Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Educational Victories and Gas

We're reconnecting with our homeschooling groove and it feels good. As much as we love holidays, it does throw a wrench in our schooling, which is something that takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to develop. I am struggling to teach government and history, and search constantly for some good exercises that will not only make it interesting for A, but will give us some concrete proof of completion. The fact that history seems like something you find interesting later in life only complicates the issue, but we'll work on it, but I'm making too many assumptions and imposing my own personal experience (what else is new?). I found history painfully boring, but I think it's fascinating now. For all I know, A could love it. She really gravitated to Greek and Roman Mythology, so American History might speak to her.

But government? Come on, who likes that stuff? Either way, we're still searching. Health and Science are easy because there are so many resources geared towards kids, and the truth is, kids love sciene. It's just neat. We are looking at food and diet, and using that to segue into certain elements of bodily functions. It's fun and interesting, and I'm learning a lot, myself. Our kids teach me things all the time, it's pretty cool.

Speaking of bodily functions, I may have hit on a miracle cure for gas. I won't get into the gory details, but suffice it to say, mom has been most patient with me. I don't know if this is something I've had all my life (probably), but when I fall asleep, I experience flatulence of near-Biblical proportions. She doesn't complain, though she has every reason to. It makes me feel self-conscious and more than a little guilty. Somehow it never came up before.

I've tried many things and done tireless research on the subject. Suffice it to say, there is a huge amount of information, much of it thoroughly entertaining, about the subject. Either way, I tried a few things, none of which work. Part of the problem is that diet plays a huge role. We eat a lot of gassy foods, and we're not about change that. In other words, we limit our meat consumption and eat a lot of veggies and legumes, which in this case, are a wife's worse nightmare. It's just unfortunate (for my family, at least) that healthy foods seem to have a lot of fiber, but such is life.

I will say this, I'm struck by how most people we know eat very little in the way of vegetables. Salad is often the extent of it, and what good does that do?

Well, I may have found something that works, but I'll hold off on making any claims until I've given it more time. It's only been day or two, but I am optimistic. Happy days (or nights) are here again.

Funny how natural bodily functions can be such a source of entertainment, and angst.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Making Lemonade and Finishing my Piece

We had to be adaptive yesterday, and it was one of the situations where good things come out of it and you appreciate the serendipity of life. As I may have mentioned in the past, our daughter A has a best friend, C, and they make a great pair. Really cute together, and C is a great kid. Good manners and sweet, though the relationship is a bit lopsided. In other words, C likes A a lot, but sometimes it seems not as much as A literally adores her. It borders on being unhealthy, and we are not going to intervene, but we feel A needs other distractions to occupy the time when she's not playing with C.

The situation is complicated by the fact that C goes to school, so she has a whole circle of friends outside of her interaction with A, while her life seems to revolve around C. She has other friends, we do things with other children all the time, and they are mostly school kids, but for some reason, when it comes to friendship, she doesn't mess around. Even when we we're with her other friends, some of whom I think are more her speed, she goes on about C, her best friend. I feel bad, like she's dissing her other friends.

Either way, it's a good lesson in backing off as a parent. We just hope that she finds some healthy balance in it all. For all it's worth, we think A makes a better friend than some of her other friends, whom we've been told can be mean and manipulative.

From an overbearing parent's perspective, if our kids were around kids like that, we couldn't help but step in, and I know that's a mistake, kids need to learn this stuff for themselves. But somehow I just can't handle the idea of people (especially our kids) being hurt, over and over again, but some asshole kid.

Anyway, I will say this-C is a good friend, even in lieu of the fact that she's been back in school and still wants to hang out with our kids. As I've mentioned, she's just a good kid and her parents good influence really shows.

We ran into a foil to our plans yesterday and had to adapt. We literally had to make lemonade when we had lemons. We went to the Wall to rock-climb and it was so crowded that they ran out of equipment-another reason, besides saving money, to get the kids their own stuff. It was the hip and stylish city crowd, up here for the Christmas holiday, and they took over in droves. It was a bit of a bummer, but we decided instead to go ice skating, and to try, for the first time, the local skating rink. And did we have a blast.

The rink is small, and there were about ten people already there, but everyone is nice, and everyone had fun. We even saw some friends from karate, Fran and her son, A. It was nice, not to mention free. We had a blast, and the kids came up with this game that was sort of like soccer with ice skates and snowballs. We had tons of fun, and the game really revealed how far along they've come in their skating because, as you might have guessed, it ain't easy to kick a snowball while ice-skating. It was a scream to watch and play, and well into the night the two of them were talking warmly about it.

It's all about the little things, isn't it?

I finally finished my piece, Father Time, for WAHM, and it feels good. I never know if it's good enough or for that matter, will be accepted, but such is the life of a writer. You are taking a leap of faith in believing that what anybody cares about what you have to say. It's a pretty big leap, I've found, but when land on your feet, it sure can be satisfying. Now that it's done, I can focus more on AC and PS/WB.

I'd also like to pitch more of my ideas, but have found the process of writing a query letter almost as difficult as writing the actual pieces. Even still, I've got to do this, it's sink or swim, as the saying goes.

Hopefully we'll make it to the rink again today, though it's New Year's Eve, and there is much to do. I got a little irritated with my wife because she's planning on working all day today, even though she has some say in the matter. What gets me is that I know she'll sell it as a short quick trip in, but it will evolve into a whole day and she'll end up coming home late. This may not be the case, and I could very well be wrong and have to eat my words, something I excel at. We shall see, I hope it's the case, because not only does the burden of being at home all day fall on me (I could use some help), but again, it's the holidays and at some point you have to take a step back and spend more time with the family.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Awkward

We are in the throes of an awkward situation, one I've never really had to deal with and to tell you the truth, don't know if I'm mature enough to do the right thing. You see, we have some good friends who are very similar to us. Funny how that works. They are a few years younger, but they are a young family with a son and daughter much like ours.

Now we'd always seen them as the model family, nice looking, prominent in their church, active in the school, and all around good people. Very traditional, he worked hard at building houses (high end stuff) while she raised the children and worked at the school and had an amazing garden. The model family, really.

And then it came to light that she'd been having an affair. Not just one, but several, and they were on the verge of splitting up. But in the best interest of their family, they are making a go of it together, and that's commendable, but it brings up this situation.

They want to get together, we'd done it in the past, but hadn't seen them in literally months, if not a year. We'd just lost touch. Now that there is this huge elephant in the room, they want to get together, and honestly, I don't know if I can deal with it. I know I'm being childish, but it's so awkward, and almost gives me the impression that they are approaching it like nothing ever happened. It's very odd.

Either way, we can run, but we can't hide. We're going to have to confront this at some point, we just don't know when.

Until then, my name is Fred Lee, and thanks for reading.

The New Year Approaches continued

I've been writing more for the slush pile, and decided to try writing more frequently, even if the payback is negligible. At the very least, it's self-indulgent to assume that people actually want to hear what you have to say, but on a positive note, it's good practice in letting your thoughts flow in a clear and cogent manner.

With this in mind, my first piece in writing for AC was rejected for payment, which is a bummer, but not the end of the world because they'll still publish it for free. For now, I'll take it. I'm wondering if I need to earn my place back with them.

I am 95% finished with my piece for WAHM and will then begin my next piece for PS. I'd like to do more with Wisebread but am never sure what to write about. Those guys are the real deal, the big time, though I prefer to write for PS, it's more my speed.

Tomorrow is new year's eve, and we're supposed to get snow, which is a good thing. I thought I had more to say, but am struggling to find inspiration. Until the next time, my name is Fred Lee, and thanks for reading.

The New Year Approaches

So we've lost all of our snow, but from what I can gather, we're slated to get more. Isn't weather just like life, you never know what you'll get, but whatever you get, you've got to deal with it. Maybe there's a good lesson in there about not trying to control the outcome of our lives too much, which is painfully relevant to almost every parent out there.

Now that Christmas is over and the New Year is right around the corner, it is once again time to reflect on the year and see where we've been and where we're going. The current state of the world is a complete downer, and though we seem to be cruising along on our merry way, many credible people are saying that the end of the world is near. It's a bummer, and though we have to deal with reality in some way, I hope that they are wrong, at least partly. I know we've been irresponsible as a whole, and I think it's despicable how people have created this economic mess to further their near-sighted need for immediate gratification, but the reality is, when they crash and burn, they're going to take all of us down with them. It's a downer of a situation, even if these people get what they deserve. How can we be so irresponsible? All in the name of profit so they can spend.

Just one more thought on this-I find it hard to fathom how people who made lots of money are not only broke, but hugely in debt. Where's the logic in that? That spend-happy message hit home a little too effectively, and now the big correction is on it's way.

Okay, enough of the downer stuff. We had a great day, yesterday, though we're a little rusty on the school work after the 5 day break over the holidays. Even still, the kids were willing and sort of eager to jump back in the fray. I hate the fact that school work becomes something you loathe and want to avoid, because they both love to learn. Everyone loves to learn. I guess in the end it boils down to not wanting to deal with things, or more simply put, having to get off the couch. The easiest thing to do would be to avoid the conflict and let them play all day, but there is a huge lesson in having to deal with things you don't necessarily want to, and we don't want our kids to be unmotivated slugs.

