Stories From The Con

“Hey, look the Toyota sigil,” our boy says while we are standing in the advance ticket line that stretches to the horizon.

Fifteen minutes later, we are standing at the front door.

“I smell popcorn,” he says as we enter the snake like cue to turn our printed out tickets into a red wristband allowing us to enter and exit the con as we like

Ten feet later we are surrounded by people, this would affectionably be known as crowded, oh how we would learn what a crowd really looked like the next day. In front of us a sticker booth with Spongebob stickers. Yes, I was the first to go “Ooohh” and completely destroy our plans to walk the con first. In my defense the stickers were cool.

As a family we had two shopping goals, a few new posters, and comic books. You would think finding comic books at a giant comic con would be easy. Not if you are me and not if you didn’t feel like dealing with people who are collectors, as opposed to me who hasn’t collected in over thirty years. I really wanted some New Wolverine and some New X-Men, took me until the third day to find New Wolverine that was affordable.

In no particular order here are some stories from the con…

On Saturday, the adult costume contest happened. Now, at this point all of us were tired, a really shitty night of sleep (a story for tomorrow), had us sitting in a corner praying for our feet to recover and trying to figure out how we were going to last until the Wil Wheaton experience in 3 hours. As we sat there, people in costume gathered. Lots of people. Then John Snow fell asleep just as Godzilla’s tail arrived. Soon enough Godzilla’s body arrived and we watched as the body attempted to eat a boy trying to put the body on. Seriously, nothing else was more fascinating than watching this boy and his dad (assumed) put this Godzilla costume on before the contest.

“You collect organs from the other players,” and that is how I found myself purchasing Organ Attack the Family-Friendly Game of Organ Harvesting. This person knew exactly what to say to me and the family. Even better, next to the stack of Organ Attack a stack of Fowl Language. Barb was excited by that as she gets the cartoon on one of her social media feeds. Hilarious, if you can find it and are a parent or going to be one, get it!

The baseball sized illustrations were from an artist around the corner. Hundreds of illustrations of anything and everything popular media wise. He was cools sitting in his chair inviting people to look. That was something that stood out to me, way to many artists and other people did nothing than display their stuff. Those who engaged, they were the ones we stopped at and had fun with.

Which brings me to fun encounters starting with the kids…

Karen and Darrin (link is to their webpage) had a booth with children’s choose your own adventure style books, Myth Solver and many variations of the standard superhero posters, a favorite I am Goof: Goofy and Groot merged. They got our kids attention and then got our attention. By the time we left their booth the kids had picked up six volumes of Myth Solver (our girl is almost done with book one and LOVES it).

Sometimes all it takes is a name, which how our boy found ourselves in front of Donovan Scherer’s booth. Now I can’t claim to know most of what happened, I was on the other side of the aisle ogling artwork. What I can say is that our boy walked away a few bucks lighter, wearing a smile, and with his own reading material.

Tomorrow the Wil Wheaton experience and a high five.

Games We Play: Food Can Wait, We Are Gaming

We are a gamer family, you know this, but I like to establish some credentials first. 🙂 While home we play big games. Games that take time and space to play. Such as Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Warhammer, and Forbidden Stars. Between big games we play smaller gamers. Games that take little time and space to play. Such as Get Bit, Roll For It, and Tiny Epic Galaxies or Kingdoms.

Our boy, after watching Tabletop Star Realms episode, wanted a deck of his own to take to school. Awesome, he wants to teach his friends how to play and start his own gamer group. Fully behind this and secretly hoping traveling games would travel with us, I got him his own deck.

And that deck went to school the next day. My only guidelines, no playing class, no variant rules (he likes to make his own rules that ensure his victory and everyone elses dislike of his variant rule), and if you get the deck taken away from you at school you are on your own for getting a new deck.

Each day a new game report, mostly interrupted games-lunch ended, recess ended, the wind started, and so on. He is getting his friends involved. At home we already play Star Realms, so all this did was increase the frequency of games. Surprsing to me, he began to bring Star Realms with him everywhere we go. Now, I have tried prior to this to bring games and have had no luck engaging people, which is why I expected the same result.

I was wrong and I am glad to be wrong. Provided someone is sitting across from him he pulls out Star Realms and a game ensues. And because of these experiences we have started to amass knowledge on the do’s and don’ts of gaming at a restaurant.

For games like Star Realms, two sides with a central row of cards, figure out a way to layout the game to take up less space, in this case the explorer cards which are always available are stacked underneath the draw deck, still visible and easy to draw. In addition, loss the authority life counter cards, they take up too much space, a napkin and a pen more efficient and space saving.

