Zooming into the Foreign Service

When last we talked, dear reader, I (Andrew) was waiting to join the Foreign Service. Like a road trip with no speedometer, I had a predictable destination but an uncertain timeline.

The folks at the State Department’s Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM) have been working tirelessly to solve a range of logistical and legal issues to allow me and my classmates to join. Foreign Service Orientation, commonly referred to as A-100 and named for the room in the State, Navy, an War building where it the class was first held, has never been held virtually before. And swearing an oath of office for government service virtually hasn’t been permitted until very recently. But GTM and the team at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) have innovated at lightning speed to onboard us and move forward the State Department’s mission of advancing the interests of the American people.

Today, I swore my oath of office and officially joined the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer! It’s not the first time I’ve sworn that oath, and I take it very, very seriously. The swearing in happened remotely, using Microsoft Teams. It was halting and awkward, but no less meaningful.

The swearing of the oath calls to mind the time that I stood aboard the flight deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Munro and swore the same oath to join the US Coast Guard. As then, the oath is one of devotion and implies the ideas of service and self-sacrifice. Those doing the swearing give up some measure of freedom so that others may retain a full, unmolested measure of the same.

The road ahead remains uncertain, but it’s the uncertainty that I’ve been expecting. As disappointing as it was to not join the State Department at the Main State building in Washington DC, , my swearing-in was boiled down to its essence. With all the trappings stripped away, all that remains is my oath. It’s deadly serious, it’s beautiful, and it’s sacred. It ends with a divine supplication, and I don’t doubt that I’ll need the assistance. So help me God – I’m a diplomat.

Update: the Foreign Service waits for COVID-19

My entry on duty with the Foreign Service was supposed to happen on Monday, March 30. A lot of things were supposed to happen before the Corona virus starting spreading.

When I received my official invitation on February 19 to join the State Department’s 202nd A-100 class, I had one month and 11 days to wrap up my entire life and get my family moved to Washington D.C. I quit my job, re-negotiated all my commitments, we got rid of many possessions and packed up the remaining ones, made arrangements to take care of our house, and started planning an epic road trip across America. I signed official employment contracts and began other HR preparations for Entry on Duty (EOD). This was the opportunity we’d been pursuing for 7 years (longer than the lifetimes of our two youngest children). To say that we were excited would be akin to calling the Mississippi River a small stream; we were thrilled.

The pack-out was painful, intense, and very good. Getting rid of so many possessions and making decisions that had been deferred (sometimes for years) lightened our souls and started readying us for the adventure ahead. Unfortunately, it also consumed us. While we were focused inward, a storm was brewing in the outside world.

“Adventure is nothing but hardship in the past tense.”

– Andrew Shinn

The Corona virus first popped up on my news feed in early January while I was planning a trip for Fresno Pacific MBA students to Malaysia and Singapore. It’s a trip that I’ve led for the past three years and was handing off to a wonderful colleague. But my risk assessment hat was on, and I was hoping that this oddly-named Asian problem (which reminded me of SARS) wouldn’t be disruptive to our travel plans. I had no idea how this distant storm would come to define our future reality.

After spending Fresno Pacific’s spring break packing, I was looking forward to one last day in the classroom with my students at Fresno Pacific and Fresno State. Unfortunately (for me), both schools cancelled classes that week while figuring out how to respond to the growing epidemic. I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to most of my students. But our plans were firmly in place, and the intensity of our personal change kept us from focusing too much of the disaster that was approaching.

On March 18, we began our trek across the United States. We were planning to take a more leisurely drive, stopping to see family members in various states, taking in and enjoying the vastness and diversity of our country.

We were 900 miles into our trip when we received the news that cast our future into doubt: the 202nd A-100 class was being postponed. We didn’t know what that meant and neither did the folks at State who were making these decisions. The Corona virus had become a pandemic, and none of us knew at the time what that would mean.

