Conversations in an elevator

Stranger: "Hi, how are you doing?"
Me: "OK."
Stranger: "Are you new here?"
Me: "No."
Stranger: *looks puzzled*
Me: "I've been here for eight years."
Stranger: "Really? What floor are you on?"
Me: "I'm in the basement."
Stranger: *looks puzzled... again*
Stranger: "What market do you work in?"
Me: "Reporting."
Stranger: "Oh, so you're one of the people I have to impress."
Me: 0_o


Professional Potlucker

I grew up in a small (ish), mostly conservative, family oriented church. We attended the same church from my infancy until I struck out on my own and moved to Boise at the age of 20.

We were a three times a week kind of Christian family. We'd show up early on Sunday mornings because my mom was in charge of delivering Sunday School material to the various class rooms. We'd stay through Sunday School and the morning worship service. When the congregation grew large enough to support two morning services, we'd often stay for both because my dad was an usher. We'd not only return on Sunday night, but we'd arrive long before the pm service started because my mom had to be there for choir practice. Or cantata practice. My brother and I both spent a short time singing with the choir and I took on roles in some of the Easter and Christmas productions. Aaron and I both spent many services in the sound booth. As the soundman, we were also expected to show up early.

Then there were the midweek services and youth group. During my teen years, I was at every youth event. The camps, retreats, mission trips, and over-nighters. I went to every church sponsored Mariner game, bowling nights, after-church social, and Christmas party. I also volunteered to help the groundskeeper mow the church lawn.

I might have spent more time at church than I did at school.

During the first 20 years of my life, I built wonderful relationships with some of the greatest people I've ever known. I learned several worthwhile life lessons that I've taken with me into adulthood and will attempt to pass on to my own children.

But these days, I spend 40 hours or more every week in a corporate environment. My office is a shared work space. That's just a fancy way of saying I breathe the same recycled air as 200 other employees of varying health levels on a daily basis.

In my tenure with my employer, I have discovered that there is very little similarity between the church life of my youth and the professional life I now live. However, there is one thing - one skill that I learned during my days in that small church in Marysville that has given me great powers at my job.

I can own a potluck like a boss.

That is one thing that happened frequently enough at my childhood church to become habit. They held all church potlucks at least once a month with smaller potlucks for groups within the church body. Spread out over 20 years, the rough mathematical estimate will tell you that I attended at least 240 potlucks by the time I moved away from home.

Potlucks occur frequently in my office. Due to my job title, the connections I've made over the past eight years, and being a shared work space, I get invited to many of those potlucks.

There is nothing wrong with using a second plate for an extra layer of stability underneath your top plate - paperware is not typically known for strength or absorbency. However, people give you dirty looks when you walk away from the potluck table with two plates full of food. There is no shame in going back for seconds, but I've endeavored to never be that fat guy that doubles down on the first helping with a plate in each hand. To achieve that goal, I've developed some rock star strategies to maximizing the real-estate of the paper plate. If the Nazarene church taught me anything, it's how to fill a plate at a potluck with both skill and grace. It's a talent really, and I'd like to impart my years of wisdom to you - my readers.

1. Don't be afraid of the overhang. There is no rule stating that all of your food must fit within the confines of that small paper circle. For years, architects have exploited the cantilever. Just like the Skywalk at the Grand Canyon or the top floors of the CCTV Headquarters building in Beijing, the proper formation of your potluck construction might stick out a little beyond the edges of your Dixie plate. My recommendation is make sure your edible cantilever is a sturdy single item - stuff like a slice of pizza, a hot dog, or fried chicken. It's also best if the protruding food juts out above your wrist and is anchored with extra food on top.

2. Don't be afraid of mixed flavors. Are you one of those people that don't like your foods to touch? My wife is like that. Everything on the plate must be separate. I won't condemn that tactic for eating - it helps you preserve the delicate balance of flavors and allows you to taste everything individually. But here's a secret: If you don't want your food to touch, you will fail at potlucks. If you want to get the most out of the potluck experience, your foods will have to mix. I'm not suggesting you indiscriminately dump everything into one pile. But you must approach social eating with the awareness that certain dishes will run into each other. You accidentally drizzled a little nacho cheese onto that scoop of mandarin orange jello? Oh well. The cherry pie crust is soaking in the juices from the baked beans? So what. The ranch you poured onto those six pieces of lettuce has infected the cornbread? Cool. Whip cream, carrot sticks, and cocktail wieners? Not as bad of a combination as it sounds. The fact is, all that food is going to the same place. Presentation is for four star restaurants, not for potlucks.

