#89: Ben – Play Through a Video Game

I loved video games as a kid. I raced and fought and adventured with my friends (and alone) for hours on end. When I was 14 I stayed up for two days straight playing Final Fantasy III (née VI), which is probably one of the best games ever made. It was great.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge. Here’s the full list.

Of course, growing up and having a family changes your priorities, but I’ve never lost my appetite for games. I just have less time to play them now, so I have to be more discriminating with my choices. This year I set a goal to play through an entire game, start to finish, which is something I’ve had a hard time with lately. Starting things is easy; it’s the finishing that’s hard.

I also wanted to actually accomplish something. I’ve been twiddling with little things now and then (replaying Portal and Braid, for example), but those shouldn’t count. A Hundred Thing should be bigger than that. So I went looking for something substantial.


And it landed in my lap, courtesy of the Humble Bundle. The game is called Pier Solar, and it was intended to be the ultimate evolution of the kind of game I loved as a kid. The team originally wrote and released it as a Sega Genesis cartridge in 2010(!), but since then it’s been given a graphical overhaul, and released on more modern systems as well.

I found out as I worked my way through it that this just isn’t the kind of experience I want any more. When I was younger, I had infinite patience for walking around, fighting monsters, and leveling up my characters (this has since been dubbed grinding). It felt good, there was an almost visceral connection with what the characters were doing on screen. But my tastes have changed. I want the joy of victory, of solving the puzzle, and a great story.

Turns out that my dissatisfaction isn’t just because I’m old, though. Others have also said that this game isn’t as great as it thinks it is. The writing isn’t the greatest, the combat could be much more satisfying, and the only reason I didn’t get tired of the grinding is the setting to turn down the encounter rate, which means the game isn’t that hard to begin with.

So I did it. I completed my goal. But I’m not super thrilled about it. I’m hoping to make time for more of this, it’s a recreation that I heartily enjoy. But I won’t be counting on nostalgia to make it fun anymore.


#9: Read a Parenting Book

We treat parenting like a skill. True, there’s some talent involved, and some personalities are more suited to it than others (much like woodworking or acting), but it’s also something that you can get better at.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge. Here’s the full list.


So we read books. In the past we’ve read books on reading and happiness, so this year we focused on money. The Opposite of Spoiled focuses on how to teach kids about money, so that they won’t be clueless or have bad habits when they grow up. Some of this we had already been exposed to (from Rich Dad Poor Dad and other sources), but much of it was new territory. Some tips I picked up:

Don’t make money a taboo subject. Tell your kids how much money you make, and where it all goes. This will nudge you into being a good example with regards to saving and charity, but also opens the door for them to ask questions and get answers. Remember to teach them about politeness, though – only look into your neighbor’s bowl to make sure they have enough.

Give them an allowance. Kids need a chance to practice making decisions with a limited budget. Advise them on purchases, but let them make the final decisions. If they want to blow it all on candy and not save up for a video game, that’s their choice.

…but start them off with good habits. Becky grew up with half of her allowance automatically being diverted into a savings account, and that habit has served her well in adulthood. We’ve carried this forward with our kids, and they love seeing how much they’ll have to put towards a car or something big in the future.

Use tools. We can’t recommend FamZoo enough. It’s like “Mom and Dad Community Credit Union,” but with a website and automation. You can set up allowances for kids with amounts based on their age, with automatic splits into savings and spending. For older kids they offer debit card accounts too.

We learned a lot from this book, and we’ll probably read it again after a while, just to make sure we’re doing the right things at every age. If you’ve never thought about how your kids think about money, this book is a fine place to start.


#8: Amusement Park

Enchanted Forest is an Oregon institution. If you’ve live anywhere within two hours’ drive of Salem, you’ve probably been here. And the thing is: it’s not terrible. We’ve been here a number of times, and it never really gets old.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge. Here’s the full list.

We came here to celebrate Lucy’s 8th birthday. She loves the place almost as much as we do.

The other kids always love it when I get on the frog hopper. If you’ve never been here, you should check it out. Then we can sing the castle music together.

#2: Dine at a Portland “Restaurant of the Year” – Nomad

Nomad made Portland Monthly’s Restaurant of the Year list in 2015, and we’ve been trying to figure out how to make it happen ever since. Turns out it was worth the wait.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge. Here’s the full list.

When you first enter, it seems more like an under-construction coffee shop than a fancy restaurant, but the food transcends the decor. We shared our plain table with a party of four we’d never met before, and the dissonance between the decor and the cuisine left us all feeling a bit strange.