What we did know is that we had left everything behind, and didn’t have much to return for. Our leisurely drive across the country became a race against the clock, as we began trying to outrun the state closures. We left California the day before a shelter in place order, and drove across Ohio hours before it closed. In Chicago, we bought a traditional Chicago pizza and ate it in our van in a parking lot. Our meals all took place in the car as we focused more on eating miles than calories. Some of the hotels where we stayed told us that we were some of the only guests they had; they were seeing occupancy rates as low as 3-4%.

We arrived in Washington DC far ahead of schedule with no real plan. We spent one depressing night in an Alexandria hotel, then found a lovely Air BnB in Arlington for the rest of the week. We continued to communicate with the State Department. During that first week it became clear that I wouldn’t be starting work any time soon. They didn’t have the capability to swear people in remotely, and all of HR procedures they’ve developed over years couldn’t be retooled to work remotely in a matter of days.

The State Department reiterated their commitment to bring us on board, but still isn’t sure when that will happen. They’re projecting that it’ll be sometime in the next 12 months.

In the meantime, a fellow A-100 colleague connected us with his parents, who offered us very reasonably-priced housing in Winchester, VA. We’ve moved to a comfortable 3-bedroom townhouse in rural Virginia, close to the West Virginia border. After a few days of scrounging furniture from Craigslist and being blessed by our new hosts’ generosity, our household goods arrived. We now have clothes and a few other possessions.

We’re planning to shelter in place here for the moment. The governor of Virginia has closed the state until June 10. It seems prudent for now to be in a rural area. Food and necessities (like toilet paper) are available here for the moment, and we’re comfortable and safe.

“The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!”
– Robert Burns, from ‘To A Mouse’ in 1785

We’ve experienced this pandemic and its fallout differently than everyone else. We were already planning on disruption and change; this is just not the disruption that we were planning for. Our framing of this as an adventure should have given me pause; my definition of adventure is, “hardship in the past tense”.

Our hardship isn’t onerous, though. It’s a deviation from what we expected, but there’s a reason that we trot out that old quote about the best laid schemes of mice and men. We’re together as a family, our needs are cared for, and we’re about as safe as anyone can be in these days. We have the expectation of interesting future work with the State Department and some unknown number of months in which to prepare for it. Overall, life is good.

New Adventures: The US Foreign Service

Editor’s note: This was originally posted to Facebook on February 24.

Friends, I’m excited to announce the start of a new adventure. I’ve accepted an appointment to be an economic Diplomat with the U.S. Foreign Service. This means that I’ll be representing my country overseas. Lisa and the kids will be moving with me.

I’ve walked away from two previous jobs that I loved: one with the U.S. Coast Guard and one with Shinn Photography. Now I’m leaving another. I’ve loved Fresno Pacific University and the community here. Teaching has been a growing and fulfilling part of my life. I can’t say enough good things about this institution or its people!

In the near term, we’ll be moving to Washington D.C. We leave on March 18 for a road trip across America. After some training in DC (6 months to a year depending on language), we’ll head to another part of the world. I’ve agreed to serve anywhere my country requires, and I don’t have any indication about where that’ll be; other than the fact that it’ll be somewhere with a U.S. Embassy.

The mission of a U.S. diplomat in the Foreign Service is to promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad. I’ll do economic diplomacy, advocating on behalf of US companies and US interests. My policy portfolio will probably include areas like trade treaties, energy policy, health, science, and technology policy, and other random bilateral and multilateral policy areas that don’t fit cleanly into other categories.

If you want to read a bunch of stories about exactly what US Diplomats do, check out America’s Other Army: https://amzn.to/2vcTEXK. Another really good, systematic approach to the topic can be read here: https://amzn.to/2VrFTjQ. If you want the movie version, see this recent documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QK_yRCrwp04. If blogs are your thing, here are a bunch of them: http://afsa.org/foreign-service-blogs.

We’ll be wrapping up everything in our lives in California over the next three weeks. We are selling a LOT of stuff (including two vehicles) at several garage sales and online. In the meantime, we’re also trying to connect with many of the people we love and see in our California lives. If you’re in Central California, we’d be happy to hang out (if time permits). If we don’t see you, it’s only because time is finite, while our love for you is less so.

