Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cheaters

I like the Portland Trailblazers. They're now my 2nd favorite NBA team behind the Warriors.

But it turns out, they're a bunch of cheaters...


Monday, December 29, 2008

The Snow

We don't get a lot of snow around here. Last year at Christmas, it snowed. It didn't stick on the ground, but it was pretty to watch. The kids were disappointed that there wasn't enough to play in. This year was a bit different.

Two weeks ago, we had our first snowstorm. It started as we were leaving for church on Sunday. When we got home, there was a nice layer on the ground. It was perfect for snowballs and snowmen. The kids immediately started playing in it and had a great time. Our neighborhood looked like this:


A few days later, we had some freezing rain. This created a 3/4" thick layer of ice on top of everything.  You had to smash your way through it to walk anywhere (although LilKat2 was light enough where he could do his Legolas impersonation and walk right on top of it). Here's a picture of one of the ice chunks:



Here's a picture of me shooting ice from my hands like SubZero:



A little while after that, it snowed again so we ended up with snow/ice/snow on top of everything. Here's my truck:



The weather has finally gotten warmer, and the snow is almost all washed away. On the news, they said it was the most December snow we've had in 40 years. And back then, it was followed up by another foot of snow in January. A lot of people around here were getting tired of the snow, but I kind of miss it. With any luck, we'll get some more in the new year too!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Music

Want to know what LilKat1's current Christmas song of choice is?



We've listened to it several times today, and it's cute to hear him sing it...

But if he starts belting out:

'Well tonight, Thank God it's them...instead of YOOOOUUUUUUUUUUU!'

...I'm going to have to cut him off.


Monday, December 15, 2008

R & R Games

There are 3 kids at our church that have had an incredibly difficult year. Their mom died from cancer near the beginning of the year. Then their dad basically stopped being their dad to them, so they had to go into foster care. Our family has been trying to think of something nice that could be done for them at Christmas-time.

I found out about this generous offer from a boardgame blogger who wanted to buy a game for someone who might need one. I wrote to him about the kids at church. A nice game company, R & R Games, also found out about this offer, and they wanted to help out as well. There were several submissions for people who seemed like they could really use a nice game at Christmas, and they offered to send games to anyone that the original blogger could not send stuff to.

I emailed back and forth with the R & R Games representative and found out that they are going to be sending a very nice Christmas package for the kids. They will be recieving several games, Flea CircusHorse FairBugs, Birds, and BeansTake your Best Shot, and First Hand. They will also be getting a very cool toy (actually 2 of them), Hide n Seek Safari
The only ones of these that I am familiar with are Hide n Seek Safari and Flea Circus. Hide n Seek Safari is basically an electronic version of the 'Hot/Cold' game. Someone hides an electronic stuffed animal somewhere around the house. Then the other person searches for it with this wand. When the seeker gets closer to the animal, the wand starts to light up. The closer you get, the more lights turn on. (The kids will be getting 2 of these).
Flea circus looks like a fun card game for kids to play with their parents. It was designed by a well known game designer, so there is some actual interesting gameplay (which isn't always there in kids games).

I was blown away by this act of generosity from R & R Games. If you like purchasing products that support nice companies, I think R & R Games certainly qualifies. Like I said, I'm not familiar with some of their games, but if you have young kids, I don't believe you could go wrong with Hide n Seek Safari or Flea Circus.

Things are starting to go a little bit better for the 3 kids. They are now living with a very nice foster family (who also go to our church). There was no one in the area that would've taken all 3 of them in; they would have had to have been split up. But this nice family decided that they were going to help out and took all 3 of them into their home. Their dad has not been in contact with them very much. He did not even see them for Thanksgiving. But some relatives on the East Coast found out about how bad the situation was and have started to try and figure out a way to take care of them.

Edit: Since I'm talking about nice game companies, I thought I should mention something that GMT Games did in the fall. They offered 2 free games to anyone who recently lost their job recently. I own a couple of their games, Command And Colors Ancients and Battle Line (which, by the way, was designed by the same guy who created the Flea Circus game mentioned above!). And I'll be purchasing another of their games, Manoeuvre, this week. So there you go, yet another nice game company that produces good games!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Funny MFWL story

My-Friend-Who-Lies (MFWL) has a lot of funny stories about him. You can read a bunch of them here, here, and here. And these don't even include some of the classics, such as the 'Naked MFWL story' (where my other college buddy who was living with him at the time was sitting on the couch watching tv and suddenly saw MFWL running naked from the bathroom to his bedroom because he forgot to bring his clothes with him when he took a shower) and the one when MFWL went skiing, but didn't have any ski pants, so he duct taped garbage bags around his jeans.

It's been a little while since we've had a really good MFWL story (he's just been doing his normal weird stuff, nothing outrageously weird). But this weekend, the 'MFWL's Lost Cat' story was born. Here's what happened...

Last Thursday, I got a call around 8am from MFWL. He sounded very worried. One of his cats was missing. He couldn't find her anywhere in the house. So I went over and helped look. We looked all around the inside of the house and looked outside as well. No cat. MFWL put up some 'Lost Cat' signs around the neighborhood and went off to work. The following day, there was still no cat. MFWL and his wife both looked around the neighborhood a whole bunch. Mrs. BigKat took the kids on a bunch of walks to see if they could find the kitty. Still no luck. MFWL was getting very worried about his cat so he decided to take drastic measures.
He hired a guy with a tracking dog to come to his house and try and track down his cat. And this was not just any guy with a dog. According to this, this guy is the BEST search and rescue dog guy in the WHOLE WORLD. He's helped find lost cats, lost dogs, lost people, dead people, alive people, people who have murdered other people...this list goes on. The guy came over and his dog quickly found the cat's trail. It led them through all of their neighbors' backyards (including Portland Trailblazer All Star Brandon Roy) about a quarter of a mile down to a big, huge patch of prickly bushes. They couldn't go into the bushes, so the dog guy took his 200 dollars and left. 

Now all MFWL had to do was help his cat get from the prickle bush field all the way back to his house. He decided to make a scent trail to help guide his kitty home. Now if he was a dog, he would've just peed on everything between his house and the prickle bushes. But he's not a dog, and that would be disgusting. So instead he decided to be more civilized and peed in a spritzer bottle that he used to spray his urine all over the neighborhood (including Portland Trailblazer All Star Brandon Roy's house).

Fortunately for me, I live in the opposite direction of the prickle bush field.

Now the problem was that it was starting to get cold. His cat is an inside only cat, so MFWL was worried that she was going to get too cold. So he got a kitty carrier and put one of his sweaters inside (because it smelled like him. And no, he didn't pee on it). He brought it over to the prickle bush field so that the cat would have a little shelter. To make it easier for his cat to find the kitty carrier he put urine all around the area (and no, he didn't use the spritzer bottle this time. He just used the regular, conventional method of spreading pee). 

Now, you may thing that MFWL is a complete weirdo and totally disgusting for spritzing his urine all over the neighborhood. But you know what? You can't argue with results. Monday morning, MFWL's wife heard a scratching at their garage door. She opened it up and saw their lost cat. Yay!

Edit: Oops, looks like the garbage bag pants story was in one of the earlier posts, even though I said it wasn't. That's ok, it's one of my favorites, so it can be mentioned twice.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Mrs. Big Kat thought it would be fun to put real candy canes on our Christmas tree. When the boys wanted a treat, they could go up to the tree, pick out a candy cane, and eat it. It worked out great at first.
But then PrincessKat saw what they were doing and assumed that we had some sort of a Willy Wonka Christmas tree.
Now she's mad because Mrs. BigKat wouldn't let her eat all of the other ornaments.

It seemed like a good idea at the time...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Helping

One of the nice things about Christmas time is that it provides opportunities for us to get our kids involved with helping out others. Mrs. BigKat and I are always looking for ways that our kids can do things to get them personally involved with sharing God's love with people who need help.

