– Ben Martens


2020 Ornament

Every year we add a new ornament to the tree to commemorate something big from the year like a family vacation. But what kind of ornament would we get from 2020? We thought about one of the funny ones like “Our First Pandemic“, but we wanted to remember the good stuff about the year. This called for a custom ornament. To the CNC machine!

This year’s ornament has two photos that we snapped on random family adventures. The top one is Rasar State Park which we loved because it was beautiful and we could carve out our own piece of riverfront without anyone else around. The bottom picture is from a rainy hike at Saint Edward Park. We did a lot of rain hikes because we knew nobody else would be crazy enough to hike in that weather! The ornament also has the outline of two cats near the top for the new additions to our household.

You can see our past ornaments in these posts: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2008-2010

Happy Birthday To Me

This is it. The big 4-0. I wasn’t going to post anything because what do you say at this point, but then I remembered when my dad turned 40. He had a birthday right around the same time as Pastor Hintz and they were born in the same year. Dad helped plan a surprise party for Pastor at our house and then when Pastor arrived, it was a double surprise because while he wasn’t looking, a sign was put up that said “Happy birthday Pastor and Dallon“. Kudos to my mom and Mrs. Hintz who I assume were the masterminds behind that idea.

Christmas 2019 In Indiana

This year we made the trek back to my parents house in Indiana for Christmas. While we didn’t get to enjoy sledding and playing the snow, we did enjoy easier travel with unusually warm weather.

We had a nice time playing lots of games, doing a puzzle, taking walks through the woods, hunting for golf balls on the golf course, lunch at the Studebaker brewery, buying treats at the South Bend Chocolate company, canoeing and taking a tour of the Oliver mansion with my grade school teacher.

As always, my parents deserve a huge thank you for putting up with six extra people in their house. They always make us feel welcome … and full. Yum!

2019 Year In Review

I feel like I start these off every year by talking about how fast the year went. I still think back to those days in my early 20s when I lived alone and would actually get bored sometimes on the weekends. I can’t remember the last time I was bored. There’s a never ending list to keep me going.

However, since I realize that going full speed all the time isn’t great, I have made a conscious effort to spend more time sitting at the piano every day. Not only is it learning a skill but it’s very relaxing and enjoyable. I’m so thankful that back in 2007, I bought a digital piano (Korg C303) instead of an acoustic one. While it’s not a perfect replacement, there’s no way I could have played so much this year without the ability to plug in headphones. My biggest accomplishment on the piano was learning how to play the first movement of Bach’s Italian Concerto. It was far from concert perfection, but given how far out of my reach it was, I was happy to get it polished to the point that I did.

Elijah started taking lessons too. A piano teacher comes to his school and pull kids out of class for 30 minutes each week for a private lesson. It’s extremely convenient and Elijah is really taking to it well. As with most kids, it’s still difficult to get him to practice every day, but I think he’s having more fun now that he sees the results and can play a few Christmas songs. For his first recital he played Away in the Manger and it went great. I’ll play it with him as a duet in church on Sunday as well.

If you had asked me a year and a half ago where Elijah was going to first grade, I would have said Woodmoor. It’s less than a half mile walk for the two schools that Elijah would use through 7th grade. The proximity to the schools was one of the factors in us buying this house. It’s incredibly convenient and most of our neighbors go there. But… last fall on the marriage retreat, a Pastor suggested that we check out the Missouri synod school up in Lake Stevens. I didn’t even realize there was one and that’s probably because it’s a solid 30-40 minute drive from our house. Elijah repeatedly told us “I want to go to a school where they teach me about Jesus.” After visiting the school and praying a lot about it, we decided to give it a try, and we sure are glad we did! The drive has been even harder than we thought it would be but Tyla is doing a wonderful job with that. She’s also able to volunteer at the school with things like art class, field trips and class parties. So even though we’re probably the family who lives the farthest away, we are feeling like we’re getting connected with their community.