Thanks to those of you who have supported us on this journey so far! We began the application process in 2013, so your patience with us has been long.

Prayers, of course, are appreciated!

Welcome to the world, Caleb Joseph Shinn!

It was a dark and stormy evening.  Well, maybe not any more dark than any other night at 11:30 pm.  And it wasn’t exactly stormy, though it had been raining earlier on that fateful March 2nd.

Caleb smiles during his first full day outside of his mommy.
Caleb smiles during his first full day outside of his mommy.

Lisa had been experiencing medium-intensity contractions for about the past day and a half.  The children (Liam and Clara) were nestled all snug in their beds, while Lisa and I pondered dozens of other clichés in the living room downstairs.  We were 5 minutes from finishing an episode of House of Cards, when Lisa lost her ability to focus on the riveting plot conclusion.  This is when I knew that things were getting serious.  She was timing contractions, and their frequency increased to less than 4 minutes apart with 60 seconds or more duration. (I’ll try to keep the technical terms to a minimum and the jokes/literary allusions dialed up for the remainder of this story.)

Lisa decided to employ the Bradley Birthing Method this time around.  Since we weren’t able to attend a full class, we did the next best thing: we bought the book, and at least one of us read it from cover to cover.  The other one of us (ahem) skimmed a few key sections, but didn’t do as much homework as he probably should have.  But he DID know enough to recognize that Lisa’s sudden switch to a serious mood is one of the emotional signposts of labor.

The car was packed, the mother-in-law/babysitter arrived, and I bundled Lisa into the car for the mile-and-a-half trip to the hospital.  But not before a few intense contractions, which Lisa took like a champ lying on the floor outside the bathroom, on our bed, in the kitchen, or wherever else she happened to be at their onset.

During the 11:30pm trip to the hospital, Lisa felt a pop and asked me to consider violating the speed limit.  I did what any wise husband would do, and gave the pregnant lady whatever she asked for, without question and without delay.  Her bag of waters had broken, and labor was progressing fast toward delivery.  Being Lisa, she was more concerned about ruining the seats in our car than anything else.  That didn’t happen, but it was the first time we’ve had the bag of waters break before reaching the hospital. (Scratch one more experience off the great bingo board of life.)

I made my delivery (which was getting Lisa to the hospital in time).  But only barely.  We were the only parents giving birth at the Adventist Health Family Birthing Center in Reedley that night.  They rushed us into the birthing room closest to the front door, and asked for a urine sample.  Lisa’s look told them in no uncertain terms that this request wouldn’t be fulfilled.  We got her to a bed, but only barely.

Lisa had about two very serious contractions, and let the two nurses present know that she was ready to push.  “But we haven’t even had a chance to check you!” they protested.  But their experience and expertise showed, and they didn’t protest for long.  It was time for action, not excuses, and they rose admirably to the challenge.

When the lead nurse, Tisa, checked the cervix, she raised her eyebrows and said, “You’re ready!  It looks like the doctor won’t be making it to this one.”  She quickly paged him, if only for the sake of formality.

Some minor bed adjusting followed, which allowed Lisa to get into the birthing position she preferred: a 45-degree tilt, which I carefully measured and supervised.  It was the only thing I could control and my only meaningful contribution during that phase.

Lisa’s second push revealed the crown of a head filled with dark brown hair.  Another push of two showed a very blue little face, and then the reason for this: the umbilical cord was wrapped around the little guy’s neck.  The two nurses and I glanced at each other, and, as if by mutual consent, we all suspended our reaction to see what would happen next.  What happened next was another good push, which got his (relatively) broad shoulders out of the birth canal, and allowed Tisa to unwrap the cord from the baby’s head, and also a very blue little arm.

The last of the baby (his curled-up legs) slipped into view like a greased banana emerging from a sandwich bag.  And with about the same drama and oddity.  The nurses quickly set him on Lisa’s shoulder, where he turned pink with the rapidity and effect of a Hyper-Color Shirt. (*5-point bonus for you if you remember these!)

