Saturday, January 31, 2009

Having to Say No to a Friend

Skiing yesterday, I saw an old friend who put me on the spot a little bit and I found myself having to say no to her. I'm not sure what to make of it, but it's not the first time. My friend has two sons who are learning to ski, and she had them in lessons but the lessons were not optimal because there are so many kids in the class that they get lost in the shuffle.

She doesn't ski herself, so she can't take them up, so she asked me to take her son up and ski down with him. My problem is I'm teaching our kids to ski and focus on making sure they're okay, so it's hard to watch another kid and to be responsible for them. If it was just me, I might be more inclined, though still reluctantly, but watching more is a challenge, especially when I want to give all my attention to my kids.

So I essentially said NO, and I could tell it peeved her a bit. What was I supposed to do? I told her we'll see how it goes, but the truth is, he's never skied the chair and it could be intimidating, and I kind of resent being put on the spot.

We'll see how this plays out, though I know I've re-inserted myself into her Hall of Shame. I seem to be good at this. On the other hand, I'm relieved that I did, because if I had to be responsible for her son on the hill, I'd be kicking myself and dwelling on it. Sometimes it's a relief when I can actually assert myself, because it's such a rare instance.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Making My Website and the Infamous Query Letter

Just a few quick notes (yeah, right!) on the continuing saga of my glorious freelance career. I finally finished that darn query letter. I had set a goal of getting it done by the new year, so I'm about a month late, which isn't too bad for the likes of me. And best of all, the timing couldn't be better-smack in the middle of a the worst recession ever whereby no publication is hiring anybody.

Also, I've taken the first steps towards creating my website. I haven't a clue as to what to do, but sometimes that is for the best. I know a couple of people who do website design, but they never seem to have the time to help a loser like me.

One last note, we're moving closer to working for our local non-profit that is trying to help kids in Africa. Nice to dedicate some time to something that is bigger than yourself, especially when you need some perspective.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

To Push or Not To Push

We've been skiing up a storm lately, but sense that N has hit a bit of a rut. He loves skiing down the rope tow and has mastered holding onto that darn tow rope, but the hill is short, and not unlike skating around a constant loop, he just jets up and down. He's good at it, and it's easy, but I think he'd benefit from a little more challenge, like perhaps the T-bar? He can do it, I know he can, but he doesn't want to. He's probably a little scared, understandably. We have to keep in mind he's only five, and the hill is daunting, and he's hyper-self conscious of making himself look anything less than a super-stud (is ego genetic, or what?), but the question is, do we push him a little or just maintain the status quo.

There are several arguments in favor or giving him a little nudge. First off, and I know this from firsthand experience, a lot of times you never try something, for whatever reason, and wish that you had. You sit back and watch the world go by, stewing inside that you wish you were out there doing rather than watching on the sidelines. As he gets older, he'll experience this with meeting girls.

Also, sometimes kids don't know what they want, and the only way to know is to try. If after trying they decide against it, then at least they tried, but they'll never know until they take that first step.

And finally, from a purely selfish POV, it would make it more interesting for mom and dad if he moved it up to the next level because then we could all ski together. Riding the rope tow can get to be a chore. It takes literally two seconds to get to the bottom, though it's the perfect place to learn. I just think N has gotten past it and is maybe getting a little bore.

The reality is, I think his life (at least his skiing life) would be more enriched if he took a bit of chance and put himself out there. That's what life is all about, after all, and though it's safe and comfortable hiding out in your routines, he won't grow that way, and in the long run it could come back to hinder him.

So I'm thinking we'll give the T-bar a go once again. Slowly, of course.

Thanks for reading.

Great Day on the Quechee Ski Hill

I know I was feeling guilty and all about cajoling my wife into meeting us for skiing, but it worked out so well and everyone had a great day. Sometimes you have to be the (sort of) weenie to make things work, because at first glance, not everything seems so appealing.

My original plan was for us to ski in the AM and then let her head off to work for the day, but she had the more sensible plan of going in early and the meeting us in the afternoon. Of course, given so much time, we couldn't get our act together to get out on time, though we were productive during the day doing homeschooling stuff and getting the work done early. Just for the record, the kids are doing great, though at some point this month I need to figure out what we've accomplished on our curriculum to report to the state.

Anyway, we headed out to the hill and got there just as the crowd was building. By Friday afternoon, the Quechee Hill becomes a zoo, but I found, at least yesterday, that as crowded as it got, it was manageable. AND, it's nice to see friends and neighbors.

We got it together and by the time we'd done a couple of runs, my wife had shown up and we got to ski as a family, which is the goal in the end. She finally got up on the T-bar and I think because it's so much easier to use and the hill is a bit more challenging, she enjoyed it that much more. When you ski the rope tow all day, it just gets boring, and skiing becomes a chore. I think this is what our kids might be going through, but he refuses to try the T-bar. So far...

Anyway, it was cool because the kids got to show off to Mom their skiing prowess, and they and Ruth got to ski together on the T-bar. Also, since my wife was there, I got to don my snowboard and show off a little, as well. Shameless, I know, but such is the fragility of the male ego.

Best of all, our daughter finally got to ride the chairlift, something she's been itching to do and we've been encouraging her to try. She breezed through it, and skied down the hill like a pro. At Quechee, which in my opinion is the best hill I've ever skied for learning, if you can master the T-bar, you can most definitely do the chair, and she was no exception. She wanted me there and I skied with her down, but in the end, I was just there to observe and she arrived at the bottom elated.

As a parent, you can't put a price on those moments.

Now all we've got to do is get our son on the T-bar, and things will move to the next level, but more on that later.

Saw a ton of people at the hill, and that was great for us and the kids. A got to see the girl that I think is a really good fit for her, Is. She's such a sharp kid, and they are so nice together, but we don't see them much. It just so happens that we're good friends with her parents, J&R yet don't get together much. It's a shame, really. Either way, we made plans to see eachother, which means we'll never cross paths, but it was nice seeing them. Saw the old Quechee crowd, LC , the SK, and GS and T. There were several school groups so the hill was packed, and coupled with the intense city folks, made for quite the interesting day, but a good one, nonetheless.

And best of all, A rode the chair.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Skiing and Feeling A Little Guilty

We are going skiing today, and we hope to address a little complication that we ran into last week. The kids have made leaps and bounds in their skiing, and are pretty much independent and don't need their old dad around to get in the way. In fact, I'm toying with the idea of snowboarding while they ski since they don't really need me there. Whatever be the case, last week A moved a step closer to independence by skiing the T-bar, all by her lonesome. I helper her out at first, but at some point she was skiing the hill without me while I alternated between skiing with her and skiing with N on the rope tow.

Well, at some point she felt ready for the chairlift. I told her that if she could ski the T-bar, she could do the chair, and of course I would go with her. The problem was, our son dug in his heels and said he didn't want her to go on the chair and that he wanted to go home. I think he was feeling a little jealous, though I sure he could do it, as well, it would just take some time.

We ended up NOT taking the chair, which is a shame because I think the experience would be a great one. AND, it's one step closer to independence.

So our solution to it was bringing mom along, which ain't easy because she works all week and is not so keen on Alpine skiing, though she loves the Nordic kind. Last weekend we couldn't manage it because of scheduling issues, but this week I managed to convince her to join us on Friday, which is a good day to ski at Quechee because it's much less crowded and there are fewer city folks visiting.

The only problem is, mom is busy, and in order to make it, she's going to really have to tweak her schedule. I feel really guilty and wanted to re-work this so she doesn't have to go to all the trouble, but she's willing, and I shouldn't read too much into it. Besides, the kids would be thrilled to pieces for her to watch them ski. AND, I think mom would have more fun if she tried the T-bar. Riding the bunny hill gets old quickly for adults.

If mom is there to keep N company, then I can take A up on the chair. Sounds good in theory, but we'll see how it goes. Wish us luck.

And thanks for reading.

Spreading the Vegan Word... Sort Of

Also wanted to mention that we've managed to spread the vegan word, just a little. We had C over for dinner and she loved the dish so much that her mom asked for the recipe. Now in the past I've found when women ask for a recipe (I've yet to have a guy ask for one) it's just lip service and they don't actually want the recipe, they're just trying to be nice. So with this in mind, I just let it fall by the wayside and that's the end of it.

But in this instance, she didn't let it go and pursued it further, so I gave it to her. I'm not sure if KB will go in for that vegan stuff, but it would make a good side dish. I'd tell you what it was but for the life of me, I can't pronounce it. BUT, here's the link if you're interested.

Thanks for reading.

Things My Kids Teach Me and Little Moments

Yesterday was one heck of a busy day. Besides our usual great playdate (UGP), I had to shovel ten metric tons of snow, not to mention fill the wood box, rake the roof, and make our vegan dinner, which BTW is a new family favorite - African Ground Nut Stew. A great way to eat cabbage, which always seems to get rejected in our house. I figured we needed a good vegan stretch to compensate for all that kielbasa we at yesterday.

Anyway, in typical dad fashion, by the time dinner rolled around, I was stressed out and being a little curt with the kids, something I regret to no end but in the heat of the moment can't seem to suppress. At some point as I was getting dinner together and cleaning up the kitchen so my wife wouldn't tear me a new one, A came to the door and asked me to help them outside. They had been working tirelessly to dig caves in the snowbanks, which for the record are massive, and had hit ice and needed some help.

My response? "No, I'm busy." Just for the record, my snow clothes were soaking wet from our earlier UGP. End of discussion. She was disappointed and went back to their hard work, and as I chopped veggies and cooked the rice, I felt incredibly guilty for not only being so short with her, but for passing up a moment to help them out in what was a noble endeavor-building something with their hands. And the truth of the matter was, they were working very hard and their request was legit.

