Category Archives: Family

Where’d Summer Go?

Man, time really does fly.  I was talking to Mom last night and realized I haven’t been back out to Cimarron since June and here it is September.  It doesn’t seem like that much time has passed, and I couldn’t really tell you exactly what’s been taking up all that time between then and now.

Luke is growing and changing every day it seems like.  He’s really gotten into Hot Wheels cars.  We all have around the house I guess.  Andrea has been cataloging them all on the Hot Wheels website, I’ll even find myself in the store alone looking for cars he doesn’t have.  Getting harder and harder to do!

Luke playing with the neighbor boy at his birthday party.

Luke playing with the neighbor boy at his birthday party.

We have a lot of that orange track, and Luke got one of those big tower launchers for his birthday, so we set it up and have a lot of fun drag racing them, or setting up a course to run them through and seeing which cars make it the farthest.  Luke gets so into it.  It’s serious business to him and he has a blast.  Andrea has a hard time because sometimes she comes up with rules (like the car that finishes first wins) and Luke isn’t so much about following anyone else’s rules but his own (which change on a whim).  But playing with cars is always a fun time for all of us no matter what.

I’ve been playing some games.  Mostly Mario Kart 8 and Guild Wars 2.  I haven’t written much about Mario Kart 8 here yet.  A lot of what I feel about the game is an echo of what I’ve already written about for Mario Kart 7.  The two games are VERY similar.  The biggest difference being the amount of detail in the graphics for Mario Kart 8.  It is an absolutely beautiful game.  Oh, and I finally got my Royal Raceway re-make.  =)

Royal Raceway MK8

I played some Mario Kart 64 last night before I went to bed, it was a bit alarming how I had gotten used to the way the new game plays and took some getting used to to get back into the swing of things on Mario Kart 64.  I wasn’t breaking any records, but the old N64 stuff comes back to the top pretty quickly.

I’ve slacked off a bit in completing FFX-HD.  I’m quite close to the end, I need to just power through.  But I’ve gotten to a stage where I’ve been power leveling up my characters a bit so there hasn’t been a lot of action and I need to come back and push forward in the story.  Then on to play FFX-2-HD.  A game I haven’t played since I beat it the first time.  I’m probably more excited to replay that one than the first!

And I’m finally closing in on the completion of my personal story in Guild Wars 2.  It’s only taken 2 years…  After that there’s still a ton of content to play.  It’s a fun game and there is still so much to explore and see, when I have like 6 solid hours to kill on a Saturday, it’s a great way to soak that up, but that just doesn’t happen as much as I wish it would!

So that’s a very vague update.  I’m getting a new phone this week which will be nice because I’ll be able to take some more spontaneous photos and use twitter more often.  It’s just an exercise in frustration with my current phone.  And those pictures are always great for enhancing the blog posts here, so I’m looking forward to that a lot!

But for now, lunch break over and back to work!

Grandpa Frank

My Grandpa Frank passed away last week.  We rushed up to Topeka after hearing he was going into emergency heart surgery.  Unfortunately we got the call about 30 minutes away that he didn’t make it.

I spent a good amount of time between then and now thinking about the time I got to spend with him.  I’m blessed to have so many great memories with him from when I was just a little kid, all the way to seeing him be GREAT Grandpa for my son.

Walking around his farm this past week was so eerie.  Do you have any place in the world where you go and feel completely safe and comfortable?  That has always been the farm for me.  For me it’s always been a place where nothing bad happens.  But now you look around at so many things Grandpa touched or built and it was difficult to imagine that he wasn’t coming back.  There was a wrench laying next to his generator that he used to take the battery off and put it on the charger just days earlier.  He didn’t even put the wrench away, because I’m sure he thought he would just be back to put it back on anyway.  We placed it back on the wall where it hung with the rest of the set… just little things like that got me all week long.  So many signs that made it look like he’d be right back.

As a kid we would visit the farm all the time.  We would come back every summer for sure for Vacation Bible School.  Grandpa would take me over to Seneca sometimes for coffee with the guys, and that really made me feel like a grown up, even if I was only six or seven years old.

When birthdays would roll around, it was Grandpa Frank’s duty to give out the spankin’s.  One for each year and of course… one to grow on.  It was an event filled with laughter, but grandpa’s spankin’s weren’t exactly pain free either!

He would always be out doing chores while I played outside with some of Dad’s old toys or swung on the swing.  He would putt by on one of his tractors and I never really gave much thought to what he was actually doing, other than “his chores”.  I rode with him one day to go check on some cattle and we stopped by a bush on the pasture and picked berries and ate them right off the bush.

