There Be Dragons

There are dragons in my house. And they’re getting bigger. And meaner.

For some reason, kindness isn’t even an option in the morning for Holland and Remi. The default seems to be to spit fire and bare fangs.

This morning they fought over how many bagels to take to school for lunch, who got the last bag of Famous Amos cookies, singing too loudly, and existing. This is all in the span of about 25 minutes. Yikes!

Then I’m sending them into the world; unleashing their fury on unsuspecting teachers and classmates. “Be gone from here, dragons, and may your terrible temper be turned to social injustices and villainy, instead of who gets the sink first to brush teeth!”

I’m thinking of instituting a gag order until they leave for school. The only problem with that is the volumes they can speak with just a glance. Holy moly!

Anyway, this time of year I’m glad their wrath is caged in classrooms fortified by the patience of awesome teachers. Thank you for your bravery.

And I ate the last bag of Famous Amos cookies. Holland Dragon

Remi Dragon

Degrees of Glory

So, this may be a longer post.

For the last two and a half weeks I’ve had my head in the clouds because I’ve finally finished a major life project and feel this total weight lifted off my shoulders.

Let me explain:

I started college in 1993. I went on a mission for the LDS church from 1994 to 1996 in Germany and jumped right back into school when I got home.

I took my last classes in the spring of 2001, right before I got married.

If you haven’t done the math yet, that’s six years of college.

I was enrolled for both the fall and winter semesters for all six years and took at least 12 credits every semester.

I had a blast during college, so that may be why I took a little longer than some, but over the course of those I also changed my major from theater to manufacturing engineering to theater education and finally back to theater.

I have more math credits than probably any other theater student and I took a bunch of secondary education classes that were fun, but did me no good.

Here’s the kicker; I never finished!  Six years, almost 170 college credits, and no degree.

When I stopped going to school I had 4 classes left to take before I qualified for a theater degree.

I got married in November of 2001 and all of the sudden providing for my little family seemed more important than finishing my degree. That might be a little short sighted, as a degree would potentially increase my earning potential, but that’s how I felt at the time.

I was able to finish 3 of the classes over the next 4 years thanks to the awesome independent study program at BYU, but that last class has been a thorn in my side for 11 years.

Ideally, I would have taken that class much earlier in my college career as it was a 100 level beginning theater class.

Five or six years ago got on an ambitious streak and called the theater department chair (one of my former professors) and asked him what it would take to finish the class.

We agreed that Boise State had a class that sounded close enough to the BYU class that it would be an acceptable substitute.

I started attending classes at Boise State a week or two after their fall semester officially started. I’d missed a few classes, but I figured I could do extra work and catch up pretty quickly.

The syllabus confirmed that if I wanted a passing grade in the class I couldn’t miss anymore days.

Unfortunately, Nichole and I had a trip planned to Portland and Spokane to visit the Comedy Sportz clubs in preparation of opening our own later in the year.

I spoke to the professor about my dilemma and couldn’t convince him to allow me to miss a few more days later in the year, so I dropped the class.

So close!

Fast forward to last week. I’ve been contemplating getting another degree or an advanced degree in management or information systems or something. One of the main things holding me back has been the fact that I don’t have an undergraduate degree.

So, I finally called my BYU theater and media arts adviser and asked her where we were with everything, if the requirements had changed, and how I could get this last class done.

I was thinking of trying the BSU course again or doing an independent study play writing course I found on the BYU website.

My adviser agreed to talk with the new department chair at their weekly meeting and let me know what needed to happen.

A few days later I got an email from my adviser. She said the wonderful Amy Jensen, the department chair, had agreed to waive that last class for me, CLEARING THE WAY FOR ME TO GRADUATE!

That’s right, all the requirements have been met, fees paid, and ecclesiastical endorsements submitted.

I’m graduating with a BA in Theater from BYU next month. I won’t be attending commencement or convocation because I’ll be in the middle of getting the house boat docked and unloaded from our Lake Powell trip. I’m not super upset about that, though, because I actually walked with my brother, Ben, a few years ago when he graduated.