But it all makes sense in hindsight. You’re supposed to be taken out of your comfort zone, and the non-restauranty feel of the place just sets the tone in your mind — you haven’t had anything quite like this before.

Truth be told, we definitely saw echoes of Holdfast in the style of food here, down to the explode-in-your-mouth “rocks” we had for the final dessert course. But I’d hardly call it derivative; this is very much its own thing. Expensive, but worth it.

#35: 100 Things 2015 Book

We’ve been doing this 100-things thing for a couple of years now, and it’s become a large portion of our memories of each of those years. So what better way to keep those memories alive than a book?

This is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge. Here’s the full list.

A book sits on your shelf, inviting you to take it down and flip through it, retell old stories, and remember how full this challenge makes our lives.

Just like for the 2014 book, we used Into Real Pages, which automatically generates a gorgeous print layout from all of our 100-things blog posts from 2015! It couldn’t be much easier, and we’ll be doing it again with 2016.

#70: Attend a Thorns Game

We’ve made ourselves a (tiny) commitment to enjoying more of our local sports teams – just one game every year. We’ve enjoyed the Winterhawks (men’s hockey) and the Timbers (men’s soccer), and this year we chose the Thorns, which is the ladies’ arm of the Timbers club.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge. Here’s the full list.

We printed our tickets and headed to the stadium, securing our refreshing beverages, and finding seats near (but not too near) the cheering crowds and amplified tribalism that inevitably (and uncomfortably, for us) happens at sporting events.

Our game was against the Chicago Red Stars, who confusingly had to wear their blue away colors. The Thorns came out on top 2-0, probably because we were there cheering for them. Counting on our attendance isn’t a great long-term strategy for any team, though – we’re just too unreliable of fans.

Jenson Beach Trip

When Dorothy’s cancer diagnosis changed to “terminal,” all her kids and their families started to trickle into the area to spend time with her. Becky and I had planned a working trip to our Neskowin house to get it ready to sell, but we saw the opportunity to do more, so we converted our getaway into an impromptu family beach trip.

A large percentage of the 25 people in this extended family ended up in Neskowin that weekend. We even had a surprise arrival from the branch that was living in Germany!

We all had a great time. The beach has always been an important part of Ken and Dorothy’s family, so it seemed fitting that we spend some truly quality time out there.

#7: Surprise Date Planned by Ben

We live in Vancouver now, so I went for a Couve vibe for our date this year.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge. Here’s the full list.

We started with dinner at what appears to have been a coffee shop, now converted to a modern-noir waffle-sandwich place with excellent drinks. Yum.

Once full, we strolled the town and ended up at the historic Kiggins Theatre for a showing of Sing Street, a fine specimen of one of our favorite genres of film (Singer-Songwriter Romantic Dramedy will be a category at the Oscars in 2023).

We had a great time, and Becky was the perfect mixture of surprised and tickled. I mean, it’s not singing sharks, but still a pretty good showing.

Dorothy Irene Jenson

We are sad to announce the passing of our wife and mother, Dorothy Jenson. She died peacefully in her home on Sunday, August 21, 2016 at the age of 61 due to advanced stage cho­lan­gio­car­ci­noma, a rare form of bile duct and liver cancer.

Dorothy touched many lives through her work as an artist, through her lifetime of service in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and all those who knew her as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, niece, aunt, neighbor and friend.

A memorial service honoring Dorothy’s life was held on Tuesday, August 23, at 11:00 am at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint meeting house located at 14340 Donovan Road, Oregon City, Oregon 97045.

Dorothy loved flowers and the outdoors, which was celebrated at the memorial. She would ask that you paint a picture, take a walk with a loved one, or read a book to a child in her memory.

We appreciate and welcome the sharing of memories and photos.

With gratitude for her life and legacy,

The Ken Jenson Family


Girls’ Spring Break Retreat

In March we had to cancel a camping trip, so I quickly put together a quick retreat for Lucy and I in Tacoma. We saw a movie, went hiking, explored the Snake Lake nature center, visited an indoor jungle gym and an apparently-nameless giant outdoor playground on the sound.

We even snuck in a visit to our Epperson cousins in Renton! We went shopping at Goodwill, and Lucy scored Molly, her new favorite bear, who she buckled up into her booster seat on the ride home.

We had a great time. Lucy and I tend to want the same kinds of things on retreats, so the whole trip was a joy.