3. Don't be afraid to put your plate down. Sometimes, a good plate of potluck goodness requires some creative reorganization. And sometimes, that can only be done with the use of both hands. So put the plate down. Move stuff around. Carry on. Keep in mind that it's usually better to build platforms than pyramids. That's not easy to do on the fly and may occasionally need a simple pause along the way before you add more grub to your plate. Sure, it may hold up the line behind you for a couple of brief seconds, but if the other attendees were wise, they'd do the same thing.

4. Don't be afraid to use what's all ready there. Common logic says to put the heavy stuff on the bottom and the light stuff on top. But sometimes, the opposite works better. All the tools to make your mountain of food travel from the buffet table to your dining seat is provided in an array of options. Use the heavier foods to prop up, support, or weigh down lighter foods. Rolls often provide great walls to hold in veggies. Cookies can hold down potato chips. Likewise, plastic spoons and forks can be used as a beam to bear the weight of hefty foods. And if something comes individually packaged or in its own wrapper - a cupcake for instance - there is no need to add that to the burden all ready piled on your plate. Carry it separately.

5. Don't be afraid to ask for clarification. I have a rule when eating ethnic foods. If I can't pronounce it, I probably don't want to eat it. Many people have similar boundaries at potlucks. If you can't tell what it is, keep moving. But there is a treasure trove of untouched deliciousness at potlucks because of this edict. There always seems to be one dish that goes undisturbed because no one knows what it is and no one is brave enough to take the first bite. If you don't know what something is, ask. That pile of goo with chunks of potato and something that looks like meat? It might be the best tasting tater-tot casserole to ever dance across your tongue. That funny little green thing sticking our from a sawed off crescent roll? It's a spear of asparagus wrapped in a slice of deli ham, smothered with cream cheese, then baked inside of Pillsbury's finest. It may look like a hodgepodge of chocolate pudding, graham crackers, Nilla wafers, butterscotch chips, and something you've never seen before but it tastes like heaven. These are dishes that I might have passed up on based on visual aesthetics alone. It's something unidentifiable. But I asked if someone knew what it was. There's always someone that the table that can identify a mysterious dish. Thanks to the insight of those knowledgeable potluck connoisseurs, I partook in some delicious dishes where I might have otherwise been oblivious of their existence.

That should cover everything. I hope these tips serve you well.


The set list

My wife's best friend had an amazing wedding. The bride and her bridesmaids all looked beautiful. Her husband and his groomsmen were all fresh and stylish. The venue (despite the crabby old man that owns the place) was a gorgeous setting for an exchange of vows. And the party afterward?

Well, we had fun. It was memorable. Between a grade school age kid grinding on a hay bale and the elderly grandmother getting her groove on to some bootie popping music, the guests were just as entertained as I was. It reminded me how much I miss DJin'g. It's also the first time that my kids have seen me in that role; my oldest provided me with the best compliment of the night when he said, "Daddy, you're really good at this."

But my set was easily the craziest mix of music I've ever played. What do I mean by crazy? Well... Here's my set list.*

When the Sun Goes Down by Kenny Chesney and Uncle Kracker
It's Five O'Clock Somewhere by Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett
The Time (Dirty Bit) by Black Eyed Peas
Me Without You by TobyMac

Just a Kiss by Lady Antebellum
I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz
Love Shack by The B-52's
Like a G6 by Far⋆East Movement, The Cataracs, & Dev
Ignition by R Kelly
I Cross My Heart by George Strait
Then by Brad Paisley

Cotton Eyed Joe by Rednex
All Star by Smash Mouth
Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO
Mine by Taylor Swift
Everybody Talks by Neon Trees
Yeah! by Usher, Lil' Jon, & Ludacris
One More Night by Maroon 5

When We Stand Together by Nickelback

Yes, I played George Strait immediately after R Kelly. Yes, I ended the night with Nickelback. I played the first track at sunset and more than half of those songs were requests.** I told you it was crazy.

But it was still a lot of fun.

* This list does not include the ceremony which included LeAnn Rimes, Big Daddy Weave, and The Proclaimers. Nor does it include the first dances (Shania Twain, Van Morrison, Johnny Cash, and The Judds) or the hour's worth of Johnny Cash I played as background music while everyone was eating dinner.