So, in about a month I’ll be the proud owner of a sheet of paper that says I completed a bachelors degree in theater and media arts from Brigham Young University.

What’s the next step? I can’t believe I’m actually considering going back for an advanced degree, but my short-sighted-ness has been replaced with an understanding of how much an education is worth.

A master’s degree in cyber security or IT architecture would be worth its weight in gold, even though it seems like it’s going to cost an arm and a leg.


How to be Special

I had a pretty emotional day yesterday.

I spent the whole day with Nichole and the girls manning the sunscreen booth at the Summer Special Olympics.

I remember when I was 12 and 13 years old. I was interested in basketball, girls and doing anything other than what my parents wanted me to do.

Until yesterday, I thought that was normal and that I should expect that with my own kids when they hit that age.

Then I was lucky enough to see something amazing.

All day I talked with and watched these amazing athletes as they celebrated their wonderful abilities. Their families and friends were there to participate and cheer them on.

What struck me the most, though, were the youth who were there as partners and volunteers. Here you have kids who could be out playing with their friends, going to summer camp, watching TV or playing video games at home.

But they’re not.

They are spending their time doing something much more important.

Now, the cynics will say these youth are volunteering to pad their resume, or because their parents made them, or because the like the attention.

I say these kids aren’t selfish little jerks like I was when I was their age. I say they care about their friends with special needs and recognize that there’s more to life than goofing off and doing whatever they want.

I say they get a special “high” off of seeing the joy and excitement when a special needs athlete is celebrated and recognized because of their abilities instead of their disabilities.

I don’t have a special needs child. I have the utmost respect for those parents who do.

I have an equal amount of respect for parents who have taught their kids to give instead of take; to love and sacrifice; to think of others instead of themselves.

I want to be like you.

While I recognize the need for me to give more of my time, what I really need to do is teach my children about loving those who are different, giving to those who need, and thinking about others instead of themselves.

Seems like a problem for Super Dad! I guess I’ll give it a whirl.

Holland and Trenna dressed up as Cindy Lou Who and the Grinch for the Special Olympics party after the events were done.

Wakeboarding and Water Skiing

I love to wakeboard! Something about gliding over the water behind the boat with the thrill of speed and jumping really gets me going.

I married into a water skiing family. Nichole is a great water skier. So are her dad and  sister.

I hope one day our girls will be comfortable on wakeboards, but in the meantime we’re teaching them how to water ski.

Holland started when she was 4 years old. She’s 8 now so she’s been at it for 4 years.

Remi started when she was 3. She’s now 6.

Dutchlin turned 2 in January and she’s been out behind the boat on a floating ski twice this year.

Here are videos of them all from a lake session last week.

Here’s Dutchlin:

Here’s Holland:

And here’s Remi:

Neon Trees

Last night Nichole and I went to the Neon Trees at the Knitting Factory. Loved them!

Thinking back on the show, there are really two things that stand out.

1. It was very loud! I feel like I’m getting old. The show was great and I had a blast, but it was loud!

2. Nichole is a freaking hottie! I love dating her. The fact that we’re married is pretty awesome.

Also, after standing for 3.5 hours last night I was pretty achy when we got home. I took 4 ibuprofen before bed, slept for 4 hours and woke up feeling less pain in my body than I have in months.

I’m wondering now if I should make the evening ibuprofen a regular thing. The goal would be to wake up relatively pain free. Here’s the problem; I’d prefer to get more sleep than 4 hours. So, would I be wasting the pain free time on my unconscious time or would it carry over to when I wake up?

I’ll probably experiment.

Kids, don’t do drugs.

In For A Penny, In For A Hash Tag?

Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I’m just lazy.

I don’t understand why we’re using the term “hash tag” instead of “pound” when we mention another user on twitter using this symbol: #

If someone can explain to me why we use “hash tag” I would really appreciate it.

Let me make my case for using the term “pound.”

1. It’s easier to say. You’re only using 1 syllable instead of 2. Takes less breath, less time and less mental processing power. It seems to me, chronic twitter users could use as much extra processing power as they can get.

