Friday, February 27, 2009

Five Favorite Places to Eat

Since I mentioned that Boloco was one of our five favorite places to eat up here, it begs the question, what are the other four? Now keep in mind, we are not high end, fine diners. We are looking for something comfortable, reasonably priced, and healthy. We don't want big dishes of all you can eat processed and greasy fried food, and we like kid friendly environments. Most of all, we want tasty food that we feel good about eating.

With this in mind, I would say the list would be as such, not in order, of course:

1. Boloco-killer burritos, all natural meat and tofu, very tasty, comfortable kid friendly digs. Hip and friendly.

2. Stella's in Hartland-a gem and blessing to the town of Hartland. John cooks killer local food, all natural with healthy vegan dishes and fresh fruits and veggies, many of which are locally grown. Also plays great music, a lot of the Dead, serves a mean burger from local beef and a killer veggie burger. Also one of the few places around where you can find a falafel.

3. Jesse's-we never eat the steak, though it's a steakhouse. We like it because it has a great salad bar and when you do order meat, you can sub steamed broccoli for the starch. Very kid friendly and the staff are top notch. A nice place for a special occasion.

4. Tip-Top Cafe-Great local food in an artsy and hip environment. Food is very creative and very tasty, and though there is a certain elegance to it, it's very kid friendly.

5. Lou's-needs no introduction. Greatest staff on earth, killer food, not neccessarily the healthiest, but just a fantastic place to eat. Mark, the manager, and Brian are just great guys.

Just a quick note-Boloco's scores high on the K&A scale of legtimacy because they serve true vegan burritos, and we've run into K&A eating there. Enough said.

Homeschool Considerations and Goals, Writing, and Skiing

We have made a vow to be more diligent about our homeschool obligations. I don't mean in terms of our daily teachings, but more in terms of answering to the state. It behooves us to do as such. We just received our enrollment paperwork for the next school year, and last year we waited until the zero hour and suffered accordingly. The shame of it all was that we had so much time and rested on our laurels. Or should I say, I rested on my laurels.

The fact of the matter is, homeschooling is my job, though I got a little huffy when my wife seemed to hint at this. My apologies to her, and I'm sure she wants to flog me for my behavior at times. Then again, she'd better be careful, I just got my blue belt.

Either way, our short terms goals go something like this-we need to sit down and assess where we've been and what we've covered, then compare that to what we said we'd do (i.e., our curriculum). We can still cover the things that fall short because there is still a lot of time, but again, it goes by quickly, and the better prepared we are, the easier it will be.

Then we need to begin assembling the portfolio, which isn't due until Labor Day, I believe, but like a lot of situations, when you have so much time, you waste all of it. The easier part will be to fill out the enrollment for the next school year. For the record, I admit that I got a little whiny when it became clear that this was going to fall in my lap. My apologies, once again, to my wife, but at least I'm not getting angry... sort of.

Just thinking about it makes my head spin, which is the kiss of death because those are the times when I just shut down and try to ignore it. Can't do that this time.

To make matters all the more complicated, I have my minor writing gigs that don't pay much but I want to maintain, while I'm also searching for the elusive writing gig that will pay me much, or at least enough to maintain our fabulously opulent lifestyle (for those of you who don't know me, this is a joke) And then there's my blog, or should I say, blogs?

It's all a bit much, so we'll deal with it in the best possible way-by trying to go skiing. Today is Friday, the last Friday that the Quechee Hill will be open, and it's supposed to rain. Bummer, but yet another example of how life is unpredictable, and rather than moan or get angry, just deal with it and make the most of it.

See how well my anger management is working?

If it were possible to put in a humble request to the weather, however, we would not complain if the rain came later rather than earlier, but that's just us.

We have a busy weekend up ahead, and it just might involve... you guessed it, skiing. Looking forward, however, to Saturday in Hanover at the Howe Library (one of my favorite libraries of all time!) and dinner at Boloco, one of my five favorite places to eat in the Upper Valley.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Vegan Eating and the K&A Scale of Legitimacy

The vegan eating is going well thus far, and we've developed a new scale to determine our level of vegan diligence-the K&A scale, named after our good friends K&A, who are such hardcore vegetarians (no egg or dairy) that they make me feel ashamed whenever I even think of eating a hot dog. I don't know how they do it, but kudos to them for their level of dedication, they'll probably live to be 100.

Last night's dinner, on the K&A scale of legitimacy, with 10 being best, was about an 8, maybe a 7. We had falafels, stuffed squash, and spinach, and would probably have scored higher on the K&A scale if I hadn't put an egg in the falafel. I've just found that without it, the falafels just fall apart when fried. The squash is actually a modification of the Julia Child recipe for stuffed pumpkin. Since pumpkins are hard to come by, you can simply modify it to an acorn or buttercup squash. Great way to get your orange veggies, and the kids generally love it. Best of all, it's so easy.

Tonight we'll probably do Friday pizza night, which scores about a 6 on the K&A scale, or more like a 4 since we like pepperonis. And then there's the cheese, but as I've mentioned, we're not as worthy as our friends.

One final note-if we go skiing, we'll get home in the late afternoon, and then we'll have to scramble to make dinner. Also, pizza is something the kids love to have a hand in making, so it promises to be a time that is ripe for me to lose it at some point and get stressed, which also makes it a great opportunity to test my new anger management approach. Bring it on is what I say. Then again, I don't want to get too cocky. That's when I crash and burn.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Revelations in Anger Management

Now I'm not one to obsess over things (well, sort of), but I did have some thoughts on my new approach to anger management, and I will say this-I am optimistic about it, because not only did we have a great day with it, but it seems to align with my views on life, as well. Kind of corny, I know, but bear with me.

What I tried yesterday was a little nutty but perhaps the best solution to my problem. I know a lot of people out there are saying, "Just go see a therapist, already." To that I would say, been there, done that. Therapy has it's usefulness, I won't deny that, but first off I would argue that it's not the only solution, and secondly I would say that, at least from what I've seen, it can be a bit self-indulgent if not addictive. That's just my opinion, however.

Besides, therapy costs money, and more importantly, takes time. Two things I don't have a lot of, so in many ways, it's just not an option. And much in the spirit of New England, sometimes you just have to toughen up and deal with your issues yourself.

With this in mind, I've found an interesting approach to anger management, and though it's only been one day, I felt good about it all. It works something like this. Anger seems to blind side me, I don't see it coming because life is all about unpredictable moments. IN FACT, now that I think about it, it's when things don't go according to plan that I lose it the most, especially for these stupid, trivial things that seem to upset me.

And as any parent will attest to, parenthood is completely unpredictable. There are so many moments when thing don't go according to plan, it's no wonder parents lose it all the time. Granted, there are some parents who are calm and collected in the face of chaos, and I have no idea how they pull it off.

So my approach is to keep anger in my mind all the time. Whenever possible, be aware that something is just around the corner that will tick me off, so that when it comes, I'll at least be somewhat aware of it and better able to soften it. The way it has usually worked is that some event makes me angry and I try to calm myself after the fact, but by then it's too late. My genes or my hard-wiring have already kicked in, and the only thing that will calm me down is time. Instead, I try to nip it in the bud before it even has a chance to fester.

I realize how completely insane this all sounds, but for all it's worth, and believe me, it's worth a lot, we had a great day yesterday, with no major flare-ups and no tears. Actually, one of the kids did start to cry because they didn't get a chocolate milk, but it was quickly overcome through reason, which means the tears were really just a ploy.