** Songs in teal were requests of the bride or the groom. Songs in brown were requests of the guests.


Triumph of the Witch

Christian loves books; he has an insatiable desire to read. The written word draws him into new worlds and he is as easily lost in those realms like a carpenter on a shopping spree at Home Depot.

I love it. Give the kid a story and he is captivated for hours.

He's been reading CS Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. He has identified with Peter Pevensie - the oldest of the siblings to travel into the wintery land of Narnia. This adventure is helping reinforce the lesson Bekah and I have been trying to instill: the big brother must set a good example.

As Christian makes his way through the pages, he has needed help pronouncing a few words - Aslan was of particular difficulty.

He just reached the chapter 'Triumph of the Witch.' He brought the book to me, seeking help pronouncing a word, pointing to the letters spelling TRIUMPH.

I sounded it out for him and he immediately asked what it meant. "Triumph means a huge victory. It means she wins."

He stared at me, in shock. He looked at the book, touched the pages with his fingers. The expression on his face was close to fear - as if he was scared to read on if the villain was to succeed in her evil schemes.

He glanced back up at me and could only utter one word, "Uh-oh."

And off he went, to dive back into Narnia, his imagination to boldly stand with Peter in battle.

I love it.


I am Second® - Sujo John

Even after eleven years, there are still more stories that I've not yet heard.


I fan't type today

If today was an old school sci-fi b-movie, it would have been called The Day of the Ever Present Typo. The dogs kept me up through most of the night and I (at best) slumbered for an hour and a half before my morning alarm started ringing. The sleep deprivation of last night left me with diminished typing abilities for most of the morning. Thankfully my wife delivers coffee. The White Zombie she dropped off mid-morning is the b-movie hero that chased away the scary monsters and by noon I was finally typing straight.

But for the first half of the day, my brain felt like the eggs in that old school "this is your brain on drugs" commercial. And in that stupor, it seems there was a typo in every sentence that flowed from my fingers in an open chat session with a coworker.

Here are the greatest (worst?) typos of my day.

just ran over and grabbes sumething
too much to do today to linge
planned plas unplaned
smc donald and mdconalds (two alternate spellings of McDonald's)
consolidate everyone ot one floork
then move updtairs
I'm ve back (translated: I'll be back)
i'llbe vack (translated: I'll be back)
sinve the seeating situation is only a temporary problem...
MOAR manpowre! (one of those two misspellings was intentional)
because thecnically they are absent, just plnande absent (thecnically = technically, plnande = ???)

And if you couldn't deduce on your own, the title of this post was another typo. At least my colleague was entertained.


Eight things my oldest son needs to know on his eighth birthday

Birthdays in our family come in groups. Bekah, Zu, Bekah's mom, and one of Bekah's best friends are within a few days of each other in April. Bekah's younger sister, JJ, and Christian fall at the end of August and the beginning of September. I'm the odd man out.

But it is the beginning of September. And today is the day that marks Christian's eighth birthday. This post is for him.

Happy birthday, Kid. You're eight, do you feel old yet? Good, you're too young to feel old. But you are the big brother. That comes with some privileges and unique responsibilities. You hear your mom and I say this often but it doesn't hurt to be repetitive. You have to set a good example. On the other hand, you also get to do things first. You were the first to go to school. You were the first to go out to the movies. You will be the first to get your drivers license and the first (hopefully) to go out on a date.

But there is more to your life. And here are eight things I desperately want you to know.

1. You were a game changer. You were the tiny human that transformed your mom and I from a care free couple into responsible adults. You flipped the switch in my head that was afraid to hold a baby. Before you, I was poop-phobic. I still don't like excrement, but I'm at least willing to change a diaper - if necessary. You have brought into our life countless surprises, innumerable laughs, and more joy than I could ever label. I look forward to the ways you will transfer that ability to create change into the world outside of our family.

2. You are probably aware of this, but you are a little different than most kids. You think different. It's what some people describe as quirky. This is why adults think you are amazing but some of your peers think you're weird. As you get older, you might stand out a little more. You might have trouble fitting in with kids your age. The way your brain works makes you smarter than most, but it also makes relating to people more difficult. That's OK. You mom and I are committed to helping you be successful navigating the unspoken and often confusing rules of society. Don't let anyone tell you that you won't ever be anything because you're not normal. The way your brain works is much like many creative and talented people. You're in the same category as musicians like James Durbin, Adam Young, and Bob Dylan; Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith; writers Luke Jackson and John Elder Robison; actor Robin Williams; Bill Gates (the richest man in the world); and the guy who created Pokémon. The doors are wide open for you to do whatever you want. You could write books or make movies. You could create magnificent works of art. You could teach or preach or govern. You could solve some of the world's biggest problems. But you get to decide where you'll go. Not any other person in this world can limit you.

