An Interview with Alyssa

Five years ago and last night I interviewed Katrina.  Now that Aly is old enough, I also interviewed her, with the same questions.

1. What jobs would you like to have when you grow up?
“My favoritest job I want is to work at a restaurant called Ally’s Kitchen. And I might have some other workers that work at my restaurant.”
“I also want to be a worker at a place called Ally’s Alleys which is a bowling place”
“And I want to be a carpenter.”
Me: “Do you want to build houses”
“I don’t know. What do carpenters even do?”
(I explain)
“Oh then I want to be a vet, because it sounds hard to build stuff. Have you ever built stuff before? Oh yeah, you built a thermostat. So it a carpenter one of your jobs?”

2. What kind of restaurant do you want to have?
“Catfish, I love it! Also chicken fried steak and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bologna sandwiches and Nutella sandwiches and guess what? I also want to have grilled cheese sandwiches.”

3. What is your favorite game?
“I like all types of games. It’s kind of hard to choose my favorite game. Well, my favorite game on the Wii is Cooking Mama.”

4. What is your favorite subject in school?
“Literary stations, because we get to work a lot and I love working.”

5. What is your least favorite subject in school?
“Math that’s too hard for me but some math is really fun!”

6. What is your favorite toy?
“Oh that’s a tough one… let’s see. I have a lot. Playing on my computer because I almost always play on it.”

7. What hobbies do you have?
“I know what hobbies are! It’s what your favorite thing to do is when you’re not at school. And my favorite hobby is playing on my computer.”

8. What is your favorite thing to do on your computer?
“There’s lots of games on PBS Kids and usually I play PBS Kids.”

9. What is dad’s job?
“Being a dad. That’s easy.”

10. What does dad do to make money?
“Well, that’s actually too hard.”

11. What is mom’s job?
“Being a Mom. And having babies, because mom’s have babies not dads! That would be hilarious if dad’s had babies.”

12. What does mom do to make money?
“Uh, I don’t know. But I do have a suggestion of how both of you make money. Do you help people and give money to buy stuff and then you get some money?”

13. What is your favorite book?
“Well that’s easy. Skippy Jon Jones, Class Action. I love it so much! I even want to read it tonight.”

14. Why is that your favorite book?
“It’s so funny, because there’s a woolly bully that spins in a tiny teacup and Skippy Jon gets ready for school, when he’s not a dog, but a Siamese cat that think’s he’s a chihuahua.”

15. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
“Hard math. Like I don’t know what 6+8 equals. I don’t know what equals what.”

16. Who is the president of the United States?
“Um. Let’s see if I can remember his name… Ok, I can’t remember his name.”
Me: “I’ll give you a hint, it’s Barack…”

17. What’s your favorite song?
“God Bless America”

18. What’s your favorite place you’ve been to?
“Remember when we traveled to a restaurant with some catfish? I don’t remember what’s it’s called. On our vacation. It’s on a mountain, by Pike’s Peak.”
Me: “We had some donuts on Pike’s Peak, but they didn’t have any catfish there”
“Yeah, that’s it. Because I love snow and there’s always snow there…. I guess.”
I think she was talking about Red Mountain Grill in Summit, CO. One of my favorite places too.

19. Do you want to get married when you grow up?
“Uh, yeah. To Bryce, he’s on our bus. He’s in Katrina’s 5th grade class, but I still want to marry him, but he’s like “No!”, “No!”.”
“And sometimes I call him Bricey Wicey.”

20. What do you want your husband to be like?
“Well Bryce has blond hair and I want a husband who’s older than me and that has short hair, kind of like yours.”
“And I’m hoping I have a baby, but I don’t know how you get babies out of your tummy. How do you get babies out?”
I quickly changed the subject.

21. What pets do you want to have when you’re grown up?
“Yeah, a German Sheppard like we used to have (Snickers, our Shiba Inu). And I want a bobcat.”

