Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Apologies

I'm sorry to anyone who has tuned in regularly for constantly changing the look of this blog. Needless to say, I'm still searching for something, though I don't know what it is. I realize that this has the appearance of neurotic OCD, but those who know me would expect nothing less. Thanks for bearing with me, especially since it might very well continue to change.

The search continues.

Shopping With Our Daughter, Karate, and Website Developments

Our kids are showing an interest in karate, and I'm not sure where it is going to go, but it's fun and cute, just the same. I like the idea that they learn some martial arts, for a number of reasons, though it may work out better if I can just teach them some basics before they go full tilt in the class. N might be a little young, but he's such a jock that he might be just fine.

Saturdays are normally the days I jet off and go to the dump and shop for food. I usually try to head out early and beat the crowds and get to the veggie market before the crowds, which means I'm out the door by 8:30AM. Well on this particular day, our daughter wanted to come along. I'm not sure where that one came from, but she was all dressed up with nowhere to go. My first impulse was to say no, stay at home and have fun, but then I realized that she really wanted to go and help me, so how could I say no to that?

I did an about face and the two of us set out to slay the wildebeest. And you know what? It was a lot of fun, she really got into the shopping, pushing a full cart that was heavy and hard to control. We picked out the food together, and she got to make many of the decisions, feeling like the big girl that she is. It's cute seeing your kids trying to act like grownups, it's so endearing. Best of all, she never complained about being too tired or bored, we saw her dentist at the store, as usual.

My wife and I were stewing over the layout of my website, and personally I find the whole thing overwhelming to the point where I don't want to deal with it. I just want to write. I'm hoping that R will help me design the beast because she has a much better eye for these things, not to mention the fact that she's a photographer. A win-win situation, perhaps?

We shall see. Don't want to get mine or anybody else's expectations up on this whole endeavor, but it is fun to think about... sort of.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks t0 Kriss Szkurlatowski and Jay Simmons for the pics.

Hanging With Family and Last Minute Vegan Meals

We went for a wonderful walk yesterday in the late afternoon. Normally our plan is to get to Hanover and spend some time at the library and get some things done at the Coop and at work, but there was nothing pressing, and the kids were having fun playing in the mud, so we didn't want to disrupt their groove. By the time they came in and had a bath to wash off all that mud, it wasn't really worth the trip, so instead we just went for a walk up the hill. Spontaneity at its best, and was it ever a nice time.

We saw several of our neighbors and checked out one of the many local ponds, which are great for checking out frogs and salamanders. At the top of the hill, the view was fantastic, and we got to ride on the back of our neighbor, EB's, tractor. What a nice end to the day.

Unfortunately, by the time we got home, we had to make dinner, and it was late. We had to whip something together quickly because everyone was hungry, so went with our standby emergency meal. Vegan black bean burgers. We get them frozen at the Coop, the only place that seems to carry the black bean ones, and they are killer. Just a quick fry up in olive oil, steamed some string beans, and broil some sliced sweet potato, and voila! A complete, healthy meal with no meat and the multiple colors you want in your veggies. It's a winner in our house.

It's nice meeting up to the challenge of eating healthy, even in a pinch. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to rolve for the pic

Friday, March 27, 2009

Homeschool Thoughts and Playing at the Farm

We had a fun day yesterday visiting G&T over on their homestead. While calling it a farm is a bit of a stretch, that is the eventual goal of my friend GS, and he's well on his way. He's got the tractor and the land, over 100 acres in Hartford and some big plans, all of which are slowly but surely coming to fruition. While he clears trees (and generates oodles of firewood!) and tends to the soil, the potential is immense to raise cash crops and livestock to support himself. He is an extremely smart and capable guy, I hope it all works out, and I'd help him in any way I can, which ain't saying much, but it's saying something.

Anyway, it's fun going over there because his daughter, T, is friends with our kids, and they have a blossoming farm, which any kid would love. They all play outside and chase chickens and play with the animals while G and I talk manly talk, i.e., chainsaws and firewood. My favorite topic.

In fact, I cut my first piece of lumber with a chainsaw yesterday. Granted, it was only poplar, but it was a piece, and it was at least a foot in diameter. Did I ever feel like a man, and naturally I wanted to have a steak (cooked medium rare, of course) and a beer for dinner, or maybe some Jack straight up. Then again, we don't eat much red meat anymore, so we had pesto with broccoli cheddar soup and bread w/chimichurri, instead, and felt that much better because of it.

BTW, broccoli cheddar soup is a great way to infuse the kids with the green stuff. You don't even know it's there, and it sure goes down easy. You can even throw in carrots and cauliflower and the taste doesn't suffer in the least. But be aware, you are getting a bolus of fiber.

It's always nice to hang with G, he's a worldly guy who has big city roots, not unlike me, though he's east coast and I'm west. Either way, he's searching for the answers, which is never an easy path, but to his credit, he's keeping his feet moving and exploring his options. In other words, he's moving forward, but sometimes it takes you down the wrong path, but at least you tried. I respect and admire him, and wish him the best.

AND, he's incredibly knowledgeable about real man stuff, especially when it comes to the woods. Trees, chainsaws, lumber, animals, you name it. At times I think he's right at home amongst the trees, and I learn a lot from him. Being from the city, however, means that he's not a one-note player, and is well read and has had a lot of experiences and can discuss a number of topics. So we can talk about pretty much anything and the conversation flows.

Either way, it's always nice seeing him, and I think/hope it will happen more often. Then again, that's up to us.

On the homeschool front, I had a minor epiphany. It seems that I take the path of least resistance and focus on that things that we're good at while forsaking the greater challenges. Part of the problem is that you can't do everything at once, and even though I find comfort in that which is easier and more familiar, I think we have to step away from that and jump into new territory. I.e., in certain subjects we have found our groove, but in order to groove with them, we ignore the less comfortable areas. The only way around that is to get more comfortable in other areas. Unfortunately, I'm finding that in order to do that, we'll have to put the groovy stuff on hold, at least for that day. Can't do it all, as they say, but I think that's the only way it'll get done. Should be interesting.

Until the next time, thanks for reading. And thanks to eric bernard for the pic.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Life is All About Timing

I feel bad because PD, who originally turned me onto Andy and the firewood, hasn't gotten his wood yet. For whatever reason, I got mine first. Andy has said that he has PD's lined up and ready, he's just had problems with the trucks, and for all intents and purposes, he'll get his wood, but he was supposed to be ahead of me on the list. Somehow I got my wood first, and I feel kind of bad. I offered to give PD half of what I got if things don't work out, but if I do, then I've got to come up with a plan to get more, and my good deed will not go unpunished. Even still, it's the right thing to do, he's a good friend.

Which got me to thinking, life really is about timing. I went to work today around 6:00 AM, and had Andy called today, I wouldn't have been there to answer the phone. I wonder if maybe yesterday he tried to call PD first since he was first on the list, and couldn't reach him, so he called me next, and I answered the phone. Timing. I wouldn't have been there this morning, and he might have gone to curtain #3, leaving both PD and I out in the cold.

