#100: Retire (?) the 100 Things

We’ve been doing the 100 Things for 5 years now. That’s 500 Things! It’s become a core part of our family identity. So it wasn’t easy to decide to take a break.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge.

This thing we do has really changed the way we live our lives, and what we expect from ourselves. It’s led us to some really interesting places, and brought us together as a family. We’ve said it before, but the whole point wasn’t to achieve a bunch of things, it was to be in the habit of living mindfully, both by planning to be adventurous, and by recognizing special moments as they happen.

But the pace of the 100 Things is wearing on us. We find it hard to take a weekend off and just relax around the house, because the list is looming over us. Plus, our lives are getting more complicated – Lucy and Will attend different schools and are interested in different extracurriculars, and our family-togetherness time is about to get a lot smaller as they enter middle and high school.

So we’re saying goodbye to the 100 Things, at least for now. In 2019 we’ll continue to have adventures, and we’ll continue to write about them here. We just won’t feel like we can’t slow down without failing. It’s possible that we’ll come back to this practice after a while, we’re not sure, but we hope you’ll understand our decision.

#48: Kayak

Becky and I have never really traveled someplace and just sat by the pool. We get restless, so we’re constantly seeking out reasons to explore and get to know the place we’re in. On our trip to Cancun, there’s a huge lagoon and mangrove jungle, and what better way to explore than in a tiny paddle boat?

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

This Airbnb Experience is one of the few things that survived my original plan for this trip. It happened on the third day of our trip, when we were ready for a bit of physical exertion and sun, so we were in high spirits going in.

The route took us along the ways used by boats to get to one of the more obscure marinas on the lagoon, and then through super-narrow passageways between the mangroves, which act as a nursery for sea stars and sponges. We stopped for a snack on a little island, whose beach was made of millions of tiny seashells, then back to our starting point, having paddled about 5 kilometers.

Becky was a tad worried going in that we’d be the ones holding the group back. This stems from the last time we went kayaking with a group, when everyone else was more experienced and serious than us. Her worry turned out to be unfounded, and we were probably the most experienced kayakers there aside from the guides.

Our weather couldn’t have been more pleasant, the water was warm, the mangroves beautiful, our guides were able to answer all of Becky’s questions about the mangrove ecosystem, and the company was pleasant. Highly recommended.

#16: Surprise trip planned by Ben – Cancun

In our family, Becky is the primary adventure planner. She’s so good at it, but it’s also hard work, so every year she challenges me to step into her shoes and plan an adventure for the two of us. This year we went to Cancun.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

I have a history of being overly ambitious with our year-end trips. When I plan them in September or October, I fully expect that we can hit the ground running, drink in the place we’re going to, and not rest until the plane ride home. The reality is that, after a month and a half of non-stop holiday shopping and parties and pressure and craziness, what we really need is a vacation, where we can relax, enjoy some food, and recharge.

I originally booked us into an Airbnb in the downtown area, where there was lots of exploration to be done, and not too many tourists. What we discovered after we landed, got to our place at 8pm, exhaustedly ate burgers from the shack down the street, went to bed, and got up at what felt like 1:15am to our PST bodies to visit Chichen Itza, was that we were already exhausted, and was only the first day.

So we cashed in some credit-card points and reserved a room at the Casa Turquesa in the hotel zone. Once we settled there, we found that it was possible to relax and have a good time, instead of trying to plan a trip to Walmart. We went kayaking, took two food tours (that turned out to be from the same company), caught up on sleep, planned our year, and did a lot of reading and recharging.

I should write a few things about our hotel room. Looking at these photos, it looks beautiful, romantic, scenic, and relaxing. The reality of staying there is… a little different. You see, Casa Turquesa is also an art museum, and from the looks of it, they specialize in the nude female form – 90% of the statues and paintings (which were everywhere) were of naked ladies. There’s also an air of run-downedness about the place. Everything is cracked, chipped, and water-stained. The air conditioner vent dripped condensation onto our faces in the night. The steel storm curtain flapped in the wind all night long, I had to prop it with a deck chair so we could sleep. The balcony jacuzzi didn’t have a plug for the drain. The internet was so slow it was painful to check Instagram. There was a piece of tape on the floor in the elevator lobby that only moved 5 feet in the entire time we stayed there. Our 4th-floor room flooded during a storm because the balcony door didn’t shut.