22. What nicknames do you have?

23. What talents do you have?
“I’m kind of good at reading.”
“Reading on my computer.”
“Doing my special projects.”
“Making my bed.”

24. What are you not good at?
“Staying in the lines”
“Sometimes I’m not good at writing, because I mess up. Plus I don’t even know how to spell ‘touch’.”

25. If you had $1 million, what would you buy?
“Well definitely toys. For my kids.”

26. If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?
“A really cool scooter.”
“A Nintendo DS”
“A prize from the claw machine.”

27. What are you afraid of?
“Scary noises in the dark.”
“A loud noise in the park, when no kids are with me.”
“When the power goes off at bed time.”

28. What makes you happy?
“Someone cheers me up and gives me a hug.”
“Someone gives me a toy or stuff animal. Like Katrina did when she gave me the pink monkey.”

29. What makes you sad?
“When someone hurts me.”

30. How old is dad?
“Seriously? 32. That was easy.”

31. How old is mom?

32. What is your favorite food?
“That’s EASY. Catfish.”

33. What is your favorite TV show?
“H20 Just Add Water.”

34. Do you want to have kids when you grow up?

35. How many kids do you want to have?
“Two, like you guys have two.”

Interview with Katrina – Part 2

Almost five years ago, I interviewed Katrina. Tonight, I sat down with here again to get her new answers and read her the answers from last time. I tried to ask the same questions as last time.

1. What jobs would you like to have when you grow up?
“Maybe a baker.”
“A groomer, not a vet because I can’t work with inside parts.”
“The most risky, an astronaut.”

2. Do you want to own your own bakery or work at someone else’s?
“Probably my own place”
“Kat’s kitchen”

3. What is your favorite game?
“Monopoly. I like claiming land and earning money and stuff and it’s really fun to get the most popular lands because you earn a lot of money from those.”

4. What is your favorite subject in school?
“Science. Mainly chemistry.”
“It’s cool to see the chemical reactions and sometimes you can make things with chemicals like that glow dough we made.”

5. What is your least favorite subject in school?
“Social studies. Sometimes it’s interesting when you get to talking about what all the people had back then, but sometimes you’re talking about them claiming land and going to war and that’s kind of boring.”

6. What is your favorite toy?
“Well I collect stuffed animals but of course Lovey is my favorite one.” (ladybug)

7. What hobbies do you have?
“Shopping, helping mom cook, watching tv and using electronics… and clogging.”

8. What is your favorite part about electronics?
“Because there’s lots of cool games you can go to and sometimes it’s something so fun you don’t want to stop and you just want to do it for days and days on. Like you know how I was with the full version of Minecraft.”

9. What is dad’s job?
“Working on the computer at home, but you use to work on a computer at another place. You do programming. You draw stuff for the Makerbot. And lately you’ve been working on your thermostat. You also email.”

10. What does dad do to make money?
“I haven’t thought about that.”

11. What is mom’s job?
(Blank look) “I really don’t know.” – I guess it was a trick question.

12. What does mom do to make money?
“Don’t know that either.”

13. What is your favorite book?
“I don’t actually know what my favorite one is, but I like 4th Grade Fairy.”

14. Why is that your favorite book?
“Because it’s filled with magic and animals and I really like both of those things.”

15. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
“Building that roller coaster, because sometimes you had to turn the pieces sideways and sometimes there were tight fits.”
“Contacts! That was definitely hard at first. Really hard. Because it took me hours and hours and hours. I remember that day after I got them, it took until like dinner time to get them in.” (she started around 2:00)

16. Who is the president of the United States?
“Um, dad. Has election day passed and do we have a new president?”
“Barack Obama.”

17. What’s your favorite song?
“I don’t know, but I like Eye of the Tiger. And something that reminds me of that song is the tiger’s eye rock I have.”

