Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best of Year Album

One last item of blog business before the year is up: our annual Best of Year album! Our definition of 'best' is admittedly vague; the album contains our best shots, stories we wanted to tell, events to remember, pictures that strike an emotional chord, etc (and you're left to guess for what reason the pic is included!). It's basically the closest thing we do to a year in review. As in previous years, every shot is in chronological order, so it's like watching our entire year in fast forward.

When I think back on 2011, the one word that comes to mind (unfortunately) is craptacular. But, as I look at the 81 pics (a new record) in this album, I realize how many happy and wondrous moments there were too. Perhaps 2012 will be better, perhaps it will suck even more, but I know that there will inevitably be similar unforgettable memories that make the trip worthwhile. May the next year be full of rewarding moments for you and yours.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Annual Family Photomosaic

Regular readers of this blog may have seen this next post coming. Anytime we take family pictures, there's always a photomosaic follow-up. The library of images used in the mosaic is our total collection of family pictures, now up to 23,124 images from our nine years of marriage. This photomosaic was made of 10,000 tiles at 1200 dpi, with 20% recolor. 

For full effect, make sure you expand the image.

A few interesting tidbits: 
  1. We've never had a family pic with so many dark shades before (as we're usually in casual dress), so I was really curious what images would be used for the suits...turns out we're mostly made of jack-o-lanterns.
  2.  My shiny bald head contains lots of Easter egg pics, which proves that I'm an egghead. Zing!
  3. There are probably more tiles of Davis than anyone else (most of the brown background is Davis). Either we're shutter happy or every single picture we take of him happens to be in a semi-dark environment.

If this is your first time seeing one of our photomosaics and you'd like to try one yourself, head over to AndreaMosaic.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Family Pictures

Here are the best pics from our photo session on Dec. 17th, 2011. These are Davis' first professional pictures, so he was somewhat bewildered by the whole process.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Newsletter, An Apology

Nothing about our Christmas newsletter was easy this year.

Just ten days ago I had no idea that we were going to produce a newsletter this year. TLC said we needed to write about such a banner year, so I got to work. Seven days ago we posed for family pics. Three days ago I picked up the pics (and we didn't order nearly enough), purchased the stationary (which doesn't match), and stuffed the envelopes (which are business-style because the stationary envelopes were the wrong size). I feel like I almost had to use duct tape to make it all work.

Two-thirds were sent out two days ago and should arrive in time for Christmas, but the other third was just mailed Happy New Year. I stayed up past midnight twice during a workweek in an attempt to send these off. Next year, my goal is to have everything finished by December 10th...there...I made my first resolution for 2012.

So in light of not having enough to send to everyone, having mismatching items, bad envelopes, etc...I'm sorry this isn't the highest quality newsletter ever. But dang...I am ecstatic that I was even able to pull it off!

Here are the photo and newsletter for those that haven't seen it yet. Merry Christmas!

I did like our family pics this year; except that Davis would not smile at all. His dimples would have completed that funny picture of the three boys.

Note that the top margin is cut off in this pdf. Geez, this really was a tough year for the newsletter. Next year things will be better...right?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Video Regret

When we were married in 2002, my dad gave us this:

Strange how it seemed like such an impressive camcorder at the time but now it's like an ancient relic from some lost civilization.

I tried to use that camcorder as much as possible, but I was never quite sure how to watch the miniDV tapes on my TV or transfer a decent copy to my computer. As a result, I recorded a mere 50 total minutes by May 2006 when I stopped using the camcorder for good.

Now, there's no real excuse for this next part. I'm the geek who builds my own computers with massive RAID5s, roots phones for fun, and spends way too much time tinkering in general. Yet, I made several failed attempts to pull analog video from this $*@& camcorder! Well, this week I had an's a DIGITAL camcorder...all I had to do was buy a $3 Firewire cable, plug it into my computer, and the computer organized everything automatically.

So, I finally have videos that we took at the beginning of our marriage...

Don't feel a need to watch the whole's just newlyweds playing with a new camera on Halloween.

If you look closely at the first second of the video, you'll see an image of TLC at the kitchen sink and then some digital artifact stuff...that shows the extent of my ignorance with the digicam - I was trying to record over video like I would with analog - doesn't work too well on a digicam.

So, the REAL regret is that when I stopped using the digicam in 2006, the only option I had to take videos was our crappy 3 megapixel camera. So, our baby videos of Carter are of substantially poorer quality than Jordan's. I made this video to give a comparison...

