Big cards

A while back, Kyra joked that it would be funny to have a deck of oversized playing cards. Apparently you can buy them, although when I looked at the listings on Amazon it seemed like most people used them as novelty decorations for casino-themed parties and such. But hey, who am I to deny my daughter a ray of happiness in her life? I bought her a deck for Christmas.

Here she is with Zack, playing California Speed. The game is hard enough as it is, but adding gigantic clumsy cards takes it to a whole new level.

They’re a bit unwieldy to shuffle, too.

We played Sheephead (of course) and chuckled as we tossed these giants onto the table. Here I am winning a juicy trick:

It’s been a good time.

Christmas + Christmas

Dad turned eighty this year (happy birthday, Dad!). So we all went out to Missouri for a family celebration. Unfortunately none of us actually remembered to take some pictures of his party! Ugh.

During the few days we were there, we also had some adventures and celebrated an early Christmas together. We visited historic downtown St Charles, walking along Main Street and dropping in on a few shops.

I couldn’t resist posing with this beautiful work of art along the street.

Back at the house, we all gathered to open our Christmas gifts to one another.

It was great to all be together again– it’s been a while since that last happened. Afterward, Pepper and I flew to Salt Lake City to spend a second Christmas with our kids. Alex was spending the holiday with his in-laws (it was their “turn” this year) but we had a grand time with Kyra and Zack. Kyra had the most gifts of anyone:

I picked up a tree on sale at Lowe’s. It was pre-lit (awesome) but we didn’t get any decorations for it. Luckily Sefton made tree ornaments for everyone in the family, so our tree literally had a single ornament on it.

Beneath the plastic pine needles, we stacked the handful of gifts, and I took an artistic shot of them:

One of the gifts we opened was a box of chocolates that was, without doubt, the fanciest box of chocolates I’ve ever seen.

Full disclosure: the box was actually addressed to the former owners of our townhome. But it’s been almost a year since we bought it, and we have no way to get in touch with them to tell them to come pick up a mysterious FedEx box. So we decided to just open it and enjoy whatever was inside. It had been sent by an investment firm, so I’m guessing it was just a “thanks for being our customer” sort of gift and they’ll never miss it. But Brayden, if you’re reading this post, drop me a line and I’ll try to make it up to you.

Of course there were tons of board games on the docket. Here we’re playing Codenames, which is a blast. Pepper has traditionally hated the game, but she seemed to be having a good time with us.

It was great to have two Christmases with our two families, and the time seemed to slip by too quickly. Merry Christmas, everyone.


Sefton received a little plush dog for Christmas this year.

I didn’t know they made these animals any more! It’s the same dog Alex had as a little boy. His name was Porch, and he went everywhere with Alex. Here’s a shot from early 2000 where Porch is enjoying the view out the car window:

Sadly, Porch went missing on one of our road trips– we think he might’ve been left in a hotel room, and despite calling all the hotels we’d visited during that trip, no one had found him. Alex was devastated, although I think he’s recovered now.

Anyway, it was fun to see Porch reincarnated for another little boy in the family.

The Lego Store

Thom and Katie wanted to bring Sefton over to a place called The Lego Store (zero points for creative naming). I decided to tag along, because hey, Lego!

It turned out to be a ton of fun. There were a lot of “vintage” sets, including the Beta-1 Command Base, which is a set I had around age 10:

Notice the $120 price tag. I’m guessing it cost around $25 when I first got it– likely from Grandma Schroeder, who always had us send our Christmas gift ideas from the Sears catalog. Yeah, inflation and all, but it was interesting to see some of these older sets I remember, selling for hundreds of dollars.

Of course there was a whole section of the store dedicated to Star Wars Lego, another for Harry Potter, and so on.

Heck, it was fun just to look at the hundreds (thousands?) of minifigs on display!

And you can build your own minifig by taking what you want from a huge bin of legs, torsos, heads, and accessories:

All in all, it was an hour well spent. Sefton absolutely loved it, and I have to admit it was great fun for me as well (and Thom, I suspect).


Today I got kicked with a dose of nostalgia. Pepper and I were at a thrift store, looking at the kids’ books to find a few for Ollie. I pulled out this pop-up dinosaur book:

This is the same book I had as a kid! I flipped through it and saw all the pop-up dinosaurs (no surprise, considering the title) and remembered them. So funny.

An hour later, we were at Walmart doing some other Christmas shopping, and I noticed the Lego Galaxy Explorer set:

Thom had this one. I distinctly remember the LL928 number on the side. Apparently they’re bringing back the classics.

Anyway, it was fun to see these things from my childhood, some four decades ago. And yes, we bought the dinosaur book for Ollie.

Macro snowflakes

We were outside in the snow, and the flakes falling from the sky were enormous. I guess I’m used to little specks of white; these were a quarter-inch across and beautifully formed. Here are some examples in Kyra’s hair:

Bonus: my two beautiful girls.


Ollie is discovering that pushing a Tonka dump truck along a sidewalk covered in snow doesn’t work very well. It’s funny to watch him get frustrated when the wheels clump with snow and refuse to turn…

Sledding… sigh

Outside Alex and Kaitlyn’s apartment, there’s a hill. Okay, maybe it’s exaggerating to even call it a hill. It’s more like a gentle incline. But it was snowing, and we figured Ollie might want to go sledding. We grabbed a cookie sheet from the kitchen and headed out.

I rode down with him, and despite my enthusiasm, he acted absolutely bored.

We did it a couple of times, but apparently a slow slide down twenty feet of snow isn’t enough to impress this little guy.

Digital art on afterburner

A little over two years ago, I took a creative leap and decided to start working with a digital tablet. It was a ton of fun to draw cartoons and work on some other sketching techniques, but I found that the real value of a tablet like this is in editing photos. It’s so much easier to use a pen (err, “stylus” in the professional lingo) rather than a mouse when working on fine details. The tablet has empowered me to make Christmas cards and do a myriad of other things with photography and practical jokes.

I’ve been working at the high school, earning a bit of extra scratch as a coach. I figured some of that income could go toward a hobby I enjoy, so I did some research and decided to upgrade my tablet.

Here’s the old one in all its 13-inch glory:

And here’s the upgrade, a staggering 24 inches diagonally:

It’s hard to convey the sheer size of this beast in a photo like this; it’s almost as large as my (already crazy large) monitors. And with 2K resolution, the drawing area and details are substantially better.

Hoo boy, this is gonna be fun. As I’m fond of saying, “Now we’re cooking with gas!