Oh well, can't dwell on it too much. Things happen as they will, and you can't change it. For that matter, you can't argue with reality. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Firewood Surprise, Baking, Vegan Meals and Pacing Myself

I've found that life is much more manageable when I'm a bit more organized, but more importantly, when I don't try to bite off more than I can chew. Then again, I can't seem to help that.

The day started out innocently enough when I was trying to write in the morning when the phone rang about 6:00 AM and it was Andy telling me that my wood was being loaded onto the truck and that they were going to deliver it that day. Talk about coming out of nowhere. I had to stop what I was doing and go out to the end of the driveway to meet the truck that was delivering it, a big semi holding several tons of wood. I stood out there for about an hour and waited in the freezing cold (it's hovering around 15 degrees right now-Spring, you gotta love it) before Ruth came out and told me I was in the wrong place. Apparently rather than deal with finding our house, he wanted me to come out and meet them at their site, which thankfully was only a few miles away, so I drove out there.

And now we have our wood. Seven cords of the beautiful stuff, what a relief. One less thing to have to worry about, though now I've got to cut and split it, but what better job for a real man in training? It's pretty impressive how they haul and unload the stuff, and a nice source of entertainment for the whole family. Who needs TV?

Once we spent the day playing on the pile, we had plenty of other things to do, but as I mentioned, organization and knowing my limitations are the key to a peaceful existence. We've been baking bread like crazy, and in the interest of being practical, I try to use the oven for as many things as possible, and this is where I get into trouble. In the past, I've tried to bake bread, make bagels, bake cookies and brownies, and if possible, a baked entree for dinner in one day. That is way too much, and by the end I'm screaming at the kids to leave me alone and let me finish. Not a pretty scene.

So this time around, even though it went against my inclination to bake as much as I can when that thing is on, I cut back, and boy was it smoother. We only made bread, cookies, and brownies. That is, after we took care of domestic and homeschool issues.

Since we had P&J over for dinner and she brought along this killer raisin bread, we've been inspired to make our own, though I think ours is more "whole grainier" and, dare I say, healthier, but who's to say? Just wanted to mention that since I've been employing the sponge, the bread has been coming out the way we love it-crisp crust and soft and chewy on the inside. Baking bread is a chore, but can be very satisfying when your family loves the stuff you make. You can't beat that, there's something about the smell of fresh baked foods that make a house feel like a home.

Recently in the news there's been more and more information about the potential detrimental effects of too much red meat, and I think about how I used to live on the stuff in LA, in it's worst form-fast food. I can't believe how much of that garbage I ate, at least I could have cooked it myself. Either way, I was thoroughly enmeshed in suburban car culture, and a large part of that is fast food. No way around it.

Which makes me feel all the better about our meatless direction in life. As I've said, we still eat meat, just less of it, and when we do, we go for the chicken and lots of fish. Best of all, the kids like the food we make, so it just goes to show you, you can make healthy meals that kids will eat, you just have be creative and willing to do a little leg work. Vegetarian eating is more work, no doubt about it, but what could more important than the food you feed your family, and yourself?

We had yellow pea dal with rice last night, a la Moosewood, with broccoli and a frittata. You gotta love eggs, a great meat substitute, and our kids love the dish. Plus, it's sort of gourmet, something to be proud of, and a good opportunity to bring out the Martha Stewart in you.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Becoming Web Savvy

I have no clue what I'm getting into, but I do know this-there's an incredible amount of information to learn about becoming Web savvy, and the learning curve is steep, so I'm assuming there will be pain involved. I'm ready.

I'm meeting with my friend who is incredibly web savvy and is going to help me set up my website. I've never had a website and am not sure what to expect, but it's sort of exciting. I know my wife is stoked, and helped me to formulate some ideas. While I have no illusions about making $ on my blog, I do know that most writers have their own homepage, it's pretty much standard fare in this day and age, and if I hope to get any writing gigs in the future, I'd better have some sort of URL to refer my future employers to, or they ain't gonna be my future employers.

The dilemma I face is, how into this do I want to get? At first I thought of just making some simple address where I could have links to my writing, but my wife reminded me what a total loser I am and I had to rethink the whole process. So now I'm going to make a more serious site, and in retrospect, I think it's a better idea. I just didn't want any hassles, but RR assured me that modifying the site would be no problem. Famous last words?

I like the idea of something cool that I could be proud of and into, so we'll see where this goes. RR might want to strangle me by the end of all this.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Steve Woods for the pic.

Seitan Disasters, Our Blender and Guitar Lessons

I went through this whole rigmarole to make seitan and ended up ditching the thing because it was so unappealing. For those of you who don't know what it is, be grateful. It's wheat gluten that has been shaped to imitate meat, and it's standard fare at vegan restaurants as a meat substitute. It's actually very popular, and some say it's the ultimate meat impersonator, but it is in no way meat. In the end, you have to accept the fact that meat is meat, and you just can't replicate it. If you don't want to eat it, great, but don't try finding some facsimile because none of them cut it.

The seitan I made, and keep in mind I could have screwed it up, but it's pretty simple and straighforward, dare I say, un-ruinable. It's the appearance and texture that got to me, because the flavor is pretty benign. Kind of like a rubbery tofu, but mine came out brown so it looked just like stool, and I don't mean the kind you sit on. I cut it up and made a stew (or should I say "stewl?), hoping the gravy would hide the gluten, but then there was the texture to contend with. I ended up picking out every piece and then serving a vegetarian stew made with vegetables, and no meat substitutes, the way it should be. I put peas in the brown rice and figured that was enough protein, at least for that meal.

Needless to say, we won't be making any forrays into the world of wheat gluten any time soon.

We practiced guitar yesterday and the kids got a kick out of it, so much so that they are saying (I'd like to believe it's sincere) that they can't wait for their next lesson, which will be today. We practiced tuning the guitar (I cheated and used the electric tuner on mine, then we tuned theirs relative to mine w/ the pitch pipe) and then strumming. The lesson plan is extremely easy, so they haven't been discouraged thus far.

One last note-we love our blender. It's a great way to eat fresh or frozen fruit in a form that the kids really like. We pick berries in the spring/summer but never know what to with the excess. Sure, we can freeze them, but then you have to put them into something or cook them, because you can't eat frozen berries, and once they thaw, they're not very pleasant to look at or eat.

But now we have our blender, and can get crazy with smoothies. Best of all, we toss in a little yogurt and get all those benefits. Life is good with a blender, I recommend them.

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

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Website, Pics, Vacuums, and Writing Gigs

I am inches away from having my own website, and personally have no idea what I'm doing. It's crazy all that you need to know to put up a good website, though I have to confess, I haven't put the time needed into it. I have learned that to be a serious writer, you need a website, so this is something I need to work on. I'm meeting with RR on Tuesday, who happens to be a Web wiz, and we're going to start this process. For all it's worth, I do have a domain name and hosting service. Just no website, but that could change, soon. I worked with my wife yesterday on ideas for my site and found myself completely overwhelmed. I was thinking something simple and functional, but R brought up a whole slew of important points. In sharing with me what she felt was a good website, I realized that there is a lot of work to be done. I hope RR can help. It's daunting but exciting, at the same time, and I do think a good way for R and I to team up and find a gig working together, if we don't kill each other in the process.

