Thursday, September 1, 2011

Taekwondo tournaments are better than water parks

We spent the last weekend at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine Texas at the Dallas International Taekwondo Hanmadang. The what you say? Yep, a hanmadang, which we learned means "big field", usually associated with festivals, family, and community. It was that, and it was more.

It was Ainsley's debut in a taekwondo tournament. We aren't sure really how Master Adrian talked her into it, but Ainsley agreed to jump in and join her brother and sister in a real tournament. Now, she's watched many (if not a hundred) of her sibling's tournaments, but never has participated. This time, with really nary a nervous twitch, Ainsley stepped onto the mat and did both forms and sparring.

The conversation leading up to the tournament went like this. Ainsley "I'm pretty sure I don't want to do this". Mom and Dad, "you don't have to, but you promised Master Adrian". Ainsley "Okay". Then the day of the tournament in a very adult manner, Ainsley says "I don't want to go out there". Mom and Dad, "it's a good chance to practice being like a cheerleader, they have to stand out in front of lots of crowds and perform". Ainsley, "oh, okay".

Forms went okay, she forgot a lot of it, but bravely carried on. Then we got to the sparring part. She stepped out there full of confidence. Within about 10 seconds, that disappeared. The little girl she was up against had obviously done this many times before. Ainsley quickly turned into the proverbial punching bag. She kept going. The other girl scored 5 points, 10 points, 15 points, and then the ultimate most horrible thing happened (in Ainsley's eyes), the girl accidentally kicked her in the head. Finally, our Ainsley showed up. She cried, then promptly turned to the ref and yelled, "she's not supposed to kick me in the head". Unfortunately, the tears had started, and they didn't stop. Master Adrian gracefully conceded the match almost a full round early.

I don't know about Mark, but many emotions flitted through my brain. OMG, we are horrible parents, how could we do this to her? Wow, what a great punching bag she is! Ainsley is so brave to keep going. This will be the end of her very short TKD career. Oh my goodness, that family from TKD that came to watch how tournaments work will never, ever, sign up their kids after this. That's my baby, ohhh, that had to hurt. A million thoughts in less than a minute. It was harrowing. It was miserable. It was good.

Good? Yes, because it was a "great learning experience". I know, the ultimate cliche. And, because Ainsley and the other girl were the only ones in the division, Ainsley ended up in 2nd place, and she got a trophy. Her first. A trophy that she is SO excited about (see Flickr pics). And, it was good based on the kids reviews. Master Adrian asked the kids on Monday, "hey kids, was that water park (at the Gaylord) fun or what"? The answer? "No not really, we had more fun at the tournament". Enough said.

The weekend was a success. It turns out that it wasn't because we spent Sunday at the new Gaylord Texan water park, swimming, hula hooping, getting fake tattoos, and winning dance contests (yep, Graham won). The weekend was a success because each kid tried their best, and in doing so, felt like they were on top of the world. You can't beat that.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In the hallways

The cancer path has influenced our lives in so many ways, and though we aren't currently in the midst of day to day battle, it still has such a huge impact in so many aspects of our daily lives. Some days, we are lucky to forget the battle at large, but really, at least for me, it crops up in little ways at least a few times a day.

Really, I'm so lucky and blessed. Still to this day, I pass people in the hallway at work that stop and bravely ask, "how is your daughter", or, "what's the latest with Sydney"? I call them brave, because truly, they are. Do you take that risk? The risk of the answer being "not so great", or, "we received some bad news". I am so thankful for these people, and their caring commitment to just being such fearless brave human beings.

I always strive to be that brave. It's hard though. But, trying to reach that goal, I've made it a purpose, especially at work, to bring together cancer "peeps". It may be them, their children, their spouses, or other loved ones that are fighting the good fight, but regardless, they deserve some support. I try (try being the operative word), to not shy away from the real stuff, to ask the questions I'd want to be asked, and to really listen to the answers.

It seems to go through phases, and unfortunately, recently has been one of the not so great phases. At work one co-worker has been recently diagnosed, one's husband was moved to hospice today, and one (one of my very best buds) has been told that he has another tumor after Cyber Knife radiation to a tumor found in the brain following the spread of colon cancer. I sit there, and trying as bravely as I can, ask, what's the next step, what's the next treatment, how can I help? So very little, really. But what I try to never forget is that it can always be worse, that the right attitude makes all the difference, and a good listening ear is priceless.

Everyday you're bombarded I'm sure, just as we are, with groups asking for help, for giving. This is good, and necessary. Heck, even we've asked for the same. But, I have a different question - what do you do in the hallways?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cleaning up the dishes

Last night was a great night. We did homework, we swam, we had dinner. For those of you that may not know, we have a dinner ritual (which luckily, we get to follow most nights). We sit, we eat, we talk about our day. No TV or electronics allowed. We typically ask the children 2 to 3 questions. The standard 2 are "What was the best part of your day", and, "What was the worst part of your day". Lately, for comic relief, we have thrown in "What was the funniest part of your day". Believe it or not, we actually get a better picture of our kids lives with these simple questions than we do with any others we throw at them at any other time during the day.

Tonight, we were regaled with tales of "100 lashes with a wet noodle" (Ainsley's teacher's hopefully comic response to non performance in the classroom), and with "I hate Spanish" from Sydney. Of course, the families response to that was to start talking in any other language except English. Mark, well, he does Spanish (or Mexican to those in Texas). Graham is quite adept at Chinese. Ainsley, well, she does a chinish - a nice mix of Spanish and Chinese, both of which she's had since pre-k. Me, well, I can do any language in a wonderful Southern accent. I really don't get it - English and I, we do quite well, not but a small hair of southern influence, regardless of growing up in Alabama. But listen to me "try" to speak another language, and you would swear I grew up in backwater Alabama with a banjo on my knee.

So, dinner wraps up with us all speaking in horrible tongues, and moves to the clean up phase. Mark and I have made the determination over the last month or so that there is no reason for adults in our family to clean up dinner. After all, this is why we had children (I did warn you that Mark is PC, and I'm not, right?). So, amidst kicking, screaming, and plate slinging, dinner clean up commences. I must comment, because last night was a rare event. The children cleaned up with only 1 fight amongst them, we had one cleaning the table, and 2 putting the dishes in the dishwasher. Life is good. One day they may graduate to bus boys and girls, and the bonus is of course that they will be bilingual while doing it.

Here's to the future!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Different View

So, many have expressed concern over the limited amount of posts from Mark over the summer. I (Lynley) thought I'd pinch hit and try to fill in some of the blanks. But first, we need to set the record straight - I am not Mark, I am unfortunately not witty, and certainly by no means am I a neuroblastoma aficionado. But, I can sometimes string a few words together, and hopefully, I can at least catch you up on our lives.

In case you didn't know, Mark was snatched up by an out-of-the-blue recruiter last December, with visions of steady money and a job just down the road. He couldn't say no (and shouldn't have), so Mark packed up his bags (laptop) and headed a mile and a half down the road to a job at Parker Hannifin, doing what he's always done best, and loved, which is programming. Thus begins the slippage of postings. Out of the house at 7:15 am and back home at TaeKwondo time at a steady Monday through Friday clip.

Personally, I also think that anyone writing a blog for as many years as he has has to feel the challenge of keeping up. He started before "blogging" was "blogging". He started before (for those in the cancer world) Care Pages existed. Yes, in the eyes of technology, Mark is ancient. Again, and this is me talking (writing), but what began as a brain catharsis, somewhere in the 8 years since begun, could maybe sometimes turn into something that seems like a job. I don't know, luckily, no one has ever depended on me writing a daily blurb (good choice), but that pressure if no longer for a personal release could to be a heavy one.