18. What’s your favorite place you’ve been to?
“Probably Disneyland. Pixie Hollow.”

19. Do you want to get married when you grow up?

20. What do you want your husband to be like?
“Someone kind.”
“Someone who understands me.”

21. What pets do you want to have when you’re grown up?
“Black bunny rabbit and parrot.”
“Because I think the black ones are the cutest.”
“Because I’m interested in birds and I thought it would be neat to have one and they’re colorful. And I think it’s neat the way they learn how to talk.”

22. What nicknames do you have?

23. What talents do you have?
“Creating Things”

24. What are you not good at?
“Climbing high up, whenever it’s possible I could fall.”

25. If you had $1 million, what would you buy?
“A nice house of course.”
“Some pets.”
“Give some to the poor.”
“Food and stuff I need.”

26. If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?
“To have my own controllable magic and that would probably be it because then I could do anything.”

27. What are you afraid of?
“The dark when it’s completely dark.”
“Whenever my Furbee wakes up when I’m holding it in my hands.”

28. What makes you happy?
“Animals, family, stuff animals.”
“Sometimes I like to color when it’s nice and quiet and peaceful.”
“And I love to rollerskate!”

29. What makes you sad?
“When I have to do homework all night and don’t get any time to play.”
“When I loosed my favorite favorite stuffed animals.”

30. How old is dad?
“33 or 32 one of those. I believe 33.”

31. How old is mom?

32. What is your favorite food?
“Mac and Cheese. Still!” (She remembered her answer from 5 years ago)

33. What is your favorite TV show?
“Now that I know about it, H20 Just Add Water.”

34. Do you want to have kids when you grow up?

35. How many kids do you want to have?
“Probably one.”

Christmas Festivities

Well, we were really blessed this year. We were able to celebrate Christmas with lots of our friends & family & enjoyed some time with one another, here at home, as well. Here is a look at some of the wonderful celebrations we shared:

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We’d like to thank you all for being part of our lives & we hope everyone had a blessed Christmas & is excitedly looking forward to the New Year, as we are!

Pre-Christmas Events!

I had posted this stuff previously, but due to a server crash, it got deleted, so here we go, again! :) Just wanted to share some photos & videos from shows that our family participated in, celebrating Christmas. Alyssa got to perform with all the preschoolers (kids aged 2 – 5) in a musical at our church. The following week, the girls’ Nana Annette, Katrina & I danced in a clogging show with our group, Just Gotta Dance at the Woolaroc nature preserve & museum, here in our locale. We wrote our own routine, in which we even got to showcase Aly & the girls’ youngest cousin, Sierra for part of it. We hope you are all enjoying this time of year & looking forward to many wonderful Christmas activities, as well!

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Autumn Blessings

Well, we’ve got lots to be thankful for this year, especially our wonderful family & friends, who have joined with us in celebrating many events, recently. I meant to post about each of these as they occurred, but time didn’t allow for it. So, without further ado, I figure I’ll just share some photos for all to enjoy! :)

Alyssa’s 4th Birthday Party:
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Our Pumpkin Patch Trip:
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Creating “Jack the 3rd”:
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(He is the 3rd jack-o-lantern that we’ve created together as a family).

Bonfire at Nana’s:
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(We had a black cat & a *cute* (NOT scary) ghost & went Trick-or-Treating with the girls’ cousins, Aunts, Uncle & Nana).

Thanksgiving at Grandma’s:
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Thanks again to all those who helped create these wonderful memories with us, this year & for those that are across the miles, we’re grateful for you, as well, for continuing to be close to our hearts.

A Walk-In Media Closet

One of my favorite features in our new house is our media closet. It’s an idea “borrowed” from some friends of ours, Tim and Jennie Morgan. They have similar closet in their house. I thought they were somewhat common at the time, but found out later what an original idea it was, so they definitely deserve a lot of credit. If you do a Google image search for media closet, you really don’t find any other walk-in ones, but it’s totally the way to go. For anyone thinking about building, I highly recommend one.

Why a Media Closet?