Now I know I've been spouting off on how it's good for kids to work on their own and feel the grandeur of achievement, but at some point, a parent has gotta lighten up and lend a helping hand. There are no universal truths, you really have to evaluate each situation as it comes up, and whenever possible, spend some true quality time with your kids.

SO, I cranked through the meal prep (the beauty of this dish is that it can be served in one bowl, thus making cleanup that much easier), got it simmering on low, put all my wet and cold snow clothes back on, and rushed out there. I felt a rush of relief when I saw they were still working on their cave, and I broke out my shovel and helped them out.

And you know what? It was a lot of fun. Sometimes my kids really teach me that things (most things) are not such a big deal, at least not big enough to stress out over and make everyone else miserable, and it's always a good time to spend quality time working hard on something. Even if dinner was late, which it wasn't, big deal. But more importantly is to lighten up and celebrate each moment with your family, because these are the memories that you'll share with them forever.

Just wanted to mention that they did a great job on their tunnels and worked so hard shoveling all that snow. Sure, I was exhausted, but we had fun, and when that's going on, somehow the fatigue is never that bad.

Had a little moment the other night as well. My wife was reading stories to N and her foot was hanging over the bed. I whispered to A to tickle them and she did and got a great response. She was so giddy, she couldn't stop giggling, and she gave me a high-five as we shared in a moment. It's the little things in life. If you can appreciate them, then you're doing okay.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

The Usual Great Playdate

We had the usual great playdate over at a friend's house and it's always cool to see how well certain kids get along. The kids have a particularly good time when we go over there because not only are the kids on the same page, but the parents are, as well. In other words, there is never an issue of fighting over watching TV, A and her buddy like to read the same books, they love to play the same games inside and out, and the parents really jive and share the same philosophical views. AND, their kids are so nice and well behaved. It always turns out to be a great day of fun and good conversation, not to mention very relaxed because I never have to worry about the kids doing things that might concern me.

It got me to thinking about the whole complicated mess that is childhood today, and how the involvement of parents really ruins things. Two kids could get along like a house on fire, but if the parents have some issues, then the whole friendship is in jeopardy and might never be. I'm experiencing this a bit with our friends in Norwich, and it all boils down to my own small-mindedness and neurosis. That's the beauty of school, parents have nothing to do with it. Then again, that's the bad thing about school (sometimes), parents are just too far removed. What is the answer? I can't say, but we'll ride out our plan for now.

We spent more than half the day at our playdate, but could have easily spent all day and stayed for dinner, but at some point I feel like we have to be considerate to their day. What complicates the matter is that both parents are hyper-polite and dance around the issue of what they really want, rather than just coming forward and blurting it out. The vagueness of it all, though based in the right motives, does not always give the right results.

Until the next time, and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hard Work Warms My Heart and Getting Out

It was pretty amazing how much snow came down yesterday. It was unrelenting, and my first impulse was to be a wimp and stay in for the long haul. But we had CB over, and together with the kids, they were itching to get outside and go skating. So I had to be a man and motivate, and let me tell you, it was quite the undertaking. Having to haul all those skates and all those hockey sticks, not to mention several shovels to clear the snow on the ice, made for a serious logistical nightmare. It's great having the truck in this regard because you just toss everything in the back.

I was actually surprised that nobody was out on the ice. Sure, it was almost a white out, but it's a snow day, a day off from the rigors of academic life, and it was beautiful outside. Still, no kids. Which worked in our favor because we had the ice all to ourselves. In fact, when we got there and were greeted with an absence of other bodies, there was a resounding cheer inside the car.

And, of course ,the rink was buried in snow. It seemed like a foot of the white stuff, and while it was light and fluffy, when it gets that thick it's a bear to clear the ice because it accumulates and gets heavy. But you wanna know what was really cool? A, N, and C all grabbed a shovel and set about helping me clear the ice. In fact, nobody put their skates on for the first twenty minutes, and they all worked so hard at getting the ice in shape to skate. It was heartwarming, I loved that they (unprompted, mind you) were so willing to work so hard.

Best of all, because there was nobody out there, we got to play our favorite game, Polar Bears and Penguins, which happens to require a fair amount of setup in terms of shoveling snow, but well worth the time and effort. We ended up skating on the ice for hours, and by the end, not only were we soaked, but my hair was frozen solid with snow. At some point I said we had to get home because I had to make dinner, but the kids wanted to play some more.

So while I dug out the truck and warmed it up, they played on the massive snow mound in the rec center parking lot. What a great day. We came home, had hot chocolate with marshmallows (they always ask for marshmallows, which for the record I loathe, and then they don't eat them) and hung out by the stove. The end of a great day.

BTW, we fell off the vegan bandwagon and had kielbasa for dinner. It was strange eating so much meat, but I found myself devouring it. A nice little treat, actually.

In the end, the kids forced me to get out and deal with it. I did have some concerns about getting stuck in the snow, it was that bad, and our drive hadn't been plowed yet, but the truck can handle pretty much anything. And because of it, we had a great day.

Besides, if it's just A&N, it's not a problem, but when they have a friend over, I feel obligated to entertain (the hovering, helicopter parent in me), and worry if they get bored. I know, stupid of me. I figure the last resort is to pop in video, but try to avoid it at all costs. The kids are good about playing games or just clowning around, and for the most part, we avoid DVDs altogether, but getting outside is indeed the best scenario. Meals are also a good way to pass an hour, especially if you get them involved.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monster Day Yesterday

I've been looking into building a website for myself and couldn't help but notice that all a majority of the ads seem to pertain to weight loss. What could it all mean?

Just wanted to mention that we had one of those monster days where I got in over my head on the domestic front and tried to do too many things in the kitchen. We made brownies, cookies, bagels, and stuffed pumpkins while also managing to do some homeschooling and get out and skate. In the past it's been a stressful endeavor where I kick myself for being too ambitious. Just the cleanup alone kills me, but this time was different.

I decided to take it one step at a time, and though a deadline loomed over my head (we had to get to the skating rink by 4:00 at the latest), I managed to keep my cool and not snap at the kids (and consequently make an ass of myself). The only downside was that the kids ate a ton of sweets, but at least they were homemade, and they brushed their teeth afterward.

It felt good not to be an asshole, for a change. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

My Own Webpage and Finding Writing Gigs

The idea was recently suggested to me that it behooves me to have my own webpage. It's the modern way of the writing world, and something I've toyed with but have never taken the steps toward accomplishing. Well, after reading a suggested article (suggested by none other than my good friend the Book Chook!) about writing, which basically said to get off my butt and get my web page up, I guess it's something I can no longer avoid.

Then again, I'm pretty good at avoiding things, and it's not as if I need yet another thing on my plate, but you gotta do whatever it takes. It's all such a learning experience, and I will say this much-it sure makes for good dinner party conversation. Now, if only something will come of it.

On a bright note, I have found some interest in my writing for a non-profit that will pay nothing but is for a good cause. A win-win, because we get to help out for something meaningful, they get some free content, AND it's something we all, as a family, can help out with. Even my wife has expressed an interest in teaming up to take pics, making us a photo-journalistic team. The organization is called World Partners in Education, and their goal is to establish and support schools in the poorest area of Kenya. We know some of it's founders, and they work tirelessly and get paid basically nothing for their work.

So, I offered to help out. Our work at Dartmouth (medical research) involves Africa, so we have somewhat of a hand in developing countries, and it's been said that we might even end up going there. For the record, we focus on Tanzania.

Either way, we are happy to help out in any way we can, and it would be a good experience for the kids to see firsthand how other people live and what a difference people can make in their lives.

I've also sent some more queries out for jobs and maybe gotten a nibble or two. Some are so fitting that it hurts, but I have no control over their outcomes. Thanks again (and again!) to the Book Chook for more leads, I can't even express how grateful I am for the thoughtfulness.

More on the whole webpage development later. I may have to consult some experts on the matter, since I have no clue.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hands Off Parenting

I've been trying to be less overbearing as a parent (are such things possible?) by letting the kids be more independent, even when the situation may call for some assistance. I'd like to clarify that it irks them to no end when I intervene in something that they want to do by themselves, and I have to really take step back and allow them to work independently, but I am the quintessential helicopter parent, at the ready to swoop in whenever they call for my help. Consequently, when the going gets tough, sometimes they throw in the towel too easily and call for me to jump in, before I think they've really given it a good try.

It's a fine balancing act, and you don't want them to feel discouraged and of course to ever compromise their health and safety, but the reality is, kids need to stumble now and then because they learn a great deal from it, and we're not doing them any favors by helping them avoid it.

Case in point, XC skiing. We were heading up this massive hill and I asked N if he wanted to do it. He said yes, so went for it. It wasn't easy for him, and I was right behind him so I could see firsthand the challenge of it all. He was stumbling and slipping as his friends, the older kids, were off and running way up ahead. At some point, you forget about everyone around you and focus on the job at hand. He was having a rough go of it, but doing it.

K must have thought I was the biggest asshole because she came down the hill and offered to tow him up, but I knew he wanted to do it, and he politely declined her assistance. I think it surprise and maybe even impressed her a little. I can't say for sure, but I know one thing, I sure felt like a dick by not stepping in and helping. But again, I felt like it was a good experience for him.

And he did it, and felt the jubilation of doing it all by his lonesome. He works so hard to keep up, it really is a challenge, but he grows from the experience.

