Enlisted Heritage Hall

We recently wrapped up our final days of school. I thought with the break from the move and not taking any breaks since then we could use one. I didn’t plan for a week but George was able to take a week off from work. My initial plan was just to do a few fun educational things at home but since George took a week I wanted to make the most of it. On Monday, we decided to visit the Enlisted Heritage Hall before lunch.

The Enlisted Heritage Hall is located on Gunter AFB. The museum is filled with many great pictures,displays,and videos. George talked to the older four about some key parts of Air Force history while I did my best to keep up with Baby Kermit and Pooh. The kids really seemed to enjoy the growing museum. I was the most amused by the pictures of those who have served as enlisted airman. It was kewl to see Chuck Norris and Jimmy Stewart to name a few. We probably could have hung out longer but the kids had their fill of history. Outside there are several memorials, statutes and a few static displays. It’s an amazing tribute to the Enlisted side of the Air Force. It always makes me so proud to be able to add my name to the list of those who have served our country.

After lunch we visited our library to pick up some movies and books for the week. The kids read books so fast. Bubbles always complains about finishing her 5-6 books in 3 days and having nothing to read. For the first time in forever I had to make Jem get some books to help fight her boredom. The kids played at the playground nearby until little boys had red faces. We went home to cool down in the A/C with delicious Root Beer floats.

 

TableTop Day

Holidays, in the modern sense, are days we stop to remember and/or celebrate an event, a people, or a place. There’s the ones we are all familiar with, e.g., St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, Halloween, Christmas, etc, but there is also countless lesser known holidays celebrated all over. Manitou Springs in Colorado celebrates “Fruitcake Toss Day” on January 3rd, Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan celebrates “Snowman Burning Day” on March 20th, Austin, Texas celebrates “No Pants Day” on May 1st, and the United Federation of Planets celebrates “Federation Day” on October 9th. A few years ago Boyan Radakovich, a game designer and web show producer, created “International Tabletop Day” as a way to celebrate the tabletop gaming community and industry. Usually we go to a local gaming shop, but since we were new to the area, and options were very limited, we decided to stay home and spend all day Saturday playing.

The kids created individual lists of what games they wanted to play, and we stacked them in the screen room. Of the 11 selected, we managed to play 7 in a day. In all of the games the wife, myself, Pippi, Jem, and Bubbles played, and occasionally Duke joined in when not playing outside with his brothers Pooh and Baby Kermit.

To start things off we played a little card game called Tempurra, where anthropomorphic cats have an eating contest in a Taiwanese Snackbar. The short explanation of gameplay is players stacking matching dishes (cards) face-up and when a player can’t place a card they eat the dishes (draw that many from the deck). If they get indigestion (draw a “No More!” card) they get a negative point. The game ends when someone gets three negative points. I got fairly unlucky as I drew the most indigestion cards, followed by the wife. None of the girls drew indigestion cards, so Pippi won having the most cards in hand (15).
Overall: A short card game with a funny theme. Like most card games, luck of the draw largely determines play although with strategic early “eating” and careful hand management players can last longer in this game of attrition.

After having warmed up with a card game we moved onto Dixit, a story telling party game revolving around cards but with some “board” aspects. Each player draws a hand of six cards, and each takes a turn playing the “Storyteller”. The storyteller selects a card from their hand, places it facedown, and says a word, phrase, or sentence represented by the picture. The other players select a card from their hand they think represents what has been said. The storyteller then shuffles the cards and repeats what they said earlier each time they reveal one of the played cards. All players then vote, using cardboard chits, which card they think best represents what was said. The pictures on the cards have a Salvador Dali-esque feel to them.  The challenge comes from the storyteller needing at least one person to select their card, but if nobody or everybody selects their card they get no points. Other players get points if somebody gives their card the number one chit. A fun aspect I found to the game is often other players played cards that better represented the spoken word. Points are tallied using meeple-esque wooden bunnies racing around a track trying to get to 30. Bubbles and Pippi tied in our game.
Overall: A great party game that keeps children involved using their imagination. Best played periodically due to the limited number of cards (although there are seven expansions that provide an additional 84 cards each!)

