most people don't prefer on themselves, especially when trying something new. A simple light brown/khaki color eye-makeup is an easy way to bring out the eyes without being too overtly flashy.

As far as how they wear, hmmm. I can see how these would drive most women crazy if they had to wear them all day. I wear mascara and eye make-up everyday, so I never rub my eyes and am not bothered much with being uncomfortable for the sake of the art of make-up. So remember, you're using GLUE on your eyelids and you are adding length and weight to them. There is a noticeable feel throughout the entire day and every time you blink. This is probably not worth it for most ladies out there.

To help the false lashes look less unnaturally noticeable, I put a light coat of mascara onto my real lashes before I put on the false ones so they blend in. Otherwise, my naturally brown lashes stand out when compared to the looming black lashes on top of them. Use eyeliner along the lash line of your eyelid to help the false lashes blend with your real ones. You can tell where the lashes start and stop otherwise.

Something else to think about: every time you put them on, you also put more wear onto them. Between having to use glue (the glue on top of glue makes for shabby looking lashes, so be sure to take off as much old glue as you can without damaging the lashes) and putting them on and pulling them off, they can start to look pretty run down. You also want to avoid getting them wet. I rinsed my lashes off and they lost a bit of their smooth lash look; they look a little chaotic upon close inspection.

Lining up the lashes can be frustrating, too. Since they are so noticeable, if they are off in the slightest, you will look like you have a case of the crookedy eye. You don't want to go for that look, trust me. Getting them lined up just right on both eyes is very frustrating and can be time consuming. One day I had one set of lashes laying down just slightly more than on the other eye, so I had to remove the one laying too far down and re-glue it so I didn't look like I was constantly half-winking.

I've decided I love the look of the false lashes, but they are not an everyday item in my arsenal. They are strictly for special occasions in this house, except those in which I might shed a tear or two.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Independence From Clutter by Gabrielle

I know it's been over a week since the Fourth, but I wanted to talk about how Rob and I spent our Independence Day. We spent the evening cleaning house, and I don't mean this in a complainy-annoyed voice. I actually am ecstatic we did it. Nothing like being productive when you least expect it. What started as something as simple as looking for iron pills, led us down a path of organization.

As we searched for the iron pills, we came across many expired and unnecessary vitamins and medicines that were in our kitchen cabinet as well as our bathroom medicine cabinet. Clearing out all the expired and unwanted pills, and realizing we needed to keep these in a central location (they now reside in the bathroom cabinet), we were talking about what to do with the empty space left in the kitchen cabinet. After discussing about how wonderfully terrific it felt to get rid of the crap we didn't need and how we were finding things we didn't even know we had because it was all cluttered together with expired/unwanted stuff, we said simultaneously, "THE JUNK DRAWER!" With huge smiles on our faces and double high fives, Rob and I got to work.

I went through the junk drawer while Rob cleaned out the laundry room. I got rid of pens and sharpies that didn't work, threw away little pencils, and sharpened the pencils that needed to be. Once Rob cleared out the laundry, he was able to take things out of our kitchen pantry that weren't food items (napkins, paper towels) and store them in the laundry cabinets.

Next, Rob started on the cabinets above the microwave/stove and above the refrigerator. We found enough birthday candles to last at least until the twins are 16 and plenty of lighters/matches to light them with. I cleaned out the kitchen cabinet full of coloring books, which would cause an avalanche every time you opened it. I got rid of books that were tattered and torn and stored the books that were colored on every page. (On a side note: I must admit, I keep all my girls' papers, school and whatnot tidbits they do, in bins. Since I homeschool and I'm in charge of their education and progress, I feel that obligation. Once a bin is full, we store it in the shed and out of sight.)

Rob then cleared the pantry of all non-food items and made room for the food/water bottles/pop on the fridge or kitchen island shelves that we had to store outside the pantry because we didn't have room inside. All food stuffs are in the pantry and hidden by our beautiful pantry door. Even my coffee and various syrups are stored in the pantry and not next to my coffeepot because there is no reason to leave them out on the countertop. We even got to take the portable drawers we had used in the pantry and put them in the schoolhouse since they were no longer needed in the pantry.

We still have extra room in cabinets and the pantry and I hope it stays that way. One of the many things Rob and I agree on is: we don't like clutter. It felt so good seeing what we have. I encourage you to just take a bit of time one weekend and clean out the medicine cabinet(s)...I guarantee you won't stop there. I highly recommend, if you're married, that you do this with your spouse. It's a terrific activity to do with a loved one. Rob and I enjoyed working together and problem solving. It was quite empowering to get rid of the things we DIDN'T need to reveal the things we DO need.