Okay, so enough about blogging. Here's the low down on the summer. The first part of the summer was taekwondo. We breathed it, we slept it, we sweated it, we worked it. Then came the "Great Trip to California" for the taekwondo Junior Olympics/Nationals. Both Graham and Sydney did great, and Sydney came home with a bronze. Not bad for a cancer kid, huh? Ainsley tagged along as always and had a great time. Check out our Flickr page for pics.

We returned happy, elated, and totally burned out on TKD of course. So began a month sabbatical. I'd like to say that exciting things happened during this time, but really, no one wanted excitement. We wanted home and family.

So, we had home, family, and a roast. Roast you say? Yes, that is what we've done this summer. I think we are now in the 3rd hottest summer rankings of all Texas time. Why do we live in this h-e-double hockey sticks place? Honestly, our brains were fried at at least 30 days of 100 temps ago, and I couldn't say.

I have to give an example of the heat (actually, I could give you a hundred, but I don't want to bore you even more). This one stood out. Sydney has to put in ear plugs to swim to fight off swimmers ear. They are made of some orange substance. Yesterday she couldn't find any of her "ears". We all searched. And searched. They have to be where you left them on the porch I said, at least a million times. Found them finally! They had been left on the, shaded mind you, back porch. We found some nice gelatinous goo on the wood planks of the back porch, oddly colored orange, with bits of dog hair sticking out. The dogs ate them you say? Oh noooo, what had been solid now was liquid, a nice melted pile of ear wax, dripping its way through the table. "It's so hot" sayings just begin to roll of the tongue, don't they?

Fast forward to August, when fast again becomes the name of the game. All the chaos of returning to school began to happen, and then before we knew it, school started. Sydney started 4th, Graham 2nd, and Ainsley 1st. We are a week and a few days into it, and so far no one has hated their teacher, and no blood has been shed. Keep your fingers crossed.

Now, I don't have a quaint purpose line to finish with, but I do need to run off, Ainsley and I are making cookies, and she's told me after reading the recipe that we need some "slick" butter. I'm wondering if that's something Central Market will carry...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Alternate Universe

No, Lynley, just because I decided to do two loads of laundry this morning does not mean you woke up in some alternate universe.

Jeez, it is hard for a guy to have a little purpose around here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Well, well it has been a long time. I guess it says something that I just have not had much to say. The good news is that all seems to be going well. All in all, it has been an excellent summer. For a change, I have more time to spend with the family. Call it selfishness. Call it laziness. But, for once in the last 10 years, I have gone from an average of 80 hour weeks to about 45 hour weeks. It has been a nice hiatus.

Stress is down. Family is up. Life is good.

It isn't that I don't miss being smack dab in the front lines but, it is nice to just BE for a change.

Anonymousness feels nice.

The kiddos, well they are awesome. Perfect, no? We are still battling infighting. Sydney is still exhibiting strange "illnesses" quite regularly. Graham is an overly emotional germaphobe (his words, not mine) , and Ainsley is still stealing candy and hiding it under the couch. No, our lives are still far from perfect. In that sense, there remains a lot to write about. None the less, it is who we are and I would trade it for nothing.

Oh, and I can't forget Lynley. Little has changed with her either. She remains smokin' hot and, thankfully, brainwashed regarding me.

Yep, it is good to be me.

It was nice writing again. I have missed it. Perhaps there will be more in the future.

Although my writing has diminished - my purpose has not.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Breaking Through

Home sweet, home. Well, we have been back home from California for the better part of a week. Overall, Sydney and Graham's Tae Kwon Do team did well. I think that with each passing day Sydney has gained more and more pride regarding her bronze medal. At first, she was sad that she only achieved bronze. I just don't really think she digested the scale of her accomplishment until after she realized how tough this venue was. When some of her team heros (people who she looks up to for their dominance) came back with bronze and silver medals she began to realize that just getting to compete was a big accomplishment and a medal, any medal, was like walking on the moon.

It has had a profound effect on her confidence. I mean this, of course, in a good way. But, she walked into this tournament with doubt that she could accomplish anything on her own and walked out knowing nothing stood in her way. I don't know how long the effect will last but it is this feeling that is exactly the reason we put her in Tae Kwon Do.

Unfortunately, Graham did not walk out with the same feeling. He is a self doubting wreck. You would never expect a little boy with so much good stuff going would have such an unhealthy picture of himself painted in his mind. He is smart, athletic, funny and so incredibly creatively talented and yet, to listen to him, you would think he had failed at everything. The good news is that he is no worse off than when we began our road to the Junior Olympics. However, Graham needed this win more than anyone.

He is my biggest challenge as of late. Graham is tough for me. I absolutely love the little bugger but he is the one that I have the most difficulty communicating with. I don't know whether it is because we are both male or because we are so much alike that it pushes us apart but, I just don't ever feel like I can get through to him. In this sense, he is a momma's boy. Yes, Lynley has his heart. It is frustrating though, because he needs me. He is just like his dad. There is so much that I can impart to him if he would just give me the chance.

It is one of my greatest frustrations in life.

I just want to help him and, right now, he needs it.

This one will take weeks, months and years of purpose.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

US Junior Olympics Bronze Medalist

Well, it has been a very long and nerve racking couple of days. First up was Graham. While I am incredibly proud of him, I am sad for him to say that he finished just out of medal contention. Graham fought excellently and, in the match that would dictate whether he made it to the metal rounds, I am sad to say he fell just short. Honestly, I think he fell victim to electronic scoring. While he did not totally dominate the match, I think it was clear to everyone that he was the more skilled competitor. Had this match been decided by judges there is no doubt that Graham would have won. Unfortunately, his kicks just never scored with the electronic gear. Although, we have plenty of photographic evidence of good, solid kicks that should have scored. :) Regardless, he lost in the last 10 seconds of the final round to a series of punches that we are still trying to figure out.

Sydney's day started out hard as well. Her forms competition was stacked with 25 of the best girls from all around the country. She did an incredible job on her form but, unfortunately, it was only good enough to place her 11th amongst the tight competition. Still, an impressive feat considering these were the best of the best.

Sparring, however, was where things began to change. Make no mistake, none of it was easy. Every round was close and competition was fierce. There wasn't a single girl without the mojo needed to win. Sydney, however, was fierce. She went out with a fire and vigor that would lead her out of the preliminaries and into the medal rounds. Sydney would fight a tremendously hard match which would place her in third place. In the end, she lost the match 3 to 1 which would have placed her in the final gold medal match to a girl that was flatly incredible.

I felt incredibly proud of her winning the bronze at the US Junior Olympics.

It has been a long road for a little girl with stage 4 Neuroblastoma.

Who would have thought?

I am beginning to think she may have even more purpose than her father.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Resurfacing in San Jose

Okay, so I know it has been a long time in coming. But, what can I say, things have been going well and for once I have just been participating in life. No stresses, no worries. Just me and the fam. For better or worse, I have not felt the need to be the reporter.


Probably, but it has been nice to just breath a little.

So, today I find myself in San Jose awaiting Graham's grand entrance into the Tae Kwon Do Junior Olympics / National Championships. In a bit he will be competing in forms and then later today in sparring.

My expectations?

Growing a great human being. Could he win? Maybe. But he has 40 of the top 6 and 7 years olds from around the world. In my eyes he has already won.

It is the journey.

That's our purpose.

Results to follow.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cat Scanning of a different sort

Good morning! Long time no write. Well, it should still come as no surprise that my lack of writing is not a sign of nothing going on. No, it seems like there just hasn't been a moment's notice. Regardless, here I am, with an update.

To say things have been busy would be an understatement. Most notably, we are just two weeks shy of the Tae Kwon Do National Championships (Junior Olympics). With that comes brutal and frequent practices. Currently the kiddos are having two-a-day practices and on top of that private lessons to polish off their forms. When Sydney is not doing that she is at "horse camp" this week where she is learning how to ride horses. The other two kiddos have found themselves doing a lot of traveling as they usher themselves from home to horse camp and Tae Kwon Do and back all over again. When they aren't carpooling they still seem to be finding hours upon end to swim.