We have a fair number of electronic components: Xbox, Wii, Playstation, Mac Mini a receiver and until recently a cable box. We used to store these at the bottom of our TV stand but it looked rather cluttered, and if you ever look behind the TV was a cable nightmare. Jeanette always used to ask me if all those cables were REALLY necessary and sadly they were. Every now and then I’d try to organize them, but it didn’t help a ton and as soon as I wanted to swap out a device, I had to undo and redo everything. So the short answer is to get rid of the clutter. Here are what our TVs look like now.

There is a single HDMI cable running to the tv along with an infrared repeater which is barely visible.  The bonus is it also allows me to easily get to everything instead of having to squeeze behind the TV. We also keep our cable modem, router, switches and UPS in the closet so it cleans up our computer room quite a bit. Due to it’s placement we’re also able to run multiple TVs off of it.


The placement of the media close is very important. At a minimum, it needs to be behind or beside the wall you plan on placing your TV. If you don’t place the TV on an external wall, it’s much easier to work it in. In our case, we wanted our bedroom TV to also be hooked up to it, so we have the closet in between our living room and bedroom. As an unplanned bonus, the kids playroom, where their TV is kept, is above our living room, but their is attic space above this media closet. We haven’t done so yet, but we should be able to very easily hook the kids’ TV up to this closet as well.

Single Wire Hookup

Getting everything condensed down to a single HDMI cable running to the TV was a big goal with this. The way I did this was with an HDMI switcher box. The cable box (when we had it) went into one port, our Mac Mini into another and our receiver. The switcher lets us toggle between the three inputs and has a single HDMI cable as the output which runs to the TV. All the game consoles run to our receiver. Even though not all of them use HDMI output (Wii and Xbox), the receiver converts the signal and still sends the video in the HDMI output. The only downside is we have to have the receiver on when playing video games, which is ok. We don’t want to have it on just to watch TV though, which is why the HDMI switcher is necessary and we can’t just run everything through the receiver. The nice thing about our switcher is it automatically detects when a new device powers on and switches to it. When the device powers off, it switches to the next device. Since we’re down to just two devices, turning on and off our receiver acts as a toggle and we never have to manually switch it.

Hooking up Multiple TVs

SwitchersI’m cheap and didn’t want to pay for a separate cable box for the bedroom TV, so I found a way to hook both TVs up to a single cable box (when we had cable). You can do this by just hooking up an HDMI switcher in reverse. So I took the wire coming out of the first HDMI switcher and hooked it up to the *output* slot of a second HDMI switcher. Then I plugged HDMI cables from our two TVs into two of the TV inputs. It actually works hooking it up in reverse like this, so when we’re watching a show, we can pause it in the living room, push the button to switch it, and resume it in the bedroom without missing a beat. Technically we can use all of our devices in the bedroom. We haven’t done it yet, but we can play XBOX back there if we want.

Beaming Infrared Signals Through Walls

This really isn’t that big of a problem. The Xbox, Playstation and Mac Mini don’t need infrared. The Wii has it’s Wii bar, which I had to set up on top of our TV like normal, so that just leaves our receiver which needs IR and the cable box when we had it. There are two great solutions for this. If you have a single remote that takes normal batteries, this IR extender is like magic! You just swap out one of the batteries in the remote and it works. We did this for a while until I bought a fancy remote that didn’t take normal batteries. Now we use this. Basically you just tape one of those connectors onto the hookup on each device and then run a very small pickup line to the living room and it relays the signal. The pickup is tiny and taped to the bottom of our TV. As long as the tape holds, it’s not even noticeable.


VentilationSomething I was very paranoid about is making sure this closet didn’t get too hot. It’s probably overkill, but there are three things I did to try to address this:

1. Have a shelf that opens up into the living room. We don’t have a wall-mounted TV in the living room currently, but plan to eventually. The idea with this shelf was it could be a place to set electronic components if we ever needed line of sight (such as Kinect). If nothing else we can put decorations there. The closet is dark when the light is off so seeing into it isn’t a problem. This provides a nice open space for air to escape.