I cut the umbilical cord, severing the baby’s physical connection to Lisa permanently, a process which I expect to repeat in various forms for the next 20 years.  He took a few shaky breaths, and I felt like a father bird must feel when he watches his hatchlings fall from the nest for the first time.

The rest of the process was less tense, especially for the doctor, who strolled in a few minutes later wearing a t-shirt from his alma mater and looking around to see what he’d missed.  There were shots and washings and  measurings (21 inches long) and weighings (8 pounds, 10 ounces) and footprintings and other processing steps, few of which lend to interesting analogy or comparison.

After watching the baby for a while, I came a crisis point.  I couldn’t keep calling him ‘The Baby’ for the rest of his life.  Sooner or later I was going to have to slap him on the butt and give him his name.  I looked at the little guy, and didn’t see the utility in the first of those two steps, so I decided to skip it.  I named him Caleb Joseph, because the other option under consideration just didn’t feel right.  I held him and, in a mini-ceremony that seems like something my dad would be fond of, declared his name for anyone who happened to be around and listening.

Caleb, now possessing a unique identifying moniker, set about working on the next most important thing in his life: getting some food.  He seemed to be reaching out to put anything nearby in his mouth, and seemed especially happy when his efforts paid off.  He latched on right away, and fed like a teenage boy pulling up to a yard-long trough of ice cream.  He manifested his first display of unbounded enthusiasm.  His greed was pointed at sucking and eating, and was therefore excusable.

After all the excitement was done, Lisa and I looked at each other.  “So that’s it, eh?” I asked.  “Yep,” she answered, “we have a baby!”

Disneyland Day 3

This was a Magic Morning for us, which means we entered the park an hour before it would normally open.  We’ve already seen almost everything we wanted to see, so we took the chance to ride Dumbo (again) and go on the Finding Nemo Submarine ride.  Then Clara and Mommy waited in line to be the first to meet the Princesses at the Princess Fantasy Faire while Liam and Daddy waited in line to be the first people onto Tom Sawyer’s Island (which is being rebranded as Pirates’ Lair).

I lost Liam on Tom Sawyer’s Island, which was distressing (but only for me).  I found him with the help of another family, who helped me scour the island.  I found him in time to see Mommy and Clara steam past on the Mark Twain paddle-wheeler.

We reunited in New Orleans Square to listen to a group of pirate singers, then headed out of the park toward Disney’s California Adventure!

Our first order of business was lunch, and we ate at the Taste Pilots Cafe, which is a hanger converted into a restaurant.  Our table was right next to a big picture of the Bell X-1.  (Made me think of you, Dad!)  Lisa and I have great Bleu Cheese burgers, while the kids enjoyed chicken strips and fries.

Then we rode on Ariel’s Undersea Adventure which, like almost every other ride during our stay here, had no lines.

We debated over our next move, but decided that a nap was strategically important.  So we headed back to our hotel, which has an entry directly into the middle of California Adventure.

After nap time, we headed back into California Adventure and went to the Hollywood Backlot area for Mike and Sully’s Adventure.  Then we attended the Animation Academy, which is something I’ve been looking forward to taking Liam to.  He has really been enjoying drawing lately, so I thought it would be cool to meet an animator and get a drawing lesson.  The experience wasn’t what I hoped.  We all learned how to draw Mickey Mouse, which was pretty cool.  But I had hoped for more one-on-one interaction, and the experience moved a little fast for his age level.  Nevertheless, he professed happiness with the experience.

Our next destination was A Bug’s Land, which was perfect for the kids.  A litte lame for bigger people, but perfect for little ones.  We went on four rides (one of them twice in a row), with no waiting in line.

We continued our meandering exploration of California Adventure and came to Paradise Pier. Lisa rode the California Screamin’ roller coaster while I took the kids on King Triton’s Carousel.  Then we reunited to wait in the longest line we’d yet seen: the line for Toy Story Midway Mania.  The half-hour wait was totally worth it; this was a really fun, interactive ride.  You wear 3-D glasses and play a variety of midway-type shooting games.

