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.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Shame on Me with the Maple Syrup

Yesterday we did one of my favorite Sunday morning rituals and made sausage and waffles (or sometimes French Toast) for breakfast. I love those moments when we're sitting around the table together, chowing down on waffles with real maple syrup, the frost on the windows reminding us of how cold it is outside while our wood stove helps us forget.

Well, if you know anything about maple syrup, and for the record, I know very little, you can't help but notice that the stuff is expensive. Really expensive, and though we use a lot less than we used to, when you live in Vermont, using anything other than the real thing is anathema and simply not acceptable. So we bite the bullet and buy the real McCoy. We keep some in a separate jar because the half gallon jug is way too cumbersome.

That is not to say that the jar doesn't get heavy, as well. While we were eating, I kept getting anxious while I watched Audrey and Nicholas trying to work with the heavy jar with their tiny, delicate hands, convincing myself that they were going to spill the precious liquid.

Well, as you might have guessed, it turns out it was ME who spilled the darn bottle. I was reaching across the table (poor manners, BTW) and I tried to lift the jar and it slipped out of my hand, spilling about 90% of it's contents. I was so bummed, but I was more ashamed at targeting the kids for something that I was just as capable of doing. Shame on me.

What a bummer, losing all that syrup. I stared at it dripping off the table was half tempted to still eat it, but we sopped it up and rinsed it down the drain. Oh well, such is life. BTW, our syrup is made by Marty's brother, who I learned is the sugar person of the year, whatever that means.

I managed to get some of the writing stuff that was bugging me done, and man do I feel invincible. I finished the darn letter to Dee, toning it down significantly. As I may have mentioned, I felt it inappropriate and unnecessary to rail on him, even though he's a total prick. Let it lie and move on, as they say. Either way, it felt good to connect with Dee, and I hope we can maintain some contact.

I know, the doll looks a little scary, but in real life he's really cute. Besides, he's supposed to look afraid and worried.

Also, I got the book review done. That was bugging me because that's more on the serious end. I got a few books from PS, Lynn asked if I was interested in reviewing them, and it went pretty well. Audrey and Nicholas liked the books, they're called Emotes. They came with a stuffed doll, always a bonus, and Audrey liked the stories. I have to confess, I didn't like them at first glance, being the traditionalist that I am, but after reading the stories, I found they had nice messages and the art work is pretty hip and contemporary. Most importantly, the kids liked them, and that's all that matters. AND, Lynn liked the review.

I also did my first blog entry for Trazzler, so I'm on my way to being a travel writer. My next two big things are finishing my piece for Away, and writing my piece for the WAHM Jan issue. That's the tough one. Did I mention Erika of WAHM finally got back to me and said she loved my writing?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Holidays Approach, the Cold, and Cat Disasters

Not to venture into the wonderful world of cliches, but I can't believe the holidays are upon us. We have to start planning for Thanksgiving, and then comes the Christmas tree followed by all that other good stuff. It's pretty amazing that we're on the cusp of another new year.

As I mentioned, Gary has reclaimed his cars, so we are once again with just one car... sort of. The thing is, Gary, our hero, actually left his chase truck here, and said we were welcome to use it if we needed it. It's a massive vehicle, a 3/4 ton mammoth, but it's cool, and it drives, and he did say... I don't want to take advantage, but man is it nice having another car. And with the holidays, we have a lot of activities that we need to get to. We really need to get another car. I thought about it last night, and another car would really make life easier, but it's the sort of thing that if I bitched about it and then we got one, I'd feel guilty as hell about the expense. So I keep my mouth shut.

I got some of my Christmas cards together, but I'm only about 95% of the way there. Still need to make up the difference, but I'll see where that one goes. I like writing cards, and even toyed with the idea of starting now and just sending them out in December, but I'll wait. The problem I run into is that I burn out as I near the end, and writing them becomes a chore. Such is life.

And then, of course, is the issue of getting a tree. Then again, we do have a truck.

It's been amazing cold out here, colder than I recall, and we are nice and toasty in our house with the wood stove burning constantly. Waking up is the brutal part, because our bedroom gets the coldest since it's the farthest from the stove. Fortunately, Audrey and Nicholas' room is the warmest, and I'm glad for that.