Anyway, as I've said, I think this is going to work. At the very least, it will keep me in the moment, rather than obsessing over future events that haven't happened yet or may never happen, I'm operating more in the here and now. Such a Zen approach to life, wouldn't you say?

When you really get down to it, a lot of frustration stems from trying to control things too much, especially when it really can't be done. Sure, you can nurture and illusion of controlling things, but let's face it, life is unpredictable; kids are unpredictable; the weather is unpredictable. Rather than try to control it, roll with it and accept it for what it is. In my case, anticipate it, and I'll be better able to deal with it.

I'm not trying to promote this idea that we should anticipate disasters around every corner, but I also don't think it's good to think you can control your universe, which just so happens to tend towards entropy.

And, at the very least, it will make life more enjoyable having less frustration and hopefully anger.

I know a lot of this just sounds like useless banter, because it is, but give me some time. I'm still working on clarifying my theory since it's in its nascent stage, but suffice it to say, so far, so good.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Finally Skiing the Skiway

We finally made it to the Skiway and had a great day skiing. What an awesome hill, we really enjoyed it, and though we could have skied it all day, we had an appointment after lunch and had to bug out by lunchtime. Nonetheless, we really enjoyed it.

We got the kids new ski helmets and they fit great, so that was another plus, and I don't feel as guilty being a bad parent for outfitting them with helmets that are too big.

On the subject of guilt, I got a bit irked at the kids for spilling soy sauce in the car, and they clearly felt bad and I didn't help by being a grump. More issues with anger management, but I do have a new theory about it and firmly believe, perhaps naively so, that I will defeat this beast, because one spoiler moment can set the tone for the entire day, even if it's been a great day. To quote the Bard, "The evil that men do lives after them, the good oft interred with their bones."

Just for the record, we still had a great day, I'd just like to be more Zen about life, and have a theory how I can do it. But it's all talk until I can actually do it, so I'll keep it to myself and let you know how it goes.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dartmouth Skiway Revisited, Coming Through for the Howe, and Missing the Mark

We have to be in Lebanon this afternoon, which will entail the usual juggling act with the car. We'll drop Ruth off at work early because she has a meeting, and then we'll head out to the hill for half-day before our optometrist appt. We'll give the Dartmouth Skiway a try again, because it should be in full operation after the big snowfall. In fact, it might be our last hurrah before the rains come later this week-total bummer. Whose idea was that?

It'll be a tight squeeze as usual, but worth a try. We should expand our skiing horizons, as much as we love the Quechee Hill. Besides, at least in this instance, it's closer.

Just a quick note about our favorite library in the world, the Howe-we'd lost a book, something we dread doing because we always feel like we let them down. Even though they are completely cool about it, and the book can be replaced, it's still a drag, and we feel terrible. Now considering how many books we take out, we're not doing terribly. We probably check out well over 2000 books a year, and that's not an exaggeration. In fact, last year one of the librarians informed us, not without some degree of amusement, mind you, that we'd checked out over 2400 books. Pretty crazy. Given that number, we've probably lost two or three books, and one of them was found, though after we'd replaced it. Not too shabby, all things considered.

My point is, we'd lost another one. They gave us a bit of a reprieve to try and find it, but it wasn't looking good. That is, of course, until yesterday, when the kids found it. It had fallen in a small crawl space that only one of them could fit in, and she found it. We were elated. Good vibes in that department.

However, I also missed my chance once again to help out the Hartland Trails folks. I should know after every heavy snowfall and plow to clear out the trail on our property. Granted, I have plenty of our own stuff to do, but want so much to help them out. They do fantastic work and the trails are a blessing to our town, but somehow I always miss the mark and fall short of helping. Yesterday there was a strange car in our driveway and I realized it was a trail person clearing snow, something I'd forgotten to do, once again. I introduced myself and offered more empty apologies, but in the end, actions speak louder than words. He was very nice, and in the end, I'm confident that I'll get my act together.

Famous last words.

We're going to see Grease this weekend, hopefully, and we have a birthday coming up. Would love to go to NYC to see the cousins and hang out, but we'll see. Until then, thanks for reading.

Going to the Source and My First Blender

I had a minor dilemma and it seems like it just might resolve itself, but required a bit of assertiveness, if not being a complete nuisance, to move in that direction. The story boils down to this-I needed some new contact lenses because I've been wearing the current pair for quite some time. They are sleep in lenses, but I only wear them for sports like skiing and karate, so end up using them for much longer than I'm supposed to. I think it boils down to overall time being used, which isn't much. Anyway, I need new lenses, but can't get them until I get a new prescription, which won't be for a couple of months. Not a big deal, I wear glasses about 90% of the time, but like having the contacts on hand.

I contacted the optometrist about possible remedies, and experienced something that's pretty common for me. Basically, I got five different stories from four different people. It seems like unless you talk to the person in charge, nobody really knows what they're talking about, and often are just giving you a story to get you out of their lives. While I completely understand this, it doesn't help my situation. Finally, I contacted my optometrist directly, who happens to be a great guy on many levels, and he said we could work something out. The bottom line-when you need something, don't settle for some BS unless it comes straight from the source. Find out for yourself what the true story is, because in the end, nobody knows nothing, but wants you to think they do. All too often we just blindly accept what we're told when in fact doing as such is a disservice to ourselves and perhaps our family.

Granted, sometimes you'll be a pain in the ass, but for me, what else is new?

On a another note, I got my first blender. Ruth had one but it's packed away somewhere in the basement, and when I went to pay my respects to my uncle, I sort of inherited it. Without getting too much into it, my trip down there was interesting, to say the least. There is such a soap opera going on on this side of the family, i.e., the "Lee Men," that I won't go into it out of respect for my cousins. Whatever be the case, I came home with my first blender, and I have to confess, it's pretty nice. We're into the smoothie gig (great way to eat the frozen berries we have stored) and last night for our vegan dinner we had pesto. In the past, I chopped the basil by hand and then tried blending it with a hand blender with mixed results-it came out find, just not beautifully smooth. This time around, it was awesome, and the kids loved it and gobbled the stuff up. We used whole wheat pasta, of course.

AND, the best part was, they helped make it and got a huge kick out of using the blender. How can you beat that?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Golden Moments in Lieu of Being an A-hole

So I lost it a little yesterday and felt a little like a dick, but not completely, and even in lieu of making a bit of an ass of myself, good fortune shined us.

We got A some clip on sunglasses for her glasses, and she loves them. Of course, curious as usual, N wanted to play with them and lost them, and I got a little peeved. I told him that he had to find them and he couldn't go outside to play until he did, and of course it upset him and I felt like an A-hole. I relented and told him not to be sad, and they had a good time with C, but I still wanted to find those darn glasses. Later on, N came to me and together we retraced his steps, and he found them. I still felt like an ass, but we shared a good vibe.

Later that night, I got held up a bit at karate class and wasn't able to be there when they tucked into bed. When I got home, I rushed upstairs and half the team was already out, but N had held on and wanted to stay awake to see me before he drifted off. He was a little irked at my tardiness, but I got to hear his story for the evening before he went to sleep, and was grateful for that. It's these golden moments that make parenting glorious, and I can't fathom how some people miss out on so much of their children's lives, by their own volition, mind you. There are times when things can't be helped, but for many of us, they are the result of the choices we make yet have the option not to make them.