I really wish I could have a do-over. Carter was the cutest little kid a parent could hope for...and the video quality sucks. *sigh* Live and learn, I suppose.

One more BONUS video...I found this on the digicam. I completely forgot about this event until this week...

My grandma used to dance with all of us kids and sing The Muffin Man. I asked her to do the same for Jordan and I got it on tape. I really miss her...especially at Christmas time.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mega Post!

Folks, I've been busy. The amount of responsibility in keeping a family of five afloat and ahappy (creative wordsmithing) is kickin' my derriere. There are many things I'd like to post about, but this particular post has been in the queue for a while, so I'll post for the sake of posting and be back here soon... Promise.

I dunno what it is about Whole Foods, but my kids will eat anything we buy there. Edam cheese, naan bread, baby spinach, spirulina shakes, and most surprisingly...KEFIR! Here Jordan is suckin' down another serving of kefir. I honestly don't have the palette for it, but the boys can't live without it. Bless you, Whole Foods.

Here a Bald Eagle sits on his perch LIKE A BOSS! I believe this is the first time I've ever seen a Bald Eagle. Any guesses where it was? I snapped this shot from my living room window. My back yard is awesome.

I've never been a fan of bathtub photos, but my wife is. As long as the bubbles are strategically located, I *think* it's fine. TLC thought Davis looked like an old man with that bubble beard.

I still gush to everyone about how beautiful a Wisconsin Autumn is, but...apparently it doesn't hold a monopoly on Fall beauty. By the way, most of those trees are also visible from my living room window.

We've been doing tons of projects at Lowe's on Saturdays. This is a sampling of what we've built since October. The boys are currently working on a three-part Christmas train. This works really well because TLC loves to craft/paint so the boys get customized projects by the time we're done.

We used to attend the kids' workshops at Home Depot, but the Lowe's version is far superior. Plus they give you badges (instead of pins) at Lowe's so it feels more like a scouting event.

Ahh..Thanksgiving. We had a great time at home and invited some friends in our apartment complex. This was their first truly American Thanksgiving, so the most enjoyable part of the evening was witnessing their reactions to everything.

FYI, I also learned that obtaining a FRESH turkey in Portland is much more difficult than in Wisconsin due to greater demand. I must plan ahead next year.

Carter is just a cutey. Kindergarten is such a fun time. I love the goodies he comes home with.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Halloween 2011

The boys snagged 8.5 pounds of candy over the course of two hours of trick or treating this year. I don't know why that's important; I just feel the need to maximize our returns. Occupational hazard, I suppose.

 Give me candy, you will!

This is what you get when geeks reproduce. Cynthia wanted to dress him up as a spider. I am SO glad I won the argument!

 Jordan opted for two costumes at the same time: A monster (a hat and a tail) and a vampire bat (trash bag cape). Whatever gets you candy works, I guess.

Carter was a monkey (a hat and tail). Cynthia is very glad that the boys chose minimalist costumes this year.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkin Potpourri

We had so many comments on our car decorations (above) at the ward 'Trunk-or-Treat', that I figured I might as well show the pumpkins off a bit on the blog this year. Carving a pumpkin is probably my favorite part of Halloween, so we try to put in as much effort as possible. This year was the best yet.

Sadly, our boys weren't as interested in carving this year. Jordan cut two tiny eyes out of one and let Mommy do the rest. Carter picked a pattern and then made me carve all of it. Davis shouted in frustration that the pumpkin wouldn't fit in his mouth.

TLC and I have been using stencils to create pumpkins since we were hitched, but our selection was usually limited to whatever we could find at the grocery store. This year we used ZombiePumpkins, and a world of options was opened. I chose Edgar Allan Poe, because I love his works and he's just darn creepy on a pumpkin! It's probably the most detailed carving I've ever done, but it still only took about 90 minutes, and it's well worth the result, methinks.

For 2003, Cynthia carved the name of our newborn, Jordan, into the mouth of a pumpkin. For the sake of equal parental treatment, all three boys have had a pumpkin like this. (Not that they care at this age...) The lid is always intentionally placed on incorrectly to give a scarecrow-ish appearance. Funny how family traditions spontaneously occur.

This is TLC's creation. I wasn't sold on the idea of an owl, but man...this bird looks menacing when lit up! This stencil is also from ZombiePumpkins. It almost makes me sick that she can make such perfect tips and edges.