Last month, we did a couple of different things. The first was Operation Christmas Child. It's a program through Samaritan's Purse that shares shoeboxes filled with gifts as well as the Good News about Jesus with kids in tough situations all around the world.
We had a great time with it. We took our kids to Target and bought up a ton of stuff to fill shoeboxes with. We had a list of the different types of items that we wanted to get (toys, candy, school supplies, clothes, toothbrushes, soap, etc.) and the kids all got a chance to pick out which things they thought the other children would like the most. The boys even got to spend some of their own money on special items that they wanted included. At home, LilKat1 and I carefully laid all of the stuff out, divided it up, and filled all of our boxes. Then we drove all of the boxes down to the dropoff location. The boys liked being able to see the hundreds of other shoeboxes that were already there. We talked about how God is using people in our community and all over the country to share His love with people all around the world. And of course we prayed for all of the kids that the shoeboxes are going to.

Another thing we got to do was box up food for a local food pantry. At LilKat1's school, there are many families who depend on the free lunches that the school gives their kids. When their kids are home for winter break, they can have problems providing enough food for their families. The food pantry provides them with boxes of food to help them get through the couple of weeks when their children are home from school. Our Bible study group decided to help out with this situation. One of the members of our group was able to get a bunch of food to donate to the food pantry. All of the families got together one night and worked assembly-line style to box everything up. All 3 of our children had a great time with this.

Me and LilKat2 were in charge of canned peppers and boxes of breadsticks. Each food box was to get 2 cans of peppers and one box of breadsticks. As a food box would get pushed in front of me, I'd yell out "Two cans!" LilKat2 would run over to his pile, grab 2 cans of peppers, hand them to me, and I'd drop them in the box. Then I'd yell "One box!" and LilKat2 would run back to his pile, grab a box of breadsticks, hurry back, and hand it off to me to put into the food box.

Mrs. BigKat, LilKat1, and PrincessKat were in charge of tempura mix and rice. LilKat1 was in charge of rice. PrincessKat was in charge of tempura, but under LilKat1's supervision. In other words, if she got distracted, it was LilKat1's job to make sure that 2 boxes of tempura still got into the food box. 

That night was a lot of fun. It was great seeing how excited the kids were to do things to help out others. They seemed to really like the idea that they were actually in charge of an important job that was going to really help some people in need.

This month, we're going to be able to go to the store and purchase any other food that the food pantry needs. And hopefully, we'll be able to help distribute the food as well.

I think it's pretty cool that our kids are now getting to the age where they can do things like this. As a Christian parent, I want to make sure that the whole idea of ministering to others and serving others is just part of their normal lifestyle. It's not always easy to find opportunities for small children to do things that they can actively participate in, which is why I think it's important to try and come up with creative ideas.

One idea that I had that I would like to start doing it going around to neighborhood garage sales on the weekend and find jackets and blankets that we can give to the people at church that minister to the homeless. I think I would also like to start making it a regular part of our weekly grocery shopping where the kids can go down the canned food aisle and pick out stuff that they'd like to donate to the food pantry.

Like I said, I like it that there are these great Christmas-time opportunities for our children participate in helping others. But at the same time, I want to make sure that they know that serving others isn't something we do just once a year, once a month, or once a week. It's part of sharing Jesus' love which is an all the time thing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prayers

I was tucking LilKat1 into bed last night and we were saying our prayers. I've been encouraging him to tell God things that he's thankful for. Here's what he came up with...

"Thank you God for giving us food so we don't die...so soon."

Yeah, it's kind if a grim way of putting it, but it's all true! I had to pause from praying for a second because I couldn't stop laughing.

Kids are great. I think I'll have him pray this at Thanksgiving next year.

Tichu

I own a bunch of boardgames. I've got a whole wall full of them. I've got train games, racing games, city building games, archeology games, zombie games, war games, space games, sports games, mystery games, and many more!

But right now, my favorite 4 player game is a simple card game that costs under $10...Tichu!

Tichu uses an almost standard deck of cards. It's a regular 52 card deck, but with 4 special cards added. I was originally interested in the game because I heard it was similar to a game I used to play in college all the time, Big 2 (although, back then, we just called it 'Big'). 

Tichu (like Big 2) is a trick taking games (or I guess more accurately, a climbing game) where one player will lead a card (or set of cards) and the other players must play cards that are higher than the previously played card(s). For example, if a player plays a 5, the next player would have to play something higher than the 5, like an 8.

Not only can you play single cards, but you can also play sets of cards, like pairs, triples, or runs. So, if a pair is led, the every player that follows can only play pairs of cards. If everyone passes after a player plays a card, that player wins the trick and gets to lead a new card (or set of cards).

The player who gets rid of their cards first is the winner of the round.

Pretty simple stuff so far, right? Well, the part that makes Tichu interesting is that it is a partner game, kind of like bridge. At the beginning of the round, someone will usually call 'Tichu'. When they do this, they are trying to be the first one to get rid of their cards (they get a lot of bonus points if they succeed, but will also get penalty points if they fail). So your job is to either get rid of your cards first or try to help your partner get rid of their cards first. But you can't actually say what things are in your hands or what you'd like them to play.

And in our house, this leads to some fun times...

...like when I yelled at My-Friend-Who-Lies (MFWL, who was my parter at the time) because I was going for a Tichu and he played a middle ranked single, preventing me from getting rid of one of my low cards.

...like when I passed MFWL (again, my parter for the game) the Hounds (one of the special cards) 3 times in a row and really wanted to pass it to him a 4th time to be funny, even though it would've really messed up his bid for a Grand Tichu (and given us a 200 point penalty)

...like when my mom was using VERY un-subtle hand signals to ask me if I should break up her run of 3 pairs

...like when my mom started woofing as another un-subtle way of finding out if she should play her hounds

...like when MFWL and I start complaining about the bad plays the other person was making, even though we were winning by several hundred points (it's actually quite funny when we're partners)

So far, we've had 2 sessions of Tichu and they've both been great fun. The game itself has a lot of interesting decisions to make, and you also get to use a little bit of creativity figuring out what combinations to create when playing your cards. The rules take a little while to explain, but the complexity level is really quite low, which provides for a nice, relaxing, fun game.

But again, the great thing about Tichu is the partnership aspect. Mrs. BigKat noticed that we laughed a lot more in this game than when playing our regular boardgames. In this sense, it was kind of like a party game, but with the tactical decision making of a boardgame.

If you ever have 2 couples getting together for a game night, this one should be right at the top of the list of games to play. This is one game that I can see playing many years down the line while wearing my straw hat, white tennis shoes, and dress socks after the kids ship me and Mrs. BigKat off to a retirement home.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hide and Seek 2.0

Now that the weather's getting colder and rainier, indoor Hide and Seek has become a popular after dinner activity in the BigKat household. Even PrincessKat participates sometimes (and let me tell you, you have not seen cute until you've seen a teeny-tiny 2 year old run behind a coffee table and flop on the ground with her hands covering her face while her big brother is counting).

Well, today, me and the boys came up with a new and improved version of Hide and Seek. We called it the 'Monster Treasure Hunt'. Here's how it works...

First, the Monster (me) gathers up his treasures (3 balls, not too big. Like a kid sized soccer ball). Then he goes upstairs to hide them. The Monster puts them in places that they are fairly easy to see, but also near a potential Monster hiding spot (like in front of a closet). When he's ready, he tells the Treasure Hunters to start counting. While the Treasure Hunters count to 20, the Monster hides near one of the treasures.

When the Treasure Hunters are done counting, they head up the stairs. Their job is to find the treasures and bring them back down. So they search around until they spot one. Then they have to go get it...

Now this is the funny part because they don't know if the Monster is near that particular treasure. And if the Monster is nearby, they don't know exactly where he's hiding. This makes the Treasure Hunters quite nervous as they approach the treasure. Almost like Indiana Jones going into a booby trapped room to get a gold statue. And it is absolutely HI-LARIOUS to see a 6 year old pushing his 4 year old little brother into a room to go get the treasure while he hangs back in the hallway where its safe.

Well, you've probably figured out that the Monster's job is to scare the daylights out of them when one of them gets near the treasure. Then everyone runs screaming down the stairs and gets chased around the kitchen several times for good measure. When the Monster catches LilKat1, his job is to tickle him. LilKat2 prefers not to get tickled, so he just gets hugged and kissed.