2. It’s cool to say. Let’s imagine you think you’re hot stuff and you’d like to trend on twitter. Wouldn’t it be cooler to say, “Hey, pound ‘jmstull’ on twitter!” instead of, “Hey, hash tag ‘jmstull’ on twitter.” You could even shorten it to, “Hey, pound me!” Sounds cool, right?

3. The word “pound” already has some weight behind it. (Sorry, had to get that one in!)

4. When I want to fist bump with my kids I’ll tell them to pound it. Fist bumping is today’s equivelant of the high-five from the eighties. The twitter “pound’ is basically a digital fist bump.

So, those are my reasons. I’ve probably spent too much time thinking about this, but I feel the more mental power we can help our kids (aka; The Future) save the better.

There you go. #pound


3 Lessons Learned

There are three main things I’ve learned (or re-learned) while Nichole and the kids have been gone this weekend.

1. My bed is more comfortable when Nichole is in it with me.

2. Some foods go together like chili-mac, and some don’t, like rice crispy-tuna sandwiches.

3. It’s hard to have an intelligent conversation with a 2 year old on the phone. It’s like playing the improv game Questions, where you have a conversation using only questions. In this case, though, it was a one sided conversation.

Anyway, can’t wait till they get home in a few hours.

I’m Not A Princess!

I’ll come right out and say it…I have flat feet. They’re flatter than pancakes. It makes running painful, walking painful, and my shoes wear in weird places. I have to buy special running shoes.

Now, I’m not a great runner, right now, but I’ve been a runner in the past and I like the idea of being able to run a 5k, 10k, or even a half marathon.

Still, flat feet are pretty much a bummer.

Until I discovered something amazing!

Before I reveal the amazing something, let me build some tension…

Remember the story about the princess and the pea? Where she’s tested by sleeping on a huge stack of mattresses all piled on top of a little pea. If she felt the pea she would be a true princess and worthy of marrying the prince.

Spoiler: she felt the pea and they lived happily ever after. Except that they had to buy new mattresses every few days because she was so sensitive.

Anyway, the girls have been working on bead projects. They’re making necklaces, bracelets, tiaras, earrings, leashes and all sorts of fun bead projects.

What do you get when you mix a bunch of beads, three little girls and a couple of klutzy adults? Beads spilled everywhere!

All sizes, all shapes, all colors, all over the kitchen floor and some on the carpet in the living room.

We vacuumed and scoured the floors on hands and knees, but there were still beads everywhere.

Suddenly, my big flat feet started discovering all the beads. I have more surface area touching the floor, so my feet started feeling everything. I found every stray bead there was to find.

The girls told me to step in every corner so I wouldn’t miss any.

We got all the beads; except for the one Nichole just kicked across the kitchen.


Too Cheesy To Be A Title

You know how you hesitate to do something until you feel like you can do it perfectly or under the perfect circumstances?

That’s how I’ve felt about blogging. I like the concept of putting my thoughts on e-paper, but I’ve felt like I need a cooler blog design or more pictures etc.

Well, no more. I’m doing it! Here I am, blogging for the first time with the default wordpress theme. I guess I can change things as I go.

Today I cuddled with all 4 of my girls. Holland and Remi and I cuddled on the trampoline after jumping and trying out 360’s. They are trying to help me perfect my 360 on the tramp so that I can soon land it behind the boat.

Dutchlin and I cuddled while watching a movie. She’s a tough one to pin down right now, so I feel lucky she had some time for me.

And, of course, Nichole and I got to cuddle on the bed while the girls jumped on and off and generally had adventures at our expense.

Do I cuddle my kids enough? I have to wonder if they’re getting enough physical contact from me so that they know how much I love them and want to protect them. Putting them in a bubble (which I’ve been tempted to do and probably will be more so as they grow up) doesn’t have the same effect as putting them in my arms for at least a few minutes every day.

I hope as they grow up they can, at least subconsciously, feel protected and supported when they’re around me, and know there’s a safety net always available for them when they’re away from me.