Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas 2012: Mancala


During Christmas 2011 I learned to play Mancala with my brother-in-law. It’s a fun game that involves moving playing pieces around a board with the object being to net the most pieces in your end bucket. After looking at the game board, I thought it looked kind of like a football field, with two end zones. I had so much fun with my brother-in-law that I decided to make him a football-themed Mancala board for Christmas 2012.

The project itself wasn’t too difficult (in hindsight). All I had to do was take a pre-existing Mancala board, sand it, stain it green, paint white lines for the yard markers and end zones, apply some University of Michigan logos (my brother-in-law is a huge fan), and cover the whole thing in polyurethane. The problem was that I didn’t have hardly any of the tools that I needed for the project. Over the course of Fall 2012 I managed to sand a Mancala board, but I wasn’t able to find green wood stain until just before Christmas.

All weekend before the big day I stained it, re-stained it, painted, and repainted, and finally put on polyurethane. The last of which was still drying when I wrapped the present, but when we opened presents on Christmas Eve night, John was pleasantly surprised with his gift. We even played a few rounds, with me losing big at first, but ending the evening with a big win against him. Now he’ll have one more U of M item for his collection, and I have a good experience that will hopefully lead to my own football Mancala board—except I want one with the Detroit Lions!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Top 10 from Christmas 2011

I found something I wrote last year about my top ten memories from Christmas 2011. After a little bit of polishing, I think I should share it. I can't wait to come up with another top ten list for this year.


After a fun and busy six days of Christmas vacation, I’m back home with Hannah and Abigail. The house is slowly coming together as new presents find their places and holiday decorations slowly make their way back to storage. After thinking through the past six days, I’ve come up with my favorite present and list of my ten favorite memories:

Favorite Present:
Hannah got me a Kindle Touch this year, and I’m convinced that reading is going to be my new favorite hobby, so consider this your commercial interruption to my post. I brought The Hobbit with me to read out of anticipation for the movie coming out next December, but I finished it so quickly it’s a good thing I had my Kindle. Since then, I’ve knocked out quite a few chapters of both the Bible and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I’ve also tried out the Kindle’s experimental web browser and I can send emails, tweets, and update Facebook, among other things. I’m quite satisfied with my experience so far. You have to get one.

Now, in a generally descending order (though I’m only certain that the #1 item is in its proper place), here are my favorite memories from Christmas 2011:

10. Breakfast at the Nawrot’s
On Christmas morning Hannah and I pulled ourselves out of bed to get ready for breakfast over at my sister Amy’s house. My parents got over a little early to help with the meal preparation, while Hannah and I (mostly Hannah) took care of the little munchkin. Alyssa was still in bed when my parents left, so she rode with us.

The Nawrot family had opened all their presents that morning, and John was playing a Wii boxing game while Katelynne and Kyleigh ran around with their new dolls. Hannah called me up to help with setting the table, so I didn’t get to see John finish his round.

Breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs, the best French toast ever, biscuits and gravy, and, for me, black and blue preserves made from blackberries and blueberries. Delish!

9. The White Elephant Gift Exchange
The Walt’s like to have a fun white elephant gift exchange. Each of us brings a couple white elephant gifts which we all put in the center of the table. We then take turns rolling dice, trying to get a combination of 7, 11, or doubles. If you get the magic number, you get to pick a present from the center or steal from someone else.

Once all the presents are out from the center (or if you have all the presents you’re allowed to get), you have the option of making a trade with someone if you roll the 7, 11, or doubles. After a while someone will say “Let’s go around the table once (or twice),” and then we open the presents. Sometimes you’ll get an ugly ornament. Or some bars of soap. Or some hot chocolate mix. We don’t really care what we get, just the fun we have doing it.

8. Fancy Nancy with Katelynne
My niece Katelynne (a little over 3 and a half) likes the Fancy Nancy books. So much so that she will walk up to most anyone in the house and ask them to read to her. Since Abigail is only a few months old, we don’t get to do much reading to her, so this was an extra special treat for me. It was like a chance to see what life will be like once Abby’s old enough to read to. Though Katelynne’s attention span doesn’t last much longer than a book or two, I felt extra special that she spent so much time with her uncle.

7. The Plunger Present
I’m not sure why I liked this so much, but my mother-in-law, Sharon, bought me a toilet plunger for Christmas. I suppose the fun started when we went in the house and there was a funny looking present near the tree that looked suspiciously like a toilet plunger and had my name on it. When Christmas came, sure enough, it was a plunger.

I spent a good part of the morning using it to poke Hannah and other members of the household. Sharon assured me that it was new and hadn’t been used, but it was still gross enough to bother my wife. That’s good enough for me.