Old Transcripts by Rob

I'm well on my way to attending classes at Grayson County College.  Today I dropped off my old college transcripts, which was a humbling experience.  Let's just say I've grown up a lot in the last 12 years, and I won't be repeating the mistakes of my past.  Thankfully they were able to accept the passing grades in my math and philosophy classes to cover the math and reading prerequisites, so I only have to take the entrance exam for writing, which will obviously be cake.  I did actually have quite a few decent grades which will transfer, which is exciting.  Moral of the story: if you're going to do the college thing, really do it and don't try to coast through it and mess around with it like I did when I was a kid (yes, recent high school graduates are still kids in my book).  Either you do it or you don't.  I should have not done it, since I obviously wasn't mature enough to handle it on my own.

Now it's time to join Joe and J.P., playing Champions Online.  Yes, I still treat myself to a few hours of video game time every two weeks.  I'm also treating myself to some rum and coke w/creme de cacao.  So yummy, so yummy, there's a party in my tummy!

Today's education:
  • Science and computer podcasts while driving and working out:  1+ hrs
  • Dropped off my transcripts!
Today's diet and exercise:
  • I measured my waist and weighed in, and I compared vs. my yearly goal chart where I kept track of my month-to-month progress.  I have decided that my ideal weight is currently under 160 lbs and my ideal gut diameter is under 32 inches.  As long as I can keep that up I'm good.  Of course, if I bulk up the muscle and keep the waist down then I'll add to the max weight, but I'm sort of plateaued so I don't expect that to happen to quickly.
  • Worked out after work for 1 hr 30 min
  • Did a few homework exercises, curls and chin ups.
  • Snacked all day, no big meals really.  Lunch was a salad, dinner was a hearty protein shake.  The key is to not get hungry and not to stuff yourself.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Big Ol' Salad by Rob

We had a late dinner today, as we do on most karate nights. I bought a 3-lb bag of iceberg lettuce mix from Sam's Club and suggested we throw together a classic ranch salad. I can't explain what it is about soups and salads, but they're the two foods that our kids will all consistently eat. On this salad we had cucumbers, red onions, hard-boiled eggs, breaded chicken, ham slices, sesame seeds, crunchy salad topping stuff, Bacos, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, croutons, and ranch dressing. I remembered later that we could have added black olives, celery, and carrots, but decided that it was loaded enough. Well, that was three hours ago and I'm still stuffed. YUM!

Also in the news today: I forgot that they were having a canned food drive at work and that I could wear shorts if I brought in a can. My coworkers all thought it was quite funny since I had been the one to kindly remind them all via email about it last Friday. It's going on all week so I'm bringing four cans of mandarin oranges tomorrow. Yeah, that's right, I'm not tossing out my old lima beans (those I'm saving for a special occasion); the poor and hungry deserve sweet treats, too! One more thought: on jeans days and shorts days they never explicitly tell us that our shoes and shirts are also allowed to be casual. Perhaps there's a catch there so they leave themselves a handy excuse to fire someone for nonconformity to dress code. Hmmm...

Today's education:
  • Not much time for that, what with work and then karate and going to the store! At least I listened to entrepreneurial and managerial podcasts when I was working out and driving, probably for a total of 1 hr 30 min.
  • Read 7 Habits while on the pot, 10-15 min (oh, how time flies)
Today's diet and exercise:
  • Worked out over lunch: 40 min
  • Homework: push-ups and triceps free weight lifts
  • Weighed in at 158. I decided today that my "target weight" of 155 is just too low, and doesn't take into account muscle gain and the minor fluctuations due to water and waste weight. I plan on raising my upper-bound weight limit to 160, and then using the tape measure around my gut to get a better gauge of my real goal, which is to remain thin. I don't know what my target circumference is yet, but I'll decide soon. It occurs to me that some days I may have more waste and gas in my belly, which would throw off the measurement, but I think that the combination of weight and tape is a better barometer than weight alone.

School Lunches by Gabrielle

There's just too much to talk about. Oh, the possibilities! Well, I guess for my first entry in the "Grafrath Family Journal" I shall cover the topic of school lunches in a home school environment.