Grandpa Frank always enjoyed playing games with my sister and me.  Though he was ruthless.  One of our favorites was croquet.  We’d set all the wickets up next to the house and if Grandpa got the chance, he’d knock your ball clean out of the yard.  Then he would laugh heartily.  If you tried to do the same to him he would declare, “Hey! That’s dirty croquet!”   At the time I thought he was just provoking me, and don’t get me wrong, Grandpa always enjoyed beating you.  But the thing was, if you gave Grandpa the opportunity to beat you, he would take it every time.  So eventually you learn to play whatever game you happen to be playing with him in a way, that you didn’t give him a chance to win.  And he made you better.

I can think of endless other stories as I write this.  The part that makes me proud though, is that to me: he was Grandpa.  But Frank Althouse was so much more than a grandpa.  He made an impact on so many people besides myself.  Whether as a husband, a father, or a friend.  He was more than even I got to know.  And I think that’s pretty special to think that that great man was my Grandpa.

Slip Slide’n By Himself!

Last week and this week we’ve been doing swimming lessons with Luke.  The goal isn’t to get a 2 year old to swim, but more so get them comfortable around water and be safe.  But today he actually got to swim in the “deep” end by himself with a floaty kick stick (with mom right next to him) and he got to go down the water slide all by himself!  What a big boy!

A Day Out With Thomas

What an awesome day!  My Mom got Luke and us all tickets to A Day Out With Thomas for this past weekend.  Luke is huge into trains, and most prominently, Thomas the Tank Engine.  Little Guy could watch the same ones over and over again for hours.  We have fun playing with all his little toy trains and making them talk to each other.  But this event really brought it all to life.

I didn’t really know what to expect.  If anything I figured it would be kinda like a “car show” for trains, with Thomas being the centerpiece.  Well Thomas was the centerpiece, but there was so much more to do that walk around and look at trains.  There were fire trucks there, a petting zoo, inflatables to play on, great food (for kids and grown-ups), toys and entertainment for all the kids.  I was really impressed by it all.  We spent about 5 hours there and Luke never was bored and cried when we had to leave.

 

It couldn’t have been any cooler.  Thomas took a 5 car train for a 25 minute ride which was basically down a stretch of track and back.  But we made it a point to get in line early so we could sit RIGHT BY THOMAS.  We waited in line for probably 45 minutes before our departure time, but it was completely worth it.  Luke was at the front of the train as close as you could possibly get while Thomas was pulling us down the track.  I feel like if it were me, I would have felt a little disappointed if I was way in the back where you couldn’t even see him. We had fun pretending to talk to Thomas and just taking in the ride.

I really enjoyed it too.  Everything was just so neat and perfectly set up for kids Luke’s age.  There were a bunch of tables with toy trains for them to play with, temporary tattoos and lots of little freebies.  He even got a whistle that sounds just like Thomas’s whistle from the show.  I don’t remember anything this cool and authentic when I was a kid aside from maybe, Disney Land.  And it was cool seeing Luke get to soak it all up.

So thanks to Mom for the tickets, and to Andrea’s sister Michelle and her family for letting us crash at their place just a short drive from the event.  It was worth it in so many ways!

 

Luke Plays Minestorm

Downtime

It feels kinda weird, yesterday and today not doing much productive around the house.  I suppose there’s a few things I could busy myself with, like organizing the garage, or getting the old server stuff migrated over to some new hardware.  Nothing critical though, and instead I’ve spent my time watering the grass and playing Minecraft.

There’s a lot of work that needs done, but it’s all in a holding pattern right now.  The Cutlass is at the transmission shop right now getting rebuilt.  The Jeep needs to be looked at next.  The Toronado is ready for ball joints, but I only have half of them, the other half should come in tomorrow.  Don’t get me started on the long list of stuff the Black Car needs.  The Toro obviously has kinda just been sitting there a while, but the Jeep and Cutlass both kinda all happened at the same time.  It’s a giant sucking sound to the bank account… but oh well.  Just a setback, nothing more.  Small potatoes in the grand scheme of what’s important in life.

So I sorta feel like I’m procrastinating if I kick back and game a bit.  But in reality, I couldn’t get much done right now in the automotive realm if I wanted to.  So the only real procrastinating I’m doing is by NOT gaming.  I keep talking all the time about how I don’t have as much time to play games as I would like to, so if I don’t take advantage of that now, I’m being a bit hypocritical.

So I’m off to play some more FFX-HD.  What a fantastic game.  This is probably my 4th playthrough of the game and it’s totally time well spent.  Even with the backlog I have piling up.  Oh yeah.  I need to update my Backloggery.  Welp, add that to the list!

I leave you with this video of Luke playing Duck Hunt for the first time.  =)

“I don’t want to be frustrated.”