Yes, times are good and the summer seems to be going superbly.

Lynley and I? Well, between work, play dates, swim parties, horse camp and Tae Kwon Do; we really don't get out much. In fact, we don't do much of anything but chase kiddos and muddle through chores. Don't get me wrong. I am not complaining. This is simply the life of a child's servant.

On a funny note:
Yesterday, Ainsley and Stephanie, our nanny, made a stop by Pet's Mart while they were waiting for Sydney's camp to finish for the day. Ainsley watched as someone brought a kitten up to the cashier for purchase. Ainsley did not understand how they would be able to scan the cat at the register so that they could by it. In her mind, the scanner is how it keeps track of what you buy. After all, it is the scanner (and apparently only the scanner) that tells the machine how much invisible money it has to take off of my debit card.

Out of the mouths of babes. How times have changed...

I have really become very close to Ainsley over the last couple of months or so. She is at a particularly snugly stage and we are having a blast together. And to think, this all began with a few trips to 7-Eleven for Slurpees.

The power of one and one time...

And purpose...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sydney's Birthday with "Lobster Legs"

Yesterday was Sydney's 10th birthday. This is a pretty big milestone in any child's life but I think given Sydney's history it just means that much more. She, of course, is just proud to be 10 and seems to be enjoying just being in her skin more than I have seen before. If yesterday was any indication, it looks like my little walking decade is going to have a wonderful year.

Well, to celebrate such an auspicious occasion we had to do it just right. Sydney, of all things, wanted lobster for dinner. (Typical woman thing to want in our family I might add.) Now, you may think that with that fancy new car that Lynley surprised me with for my birthday, that lobster must be the way that I roll. Oh you know, expensive cars, posh duds, fine jewelry.

Nope, not this guy.

I admit it. I am a coupon cutting, penny pinching tight wad with a neat freak streak. Regardless, 3 kids with lobster dinners - not this guy. We had to get creative. Now don't get me wrong, it was, after all Sydney's birthday. For her, a $20 lobster it was. However, for the other grubby little money scarfing munchkins, not so much. They wanted lobster because their sister was having it. Not because they could tell the difference between the lobster and the $7 snow crab legs.

That is when they became "lobster legs."

And that is exactly what Graham and Ainsley greedily chowed down on. Oh yes, they just love "lobster legs."

We now have a really nice thing going so please, please don't laugh if you are out with us and my kiddos order lobster legs. Else you might just end up with the bill.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Sometimes my purpose feels dirty. But still, it is so darn fun.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A fine ending

Summer has arrived. Oh, yes, school has come to a close and the kiddos are already knee deep into nothingness. I must admit. The kiddos all deserve some rest and relaxation. Sydney finished out the year on the all 'A' honor roll. Graham slid in with some marks of true brilliance on his achievement tests and Ainsley, perhaps the most brilliant of all, finished out her stellar year with almost more blue marks than green. Let me be clear. All of the kids surpassed my expectations.

Which says a lot. I expect them to be better than me and everyone knows by now that I have a very high opinion of myself. Then again, everyone that knows me would also expect me to have a pretty high opinion of my own progeny.

None the less, they were awesome this year and they deserve every bit of praise they get. I am a proud Papa.

Last weekend not only marked the beginning of summer but it also marked Ainsley's 6th birthday and the "pre" celebration of Sydney's 10th (count em' 10) birthday. We spent the day at NRH2O,a family water park not too far from us. Was it fun? Well, it was as fun as 2 adults and 7 kids could possibly have at a water park. The kiddos all seemed to truly enjoy themselves and we seemed to simply survive - a true mark of success, I think. Well, I had best be off.

There are twerplets rustling.

I am off to purpose.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


I know, I know. What a horrible title for a blog entry. Perhaps you are just as shocked and appalled as Lynley and I were when we were confronted by Graham and Ainsley last night. We heard the argument coming down the stairs.





"Is not!"

"Is too!"

Yep, this was the argument reverberating through the house as my brilliant little progeny made their way to the kitchen. Supposedly, they were clever. It did not take them long to find us. There we were, 2 innocent parents toiling away in the kitchen making dinner - slaving away for our children to feed their little bellies and nourish their growing brains.

Here they were, my 5 (almost 6) and 7 year old fighting over the correct pronunciation of the girlie part. They were not quiet. Oh know, they were loudly debating with clearly no remorse, tact, or fear of consequence.

This is what my life has come to. I am now settling arguments on the correct pronunciation of the word vagina?

It does not seem like it was that long ago that we were cuddling our little kiddos and nurturing their bright young minds with the likes of Dr. Seuss and Baby Einstein.

Where oh where did we go wrong? What happened?

My purpose has been raped of its innocence.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Keeping the wolvelets at bay

Just a quick note to let you know that, as predicted, Graham is well on the road to recovery. A couple of days of antibiotics and you would have no idea that he had been sick. He was so well he even attended a gruelling 2 hour Tae Kwon Do practice on Saturday morning. We are about a month away from Nationals (the Junior Olympics) and the kiddos have started an intense preparation regimen. I grow tired just looking at them.

I probably shouldn't say anything but wearing them out is probably a good thing. I love my kiddos but we have a cancer growing in our house right now. (No, hopefully not the real kind.) The kiddos can't stop fighting with one another. It starts the moment they get together and it only gets worse from there. Simply stepping into our house right now will raise your blood pressure by about 30 points. I don't know what has happened to spark this week long session of infighting but it is unbearable.

It is not a happy place to be.

As a parent it is extremely hard to not let it affect you. It does not take long for the constant barrage of tattling and yelling to have an effect. You can go from feeling calm and peace to anger and anxiety in a moments notice without knowing what hit you. It is like a poison and it isn't healthy. While I would like to say that everything is hunky dory around the Dungan household - these are unfortunately dark times.

So, how do you break the cycle?

I don't know if we have the answers but we are working hard. Tag team parenting seems to help Lynley and I stay somewhat rationale. We have instituted several new rules to keep the arguments from escalating but we have had many failures. Go figure, a calm, intelligent conversation with them was absolutely useless. (It only maintained sanity for about 2 minutes.) But, swift punishments and lots of time alone seem to be working. Hopefully we can continue to drain the level of tension.

My only fear?

School ends this week. Then, they will be together all of the time.

It will not be getting easier.

We will need more purpose to keep us sane and to keep the wolvelets at bay.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Life is like a box of chocolates

First, I have been meaning to post this for weeks. As Jay's wedding reception went on the kids eventually grew tired of all of the face time. Graham would take a break from all of the action by walking out in front of the building to grab a quiet seat on the bench that lined the side walk. The moment I saw him a could not help myself from making the comparison to Forrest Gump. I asked Lynley to come out and snap this picture. Just like Forrest, Graham would be the first to tell you that life is like a box of chocolates.

Think my opinion was too far off of the mark?

Run Forrest Run. That's my boy.

Now, on a relatively sad note for our little Forrest, the Gumpster is home sick with strep throat. Yesterday, we sent Dudely to school with high hopes. Although he had been complaining about a sore throat for a day or two we had assumed it was just some drainage from allergies. We drugged him up with some Ibuprofen and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, he didn't even make it through lunch. We received the call and I picked him up from school a little after lunch. Given the time and the fact that I knew I probably would not make it back from the doctor's office until after school was out, I elected to pick up the girls as well. With a full car, we were off to get milkshakes and make our way to the doctor.

It did not take long to confirm the diagnosis. Within an hour he was choking back some penicillin and on his way back to reality.

It is a good thing that we nipped this in the bud pretty quickly. Graham has no ability to tolerate sickness. Although he is rarely under the weather, when it hits, he is barely able to cope. Yes, I am quite certain that the boy's life has flashed before his very own eyes. While I am certain that he doubts he will survive this we believe we have him well on the road to recovery.

