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Lee Cooper

Christmas Eve

After a long day of work, we spent Christmas Eve at Lee and Brittany’s place in Warman.  They had come by the house earlier and picked up the boys and the presents so all we had to do was go home and then drive out to their place.  We had a nice non-traditional Christmas dinner (some of that tomorrow) and then opened up presents.  The key to Christmas Eve is to eat quickly and no small talk (Lee famously said to Mark one year, “Less talking, more chewing”) so we can get to the presents quicker.  The tradition of the last couple of years has been to even put off dessert post Christmas present opening.

Wendy

  • I gave Wendy a Fujifilm Finepix JX600 compact digital camera.  She has been looking for a new once since her Fujifilm Finepix J10 camera needed a desperate upgrade.  This one will let Wendy take better photos, HD video, and yet still be small enough to take with her wherever she goes.  It also features 3D shooting options which means I will be asking to play with it.  I also lucked out in that it has the same battery that I just got Wendy for her old camera for our anniversary.  A nice bonus for her.
Fujifilm Finepix JX600
  •  Times Ladies Ironman Triathalon WatchMark gave Wendy a ladies Timex Ironman Triathlon watch.  Wendy rarely remembers to put a watch on and is always taking it off.  The hope is that if we got her a watch she would love, she would actually wear it.  So far so good but it is early yet.
  • Oliver gave Wendy some earrings and a lightweight tripod so she can do some night photography.  Personally I think he just wants to stay up later and is using the tripod as an excuse to hang out with mom.  He also gave her a print of him and Mark out for a walk.
  • Santa Claus surprised her with an Olympus PEN ELP-2 interchangeable lens camera.  it was used but barely used.  Wendy has been looking at a Nikon J1, some Sony NEX series cameras and a Fuji X series camera but apparently Santa found her one with a 14-42mm lens.  I was a little nervous supporting a second lens family (yeah I know how funny that sounds) but there are some really affordable Micro Four Thirds lens that we can add that she will love.
  • The dogs partnered up with Santa and got her a 16gb memory card, a Crumpler One Million Dollar House camera bag, and a 37mm lens filter.  I think she liked the camera bag more than the cameras.  Story of my life.

Olympis PEN EPL-2

Mark

  • I gave Mark a Vivitar Action Camera.  He probably wanted a GoPro but I was on a budget and he is thrilled with it.  It comes with a headband, helmet mount, and bike mount.  Expect to see him doing things that will hurt himself soon on his YouTube account.  That’s quality parenting right there folks.
Vivitar Action Camera
  • Santa Claus stopped by and gave him a Sony Xperia J cellphone.   Mark has had two other smart phones, the Samsung Galaxy 550 and then last year we gave him a HTC Desire C and he has taken very good care of them.  He loves the Desire C but it is seriously underpowered and really slow running Android and would not run some apps he really likes.  The Xperia J should speed up his life a little bit. 
  • Wendy gave him some 100 watt 2.1 computer speakers while Oliver gave him some portable X-Mini speakers.
  • The dogs gave him a pen and notebook set.
  • Lee and Brittany gave him a set of Huskie Athletics sweats and hoodie.  He’ll never take them off.
  • Wendy and I gave him a Canon 28-135mm DSLR lens mug.  It’s the closest thing he is coming to a DLSR camera this Christmas.
  • Since he is doing some winter camping at school, we gave him a couple of pairs of wool socks.  He is going to need them.

Oliver

  • I gave Oliver a set of walkie talkies and some 4×30 compact binoculars.  He was thrilled because Mark has a pair of binoculars and I gave a pair to Lee as well.  As for the walkie talkies, what kid doesn’t love walkie talkies.  Oddly enough Wendy is thrilled with them because they do Morse code.  I hear beeping in my future.
  • Wendy gave Oliver, Little Big Planet 2 which has less puzzles to solve then the first one which means he won’t be bugging Mark about helping him solve them.  Of course we also got a great family game as we got him Little Big Planet Karting.  It should be fun.
  • Mark gave him Lego Batman 2 for his Nintendo DS.  Oliver loves Batman and insists that Mark is Robin.  Mark isn’t so crazy about that.  We also got Oliver a Batman bobble head.  Something to inspire him with.
  • Santa Claus dropped off a boom box for his room along with some CDs.  Apparently Santa knows that Oliver loves chilling to music with Mark.
Memorex CD Player
  • Hutch got him an art set
  • Maggi got him a compact camcorder.  It’s only standard definition but if it was good enough to shoot Knight Rider in, it will be fine for Oliver.  He loves to make adventure movies with Mark so I can’t wait to see what he shoots.  The camcorder was being blown out at $10 and I tossed a 2 GB SD card in it.  At only 640×480 resolution, he should be able to record himself doing a “slow punch to the face” for days.  I guess I need to get him set up on YouTube (where he could be Mark’s second camera operator).
A $10 Vibe Camcorder

Lee

  • I gave Lee a full sized set of binoculars that should last him for decades.  Very similar to the ones that I have and similar to the ones my grandfather gave me.  The only thing that makes me sad is that they don’t come with leather hard cases like they used to (long before I was born).
  • The boys gave him a framed print of themselves being idiots while out on a walk.  It seems to sum both of them up so well.
Mark and Oliver Cooper at Arlington Beach in 2013
  • We also got Lee, Bobby Orr’s autobiography.

Brittany

  • Wendy gave Brittany a small cast iron pan with ingredients to make up brownies
  • Since Wendy loved the griddle I got her last year, she gave one to Brittany as well.