I really can’t believe how fast this little guy is growing up.  We were heading home from Wichita on Sunday and about halfway Luke was getting quite restless.  I had my 3DS with me so I asked him if he wanted to water some flowers in Animal Crossing.  “OH YEAH!” he said.

So I got the game started for him.  Got it all set up.  And he pretty much took over.  The part I can’t believe is how much he can do for himself.  Together we’ve probably only spent maybe an hour or 90 minutes with Animal Crossing.  But he knows how to walk around, switch his tools, paint on the patterns and open the chat and type letters.  All on his own.

It kept him satisfied for a good 30 minutes or so, but he was without a nap all day and started to get frustrated.  I asked for the 3DS and told him he needed to take a break because he was getting frustrated.

“I don’t want to take a break!,” he screamed.

“You need a break because you are getting frustrated,” I reiterated.

“I don’t want to be frustrated!” he sobbed.

It was a little sad, but mostly cute.  It reminded me of the first time I got to play a Nintendo at one of Mom’s friend’s house when I was just a kid around 5 or 6 years old. I didn’t want to leave and wanted to stay and play so bad I remember crying.

Tonight we played some Super Mario 64 and I made him do all the work.  I’d give him instructions like, “go left” or “push A” and most of the time he’d figure it out.  He’s not going to be saving princesses anytime soon… or is he?  Don’t blink, I tell ya.

Super Bowless

It sounds like I didn’t miss much of a game tonight.  We didn’t have any big plans to go to anyone’s party so we just stayed home and it was pretty much just another Sunday around here.  First time in many years though we didn’t do at least a little something special.  Sometimes we at least get some snacky stuff and make our own little Super Bowl Party.  Honestly quiet days are so far between anymore that I didn’t really want to occupy most of it with a game featuring two teams I didn’t really care about.  Today pretty much reflected my interest in the whole NFL season this year.  The Vikings started sucking pretty much immediately, so I didn’t have much to get excited about.

I spent a good part of the day playing with Luke and that was fun.  I love the weekends and being able to get up and eat breakfast with him while he watches his cartoons.  This morning we watched “Mater’s Tall Tales”, a bunch of little shorts featuring the characters from Cars. It’s fascinating watching him watch these shows.  He’ll be watching and see something funny, then just look at me and smile, as if to say, “You know that was funny.”

Later we went down stairs and built up a new fort.  It’s way better than our old one, because this one has a window!  We both had fun with it.  He was getting sleepy and he absolutely despises going down for naps, so I thought maybe he’d lay down and take a nap IN his fort.  After all, he even told me, “I’m sleepy.”  So we got his pillow, blankest and a couple of his stuffed animals and he laid down in there.  But the fun of the fort and all the toys nearby was too much to shut his little brain down and he couldn’t lay still… so it was reluctantly off to his bed.

On and off throughout the day I also started working on a new project.  It’s in the very early stages, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.  Definitely not ready to show it yet but I think I’ve got a good foundation for something to build on, and it’s something I can work on here and there.

So off to bed.  It’s a (theoretically) normal week next week.  I’m really looking forward to it.  Getting a whole night’s worth of sleep and all that.  We’ll see though.  It never ends up that way.  C’est la vie.

Vegetating and getting caught up.

What a great day.  I slept until 9AM and got out of bed and Luke was already up, goofing around in his crib.  The Saturday morning ritual commenced with pancakes and Care Bears.  I actually had zero obligations today.  Well… I did have to work on a website for somebody, but that only took about 15 minutes.

hexxit

Biebs has been bugging me to play Hexxit, a Minecraft mod pack with heavy emphasis on adventuring.  Today I finally got the opportunity.  At first I pretty much dove right in.  I made a wooden sword and started rolling through some of the light dungeons near the spawn.  I promptly got my butt kicked.  So at that point I decided I needed to establish a stronghold and build up some resources.  There’s a TON to do and a ton you can do in this version of Minecraft.  And I’m excited to dive into it.

I’ve been enjoying Animal Crossing: New Leaf to a great extent.  With only one big gripe… there’s only been the fishing pole, net or shovel for sale at Nookling’s since I started the game.  I really need my slingshot, watering can, and axe.  It bugs me to no end as I’ve seen about six presents floating overhead so far and no way to get them.

This is the first Animal Crossing game since the first that really feels different.  The biggest difference is you get to be the mayor as Tortimer has retired to a tropical island.  It’s cool because you get to decide in what order you want to enhance your town.  It definitely would benefit from multiple players as many of the projects are pretty expensive.  Right now I’m working on getting my house filled out with more room, so that soaks up all my bells.  But there will be plenty of time to get to it all.  Animal Crossing is a long term dedication.

