Tuesday, December 31, 2013


We made it home after what seemed like a long drive home. As you can see we are having our wild New Years Eve party watching the Chick-fil-a bowl. Not that I'm a huge Duke fan, and given how good our basketball team is this year I'm sure I'll be cheering against them this year as Iowa State plays them in the final 4, but I just want to see Texas A&M lose. I'm considering riding my bike later so I start the New Year on my bike in honor of my second attempt at a two Ironman year in 2014. We'll see how I feel in an hour.

Lunch At Hickory Park

When you are going through Ames on the way home from Mema and Papa's you can't miss an opportunity to stop at Hickory Park for a great lunch.  Worked out well that we got to Hickory Park a bit late since we all kind of slept in this morning and had a late breakfast.

Lazy Couple Days At Mema and Papa's

For the past couple days we've been taking it easy at Mema and Papa's. We got here on Saturday for family Christmas and Jen's Birthday and decided to stay a few extra days to relax. I've napped and ate more the past few days then I have all year and it's been nice. We getting ready to head out the door to head home with a side trip to Hickory Park and Tipton to pick up Harley. I still have until Monday off so there is plenty of vacation to go but the most relaxing part is over. I have a new treadmill coming Friday and need to get the pain cave cleaned up before they drop it off, plus I need to get a couple hours of working out in. Time to start getting back into the real world again. :-(

Saturday, December 28, 2013


After we got the dinner cleaned up and chatted a bit, just to keep the kids waiting, we opened presents. It was fun to see Olivia get to open presents for the first time. She was actually quite good at it. As you can see Clancey was also the life of the party being a ham any chance he could. I'm not sure we have a normal picture of this kid in recent history.

Family Christmas

Today we all piled in the old 4 wheel drive sleigh and headed to mema and papa's for our family Christmas celebration. Its not that often that we can all get together so it's nice to see everyone. Mema made a great dinner and next it's presents. :-)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Sledding In Massilon

Today in honor of Jen's birthday we all headed over to the sledding hill in Massilon for a bit.  Marshall got a new tube for Christmas and wanted to try it out.  It was also a heck of a nice day out today so we figured it was a great day to spend outside.  As you can see from the videos I posted we had a good time and as you can also see I'm pretty sure that we ran Marshall over nearly everytime we went down the hill.

More Sledding 2013

Sledding 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Opening Presents Christmas 2013

Opening Stockings Christmas 2013

Me and The Boys

Here is a picture of "The Boys" and I posing in our post Christmas present bliss eating some breakfast.  We figure we need a whole bunch of energy to get ready for our day of playing video games and hanging out again today.  So far I have to say this has been one of the best Christmas breaks ever.  Going to hard to want to head back to work in a week and a half.

Christmas Morning

After making the boys wait a little bit we finally got to tear into the Christmas presents.  As you can see from the picture above the boys were so excited that they tore in to the gifts at the same time.  I guess since them both a lot of the same presents it makes sense so it stays a surprise to them both.  

 Above is our Christmas elf passing out the gifts to everyone this year.  I do have to say that the Jen kind of got robbed in the way of Christmas surprises.  Every gift I ordered, except for the one that didn't make it on time because UPS can't get their act together, came in a box that revealed what was inside.  First was the Ninja Blender, and then were the shoes she wanted, and finally a pair of slippers all of which she received the package from the UPS man and all of which were absolutely no secret.  Oh well, I guess that is how it goes sometimes.  As Pastor Dave said last night at church not everything always goes as expected and you just have to roll with it sometimes.
 One of the cool gifts Jen got me this year was a tripod for my phone so finally we will be able to take family pictures with everyone in them on the next vacation and or any other trip we take.  This here is what should be the first of many pictures I take with my new phone tripod.
Finally the big gift from Santa to "The Boys", an Xbox One.  Clancey had the forethought to put it on his Christmas list since he knew you couldn't get them in stores anywhere.  He was sure that Santa had different distribution channels and didn't have to go to Best Buy and get one like the rest of us normal folks.  Well it turns out he was right and Santa was able to get his hands on one.  I'm not sure that Clancey is willing to admit the Xbox One is everyone's, since it was on his list, but I'm sure he will let us all use it if we ask really nice.

