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Living the Dream in Alaska

Posted on August 23, 2016 I Written By

Crash Uncle is father to three amazing kids, a C-130 Navigator in the USAF, and Crash Dad's favorite brother.

No picture can ever do justice to the wonder that is Alaska.

No picture can ever do justice to the wonder that is Alaska.

Often times when someone asks me how I am doing I give the response that I am living the dream.  Oftentimes that is interpreted as a negative thing, and while sometimes that is exactly what I am trying to say, most of the time it is really just something quick to say in response than an actual indicator of how I am doing.  However, this last few weeks has been quite the opposite.

As I have mentioned in the past, by job often takes me to some pretty cool places.  As much fun as I have had in the Philippines, Thailand, and Guam, there is nothing that could really compare to my most recent adventure.  Alaska is just the perfect mix of so may of the things that I totally love.  I have literally been living the dream.

Watching the ground rush past you with another plane out in front of you is such a rush.

Watching the ground rush past you with another plane out in front of you is such a rush.

On the work side of things, the flying has been amazing.  I could do without the full day mission planning, but that is just part of the deal if you want to operate legally and safely.  It has been incredible to get back down to flying at only 300 feet above the ground at 250 knots raging through the mountains of Alaska.  I have been able to see moose and bears, and some of the most scenic views I have seen in my entire life.

Sometimes it is nice to take it slow and just enjoy the moment.

Sometimes it is nice to take it slow and just enjoy the moment.

On the flip side of flying, I had the opportunity to go out and explore more of Alaska in a Cessna 172 at a much slower speed and really just enjoy the wonder that is Alaska.  It was a sort of pleasure cruise in the air with a great aviator who made the experience that much better.  As someone who just loves everything about airplanes, it was amazing to explore this dream destination with my friend Chris, who is even more passionate about aviation.

One of the most spectacular things about flying in Alaska is the massive glaciers that are all over the place.  It is truly something to behold how immense these glaciers are.  They are so dynamic in their shape and color providing the bluest blues I may have ever seen, along with huge ice cliffs, and deep, sharp valleys.  There really are not words good enough to describe how incredible they are.

There are no words for the majesty of Alaska's glaciers.

There are no words for the majesty of Alaska’s glaciers.

To cap off this dream, I had the opportunity to get in some Alaskan fishing which was really the sprinkles on top of the icing on the cake.  Then I got to eat the cake, because what good is cake if you can’t eat it?  My first day down at the confluence of the Kenai River and Russian River started out great grabbing a couple of sockeye salmon for the first time, and then a couple of trout.  Unfortunately, one of those trout snapped my brand new rod and my day was pretty much over.

With an opportunity to see the silver lining on a very, very dark cloud, we were delayed from returning to our families (which totally sucked) I was able to make another trip down to the river with a much more amazing experience.  Having already literally snagged a few salmon, I returned to my favorite pastime and went after some trout.

Few things are more serene than a fly fisherman executing his craft.

Few things are more serene than a fly fisherman executing his craft.

It started out a little rough losing the first few through poor execution on my part.  Thanks to a couple of crucial tips from my fishing partners, I was able to start landing some gorgeous rainbow trout and dolly vardens.  I felt like a little kid reeling in the biggest fish that I have ever caught in my life.  There are few things more beautiful than a stunningly colored rainbow trout in the midst of a the majestically forested Alaskan mountains.

In recent months I have come to realize how much more important pursuing my dreams and having experiences is when compared with having things or other status.  That is why this trip to Alaska will always be one of my fondest memories.  I don’t know that I have ever been more honest than right now when I say I was living the dream.

Getting Fat…Must Run

Posted on July 20, 2016 I Written By

My name is John and I'm a working dad with 4 beautiful children. I'm a full time blogger and entrepreneur. These are my musings. I hope you enjoy.

What can I say? Everyone always told me my metabolism would catch up to me and it has. Gone are the days of gorging myself and not worrying about my weight. This didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a slow creep and I’ve seen it coming.

As a kid I always justified that I was the active kid that took the stairs, played sports, and could eat anything. Although, that’s not totally true. I always liked to say that I was someone who ate to live instead of living to eat. That’s still true to some extent, but as I’ve grown older I’ve learned my food vices. Sometimes I wish I was poor and couldn’t afford the foods I liked. I’m sure this is screwed up thinking, but I’m sure I wouldn’t be gaining weight if I only had Ramen in the pantry. On second thought, nah…I love my chocolate ice cream.