Then again, what hell do I know? Not much, by the last count. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Writing For Nothing and Some New Developments

As part of my glorious freelance writing career, I have volunteered to help out a non-profit group that is working to create schools in Kenya. I may have mentioned them before, and I just spoke with the creator about what he's looking for, so at the very least, I'll get to write for a good cause. The site is run with WordPress, which I believe is actually a blogging program, the knowledge of which is considered a desirable by some potential employers, as I've seen in the classifieds, so maybe it's a good time to learn a new trick.

Also found out that I may know someone who writes for a local newspaper, so I may have an "in" with a publication. Then again, I've also found that these connections rarely, if ever, amount to much, but I'm not deterred.

More on Homeschooling, On a Roll, and Burrito Bowls

Looking back on our year, I think we're in pretty good shape, if only for the fact that we're monitoring ourselves early than last year, where we totally blew it and just squeaked by with the extensive assistance of the state offices. Much thanks for all of them for their patience and help. Hopefully we've learned something. The biggest issue for us is still history and social studies. How the heck do you teach it so it's interesting? Maybe the point is, at this stage in their lives, it just isn't. All things considered, we are doing fine, and will begin the process of reviewing our year and answering the to the state, who for the record have been very helpful and patient with us. Did I already mention that?

Spaced out on homeschool art class yesterday, didn't even know it was going on and thus missed out. Bummer.

That is not to say that we haven't been having fun, however, even though we haven't skied for three whole days, maybe four. As I've probably mentioned for a million times, we skied for six days straight last week, so it's almost as it if it's become our regular routine. With the recent storm, we can't wait to get back out there, but the Quechee Hill is back to it's weekend schedule, so mid-week skiing is a bit of a challenge. Our goal, however, is to give the Dartmouth Hill a try again, and hopefully it will work out. Looking to Wednesday for that, if all things work out.

Last night had the killer pseudo-vegetarian meals, our favorite Boloco inspired burrito bowls. We put a little chicken in the kid's bowls to make it more interesting for them, but I think they could go vegan, because it's all about the beans and the salsa. Maybe not as good as Boloco burritos, but close. The key I've found is the juiciness, from the salsa and the fillings. When it's drippy and wet, somehow it just tastes better. Funny how that works.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Homeschooling Strides

Now that Feb is coming to close, it might not be a bad time to take stock of where we stand with our homeschooling. We've done so much but again, it becomes an issue of proving it to the people that matter, and that's when organization becomes key.

I think this week I'll look over the stuff and look at our curriculum to see where we need to speed things up. Until then, thanks for reading.

Friends and a Break From the Slopes

We haven't seen or heard from CB in days, and hope she's well. We still have her birthday present and may very well make contact today, but you never know. School starts tomorrow. I bailed out on Gary, I feel bad, not that he missed me, but we were stuck in Hanover and we don't have access to a phone, so I couldn't call him. Excuses, excuses. I have to call him to day to apologize.

We finally hooked up with A&T and their kids at one of our favorite locales, the Howe Library. I love that place. I was thinking A was mad at me because we kind of both dropped the ball on contact, so she was pissed that I hadn't called and expressed her anger by not calling. Such a vicious circle.

It was a nice reunion, however, and the kids had a blast together, like they always do. My understanding is that they were there all day, so it must have been brutal for them, but that's not our business. Now that we've reconnected, it feels much better and I have a feeling that we'll be more in touch.

We're supposed to get socked with snow today, and we've decided to take a couple of days off from skiing because we've been going like crazy for the past week. In fact, we've skied for six days straight, and could have easily made it eight, but at some point it's good to have some down time. So we'll relax and look forward to maybe skiing at the Skiway mid-week or at the very least, at the Quechee Hill on Friday. Hopefully we'll get loads of snow in the meantime.

I'm still scrambling to find helmets that fit properly. The ones they have are too big and look it, and have to confess to being a little self-conscious amongst the crowds, not that they care, nor should I. But, it's a good time to get equipment because the season is winding down and places are unloading gear. So, for the next season, we need to get A bigger skis, maybe 140-50s, some new poles, and helmets that fit. We have about nine months, so hopefully something will come up. I know a bunch of ski sales happen in the fall, so we'll keep our eyes open.

Also, have to keep in mind, propane, firewood, and homeschool administration. Don't want to screw that one up again.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Good Vibes at Boloco

Not that we need another reason to love Boloco, but besides the killer burritos, we've been getting good vibes from the people who work there. It strikes me everytime we eat there that they've hit on a good formula-besides embracing the eco-friendly, health conscious approach to food (i.e., all natural and minimally processed, with compostable corn cups-you cant' beat that), the food is tasty, reasonably priced, served up promptly and in a hip, clean, and family friendly environment. It reminds me of the Panera model.

In a way, they may very well suffer a little from their success, only in the sense that the place gets packed and can draw a crowd of people looking for wireless internet and clean bathrooms, but they're tolerant of it all. I've noticed that besides groups of hungry college students, the two groups that gravitate to there are high school students looking for a place to hang out, and their biggest nightmare-families with young kids, of which we are one, though I like to think (delude?) that we clean up after ourselves.

Unfortunately, some of these families leave the place a mess, and I've seen that sometimes, not always, the families that seem to have the most affluence leave their tables in the worst shape, and I feel bad for the people who work there and have to clean up. Despite all that, they're patient and friendly, and never complain when people glare down at them while they're making the food, which can't be easy.

We go in about once a week, and everyone looks forward to it. My ideal day goes something like this-do a couple hours of skiing (preferably with the kids) in the AM, followed by lunch at home, then off to the library and the Coop, then dinner at Boloco. By the time we sit down to eat, we're all pretty excited to dig into our burritos, and it's one of the warm fuzzy feelings in life when you get that first taste of your classic w/carnitas or the summer w/tofu. We connected with one of the guys who works there, and I regret not getting his name, but there's always next week.

Good food, good vibes in warm and friendly atmosphere, you can't beat that. Just try to get there before the 6:00 PM rush, and you'll be just fine.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stress Makes Me An A-Hole, But Some Good Can Come From It

I don't know why I do this to myself and my family, but by getting in over my head, I begin to stress out and become a big jerk to everyone around me. Unfortunately, my kids get to see this a lot, though it's usually momentary and I apologize and hope that they understand and perhaps even find it a bit comical. It usually happens in the afternoon/evening when cleanup and supper planning begin, all in preparation for mom's arrival home to a clean home and a good home cooked meal. The problem lies in the fact that time is of the essence, and there is so little of it. Usually I get a bit stressed out, especially if we've just gotten home from skiing, which is usually around 5-5:30, and we have to have a meal ready by 6:30 and the house cleaned. Difficult, but not impossible, and in some ways, the only way I can get the job done is by stressing out.

If in the middle of my rigmarole, the kids need my assistance, and then they inevitably incur the wrath of dad, and though I can be a jerk about it, some good things do come out of it. Namely, that the kids have to deal with things on their own, and usually do a good job of it. Case in point, we had just gotten home and I was furiously chopping veggies and getting supper together and washing dishes. The kids were outside making a snowman, it was the first time all season that the snow was just right for snowballs and snowmen, so after a long day of skiing, they were inspired and went to work.

At some point, their snowball got to be too big, and they couldn't lift it on top of the body, so of course they came knocking and asked me to come out and lift it. I was standing there in my long underwear thinking I wasn't about to get dressed up while leaving things cooking on the stove, so I said no, I couldn't. Granted, I could have been more congenial with my response, but stressed out dad is not the picture of tactfulness, and left it at that.