As you may have noticed, I started adding pics to my blog. Again, R brought up the point that they make the blog look more interesting, and I have to agree. I didn't do it in the beginning because it just took more time, and I tend to blog in a stream of consciousness manner. In other words, quickly in, quickly out. Putting a pic requires time and thought, but I think it's worth it and it just adds to the challenge.

Two people I know have suggested a possible writing gig for me, and I take that to be a good thing. My friend's wife, JK, and our good friend, CH, both suggested I look into the Vermont Standard, and truth be told, I have sent them a query message and await word from them. Who knows where this will go, but I like the coincidence. A sign, perhaps? When you got nothing, you gotta hold onto something, even if it's just a dream. I've got some small minor gigs with my blogsites, Parenting Squad and Wisebread, and two new ones, Healthcare Hacks and Healthy Theory, but they're not going to pay the rent. Then again, who is?

Just wanted to finish with a word on our new vacuum. Our friend moved back to Japan after living here for six months, and sold us his vacuum. It was a Dyson, and it worked great. Much better than our Hoover, which not only didn't work very well, but made enough noise to wake the dead. The Dyson is an amazing piece of machinery, though I'm struck by how expensive it is. Granted, we bought it used and cheap, but even still, we have the low budget model and it costs about $500. I can't imagine spending that kind of dough on a vacuum. Then again, that's what inspired me to get the Hoover, and it's a piece of you know what. The Dyson is bagless and you can see what you're actually picking up. And our kids are fascinated by it since it looks space age. Oh well, you get what you pay for, as the saying goes.

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

Sunday, March 22, 2009

New Adventures in Dadhood

In the constant quest to eat less meat, I happened upon a dad blog (more on this later) by a dad blogger who was, like me, moving more towards vegan eating. On his site he had this post about seitan, (he didn't give the recipe!), which intrigued me. It's wheat gluten, and according to Moosewood, is a "dead ringer" for meat. Apparently wheat gluten, besides being a common allergen, is used as fake meat in a lot of vegetarian dishes. Not one to buy into the fake meat thing, (why fake it if you can have the real thing?) I was skeptical, but after seeing his vegan Philly Cheesesteak, I was intrigued. I did a search for a seitan recipe and it was actually pretty simple. Not unlike making bread, but much simpler, because once you start kneading it, it forms this clump that's easy to work with, even if it's a little gnarly looking, if unappealing. I'm guessing you hide the stuff in some sort of dark sauce. I even took the courageous step of eating it, and it wasn't bad. Crazy texture, not much flavor. I'm going to try to make a stew, so we'll see how this goes.

I've found more links to the world of dad blogging, and it's pretty substantial out there. I'm not sure how many of those guys are actually the primary caregivers, but a lot of dad's blog. I joined Dad Blogs, for all it's worth, and I guess there's a big community of dad bloggers out there who get together and swap bread recipes.

In our quest to make the perfect loaf of bread, I also went in search of diastic malt, I believe it's called. Never heard of the stuff, but a few bread experts have told me it makes the difference between good bread and life-altering bread. I'm willing to give it a try, if I can find the stuff. They didn't have it at the Coop, so I may need to break out the big guns and head over to King Arthur Flour. Should be interesting.

Until the next time, thanks for reading., and thanks to Jasper Greek Golangco for the pic.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Friday Night Live

We finally made it to Contradance on Friday night, and as usual, the kids had a blast and we all very much enjoyed ourselves. Contradance is such an interesting scene, though I have to confess there are some colorful characters, some of whom I can't quite get a handle on, though I'm sure they think the same of me. It's such a throwback to another time, and though I think it's steeped in nostalgia, it's a fun time. And it's nice that kids can do something that's wholesome and fun without all the techno stuff and overt sexuality that's so prevalent in pop culture. That is not to say, however, that crazy stuff doesn't go on in the Contradance community, but I won't get into that.

What we also really like about it is that we see so many of our friends. There are so many regulars who attend, and after awhile you begin to develop relationships with them because you see them over and over. What really surprises me are the young, hip girls. Mostly girls, not to many guys, but they find it fun and hip enough to attend on a Friday night. If I were a single, young guy, I'd check it out.

I took the kids earlier and my wife met up with us later. We went early to get some soup and bread. Killer soup, BTW, made by JD, and the bread is sometimes donated by Umpleby's, who have killer bread, though I'm not sure if that was the case. The whole scene I believe is driven by volunteers, so it's also a great community event. I don't know if the musicians even get paid, but they do a good job and the dancing is a lot of fun, though our son doesn't like to dance so we just hang out, with all the other young boys, who also don't like to dance. What is it with guys? If they would just dance, it would open them up to unlimited social possibilities with the girls, but maybe that's the hard lessons men need to learn.

We hadn't been in a long time, we'd missed the last three, I believe, and they only come around once a month. We also didn't get to see our friends R&J, but we did see CH and C, who is a good buddy to our kids. Actually one of the few boys well confident enough to dance with the girls. He'll go far in life. We also had a playdate with them earlier that day, so we were lucky enough to get a double dose of our friends. Those days don't come around often.

I've been trying to write but have fallen behind on it all. Plugging away at the blogsites but have been slacking on my blogs. In fact, I've got a queue of drafts that need to be published.

I did have this brilliant notion, inspired by my wife, the photog, that pics help make the blogs more interesting, so I'm giving it a try. It makes it a little harder, but what's a little more work?

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

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Head Injuries

Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of Natasha Richardson, who just recently passed away as a result of a head injury that she got while skiing. Of course, the sick media has seized on this to encourage us to be afraid of yet another thing, but maybe there's merit to it, after all.

I never wear a helmet when we ski, though we insist that our kids do. And two weeks ago, I slipped on the ice and thought for sure I'd cracked my skull. Though I didn't, and I'm still standing, it did hurt, and it could have been a lot worse, and a helmet might have made a difference.

So, I may very well begin wearing a helmet. Haven't done it yet, and the season is over, but I have all summer to ponder it.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Mellow but Exhausting Day, Bread Thoughts.

Even though yesterday was nothing compared to all that went on the day before, it was an exhausting day, and by the time my wife got home, I found myself clinging to consciousness. Brutal. We didn't have much of an agenda, just the way I like it, and yet I think I was on my feet the entire day, doing assorted homeschool and domestic projects. It's the cooking/baking that kills you. Sometimes it's amazing to think of the time and energy you put into making meals, especially when you're leaning towards vegetarianism, all for an activity that takes up less than an hour. I'm not knocking the family meal, and we're not about to change how and what we eat, but it just goes to show you, like a lot of things in life, it's got to be a labor of love. You've got to enjoy the process rather than focusing on the end reward, because not only is the end reward not always what it's cut out to be, but life is really about the process.

Not unlike karate, and pretty much everything in between.

The reward of it all, besides the journey, is when you make something that the entire family loves. We've found a good recipe for raisin bread, and everyone is enjoying it. It was inspired by our friend's visit on St. Pat's, she'd brought some raisin bread and it was really good. And there's nothing like having fresh bread and bagels on hand to eat, something satisfying about having good food in the house. It makes me feel good about being a parent.