Seriously though, I’ve become addicted to food. I just feel like I need to keep stuffing my face. I’d never felt that before, but I feel it now. It sure makes for a new battle for me. Somewhere in life I decided that it was never ok for me to feel hunger. How screwed up is that? I don’t think we should starve ourselves, but how pampered am I that I feel like I need to eat so much that I never feel hungry.

I think in the past I’ve largely made up for it by playing sports. I’d still play sports every day of the week if possible. The problem is that life’s gotten too busy and the body is breaking down more and so I’m not playing sport as much. Combine the loss of exercise and increase in food consumption and I’m losing the battle of the bulge.

That’s more than you wanted to know about me, but I felt like I had to share my battle. I’m sure some will say that I have nothing to worry about and that’s exactly why I’m worried. I’m not enormous, but I don’t want to be enormous. I can still do pretty much everything, but I could stand to lose 25 lbs and my body would be much happier. Better to start now before it’s too overwhelming.

Tonight I started the battle. I went out for a run to workout for the first time ever in my life. For the last 6 months I knew this day was coming. I couldn’t just play ultimate frisbee and call it a day. I had to do something more.

I’d certainly run playing many sports. I’ve even randomly run various 5k and 10k events throughout my life, but I’d never really trained or run “for fun” or “for fitness.” I’m still processing the experience. More on that in a future post.

At least today I’ve won. That feels good. I’ll keep you updated on my progress and feel free to hold me accountable. Why else would I have shared all this on my blog? Now I have to follow through or else…

Things That Make a Daddy Cry

Posted on June 19, 2016 I Written By

Crash Uncle is father to three amazing kids, a C-130 Navigator in the USAF, and Crash Dad's favorite brother.

It is Father’s Day here in Japan, and by the time most of you read this it will be Father’s Day in the US as well. So first let me say thank you to all of the Fathers in my life.

I can’t begin to list the amazing men that have influenced me since I was very little. Each of them helped form me into the father I am today through their teachings and example. I have been blessed to know some of the truly great men of this world, and I hope I am living up to their expectations in some small way.

Rather than focus on my Dad today though, I would like to focus on the gems that made me a dad.

I have always been a pretty emotional guy thanks to coming from a pretty emotional family. I am not ashamed to admit that I got a little teary-eyed at the end of Toy Story 3 when all the toys almost died. Generally though, it is the amazing things that my kids do that get me the most emotional. I am just always blown away by how talented they are. I realized I am biased, but everything they do makes me proud.

Before one of my first trips here in Japan I told my son that he needed to look after his mom and sisters while I was I away. I explained that he was the man of the house so he needed to make sure they were taken care of. Now every time I go on a trip he makes sure to tell me that he is the man of the house before I leave. I am super proud of him for trying to be a big boy and take care of the girls, even if it means he tries to tell his mom what to do, because after all, he is the man of the house.

A few weeks ago my two little princesses had a dance recital which is pretty much guaranteed to make me tear up. You watch these videos and try not to have some tears of joy.

It is so rewarding to see your kids do something they love, and do so well at it. The youngest was just disappointed that she didn’t get a sticker after the dance recital like she does after class.

As much as I like to come off as a tough guy (I am sure Crash Dad, Mom, and Aunt just laughed a little, or a lot) I come to appreciate these tender moments more and more the older I get. Being a Dad is just about the greatest thing I have ever done, and I am proud to get a little emotional about it every once in awhile.

Kicking Off Las Vegas Summer Pool Side

Posted on May 31, 2016 I Written By

My name is John and I'm a working dad with 4 beautiful children. I'm a full time blogger and entrepreneur. These are my musings. I hope you enjoy.

One of the great things about being a Las Vegas blogger is that there are so many incredible activities for you and your family to do and write about. Yes, there’s the other side of vegas, but most people are surprised by how many family friendly things are available in Las Vegas.