Well, you know what happened? They did it themselves, with teamwork. I'm not justifying being a jerk, but there are times when you leave kids to their own devices, they adapt and overcome, and grow from the process. A explained it me later how they did it, and it was simply brilliant. Best of all, I had nothing to do with and they did it all on their own. We were so proud of them, and they worked together. And the snowman was brilliant.

At some point I felt guilty and helped them decorate, even bringing them hats and scarves and getting snow all over my long johns and in my shoe (no socks!), but it was worth the pain and suffering to see the fruits of their labors.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Time For a Break, Making Pizza, and Writing

Well, if you can believe this, we've managed to ski for six consecutive days, and we've actually reached a point where we need a break. In fact, yesterday we went skiing and after a couple of runs, the kids decided they'd had enough, and we played on the sledding hill, where they practiced their snowboarding. It was a great week, though, and the opportunity of a lifetime in terms of getting lots of practice in. We had a great time.

We never made it to contradance, and that's kind of a bummer, but we were exhausted and it just didn't work out. I feel bad for JD, but it's not as if our presence was missed. I tried to find out if CH and C were going, but didn't find out until later that they were, and by that time, it had pretty much been decided that we were in for the night. When we learned that J, I, and S weren't going to make it, half of our motivation to go had checked out, and we were ambivalent to start with.

Instead, we hung out after skiing and made pizza, which is always a blast. The kids really enjoy cooking, even though it makes an incredible mess and I have to lighten up in a big way. But truth be told, they do a great job, it's pretty impressive when you get down to it, and pizza in particular is fun for them because they get to be imaginative in how the toppings go on. Best of all, mom gets to have a big supper surprise that is truly made by her kids, and do they ever get into it. In fact, A made me cover all the pizza up with foil so mom couldn't see it and they could surprise her. How cute is that?

The recipe we use makes a ton of whole wheat, multi-grain dough. I split the load and freeze half, and the half that we work with gives us one large round, a medium rectangle, and six small pies. The way we work it, I roll out the the two big ones and makes small balls of the rest. The kids roll out the small ones, and they add sauce and cheese and goodies to the all of them. They work very hard and are very focused on what they do, not forgetting, of course, to have fun by making designs and funny faces with the toppings. It's a great family activity with the all-important reward at the end. You can't beat that.

I've set about modifying my blog a bit, not that anyone will notice because it may not be glaringly apparent, but I'll feel better once it's all done, and may even get a nod of approval from R&J. It's a huge task, however, and will take weeks. Got some potential nibbles for writing, and will soon begin our philanthropic work for schools in Africa.

It begs the question, what am I getting myself into?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Out Of It, Timing in LIfe, Skiing Like Crazy, and Contradance

I haven't been blogging as diligently because I've been dealing with assorted issues, and sometimes the blog just has to be put aside. From there, it's a slippery slope and days can pass before I get back in the swing of things. Funny how that works. I'm also working on modifying my blog a bit, but that's a long term gig.

We have been skiing for about six days straight, and I can't even begin to tell you how far along the kids have come. It's been a blast and we are all definitely hooked. Even I, who has been a reasonably avid snowboarder for the past few years, have re-discovered my love of skiing, and sort of prefer it now. But, in typical fashion, when I see other snowboarders on the hill, they look cool, and wanting to be cool, like most guys, have this urge to snowboard as well. Just might do that if we make it to the hill today.

It was a Quechee reunion yesterday, and we saw bunch of our old friends from the days on the Green. Unfortunately, being the neurotic nut that I am, I was so focused on getting as much skiing in as I could that we didn't spend as much time hanging with friends, not that they wanted to hang out with us. The biggest bummer is missing out a on chance to chat with J, and A and I didn't get to really ski together, but sometimes things just don't work out. Hope to see J, A, and S soon and hope the kids can have a playdate, or at least hang out.

We did, however, have a blast skiing. The kids are getting a bit daring and search out the trails through the trees. There are times when I completely lose track of them, and have to come to terms with the fact that I'm beginning to get in the way. Then again, I guess as a parent, that's the goal. Either way, I prefer to have at least N in my sights at some point, and to be there for him if he falls, but he's perfectly capable of taking care of himself and has in fact recovered from assorted spills and skiied down the hill by himself. I.e., I'm worrying too much, but how can you not?

I still can't get over how much the kids love skiing, and it really boils down to timing. Something just clicked, and suddenly the love it. It's the same with music. I've tried to expose them to all sorts of music and encourage them to have eclectic taste, but most of it just becomes background sounds to the day. Just recently both the kids have shown an increased interest in music, and are forming their favorite bands and songs. It's kind of cool to see, and the precursor, in my opinion, of an interest in playing an instrument. We'll work on that one next. Right now, we're listening to a lot of oldies, and that's a good intro to pop music.

Today is Friday, and tonight is contradance. We haven't been to the past few, and feel like we should make an appearance because not only do we enjoy it, but feel like we should support JD because she works so hard on it. Had a beer with PD last night and he said he wasn't going, which is fine. We did the Skunk Hollow with GS and it was actually a fun evening, even though all I wanted to do was go to sleep after a long day of skiing. No rest for the weary.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Please Excuse Me

To anyone reading my blog, besides saying thank you for reading, I just wanted to mention that I am doing some editing in the archives and am not sure if that affects how you see things. If for some reason you keep getting messages everytime I make a change, I apologize. Hopefully that won't be the case.

Hope everyone is having a nice day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Praise For My Aunt

I have to say something about my aunt, because she's truly an amazing person. The beautiful irony of it all, and I cannot adequately convey this to you in words, is that for all the time that I was growing up, she was the unending recipient of everyone's (the adults, that is) wrath. My parents were intolerably cruel to her, so much so that I completely understand if she hates our side of the family, which I believe she does, though everyone denies this. And my uncle treated her terribly, which I'm guessing was rooted in his complete lack of respect for her.

With this in mind, how did everyone fare? My father was a bitter, lonely and angry man with no friends, no direction in life, and complete dissatisfaction which stemmed from blaming everyone for all his problems. He had two sons who couldn't relate to him and were too selfish to make enough effort to bridge the chasm between them (i.e., my brother and I), and angry wife who was eternally disappointed in him, and a unrealized life that stemmed from the misguided belief that a real man only pursued certain things.

I didn't know my uncle that well, so I can't say, but I do think he had some issues with dissatisfaction and loneliness, and out of respect to my cousins, I won't go into the gory details, but suffice it to say there were some things going on that were clearly rooted in dissatisfaction.

As for my mom, well don't get me started.

In the end, my aunt, whom everyone was disparaging of, ended up with the greatest gift of all-a family, with three great kids who love her and are there for her. Even before my uncle bailed out on her, she raised three kids on her own, and when he left, she had to go from being a housewife to getting a job (she successfully opened her own business), all the while raising three feisty, independent, and strong willed children.

Don't get me wrong, she's not a perfect person, nobody is, but what a fantastic job she's done, in my eyes, of not only holding together her family, but raising them to be these fabulous people. I bow my head in awe of her.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Thoughts On My Uncle

My uncle has been on my mind a lot lately, understandably so. With his passing, it really brings to light the question of what life is all about. My uncle was so much like my dad, living a cliche and embracing outdated stereotypes that only seemed to result in dissatisfaction and imbalance. My uncle and my dad were both stereotypical males, meaning that they had some firmly held beliefs in what a man's place was in the universe. Because of this, not only did they struggle to maintain what they perceived was their proper place in the grand scheme of things, but they concurrently denied what might have been they're true calling in life. The disharmony that ensued spilled over into all aspects of their lives, adversely affecting not only themselves, but us, their families, as well.