It also happened yesterday with A. We went to homeschool art and afterwards the kids wanted to play in the snow. There is a jungle gym with a swing, which somebody placed too high up to get on with any ease. A was trying to get on, and after a first failed attempt, called out for me to help her. I told her to keep trying, and I could see she was only giving a half-hearted effort, thinking that eventually I would just come and lift her up, but I stood my ground, and even told her that I think it best that she try.

Well, that sure pissed her off, and she took off in a huff. I blew it by finally offering to help, but by that time she wasn't buying it and told me as much as she brooded in the snow. She may have been pondering her dilemma because she did eventually come back and figured out how to get on the swing, all by herself. I had literally nothing to do with it, well maybe a little by default.

The point is, it wasn't life threatening in any way, it would have been easier and simpler for me to just do things for them, but they stuck in there and figured it out for themselves. Those kinds of experiences will speak volumes to them throughout their lives.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts On Parenting the Hard Way

We've put a considerable amount of thought into the ways that people live longer, and certain themes keep popping up. The main ones that really stick in my mind are diet, proximity to family and community (lifestyle), and exercise. Basically, a lot of common sense.

When we first moved to Vermont, I had this notion of getting back to basics and though I don't feel like I'm ready to live off the land (not yet), we did want to at least try to work more with our hands and make a go of avoiding too much automation. I know it may seem pretentious, but I basically wanted to do things the hard way, especially when it came to parenting, but also in the every day logistics of our lives. That meant no driver-mowers, shoveling snow instead of using a blower, cooking food from scratch, splitting wood by hand, etc. You get the picture.

My initial inspiration for this was because I am a real believer in the benefit of hard work. Not only does it make you appreciate the fruits of your labors, but I believe there is value in NOT seeking out the easy way all the time. Through challenge come good things, especially for a person like me who has always looked for the easy way and generally buckled under duress.

Now it turns out that something that I initially embraced for philosophical reasons might actually be good for our health, as well. One of the common qualities of cultures who live long is that they keep moving. In fact, my friend's aunt who is alive and well at 99 says the key is to keep moving.

Well, there's nothing that keeps you moving more than parenthood, and couple that with rural life where there is always something that needs attending to, and you're in motion pretty much from the moment you wake up. It can be exhausting, it can test even the hardiest of souls, but what a great experience to know firsthand that you can do things you never imagined you could do. It's really not that simple.

Either way, just some ranting. It struck me that being active isn't about going to the gym or running marathons, though they are both good sources of exercise, but about being engaged in life and embracing the challenges that come to you. Not only do you prosper physically, but emotionally and psychology as well.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Finding a Family Groove

We are big on spending quality time together, and one of the keys to accomplishing this is not watching TV, which I still think is the scourge of our society. But it takes a lot of work, not to mention some degree of sacrifice and compromise. The desire to want to do things as a family helps, as well.

Now it goes without saying that in science, you could easily work seven days a week, and often the people that get ahead do just that, at the cost of spending time with their family. Family time means a lot to my wife, however, and I'm not one to let that one slide, so we've worked out a pretty good routine that works well for everyone, though it takes compromise and a little sacrifice on everyone's part.

We all join her going to work on the weekends, usually a Saturday, and she can get an hours work done while we either play in the pediatric ward, which is filled with games and fun stuff, or head to the library, or go to the Coop, or even just play outside on the grounds, which happen to be a lot of fun. When she's finished, we head over to Occom Pond and skate together, or we'll spend a day at the library, which believe it or not is something we love to do. Then that night we'll go out to dinner.

Call me crazy, but I love those days. We have a lot of fun spending the day together, and it's low stress and we get to spend the day on the other side of town hanging out in Hanover, for better or worse. Then it's off to Boloco for burritos.

When you can appreciate the little things in life, contentment is much easier to achieve.

Still waiting on some queries I've sent out, but I'm not holding my breath. Much thanks to the Book Chook for some leads on jobs, I'll check them out.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Involved Dads

I saw something cool on the slopes yesterday. A father was spending the day teaching his daughter how to ski. Now don't get me wrong, I know how hard it is to teach your kids how to do something, and I can completely appreciate how much more effective paying for lessons can be, but it just seemed cool to me that he was taking the time to do it. And she was clearly making strides.

It dawned on me that those two would have a lifetime of memories learning to ski together, and isn't that cool?

Not a very common thing in this day and age, and I understand why, but how cool is it when you can pull it off? Kudos to the dad for having the patience and wherewithal to do it. You really don't see that too often.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Just Dealing With It

I may or may not have mentioned this, but I'm sick, which makes not just parenting tougher, but getting out and doing things, especially in the cold. I will, however, say this-even when I feel awful, there are things that need to be dealt with outside, like shoveling snow or getting wood, and even in my sorry state, I usually feel much better when I'm outside in the fresh air. Somehow that speaks volumes to me.

Since we heat with wood, there is a constant need to fill the wood box. There's no way around that, but there are also activities for the kids, they can't stay inside all the time.

Speaking of which, we went ice skating yesterday and saw her school buddies. I have to confess, I'm glad she jives with such a diverse group of kids, and gets to experience the goods and bads. The guys seems to accept her on the ice, though yesterday they were playing rough in the snow and she didn't get to play with them. I stood back and watched, not interfering, like a good parent, though it did tug at my heart a little.

N, on the other hand, has shown a serious proficiency at hockey. He's a natural. The first time using a hockey stick and he was great. Good skating ability, he turns on a dime, and he's cute as heck to watch.

Not that I want to encourage it, but maybe he's a hockey player at heart.

The kids have not stopped talking about skiing, and we're planning on hitting the slopes tomorrow. Until then, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration w/the Kids

It was a truly historical moment in this country yesterday, and I thought it might be a good idea for the kids to at least see it on TV. So I contacted K&A and asked them, while they were at work, if we could sneak into their house and watch it on TV. They said it was cool, so we drove over and settled in to watch.

Of course, they were bored out of their minds and probably got nothing out of it, but at least they can say they got to see Obama speak, and with me there to provide continual commentary, they might have gotten something out of it.

It made me realize, however, the difficulty in teaching kids about certain things, because it just doesn't speak to them. And why should it, they're just kids! Somehow forcing them to learn these things won't get them to retain or become passionate about them, and because of this, I didn't want to force the issue.

I'm glad we sat through it, though we almost bailed on the inauguration speech because they were bouncing off the walls. That, and K had come home early because he wasn't feeling well and just wanted to take a nap.

Either way, it was an experience, and one that my parents NEVER shared with me. We were always on our own, and consequently, things like this (i.e., politics, world affairs) never even grazed our radars.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Vegan Eating-African Food

Moosewood came through for us again. I'd been thinking that for all the vegan recipes that we'd tried thus far, we hadn't done any African food. To be honest with you, I'm not even sure what that means. I'd eaten African food before, but that's such a broad category, kind of like saying European food. What does that mean? I'd had Ethiopian and South African food before, but never imagined actually trying to cook the stuff.

Well, we tried a ground nut stew, which is basically a peanut stew with sweet potatoes and cabbage. It worked out well because I'd had all this leftover cabbage (steamed w/butter) that I didn't know what to do with, and rather than compost it, I put it into the stew, and it was good. In fact, I'd say it was really good, slightly sweet with a peanut taste. The recipe called for cayenne pepper, which I omitted because the kids don't go for things too spicy. Why bother?

I've also found a simple alternative to the rigmarole of fried rice. Simply fry it (the cooked rice) with a little grapeseed oil and some peas. Voila, not-so-boring rice. Very quick and the kids prefer it to just plain steamed rice.

We've done enough recipes now for us to backtrack and retry some of our favorites, though I love the sense of adventure in trying something new.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Serendipity Shines Us in Quechee

We had quite the exciting morning on last week, and it only got better from there. On Sunday I was getting ready to go snowboarding and the kids chimed in and said they wanted to join me. So my initial plan to hit the slopes were changed, for the better of course. I'd always wanted them to take up skiing, besides the fact that I love it, I just think it's cool for kids at this age to take it up. It's a unique experience to have it so commonplace and accessible, and an opportunity you just can't pass up.

So we went to the Quechee Hill, and though I was skeptical and thinking it was going to be a long day, they shined like stars. Not only did they have a blast, but they made huge strides in their skiing and can now ski independently. They don't need their old dad, anymore. A was acing the rope tow, and wanted to try the T-bar. N, meanwhile, is now able to ride the rope all by himself, he doesn't need any help, and he just bolts down the hill. It's too cute, he's so excited.

I took A up the T-bar and skied down with her a few times, but by the end of the day, she didn't need me to go up or down. She can do it all by herself, and it's a first step to riding the chair lift, but more on that later.

It was a great day, and they didn't want to stop. We were there for over three hours, and even then I had to drag them away because I thought my wife would be mad that we'd taken so long, but she wasn't. Not only that, but she had lunch waiting for us, bonus. What a great day, I was so happy that my kids have come around to skiing, but we'll take it one day at a time.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

More Thoughts On Writing

I will say this, from my past experiences, however limited they may be, it's good when a story idea is in your consciousness, because that's when it really starts to develop and hopefully take on a life of it's own. Literally grow in an organic sense of the word. Whether or not anything comes of it, or for that matter, if it's any good, is besides the point, because long before you ever get to the point where you've earned the right to indulge in such solipsistic behavior, you've got to first start writing the damn thing. And the first step towards that goal is to drudge it up from the soil of your fertile mind.

Assuming, of course, that there is some hint of fertility in there. Not always the case.

Thanks for reading.

