Monday, January 16, 2012

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Our Favorite Things in 2011

Once again, we present to you the Houser kids' favorite things in 2011:

Zach: Airman by Eoin Colfer
Phoebe: Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
Ben: Quest of the Warrior Sheep by Christopher Russell

Christmas song
Zach: Frosty the Red Nosed Snowman (ATHF parody)
Phoebe: Yuleman vs. the Anti-Claus by The Bobs
Ben: Chiron Beta Prime by Jonathan Coulton

future occupation
Zach: architect
Phoebe: writer and/or teacher
Ben: video game developer (“or even better, a video game tester!”)

Zach: Dungeons and Dragons, Minecraft
Phoebe: Harvest Moon
Ben: Kirby Mass Attack

Zach: Star Trek: Next Generation (favorite character: Data)
Phoebe: Star Trek: Next Generation (favorite character: also Data)
Ben: Mystery Science Theater 3000

2011 memory
Zach: seeing Blue Man Group in NYC
Phoebe: playing with my cousin Charlotte
Ben: visiting friends (and seeing the Phillies play) in Pittsburgh

thing you're most thankful for
Zach: books
Phoebe: my family
Ben: Penelope (the cat)


Who watches Santa Claus when he is sleeping?
Zach: the reindeer
Phoebe: Mrs. Claus
Ben: the Easter Bunny

If you had a pet reindeer, what would you name it?
Zach: Connor
Phoebe: Belle
Ben: Chucky Ducky

If we are out of cookies and milk on Christmas, what other foods do you think Santa might like?
Zach: soda and brownies
Phoebe: Nutella & graham crackers
Ben: celery

Fight! Santa vs. Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise! Who wins?
Zach: Can Santa use his Christmas magic? (No.) Then Picard wins.
Phoebe: Can Picard use technology? (No.) Can Santa use his giant candy cane? (No! Hand-to-hand combat only!) I'll go with Picard.
Ben: Santa. Because he's awesome.

A new challenger enters the arena! Lord Voldemort vs. Santa! Who emerges victorious?
Zach: Santa
Phoebe: Santa - Christmas magic is more powerful than dark magic.
Ben: Santa. Voldemort looks like a pig. A bad pig.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Benjamin Houser Protection Services

Newly minted Green Belt Ben Houser is accepting new clients as he offers his personal protection services to the public.

Specialties include:
- board break
- roundhouse kick
- elbow strike
- triple punch
- hammer fist

Actual protection shall take the form of blocking kicks and punches, as well as performing jumping jacks, crunches, and pushups. Also, the basic forms for staff and nunchuk can be demonstrated upon request.

Our pledge to you is that we will always adhere to the following credes:

Student creed #1: I will develop myself in a positive manner, and avoid anything that will reduce my mental growth and physical health.

Student creed #2: I will use common sense before self-defense and never be abusive or offensive.

More about us:
- Belts achieved include white, yellow, orange, orange stripe, and green.
- Don't try to show me how to improve my technique! I already know how to do it!
- I only like sparring when my opponent is a little bigger than me, not a lot bigger.
- When I'm done, I like to have Gatorade. It has to be Gatorade, not water.

Contact us today for a FREE consultation!

We Will accept payment in the form of milkshakes from Nifty Fifties.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Interrogating Santa

While I waited in line with the kids to see Santa at the Springfield Mall tonight (for almost an hour), we killed the time by coming up with as many questions as we could for Santa.

Are you from outer space?
Are you a vampire?
Are you a Jedi?
Do your flying reindeer have any natural predators? Like hellhounds?
How do you protect them? With your light saber?
Are you allergic to cats?
Would you like us to leave you some extra cookies this year?
Maybe some sushi?
Can you use your Christmas magic to make things levitate?
Or to change the channels on your TV without a remote?
Can you see the future?
Can you tell who's going to win the Super Bowl?
Do the elves bite?
When you're flying in your sleigh, do you ever have to dodge airplanes?
Do you really see me when I'm sleeping? Isn't that kind of creepy?
And what's with this "elf on the shelf" stuff? Are you just trying to freak us out?

Unfortunately, when the opportunity came, Phoebe reported that they only got to ask him one question: Are you an alien? He responded by turning the question back at her "Are *YOU* an alien?"

Obviously, Santa is hiding something.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Our Favorite Things in 2010

Once again, we are mailing out a brief survey of our kids' favorite things with our Christmas cards in lieu of a formal Christmas letter.