When we first moved here about 10 years ago, it was shocking to think that Las Vegas had no waterpark. Something about the heat of Las Vegas and no waterpark didn’t sound right. However, over the past couple years, Las Vegas now has 2 waterparks. To kick off the Memorial Day weekend and summer, I was given some tickets for my family to attend Wet ‘n’ Wild Las Vegas. Not one to pass up an opportunity to skip work and go to a waterpark, I jumped at the chance.
Wet N Wild Las Vegas
The Crash Wife and I were interested to compare Wet ‘N’ Wild to Cowabunga Bay in Henderson. I’ll admit that we haven’t been to Cowabunga Bay this year and so we haven’t checked out the new slides, but we both came away loving Wet ‘N’ Wild much more. The kids area was better. The flow between slides was better. The pizza was better.

In a pretty genius move, Wet ‘n’ Wild even offers a free sunscreen station thanks to Comprehensive Cancer Center of Nevada. Smart advertising for them even if they’re trying to prevent new customers. Consider all the white boys we have in our family, this was essential.
Wet N Wild Free Sunscreen Station

This next picture is what I call the Wet ‘n’ Wild Hammam. Crash Kid #3 loved the warm cement. The funny part was that I asked the Crash Wife if it was too cold to go to the waterpark since it was only going to be 90. #DesertRats
Wet N Wild Hammam Las Vegas

I think that my kids favorite part of Wet ‘n’ Wild was the cabana boy (Josh was his name). It was so funny to see them talk about Josh in the first person as if he was their friend or something. Josh had a hard job with so many people getting hungry at the same time. He was even nice enough to pose for this picture with the Crash Kids:
Wet N Wild Las Vegas Cabana Boy

Crash Kid #1 suggested that if I really wanted to show Wet ‘n’ Wild on my blog, then I needed to get a go pro and hold it while I went down a slide. I told him we’d have to see if we could do that next time. I’m not sure the lifeguards would have been too happy with me doing that, but I’d have certainly been game.

All in all, a fun time for the Crash Kids and me. Thanks Wet ‘n’ Wild for the tickets. I’m sure we’ll be back. In fact, I think the Crash Wife has purchased more tickets already.

Child Like Determination

Posted on May 17, 2016 I Written By

My name is John and I'm a working dad with 4 beautiful children. I'm a full time blogger and entrepreneur. These are my musings. I hope you enjoy.

Child-like Determination

Yesterday was Crash Kid #2’s first piano recital. Luckily there were only 3 people playing at the recital so it was fast and painless. It was exactly the way you’d want a piano recital. Friendly faces in the audience. A chance for your child to perform in front of people and the pressure that goes along with that, but the parents aren’t itching to leave as they heard the 10th child hunting and pecking their way through Yankee Doodle.

I’ll admit that I was a little worried for my daughter. She hadn’t practiced nearly enough and the “Be Our Guest” piece was pretty advanced for 4.5 months of piano lessons. The reality was that she only wanted to practice the songs she knew well. So, she never practiced “Be Our Guest” very much because she was still learning it. I think most of us can relate. We like to take on the things we know we can do and often set aside the hard things for later.

I have to say that in my mind’s eye, I’d already pictured what my daughter would look like if she failed at the song. I could see the despair in her eyes as she looked at me and wondered what she should do if she got off track performing the song. It was heart breaking for me to even think about it.

Much to my surprise and delight, she showed a beautiful determination as she slogged through “Be Our Guest.” From a piano performing perspective it was pretty awful. Her timing was off. She slowly and methodically pecked out the song with only a few parts playing on the right time so you could recognize the song. From a father perspective, it was brilliant.

I was so proud of Crash Kid #2’s determination to pluck her way through the song and do her best. I couldn’t have been more proud. Many kids would have shrunk at the idea of performing that song. She taught me an amazing lesson in determination yesterday. I couldn’t have been more proud.

Fighting the Battle Between Responsibility and Passions

Posted on May 13, 2016 I Written By

Crash Uncle is father to three amazing kids, a C-130 Navigator in the USAF, and Crash Dad's favorite brother.

I am not really sure where I am going to go with this, but I am hoping that putting my thoughts on (digital) paper will bring some clarity.

It is likely not a surprise to anyone that military life can be somewhat chaotic and uncertain.  That is sort of the nature of the beast, and something that I understood well before joining.  Even with all of the uncertainty there are still certain times when I get to be a part of the decision making process, like it or not.