Writing On My Mind

I've managed to get a few things off my plate and feel good about it, though I have to resist the temptation to feel complacent. There's no place for that.

Now that some of the crap is cleared away, however, I have been thinking a lot more about writing. It helps that I'm reading a book I really like and inspires me to want to write. The question is, where to begin. I have the proverbial dream of writing the novel(s) of my life, but they are long term goals and the big ticket items seem to haunt me to the point where I become impotent, in a manner of speaking.

On the other hand, I need to start making some dough, so freelance is the way to go, or at least to try. There are opps out there, but nothing will come of them if I rest on my laurels. I have been more active on WB and PS, however, and after renouncing FB, I feel invigorated and capable. So I've got to ride this wave.

In the meantime, the novel and screenplay are still brewing at the forefront of my consciousness, I've just got to gently nudge them back a little and start writing more queries. I'm wondering if I actually blog about freelance writing that I'll actually do it. You never know, stranger things have happened, and it's not unlike how I've changed my own toxic behavior in the past, by keeping it in mind and making a conscious effort to change.

Then again, it all boils down to the same thing-you've got to want it bad enough.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

A Day With the Family and Vegan/Healthy Eating (cont)

The temp has finally reached a respectable level and risen above zero, though it's snowing and it looks like I'll have to break out the shovel, though I'm not complaining. If I'm lucky, I'll get some snowboarding in, though it'll be a zoo with the holiday weekend.

Yesterday we had yet another wonderful day spent together at home then out in Hanover. It's really nice finding our groove, and it affords us an opportunity to take care of business and yet still spend lots of time together. I've said this before, but I do think family's work out when the dad stays at home because mom's want to be with their families, whereas I see a lot of dads who work all week and then spend their free time doing their own thing.

I have no illusions that this revelation will change the thinking of the world, but because my wife wants to be with her kids (not necessarily with her husband, but I can delude myself), she will work harder at spending time with us. She has to work, however, so she's much more willing to work it out so she can go in and still spend the day together, which what we did.

Getting out to Hanover can be a chore, but we've got the drill down to where she can get anywhere from an 1/2 hour to an hour of work done (that's all she needs) while I take the kids to the Coop or we go and play. We can burn hours in the snow outside DHMC or inside at the pediatric ward, where there are games and toys, and during the week, they have this great room filled with stuff that is open to the public, not unlike the library.

AND, they put A's drawing up in a frame on the wall. You can't beat that.

Anyway, that's what we do on Saturday's. Because of our new healthy eating plan, there are plenty of things we need at the Coop, and we can jet over there while my wife gets her stuff done. We then go to pick her up and go skating at Occom Pond. the kids have become such proficient skaters, it frees us up to have fun, as well, though we didn't make it to the library, which is a drag, but there's always today. We need books!

Since today is Sunday, we'll have to compromise our vegan eating by having our traditional breakfast sausage, but over all we have been doing extremely well at eliminating meat from out diet. Lots of beans, eggs and tofu, if you can believe that one. I've been eating loads of yogurt and nuts, and though I can't say if it's filling me with youthful vigor, I do feel better about our diets.

I'm doing yogurt three times a day, with a big dollop of raw honey. There are indications that fermented foods are good for you, and there are cultures that live to be hundred and eat tons of the stuff, and it's supposed to help GI issues, which I happen to have. Nothing serious, mind you, but enough to make me want to take action. And, I've heard through the grapevine that honey helps with allergies, though that is redolent of folk medicine.

Either way, honey helps the yogurt go down, and that's always a good thing. We've come down with head colds over here so we had to take a break on vegan-ism and make chicken soup, but such is life. I'm a firm believer in it's healing qualities.

Yesterday in the AM I went food shopping, as I always do (first a stop at the dump) and once again saw our kid's dentist, Dr. Bachner, at Shaw's. We chatted it up and discovered we have a mutual interest in food, he's got the great setup with his wife being a baker and he does the cooking. You can't beat that. Also saw SA at Stern's. Small town life, you can't beat it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Renouncing Facebook

I've officially renounced Facebook, not because it's bad, but because I seem to enjoy it too much. It's like watching TV, I find myself looking forward to who is on and who I can reconnect with from my past. The problem being, my past is not filled with beautiful memories, and I find that with a lot of people who I couldn't relate to during my high school years, I still can't relate to them.

I realize that it's a great way to connect with old friends, and I've been in touch with people I haven't spoken to in decades, but it's all just an old chapter in my life, and I feel the pains and angst of high school come rushing back to me as I rush to see who wants to be my friend and who will talk to me. Kind of pathetic, actually. Not FB, but me.

Part of the problem is seeing my brother, smiling and enjoying life while he bails out on his family. This is a sordid chapter in my life, but something I'll never get over, and rather than revisit old wounds, I'd rather leave it be just not know.

Besides, you can get sucked into the vortex, wasting a lot of time stroking your ego, and the one thing I don't have a lot of is time.

I will say this-I'll miss it. Until then, thanks for reading.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Stoned Again

I completely spaced out today, and do I feel bad. We were supposed to go to a show at the Hop, a cool one, too. There was a Flamenco dance performance, and we had tickets. It's hard for my wife to go these shows because they occur in the middle of her work day, but she worked it out and we were all set to go, and I got the time wrong. We got there after the show had ended, and were lucky enough to see AM rub it in our faces. I hope she enjoyed that one.

They usually have two shows, one at 9:00 and one at 11:00. We could never make it at 9:00, so we always shoot for the later show, but this one happened to be at 10:00. Such is the case, I was told, when there is only one show. It was such a bummer, I felt so bad to everyone, because I was too stupid to read the darn tickets.

Oh well, that's how it goes. We're all nursing head colds, anyway, and it was nice to just come home. Just wanted to mention that the woman who runs the Hop shows wasn't warm and fuzzy as she usually is, and let me know what a loser I was for screwing up the times.

Got what I deserved. Until the next time, thanks for reading.


I'm toying with the idea of jazzing up my blog, but haven't the faintest clue where to begin. There are all sorts of gadgets and games you can put up to make it prettier, though I've been led to believe that they compromise performance, and being the performance kind of guy that I am, have some reservations. That, and the fact that it will require some work on my part are all it takes to discourage me, but we shall see.

One Down, More (too many to count) To Go

Well, I managed to finish my piece for Away, then realized that there is the distinct possibility that they won't accept it, but you just can't worry about stuff like that. Whatever, I'm just glad I followed through. I have to admit, I was relieved when the responded to my inquiry as to whether it was too late to send in my piece, since I had last spoken to them since October, when we were planning our trip of Spain/Italy. No money involved, but a foot in the door, which is all I can ask for. I think I'm going to have write more on spec if this is going to work.

In the meantime, plenty of other things to write about. So many, in fact, that I don't know where to begin, but what else is new?

Until then, thanks for reading.

In Over My Head

Okay, so I crashed and burned. Not only did I not accomplish all the things on my list that I though were going to cement my status as a bitchen dad, but I got so stressed out trying to that I was being curt and snapping at my kids all day. I apologized to them later, and I could see them rolling their eyes (figuratively, of course) and thinking, you always say that.

If there is a silver lining to all this, I've learned, or shall I say, re-learned an important lesson. Don't try to be a bitchen dad and bite off more than you can chew. Who the heck am I trying to impress? Maybe you, the reader? Either way, it's like the story my friend once relayed to me growing up on a farm. When they cleared the grain silo, there would be a rush of mice that were feeding on the stuff, and the cats would go crazy. They would get so worked up trying to catch every mouse that crossed their paths that they would miss all of them. Such is my predicament.

Now granted, I got more than half of the things done, but at what cost? It's so darn stressful, and though we have brownies and fresh baked bread, it's hard to appreciate them with an ulcer, so I've got tone it down. The same goes for everything in life, we're in too much of a rush trying to do too many things.

I feel much calmer today, but it's early. Give me time.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Choking on Ambition

Once again I'm delving into the realm of biting off more than I can chew. It's frigging cold out there, I had to take the garbage out and nearly froze to death. Makes for a good day inside, however, baking, so I've set out to do more than I can possible do and keep my sanity. We are going to try to make the following:

  1. bagels
  2. bread
  3. rolls
  4. baked tofu (part of vegan eating plan)
  5. chex mix (all natural, no preservatives, of course)
  6. brownies
  7. stuffed buttercup squash

Piece of cake (no pun intended), right? Of course, by 2:00 I'll be losing it, but what else is new? Fortunately there's lot of time for bread to rise, so we can squeeze in some homeschooling in our free time, or as is the case recently, do some typing.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Vegan Eating (sort of)-Trying to Match Boloco

There's a burrito restaurant that we love in Hanover called Boloco. Not only is the food killer, but it's socially conscious, with naturally raised meats and organic goodies. Also, they give you the option of healthier choices like brown rice and whole wheat tortillas.

Anyway, we figured that they were burritos and we might be able to make them ourselves, so we tried. While they weren't as killer as Boloco, they weren't bad. The key is juiciness. You need the meat (I know, we've fallen off the vegan bandwagon) to be in a stew like mixture, as well as the beans, and plenty of fresh salsa. The burrito has to be a bit drippy and messy, and they compensate for this by using the foil.

In any event, the kids like to eat their's dismantled and with a fork, so you are essentially getting a burrito bowl, kind of like the slop that falls out of your Big Mac or Taco Supreme, you just love eating it up with a fork after all is said and done.

We might have found our lunch alternative to PBJs and hot dogs, though it's hard to replace those.

So while we haven't made a perfect rival to our beloved Boloco burrito, we have time. We'll work on it, and in the end, it's not about replacing it, just finding a good alternative.