The other day at Target, Briar and Scout happened to see lunch pails in one of the aisles we were shopping in. After I told them what they were used for, the excitement of bringing lunch to school was starting to build. It hit me: they really truly think that bringing lunch to school would be an awesome and cool activity! Hmmm, just another way to make school exciting.

Needless to say, I did not purchase the lunch pails, but instead did a trial run of using Hello Kitty/Littlest Pet Shop/misc. bags we had lying around the house. Each one of my four girls (and I) picked out a bag and wrote our names on them in permanent marker. I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Zoë, Scout, and Briar, while the Jude opted for the turkey like her mom. Also included in the lunches were chips, apples, pudding, and CapriSun, except for Zoë who opted for milk, and the teacher (me) chose Coke Zero.

Let me stop here and say that our school house is actually a separate little house in our backyard and though it's easy enough to say, "Let's go in the front house to get a snack," we don't do it. We normally eat before school, have snacks during school while we work (we have a microwave and a mini-fridge in the school house), and then have dinner or snacks afterwords depending on what time we get out.

Today was the last day of my school lunch trial and I have come to the conclusion that it pays to have a packed lunch. Having the assigned break for school lunch has not only given the girls something to look forward to, but has actually helped us be a bit more driven during the school day. We cannot have lunch until the twins' school is complete. Zoë and Jude get to look forward to watching a video during the lunch break (usually one relating to whatever the twins are studying in their Kindergarten class. This week, it's "Pets"), so they bust moves to get as much school work done on their own as possible while I school the pips. So I say, "Success!"

By the way, I just ordered the Grafrath School for Gifted Girls five lunch pails: one for me and one for each of the girls. Amazon has a really great deal, the four-for-three promotion. I knew they did this for some books, but had no idea they do it on other items. I bought four of these and got one of them free: There are tons of designs to choose from.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Joe's Birthday by Rob

Today we celebrated Joe's birthday. We actually forgot about it, so we weren't as ready for it as we should have been, and when we showed up at the Skotnik's and he was there we felt kind of bad. Gabrielle would have made a cake, but John had already bought one anyways so it worked out OK. I'm going to mail him a check for his car tint and also a calendar of my muscle-man pictures. We took some shots of rum, played Rock Band, Mario Kart, and Super Smash Brothers.

Today's education:
  • Read Learning Java, 15 min
  • Read 7 Habits with Gabrielle, 45 min
  • Programmed/Designed a bad cell phone program for work, 2 hrs.
Today's diet and exercise:
  • I weighed in at 155 so I allowed myself to enjoy cake and ice cream at Joe's party. I tried not go go overboard with the food, drink, and dessert.
  • I didn't exercise today. My body needed a day of rest after yesterday's strenuous ride.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

60 mile ride by Rob

I planned on riding 50 miles, from my house to the Skotniks and back again, but I added 10 more just because I wanted to be able to say I rode over half a century. I'm going to keep training like this to prepare for my Red River Rally century ride on August 13, my birfday. Judging by my performance today I don't think it's going to be a problem. The worst part was the soreness in my lower back. I think the dead lifts yesterday were a bad idea. Live and learn.

One interesting discovery today is that after taking a rest to drink some water and stretch a bit I find that when I start riding again I have significantly more muscle burn and fatigue for about 5 minutes or so, but then I start getting back in the groove and I can push through it. I guess my muscles go into cool-down mode during the break and it takes a while to wake them up. For that reason I think I'm going to try to take fewer get-off-the-bike breaks and more on-the-bike stretches, easing up on my pace for a bit, but not stopping.

After I got home we went to take some pics at the Checkpoint Chickee studio (aka Claire's office) and I wasn't able to keep my eyes open so I tried to take a nap. I may have slept for 15-20 min. Naps are hard for me to get into, especially if I'm not at home in bed and there are things going on around me. We're getting ready to watch movies and have some drinky-drinks.