We had a cat disaster yesterday, kind of weird. Misty got stuck in the bathroom, she must have sneaked in and I missed her and closed the door, because when we went in later, she bolted out, but not before she pooped in the sink and peed on the rug. It was pretty nasty, and I had to clean it. On a humorous note, I had used the bathroom earlier, and when I went in with Nicholas, the smell was overwhelming and I thought, "Man, did I do that?" I didn't, it was the cat.

We returned to Hanover and went to Boloco for the first time since our return. We love that place, it's a great place to get a quick meal. Went to the library for the first time since our return and it was nice seeing all our friends. We love the Howe, what a great library. We didn't see Amanda and crew, I was sort of expecting it, but we'll connect one of these days. I half expect to see her at some event and have her bust my balls for not calling her. It's been known to happen.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Making Homeschool Connections and a Duet

We made a new homeschool connection, sort of. There's a cool fitness club out here that was well out of the range of what we could afford, and it turns out the owners are homeschoolers, or at least some of the owners. They are opening the club to homeschoolers a couple of days a week, a huge bonus. Not only will we get to swim and play tennis, but we'll get to cavort with other homeschoolers. I spoke with one of the guys there and it turns out he runs all sort of homeschool groups in the Spring. A good vibe, if I may say so. We'll go on Monday, and it'll be interesting to see how it goes, though I don't want to build it up too much.

On another bright note, Audrey was chosen to sing a duet in her choir. I hate to admit it, but I'm so shamelessly stoked about it. In fact, when we first started, MaryAnn mentioned that there might be a solo or duet, and I was secretly hoping that Audrey might get chosen, though I NEVER said anything to either our children or the chorus people. When she was asked, I quietly jumped for joy. It's the little things in life that matter the most.

For the record, Audrey was thrilled at the idea, so it worked out well... so far.

Missing the Mark and Brotherly Issues

Of course I didn't get the things I wanted done, as I listed on my previous post. I just seem to have too many things that I want to do and I end up getting none of them done. Bummer. I did finish my letter to my former sister in law, but I went off a little too hard on my brother and feel it's not something I want to send. I did not get my travel piece done, and my query letter is way off. Time to get on the ball.

I've been in contact with my former sister in law and it's been interesting, to say the least. I have a turbulent relationship with my brother. In a nutshell, I can't stand the guy, but there's a long story to it and I won't go into it now. He recently got divorced, and I've been in touch with his ex, and it was really enlightening to talk to her, even though it was limited. She alluded to my brother being an asshole and I really wanted to talk to her more about it. In fact, I wanted to spill my guts about what a complete prick he's been and continues to be, and wrote about it in a letter. Then I thought more about it and figured that maybe it wasn't appropriate, at least at this point in time.

The fact that she had these feelings about him, however, made the universe once again make sense to me. I know it's petty of me, but I just can't believe it when my brother actually does the right thing, and in the end, he never does.

As for my goals, I still have the weekend. AND, I have to review some books for PS. So much to do, so little time.

Life at home is good, however. We made bagels and bread, and they both turned out well. The bread is a pretty regular thing, we have a decent recipe and we know the drill. Consequently, it comes out pretty well, a nice crusty, chewy on the inside, multi-grain loaf. The bagels were little more challenging, but the kids liked them, and I'm satisfied with the result.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spinning My Wheels

It seems like I have so many things I want to do that in typical fashion, I accomplish none of them. It's terribly frustrating, but I've been told that if you keep your goals in mind and keep repeating them to yourself, it goes a long way to actually achieving them.

Either that, or you end up just repeating your goals to yourself all day.

So here goes. I have three things I'd like to do in terms of my writing. I want to finish my letter to Dee about my brother. I want to finish my travel story for either Away or Go, and I want to finalize my query letter for my idea. The last one may be asking too much.

Okay, I've said it. Now I just have to keep repeating myself. We'll see how this goes.