6. Assembling a Jewelry Box
My sister-in-law, Deborah, got a large jewelry box from her mother for Christmas. Unfortunately, it had “some assembly required.” I got a chance to play handyman and enlisted the help of Deborah to put it all together. It wasn’t a tough job, but it was an opportunity to do something unique with my sister-in-law. I like to try to do something special with each of my sisters over Christmas, and since Deborah is my sister-in-law, I like to be able to do stuff with her too.

5. Mom’s Scavenger Hunt
All growing up my mother played a sadistic game with my sisters and me. She’d hide our Easter baskets (and occasionally our Christmas presents) and leave us clues to find them. This might sound like a fun game, but when you consider her clues, it seemed like characters in a horror movie locked inside a house with a sadistic serial killer had a better chance of escape than we did of figuring out each of the clues. I still remember following a clue that told me to look in a chicken coop for my next clue, and specifically said “It’s not on the door.” The coop had three doors, and after searching all around inside, I found the clue taped to the outside of the coop on a door.

This year I hid my mom’s present and sent her running around the house with a few impossible to figure out clues. It was all fun. My favorite clue was just a quote from a Doris Day movie. Once mom figured that out, she had to run downstairs and look through the movie boxes for the clue that was hidden inside. She guessed the wrong movie and had to head back upstairs for help before she figured out the right one.

4. Trinity Christmas Eve Service
Trinity Community Church in Big Rapids had an amazing Christmas Eve service, with music, lights, dancers, and performers. It wasn’t just the traditional music, but modern treatments like songs from Chris Tomlin’s Glory to God in the Highest album. There were even some spherical paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling that raised and lowered throughout the performance. That and the pastor, Garry DeBock, gave an excellent and dramatic presentation of the gospel. It was great to see my family members singing in the choir as well.

3. Spite and Malice
My brother-in-law likes card games, especially games where everyone plays for himself and you can potentially keep someone from winning even if you yourself are losing. He’s kind of like the Detroit Lions ruining other teams’ chances of making the playoffs. Hence, I had to introduce him to the game Spite and Malice.

The game is just like it’s name: you have the opportunity to mess up your opponents by giving them extra cards or making them lose their turns. He loved it. And we all did too. I’ve never liked it when people play dirty, but when playing dirty is just part of the game, it makes it fun. Since there are so many of us that we can’t always play Canasta or Euchre without leaving someone out, Spite and Malice was a great way to include everyone.

2. A Mid-Morning Meeting with Ann
When Hannah and I tell people that we’re friends with and like to visit our high school Spanish teacher, most people are surprised. But if it wasn’t for her I can’t imagine that we’d be so involved in Spanish-language ministry in Indianapolis. Even in high school we’d talk about matters of faith and family, and when we were planning on getting married, she and her husband gave us some much-needed premarital counseling.

Ann received us into her home for a couple hours and we enjoyed walking together and talking together over tea. Ann’s always been a great person to talk with. Before we left she even gave us a Christmas present for little miss Abigail: a Little People Nativity set. It was a wonderful and cozy time.

1. The Crashing Christmas Tree
My parents’ Christmas tree should have been lighter this year since most of Amy’s and my ornaments are hanging on our own trees. But for some reason, maybe because of overuse or perhaps because the kids like to pull on the branches, the tree finally decided it was time to expire. While we were opening presents and marveling at our newfound toys, we all heard a low cracking, like wood that was giving to under the strain of some enormous weight. It wasn’t wood. It was the plastic stand that supported the tree.

The next thing I know the tree is falling towards me. Fortunately someone was between me and the tree. Unfortunately it was my wife and infant daughter. Without really thinking I sat up and reached out my hand to grab the tree somewhere near the top. Though some branches reached down and touched my wife, the tree didn’t fall on her or Abigail, and I was able to hold it up until someone was able to lift it off of us and we were able to move to a more comfortable location.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Wencl Boy

It's a boy! By the way, this is NOT the picture that
makes it obvious we're having a boy ;-)
So this is it. It's official. We're having a boy. All of a sudden this pregnancy seems so much more real. Hannah's only recently starting to show, and with us being busy with Abigail, work, church, and eight million other things, we haven't had a whole lot of time to just sit, think, and dream about baby number two.

After we got the ultrasound and it was pretty conclusive we were having a boy, I finally had a chance to think. A boy. Not just one kid but two now. Up to now Abigail has been the one and only, and she's been enjoying it a lot. When number two arrives (who we've decided to call Lukas), I won't be able to think of the one without thinking of the other. One's a boy and one's a girl. One will be older, and one will be younger. I'm going to treat them differently because of these things. I'm just afraid that I may end up being harder on Abigail because she's older. Or maybe I'll be tougher on Lukas because he's a boy. I don't know, but I certainly won't be able to treat one a certain way without thinking about how that affects the other one.

Fortunately, it will be a long time before the two are even remotely in the same developmental stage of life, so some differential treatment will be necessary and completely okay. It's exciting. And new. And I'm very excited that Lukas is officially the "last Wencl boy."