“Sharkie and Leo are swimming through the pipes to get more donuts.”

Feb 12

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Food hall.

Feb 8

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Family photo shoot.

Feb 7

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Feb 6

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First birthday

Aug 15

This kid turns a YEAR OLD today. I used to tell Stephanie that I liked toddlers better than babies. But here we are, and I can’t imagine how it gets any more fun than this. Happy birthday, Willy Boy.

The baby and an experiment

Dec 15

William Stengel Van Kat was born on August 15.

He sleeps well, he eats well. He has red hair.

All of these things you probably know if you’ve seen my Facebook activity at any point in the past four months.

We’ve been collecting baby photos here, if you’re interested: benvankat.com/william. Cute overload.

I’ve also been curious about the money it costs to raise a kid. I used to guess that it would cost a million dollars, from birth to 18. I’ve since read some research that puts the cost in the $500k range.

So, I’m actually going to find out. Every time we spend money on him — doctors visits before he was born, nursery setup, formula refills — the cost goes into a spreadsheet that’s tracking the true cost of raising a kid.

Read it and weep (literally, weep): The Cost of William.

Four hours, nineteen minutes

May 7

I started training in January, just for the hell of it.

I hadn’t run for quite awhile and I wanted to be in a little better shape.

Longest I’d ever gone before was about 6 miles on the treadmill.

Sixteen weeks of training later, I finished a marathon.

Lincoln was a great course with great fans. Chris ran a super-fast half-marathon time. And my coworker Bob G. helped me get through those last few brutal miles.

Happy with my time, not sure if I’m ready to commit to another one just yet.


New blue

Apr 30





Summer / Fall 2012 recap

Dec 4

Here are the things we’ve been doing since we went to Europe in April.

July 26: Night of the Food Gun

In a terrible convergence of gluttony and bravery, a bunch of friends set aside a night to attempt a couple local food challenges.

Johnny and Jessica first tried to conquer “The Stellanator,” a gigantic burger from Stella’s in Bellevue. Six burger patties, 12 strips of bacon, six eggs, a giant mount of peanut butter, jalapenos, plus a huge basket of fries. In 45 minutes or less. Neither was successful. Both lived to regret it.

After Bellevue, our caravan converged on eCreamery, a little Midtown ice cream shop for the “Dundee Dozen.” 20 minutes to eat 12 scoops of ice cream. Four challengers, including myself, and only Matthew was victorious. (He pounded it, too. Set the record by finishing in just under 10 minutes.) Quentin came close. Erin and I couldn’t beat the brain freezes. I ate about eight scoops before the time ran out.

Here’s the before-and-after:

And the champion:

* * *

Aug. 25-26: South Dakota

We don’t get up to Milbank often enough to see Grandpa. And we really should. All he did this time was beat us at frisbee golf and play the drums in the band at his own 90th birthday party.

Sept. 1: Meghan and Jay’s wedding in Kansas City

Sept. 27-30: Ryder Cup in Chicago

A year ago, I put my name in the lottery for tickets to the Ryder Cup at Medinah. I’d never seen PGA golf before in person, and one of the coolest events of the year was being played in Chicago. Couldn’t pass that up. Plus, there’s no way I’d get picked in that lottery: 100,000 tickets for like a billion fans. Promptly forgot about it.

Email comes in one day: “Congrats, we picked your name. Tickets are $700 each. You have to buy four of them. And you have to decide this week.”

“Uh, sure I’ll buy,” I thought. “I can always sell them on eBay later.”

In four homes across Omaha and Sioux Falls a similar scenario plays out: Husband slinks into the room, kisses wife on cheek and asks permission to leave her for a week to spend money on hot dogs and beer while yelling at foreigners and wearing an American flag cape. Wife furrows brow, says “you owe me,” and approves the junket.

Fast forward to September. After we rolled into Chicago, spent way too much time finding our hotel (Thanks, Siri!) and made it inside the gate, we found ourselves at the 18th green of Medinah Country Club.