Purpose is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are gonna get.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A weekend of nothingness

A new week has arrived. The weekend around the Dungan household went pretty smoothly. Believe it or not, Friday evening found us up at Lynley's work madly stapling and stuffing. Lynley and her team were in the midst of an EMR (electronic medical records) upgrade which took the better part of the weekend. The twerplets and I found our niche stuffing packets full of directions and information for the installers and end users.

The kiddos would impress you here with their skills and commitment. They are all business. They work hard as a well oiled machine and love to help out. I don't know how we have instilled this work ethic in them but they are the first to volunteer to work and they always do a great job. I must admit. They make me very proud.

Saturday was more work, but this time it was around the house. Lynley handled the inside while the kids and I washed cars outside. The good news was that we did a spectacular job on the cars. The bad news was that Sydney got a horrible sunburn. Who would have thought a cool Saturday morning would have brought a sunburn? Obviously, not I. I guess I learned my lesson. Please don't call CPS. Forthwith I promise to keep her slathered in SPF 1,000,000.

For lunch the kiddos and I picnicked at the park.

Sunday was a lazy day for half the clan. Unfortunately, Lynley found herself at the office in the control center overseeing the EMR migration. I was left at home with the kiddos. We did nothing but sit on the couch and watch TV. How typical is that? I am quite sure that if Lynley had been home we would have had structured activity with some kind of learning objective. Or, at the very least, we would have had a family project that certainly would have brought us all closer together.

Nope. Not with Dad. No, you leave me in charge and you get a bunch of lazy wastoids sitting in front of a television. Typical Dad stuff, isn't it? I would like to tell you that we had gotten a bunch of chores done or had a momentous occasion of family bonding but about all of the bonding that occurred happened between our hineys and the couch.

Right before Lynley got home we messed up the house a bit to make it look like we had actually moved from the couches since. We even finally decided to get dressed. By the time she dawned the door we were all out of breath. That had the added benefit of making her think that we were cleaning up after a busy morning. She was none the wiser.

Let's go ahead and keep the truth between you and I and the Internet.

Sometimes purpose just needs a relaxing break.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Too much slack in the rope?

Good morning! Well, two days ago I left you in the lurch. Hanging over all of our heads was a mysteriously broken foot and I am sure the suspense had you as covered in hives as Graham.

First, Graham. Well, the boy is hivey. We don't know why. He just is. It all started on Monday evening. Since then he has been on a routine of benedryl at night and Zyrtec during the day. The has kept his condition under relative control. When it comes to allergies, Graham has always been our itchy star. If you look back over the years you will find that this time of year has brought him a bevy of conditions. Whether asthma like symptoms or something like this, he has always been our sniffly springtime fixture.

He may look blotchedy and with the exception of some itchiness, the good news is that he seems to be just fine.

Ah, the broken foot. Sydney is our culprit here. Would it surprise you that it had to do with Tae Kwon Do? Yes, it was a violent Tae Kwon Do injury. But, before you start chastising me for having that sweet little girl in such a violent sport or telling all of your friends to keep their kids out of martial arts, just dial it back a bit. First, it turns out her foot is not broken. It is swollen. There is a big nasty bruise and I am quite sure that it hurts quite a bit. I feel sorry for her for that - I do.

But, that is where my soft, supportive Daddy feelings end. The only reason the hipster doofus got injured was because she was not wearing her pads - as she was (and always has been) required to. You see, for some reason, Sydney decided that it was not cool to wear her instep pads. Be them not cool, not comfortable, or whatever her rationale was this time, the pads were forgone.


In the process, she learned why she should wear them.

You ask me, lesson learned.

I know that sounds harsh. And, if I am being honest, I do feel a bit guilty. I mean, I don't want her to be hurt and her safety is ultimately my responsibility. But, at some point, she just has to do what she is told. At the age of 9 (almost 10) it seems she should know that she should be wearing her pads when sparring - especially if she has been told to do so. Am I still supposed to be giving her a full body check every time she steps on the mat? At what point am I doing her a disservice by coddling her too much. At some point she has to learn.

This reminds me of a famous Bill Cosby skit where he is describing his kiddos bathroom routine and the fact that he didn't only have to remind them to take a shower but that he also had to remind them to actually turn on the water once they were there. Then, as if that was not enough, if you have any hopes of them being clean it was also necessary to remind them to use soap.

It seems it is the same thing with pads if you have any hope of keeping your kids from being injured. Sydney did you remember to put on your gear? Did you put on your arm guards? What about your shin guards? Do you have your chest gear? Is it on? What about your helmet? Your mouthpiece? Is it in your mouth? Ah, what about your instep pads?

At what point do you stop? At what point do you stop coddling them so that they learn?

Purpose isn't always about protecting them at some point it has also got to be about giving them some rope to learn about reality.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A killer combination - a wedding, a broken foot, and hives

Good morning! If you are mad that I have not been writing, well, you have every right to be. However, it has been one hectic roller coaster ride. In the last week we have been to Huntsville, AL and back, had one of the kiddos covered in hives, and darn near broke another's foot in half. Yep, this is the stuff that you should be hearing about live in the blog, not first hand and a day late from actual people.

First, the wedding. Oops, I forgot to mention the fact that we were in Huntsville for Lynley's brother, Jay, and his marriage to Christina, or Stina, as she is known to Ainsley. The twerplets were somewhat of a wedding combo pack - two flower girls and a ring bearer in a box. Although packaged together I don't want to give you the impression that this is some kind of low quality bundle. This is a first class marriage package. This trio was nothing short of spectacular and left everyone in amazement by their professionalism and excellent behaviour. They were perfect. I can't tell you how many people came up and introduced themselves just to congratulate us on our magnificent kids and their impeccable behavior. I tried to explain that anything could be accomplished with a lion tamers whip but no one took me seriously.

The fact remains that my kiddos were truly something to be proud of. Here is a little taste:

We are also happy to report that the marriage appears to still be going strong, making it through the first 2 days of the honeymoon with nary an incident. Yep, at that point in our marriage Lynley was already having some significant second thoughts. Thank goodness I called "no take backs" after she said I do. I was also smart enough to honeymoon in a foreign country where she had no easy get away. By the time the honeymoon was over, I already had her brainwashed. Remember boys, it only takes 21 days to instill a habit - good or bad.

Yep, given the fact that we have made it 14 years, I hold out high hopes for them.

Wow, a full page of writing and I am still yet to cover the other two crises. Well, I guess that will just have to wait. It gives us both a reason to come back tomorrow.

Purpose is non stop.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Putting my purpose where my mouth is

I would like to say that the rationale behind only writing in my blog one day last week was a tribute to our 14 years of marriage. Yeah, lets just go with that.

I love you honey.

Other factors that might have played a part in that were the fact that it was, yet, another incredibly busy week and I, for some reason, developed a week long pattern of not being able to sleep at night and getting up too late in the morning. While I can clearly see that we will not be any less busy over the next couple of days I am happy to say that my sleeping situation has greatly improved. With that I know I can be more prolific.

A highlight from last week was belt testing for Graham and Sydney. They successfully tested and received their red striped belts. This is the 8th belt in their journey towards black belt. They are getting closer and closer and last week's testing was truly a testament to their readiness. It is like watching art in motion. They have come so far and their hard work has put them in a category of their own. It was clear from anyone watching that they have something special.

You know, at just this very moment, I have decided that I do not give enough credit to my kiddos. We are so consumed with buzyness we haven't given them adequate praise for how great they have been lately. I keep getting caught up in the minutia. I am spending too much time making sure they do everything right and not spending nearly enough time appreciating how great they truly are. I spend far more time looking for their shoes and chastising them for misplacing their belts than I do in appreciating the great things that they do on a daily basis.