Me

Pentax f1.7

Canon 17-135 lens travel mug

I also got a Lowepro Classified 160 AW camera bag

LowePro Classified 160 AW camera bag

Well that’s enough from me tonight.  We are sleeping in tomorrow (as if) and then heading over to our friend’s Jerry and Gloria Reimer where we are enjoying Christmas dinner.  Then it is back to work on Boxing Day for Wendy and I.

Five Years

Oliver turning five

Oliver turned 5 today which his a fairly remarkable achievement considering his life so far.  Five years and a day ago, Wendy had been hospitalized a couple of weeks after struggling with pre-eclampsia for most of the pregnancy.  The hospital trip was a roller coaster as every day her condition was changing.  She went from being in the hospital to being in intensive care to being on the verge of being let out and sent home.  I had every expectation of bringing her home the next day.

Instead at 5:00 a.m., I got a tearful phone call from her saying that they were going to do an emergency c-section and I needed to get to the hospital right away. The nurse told me that I had a little time so I grabbed a quick shower and raced through the city to Royal University Hospital where the parking lot was closed.  I parked at metered parking with this kind of funny realization that I bet Oliver was going to be born at the time I needed to plug the meter again.

As I went up to the room, there was chaos in Wendy’s room with doctors and nurses in an out taking her vital signs.  A doctor grabbed me and said that Wendy was in better shape than another mother and child and they didn’t think they would survive if Wendy went first.  It wasn’t as if I had any say in it but I kind of said, “yeah, no problem”.  Sadly their child didn’t make it.

I sat with Wendy, called Lee, and just waited.  Wendy was unconscious for most of it and had no idea how serious her condition was.  A doctor came in and told me how bad it was for Wendy and said, “there is a good chance she is going to have a heart attack or stroke during the caesarean”.  There wasn’t much for me to say.  He asked what I did for a living and I told him.  He looked relieved and said, “I don’t think you will freak out in there but if you do, I am going to toss you out of the delivery room.”  I replied, “I seem to the only one who isn’t losing it this morning.  I’ll be fine”.  At this time it was 6:00 a.m. and I offered to do a coffee run for the nurses that had spent the night with Wendy.

The Starbucks was packed and my heart kind of stopped when a nurse came running up to me but she just had some money and was going to help me with the coffees.

We sat for hours as I just kind of sat there and held Wendy’s hand.  Her vital signs were getting worse and her blood pressure was getting higher.  Finally another doctor came in and was yelling at someone else that “this baby should have been taken days ago and the mother is going to die.”  I remember thinking, “Really? This is what medicare cuts have gotten us.  Doctor’s who don’t even realize they are in the room with the father.”  As they left, the nurse came over and said, “Fucking idiots”, told me to ignore them and then realized that it was going to be impossible.  She was mad at them for having that conversation in front of me and offered me another coffee.  I took her up on her offer.

Finally Wendy and I were taken into the delivery room.  A resuscitation team was there as was a team to take Oliver to the NICU. Everyone was just looking at me like, “What the heck is the father doing here” and the doctor would just say, “He works at the Salvation Army, he’s cool” and that seemed to satisfy people.

The caesarean section was over quick and more than Oliver, everyone was looking at Wendy’s vital signs.  The radio was playing the song that was on when Oliver came out was YMCA by the Village People.  There was a massive screen up between Wendy and I and the baby.  As Oliver came out, a nurse and doctor raced over the other side of the screen and kind of yelled, “The baby is fine!” while everyone was looking at Wendy’s blood pressure.  As the tensions left the room, one of the doctors came up to me and said, “I’d be okay with my kid being born to the YMCA.  If it was a Bette Middler tune, his life may have been meaningless”.

Wendy was taken to the recovery room while I wandered out.  I don’t know how but Lee and Mark were in the waiting room and they poked their head into the recovery room and said hi to Wendy who was too tired to know what was going on.  Wendy’s blood pressure hit dangerous levels off and on for the next week.

As I left with Mark to go to Alexander’s for lunch, of course I got a parking ticket.  I wanted to fight it on the basis that I had no other options but I just paid it.

I was able to go up and see Oliver the next day in NICU.  Mark was too young to see him but they made several exceptions for him and Lee.  Because Wendy was too weak to walk, she wasn’t able to see him for the first week which went over poorly.  A combination of fatigue and the medication had her believing that this was a conspiracy but we got over that.

Oliver Scott CooperOliver Scott Cooper

Oliver spent 23 days at RUH and we finally took him home on July 2, 2008.  Before we got home, we actually took him to the Salvation Army Community Services and then to Reimers so it was a late day before he experienced his new home.

Despite the stress of his entry into this world, there was one more obstacle and that was Maggi.  Maggi is like a bull in the China shop and I was nervous that a dog that physically assertive would not do well with a child who was two months premature.  We took him home, set him down in his car chair and a very gentle Maggi slowly approached Oliver and gave him a gentle lick.  It wasn’t until he walking and the height of a wagging tail that her protectiveness and gentleness diminished.

So now he is five.  Time flies when you repress some of those memories.

Today he woke up and excitedly opened his presents:

  • Spiderman water bottle
  • Kick scooter
  • Green Army men
  • An NFL football (from Mark of course)
  • Ninjago book (his two favourite things, Ninjas and Lego)
  • Some new shirts
  • An Angry Bird hat

He is off at A.H. Browne Park with Mark on his new kick scooter wearing a brand new shirt.  He is off to take over the world.

Christmas

Christmas for us started on the 23rd as we joined our good friends Gloria, Jerry, and Kristy for our traditional Christmas together.  It was a bit different this year because of Gloria’s cancer but it was a fun night of exchanging gifts and hanging out.  We gave some books (as is our tradition) but I gave Gloria a Sound Spa which should help her sleep while the boys gave her a plush blanket.