At the end, when all the treasures are found, you repeat the whole thing all over again. And again. And again.

Anyhow, if you're finding that your games of Hide and Seek are growing a little bit stale, I highly recommend this new, exciting thrill-packed version.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Roasting Coffee

At lunch today, I roasted some coffee using the Heat Gun/Dog Bowl method. I tried this once before, but this time, I took pictures!

First, the equipment...

This is the bowl I used to roast in. Ok, so it isn't really a dog bowl. It's just a regular stainless steel mixing bowl. The dog bowl that I got is too big for the small amount of beans I used in the roast. But Heat Gun/Dog Bowl is more fun to say than Heat Gun/Mixing Bowl (and you get more useful hits when Googling).
You can see the beans in the bowl in their unroasted, green state. The beans are Guatamala Huehuetenango: 'A classic acidic Huehue flavor profile with berry accents and mild floral aromatics'. Whatever that means...
 

Here's the heat gun I used. The blue thing is my Nomex barbecue mitt (in case I needed to grab something that was hot)

Here's my watch. I use the stopwatch to time the roast. But I think I need to get  a new watch. Part of the minutes don't display sometimes. The other night, someone at basketball went to look at my watch to see what time it was. I had to explain to them that they could use my watch, but it was set to display military time, and I hadn't set it back from Daylight Savings time. And part of the minutes were broken so you kind of had to figure out what number it was trying to say. So they made fun of me.


This is my bean cooling rig. Hot beans go into the colindar. Shopvac sucks air through the colindar and out the bottom of the box. Keep stirring the beans until they're cool.

This is the outdoor cat that helped me. He thinks he's our cat. But he's not.

Now, the roast...

I did this pretty much the same as last time. Start the roast on the low setting for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Here's a picture of me starting to roast the green beans.


After 5 minutes, I switched to the high setting, still stirring constantly. At this point, the beans are smelling nothing like roasted coffee at all. It's more of a grassy smell.
At about 9 minutes, it hit the 'first crack' stage. That's when you start to hear popping noises, kind of like a campfire.
At about 12 1/2 minutes, it hit the 'second crack' stage. At this point, you start to hear sounds kind of like when you pour milk into your Rice Crispies. I let it stay at this stage for a couple of seconds. Here's a picture of the beans right after I turned the heat gun off.

Then it's on to the cooling rig to kill the cooking process. Turn on the Shopvac and stir the beans until they're all cooled off. There's probably a way to cool these beans even faster, but I just happen to like the little box thing that I made.


When you roast coffee, you end up with a lot of 'chaff'. This is chaff.


And in the end, we have freshly roasted coffee!

Mrs. BigKat is going to let the beans rest for a while before trying them out. Hope they taste good!



Friday, November 14, 2008

Good Eats

One of my favorite food shows is Good Eats with Alton Brown. I've not only made a lot of the recipies on his show, but also tried out several of his goofy cooking techniques. Here are some of my favorites:

1) Pulled Pork - I actually made the flower pot cooker from this show. It still ranks as one of my most fun cooking experiences. Not only was it the first time I'd had pulled pork, but I also got to make the cooking vessel using pots I'd bought from Home Depot. Kind of a 'Wow! This is the best thing I've ever eaten!' experience mix
ed with a splash of 'Hey! I can't believe this really worked!' I have since moved on to other cookers, but I will still make sure to brine my pork shoulder any time I make pulled pork. I think it makes that much of a difference.

2) Scrambled Eggs - Seems like a pretty simple dish, right? I mean everyone knows how to make scrambled eggs! Well, apparently, I didn't because when I followed Alton's techniques, my eggs came out a million times better.

3) Individual Peach Upsidown Cake - These are unbelievably good...They're the perfect thing to make during peach season. And they're easy too. Me and Mrs. BigKat will work together to make these. One of us will work on putting the butter, brown sugar, peaches, and crystalliz
ed ginger in the cups. The other will mix up the batter. Everything is assembled in 15-20 minutes. 
Then just pop them in the oven (although our cooking times run longer than those stated in the recipe). Like I said, too easy! Probably doesn't require the crystallized ginger if you don't happen to have it on hand, but it does add a bit of sophistication too them and works quite nicely with the other flavors.

4) Hamburgers - I will always choose to grind my own meat for burgers now. It makes a huge difference.

5) Beef Jerky - Best beef jerky ever! I wish flank steak was not so expensive, or I'd make this all the time. It is seriously difficult for me to stop eating it. It's just that good! I don't have a box fan (I wish I did though! It looks fun!), so I use my ceramic cooker at a low temp to dry the meat. The result is probably a bit different than what you get if you dry it Alton's way, but it still tastes great.

Here are a couple of things I've tried that did not turn out so well:

1) Skirt Steak - I love the marinade he uses. But you can definitely skip the whole putting the steaks right on top of the charcoal thing. If you're dead set on trying it out, for
 goodness sake, make 
sure you use lump charcoal and not briquettes. Otherwise, you're going to be eating a nice pile of ash with your meat. My suggestion, if you're worried about flare-ups, just go with a nice hot cast iron pan.

2) Acid Jellies - These sounded like they were going to be so good. They were very easy to make and looked great coming out of the pan. Unfortunately, they never really developed a sugary crust on the outside. They just were kind of slimy. Too bad.

I have more good and bad experiences. I'll try and put some more up another time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I wanna Pop

Apparently, brand name carbonated beverages have bumped up in price recently. As a result, I've had to change brands of pop (that's what people in Oregon call soda, although Mrs. BigKat still refuses to do so. She even tells our kids not to say it!).

I used to drink primarily Pepsi products. Now, I'm drinking this...


Friday, November 7, 2008

Christmas Shopping Part II

My boys love wearing costumes. So my great idea was to head to Target after Halloween and grab all the cheap costumes I could so we could give them to the boys at Christmas.

Well, it was a good idea, but the costume area after Halloween is a huge MESS! Parts of costumes are tossed here and there. If you find something you like, you have to search at the bottom of the display for the matching mask/hat/whatever. Not easy! There were some Star Wars costumes that I wanted to get, but couldn't find all of the pieces. Same with Transformers.

But in the end, I walked away with 2 Human Torch costumes, 1 Mr. Incredible costume, 1 Spiderman costume, 1 policeman costume (with muscles!), and 3 NASCAR costumes for about $35. I also got myself a costume for $5 in case I ever need to be Pontius Pilate in Sunday School.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Christmas Shopping Part I

Yeah, I know. It's still October. Why would I want to talk about Christmas shopping? Well, I just saw a very cool looking toy that I think I might get for LilKat2. Remember 'Lite Brite'? Everyone liked Lite Brite, right? Well, imagine that you have a Lite Brite that doesn't light up (ok, I know that makes it worse, but stay with me...), but still has patterns that you can copy to make interesting things. Now instead of lights, imagine that it has colored screws. And instead of just putting them into the board, you screw them in with a toy drill. What you end up with is something that looks like this:

Think it'll work for LilKat2? Well, he loves tools, he's creative, he loves making 'patterns'. I can seriously imagine him sitting and working on a picture for an hour straight with this. The only downside I can see is LilKat1 wanting to play with it while LilKat2's using it. Oh, that and it costs $40! I think we might have to get it for him though. Seems like a perfect fit.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I'm Done!

Oh boy, what a week...

Here's all the stuff I did:

1) Ran 3 Soccer practices
2) Coached 2 Soccer games
3) Attended 2 End of Season Soccer parties
4) Created 2 Soccer Team movies (along with copies for all of the parents)
5) Created 1 flower arrangement for my friend K's family (huge assist from Mrs. BigKat here)
6) Attended 1 pumpkin carving event at LilKat1's school
7) Created 1 Sunday School PowerPoint lesson with associated take home pages

All while sick!

I just printed the last page of my Sunday School stuff.