It also dawned on me why I was so tired-from the alcohol. I never drink. I love beer, but don't like catching a buzz, and I have a low tolerance for alcohol. Now normally I never even drink a beer, but when we have social occasions find myself drinking them even though I vow not to. Of course, St. Pat's day was no exception, and not only did I have beer, but we drank Guiness that P brought over. The next day, I was tired all day, and I think it was the after effect of the alcohol. I know, it's wimpy of me, and not very real-mannish, but I can't argue with my genes.

Then again, who can? Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Anyway, baking always manages to push me over the edge, not that I'm losing my temper, but it's a load of work, and the mess it makes can bring me to tears. A small price to pay, however, for fresh bagels (not as beautiful as Nanny Oggs!) and raisin bread. We had friends over for dinner the other night and J brought raisin bread over that was killer, so it inspired us to make our own.

Speaking of bread, while our recipe has yet to reach the stratosphere of perfect bread, we've gotten pretty good at making an adequate loaf of healthy, whole grain bread that has the qualities that we look for in a loaf-firm and hopefully crisp crust with a soft and chewy interior with big holes. We've been conferring with many people and the latest incarnation is an amalgm of advice from assorted bread experts. Baking is a soul satifying excursion.

Looking forward to another day in paradise. Until then, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Burlington Continued and a Busy St. Pat's Day

Sunday in Burlington was fun, but a bit somber because we knew it was the day we were leaving and we had to be back for the Monday grind. I hate the fact that we grow to loathe Sundays because they are the predecessor to Monday, another day we hate. It's such institutionalized learning, and a shame when you get down to it, because every day is a good day, or at least should be.

Either way, we had fun, and I would personally love to make it a regular trip or spend more time up there, maybe when the weather is warmer? They have a nice bike path and we could all blade along it. I will say this-as much as I love the big city, I wouldn't want to live there, not at this point in my life. I find it a great relief whenever we get back to our small town and the life it entails. Maybe it's just getting home, but whatever be the case, it just fits us better right now.

St. Pat's day was one of those days when you are going crazy and saying you can't do this anymore, and you can't believe you got through it but feel a bit of pride and satisfaction when you did. We were having friends over for dinner for St. Pat's Day, but had a bunch of other things to do before they even arrived.

Luckily, corned beef is easy. I got our standard nitrate free brisket from the Coop, which they lovingly refer to as "gray beef," since it has no nitrates for color retention. It cooks up fine and tastes great, and best of all, it has no nasty nitrates. I had to go into work in the AM and get some experiments started, so I woke up at 5:00, got the corned beef into the crock pot, and went to work for a few hours. By the time I got home, it was 10:00 AM, and we had places to be.

Our first stop was to pick up some stuff from a friend who was moving back to Japan. He was a doc at Dartmouth on sabbatical, and his time was up. He was selling/giving us a bunch of things and we needed the truck to pick them up, so we drove out there and immediately got lost. In my defense, I was told to go the wrong way, and though I should have picked up on the mistake right away (eventually I clued in), we started off on the wrong foot. Luckily, the mistake wasn't huge and we'd lost only about fifteen minutes.

We got there a bit late, but no biggie. We loaded up the stuff and had time to get some lunch before our big first guitar lesson. Now I love driving G's truck for the simple fact of having another vehicle, but because of it's enormous size, it's a bear to park, especially in Hanover. Luckily we found a space but ended up taking about 1.5 spaces. I was sure we'd get a ticket, but lucked out. After some pizza, we rushed over to the church where the lesson was, and of course, I managed to screw that one up, as well.

I went to the wrong church. We went in and the woman working there had no idea what we were talking about. It finally dawned on me that I'd mixed up the locations and we packed into the truck and bolted over to White River. Amazingly, we were only about ten minutes late.

The guitar lesson was so cool. This amazing kid named K was leading the lesson. He was a teenager but very mature and composed, and he was patient with the kids, who were all about A's age. N was the youngest. Best of all, our kids loved it, and can't wait until the next lesson. They are taking it very slow, and that's what makes it work, because if it was too difficult, then our kids would burn out fast. Interesting to note that there was only one other girl and about ten boys.

The lesson was only an hour, for some reason I thought it was going to be two, so we had more time than I thought. We headed straight home and I unloaded some stuff and got dinner ready. Now the thing about having company over is that not only do we have to make the meal, but there is also the issue of tidying up the house, which adds to the chore. While things were cooking, I went around cleaning up and putting things away. Fortunately the kids hadn't destroyed the house, making the job a little easier. I hadn't stopped moving for about 14 hours that day.

P&J arrived around 5:00, which was thankfully a little later than they said, giving me more time, and we hung out and chatted and had a really nice dinner. We really like their company, they are great people. Things got a little frenzied with the kids at points, but when managed to keep things reasonably calm. The food and conversation was all good.

Then it was time for bed, and man was I beat, but not before watching a movie with my wife and having some quiet time alone.

We survived another hectic day, and enjoyed it, to boot. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Weekend in Burlington and Corned Beef

We're having Saint Patty's Day supper with our long lost friends with whom we seem to lose contact with even though we live so close together. It's an odd situation, actually, and I'm not always sure what to make of it. We have lost touch with them because our circle of friends has shifted. When we lived closer we seemed to get together a lot more, but now that we are a whopping five miles further away, we never see these guys. I go out for a beer with P, but as a family we seem to operate in other places. It makes sense, they have their own community, they are very social people, and we have our own place in the universe.

Around this time of year, a certain birthday (P's) is celebrated at our house, but again, it's a little odd because not only do we not see them for the rest of the year, but throwing a birthday for someone else at our house is not something we would initiate. In the past it has been suggested by the other party, and in essence, an invitation is made on their own behalf. I.e., they are inviting themselves over to celebrate one of their birthdays. It's become a tradition, and not an awkward thing because not only do we know each other well, but we really enjoy their company and miss seeing them more often, but that's another story.

One thing that has crossed my mind is that our friends are very social and have a strong circle of acquaintances, and yet I know they don't include us in their social calendar. So now it brings in the whole high school mentality of being included and if not, then quid pro quo. I hate to admit it, but the thought has crossed my mind-if you're not going to invite us to your birthday parties, then I'm not going to invite you to ours.

In the end, that's the not the approach we took. We really like P&J, and out of the people we know, probably enjoy hanging with them as much as anybody. They're just good people, interesting and eclectic, and though over the course of time we have lost touch, it's nice to reconnect with them, and it's always a good time. So with this in mind, we're looking forward to a nice corned beef supper and good conversation while the kids have fun and destroy the house. Awkwardness be damned!

On the subject of Burlington, we had an awesome weekend, and would love to make quick jaunts up to the city a regular thing. It's very doable, not to mention affordable. After a nice long swim in their pool, which I may have mentioned has the largest jacuzzi that I'd ever seen, we ate supper at the Skinny Pancake. That place has really taken off, I don't know if it's the location or what, but man were they packing it in. Good for them.