We headed back to the Pacific Wharf Cafe for a really yummy dinner.  They have soups in sourdough bread bowls, which are made on-site.  Both my broccoli cheddar and Lisa’s Monterey clam chowder were wonderful!  This place tops my list of places to eat again in Disneyland.

We headed back to the hotel to meet Uncle Jon.  He was waiting by the fireplace at the Napa Rose, a beautiful dinner spot at the Grand Californian Hotel.  Jon put the kids to bed for us and stayed with them fo Lisa and I could go out for drinks and dessert to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

Overall, it was a great third day at Disneyland.  Lisa and I were both surprised at how much we enjoyed California Adventure.  Lisa said that she might have enjoyed the ambience even more than that of Disneyland.  We look forward to exploring the park more today.

For our fourth morning, we have tickets to a character breakfast with Ariel at Ariel’s Grotto in California Adventure.  Clara is especially looking forward to this.  We’ll also buy some souvenirs today.  We told the kids they could each pick one item to buy, so they’ve been looking and debating for the past three days.  It’ll be fun to see what they choose.

Disneyland Day 2

Lisa made some really yummy cinnamon/brown sugar/raisin/buttermilk/flax seed/sunflower seed scones. They were moist and fluffy, and were a great start to our second day at Disneyland!

This morning we went straight to Mickey’s Toontown for Toontown Morning Madness.  It was a singing/dancing show introducing many of the classic Disney characters.  The kids really seemed to enjoy it.  We went to Mickey and Minnie’s houses to meet them, played on Donald’s boat, and then rode (twice) on Gadget’s Go-Coaster.

The kids played around Toontown (which is about as close as possible to walking around in a cartoon world), and Liam and I rode on Roger Rabbit’s Car-toon spin.  That’s one ride I don’t recommend for anyone.  It was too scary for Liam, and it really wasn’t all that fun for me.

We headed to Frontierland for lunch at the yummy Mexican restaurant, then rode on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride.  Liam and I rode together, and Lisa took advantage of Disneyland’s great ride-sharing policy for parents with children too small to ride.  The first parent goes on a ride, waiting in the full normal line.  Then the second parent enters from the exit and gets right on the ride.  This saves so much time it’s almost worth having kids with you for this benefit alone!  The lines everywhere were very short, though, probably because it’s the middle of the week in the off-season.

After lunch and the roller coaster, we headed back to the hotel for nap time.  As expected, the kids had a hard time settling down.  At least, they had a hard time until I told them that we weren’t going back to the park until they took a nap.  They fell asleep almost immediately.

While Lisa and the kids slept, I went back to Disneyland and rode Indiana Jones (which the kids are too small to ride), Star Tours (which Lisa doesn’t care to ride), and the Haunted Mansion (which I refuse to take the kids on).

When Lisa and the kids woke up, we went to Disney’s California Adventure through our hotel’s special short-cut entrance and picked up our tickets for tonight’s World of Color show.

Then we cut through Disneyland (past the infamous Club 33, Disney’s exclusive club with a 10-year waiting list) to Adventureland, where we went on the Jungle Cruise.  The constant flow of bad humor makes the Jungle Cruise my new favorite ride.

We spent a little time in Frontierland on the way to Critter Country, where we rode Splash Mountain.  Splash Mountain was terrifying for Liam, but somehow after the ride it became his favorite.  I don’t know why this happens, but I remember having a similar experience with Pirates of the Caribbean when I was a little guy.  By this time in the day, the rides were so short that we could have ridden Splash Mountain several times in a row, if children would have permitted.  But Clara’s too small for Splash Mountain, anyway.

Both Liam and Clara LOVED Winnie the Pooh’s Adventure, which is a cute, mild, non-scary ride in Critter Country.  We saw all the characters from Winnie the Pooh, but were about 20 seconds too late to get a chance to greet them.

We enjoyed dinner at the Golden Horseshoe saloon as some of their last patrons of the evening.