Thanks for reading.

Typing Continued

Our kids have gotten hooked on typing, and I can't get over it. Granted, it's a fun site, complete with cheesy flash cartoons and silly songs. What kid wouldn't love that? But, the lessons are pretty well thought out, and they have really gravitated to learning it with sincerity. I think it's not a bad thing (indeed, it's a good thing) for them to know how to type properly. And best of all, it's independent learning, and dad only gets in the way, so they don't want me around.

The downside is, I can't use my computer, but it's a small price to pay for them to have an enriching activity.

In fact, R mentioned giving it a go, and I think she might benefit from it, though I would never be the one to tell her that.

Interestingly, because A was so excited about typing yesterday, she not only wanted to forgo rock climbing, but she did extra work in math and grammar in her excitement. How cool is that?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Few Good Scores

I happened upon a good homeschool lesson online. It's adminstered by the BBC, and it teaches typing to kids, and the kids loved it. Well, N sort of loved it, but I think A got a lot out of it. The thing is, it's fun, and interactive, and at least gives them the first steps towards proficiency in typing, which I think is a good thing. I can envision a day where they will type their essays.

Plus, it's designed for independent learning so I can wash dishes or cook or practice my katas while they're doing it. How cool is that?

I rather like this stealth blogging gig. Thanks for reading.

Inspiration or Therapy?

I've got some huge issues that rear their ugly heads now and then. It seems I'm eternally bitter towards three people in my life-my parents, my brother, and JL. I have no contact with these people (actually, I've recently been in touch with my brother through FB, with mixed feelings), and yet I still, to this very day, some 10-15 years after the fact, get all worked up when I think about them. Just the memory of our interactions gets my blood boiling.

Clearly this is a not a healthy state of being. Then it dawned on me that perhaps the best way to confront these toxic feelings while at the same time dealing with my own emotional shortcomings (not to mention maturity) was maybe to write about them.

Heck, I've wanted to write about them since the day I wanted to write about them, whatever that means. What that means is, they are the main inspiration for why I wanted to become a writer in the first place.

Just some thoughts, the kind that inspire me to write. Or is it just therapy? Until the next time, thanks for reading.

PS I'm finding these occasional stealth posts are working for me. They don't take too much time and allow me to maintain my blog, not that anyone cares.

More Bad Parenting

Just wanted to mention that on the ice rink in town, the rule for the kids prohibits kids from throwing snowballs at each other, which seems a little extreme, though I'm sure there is good reason for it.

The reason I mention this is because, in typical dad fashion, I've always allowed our kids to do it. So you have this situation where they are throwing snowballs at these kids who are prohibited from doing it, and the teachers can't say anything because they have no jurisdiction over my kids. It must be frustrating, though they could have simply said something.

More bad parenting on my part, though I do think the rule is a bit extreme. Either way, I've told them to stop it, so hopefully the teachers won't want to ring my neck anymore. Yeah, right.

Thanks for reading.

Freelance (and other) Aspirations

Like many things in life, the quest for freelance seems to take one step forward and two steps back. I've been trying to write more for WB and PS, but PS seems to have become dormant, if not entirely dead. Then I had this notion of just writing for PS as my own personal forum, since nobody else is, and then I could get the benefit of showcasing my writing for the public. Hey, that's not a bad idea. I don't know why everyone has bailed out. Actually, I do, there's never enough time and if it doesn't pay well, it's hard to devote the time.

But, there is a steady flow of readers on PS, and it is a venue I'd like to keep my hand in, so why not?

Otherwise, still gotta work on those queries. They scare me.

My goal is to finish my travel writing piece and submit it to Away, if they'll still take it, and then work on the million and one queries I've got simmering on my desk top.

In other news, I've had this itch to write other things, and have been rekindling other projects that will probably only serve to distract me even more, but I shouldn't be so cynical.

We'll see where all this lead.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Always a Silver Lining

Schooling has been going well, and A has recently become very interested in telling stories. She's always been, and can carry on for long durations, sometimes to the dismay of the audience, which of course does not include mom and dad, who can sit and listen to their children for hours. At least some parents.

Her mode of storytelling as of lately has been cartoons. She's created her own strip, and it's a scream to read. Pretty clever, and funny to boot. I love reading them, and she gets a huge kick out of creating them and can get absorbed for hours. As a parent, on so many levels, you just can't beat that. What really impresses me about the cartoons is the level of sophistication in the way she gets her messages across, and probably has a lot to do with how many comics, or graphic novels as they are now called, she's read.

I wonder if cartoons count towards the state home school requirements for writing. No matter, we'll count them as such.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Still Being a Dick, Sort Of

There are days when I feel like my efforts to curb my anger and surliness are getting me nowhere, and unfortunately, my kids are the unlucky recipients. Though I'm well aware of my shortcomings, and it helps to be able to apologize and talk things through with them, I can't help but think that when I'm stressed and short with the kids that some level of resentment is building in them. Then again, that's the life of a parent.

I realize it's important to always keep in mind that the job of a parent is not to just be there best friend, but you can't help wanting someone whom you love to love you back. Either way, I'm still working on it. Suffice it to say that it's at the forefront of my consciousness, but is one of the more deeply embedded buttons, on perhaps one that is unchangeable? I'd like to think not.

Life sure is more pleasant when you're not angry, though I might add that kids don't help when they challenge you to no end and push you to the limits of your tolerance, especially when they're too smart for their own good at times. Then again, I'm glad they're confident, because it's a rough world out there.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Life According to Moosewood

I've finally found a use for eggplant, the vegetable wonder that I've enjoyed in the past but was never really sure what to do with. We made a Creole Stew w/frozen tofu over cous-cous and a side of eggplant and pepper spread w/ fresh bread, and was it ever a hit with the family. We've had issues in the past with tofu, N is not always a fan because I think the texture weirds him out, but in this recipe at least, the tofu is hard to discern, lost in the veggie universe. Freezing it gives it a pretty interesting result.

Thus continues our adventures in vegetarian eating. I figure at this rate cutting down our meat consumption to maybe once a week at most is very possible, but again, it hasn't always been easy. It really forces us to think long and hard about what we eat, but there's value in that. Life's hard and busy, who doesn't push food the back of their minds and resort to what is quick and easy?

But like life, and parenting, for that matter, there is value in being more engaged. When you work harder at something, it gives you that much more, in return. Besides, going down a new road is all about taking chances and operating out of your routines and comfort zones, and for an avowed carnivore as myself, this is quite the adventure.

Then again, life should be an adventure. In the daily grind of our lives, we could all use a little more. Or at least a little more thought about what we're doing.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More Lessons in Freelance

I've managed to knock off a few of the items that have been really bugging me and am working my way towards freelance nirvana, a state I may very well never achieve, but at least it's good to set some goals. Then again, it still amazes me that people get paid to write, how exactly does that work?

Part of the problem I face is that in being a newbie, nobody knows who are what I am. Then again, I don't know who or what I am. The process of establishing oneself in a new environment can be a long and winding road, especially when you are hard pressed to squeeze in a free moment of time. It ain't easy, but nobody said being a parent/writer/real man in training would be.

My initial goal at sending out queries has crashed and burned, and though it was limited in it's scope, I did have hope. Dare I say, I kind of thought they were sure things. I mean, really, they were calling for submissions, what more do they want. In the end, I can't whine about it. I guess I can whine, but what a waste of time.

So on to plan B. Like my good friend the Book Chook suggested, I might have to start doing things on spec, and I've got to expand my reach for potential suitors, and I've got to throw myself out there if anybody is going to notice me. Not unlike throwing myself under a snowplow, and not as fun. In the meantime, I feel like it behooves me to maintain my current projects to show that I've got the stamina and wherewithal to maintain some semblance of production. Does that make any sense at all?

One thing you really get used to in this field is rejection, but I'll take rejection over being completely ignored. Such is the life of an aspiring writer.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Prioritizing, Getting Organized, and Inspiration

I love blogging, it doesn't lead to much, but somehow I enjoy it, it's just that I need to get my act together and start writing for a living. The few leads that I've pursued have worked out, but again, I need to find some serious writing opps, even if they are severely limited in the current state of the world.

Part of my problem is time. I don't have enough of it, who does, but I can't whine about it. I need to get my act together. In other words, I need to be more organized, and part of that is spending less time blogging and more doing some serious stuff. It's not easy, I gravitate to the easier, more enjoyable things, and can you blame me?

We've found a groove lately at home, and I am better able to write during the day, with the proper prep time in the morning. I.e., my mind is too fried during the day to compose serious prose, but if I can get some shitty first drafts down in the morning, then I can edit them during the day. It's just hard to do that when I blog in the AM. Something's gotta give.

Just wanted to mention that I'm reading a good book, and I've found when I connect with good writing, it inspires me to write a novel, especially this one (The Emperor's Children), about my beloved New York City. So well written, good character and plot development, with great descriptions of the city. The kind of book I'd like to write.

Also, in terms of writing, have been thinking more about scripts. I spoke with John the other day and he said he's off work for about three months and wants to work on something with me. I.e., he wants me to write something and give it to him. We've been down this road before, but I'm grateful for the opportunity. John's a good ally in the shark infested waters of Hollywood.

So I've got to just do it, and part of that is getting off this darn blog. Easier said than done. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Surly and Belligerent

My wife and I were talking about what to do when your kids become a little surly. It's almost as if they're acting like teenagers, even though they're only seven. There is something of an air of superiority about them, and it behooves them to employ more humility, or at least tact. We wondered if there was a need for more interaction with her peers, where humility is instilled by virtue of the establishment of the pecking order. Kids will cut you down to size until you learn your place in the universe, though they are hard lessons that often end up with scars.