Boys Acting Silly

As kind of my Christmas tradition I always make the boys wait a bit before we open presents which leads them to acting a little crazy as they wait.  Here you can see Clancey is carrying Marshall around on his back to burn off the excess Christmas energy.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Reindeer Dust

For one of the last things we do on Christmas Eve the boys headed outside to spread the reindeer dust so Santa's reindeer can find our house tonight.  It was a brisk night out but the boys were troopers and got all the dust spread.  Once inside they put the cookies out and we read "Twas The Night Before Christmas".  I would have to say that today has been the best Christmas Eve day ever!

Candlelight Service

After a long day of playing video games and eating snacks it was time to head over to the church for the candlelight Christmas Eve service.  I was thinking back but for the last few years I think we've missed the service for one reason or another, mainly sickness, so it's been awhile since we've been to one.  It was packed but a good service and surprisingly after a whole day of sugar and caffeine the boys sat sit through the whole service.

Tracking Santa

As you can see tracking Santa has moved into the modern era and we now can track his progress around the world on our smart phones.  He is still as ways away from America but he is slowly making his way to our house.  Clancey is pretty sure he has an Xbox One on his sleigh for him, I guess we will have to wait and see tomorrow.

Food Time

The boys and I took a break from saving the Halo world to have some Christmas Eve food.l  As you can see we always go a bit crazy considering there is only 4 of us but that is part of the fun.  The plan for the afternoon is to run into the kitchen and graze on the food in between games until 6pm tonight and we have to head to church.  So far we are having an awesome day!

Snowy Day

With the 8 inches of snow that fell a couple days ago it is shaping up to be a white Christmas here at the VanOort house.  Too bad it is -10 degrees out or we could go outside some today to play.  Oh well, I'm pretty sure the boys would rather stay inside and play video games and eat treats all day today.

Christmas Eve

The living room is all setup, the cooler is full of pop and the boys and I are in full video game playing mode.  I'm pretty sure the boys set an alarm for 6:30 because it was shortly after they got up I was getting messages from Marshall telling me to get out of bed so we could get the fun started.  So far we've played a half dozen or so games of Halo Reach and are having a blast.  I think that Christmas Eve may possible be the best day of the Christmas season, between the games, pop, food and tracking Santa it doesn't get much better.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Making Treats

Another yearly tradition is spending a large portion of Christmas Eve, Eve, or December 23rd making treats in preparation for out big Christmas Eve celebration.  Here I am making some of my world famous salsa with Jen in the background making sugar cookies.  After this the plan is to dip a whole ton of almond bark pretzels, which I despise, but it's worth it because they are so good.

Running Errands

This morning I got up and headed into Cedar Rapids to run about 1000 errands before our big Christmas Eve celebration tomorrow.  I needed to head to Target to pick a few things up, workout at the gym, grocery shop and get the kids special gift from Daddy.  I wasn't headed home until nearly 3:00 in the afternoon and then on the way home I told Jen I would head to Tipton to pick up some sweatshirts she had special ordered from the T-shirt shop.  I didn't end up getting home until nearly 4:00 after all my errands.  The hope is that I won't have to go out tomorrow and the boys and I can spend the whole day playing video games.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Enjoying The Snow With the Family

After I got back from snowmobiling this afternoon we all decided to head out and enjoy the snow a little bit.  We walked over to one of Jen's friends houses and then on the way back decided to play on the big snow hill at the church.  We all had a good time having a snowball fight and sliding down the snow hill.  I took a video but I"m sure it will take me forever to get it edited and uploaded ;)


Last night my neighbor invited me over to hang out in his garage while he worked on his snowmobile.  While we were hanging out he invited me to go snowmobiling today if the snow came.  He just bought a new snowmobile, so he had two with all the gear, which made it pretty convenient.  I have never ridden on a snowmobile so I was pretty excited to go and see what it was like.  Turns out that it is freaking awesome.  I took a video from my action cam of some of the ride and captured these pictures.  We ended up cutting the trip a bit short because he managed to blow up the engine in the one he was riding, his older one, but even so we had a great time while we were out and about.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bandit At Thiesen's

After we got done eating out donuts at the bakery we headed over the Thiesen's, which was a total madhouse, to get some snow pants for Jen.  With the big snow coming we figured we better be ready to go outside and play if the opportunity presents itself.  While we were there the boys and I were trying on snowmobile masks and trying to scare one another.  None of the pictures of the boys turned out but here is one of me with Jen and Marshall in the back ground.

