Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Belated New Year

Happy belated new year to all. Still trying to keep my head above water with my blogs, but it's hard to find the time with all that needs to be done in the new year, but that's a story for another blog. Guess which one.

We spent a quiet New Year's Eve at home, and though we had options, we opted to just be mellow and eat a nice meal and watch movies. I was in bed by 10:30, and R followed me within half an hour. We usually have a big picnic feast in the living room and eat junk food and watch movies, but this year we decided to cook up a meal. Still wallowing in the aftermath of the holidays, however, we opted to tone things down a bit. Sort of.

Of course we couldn't decide what to eat. In the past we'd ordered pizza and that was nice, but we've been acutely aware of the effect that generic pizza can have on us, and we've been doing fairly okay with the homemade crust. Plus, we got a pizza stone for Christmas (thanks, DR) and wanted to break it in. So we roasted a chicken and baked a pizza, because that's what A and N wanted, respectively.

We'd got a couple of movies for the kids and they were pretty much in bed by 9:00, and then it was over. I have to admit, we're not big on the whole New Year's Eve celebration. It seems misguided to me to wait around for one big event each year and let the other 364 days fall by the wayside, but don't get me started. It's not unlike couples who have this lavish, fairy-tale wedding and then spend the next ten years in a crappy marriage. Life's all about the little, everyday things, and when you can appreciate those, then you're doing all right.

We did manage to get a day of skiing in on the last day of 09, and that was a bonus. With the recent snowfall, conditions have improved markedly, though it was crowded as heck. Tons of city folks up for the holidays, acting like they own the place. Oh well, life in a tourist town.

Gearing up for all the activities for 2010, and hopefully things will work out as we planned. Then again, the never do. We are closer to getting a good bread recipe, thanks to Cook Illustrated. I love those guys, a scientific approach to cooking. It speaks to me.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Escape From Vermont

We had a bit of drama going on the final day of our family's visit, and it made it all interesting, to say the least. PR had flown the family over into Lebanon airport, so they had some flexibility as to when they could fly out, and it wasn't a stressful, rush situation to get to the airport on time. I was acutely aware, however, of the fact that everyone had to leave things at home in order to make the trip. While R&J might have had a bit more flexibility in their time, P&D had left things in limbo in order to make the trip, and I was grateful that they were willing to go to the trouble. If anything, I felt a little guilty.

Anyway, the plan was they'd stay for three days, then fly back home. As I mentioned, they had flown in and had the flexibility to leave when they wanted, so it was no rush to get to the airport. Kind of nice. The weather, however, was not cooperating, and that's putting it lightly. In retrospect, however, the unusual weather may have been the one thing that made the visit possible in the first place. It had warmed up to unheard of temperatures during their trip, and instead of snow blizzards, we had mild temps and rain. I'm no expert on flying, but I'm guessing this makes the job a little easier.

On Sunday, their allotted day of travel, the clouds rolled in and it began to rain steadily. I think this is not a problem to fly, as long as you can get above the clouds. Visibility is the key up to a certain height, whereby it is no longer to safe. PR is adamant about safety, so with the conditions less than optimal, he wasn't about to take off, though he really wanted to. We got to the airport around 10:00 and proceeded to wait it out. PR figured it might clear up in a hour or two, and he had instant weather updates at his fingertips.

After a couple of hours, it was no go. I could sense PR was bummed, and getting anxious. Meanwhile, we were getting hungry. Since we were in W. Leb, there were no shortages of places to eat, though you're delving into the whole TGI Fridays realm, but in a pinch, that's about as good as it gets. We opted for Panera, which is a good middle ground. While we were eating, I could sense the fog was lifting, and I think everyone agreed. Wishful thinking, perhaps?

You better believe it was. When we drove back up the hill to the airport, it was foggier than ever, and I could feel the frustration in the room. Talk of driving all the way to Ohio came up, which I thought wasn't a bad alternative, but it was easy for me to say because I wasn't the one who was going to drive. The idea of going to Manchester and catching a commercial flight came up, but that would have been exorbitantly expensive.

I thought they could simply stay another day, and would have preferred it to taking any chances traveling, but there was a big storm front moving in that would have entailed several more days of delay, and by that point, PR was prepared to swim to Cambodia if necessary. So I kept my mouth shut.