Either way, just a thought. Parental lectures will get you just so far before they become counterproductive. My problem is that I tend to respond to surliness with more surliness, and besides setting a bad example, I end up making an ass of myself, not to mention hurting some feelings. It's all about more anger management and keeping tabs on my buttons.

Until the next time, and thanks for reading.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Vegan Eating-Day 5, and the Hartland Rink

We've somehow managed to avoid meat for the last five days, though I have to confess, there was some bacon in the fried rice, so maybe it doesn't count. Either way, the challenge of being more creative with our food has been, if you can believe it, fun and satisfying, much in line with our philosophy of not trying to do things the easy way.

And I have to say, cooking healthy vegan meals is not necessarily more expensive. I realize fast food and junk crap are cheap, but there is also a huge convenience issue that contributes to their popularity, and if you put some effort into it, you can be healthy and frugal. It just takes some thought, and many of us have simply chosen to stop thinking. That's why we watch TV.

Either way, the kids loved this one, and that's all she wrote. We made a dal with fried rice and steamed spinach on the side. It could be served all in one bowl, simplifying all aspects of the meal, i.e., serving and cleaning. The meal went well.

I don't know if I feel any better eating a vegan diet, but I most definitely feel better about it. Again, it's about meeting the challenge and realizing you can do it if you just give it some thought and try.

Tonight it's salmon, and I'm thinking I need to buy bigger pieces of fish because all I hear are complaints about how small the servings are. You just can't win.

We had a quiet day doing school work and hanging out by the fire, but at some point in the afternoon we went over to the Hartland rink, and once again it was crowded, but again once again, they kids were really nice, especially to N, who is much younger than these guys. It was mostly boys, and I worried that they'd get bully-ish or mean, but they were so nice, and they really jived with A.

In fact, they were in awe of her skating abilities, and even invited her into their speed skating club. I think she was beaming. They also complimented N on his skating, and I think it really made him feel proud, if not for the fact that he was outskating kids almost twice his age.

It was a good day. The weekend is coming up and we have the potential to have a big one, or not. We shall see. Until then, thanks for reading.

Winter Sports, Our LL Bean Bag, and a Great Day in Hartland

I can't tell you how much we've come to rely on our LL Bean bag. That thing rocks! Not only is it amazingly strong, but it's huge, which really came into play yesterday.

We finally had a playdate with C, S, and CH, and the with all the snow in the forecast, it went without saying that we'd bring some snow gear. The question is, which gear? They are avid XC skiers, but snow shoes were more S's speed. Then again, sledding on their hills would have worked, as well. AND, there was always the possibility of doing some ice skating afterwards-for the record, they don't ice skate.

Not wanting to miss out on any opportunities, I literally packed everything we had-XC skis, poles, and boots, ice skates, sleds, and our snowboards/snowskateboard. It was quite a load, but no problem with the truck. Best of all, with the exception of the obvious large items, they fit right into our canvas Bean Bags. Just wanted to mention, you need the XL size, which is unavailable in the store.

The irony of it all? We never even made it outside, though we had a blast. We hadn't seen C/S in ages, though we always have fun, and made a pledge to see each other more often. We ended up just hanging inside, playing thougthful games (Apples and Apples-a winner) and setting up highways and trains. C's got quite the train/car collection, and best of all, not once did the concept of TV come up.

CH made a killer lunch of pizza and we had homemade bread. There were no sweeties afterward, and I asked the kids not to ask for them since we weren't at home and not everyone has desert after every meal, like us.

As I mentioned, ironically we never made it outside, but were there for over four hours, and could have stayed longer. We always have fun together, and I hope we can do it more often. As an added bonus, CH gave us some of C's hand-me-downs, as well as some home school books to teach government, though I believe I'm beginning to see the light with that one.

Well, after our playdate, we were heading home and it was still early afternoon, and I asked the kids if they wanted to go ice skating, and sure enough, they did. We went to the Hartland rink, and it was snowing up a storm. And wouldn't you know it, we saw the our new friends there, though it was just H and A.

The rink was covered in snow, but we'd brough along our shovels and were ready. While H and I cleared the snow, the kids skated on what little ice there was as we gradually enlarged it. We hadn't been out there for more than a few minutes when the after-care kids at the rec center came filing out, and suddenly it was a zoo.

Have to confess, I was a little bummed, but in tried and true fashion, it was a wrong assessment, because all the kids had a lot of fun, and several of them were from A's choir, so people knew eachother. Best of all, the big kids were nice to N. While they all played, I spent pretty much the whole time clearing the snow, and it was a bear of a job. But I did it, and I think it was much appreciated, and the kids had a good place to play.

You have to love small town life. We might try to go over there again, but sometimes it doesn't work out as well as the first time. Then again, I could be very wrong. It's been known to happen.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Vegan Eating-Day 4

Wow, are we really doing this? In case you're just tuning in, my wife and I had this idea of cutting back on meat in our diet after reading all the information out there about cultures that live the longest. They all seem to share certain commonalities, which include spending time with family and friends, exercise, fresh air, and NO MEAT.

Now I'm not promoting some sort of vegan existence, and we still eat meat, but it's interesting to at least give it a go, and at the very least it makes meal planning a challenge. We have some friends that are so hard core in their vegan approach that they don't eat dairy or cheese, either. And they have two kids, so they don't get to eat cake, cookies, or ice cream. What a drag.

Anyway, we've been doing it, and the hardest thing for me has been cutting ice cream out. I went from eating about 1/2 a pint a day (probably not a good habit) to eating none. I have some sort of ice cream addiction, reminiscent of the nicotine (I used to smoke and chew tobacco) craving you get throughout the day. You look forward to, or can't wait, until that moment when you get your fix, and spend your time just thinking about it.


So, last night, we went on day 3 with no meat. For full disclosure, we do still eat meat, and I'll feed the kids turkey or chicken for lunch, but dinner is where the fun really begins. Last night we did the Asian thing, sesame noodles, fried tofu, and scallion pancakes. I got some chickpea flour to make the cakes and I think it was a mistake, because they tasted a little funny, but were healthy as hell, full of protein and fiber. Next time I'll just use whole wheat flour.

The kids have really come around to eating tofu. N loathed the stuff at first, but now he wolfs it down, and we're happy for that because, as everyone on this planet knows, it's a great meat substitute.

This whole vegan eating thing is a challenge, but I've found it a satisfying one that in the end is good for us, so we're going to ride this one out. There are also, if you can believe this one, some really good vegan recipes out there. You have to use some of your own experiences to intuit which ones might taste good or will go over well with children, but we've had some home runs. And if worse comes to worse, there is always spaghetti or pizza, though preferably with whole wheat pasta or crust, respectively.

Not sure what we'll be eating tonight, but I'll be sure to tell you what is was tomorrow. Until then, thanks for reading.

It's Complicated

I've run into this expression several times in the past few days, and though it's vague as vague can be, it is usually in reference to a person's relationship status, more specifically, marriage. So what exactly is a person trying to say.

It got me to thinking about marriage and relationships and the fragile state of it all, especially in lieu of all of our friends that are currently battling marital problems. We are in the midst of experiencing firsthand the all too real statistic that 50% of marriages will end up in divorce. As it stands right now, about half of the people we know seem to be experiencing turbulence (the captain has turned on the "fasten your seatbelt sign") and some of them are clearly heading for disaster. It's difficult to clearly see both sides, but somehow, deep down, it seems to often be rooted in the men and their interminable need to know what they're missing out on.

Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of self-absorbed women out there who do the same, but somehow I've seen in many guys the need to go out and explore, even at the expense of their families. Mind you, this isn't only about sex, it's about finding themselves and re-living their youth, but whatever be the case, it's their families, especially their children, that suffer.

Conversely, in the instances where it's the woman who deviates, it's often because the man is distant and disconnected, and as a result, she goes out searching for something she can't find at home, compromising the family.

Call me naive and stupid (believe me, you wouldn't be the first), but I really haven't met too many women who would intentionally seek to destroy their families. Sure, they exist, but women more invested in their families, especially their children, and would consequently make more compromises and sacrifices putting them first.

I learned all this from the movie, Bridges of Madison County.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

The Continuing Saga of Anger Management

Sometimes I feel like such a jerk, it really bothers me. My thoughtful approach to changing behavior has generally paid off in the past but I still seem to lose it now and then with my kids, and I kick myself for it. Granted, there are plenty of moments when they are asking for it and they push you to the limit, but sometimes, usually under duress, I seem to snap, and then regret it.

I apologize and explain to the kids that I'm not perfect (hardly!) and make mistakes and do things I regret, and of course remind them that we feel so lucky to have them, but at some point, they have to begin feeling it's a bunch of disingenuous BS when you keep repeating patterns of negative behavior.

Maybe it's just inherent in the process of parenthood that we snap when we are wits end, but at some point, if you are not happy with the way things are, you either have to make a change for the better or stop complaining. I don't like it when I get short with the kids, it's usually for small and stupid things, albeit usually under duress, but I am making strides.

In fact, I've found one good way to deal with it is to talk to the kids about when it happens and how you're feeling. I think it helps if they have some understanding that you're not jiving with it, but that could just be me.