That is not right.

I need to change that.

In fact, this week I am going to dedicate to ensuring that my kids know how incredibly proud I am of them. It is one thing to tell your kiddos that they are doing great but it is quite another to show it with action.- to show them how much I appreciate their hard work and how proud I am of them for it. This week I will get that through to my kiddos. They deserve it. I will also make sure that I make this a habit going forward.

Minutia and nonsense always gets in the way. There is always more work to be done, more chores to finish, and more projects to get under way. It is because of all of that nonsense that we become out of touch with what are number one job truly is. I need to bring the focus back to my kiddos. I need to show them that they are as high a priority as I say they are.

This week I will be putting my purpose where my mouth is.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The secret to 14 years of marriage

Yesterday was our 14th wedding anniversary. For those of you that are concerned that I may have forgotten the milestone, RELAX! After Lynley's little birthday surprise, she has me wrapped around her little finger. There is no way I would forget to be the dutiful husband. Plus, the Jag is in her name which means I have to be on my best behavior.

She's not stupid.

On the other hand, you have to be wondering. How did Mark land such a fox? (Yeah, I know. I have been wondering the same thing.) And, on top of that, one has to wonder how did he keep her for 14 years (21 since we started dating).

I mean, come on. It is the white elephant in the room. Let's get that out there.

While I would like to tell you that it is my mad "Don Juan" skills, it isn't. Although, I have come up with a few proven secrets to a happy and long marriage. Here are a few nuggets that have clearly worked for me that you may want to stick in your back pocket.

1. First, and foremost, for me to get a girl like Lynley and keep her it has taken one main ingredient - wine, lots and lots of it. It is best to keep wives a little lit. This way they don't notice all of the stupid stuff we do. This has been one of my most important secret marriage weapons. Think of it as a happy marriage lubricant. Trust me, if you want a long and happy marriage, don't skimp here. Buy it by the box.

2. Secondly, have 3 or 4 kids within a year or two of one another early on in the marriage. This step can't not be heeded too closely and it is another one of my best nuggets. Trust me, if you play your cards right, as I have, she will never leave you for fear of being taken over by the gaggle of kiddos. This is like buying a 20 year marriage insurance policy. She will keep you around just for the moral support. Yes, early (in the marriage) and frequent pregnancies are also an important ingredient to a happy and long marriage.

Note: please do not mix step 1 with step 2.

3. This is the tough one. Rule 3 is to always do exactly what she says or do always do things in her best interest. I know, I know. It sounds hard but, trust me, this works. If you want your marriage to truly work you have to realize that you will never, ever be right. If you acknowledge this fact early on and just do what they say, you will be batting .400. The good news is that there is also an important caveat to this rule. You can still do most things that you want to do. You just have to make sure that you are doing it for their benefit. For example, if I want to go play golf, all I have to do is tell her that I am going to give her some alone time. As long as I never mention golf, I am in good shape. It works every time. I am happy. She is happy.

See, there you go, 3 simple rules to a long and happy marriage. And, here, you probably thought it was going to be difficult.

Oh, and I should probably mention that this is another one of those things that you should probably not mention to Lynley. These "happy marriage" rules seem to work best when your spouse is unaware that you are following them. So, once again, let's not tell her about this.

Yes, that means you.

Oh, and also, I should probably point out that it doesn't hurt that I really, really love her.
She is, after all, my purpose.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The benefits of a bruising?

Good morning! Long time no write... Well, I will be making a concerted effort to do better from now on. The fact of the matter is that life is just moving too fast. The kiddos are all doing well. The big highlight for them this week is the fact that, on Monday and Wednesday, Master Adrian picked them up from school and delivered them directly to the Tae Kwon Do studio. This little change in the schedule helps us all out. While I am not sure how Master Adrian feels about the new arrangement, it sure seems to be making everyone else happy.

Happy kiddos, happy wife, happy Mark. It is the straight line version of the circle of happiness.

I am also happy to announce that Sydney's mysterious chest ailment has disappeared. In fact, it has gone without mention for 6 days now. Well, as soon as I say that, I am quite sure that I will hear about it first thing this morning. But still, I am glad that I have not heard anything about it in a week. I don't so much mind the stuffy noses and sore throats. It is the strange ailments and the unexplainable pains that still have the tendency to bring me to my knees.

One ongoing challenge with Didders (Sydney) is the bruising. Relax. It isn't from low platelets counts. Nope, this time it is from abuse. Not ours, mind you. It is the Tae Kwon Do kind. After 2 weekends of sparring with kids from other schools she has just been wailed on. Mostly it has been caused by sparring boys with little control or accuracy. Go figure? They have absolutely torn up her thighs and buttocks - places they shouldn't technically be kicking. This seems to happen when fighting boys that don't technically have the skills to beat her in the match but are afraid of losing to a girl so they just madly kick as hard as they can.

It is unfortunate. Not only do I feel horribly for Sydney because I know it hurts her physically but it also has the negative effect of hurting her mentally. It is occasions like these that make her dislike Tae Kwon Do. It is temporary but it really effects her attitude. She will get better and she will begin to love Tae Kwon Do again but, for right now, it is a challenge to keep her motivated.

They are just like bruises but they are mental and they take awhile to go away.

It tears me up to see her beaten up bruised little body, especially when it is a choice. I still maintain though, that for Sydney, Tae Kwon Do's benefits far outweigh the challenges. It really has done a superb job of building her confidence. It has also given her the inner strength to push on when things get tough. I think she is beginning to realize and believe that she can do anything she sets her mind to.

She is beginning to believe in her purpose and that is my purpose.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Just socks and underwear

Well, I am guessing there are a bunch of people eager to see exactly what I would have to say about my birthday gift - considering half of the state of Texas was in on the gig. Yes, it seems everyone was pretty excited about Lynley's big surprise. Honestly, I don't know why everyone was so excited about 4 pairs of socks and a 3 pack of boxers.

Unless, of course, you were excited about seeing how I would react to the Jaguar XJ they were sitting on.

Well, let me put this into perspective for you. When I was a little boy my Dad restored an old Jaguar as a hobby. Many people did not know this but my Dad was blind in one eye. Because of this, he could not do much of the electrical work under the dash simply because he could not get into position to see what needed to be done. This is were I came in. As a little boy, I could get in to those tight places and I could see much of the wiring that was blocked from his view. And so began my love affair. It was this time with my Dad and this opportunity that created a love and a passion for Jaguars throughout my life.

For the last 25 years there have always been excuses not to get one. First, the ones I could afford always needed a tremendous amount of work. Second, a new one was always well out of the price range that I could justify spending on a car. Third, there was always a more sensible car for me to drive. No, a Jaguar was relegated to be one of those dreams that would always remain just out of reach - that was until Lynley surprised me with this one.

Now, you may be thinking that the reality of capturing a dream is never as good it seems. Yes, it seems that realities never live up to the expectations that we have built up in our minds.

This is the exception.

It is incredible. It is so much more that I ever thought it could be. It is perfect. It is glass black with a charcoal interior. It has heated and cooled seats and it is every bit as luxurious as you would expect from Jaguar. On top of that, it is over 400 hp sitting on an aluminum frame. It is a monster with the nimbleness of a cat.

It is a Jaguar. It is mine!

As I told Lynley, other than people, it is my absolute favorite thing. I love it.

I feel like Batman.

And now I have my very own "purposemobile."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Snot - the best birthday present ever.

So, all joking aside. There has been some seriousness this week. While I think we have come along way in our mental battle with neuroblastoma, it is clear that there are some things that will stay with us forever. It seems like no matter what the ailment, even 7 years later, the first thing that comes to mind with Sydney is the fear that it could be the cancer coming back. This week has been no exception.