One last note, did you ever have a preconceived notion of how you wanted a series of event to unfold and they didn't turn out the way you planned or wanted, and you kick yourself for thinking they would? I hate when that happens, it just happened to me.

Riding the Roller Coaster of Life

Yesterday was definitely one of those days where I hit the highs and lows. Several bright notes, however, and I should be happy for those.

We learned about a great opportunity for Audrey and Nicholas to not only do fun things, but they might get to connect with other homeschool kids. The connection thing is always a big "if," you just never know if kids are going to relate to eachother, but at least they'll have fun in a cool setting. The River Valley Club, of all places, is offering a homeschool sports program. I'm not sure what the circumstances are, but I get a sense the owner is a homeschooler and a former ex-pat who lived in France. How cool is that? I emailed her and mentioned our wish to live in Europe, and she seemed excited about talking about it.

The class is designed for older kids, but I was told that several younger kids came and hung out, and they are considering starting a younger kids class so maybe Nicholas could have his own thing, as well. That would be GOLDEN, because then both of them would be able to play. I was very excited about it all. At the very least, me and Nicholas could play tennis or maybe swim, or even rock climb. We're going on Monday, and it should be fun.

Gary came by yesterday and took back the Explorer, and his son is coming on Friday to get the Caddie, so we'll be without our cars. It was nice having two cars, I have to admit, and the time may be ripe to buy another one since demand has tanked, but we'll see. Life with one car is really a challenge, but we've managed thus far.


I also got shot down with my idea to get some sort of sponsorship for our travels, but to quote Bob Dylan, when you ain't got nothing, you ain't got nothing to lose. It was a bit of a bummer because I felt like we weren't asking for much, just a shirt or two, but in a way, you have to read between the lines and understand that if they really wanted you, they'd go out of their way to accomodate you, and when they tell you one thing, you have to understand that they just don't want you badly enough. I understand, I have no choice in the matter, and it just means I have to keep plugging away.

Looking at the bright side, I tried, and now I have a template to work with if I want to approach other companies with my idea. I do! I'm guessing we just weren't a perfect fit for Ibex, but c'est la vie, maybe that will change with time.

We've been taking a new approach to homeschooling to placate the state, and it has actually worked out fairly well. Yet another example of serendipity at work. We thought we could skate by, the state came down on us, we were bitter and resentful, but out of the storm came a better result. You have to love that. Sometimes you have to forced into doing what's best, and in the end, being more accountable makes our plan that much clearer in our heads, and forces me to be more engaged as a teacher.

And best of all, it can be fun! Not just learning basic academics, which Audrey loves, but a little variety goes a long way, and it fulfills our requirements. Documentation and proof, the two things we need.

Also, Nicholas has been on fire. His approach to learning has jumped way ahead, perhaps a by product of travel? Who's to say, but I will say this, he's much more amenable to doing academics, and it's not a battle anymore. At least for now.

One last note, I went to the store last night and man are prices going up. I'm trying to shop at Stern's more, I love that place, but even without that large chunk of our shopping bill, our groceries are outrageous. I sure hope some of my writing gigs come through, I really need to make some more money.

I will say this, I am done buying bagels. I love them, but they are so expensive now, almost a dollar a pop. Flour in particular seems to keep going up. Dark times are ahead, what are we going to do? Simple, make them ourselves. What did you think?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Still Suffering

I'm still suffering big time from jet lag, and I seem to be capable of only getting about 4-5 hours of sleep each night. On the bright side, I get up around 4:00 in the morning and can get some writing done, though I feel like heck all day long. It's only been a couple of days, so we'll see how this goes.

I have a headache.

We had our first full day at home, and we're finding our groove again. We got back into some homeschooling and it went pretty well. Audrey was resistant at first to doing some writing, but it went very well, and she's very good when she sets her mind to things. The state said they wanted more concrete proof of her work in the form of art of writing, so we came up with a plan. The current flavor of the week goes something like this-we will break up the week in terms of subject matter, not getting too ambitious because that only gets us in trouble. We will do basic info like math and english every day, but on certain days we'll also focus on history, health, writing, and social studies. I don't know how else to do it.