We had the Garlique Chic and the Ham and Egg, and the Veggie Delight. Not vegan, mind you, because it had egg and cheese. We finished it off with a Banana/Strawberry/Nutella crepe, and we were ready to hit the sack. There's something about swimming that really drains you. We went to sleep around 8:30, our standard hour when we travel, looking foward to our buffet breakfast in the hotel.

I got up, as usual, before everyone else, and hid out in the bathroom and read my new favorite book, The Shock Doctrine. Great reading for a conspiracy theorist in all of us, but so well written and intelligently, not to mention convincingly argued. There's nothing like having a great book that you look forward to reading.

Our first stop was the Echo Museum, which I've come to think is inferior to the Montshire, but again, like the Montshire, the kids go crazy for the place. I had two free passes from a survey I'd done, and it helps, because that place is expensive. And it hadn't changed much, except for the one room that has the new exhibits, the place is always the same. I guess because they are big display the can't move them around, but the Montshire has much greater variety, not to mention diversity. The Echo really focuses on biology, which is a great thing, it's just that the Montshire also includes physics and chemistry. And the Montshire seems to be more hands on, which the kids love.

After the museum, we had a quick lunch of soup and sandwiches, where everyone was jockeying for a place on the deck because the weather was beautiful. We headed into downtown and wanted to use our Macy's cards that my mom gave us years ago, hoping they were still valid. Church Street is always a lot of fun, and we all enjoy it, though it can get a little squirrelly at times with the urban experiences that you just don't get in small towns. There were the usual street performers, one guy was singing one of our favorite songs, Wagon Wheel, and the street was packed.

Our first stop was Ben and Jerry's, and man was that place packed. You'd think in a big city they'd have more than one ice cream parlor, but that seemed to be the only game in town. The line was practically out the door. You can see how much B&J has evolved into a big corporate mess, with all the marketing and horizontal integration, it's not what it used to be, but we needed ice cream. For the record, I didn't have any.

We hung out on the drag and ate our dessert, and even were told by a cop that we had to move because we were blocking traffic. He was very nice about it, it's just that we were holding up the flow of people, and he even said he felt bad but also thought he couldn't tell the riff-raff (not his words) to move and not tell everyone else. We also learned that one of our favorite eating places, Boloco, is actually a franchise, but that doesn't change anything.

Macy's was a trip, as well. I've always had this impression that Macy's was more on the upscale side, but that place really seemed like a dump. Something about Macy's outside of Manhattan just doesn't seem to work. They are somewhat depressing, and all the clothes are trashy or too commercial. It's hard to find things that aren't completely overwhelmed with kids cartoon images, unless you want to pay more. And the girls clothes struck me as too provocative, if not downright trashy. It was appalling.

After a lengthy search, we found some stuff, the service was very average, and you can tell that you were clearly bothering them by asking questions, but I'm guessing it was a long day. We got some stuff, chipping away at our Macy's cards (for the record, we spent about $30), and then began the long drive home.

It takes about an hour and a half to drive, and we got home in time for mom to get her call from her mom. Off to bed to cap a nice weekend, hopefully one of many.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Linkin Blogs and Weekend Getaway Day 1

I had this realization that I should be adding links to my blog. Whenever I mention a business or a site, a link would probably be in order. So easy to do, I'll try to keep it in mind.

We had a great weekend, we did the spontaneous, last minute trip that was literally planned on the fly. We had toyed with the idea of going to New York for our kid's birthday, but it proved to be too much of an ordeal, and we once again bailed on my cousins, who now probably don't believe a word we say. We felt a little bad because the kids were really looking forward to it, they love a good road trip, being such worldly travelers and all.

On Friday night, we thought a trip to Burlington would be nice, but hadn't made any arrangements and left it at that, but on Saturday we decided to go for it, and as I went to the market and took in the recycling, my wife went online and found us hotel. By the time I got back, we got the kids ready, packed the car (lightly), and hit the road. How exciting.

We were staying at the Hilton, and the plan was to get a hotel, hang out and have dinner at our favorite spot, the Skinny Pancake, (note the link!), and then get some sleep and have a fun day in the big city. In the past we'd done day trips to Burlington, which are very doable but fall a little short on being what I consider to be a complete visit. You really need to spend at least one night.

Of course, the Echo Museum was on the agenda, even though I'm a bit over that place. Maybe it's a parental thing, but a lot of our friends find museums for kids exhausting, if not tiresome. We go on a regular basis and frequently because our kids love them, so we deal with it. If it's fun for them, I'm more inclined to put up with it, especially when it's enriching. Just a quick note-I personally think the Montshire blows doughnuts over the Echo, it's got way more diversity and it's much more hands on. Echo has some cools stuff, but for the most part, it doesn't change except for that one room. Montshire does a much better job and it's more interesting, in my opinion. AND, there's the water park and nature trails, which Echo doesn't have.

We arrived in Burlington around 3:00, and it's always exciting to see the whale tails that greet you as you enter the city limits. Not sure what they are, but I believe they are affiliated with some marine biology organization, perhaps with UVM. The kids get a huge kick out of seeing them, as do we. As I mentioned, we were staying at the Hilton on the water's edge, and my wife had requested a room with a view of Lake Champlain. You can choose either a city view or a lake view, so we opted for a look at the lake. You pay little extra, but it ended up being worth it.

The Hilton is a higher end hotel in the city, but not too high end. Nicer than a motel, but not a four star deal, either. The location is the key, right smack in the middle of Burlington proper. If you don't know the city, you can be deceived in finding a hotel unless you know that there is a difference between Burlington proper and South Burlington. S. Burlington is like W. Lebanon up here, very commercial with lots of chain stores and plenty of lodging. It's also uglier with more noise, traffic, and people. In Burlington proper, it's more quaint and charming, but there really aren't too many hotels to choose from. Maybe three? We've stayed in two of them, and they both get high marks for service and quality.

And they both had pools! Very key with kids.

The funny thing is when we first arrived, we'd made a mistake and reserved a room in the wrong hotel. Wrong in the sense that we thought we were staying in a hotel that we'd stayed in before, the Marriot, which is right next door. As we pulled into the Hilton, which is actually a little more fancy, we were bummed because we weren't sure if they had a pool, and a pool was a must. In retrospect, we should have known they'd have one, but couldn't say for sure. Before checking in, I went on reconnaisance and checked to see if they had one-they did, and it was nice.

Not that it would have made any difference, we had a reservation (made an hour earlier) and there was not turning back, but it was just nice to know for sure. We checked in and they gave us a room on the third floor, and right away the red flags went up for my wife. She has a theory about hotels, and you could describe it as the Tiffany's approach to customer service. For those of you who have never been inside of Tiffany's, it's an interesting experience, to say the least. Because it's such a high end store, and I mean amazingly high end, the sales people are somehow allowed to act any way they choose unless you're an important person. They size you up immediately, and unless you're a Rockefeller or Kennedy, are complete jerks. I mean complete jerks. They'll begrudgingly take your money, but if it's less than a thousand dollars, it's almost not worth their time. And a thousand dollars won't buy you much there.