Syd's health turned for the worse on Monday. This was not all too surprising. It is allergy time for most at the Dungan household. So, runny noses, soar throats, and asthma related symptoms are frequent occurrences for everyone. Considering the fact that Sydney stayed up to nearly midnight at a birthday party on Saturday night, it was no surprise that she was a little run down. Combined with the allergies it a logical fit for her to be under the weather.

Rationally, it all makes sense.

However, it still does not take long for our (Lynley and I) brains to begin playing tricks on us. The fear comes and quickly you can turn what seems like a normal case of allergies into cancer.

It should not come as a surprise that I did not sleep well last night. What if this? What if that? What should we do? The mental debate raged on in my brain throughout the night.

The fact is that Sydney presented with some fairly standard stuff - a sore throat. There is no fever and her energy level seems high (unless she is trying to get out of doing something) Honestly, I can still make her lose her voice almost entirely simply by asking her to clean up the dishes after a meal.

However, as the days (3) have gone by, the "standardness" of her symptoms has worn off and I can't make sense of it. Clearly there is a recurring process going on in her body. It is almost like snot reflux. She will be fine for awhile(15 minutes). Then her voice will gradually become more and more hoarse. She refuses to clear her throat or cough because it hurts her chest. Eventually she looses the mental battle and must cough which, while it hurts, clears her throat and brings her back to normal. Over the next 15 minutes the whole process begins over again. She describes the pain as being in her esophagus and chest. She also says it seems as though something is stuck in there.

Of course, after her last set of scans where we found the mystery lesion on her breast plate the first thing I envision is a tumor growing there and putting pressure on her esophagus with lesions metastasized to her lungs.

Certainly that would explain it all.

It is amazing what the mind can come up with.

See how mental I am?

Regardless, I am hoping for a much improved day for her and all I really want for my birthday is for my baby girl to be better.

How I yearn for this to be just be a simple case of the snots. What a perfect birthday present that would be.

I just want my snotty purpose

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good behavior

Midweek has arrived. As expected, my behavior has been exemplary in my last ditch effort to receive something other than socks and underwear for my birthday. I have tried to lay some hints with the kiddos but, sadly, I can tell that they are already scoping out my needs from my closet.

The good news is that if I stay on her good side, Sydney could go all out. The problem with her of course is that she saves money about like a river holds water. Yep with her, I am afraid I am relegated to the coolest thing at the dollar store.

Graham, however, is Mr. money bags. The short term problem for me is that he is the saver. For better or worse, he is tighter than his Dad. Unless I am wanting some legos or a new game for the Wii I don't see him breaking the bank. The good side of all of that saving is that when I grow old (or slightly older) he will be able to afford me in the manner in which Lynley has become accustomed.

Ainsley would likely give me anything I wanted. However, I happen to know she is flat broke. She has busted her bank looking for that next sugar rush. She is a candy junky that has resorted to stealing from my change drawer to support her habit.

It is actually pretty funny. We live close enough to the park that the ice cream truck will make a pass up our street a couple times a week. I am as familiar with the sound of the music from the ice cream truck as I am of what follows - the pitter patter of her little feet running upstairs followed by the clinkety clank of her little fingers fishing for quarters out of my change dish. She will then rush downstairs to tell me that she is going to buy ice cream. For fun, I tell her that I have no money on me and, with a big grin, she always assures me that she can afford it and has the cash. Now that I think about it, She operates under the Lynley theory of ownership. I learned long ago that what was hers is hers and what was mine is hers. It seems my youngest is no different. I am just happy that, in this point in her career, we are still only dealing with petty larceny.

I would say something about Lynley but I am much smarter than that. After someone let lose my comment from Monday's entry about not getting any for a month it turns out I won't be getting any for a month. I now have to assume that what I write here isn't as private as I thought. It turns out that all of the after school specials and public service announcements about not putting anything on the Internet that you wouldn't say or do in person does have at least month long consequences.

So, I would just like to take this opportunity to let everyone know how beautiful and sweet and smart my wife is.

By the way, if you are the leak, it would be helpful if you pointed that last statement out to her before Friday.

Purpose awaits...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Poor little old me

For some reason the weekend before my birthday was deemed a 2 day slave labor camp. Lynley worked my butt(ocks) to the bone and she took absolute joy in doing so. In fact, she wore a smirk all weekend. The kiddos, the little twerps, weren't of any help either. I take back everything I said about them on Friday. Clearly I was wrong. Awesomelets... More like the Not Awesomelets - the not helping Dadlets, or rather, the taking Mom's sidelets. Not one of my progeny even lifted a finger to help dear old Dad.

I will remember.

On my super cool birthday, I am not going to let any of them have ice cream cake.


On Saturday Sydney was attitudinal to say the least. She had spent the previous evening at an all girl sleepover and apparently didn't fall asleep until midnight. That lack of beauty rest turned her into a 5 star shrew (and I mean that in the most daddy nurturing way possible.) She yelled at everyone. Well, everyone except for Lynley and I whom she has learned not to yell at. But to her brother, sister and most inanimate objects around the house she was a real witch. Thankfully and afternoon in her room and a night of rest brought our princess back. However, our princess was still of no help to her poor old over worked Dad.

Sunday was Graham's day and boy did he do it first class. Unfortunately, I do not mean that in a good kid way. We have had a lot of success with Graham after reading a few books and working through some of his confidence issues. He has had weeks of solid growth - and, yes, the state championship did not hurt. But yesterday, whoa yesterday, was 10 steps backward. He must have threatened to run away 10 times and his ability to cope melted away at even the slightest move away from what he wanted. Clearly he was yearning for attention but was just in too foul of a mood to receive any of it. It was not a good Graham Day. And it is important to note that he was not of any particular help to his poor old dad either.

Ainsley, as expected, kept a pretty even keel. She was happy, fun, and, as always, ready for more. She had no problem helping Daddy but her help came more in the form of "Before we start will you make me a drink?" or "Now that we have started can you make me a snack" or " Daddy, you missed a spot?" Sure, she was fun and cheery but I quickly came to realize that with her help everything took 4 times as long to complete. With my blushing bride's cracks of the whip just over my head, that simply was not going to get the job done. While I enjoyed her company, she too was of absolutely no help. It was easier to send her on her merry way.

Now I don't want to paint the love of my life as being a brutal dictator. Lynley was nice but she did it in that southern sort of way. She would ask me to take a break from the hard work but she would do it in that way that also said "if you so much as stop for a second you are not getting any for a month." Oops, you probably should not tell her that I said that publicly in my blog. Regardless, I caught the drift.

And so, poor me, right? Not that anyone else around here would appreciate it but poor old little daddy.

Do you think they will feel sorry enough for me to get me a real cool gift?

Nope, probably still relegated to socks and ties. But you can't blame me for trying.

It is a sneaky stab at purpose.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Awesomelets

There are several people that read my blog that know me personally. However, judging by the email there is large portion that do not know me in person. Anybody that has met me face-to-face and has spoken with me knows that I have a complete inability to show any sign of decorum when it comes to my kiddos. You should know. I am a braggart. It is true. I am twerplet show-off gasbag.

It occurs to me though that I rarely do it in my blog. So, it fine Mark-onian fashion it only makes sense that I rectify that situation.

So, without further ado...

My kids are completely awesome. And, I don't mean a little awesome. They are downright righteous. Lets begin.

First, all of the Dunganlets are straight A students. Some of them have take longer than others to come out of their academic shell but they are all hitting their marks. Sydney has taken this year by storm impressing us each step of the way. Every year she has continues to improve and, frankly, has surpassed my expectations. Graham has done well too. Although, I would be lying if I did not say that I truly believe he is yet to blossom. He does well in school but we keep seeing these flashes of exceptional with him. At times it is almost like he is an idiot savant, sans the idiot part. I am shocked by him daily. Mark my words, he will do something truly amazing for mankind one day.