Everywhere we went, cast members offered us special buttons to pin onto our shirts.  Not the collectible pins that people seem to trade and wear on lanyard around their necks, but the old tin round buttons that elementary school kids love so much.  I’ll have to take a picture of Liam with his button collection; he’s quite proud of it.

Our evening was very eventful.  Were were able to enjoy both the Soundsational parade in Disneyland AND the World of Color show in Disney’s California Adventure.  The kids loved the parade, as expected.  And the World of Color show was Amazing, but not great for kids.  If you want them to be able to see, you really do have to hold them.  And holding them for the length of the show was pretty difficult.  Still, the show is a definite must-see; a true spectacle of lights, water and fire.

Tomorrow we hope to visit California Adventure in earnest.  We have early-opening tickets for the Disneyland park, but we need to figure out exactly what opportunities those tickets afford.  Whew!  Good night!

Day 1 in Disneyland

We left Reedley and arrived mid-morning in Disneyland.  What a fun experience!

Our first ride was the train around the park.  Liam was scared of the dinosaurs, and it was an early indication that we would have to watch out for scary experiences.  Next we went down Mainstreet, USA to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.  Again, it was a little bit scary for Liam.

Peter Pan’s flight was, as expected, a highlight.  While waiting in line we met a couple who are retired teachers.  They are also grandparents, and really enjoyed talking with our kids.  King Arthur’s carousel was next (see the photos below), and then we took a break and ate lunch in Fantasyland.  Lunch was $40 (yikes!), and the adult portions were about right, but the children’s portions looked small.  They weren’t; our kids actually had plenty to eat.

The crowd index was really low (as expected for a Tuesday in November), and our rides on both Dumbo and the Casey Junior Circus Train were quick, due to the short wait in line. Liam sang the Casey Junior song for the rest of the day.  But he only knows the words, “Casey Junior’s back….”, so he sang that one line over and over and over and over.

Clara’s favorite ride (so far) was the Mad Hatter’s teacup ride.  After enjoying this spinning sick-inducer, we headed to Tomorrowland, to the Autopia cars and Buzz Lightyear’s Astro-Blasters.  Clara drove(?) with me on the Autopia cars, and she had so much fun. She laughed the entire time!  On the Astro-Blasters, Liam and Daddy competed with Clara and Mommy for the highest score.  Daddy was a bit worried early on, because it turns out Mommy is a pretty good shot.  But the ladies were soundly defeated by the end of the ride.

We were getting pretty tired by this point, so we wandered through innoventions (meh), then took the Monorail back to Downtown Disney.  We were able to ride in the front of the Monorail with the driver – we’d heard you can request this, so we did.

We had a late but scrumptious dinner at the Storyteller’s Cafe downstairs in our hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian.  Lisa enjoyed the corn chowder and a salad, the kids made their own pizzas, and I enjoyed the buffet, complete with New York strip steak and an over-the-top dessert selection.

After dinner we collapsed into bed.  Lisa and I intended to plan Wednesday’s fun, but we were both snoozing before we knew what was happening.  I’m writing this during naptime on Day 2, and I hope we can update the blog to share all of today’s fun and adventures sometime (late) this evening!

The Night Jesus Saved Liam

March 20, 2011

After reading Jesus’s words about hell in Mark 9 before bed, Liam told me, “I don’t want to go to hell. ” I told him that there’s only one way to know for sure that you’re going to heaven. I explained our separation from God because of sin, and Jesus’s provision. We prayed the prayer of salvation together, then asked for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I explained to Liam that he had become a Christian, and told him that he should tell everyone he knows about it.  He thought it might be fun to have everyone come over to our house for a party.

Liam also had some interesting questions. He wanted to know why I’m not perfect, even though I’m a Christian. I told him that my sinful nature still wars against the Spirit of God in me, and that I won’t be perfect until I die and go to heaven.  I told him that I’m not perfect, but I am forgiven.  And God’s now forgiven him because of what Jesus did.  Liam told me that when we go to heaven, we’ll have perfect bodies, just like Jesus.  Apparently he’s been listening and putting some of these things together. I feel like he has a very real understanding of what he prayed, and I’m so happy that he’s chosen to follow Jesus!

