• Our annual tradition, Letterboxing on January 1st

    On New Year’s Day, my family and I went on our annual outing of going out to a local park and go letterboxing. What’s a Letterbox? Letterboxing is an activity that you do where you go to a website select a letterbox to find and go out and find it in the real world.

    How does it work?

    The process goes like this, you go onto a letterboxing website (we like letterboxing.org) and you find a location that you want to go to. That location can have a bunch of different letterboxes that are hidden throughout the place, these are typically areas like parks, outdoor areas, event venues and hiking trails. Once you have printed out your clues you can now go out and search for the letterbox using the clues the letterbox planter provided. Letterboxes are either hidden by themselves or in a series the clues will indicate that. While at the location you read the clues and follow their instructions to find the letterbox, some of these are very intricate and hard to find, other ones are fairly easy and they’re right off the edge of the trail where you can find the container. (I wrote about letterboxing a few years ago if you want to learn more you can check out that post too)

    What do I need?

    You’ll need a stamp, a stamp pad, and a notepad or something to collect your stamps with, bring a pen or pencil so you can write your name and the date. Typically people carve their own stamps, sometimes people will buy stamps at a craft supply store or something like that if they want to be generic.

    Then what?

    Once you found the letterbox you can take the stamp and stamp pad press the stamp onto the stamp pad to get some ink on it (that’s the stuff  brought with you) and then you open up the container of the letterbox and you locate the stamp that the person placed in the letterbox left in it along with the notepad or journal that’s in there for you to put your stamp in there. This is much like geocaching in the sense that your trading items but instead of trading the item you’re stamping their stamp in your notepad and stamping your stamp in the notepad in the container. As someone who has been involved in letterboxing for a while I will say that you’re probably better off finding a letterbox that’s close to where you live and if it requires a bit of walking maybe find a letterbox that is in a series so in case you can’t find one of them all hope is not lost in your lease get something out of the trip. There have been times where my family has gone out the letterboxing and we didn’t find a thing or we only found a few of the boxes in the series. The reason for this is that letterboxing is very much so part of the environment and if the environment erodes then the litter box may get washed away or found by someone who wasn’t intending on finding the letterbox. There are times where maintenance workers for the park or the trail will find it and throw it away not really realizing that the sandwich holder that they found is actually a hidden thing within a game and they should’ve put it back where they found it.

    Let’s go letterboxing!

    Now that I’ve explained to you what letterboxes are I’ll tell you a little bit about our trip on the 1st. We drove out to LA to a park that we’ve never been to before and kind of a sketchy area of town but this park had a huge trail with many many hills some of which were really fun to climb but if you are like some of my family members with bum ankles or knees it’s a little bit difficult to climb those hills. While on this journey to look for letterboxes that this one was a pretty good size series. So we parked at the park and locked up our car and started walking, the first letterbox wasn’t very far from where we parked.


    After that we continue down the trail and found, even more, letterboxes this particular series had 12 letterboxes in total. While letterboxing you want to be discrete, you don’t want someone seeing where you found the box and then ruining it for the next person that is out looking for it. Once you find the box take it to a nice place away from where you found it and take some time to admire the artwork of the stamp, read through the journal of all the previous letterbox finders and take not the last time someone was there, people tend to leave the date they found the box next to their name and their stamp left on the page.

    The view was incredible (but a bit smoggy but the weather added to the photos anyhow!) so I was glad I took some time to take some pictures while we were out there.




    Once we found all the letterboxes we walked back to our car and proceeded to drive home. When we got home we take all the letterboxes that were found input all the information on to the website letterboxing.org and claim that you found those little boxes. There’s a good reason for doing this and that is your helping the rest of the community know but the litter boxes that were left or still there and that the next time someone wants to go look for it they can find out that they recently were found and it’s much easier for people to go back out and find them. Nobody wants to drive out to a location expecting something I never actually got to find it.

    Go explore, take some pictures while you are out there and enjoy the outdoors, we do (one a year on New Years Day!)

    All month long we at WPblab are hosting something we’re calling “Just Create January” hoping to inspire folks to create, share and interact with others all month long in January


  • Playing in the street

    I spent a lot of my time as a kid outside playing. I wasn’t much of a sports person (I’m still not) but I really enjoyed being outside. Playing with the neighbor kids and goofing off was the best. Today I caught Jess outside with her friend playing ball next to the curb, I thought I had the perfect picture so I went to go snap it and her friend noticed that I was taking a picture of them. I love capturing moments like this because it just shows that there’s some pure fun that’s going on and it’s not something that was staged. Candid pictures are the best!  Anyhow, moments later I have another picture of them as they both looked up at me and Jess yelled asking why I took a picture of them.


    Some day she’ll see this picture and try to remember what it was that was doing just then.