The short version of this story is that I am a navigator on the C-130H that is being replaced by the C-130J which has no navigator.  In case you can’t do the math, that means I have to find a new job.  The real problem, as I see it, is that I have a few options and none of them stands head and shoulders above the rest.

I will spare you the specifics of my different options as it is not entirely relevant to my troubled line of thinking.  What is relevant is that my choices can largely be grouped into two categories: responsible rational choices, and choices that get me excited about the future.  The best answer would obviously be something that was a good mix of both, but if it was that simple I wouldn’t be grinding my mind over this.

So how does somebody find that good balance between responsibility and passion?

I was hoping that somehow an answer would appear after typing that, but no such luck.  I did stumble across this video today though which clearly leans towards one side of the debate:

I have seen multiple videos and stories like this recently and maybe that is my answer, but I simply can’t ignore the responsibility side of my life.  Then again, maybe that is just the doubt that the video talked about.

Feel free to share some insights with me.

Slightly Modifying My Responses to My Children

Posted on May 10, 2016 I Written By

My name is John and I'm a working dad with 4 beautiful children. I'm a full time blogger and entrepreneur. These are my musings. I hope you enjoy.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I respond to my children. This is true when they wake up in the morning, when they get home from school, when they ask me to do something, or need help with something. I think the way I react really makes a huge long term impact and I didn’t even realize what I was doing.

My gut reaction is often to overreact or start addressing the task at hand. For example, when they get home from school it’s easy to start by saying, “Start doing your homework.” Yes, I definitely want them to do their homework, but I’d hate if the way I was greeted when I got home was homework. A much nicer greeting would be to ask about how their day went. Of course, I’m unlikely to get long greetings to start, but I think with patience they’ll likely start expecting this and be ready to recount their day when they get home from school.

This really came to light the other night when putting my kids to bed. It took a couple times for this to sink in, but I finally think I got the message. While as a parent I often want the kids to get in bed so I can get to the things that I want to do in peace, I’ve been doing what I can to spend more time talking with my kids at night. Sometimes that includes climbing into bed alongside them so they know I’m there to talk and I’m not going to be running out the door as fast as I can.

After doing this a few times along with what’s possibly a bad habit of giving some short backrubs while we talk at night, I decided not to do it one night because the kids had acted poorly. Crash Kid #1 said in one of the most sincere voices I’ve ever heard him use, “But I like when we talk at night.”

Kind of makes my heart break thinking about it. I like talking with him too, but sometimes at night I’m tired and not that interested in talking about minecraft or modern architecture design. It’s a seriously tough balance. However, it’s amazing how big of a difference a little thing like 5 minutes of chatting at night can make in my relationship with my children.

Going back to the small ways I react to my children, I could do a lot more in the little things to better help my children. Often that means I need to take a step back and not react to their actions or questions and instead I need to take a second to think about the right way I should respond. That’s not an easy thing to do, but the more I think about it the more I realize it’s one of the most important things I can do.

Over versus Under – The Toilet Paper Debate

Posted on May 2, 2016 I Written By

My name is John and I'm a working dad with 4 beautiful children. I'm a full time blogger and entrepreneur. These are my musings. I hope you enjoy.

It’s time that we take on some serious journalism here and discuss the debate on whether the toilet paper should go over or under. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about, but to be 100% sure, here’s a visual representation of the debate:

Over versus Under - The Toilet Paper Debate

This is an extremely important subject and no doubt has been the fight between many a husband and wife over the years. I’d be surprised if this question isn’t one of Match.com’s algorithmic checks of compatibility between partners. Considering how much time you spend reaching for the toilet paper, this is an important topic which must be discussed. The problem is that too many people take a simplistic over or under stance, but the answer should be much more nuanced. Since nuance is my middle name, let’s dive into the nuance.

Someone recently found this 1891 toilet paper roll patent which many argued “settled” the debate of over versus under. Here’s the image from the patent:

Toilet Paper Patent

I can see why many would argue that this ends the debate of over versus under. However, just because something patents something a certain way, that doesn’t mean it’s the most optimal way to use something. In fact, there are many initial patents that get modified and improved over the years. Plus, if I was getting into the nitty gritty (which I basically am), then it’s worth also noting that the patent doesn’t even have the toilet paper mounted into proper position. How do we know that the inventor didn’t intend it to be mounted the other way, but this was just the best way to illustrate the patent?