We moved into formal board game territory with Pirate’s Cove, a European take on pirates racing to acquire the most fame in a year.  There’s a large square board with various islands, and each player has a map representing their ships various strengths, e.g., sailing speed, cannons, crew size, and hull capacity. Each island has a stack of treasure cards, and during a turn players use a ships wheel to select in private which island they’re sailing for. If more than one ship arrives at the same island, a sea battle ensures, which involves dice rolling based on the pirate’s crew and cannon ratio. Some, like Gem, were able to sail most of the game uncontested and were able to continually upgrade their ship. The wife, Pippi, and I were continually unlucky, often battling it out, and more often than not, being forced to retreat to Pirate’s Cove to recoup. You could retreat early before your ship was crippled but it always risked a disastrous mutiny. Midway through the game Bubbles managed to gain a significant lead, after making critically successful power plays. Final scoring:

  1. Bubbles – 46 fame
  2. Jem – 39
  3. Mom – 34
  4. Dad – 32
  5. Pippi – 30

Overall: A chaotic game of risk and reward. Ironically, it’s often better to avoid battle and focus on middle of the road rewards, as even winners have to repair battle damage, which cuts into their supposedly better rewards.

We moved onto a lighter game, Enchanted Forest, a children’s roll & move game with memory aspects. Each player plays a wizard (who has no magical powers) searching the forest for lost items from famous fairy tales. The board, artwork, and playing pieces are good quality. A stack of cards is placed on the castle and a card is revealed. Players search the forest, looking under plastic trees for the item. When they find the right tree, their supposed to get back the castle, without raising suspicion, and reveal the items location. As the game progresses the guessing speeds up as players recall which items were under which trees. Jem won the initially revealed card, and we called it quits from there.
Overall: Urgh, shoot me. We thought this game would be more fun, but the rolling and moving was tedious, as you often missed landing on the trees exact location. Then there was the whole aspect of getting back to the castle. Rinse and repeat for each card. Blah. Good for kids with a lot of time on their hands, and who don’t know better games.

After taking a break we came back to Oh Gnome You Don’t!, a roll & move game involving gnomes brawling each other as they attempt to collect the most gems. For an American game this game has a strong, albeit silly, theme. The artwork is well done and gameplay is relatively balanced so most gnomes stay within a few spaces of each other. Most gems are gained from selling plants and other items to local merchants along the way, although gems can also be gained from fighting and trickery. Bubbles actually reached the finish line first long before anybody else, however this hurt her as she essentially skipped the last fourth of the board. This allowed others to collect more items, sell them, and generally collect additional gems. Some of the girls got upset when cards were played against them, taking the slights very personally. Final gem count:

  1. Mom – 51
  2. Duke – 47
  3. Jem – 47
  4. Bubbles – 45
  5. Pippi – 44
  6. Dad – 43

Overall: This game can be fun at times, but pacing is uneven. It starts at a slow pace, the mid-game is quite rowdy and fun, but then the end game gets monotonous. The back and forth between players can be fun for some, and upsetting for others. Certainly a “once-in-a-while” game.

We didn’t plan it this way, but we played two cutthroat games back to back. Survive: Escape from Atlantis, is a modular board game where players attempt to fleeing the sinking island and make it safely to the neighboring islands. The board is mostly water spaces, and the island is made up from six sided cardboard pieces of three different thicknesses, representing sandy beach, island jungle, and mountains. We took turns placing our plastic guys on tiles, followed by each of us placing two empty boats. Gameplay has each player taking three actions, which involves moving their pieces, then removing one tile from the game, and finally rolling the dice to see which sea creature (dolphin, shark, whale, and sea serpents) moves and how far. The game ends when one of the mountain tiles (after all the sand and jungle tiles are removed first) containing the volcano is revealed. Players count points on the bottom of guys that made it to the islands. Things get cutthroat quickly as boats are moved away from the island early, tiles player’s pieces sit on are removed, and sea creatures are used to attack other player’s pieces. Jem and Pippi managed to get their high value guys to the islands, relatively unmolested. On Bubbles and I’s side of the island it was pure chaos as whales destroyed boats and sharks ate swimmers. Bubbles encouraged other players to attack my guys for some minor slight, lost in the end when she didn’t get any guys to the islands, despite having three boats full.

  1. Jem – 18 points
  2. Pippi – 16
  3. Mom – 14
  4. Dad – 8
  5. Bubbles – 0

Overall: This game is actually a reprint of the one I played three decades ago, which produces strong nostalgic feelings for me. The game has great tension and stark realization dawns that not everyone can be saved. The modular island and the variety of sea creatures allows different scenarios offering great replayability. Again, like the “Oh Gnome You Don’t!” game, this one isn’t recommend if children are sensitive to negative actions being played against them.