I'm done! Woo hoo!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Oyster Race

Ever heard of the Oyster Race? A friend of mine just ran one last weekend. It sounds like a ton of fun! You team up with some friends and do an 'Amazing Race' style event where you get clues that take you all around a big city. There's running, biking, skating, and other things, so it sounds like a pretty good workout. But there are also other challenges, like finding certain flowers in the Rose Garden and taking a picture of them, or sitting in every single seat in a particular row at a sports stadium. I am definitely going to do this next year. It just sounds too fun.

Here's a video of what it's like...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

October 22

Remembering my friend K on her birthday. She would've been celebrating her 10th birthday today. Instead, she's celebrating eternal life with Jesus.


I went to the cemetary today, same as I do every year on this day. It's been 3 years in a row now that God has decided to make October 22 a beautiful sunny day, right in the middle of fall.

I miss K. But it's wonderful knowing that I'll get to see her again someday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Boo-ing

Last Friday, while I was in the kitchen, the doorbell rang. I took a look through the window and saw a small child running away. LilKat1 rand over and opened the door, only to find a small bag of candy one the welcome mat.

This was exciting for 2 reasons:
1) We got a bag of candy
2) It's BOO-ing TIME!

BOO-ing is one of our favorite activities. I look forward to this all year long. Have you heard of BOO-ing? No? Well, let me show you how it works...

First, you print out one coloring page for each house that you're going to 'BOO'. You also need to print out an instruction page for each house as well. Then you make a little bag of candy or treats for each place and attach the pages that you've printed out.

Then you sneak over to your target houses, leave their stuff in front of their door, ring their doorbell, and run away without being caught. The idea is that then they will do the same thing for 2 other houses, and so on and so on. You put the coloring page on your door after you've been BOO-ed so everyone knows not to BOO your house again. 

My boys love doing this. We actually break the rules a little bit and BOO several houses. This year, we did 6.

Now, in the past, you could say that we have been a little less than sneaky. For instance, a couple of years ago, we BOO-ed 4 houses and I think we got caught 4 times. The boys just weren't that fast back then. Especially on houses with steps. I ended up having to carry LilKat2 like a football to try and get away quickly without being caught. And it didn't always work.

But now the boys are starting to get bigger and faster. We BOO-ed all 6 houses and didn't get caught once! This year, LilKat1 was in charge of putting the candy on the step and ringing the bell (LilKat2 was in charge of the candy on the first house, but got too nervous after that. For the rest of the houses, his job was to stand on the sidewalk and be the lookout).

It is hard to describe how much fun this is for us. My boys love 'secret agent' type stuff and this definitely fits right in. They actually get quite nervous about not getting caught. But I think that's part of what makes it so fun for them.

I think I need to figure out a way to do this at Christmas time too. Call it Secret Agent Santa-ing?Or maybe Ho-Ho-Ho-ing? We'll see...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Telemarketer

This was a first for me...

I just got a call from a telemarketer. He started to tell me about this insurance offer. I quickly told him that I didn't want it.

But instead of trying to keep me on the phone by telling me more, he just said 'Oh...thank you...' And he sounded so sad. Really forlorn. Like a kid who just dropped his ice cream cone. Or when you're at an amusement park and you accidentally let go of your balloon. Or like when my buddy looked down during our college graduation ceremony and realized that they had spelled his name wrong on his diploma. I almost wanted to say 'It's ok...Go ahead and tell me your offer.'

But I didn't.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

To live is Christ and to die is gain

Last month, a youth pastor near where we live was struck by a car and killed. This article appeared in the local paper on Sunday, giving some insight into the lives of the youth pastor and his wife. It's a great story of faith and forgiveness. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Something that I would LOVE to see even if it failed miserably

Andris Biedrins...Point-Center


Read about it here.

Monday Basketball

We play basketball at our church on Mondays. In the bulletin, it used to say 'Men's Basketball'. But I've heard that a couple of women were interested in playing, so I had them change it. It now says 'Co-ed Basketball' or something like that.

Anyhow, yesterday, a woman came to play with us. My-Friend-Who-Lies (MFWL) got to guard her. It didn't go so well for him. She was taller than him and scored on him repeatedly in the low post. He ended up having to ask the other guy on his team to switch with him on defense so that he could guard someone else.

He told me that he did this to save him some embarrassment. But what fun is that? I thought I'd give him his embarrassment back by letting everyone on the internet know that MFWL got beat up in basketball by a girl.

School Bus

When I was a boy, the school bus was not very fun. You got on, you sat down, and you shut your mouth. If there was anything more than quiet talking, the bus would pull over and everyone would get yelled at. One time, the whole back section of the bus (where I happened to be sitting) had to get out and walk home (uphill!) because the bus driver said we were too loud. Not so fun...

Now compare this to LilKat1's bus this morning. A full bus of kids rolls up. There's smiling and waving. The bus driver waves to the parents and says good morning to everyone getting on. You can hear a familiar 50's tune coming through the windows, and suddenly the whole busload of kids explode with a shout of 'YAKETY-YAK!!! DON'T TALK BACK!!!' followed by laughing and giggling.

Their bus sounds more fun than my bus.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Former Warrior

You know, it doesn't happen very often, but every once in a while, I see something that makes me a little bit sad that Mike Dunleavy Jr. is no longer a Golden State Warrior. Today, it was this...


For some reason, I just can't see Stephen Jackson wearing that outfit.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sunday School Challenges

This Fall has been about figuring out new ways to tackle old Sunday School challenges. Some of the things I'm trying to do this year are:

1) Making Bible lessons interesting and relevant to kids with different levels of Bible knowledge
2) Helping families to do Sunday School stuff during the week
3) Helping parents get a handle on what they're kids are learning in class
4) Providing useful resources related to the in-class lessons that parents can use in discipling their kids
5) Helping kids share about how God is working in their lives

But one of the main challenges that I've consistently faced is communication with parents. Parents don't always have time to come to meetings. And there's not enough time to talk to all of them individually when they're picking up or dropping off. Handouts and bulletin announcements can get lost in the pile of take-home stuff they receive each week.

So I decided to try something new. I made a video that gives an overview of some of the new (and potentially more confusing) things that are going on in our class. My hope is that parents that are interesting in finding out what's going on in class can watch this whenever they have some free time. It's not something they have to schedule. I think a lot of the parents (like me) just have a ton of stuff going on all the time. I'm hoping that this is more helpful to them than the other things we've done in the past.

You can go here if you're interested in finding out what kind of new things we're doing in our class this year.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Date Night

Last night was me and Mrs. BigKat's weekly date night. We decided to do something new. We went to the Family Fun Center and played minature golf! It was a very nice evening out, and we thought it would be nice to do something outside since it was supposed to be rainy for the rest of the week.

Well, right off the bat, Mrs. BigKat took a commanding lead. On the 2nd hole, she got an ace, while I missed an easy putt and had to take a 3. She was up 2 strokes.

I made up a stroke on the 4th hole, when Mrs. BigKat had to take a 3. But on the 6th hole, she came roaring back. She got a 2, while I missed my 2nd shot and mis-hit my third causing me to record a 4. Mrs. BigKat was 3 strokes ahead after the front 9!

I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me on the back 9. But I caught a break on number 10. Mrs. BigKat didn't get enough on her 2nd shot, and it rolled up the little hill...and then rolled right back to her. She ended up with a 4, putting me only 1 stroke back. She got one of those back at number 12. But then came a critical turning point at number 15.

Mrs. BigKat left the door open for me a little bit by getting a 3. I had a very makeable 4 footer which would have cut her lead down to one stroke.

And I missed! Too much pressure! And to make it worse, I hit it too hard and ended up with another 4 footer going the other way! Which I missed as well!

So instead of cutting her lead by one, it was extended by another stroke, putting me down 3 with only 3 holes to go.

Now understand, things looked pretty bleak here. Mrs. BigKat was on fire. Anything within 6 feet was pretty much AW-TOW-MAT-TICK. She was a putting machine. She had gotten a 23 for the front 9. For the first 15 holes, she had gotten seven 2's and an ace, with only two 4's. I figured that I was going to have to make hole-in-one's if I even wanted to tie, and I hadn't really came close to hitting any ace's yet.

