Monday, December 29, 2008
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
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
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 Circus, Horse Fair, Bugs, Birds, and Beans, Take 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
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.
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
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
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.
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.