C came over for lunch and hung out all day, and the kids had fun. She is such a nice kid, and I'm glad they're still good friends even after she's gone back to school. We were a little concerned about that because once you're in school, your circle of friends is there, but she still enjoys seeing our kids and she even brought them Christmas presents. We're also glad the kids have a good friend, even though it tends to verge on obsession at times.

We spoke to J on the phone yesterday and I regret that we don't see them more often, they really are good friends. They wanted to go sledding at the hill, but we were a little housebound because of several things I had started and hadn't finished, mainly cooking stuff (bread, bagels and casserole). Is wanted to speak to A and they had a lengthy conversation. I really think she and A are a good match, they operate on the same wavelength share many common qualities. I spoke with Is as well and she is quite the fine young lady, so mature, articulate and smart.

I also had to bail on Gary because not only did I have cooking on the burner, but C came over for lunch and I had to cook and clean. It was one of those days where I was kicking myself asking, what have I gotten myself into? I had bread rising, bagels rising, and I still needed to make lunch for the kids and clean up. By the time lunch had finished, I had a mountain of dishes to wash and a bad attitude to go along with it. I hate when that happens, but when I start to feel overwhelmed, I start making ass out of myself. I need to work on that one.

I still have more to tell but have to run since the kids are awake and I need to get the day started. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Family Fun, the Challenge of Meals, and New Glasses

We went skating last night, and boy was it fun, though we are itching to do some outdoor skating to get a bigger rink and more variety in our skating. We saw B&N, and as much as I like that guy, he's a bit of downer with his grim forecasts for the state of the world and his deflated manner. I think being a hardcore business person takes a little magic out of your world, and unfortunately, when you're around them, they deflate you, as well. Maybe it's a good thing we don't see each other so much.

I think I'm getting closer to finishing my piece for WAHM, with my goal being to submit it before the new year. I'll keep plugging away. I've found that in order for my freelance work as well as my blog to have a fighting chance, I've got to change tactics. As much as I enjoy writing my blog, I'm afraid it's going to have to take a backseat to what I consider to be the real stuff. It's hard, because I'm the freshest in the early morning, and that's when writing this blog is the most enjoyable, but that's time taken away from stuff that might further my goals. And yet, here I am, blogging in the early morning hours, though I feel I've neglected my blogs, and there is some degree of utilitarian purpose to keeping a blog. I just don't know what it is.

I've learned a couple of new tricks to make meals interesting, especially when leftovers are involved. The first is gravy, it makes leftover chicken into a meal. And, it's easy to make. Secondly, know how much your family can eat. I tend to make too much food, and leftovers don't always make back to the table, though they do take up space and resources. Cooking less means less work, and that's a good thing.

Did I mention we went skating last night? Today my wife has her yoga retreat, so we'll hang out at home but will probably find a way to the library at some point. We love that place. The librarians there tease us that we keep their cirulation numbers up, and we're more than happy to oblige. What I find amazing is how so many parents severely limit the number of books they let their kids check out. Why would you discourage your children from reading more books. In my opinion, the more the merrier, and there they are, telling their sons or daughters that they can only have one or two books, even when they're begging for more. It amazes me and makes me think there are some serious control issues going on, not that I'm not guilty of the same.

Oh well, live and let live. It has no bearing on our lives, it's just interesting to see.

As I may have mentioned in the past, I'm in dire need of new glasses. I broke two pairs in the span of about four days, and the bummer part of it is that I really loved my glasses. I'd had them for about eight years! I will confess, however, that how I broke them is a great story, and one I'll share with you right now.

I was shoveling snow in our driveway, there must have been about two feet of the stuff, and as I dug my shovel in, there was a 4 foot wooden stake buried in the snow. Of course, I didn't see it, though in the back of mind I knew it was there, and this is the beautiful irony of it all. Before the big snow fall, I saw the stick on the ground and thought I'd better pick it up because it might present a problem when Kurt plows. Of course, in true character, I didn't deal with it and left it there, eventually forgetting about it. When I dug my shovel in, I must have caught the stick, because when I pulled the load out, the stick came flying out of the snow and nailed me right in the glasses, shattering them. In retrospect, they probably saved me from a much worse fate.

What's beautiful about this is that I did have an old spare pair I keep in the glove compartment of our car, and when I was wearing them one morning clearing the snow (it was -10 degrees outside), I was trying to clean them and snapped them in half. Can you believe that? I glued the two halves together, but they aren't perfectly in line, so they make me a little dizzy when I wear them. I've been wearing my contacts a lot more because it dawned on me that it I were driving and for some reason they broke again, I'd be in big trouble.

Anyway, yesterday I went to West Leb and stopped by Provision and got new glasses. One thing that really struck me was how exhorbitant glasses are. You're looking at $300 out the door, easy. I was shocked, but that store has a bargain shelf that has great deals. Sure, the selection is limited (an understatement if there ever was one), but you can't beat the price. Best of all, they still had my prescription on file, so I didn't have to spring for a new exam, even though I probably should get over to my optometrist.

I'm glad I got new glasses, it's one less thing to worry about in a world filled with worry.

Gotta run, the kids are awake and todays is Sunday, so I've got to make sausage. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to All

Hey Everyone, Merry Christmas and happy holidays. What crazy weather we've been having, but boy am I glad that I raked that roof. It rained last night and the temps have been well above 40, so everything is turning to ice, and all that snow on our roof would have been like a lead brick of ice. I'm sure the roof would have held it, but why take that chance?

Christmas was more manageable that I originally envisioned. I hated the idea of a gift unwrapping frenzy that we'd seen in the past. There's something scary about kids who are mindlessly tearing open presents without even a thought. It's such standard behavior these days and I hate to see it.

There were a lot of presents for the kids, thanks mostly to Joanne, of course, but everyone seemed to be in the spirit and it was actually quite nice. We generally don't go off too much because we have some issues with the whole consumer culture, but kids should have some magic in their lives, especially on Christmas Day, so we did get some stuff.

The day itself went very nicely, we seemed to pace ourselves nicely. They started with the stockings, opened a few key presents and then spent most of the morning playing with those toys. We had lunch, then they opened a few more and played with those. There were several winners, mainly the Frigitz and the dart guns. The Lego Bionicles are a favorite, and of course there were lots of sweets.

Joanne did an amazing job as usual, as did P&D, but what really surprised me was my brother. He really showed up this time, and I'm not sure what to make of it, but I'll hold off on passing any judgement.

As evening sets, we're preparing for dinner. Ruth and the kids made mincemeat tarts, a first in this house, and the chicken is smelling good. Looking forward to eating and hanging out and then spending a mellow evening with the family. It doesn't get any better than this.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve-Enough Said

Not to sound so darn cliche, but I can't believe it's Christmas Eve. Even though we've been inundated with the white stuff, somehow I still don't get that Christmas feeling, even though we are so on top of this gig. I think part of it stems from not watching TV or being heavily engaged in pop/consumer culture. We've been listening to a lot of radio, however, and the Christmas buying spirit is alive and well. Whatever be the case, the kids are thrilled to pieces.

In fact, even though I'm cynical about it at times, the Christmas spirit is alive and well in our house, and I'm glad. Children should have magic in their lives, and as parents it's within our powers to help that along, even if I find the whole Santa Claus thing a little complex to deal with. If your kids are reasonably astute, they must see through the whole charade since there are so many holes in the story. It is impressive how the whole legend and mystique of Santa Claus has been formed and promoted through the years.

We spent most of the day inside yesterday because temps were hovering around -10 degrees, if you can believe that. I had to go out and finish some stuff, but the kids decided to hang out inside and play with Legos and read books. It was an awesome day, and once again, they behaved well. We made chocolate chip cookies and I think we've figured out (sort of) the problem with burning the darn things-something that really irks me. We seem to burn a tray or two of them, and it ruins my day. The solution? Move the racks up higher to they're further removed from the heat. Duh! One solution would be to bake one tray at a time and place it on the highest rack, but that would take more time and be less energy efficient. Either way, we achieve pretty good results and we're happy with it.

My wife has been working furiously on her grant, but will stay home the next couple of days, so it'll be nice having family time at home. We got a nice message from A telling us that C misses the kids and that they've been too busy to come over. The reason this is key is because A called her two days ago and has been waiting with bated breath to hear from her. They are busy people, and she never heard from them. She's good about it, but I could tell it bummed her out. How else can you feel when your best friend doesn't call back?

Either way, it was nice of her to let us know, and she says that she's vowed to spend more time at home so the kids can play, but in the end, you do what you gotta do.

I'm still feeling my way through the homeschool gig, but one thing I love about it is when things click and you somehow feel vindicated-not that this is a requirement. First of all, N has become increasingly interested in learning, and yesterday he even wanted to do more work just for the sake of doing it. How cool is that? He's really coming along, and he works hard and feels pride in a job well done. A is amazing, she really loves to learn. The math and english are pretty straightforward, it's the history and government that are truly challenging. We've been chipping away at health and science is very accessible, and just yesterday we touched on government as a way to segue into history/social studies. Again, I have no clue what I'm doing, but that often leads to the best result. The key I've found is to take it slowly and spark interest in the subject. We'll see how it goes.