We've found, or should I say my wife has found that hotels sort of act this way when it comes to families with small children. The theory goes like this-when you show up in a nice place with young kids in tow, they don't give you the best choices. We experienced this in Rome, where we were given a second rate room near the Pantheon, for whatever reason, but we were the only guests with small children. The thing that angered my wife the most was that she hadn't stood up for herself, and was determined that it wouldn't happen again. Even if it meant sending her husband down to deal with it.

At the Hilton, we got a room on the third floor facing the lake. I had to make sure the room faced the lake, or I was in big trouble on the domestic front. We checked out the room, not thrilled that it was only on the third floor when we'd requested a room higher up. The room was nice, but again, she'd wanted something higher up, so down the elevator I went to argue our case. Chris, who was behind the desk, was extremely helpful, and attending to the situation was no problem. He did a quick search and put us on the top floor, the seventh. The room was towards the edge, and I began to sweat over the possibility that we were no longer facing the lake, even though I asked Chris at least three times if we were.

Well, the room turned out to be beautiful, with a fantastic view of the lake, and so high up. We were all excited. We thought of going to the Echo and getting that over with, but the kids had another thing in mind-swimming. We put on our suits and headed over to the pool, which was really nice. In fact, I thought it was nicer than the pool we swam in at the Marriot, and it had the biggest jacuzzi I'd ever seen, which BTW was packed with people. It seems like people don't want to swim, they want to lounge in the bath and socialize. I understand, actually, because the water was cool. For us, there was no question, we were going to get crazy in the pool.

We swam for about an hour, until our lips started turning blue, and then spent some time in the jacuzzi after the crowd thinned out, then back to our room for a shower. We then hit the town and walked over to the Skinny Pancake and chowed. The previous few times we'd been to Burlington we'd eaten at the Skinny and it was always pretty mellow and manageable, but on this night, it was packed, and the crowds kept coming. They literally had to turn people away, and they now had live music. It was quite the happening scene. We're glad for them because we like the place.

After dinner, we had out dessert crepe, then off to our room for a good night's sleep. When we travel, we tend to go to be early since we all sleep in the same room. We had two queen beds but one room, so there isn't much room to deviate from the group. What one person is doing, we all tend to do. So we slept. Another interesting thing about travel is, if you can believe this, I tend to catch up on my sleep, and this time was no different.

A fun first day on our weekend getaway. Stay tuned for more about day 2. Until then, thanks for reading.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Almost Cracked My Skull and Down Time

Maybe I was pushing my luck by trying to squeeze in one last day of skiing, but yesterday at the Dartmouth Skiway, I slipped on some ice and could have sworn I cracked my skull. I had to go into work in the AM and my wife had an appointment at 10:00, so that meant that I would have to go in around 6:00 and work until she showed up to pass off the baton, i.e., the kids. That left us the remainder of the day to either go home, or hang out in Hanover, or go skiing. I checked the report and they said all lifts and trails were open. The day before it was 40 degrees, so I had Spring skiing in mind, and we got a late snowstorm, so things were looking up, and it was pretty much a no-brainer. We were going skiing, perhaps for the last time this season.

Well, a massive cold front rolled in, with strong winds, and by the time we'd arrived at the ski hill, it was not only cold and windy, but icy. I may have mentioned this before, but what's nice about the Skiway is the lift is about fifty feet from the parking lot, so you can literally ski right to your car. Yesterday, however, after warm temps followed by freezing, the parking lot was icy, and the small hill that you have to climb to get to the snow was impossible to walk on with boots. The kids were having trouble so I went over to help, and as I lifted one of them up, my feet literally slipped out from under me and my head went straight down onto the ground.

Fortunately, N was fine, he landed on his feet, but my head smacked the ground so hard, I could hear the cracking sound on impact. I rolled over and figured I'd cracked my skull, and waited for either the blood to start flowing or passing out. But neither came, and as I lay there, it dawned on me that it didn't hurt that bad. Sure, it was a nasty spill, and it did hurt, but considering how hard I came down, there should have been at least some blood.

And that sound. It turns out that the sound might actually have been what saved me. I think the crushing of the ice with my head must have absorbed the force of the blow, and though it sounded terrible, it saved me. I got up, we got on the lift, and skied for the day. The whole time, however, I couldn't help but be grateful that it was me, and not the kids, that fell.

And, of course, that it wasn't as serious as it could have been. We're thinking it might be a good time to hang up the skis. Then again, Quechee is supposed to be open until April, so you never know...

Personally, I'm kind of over the snow. I'm ready for some warm weather and all the projects we have lined up, so bring it on.

Today we are just hanging out, cooking and doing some homeschooling stuff, which actually went well. One day soon I'll get to the state requirement stuff, but for now, I'll just relax and enjoy the time with the kids, inside by the warm fire, with my head still intact.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fixing My Glasses, Sitting on My Responsibilities, and Another Chance to Ski

I broke my glasses a few months back shoveling snow, then proceeded to break my backup pair in the cold, which forced me to buy a new pair. I still had the broken ones and since they were plastic figured I could fix them and have more backup pairs, but for whatever reason just didn't deal with it, even though it was eating away at me. You see, I really liked my old pair and was really bummed to have broken them. My son had found the broken piece and it seemed simple to repair, just use some industrial strength glue (I use CA+, which literally melts and re-polymerizes the plastic-nasty stuff). I just knew that if I screwed it up, the glasses were history, and maybe that's what held me back.

Either way, I finally fixed them, and just popped the lens back in and voila! Back in business. Yet another example of something I put off for fear of screwing it up, and once it was done, I asked the old question, why didn't I do that sooner? It also highlights the fact that sometimes we operate on the margin and it really is good to have a backup plan, or in this case, a backup pair of glasses.

I have been sitting on my behind in terms of dealing with the state requires for our kids, but I'm confident that I'll get it done before the month is over. Yeah, right. Things are getting a little busier, I'm blogging a lot and have some minor gigs that earn peanuts, but I love peanuts, so it could be a lot worse. And I really enjoy writing the things I'm writing, so you have to look at the positives.

I did manage to send out a query to a pub, and of course got complacent and did what I always say an aspiring writer should never do, which is sit back and wait to hear from them, because often you never end up hearing back from them. It simply highlights the fact that I need to keep my feet moving and not put my eggs in one basket.

We might get yet another chance to ski today, but we'll see. I've been told the season goes to the end of the month, so this truly could be our last hurrah, but I've said that before.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The State, Anger Management Revisited, and Family

I just learned from the state that I will have to enroll one of our kids into the homeschooling program. My understanding is that by the time they're six, they need to be enrolled, so even they turn six after the beginning of the school year, that does not exempt them. Good to know. Just wanted to give a quick nod to the people at the homeschool office in Montpelier, they have the enormous task of sifting through all the homeschool paperwork and answering to militant moms and dads all over the state, and in my opinion, they do a great job, even if as adults we don't like having our hands held. The reality is, some of us (myself included), need it.

So, one more curriculum to develop, but such is life.