In the back of everyone's mind we realized that their window of opportunity was slowly closing, because they had to fly to a midpoint, refuel, land in Athens, then fly to Cincinnati. In order to takeoff and land, the weather had to be good in Vermont, the midpoint, Athens, and Cincinnati. How many more variables can you incorporate into a trip? Too many moving targets. PR was a good enough flier to do it in the dark, but I'm guessing daylight is your friend when you're in a plane.

So we sat and waited. By afternoon, it was looking less and less possible, and at some point we were going to have to throw in the towel. Then again, that's what separates the men from the boys, or rather, the sissies from the real men. Whereas I would have given up and gone home, PR was determined, and sure enough, by about 3:00 PM, the clouds miraculously parted, and the skies cleared up. I would even go as far as to say it became a beautiful day, complete with sunshine and blue skies.

Everyone scrambled onto the plane (the pic is from the fall). They fueled up, taxied to the runway, and before we knew it, they were off into the wild blue yonder. It was sad to see them go, but we were happy they managed to takeoff safely. And in the end, we were also grateful just for the chance to see them over the holidays.

They landed home safely, though I think the weather was poor in Cincinnati, so they had to drive the final segment, but that was only a couple of hours. We miss them already, but I have a sense we'll see them again soon. Hopefully.

How the heck else am I going to get the rest of the windows in?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Jelle Weidema for the pic.

Best Christmas Ever

We had a fantastic Christmas, dare I say, the best one ever, at least for me. It had all the elements that make for an amazing day. The only thing really missing was five feet of snow falling from the sky, but hey, you can't have it all.

R's family came to visit and what was really nice was we just hung out and spent time together, at home. I was worried that P&D might get a little bored, but it wasn't bad at all, and P was more than eager to help out with the barn, so there was always something for him to sink his teeth into. Plus, they had a car and could go places, if they chose.

As for B&J, I think it's nice for them to hang out in a quiet, mellow but thoughtful environment and eat, read, converse, take a nap, eat some more, play with the kids, do a puzzle, make cookies, and finally, eat some more. Then sit back and wallow in gluttony. What more can you ask for? A&N really had a nice time. They love seeing their grandparents and their aunt and uncle. Plus, P&D are way more fun and hip than their stuffy, uptight parents, and they have such cool interests, so it's a welcome respite for them from the daily hyper-parenting onslaught. We really should all see each other more often. Then again, when you consider the fact that this is the third time this year we've gotten together, then you begin to realize it is really happening. I'm grateful for that.

I want to share more thoughts on this, but I'm scrambling to make up for lost time and update this blog after my long absence, so for now, I'll just say it was an exhausting but incredibly rewarding Christmas, the best ever. I'm big believer in the importance of family, and it's nice when you have the opportunity to practice what you preach.

In the meantime, have a happy new year, and thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Lights Debacle Continued

Okay, this lights story has an end, but not without some drama, like all things in our lives. A was insistent on getting that tree decorated, and I was a bit coy about the fact that I had found the lights and they were en route. I had managed to keep it a secret until about three days before the arrival, and even when they arrived and I started putting them up, they didn't really know. I received two more strips and though they were a different brand, figured they were compatible because they were the same lights. I had to undo the previous decorations so I could attach the new strands, then begin to put them back up in more efficient manner, delicately balancing efficiency and aesthetics.

I took about an hour, but it was worth it. Now our tree was finally finished, and we could show it off to my in-laws for a fun and festive holiday.

Of course, it wasn't going to be as simple as that. The kids were thrilled that I'd not only managed to get the lights up, but that I'd pulled it off in such a clandestine manner. A&N gave me a pat on the back for pulling it off, and I was glad I could come through. Then, out of nowhere, I looked out the window, and the lights were off. I checked the switch, then to see if the plug had come out, but they were fine. It had to be something with the lights themselves.

I was so bummed, after all that drama. R came home from work and asked if we could turn the tree on, and I told her the bad news. Bummer. We couldn't really investigate the matter until the next day, so there was still hope.

The next morning, I checked the lights, and discovered, happily, that there was a fuse blown. I replaced it, and voila, we were back in business. At least for about 15 minutes, after which the light went out again. Clearly there was a problem, and I pegged it to the new lights. I figured they were not compatible, and something had to be done.

So the next morning, the day before everyone was to arrive, I went out to the tree, pulled all the lights down, and came up with a new plan. BTW, pulling them down was much easier than putting them up. Funny how that works.