One great thing that makes me look at the kids in awe is that they're really showing interest in music. I can't even begin to tell you how happy this makes me. N picks up his guitar every day and strums it, as does A, but to a lesser degree. A's thing is the keyboard, and it really stokes me when she sits and tries to figure out songs, and she's good. Very patient. I think the keyboard is good in that way, straightforward with immediate gratification and less pain. I hope they stick with it, and it inspires me to pick up my guitar and play, as well.

Just wanted to take a moment to say thanks for Susan for her supportive words and to Gary for being my mentor.

There's so much to say, but so little time. I've resolved to write more to AC in the hopes of making some pocket change to finance rock climbing, bowling, and ice skating for the kids. It ain't much, but it's something, and it is writing.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Anger Managment and Catching a Break

I've been thinking a lot about anger and how I really want to have better control of my temper. I'm also a firm believer that if you put a lot of thought into something and set your mind to it, you can change your behavior and how you respond to things. I know this because I've done it, even with things that are like triggers that you wouldn't think I could ever address, and I've always accomplished it the same way-by taking a step back and thinking about it.

Keep in mind, it doesn't happen overnight, and in certain instances, it may never change. But it's always worth a try if you don't like the way things are. In fact, it's your duty.

Yesterday was a rough day. It really put me to the test, and in many ways, I failed. Maybe I'm being too hard on myself, but sometimes you've got to be in order to exact change. It went something like this.

We've been getting amazing amounts of snow, which would normally please me to no end except for two extenuating circumstances: we were having car problems and our roof was getting dangerously compromised (my opinion only) by the amount of snow. These were both situations that had to be deal with, and of course I didn't want to deal with them. Sometimes you have to be forced into being a real man.

To top it all off, I'd managed to break two pairs of glasses in less than a week, complicating things a bit, and we'd run into car problems, which always make me depressed. In the face of it all, there was daily life to deal with, and even though life throws you a series of curveballs, you can't avoid coming up to bat. That's life, and in the end, how it should be.

Two nights ago when we were in the thick of this massive blizzard, I tried to move our car so that there would be more space to plow and proceeded to get stuck. I wasn't so worried about that, but what got me bummed was that the windshield wipers didn't work. It's not a huge thing, but big enough to make the car undriveable in weather like this. Besides, electrical problems are always a bear to deal with. A little research revealed that our car actually has a circuit breaker on the wipers to prevent motor burnout in times of ice and snow. Fair enough, but it was only supposed to last five minutes and then go back on, and it wasn't going back on. I made an appointment at Bob's.

I tried to resolve the problem by checking the fuses and doing all that fun stuff, but nothing worked. Kurt stopped by to plow and I asked him about the roof. Should I or should I not clear all that snow? He said it could probably hold, roofs are designed to handle a lot of weight, but rain was forecast for Wednesday, and that meant all that snow, all 3 feet of it, was going to turn to ice, and then it might be a problem. I could either take a chance and not deal with it, or deal with it.

I decided to deal with, and it would require that I get up on the roof. Total bummer. But, on the bright note, this was forcing me to confront my fears and be a real man, and that's what life is all about, isn't it? I got out my 28 foot extension ladder, which I might add is a total bear to deal with, and climbed up. I was actually spared from having to stand up on the roof and just stayed put on the ladder, though getting on the roof is in my future, I'm sure of it. I managed to clear the snow by raking it off the side, but it was slow going. I could only do a little bit at a time, and in stages. I would start on one swatch, rake with the short rake to clear a path, then climb down the ladder, get extend the rake, and rake the far reaches, all the while fearing the heights. It was a little brutal, and took me upwards of 6-7 hours. I got nothing else done.

On top of it all, it was cold, and my gloves and hat were frozen solid, but I persevered and cleared about 95% of the stuff. I'm hoping to finish it off today.

As the sun started to set, I also had to fill the wood box because cold temps were coming. Getting wood meant that I was also going to have to shovel a path to the wood, since I'd spent all day on the roof. I was tired, irritable, and cold, so I was not in a good frame of mind. I cleared a path, loaded the wheel barrow, and about halfway to the door, managed to spill all the wood. Once it starts leaning, it's all over, and man was I mad. Furious, and I cussed and threw wood at the ground. Fortunately, the kids were inside playing so they missed my tirade, but I was ashamed of myself, nonetheless. I mean, really, what's the big deal.

I finished what I was doing, resolved to work harder on my anger, and decided that pizza was in our future. They have a great deal at Ramunto's on Mondays, so drove the truck over, got the pie, and were pleasantly surprised to find mom home early.

AND, she said the wipers were now working. How cool is that? Now we don't have to drive it to Bob's in the rain, which was making me anxious and bumming me out. We had pizza, hung out, and now it's today.

Just wanted to mention that the kids were absolutely fabulous yesterday, playing by themselves and entertaining themselves. It makes parenting all that much easier.

I've been trying to write but not finding the time, but overall I feel good. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Three Days til Christmas

I can't believe it's here. Christmas is always exciting to anticipate but a letdown once it passes. The kids are thrilled to pieces, so that's all that matters, in the end. We sort of had out act together this year, we got our tree early and decorated it, sent our cards out early as usual, heard from old friends, got gift boxes out on time. Even still, it seems like no matter how much you're on the ball, there are always a few choice items that stress you out at the last minute. Those are the things that make the holidays a drag, unfortunately.

We are dealing with some life issues on this end, as well. Mainly, our car. We love our Mazda, but for some crazy reason, the windshield wiper stopped working, and we need those wipers. It happened last night when I tried to move the car and it got stuck. I tried wiping and the thing didn't work. Now we need to resolve the situation. The weather is supposed to be okay for most of the day, but once it snows we're in trouble. Also, there's tons of dirt and mud that gets sprayed up off the road. The whole thing made me depressed last night, and actually made me wish the snow would stop. But, you can't sit around feeling sorry for yourself, you've got to deal. That's the New England way, and why we live up here.

We've discovered some new fun activities for the kids, mainly rock climbing and bowling, but we may have already talked about this.

I've also decided to take a new tact on writing and try to submit something every day to AC. Even though the whole peer commenting process strikes me as a bit disingenuous, the system seems to work, and I'm worthy of thinking I'm above it all.

Thinking we'll work on Christmas cards today. Have lots of planning to do for Christmas, like unpacking gifts and choosing a meal plan.

Most importantly, have to figure out what's wrong with the car. Yesterday was the solstice but the weather sort of made it hard to celebrate. And our car issues.

I tried to go skiing yesterday and the snow and wind were so fierce that I had to call it a day. Total bummer. Now I've got loads of shoveling to do and I'm guessing C will come over, or should I say hoping since the kids are pining for her. I wonder sometimes if it's constructive, but that's childhood, best friends and all.

Not feeling particularly inspired today, even though there's so much to tell. I've got to be more efficient with my writing, however, and get more done in less time. Is it possible? I hope so.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Shifting Gears and the Week Ahead

Christmas week, it's hard to believe it's already here. Exciting stuff, the kids should have a fun time because I believe we are flush with stuff. I still need to get a few things for my wife, but for the most part I believe we are complete with the kids, and that's all that counts in the end. Yesterday mom got all her packages out in the mail, and I got my one. I've decided that this year I'm only giving gifts to D&T. My brother and my mom will get cards only, for a number of reasons that I won't go into.

I had a freak accident yesterday while I was shoveling snow, and I have a hard time even describing it. There was so much snow and I really had to put some backbone into it. Buried underneath, and hidden from my view, was a long wooden stake, about five feet long, that I managed to get under and fling upwards toward my face. The stick nailed me in the eye, shattering my glasses but fortunately doing no harm to my eye. I lost a few of the pieces, though, and my glasses are history. Bummer. I had to wear contacts, and managed to dig up an old pair to use for now. Not sure what I'm going to do since the old pair works and a new pair will be expensive. One more thing to deal with.

We were in Hanover yesterday and were pressed for time so we jetted through the library and were a bit rushed, but managed to score some books. The city was crowded for what we later realized was the Revels show, something we have yet to attend, but will probably one day. We saw our Waldorf friends who invited us to their Solstice celebration, but we're a little busy so we'll see.

I've decided that the time has come to shift gears in terms of my writing and revisit AC. I have been neglecting the site and perhaps am guilty of feeling too big for my own britches, but whatever be the case, I'm going to start submitting there again. I need to make some money, even if it's only pennies a day. Something's gotta give until I can write my queries and get some sort of response from the pubs. They keep blowing me off and I don't know if that means I'm finished or the ball is still rolling. A little feedback would be nice, but I can't be picky since I'm at their mercy. I hate when that happens, because it never seems to work out.

