The Halls Head West – Part Three

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The Mission San Luis Rey grounds feature an area that the friars used to bathe and to wash their clothes.

First, the brothers would descend this expansive stairway.

This would lead them to a aqueduct-fed bathing area. Yes, those are goldfish crackers in the bottom left of the photo (historic/beloved food of kids ministries everywhere).

Water would pour out of the gargoyle’s mouth. Mmm, tasty!

Another view of the area.

Heading back towards the Mission, we saw:

The oldest pepper tree in California.

The pepper tree is through the archway, to the right.

We then walked through the graveyard.

The Franciscan Burial Crypt. Let’s get closer!

Locked and barred to keep Lara Croft from doing any tomb raiding.

Loved the metal work on the crypt gate.

Our trip to Mission San Luis Rey was amazing. I enjoyed how peaceful the Mission and the grounds were. Also love that this is still a working Mission used for theological studies.

King of the Missions, indeed.

The Halls Head West – Part Two

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After Disneyland, our trip was a bit more low-key. We had a chance to see my Grandma (who I hadn’t seen in two years), play some Dutch Blitz with my Mom’s family, and even go bowling.

My mom won both games. That seemed to be a theme throughout our visit no matter what we played.

Tab and Wyatt studied California History this past year. So we went and visited Mission San Luis Rey. As someone who holds a degree in History-Political Science, I was super impressed with the mission’s museum.

A sheep skin hymn book.

The door from Walt Disney’s Zorro.

A letter from President Lincoln giving the Church their land back.

After touring the museum, we headed outside to walk the grounds.

If you missed Part One, click here

For Part Three, click here

The Halls Head West – Part One

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Had a good visit with my parents last week. Hadn’t seen them in two years! Was nice to visit them in Southern California, enjoy the weather, and tour some of the local sites.

Our plane flight, out of Gregg County, was a bit bumpy. Our pilot had to dodge thunderstorms while flying into Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW).

View outside the plane as we took off from Longview, Texas.

Nothing like a little turbulence as we flew around thunderstorms.

We eventually landed at DFW and made our way to our second flight. The flight boarded but we had to sit in the plane as a second wave of thunderstorms made its way into the area. Tab and I caught up on much needed sleep (we were so excited that we hadn’t slept the night before).

Fun Fact: When lightening hits near the airport, a clock starts a countdown to an all clear (so much time has to go by). Apparently airport workers cannot work out on the tarmac when lightening has struck nearby. Safety first!

Landed in San Diego without incident. Loved flying on what appeared to be a new Airbus! Tab and I watched Netflix’s The Highwaymen, with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, on the flight. Super good movie about two former Texas Rangers hunting down Bonnie and Clyde. We had about 30 minutes till the end of the movie when our plane landed. Can’t wait to finish this film.

My parents picked us up in San Diego. The weather was cool, cloudy, and drizzling. Such a relief from the 80 degree humid weather we’ve been having in East Texas.

We made our way over to Old Town San Diego, ate lunch, and toured around.

I can’t imagine traveling in a wagon like this. Talk about back issues!

While there, we walked into Seeley Stables (which was pretty amazing and free). Came across some old gaming machines… something that one rarely sees in a museum. I was impressed.

THE JUDGE!

THE OWL!

Rolling history.

After a bit of walking around, we braved the traffic and headed to my parents house.

The next day, we woke up and headed to Anaheim. Spent the day at Disneyland. Wyatt loved it (his first trip) and we all walked quite a bit.

I do not have a ton of pictures from Disneyland. We spent the day being in the moment and absorbing the magic of Walt’s original park.

Highlight of our day was Wyatt getting to meet Darth Vader. Wyatt tried to pledge allegiance to him… and Lord Vader seemed pleased. He told Wyatt that when he was of age that Wyatt would make a great recruit for the Imperial Army. I’m taking this as a parenting win!

Click here for Part Two

Adventures in Odyssey will help me discuss puberty with my son

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Jimmy Barclay was going through changes. Or as Mr. Whittaker put it, he was going through “adolescence”. Jimmy was growing up. He noticed that:

  • His voice was changing
  • He was angry at people for no reason at all
  • He was in love, with Connie Kendall

So flat. So boring. Captive audience on an 8 hour drive.

So flat. So boring. Captive audience on an 8 hour drive.

As we listened to “Coming of Age”, an episode of Adventures in Odyssey, Tabitha and I laughed. There is something surreal about listening to an episode on puberty with your seven-year-old in the car. We were driving home from vacation. The boy was in the backseat, running a high fever, and had no clue about what was plaguing Jimmy.