Either way, writing about it helps to keep it in my mind and help move towards a better understanding of where it all comes from. In the end, if you really want something and believe in your ability to change for the better, than anything is possible. You've just have to want it bad enough.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Foods I Can't Pronounce

Our vegan dining experience was disrupted yesterday when the kids went over to C's around dinner time and KB was making chili, something we all love. I had no problem with it, as I've mentioned, we still eat meat, but whenever possible, we're going to give it a go for eating vegan. At the very least, it's a challenge, but in the best case scenario, it's fun to reinvent the family meal. Change is good for shaking things up and forcing you to think more about your life.

I'd made an Indian Food dish called Aloo Gobhi Masala, which is that killer cauliflower dish w/ potatoes that you get at restaurants and have no idea what it's called. The prep was pretty easy, and we have all the spices, which is the key to Indian cooking, because at one time my wife was interested in Indian food and bought all the spices.

The dish was a winner, and even after chili and cornbread, the kids ate it up, though we didn't force the issue since they'd eaten. R and I sat down, just the two of us, and had the Masala with kasha, and it was a great meal. And best of all, NO MEAT.

So far, so good. Tonight we'll go Asian, so we're treading on familiar ground.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Always Something New

This writing gig is a constant learning experience, and like training to be a real man, it sure helps to have friends and mentors. Thanks to Susan over at Book Chook. It seems to me that writing in new millenium just ain't what it used to be, what with the internet and all the social networking, it's amazing what you need to know. Actually, you don't need to know it, but it's sink or swim in terms of knowing the technology. It's all out there, you just need to assert yourself and check it all out.

I just learned about ping-ing and Technorati, and at this point, it's all a shot in the dark, not to mention a huge drain on my time. Originally I had no intention of increasing traffic to my blog, I figured it was just a way to get my thoughts to flow that would lead to writing gigs. Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes. I have since come to learn, however, that writing a blog can be a serious gig, and can lead to other things. It all falls in line with the idea that you should never half-ass anything, approach all things with the serious and sincerity of your wildest dreams, because not only will it make it more enjoyable (or at least satisfying), but you never know where it will lead. Besides, it's your time, make the most of it.

With this in mind, I've joined the legions of Web people and started ping-ing and whatever else it's called. And, of course, being the anal retentive, neurotic person that I am, things did not go perfectly smoothly and I'm sitting here torturing myself over what I did wrong. Then again, experience is the best teacher.

So here goes. Not sure what I'm supposed to do next, but this is a start. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dodging a Bullet

Have you ever, in an effort to save a few bucks, done something you didn't feel right about doing and it came back to slap you in the face? Well, it almost happened to us. We took the kids to see Tales of Despereaux at the multi-plex the other night. Personally, I prefer the Nugget, because not only is it smaller and cozier, but they use real butter on the popcorn.

Either way, we had some dispute about getting popcorn at the show, and finally it was decided that we'd sneak in our own snacks. Though I personally think it's a little tacky, not to mention a pain, that was the plan. Besides, I like movie popcorn, it's greasy and disgusting and part of the movie going experience.

Well, as soon as we got our tickets and got in line, we see the big sign that says that they reserve the right to confiscate snacks that they catch you with in the theatre. I figured we could be coy about it and wait until the lights went out before we started chowing, but the guy taking tickets told me I couldn't bring in my backpack. What? I told him I needed to tell my wife that I'd be a little late, and when I told her, she had the brilliant idea of me slipping the stuff to her since we were already inside. I said no, it was too obvious, everyone was watching and this had gone far enough. I'm sure she was thinking what a wimp I was.

Not wanting to make a stink, I left it behind the counter and that was that. The kids (more so A, I don't think N cared one way or another) were bummed, but such is life. Well, once we were inside, the family right next to us broke out their store bought snacks that they had brought in with them and were having a party. My wife shook her head and said, "See!"

Well, before the movie even started, the usher came in and caught them. He made a bit of a scene in front of everyone, took their snacks, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief that we hadn't tried to do the same. Truth be told, they probably could have pulled it off if they had been more discrete and waited, but what are you going to do?

I realize it costs that much more to buy popcorn inside, but it's so much reminds me of my childhood where my parents were always too cheap to pay for anything and we were always sneaking things in or grabbing up freebies. It was embarrassing then, and it embarrasses me to no end now. It just isn't worth it, if you ask me.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Day 2 w/Moosewood and Finding a Groove

We're going on day 3 with our vegan diet, and so far, so good. I was always hesitant to feed our kids a vegan diet for two reasons-first, I figured it was nutritionally incomplete, but also I figured they just wouldn't eat the stuff. Well, it turns out, it's not so bad, after all, and truth be told, we are not strict vegetarians, we eat meat and dairy and eggs, we're just cutting back on meat as the focus of our meals. At the very least it will be more economical, because things like beans and veggies are cheaper, though nuts will break your back.

Also, I'd like to say a quick thanks to the Book Chook for the tip on the Moosewood online, haven't checked it out, yet, but suffice it to say that I'll be a frequent visitor to that one.

Had a bit of a comical event in making dinner last yesterday. I had picked a traditional, rustic Italian soup called Incavolata made with a tomato base cannelini beans. I had some white beans made up, and though they weren't the right type, I'm a big believer in deviating from protocol when needed, a good sign of being adaptable. Besides, you have to tweak recipes a little to fit your liking.

I made the soup and then the final stage called for lemon juice and corn meal (optional), which sounded good to me. However, before I added them, the soup was outstanding, and I figuured the final ingredients would push it to the next level, but two things happened. First off, the corn meal turned it into sludge. I had a dark red cream of wheat on my hands, and as I added more water to it, it began to dilute out the flavor. Secondly, the lemon juice, in my opinion, ruined it, and in conjunction with all that water, had to keep adding salt to get some semblance of the flavor back. I was crest fallen.

So what did I do? Being the neurotic, anal retentive person that I am, I set out to remake the soup the way I felt it was best, the only problem being I had no beans left. I could have made a version with black beans, which I had, but felt like the white beans were the right choice. I wasn't going to have time to soak and cook the beans, so it was going to have to be canned beans.

To complicate the matter, N had a dentist appointment, and since we were going to have the car (we only have one car, at least one that's legit), we were going to have to drop her off at work and then pick her up. So we were pressed for time.

This is what we did. We took mom to work, made it to the dentist just in time, where N had a shining check-up. I have to confess, I had initial reservations about our dentist, but I've come around and like the guy. I think it's all in how you interact with him, and as every parent knows, it's all about the hygenist, anyway, and they are all very nice. Also, the kids look really cute with their little bodies sitting in those massive dentist chairs.

From the dentist, we went to the market to get some more stuff for out healthy eating plan; some greens (kale, cabbage, etc), lots of ginger (part of my campaign to end flatulence, or at least temper it), and nuts, another part of healthy eating. The nuts were cheap, much cheaper than the organic ones we get at the Coop, so I bought a pound, only to find they are cooked in cottonseed oil. Being ignorant and all, I turned to the trusty internet and found a lot of bad press about the stuff. In fact, Andrew Weil says to go through your cupboard, find all the stuff with cottonseed oil, and toss it out.

I was bummed, I just a pound of the stuff, but decided to compost it. What a waste. Maybe some squirrels will find good use for it.

We then stopped off at the organic market, the Upper Valley Coop, which I am liking more and more, especially with our new eating philosophy, it's the place to be. Where else in this world are you going to find chick pea flour, not to mention some canned white beans? We then went to the hobby store and got the glue to fix my glasses, then to Rugged Bear to get the kids some good wool socks (blends, mind you, since we've found that pure wool socks are pretty much useless), which they were thrilled to pieces about. I'm glad they have some good winter socks, now, and they were on sale.

From Rugged Bear, we still needed to get some lunch, and I still needed to get home in time to make the darn soup, which is thankfully easy. AND, like the dork that I am, I promised to take the kids ice skating. Time was ticking away, because as afternoon approached, we still had to pick up mom, and I had karate to attend.

Of course, I began to stress out, big time, and did what I do in classic, cowardly fashion. I tried to start backing out of my word. "Do you really want to go ice skating? Do you really want pizza?" Fortunately, the kids know what they want, and they stood their ground and forced dad to be a real man and have some backbone. So we stopped for pizza, where I managed to negotiate eating it at home while I made the soup. Just FYI, Ramunto's in Quechee has a great deal on a whole pie, much cheaper than four or five slices.

Now I realize this isn't necessarily a healthy eating habit, but as I mentioned, we can't be too dogmatic about it. Kids still need to have a little fun eating, and I figure it they eat a little pizza or a hot dog now and then, then we'll just step up the fresh fruit and veggie side of it. Besides, mom and dad need a break now and then. Furthermore, it's pseudo-vegetarian.

Once we got home, I had time to make the soup, and it came out well, but then we ran into the dilemma that I face almost every day. The kids never see eye to eye on what they want to do. A had settled in by the fire with a good book, and she didn't want to go anywhere, whereas N was itching to go ice skating, and we had to pick up mom.

Well, after some negotiating, we came up with a plan. We would go ice skating, but at a new rink in Norwich. New in the sense that it's novel. Norwich is right next to the hospital where we work, so we could skate, hop on over to get mom, then back home to drop them off and I could go and break 2X4's with my head.

Sometimes things work out so beautifully you begin to wonder what you did to deserve it. Then again, there are enough failed plans to even things out, if not skew them against you. The rink in Norwich is actually a lot bigger than the Hartland one, which makes sense since Norwich is a bigger town, with more affluent and powerful people. Consequently, it was much more crowded, and crowded with suburban, cosmopolitan types. I.e, all the kids were in hockey gear, which is what you do when you live up here. I even had to ask one of the moms if we could skate here if we weren't playing hockey, and she was very nice and said, "Of course." I earned some points by helping clear the ice, and we had a great time.