As far as my writer's block, I've got to pull my head out of my ass and just do it. I think too much, and consequently nothing gets done. We watched an interesting show last night, This American Life, and I'm not sure if I like it that much, but there was an interesting segment on a woman who wrote a screenplay at 63, and how she just did it. It made me want to write more in that direction, even though I have my issues with Hollywood.

Oh well. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Missing our Friends and the Return of the Cats

We've been sort of landlocked with only one car, sort of, and haven't made it out to the other side to see our friends, which is kind of a bummer, but the holidays are always hard. It'll happen, I'm sure of it. When we do things, it tends to be during school hours, so our friends are busy, but again, give it time. We have a lot of fun no matter what, and often times when you factor in other kids, things get way to complicated and they end up not being as fun. I've experienced this on many occasions.

Also, we had our cats spayed, and they're back home now, though a little bit off, understandably. Just wanted to mention that the procedure cost an arm and a leg, I couldn't believe how expensive it was, but at least it's done, and they are at home and on the mend. We missed them, they really part of our family and the house just seems quiet without them.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Grooving, Having Fun, and Writer's Block

Things have been going pretty mellow, and I must say we've found a bit of a groove in many areas. It makes out day that much more enjoyable, and I think the kids get a lot out of it. First off, we start slow, no rush to be anywhere or do anything, so they get to enjoy breakfast and some quiet time getting their day started. I've found that doing our school work ASAP is helpful, so after brushing teeth, we'll hit the books. A is the most resistant, even though once she gets started, she really gets into it, evident by the fact that she often does more than is asked of her. It's awesome to see, because she really loves learning. N has been outstanding, and has moved it up the next level. In fact, I think he really secretly likes doing his work, and will even mention it to me, as if the day can't move forward until he gets to do his school work. How cool is that? He's a reader even though he won't admit it.

Overall, it's been going pretty smoothly, but you gotta ride the peaks because the valleys are always waiting in the wings. I've found that you really have to stand your ground and get the work done, just a little bit each day, and not try to reinvent the wheel. I'm really trying to avoid making school work a chore, and don't want them to hate it, though a bit of that is inevitable. Whatever the case, they are doing a great job, and the key is going at a pace that works for them rather than a one-size-fits all approach. The mantra of homeschooling, and thus far things are working out.

On the fun side, we've actually been partaking in a number of activities and it's been a blast. The kids have really taken to three things-bowling, XC skiing, and rock climbing. It's awesome, and they are all a good distance from us so getting there is not an insurmountable chore, like so many things in our lives. I'm glad they enjoy them, though they can add up in terms of expense. The best thing, we can all do them together, and when mom is free, she can join us.

AND, we aren't even doing things like ice skating and dance, so things are working out on the activity front. I just need to get documentation (i.e., pics) to placate the state, but that shouldn't be a problem. Then again, it's not easy to belay and hold a camera at the same time. Just wanted to mention a cool note John at the Wall for being a good friend and neighbor and letting us slide on the admission fee to climb. I'd forgotten my wallet, and he said we could owe them or even call in the credit card. Thanks John! FYI, he's a local resident.

I love small town life, people are so cool. It makes the holidays that much more special.

I've been struggling to find my footing in the writing world and have to confess to having some serious blockage, and I'm not talking about my colon. I've been struggling to write my piece for WAHM, sorry Erika, but will get it done in the next week, I've made a promise to everyone, including myself. I've pitched my ideas to a few pubs, and the thing that sucks is that I never hear back. What a drag, they just completely blow me off. At least the courtesy of a response would be so appreciated, but they all leave me hanging. Such is the life of a freelance writer, so I've got to keep my feet moving and not feel discouraged, but it ain't easy. Even just writing a query or a pitch is difficult, but again, I'm not getting anywhere by whining, and I really need to generate some sort of income, even if it's chipping away at the stone. More on this later.

In the meantime, it's back to the keyboard. We'll see how this one goes. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Everyday is a Snow Day, Missing Our Cats, and Christmas on the Horizon

We got some good snow yesterday, and since it was imperative that we take full advantage of it, we went out first thing in the morning and played in it. The kids really love getting suited up and hitting the snow. It's beautiful to watch kids play in the snow, there's truly something magical about it. Kids and dogs just love snow, and there's an important message in there.

Being a parent, of course, requires dealing with snow's challenges, so while the kids played I dealt with shoveling and clearing, not to mention getting firewood. What's nice is the kids actually enjoy helping with the shoveling. I don't know how this works, but some kids are just motivated to do things that you wouldn't think they would enjoy, and it's cute as heck to see. N in particular loves to shovel snow, and they cleared out a little ice patch to be their in-house ice skating rink. It's slippery as heck, dare I say dangerous. I've taken more than my share of spills on it.

We took Misty and Dusty to the vet yesterday, braving the blizzard no less (chalk one up for our Hakkas) to have them spayed. The vet actually called to say all went well, so that's a big relief, but they hold onto the cats for 24 hours so we haven't seen them and miss them. As much as they drive you crazy, they really are a part of our family, though the kids have been dealing with the situation very well. We're going to pick them up today with the truck and I have anxiety about how it will deal with the road conditions. I have this notion that we'll have to drive the entire way in 4WD, but we shall see.

Had a good day of homeschooling, N finished his math workbook and is on the cusp of hitting the big time. Fortunately I have his next book and I'm curious to see how he deals with upping the ante a little. I've found learning with him takes a lot more stealth and agility, and forces me to be a lot more involved and engaged. I enjoy it, though it's more work, but nobody said we're looking for the easy way out on this one. Either way, it's exciting to see him engaged and enthusiastic about learning, and in the end, what homeschooling is all about.

Christmas is right around the corner, we have a week to go, and I have to deal with family stuff, especially getting a card out to my mom and my neices present. I have them, just need to send them.

Also have to get stocking stuffers for the kids. We try to discourage massive consumption of junk, but they need to have something, and Joanne does a great job sending them lots of stuff while we can fill in the gaps. It's a bit much at times, but they're kids and should have magic in their lives.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Confronting Boredom and Waiting

Yesterday we had a mellow day and sat around the house not doing much of anything. Sure, we dealt with the things we had to deal with, like cleaning and meals and homeschool assignments, but on the whole, it was my kind of day-relaxing with nowhere to be. There is usually plenty for me to deal with around the house, especially with assorted projects that are in limbo, but what works for me doesn't always work for the kids, and I got a sense at times that they were getting bored.

My first impulse was to load them up in the truck and cart them off to fun and exciting places, but then it dawned on me that we'd had a pretty active weekend, and there's nothing wrong with spending some quiet time at home, even being bored. It's something we talk about all the time, the need to be able to spend time in your own head, free from external distractions. Heck, that's how I grew up, and remember actually looking forward to having some down time to myself where I could make up my own world. Sure, that may be asking a lot of today's kids, but when you can sit quietly and entertain yourself, the world becomes a much more manageable place, and you become less dependent on other people and other stimuli.

It seems like more and more everyone around me is incapable of just sitting still. The world is just so distracted, and a lot of it has to do with the internet and TV.

Anyway, it was a slow mellow day, and I think the kids are all the better for it. Today we'll try to go and do some fun stuff, maybe hit the rock climbing gym. You never know.

We are moving into the next phase of homeschooling for N. He is getting good at reading and writing, and though he takes part begrudgingly, he does take part, and without much of a fight. While I have no illusions of whether he actually likes it, sometimes he's fairly motivated, which makes me think he doesn't hate it. We ordered new books for him and I think he'll be ready when the time comes. Things are starting to click with him, though his enthusiasm isn't always there. Give the guy a break, he's young. There are more fun things to do.

As for A, it becomes a question of addressing the areas of need. Her math and reading are fine, and I know she can grasp and absorb all concepts of health and science, it's history and government that will be more of challenge. How do you make that interesting? We are focusing on health and science, and again, it's about getting the cold hard facts. We're getting there, but slowly, and we are always shifting on the fly.

In a way, it's nice the Christmas concert stuff is over because it opens up Fridays to do social/fun stuff, and it's one less appointment to worry about. BTW, the concert was great, A really shined, and best of all, she loved it. She found something she could do and do it well, and she asserted herself and showed courage and poise. Big things for a seven year old.

I'm still waiting to hear from the Valley News and it's not looking good. I'm doing the worst thing in sitting around and waiting, as if my life depended on this one thing, and I don't even have any details about the gig, i.e., does it even pay? Once again, putting all my eggs in one basket. The truth is, I think it would suit me well, and I've got the experience and ability to fill the void, but I guess I'll hear about it if it was meant to be.

In the meantime, I had this brilliant idea: move on with my life. Does it get any better? I decided to continue pitching my ideas to not only other pubs, but to the same pub. I still like my idea of Green In, and think it would be suitable for any of the assorted pubs in the area, all five of them. I just need to get a general query together, which is a lot harder than it seems.

I've also other things to deal with, including house stuff and pieces I need to finish, all of which are weighing heavily on my mind, bringing me down. It gets me depressed just thinking about it, but again, the only way to rise above it is to rise above it. Deal with it and you shall be rewarded.