Learn how dining works. This is more for the kids playing than the adults. Waitstaff have a rhythm, some are good, some are bad, most fall between that. They want to greet, take your drinks, bring you drinks, take order, bring food, and check out how things are going. Adults know this. Kids may know this, but when deep in a game could care less.

Thus, games have to wait until they know what they want to order. Thankfully ours have learned how to order. Games need to proceed quicker than at home. Nothing irritates waitstaff like having to wait for a game to finish or clear out before food can be served. Of course, if the waitstaff has already demonstrated they are screw ups, an extra minute of holding plates wont hurt them.

Be prepared to explain to the waitstaff they game. Some waitstaff has genuinely been interested in the game. Just don’t let you overeager children explain, take the time as an adult to learn the game (you should be a gamer) and explain to the waitstaff. Service goes up when the waitstaff are also gamers.

I’m sure we will learn more as gaming continues. 🙂

Games We Play: My Little Pony Tails of Equestria

Another apology, my arm is still hurting and the medicine causes me to sleep way more than I normally do. Soon enough all will return to normal. I have the next installment of Puddles and Whiskers and Menagerie almost ready to go. Why am I not finishing them? Because the gamer dad in me is extremely excited about My Little Pony Tails of Equestria by Shinobi 7 and River Horse.

I have tried all of the kids lives to get them involved in games. There are so many positives to play games at all ages. Because I am an uber gamer I have introduced every type of game to our children; card games, collectible card games, deck building, dice, miniature, strategy games and anything else you can think of. The only type of gaming that has not been successful is roleplaying games.

There are very few roleplaying games marketed for children. While our children are interested in fantasy and science-fiction the amount of work for a typical role playing game, even those marketed towards children is off putting. Worse, even if they are willing to do the work to make a character and learn some of the rules, the setting is…not marketed towards children or at least their attention span.

Tails of Equestria is…great. The book is covered in My Little Pony stills and artwork, making everything immediately recognizable to anyone who has watched the show, seen the movies, or read the comic books.

Character creation is simple, pick a pony type-earth, pegasus, or unicorn, sorry no alicorns. Earth ponies are stout, pegasus can fly, and unicorns have magical abilities. Pick an element of harmony, think alignment, but more relatable than alignment has ever been. Then pick body or mind preference, is your character strong or smart (this is selling the two attributes short, but gets the point across). Pick a talent and a quirk, talents are abilities a pony has and quirks are things that set ponies apart, usually negative such as afraid of heights. Finally draw and color your pony and their cutie mark. For those drawing challenged like me there are character sheets with pony outlines coming soon.

Game mechanics are simple, the Storyteller establishes a difficulty number, the Pony Character (PC) rolls a die or two. If the number is equal or great the challenge is overcome. Yes, there are rules for fighting or Scuffling. However, scuffling is the last resort, overcoming challenges and obstacles other ways are preferred.

Teamwork is encouraged throughout the book. There are plenty of ways ponies can work together from working as team (everyone rolls and take the best result) to tokens of friendship. Tokens of friendship are beads or gems each pony character gets at the start of an adventure. Cash the tokens in for rerolls, to automatically pass a test, or better yet share the tokens with fellow ponies to aid them.

I was impressed with the writing. I know I can hand Tails of Equestria to either of my kids and they can understand all of the concepts. Information is kept together with clear page references to where you can find the information.

So why am I so impressed? Tails of Equestria is the kind of roleplaying game that children can sink their teeth into with quick character creation, mechanics easy to understand and implement, and best of all the setting is recognizable and easy to get into (no need to try to explain what a bugbear is), children only need to have seen My Little Pony.

Learning By Living

In an effort to convince myself that I am really am on the mend, I spent the day out with the family. A beautiful day of driving to and fro observing the colors and wildlife, although are cows and horses wildlife? For this purpose, as we drove past, yes they can.

