Breaker 1-9

Back in November, both kids had a sudden urge to start riding their bikes a ton. I say sudden because it felt really strange. They’d both learned to ride bikes years ago, but due to a horribly negligent father «ahem» that hadn’t fixed some flat tires, they hadn’t ridden in at least a year and a half. My wife contributed to their cause reminding me that her tires were flat, too. Knowing the tubes were bad several tires, I headed to the bike store and bought brand new tubes for every bike wheel in our garage.

After a couple days of getting their confidence up, Martha and I had the sweat-inducing pleasure of practicing ‘fretting go’. You know? That part of parenthood where you give your children permission to ride around the neighborhood without you – then wander around the house pretending to get stuff done yet all the while the inside of your heart and soul is A FIRESTORM OF FEAR AND DOUBT THAT PUTS MT. DOOM TO SHAME!

Thankfully, they did really well checking in on-time and seemed to thrive with their new freedom.

My son was the recipient of two different sets of walkie talkies for Christmas. One set is a spy-themed toy that fit around the neck and have a small earbud. The set bragged of ‘whisper sensitivity’… but really seems to require whispering loud enough to be heard across the house sans walkie talkie. The other set is an actual set of real radios… supposedly with ~32 miles of range1.

The other day, while Martha and I were preparing dinner, the kids asked to ride their bikes. On a whim, I suggested they take one of the radios and we could keep in touch while I made dinner.

About ten minutes later, we volleyed radio messages back and forth discussing where they were and how far much longer it’d take to finish preparing dinner.

All of the sudden, our conversation is interrupted by another group of people that seemed to be travelling down the nearby interstate and discussing rest stop options. It was tough to understand at first and totally harmless, but then there it was—clear as day—some strangers talking with my children and I on our walkie talkies.


Maybe it’s not a big deal? Obviously, at first, I was really uncomfortable with the idea of someone else stumbling into what we thought was a private conversation. I suppose it was a good lesson we could learn without anything bad happening.

I guess my biggest question is… How careful do we really need to be with the radios? Is it conceivable that some horrible person could listen in and use our conversation to track down a couple vulnerable kids? Is that overly pessimistic? Perhaps this is a golden opportunity to have the kids practice using some sort of code system to describe their location and direction?

Have you run into situations like this? How have you handled it?

  1. providing the transmission is occuring across flat, uninterrupted terrain 

The «book by it’s cover» lesson

Image courtesy of Dice Hate Me Games

Disclaimer: This is not a review of Belle of the Ball. It’s a whole-hearted recommendation that you go buy it. It’s also a small look at how putting it on my table is affecting my children’s perspective.

Back in August of last year, I backed a game on Kickstarter called Belle of the Ball [BGG]. The designer, Daniel Solis, subtitles it — “A fancy, schmancy card game.” One of the benefits of becoming a backer was that you instantly had access to a print & play version of the game. I spent some time fiddling with the PDFs, fighting with the FedEx/Kinkos website, and took a trip to their store to pick up a playable version.

I roped my family into trying it with me. At the time, I was playing with my 7-year-old daughter, 9-year-old son, and wife. While unintentional, I think the fact that my version was printed in black & white allowed me to ‘pull one over’ on my son. He didn’t really notice the feminine ‘lean’ to the game’s theme.

In Belle of the Ball, players are hosting formal parties and attempting to invite ridiculously and brilliantly named guests to their parties and match them into groups with common interests represented by icons on the Guest cards. Belle cards let you manipulate your groups, opponents’ groups, or cause some act of mischief.

The theme is really engaging and production quality is fantastic. What I like best about the game is the mini-drafting gameplay mechanic for the Guest and Belle cards. You start the game with a few Guest cards turned face down. The card backs are envelopes that you use as currency called ‘Regrets’. Paying regrets to guests you pass in the line in order to invite the one you desire feels simple and refined; fits the theme perfectly.