We figure we have about six months, so during that time, if you're chipping away at the stone, you'll have enough concrete stuff to satisfy the authorities.

Lots of stuff happening, otherwise. I have some leads on freelance gigs, and they're small but gigs, nonetheless, and some even involve travel. I still have the Killer Aces gigs alive and well, and I'm on the cusp of pitching new stuff to the corporate world. We'll see how this one goes.

Did I mention that my head is killing me? We're going to lose the Explorer today, Gary's coming down, but we'll still have the Caddie. Life is complicated. Scratch that, "our" lives are complicated.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Home Again

Man does it feel good to be back home. I realize there are all sorts of people out there, and there is without a doubt a romantic notion to wandering the world with all the freedom of a nomad, but I've always found that I'm the sort of person that really needs a place to call home, a place to look forward to returning to after a long and adventurous journey.

Indeed, that is the only way I can do it, by knowing that we have a home, and if anything, it rejuvenates us to appreciate all the things in our daily lives (at home) that we take for granted, like just about everything. I will say this, however, getting home was not easy.

There are distinct and frequent moments during our travels when I find myself asking the question, why exactly are we doing this? Travel can be so difficult and is always a bit of a challenge. It truly begs the question, why go through all the hassles and expense of getting on a plane and flying across the Atlantic? There are the issues of learning another language, dealing with money conversion, eating mysterious and foreign foods, and acclimating to an entirely different culture and way of life.

So why do it? The answer is not so simple, but it boils down to the simple of issue of how you view life, and if you think life is about experiencing new things, confronting and overcoming challenges, learning about new cultures and trying new foods, and ultimately growing from the experience, then that is what travel is all about.

Mind you, there are many different ways to travel. We just choose to make it more challenging and interesting, and part of the experience of travel for us are in fact what many may view as the negative aspects of travel-the challenges and the unpredictability. That's why we travel in the first place, and why we want that experience for our kids.

I will say this, travel has been an incredibly enriching experience for our family. Not just our children, but for Ruth and I, as well, and not only do we grow as individuals, but we grow together as a family, and that, in the end, is what it is all about.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, November 10, 2008

First Day In Rome

We're away in Europe, but I'm chronicling our trip on a travel blog. Thanks, and have a nice day.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Day 2 in Spain

Currently blogging on our travel blog.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Stealth Blogging

I think the only way I'm going to be able to blog on this trip is by getting quick sound bytes in when I can, so here goes. I woke up with a bad start this morning and had a splitting headache. That's always a bummer because you never really fully recover from those sort of things.

I'm drinking lots of water and I'll keep an eye on it. In the meantime, I voted this morning and then hit my first stumbling block-how the heck are you supposed to work the thermostat. We've never used it, so I was at a loss. I called Kurt and he said he'd check on it, but I think I may have gotten it right, by way of Kurt's tutelage, of course.

Packing light, almost getting it done, though I have this sinking feeling that I'm forgetting something. We'll soon find out.

Election Day/Vacation Day

As luck would have it, we are taking off on our Big Trip on probably the biggest election day of that past century. Luckily, we'll be able to cast our vote before we take off, but it's going to be tight, it always is, and we're going to try to squeeze in our vote. But we've got to, and we will.

I wanted to maintain a blog on our trip and am going to try my best, but it's never easy, especially with kids around needing your attention, but I love the idea. We've been fairly slack in terms of preparing for this trip, and here I am, the morning of our departure and I haven't finished packing. Ruth is taking care of the kids' necessities, which she does so well, and I'm dealing with the entertainment.

It's been a bit of a scramble this past week, and I haven't been able to do everything I'd wanted to, but got to a fair amount. In the past I would have been rendered impotent by the sheer volume of things I had to do, but found great satisfaction in the simple process of just doing it, and subsequently getting it done. We actually managed to pull off most of it, and now I feel much better.

It kind of gets down to the issue of doing things or fretting about them, and a large reason why we travel. Let me be clear, traveling is hard, it takes a lot out of you and is challenging on a daily basis. But what you get out of it is immeasurable, especially for the children, and as I've mentioned in the past, they grow so much from the experience. Ruth and I are believers that the world is a wonderful place, worth exploring, and it begins when you're young.