3. I remember the album I was listening to while driving to the hospital the night before you were born. It was R Kelly (odd choice, I know). It was his U Saved Me record. It was the only thing that I could think of at that moment that could keep my mind steady. You weren't supposed to be born yet. Your designated day of birth was supposed to be in the middle of October. There were too many things that could go wrong when a child is born so far ahead of their due date and it frightened me to think about it. So, R Kelly it was. Song after song, my nervousness settled. U Saved Me, Prayer Changes, I Surrender, How Did You Manage. Then I heard these lyrics, "These are the questions asked before I lay me down and go to sleep, Sometimes I wonder why you decided to keep you hands on me. Of all the miracles, signs and wonders, There's still one mystery, How did you manage to love me?" At that point I knew that everything was going to be OK. And everything was more than OK. You turned out great.

4. That thing I said earlier about the way you think making you smarter than most? I wasn't kidding. You are freakishly smart. Genetics help. You have parents that are both intelligent. Between your grandparents, they received a Masters degree, a pastoral degree, and a Juris Doctorate. Your great grandparents achieved great things in mechanics, education, and the military. You come from fantastic genes. However, it wouldn't surprise me if you outshine us all. You were doing simple arithmetic when you were three. You were adding and multiplying fractions while in kindergarten. You've all ready written your first story that fit the arc used in most traditional storytelling. Your mind recognizes patterns and sequences. By the time you were old enough to talk you could tell the difference between a macaroni penguin, an empire penguin, and a rockhopper penguin. Your head is full of scientific facts, bible stories, the plots to all of your favorite movies, and random bits of trivia. You hunger and thirst for knowledge. Your memory amazes me.

5. There is a reason we got you a Kindle for your birthday. You devour books. We want to encourage your reading addiction. However, we do not have the space in our home to warehouse a grand library that is worthy of your love for books. Thankfully, technology allows us to logistically and economically feed your addiction of the written word. I hope and pray your never lose that passion for reading.

6. I dare you to dream big dreams. It is my intention to expose you to as much of this world as I am able. As time and budget allows, there are things to do and places to see that will expand your horizons. Someday, when you grow up, you are going to go out and chase your dreams. You will go further and do more on your own. And I can't wait to hear all of the amazing stories you bring home.

7. If you haven't yet figured it out, your daddy loves watching movies. It is one of my favorite things to do with you. I am a movie geek and I am excited to geek out with you when it comes to film. But I don't want to just watch movies with you. I want you to learn from them. The theater is more than shiny lights and a couple hours of entertainment. There are life lessons to be learned that I am not experienced enough to teach you on my own. So don't be shocked when I ask you, "What was the moral of that story?" Or "What were the people who made that film trying to tell us?" I will ask you those questions, and many more. There is a file on my computer that has a list of movies that I want to watch with you (I really am a nerd when it comes to movies). Some of them are my favorite movies of all time. Some of them are considered the best ever made. But not all. We began to watch them this past summer (like The Goonies), but some you aren't old enough to watch yet and a few I won't let you watch until you are much older. Just be prepared, there is a reason we're watching these movies.

8. Be brave. I know that isn't always easy. Whether it is jumping off of the dock at the lake, or trying a new food, bravery is not your strong suit. You are timid. I understand. You got that from me. If there is a lesson I've learned late in life that I wish you will learn at a younger age, it is this. You are capable of more than you give yourself credit for. You are stronger than you realize. You are bigger than any problem you may face. You have an admirable faith in God. You have a family that loves you. Your mom and I will always be there to support you. You have nothing to fear.

Feliz cumpleaños, gute zum Geburtstag, fantastisk bursdag. I love you.


Summer Soundtrack

Last weekend was the unofficial end to summer, with the holiday weekend and the kids returning to school. Fall might not technically start until the Autumnal Equinox for another couple of weeks; summer is - for all practical purposes - over. And I think the universe is taking notice.

Zu returned from her first day of school with a crisp brown leaf in her hand. She held it out to me and said, "The first leaf of fall has fallen and I picked up just for you."

We had a great summer: finalizing the purchase of and moving into our new house, a few fantastic evenings at the beach, and two family road trips. I've been listening to a ton of great music this summer too. With that being said, I'm doubling down on my Five for Friday post. The following 10 songs were the soundtrack to our summer.