Because I like to make fun of Kristy, we gave her an Edmonton Oilers Snuggie.  Because most of Kristy’s life is dedicated to a) staying warm and b) the Edmonton Oilers, she liked it.

Christmas Eve had Wendy working all day.  This is the worst schedule she has ever had over a Christmas season and it hasn’t been a lot of fun for us as a family but that is the life of people working retail.  I worked part of the day and then headed home to spend the rest of the day with the boys.  We gave the boys two early gifts of some NHLPA hockey sticks so they could play some road hockey during the day. Of course it was freezing outside so instead of playing hockey, we just taped them up.  While she worked, we packed up the Mazda and headed out to Warman where we spent the evening at  Lee and Brittany’s place for a traditional Christmas supper of lasagna and fighting over who got the lasagna leftovers before opening gifts.

Lee is known to master such phrases as “less talking, more chewing” on Christmas Eve.  While he loves lasagna, he loves presents more.  In the past when Wendy was working, he would spend most of the day badmouthing Wendy and trying to convince Mark to open Christmas presents without his mom.  He takes this whole Christmas gift opening seriously.

Of the delay in eating turned costly when Oliver was playing with Tika (Lee and Brittany’s dog) and fell nose first into the edge of the carpet.  There was crying, rug burn, and blood all over the place.  While Oliver’s new shirt paid a steep cost, all was okay.  It wasn’t as if I didn’t expect blood, I just expected it over the lasagna.

Mark

Santa gave Mark a new HTC Desire C Android Smart phonewhile I got him a Fuji AV150 camera (and tripod).  I had created a Instagram, Foursquare, and upgraded his Flickr to a pro account on Sunday.  We made sure we had batteries, SD (and Micro SD) cards all ready to go.  Now we have to download some apps which will mean some quality time on Google Play today.  I gave him a 1932 Chevrolet Truck scale model to build, Oliver gave him some adventure and Star Wars blueprint books (and some Daytona 500 cologne).  He also got a graphic novel story of Canadians in WWII as well as a book on how to create his own graphic novel

In his stocking he found a new watch, a big bottle of the worst cologne known to man, Brut 33 (Wendy wept tears of pain when I showed her the bottle)  Mark also got some high quality headphones; both on the ear and in ear ones.  The less I have to listen to 90s rock, the better. 

Lee and Brittany gave him a Denver Broncos jersey with his name and number on it.  Thank goodness Tim Tebow was traded before the season started.  He was pretty excited with that.  Almost as excited as Tim Tebow gets about everything.

He also got a Starbucks travel mug and gift card from myself.  It’s a bit self-serving as he wanders down to The Lighthouse and takes me out for coffee.  To keep all of his special memories safe, we gave him a small chest to keep some of life’s momentos.

Oliver

All Oliver wanted was a pogo stick and I found him one from Santa on Amazon.com.  I gave him a toy F-22 Raptor jet.  I would have gotten his a F-35 toy but the price kept increasing until Stephen Harper told me not to get it for him.  Mark gave him a rescue play set, a puzzle from the dogs, an Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber, and an Optimus Prime Transformer that talks.  He is getting into hockey to I got him some mini hockey sticks and nets.

Lee and Brittany gave him a tricked out big wheel for Christmas.  I immediately thought of this.

Stewie Griffin's tricked out

What’s scary is that I think Oliver would think that was a good idea.

His favourite gift by far was a Power Ranger that transforms into something else.  He was quite jacked about it.  

Wendy

With the new iPod I gave Wendy for her birthday, I gave her a set of iHome speakers and some perfume.  We got her an electric griddle and skillet (she asked for them), a new popcorn maker (which she was really excited about).  Mark gave her a pink Zepco fishing rod which she was horrified of.  Lucky for Wendy, the fishing is horrible in our part of Last Mountain Lake.  We also got her some high quality over the ear and in-ear headphones.  If nothing else she will be able to tune us out for Christmas.  The dogs gave her some new knives and a kitchen scale.  Not sure where they got the money to get those.

Lee and Brittany gave her a gift card for Dutch Growers which made her day.  She’s out right now waiting for spring to hit.

Lee

I bought Lee a Leatherman Skeletool multitool and case.  Mark got him Red Dead Redemption for the PS3, while Oliver got him a George Reed collector’s edition figurine.  Lee and Mark got into an argument a couple of weeks ago where Mark called his uncle, “Uncle Glitter” which has kind of stuck.  Mark got him some glitter stickers for his new iPhone 5.    “Uncle Glitter” didn’t seem to appreciate his nephew’s gift that much.  

He tried to pull his knife on the Skeletool on Mark for bugging him but he couldn’t get it open.  Once he got it open, he cut himself.  

Wendy put together a great beer can chicken gift set of a roasting pan, rubs from Cabela’s, and a grilling recipe book.  I expect some good beer can chicken this summer.

Because Lee was so insistent on lasagna for supper, we gave him a MRE lasagna and a spork as well.  He can now have lasagna while camping.  I think that was his favourite gift.

Brittany

Brittany was given a nice fountain pen, two journals (one lined and one unlined), and an Indigo gift card.  Because both Lee and Brittany are getting new iPhones, we tossed in some iTunes cards as well.  Holding her Indigo gift card was Cooper the Bear which apparently has been a Sears mascot for years (a fact that I did not know).  It just seemed to work well for us.  Brittany is an english teacher and I just think an English teacher with a fountain pen is more intimidating.  It was either that or do what the NRA is suggesting and that is to give her a firearm.

Wendy gave Brittany a soapstone statue of a couple from Ten Thousand Villages which I really liked.  As much fun as it is to bug Lee, him and Brittany are a wonderful couple.