It's a shame, because I know what it's like struggling to maintain a persona of something you really aren't. My brother's entire life is about this, and as a result, he lives a life of hell. I embraced this for much of my life, being a jock and a frat boy, and all the while, I was miserable. But at least I had some credibility amongst my peers, whatever the hell that means.

Either way, it made life difficult on all of us. It was almost as if our parents took to heart the cliches they had learned from popular media and took them to the extreme, or to the point of caricature. In other words, if being a man meant being distant and independent, they took that to mean that being a real man and father meant being a jerk to your kids. Not only was it acceptable, but it was expected of you, and as a result, bridges were burned and countless years were lost between us.

The tragic consequence of all this is that there is so much we never learned about each other, and with my uncle's passing, we'll never know. In my father's last years, he wanted nothing more than to reach out and connect with his two sons, but it was difficult, if not impossible, after years of having it crushed and spit out because it wasn't considered a man's place to have feelings amongst one another or be sensitive to each other's feelings.

What a shame.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Getting Home For Valentine's Day

There was no question that I was going to make it home for Saturday. As much as my cousins and aunt wanted me to hang out and spend the day, I wanted to be with my family. Just for the record, V-day is our anniversary, and that night happened to be the Tiki Torch XC ski party, something the kids (and us) were all looking forward to.

I made it home in the morning and surprised everyone because they figured I'd be home some time that afternoon or evening, and even managed to pick up roses and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates for the everyone. They were thrilled to pieces, and that alone made it worthwhile. Life doesn't always come easy, but the best things in life rarely do.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

A Brutal Road Trip To See My Uncle

My uncle passed away last week in his sleep. It took everyone by surprise, including his family, with whom he was distant and disconnected and had no idea of his health problems. His own family didn't find out until several days later, when his co-workers informed them, and I found out a couple of days later. Consequently, I had to put our lives on hold and make arrangements to get down to Virginia to pay my respects.

It was a difficult situation for everyone for many reasons, but the one thing that really stuck in my mind was how little his own family really knew about him. As his nephew, I accepted the lack of knowing as part of being his extended family, but even his own children saw him as a mystery, and that really came to light when I was down there. I felt bad for his kids, my cousins, because of the pain of not only losing their father, but of never really knowing him and now, with his passing, realizing that there was so much they would never know.

My uncle was a difficult person, and at times I think he was selfish and thoughtless to his own kids, not unlike my father was to us, and how hard it was to learn so much about him after the fact. It was a sad time, but my cousins are fantastic people, they've really done right by themselves, and where he should have been proud of them, he wrestled with feelings of jealousy and inadequacy. And they tried so hard to make him proud.

Anyway, I knew that I had to make it down there, even though there is so much going on here and we'd had so many plans. But I love my cousins, they're great people, and when my father passed away ten years ago, they were there from the get-go, and it was my family. So I had to come up with a plan.

My uncle lived in Alexandria, VA, which is essentially Washington DC, so it was close enough to consider a car trip, yet far enough to warrant a plane trip. I had to decide quickly because my cousins had let me know about two days before they had planned an impromptu memorial in his honor.

I'm ashamed to admit this, but I wrestled with the decision to even go, because the truth was, as much as I love my my cousins and my aunt, we don't keep in touch at all, and my uncle was a difficult and offensive person, and there is so much going on in our lives up here, that to drop everything and go down there would be a challenge, logistically and financially. I know for most people this would not have been an issue, but you have to know what our family is all about, and then maybe, just maybe, you'd understand.

Either way, it became a non-optional situation. I knew I had to go, he was my uncle, and my cousins mean a lot to me, even though they indicated that they understood if I couldn't make it. The problem is, as a family, we are a bunch of flakes, and seem proficient at finding excuses.

I scrambled to look for a way down. I had about two days to find a solution. The first step was to cancel all of our plans for the next two days, and then find transportation. A plane would have been not only a hassle, but expensive. Then again, my cousin had just landed in Paris and had to get back on the plane and fly back home, so I couldn't complain. The trains are a nice way to go, but the scheduling and duration are intolerable, so it boiled down to driving.

So I rented a car, and though I'm not here to plug local businesses, I just wanted to say that Enterprise gave me a great deal on a weekend rental, and the person working there, Kevin, was great to work with. Thanks for that.

I decided to leave Friday morning to be there for the Friday memorial. I woke up at 2:00 AM and hit the road. The drive was actually nice, though I hit a brutal snowstorm just outside of Brattleboro and thought, if this keeps up, I'll never get there. Fortunately, it stopped, and it was clear sailing all the way. Now I'd never driven to DC before, so I was driving unfamiliar highways and trying to read directions while looking at a map, all at the same time. It was rough, and I missed having my trusty navigator, Ruth, there by my side.

One of the things that gave me anxiety was having to pass through New York City. As much as I love the city, driving there is hell, and I was going to hit the George Washington Bridge right at morning rush hour, though it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, maybe because I didn't actually go into the city. Either way, traffic was hell, and the signs are about as challenging as any drive you're going to find. Once you're out of the city's range, you can breathe a sigh of relief and simply head down the Jersey Turnpike.

The drive was pretty straightforward, and basically amounted to a straight shot down the Turnpike. New Jersey is depressing, just a suburban wasteland throughout, though near New York, in Newark and Elizabeth, it more or less resembles an industrial wasteland. It's hard to imagine that it's the Garden State, though I know there are beautiful beaches and lots of farmland.

The tolls will kill you. I spent about $25 in tolls, and I'm not even sure what for. I was stopping for tolls in seemingly random places, and I was glad I went to the ATM. Crossing into Delware was actually nice, the Delaware River is beautiful and bigger than I had imagined, though shortly after that, I entered Maryland, and that's where the difficulties really set in. I don't know much about the state, but from what I could gather, it's been simply destroyed by development. Central Florida came to mind, and wherever I drove, there were construction trucks tearing up the landscape. Consequently, the traffic was hell, and with the economy heading in the direction it is, I kept envisioning this abandoned wasteland of development. Suburban hell, actually, and the price of what some see as progress.

And of course, I got lost several times. The problem with driving it alone is that you can't read a map or directions with much diligence, and the directions don't give enough details to help you find your way out of a tough situation. Fortunately, at that point, I was getting pretty close, and the few times I stopped to ask for directions, the people were able to actually help. Lucky me.

The traffic was terrible, as well. They talk about LA traffic, but it's become a country-wide phenomenom. Cars everywhere, and miserable people driving them, including me. At one point, near the MD/VA border, I was so confused that I had to get off the freeway, drive around the city, and by some twist of fate, found an Enterprise rental office and asked for directions. The dude there knew his stuff, and was even familiar with my uncle's neighborhood.

By the time I landed, eight hours later, I was getting tired and I still had to find my way through the suburban hell that was Alexandria, VA. It's sort of depressing when you see so many stip malls and big stores, a scene played out across so much of America, it's depressing. All this commerce, all geared towards getting people to burn their money and drive the economy. I'll take the countryside of Vermont any day over all that.