Donuts For Breakfast

This morning to get the first day of Christmas break started right we headed down to the bakery in Tipton to get some donuts. It's been awhile since we've been to the bakery for donuts so the boys were pretty excited to get to go. The boys will probably be crazy loons the rest of the day but it's break so it's alright.

Marshall Christmas 2013 Piano Recital Video #2

Clancey Christmas 2013 Piano Recital Video #1

Clancey Christmas 2013 Piano Recital Video #2

Marshall Christmas 2013 Piano Recital Video #1

Monday, December 16, 2013

CogAT Tests

Over the past few days at school Clancey has been taking the CogAT tests to see how smart he is. Today he was finishing them up and the ELP took this picture of our little scholar had at work on his tests. This weekend he was telling Jen and I about these tests and how much he enjoyed taking them. The kid loves to be challenged so taking tests like this are right in his wheelhouse. Hopefully he did good but really he's only 6 so I'm not sure it really matters that much, either way Jen and I are proud of how good of student he is. Not very often you have multiple teachers say they wish they could have a whole class of your children to teach because they are so well behaved and engaged in class. Guess we are doing something right!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Church Christmas Program

This morning was the big Christmas program at the UCC here in Clarence and both the boys did a great job.  I took a whole bunch of video for papa and I will put it up when I get it all edited together, hopefully sometime this afternoon.  As a preview I will say that Clancey was an awesome spotlight and Marshall was a star!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

At the Mall

After we were in the Amana's we headed up to the mall to get a few things.  Jen and I both needed to get some stuff from Bath and Body Works and Clancey wanted to pick out a new game with his allowance from Gamestop.  They put in a new <$10 section with a whole bunch of pretty cool games so Clancey really wanted to pick something out.  Since he is huge into Parkour these days he picked out Assasin's Creed.  Not necessarily a game for kids but the assassin does some pretty cool Parkour moves which is the real reason he wanted the game.

Afternoon In The Amana's

For our Christmas eve food day we really wanted to have some Amana beef sticks and the a ham for Christmas day so we decided to down to the Amana's. What was going to originally be a quick trip to the meat shop and possibly lunch turned into a fun afternoon so far. We had a great lunch at the Colony Inn, got root beer at the brewery and got hats for the boys at the woolen mill. Not sure what's up next but I'm sure it will be fun.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Marshall's 4th Grade Christmas Concert

Clancey Singing In Kindergarten Christmas Concert

North Cedar Elementary Christmas Concert

Tonight was the big North Cedar Elementary Christmas Concert and both the boys performed. They both did a great job and I got a video that I will upload later of their performance. Clancey was a bit more into then Marshall but I think that happens with age. I'm sure we will reach a point where Clancey is more worried about being cool then singing in elementary concerts.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Boys Signing In Church

Clancey's First Time Playing Bells in Church

Clancey's First Time Playing Bells in Church

Christmas In Clarence

This afternoon was Christmas in Clarence, which meant Jen was gone all day at the event but us boys got other afternoon to veg out and play games.  We I guess we also got to go up to the event to buy some cookies, have some soup, and SEE SANTA CLAUS!  As you can see from the picture I was more excited about it then the boys were.  It just so happens that the boys are a bit scared of Santa Claus so they didn't want to get real close.  Marshall didn't want to even get close to Santa Claus which I'm fairly certain had more to do with him trying to be cool rather then a fear of Santa.  Clancey warmed up to him a bit and told Santa what he wanted so he could get a goody bag and a candy cane.  They boys were also pretty excited when Jen got home because she had a whole bunch of cookies they didn't see at the event.  Got to love the Christmas Season.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Hanging With The Kids

Since I have been gone all week, and it's extremely cold out, the kids and I decided to hang out in the living room and play video games.  Clancey and I managed to finish Halo 4 while Marshall played some Skyrim.  Today I also managed to fix my drums for Band Hero by solder some frayed cords back together.  Clancey and I played a whole bunch of that game once the drums were fixed.  We may need to lay off the video games for a bit before Christmas or it won't be a big treat when we have our Christmas Eve celebration with treats and video games.