Grouplove - Tongue Tied - The oldest track on my list, Tongue Tied is infectious. Leaves me with the feeling of backyard barbecues, hanging out with a house full of friends, and singalongs around a campfire.

Samestate - Hurricane - This song is also about a year old, but we've been hearing it a lot this past summer. It somehow reminds me of both days at the beaches along the Puget Sound and times I spent climbing in the Cascades.

The Head and the Heart - Down in the Valley - This is one of my favorite new bands to come out over the past year or so. Down in the Valley doubles as a great road trip song and a gentle lullaby.

Je’kob - Love Is All - When I first heard this song it was like a 2x4 to the back of the head. A rare timely song that speaks to current events with the upcoming election and state of discord in our society; yet it's catchy, upbeat, and hopeful. I can't help but crank the volume every time this comes on the radio.

NEEDTOBREATHE - Keep Your Eyes Open - This is my summer anthem. Pulsing driving drum beat, hypnotic piano riff, soaring guitars... that and Bear Rinehart's vocals remind me of campfires, dirt roads, creeks and rivers flowing from glacial melt, and alpine meadows.

Lecrae - Church Clothes - The Church Clothes is one of the best rap albums I've heard in a long time and easily the best of 2012. This is summer in the city.

Owl City - Shooting Star - Zu adores Owl City. And I adore that she adore's Owl City. This may be her favorite song in the world right now. Any time she hears this, she just sings loud and unashamed. This is one of those songs that will interrupt conversation in our car as we're driving around so that everyone can sing along. That has happened several times this summer.

Phillip Phillips - Home - This song is unlike any other coronation song in American Idol's history. While most songs released as the winner's first single has a "yay me" message and is vocal heavy, Home has more of an outward perspective and focused on a holistic sound balancing singing and instrumentation. This song is all backwoods, country roads, and open highway.

The Lumineers - Ho Hey - This is another song that reminds me of a bunch of friends sitting around a campfire, passing around an acoustic guitar, and singing songs of love and hope.

Owl City - Good Time - Another entry from Owl City. Another song you'll catch my daughter singing at the top of her lungs. This is pure bubblegum pop music - especially with the presence of Carly Rae Maybe adding her vocals. This might be a guilty pleasure kind of song, but if it doesn't scream summertime fun... What does?

*** Honorable Mention***

Of Monsters and Men - Little Talks - Quite often on repeat this summer... but not quite worthy of my top 10.


Range of Motion

Please raise your right hand if you take the use of your right hand for granted. If you could see me now, you would notice that my right hand is not raised. That is because, at this moment, I am not able to lift that hand much higher than the surface of my kitchen counter. If I try to raise my hand any higher, it feels as if my hand weighs 200 pounds.

What happened? Well, that's a long and unfortunate tale. A sob story, really.

It started after we got home from Cheyenne. Both Bekah and I caught some nasty summer cold; both us experiencing the same symptoms in near unison. It was no ordinary cold; it was the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered virus you ever set eyes on. It had a vicious streak a mile wide.

It took us two weeks to defeat this uncommon cold. I spent most of that time in a brutal coughing phase. It was as if I was trying to exorcise some demon illness from the deepest darkest recesses of my lungs.

But I still had to function. I still had a day job and kids to feed/entertain. I still had housekeeping duties to attend. Despite the coughing and sneezing and general miserableness of being sick, I reorganized my office to accommodate a new (to me) giant television and helped Bekah move and load some furniture for a booth at the North Idaho Fair.

At the point where I was finally regaining my health, I discovered a sharp ache in my neck. A nagging pestering sensation that would not go away. It started with stiffness on Wednesday and turned into a pain on Thursday that felt like someone had stabbed me with a turkey baster. I tried to sleep it off thinking that rest would help me relax away the soreness. No. I felt worse after a Thursday afternoon nap and hurt more when I awoke on Friday. By Saturday, I could endure no more and visited a doctor that afternoon.

The result? I either pulled or strained my scalene muscles, causing the right side of my neck to be in a state of constant spasm. I'm not certain of how it happened - either the violent ten day coughing fit, the lifting and moving of furniture, or both. Regardless, the doc sent me home with a prescription for some muscle relaxants and a 20 minute rotating heat pack/cold compress routine.

As my neck loosened and I started to feel human again, a new complication arose. Due to the tension in my neck for the past week, my latissimus dorsi and deltoid muscles had been over compensating. They are now fatigued and spasming.