Today's education:
  • Read Learning Java for 20 min
  • Added some sweet functionality to FileQuery and FileCompare, over 1 hr. My new "Make Split Files by Key" button is going to make things so much easier when splitting up a file by record type at work.
  • I learned that the easy way to get the ASCII character set value for a char data type is simply to cast it as an int. It's too easy!
char c = 'A';
int i = (int)c; // i takes on the value 65

Today's diet and exercise:
  • Biked 60 miles, avg speed 15.3mph, 4 hrs riding time, 45 min resting time
  • I weighed in at 157 this morning before the ride but 153 after the ride, so I get to have dessert and alcohol. SWEET! I'm curious if that's 100% water weight loss or if fat burn happens real-time. I always kind of thought it was a long-term metabolism-related thing. Maybe I'll look that up.
  • I just received my new pre-workout supplement, Muscle Marinade. I used it today and it didn't make me crap my pants so I think it'll work. I'm not sure if it helped or not, to tell you the truth, but it didn't mess me up or anything.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Golden Corral by Rob

Lee surprised us by inviting the IT/IS department out for a company-sponsored lunch at Golden Corral. It's only a block down the road so I walked there with Jason Marshall. We talked about he and his wife's diet and exercise plan; they're on a crazy super-calorie-restrictive diet. I've always preferred the more normal "common sense" diet strategy, but "to each their own" I say. I appreciate any effort that anyone takes to better themselves. We had received notice that Jason McGinty was resigning, which was a major disappointment, so perhaps Lee wanted to cheer us up.

Gabrielle and I watched the first half of The Tillman Story, a movie about that NFL football star that got killed in Iraq in 2004. It's a fairly good movie and we'll finish it tomorrow. My favorite part so far was his brother's eulogy; very heartfelt and very unapologetically straightforward. You'll have to watch it to see what I mean.

I've got to go to bed at a good time, since I'm waking up early to go on a 50-mile bike ride to John and Claire's house in Bonham and back.

Today's education:
  • Listened to Herding Code podcast, 45min. Learned about the Fiddler tool used for HTTP proxy testing, so you can see all the traffic coming to and from a web page/browser and dissect/analyze it in various ways that I don't come even close to understanding (yet).
  • Read Learning Java, 1 hr. I'm excited about the error handling. All classes are required to define all possible exceptions that they can return, so there's no guesswork in handling them. I learned that the similarities between Java and JavaScript are that they're named similarly, and that's about it. Yeah, they're totally, completely different beasts.
  • Gossiped with Aaron about new cellular RNA research which has allowed scientists to make one type of cell behave as if it were another type of cell. I didn't "get it" all but it was crazy-interesting. 20 min
Today's exercise and diet:
  • Woke up good and early, 5:30am, 5 min warm-up, 35 min full-body workout including dead lifts, followed by 10 min of elliptical and 10 min of swimming. I love the buzz my body gets from the dead lifts and the open-breathing feeling I get from the swimming, so it was a nice start to the day. I treat myself to a decadent protein shake on Fridays, too: chocolate peanut butter banana with some crushed Reeses cereal and honey roasted peanuts mixed in. NOM!
  • Weighed in at 158, so I'm 3 lbs over my target. I have to wonder how much of that is water, how much is "waste", how much is muscle, and how much is fat. Oh, well! My target weight of 155 still stands. On days when I weigh over 155 I don't allow myself any dessert, heavy/big meals, or alcohol.
  • I was a good boy at the Golden Corral, which can be difficult! I ate a nice spinach salad with light vinaigrette dressing, grilled chicken, and some fixin's in moderation. My second plate was mostly steamed veggies and some baked fish, with a couple of pieces of Thai Coconut chicken (breaded - the least healthy part of the meal).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Blog Begins by Rob

I don't know what the first post of a new blog should look like, so I'm just going to ramble. I guess that's going to be par for the course, so follow along if you are interested in ramblings and ruminations. My general idea for the blog is that I want to keep a public journal of my daily thoughts, concentrating on my daily progress for my yearly goals. This year I'm educating myself, and I am going to spend at least an hour every day on the task. I am also in "maintenance mode" for my previous yearly goal of daily diet and exercise.

I need to remember to keep these posts short! Yeah, I have a problem with brevity. I like to write!

Today's education:
  • Listened to programming podcasts while I worked out and in the car. 1 hr 30 min
  • Discussed new internet domain extensions with Nick, and the entrepreneurial endeavor that he is considering to sell setup and maintenance services for companies interested in their own domain extension. 20 min
  • Tooled around with Blogger: 45 min
Today's exercise and diet:
  • Weighed in at 158
  • Ate very light meals
  • Woke up at 5:45, worked out for 45 min, biceps and upper back
  • Homework: curls and pull-ups
Other positivity:
  • Finished making first aid kits for our home and cars
  • Discussed our department's goals, culture, mission, future, principles, and direction with my programmers during their biweekly 1-on-1's