  • Jessalyn turns Six


    My daughter Jessalyn 6th Birthday is today, at the exact time of me writing this actually. I remember being extreme nervous and super proud to have a baby in our lives. Jen and I packed up what we needed and me being me I video taped the entire experience. In the car I’m doing this documentary style quick interview of her but talking to the camera as if I’m talking to Jessalyn. I can remember just about everything that happened that day in vivid detail which is in stark contrast to our wedding day where only pictures can help me recreated the blur of saying I Do. It’s funny how some things you remember like that other others you get vivid detail. I’ve talked to other people about this and they too have said that usually you don’t remember the ceremony of your wedding but you can remember the birth of your children. I recall spending hours with Jess in the hospital’s nursery focused on my newly born daughter and being so proud and recording and photographing the entire experience. It’s funny to think about it now since I can remember every detail of that morning even without the pictures. Once the dust settled and a few days passed I looked at how many photos I took and was amazed that I ended up with around 800 photos and a few hours / tapes of video. Even with all those pictures and videos no amount of technology can capture that feeling of being a new Dad.

    Dad, Jessalyn and Mom

    Jessalyn’s my buddy, my lil best friend, when I’m feeling down she cheers me up and when shes is feeling down I do the same. On my desk at work sits this great Fathers Day gift that my wife made for me, it’s a framed collage of two pictures and some stars along with an outline of my hand and Jessalyns on top of one another.  On it is a poem that reads:

    Holding Daddy's Hands
    Holding Daddy's Hands – 2007

    Holding Daddy’s Hand
    Walking down the winding path
    I hold tight to Daddy’s hand
    His firm but gentle grip makes me
    Feel safe like nothing else can
    I don’t know where we are going
    But my Daddy knows the way
    He leads us down the path that’s right
    And will not let us stray
    I hold on to his hand tightly
    I know he won’t let me fall
    For my Daddy is the biggest and the strongest of them all
    I don’t ever have to worry
    When I hold his hand in mine
    Because I know he will protect
    And love me for all time

    Recently Jess has switches from holding my index finger to holding my hand when we walk together, at first I resisted the change but now it only feels right that we hold hands palm to palm. Every once in a while  she’ll grab my finger almost like some muscle memory of years past has come back and when she does she’ll look up and me and we’ll both giggle.

    I love you Jess, Happy 6th Birthday my big girl!



  • What is Family?

    I’ve been thinking about this recently and I wanted to lay it all out there and define what Family means to me. You see recently for some reason my kids have been talking about relationships within our family and figuring out who is what and applying labels to them all. I overheard a discussion with my two daughters where they were talking about who their Dad is and why the older 2 kids call me “Jason” instead of “Dad” like our younger one does. You see, our older 2 kids are from my wife’s previous marriage, the older of the 2 is 16 her brother is 15. I’ve been a part of their lives for a long time, 11 years to be exact. Back when we got married almost 7 years ago the kids asked me if they wanted them to call me “Dad” and I felt kinda weird about that, I respect the fact that they have another Father and that whatever they felt right in calling me would be fine by me. I think they felt kinda weird about it too, going from calling someone you’ve known for a while one thing to calling them something else would be weird and kind of hard. It’s like when a family member has as nickname that is a shorter version of their real name and when they go into the business world they want to be called their full birthname, you know you’ll end up calling them the nick name for the rest of their lives just out of habit. You see, my Dad died when I was 5 and I’ve had 2 Step Dads in my life in which I called them both by their first names and referred to them as “my Dad” when asked unofficially by someone. Unless it was official business (a cop asking me, a judge… something legal) then they were “my Dad”. I’m a simple person and it cuts down on the extra explaining that isn’t pertinent to the conversation.

    So, getting back to the discussion that our oldest was having with our 5 year old, she was explaining that they have different Dads and the same Mom and that she calls me “Jason” because of that. I think she may have mentioned that they are “half sisters” at some point in the convo but I’m not 100% sure. Later the younger one asked me “Dad, why does my sister call you Jason?” and at this point I knew I had to draw her a map. Using simple circles I whipped up a diagram and showed her how it all works. She asked me about Moms, Grandmas as Dads along with Step Dads and why we call these people these things. I explained to her that no matter what the label is they are who they are to you and that’s all that matters. It got me thinking, I almost NEVER call the older 2 kids my Step Kids. To be honest I still think some people think that I had a kid with Jen when I was 17 unless they took the time out to asked me about it.

    All of this talk about labeling in our family structure got me thinking even more, does it really matter? You see, when I was in Middle School going into High School my Mom was married to a Latin American man who had 2 kids that came to live with us. They were 1 and 2 years older than I was (my Brother is 5 years younger than I) and they were going into High School. Since I’m white and they were Hispanic it was pretty safe to assume when I said “This is my brother” they knew something was amiss and I’d imagine they assumed that we were not blood related. With my Mom being married to their Dad came the fact that we now had quite a few cousins and other family members from his side of the family. Since I come from a small family myself we just adopted them as our own as far as we were concerned. I was always taught that family is what you make of it, labels don’t matter and they are to you whatever you think they are to you and that’s all that matters. With all that said, does it matter? To me it doesn’t and I try to show that to my own kids by treating them as if they are my own, because they are… and that’s all that matters.