I separated the old and the new, put the old ones on a big shrub near the big tree, and the new strand on the crab apple tree in front of the house, which came out like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. How fitting. Because they were both much smaller, it made it easier to install, especially for the vertically challenged like myself. I say it over and over, but when you're doing home improvement, it helps to be tall.

I got it done in time, and best of all, it met with the approval of the kids. I'm not sure if anyone else even noticed, but it didn't matter. We were happy with it, and we were finally all set for a fun and festive holiday with family. What else matters?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Drum Teachers and Gingerbread Trains

It has been a bit of a struggle to make it to drum lessons because it is at peak rush hour in retail hell, a place best avoided, especially as the holidays approach. I inquired about changing the day but was told it wasn't possible, so we're kind of stuck at this less than ideal time.

However, we did find out the music teacher at the school also gives private lessons, and drums are her specialty. How cool is that? I got in touch with her and we'll talk in the new year. Could open up more optimal avenues for the future in terms of convenience.

Also wanted to thank our friends and neighbors, BF and his folks, for thinking of us when they had an extra gingerbread house and train. The kids were thrilled about it, and after mom helped with the general structure, the kids went to work and decorated it all by their lonesome. They did a fantastic job, don't you think? Just goes to show you, left to their own devices, kids can do amazing things.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Things Our Kids Teach Me and Christmas Lights Debacle

Hi everyone, sorry for the absence, the holidays have been more hectic than I'd anticipated and time seems to slip by quickly.

Okay, this is ten days after the fact, but still a great story, and yet another example of the things kids can teach you. We thought that since R's parents were coming, maybe we'd be a little more festive this year and put up Christmas lights, which I am a big fan of, but have never taken the initiative. Just not important enough to make it onto my radar.

Well, A kept insisting that it would be a good idea, so we decided to go for it. The ideal situation would have been to have decorated the big fir (spruce?) in the middle island, but to do it right would have required a cherry-picker, it's huge. Easily about 30 feet tall. A wanted us to decorate the tree, of course, and I told her, "No way." It was too tall, and would have required way too many lights.

She countered with our favorite parental adage, "It's worth a try before you give in." How could I argue with that?

Problem number one, however, was to find the lights. There was a sale at Aubuchon on traditional multi-colored lights, ceramic C7 bulbs I learned. I bought five boxes/sets at 25 bulbs per set, figuring that would give good pretty good coverage for the tree, though I'd heard from our neighbor that they covered their tree with over 350 lights, and it was much smaller than ours. For the record, their tree looks fabulous. I bought out Aubuchon, so they had none left.

Anyway, now the problem came up with how to put them on. As you can imagine, I don't have access to a cherry picker. So I rigged up our roof rake with a bent coat hanger and then went to work. It actually wasn't that bad, though I ended up short on the lights. I only managed to cover about half the tree, and figured that with better positioning and two more strings of lights, it would look nice. So I decided to seek out two more strands, but little did I know what a debacle I was about to experience. What a bummer.

You see, it turns out that I had chosen one of the most popular lights, and everywhere I went, they were sold out. On Monday, I dropped the kids off at pottery and then drove to consumer hell and checked Kmart, Walmart, and Home Depot. They were all sold out of C7 lights. Can you believe that? I picked up the kids and went home, dejected.

I told the kids that we might be out of luck, but then the light bulb went off in my head (no pun intended). Duh, get them online. Sure enough, I found them. They were a little more expensive than I'd hoped for, but reasonable, so I ordered them and crossed my fingers that they'd get here before R's folks arrived.

More on this later. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to peejay for the pic.

finally found on web

Africa Benefit

We attended the second annual World Partners for Education benefit, and though the turnout was less than what they expected, it was a nice evening and everyone put in a good effort. The kids were excited about it all and helped to gather up our loose change and make a donation, all for a wonderful cause to help build schools for kids in Africa.

At some point I knew A&N would begin to lose interest, so I brought along some connect the dot books and it did the trick. The food was great, lots of interesting dishes, and our ground nut stew was a hit. Not only did everyone polish it off, but several people complimented us and one even wanted the recipe. Chalk it up to peanut butter.

Just wanted to mention that the kids were incredibly well-behaved, as always. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Squeaky Wheel

They say the squeaky wheel gets oiled, and while that may be true, I do know this - the silent wheel gets nothing... except for maybe some bitterness and resentment. I've learned this firsthand on a daily basis, throughout my life, because I'm not always one to speak up and ask for what I want or for that matter, what is rightfully mine. It's a frustrating way to go through life, because nobody is going to stand up for your rights other than yourself.