I told Tabitha that when Wyatt starts to go through puberty, I am going to make him listen to this episode. Odyssey can explain everything. Poof! An awkward conversation bites the dust. Who wants to talk to their parents about changes anyways?

Let this be a lesson to all parents: Media is a fantastic substitute for all major life conversations.

This important lesson is provided to you by JohnnyBGamer, tongue-in-cheek.

Back Home

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Finally back home after a much needed vacation. Loved having time to spend with family, enjoy the So-Cal weather, and even bump into a friend from high school in the airport bathroom–go figure–. Also played a bunch of Hearthstone while I was away (not sure what to think of it). Anywho, I’m back and ready to get blogging. Pictures incoming.

The Great Secret

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I dislike it when I have to keep quiet about something that is exciting. So here it goes, my wife and I are buying our first home!

Now, this isn’t just any old home. No, this is the home that has sheltered my wife’s family for decades. The house has no doubt seen many storms of both the physical and emotional; the house has no doubt been a place of great joy and deep sorrow. As we anxiously await the finalization of appraisal, survey, and other loose ends, my wife and I can only dream about our future in our very own home. To say that we are excited is to try and contain an enormous amount of energy in something that was never meant to store it. We are ready to put our own mark on the house and make it our home.

A Worthless Journey

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” What happens though when the journey is beautiful but mundane and the destination turns out to be a complete waste of time?

This past weekend I journeyed through the lands of Journey on the PS3. When all was said and done, I had no clue what had just happened or what I had just played. So, I took to Wikipedia to make sense of my experience. The Wikipedia entry only confirmed my suspicions that not much had just happened. To further illustrate this, the following is a quote from the developer’s web site:

Journey is an interactive parable, an anonymous online adventure to experience a person’s life passage and their intersections with other’s.

I can admit that I thought it was cool to travel across the desert, plunge into the dark depths of despair, and finally rise above a wintry landscape onto the mountaintop of hope. What I disliked about the game was it’s stark simplicity. The interactions with other players, while nice, especially in the dark depths, were pointless. Beyond the amazing stylized graphics and tight game play, the narrative journey of Journey fell short to me. If Journey was a movie, I’d be asking for my $15 back.

Weekend Trip: Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park

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This past Saturday (6/30), one of my good friends was visiting his inlaws in Dallas. So, I loaded up the family and met up with him for lunch at the Twisted Root Burger Company (hadn’t seen him in 5 years!). Lunch was fantastic! The food was great and I really enjoyed getting to visit with Andy and having the opportunity to meet his wife for the second time.

After lunch, we said goodbye to Andy and his wife and headed on over to Fair Park. After an almost 2 and a half hour drive from Longview, I figured we’d stretch our legs a bit and visit the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park.

Who knew there was a Hall street in Dallas? I didn’t.

The Texas Star Ferris wheel. The largest Ferris wheel in North America, of course.

A fountain in Fair Park was apparently calling my son’s name. Thankfully, he did not heed that call. Not that I would have blamed him with the 100 degree heat.

All of the aquarium’s displays were at toddler level. This meant my son could engage the aquatic life on his own terms.

This guy was pretty cool looking!

Whenever we’d go to any lake in Arizona or Nevada as a kid, my Dad would always joke about snapping turtles. Guess what, they do exist in Texas!

Behold!

This Alligator Snapping Turtle had his own ecosystem on his back.

Hello.

As you can tell, I loved this guy. Just check out those claws!

I end with a symbiotic relationship that certainly must “suck”. Get it?

Overall, the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park is a fun way to spend an hour or two. They also have an excellent sting ray pool where you can feed and pet the wondrous monsters as they glide by. I enjoyed putting my hands in the tank, barely moving them, and being swarmed by sting rays! I don’t remember the sting ray exhibit at Sea World ever being this good.

Kickstarter: For God Took Him

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Back in 2004, I had the privilege of working for The Walt Disney Travel Company. During our 5 weeks of training, I quickly became good friends with my one of my co-workers, a guy named Steve. Fast forward to 2012, Steve and I have managed to keep up through the glorious power of the Internets.

Now, a few years back, I remember him mentioning to me that he wanted to write a book. Recently, Steve told me that he was opening a Kickstarter page to help with funding for completing said book (he has finished 11 chapters so far).

I have to admit that at first I wasn’t sold on it after looking at some of the concept art on his Kickstarter page (not saying that the art is bad by any means). Just didn’t look like something I’d be into. Today, he sent me a link to an actual excerpt from the book. I have to say I am impressed! Reminds me a bit of David Gemmell. So, if you want to help out a friend of mine, I highly suggest checking out his written work here and visiting his Kickstarter page to help him reach his goal of $3,500.