Week In DC

I'm back home from my week in DC and while it wasn't too bad of business trip I'm glad to be home.  I had meeting everyday for most of the day except on Thursday when I managed to wrap them up by noon so I could go see some sights.  I've never been to DC before so I really wanted to get over the the National Mall and check things out.  I decided that I would walk over from my hotel with was in Arlington, Virginia and from the look on the map it didn't look that far.  Turned out to be about 5 miles to get from my hotel to the Jefferson Memorial and from there it was another few miles of walking to see everything.  By the time it was all said and done it walked about 12 miles on Thursday.  I guess I got my exercise in for the day.  That evening I hooked up with an friend, who I hadn't seen since high school from supper.  It was great to catch up and see someone I hadn't seen in so long.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Afternoon Run

My meetings got done today mid-afternoon which gave me an opportunity to get out for a run. I found this bike trail next the Potomac that had a great view of DC while I ran. It was pretty cool to be able to see the Capitol, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument the whole time a ran. Plan to get out again this week and run all the way up to the National Mall.

Monday, December 02, 2013

In DC For The Week

This week I'm going to be in Washington DC all week on business travel. This will be the first time that I've been to Washington DC so I'm hoping I get an opportunity to go see some of the monuments and such. I'm only a couple miles from the National Mall so it should be easy enough to get over there. I'll be sure to update my blog as soon as I have some pictures.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Hunting for Green Ornament

Pain Cave Updates

I needed to find a semi-permanent spot for the TV I picked up on Brown Thursday so I figured that the Pain Cave was probably the perfect place.  For the past couple years I've been using a combination of my phone, tablet and a laptop as a means to entertain myself for my multi-hour workouts in the pain cave.  For the most part it has worked but with my vision not being the greatest when take my glasses off it could be better.  Now with my new huge 32" TV it should be awesome in the pain cave when I workout.  I'm planning a ride tonight after I get my bags packed for my travel tomorrow and I'll get to see how it works out.  

Elfie Is Back!

This morning, much to the excitement of the boys, Elfie showed back up on the scene.  Clancey was the one who found Elfie and ran upstairs to tell Jen and I that he was back and had made muffins and hot chocolate.  By the time we had made it downstairs Clancey had already served the muffins and eagerly awaiting us to have breakfast.  He was sure to tell us that Elfie is always nice on the first day but starts to get naughty the following days.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Afternoon Game of Magic The Gathering

After spending the whole day yesterday playing video games in what we dubbed the "Video Game Cave" yesterday Jen banned us from playing video games today.  It didn't help that when we got done last night the boys both had blood shot eyes and in fact still had them when they got up this morning.  Given we had a whole lot to do today, go get the Christmas tree, clean off the porch, decorate the tree and I had to get a 8.5 mile run in we didn't have a whole lot of time to yearn to play video games.  Around 6pm we finally got done with everything we needed to get done today and that left some time to find something to do while Jen made supper.  Well with video games off the table the boys and I decided to play some Magic The Gathering.  Earlier this week they had both built new decks and wanted to take me on with my "Slasher" deck.  It's a legendary weenie creature speed deck that I built 15-20 years ago and the boys have never successfully beat it.  Clancey thought for sure if they played as a team they could beat me but alas the deck still remains undefeated in the VanOort house.
I still find it rather impressive that Clancey is only 6 years old and can play Magic the Gathering.  For those who haven't ever played it actually is a pretty complex game with a whole bunch of rules.  Granted without being able to read we have to explain some of the cards to Clancey but still he does pretty good for a 6 year old.  As soon as he can read he is going to be a formidable opponent.

Christmas Tree Is Up

Well the Christmas tree is officially up and decorated for the season. The year we are feeling particularly festive, heck we started playing Christmas music before Halloween. We really enjoy Christmas around our house and with the boys getting older it is getting even better. It has been nice for the past few years our holidays have been way less drama filled and we have been able to enjoy them even more. Only a few more weeks until my break starts and Christmas is here!

Ready To Go

After fighting to get the tree strapped to the top of the car we are ready to take the tree home and get it decorated. While I was getting the tree tied down the boys got to hold the rabbits that they have there every year. If you want to see the pics Jen out some on instagram. Now I think we are going to hit up Happy Joe's and then get the tree put up.