I can't win.

With the meat below my armpit and above my bicep tight and nearly frozen in place, it makes moving my arm a comical impracticality. The tension in my side and shoulder act like miniature bungee cords pulling my arm with a a force more powerful than gravity. It isn't painful, just annoying. And fantastic entertainment for my colleges.

My range of motion has been drastically reduced. I reach for something and my arm just stops half way to the object of my desire. I try to point in a waving motion and I look like the T-Rex in Meet the Robinsons. I try to do anything I normally would do as a righty and end up using my left hand instead. And I feel like Quasimodo. Like I said, great entertainment.

Why do I share this long winded and humiliating saga? Because I am reminded how easy it is to assume that your body will always function normally. I can't help but think of friends - both those from my childhood and those that I regularly talk to now - that were born with noticeable physical disabilities.

When I think about my interactions with these friends, I see that they've not only survived - they have thrived with less than I was given. Consider this my self deprecating way of saying I admire the strength of my friends who were born flawed but live abundantly. You are all stronger men than I.


Four things my son needs to know on his fourth birthday

Yesterday was the last day of August, the final Friday night before the kids head back to school, and my youngest son's birthday. This is post is for him.

This has been a big year for you JJ. You moved into a new house. You figured out how to go potty all by yourself. And you're starting to get the hang of pedaling your bike. In a couple of days you're going back to preschool. It's a great big scary world out there, so before you jump in feet first there are a few things I'd like you to know.

1. You are a fighter. You being here today is proof of how hard you've had to fight for your very existence. For most your four years, you've had to fight to be able to breathe, fight to eat (and to keep the food down), fight to communicate and be understood. The first year you were with us was one long battle with more hospitalizations than I dare to count. You are the strongest kid I know. These days you've got breathing, eating, talking mastered. In fact, I think you've dominated talking and eating. But you're still fighting; only now you fight with your brother and sister. Sometimes it appears like you're enjoying that skirmish a little too much. My hope is that, as you grow older, you'll learn what things are worth fighting for, and what is better to let go.

2. You are fearless. You are the kid that jumps down the stairs from a couple steps higher than all the other kids. You grab sports equipment you've never handled before and march onto the field as if you were a seasoned pro. You will taste any food we place in front of you at least once. Your most common phrase is "Let me try." If I'm honest with you, your bravery scares the crap out of me. I imagine the future you is going to be the kid that will jump off a roof because your friends dared you to do it. You're going to think you're invincible. You're going to attempt to make everyone believe you can fly. I worry about the infinite ways that you might hurt yourself. Please, I beg of you, be smart. But be daring. Don't ever let my reservations prevent you from being awesome.

3. You are the king of the non sequitur. I could ask you, "How was your day?" and your answer might include questions about what we're having for dinner, comments about my appearance, your favorite color, something that your sister said yesterday, and a knock knock joke. You may or may not answer my question but your reply will be delivered with a smile. You change topics without stopping for a breath - and sometimes in the middle of a sentence. Your knock knock jokes are the best. They're completely nonsensical and the definition of random. To date, your most popular joke goes like this.
You: Knock knock
Me: Who's there?
You: Chicken cow.
Me: Chicken cow who?
You: Chicken cow on your face.
You then proceed to chortle like a maniacal super-villain plotting to take over the world. It will be a sad day when you stop telling those jokes.

4. You are a charmer. You might get a thrill out of pestering your siblings. Often, your mom and I don't know what to do with you. We love you, but we also get to see all of your faults on a daily basis. The rest of the world, however, you never cease to woo them. Whether it's your rock-star pose or your pouty face, people everywhere think you're delightful. I won't argue with them. You are a freakishly cute kid. The outside world gets to see the best parts of you. They see your flawless hair, your whimsical eyes, and your mischievous smile. You ham it up for cameras. And you bask in the lauding attention of friends, family, and strangers. You have great powers. My wish is that you only use these powers for good, and not for evil.

Happy birthday J-Funk.

ps: about that pouty face.
It is absurd how cute it is when you pout. Arms crossed, shoulders hunched, one foot stomped in indignation, head down with your eyes staring up to see who's paying attention. It won't be cute if you still do this as a teenager, but for now it's adorable. When you stomp that foot down and turn your back with that audible "HMMPHHFFF" sound you make, it take every fiber in my being to not burst into laughter. At most you might see a grin on the outside, but inside I'm laughing.