My final go at getting lost was in fact in Alexandria. The Mapquest directions, which for the record were RIGHT ON, listed the streets by numbers, and of course, the streets had names. So I had to pull over and ask if anybody knew where #644 was. People looked at me as if I were crazy, or simply gave me the cold shoulder. By some miracle, there was one woman who knew the names and numbers. She worked at a car wash, of all places, and she had a huge map. I found my way to my uncle's condo, and was relieved to finally get out of that car.

That night, I crashed out around 9:00 PM, woke up at 2:00 AM, and drove home. More than anything, I wanted to be home with my family for Valentine's Day, which also happens to be our anniversary. I made it home by 11:00 AM, and that night made it to the Tiki Trek XC ski party. How's that for a mad dash?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Out of Nowhere

I've just been blindsided by the news that my uncle has passed away, and with two days notice have had to scramble to make arrangements to get down to Virginia, so I'm off for a few days. It literally came out of nowhere for everyone, he passed away in his sleep from a heart ailment that he apparently had no idea he had. Not that he lived a healthy life, nor a virtuous one, but it's always sad to say goodbye, and he wasn't that old. It really makes you take step back and think about life and remember the important things.

Finding a convenient, affordable way to get down there wasn't easy, and as it turns out, I'm going to drive. It's going to be brutal, and in the end, I have more than enough excuses to not go (i.e., my family, the distance, the late notice, the lack of communication with family), but really feel there is no excuse when it comes to family. I need to go and show my respect.

This is going to be yet another adventure at a time when I've plenty of the stuff to chew on. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Day in the Writing Life

I've been trying out this whole freelance gig for the past six months and feel like I'm getting nowhere, and fast. I'm not giving up, I still think there are opps out there, it's just a drag when you hear nothing back. I'm not sure what it takes to get a response, but whatever it is, I'm not doing it. There are still avenues I haven't pursued and will pursue, but for now, I'm taking it all with a grain of salt. Even with simple things are hard to get your foot in the door.

It really clarifies the fact that writing has be a labor of love. You have to get something out of the process rather than focusing on the end result, not unlike life. If you obsess over the wrong things, then you lose sight of the big picture and the road has fewer rewards. While I'm completely aware of this and try to embrace it in everything I do, including parenting, it's not always easy, and there are times when I ask myself, why bother?

Then again, all it takes is a look around me and it's clear.

Which brings me back to writing. Maybe I need to focus more on the things I really want out of it, rather than putting so much energy into the superfluous items. It's something to think about. On the other hand, I also need to be more proactive, because even when you're working your ass off, gigs are hard to come by, so sitting back and waiting for them to fall in your lap will only ensure one thing-that I'll continue to sit back and wait for them to fall in my lap. And what fun is that?

Thanks for reading.

Crazy Weather and Missing Some Friends

I'm not sure what to make of this weather. It's an unbelievably balmy 40 degrees outside, and all of our beautiful snow is melting. Makes skiing a bit of challenge, but not impossible. They are supposed to have a big winter carnival in Hanover this weekend and I'm not sure how the weather is going to affect the plans. We're having our big Tiki Ski night, as well, and the trails are in pretty bad shape. I'm guessing they'll only get worse by this weekend with the rain and all, so it's kind of a bummer, but you've got to make the most of it. We may end up walking to the XC ski party.

We have sort of lost touch with a number of people, and we'd love to see them again. First off, C. Where did she go? We got a call from her Sunday but we'd just walked in the door from a day of skiing and just weren't ready for a last minute playdate, so hopefully we'll get to see her, maybe today, but who can say? The Macs we've completely lost touch with. It's hard because they're in Norwich and A seems to take lack of effort personally. They are so incredibly busy with five kids, anyway, it's a miracle to work things out, anyway, so our meetings tend to be happenstance, and since we don't go to the library much during the week, we don't see them. Even still, it would be nice to touch base. I guess I could always call...

The Hartland rec has been a great place to go to, though, and I've been told that come Spring, the place is hopping. I love the fact that the kids have fun there, and it's so close by. Come Spring I think we can even ride our bikes, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Otherwise, we're still plugging along. Not feeling so great about the state of the world and I'm trying to be optimistic about Obama's plans. In the end, what else do we have? Until then, thanks for reading.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Weekend and Back to Eating Veggies

We've reached a point where when we fall off the veggie wagon, it bums us out. Even the kids are aware of when we're not eating enough fruit and veggies. Either way, we're back to vegan cooking, and it makes us feel a whole lot better. It's interesting because growing up like most of us do, it's hard to imagine cutting meat out of your diet, it's such a staple of our diets, but it's all about creating habits and setting precedents. The kids eat a lot of vegetables because it's just what we do, and they don't feel like they're missing out because it's just not a regular part of our lives, keeping mind that we are not completely vegan, and feel the kids in particular need some meat in their lives. Not to mention junk food and TV (movies only!) now and then.

I guess in the end we worried about the two of them accepting our new direction, but so far it's been pretty smooth. It just goes to show you that if you put a little time, effort and creativity into eating healthy, it can work out in the end. Mom and Dad have to be in on the effort, as well, and you have to sprinkle in a little unhealthy indulgence now and then, because anything in the extreme takes the fun out of it.

This past weekend we managed to miss out on all the things we wanted to do, mainly the town events like the Winter Fest and the magic show. Bummer, but we were busy. We had out weekly trip to the Howe library to feed our minds, and then we skied up a storm. I won't carry on about how far the kids have come, but even my wife has been able to polish up her skiing and consequently is really enjoying it. We are on the verge of being a skiing family, and boy does it feel good. Unfortunately, XC skiing has fallen by the wayside a bit, but we'll get back into it soon enough, especially with the Tiki Trek weekend coming up.

One thing that really struck me about skiing is the intense, competitive nature of it for so many of the kids. Racing is big up here, and you see these kids in their gear racing and competing, and it all seems a bit much to me. I have to confess to having a bit of skepticism to the whole competitive nature of our world and the need to establish a hierarchy and for there to be winners and losers for there to be meaning in things. I fully accept that people can be competitive by nature, but for me, it often takes the fun out of things. Then again, for a lot of people, it is what gives their lives meaning, and you can't pass judgement on that.

We have a show at the LOH this week, and we're thinking of trying to actually ski a new hill, the Dartmouth Skiway. Never been there, but the kids are hungry for new adventures, so we'll see where this one leads us.

BTW, we hadn't heard from C in days, a week even, and I think A was getting bummed out. Sometimes it seems like feast of famine, we go for days of hanging with her, and then we don't hear from her for long stretches. Maybe it's not a bad thing to take a little step back, and I know she is really busy with school/hockey/skiing and all that good stuff. And the it's not as if A had called her, either. Either way, we finally heard from her and I think it made A really happy. Hopefully they'll have a chance to get together this week. We shall see.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Skiing Up A Storm and Falling Off the Vegan Wagon... Again

Man did we have a great day of skiing yesterday. The kids had been waiting all week for this day, and when it finally arrived, we took full advantage of it. The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm (30 degrees), and literally nobody there. It was almost strange, and J pointed out that some people just have to find something to complain about. Point taken.

The Quechee Hill is such a great place to ski for us, great learning hill, convenient and extremely well maintained. And a lot of our friends work/ski there. We got to the hill late morning and literally skied til they closed. We had a few spills, which are a bummer, but for the most part, it was a great day. We were amongst maybe five or six people skiing, and until the afternoon, when the people showed up en mass, the hill was all ours.