As I said earlier, I backed Belle of the Ball a little over a year ago. The physical version finally showed up about a week ago. The box is brightly colored and features a female character that looks like she stepped out of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. My son—now 10—resisted playing at first.

“It just doesn’t look fun, Dad. It looks like a game for girls.”

My daughter and I goaded him into playing with us. Amusingly, he didn’t recognize it until we’d each taken a few turns and the Guest drafting mechanic finally jogged his memory. He visibly let his guard down and allowed himself to have fun with it. He started announcing the guests’ names aloud as he invited them into his groups and really got into finding the perfect Belle cards for his hand. Perhaps most amazingly, despite the fact that my daughter won, he admitted he really liked the game and would play again!1

It was a perfect example for both of my kids to see that they can easily deprive themselves of a really enjoyable experience by avoiding something because of how it looks.

Thank you, Mr. Solis, for a great experience on the table!



That moment when you have to look up a word on your 4th grader’s spelling list. (commutative) #dadproblems



aka “Lil’ Bro”

Well… after considering it for a little more than a year, with Martha’s health at a better place than it’s been in years and seeming pretty stable, there’s one less dog at Pima Animal Care Center.

Brosius is a two-year-old Border Terrier that our family fell in love with last Saturday.

I think it took about 2 minutes to decide to adopt him. It’s been a really enjoyable several days with Lil’ Bro. He’s so calm and has been really well behaved; even plays well with other dogs!* We’re all learning a ton and it’s been really fun watching the kids interact with him.

* dogs involved are already proven to be amazing dogs. We may have cheated.

Apologies to I+M for the bombardment of questions via text message – you’ve been a huge help! Thank you so much!


Beginning The Black Axe

After picking up The Black Axe yesterday, the kids asked to start reading it together tonight in place of their normal reading session in their own beds.

Abby was so excited when I said, “Yes,” she ran and got the other two Mouse Guard books we have – just to have them near her.

I enjoy listening to my kids read. I really enjoy reading with them. And I love reading Mouse Guard books with them. When we read Mouse Guard, the kids usually select a mice or two to ‘read lines’ for. So, any time they have dialog, they’ll pipe up and read – despite difficult yet lovely lettering as well as rich vocabulary – with great enthusiasm and competence. Martha and I love to see and hear it. It feels like spectacle and probably adds a lot of wonder to what are already emotionally charged stories.

So, a heartfelt thank you, David Peterson, for amazing storytime adventures. – the Bishops


Free Comic Book Day

We’re fortunate to live in a city where there were multiple stores participating in Free Comic Book Day yesterday. We managed to hit two – Heroes & Villains and Charlie’s Comics – before needing to grab lunch and triggering the ‘you just ate? you should nap’ sensation.

I’d read something in a local paper about needing to show up early due to lines forming outside the store… but I foolishly underestimated how large a line that’d be. We showed up about thirty minutes after the event started and found a huge line. Thankfully, we were all sunscreen’d up!

Joey made some new friends while we waited. We’ve run into stormtroopers before, but I think this may have been his first time standing next to an Imperial TIE Pilot. He was pretty jazzed about that. Forgot to ask if these folks were part of Tucson’s branch of the 501st. Unfortunately, Abby hid from me every time I tried to catch her in a photo.

The staff at Heroes & Villains prepped a few craft options for attendees. Joey and Abby skipped making superhero masks and opted for felt lightsaber hilts for otter pops. They couldn’t wait to get home and try them out.

After we left Heroes & Villains, we headed around the block to Charlie’s Comics. It’s a smaller store and had a much calmer atmosphere, but still had a lot of people inside enjoying the day. Martha even ran into an elementary school classmate who’s now a published comic book artist and was doing sketches in the store. I was too distracted by how genuine, excited, and likable Charlie was to remember to take pictures. While it’s really far away from home, I plan to make it back over there to thank him for his hospitality. If you live near his shop on the east side of town, please go keep him in business!