I was talking to my wife about the whole anger management thing, and we came upon a common theme with something she's interested in-Eastern philosophy. Now I know this is a stretch, but I've fond what helps me keep my cool and not get so worked up over small, trivial things being aware of everything I'm doing, and in a strange and corny way, every moment that I encounter. Now I know this sounds crazy, because you can't be aware of your every waking moment (or can you?), but I have found (I know I've said this before) that anger surprises me.

It boils up from unexpected events, and they are usually not worth the angst. I've found that by keeping your mind clear and sharp, being in the moment, if you will, that I can actually walk myself through a dilemma, and not totally lose it. It does make life more pleasant, for me and everyone around me.

I even came up with a name for it-Hyper-Conscious Awareness. It's all too easy to shut your brain down and run on auto pilot, and it's probably a necessary thing in our busy and crazy lives. But I've found if I just take more time to think things through and be aware of what can happen, I'm less prone to unpleasant surprises, bearing in mind that they are going to happen whether or not I want them to. I am experiencing this firsthand. The usual things that set me off are not. I know this because I can feel that familiar percolation of chagrin when things don't go according to plan, and as every parent knows, nothing ever goes according to plan.

I've got a long way to go on this one, but at least I feel confident that I'm pointed in the right direction. Even my kids tell me that I make an ass of myself much less frequently (not in those words, of course), and that's what it's all about, in the end.

In closing, just wanted to mention that my mom and my brother BOTH have blown off our kid's birthday, for reasons that I won't go into here. Suffice it to say, I'm disappointed but won't dwell on it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Taiko Drums and the Hopkins Matinee Series

We went to see the San Jose Taiko Drummers as part of the Matinee Series at the Hop. I didn't realize, though I should have, that they are the San Jose players because they are from San Jose, California. Duh! Anyway, I just wanted to give a big hand to the organizers of the YES series, they do such a fantastic job, and the Taiko drummers were another example of that. What a great show.

I have to confess, I didn't have huge expectations. I figured, how much fun can a bunch of drums be? Well, a lot, actually. They put on a great show, they are first-rate players, and they know how to perform. Not too long, a good flow and energy, and a very nice presentation. They knew not to play for too long as to lose the audiences attention, yet the performances were so well done. The movement that was incorporated with the playing really added a different and dramatic dimension.

They took the time to explain a lot of the history and meaning surrounding the drums, so it was very informative, as well. The weather was crazy so a lot of school groups canceled, leaving the theater to a small group of us, including a lot of homeschoolers. Because of that, A got was chosen to go up onstage to play, and she had a blast.

It was also very interesting how a lot of the philosophies behind Taiko drumming are shared by karate. Kind of cool, actually.

The Mack's were supposed to be there, according to MP, but they never showed.

We never ended up skiing after the show, it was snowing too much. We had lunch at Lou's, our old hangout, and I had to get to Borders to get some things. I'd still like to ski, but I'll leave it for the kids to decide. It's late and I'm beat, gotta get some sleep so I can blog and write query letters.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Extracurriculars and Biting Off Too Much?

We finally got our bowling fix today, and man was it crowded at the bowling alley. We managed to score a lane next to a bunch of rowdy teenagers, and they might have been aware of our presence because the language wasn't too bad, but there was clearly love in the air, and I had to stop myself from asking them to get a hotel room. Just for the record, everyone in our group bowled a strike, and N even had two! Loads of fun, and we saw O&G, not to mention some other friends.

Now that bowling has been addressed, I was thinking of trying to go skiing this week. The idea was broached by a friend, but I haven't heard from him, and am not sure what the plan is. I know I said that it was time to pack it in, but can't seem to accept this fact. Can you say denial?

We have a Hop show, as well, so we'll be busy, and am wondering if skiing is biting off more than I can chew. Furthermore, there is the distinct possibility that the kids won't even want to ski, though I somehow (hopefully) doubt that. If we could pull off Whaleback, they do have a great deal, but maybe life would just be a lot simpler if we just had Chinese food for lunch after the show and then went home. Maybe stop by the chainsaw store and have another look.

I also have to write up a query/pitch, and continue writing for WB, PS, and HH. Also may have found a gig with another site (they pay peanuts), and still have my non-profit stuff to do, not to mention my website, and I know my sensei is going to make me perform a bo kata tomorrow night.

How do I get into these things? My feeling is that homeschooling might take a hit tomorrow, but it's only one day, right? Until then, thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Still Not Done With Skiing?

I was prepared to pack up the ski gear and call it a season when my friend PD told me he was going to take the kids skiing on Monday, when they have really cheap lift tix. I'm talking $5/person, how can I ignore that?

I'd have to clear it with the proper authorities, of course, but it could be fun. And the weather is warm. We'll see, I'd like to, and I'm sure the kids would get a huge kick out of it. And we'd get to ski another hill, Whaleback Mountain. Never been there.

Stay tuned for more. Until then, thanks for reading.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Taking Care of Homeschool Business

We've vowed to get our paperwork done on time this year, and so far I've at least thought a lot about it. Does that count? Making up a curriculum is a bit of a chore, you really need to do a bit of research to see what the state wants. Unfortunately, the language is incredibly obtuse and redundant, so you have to sift through the muck and distill it down to the bare essentials, and this takes time. Who's got time? I guess we do, if we're off skiing and having fun all day.

Either way, this process has begun. In the next month, our goal is to have the curriculum done (hopefully sooner), have a sense of our place in the academic universe, and clarify what still needs to be done. I can foresee a bit cramming in our future, but what else is new when it comes to school.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Wife Thinks I'm Crazy and Our Last Hurrah... Maybe

My wife thinks I'm crazy, and for good reason, but I can't seem to get skiing off my mind. I've got skiing on the brain, and with the weather warming up and rain in the forecast, our time in Eden is surely coming to an end. Perhaps that's a good thing, because there are so many things to deal with, who's got time to ski?

Also, not that we live this luxurious life of leisure, but I do feel guilty having fun skiing when my wife is off at work. Sure, I work hard watching and teaching the kids, and there are plenty of projects to do at home, but even still, she doesn't get to go skiing, so I need to tone it down.

Not that I have much choice-Winter is over, Spring is well on it's way, and the warmer weather and longer days are a welcome sight, even if I'm bummed to say goodbye to the snow.

With that in mind, I got a blessing from Gary, my mentor, to use his truck to hit the Dartmouth Skiway for perhaps the last time this season. When I got the message from Gary saying we could go for it, I fed the kids lunch, packed them into the truck, and hit the slopes. It was a beautiful day and we were slated to get warm rain on Friday, so I figured ski season was drawing to a close.

We had fun, the conditions were great and the kids had so much fun. They're such good skiers, it's amazing, and we got several runs in over the course of a couple of hours, and then we headed home. The reason we hit the Skiway is because we love that hill, and it's one of two ski resorts that we can actually afford, the other being Quechee. Skiing is just too darned expensive.