    Tell me about your family dynamic I want to know about labels, how you dealt with them and does it really matter? What makes you, you? Is a relationship defined by a label? Do you treat someone different because of this? Do they treat you different? Let me know in the comments, I’m curious.

  • World of Color

    Last night we got a phone call from my Jen’s friend Christie telling us that she got fastpasses to see World of Color at Disney’s California Adventure for her whole family but they got tired and didn’t want to use them. She invited Jen to go with her and I asked Jen that if they had an extra that I’d be interested in going  too. You see,  Jen broke her ankle 8 weeks ago so she’s stuck using crutches or a wheelchair to get around I’m use to pushing Jen around Disneyland so I had no problem with going and helping out with getting Jen to the event.. that and I REALLY WANTED TO SEE WORLD OF COLOR!  When Christie and her oldest son arrived at our house we had about 30 minutes to get to Disneyland from our house in Whittier so we had to haul butt make it on time. With Jen and her wheelchair we piled in the car and did the 12 mile drive to catch the 11:30 showing. Due to our lack of planning and lateness we opted to be sneaky and park in the Downtown Disney parking lot, our thinking behind this was that by doing so we’d have more control over how fast we get to DCA, people power vs waiting for a tram and riding it in. By the time we parked we had roughly 10 minutes to get in DCA and find the area needed to be at. While attempting my best to recreate Mr Toads Wild Ride for Jen by zig-zagging around late night visitors at Downtown Disney we made it to the gate in record time. With our hearts racing we showed our passes at the gate and hauled even more butt to the our Blue Line which was located next to the Sour Dough factory. Zig-zagging yet again with Jen this time with the opposing traffic of the exiting guests we arrived and spoke to a CM who stated that if you had a fast pass you line up here (end of the line was now at the entrance to the sour dough factory) and if not you lined up elsewhere. Jessi, the nice CM we ran into noticed Jen in the wheelchair and asked for us to follow her to the wheelchair viewing area. Accompanying us is was another group with a wheelchair as well. As structured as this lining up system was it was quite a mob of people to navigate through to get to the wheelchair viewing area. We departed ways with Jessi once we arrived at the viewing area and were told that with the wheelchair we should move to a special area that was quite a bit back from where all the action happens.
    Also we noticed in our viewing area was one of the sphere shaped lights that we thought would be in the way of our viewing. Christie noticed some other wheelchairs have moved down to a level lower and closer to the action and said she was going to go down there. We thought the same thing and moved down to the center area too.
    The “center area” was a few feet lower than our previous location which put Jen with her wheelchair at a disadvantage. So we moved back a bit to near the right side of the big circle on the ground and gave that a try. A few manual adjustment by Jen and she got the best view she could at the area we were at. There were lots of people in front of us and their heads were blocking lower fountains for Christie and I. Jen on the other hand was able to most likely missed the majority of the lower parts of the fountains including some of the smaller ones and the pop up round screens. Luckly the majority of the show occurs quite a bit high in the air so all of us could see that. The people blocking the lower  field of view for us were at least 30 feet in front of us. Without having been at the location we started with I’m unsure of how well the viewing would have been. I’d imagine that Jen most likely would have seen a bit more lower into the field of view but I’m not sure if she would have been able to see the base of the water jets on the platform in the water. We’ll have to give it another try soon and see.
    I’d have to say my favorite part of the show would have to be:
    • Up – the water screens in your whole field of view light up in color as the balloons from the movie UP fly past you in an upward motion.
    • Little Mermaid – The whales moving about the water screens were just amazing.
    • Toy Story – The only true “3D” looking vector graphics generated from what I can tell to be lasers use the mist from the water to create Zirg in an awesome 3D looking animation. I think I mentioned to my party “I love living in the future” while that was playing.
    • Trees – There is this jaw dropping scene where the water screens fill up with trees and the scene moves through an opening in the forest as the trees move past you. It’s amazing how water and a HD projected image can make such a great scene come to life.
    If I had to pick one cool technique they used it would have to be the way in which they play with light and the mist from the water jets. Disney has figured out how to trick your eyes into thinking that 3D orbs and globs are floating in thin air. Also using this same trick they can make rays of light shine out from an object or scene. The light beams are so thin you cant tell if they are lasers or pin point accurate lights.

    As a techie this stuff gives me the chills watching this show, it’s awesome what can be done with water, lights, lasers and a crap load of money. As a Dad to a 4 year old it makes me want to take her and see this time and time again. You bet our family will be seeing this show many time this year and for years to come.