My Haul

I wasn’t expecting too much but Wendy and the boys did a lot of planning and looking for good deals.  Wendy gave me a trail GPS and a George Reed limited edition action figure, Oliver gave me a Toronto Blue Jays hat, Mark gave me Assasin’s Creed II and Red Dead Redemption.  I also got a Leatherman Skeletool.  To balance out my Tim Tebow action figure from last year, Wendy gave me a Peyton Manning action figure.  Lee and Brittany gave me a remote control helicopter.  It flies and crashes quite well around the house.    Also because I don’t smell enough like David Beckham, I was given some of his cologne.  Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  To replace my old barbecue tools (that are showing some age), Wendy also got me a simple set of three barbecue tools which is all we really use.

The advantage to only periodically playing PS3 games is that I never own the new ones which means that Wendy can find me games for $10-$15 at Wal-Mart and it doesn’t matter since I haven’t played them.  

Perhaps the purchase the surprised me the most is that the boys gave me Neptune’s Inferno which is a book about the naval battles at Guadalcanal

I really had no more success than Lee in using my Leatherman today although no blood was spilled.

The photos can all be found here.

Today is being spent around the house setting up things, doing some reading, and then having a more traditional Christmas dinner.  I had hoped to get get down to work but for the second day in a row, someone has swiped our power cords to the car which is frozen solid in this cold.  We had planned to take a long walk downtown today with Mark’s new camera but as the song says, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.  Hopefully your Christmas is a good one and you are enjoying the time with family and friends as well.

Married

My brother Lee got married to a wonderful women yesterday in a nice ceremony at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.  The highlight of the ceremony was when Oliver leaned over and asked me, “Is this place a museum” to which I nodded and said, “yes”.

Lee & Brittany Cooper's Wedding

It was a nice day and a wonderful celebration and I am excited for Lee as he gets not only a wonderful spouse but an upgrade in the extended family department (going from none to a really big one).  The best part of the reception is that they had a book where guests were supposed to write in suggestions for their marriage.  The problem was that they had Mark man the guest book.  Of course people had no idea what to write so they asked Mark.  I am assuming the guest book is full of dating advice that revolves around paintballing, gaming, and football.

Turning 30

My little brother Lee is turns 30 today.  Whoa.  We are all getting older.  New house this fall, getting married this summer.  It’s almost as if he has become an adult.  I still remember the day that mom brought him home from the hospital.  Happy Birthday Lee.

Christmas 2011

I hope everyone had a great Christmas.  After a daring battery run to Walmart on Saturday morning, we met up with the Sieberts for coffee/tea and to exchange gifts and Christmas cheer.  After that we headed out to Warman to Lee and Brittany’s place for Christmas Eve dinner to open gifts.  Wendy talked about the evening over at her blog but I was got some great gifts from Lee and Brittany including some DVDs and When the Gods Changed by Peter C. Newman, an iPad from Wendy, a Denver Broncos hat from Oliver, some big bear head slippers from the dogs, the Steve Jobs biography from Mark, along with a stocking full of fun stuff.  Oh right, Wendy gave Mark, Oliver, and myself a Snuggie for Christmas.  We aren’t happy about it.

On Christmas we went over to the Reimers where I got a really cool book by Gloria’s great uncle Heinz Guderian who was a Panzer commander and later became the Chief of the General Staff during WWII.  He wrote several important books on armoured tactics and I was thrilled to get a copy of one.  It also confirms my belief that if Gloria hadn’t married Jerry, she would be leading a war against a rival country.   Kristy gave me a gift certificate for Indigo! instead of trying to figure out what to get me.  Instead of getting a book to read, I went to Indigo! today and got a big one to write in.  While we were there, we walked over to Best Buy and looked at iPad cases.  We found one that  works for now but I am planning to add a keyboard in the future but they were all out of stock.

Tonight we are chilling out, listening to Moxy Fruvous while taking down the Christmas tree and decorations.  In a couple of hours we will be ready for New Years.

How to survive holidays with the in-laws

With my brother Lee getting engaged, this could come in useful for Brittney on how to deal with us.

Writers: If you are not affiliated with an academic institution, avoid saying you are working on a novel. “Freelancing” is way better than any kind of “fiction writing”! The etymological meaning of freelancer as “mercenary warrior” is persuasive, and not because of the weaponry. It’s the prospect of actual money being earned that may inspire them to release you from attending Aunt Edna’s 75th birthday party. Foster confusion by saying you are “going to work in a library.” Your family will assume you got a job at the library and will congratulate you on joining the real world. When they turn away, resist the urge to spit in their beers. Academics: You will have to explain, over countless summer dinners, that just because you are not teaching doesn’t mean you have no work to do.

August Long Weekend

Wendy blogged about our weekend at the cabin.  The photos can be found here.

My view from the hammock

The highlight of the weekend was falling (being tossed off) the hammock by Oliver.  Here was my view after my eviction.  He has a great future as a bouncer.

Christmas Around Here

I see that both Wendy and Mark have posted about Christmas so I thought I might as well.  I won’t describe the day as Wendy did a great job of doing that but I will ad in that it was a lot of fun to have friends and family around. 

For my gifts, Wendy and Lee went in and got me a new 32 gb iPod Touch.  My iPod Touch was a first generation one and I was quite excited to see the it finally shipping with both a camera and a video camera in it.  I don’t have a Blackberry or smartphone but this does a good job of letting me both work and play when I need to.  I bought iMovie, and a bunch of 99 cent EA games for it and I am good to go.  Wendy also gave me a massive Rambo type knife.  I am not sure what I will use it for but there is a small first aid and survival kit in the knife handle.  Now that’s a knife.