As it grew late in the day we finished with a card game. Exploding Kittens is a press your luck card game with outrageous artwork from Matthew Inman, author of “The Oatmeal” comic website. In this game you don’t want to draw cards. Matches are played, or cards are played to reverse turn order or force another player to play two turns. Each draw from the deck increases the chance of drawing a bomb. If a player has a defuse card they can place a bomb card back into the deck where ever they want. However, other players knowing your holding a previous defuse card will play cards to draw a random card from your hand, hoping to gain the defuse card. Despite having played it before the girls goofed on one of the rules, saying defuse cards go back into the desk, when they shouldn’t. Through strategic card playing the wife and I outlasted the girls but went into a never-ending loop since the defuse cards were being recycle along with the bombs. Ultimately we decide the wife won since she held more cards.
Overall: In my opinion this game is overhyped. Sure it’s got wacky artwork and a silly premise, but it lacks substance and relies too heavily on luck. Kids will enjoy it for the wackiness but adults will grow tired of it quickly.

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Fort Toulouse, AL

“Guest” Blog post by George
 
History has always been considered important to my family; it gives context to who we are, and insight to our future. If I had a time machine I would travel back to see each family generation as they were. Since that (currently) isn’t possible, living history is the next best thing. Fort Toulouse recently had their “French and Indian War” re-enactment day. This time period is the middle of the 18th century, where the first global conflict is raging, the Seven Years’ War, as France’s and Britain’s long-term rivalry erupts into a fight for supremacy. Earlier in the century, from a family perspective, our ancestors arrived in New France and were stationed at a Fort near Montreal. Fort Toulouse was built like many forts at the time, at a strategic position overlooking a bend in the regions significant waterway. Despite being built in an area claimed by three major powers, no battle was ever fought at the fort. My guess is because European settlement was low in the area. The area didn’t see any real importance until General Jackson arrived in the area during the Creek War, and ordered Fort Jackson built on the site.
The Fort is certainly worth visiting for anyone in the Montgomery, Alabama area. The area remains undeveloped, aiding the step back into the past. A replica fort sits on the site, and was alive with activity as French soldiers and civilians went about their daily life. We arrived in time to see the local garrison form up, march, and raise the Kingdom of France flag used during the time of King Louis XV. The children spoke with locals as they spun wool, churned butter, baked bread, and went about their day. They met a Coureur des bois, a French-Canadian woodsmen who lived between the worlds of the French and the local natives. He was replacing the flint on his .69 caliber Charleville musket, a heavy weapon of ten pounds, in preparation for the upcoming skirmish with British forces. Outside the Fort we ventured into the nearby Indian outpost, and met the Muskogee (Creek) Indians. The children greeted using the Muskogee words the Coureur des bois had taught them. There they found children their age using rocks to crack open acorns, prime ingredient for the unique experience that is acorn bread. We visited the local merchants circled outside the fort, and spent some time with the Blacksmith as he quickly and expertly forged nails in rapid fashion. Next we journeyed westward to a field where a British unit was encamped. Guards patrolled the perimeter, and most of the unit was “enjoying” a lunch of dried meat and fruit, and slightly moldy bread. We spoke with a Royal Artilleryman about the unit’s one pound breech-loading swivel gun. He admitted it was cast with river boat defense in mind, and thus the limited bore, but felt it provided physiological advantage fighting land forces. We met a British Lieutenant that was dismayed at our small French flags, and expressed contempt for our ancestry. He extorted the virtues of the English way and was confident of victory in the upcoming battle.
We walked onward to the site of Fort Jackson, a sizeable frontier fort common to the Napoleonic era. Not much remains, raised dirt shows one bastion, and a small stone building. The rest of the fort site is defined by gentle earthen ditches and ridges. Further towards the river we saw a small, forested hill. Not much to look at now, but it was a ceremonial mound built by the Mississippian Indians over a thousand years ago. We made our way back to the field by the British encampment, where we watched the French and British forces engage in linear fashion. Unlike the skirmish earlier in the day, the Muskogee and Coureur des bois stayed in the relative safety of the trees since they didn’t have the advantage of surprise. The two lines of the regulars and militia approached and raked each other with musket volleys. Men dropped on both sides, but the British line eventually pushed the French off the field.
We left mid-afternoon, as the heat index was in the high eighties; Alabama has a humid subtropical climate. Despite the heat, I heartily recommend visiting the Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson State Historic Site, particularly during re-enactments which bring the Fort to life and offer a glimpse into the past.

A Successful Lent 2017

This has been the most successful Lent for me in a couple of years. I feel like I was finally able to fully let go and let God. This Lent felt different. I started out pessimistic about meeting any goals or guilt ridden from all the things I was doing wrong. It’s hard to explain but Lent happened when I needed it to even though I didn’t want it to.

