During this Christmas season, we have enjoyed going for walks around the neighbourhood and admiring the Christmas lights and displays that people come up with.

In the Weird category, this display is about a block away from our house.

At the start of the season this “Nutcracker Elvis” was flanked on both sides by guitars, but somewhere along the line the one on the left went missing. (“Elvis’ Guitar has left the neighbourhood”.)

Keeping more in the Christmas spirit, we really enjoyed this creative nativity scene, made out of 4″x4″ posts, with the head coverings and the height of the posts being the differentiating features.





Of course pictures don’t really do it justice (except maybe in Elvis’ case).

About a week before Christmas I purchased a used copy of Empire Builder, the crayon rail game with the North America map, from Amazon.  This is the version that I first played (back in 1985 or 1986).  It has a different map than the current version in that it is only southern Canada and the United States (the latest version also has Mexico).  This game was the impetus for me buying the British Rails game during Christmas 1986.  It was the creative spark for the trucking game which I made (for Marlin I believe), was a pretty much unplayable, and parts of which hung around until our recent move to Texas.

The 1984 version of Empire Builder
The 1984 version of Empire Builder

The game arrived yesterday, and was eagerly opened (by myself and Danaya who is my prime partner in crayon rails).  Alas, it was missing the six large puzzle pieces that make up the playing board which is essential to gameplay.  I have emailed the Amazon partner who sold the game (and described it as “Condition: Collectible – Very Good”), and am waiting to see what the resolution will be.  Who knows, maybe they have six large puzzle pieces of the Canada/US map with lots of mileposts on it hanging around their online store.

This afternoon, our latest crayon rails game acquisition arrived – Martian Rails.  My apologies to our Oregon family who may not have the same exposure to this genre of games, although the first crayon rails game that I purchased was British Rails, which I got while in Oregon visiting Lori’s family (and Lori) during the Christmas season of 1986.  (This prior sentence was a run-on sentence and my lovely wife will have something to say about it when she reads this post).  (And when you have an entire sentence in parenthesis, does the punctuation at the end go outside or inside of the ending bracket?)  Anyway, I have memories of one of the first games of British Rails being with Grandpa Ron (back in Dec 1986 when he was “Mr Goertzen”).

The map
The map

The map board wraps east-west to provide a circular planet experience.

Unique major cities
Unique major cities

The city (and goods) names are based on classical science fiction written about the red planet.  Some interesting terrain as well (please excuse the weird flower like pattern – that was from the random effects app that I used to upload the photo).  Just as an example – the dotted brown lines cannot be built across until the appropriate action card is drawn at some point in the game, somewhat constricting access to this area.

Eek!  volcanos!
Eek! volcanos!

The building cost for volcanos is 5, making building into and out of Olympus a spendy proposition.  Looks like Danaya ran out of money in this case.

Color load tokens
Color load tokens

On the loads front, there are some old familiars (machinery, imports), but also some rather unique ones – Roddenberries, and probably my favorite – Bachelor Chow (made by the fine purveyors of Dog Chow and Monkey Chow).

Anyway, hurrah for Amazon Prime (free two day shipping on anything).  We’re trying the Amazon subscription service to buy some grocery staples on a monthly basis; we’ll see how that goes and how long it takes the UPS driver to get sick of delivering to our house.

This morning was garage sale morning in our housing subdivision.  We found out this morning that the Coles Crossing subdivision (subdivision might not be the precise term, maybe community) does not allow garage sales except for one day a year, which was today.  Even then, they are only allowed to run until 2:00 pm.  We live in a very unique culdesac where the families are pretty close, so it ended up being a joint garage sale for the five families.  We didn’t take a lot of stuff out, and even then didn’t sell a whole lot.  Danaya sold some cards and earrings to our neighbours, but the garage salers were interested in bargains and not crafts per se.

Brock spent fifty cents on the combat outfit pictured below, buying it from our next door neighbors after wearing the helment and toting the gun for an hour or so.

picture of Brock in comabt outfit
Master Chief Brock

At the end of the garage sale (everyone in our culdesac packed it in at 1:00 pm, as it was sprinkling a bit and there hadn’t been any traffic in a while), Brock scored big when our next door neighbors told us they would be happy if we relieved them of the following toys.  Brock and Mom obliged them.

Brock and his haul
Brock and his haul

And finally, while we are on the topic of Brock, I have a bit of a funny store about said lad to relate.  On Friday evening we were babysitting the six children of another family.  We have our new dining room table, but the chairs have not arrived yet.  So, as a result, people were sort of scattered around the dining room and kitchen areas.  After a while (about half way through the meal), Brock announced “My food hasn’t arrived yet.”  Poor lad, he had been sitting patiently un-noticed at the table, watching the other kids eat.


Following are a bunch of pictures that I took at the reception.  Feel free to click on the pictures for a larger view and to comment or suggest alternate captions.  The reception was a lot of fun and Layne and Elissa made sure to get around to and chat with each of the tables.  Enjoy.