Found Our Tree

And here it is the VanOort Family Christmas Tree for the year. We had a contender early in but we couldn't get Clancey on board so we had to keep looking. After looking a bit more we managed to find the perfect one we all agreed on. Now we just have to haul it up the hill and get it strapped to the car.

Christmas Tree Farm

Here we are at Kelly Tree Farm for our annual trip to pick out the VanOort Family Christmas tree. This is the earliest we've ever been here to pick out our tree but with Christmas in Clarence next weekend and me in DC for the week this was about the only time to get it done. It's pretty busy here today but there are plenty of trees so should be able to find the perfect tree.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Weekend Video Game Cave

Is a preview to our plan for the Christmas holiday the boys and I setup our video game cave for the weekend. With our second Xbox and TV we have been hibernating in the living playing video games around the clock. Let me tell you it has been and awesome time. The boys, especially Marshall, are getting really good at  Halo so Clancey and I have to team up to take him on. I'm thinking for Christmas we are going to pretty much spend the entire couple days leading up to the holiday hiding in our video game cave playing away. Going to be a blast.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Brown Thursday Shopping

I swore up and down that I would never partake in the craziness that is Thanksgiving Day shopping.  While I wasn't necessarily against it, standing in multi-hour lines to get stuff really cheap, especially at WalMart didn't seem like the way I wanted to spend my Thanksgiving evening.  Yet hear I am.  The boys and I managed to get our hands on a second Xbox 360 for the holiday season but we didn't have a second TV to play it on.  Turns out that today they had 32" TV's on sale at Walmart to $98 so I headed on out to get one.  The TV's went on sale at 6:00pm but if you got there at 4:00pm you could get a bracelet to guarantee that you actually got one.  I was not going to wait in line with a bunch of other people, then sprint through the store at 6pm to the TV's and battle others to get one.  I was surprised that when I pulled up at 4 there was hardly anyone at the store.  The parking lot was mostly empty and I was able to walk right back to the place where they handed out the TV bracelets and get one.
Once I got my bracelet I headed over to the Xbox games to get see what they had, when I got there I was the only person there and they had a ton of games on sale for really cheap.  Since I knew I had my TV already I made camp here and scoped some games out.  It was finally around 5:15 when the store started to really get busy and a lot of people started to gather around the games.  It was rather interesting to watch, at first we were all casual and chatting nice but as the hour approached 6:00pm people started to smash in so they got there game.

About 5:55pm the announced over the PA system in the store that shopping started and immediately the chaos ensued.  There was an immediate rush towards the games and since in front I was pushed up against the game display.  There were people elbowing, pushing and yelling it was freaking nuts.  Since I was pushed up against the display I was able to reach in the grab the games I wanted and shove my way out of the madness.  Until this day I didn't really think that the video's they showed online happened everywhere and where a bit dramatic but now I"m a believer.  I'm not entirely sure how good I feel about being a part of one of those ;)
With that done I headed over to the TV line to get my new TV.  Besides being a long wait this line was way more calm, which after my video game lunacy I was ready for.  The line moved pretty quickly and after 15 minutes I had my TV.  Good thing it was small and light because this guy forgot to grab a cart.  Now by this time the store as a complete madhouse.  Apparently fire code only allows 533 people in the Tipton Walmart and rumor was there was a line of nearly as many people outside the store waiting to get in by now.  Too by the time those people got in there wouldn't be anything left.
I had to make my way across the store at this point, trying to wrangle my TV and video games to go to the area where I could pick up the boys Big Present from Daddy.  As you can see from the picture above it was not easy to navigate this place.  Once again after fighting my way through all the people I picked up my present for the boys and headed to the check out line.
Just like everything else the checkout line was crazy long and wound throughout the store.  I found the end and commenced the waiting game.  I did find it refreshing that people were being nice and cordial to one other.  The line for the checkout didn't take as long as I thought it would and, to be honest, after spending multiple hours at the store waiting it wasn't that big of deal.  I had did my battle for the stuff I wanted was in the checkout line the conquering hero.  Not sure I would so that again anytime soon but I'll say this it was an experience.