As a family we gave up eating out. We made a special provision that if we found ourselves in a situation of needing quick food it had to come from a grocery store. You never realize how much you take eating out for granted until you give it up. Eating out is a convince for those times when I don’t feel like cooking and not always as a special treat. We did save some money but it was more than that. It was realizing that taking the time to make lunch before we went out for the day was worth it. Putting dinner in the crockpot earlier in the day when we have plans for the day became a must. It made me re-access my diet and the things I really shouldn’t eat. It was a good reminder of how blessed I am to have great kiddos who love to help make dinner.

We did not successfully finish the Mother Teresa book. It just got too hard to make sure we were doing everything. It just doesn’t fit our family. I think for us it works better to have 1 main family goal and everyone has their own personal goal. Next year we will try Lentopoly and see how that goes.

Resisting Happiness is what made my Lent so successful. It hits on the hard realities in a way that makes you want to try. They are easy tips that we all know but fight. It’s a video and a chapter in the book. There is also a study guide if you want more. I think I’ll use the study guide next time. It was that little push that I needed to do the things I keep saying I need to do. It also made me take inventory of things. The things I should do more and the ones I should do less. It got me to reach out to a friend I haven’t talked to much. I can’t even begin to express the many blessing I got from her emails. Her words were what I needed to hear. It was like I was finally listening to what God had been trying to get me to hear. I shed many tears but they helped me to heal and see things the way I once did. I was able to see what I needed to do more clearly. Thank you again Dear Friend!

We also made a point to go to confession as a family. It was one of those things that I had been missing. Carrying all my guilt as well as all the emotions from trying to be a good friend can sometimes be a lot to carry. Don’t think for a second that I will ever give up trying to help others. I’m not complaining. I’m just saying sometimes I let myself feel too much hurt and I need some extra help carrying the load. I’m very blessed to have people open their hearts to me.  I was happiest to get rid of the guilt. It was really holding me back.

The other amazing thing that reading Resisting Happiness did for me was to help me to see the Facebook was holding me down. It was wasting too much of my time, causing too much hurt, and making me worry too much about what people thought of me. I am very happy to say that there is a way to download all of your Facebook data. I can still use Facebook chat and I am already a much happier person after a week of my account being deactivated. I have all the memories I was so worried about losing and if someone on Facebook still wants to contact me they can. I know that some people will try to remind me of the things I am missing but those things aren’t worth the damage they were doing. Because of letting Facebook go I can spend alot more focused time on revamping the blog as well as the other things that keep me grounded.

If you want to continue our journey through pictures make sure to follow us on Instagram: Adventureswithsix

If you want to see some more kewl stuff check us out on pinterest: CrafteeKim

Happy Wednesday!

Anniston,AL Museum of Natural History

I like to try and find places the kids have never been before or an educational area we haven’t touched on yet. I found out the the Anniston Museum of Natural History was going to have a presentation about animal teeth. It promised live animals so I knew that even Pooh and Baby Kermit would enjoy it. The other great thing is all of the kids really seem to love Science.

Anniston is about 2 hours from Montgomery so we tried to leave in order to arrive at the museum when it opened. Things didn’t go as planned but we did get there in enough time to walk through part of the museum before the presentation.

The presentation was amazing. The woman giving the class was great with the kids. She let the kids take turns answering and asking questions. She has actual skulls or replica fossils to pass around. The kids were able to touch them and inspect the teeth. She presented each animal and talked about its teeth and how it uses its teeth or lack there of. No one was allowed to touch the animals but all the kids respected this. I think the addition of being able to touch the skulls and replicas helped alot with this. Duke seem to get the most excited about the little Alligator. He talked the rest of the day about how he was gonna get his Uncle Kenny to get him an Alligator. The girls weren’t exactly happy about going about first but they really did enjoy the show. I know at least Duke and Bubbles know by looking at an animals mouth what type of food it eats. I call that a win.

After the presentation we went out side to take our lunch break. The kids really do start to act like they have never eaten by noon. I had taken the easy route that day and bought lunchables over our usual PB&J sandwiches.

The kids ate lunch pretty quickly because they were excited to go back inside and explore the rest of the museum. I think the kids favorite parts of the museum were the Birds of the Americas and Dynamic Earth. The took turns choosing a bird or birds to have their picture taken by. Of course Duke opted for the Alligator instead. I think his Uncle Kenny has turned him into a Gator fan. We probably could have spent another hour or so just wondering around taking everything in but we had plans to visit Kevin and Crystal at their house. We wrapped our trip there up with the purchase of some postcards for me to send to our nieces and nephews and were on our way.

This has got to be one of the best Natural History Museums we have ever been too. It is definitely a close second to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in DC.  In you live in Alabama or are planning a trip this is a must see. It was totally worth driving out of our way to see.