Hole number 16 was a longer hole. And it had a brand new carpet on it. In fact, the new carpet was much different from the carpet on the rest of the course, as Mrs. BigKat would soon find out. Even though the hole was slightly downhill, Mrs. BigKat struck her first putt pretty hard, in order to get it all the way down to the other end.

It went about a third of the way and stopped.

The new carpet was like putting in molassas. The ball moved really slow. Seeing how short Mrs. BigKat's putt was, I put a lot extra on mine, and it still came up short! I had about 6 feet left.

Mrs. BigKat took her 2nd shot. And again, the carpet slowed her shot down to a crawl. Her 2nd ended up just behind my first. She took a third and hit it past the hole.

Now I saw a big opening and I needed to take advantage. I knew I had to hit it a lot harder than it looked based on how slowly Mrs. BigKat's putts were going. I gave it a good solid whack and drained it right down the middle of the cup. Woo-hoo!

At this point, Mrs. BigKat was getting flustered. She ended up missing her 4th and took a 5. Her once seemingly insurmountable 3 stroke lead had vanished, just like that.

On to 17. This one was a longer downhill hole with cement bumpers all down it's length. We played decent 1st shots putting us both about 5 feet out. I made my first shot putting the pressure on Mrs. BigKat. I was really nice and made sure that she knew the implications of missing, that she would go down a stroke going into the final hole. I think she appreciated this.

She took her shot...and it went in!

And then out.

Seriously, the ball rolled around on the inside lip of the cup before coming out the front. Mrs. BigKat tapped in for 3, and I now had my first lead of the day going into the final hole!

Now, the 18th was pretty straightforward. It was uphill, and had a small bend. But it looked like an easy 2. I hit my first shot off the far wall and banked it towards the hole. It climbed the hill almost to the top...and then slowly ran back down. It looked like it might stop in the middle, but it kept right on rolling. All the way back down. Until it landed at my feet.

Mrs. BigKat looked quite pleased with this development.

So I took my 2nd shot. This one was much better. It landed about a foot away, so I tapped in for a 3.

Mrs. BigKat was about to go, so I had to run back down to her before she putted. I wanted to make sure that she knew what was at stake (I'm nice that way). I told her 'Ok, here's the situation. A 1 will give you the win. A 2 will tie. And a 3 means that you lose EVERYTHING!'

She thanked me for my advice (ok, I don't actually remember her doing this, but she must have because she's usually very nice about her pleases and thank yous) and took her first putt. She didn't really come close to sinking it and ended up about 5 feet away.

As we walked up to her ball, I made sure that she knew that she needed this putt. I told her again that if she missed, she would lose EVERYTHING!

She started to take the putt...and then stood up. She just stood there looking at me. After a few seconds she said 'I'm waiting for the pressure to go away.'

After a little bit, she felt ready to take her 2nd shot. But I guess the pressure was still there because she wasn't really close. She missed by a couple inches to the side and had to tap in for a 3.

I had just won the BigKat Family Miniature Golf Championship of the WORLD!!!

I was so happy. Mrs. BigKat was less happy than me. But we both had a great time. I had no idea that Mrs. BigKat was so good at miniature golf. Our final score was 48-49. If she had gotten a 3 on 16 (instead of the 5) and made her 2 pressure putts (which would not have been so pressure-y if she hadn't had her Number 16 Meltdown), she would've ended up with a 45 and beat me by 3. 

But she didn't and I won! :)

Afterwards, we went inside and I bought us a dollars worth of tokens (which only ended up being 3! What a ripoff! It's supposed to be 4 tokens for a dollar!)

She used 1 token to play SkeeBall and earned herself 5 tickets. I played a basketball game and scored 63 points! I got 10 tickets. We went to go buy our stuff, but the cheapest things costed 10 tickets. I told the guy that we had 15 tickets, but we both wanted something. So he gave us 5 more for free. We each walked away with a brand new fancy pencil.

I'd say it was one of our funnest date nights yet.

Because I won.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Birthday Presents

We celebrated Mrs. BigKat's birthday yesterday. Want to guess what I got her? I'll give you some hints...

1) Part of it came from Home Depot
2) Part of it came from PetSmart

So far, sounds like a present any wife would love, right? Did you guess what it is?

Ok, here are some more hints...

3) The thing from Home Depot is a power tool
4) The thing from PetSmart is for a dog
5) We do not have a dog and are not planning on getting a dog

Did you figure it out? Need more hints? Ok fine, I'll just tell you what I got...

6) The thing from Home Depot is a heat gun
7) The thing from PetSmart is a stainless steel dog bowl

It all makes sense now, doesn't it? Ok, so Mrs. BigKat was less than thrilled when she opened her gifts. She was actually a little bit confused. But the next part of the present cleared things up for her a bit.

9 pounds of green coffee beans!

Mrs. BigKat loves coffee. A while ago, I had planned on getting her some sort of a coffee roaster so that she could have fresh roasted coffee any time she wanted. I did a bunch of research and came across what is known as the heat gun/dog bowl (HGDB) method of roasting coffee beans. It seemed pretty easy, so I thought it would make a great birthday present. If I can roast coffee beans for her at home, she can buy green beans from places like Sweet Maria's. Green beans not only cost less, but they store longer. And she can buy all sorts of interesting beans from all over the world. And I can roast them in small batches so that she can always enjoy them freshly roasted, never stale.

I tried my first roast yesterday. It was pretty easy. I put about a cup of beans into the stainless steel bowl. I heated the beans up using the 'Low' setting on the heat gun for 5 minutes. Then I switched to the 'High' setting for the rest of the roast (the total roast time was about 11 minutes or so). The whole time I did this, I was constantly stirring the beans with a wooden spoon. I stopped the roast a little bit into what is apparently called the '2nd crack' stage. To cool the beans off, I tossed them into a cooling contraption I made using a cardboard box, a colindar, and my shop vac (the beans went into the colander which was sitting in a hole in the box. The shop vacwas plugged into the bottom of the box and sucked the air through the beans as I stirred them with my wooden spoon). In the end, I had with something that definitely looked like roasted coffee beans. We don't know how they taste though. Mrs. BigKat is going to give them a try later today (from what I've read, letting the beans rest after roasting for a little while is a good idea). Hopefully, they'll turn out good! The whole process was very easy and fun too. Next time I try a roast, I'll remember to take some pictures and put them up here.

My Sandwich

Have you ever had an idea that you thought might be a pretty good idea, but when you did it, it actually turned out to be even better than you had planned? That happened to me a couple of days ago. We had got Subway sandwiches for dinner. LilKat2 doesn't eat much, so he only got half of his 6" sandwich (a ham sandwich with cheese and mustard only), so the rest went into the refrigerator. That night, I got hungry and wanted a snack. I saw the sandwich, but I wanted something better. So here's what I did.

I heated up a pan with some butter in it. Then I put the sandwich on the pan. I took a stainless steel bowl and used it to smash the top of the sandwich down.
I let it cook for about 45 seconds and the flipped it to the other side. I smashed some more and let it cook for another 45 seconds. Here's what I ended up with:

You know what? My MacGyver-ed panini actually turned out pretty good! I tried it again the next day, but using bigger sandwich rolls. I also sauteed some diced onions, black bell peppers (from our garden), and tomatoes (also from our garden) into a kind of paste (almost like when I make the sofrito for my paella). I smeared this in the middle of the sandwich and it made a very nice addition. But for long sandwiches, I think I need a bigger bowl.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Our Garden

This year, I built a raised bed in our backyard, so that we could plant a garden. The whole thing was roughly 10'x10' (minus a little bit because of the shape). We transfered our Asian Pear tree to one of the corners. The rest was for our garden.
Well, I'm not sure what happened, but somehow, 4 plants took up the whole box. Sure we had some carrots, and a couple of pepper plants hidden in there, but for the most part, the whole thing was 2 tomato plants in the back, and a zucchini plant and a yellow squash plant in the front. Here's the back of the garden. See all that green stuff in the box? That's 2 tomato plants...
Here's the front of the garden. The big huge leaves on the left are the yellow squash plant, and the big huge leaves on the right are the zucchini plant.