On the subject of milestones, the kids skied their first black diamond run, though at Quechee you have to take that with a grain of salt. Either way, they went for it, and they skied it like pros. Our days on the rope tow and T-bar may be numbered, though I still think the T-bar run is fun. Ironic how the easier hills to ski are the hardest to get up. Also, N did the T-bar all by himself, though he didn't enjoy it, and I think I'll have to ride up with him, if we in fact continue on it.

Since we were there all day, we naturally had to break for lunch and opted for the food at the lodge, which meant that we were in no way going to eat vegan, though S, who works there, is a vegan and had somehow scored a veggie burger. Our lunch consisted of bacon cheeseburgers, chicken strips, and fries. Talk about junk food. I'd made vegan lentil stew for dinner to counteract the garbage we ate for lunch, though I have to confess, it was tasty. It made us all a little sick.

By the time we got back out on the snow, our friends were beginning to show up. The kids were getting tired, but they powered on, and we managed to get a ton of skiing in, though A took quite a spill. She bounced back up and kept going. And N, in his quest to keep up, was simply incredible in his skiing.

All in all, I was so proud of them for making such huge strides. They set their minds to something, took a couple of spills, but persevered. Now they love skiing, they can't get a enough, and I'm more than happy to help them along.

I tried snowboarding with them but found that it wasn't so practical, so I think I'll stick with skiing, it just makes life simpler.

We're hoping to make it to Winter Fest but I have to go to the market and we have our day in Hanover, so it's conceivable that not only will we not make it there, but we more than likely won't get any skiing done. Bummer. But there's always tomorrow.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Homeward Bound

After several days of skiing, skating and getting around, yesterday we spent a mellow day at home making sure we got our school work done and just playing around the house while I got necessary chores done. And you know what? We had a great day.

A has been on a bit of domestic kick lately and has been extremely motivated to keep her room clean and orderly. Not sure where it's coming from, but it's really sweet and cute, and she's very diligent about it.

After we did our work, there were plenty of things to do outside, and the kids both joined me outside. The initial idea was that they were going to help me fill the wood box, and I had some reservations because the wood is very heavy and you get messy, not to mention you end up destroying your gloves. But in the end, they found assorted projects to do in the snow while I hauled wood.

In fact, I shoveled a path to their snow fort and they then spent the day detailing it icicles that I'd knocked off our roof. True, it's a bummer that they're there, but at least hey had a lot of fun with it. I guess in the end, it just confirms what every parent knows but can't always employ-kids can have fun with the simplest of things, and don't need fancy and expensive toys to be entertained. If anything, it dampens their imagination.

On that subject, don't even get me started on TV.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Dad on the Outside

I had this interesting series of experiences that really made me think a lot about a man's place in the parenting universe, or at least what I think is a man's place.

Mind you, a lot, if not all, of this stems from my own neurosis and projection, and in retrospect I realized that it was all in my head, but there was some pretty serious introspection going on there.

It all stemmed from my history coming back to haunt me. You see, I have a brother, T, who is a pathological liar. I mean he lies so much that at times it gets ridiculous, though if you didn't know him, you would absolutely buy into it because he's incredibly smooth and charming, and dare I say, good looking. At times, the lies come out of his mouth so profusely, you get a sense that he simply can't help it, so the best approach is to take everything he has to say with a grain of salt. It makes interacting with him difficult, to say the least.

Anyway, some more big lies of his recently came to light, and someone close to me pointed out that with a brother, mother, and father who lie so much to cover for themselves, how can I, by virtue of our blood, have not come out of it unpolluted. I.e., how can anyone assume that I'm not lying all the time, as well?

Well, besides being floored by that assertion, it got me thinking, how can I expect anyone who knows the truth about my family to believe me? I don't have self-esteem issues, but it did make me think that my brother is not the sort of person I would ever trust with our own children, and maybe part of that is because he's a man.

Then, that same day, we had a moment we had at the playground that seemed to solidify this notion. We had trouble getting out the door on time and when we'd finally managed to get to the rec center, it was almost 4:00PM, which meant that our friends had already been out there for at least an hour. Right at the moment that our kids ran over to join the kids, and when I subsequently sat down to oversee them, the teachers called themin and said it was time to go inside. Pure coincidence, I know, but I'd just read an article that day about a dad who was refused entry into a playgroup because he was a man, and my neurotic mind kicked into full gear and wondered, why are they leaving upon our arrival. Besides, now my kids had nobody to play with.

It really got me to thinking that it can be a bit awkward having a lone man around. It can change the whole dynamic of everything, and while it's perfectly acceptable for a woman to play with kids that aren't her own, there is no denying that it can be a little weird if a man did the same, especially if he didn't have any children of his own.

I realize I'm buying into the whole sexist stereotype of dads vs. moms on the playground, but when you really get down to it, there aren't too many creeps out there that are women. I guess, in the end, I understood the teacher's POV if they had reservations about a strange man, even if he was a dad with his kids, even if he did know him on a casual basis, lingering around the school kids. For that matter, I also understood if the parents voiced some concerns. Heck, I would have, or rather, I would have found out who this guy was.

It bummed me out, however, that there might be a possibility that our kids wouldn't have a group of kids to play with on a casual, unstructured basis, which exactly what the after-school program offers. So I resolved to resolve this issue, and the next day, I did what I would normally never do if I were on my own-I went and talked to the teachers.

Of course, I had a plan to go with it. I scrambled to clean up and get dinner ready so we could get out the door before school got out, so we could arrive when the after-school kids got there, of course. I also wanted to get there early enough so that if the teachers brought the kids in when we got there, then I'd know for sure something was up, and would come forward and inquire.

Well, it turns out, as always, my anxieties were completely unfounded. I was lucky in that B and MJ were out there, my chums, and they must have thought I was crazy (they were right) because they said not only was it fine for us to play with the school kids, but they loved for parents to be out there and involved, as well. Even if he was a scary looking dad like myself.

It didn't change the fact, at least in my mind, however, that it is still a little awkward to be a man in a woman's world. I don't know if I can hang with a large group of moms. In fact, I know I couldn't, but for all it's worth, I'm not good in large groups of any sort, so it's not just with moms. However, I find myself surrounded by moms on many occasions because that's the world I live in, and I'm willing to put myself in these uncomfortable (that's putting it lightly) situations, where I'm sure I'm not always welcome, of course, because it is what's best for my kids. They want to play with other kids in assorted situations, and the reality is, those situations involve mostly moms.

Life ain't easy being a SAHD, especially a neurotic one.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Finding Our Skis

Somehow last weekend we, or I guess I should say I, managed to lose my kid's skis. We don't unload the truck right away, so it wasn't apparent that her skis were missing until the next day. We spent a few moments staring at each other wondering, "What the heck did you do with her skis?"

Being the neurotic nut case that I am, I immediately put my pants on and told the kids to get dressed, thinking that we didn't have a moment to lose and we had to rush over to the ski hill and search for those skis. Eventually reason set in and cooler heads prevailed, and I concluded that nothing was going to change during the course of the day, so we headed over later in the day.

When we got to the ski hill, I combed the parking lot and the base of the hill, trying to retrace my steps and remember what I had done with those skis. Skis are not like sunglasses, they're rather big and not something that you can easily misplace, though I'd managed to somehow do exactly that.

The problem was that the hill was deserted, and there was nobody there to help. I finally walked across the grounds to the lodge, thinking there was a lost and found. Surprisingly, there were a bunch of guys hanging out, having lunch. I recognized them as the grounds crew, and they were extremely helpful. We checked out the lost and found, then the supply closet, but no skis. They told me I might have to wait until Friday when the hill opened and I could ask the ski patrol, but that was five days away, and the wait would have killed me.