Just wanted to mention, the kids have really come along in their skating, they have so much fun and look great on the ice. Best of all, N no longer needs his crates, so it's one less big and bulky thing to carry around.

As it got dark, we packed up, picked up mom, and jetted home. I had some time, so I built a fire, got dinner started, and then bolted off for karate. Though at times it takes all I've got to get out the door and go to class, I'm always glad I do. I really enjoy it, and it was a good class. I'll leave it at that. Testing for belts is coming up, so I've got to keep practicing.

When I got home I'd found that everyone LOVED the soup. It's not easy getting kids to eat healthy, but the only way to do it is by setting precedents. Feed them the healthy stuff before you inundate them with unhealthy but convenient crap. Once you go down the fast food road, it's hard to change direction.

So it was a good day, or should I say, great day. I love when that happens. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Vegan Eating-Day 1 w/Moosewood

My wife and I have been reading this book, the Blue Zones, about where in the world various people live long, happy lives, and believe it or not, they span the entire globe. There are even people in the US who fall into this, in California, no less. While the requirements to live long are way too complicated to explain, there is no complete answer, a few things came up with every situation that just so happen to fall in line with our thinking, namely the presence of a strong community, quality time spent with family and friends, and the absence of meat in their diets.

We've been trying to develop a less meat centered diet for years, we believe in it. In fact, we do a vegan night for dinner at least twice a week, and sometimes more, but it ain't easy. Meat just makes a meal much simpler, and people, especially kids, love it. Just add salt, and you've got a meal.

Eating vegan takes a lot more thought and work, at least with children. I could get by with black beans and rice, but try getting your children to eat that every day. There would be mutiny. So the quest to find good vegan meals is not easy, but we couldn't just give up on it. While we'll still eat meat on occasion (we've got a freezer full of the stuff), our goal is to eat a majority of our meals without it. We'll compensate the loss of protein with legumes, eggs, and some dairy, but for the most part, it's going to quite the adventure.

And it all begins with Moosewood. Personally, I'd found in the past that the book is daunting to the point that I avoided it. Too many esoteric ingredients, and in the end, I found vegan dishes left me flat. They were bland, but the problem with cookbooks is that there are too many of them, it's ridiculous, really. Since my wife has the Moosewood, I decided to go for it.

My biggest obstacle was selling it to the kids.

Our first dish on our new healthy eating plan was Bulgarian Red Pepper Stew, which required cannellini beans, of which I had none. I figured that a lot of the specialized stuff, which is easy to find if you live in New York, but more of a challenge in Vermont, I could substitute with whatever I felt was a close facsimilie. I used white beans, I forgot what kind, instead of what they recommend, along with the lentls.

The recipe called for sherry and wine, and though I love both, they give a dish a unique flavor that I'm not sure appeals to kids. It was too late, though, we were moving forward. In the end, it helped that we were starving after a day of skating. We served the stew over brown rice and steamed some broccoli for the uber-healthy, high fiber (uh-oh) meal. I had the backup hot dog or veggie burger in case there were no takers.

But you know what? They actually liked it. They could have been humoring me, but that's fine because they ate their dinner, though N was a little less enthusiastic. A even had seconds. We found the key was a big dollop of yogurt on top, it cut the edge a little and with a little salt, tasted great.

AND, we had no meat. So we got lucky for our first day, I figure we dodged a bullet, and for all their approval, I'm not sure how soon I'll go back to this recipe.

Today our plan is for an Incavolata, a rustic bean (what else is new?) soup, with some fresh vegetables and bread. The problem is, we'll have to make bread and rolls, which is always a bit of a chore. Kneading dough is a pain, but we love the idea of fresh, homemade food, especially bread, something I never grew up with.

We'll see how this one goes. At the very least, the kids love fresh bread, so they're bound to eat something.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Over-Parenting 101

Something really came to light to me the other day when we went skating with C, and that was that we over-parent. No two ways around it. The bright side to it is that it's never too late to change, and being more aware of it help us to change un-constructive behavior.

What happened was that C was over and we were going to the skating rink. Now usually I grab our big LL Bean bag and pack all the skates and stuff in there, and we're off. Unfortunately, this encourages kids to not have to think about how to deal with life, it's all done for them, and they develop undesirable qualities like not asserting themselves, expecting life to handed to them on a platter, and the inability to resolve problems. Now granted, I'm over-dramatizing this, but I'm just getting my point across.

What really struck me was that C took care of all her own stuff. She carried her own skates and was responsible for all her gear. The only thing she needed help with was tying her skates on, but even I need help with that. Our kids, on the other hand, just walked out the door without a care in the world.

The crazy thing is, most kids, ours included, jump at the opportunity to be responsible, it makes them feel like big kids. I've found our kids love helping out and even enjoy making breakfast of cooking. It's just much simpler doing it myself, not to mention quicker. But therein lies the point-it's a good lesson for kids to learn responsibility and not take things for granted, and it's a good lesson in forcing me, the parent, to lighten up and not try to control everything.

So with all this in mind, we now have bags for our kids to carry their skates, they make their own breakfast and pour themselves their own beverages (we help out by setting things up, but the act of serving is in their hands), and it is no longer acceptable to just drop their jackets, hats and gloves on the floor and be on their merry way. Responsibility. It's something you have to teach your kids, and it not only makes them better people, but it actually makes your life easier.

How's that for a lesson in parenting? Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Plugging Away

I recently expressed some disappointment about my possible writing venues, and I wanted to clarify that I am bummed that certain things haven't worked out as I planned, but wanted to say that I'm not in despair. After all, as any writer knows, rejection and disappointment are a way of life. If anything, they're the norm, and if you can't deal with it, than you're in the wrong field.

My biggest problem is I tend to look for the path of least resistance (can you blame me?), and the easy way out is not always, if ever, the most satisfying. In the end, I need to focus on the writing that means the most to me, and do my best in those areas, rather than sweat over worrying about the small stuff. Sure, I'll do my best, but I can't lose focus on the big picture, and need to deal with it and just do it.

With that in mind, I confess that I was bummed that AC didn't pan out as I had hoped, but I was the one who dropped the ball on that one, and the truth is, they'll still take my stuff, just won't pay me for it. So I have to allocate my time accordingly, i.e., I can't spend weeks writing a piece for them. It just doesn't make sense.

I will say this-I've made a new friend in my rantings, and for that I'm grateful. When you get a chance, check out the Book Chook for some valuable and thoughtful insight into the world of children's literature. You won't regret it, it's a great place to get some advice about books for kids and to share your own thoughts, keeping in mind that your kids cannot read too much!

The reality is, I know what I need to do, and I know that I'll stumble and face assorted obstacles, many of them, too many to count, along the way, but it's all part of the process, and if anything, it builds character and forces you to find value in what you're doing. You never appreciate the things that are handed to you, so sometimes a little freebie now and then can't hurt.

And most importantly, you have to enjoy the process. Find value in what you're doing, rather than focusing only on the end result, because as Henry Miller said, writing, like life, is a journey of discovery. For me, the only way to realize this is to be open to all the possibilities, both good and bad.

With that in mind, I think I'll go work on my query letters. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Some Thoughts on Eating

We are a reasonably health conscious family, at least I like to think we are. Being the person who is responsible for shopping for food and cooking, I have the most say in the matter, though as a team, we are in constant discussion over the foods we eat. With this in mind, we made a conscious decision to make our diet more fruit and vegetable focused, and when I look around me at all the people we know, I have to say, we eat more fruits and vegetables than most. Fresh fruit at every lunch, and we try to center every meal around a veggie, which is a lot different than when I grew up, where everything focused on meat.

In fact, when I think back on when I was younger, it's amazing to me what I ate. I would go days without even a piece of fresh fruit or vegetable, and I basically lived on fast food. It's no wonder, coupled with nicotine, alcohol, and other assorted contraband, that I felt like crap ALL THE TIME. I used to be addicted to multi-vitamins, they really gave me a boost, but now I've stopped, and I realize that they made me feel better way back when because my diet was terrible.

Either way, I think kids come to appreciate fruits and veggies when certain conditions are met. First off, as parents, you have to set the example and eat them yourselves. I can't tell you how many of our friends, usually the guys, who don't eat vegetables. It's amazing, and must lead to an amazing level of constipation, another unhealthy consequence. They complain about their condition and yet refuse to do a thing about it.

That's their choice, however, and in the end, has no bearing on us. We are very conscious of what we eat, and have in the last few years made big strides in reducing our meat intake, but I wonder if we could do better. The idea of eating more vegan is daunting, because meat makes a meal that much simpler. Just cook and add salt, and voila, you have a meal. Veggies, for the most part, are a little more bland, and we've found we have to spice them up a bit, which translates into more work, but hey, such is life. Nobody said being a parent, or for that matter, being healthy, was easy.

So we'll give it a go, and make a more concerted effort to remove meat and fats from our diet. I have to quit eating so much ice cream, and that won't be easy, but I'm determined. As for our meals, our guide will be the Moosewood cookbook, because it's the one we have. It should be interesting, and definitely more of a challenge, but could be pretty cool. Besides, I think that eating more veggies is cost effective, but could be wrong, especially when you consider that fish can be expensive.

The inspiration for all this came about because my wife is reading the book, The Blue Zones. It's all about different cultures around the world who live long, healthy lives. A few of the hallmarks of their longevity are close-knit families, strong communities, plenty of fresh air and exercise, and NO MEAT. Believe it or not, none of them eat meat. Contrast that with the standard American diet where people eat a one pound steak, and it's pretty amazing.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.