I’d really been craving a game of this type too.  Something you can build on incrementally.  You end up feeling pretty invested in games like this after you’ve been playing off and on for a couple years.  You have your favorite residents, the collections you’re trying to complete and all the different holidays you want to check in on.  We even used Animal Crossing as our official New Year’s Eve countdown!

All of the holiday travels are done.  And they weren’t without some eventfulness.  We got all loaded up to head to Kansas City for Christmas with Andrea’s family, that’s when I noticed a steady stream of antifreeze dripping from underneath the Jeep.  It was coming out quick enough that I knew we weren’t going to try taking it.  I looked it over quickly and couldn’t exactly deduce where the leak was coming from, so Andrea, frustrated, loaded all our gear into the Cutlass instead which made the trip without issue.

Old Water Pump Removed

New pump installed!

When we got back home Thursday, I looked the Jeep over a bit more and it looked like it was leaking from the gasket.  Which meant the pump had to come off, which in turn meant, might as well replace the pump.  Long story short: I have learned never to be shocked by what you find when you buy a used vehicle.  The water pump had a HOLE in it!  Like an actual hole through the pump.  Sometime before we bought the Jeep someone had dabbed some RTV sealer over the hole.  It’s amazing that it lasted over a year.  But now we have a new pump and thermostat and it seems like it’s working great and doesn’t leak a drop.  Even got it put back together in time to head to Cimarron on that Saturday!  Not too bad for the old KartMaster’s Garage.

Bright red amp power cable and fuse.

Also did some work on the Jeep that was more, “scheduled”.  For Christmas I got Andrea a new amp and speaker box.  We already had the speaker which is what made the project affordable.  It was quite a bit of work, but I’m glad I did it right.  Had the front seat out and all the interior trim apart on the passenger side to run the power cable.  Ended up breaking off one of the bolts that holds the seat down because it was siezed up, so that won’t be fun to drill out and fix… but I’ll get it done eventually.  The finished product is the only thing you can really see is the power cable under the hood, and the speaker in the back.  No ugly wires showing anywhere.  Real clean.

So that kinda gets caught back up to today.  Got a little more snow, but just about an inch or so, nothing that will slow anything down.  Maybe enough for Luke and I to go play in tomorrow morning!

Let it Snow

I think the key phrase in the song “Let it Snow” is “Since we’ve no place to go…”  Without that qualifier, the song could take on a whole different tone.

We had a nice little snowstorm roll through Saturday afternoon and evening.  Probably had around four inches by morning.  And it was great!  Usually I dread snow, because it means cancellations, idiots on the road and potentially getting stuck.  This time though, I literally had nowhere I needed (or wanted) to be.  It was timed perfectly!  For the first time in a long time I didn’t have to go in to work on Saturday, and nothing to do Sunday.  So as the snow fell, I just enjoyed watching it all pile up, while Luke and I dreamed about playing outside on Sunday.

As per usual, when the snow starts falling, people start freaking the heck out.  At about 8PM, church cancellations started to roll in.  Thanks to the internet, here I am, with three inches of snow on the ground, able to record audio here at home on my laptop, transfer it to the radio station, load it up and cue it up to play.  Without a single person in the building.  I just had to marvel at the technology and that it was even possible.

This morning I got up and had breakfast, then relaxed a little bit.  Wasn’t long before Luke was up too.  First thing we did was look outside at the snow.  Luke was excited and instantly wanted to go outside.  I remember the same thing when I was a kid.  I was ready to get the sled out the moment the first flake hit the ground.  All said we got about 4 inches here, maybe 5.  Enough to have some fun.  Before that though, we had to eat breakfast.

I got Luke all bundled up with two pair of socks, two shirts, sweat pants, snow pants, his coat, and his mittens.  He was as cute as he could possibly be.  And ready to GO PLAY!  He was pretty timid at first.  This isn’t first time he’s played in the snow, but it’s definitely an unusual experience for him still.  I got the snow shovel out to start on clearing the driveway, and he got excited to help.  He would hold on to the handle as I pushed the snow to the edge of the driveway.

“Luke helpin’!” he’d say.

“Yep.  When you get older, I’ll let you do it all by yourself!” I told him.

Andrea came out and hung out and did a little work herself.  After I was done with our drive, I went and shoveled my neighbor Chris’s drive, because he just happened to have a turkey for us in his smoker.  A pretty awesome (and tasty) Christmas gift.  I felt like it was the least I could do to give back.

The snow was certainly the highlight of the day.  The rest of it we spent inside and we played with toys and had some good food to eat.  I didn’t get any Wii Fit U in today, but I shoveled two driveways, so even though I don’t get a stamp for it, I’m going to say it counts!