Wilson CFL footballMaggi gave me a Wilson CFL football.  I have an NFL football but when I am watching the Grey Cup, you really need a bigger ball to toss around.

Oliver gave me a Team Canada Hockey seat cover and steering wheel cover for Hank while Santa brought me a portable external hard drive for my netbook.  I have shot several hours of video for my documentary and I really need more hand drive space if I am going to get it done in 2011 (more on that in a later post).

Lee surprised me with a copy of The Pacific on Blu Ray which made no sense since we don’t have a Blu-Ray player.  Of course then Mark unwrapped a PS3 that had Madden 11 with it.  He also gave me a The Force Unleashed II and gave Mark Call of Duty: World at War.  According to Sony VP Kevin Butler, it only does everything.  As for our PS2, it will be donated to the Centre’s half-way house where I am sure someone will enjoy playing it in the lounge.  He also gave me a new multi-tool set and flashlight.

Speaking of Lee, he was babysitting the boys this summer and Wendy walked in and all three of them were watching Predator.  Seriously, he was letting a ten year old and a 2 year old watch Predator and both of them were a little nervous.  To prove he learned nothing, there was a copy of Predator in Blu-Ray under the tree for Mark and Oliver.  We all had a great laugh over that.

On Christmas Day we went to the Reimers for Christmas dinner.  Reimers gave me a nice set of binoculars for use up at the cabin.  With North America’s oldest bird sanctuary only a couple of miles north of the cabin, there are a lot of birds flying around.  They also gave me Settlers of Catan which sounds like an ideal way to spend an evening with friends.  Kristi helped make my Christmas tree a little more Riderish with some Saskatchewan Roughrider tree ornaments and a calendar of stupid quotes.  I have a whole year of mocking stupid people ahead of me.  The only thing that I didn’t like about the dinner was that Gloria won’t give me the recipe for an amazing green bean casserole she makes.  It’s a family secret I am told.

Shaving brush and soapI am not sure any of that was on my Christmas list but it made for a fun day.  The only two things that were on my MUST HAVE list were a new zippered wallet (I hate it when I drop my wallet and my cards fall out) and a shaving brush and shaving soap which were in my stocking.

Thanks everyone, it’s been a great couple of days.

Thanksgiving

Wendy posted a fair bit about our Thanksgiving weekend on her blog.  No need to add more here.

Busy right now

I haven’t posted much here lately for the obvious reasons that life has been quite busy.

  • Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan I am trying to decide whether or not I want to take enrol in Commerce‘s Edward’s School of Business business certificate program.  Of course my other option is to do the Chapters self-directed MBA but the business certificate is a little more useful later on in life.  Some co-workers have taken the course and have found it useful.  My biggest weakness is numbers and business projections.  While I have a good gut feel for it, I have relied pretty heavily on some co-workers in this area in the past and they are no longer here.  While their replacements are great at their jobs, they don’t have the same experience we lost.
  • We have spent little time at the cabin this summer.  Party it has been the weather.  Partly it has been Wendy‘s work schedule and the other part of it has been that Mark has been in a lot of trouble.  It’s hard to ground him in his room and then leave for the lake so we have been chilling out at home for the last couple of weekends.
  • With the record amount of rain has come a record amount of mosquitoes.  Last night while painting our Adirondack chairs (a pleasant cranberry color), Wendy swatted mosquitoes several times.  The only problem was that she was holding her paint brush while doing it.  She had more paint on her than she got on the chair.  We are using a fade and peel resistant door paint on the chairs.   Time will tell how they do but I plan to tarp them for the miserable Saskatchewan winter.  On a related note: Lee, I have taken over the lawn chairs you left at our place but feel free to use them at the cabin.  I’ll let you and Wendy fight over who gets to sit there.

The Christian Book Whore

Bill picks up on my post about bloggers whoring themselves out to the publishers for free books and other products.  First of all, the price is quite small, EA once sent my brother to San Francisco for the launch of Battlefield 2 and game home with a bag full of schwag and more free games than he knew what to do with (his really cool older brother took some off his hands) so he could cover it for a gaming site.

Book Sneeze Bill brings up the idea that we are doing this for free and he’s right but what struck me is the damage we do to our own reputations when we allow ourselves to be bought off by free products.  It’s one of the reasons why I posted a disclosure statement as part of my weblog.  It let’s people know where I am coming from and why I do what I do.  It also allows me to communicate my associations and conflicts of interest.  One of the nice things about TheOoze Viral Blogger and Book Sneeze buttons is that it allows me to see right away that the writer has sold out.

This isn’t the same for all of you but there is a price to be paid for being independent, for the views you have being your views and for your voice being your voice.  It’s also why journalists (should) never accept free gifts, trips, or anything else that influences their stories or coverage of events.  You can see it the coverage of Tiger Woods by the golf media.  Many of them knew something was up but because their livelihood was linked to access to Tiger, they never ran with it.  It was the National Enquirer that broke the story because their bottom line wasn’t dependent at all on Tiger’s career (sadly though it was by his sex life).

Of course many church bloggers gave up that independence years ago (twice this week friends said to me “I agree with theologically but I don’t dare say that in my church”) as it is part of many of your spiritual journeys.  By prescribing to church doctrine and practices you don’t agree with in exchange for a paycheck probably makes giving favorable reviews for free books quite palatable.

The other thing is that with most credible news organizations not run by Rupert Murdoch, there is a large degree of journalistic independence that is completely separate from the business side of the organization.  With bloggers there are not normally is not a wall between your editorial and marketing sides (which is why Google, The Deck, and Federated Media help). 