Ainsley is perhaps the biggest shocker. Don't let Graham or Sydney know but, to date, she is the smartest. She consistently seems leaps and bounds ahead of where her brother and sister when they were her age. That reality is bore out in the classroom. She has consistently hit her marks earlier and faster. It comes quickly to her and with little effort. It would not surprise me if she was always the smartest. The question is whether she will use her powers for good or evil. Knowing her, I am guessing that in her teenage years even a Mensa lock on the liquor cabinet will not be enough.

My kiddos awesomeness does not stop there. They are awesome athletes as well. But, if you have read my diary you already knew that. I am not going to waste your time here again telling you another story of their physical preeminence. We all know they got skills. Where they got them is the quandary.

All of that is well and good, and, if you meet me in public, you will no doubtedly hear me tell you how proud I am of their performances in school or in Tae kwon do. But, if I am being honest, that is not what make me proudest. What gives me the most gratification is the fact that they are good people. They are kind and compassionate. They genuinely care for others and often put others needs ahead of their own. There is no school for teaching that. Unlike school and Tae Kwon Do, their are no grades or medals. It is an achievement whose reward is a full and happy heart. This reward is worn on the inside instead of the outside.

It is for this reason that I am most proud.

I don't know how it happened but I either got really lucky or I did really, really good.

Yeah, yeah, yeah... Lynley probably had something to do with it to.

But still, she did it despite me.

How did I get so lucky to have such incredible purpose.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Full of purpose, drained of energy

Wow, what a weekend! As I mentioned late last weekend, the Dungan household was split on Saturday. A little before 4:00 AM Lynley scooped Graham out of bed and headed for San Antonio for another Tae Kwon Do tournament. I on the other hand stayed local. I had the girls and our job was to be at the Neuroblastoma Walk.

Yes, it was a busy start. Graham ended up taking a silver medal in the tournament. Of course, you have to know that had I been there he most certainly would have made gold. Yep, I got that kind of pull. You see, it takes a very careful balance of gentle encouragement and aggressive incentivize-ation to truly get results. If you don't handle it just right you can get mixed results. This is exactly what happened. Oh sure, Lynley did a great job of supporting Graham with those things form the stands. However, what she totally forgot to do was to do was how to manage Master Adrian. I did not hear about any encouragement there - no coffee from starbucks, no muffin from cinnabon. What was she thinking? If you want to win you have to suck up to the coach. In fact, I doubt Lynley yelled on Master Adrian's behalf even once. While I am sure it was much more pleasant for Master Adrian not having to deal with me in the stands, it clearly did not get the results we were looking for in the gold medal match. Usually the coaches pull out all of the stops just to shut me up . Without my annoyance they clearly weren't incentivized enough. That should teach us all a lesson. Clearly, they need me.

Yep, Master Adrian just loves me.

In reality and much to my chagrin, the reason Graham lost had nothing to do with my lack of presence. From what I gathered there were a few different issues. First, the boy that won the gold medal was pretty aggressive. He kept pushing Graham and that got into his psyche. Graham couldn't figure out why they weren't calling a pushing "foul" on the other kid and it ultimately flustered him. There were also some issues with missed kicks to the head, etc. Graham thought it was unfair and concentrated on that instead of finishing the match. It wasn't just Graham's match. From what I understand, there were many problems and complaints throughout the day with the referees. Our school was so disappointed in the quality of the tournament management and the officiating that we may no longer be participating in AAU events. Regardless, Graham may have been hampered by these elements but ultimately it was his problem. He lost the match mentally. He let those other factors impact his performance and that is totally a Daddy issue. That is what I need to work with him on. Unfortunately, the reality is that life isn't always fair and it never will be. What matters is what we do with what we have been given - that we make the best of a given situation. We have to teach him that reality. It is a good opportunity for twerp training.

On another note, the girls and I made it to the Walk which raised over $110,000.00 (est.) for neuroblastoma research. The turnout was incredible with some people having to park almost a quarter of a mile away just to participate. I think we may have outgrown the venue. It was an incredible day and a tremendous amount of fun. Now comes the best part. I can't wait to see what the neuroblastoma team at Cook's does with it.

Now, if all of this seemed like enough for the weekend you were way off. Saturday afternoon we had Jillian spend the night. That left me with 3 girls for the remainder of the day. As a surprise for Lynley, I also purchased and laid some new sod in the back yard. Sunday morning we went to the zoo. Sunday afternoon Graham and I spent ice skating at a birthday party in Arlington. Friday evening I walked a gas grill five blocks to my mother's house. Don't ask! This was, of course, on top of our usual honey dos, laundry and cleaning of the house. Yep, another typical weekend at the Dungan household.

And believe it or not, the kids were still bored at times.

Thank goodness I have a lot of purpose because I don't have much energy left.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Purpose per square inch

As with most weeks, this one seems to have flown by. It is already Thursday and I feel like I just finished my Monday morning coffee. Surprisingly, this has been a relatively light week. We took Monday off of Tae Kwon Do to enjoy a small rest after monthss of hard work. Tuesday was light too. In fact, last night was the only night that we had any after school activities. No, I think the fast paced-ness has just been because we have found ourselves playing catch up. It is the week between 2 traveling weekends and we are just trying to stay afloat with laundry, house cleaning and honey dos.

Last weekend was all about celebrating the State Championship in Grapevine. This weekend has Lynley and Graham traveling to San Antonio for yet another AAU National Qualifier in Tae Kwon Do. It has the girls and I participating in the Neuroblastoma Walk for a Cure.

As many of you know, my mother fractured her arm a month or two ago. For this reason, she has worn a sling. Yesterday Ainsley came home with a make shift sling for DeeDee that had been signed by all of the kiddos in her class. As far as I can tell she did this of her own volition. It was perhaps one of the sweetest things I have ever seen. What is even more surprising is the fact that this gesture came out of Ainsley. I know, that sounds horrible. It isn't to say that Ainsley isn't incredible in her own right. She has just never been the one known for conscientiousness. That just isn't her style. She is brilliant (and I mean brilliant), adorable, and funny as h e double hockey sticks. She is tremendous. Just, given her age and her track record, I never expected this. I was blown away. Apparently, somehow we are doing something right. Of all of her impressive accomplishments though, I have to admit that it is this one that perhaps makes me the most proud.

Who would have thunk it?

She is the small sneaky one and she apparently has more purpose per square inch than most.

Monday, March 28, 2011


It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that knows me (and my physical prowess) that my son won the gold medal in sparring at the Texas State Tae Kwon Do Championships. Yes, Dudely, my own blood, my direct descendant, the boy who was bred of my very own loins is the state champion in Tae Kwon Do.

For those of you now doubting that he is, in fact, my son I have scheduled a blood test for later this afternoon.

My boy!


I would also like to point out that Sydney gloriously won a silver medal in sparring. Yep, she finished the second best in the state of Texas. On top of that you should also know that our little 9 year old cancer survivor fought at the very bottom of the 10 - 11 year old division and still managed to eek out a second place finish. How about them apples?

Arghhhhhhhhhh, again!

How impressive is that? I know, right? I know you are thinking it? How in the heck does Mark "the wuss" Dungan have children that become state champions in Tae Kwon Do? How can that be even remotely possible?

Well, let me let you in on a little secret.

I have absolutely no freakin' clue.

But, (and this is the really important part) don't let my kiddos know. For some reason, they seem to think that they got their physical prowess from me. Yep, they seem to think that it is my genetics that has paved their path to glory.

But now, here is the rub. You can't let them know that it can't possibly be me that gave them their greatness. And, frankly now that they are officially state champions, I really don't want them to know that they could take their dear old dad down. I need to keep them in the dark about that for a few more years. I need to keep the fear alive in them.

Super Dad is kind of likely Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. We just need to keep the dream alive for a few more years.

Yep, I am a proud Papa. But frankly, I have always known that they could accomplish anything they set their mind too.