As a child, I must admit that I was a strong proponent of the over the top paper roll. I’m not sure if I inherited this view from my parents or siblings or if I came to the conclusion on my own through constant use. Either way, I became a strong advocate for the over the top toilet paper. It provided much easier access to grab the toilet paper.

As I’ve grown older, I still feel the same way about over the top toilet paper, but I’ve grown to understand an important nuance. Upon having children who became mobile I realized the merits of the under methodology. Any parent who has arrived at their toilet seat only to find a pile of unrolled toilet paper will understand why the under methodology is so important with kids (Side Note: I’m also told this is true with animals such as cats, but don’t have first hand experience). Yes, my children’s actions have converted me to the under approach to toilet paper.

I do look forward to the day when my kids are mature enough to appreciate the over the top toilet paper and I can return to my roots. We’re almost there. I can feel it.

The moral of the story is that we shouldn’t judge others if they choose to go over the top or under on their toilet paper. Like in most things in life, there’s always more nuance than we realize.

Funny Cinderella Perspectives from My 12 Year Old Son

Posted on April 30, 2016 I Written By

My name is John and I'm a working dad with 4 beautiful children. I'm a full time blogger and entrepreneur. These are my musings. I hope you enjoy.

I was driving home with my son (Crash Kid #1) after a church event where we got to hear from a member of the 12 apostles (Elder Holland for those following along at home). It was almost 10 PM as we got home and I told my son that he’d turn into a pumpkin at 10 PM. He corrected me and said that you turned into a pumpkin at midnight, not 10. He then went on to share his feelings about Cinderella. Here’s more or less what he said:

What was Cinderella doing out so late? She had until midnight. She shouldn’t have stayed out so late and the party even went on for 3 more hours or something. (Side Note: My son usually goes to bed around 8 PM)

Glass slippers. Those weren’t very practical. Glass isn’t very strong and can’t hold much weight before it breaks. Plump Cinderella would likely break them. (Side Note: I’m not sure why he thinks Cinderella was plump. I always thought she was skinny.)

They didn’t do a good job on the prince either. He’s wearing overalls or something. Wait…you know those things that hold your pants up. Suspenders! They should have spent more time on him. Those weren’t the right style then. (Side Note: I didn’t realize he knew Cinderella period styling)

Kids can be so awesome. Tonight was awesome with my son. When he said his evening prayers he prayed “I hope we can do a night like this again.” Can you give me an “Amen!”?

I’m Glad My Kids are Patriotic

Posted on April 20, 2016 I Written By

Crash Uncle is father to three amazing kids, a C-130 Navigator in the USAF, and Crash Dad's favorite brother.

I just got back from a long couple of weeks in the Philippines for work, and as usual it left me concerned about how my time away from my kids impacts them and our relationship.  It is always heartwarming to come home to their handmade signs and super tight hugs and kisses, which I guess means I am doing something right.

All of my other doubts aside, I know my kids are learning one thing that is incredibly important to me.  They are learning to be patriotic and have respect for the great symbols of our nation.

For those of you unfamiliar with military installations, there is music that plays every morning and every night.  I have seen different variations at the various bases I have lived at in terms of what music they play, but the national anthem is always a part of that music at some point during the day.  A fun addition here in Japan is that they also play the Japanese national anthem.  When the music plays you are supposed to stop walking or driving, and if outside stand with your hand over your heart much like you would at a sporting event.

This is our first time living on base so my kids were not super familiar with this tradition before we lived here, but I am proud to say they have learned quickly.

Just now my youngest was in the living room with my wife and I when the music started playing.  She immediately wanted to run outside, but we stopped her since she isn’t supposed to be running around while the music is playing.  Much to my happy surprise she said, “Fine, I put my hand on my heart.”  Technically she put her hand on her stomach, but we helped her find her heart and she stood there in the living room for a minute while the music played.

She is only almost three years old, but I am super proud of the fact that she is learning that respect already, even though I realize she doesn’t really know why she is doing it.  I am grateful for parents who taught me that respect at a young age as I think respect is one of the most important character traits we can develop.