2. A louvered door. The door to this closet is slotted so air can freely flow in and out.

3. A vent in the closet and an air intake. Every time the A/C or heater kicks in, it blows in fresh air, but since there’s also a return vent in here, it sucks out the old air as well.

Two Other Random Tips

1. Make sure you build the closet big enough. You want enough room to be able to walk in here and work comfortably. Ours is 3.5′ wide and 5′ long. I wouldn’t go any narrower.

2. Put everything on one wall! You need room to walk in here so don’t put shelves on both sides and keep all your power, cable, network, phone, speaker and other hookups on the same wall as your devices or an adjacent one, NOT the other side. You don’t want a spiderweb of cables in here.

It has been a year so far and I’m still very happy with the setup. It keeps everything looking clean, lets me easily hook up all the devices without having to worry about keeping the cables neat, gives me storage space for all the extra cables and computer parts and gives us a nice place to keep our DVDs, while making it super easy to have our TVs hooked up to everything we want. Definitely something to consider when building a house.

Ditching Cable TV

Today marks 4 weeks since Jeanette and I ditched cable TV and completely moved over to Internet TV. So far we’re still very happy with the decision and are saving about $90 per month. We have a computer that is always connected to the TV running a program called Boxee that enables this.


Most TV shows are also available online somewhere, but are scattered around between,,,, etc so finding them is a pain and watching them on a computer is no fun. Boxee takes care of these problems. It has a database of TV shows so you just pick which ones you like to watch and it finds them regardless of where they are online and plays them on your TV in full-screen mode. It alerts you when new episodes are available and the whole process becomes fairly mindless, you just pick what you want to watch.

There is an iPhone app available that we use for our remote control, however this November, they are releasing the Boxee Box for $199. We plan on switching over to this instead of using a computer and using the remote that comes with it. There are no subscription fees, so the savings on the cable bill will very quickly cover the up front cost.

We also signed up for Netflix at the same time we shut off cable. For $11 a month we get 2 blu-rays per week plus access to stream all their online content. Netflix integrates nicely into boxee so we can seamlessly switch over to it. Netflix doesn’t have a ton of good movies online to stream, but one thing they do have a great collection of is tv shows. We’ve been watching The Office from season 1 commercial free for the past few weeks. They also have many HBO and Showtime shows, and we’ve been watching Dexter lately. There are a few other pros and cons.


It’s free – The Boxee application is free and there are no subscription costs

Netflix integration – We tend to use netflix a lot more than we would otherwise since it runs within boxee and very convenient to get to.

Everything is available on demand – Pretty much the same as with a DVR other than you don’t have to decide in advance to record anything.

Greater storage – There are usually several months worth of past episodes available for every show, no need to record anything or worry about your queue getting full.

Limited commercials – A 30 minute show tends to have about 2 minutes worth of commercials instead of 8.

Switching between content is seamless – There’s no longer a barrier between playing a tv show, vs playing a podcast, youtube video, Ted talks, mp3 on my hard drive, a vimeo feed, etc. This has opened up the doors to a lot of new content we wouldn’t have watched before. For example we have Pandora running most of the day now because it’s much more convienient.

Social aspects – If you add friends to boxee you can recommend shows and have it show up for them and vice-versa.


1 day behind – Shows are usually not put online until the day after they air, so you’re always 1 day behind.

No live content – We don’t like sports, but this would not work for someone who did. Of course you could always hook up an HD antenna.

Not everything is available – Almost everything is, but Discovery channel in particular I miss. Many of the Disney and Nickelodeon shows also aren’t available online, but Netflix does have older episodes available for streaming.

Overall we’re very happy with it so far. If I was a sports fan or Lost was still on the air and I had to worry about others talking about it the next day, I don’t know if this would have been do-able, but neither of these are a problem for us anymore. After getting use to it, I do think it’s a better way to watch TV, and saving $90 a month is a nice bonus.