A recent event really brought this to light. At the Christmas performance one of the parents recorded the show on video. For the record, he did a really nice job. The only problem I had was that he then posted it on YouTube. My first thought was, "Whoa, I'm not sure I'm so into that."

I wrestled with this one, and wasn't sure what to do. I could have just kept my mouth shut and left it at that. Finally, I spoke up and said I wasn't so keen on having all of our kids on YouTube along with the name of the town we live in. I felt bad because they are really cool parents. Either way, as soon as I opened the floodgates, other parents chimed in and said they agreed. I was worried someone was going to tell me to lighten up.

The parent in question ended up removing the video, and I'm glad I said something. Somehow, when it comes to your kids, you have to make a stink when something doesn't seem right, especially when it involves the Web.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Colin Brough for the pic.

Youtube debacle

Command Performance

Okay, no excuse for putting this one off, but last weekend we had our annual Christmas Show, and it still amazes me that for such a small town, they put on an amazing performance. There are a lot of talented people in this town, and purely out of their love for their community, they put in serious hours of diligent practice to put together the Christmas Show. They do an amazing job, and it's all for free. All they ask for is a food donation for the needy.

And, of course, there's the most important part, the Kids' Christmas show. This year it was run by CS, who is not only in the adult choir, but lives in another town and is studying to get her doctorate. How's that for dedicated? She did an incredible job. When I'd first learned what was on the program, my first thought was, you're getting too ambitious. There were props, costumes, choreography, and 5-6 songs, all for a bunch of 9-10 year old's. Last year they did only two songs and the whole time it was just damage control, how were they going to pull this off?

Boy was I wrong. It just goes to show you, you can't burn down the bridge before it's even built, and sometimes you have to take a chance and just try. CS was unwavering in her resolve to do the show, and she simply pushed it through. She challenged the kids, and they answered her call and put on an amazing performance. They really did a great job, and the audience responded, accordingly. The parents came out to help, and some of the things got down at the zero hour, thus adding to the drama of it all. In fact, we were in charge of making the stop sign for Frosty, and we didn't complete it until hours before the show. How's that for cutting it close?

Now for the shameless parenting part, A had a leading role, maybe the only dramatic part in the performance. They sang Frosty the Snowman and A got to be Frosty, which required acting, dancing, and a degree of dramatic panache. It helped that she had a white costume (it was a rabbit costume) that her grandmother had made her.

Now of course I'm not an objective observer, but she did a stand up job, if I may say so. She wasn't nervous at all, and was excited to be in the show. We were so proud of her, and many of the adult performers came up to her and complimented her on her performance. She really did do a good job.

It was a really nice holiday weekend on the cusp of the big holiday rush, and yet another reason why we love living here.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to wemedge for the pic.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Show

Today is the big day of the Christmas show, and I have to confess to being impressed at how unfazed A seems at being on stage. She loves to perform, and doesn't seem to have the paralyzing pre-show jitters that incapacitate a person like me. In fact, she's almost casual about it, though excited, and the more she does it, the more it just seems to come naturally to her.

Last year she was in the chorus and she got to perform a duet with another girl, and she was so excited. She did a fabulous job, but more importantly, she was calm and collected. I would have been terrified, but that's the difference between a real performer and one who just plays one on TV. This year she landed the role of Frosty the Snowman, probably the only dramatic part in the show. She is eagerly anticipating the performance, as are we.

The chorus leader, CS, has done an amazing job putting together the show, sacrificing her time during this busy time of year. It is a huge burden, and she's going to school and finishing her thesis in the next week or two. Even still, she put together this ambitious program and at first, I have to confess to being a bit cynical and thinking she might be biting off more than she could chew. Not only were there many more songs than last year, but there are costumes, props, choreography, dramatic elements, and the kids even had to learn sign language. And the leader, CS, as well as the pianist, L, are both singing in the adult choir. Talk about dedicated. Then again, that's what makes this such a great community, so many people willing to step up and take the reigns.

Now we can't predict how the actual performance will go, but for the record, the dress rehearsals have been fantastic. The kids are doing a great job and no matter what happens, they should be proud of the job they've done. My skepticism has been invalidated. Everyone is so proud of them.