So here's our itinerary for the day, which needless to say gives me a lot of anxiety, but the only way to deal. We've got to finish packing, vote, get the house in order and then take the bus down to Boston. Our plane leaves at 3:30, first to Philly, then to Madrid. We'll be wiped out, but have four days to acclimate and then off to Rome for five days, then back home. That's the extent of what I know, the rest is where the adventure begins.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Good Signs

Not to get too superstitious, but sometimes you just gotta embrace the bones when they come your way. I was kicking myself over the fact that we'd neglected to get flu shots, and though there are more than a few people who have issues over them, I wanted to get them before our big trip over the Atlantic. Planes are just cess pools for germs, and as I've mentioned in the past, the flu scares me. I knew DHMC was giving flu shots but didn't recall when, and lo and behold I found that they were having some big flu clinic on Sunday at the hospital. It just so happens that Ruth had to do some work and I needed to go to the library and the Coop to get some last minute things. Serendipity was shining down upon us.

And the flu clinic was a party. There were so many people there, we saw friends and acquaintances, and there were tons of vendors giving out useful information not to mention treats for the kids. They had a blast, and I was so grateful that we got our shots. Call me paranoid, but it's one less thing for me to worry about. Thanks to DHMC for doing such a great job.

As I mentioned, we squeaked by with the homeschool board, but we learned some important lessons and now look to everything as some sort of proof of our efforts. It's kind of a shame because it's forcing me to take a utilitarian POV on the things we do, but such is life. And it doesn't take much, in the end. We were admittedly pretty slack in the past year, somehow we got too complacent and paid the price.

To complicate our lives even further, we are still trying to finish building that barn, and there are people waiting in the woodworks for our word to start working. They are ready, they just need the go-ahead nod from us. Unfortunately, the final word does not rest with us, it's with Bob, and being the go-between is a big pain in the "you know what."

I like the idea of Paul being the leader and just dealing with it, and maybe that will come about at some point, but he's got his own life to deal with. The nerve.

In terms of my dealings with the state, we've cleared waivers with homeschooling and submitted what we believe to be the required paperwork for the septic system. All we can do is sit back and wait.

Gotta run. I'm feeling stressed about our Trip, and I've got to direct my neurosis accordingly. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Official State Pardon

We got our letter of acceptance from the state regarding homeschooling. I think they gave it to us begrudgingly, because our submission was still lacking in certain areas, but I'll take it. In the end, we are doing so much and trying to put it all into a single document falls so short of the mark. Either way, we'll do all we have to to placate the state, even if it seems silly at times. They make the rules, we follow them.

And I'll readily admit that they are very helpful and always willing to assist. In fact, as I mentioned, Karen Agnew even called me to tell me what I was doing wrong, and I'm grateful for that. Of course, now I'm completely neurotic about it and everywhere I look, I'm not only looking for some sort of homeschooling lesson, but more importantly, documentation that proves we actually did it.

It's a pain, but I understand the state's perspective. They've got to oversee all these people, and they have certain expectations. It's not unlike the caring parent. They're a pain, but they're only looking out for your interest, and it's not until much later that you really learn to appreciate it.

It has opened my eyes a lot to the wealth of possibilities out there, and that's always a good thing. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

To Flu Or Not To Flu

We haven't been on top of our flu shots as we have in the past, and with our big plane trip coming up, I can't help but think it might not be a bad idea. Of course, the time is past where we can schedule a visit with our doc, but as luck would have it, DHMC is offering shots today for kids and adults. I couldn't believe it when I saw it, and am grateful for the stroke of good fortune. You have to celebrate those sort of things, because they don't come around too often.

I hate to be a fear monger, but the flu really scares me. Maybe some people should spend less time so intimately with birds, it seems like it would serve their own best interest.