If you are reading this, you know I am not a journalist.  This site has the reach of a fraction of what even a small daily paper does.  At the same time you mean something to me.  Much to the detriment of my savings account, my independence means something to me.  I don’t know how to measure how much you mean to me but you mean enough that I won’t be bought with free stuff here.  There is no pay to play.  It’s the same reason why I don’t have advertising here.  If that changes, I promise you, you will be the first to know.

Christmas Eve Live Blog

6:15 a.m. :: I hate early mornings.

6:30 a.m. :: Mark is up and showered and ready to go to work with me this morning.  Rambling Dave just played Six White Boomers on C95.

7:10 a.m. :: Lineup at Tim Horton’s was too long so I skipped that place and went straight to work.  Stopped by the kitchen for breakfast with Mark.  Then to the Front Desk to shoot the breeze with the night staff.

7:20 a.m. :: Got some bad news from the Front Desk and had to ask Mark to leave the room.  So much for a stress free holiday.  There is always something dumb that happens over Christmas and I am hoping that is it.

7:40 a.m. :: Mark is drinking his first cup of coffee ever.  Black.  Never even made a face.  I have a feeling I will be in trouble when Wendy finds out about this.

8:00 a.m. :: Sitting in Sharon’s office (one of our budget management workers) trying to figure out why I am at work this morning.

8:30 a.m. :: Laurie asked Mark and I to process last minute hamper requests.  Three years ago on Christmas Eve I filled 14 hampers for people who had nothing on Christmas Eve.  I left work feeling really good about what we did.  On Boxing Day I found out that we had been ripped off by all 14 people.  All of them had gotten hampers.  I didn’t feel that bad about it.  I wasn’t the one lying and plus, it’s Christmas and I will never live it down.  I guess that is why Laurie asked Mark to help me out.  She knows that I won’t say no to anyone unless I have a good reason.

9:11 a.m. :: Answering back the 25 or so e-mails of people wanting to volunteer down at the Centre on Christmas Day.

10:20 a.m. :: Tim Horton’s run.  The Giant Tiger parking lot is packed.  Mark is drinking his second cup of coffee, this time a double/double on the recommendation of Debbie, one of our cooks.

10:40 a.m. :: I filled a couple of hampers.  The people appreciated it.  Not sure if they were telling the truth or not but I didn’t really care.  It’s Christmas Eve.

11:00 a.m. :: Laurie cut off hampers.  The Emergency After Hours staff has a bunch made up if anyone comes in on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

11:30 a.m. :: Mark is having his third cup of coffee and is talking loudly.  He also has five dollars as he was helping in the kitchen.  He is now carrying 81 Christmas gifts to the chapel where they will be put under a tree for the guys tomorrow.  Thanks to my awesome wife Wendy for helping wrap them.

12:00 p.m. :: The office is closed.  Only the kitchen and Front Desk staff remain.  Some other staff are tearing down the Christmas warehouse and bringing things back to the Centre.  Also, some officers are picking up Christmas kettles and bringing them to a place so they can counted in time for the bank to close.

1:00 p.m. :: So much for leaving early.  I am heading back home.  Safeway looks crazy.  I feel sorry for Wendy.

1:10 p.m. :: Our snow shovel is broken, someone has been in the house and there is a very large box in my living room.  Since there a) is no blood from being attacked from the dog b) there is a PSP Go on the table, I assume Lee was here.  It doesn’t explain the broken snow shovel.  Mark totally missed the five foot wide box in the living room and notices the PSP Go.  Observant kid I have.

2:00 p.m. :: Lee is here.  He broke our shovel and brought over a new ergonomic shovel.  He is pretty quiet about the large box though.

3:15 p.m. :: Lee suggests we go to Future Shop and get the new Family Guy movie.  I remind him that it is Christmas Eve and it will be crazy.  He goes, “that explains the time off and the gifts”.

4:20 p.m. :: I went by Safeway and it was absolutely nuts  Wendy can’t explain it as Safeway is always quiet after 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.  I buy some groceries and double check Wendy has bought turnips.  She still can’t understand how I eat them.

6:00 p.m. :: We order pizza from Papa John’s Pizza.  It’s the best pizza in Saskatoon.  It’s an hour wait which is fine as Wendy will be home in 30 minutes.

6:40 p.m. :: Wendy is home and said that Safeway was crazy from opening to 6:00 p.m.  She wasn’t impressed but was happy to get home.

6:41 p.m. :: Wendy, Lee, and Mark are all demanding we open gifts.  Oliver is more preoccupied with a box of Swiss Cheese Crackers.

LED Lantern 6:45 p.m. :: Stockings are open.  Wendy and I both got LED lanterns, Mark got a small dart board, all of us got the usual candies and toiletries.

7:15 p.m. :: Pizza is here, gifts are opened, the house is a big mess.  Here is the summary of gifts.

Oliver

Mark

  • MiJam Mixer from Oliver
  • iDog Dance from Maggi
  • A small aquarium from Santa
  • A play M1 Abrams Tank Set and a Campaigns of World WWII Day by Day by Chris Bishop from me.  I had wanted to get him a book explaining what happened in WWII and this did a pretty good job brining history to his reading level.
  • I Learned Kung Fu from a Bear Cub by Matt Jackson from Wendy.  Wendy met the author while he was at Indigo and he recommended this book for Mark and signed it as well.
  • PSP 3000 A PSP 3000 from Lee :: Lee bought himself a PSPGo a couple of months ago and gave him his old PSP 3000 with a plethora of games and movies.  Mark was thrilled, mostly because he can watch a couple of seasons of Family Guy anytime he wants.  He also found out he can use Twitter on it as well.
  • He got Trackmania and Tomb Raider for his Nintendo DS.
  • I gave him a Swiss Army knife.
  • Backyard Football 2009 and Medal of Honor Vanguard or his PS2. 
  • A carrying case for his Nintendo DS games and Nindendo DS from Wendy
  • A Coby Snapp Cam, SD card, case, and mini-tripod from Wendy and I. 