Biological Warfare

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As I walked into the house this afternoon, I quickly noticed black ants crawling on the wall in the laundry room. Closer inspection revealed that they were streaming out from a crack underneath one of the cabinets. Odd, I thought, they shouldn’t be there. Last week, I had had an exterminator come out and hose the house down in glorious chemicals. The exterminator also strategically placed “ant bait” (clear goop that ants apparently love) around just in case any of the  tiny invaders decided to return. Today they launched their D-Day, their day of death.

Springing into action, I immediately grabbed some of the gooey ant bait and placed it directly in the ants path. They flocked to it! Soon, the small dab of clear goop was covered in ants. Little did they know that their demise, and the demise of their queen, was but a meal away. All it will take is one ant, carrying the goop back to the queen, to destroy the entire colony. Biological warfare on the insect scale.

For some reason, this scenario of unknowing death got me thinking about bigger life issues. What things am I consuming that could be unknowingly poisoning me? A question I am certainly going to have to spend some time thinking about. What about you?

Travel Journal: Indiana or Bust!

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“Beep, beep, beep!”

The alarm read 3am. I felt like I had awoken from a nightmare. I had just fallen asleep 4 hours earlier. Even in my groggy state, I knew that a few hours of darkness laid between me and sleep once more. 96.4 miles to be exact between South Bend, Indiana and the Chicago O’Hare Airport in Illinois. I had a 7am flight to catch and it was time to get up.

Rewind: Friday, March 9, 2012

My friend Jon and I had flown into Chicago, Friday morning, for our friend Jeremy’s wedding. Jon was the best man and I was “also” the best man. Seriously, that was how the wedding program read. The last of the three amigos from LeTourneau University was about to get married.

Jon and I spent a chunk of Friday traveling, picking up/ trying on tuxes (my pants were M.C. Hammer-ish, thankfully I got this fixed) and attending the wedding rehearsal/ rehearsal dinner. The wedding rehearsal was uneventful. Well, besides the two nephews that were having fun running around. Family and friends looked on as we practiced walking, standing and trying to be quiet. The wedding coordinator, Lynn, even placed tape on the carpet so that we would know exactly where to stand–she did an amazing job!–. The rehearsal dinner afterwards was held at Tippecanoe Place in historic South Bend. I have to say that it was quite impressive! Being from Southern California, I was most impressed that the restuarant featured a place where one could check-in their coats. I’ve seen stuff like that in the movies! Guess movies don’t lie.

After dinner, we took the groom out for a night of wild debauchery. By which I mean go-karts, miniature golf, bowling and a nightcap at Steak and Shake. Good times were had and wisdom was bestowed.

Just don't ask...

Saturday, March 10, 2012: D-Day

Jon and I got up Saturday morning and went out hunting for car “decorating” supplies. We weren’t too successful. Luckily, the bride’s parents were awesome enough to have bought a few choice “supplies” (Alissa, it was your parents fault!). After that, we went and picked up some re-fitted tuxes and headed to the church.

Stained glass, wooden pews and candlelit lanterns. Beautiful.

From 12pm till about 4pm, we took wedding pictures. If I learned anything from my own wedding it is that it is of utmost importance to do this beforehand. The bride and groom were very wise to do this. Kudos!

The wedding started at 4:30pm and was absolutely beautiful. I loved the hymns that were sung, the father of the groom officiating the ceremony, and the bride and groom wiping away each-other’s tears. It was a sweet time of praising God for His faithfulness and for bringing Jeremy and Alissa together.

After watching my traveling companion, Jon, get married a little over a year earlier, I felt that this was somehow the end of an era. All three of us, Jon, Jeremy, and I were now married. Each of us have found a companion to walk through life with.

Evening Blur

The wedding reception was elegant and filled with filet mignon. I was a happy man. Speeches were given, dances were danced and I almost caught my shirt on fire. Never stand too close to a candle!

The sanctioned rain of birdseed greeted the newlyweds as they dashed for their car. Humorously, someone had forgotten to unlock the car… which gave the groom’s nephew enough time to pelt his new bride square in the back with a small bag of birdseed.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

“Beep, beep, beep!”

And like that, the weekend was over. It was time for Jon and I to travel in reverse.

The memories I have of my weekend in Indiana are ones that I won’t soon forget. God used this weekend to remind me that I am not alone. That I do indeed have life friends who are just scattered across the country. I am resolved not to let these friends slip away but to actively pursue them. Even if that means only meeting up once a year.

Indiana, thank you for a good time. As a somewhat wise man once said, “Good morning, good evening, and good night.”