About 9 more days until Christmas, and there are still things I need to take care of. Got to get my mom's card, my sis in law's gifts, and the last of cards out. I should deal with that today. Hope to get to the Wall, and would love to do some ice skating, maybe with the homeschool skate, but that's on Friday.

I'm living my life like a cliche, so much to do, so little time. I've also been doing battle with our cat, she simply loves to destroy our tree, and has been slowly taking out ornaments and destroying them. It made me mad at first, and I reprimanded her but regretted it, so for now, I'll just deal with it. No big deal, right?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Weather and Our Daughter's Show

It's cold outside, the temperature differential has been about fifty degrees over the last two days, which makes a mess of things outside. You understand why people obsess over the weather in the Northeast. It really forces you to adapt and improvise by challenging you constantly. We have been part of the lucky crowd in that we have electricity. People not too far from us, in fact less than half a mile, have lost power for a day or two. It's pretty significant when the weather is this cold, because everything ends up freezing and the days are so short. We're supposed to get a warm front, and then more cold weather. What a strange Winter it's been thus far.

Fortunately, as well, we have lots of wood, so there's at least the heat to keep us warm. Still no big snow storm, though, and it's looking less and less like we'll have a white Christmas. Speaking of which, they sang that last night at the show.

The show was really cool on so many levels, the most important of which was seeing A on stage. Enough said. The children all did a wonderful job, they looked so cute up there in their Sunday best, and best of all, it looked like they were all having fun. The most important thing. Afterward, A commented on the thrill of the applause. She said it made her feel more brave, and I'm glad she enjoyed herself.

It was a little harder for N, who was full of beans, but you can hardly blame him since the show was near his bedtime and even for an adult it's hard to sit still. Even with all that, he did a great job of sitting through the show. It couldn't have been easy. Hopefully a day show will be a bit more manageable.

I'm thinking today will be a mellow day, spent mostly just hanging out in the house, by the fire, though I do want to get some workbook stuff done. It'll make me the goat, but I'm willing to assume that position. Heck, somebody's got to.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Back in the Saddle

After a bout of some serious GI malaise, I'm finally feeling human again, and not a moment too soon. It's hard enough when you're feeling healthy, but add a bug that wipes you out and you're really struggling. The situation was compounded by the fact that mom had a particularly busy week and was not necessarily at liberty to take a huge amount of time off, so woe was me. Now that I'm feeling better, I ate up a storm last night with pizza and ice cream, both of which I could easily regret, or should I say, my family could regret as the gas bubble in my gut grows.

We had some really inclement weather yesterday, so much so that it made headline news. Apparently up to 1 million people in the Northeast were without power, and many of our neighbors were coping with it. We were lucky in that we never lost it for more than a second, and we could function relatively smoothly. In fact, the kids went to play at C's house for what was supposed to be a 2 hour playdate and they ended up staying there for 5 hours. School had been canceled because of the weather.

Under ordinary circumstances, this would be fine because it left me alone to deal with house issues, but G called and said he would come over with T and take a look at our barn. I couldn't pass up the chance to talk to him and pick his brain, and I figured the kids would be back by then, but the entire time they were here, the kids never came back. They were having fun with C, I know, but I felt bad for T. I owe her one, big time. It was nice to see G, however, though he's got a lot on his mind. He's a man who's searching for the answers, and that's never an easy path.

By noon it turned out to be a nice day, and while the kids were having fun, I managed to get a lot done around the house, mainly outside stuff dealing with the snow, which was brutal because it was wet and heavy. The problem was that it was supposed to freeze overnight and then the surfaces would be a disaster. Lots to do, a lot of muscle work, but the sun came out and it turned out to be a beautiful day.

My priority in my writing are twofold-to finish my WAHM piece, (did I mention Erika paid me? Stoked!), and then start working on pitch ideas. It's fun to think about, though daunting in practice. Mom and I have been talking a lot about screenplays, and it seems to crop up now and then. I still love the idea, but we don't work well together. Either way, we could do it, and we have the connections. In fact, I just heard from John and Jim on the same day, which is kind of interesting in retrospect.

And, of course, I still want to write the elusive novel, but that's the quintessential pie in the sky stuff that every aspiring writer gravitates to. So cliche.

Today is Saturday, and there are a million things to do in this area with the holidays and all, but we need to end up at the library at some point. Personally, I'd rather spend a couple of hours there than go to some big to-do surrounded by hundreds of people. I just love the Howe, but that's just nerdy me. I think the kids are not so keen on crowds, either.

We heard from M and K, our good friends, and that was nice. Ah, the beauty of the holidays, a time to connect with old friends.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rising From the Dead, Sort Of

Boy, I sure felt like heck yesterday. This bug I've contracted really knocks you out, it's pretty ugly, but GI infections are never pretty. This one is particularly aggressive, and I've found myself at time concerned as I recall stories of people infected with E coli who die from GI trauma. It was that crazy. I still feel pretty crappy, but a lot better, and last night I ate my first solid food, some spaghetti that I'd made for the kids. It was so good, I was so hungry after not eating for at least 36 hours, but I thought in the back of my mind that I was going to regret it. Somehow, food just goes right through me.

It wasn't the case, and I managed to get some sustenance into me, so that helped make me feel much better. In fact, I did a few things that I think helped me out, though it could have simply been that I was on the road to recovery. What was difficult was that I felt weak and hungry, but couldn't eat. Food had no appeal, so all I did was drink.

This situation was compounded by the fact that I had to keep the house afloat, make meals, homeschool and do my best to keep my germs away from the kids, which entailed washing my hands about a thousand times a day and bathing in Purell. Not to be a sissy about it, but my hands have taken a beating, and they are cracked and bleeding.

I managed to survive by stealth parenting-getting the things that need to get done and then lying down and napping in between. It's the only way I can survive. So I'll lie down and wait for the kids to wake up, get them juices and breakfast, then lie down while they lounge by the fire and relax. Then they're pretty much on autopilot for most of the morning, playing or reading and just hanging out. The only pressing issue that needs to be attended to are the dishes, which can sit and wait until lunchtime, if need be. At some point we need to brush teeth, and that's a good segue point into doing homeschooling, which can be a bit of struggle because work is always greeted with disdain.

Once we're done with that, I can rest some more, then it's lunch, more dishes, and then preparing for dinner. It never ends, and I'd like to point out that this is all accomplished with NO TV, the bane of our civilization.

By the time mom gets home, I'm whipped and ready to crawl into bed and die. That's how it's been over the past couple of days, and to aggravate the situation, I can't eat so I have no energy. Today I feel much better, and I attribute this to eating probiotics. I had some probiotic yogurt and I took a tablet, and my GI is in much better shape. Again, it could be that I was just on the road to recovery, but you gotta believe in something.

Today there's supposed to be a big storm, and we might be housebound, but we've been in the house for several days and I'd like to try to venture out with Gary's truck. The main problems, and they are major problems, are that the truck is not snow worthy, and the inspection certificate is expired, so we are taking chances. We need to get out before the storm hits, and hope we don't get pulled over. It makes for a tense drive, to say the least. On top of that, I'd like to make it to Sterns. Am I crazy, or what? I feel bad for the kids, though, they've been so well behaved these past few days, true gems, to say the least, but you didn't have to tell me that.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sick as a Dog, Everything Bagels, and Decorating the Tree

Ugh! I'm sick as a dog, and there's no relief in sight. I've been told that this bug is going around and the chain of symptoms begin with a GI situation followed by a cold-like malaise. I definitely had the GI stuff, and now I feel like death warmed over. To top things off, last night when my wife was helping me out by making me something to eat, I stepped on her glasses, destroying them, and then kept her up all night with my flatulence. Can I be a bigger pain in the ass?

Yesterday was quite a chore, and I'm proud of the kids because they really made the day easier for me by taking care of themselves. I probably took three or four naps, and all the while they entertained themselves, and we were indoors the entire day. AND, we managed to get some school work done. Go figure.

We made everything bagels a few days ago, and the kids really enjoy making them. They do a great job, and I have to confess, we are getting the recipe down. They are pretty good, especially when they're fresh out of the oven. And now we don't have to drop $1 a bagel as the Basement. Also, we can make them healthier by using a more multi-grain approach.

The Christmas spirit is in the air. On Sunday we got our tree. We droves Gary's truck down to North Hartland and got it off the guys at Wright's Mill. They have trees out there every year, and usually sell out. Last year we tried to get one there and were too late. They only had Charlie Brown Christmas trees left over, so we ended up going to West Leb, which was fine, as well, because the trees there are local.

It was a lot of fun decorating the tree, and it marks the real beginning of feeling the Christmas spirit. In fact, this is the earliest we've ever obtained and decorated our tree, so we're on top of things. I was impressed with how many decorations we'd collected over the years, and it made for a good time. The kids really too the initiative and did pretty much everything. and they did a nice job. The best was when we did the night time, lighted tree test. That's when the magic of the tree really shines through.