This is the pumpkin that Carter picked out and then had me carve. Not gonna lie, I kinda phoned this one in. Doesn't quite have the same amount of polish as the other pumpkins. But it's still pretty cool.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Reason I'm a Bad Father, #58

Yesterday I received an interesting phone call:
  • Peter: Hello?
  • Dan: Hey, it's Dan! What are you doing?
  • Peter: Oh, just cleaning. You?
  • Dan: I'm driving home from a Halloween party. Hey, would it be alright if I come over and scare your kids? I'm dressed as a zombie.
  • Peter: I think they'll survive. (giggles)
  • Dan: Ok, I'll be over in a few minutes!
 A good father might have said no. Or would have given the boys an advance notice. Me? I grabbed my camera...

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Look at that handsome, confident kid. I have a seriously good boy in Jordan. He was baptized and confirmed yesterday, and I couldn't be more proud of him.

The whole meeting was very sweet and filled with the spirit. Jordan summed up the whole experience in his journal by saying "This was the best day ever."

We told Jordan he could choose anywhere he wanted to go for dinner, so naturally he chose Subway. Hmm...I kind of thought a restaurant would be better. We were able to talk him up to Denny's because of their pancakes, and I figured that was the best he'd agree on. While there, we presented him with a beautiful set of green scriptures. He has been anxiously pouring through them today. So cute.

I have baptized somewhere around 30 people, but yesterday was just completely different. Almost surreal. I was nervous, excited, worried, surprised that he could already be eight, etc. While getting changed into our white baptismal clothes, I just kept thinking about how small Jordan used to be.

It was one of those times were you realize how far your kids have come and how many people shape them into who they are. So to all of you out there that have helped Jordan become the awesome kid he is today, thank you.

Jordan's 8th Birthday

Turning 8 is a BIG deal. A birthday party, joining cub scouts, being baptized, etc. It has very much felt like a coming-of-age story for Jordan the past few weeks. The festivities kicked off with Jordan's birthday party. We ate pizza, played kickball, threw water balloons, let the kids play with Nerf guns and light sabers, etc. But I'm sure the kids will only remember one thing...


Seriously, what is it about pinatas that kids love so much? Our pinata experience was, sadly, quite short. The pinata was fastened on a nail. After just two hits, the nail failed and the pinata fell on the ground. Jordan, seizing the moment, raised the bat above his head in a rage and whacked the snot out of the pinata while it was on the ground...and then it was no more. Oops. I can still picture the moment in slow motion... "Noooooo!!! Squish!"

After taking out the candy, I hoisted up the head and let the rest of the kids take whacks at it, and they still had fun hitting it. Even without candy.

Lamb's Thriftway makes delicious birthday cakes, in case you're wondering. The chocolate raspberry cake we had was decadent. I tried to light all of the candles at least four times on that cake, but Jordan kept blowing them out before I had a chance. Hope he still gets his wish. Happy birthday, Jordan!

Yaquina Head

This is the last post of our summer vacation - I promise! Maybe it's just me, but it seems like our summer was just too full this year. The last little destination I wanted to write about was the Yaquina Head lighthouse in Newport, OR.

We actually went to the lighthouse twice during the summer, and still don't have a good picture (camera problems the first trip, low visibility the second trip - plenty of pics at Wikipedia, if you're interested). It's a wonderful 160-year-old lighthouse dropping off to cliffs on three sides. Very picturesque, but I'm glad I never had to live there!

One of the locations on the tour was the oil room, which stores 400 gallons of oil. The oil used to be carried up the stairs in two gallons pitchers like the one Jordan is holding above. The pitcher is weighted to show how much that much oil would weigh...Jordan's reaction is real (I think it's 30 pounds).

The last part of the tour was climbing up the spiral staircase. For a minute or two, it felt like I was in Hitchcock's Vertigo. The boys climbed it with ease and proudly displayed their "I climbed Yaquina Head Lighthouse" buttons. I'm sure the view would be great from the top...but I only saw fog. Boo.

One of the most interesting parts about the lighthouse is that there are large rocks just a few hundred feet out in the ocean that are completely filled with thousands of birds. We saw puffins, pelicans, penguins, etc. The largest rock is called Migration Rock.

Unfortunately, this picture doesn't come close to showing how many birds there were. Apparently there was an unprecedented decline in the bird population just two days before we went to the lighthouse for the second time. It was such a dramatic and unforeseen change, that there were observers from the local University while we were there. There is still one way to tell how many birds are USUALLY there - let's just say that the rock is not natively white.