The purpose is strong in them.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Texas State Tae Kwon Do Championships.

As the kiddos Spring Break draws to a close, a big day looms on the horizon. Tomorrow, the Texas State Tae Kwon Do Championships take place in Grapevine. We have been lucky to have the state championships in North Texas 2 years in a row so our travel time to the venue will be just 45 minutes. That is a good thing considering the fact that we will be traveling up there tonight for weigh in and then back again tomorrow for forms competition and sparring.

This is the second major tournament of the year and a big one for Graham and Sydney. This year both will have stiffer competition. Graham is at the top of his age group but will be fighting some tough competitors - one of which is on our own team. The boys are pretty evenly matched so it ought to be very interesting. Generally, he and the other boy trade back and forth gold medals. I am hopeful that Graham places but we have to remember that this is a tournament with the top competitors in the state of Texas and medals only going to the top 3 in any age group so it won't be easy. He has the skills to take Gold and has done so before but he will really have to bring his "A" game to win at this level.

Sydney's competition is a bit more fierce and she could not be at a lower level in her age group. She has a large group of competitors and they will all be older than her. She will have to fight faster and smarter than everyone she faces. The good news is that Sydney always brings her "A" game. With a little luck and some good draws she could place. In fact, if her mind is in the right place, it would not surprise me to see her shock everyone by bringing home the gold. She can do it. Her biggest challenge will be herself. She will have to get past the fears and mental challenges of fighting girls that are going to be bigger than she is.

As for us, well, we will be the nervous parents sitting and waiting in the stands. It will be a long day. Graham is due there at 8:30 in the morning and we are not expected to finish their sparring matches until about 3:00 PM in the afternoon. As always, Lynley will be tweeting the results live.

Wish them luck and, if you have a chance, send them a prayer for their safety.

Tomorrow will be a nervous day for our purpii.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Pauper Five

All of the Dungan's have safely arrived home. We are still driving the same car. We live in the same house. We are still scraping every dime together that we possibly can to keep the kiddos in private school. And, NO, we didn't strike it rich in the in the diamond mines of Arkansas. If I am being brutally honest, though, I blame my children. I have discovered yet another reason why we are not rich. After poisoning their minds with the hopes and dreams of becoming diamond millionaires for weeks, the effect only lasted through about 10 minutes of digging. After that they became enamored with playing in the mud and complaining about the boredom. Gone were the hopes and dreams of striking it rich. I think the girls rationalized that getting diamonds was what boyfriends and daddies were for. Graham actually hung in their with me the longest. I think he was trying to find out away to afford a little brother. Regardless, after an hour of digging around, he too eventually met his match.

In the end, diamond mining is one of those nice things to check off the list of life experiences but I don't know that I will be going back.

That was not the only thing the Dungan's couldn't quite do. It appears that we also could not make a living at catching fish. I am pretty sure that we could not survive if it was dependent upon our fish catching skills. No, if it came right down to it, we would probably have to live off of the bait. None the less, we had a pretty good time. Although, the kids have only caught a single fish in their lifetime they still seem to love it.

Late Sunday afternoon I made my way back to Fort Worth for work while Lynley and the kiddos stayed for an extra day or two. They made a trip to Hot Springs to learn what that was all about but the kiddos seemed most impressed with the indoor pool at the Holiday Inn. Apparently in their minds artificial heat and chlorine beat the wonder of a genuine hot spring. None the less, they had fun playing tourist.

I am just glad that they are back home and safe. I honestly did not know what to do with out them. I wondered briefly on Monday night whether I should still show up to their Tae Kwon Do practice even though they were still in Arkansas. In the end, I chose to stay home. Lynley is quite sure that Master Adrian was thankful for the break. And, yes, she didn't mean a break from the kids.

Well I had best get back to it. The grind awaits.

I am just happy my purpose is back together.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Countdown to Spring Break

As usual, just because I have not been writing everyday does not mean that the Dungan lifestyle has not been as chaotic as ever. Unlike most of the schools in the area SCS is not celebrating spring break this week. This week has been our normal fast paced craziness. Our kiddos have to wait until next week and, trust me, it has been a topic of conversation. They can not wait for spring break to come. They are counting down the minutes

You see, they are getting to go on a diamond mining adventure over spring break. Visions of untold riches have been floating around in their heads for the last few weeks and it has been nearly all they can think about. In fact, they are already spending their money in their heads. Ainsley even offered to buy me a new Sudburban. I guess that is a sign that my car is getting pretty old. But, I hold fast. I always said I loved the car so much that I was going to drive it into the ground. And I will - no matter how long it takes me. Plus, I have 3 kiddos in private school. I can't exactly afford to peel off $30 grand in cash for a new car right now and I am one of those annoying people that refuses to go into debt for a depreciating asset. So, until otherwise stated, I am perfectly happy with my car. The kiddos can keep their fortunes. Although... the pool does need resurfacing and the roof is about in need of replacing... I rpobably would not be too proud to accept their donations for those items.

Regardless, the point is that the kiddos get to go diamond mining. What could be better in the mind of a 5, 7 or 9 year old. While in Arkansas we will also spend some time in a cabin on a lake. The kiddos are also really looking forward to some time fishing, boating, and hiking through the woods.

All in all, it should be exactly what this family needs. That is, of course, assuming they sell beer and wine close by. Something tells me that with this crew, Lynley, and I may need some liquid relaxation after chasing the kiddos around all day.

Bottom-line, we are all looking forward to a nice relaxing vacation. It will be a nice excursion from the chaotic normalcy that is our lives.

It will be a nice dose of hopefully relaxing family purpose.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Journey of Self Deprication

Our weekend was very relaxed. We decided to just take it easy and hang out - no parties and no excursions. It was nice and it gave Lynley and I some time to focus on kiddo improvement rather than just going through the motions. As fast as life moves, we often are struggling to just get through most days. Life seems to just happen so it is nice when we feel like we can grasp some control.

Our focus this weekend was on the Grahamers who, for seeming so much like his Dad, is misfiring when it comes to his confidence engine. I know - hugely surprising. With such an overly confident father who would have thought. (I guess maybe that is part of the problem.) Regardless, we noticed it first in his language. He has definitely developed a pattern of negative language. We hear him say things like "I am just not good enough", "I never win", and "I can't do it." On occasion, I think we all feel this way at some time or another but Graham has really developed a longer term habit of this language lately.

It is time to break the cycle.

Lynley began reading books. You know she is the smart one, right? (Yep, I got the looks.) It did not take long to see that we definitely had an issue and we were happy to find some exercises and a path out of the negative patterns. We also found that there were some behaviors of our own that we needed to change. Yes, even my excellent behavior was suspect. After viewing myself through another set of eyes and trying to listen to myself through another set of ears, it became quite clear that my sarcasm and sense of humor could have a negative impact. While appropriate for adults and clearly a magnet for the chicks (Lynley) it became clear that it may not be appropriate for fragile egos. I found myself doing a lot of self deprecating humor which I saw being emulated through Graham. The problem being that I was just trying to be funny. I wasn't saying something I believed. However, when Graham did it, it was clear that he did believe it. His self deprecation is not humor. While the words were similar, out of him it clearly sounds more like a statement of belief.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not blaming myself for his lack of self esteem. There have been many factors that have contributed to the condition. The issue is that in order to help him out of this situation we have to provide him with examples of more productive and healthy thought processes. If he is going to mimic my behavior then we very definitely need him mimicking appropriate behavior.

We all have ways we can improve.

It turns out this has been a very good exercise for the whole family - especially for the girls.

This really seems like something that we can make a difference with I am so glad we have this little issue because I never understood enough about how the brain worked and how these patterns were established. I thought it was just who we were. It is nice to know that we have power to groom this in our our kiddos.

It is yet another example of the power of purpose.