R thought it might be a good time to try taking the annual Christmas photo, and as you can see, she got nowhere with it. The kids were just too excited and having too much fun to take anything too seriously, so she put that project on hold. Now the biggest issue we face is keeping the cats from destroying the tree. They can't seem to resist, and never seem to learn. I know some people think cats are smarter than dogs, but I really doubt it. They don't seem to put two and two together, and seem to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Food Issues, Writing, and Scaring the Cats

Last night when my wife and I were watching the Office (BTW, we love that show, though the 4th season is leaving us flat), which we get on Netflix, and I had to use the bathroom about five times. I've got some serious GI issues that are very reminiscent of the New York Chinatown food poisoning experience, which is gross because it boils down to eating someone's feces. It happens with regularity in a place like Chinatown NYC, but up here? It's not pleasant but not earth shattering, and R and I can deal with it. I'm just more concerned with the kids. We did go out to eat last night, but I'm not sure what the turnover time is between exposure and symptoms. Bummer.

The kids have been turning up the pressure on getting a tree, and I don't see why we couldn't get it together and get it this weekend. It's just down the road, all I'd have to do is fire up Gary's truck and head on over. Then we can spend the next few days decorating, which is always fun. I even had the ambitious idea of putting lights up in front of the house, but am not sure how I'd pull that off. I thought of lighting up some of the trees out front, but one thing at a time.

Speaking of Christmas, I think I'm finished with my cards. I got a bundle to send out, and most of them are ready to go, though there are a few that I'd like to write more substantial messages in, for good friends that I haven't spoken to in awhile. It's not easy writing letters, however.

BTW, I finally got paid for my writing for WAHM. Not bad, I'm pretty excited, and suddenly I'm an official freelance writer. Now if I could just get some gigs, life would be good. I think the first order of business is to finish what I want to submit to WAHM and then work on queries to other pubs. I haven't heard back from one, and am wondering how I should go about following up. The waiting part stinks the most.

I did have an idea for a book, however, and it stems from the chain of events involving the barn. The lean would be from a practical as well as spiritual POV, a sort of apostasy followed by the return and redemption of one's self. The book I think of is Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, one of my all time favorites.

When I was trying to go to bed last night, Dusty darted into the room and I had a heck of time trying to get her out. Ultimately, I ended up scaring the pants off her (do cats wear pants?) and not only did it take a lot longer than it should have, but it was an unpleasant experience for all. I should have kept my cool, but I panicked and consequently, made her panic. I felt bad and this morning it almost seemed like she was waiting for me and we made amends. I need to keep my cool, something I'm not always good at, but I'm working on it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Another Busy But Fruitful Day

Yesterday was one of those days that you begin by wondering how the heck you're going to pull it off, and by day's end, you are overcome with a profound sense of satisfaction and accomplishment because you survived it. And it all stems from being too ambitious.

We had a performance to attend at the Hop, and I'd just like to give a big thumbs up to the people responsible for the Youth Educational Series, or YES, for doing a great job of organizing the program. It was the best yet, in the opinion of Fred Lee.

The show was at 11:15, which would normally give you plenty of time, but we are slow starters, and we had to get my wife to work, as well. You want to know what's awesome, though? A and knew about our schedule, and came down early in the morning already dressed. How cool is that? They are so cute.

Getting out the door was much easier than I had anticipated, and by 9:30 we were heading out to DHMC. The plan was to drop Ruth off, do our stuff, and then pick her up for the Africa school benefit. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? We dropped R off and had about an hour before the show, so we went to the Howe. My idea was to get some books or movies to entertain N during A's rehearsal, because it's hard for him to sit through an hour of choir, and I feel bad subjecting him to it.

We actually had plenty of time at the library, so there was no rush and we could enjoy our time, which is how we like it, and this is a great time of year because they seem to get an onslaught of holiday material, which is always fun. And, I always enjoy chatting with D about parenthood and homeschooling.

I picked out some movies for N, mainly Thomas and I Spy, and we went off to meet the Mack's. Now this is unfair, but I was counting on A to get there early and save us some seats. In the end, I should be responsible for our own stuff, and when we got there, it was crowded. A said she'd gotten there late and there weren't enough seats, so we had to improvise. The place was packed, and we were going to have to split up, but leave it to A to take charge of the situation. She asked the women at the end to scoot over and make room, and they did so, albeit seemingly begrudgingly. I felt bad, but actually had a chance to meet MP, which was nice

We also saw the rest of our homeschooling brethren, and it was very interesting to see the homeschoolers who are out there. Many of them I had seen around town but had no idea that they were being homeschooled, and was happy to learn that they are. Very interesting.

The show was great, as I've mentioned. I don't know if it's the British sensibility, or what, but they did such a good job of making the show interesting, entertaining, and funny. It was so very witty, we all enjoyed it very much. After the show, we experienced the usual neurosis with Amanda of not knowing what to do. We wanted to get lunch, and Amanda is always there to bust your balls and give you a hard time over everything you say and do. All in good fun, mind you.

So went for pizza, and like always, it worked out well. It's just fun hanging out with the Mack's, even though it stresses me out at times. I just feel so under the gun and scrutinized. We managed to get by with one pizza, talk about affordable. I think the entertainment value of eating with friends just goes a long way.

We said our goodbyes and then it was off to home, but not before stopping off at Stern's for some fruit and veggies. I love that place. Granted, it's not local, but it's a great value, and you can find some real home runs. Just try to find comice pears at Shaw's. They didn't have pineapples, which I was planning on getting, but everything else went well. And we got to see Gary walking the kids out to the playground, though he seemed preoccupied and busy, understandably so.

After Stern's, we stopped at the dump to unload the recycling, and saw our good friend and neighbor EB. What a great guy, so representative of the Hartland good vibe. I would love to see more of the guy, but we're all busy, in the end.

To the post office to get some stamps and send off our Euro Christmas cards, and then to chorus. Of all the stupid things, I managed to do a zinger. I checked out some movies for N during chorus and then left them all at home, so when we got to chorus, I set up my computer and was all ready, getting him all psyched up for it, and when I went to the car, the movies were gone, because I'd left them at home. Sometimes I think stupidity is the biggest factor in evolutionary removal.

I had to drive us back home, get the movies, and then get back to choir. Stupid. Anway, it worked out fine, he got to watch Thomas with the headphones, and I got to watch A's rehearsal. I'm still struck but how much certain kids just don't seem to listen to the adults.

After chorus, we piled back into the car, drove to DHMC and played in the CHAD room. There seems to be some turnover at that place, and the new people are just as nice. I believe her name was Jennifer, and they are always nice to the kids. They have a brand new Thomas track, so N has a blast, and A can draw or read. And I can sit and do nothing. Perfect. She said she'd put A's picture on the wall, but I'm not sure if she realized she already had one up there.

By the time 5:00 rolled around, R met with us and we went to our Africa benefit. Our friends were holding a dinner with a silent auction to raise funds for a school in Kenya. Very nice, and the turnout was huge. I thought it would be some small deal, but there were a lot of people, and I'm hoping that it went well. We got to see some old friends and the food was good, as were the desserts. We brought our brownies.

AND, we got some stuff at auction. The kids got to experience the thrill of victory when you bid on something, not to mention that anxiety and stress that go with hoping your bid will win. They both got necklaces and were happy, and RutRh got this beautiful painting. It got a little cutthroat at points, and I felt myself getting defensive of our choices. One guy was auctioning off some of his pics and he outbid everyone for them so he could take them home. Talk about lame, and we know this guy.

In the end, it was for the school, and we gave them all of our coins that we rolled up, which was well over $400. That's a set of new snow tires!

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Marathon Morning and Family Harmony

Wow, we had quite the day, yesterday, almost of all of it spent in the kitchen. We managed to bake bagels, two loaves of bread, a tray of brownies (for the Kenyan orphans benefit), and some cornbread casserole for supper. The bread stuff is what kills you, all that kneading. I made a point of having the kids help out so that they get their hands on something meant to help people in need, because at their age it's all so abstract, but just getting a sense of how other people live is still a good experience. This is where travel really makes a big impression.

The kids are always so willing to help out in the kitchen, and though it makes things challenging at times, I really like the idea of them having a sense of what they eat. It's just a glimpse, because in the end, they have no idea what goes into providing three healthy meals a day, but they should also retain some of the innocence of childhood. That's what being a kid is all about.

By some miracle, amidst all the chaos, I has also managed to be consistent with our homeschooling. It doesn't take too much time, and you can make it fun by making it interesting. Plug the fundamentals a little bit each day, and make some effort to find fun or interesting projects and things can really move along. We have been focusing on health even though I really wanted to get some national and state history in there. I really need to work on Vermont history.

The problem I have, something that has haunted me my entire life, is that if things are lined up perfectly, I shut down and get nothing done. The beauty is, nothing ever lines up perfectly, so nothing gets done. Subsequently, I fall back on what's easy and familiar, which is not wholly bad since we are getting things done, but I need to deal with this. I wanted to get some more done on the Constitution and the Continental Congress, but I don't have too many resources. Then again, I'm just making excuses and just got an idea-the internet.