Finally one of the guys mentioned that the ski patrol might have found them and just left them in their warming hut, which was locked but he had a key. He offered to unlock the room and let me have a look, and I jumped at the chance.

Sure enough, there they were, sitting in the corner, our little skis. I was so stoked, not so much for the financial aspect of it all, but more so for the symbolic nature of our kid's skis. That would have bummed me out, and probably woudn't have made her very happy, either.

The one thing that stuck in my mind was that we didn't give up. There were ample opportunities to do just that, because early on, it wasn't looking too good. We live in Vermont, and people are decent and don't, for the most part, do things like steal skis they find lying around. Sure, we lost a sled when we lived in the Red Barn, but I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it wasn't taken by a local but rather someone from out of town, eating at Simon Pearce (how ironic is that?). Anyway, I figured that if we did in fact leave the skis at the hill, nobody was going to take them home, and that's how it ended.

Just a nice moment I wanted to share. Good vibes to be had.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Lightening Up

This past weekend I really suffered for being too eager, and it made me want to take a step back and lighten up. Then again, it ain't easy. It always boils down to what I perceive as looking out for everyone's best interest vs. everyone taking responsibility for their own interest. Does that make any sense? Perhaps an example might help clarify things.

We were supposed to make our way to Occom Pond this weekend for our usual Saturday excursion, and we generally get there in the late afternoon and skate until it gets dark, which is fine except that it's really cold and they take the marshmallows away by 4:30. And, we're squeezing in a trip to the library and hopefully to Coop, while my wife is at work. My reasoning is, the earlier we get there, the better, while everyone else is very laid back and won't motivate until the zero hour, and that's with us (or should I say, me?) hounding them. It boils down to my inability to lighten up, and if I weren't pushing everyone, we'd never make it out the door and get to do the things we want to do.

Now here's the problem-maybe the kids need to learn the hard way. I.e., if they don't motivate and get it together, then we can't go skiing and skating and other things. Should mom and dad be pushing them out the door to do something they love, when they should be motivated in and of themselves? Do they need to learn the consequences of the inaction? This never comes about because we enable them to have no sense of urgency by ensuring that we make it on time, but it's often like pulling teeth. What kills me is that if it came down to missing out on fun things, then we're the villains, it's our fault, but what do you expect when you're a parent?

Is it just that I need to lighten up? The truth is, there are times we'd never make it out the door if we didn't apply a little (or a lot) of pressure. On Sunday we were supposed to go skiing, and the kids were excited about it all week. Come Sunday, we were lounging around as the clock ticked away. I wanted to be there in the morning, but by late afternoon, it was looking almost as if we weren't going to pull it off. Needless to day, I was crawling up the walls, and at some point I decided that I really needed to lighten up and let the cards fall as they may.

We eventually made it to the slopes, but much later than I'd hoped. It was great day, everyone had a blast and we reached even more milestones. The kids were besides themselves and said they wanted to ski every day, and they couldn't wait until next weekend when we'd hit the slopes, but I know come Saturday, they're going to dragging their feet and if I don't push them, we're going to end up sitting around the house all day.

In the end, I guess I'll never really be able to lighten up, and I'll continue to nudge them a little to get them out the door. I'm beginning to wonder if we're suffering the negative consequence of homeschooling. Somehow, without the regular routine of being bounced out of bed and pushed out the door, kids become a bit unmotivated and soft. It makes it a challenge for everyone involved.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Confronting the Educational Dilemma

As we negotiate our way through the process of teaching the kids about government and history, it becomes clearer to me what a farce education can seem at times. I remember hating history and how it had no meaning or value to me. For the record, now that I'm older (much older), I love the subject, but when I was younger you couldn't have paid me to show any interest, and I see a bit of that in not only our kids, but in all kids. It just becomes a case of memorizing facts and regurgitating them for the benefit of the us adults. What does it really mean to a seven-year-old?

At the very least, we're finding our way, but only because as homeschoolers we have some flexibility in molding the lessons and optimizing our approach, though optimizing it is a stretch. I guess in the end, history is best learned with some context, and without that context, it just becomes a process of learning a bunch of facts... you guessed it, out of context. I don't have an answer, and I realize this is just the way it's done and the way it's gotta be, but it's a shame, in a way, that the subject has to be such a chore to learn. I struggle with this and am still searching for the holy grail of the interesting and fun approach to learning history. Something interactive that will grab their imagination would be best, so if you're reading this and have any thoughts, I'd welcome your advice. Until then, we're taking the public school approach and memorizing and regurgitating.

It works as far as placating the state, but we'd like to find something that bestow the kids with more meaning and maybe even, if I may be so bold, inspire them. Maybe a trip, or something interactive. I'm scouring the web for something fun and interesting, and from what little research I've done, feel optimistic that there is something out there.

In meantime, we'll continue to have fun with math and reading. Learning can be fun, as we all know, you just have to have the right attitude, and I'm not here to knock conventional schooling, but it's difficult to argue with the fact that it doesn't instill us with the best of attitudes about learning.

Thanks for reading.

But Wait, There's More

Had another great day skiing and hit some milestones, as well. On Saturday we did our usual trip to Occom Pond, and I hate to admit this, but it lost a little of it's luster. I don't know why, but it just wasn't as fun, and the crowds were amazing. Must have just been a day to be out at the pond, but it was a little manic. It's hard to skate sometimes when there are so many people playing hockey, they seem to take over the ice. We were planning on going to Molly's with out three year old gift certificate, but the place was a zoo, so we went to our favorite place, Boloco, and weren't disappointed, as usual.

We were going to meet up with R&J at the pond, but they never showed up. Oh well, these things happen. We did see them at the Quechee Hill, however, and it was great to see them, though R was holed up in the lodge with Im. They're like us, doing the tag-team parenting thing, though they have the added burden of a baby. We also saw A's horse-riding teacher, who is an instructor, and our old neighbors. It's interesting her because she's (our old neighbor) always effusive about getting together, but I find it at times to be lip service, because in the end, she seems to have no interest in getting together, and it's somewhat redolent of "what have you done for me lately." I.e., she doesn't need us, so why bother. I base this assessment on the fact that, since we moved out and are no longer available to help out , she has completely blown us off, even after I'd made an effort to KIT with her. So I'll take it all with a grain of salt.

But wait, there's more. The biggest events were our kids' skiing. A is on fire, and close to being an independent skier, no longer needing mom or dad. She can ski down the chair lift like Bode Miller, and I think she's ready to try other trails. What really blew us away is that N just decided to try it, as well. And he nailed it, doing it a couple of times. I think our time on the rope tow is done.

Just goes to show you, you shouldn't rush kids. They'll do things on their own time, you just have to be patient. Besides, why is there such a need to make kids do things by a certain time? All these milestones that experts indicate to us all seem so contrived and arbitrary, but they serve all important purpose of making parents worry and feel guilt that they aren't doing their jobs. Most importantly, however, is that they make us spend our money on lessons, consultants, experts, and equipment/gear to get our kids up to speed. It's shameless, when you think about it, and though it's difficult, if not impossible, to completely remove yourself from it, I think it simply works to drive parents crazy and put a lot of unneccessary pressure on the kids to perform.

Kids will grow and develop and catch with up with their peers by themselves left to their own devices, it's just that we, the parents, feel an obligation to intervene.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.