I think I have mentioned how having a home, not an apartment, is a constant learning experience for us. I am hoping that by the second go-around with the seasons we will be ready, for example having gone through one winter here I know the following:

  • Get the windows sealed in October
  • Purchase at least 150 pounds of salt before the first snow fall, we have a HUGE driveway
  • Purchase a snow blower, but allow the snow to compact a bit before blowing the driveway
  • Purchase a third shovel, because three people shoveling is much faster
  • Put at least 70 pounds of sand in the trunk of the car for the ice rink that the driveway can become

We moved in at the very tail end of summer last year, thus have no frame of reference. All I know from last year is mow the lawn in stages to avoid collapsing from exhaustion. However, since the warm-up began we have learned the following:

  • We should purchase some form of riding lawn mower, not because we are lazy, but because almost 2 acres is a lot and instead of having to mow for a month and a half or so, going to have to mow for at least four months
  • A hose is a necessity
  • A second rake is a necessity
  • Lots of charcoal for grilling, lots
  • Opening one window does nothing to improve the internal temperature, however opening a second window on the opposite side creates optimal air flow, fans are not a necessity
  • Outdoors is fun when you don’t have to share your backdoors with neighbors less than twenty feet away, thus lawn furniture is a must

I know we are missing out on several other things, I watch the neighbors do “stuff” and I know we are not doing what they are doing, so I wonder what do they know that we don’t know…I guess we will find out over the next few months.

So while we learn we continue to enjoy our time here, the kids attempted to fly kites, mostly running around dragging kites, and we cooked out. Both of these things are activities we have not had an opportunity to do or see and both, especially the kids playing outside, make us smile…even if the kites crashed into trees, were drug along the ground, or in one bizarre case ended up wrapped around one child’s neck…don’t ask us how and we were watching.

The “UpSide” of Being Sick

I had to check my phone to see what day it is, this happens when I am sick. On the plus side it is not Saturday, which means I have not been sick that long and I am feeling better. Not great, but an improvement over yesterday. The negative side, the voices have left my head preferably for the safer grounds of where I am not sick. The voices being the characters I write about. They will return…when I am healthier.

Laying in bed reading, being sick, and watching copious amounts of Bourdain I wonder if there is any benefit, to me, in getting sick from time to time. The immediate answer is no. For the two to three days I tend to stay sick, my productivity drops to something that most people would recognize as “normal.” I don’t like the inactivity enforced upon me, I am an active person who prides himself of doing lots of stuff with his time. Lying in bed watching TV is not one of those things…unless sick.

I did hit upon a few good things, I get lots of sleep. In fact over the last two days I have slept more than I tend to sleep in four days. I don’t sleep a lot. I go to bed late and get up early. As long as the pattern is maintained I do not suffer, when the scheduled gets tossed into the dumpster then I pay for it. So I have gotten lots of sleep.

I get to read. That may sound odd, I read every day, but when sick I marathon read. By my bed is a stack of books, on a variety of different subjects and genres, the stack varies from 3 to 10 books. I read through them over a period of time, adding to the stack frequently. When sick, such as now, I burn through the books. Over the past 24 hours I have finished two books. These were not great works, crap books in fact, you know the science fiction or whatever genre that are pumped out in mass by writers who’s only talent is the ability to put some words together using someone else’s ideas. I used crap books to break up the bigger books. When sick, however, I devour the crap books they take my mind off being sick and that is the joy of a good crap book.

I get time off from being a parent. I know no parent ever stops being a parent, but if you have kids you know there are times when someone else steps up and does all of the parenting, those moments are golden. Unfortunately, I have to get sick. I have spent the last 10 years raising our children to be as self-sufficient as they can. This is why. While Barb is at work and I am sick the kids need to be able to get their own food without asking me if it is okay. They need to be able to bathe on their own, clean, and if necessary cook (warm up) using the microwave.

Finally, I get toys or in this case a toy. Barb knowing my love for Stikbots bought me a new one while she was getting medication I needed.

An Explosion Of Reading

I don’t like cleaning up after other people, read my family, however that is one of my many jobs as a stay at home dad. Before you click away, this is not a post about bitching about anything, especially cleaning. This is a post about reading. Yes reading.

While cleaning up I have picked up six books and I know when I go back to cleaning I will find more. We are a family of readers. We did not used to be a family a readers, we used to be parents of children who did not want to read. Those were sad times.

Barb reads one book at a time, I read several books at a time. The point, being both of us read and have read around the children all of their lives. Part of their bedtime routine used to be Barb reading to them Harry Potter and more. Lots of reading. I believe reading is important for everyone for every facet of life. Reading has so many benefits.

The children wanted nothing to do with books or reading beyond what was required of them-school or rules for a game on a card put in front of them necessary for play-see really specific.

Then something happened. I have no clue what or exactly when; one day no reading and no desire to read then BAM books everywhere. Maybe not that fast, but one day our boy who hated reading wanted to play Warhammer 40k and read the rules. The rules lead to a codex, then another codex, then another codex, and then books.

Our girl began reading before him, she picked up a book and ran with it. Awesome we had lots of books for her to read and at her pace we thought we had plenty of time before we needed to get more. DONE! Her pace went up dramatically, along with her retention and comprehension.