Grabbed a couple beers just in time to see Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley stroll up the fairway during their Thursday practice round. Pretty sweet introduction to pro golf.

The rest of the weekend was a spectacular blur of disappointment and triumph. Thanks a lot, Ian Poulter.

For a long time I was convinced that the in-person golf experience couldn’t rival watching a big tournament on TV. There’s a lot of sitting and waiting, very little actual golf being seen. And the viewing angles aren’t quite as good.

But there’s an energy you don’t get from TV. And obviously the Ryder Cup amplified that by a significant amount. The other thing you don’t see in your living room is the elevation change across the course — TV flattens it out.



And it’s not everyday you’re five feet from Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.

The scene at the first tee on Saturday, just before Bubba Watson teed off was closer to a football game than a typical golf tournament.

* * *

Oct. 16: World Cup qualifier – U.S.A. vs. Guatemala in Kansas City

Another sporting adventure. First time seeing the national team. First time riding on a charter bus full of fans. First time at LiveStrong Park in Kansas City. First time waving an American flag from the middle of an impromptu Guatemalan band.


U.S. wins 3-1 to advance in World Cup qualifying and I’ve found my new favorite sporting venue.


* * *

Salt Lake City trip to see Zach and Kate

Hiking, eating, drinking and exploring SLC. So fun.




* * *

Oct. 26, 27: Bought a new car


We’ve been on the hunt for awhile. Gone through three other “favorite vehicles” before we settled on this one. And as we were driving up one canyon or another in Salt Lake City, the right car finally showed up in the AutoTrader search.

Stephanie spent the next week calling the dealer (in Chicago) to get everything in order. We wanted to sell our Mazda first. Dealer wouldn’t hold our new car. So, we skipped our Halloween party and spent the night in Davenport on Friday night, then drove the rest of the way to Chi Town to pick it up on Saturday. Drove right back home that night.

New roof, update no. 2

Nov 24

Time for a roof-project status update.

Last time I checked in, Quentin and I had just finished tearing all the shingles off and making a huge mess in the yard. (Lesson 1: Get a dumpster.) That was three weeks ago today. Here’s what happened since:

Day 2: Decide the old plywood wasn’t worth saving. Install new plywood.

There was plenty of decent wood left on the roof, and plenty of stuff that you could probably punch through with your fist. So, we decided to do it right — take it all off and replace it.

Nine sheets of plywood, transported in the rent-by-the-hour Lowe’s pickup truck.

By the end of the afternoon on Sunday, Dad and I had the roof recovered.

Day 4: Trip to the mini-dump and tar paper.

Loaded a truck full of the old shingles and plywood. Paid $20 to unload it in a warehouse and watch a gigantic front loader smash it to pieces. Well worth it.

You’ll notice I skipped Day 3. That’s because I really didn’t do any work that day. Dad did it all.

After we got the roof recovered that first Sunday, it rained. And after the rain, the plywood (the new stuff) warped and bubbled in a couple places and needed to be replaced, two days after installation. Dad did all that work himself — buying, transporting, lifting, nailing — and did it in the near-dark after he got off work over the course of a couple evenings. He also spent time putting in a pair of jacks under the sagging south side of the garage, where the extension (to allow longer cars to fit into the garage) was pulling the entire structure off-kilter.

So, if you see Dad anytime soon and he’s holding his back or slumped over exhausted, know that I’m to blame. Working on projects at my house is like a part-time job for him.

Day 5: Shingles. Another trip to Lowe’s to get the truck. Lots of nailing and a couple bruised thumbs. One side of the garage is nearly done. We’ll finish up this weekend. Or we’ll be hit by a blizzard and finish it in the spring.

* * *

UPDATE: It’s done! Having a third set of hands (Stephanie’s dad) sped up the process on Saturday evening, and we finished up on Sunday afternoon.

No more rain inside the garage. On to the next thing.