Last year the kids all got flowers, a single rose with a ribbon as I recall, which I thought was a really nice touch. The problem is, I don't know who arranged it, and I don't know if they are doing it again this year. We might have to take the reigns on this one, though it's just more responsibility in the midst of so many other things that need to done, but how can you not make the effort in light of all that other people have done?

We'll see where this one goes. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to weatherbox for the pic.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Snow Tires and Small Town Perks

One of the things you notice when you live in a small town is that you run into familiar faces all the time, and up here, the people are so friendly that you are constantly making connections that are bound to crop up again at some future date.

Case in point - I went to get our snow tires put on and it's always a waiting process. You get there, assume your place in the queue, and wait. There are plenty of places where you can make an appointment and they'll take you at your allotted time, but there are also tire centers that only do tires, and they not only get in you in and out quickly, but certain ones do a good job and you learn to trust them. That's why we go to Interstate Tires, we have a good working relationship.

The only downside is they don't take appointments, so it's first come, first serve. I wasn't sure what time the opened, but I knew it was around 7:30, maybe 7:00. I figured I'd try to get there as early as possible so I left the house around 6:45. I was the first one there and learned that they didn't open until 8:00. I had about 45 minutes to wait and was considering going to either get some coffee or see if another option was open earlier. The only problem with this is you lose your place in line.

I had just started the car when a big truck pulled in and took position #2. He got out and asked me if I wasn't going to wait, and I said I wasn't. As I backed up, he moved his truck into position #1, and I immediately had to rethink things. Sure, I had to wait, but I was in the top 2, and I know people come from miles away just to get their tires changed here, which I still think is a bit much.

Either way, I decided to stay, and got out and chatted with the man. Super nice guy, and it turns out he owns on of the high end interior design stores in Hanover. Not only does he know high priced/sophisticated stuff, but he knows building inside and out. And he somehow recognized me, claiming he'd seen me in and out of Hanover. Then again, there aren't too many long-haired Asian guys around here. I get a sense he spends time at DHMC as well. We talked for awhile when driver #3 pulled in, and he got out and joined the party.

It just so happens the #3 was a contractor, as well, though retired. An old timer whose family spans several generations in Vermont, the kind with all sorts of interesting stories about the past. Well, I had a blast talking to them and listening to their stories about old Vermont and New Hampshire, with lots of discussion about hunting and construction.

AND, of course, they were more than happy to answer my onslaught of questions about building. I learned that you NEVER paint/stain only one side of a board, you have to do both or you'll ruin the wood, so it's all or none. Ironically, I was at a bit of a loss for words. Here I was with this golden opportunity to milk the fountain of wisdom, and I only had a few questions. Oh well, gotta be happy with what you can get. Besides, I'm finding that at some point, a little common sense gets you to where you want to be.

The only issue that struck me was that #2 should have let me back into slot #1 since technically I didn't leave. Of course I didn't say anything, and it didn't matter because the first three cars go in at the same time, but it did cross my mind. For all it's worth, he ran into some technical difficulties with his truck (I learned he has 12 vehicles for his business - that's a lot of snow tires) and I ended up being the first one out of there.

It was a huge relief to finally have the snow tires on. This is the latest we've ever done it, not that we're experts on the subject, but usually we have them on by Thanksgiving.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to David Schauer for the pic.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who Needs TV and Risky Business

Talk about real man's work, we had an guy come over and cut down the two big trees behind the barn. It was kind of exciting and worth at least ten minutes of viewing time for the kids, though I thought it was pretty fascinating in a dangerous kind of way. Those guys really earn their pay, which is not chopped liver, though it's amazingly dangerous work. When you don't work with trees, you don't give much thought to how heavy those things are. Even an 18 inch block of tree stump weighs enough to break your foot if it rolled onto it. I know, I've been there.

Either way, the guy finally came and did the job, and now one more thing had been dealt with in our lives. It wasn't exactly a simple process, turned out to be a bit of a rigmarole largely due to my neurosis, indecision, and inability to take action, but it finally got done. It helped that the guy who cut the tree was a doer who in a way didn't give me much choice in the matter... sort of.

And in an example that would make my mentor shake his head and wonder out loud how I survived puberty, the progression of events was not ideal. In my defense, I got a little ambushed on this one, but not before checking out my options. Of course, there's a story to it.