Amarillo Vacation Pics

The last stop on our trip was Amarillo. We just stopped to sleep before driving the final leg, but while there we caught the local fireworks show. The show used smaller fireworks than the Tulsa one, but we got to sit right up front, so it was still quite good and stress free. The next day we stopped by the Cadillac Ranch to leave our mark before heading home. We didn’t trust the girls with spray paint and opted for Sharpies instead. All-in-all it was a great trip.

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Grand Canyon Vacation Pics

We were very happy to be leaving Vegas and heading to the Grand Canyon. We stopped at the Hoover Dam along the way, which was kind of neat, but Jeanette and I both kind of expected more. It looked like a slightly bigger version of every other dam to us. The dam tour took 2 1/2 hours, so we skipped it and just went on.

We arrived in Flagstaff around 5pm and figured we’d eat some dinner and have plenty of time to see the Grand Canyon, but failed to account for two things. #1 Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings so the sun sets an hour earlier than we were thinking and #2 I takes nearly 2 hours to drive to the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff. Our hotel has some nerve putting “Grand Canyon” in it’s name. :-) We figured it was a 10 minute drive.

We skipped dinner and went straight to the canyon and arrived about an hour before sunset. We really had to rush to see what we could, but feel like we covered a good chunk of it considering. It would have been nice to spend an extra hour or two there. We finally ate dinner a little after 9 at what I assume is the only restaurant in the park. Took nearly 45 minutes for us all to get our food so it was pitch black out by the time we left. We pulled over on a turnout at one point to get out and look at the stars which was real nice. We had to leave the hazards on so our eyes couldn’t fully adjust but it was still pretty impressive. The drive out wasn’t much fun in the dark, but thankfully we made it back safely.

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Las Vegas Vacation Pics

Our next stop was Vegas and in the words of Blaine Edwards and Antoine Merriweather, “Hated it“. Jeanette and I visited 10 years ago, and I took a work trip here about two years ago and both times it was quite nice. We thought the girls would be blown away by all the themed hotels and free shows on the strip and it was on the way back, but man the place has gone downhill in the past few years.

We stayed at Excalibur because we thought the girls would get a kick out of staying in a castle and it was one of the cheaper options. During check in we were pulled out of line by the hotel staff (we assumed they were opening a new line) only to be given a pitch to come check out a timeshare for show tickets. Told them no and then had to start over in a 20 minute line to check in while parked in a space with a 15 minute limit. I had to take the girls to move the car while Jeanette finished waiting to check in. During our 2 day stay in Vegas we were stopped at least 20 more times for a timeshare pitch. The other MGM owned hotels were doing the same thing. They also called and left ads on the voicemail in our room every night that we couldn’t delete without listening to the whole thing, and couldn’t ignore because there’s a big red flashing light on the phone right next to the bed. They have no laundromat on site (or any of the big strip hotels). The only option they provide is to have them wash your laundry at $1.50 per pair of socks, $7 per shirt, etc. We could re-buy all of our clothes for less. I had to go to a Travellodge slightly off the strip to do laundry instead. We will never stay here or any of the hotels owned by MGM again (Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, New York-New York, MGM Grand, Bellagio, CityCenter, Mirage Monte Carlo or Circus Circus).

Really though the whole strip was much worse than previous trips. Everything that use to be free was now excessively expensive:

Mandalay Bay didn’t have a free preview of the aquarium any more.
The free tram is now a paid monorail.
The people movers have been removed.
The free white tiger exhibit is now expensive.
The Mirage volcano goes off hourly instead of every 15 minutes.
The Treasure Island show is every hour and a half now and has switched from a battle with the British Navy to pole dancing on a boat with fireworks.
The awesome FOA Schwartz closed.
The 4 story Coca Cola store is now 2 stories to make room for an Outback Steakhouse in the top of the coke bottle.

We still tried to make the best of things and it had it’s moments of fun. Mostly because it seemed so big and amazing to the girls. I don’t think we’ll be back for a long time though.

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