This was the first year that Elijah really started playing organized sports. I thought I’d sign him up for tee ball and was surprised to find out that I had missed that by two years! He went straight into the machine-pitch baseball league. As one of the youngest players on the team, it was a struggle for him to figure out hitting and stay focused, but he loved seeing his teammates regularly and forming a bond with them. He decided he wanted to try it again this year so we’ll see how season #2 goes. This fall he has been in a basketball league too. It’s a fantastic program that is run like a basketball camp that meets once a week in the evenings for 1.5 hours. So the time commitment is much lower than baseball, but he’s constantly learning instead of sitting around during a game wondering if he’ll get the ball or get off the bench. I wish we could find a program like that for every sport that he likes!

Work has been busy for me but also rewarding. There are two patent applications sitting at the patent office right now with my name on them. I met with a lawyer and drew up a patent this spring and then in the fall I was added to the list of names on a patent for a project that I worked on a couple years ago. It will be fun to see if either of those get accepted in a few years.

Tyla and I both lost a grandparent this year. Tyla’s grandma on her mom’s side and my grandma on my dad’s side both passed away. We were thankful that both had a strong faith in Jesus as their Savior so we know we’ll see them in heaven, and we were also thankful that we were able to travel (alone) for the funerals. We were each able to catch up with our respective families.

We took a long summer vacation this year that started all the way out in Maine with a return to Camp Ticawa! We are so thankful to the Abendroths for letting us invade their family time and making us feel so welcome. Elijah fit right in with all the kids and we had a wonderful time. After spending about a week there, we flew to Indiana for a week with my family. So we went from spending lots of time in the lake to spending lots of time in the pool! This trip was extra special as we flew Don out to spend a few days with us as a retirement present for him.

I feel like I haven’t done as many woodworking projects this year, but it’s still a good-sized list: custom thermostat plate, Washington ornaments, mobile strawberry tower, Ticawa sign, loft for Elijah’s bed, Modern Rogue sign, name puzzle, and spaceship. I purchased a CNC machine right around the end of last year and I got a lot more comfortable with it over the year. I have a never-ending list of ideas that i want to try on that machine! Right now I’m working on my hardest project yet which is a dresser out of walnut and cherry. The plans come from Marc Spanguolo in the Wood Whisperer Guild. The plans come with hours of detailed videos showing every step so I’m just plodding along and learning a lot of new woodworking skills. It feels kind of similar to learning that Bach piece on the piano in that this is way over my head but I think if I just keep at it, I’ll be proud of it in the end.

After being the trustee (property maintenance) at church for 7 of the previous 8 years, this year I switched to being an elder. My responsibilities are assisting Pastor with his duties and ensuring that he stays true to the teachings of God’s Word. In addition to the regular monthly council meetings, Pastor has been meeting with the elders twice a month to study through the Grace Abounds book by Daniel Deutschlander. If you already share my faith or if you’re curious to learn more about it, you’d be hard pressed to find a more thorough and pleasant to read explanation than this book.

The final thing I’ll mention from this year is that you may have noticed a decreased presence from me on this site and on social media. I’m getting more and more “itchy” when I think about all the information that our family puts out in the internet. So I made quite a few changes:

  • I unfollowed literally everyone on Facebook (unfollowed, not unfriended.) I no longer feel the urge to check Facebook 5 times a day to see if there is anything new there. When I want to see what someone is up to, I type in their name and go look at their page.
  • I deleted almost all of my comments, likes, photos and posts from Facebook. It would probably have been easier to delete my account but I still find it useful for messaging and events.
  • I’ve been archiving many of my old Instagram posts. That’s a slow process because it’s very manual. The Facebook change was faster because there are some plugins for Chrome that help automate it.
  • I flipped my Instagram account to private and dropped the random followers that I don’t know. My woodworking account is still public though.
  • I post a lot less to Instagram too. I use the Stories feature for random stuff because it disappears in 24 hours and I try to think of the photos that I post as more of a portfolio of pictures or events that I think are extra special.
  • I set almost every pre-2014 post on this site to private. They still exist so if you’re looking for something specific, I can quickly find it and flip it back to public. I’ll probably keep doing that and decreasing the amount of archive that I leave public.