My Mentor had brought his biker/logger friend over and they gave us a quote on cutting down a bunch of trees, seven of them I believe. His logic sounded reasonable, but I had a couple of issues. First off, I didn't really want to cut down that many trees, and second, I didn't want to litter the woods with all that timber. I know it's standard practice to leave the trees to feed the soil, but seven massive trees would be a mess. In typical fashion, I sat on it and hoped it would go away.

No such luck. Finally, at the prompting of my Mentor, I sought out more opinions, and of course I started with some free advice. Free estimates are included in this equation. I contacted our neighbor who lives right down the road and happens to be a forester. Great guy, we met him when first moved here skiing on the trail and I've bought rough cut wood off him. Anyway, he came over and looked over the situation and said he didn't think we needed to cut all seven trees, and that he'd be happy to come and drag the trees away. He even said he'd give us cut boards. Wow, how cool was that?

Though he indicated that he could not cut the trees (he preferred to stay on the ground), he gave me the name of guy who he worked with, SD, and I called him. I also learned the difference between a logger, a forester, and an arborist. SD was local, too, which I liked. So I called him, he came over, he gave me a verbal quote, and said it would be no problem.

Riding this wave of euphoric enlightenment, I contacted another arborist, who gladly came over and gave me a quote which came out to be the same as SD, but much lower than the biker/logger. So I had a sense we were in the right price range. I was ready to call a fourth guy but decided it would be wasting his time.

Anyway, this is where things got a little more dicey. I hadn't heard from SD in awhile but had decided to go with him because he had a good working relationship with our friend and neighbor, GC, and he seemed professional and on the up and up. In other words, he showed up in a truck with his business painted on the door, which I equate with being a professional. The logger/biker had his girlfriend bring him over because he had lost his license. Not a good first impression.

Well, SD called and said he'd be over sometime during the week to cut the tree, but he hadn't given me a written quote or a proof of insurance. So I called him and told him I needed these things. Before I knew it, he shows up at our door and says he'll be over the next day to cut the trees. Wow, was he for real? I told him I needed something in writing and insurance papers, which he said was perfectly reasonable and that he would give to me. I couldn't help but think, "Fat chance," in light of the fact that he was coming over the next day.

I was a little stressed about it, and contemplated telling him "No way, Jose," even though his name wasn't Jose. There are liability and professional issues involved here, not to mention proper protocol. Either way, it looked like it was going to be done. One thing on our side was that he didn't ask for any money up front, and would give me an invoice upon completion, after which he would expect payment.

So I went with it. I could have been hard-nosed and told him not to do any work until he gave me the proper paperwork, but I didn't, so what's done is done. He came over in the AM, cut the trees, blocked up my firewood, left the board logs for GC to pick up, and chipped the branches into the woods. It snowed during the cutting, and right after we got hit with a major blizzard, so the evidence has been covered, but here is it, anyway. That's a tree stump.

I'm happy with it, no disasters occurred, and the trees are gone.

I'll take it. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

The Clock Ticketh and More Snow

It dawned on us that we'd better get on the ball in terms of the Christmas season. There is so much going on and we've been overwhelmed with house issues and work and all that other good stuff that we haven't been attending to the important things in life, i.e., the kids and the holidays. I think we're not too late, but time sure flies when you're having fun.

Speaking of fun, we got even more snow, and it's finally looking like Vermont in December("It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...), though it puts a little bit of a damper on house building projects, but nothing insurmountable. We hadn't had any real snowfall all of November and for most of early December, which was a bummer but again, it made fixing that barn a lot easier. When it did finally snow, of course being the Grinch that I am, all I could do was complain while we tried to cover the house, but again, that's just me being a whiner. What else is new?

We got out second storm within a couple of days, and it was a winner. We must have gotten about a foot of snow, how cool is that? I think it's time to hit the slopes, and I think we may look into that next week, if not maybe this weekend. I hope my foot holds up. We made the most of the white stuff, getting out there and playing and dealing with important logistical issues, like shoveling a path to our wood and raking the roof. Our new short term plan on that roof is to eventually get a new roof put on, but in the mean time, rake it as much as possible to keep the snow from turning into ice. That would not be a good thing, but I think with a little diligence (not my forte) it can be done. Plus, when you have such hard working helpers, anything is possible, if not even enjoyable and fun.

Today is Thursday and I have to go get the snow tires put on our car. I think we're the last people in Vermont to get that done, how embarrassing. Just have to make it to the tire guys, and then I can breathe a little easier.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to cema for the pic.