Now I didn't realize this, but apparently zucchinis grow super fast. If you see a zucchini on the plant, you need to be ready to pick it, even if it's little. We'd start out with these little baby zucchinis, and then all of a sudden...BLAMMO! They'd become BIG! You really had to go pick them within the next day or two. Which was weird to me. I don't understand how they can grow so quickly. I sat out there and just watched them, I think I might actually be able to see the get bigger.
Anyhow, here' s a picture of a couple of zucchinis that we neglected to pick. They got a little big on us...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Less than, Same, Greater Than

I got to help out in LilKat1's 1st grade class for the first time. He's got a bunch of really nice kids in his class! I had a very good time helping out. I even got a big ole' hug as I was leaving from a little girl that I had just met. I also had this conversation with another little girl.

Girl: What's your name?
Me: Well, my name is Mr. BigKat, but some kids can't remember so they just call me LilKat1's Dad.
Girl: You have a funny last name.
Me: Really? Well, it is kind of long.
Girl: No. It's funny.
Me: What's your last name?
Girl: Flibbidy-Floo
Me: Your last name is funny too. I guess we're the funny last name twins!

(high fives)


When I got to class, they had started working on math. They were working on Less Than, Same As, and More Than. Here's how it worked. Each kid had a bunch of blocks. They got a number card and some cards that said 'Less Than', 'Same', and 'More Than'. They were supposed to gather a number of blocks that was the same as the number card, then put those blocks on their 'Same' card. Then they were to gather a number of blocks that was less than their number card, then put those blocks on their 'Less Than' card. Then do the same type of thing for their 'More Than' card.
Most of the kids weren't sure what to do. So I had many conversations that went like this:

Me: What's the number on your card?
Kid: Five
Me: So put 5 blocks on your 'Same' card

(kid does this)

Me: Ok, so now, what's a number that's less than 5?
Kid: Two
Me: So put 2 on your 'Less Than' card.

(kid does this)

Me: Now, what's a number that's more than 5?
Kid: Nine
Me: Ok, then put 9 on your 'More Than' card

I had something resembling this conversation for almost every kid there. Sometimes more than once (and sometimes the Same as once).

But LilKat1 figured this lesson out right away. And by figured out, I mean he found the lazy way to quickly do this activity, and was very proud of himself for doing so. What he would do is put the correct number of blocks on the 'Same' card, then just put the rest of his blocks on the 'More Than' card without counting them. He knew that the number would be always be bigger than the 'Same' card and that having zero blocks on the 'Less Than' card would also always be correct.

When I went to check his work, he just sat there grinning at me. After I told him it was good, I got a new number card for him and told him to do it again. And he quickly repeated his same trick again. Sneaky kid that LilKat1...

But you know, it's probably the same thing I would've done.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Stinging Fire Pirate-saurs!

LilKat2 has his first soccer game tomorrow. Our team is the Stinging Fire Pirate-saurs. We got our team name because one kid wanted to be the Bees, one kid wanted to be the Fire Dragons, one kid wanted to be the Pirates and one kid (LilKat2) wanted to be the T-Rex's. So what do you get when you combine a Bee, a Fire Dragon, a Pirate, and a T-Rex? Well, you get a Stinging Fire Pirate-saur! And what exactly does a Stinging Fire Pirate-saur look like?

It looks something like this...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sports Update

Since the Olympics started, I have made a conscious effort not to look at any sports news. No ESPN.com, none of my favorite basketball weblogs, no Bay Area or Oregon sports columnists...nothing. I love the Olympics and I hate knowing who wins events before I get to watch them. Because of our crazy schedule, I was Tivo-ing all of the Olympics and would often watch events 2 or 3 days after they happened. I haven't been looking at any sports news to avoid accidentally find out who won something.

Last night, 4 days after the closing ceremonies, I finally watched the last of the Olympics. So this morning, I was looking forward to catching up on my Warriors!

Know what the first thing I saw was?

"Warriors' Ellis out at least three months"

If you don't know who Monta Ellis is, he's the Warriors best player right now. Since Baron Davis left for the Clippers, Monta's the new face of the Warriors.

I think my stomach hurts a little bit...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back Home

We got back home from our trip down to my dad's house yesterday. We had a good time, but it wore all of us out. Lots of good stuff always happens when we take trips like this. Here are some of the highlights:

 

1) Kid Conversations - Sometimes when we're driving, me and Mrs. BigKat will just be quiet and listen to the goofy conversations that are going on in the back seat. Here's an example of a time where LilKat1 was being a good big brother and explaining all about dinosaurs to his little brother...

LilKat2: Why is it called a Triceratops?

LilKat1: Because it tries a lot. It tries and it tries and it tries and then it...(pause)...ceratops!

2) The big bang - We had been driving for a little while. The kids were in the back quietly coloring in their brand new coloring books. We started to pass a big rig when, suddenly, on of its tires blew up right next to us. The noise was pretty loud, and I had to swerve a little to avoid the flying tire bits. It caused quite a commotion in our car. From the back I heard LilKat1 exclaim 'It almost made me...'

Now, at this point, I was very curious to find out what the big noise almost made him do. Because when a grownup starts a sentence like this, it is very likely to end with something that I might not want my kids to say. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but was anxious to find out because I figured it was going to be good, whatever it was. And LilKat1 did not disappoint me. He said...

'It almost made me SCRIBBLE!'

I realize that this may be one of those 'you had to be there' moments, but it made me and Mrs. BigKat laugh for a couple of minutes.

3) Golf - I got to play golf with my dad on Sunday. Now, I'm not the best golfer in the world at all. I'm actually pretty bad. I play only once or twice a year, but this time I was quite happy with how I played! I was hitting my driver nice and straight, and I made a bunch of long putts (the part in the middle was not so great though...). After I had made a couple of good putts, I started to get quite confident in my putting. I was able to read the greens fairly well which is something that I don't normally do. On the scorecard, I started making little notations for places where I made a nice putt. Well, we got to this one hole and I knew that the ball was going to break to the left. But my dad said that it was going to break to the right. Now, my dad is not the best putter in the world, so I really should've known better. But I decided to listen to him and hit the ball as if it was going to break to the right.

It broke to the left.

I was so mad! I quickly picked up another ball and put it in the same spot so that I could see how I would have done if I had it it my way. Sure enough, it broke exactly like I thought it would. I took a double-bogey on that hole, but as I was writing my score down, I put LTD next to it. My dad asked me what that was for. I told him that it was so I could remember that that was when I Listened To Dad. It's now a standard piece of golf lingo in my vocabulary. As in 'I think I could've broken 100 today, if I only had a few less LTD's.'

4. The 'Breakfast' - For some reason, my dad knows very little about the appropriate way to act around kids. I am always telling my kids that 'Yes, I know Grandpa is doing that, but it's really something that we're not supposed to do.' Like walking in the middle of the street, saying potty words, taking your seat belt off while the car is moving, things like that.

Actually, it's not just around kids, it's around grown-ups too. One time, Mrs. BigKat made some lunch for me. He took a look at it and said 'That's disgusting!' right in front of her face! She did not appreciate this at all. Still gets mad about it to this day. But the point is that there is very little that he does that surprises me anymore. Until yesterday...

LilKat2 woke up early and left his bedroom to go hang out with Grandpa. I got myself ready and then went out to see what they were up to. I saw LilKat2 was at the kitchen table, so I figured that Grandpa must've gotten him some something to eat. Want to know what he had prepared LilKat2 for breakfast?

A glass of root beer!

Who gives a glass of root beer to a 4 year old for breakfast? Not cereal, not milk, not juice. Root beer! I had trouble comprehending what I was seeing because I didn't think anyone would actually think to do such a thing! At least when Bill Cosby gave his kids chocolate cake for breakfast, he served it with some grapefruit juice! I immediately took that root beer away, which of course made LilKat2 cry.

5. Boardgame withdrawals - For some goofy reason, we didn't bring any board games with us, except for a copy of Ingenious that we gave to my dad as a birthday present. So in 3 nights, I only got to play one board game. On the drive home, I having to tell Mrs. BigKat that I missed my boardgames. She was very nice and played a game of Roma with me last night after I came home from basketball, even though it was late. Isn't she great?