Hunger started to set in and I remembered that Lucky Wishbone was on the way home (sorta ;)). So we stopped in for some of Tucson’s best chicken/steak fingers and fries. It was the kids’ first time and they were in heaven.

In the end, we didn’t find some of the comics we were hoping for, but had a great time hanging out together and getting to do something we don’t normally do – come home with a big pile of new comic books!

And finally, Joey was able to ignite his Otter Pop Light Saber!



Yesterday evening, my wife pointed out our kids quietly playing Xbox together – beautifully – on the couch.

I thought I could sneak over and grab a photo or two… turned into this goofiness.


I live for moments like this.

(Apologies for the tiny image… had to make it small to keep the filesize down.)


Winning While Losing

Ready for your heart to melt?


Diary of a Singl-ish Dad – Day 3

What a difference a day makes?

Sadly, the news from up in Vegas wasn’t good today. Lang’s struggling through a bad day. Keep praying.

The kids and I stayed in pajamas until nap time. And even that was late. I finally got them settled down to rest at about 3:30. On the bright side, I did actually pull off something productive and got my shelf installed when I should have been making the kids’ lunch. 🙂 Now I just have to decide what to put on the shelf.

I’m hoping to switch gears post-nap and have a really pleasant – and non-slackery – night. I think oven-baked pizza and Charlotte’s Web is on the menu.


Diary of a Singl-ish Dad – Day 1 & 2

My beautiful wife left town yesterday with her good friend. They headed up to Las Vegas late in the afternoon to lend support to my friend Lang’s fiancée as she waits on his healing. Sounds like Lang’s taken a turn for the worse and that’s weighing on us all… Keep praying.

Yesterday was an interesting day. It marked the end of a nine year career in IT for ADE/KLA Tencor. It was the first time I’d lost a job. I’m guessing it won’t be the last. Offshoring could easily hit me again. It was sad to walk out of our building with my friend and former boss knowing that we’d never leave that parking lot again. And sad to think that there are some co-workers that I’ll likely not see again. I hope we all find work soon.

The comforting thing is that I know I’ll see the friends I made again over the years. My former boss happens to be one of my closest friends; it’ll be hard not to see him. Some folks I’ll be able to stay in touch with over IM or Facebook. Hooray for the webitron.

In a way, I was kinda spared yesterday from thinking too much about my predicament. With Martha furiously packing and trying to get ready for a sudden five-day trip, I didn’t have time to wallow or really even reflect. I did my best to help her out the door and then turned my attention to wrangling these two kids that keep hanging around here.

Speaking of kids… I think my daughter’s rash is either slowing down or starting to fade a bit. We discovered it Sunday morning while getting ready for church. She’s had a rash similar to it before and it turned into some crazy hot tub virus or something and she had to be treated w/ some scary antibiotics that kept doctor, pharmacist, and parents concerned for a while. Thankfully, she got seen rather quickly this time and has already got 3 doses of non-scary antibiotics in her. I’ll be praying that the spots are gone before Thursday.

This morning, Abby and I did some shopping while Joey was in preschool. It was strange to go shopping the day after I lost my job, but the vast majority of our merchandise was bought with gift cards of some sort. I picked up a new Dewalt drill that was going for a crazy sale price. I loved my previous drill, but the Makita battery packs are hard to find and expensive. The Home Depot trip was really only a time-killer until we could get into Costco. Abby was really well behaved and pulled off many smiles from strangers. If only that would work as currency… that’d come in handy.

With grocery shopping out of the way, we went to pick up Joey. We stopped to make a quick sea turtle in the wet sand outside his classroom. It’s amazing how quickly wet sand will claim a previously clean 2 year-old’s outfit.

I then raced through three chaotic projects at once… prepping the kids’ lunches, cleaning out the freezer, and putting the groceries away. Whew…

Then we made these:

Now… I shall nap.