My wife and I had a bit of a spat on Tuesday night, and it stemmed from me acting like a big baby. I woke up on Wednesday expecting an uncomfortable home environment, but we usually, not always, but almost 9 times out of 10, wake up hoping to reconcile and work things out. It's actually awesome, because order is restored, we take a long moment to reflect on the conflict, and we work it out. So far, so good. It stems from our love for eachother and our family, because in the end, that is what it is all about. It's a wonderful feeling when you're full of regret and remorse and your wife is on the same page as you. My previous m.o. was always to draw it out and play games, and that is so stupid and such a waste of time, and in the end, we don't have time for that.

Either way, in a strange and perverse way, spats tend to draw us closer together. If anything, they force us to think about life once again, rather than walk around like drones on auto pilot. Having children goes a long way to this effect.

There are times that I feel so unworthy of my family, but it drives me to be the best possible father and person that I can possibly be. But it doesn't happen in a vacuum, you have to be open to the idea that you'll grow as a family, and the only way that happens is to spend time together and acknowledge your shortcomings. And compromise.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's the Little Things

Sometimes you have to measure life by the small victories, and for that matter, defeats. Yesterday we had such a nice day, but it ended with N melting down a little and refusing to eat dinner. A total bummer, because he's been eating up a storm lately, and he's not a big eater, leaning towards being a bit fussy. There's something going on with that boy, and he absolutely refuses to talk about it, but I'm wondering if it's rooted in either C&P. Maybe somebody's being mean to him and it really affects him. We'll have to investigate.

We've delved into our new homeschooling program and are trying to make a greater effort to address our previous shortcomings, mainly in everything but math and english. In the end, we have no issues with what the kids are learning, because they are doing a great job, we just need to be more adept at accountability, i.e., satisfying the state. This is not necessarily a bad thing because it forces us to give greater thought to what we are doing, which is always good.

Besides, employing a little variation makes learning more fun and interesting.

Looking out the window, I realize that we left the sleds and stuff out on the hill. Today is going to be a crazy day because I'm planning on making bread, bagels, cookies, and dinner. It could get ugly.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, December 1, 2008

First Real Snow, Seeing Friends, and Good Deeds


We got our first real snow with what I would consider to be consider to be real coverage, and I kept thinking to myself, I'm sure glad we have our snow tires on. The kids were thrilled to be out in the snow, and they motivated to get out in the white stuff. I still can't comprehend people who don't excited at a fresh new snowfall, but such is the life of a Flatlander. No matter, as long as we enjoy it, let them be glum.

The kids got the sleds and we have this new skateboard type thing that we actually found at the dump. It was pretty cool, actually, and the kids both got a huge kick out of it. Not unlike snowboarding, and could be a good stepping stone to it. I harbor a secret fantasy that they will both take to snowboarding, but one thing at a time here. Looking forward to doing some winter sports.
After sledding for a bit, we were all a bit winded, out of shape from not being active enough in the cool autumn weather. It's unfortunate that we can't do more hiking in the fall, but with hunting season and all, we'd just as soon stay out of the woods. Either way, we came inside and sat by the fire in our thermals and had some hot cocoa. You just can't beat those moments.

We saw our friends the Macks at the library and we are going to have to arrange a dinner date, there's no way around it. We just can't seem to get our act together, and I'm surprised they've been so patient with us, but that's where we lucked out in choosing good friends. I really like them, even if A breaks my balls all the time and gives me the third degree with reckless abandon. Sometimes I think she relishes the idea of putting me in my place. It's overwhelming at times, and the fact that she's so smart only aggravates the situation.

I finally found a copy of the Upper Valley Parents paper. It's a quarterly, which goes a long way in explaining why I couldn't find the thing. Glad I got it, though.

R came up with a nice idea for the holidays, something that will teach the kids some appreciation for all they have, hopefully. Not that they take life for granted, but when you really get down to it, we have it pretty good compared to a lot of people in the world. Our friends in the Wira lab have created a charity in Kenya to support education for children. Basically, I think they are trying to start a school, and on Friday they are having party to muster support. R's idea was to collect our loose change and give it to them. We did the Coinstar thing a few years ago, and pooled the money, including all the loose pennies that we save. We ended up with about $20 in pennies and the total amount was about $500. Not bad for a bunch of coins. Heck, that's four snow tires.

We all stuffed coin wrappers together, and then we all went to the bank and cashed them out. I think it's nice for the kids to get some idea of how the other half lives, even if they can't possibly comprehend what they are going through. Every little bit helps.

I have to run and make dinner. Lots of stuff going on, we are bailing out on finishing the barn, and that's a story in and of itself, but more later. We have bailed out on the River Valley Club, you couldn't pay me to go back there, and somehow we're going to have to excuse ourselves from the Quechee Club swim lessons. J is going to strangle me.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

We drove Balloon Gary's truck to the rec center and it was fun. The truck is massive, but a great way to go short distances.

Nice Weekend

We had a nice weekend because it involved the things we like most-mainly time spent with family and friends, in that order. At least that's the way I see it. We had a really nice Thanksgiving, and I'm not sure if I talked about it, but we went over to the B's house for desert and spent a really nice evening with them and A's folks. Super nice people, and I really enjoyed just hanging out with them. It's always nice when you meet nice, down to earth people, much like many people out here in our town. Best of all, everyone has fun, because A and C are best friends, though I still wonder about how N fares.

On Friday night I was slated to go out drinking with Paul, but I made a blunder and had to back out because we had planned on going to family skate night at Union Arena and had also planned on going to the store. I ditched the store plans and we went to skate, and it was a blast. The kids had a lot of fun, and I got to make good use, once again, of my LL Bean Bag. Speaking of which, I requested another one for Christmas. It's just the greatest thing, ever.

Skating was fun, I was surprised how long everyone lasted because I was yawning up a storm. In fact, we brushed the kid's teeth assuming they'd crash out on the ride home, but the hung in there, and it worked out well. Best of all, we got to hang out together and skate. Life is good.

We have been slacking big time on our academics, and it's a bit of a downer but nice to take a break from butting heads with them over doing their workbook stuff. And, it spares me from having to come up with lesson plans in History, Health and Science. Then again, putting things like that off make me anxious. Today is Monday and we'll have to get back in the swing of things.

We finally put our snow tires on, and it was actually a nice scene, a sign of life in a small town. I have to go read to N, however, so I've got to finish this later. Until then, thanks for reading.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Stress and the Learning to Lighten Up

We had a great Thanksgiving yesterday, capping it off with a really nice visit to the Boland's house for desert. We got to meet Amber's folks and they were super nice, I really enjoyed hanging out with them. And of course, Audrey and Nicholas were thrilled to be able to go over to Clara's, they can never get enough of her.

I got a little stressed and I'm ashamed to admit it, but after supper, we were running late and I overreacted as usual and took the kids over while Ruth was getting ready. The funny thing is, while I was stressing, I was also able to remind myself that it was no big deal and that my stress was completely unfounded, but I still went for it. When we got there, the Bolands weren't even eating desert, yet, they were just hanging out and chilling, so no big deal. I apologized to Ruth and we worked out the situation, but it was my bad. Have to work harder on that.

In that vein of thought, I am making a greater conscious effort to lighten up, especially with the kids. It ain't easy trying to address your hair triggers, but at the very least I am aware of them when they happen and I'm consciously trying to combat them. That is always the first step, so stay tuned for more.

Our Thanksgiving meal went well, though the time was all thrown off, we ended up eating at 3:00, which is way too early for us, and personally I don't think we enjoyed the meal as much. I.e., we just weren't as hungry. If not for our plans to hang with the Bolands, we would have eaten much later, but that's not a complaint.

Audrey, BTW, made some wonderful Thanksgiving decorations for the table, she's so cute, she did such a wonderful job. She is really amazing. AND, we can take a pic and use it for homeschooling. Can't miss these opportunities.

Today is the big shopping day, and we'll try to avoid it as much as possible, though Nicholas does need some gloves, and Audrey needs a raincoat, not to mention a fleece. I also need to hit the store and the video store, so if they retailers are still open, which I'm guessing they are, I'll try to stop by. It would be nice to avoid the crowds.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bagels, Brownies, and Thanksgiving Prep

We had quite a busy day yesterday, and though we had to forsake certain things, we managed to get a lot done, and the kids had fun. Before I get too far, I just wanted to mention that I did find some contact information for the Valley News Parent section, and found that it is a quarterly pub and that explains why I've had such a hard time finding it.

We were supposed to go see Gary and Tori and of course we were running late, so we didn't get to our all important homeschooling exercises, but we've been doing well, so it's not the end of the world. But before we left, I figured we needed to get some things done on the food front. I got some bagels started because we've been making them and liking the result. One thing I love is that Audrey and Nicholas really love to help out in the kitchen, they love to cook, and I think it's a good experience for everyone, especially me.

I've been working on my temper and being an asshole, and I've found in the past that you can change undesirable behavior with a lot of thought and effort. I've done it before, and I'm determined to do it this time because when it comes to your children, you've got to pull out all the stops. Either way, I'm much more conscientious about my anger, so we'll see where this goes.