Wendy

Me

Lee

  • A Chicago Bears jacket.  I feel better about the gift now that the Bears now that Jay Cutler and the Bears are brutal this year.  If the Kyle Orton trade hadn’t have worked out for Denver the way it did, I would have had to take it back.  I like the Bears but I love the Broncos.
  • The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945 by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns.  I read this book at the cabin this fall and was amazed at how compelling of a read it was.
  • Airsoft Sig Sauer pistol.  We had one up at the cabin and we used it for target practice at the dump all summer long.  Technically it is a toy and it’s velocity is low enough (combined with the soft ammunition) that it isn’t going to be lethal, even on a small animal.  Mark and I did a test and the ammunition won’t penetrate a piece of paper at 5 feet.  It does however make a satisfying ping when you hit your target at the dump.
  • A Saskatchewan Roughriders sign :: I really want one of these for the cabin.

  • A new and improved multi-tool.

The Dogs

  • Both of the dogs got dog booties for all of us.  Right now Maggi is on the phone to the SPCA making a formal complaint.  Hutch has just decided never to go outside again.
  • Maggi and Hutch also got a variety to toys to chase and chew.

Now back to the big box.  Lee was quiet adamant that gifts would be opened in a certain order.  Finally it came to the gifts he got for us.  I was stunned to open a gift and see a Nintendo Wii.  He got us the Wii, Wii Play, Wii Sports Resort, Four controllers and nunchucks, and a charging station.  He tossed in a couple of games as well.  For me there was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Reflex and for Mark (and all of us), there was Super Mario Brothers.  Finally we opened the big box and there was a Sony Bravia 42 inch HDTV in it. 

Ok, it's not quite that big

We were shocked.  Lee just said that we helped him out during a tough time and he wanted to get this for us.  It is quite a gift.

Actually it looks more like this.

Sony Bravia 42" television

After all was said and done, we had to come to grips that we are a family of giant nerds.  Multiple game platforms now call our house home and it seems to be getting worse.  Most can be linked back to Lee.  Actually all of them except for Wendy’s Nintendo DS can be traced back to Lee.  So maybe Lee is the big nerd.

9:00 p.m. :: Lee and I get the old television out of the way and the new TV set up.  The Wii is installed and Mark is playing some Wii Sports.

10:00 p.m. :: The pizza is all gone, Lee has gone home, Mark and Oliver are in bed (Oliver spent the entire night trying to get to the Swiss Cheese Crackers, treating the pizza, his gifts, and the entire Christmas celebration as a plot to keep him away from his true love, that cracker box.  I watched a bit of the Aloha Hawaii Bowl but SMU was running away with it.

Selling out for the holidays

I have gotten a lot of feedback for my Christmas Gift Guides.  It seems to fall into three categories:

  1. People selling their own books/gadgets/junk who are link baiting.
  2. People accusing me of selling out to rampant commercialism.
  3. People who are happy for the ideas.

Let me explain the context that they are created in.

Wendy and I have a hard cap for Christmas shopping.  It has been the same for the first 11 years of our marriage and only this year did it go up by $50 for each of us.  We spend about $150 each on each other which includes all of our gifts from the kids as well.  The amount works out really well for us.

We spend about $100 on each of the boys and a little more on Lee.  We also exchange gifts with some friends who on top of that amount.  Shopping around the house starts in September which allows us to take advantage of any sales that come up like weekly loss leaders at Canadian Tire.  A the end of the day it allows us to avoid the panic that sets in with too many.  On Saturday, I was picking something up for Wendy with Mark and a women actually tried to take our item out of our hands while in line (which both freaked out Mark and the staff of the store who had to escort her out) and it wasn’t even December yet.

Google Docs Logo Wendy and I create a Google Spreadsheet where we list everyone we plan to buy gifts for and then we start listing ideas.  Some of the ideas are horrible but they start as a base for what we need to budget for and also starts a place where we can discuss and revise the list.  It’s the countless versions of the spreadsheet is where the gift guides emerge from.  The hope is that they serve as gift ideas for others.  We decided this year

While quite a few links head to Amazon.com, I link there because I really enjoy shopping from Amazon and because I find their prices are often better than other retailers.  I am also partial to linking to MEC because I am a long time member.  In case you are wondering, I do also get a portion of sales to Amazon.com and Amazon.ca that my site generates and that is dealt with in this sites disclosure statement.  It isn’t a lot of money.  Back in 2000, it generated about $200 each quarter but while the sites traffic has grown, the lack of dedicated store has meant that my revenue from Amazon dropped to $10 each quarter.  When I do get a gift certificate from them, it means that Mark gets a PS2 or Nintendo DS game.  The last thing I am thinking is that I want JordonCooper.com to be an online shrill for affiliate related goods.

msdjoin Many of my friends have alternative visions of what Christmas is supposed to be.  Jason Evans and the Ecclesia Collective has done a really good job with Make Something Day.  Mennonites across Canada are behind Buy Nothing Christmas and of course Ad Busters has Buy Nothing Day.  All are in some way or another reactions against an overly consumeristic Christmas and I understand where they are coming from.  When I was working as a pastor, I heard people talk about spending $5,000 over Christmas and I was shocked until I knew someone who spend over six figures for two consecutive years putting on the perfect Christmas between work and home (a couple of big parties, a couple of big gifts…) which is exactly what people are talking about.