Monday, December 7, 2009

First Snow and Taking a Break

It seems like it's late, but it finally snowed. We probably got around 2-3 inches, with nice coverage. The irony of it all is that I've been pining for snow since October and when we finally got it, all I could wonder was, "Why now?" I was in the midst of wrapping up the barn and the cold weather makes it hard to do certain things, so as I was applying I&W shield, the snow came down on my head, making the flashing wet and compromising its adhesive qualities.

The kids came out to play and loved it, and I regret that I couldn't stop what I was doing to enjoy it with them, but I felt a sense of time urgency in getting this stuff done. What a bummer. Responsibilities can be such a drag. Then again, it's up to me to get my priorities straight.

I managed to get enough done to get into my snow clothes and play with the kids. We had a major snowball fight and since it was two against one, dad took a beating, which is the way it should be. It's hilarious because the kids built snow castles on the roof of the car and I wasn't really paying attention to it, so when I went to the store to get some vittles, I came out of the parking lot and couldn't figure out what was on top of the car, only to realize I'd been driving around with these architectural masterpieces. A good way to showcase their engineering prowess.

We also went and got our Christmas tree. We got to our usual spot, the local lumber mill Wrights, and picked out a winner. It was later in the evening and the snow was coming down in sheets, giving us the full White Christmas effect, but since it was late in the evening, we couldn't really set the tree up inside. So we left it on the porch, where it fell over and looked sad and lonely the next morning, but it was a momentary situation.

I've managed to move along on the barn and feel a little less stressed about time, though there are still a countless number of things that need to be done. Even still, I can stop obsessing over the thing. We are one step closer to sealing the beast up. I don't feel like I can stop altogether, but at least I don't have to think about it 24/7. Maybe just 15 hours a day.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Why Don't We Do This More Often?

We had a playdate with our good friends the H's, and as usual, had an amazingly good time and left scratching our heads as to why we don't do this more often. The kids play on their own for hours, and by the time we are ready to leave, or they're ready for us to leave due to assorted obligations, the last thing anyone wants to do is leave. There is just so much they enjoy doing together, and it's always nice to share stories in the trenches with my comrade, CH. Either way, it had been maybe two months since we'd seen these guys.

It was difficult tearing myself away from the barn, because the weather was beautiful and an ideal time to get some things done, but you can't deny your kids an enriching good time. Also, CH offered to watch the kids if I ever needed to get some work done sans interruptions. AND, CH's husband, my good friend DH, has every tool on the planet, not to mention a truck that he is happy to let us borrow. I'm going to use his extension ladder this weekend.

We didn't want to show up for lunch empty handed, so I scrambled to make whoopie pies in the AM. They are actually a pretty simple desert, they just take a little elbow grease to whip up the batter and frosting. We brought a pineapple for the lunch, as well. A locally grown one, of course.

CH is one of the most plugged in people on the planet. She knows all the cool things going on and is a fountain of wisdom. I always learn about cool happening in town through her, so it's good to touch base. She is also filled with good advice about homeschooling. She's a certified Vermont teacher, after all, so a good person to talk to about learning.

Best of all, the kids operate at the same speed. They are on the thoughtful, cerebral end, they all love books, they don't watch TV, and find intense, loud crowds to be overwhelming. Plus, N is in awe of C, so he not only has a bit of a hero figure, but a good source for hand me down clothes. He is very meticulous about what he wears, the only pants he'll wear are the custom tailored ones from Grandmum, but when they get the seal of approval from C, he's more inclined to accept them.

We had a nice day, it must have lasted at least five hours, and by the afternoon, I was getting anxious to lay some ice and water shield down, and we had to get to Shepard's Pie for the big show.

We left saying we had to do it again soon, but we say that every time and then months pass by. We'll see how it goes this time.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Yamamoto Ortiz for the pic.

Great Performances

I fully acknowledge that I'm being a shameless parent here, but I can't help but comment on A's performance on Friday night. But first, a little backstory.

She had her guitar lesson on Thursday and she learned a new folk standard by John Prine, a family favorite, BTW. KR was commenting on how quickly she picked up the song, which was not a difficult chord pattern, but even still, A gets credit. We hung out and had a tea party with these amazing Dutch caramel waffles, incredible.

Anyway, we left and forgot A's bag of music at KR's house. This escaped our notice until Friday night, when we were going to see KR's band play over at Shepard's Pie. KR mentioned that there would be a possibility that A could come up and play a set with her, so naturally we packed up her guitar and got in the car. A said she forgot her music bag, so we went back inside and looked for it, but no luck. I said she probably didn't need it because if she played, they'd do a song she knew.