Her reading got him reading more. Then his reading upped her game and her upped game, upped his game. The bonus, a lot of changes around the house:

The television died, sure they still watch something from time to time, but the days of coming home and plopping down in front of the TV are over…for now.

Conversations are deeper, richer, more frequent, and not about whatever toy they want.

As a family we have three main vices: game stores, bookstores, and craft stores. The kids did not like book or craft stores. Now, and this just happened, birthday trips (a tradition of ours, the birthday person gets to go wherever they want within reason) are to bookstores.

Instead of no books or one book bought grudgingly, a stack of books for each child. Books are one thing we do not mind spending money on. We are rethinking that a tiny bit. 🙂 For her birthday, our girl left the bookstore with three books, she wanted the remaining nine in the series.

Faces in books, great conversations, books for us to read (read one of your kid’s books just so you can carry on a conversation), and more family activities, doesn’t get much better than that.

 

Open Driveway Events

A snow day is not a good day for writing. I know it sounds like it should be, but the kids are unexpectedly home which means they are “bored” all of the time. See where this is going? So while I wait for them to go back to school and you wait for Puddles and Whiskers or Chuck’s Tail, I present to you more edited Facebook (I post one of these a day except on weekends) fun, Open Driveway Events are fictitious business based on the reality of where we live. Enjoy. 🙂

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Swim, Ski, and Skate in one day at Open Driveway Events Three S Day. Thanks to Michigan’s fickle relationship with Mother Nature you, the customer, benefits from her capricious nature.

Show up early, bring a swim suit, skis, and skates. From open until 2 PM swim your heart out and your limbs off in one of our numerous swimming holes. Ranging in size from sitting pond to a lap around the U we have swimming opportunities for everyone. No running or diving though.

After 2 PM, if Mother Nature has her way, put on your skis and cross country ski over almost two acres of some of the most varied landscape you have seen. Small hills, small valleys, one steep hill, and tons of gopher trails will keep you guessing.

Nightfall, strap on your skates and take a spin on one of the frozen ponds, formerly swimming holes. Due to expansion, the frozen ponds will be one  sheet of ice stretch across the front forty of Open Driveway Events.

As a bonus, the snow is supposed to be heavy, so why not craft a snow sculpture to commemorate your day here.

Open Driveway Events is not responsible or liable for injuries incurred while swimming, skiing, or skating. For a small fee access to a towel, for a larger small fee access to bento lunch or bento dinner.

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On this wet, rainy day, where the rain seems never ending and the puddles are turning into ponds and soon into lakes Open Driveway Events is pleased to announce our 1st Annual Noah’s Ark Furry Two-By-Two Mixer and BBQ.

Show up alone or with another animal, walk the plank (hmmm…) make that walk up the plank where other furries await. Mix, mingle, co-mingle, and eat BBQ while riding out the rain. Unlike the ark, we are not limiting our boat’s capacity to two of each animal, as many as can fit and on almost two acres that is a lot of fur-ry space.

When the rain finally abates feel free to run, romp, and play in the new land…still wet and probably very puddly land with the furry friends you bonded with during the storm or over BBQ. Yes, that’s right because I am cooking and grilling there will be BBQ. Is BBQ and fur a good mix, probably not, but then again I’m just the captain of the ark and the cook for all who show up, in other words cleaning is another associates problem.

Finally, at the end of the night provided the clouds have cleared pick a spot of ground (still wet) and stare at the stars.

Open Driveway Events is not liable or responsible for damage to furry outfits. Please be responsible when eating BBQ.

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Welcome back.

After a weekend recharging the batteries, Open Driveway Events is happy to announce first of what we hope are many BBQ Star Viewing Events.

The great thing about our location, other than all of the dogs (great if you are a dog lover), is the relatively remote location, almost two acres of land, and very low amount of light pollution. What does that mean for you?

It means, if you like looking up, and who doesn’t, you can on a clear sky night see stars. Lots of stars. Stand just about anywhere on our almost two acres and stare up at the wonder of the night sky and ponder how in the hell this planet can really be the be all end all a lot of people think it is.

And if pondering and staring isn’t enough for you, enjoy some BBQ off our currently small grill. We have a very good cook, he reads a lot of cooking books and cooks a lot, and he is gearing up for a long and productive season of grilling and woking on the grill.

Come on out stare at the sky while cramming your pie hole full of delicious hot off the grill BBQ.

No disclaimers other than the usual, not liable for injury due to gopher holes, interactions with motor vehicles, falling objects, and burns from food.