At the same time our annual Christmas spending as a household is under one thousand dollars, we pay for it in cash with no credit card debt at all.  Part of the creativity of Christmas is not spending a bunch of money but finding a gift that articulates both who we see they are and what we value about them.  It’s why when Oliver opens his gifts, he will find things that Lee and I loved while growing up, it is why when Mark opens his gifts he will find his gifts are things that we will do together, why when Wendy opens her gifts she will find gifts which honor who she is and even the dogs are going to find something that they love (for Maggi is squeaks and needs to be fetched).

Yeah, I could be selling out to the consumeristic machine and encouraging people to commercialize Christmas but my intent is to just share some of the cool stuff that I have seen over the last couple of months in my quest to find some fun gifts for friends, family, and the arch-nemesis on my list.  You are more than entitled to disagree with me in the comments below.

Guest Post: Christmas Gift Ideas for the Brother In Law | 2009 Edition

This is Wendy and this is what happens when Jordon doesn’t log out of his weblog and leaves me unattended.  Since Jordon handles most of our Christmas shopping, I don’t have to spend as much time thinking about Christmas gifts as Jordon does.  By far the hardest person to shop for on our Christmas list is my brother in law Lee.  Since he is an important part of our family and our Christmas, a great uncle to the boys, and the only family we have, we don’t just go through the motions.  So in honor of Lee, here is a list of Christmas gifts for those that are hard to shop for and my contribution to this site’s Christmas Gift Ideas.

Here is Lee’s profile.

  • He has a PSP Go, PlayStation 3, and a Wii which in some ways gives one some variety in shopping for him for Christmas.
  • He has an apartment that looks like it should be in Apartment Therapy.  It’s almost intimidating buying anything for his apartment.  It’s actually intimidating to hang out in his apartment.  Of course living in an apartment means that he doesn’t have a lot of storage.
  • He drives an Acura sports car that is worth 20 times more than my car.
  • He works hard at Case New Holland in the city which means that he doesn’t have a lot of time for hobbies.

He is Jordon’s brother and an uncle to the boys which means that Lee is an expert shopper himself.  He is also a single male so he does things like single males do, when Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came out, he bought it that day so I guess it means that we aren’t getting that for him.

Star Wars The Clone Wars: The Complete Season One :: The Clone Wars movie was horrible but the series is actually pretty good.  Like a lot of animated movies, the series seems to be getting better with the second season but Season One of the Clone Wars is pretty good all by itself.

Air Hogs Dualing Helicopters :: Okay let’s do the math.  Remote control + Helicopters + a rather competitive family + the ability to shoot each other down + a big open field at the cabin = a pretty good Christmas gift.

Survive! by Les Stroud :: Since he a) often forgets his cell phone b) often has Mark and Oliver with him, knowledge of some basic survival skills would be quite useful.  If he wasn’t over watching the DVDs here, you could give him all three seasons of Survivorman on DVD.  You can order them from the Les Stroud Productions storeSeason 1 | Season 2 | Season 3.  We have all three DVDs and they are a lot of fun to watch.  You can also order them from Amazon as well.  Season 1 |Season 2 | Season 3.  In case you just want to see how Les Stroud survives in the American wilderness, you can order this DVD as well.

Bushnell BackTrack GPS :: Lee will never get lost again with the easiest to use personal location finder for around $50. Just mark the location and BackTrack will help him get back. He can use it at the mall and stadium parking lots, at the festival, the park, for travel or your next outdoor adventure.  Wired has a quick real world review and it looks like Cabela’s is one of the few places you can get it in Canada.

The War: An Intimate History by Ken Burns.  Jordon read this book this summer and thought it was amazing.  He spend hours reading the book but then went back and just soaked in the photos.  I don’t think there is such a thing as a good war. There are sometimes necessary wars. And I think one might say, “just” wars. I never questioned the necessity of that war. And I still do not question it. It was something that had to be done.  You can also give your favorite in-law the mini series on DVD as well

I can’t see Lee joining the competitive BBQ sub culture but in case he does, here are secrets for success as a professional griller.  Whether it’s chicken, ribs, butts or brisket, this cookbook has recipes, directives, insights and guidance on how to slow cook competition-quality meats. Better than any restaurant, these competition and backyard secrets will have beginning barbeque aficionados slow-cooking masterpieces in no time at all.  Even if he doesn’t turn pro, he will make life better for everyone this summer at the cabin.  There is also Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint.   Winners of the World Championship BBQ Cook-Off for six years in a row and with hundreds of other contest ribbons as well, nobody does barbecue better than Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama. Chris Lilly, executive chef of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q and great-grandson-in-law of Big Bob himself, now passes on the family secrets in this quintessential guide to barbecue.

Apple iPod Touch :: I have been pining for one since I started to play around with Jordon’s and it would make a great gift for Lee as well.  While Mr. Rider fan is at it, the first thing he can do is go and download the new Rider App for the iPod Touch.

MEC Camo Shoulder Bag :: Since Lee spends some time with us at the cabin, some cool luggage to toss in the back of the car with his gear and clothes are in order.  While he is travelling, some custom Saskatchewan Roughriders luggage tags might be a cool stocking stuffer.  If you are shopping for someone who does some hiking, don’t overlook the Maxpedition Vulture II backpack.

GPS :: While Jordon is always looking for a trail GPS, I was shocked to see how inexpensive car GPSs have become.

Well the truth is that we are done our Christmas shopping for Lee so my list is all speculation but I thought I would post it to contribute to Jordon’s Christmas Gift Guides and also to help some of you find a fun gift for the hard to shop for in your life.  If you have any thoughts, leave a comment below, e-mail me at wendycooper@gmail.com or check out my weblog.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestions made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.