Here is this year's survey:

Zach: reading
Phoebe: playing DS, playing on the swings, reading, writing
Ben: playing outside with my friends

Zach: Dungeons and Dragons online
Phoebe: Apples to Apples
Ben: Sorry

Zach: Viva la Vida by Coldplay
Phoebe: Let It Be by The Beatles
Ben: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Zach: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordian
Phoebe: anything by Holly Webb
Ben: Detective Dinosaur by James Skofield

Zach: Phineas and Ferb
Phoebe: Phineas and Ferb
Ben: Phineas and Ferb

Christmas carol
Zach: O Tannenbaum
Phoebe: Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer
Ben: We Wish You A Merry Christmas

2010 memory
Zach: vacationing in Maine
Phoebe: playing with Penelope (our cat)
Ben: having a sleepover at my cousins' house

thing you're most thankful for
Zach: books
Phoebe: cats
Ben: video games


If you were an evil scientist, what kind of diabolical contraption would you build to take over Christmas?
Zach: an Anti-snow-inator that prevents snow from falling
Phoebe: a Forget-inator, which would make everyone in the tri-state area forget about Christmas
Ben: a disappear-inator, that would make Santa disappear and make all of the children cry

If there is life on other planets, how do they celebrate Christmas?
Zach: making lists of their favorite things
Phoebe: eat turkey and stuffing
Ben: just like us

What do you think Santa would like to find under his tree?
Zach: a new sleigh
Phoebe: penguins
Ben: a stuffed teddy bear

Before he moved to the North Pole, where was Santa Claus from?
Zach: Pluto
Phoebe: the United States
Ben: New York. He used to sleep on the Empire State Building.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pinewood Derby 2010

I am not handy. I don't have a very strong track record when it comes to fixing things around the house. All of the tools I own fit neatly into a small toolbox, which lives in a lonely corner of the basement.

So when Zach's Boy Scout troop holds its annual Pinewood Derby, I set my expectations accordingly. My goals are generally: 1) For Zach to have a good time designing and building a car with me, and 2) to not come in last place.

Since my woodworking skills are limited, we keep our car designs simple. The less carving, whittling, cutting, and sculpting we have to do, the better. But even given these limitations, we try to be creative.

Last year, we designed and raced a car shaped vaguely like a shark. We cut out and glued flat pieces of foam for the fins, and cut a chunk out of the front of the car for a mouth, which we accentuated with foam rubber teeth. We kind of messed up on the wheels, so it wasn't a very fast car, but it looked pretty good. It didn't come in last -- we finished 16th out of 24 -- and Zach enjoyed himself. Mission accomplished.

This year, we decided to model our car after a Wii remote. There were two major advantages to this design:

First, since the Wii remote is pretty much shaped like a solid block, there was very little carving to be done. A little sanding to round the edges, a coat of while paint, a little glue to stick some wooden buttons to the top and some drawing of the markings on the face of the remote, and we were finished.

Second, there are few things more intoxicating to 8-12 year old boys than video games. I figured that if even if the car wasn't fast, it would get a lot of attention from the other kids.

So we were thrilled, then, last night, when Zach's car won its first race. And the next. And the next. And the next.

The first five races, his car came in first place. In the last few rounds, he came up against some faster cars, and ultimately placed 4th out of 30.

But the best part of the evening was that he won big in the Best of Show voting, earning him a trophy.

Next year, the stakes are raised, as Ben will be old enough for Scouts. I'll be on the hook for two cars. The bar has been raised.

I have one year.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Press Your Luck

One of the traditions at the Christmas Eve service at our church is to have a Children's Conversation, during which all of the kids dress up as the different players in the Nativity scene. There's a Mary, a Joseph, some angels, wise people, shepherds, and animals.

This year, once the kids were in their costumes, our pastors asked a series of questions about the birth of Jesus. Now, this is always an act of faith, as the kids' answers to these questions can range from profound to ridiculous. And the stakes are raised on Christmas Eve, when the kids are giddy with excitement for Christmas morning.

As the conversation started, we could sense in our three kids that that the longer it continued, the more likely their exhilharation would manifest in some silly outburst. It might be after four questions, it might be after eight questions -- and it occurred to me that whether they realized it or not, with each question the pastors were engaging in a game of Press Your Luck. But so far, the kids' responses had all been quite appropriate up until now, and the pastors continued to move the conversation forward.

The next question was asked. "In light of the surprise of God appearing to humankind through the baby Jesus, what could God do to surprise us on *this* Christmas morning?"

Zachary (dressed like a sheep) raised his hand. And then -- somewhat uncharacteristically -- bleated into the microphone. "Baaaaaaa!"

Zach, Ben, and Phoebe erupted in giggles. (Fortunately, the silliness didn't seem to extend to the other kids involved in the conversation.) Linda and I smiled while people in our church family gave us sympathetic looks.

And then, after a few more questions (which Zachary was not invited to answer), the conversation was over.

After getting not nearly enough sleep, Christmas morning came, and the kids had many more opportunities to exhibit the sometimes silly, over-the-top joy and delight that the holiday brings out in our kids.

Thanks to our Pastors, Tom and Laurie, for their patience and willingness to listen to all our kids have to offer, be it profound or ridiculous.