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Guess who’s back?

Just when you thought you I’d quit writing altogether – just when you’re sure that this trip to our blog will be fruitless – as you’re making one last visit for old time’s sake – the unthinkable happens.  You actually find a new blog post.  Whether it’s worth your time to read, I won’t try to pre-judge.  Maybe your comments (or lack thereof) will be all the feedback I need.  Or maybe, just maybe, fate isn’t sealed and the end isn’t written yet. Maybe the end can’t be known from the beginning.  Maybe you’ll leave a comment and stir my faintest hopes.  Or maybe not.

Anyway, we’ve had a lot going on in the past week, months, year little while.  We now have a second child (who, I’m sad to say, still isn’t reflected in our blog’s header graphic.  We could at least do as well as the Team Shinn blog and put up a picture that includes all of us (and our pet unicorn).  Clara is growing into a mostly delightful young girl.  She is funny, sincere, and likes to order her world in her own way.  She can be a little strong-willed at times, too. My favorite Clara-ism is her saying ‘Yipee!’

Liam’s a tender young lad who also happens to make a lot of noise.  His favorite mode of play seems to involve car crashes and other catastrophes.  That sounds bad on (blog) paper, but in reality it’s not at all disturbing.  He became a Christian last night when he accepted Jesus into his heart.  I’ll have to write an entire post on that – it’s pretty interesting.

Here’s a gratuitous picture (I know some of you are only here for the cute kid pictures):
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Speaking of cute, Lisa is doing well. She’s really developing a pretty fantastic skill as a photographer.  Though she and I differ pretty drastically in style, she’s bringing back some material that really earns my respect.  She and I are tossing around the idea of creating a book-length product of some of her work from the simple.life.art series.  It would be very worth doing.  Lisa has also been running lately, which is relatively new for her.  She’s actually in bed early tonight because she’s planning to run first thing in the morning.

I guess that just leaves me (for now).  My biggest life news is that I decided to blog again.  Okay, I think I had you there for a second.  Though I care about andrewandlisa.org almost as much as you do, it’s not actually the most important thing that I have going.  My big news is that I’m pregnant.  (Did I get you that time? I was sure you wouldn’t expect a second cheap gag so quickly on the heels of the first.)

No, my real news is that I’ve returned to school.  If you’ve followed the blog for any length of time, you’ll remember that I took a few courses at Fresno State several years ago.  Well, I’ve resumed that course of study and am again working on my Master’s Degree in Business Administration.  I have two courses this semester, and I LOVE being back in school.  The role’s been a weird adjustment for a fully independent adult, but the reading and mental stimulation are well worth it.  Not to mention that I have some interesting classmates.

Speaking of reading, I’ve been doing so much reading in so many areas that I should probably plan a few blog posts just to catch you up on my reading list.  I know that sounds boring, but perhaps I can come up with an interesting way to share.  Limerick, maybe? Or Iambic Pentameter?  I know it sounds goofy to write a sonnet about one’s reading list, but I really do love it about that much.  Tell me now if that sounds grindingly boring, and I’ll go suck my (gin-covered) thumb in a corner for comfort.

Well, this silliness has gone on for far too long.  I can’t give you the last few minutes of your life back, but I CAN beg you to come back for more of the salacious details and gratuitously cute kid pictures that you’re sure to find in future posts here on andrewandlisa.org.  Good night.

New pictures of Liam and Clara!

They’re both growing so fast! Here are some pictures of our little walking girl and our little playful boy.

Liam is so playful these days, and is starting to see play as a worthy activity in itself, instead of something you do out of curiosity.  That’s really fun, until play time is over.

Clara is getting more fun all the time!  She loves to eat, and she really likes clothes.  She loves to put on shoes, hats and jackets.  Here are a few pictures from our most recent studio session with them!

Enjoy,

Daddy (Andrew)