 

And now we're back home. Everyone got to sleep in their own beds last night, which made everyone very happy. Traveling is fun, but, with kids, it can be a lot of work!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Soccer Games

I tried out 2 new games at soccer practice yesterday, and they worked pretty well. One was for the Kindergarten team and the other was for the 1st grade team.

1) Hospital Tag: I played this with the Kindergarten team. It's basically a game where one or more players are It and chase the remaining players around, trying to tag them. But when you get tagged, you're not out yet. The first time you get tagged, you have to run around with one hand on the spot where you were tagged. The second time you get tagged, you have to put your other hand on the spot where you were just tagged. It's pretty funny to see kids who have been tagged twice running around with their arms all tied up like a pretzel. The third time you get tagged, you have to go to the Hospital (since you have no more hands). You go over to a designated spot and perform an action (in our case, it was spin around 5 times) and then get back in the game.
We played our first game with no soccer balls, so that the kids could get used to the rules. For the second game, the players had to run around with their soccer balls. And if their ball went out of bounds, either by them kicking it out or someone else kicking it out, it was the same as being tagged on the foot. Now you have not seen funny until you've seen a group of Kindergarteners 'running' around trying to kick a soccer ball while holding their foot. There was a lot of laughing involved by both kids and adults (well, there was the one dad who saw his son holding his foot and ran to check on him because he thought he'd been injured...). Anyhow, it was a very good game to start off a Kindergarten soccer practice.

2) Zombies! : I played this with LilKat1's 1st grade team. We're trying to work on our passing this year and getting open. So I came up with the Zombies! game. In this game, the kids get into pairs (although groups of 3 work well too). Each group has one soccer ball. The coaches are the Zombies! who try to eat the soccer balls. Now Zombies! can only walk, not run. So normally it would be easy to get away from them. But in the Zombies! game, the person with the ball can not run or dribble. The only thing they can do is pass. This forces the other players on the team to get open in a spot with a clear passing lane. It worked pretty well. The kids were starting to get the hang of finding good spots to run to when they didn't have the ball. I think this is the only game we've done so far that has really achieved this goal. Plus, I think they had fun with the Zombies!

The Week in Review

A lot happened this week, so I thought I'd give you a quick review...

1) Camping! Me and LilKat1 went on our first camping trip on Saturday. We went to a place not too far from our house. We took LilKat2 with us, and Mrs. BigKat and PrincessKat caught up with us after PrincessKat's nap. It was quite fun. We set up our campsite, did some hiking, fishing, and marshmallow toasting. At around 7pm, Mrs. BigKat took LilKat2 (who did NOT want to go. He was very sad...) and PrincessKat home. That left me and LilKat1 at the camp. We went out and did some more fishing. It started to get dark, so we went back to the campsite and got ready for bed. Unfortunately, the people next to us were really loud for a long time. The camp ranger guy even had to come out and scold them. But it didn't help. So LilKat1 had a lot of trouble falling asleep. He eventually did at around 11:30 or so, but was awakened 2 and a half hours later by BOOMING THUNDER! His first time camping and we get caught in a Big Loud Thunderstorm. He didn't like it one bit. He asked me if we could go home. At first, I was thinking that we should just stick it out and stay until morning. The tent was keeping us dry, and we wouldn't be able to pack up until it stopped raining anyways. But I knew that he would not be able to fall asleep all night and would be pretty much miserable, so I agreed to take him home. Besides, my air mattress was leaking and I was basically just sleeping on the ground. Getting a few hours of sleep in my bed sounded much nicer than where I was at the time. So at around 3am, we quickly packed everything up and headed home. And that was LilKat1's first camping experience! Mrs. BigKat asked him if he'd like to do it again sometime, and he gave her an emphatic NO!

2) Mormons! When we got home from camping, I left all of our stuff in the truck. So the next day (Sunday), I had to unload everything. Right as I was starting, 3 Mormon guys rang our doorbell. Now anyone who knows me knows that I love talking to the Mormons. It basically gives me an opportunity to share the Gospel with a group of people and they have to stand there and listen to it and not go away! And sometimes, they even come back for more! I always see it as a great opportunity and have fun with it. These boys that came were very nice. One of them had actually come by a few weeks back, and it was clear that, this time, they had a game plan. But I wouldn't let all the talk of latter day prophets deter me from sharing my faith with these fellas. We talked for about an hour and a half. Mormon theology has a lot of things that don't make a lot of sense to me, so I was able to bring these things up to give them something to think about. It was also a nice exercise for me because it gave me an opportunity to try to articulate my beliefs in a way that people with different beliefs can understand. Plus, I was able to unload all my camping stuff while we talked, so I didn't feel like I was not getting my jobs done.

3) Dinosaur VBS and the crazy pastor! LilKat1 was invited to go to a VBS program at a local church. It was a dinosaur themed program, and LilKat1 LOVES dinosaurs. He only heard about it yesterday, so today was his first day. When he came back, he was all smiles. He had a fantastic time. He handed me all of the stuff that he got, and I started looking through it. Then I noticed something strange...on his handout, there was a lot of stuff about dinosaurs, but also a lot of stuff about Noah's Ark. I didn't get the connection. Then I saw the big picture on the 3rd page and it all made sense. The picture talked about how scientists have many ideas about how the dinosaurs became extinct, but they're pretty much wrong. You see, the real reason why the dinosaurs are extinct is...THE FLOOD! As in the Noah's Ark Flood.

Needless to say, I was a bit surprised. I had never heard of anyone believing this. I quickly called LilKat1 over and asked him if they talked about how the dinosaurs became extinct. He said 'Oh yeah...The flood!' I had to have a talk with him right away and let him know that I didn't think that this was right. He was pretty disturbed by the fact that I disagreed with the VBS people, so we had to have a big talk about it to settle him down.

I wanted to make sure that we wouldn't be in for any more surprises tomorrow, so I called the church. I was able to talk to the pastor, and I expressed my concerns. Now, this guy was amazing. He fully believes that not only were dinosaurs made extinct by the flood, but there were a bunch of them on Noah's ark. Now, I personally don't believe this (like I said, this was the first time I'd even heard of it), but I'm actually ok with someone else thinking that it's true. After all, I'll be the first to admit that I don't know a whole lot about the ins-and-outs of Dinsaur-ology. But there's a good reason why I haven't studied the subject very much: Because It's Not That Important! You see, this guy acted like his view about dinosaurs was a fundamental doctrine of Christianity. Basically, he was telling me that either you believe this version of how the dinosaurs became extinct, or you didn't believe that the Bible was the Word of God and you didn't believe that there is a Creator of the universe. I tried to tell him that it was hard for me to believe that something so trivial as when the dinosaurs existed would play a role in God's Plan of Salvation, but he was having none of it. According to him, I had a decision to make, and apparently, what I believe right now is not one of the options. It took me quite a while to get him off the topic of the Importance of Dinosaurs and on to the topic of Is There Anything in Friday's Lesson That I Need To Be Worried About, but finally, he filled me in. I'm a little apprehensive about it, but LilKat1 is still going to the VBS program at the crazy church tomorrow. I would rather he not go, but he just loved it so much that I can't not let him go. And I figure that if they teach him anything wrong, I can always set him straight like I did today.

One big problem that I had was that the pastor did not seem to care about the emotional impact of telling a kid something that contradicts what their parents and teachers might be teaching them. I mean, this is an outreach ministry, but he didn't seem to care at all about looking at things from the perspective of the kids that they're supposed to be ministering to. If you're going to teach the kids something as controversial as this, you'd think that you'd want to put a little preemptive effort into alleviating any confusion that the kids might have. His thing was that he wanted to be able to get to the parents with his message about the dinosaurs through the kids. I don't know, just seems kind of rotten to me. Hopefully, things will go smoothly tomorrow.