First Day of School

Another year at McKay Elementary. Jordan and Carter started class on 9/6 and, for the first time, they are in the same school. It's surprising how different it is to get two kids to school in the morning instead of just one. The boys are slightly more cooperative, but there's twice as much to do and Mommy is usually busy feeding a third boy. We still haven't quite figured out the school lunches routine, but I think we're getting closer.

Jordan is now a second-grader. I think he missed school this summer, partly from boredom and partly because we made him do schoolwork during the summer anyway. He has a great teacher this year and she seems rather impressed with Jordan - he always seems to come home with a 'Wonderwolf' which is an instant recognition paper the teachers can give out.

Carter is a Kindergartner! I wish I could show you how excited he was to start riding the bus for the first time. He'd watch the bus roll up the street and start breathing faster because of the anticipation. Carter also has a large display of Wonderwolf papers strewn on our fridge. As I was writing this post, he was sounding out some of the words - he never did that before Kindergarten started. How exciting to see his progress!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Behold, the Power of Cheese


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Five Films, Again

I posted Five Films way back in April 2009. The basic premise was a listing of five films that TLC and I had recently watched for the first time and, despite our very different opinions, we agreed on how to rank those films on a 5-star basis. The post was somewhat controversial with some of our friends, especially giving Doubt 5 stars and Moonstruck 3 stars. So here's another brick in the wall of controversy.

All About Eve - starstarstarstarstar

I may never say something like this took me three sittings to get through the full 138 minutes of All About Eve, and I'm still giving it 5 stars. I guess I've just been really sleepy lately. This movie is still fresh and current 61 years after it won Best Picture. There's a reason it's one of only two films to ever get 14 Oscar nods or the only film to ever receive four female acting nods; it's that well done. This film is so iconic that a fictitious stage-acting award in the movie later became a real-life award. I'm not exactly sure what makes the film so good - it just clicks. Aside from falling asleep twice, I was riveted by the web spun by Eve. If I ever write a list of Top Ten All-Time Films, this would make the cut.

Wit - starstarstarstar

Can we all agree up front that Emma Thompson is perfect in anything she does? No exception here. "Wit" is the film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning play "W;t" (the semicolon is intentional). Basic story is that a tough college professor of 17th century metaphysical poets is diagnosed and treated for stage IV ovarian cancer. You watch her introspection as she relives the consequences of her life of 'no mercy', remembers a life in love with the beauty of words, and deals with a terminal condition. A very poignant film, but I doubt I'll ever watch it again - it's an exhausting movie. Cancer is no picnic, and the film doesn't present it as such. Hauntingly beautiful.

Extraordinary Measures - starstarstar

Not a bad story (inspired by a true story), not a bad cast, and definitely not a bad location. We principally watched this film because it was filmed in the Portland area. The filming seems to have taken place only on the ten or so sunny days of the year. I may rent this again in February to remember what the city looks like behind all the clouds. The major problem with the film may just be character development. You just don't ever get attached to any of the characters so it's hard to empathize with their struggles.

My Date With Drew - starstar

Man loses job. Man decides to fill time by trying to get a date with a certain actress. Man films it all cheaply and releases a movie. I think TLC picked this film up at the library just because I can't stand Drew Barrymore. I'm sure she's a nice enough person, but if she opened an acting school, it would teach nothing but vigorously shaking one's head side-to-side and trying to sound dramatic while speaking with pursed lips and a semi-lisp. The seventh circle of hell plays "Ever After" over, and over, and over again. No offense to anyone who likes that Kewpie Doll known as Drew; this is all just personal preference.

I digress... so frankly, this film sucks. We watched it in fast forward mode. The only saving grace? He gets the date and it's in the movie. Fortunately, Drew is herself in the movie and not acting as someone else.

Nights in Rodanthe - star

Alright, so we knew this one was bad going in. I wanted to watch it ever since Stephen Colbert mocked it (watch here). I am just shocked that people actually pay money for Nicholas Sparks to write romances; it would make sense if he were making campy comedies though. "Nights in Rodanthe", "The Notebook", "Dear John"....laughably bad. Those films are just waiting for the RiffTrax treatment. Skip the box of kleenex, bring a barf bag instead.  

"Oh, those horses! They're like her heart! So wild, so free!" - Stephen Colbert

Disagree/agree with the reviews? Sound off in the comments section.