But even when our buckets are empty, we’re not overly bothered by these things. We were just glad to be able to wake up to the sound of the waves crashing, spend an hour reading, then wander down for breakfast, and take a short taxi ride to our next adventure. It turned out great. And now that we know what kind of mood we’ll be in at the end of the year, maybe we won’t have to re-plan in the middle of a trip again.

#12: Watch More of the AFI Top 100 Films

In 2007, the American Film Institute published a list of the 100 greatest movies of all time, and we just can’t resist a good list. We’ve made it through 54 of them throughout 201420152016, and 2017, and this year we made it through another 10. As before, we’ll include our reactions.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

#48: Rear Window (1954)

We actually really enjoyed this one. Apart from the weird 50’s morality, sexism, and innuendo, the story was told in an interesting way. It’s easy to see how Hitchcock was synonymous with suspense for many years, the pacing of this film was great.

#47: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Wow. We’re not sure what we’re supposed to be feeling having seen this. It’s sort of in the same category as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, where the climax is disturbing, and there’s no resolution really.

#46: It Happened One Night (1934)

So let me get this straight. A woman escapes imprisonment by her father (which is a completely normal father-daughter dynamic, and needs no resolution), and while traveling alone is accosted by a guy who heaps emotional abuse on her and blackmails her. Naturally, they fall in love. (Sarcasm aside, you can see the roots of the modern rom-com in this, and it’s well-made.)

#45: Shane (1953)

Not having spent a lot of time watching westerns, this seems like the stereotypical example. Romancing the independent spirit of the West™ and the value of hard work, et cetera. We enjoyed the moral quandary at the end, how sometimes the Good Guy has to be the Bad Guy, and you can see how The Dark Knight is almost a remake of this.

#44: The Philadelphia Story (1940)

We do love a good aristocrat-self-discovery tale. It’s kind of amazing how the characters all forgive each other, as though they thought they deserved to be married to terrible people, being terrible people themselves.

#43: Midnight Cowboy (1969)

This whole story was confusing. We had a hard time empathizing with any of the characters. Maybe we’re just not ready for it? (Side note: it’s hard to see in 201X how Angelina Jolie and Jon Voigt are related, but in this film he’s like a male Angelina, it’s eerie.)

#42: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

An ancestor of the modern heist film, or maybe of The Godfather. The bank robbers all seem kind of terrible and solipsistic, but they’re the heroes anyway? It’s pretty crazy that it’s based on a true story, and that the real people were still alive when the movie came out.

#41: King Kong (1933)

I guess this was the first special-effects monster movie, or the first one of note anyways. The effects seem clumsy to us now, but at the time they were probably quite revolutionary and striking.

#39: Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Ah, the comedy of errors. Not our favorite trope, but it works well here, with the juxtaposition of total nuclear annihilation. The humor is well-done, and you can see the roots of some modern comedy here as well

#38: The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948)

We expected another standard western going into this, but it actually made it a bit more real what it must have been like to be part of a gold rush in the lawless desert. I was pretty sure from the beginning that the guy who says “nah, a bunch of gold wouldn’t make me go nuts” was going to go nuts about gold.

#31: Visit a Wonder of the World

Almost the first thing we did with our waking hours in Cancun was to leave the city. After a brutal day of travel starting with a 3:15am alarm, we again got up early (4:15am Cancun time, which is 1:15am back home!) to catch a bus to Chichén Itzá, which was chosen as one of the New7Wonders of the World in 2007.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

We booked a tour through Viator, both for the archaeological tour guide and for early access – we knew it was going to be high season and hot, so the earlier we could see the ruins the better. In addition, our tour guide happened to be Mayan, so we feel like we got a really good deep-dive into how the Mayan culture worked, and what Chichen Itza must have been like when people lived there.