Her response was to ask, "What if we play the new song? I don't know the words." I thought, what are the chances she was even going to play? This wasn't KR alone, but her band, in a more formal setting. I just said it wasn't a big deal and we had to go. You can imagine how that went over. Of course, being the big softie that I am, I relented, turned off the car, and went back into the house and downloaded the lyrics to the song. I was going to get the chord pattern, as well, but they were different than the ones she learned, and I didn't want to confuse her.

She was happy to have the song and read/practiced the lyrics on the drive over to Shepard's Pie. We got there early, got a table and had a killer meal while the band played a wonderful set. Well, as the band took a break, KR called A up to the stage and sure enough the played the new song. A belted it out and did a beautiful job. So calm and collected. What I find so amazing is that she had just learned the song, didn't even know the lyrics, and had the wherewithal and courage to go up and perform it live. I would have been petrified. The audience loved her, and the musicians were all very nice to a shameless, insecure dad like myself by coming up and complimenting her on her abilities at such a young age, not only her playing but her singing.

What a fabulous night. Just for the record, Shepard's Pie has great food and a really nice setting. Good vibes all around, the staff really gives you the feeling of being welcome. We had the Tuscan Chicken Lasagna and the Chicken and Black Bean Burrito, both amazing. The burrito was a little spicy for the kids, but I loved it. I had the chili and it was great, but a lot of meat. In fact, it was pretty much all meat, with a few beans sprinkled in. Good stuff, but not for the faint of heart.

Of course, we finished it off with a killer piece of chocolate cake and an eclair. It was a fun night, and a wonderful experience overall.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Lucio Mondini for the pic.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Weather and Taking a Break

What is up with this weather? I heard on the radio that up near Portland ME the temps were around 70 degrees. Can you believe that?

Not that I'm complaining, the weather has made it easier to work outside, and there's plenty to be done. My understanding is that it's going to get cold in the coming days, so I really need to stay on top of what tiny steps of progress I can make.

In the midst of my looming deadlines, I got a call from our good friend CH and she asked if we wanted to come over for morning playdate. I said yes without hesitation because we love hanging with them, but part of me was screaming "No!" I've got way too much to do. Oh well, sometimes you have to hang up the tool belt and have some fun. This darn barn project has become a bit too all-consuming, anyway.

Besides, I'll get to work in the afternoon, and it'll be good to catch up with the H's since it's been awhile, and you can't put ice and water shield on when there's frost on the sheathing. So it's all good... sort of.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to TJ SMITH for the pic.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Inevitable?

As much as I've been trying to avoid it, it seems unavoidable that I'm slowly but surely becoming a suburban housewife, though I still don't do ironing. The only things missing are the minivan and soccer practice. As the kids get older, the number of activities just seems to escalate, and I spend my days packing lunches and carting them around to assorted enriching programs while chatting with other moms about the latest episode of Oprah. Actually, I'm more of a Jerry Spring fan. Just kidding.

Anyway, with the holidays coming, things are really heating up. With A in choir, not only does she need to get to where she's going, but I've volunteered to help out. How can you not? When you think about it, the woman who is leading the chorus has no kids in the group, she's only helping out of the goodness of her heart, and she's taking classes to get her degree, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. A testament to community involvement. So when she asks for assistance in various endeavors, how can any self-respecting parent say no?

So I burned CDs with the Christmas music for the kids and am in the process of making props for the show. Part of me wonders if they are getting too ambitious with several songs, props, costumes and even choreography. These kids are under 10 years old, how much can you expect from them? Then again, what have you got to lose? Their kids and they'll have fun no matter what, and you can't let the fear of something that may or may not happen stop you from trying. It'll be fun no matter what.

The choir leader CS is still asking for volunteers to help out during the dress rehearsals and during the performances, and I can feel myself leaning towards helping, but man do I not have the time. I'm trying to cajole R into helping, but if I nudge too hard it'll push her over the edge, so I have to watch my step.

In the meantime, there's plenty to do around the homestead. There's a ways to go on phase one of the barn, but we're getting there. A has been doing great on her guitar, and N loves his drum lessons. It's too cute to see him practicing his basics, he's so earnest, which makes him a good candidate for lessons. He's not just wasting the instructor's time.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to sulaco229 for the pic.