Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Game Over

After the above photo was included in last month's “Father's Day Photos: The Outtakes” post (link), many readers were left wondering how a grown man gets PWND by a 21 month old girl while attempting to play a video game.  Or why a grown man plays video games at all.

Physical activity almost always trumps gaming, so that second question barely applies to a non-gamer like me.  Yet I AM a youth pastor, after all, with students and grads who love to come over and game with me. Only once in a blue moon do I actually use my Playstation 3 for video games, sans students, other than an occasional session of mixed martial arts with the UFC Personal Trainer MMA workout.

But every now and then, a busy guy like me needs a break.

I often aspire to sit down and play a video game, but rarely do I take the time make that happen.  On those rare occasions, Lena often has a different plan for my attention:

The Takedown

"Oh no you don't, Daddy!"

The Victory

"And STAY down!"

The Happy Aftermath

"Well, time to head back outside and play!"

These days, pretty much any alternate activity overrides my determination to play video games.  And especially with the irresistible Lena in the house, our Playstation 3 is all but guaranteed to retain its "lightly used" status.


By the way, if you already own a Playstation 3 system, here's a disposable and biased opinion from this blogger/non-gamer:  The cinematic Uncharted series is the greatest action franchise of all time.  Period.

After Super Mario Bros, of course.

Coming next on Garth's Blog...

One last E.P.I.C. Student Ministry Update before our mission trip!

(If not, I'll post it when we get back from Mexico)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Once upon a time in Enchanted Forest

Fond memories of Enchanted Forest, anyone?  If you grew up in the Pacific Northwest, there's a good chance that visiting our perennial roadside theme park was an unforgettable event from your childhood.

Our 23 month old Lena made her first visit to Enchanted Forest last month.  We were all excited for her to finally experience it, even if there's only a slim chance that she will remember much from that day.  And Uncle Tony's visit from Afghanistan made it even more special for everyone!

For the uninitiated, Enchanted Forest is Oregon's homegrown answer to Disneyland.  Admission grants children of all ages access to a magical world of fairy tales.

Beloved characters come to life as visitors follow a winding footpath through a hilly forest, stopping to gawk at animatronic reenactments of familiar fairy tale scenes along the way.

Mary's little lamb

Little Miss Muffet

The bedroom of the Seven Dwarfs

Enchanted Forest's iconic witch's mouth

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Captivated by the Fantasy Fountains water and light show in European Village

Lena is obviously too little for the Haunted House or the log ride roller coaster.  But Enchanted Forest wouldn't be Enchanted Forest without some interactive brain twisters and gentle tests of physical coordination:

Crawling through Alice's rabbit hole

The Crooked Man's house...
...Makes for a flustered Lena!
(For the record, Lena didn't fare much better in the Queen of Heart's maze!)

Blindly running around darkened tunnels

Slipping down the Old Lady's Shoe slide

Moseying through Western Town

The end of the road:  Walking away happily ever after!

Coming next week on Garth's Blog...

Mexico mission trip: The final prep!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Olympic Mountains, Day 2- Back on the trails!

...Continued from last week's "Olympic Mountains, Day 1: Lena's First Camping Trip!" (Link)

Lena’s first ever night of camping outdoors had gone smoother than expected.  It was only car camping, but we had to start somewhere.  It was all about getting Lena to experience the wonders of God's creation!

The Big Creek Campground in the Olympic National Forest was nearly empty, with only a few fellow campers using it as a base camp to climb Mount Washington.  I was hoping to also make an ascent by traversing across from Mt. Ellinor, but Kathy had reservations about my aspirations to climb.

I reluctantly agreed not to climb that day, but not without a consolation prize--  More time with Kathy and Lena!

This is the adorable sight that I woke up to in my tent:

Lena climbs back inside the tent to wake up Daddy and wish him a good morning!

Here are some shots of our morning family time at the camp site:

Warming up by the morning campfire

Lena helps Daddy clean up and take down the tent

"Oooh," Lena says!  Omelets and oatmeal for breakfast!

Lena hikes her first mini trail before we even leave the campground!

After breaking camp, we hit the road and headed for the next trailhead.  We pulled over occasionally to enjoy the views of Mt. Ellinor, Mount Washington, and Lake Cushman.

The trail that our outdated hiking/camping book referred to as the “Mount Washington trail” did not exist.  Time to spring for a new book?  Fortunately, there were plenty of other trails in the area to explore.

A closed off forest road led us to the Jefferson Pass Trail.  The mountain views along the hike were gorgeous!

After we hiked in to the Jefferson Pass trailhead, Kathy waited patiently for us as Lena and I continued uphill.

Nap time? A tuckered out Lena dozes off while Daddy carries her through the splendor of the Jefferson Pass Trail.

Kathy indulged me yet again as I split off to sprint a portion of the Mount Ellinor trail.

My plans to climb Mount Washington that day may have been shot down, but at least I got one last taste before leaving the trails!


On the drive back towards Oregon, we ran into a band of ragtag musicians at a Tumwater gas station.  Strangers to each other, they had broken off from their caravan to play tunes for gas money.  Collectively, their bands were slated to play at a jug music festival in Portland that night.  What great timing for all of us!

This blog never strays beyond PG-rated territory, so I omitted my video clip of their impromptu roadside jam session.  They sounded phenomenal together, but some of their improv boasted language salty enough to make Jay-Z blush!

At Brewer's City Pizza, we stuffed our tummies and talked local high school sports with our young waitress.  From there, we headed home.

Coming next week on Garth's Blog...

Lena's first visit to Enchanted Forest!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Olympic Mountains, Day 1: Lena's first camping trip

Hiking the Big Creek Campground Loop trail

Our 20 1/2 month old Lena has camping, hiking, and climbing in her blood!  Her other genetically inherited skills like surfing, skiing, wakeboarding, rafting, bicycling kayaking, rapelling, skydiving, and all that other fun stuff should develop in time.

Given my own outdoor tendencies, it's hard to believe that Lena had never been camping before last month.  It took Mommy and Daddy this long to agree on the right timing. However, we both knew it was only a matter of time before Lena would get her first taste of sleeping outside in the wilderness. And the time was right!

Since I was hoping to climb Mount Washington (traversing across from Mt. Ellinor) this summer anyway, Big Creek Campground in the Olympic Mountains would make a perfect base camp/ playground for Lena and Mommy.  The campground is near Lake Cushman and the Staircase entrance to the Olympic National Park.

Other than two other climbing parties, the campground was a ghost town for our entire stay.

Putting up a tent takes a bit longer when distracted by a lovable little thing like Lena!

After setting up camp, the three of us started hiking the short Big Creek Campground loop trail.

It was getting late.  After a while, Mommy and Lena bailed to head back to camp.

Solo, I upped my pace to a brisk trail run and continued on to the 4 mile Upper Big Creek Loop toward the Mount Ellinor trail.


By the time I met up with Mommy and Lena back at the campsite, it was time to start preparing Lena's first campfire meal!  Kathy prepared the fixings for chili dogs while I built up the campfire.

Mommy prepares the fixings, and Lena helps Daddy blow on the campfire

Daddy teaches Lena the fine culinary art of cooking chili dogs over a campfire

As our once raging campfire died down, we laid Lena down in the tent.  Unsurprisingly, she slept like a baby!

Coming this next week on Garth's Blog...

Olympic Mountains, Day 2: Back on the trails!