Layne and Elissa hired an official photographer for the wedding, and I’m sure that she has done an absolutely fabulous job.  But I’m not sure when she will be getting the pictures to Layne and Elissa, and then how long it will take Layne to get them posted.  So, here are some of the pictures that I took for you to enjoy in the meantime.  These pictures were all pre and post wedding, as there wasn’t any flash photography allowed during the ceremony.  You should be able to comment on individual pictures, if you have better caption ideas than what I came up with.

Being present at the wedding rehearsal (and having no role there other than walking my beautiful wife down the aisle), I took some pictures.  Here are the ones that turned out okay.

Layne and Elissa hired a photographer for the wedding, and she was there for the wedding and the reception.  But, I was there for the reception hall setup and the wedding rehearsal and took some pictures there.  Here are the better (note that I didn’t say outstanding or spectacularly awesome) pictures from the time on Friday afternoon (Oct 18th) setting up the reception hall.

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Grandma Dana’s comment about toothless Davison reminded me that I wanted to do a post with before and after pictures of Davison. Being impulsive, I decided to stretch it into a “find pictures of each of our kids taken during the timeframe between when their baby front teeth fled the scene and their adult front teeth arrived”. Although I spent way too much time going through old photos and digital images, I was not very successful. I had some “near misses” and we have some children who smile a lot but don’t show their teeth (I’m looking at you Danaya!). So, here is what I arrived at – only Davison and Daelynn, so I added in some of the older content that applied as well. In the picture of me (Ben), I am showing my teeth, but the timeframe is probably close to either losing them or having them in again. I was really hoping to find pics of Layne and Rett that matched, but fell short.

Also, I’m trying out a WordPress gallery feature. This particular one allows comments on each of the individual pictures, although I haven’t tried that out yet (maybe you can)… Also, the thumbnails are clickable if you want to switch into big picture mode.



On Wednesday, September 18th, a coworker gave me three tickets to the Houston Astros baseball game that evening. After a hurried supper, Heidi, Davison and I hopped in the car for the drive (through some lousy traffic) to Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros who were playing the visiting Cincinatti Reds.
20130926-222237.jpgWe got there a couple of pitches into the game, and settled in to enjoy it. Our seats were in the lower section in the outfield foul section off the first base line. There were a lot of empty seats around us. I guess the Astros were the worst team in Major League Baseball this year (either that or the Toronto Blue Jays were).  We aren’t baseball fans per se, so had no idea who any of the players on either team were (although I recognized the name of one of the Reds players).  The seats were metal, without any padding.  Apparently the ballpark has a retractable roof, but nothing so exciting happened that evening.

Ticket check, Cotton Candy check, Heidi check

Being a wise parent, I limited how much money I had in my wallet, $8.00 to be precise. Actually, this wasn’t planned, it was just the way it was. Anyhow, guess how much the little blobs of cotton candy were? You guessed it, $4.00 each. So Heidi and Davison each got one and that was it for treats.  I’m sure there was an ATM around, and there were for sure concession stands that would take credit or debit, but strangely enough I’m sure that did not occur to me at the time.  I went without cotton candy – sort of the martyr thing that would make the kids feel guilty asking for something else.  It didn’t work that way – actually I didn’t complain about getting nothing, we had eaten at home and I’m not a big fan of cotton candy.

Gah! It’s bigger than his head!

A little ways into the second inning Heidi asked if we should go home (because it was getting dark outside). Having driven for at least 50 minutes to get there, I wasn’t ready to leave 30 minutes in. Anyhow baseball turns out to be somewhat of a boring sport, there was a general noise level in the stadium from people talking to each other. We decided to leave at 9:00, which ended up being the end of the 5th inning. Houston was down a run, the kids had had the experience, it was getting to be bedtime for both the kids and me, and I was just fine beating the traffic.

A fun time was had by all, some memories made, Heidi and Davison don’t really understand the rules of baseball yet as I was explaining it on the fly in my own unique manner, and here I am a week later telling the tale.

Dad and the Cheezer Man

Just for fun, I checked one of the sports websites the next day to see how the game ended. I guess it was a nail-biter (or a snoozer) that went all the way to the 13th inning, taking 5 hours and 18 minutes to play. That would have gotten us out of there at roughly 12:30 am, so I was happy that we had made the decision that it was okay to cut out before the end of the game. Maybe when I was younger and foolish, I would have made our first two boys sit for the full 5 plus hours so as to build character (Layne and I sat through a snowstorm at a football game once), but I’m smarter now. (either that, or fully cognizant that my alarm would be going off as per usual at 5:00 am the next morning).

Heidi and Dad, opposite expressionii

I was going to fill in enough text to accompany all of the pictures, but I’m sort of running out of steam here. In other news, we have purchased our plane tickets back to Calgary for the big wedding. We are flying back on October 12th, a week before the wedding. The return flight is on October 28th, giving us roughly a week after the wedding to try and wrap things up with the house in Calgary. We figured out that it woudl be cheaper to drive, but with having to probably buy a small trailer to haul baggage in, the decision was that the extra money on the plane tickets was well worth avoiding the equivalent of 8 days of driving with little elbow space.  Not to mention meals, hotels (two rooms per night), and likely an uncountable number of rest stops.  With the flights, we have a stopover in Phoenix, so we have a new airport and flight path to explore.

Our section at a glance.


Some youthful exuberance on display, unlike the front teeth