4) Soccer! Soccer's still going on and I found out something about LilKat2 today. That kid has WHEELS! Oh my goodness! He's 4 years old, but he's on a Kindergarten team. Today, we played a game of Sharks and Minnows. In this game, the minnows have to get from one side of the field to the other side without being tagged by a shark. If they are tagged, then they become a shark in the next round. Well, at one point today, everyone was a shark except for LilKat2. He was the lone minnow. I said 'Go!' and he took off. He headed towards the sideline with the whole rest of the team chasing him. Then he turned the corner and flew past everyone, and made it to the other side untouched. Now, I understand more than anyone that 5 year olds are not known for their knowledge of pursuit angles. But still, none of the kids on the team came close to catching him from behind. LilKat2 is a Fast Little Boy.

5) Road Trip! We leave tomorrow to go to my dad's house. Should be a fun trip. We actually enjoy the travel part of it, and I'm looking forward to the drive.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Furniture Shopping: Then and Now

We went to Ikea over the weekend to get some new furniture. I thought it was interesting how different furniture shopping is now compared to when I was a boy.

A long time ago, there were 2 things that I hated the most: furniture shopping and plant shopping. And it seemed like we did both of these things every weekend for as long as I was a kid. When we went furniture shopping, we went to Levitz, and it was B-O-R-I-N-G! First of all, the whole place was a big boring warehouse. First, we'd look at a bunch of boring couches. Then we'd look at some boring beds. Then maybe some boring tables. Then back to the boring couches. Not. Fun. At. All.

Compare this to the boys' experience at Ikea. First, we check them into this play area. There's a big ball pit that they can jump in. There's things to climb on, including the world's biggest wooden shoe. There's a coloring station. There's a movie (with couches!). And the coloring station was right by the movie, so you could color AND watch a movie. When Mrs. BigKat picked them up, she knew immediately that they had a great time running around because LilKat2 was drenched in sweat. After playing, they got to eat lunch at a cafeteria. LilKat1 got macaroni and cheese, and LilKat2 got a PB&J with a fruit cup. They both even got their own orange juices. And the best part was that they got to sit at a table right next to the window. The Portland Ikea is right next door to the Portland airport, so they got to see big huge jets fly overhead every few minutes. How cool is that? Oh yeah, they also got chocolate cake.

You want to know the highlight of all my trips to the furniture store? One time, my parents let me get a candy bar from the vending machine (yay...). I didn't know what to get, so I got a Big Hunk. I didn't know what a Big Hunk was, but it had a brown wrapper, which is the universal sign for chocolate. How could I go wrong?
Well, if you've ever had a Big Hunk, you already know that it may as well have been called a Big Mistake or maybe even a Big Lie, because there is no chocolate involved in it at all. Just a big pile of chewy (and not just gummy bear chewy or even salt water taffy chewy, but more like steel belted radial chewy). Now, I'm not positive that this next part actually happened, but I have this vague memory of 'losing' the Big Hunk somewhere in a boring couch (which in all honesty, was a smart call by me because if my parents had found out that they bought me a candy bar and didn't like it, it would've drastically reduced the likelihood of future vending machine purchases...but again, I'm still not sure I actually did this. Although, My Friend Who Lies (MFWL) seems to believe that I did. Not that he was there or anything, he just likes to think the worst of me).

But I'm not bitter about any of this. Really! I very much appreciate the ability to do furniture shopping without having to drag around bored, complainy kids. Maybe we'll just start going here instead of to the zoo.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

First week of August

Lots of stuff going on this week. I thought I'd smash them all into one post:

1) Soccer started! We had our first practice on Tuesday. LilKat2's team was first, followed immediately by LilKat1. You know what? Running 2 soccer practices back-to-back takes a lot out of you! Especially when it's hot. The dinner schedule on soccer nights is a little crazy, we end up eating in shifts. But it was a lot of fun. We have our second practice today. I think it's going to be hot again, so I'm going to break out the dribble-the-ball-quickly-to-the-other-side-before-I-pummel-you-with-my-water-squirter game.

2) Got some free money at Costco yesterday! Mrs. BigKat and I had our weekly date night last night, and after we ate, we ended up at Costco (I know, Costco doesn't sound like a great date night, but we actually really enjoy walking around a store with no children. A lot). Earlier this summer, we bought a new tv. It's a nice tv, but just a shade too big for the space that we put it in. Mrs. BigKat wanted to see the tv that was a size smaller. We went to the tv section to take a look, and we noticed that our current tv was listed with a $100 rebate. After we were done shopping, I went to the customer service desk to find out if I could get the rebate for my earlier purchase. The lady said that it would be fine, but only if I bought my tv in the last 30 days. We went home, and I checked my receipt. 30 days! Perfect...no wait...there's 31 days in July...oops! 31 days! Not so perfect! I went back to Costco and saw the same lady and asked if it was ok even though I bought the tv 31 days ago. She asked her manager, and he said it was fine. Woo hoo! She handed me a $100 and off I went. Free money!

3) So last week, I ordered a big pile of games. Well, it turns out that the place I ordered from ran out of games, so they canceled my order. Which actually worked out nice because it saved me a lot of money! To celebrate my good fortune, I ordered a different big pile of games from Boards and Bits, one of my very favorite places to buy games. Here's what I got:

  1. Taluva - A cool tile laying game where you build up a little island with volcanoes and stuff.
  2. Ubongo das Duell - Another game in the Ubongo series. It's a puzzle game where you have to figure out the right way to fit these tetris-like pieces together. But this version is really hard! It uses crazy, monstrous, misfigured tetris pieces! And there's lots of them!
  3. Roma - I've been wanting this for a while, but I've read that a new version was going to come out soon. Well, I couldn't take it any longer and just bought the old version. It's a 2 player card game that uses dice in an interesting way. Looks like a lot of fun.
  4. Thebes - I got this mainly for game nights with my mom. She doesn't like it that I win so much, so I thought this would be a great game for us because it adds in a bit of a luck factor. It's an archeology game, where you travel to various places around the world in search of ancient artifacts. Part of the skill of the game involves doing your research so that you have the best chance to find something good. But in the end, even if you've done your homework, it's always possible that all you find is a big pile of dirt. This one looks like a very well made game, and I can't wait to try it out.
  5. Scripts and Scribes - This game was the equivalent of standing in line at the grocery store, seeing a Whatchamacallit in the candy bin, and buying it even though you're not sure what it is, but it just looks kind of tasty. I hadn't heard of this game before, and I just saw it on the Boards and Bits website as I was about to check out. I researched it a bit and it looked pretty good. A lot of comparisons to For Sale, another game I like quite a bit. Always nice to have a game that you can play in just 10 or 20 minutes when you don't have time for a big game.
  6. Mykerinos - We actually got to play this last night. What a great game! Another archeology game, although the theme doesn't seem as quite as important as in Thebes. It's really more of an abstract puzzle type game. You place cubes down on the excavation sites and try to control areas while blocking everyone else out. If you win a region, you get a card, which not only helps your score, but gives you special abilities in later rounds. Pretty simple, right? Well, there's a whole seperate component that you need to keep in mind: the museum. When you win a region, you have a choice of collecting a card, or getting a spot in the museum. Ignore the museum and your cards will not be worth that much at the end of the game. Focus too much on the museum and you won't have enough cards to gain control of the board. Also, you need to keep in mind when to save your resources for later rounds, and when to get as much as you can during the current round. This was really a fun game. Even as we were getting ready for bed, I kept muttering 'What a fun game!' It's funny, because the game itself it really small. The board is tiny, the pieces are tiny, the box is tiny. But the game itself is quite substantial. This one is one of my new favorites. The only problem with this game is that I don't know how to pronounce the name correctly...

4) My Friend Who Lies (MFWL) is getting married tomorrow. The wedding is at the beach. I'm taking the boys with me. They're very excited. This will be their first time at the beach ever! They've been wanting to go to a beach for so long.

5) My computer has been broken in one form or another for the past 2 weeks (ranging from 'Can't start SQL Server' to 'Can't run Windows in Safe Mode' to 'Randomly shutting down at some point during the day'). 3 video cards, 2 motherboards, 2 lcd's, a power supply and about 16 hours on the phone with tech support later, everything seems to be working fine again. Thank goodness!