It's three days and counting until our Big Trip, and yesterday Ruth and I talked at length about the value of travel and why we choose to partake in it rather than buying lots of stuff, i.e., cars and toys. The reality is, we love to travel and see new places, but it's an incredible experience for both parents and kids. Let's face it, life is hard, it's so easy to get sucked into our routines and to forget about engaging our minds and, as corny as it sounds, our souls in the everyday happenings in our lives. I fall into it all the time, we are so busy, so tired, and so stressed out that we've lost sight of the important things in life. We take them for granted because we're so worried about the quotidian things, and rightly so.

But if there's one thing I've found, it's that things are never as bad as they seem, or should I say, as bad as we make them out to be. And the only way to get a grip on life is to start breaking away from your routines, take some chances, realize the risks are not life threatening, and start thinking about it some more.

It's hard to really convey in words, but suffice it to say that travel forces you to think more about life, because it is hard. Much harder than getting off the couch and out the front door. It is this process of forcing you to deal with things that you'd otherwise avoid all together that really makes one grow. Take language. How many of us put much thought into speaking? When you travel, you have to think about every word, and let me tell you, it's exhausting, but at the end of the day, you realize you can do it, or at least try, and suddenly you have a new appreciation and understanding of something you give literally no thought to each and every day.

And that's just one small thing. Either way, our kids love to travel, they look forward to it, it's such an adventure for them. I hate to admit it, but I approach each trip with trepidation, and if not for my family, I literally wouldn't go anywhere, but it's so much fun and such a great experience.

Keep in mind, I've never gone on a trip where things didn't get difficult or go wrong. It's just part of the journey, and since we opt to avoid pre-fab trips like cruises or resorts, it does get a little more tricky, but that's part of the process the we choose. We want a more genuine experience. Fancy hotels can be nice, but when you really get down to it, when you stay at places like that, it really becomes a generic experience that you could emulate anywhere, even in your own home town. You have to sweat a little to get the true experience.

One thing I find a little awkward is talking about our trips to some of our friends who don't travel. In fact, many of our friends have never left this country, and I hesitate to reveal that we're going off to Europe, again. Not that they care, they're all busy people with rich lives, but it is sort of funny. We live a frugal life, constantly challenged with only one car while borrowing expensive equipment that we don't actually own.

Let's face it, we do things the hard way, but that's our choice so we can actually live the life of our choosing. We could both work full time jobs and have lots of nice stuff, but we'd have to farm our kids out to daycare and then send them off to school, and that's just not why we became parents. In the end, I know nobody cares how we live our lives, but I know people gossip and wonder, only because I do it myself.

Whatever. To each his own. Three days and counting, I feel the stress building, though I feel much better after talking to Ruth about it. Sometimes you need to be reminded of why certain things in life are important to you.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Post Halloween

We did the Halloween bit last night, and it's something we look forward to for the entire month prior. How can you not love Halloween, but it is a good barometer of your children's growth, because at some point they just want to move onto something else. Not that we're there, yet, but somehow the whole deal just left me a little flat.

First off, it was crowded, and there were a lot of older kids, which lessens the experience for me. Some of these kids sure seemed old, but I guess when you're living in a small town, what are you going to do. Secondly, our kids didn't get to see any of their friends, for some reason we missed them all. Usually we run into them at the Woodstock Inn, but they weren't there and I wonder if they even made it. And finally, the kids just seemed somewhat uninspired. Sometimes I wonder if we should take the Amanda approach and just avoid the whole thing.

The kids really look forward to it, though, and I remember that it was a special night for me growing up. Audrey was bummed we never saw Clara, and I was surprised by that, but it also worked out, because Nicholas had a buddy to hang with. Otherwise, I fear that the older kids would have bailed out on him, but you never know. In a way, the dynamic Waldorf trio didn't completely materialize, but that was to be expected.

Either way, it's done, I'm bummed it wasn't as fun as the past (it was cold, as well!), but that's a model for life. You get the highs, and you get the lows. At least now we can focus on other matters, like our trip. There are still a ton of things to attend to, and we've got to put some thought into it, all the while dealing with our lives at home.

In a way, I might need to give up on dealing with house issues because I've got to deal with this trip. So much to do.

Gotta run and collect my thoughts. I've still not heard from the travel writing gigs but am more determined than ever to keep a travel blog.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.