We were running late, always a good time to confront stress and anger, and I knew we weren't going to pull of workbooks. I had an ambitious plan to make bagels, pumpkin pie, brownies, and dinner all in one fell swoop, but it was going to take some serious prep. I made the bagel dough in the AM and let it ripen in the mud room while we were away.

We went to Gary's and it was good to see them. I was curious to see their cats and was blown away by how large they've gotten. They were so big, and I have to confess that I really though the opposite would be the case. Gary mentioned that he thought they were feeding them too much, but whatever the case, they looked huge. Maybe they are fat, but I couldn't see that at first.

There are times I think Gary just seems resigned to things he doesn't like, and I wonder if he might benefit from being more assertive and putting his foot down. They got a satellite dish, and now I know it's all down hill from there. They're going to be locked into watching TV, it will consume their lives, especially Tori. It's a joke how people justify watching TV by saying they watch Discovery Channel, a complete joke. I'm trying not to judge, to each their own, but it is interesting how hard it is to avoid the long reach of the media. It rules our lives. Also, the cats seem to run around as they please even though he doesn't want them inside. I understand, Gary has a lot on his plate and he can't spend his time putting out little fires around the house. I did get to meet his folks and enjoyed talking with them.

Our plan was a little thrown off, I figured we were going to have lunch over there, but that plan fell through and Audrey and Nicholas were hungry, but we had a small snack and I figured we could have something later. Audrey and Tori had a lot of fun, though, and spent most of their time outside shooting the chickens with their bow and arrows. It was pretty amusing. Nicholas wanted to just hang out inside and was a little clingy, but that's how he is these days and it's cool with me.

We came home and cooked up a storm, managing to pull off our big plan. I made them a quick snack, finished the bagels, cooked up the stuffed pumpkins, made pumpkin pie, and then brownies. It was pretty impressive, all the more so because I let Audrey and Nicholas help out. Pretty amazing. I'm glad we can do things together.

I've been hearing more grumblings about our friend's situation with his wife, and I'm struck by how hard it's been on him, but he's a super sensitive guy, and he really got screwed on this one, even if everybody's shit stinks, if even just a little bit. I honestly had no idea any of this was going on and wish I could do more, but he's got a good support network and he'll be just fine. He's the kind of guy who you just wish the best for, and his circle of friends is a testament to that.

I brined the chicken last night, and today we'll make our Thanksgiving feast. Should be good. Until then, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Denied Acces, Making Pizza, and the Fragile State of the Family

It seems like whenever Nicholas and I try to do something, we get denied by some greater, unforeseen force. It's a bummer because he gets so disappointed, and it makes me angry, though I'm working on my anger management over here. Last week it was at the River Club, they wouldn't let us do anything because it's one of those uptight places that don't like kids. That's their right.

This time it was at the Rec Center. Audrey had choir practice (she's really excited, BTW), and for Nicholas it can get really hard to sit through it all, so I had the brilliant idea of going to the rec center to play foosball or pool or ping pong, but when we got there, I forgot to factor in the darn daycare. They have after school care from 3-5, so there was no way we were going to get on those games. Fair enough, they have their gig, but it didn't help me explain to him that we couldn't do it, and on the heels of the previous denial. What a drag.

We ended up going to the library and that was sort of fun, got to see Marie and Colleen, though I get a weird vibe off her. And her son Finn and Nicholas were supposed to be buddies. It's my first time hanging out at the library, and it's a nice place, but I guess we're partial to the Howe. I hate to seem disloyal.

Audrey's choir is not too long, in fact, it's pretty short and I wonder how much they really get done, but they get it done. The kids are completely out of control, and it must be frustrating for MaryAnn, Lois, and Gene. They do a great job, though. Some of the kids refuse to listen to authority, and some of them seem beyond apathetic in singing for the group. It's a shame, it's a wonderful experience.

Nicholas wanted to go bowling again, but maybe these are the good lessons in life where we learn we can't always get what we want. We came home and made pizzas, which is always a lot of fun. Audrey and Nicholas do a great job, and they really enjoy it. I used a dough that I'd frozen and I don't think it had enough time to rise, you need more time with frozen dough.

As a result, we didn't get a good rise out of it, but it was adequate. Most importantly, the kids have fun making them, and they work really hard.

Finally heard from the Bolands, we had lost touch. It wouldn't be an issue except that Audrey is pining for Clara and it's been a roller coaster emotional ride at home with my anger issues and my hurting Audrey's feeling. We're going to see them tomorrow for desert, maybe even sooner, though we're slated to see Gary and Tori today. I hope the truck makes it up the road to their house. It's one of those situations that gives me anxiety and stops me from doing thing in the first place, so I'll stop being such a wimp and just do it.

My final thoughts are on the fragile state of the family, or more specifically, marriage. I just found out that yet another couple are having problems, and it blew me away, though there were small signs that I'd seen, and now in retrospect, it was pretty clear. My first thought was that there seems to be an inordinate number of failed marriages up here. There are so many single parents and divorces of people we know, but then Ruth and I got to thinking that the national average is 50%, so maybe we're just seeing this firsthand.

Whatever be the case, we know an inordinate number of divorced couples or single parents. In fact, when we lived in the red barn, all of the tenants seemed to be divorced or single. It was a little depressing. Anyway, the news of the latest family hit me like a ton of bricks, and I didn't know what to say other than offer my support. The first question that always runs through my mind is why? What happened, and what can you do to rectify it, and what can we learn from all this. It's a tough situation because we are friends with the husband and wife, and our kids are friends. How do you interact with them without it being awkward?

It does explain one thing-why we haven't gotten together with these guys for ages. They've been completely absent from our lives, and of course we assumed it was because they hated us for whatever reason. Now it sort of makes sense.

You kind of hope that they can reconcile things, but when it comes to questions of infidelity, especially repeat offenses, I think the bridge has been burned and there's no turning back. Sad.

Of course, it got Ruth and I thinking about us, and how it seems like at times we're under siege over here, the family that holds it together in a vast cauldron of tumult. On the one hand, it bums me out, but on the other it has no bearing on our lives... sort of. They are our friends, but we know well enough what we value in life and how we want to live it. You have to live your life with blinders sometimes, and you can't let the outside world influence, or for that matter, corrupt you.

My theory is that it the strength of a family, and consequently your ability to weather storms, is how solid your foundation is as a family unit. What I mean is, a family that lives it's life together, doing things and living as one, has a better chance of staying together. Call me a fool, it wouldn't be the first time, but when you start creating disparate lives and think it leads to a happier life together, I think it only increases the challenge.

The single biggest problem with this is that it involves sacrifice and compromise. To live as a family, you really have to get over undue obsession over your own stuff. That's what parenting is all about, isn't it? The people who are unable to make these compromises and instead worry mainly about themselves make it harder on not only their family to prosper, but make it harder on themselves.

I don't profess to have the answers, but I seem to see this a lot. A family is a family, a team, if you will. An individual is exactly that, as well. Not unlike the sports analogy of the team. A bunch of superstars looking out for their own stats will only get you so far, but a cohesive team of players willing to play their roles will win the championships.

We'll see how this goes. We give our full support to him, but it'll be weird seeing the wife over the holidays, if we even do. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Being a Jerk and the Not So Great Day

I feel like crap. Sometimes as a parent you act a certain way that makes you really feel like a big dick. I admit that I'm not the most patient person and can play little guilt trip games with my kids, and it really makes them feel badly. I try my best and work hard at it, but when you spend all day with somebody, the worst parts of you are bound to show up.

I got mad at Audrey yesterday on the heels of a crappy day, and it wasn't her fault and I shouldn't have taken it out on her and I'm a real asshole for doing it. I feel terrible. We went to a special homeschool phys ed day at this posh gym nearby. It was an experience in and of itself, and I won't get too into it now, but it turned out to be a bad day. We had gone into it with certain expectations, and were sorely disappointed, so much so that I ended up making an ass of myself to my kids.

The problem was rooted in the fact that the program was geared towards older kids, but we figured it was a gym, they had a complete facility where Nicholas and I could pass the time while Audrey played with kids her own age, but that wasn't in the stars, and Nicholas and I ended up sitting there twiddling our thumbs, watching. My temper boiled over when Audrey went into the locker and took a shower, a perfectly reasonable thing, but we were waiting and Nicholas was upset and I just lost my patience.

I didn't yell at Audrey, but I let her know I wasn't happy, and sometimes that's even worse. It really affected her, and I feel like shit. If there's a silver lining to this, it's that it really highlights my need to get a grip and stop losing my cool so often. I usually lose my temper for the smallest, most trivial things, and I usually express it by either blowing my stack and playing little games, which is even worse. Our kids are sensitive, too.

Either way, there's no excuse. I love our kids, they are the greatest, and I feel blessed and lucky to have such wonderful children. Being an ass is a sign of taking such a gift for granted, and I don't want to ever be that way.

How do I control my ways? I really need to take a step back and stop stressing about things, because I do tend to lose it all the time. What's the big deal?

I will say this, I have zero desire to return to that club. It really sucked, way too stiff and uptight, but very much in line with the Hanover crowd. Money, money, money. I'll write more about it in another post.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.