In the past I’ve felt like it was fun to have such a detailed digital record of my life, but now it feels dirty to know how many companies are collecting all that info and using it for their own gain. I’m still a digital packrat at home, but I’m starting to circle the wagons a bit in public.

So now we’re on the verge of 2020… the year I turn the big four oh. I’m thankful for everything that God has provided in 2019 and look forward to seeing how he blesses and challenges us in 2020!

Previous Year In Review Posts: 200320042005200620072008200920102011201220132014201520162017, 2018

2019 Christmas Ornament

I love that our Christmas tree tells a story about our family! Each year we pick up one ornament from some big event in the year (usually a vacation.) This year our big trip was to Maine and Indiana. We didn’t find ornaments that really seemed to fit so I made one on the laser cutter. I think it’s a little big so I might make a smaller one next year, but this is a good reminder of our fun summer.

You can see our past ornaments in these posts: 2018, 20172016201520142013201220112008-2010

Harlem Globetrotters

When I was young, I remember going to see the Harlem Globetrotters and being amazed at the show. I’ve watched their tour schedule for the past couple years and they finally came to the Seattle area. Tickets were reasonable so we snagged three of them.

Elijah had a great time and the show was very entertaining. I wouldn’t want to go every time they come to town, but we all agreed it was worth seeing them. They added a “four point line” a few years ago. It’s 30 feet from the hoop. That’s more than 6 feet beyond the NBA line! I wish I had kept track of their average but at one point, one guy made SEVEN IN A ROW. I was equally impressed by how smoothly they all worked together to put on the show while also appearing to enjoy enjoying it even though they do the exact same stuff every day.


Wow in the World

One of Elijah’s favorite things to listen to in the car is a podcast called Wow in the World. It’s a science show aimed at kids, and they recently brought their live show to Seattle. We snagged some tickets and headed to Benaroya Hall in Seattle.

We were up in the second balcony, but we had a great view of the stage and enjoyed the show. I think Elijah had a lot of fun seeing the people behind the voices live and in person.

Disney+ Review

As the parent of a six year old and a lover of both Star Wars and the Avengers, signing up for Disney+ was a no-brainer. I jumped on an early deal and pre-paid for 3 years of the service so we’re on board whether it’s good or not. The only hiccup I’ve had so far came on launch day when the app was overloaded, but since then the reliability has been great.

As I sat on the couch last Friday watching Jungle Book with the family, I kept wondering what my 10 year old self would have thought if it could have seen me watching Jungle Book on a 10 foot screen in my own house without any tapes or discs in a player as it is controlled via my phone.

I’ve seen some comments about various movies that aren’t on the service, but it’s a treat to scroll through the list of what IS on the service. You know how you scroll through Netflix or Hulu and you’ve never heard of most of it? Not so with Disney+. It’s hit after hit after hit. No more frustrating “Disney vault”. It’s all there at your fingertips.

Over the past few years, I’ve felt the Disney brand rising up the list in my head. They’re becoming synonymous with a high quality but sometimes pricey product. Thankfully Disney+ only gets the first part of that. The cost is $6.99/month with cheaper options if you pay ahead. That’s crazy low when you compare it to other services.

Disney+ gets two thumbs up from me!

Bailey’s Pumpkin Patch

It’s pumpkin patch season and pumpkin patches are big business. The grandaddy of them all is Remlinger Farms where you’ll pay $25/person for the privilege of walking in. We’ve been going to Bob’s Corn for quite a while but it has gotten busier and busier until this year they jumped on the admission train and it’s $18/person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see them doing well and yay capitalism, but we decided it was time to move on to a place that wasn’t overwhelmed with mustachioed hipsters from Seattle.

So this year we headed a bit farther north to the Bailey Family Farm. They have a really nice (but small and not too crowded) set up with everything we were looking for. We met up with some other friends there and had a nice morning. I think we’ll be heading back again, and since it’s pretty close to the route that Tyla and Elijah drive every day for school, we might end up using their veggie stand in the future.