Even considering the poor planning on my part and the exhausting schedule we had to keep, this side trip was totally worth it. If you’re in the area and like old ruins like we do, we can’t recommend it enough.

#67: Build a Dollhouse

Lucy has been working on this project for almost 2 years now, and it’s only because of holiday travels that she wasn’t able to finish it for this year’s list, so we’re going to count it.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

Lucy received this dollhouse kit as a birthday gift in June of 2016, but work didn’t begin until the end of February 2017. She and I started the first few steps, and progress started happening pretty rapidly. There were lots of tedious little steps, but also lots of satisfying big ones. She’s worked on it alone, had friends over to put bits on, and worked for many hours with her brother to get it done.

We’ve been dedicating part of our family room to this for a year now, and she’s finally honing in on the end! All that’s left is shingles and paint, which go very quickly. Since this has taken so long, and she’s been consistently setting aside part of her allowance, she’s got over $100 to put towards furnishings and decorations at this point, so it’s going to be pretty great.

#96: Becky – Goodreads Challenge

Approaching 2018, I knew I wanted another reading challenge, but also knew that this was going to be a year of podcasts, so I set my goal accordingly: 65 books (down from 100 the last few years). Even without supplementing with audiobooks, I still beat my goal by reading 72! (I also listened to a bazillion podcasts.) This number might have been higher if one of the books hadn’t have been the massive tome War & Peace. I’m feeling the pull back to audiobooks, however, so 2019 will be much more balanced.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

#37: Build Your Own RC Car

When I was a young teenager, I saved my allowance money for a long time and bought myself a radio-controlled car kit. I built it myself, with minimal help from grownups, and when it was done I was amazed at how capable it was, and how able I was to fix it when things went wrong. I wanted to give my own kids this experience.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

I made sure to do some research and get the right kits. I knew that Will would be thrilled, but this isn’t the kind of thing that Lucy would have chosen for herself, and she’s a bit younger than the recommended age for this kind of thing. After consulting with a hobby shop in the area, I picked up a pair of ECX Barrage kits, which include everything necessary to build and drive the car.

They reacted about how I expected when they opened them – Will with unabashed excitement, Lucy with enthusiastic confusion. I assured her I’d be around to advise and assist, and when I told her she’d get to do her own paint job, she decided this was for her.

It took them about three days of building sessions to get them done. There are a lot of pieces, and we all made some mistakes and had to backtrack a bit, but frustrations were managed, and the rapid progress was encouraging.

When they finally finished them, they drove them around without paint until the freshly-charged batteries were dead. Indoors, front yard, back yard, they didn’t care. They even had a crash that pulled some wires loose, and knew enough to take off the body, fix the problem, put it back together, and get back to it without even asking me for help!

I’m proud of these two, and I feel really fulfilled seeing them go through this process and enjoy the fruits of their labors. I don’t know if they’ll continue this particular hobby in the long-term, but they now have the experience of building something pretty difficult, and having the satisfaction of doing something big and impressive.

#99: Becky – Dorothy Jenson Art Book

Becky’s mom passed away two years ago, and since then Becky has put an enormous amount of effort into a book that will tell the story of Dorothy the artist. (Hey there, this is Ben. Becky’s having a hard time writing this one, so I’m going to try and tell the story for her.)

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

Dorothy had been an artist her entire life, and left behind decades of work for others to appreciate. She had been blogging her artwork for many years, so when it came time to compile a book of all her work, Becky had a fair amount of documentation, but at the same time knew how large a task it was.

She designed a coffee-table book that captures the breadth and depth of her mother’s work, and tells the story of each piece, often in the artist’s own words. It’s a perfect tribute to a loving mother and talented artist, and a copy lives in the house of every member of her immediate family.

#57: Jolabokaflod

This is our second year doing this, and we love the tradition. The kids are especially into it, partly because of the books, but partly because they get to unwrap a ton of surprises.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

Jólabókaflóðið is inspired by an Icelandic idea; our version involves receiving a huge stack of books, choosing one, and curling up somewhere cozy with a nice beverage to read it. It’s the perfect holiday for a family of readers!