Either way, we did it, and I'm prepared to pack it all in now. Then again, the season could very well go until the end of March, so you never know...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Howtoons, Keeping My Word, and Standing My Ground

We got this great book for anyone with kids ages 6 and up called Howtoons. It's a comic book, or graphic novel, with all sorts of projects and ideas that are informative and fun for kids and adults, alike. Not only is it a fun to read, but the gadgets they describe are very doable. One of them was a marshmallow shooter made of plastic piping. It is made of PVC piping and shoots mini-marshmallows, and naturally when our kids saw it, they wanted one. Being the typical parent who is busy all the time and can't always think about his responses, of course I said we could make it, and left it at that.

Kids, however, have a way of remembering these declarations, and I've been reminded on a few occasions about my pledge. Truth be told, I'm a huge believer in keeping your word to your kids. Even for little things like a promise to read a story or a piece of candy, things that the kids themselves forget about, or at least "seem" to forget about, I think that if you as a parent remember it, then you should do everything possible to keep your word. Many times I've had it where the kids forgot it and I was told to do the same, and it just makes me feel like crap, besides setting a bad example.

So be true to your word is one of our mantra, one of many. I knew I could have kept putting off our kid's requests for the marshmallow shooter until it was long forgotten, but is that the answer? My parents made a living of breaking their word to us, and it doesn't bode well for building trust, not to mention instilling your kids with a sense of honoring their word.

Yesterday we were out in Norwich and within range of one of my favorite hardware stores, Fogg's. My old buddy Rhett wasn't there, but I got a lot of help from Walter. I called earlier to inquire about the price of 1/2 inch PVC piping, and it turns out to be a lot cheaper than I thought. Actually, KB told me it was pretty cheap, so I had some idea. I made the mistake of asking for a lot more than I needed because I misread the instructions, thinking the shooters required feet, instead of inches. I asked for 50 feet or piping (this is nothing for a contractor), when in fact I needed 50 inches. How embarassing, though Walter was cool, and was perhaps even inspired to make his own shooter for his kids.

Just for the record, it was embarassing to tell the guys that I was buying the piping to make a marshmallow shooter for my kids. On the surface I thought was being a real man by buying building supplies, and instead, I'm doing crafts for my kids. Then again, it takes a real man to be a father to his kids.

So the drama doesn't end there. The shooters were very easy to make, all it took was a hacksaw. We cleaned out the shards and washed out the pieces, then the kids had a blast shooting marshmallows around the house. They loved them, and as any could foresee, it had the makings of a housecleaning disaster-marshmallows lost in various nooks and crevices about the house, just waiting for the ants to find them come summer.

I made a declaration-they can shoot the marshmallows all they wanted outside, but if they were going to do it outside, then they must keep track of the marshmallow, and no new marshmallows until the old one is brought back and disposed of properly. Sure enough, one of them lost their marshmallow, and we spent half an hour looking for it with no luck. He asked for another one, and it would have been easy enough to just give it to him, but I stood my ground and said no, he had to find the other one.

It was sort of mean, but I felt like I had to set a proper precedent. Unfortunately, the movement lost steam and they put their shooters away for other things, and I felt bad for that, but I also know that my wife would have put me in the dungeon if we'd scattered marshmallows all over.

As an epilogue to this story, this morning I saw Misty, our cat, playing with something and it turned out to be the missing marshmallow, so happy days are here again.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wearing Glasses and Homeschooling

We wear glasses, as do our kids (at least one of them), and the subject of myopia has recently come up. What exactly causes it, and how can you avoid it. Our optometrist said that they really don't know what the causes are, though there is no shortage of theories out there. I will say this-the whole stereotype of the nerdy bookworm who wears glasses has some merit to me. I've read that from an evolutionary standpoint, reading doesn't necessarily fit into the survival equation, because animals in the wild need to focus on the big picture and see their enemies. Reading focuses on the minute details that are food for thought but are not going to help you avoid predation.

So, maybe it makes a little sense that when you read as young child, you're putting undue strain on your eyes that could lead to shortsightedness. And it's not just reading, TV and computer games count, as well.

Nobody can say for sure, but it's interesting to think about. Of course, there are exceptions, and reading does not guarantee anything, but again, it is intriguing to think of the studious bookworm and the reading glasses.

Speaking of reading, we're still in homeschool mode in terms of answering to the state. We really want to get our enrollment in early, unlike last year, but like all things, it will take time and sweat, two things I don't have a lot of. Actually, sweat is readily available. Don't even get me started on the portfolio, but we do have some time, and we will get this done. Famous last words. Every day I plan out how we'll tackle the government and history objectives, and every day I fail. Something always comes up, though skiing is becoming less of an option.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Taking a Step Back and the Dentist

In the frenzy to get as much skiing in as possible before the end of the season, it occurred to me that it might be time to take a step back and calm down a little about the whole thing. True, the season is coming to an end, but we've managed to get more skiing in than we could have ever hoped for, and should be happy for that. After all, skiing is not the most economical of pursuits, and again, we've managed to get a lot in.

I'm saying this because I was planning on going to the Skiway yesterday after N's dentist appointment, but realized how rushed it would be, and decided against it. Besides, the Skiway is more expensive than our usual hill, the beloved Quechee Hill. On the subject of expense, I just wanted to clarify that money is an issue, and the only reason we can really afford to ski as much as we do is because we do in fact ski the Quechee Hill, where for the three of us, we can ski for less than $20. That's because one of us is free (this is the last season for this) and tickets are $10 after 2pm. You can't beat that deal, so we've taken full advantage of it.

As much as it pains me to say it, we could very well be done for the year, and that's fine... sort of. I'd still like to go, but there are plenty of more pressing issues at hand, so we'll be thankful for the chances we've had.

On the subject of the dentist, we went to see Dr. Bachner yesterday and all went well. I have to confess, he really has a way with kids, and our kids really love him. He really makes them feel at ease and talks and relates to them in a way that really puts them at ease. This, at least for me, is not an easy thing to do. In fact, I often have a difficult time conversing with kids, I feel like a total dork and don't always know what to say. He's got his gig down, and though I had some reservations at first, I really like the guy, and am glad he's our kids' dentist. Plus, he's really good, I think most people would agree with this, and we trust him with our kids' teeth.

We had a cavity filled, and hopefully that will be the last one for awhile. I'm struck by how many kids we know who have cavities, including our own. We had this completely unwarranted sense of self-satisfaction in deluding ourselves that we weren't going to get cavities, and lo and behold, we had sure as heck had them. It was a real cold dose of reality, not to mention humility. Thankfully, we've found a good dentist and the situation has thus far been dealt with, but we are extremely wary of being too complacent, and every trip to the dentist is an anxious one.

Unlike my childhood, we are diligent about flossing the kids' teeth. We don't brush them anymore, which makes the bedtime routine thankfully simpler, but somehow they're not ready to take on the flossing all on their own. That's okay, as a parent, you do what you've got to do.

I still have issues with the whole fluoride supplement thing, however, but that's a topic for another time. Until then, thanks for reading.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Coming Back to Haunt Us

We were on the verge of heading to New York City this weekend when a big monkey wrench fell on our heads-the broken baseboard pipe that we so conveniently forgot about means that we can't go away when it's cold because we can't leave the heat on. Not only will the cats freeze, but because it's so cold outside, if a certain temp is not maintained, the pipes will freeze again and burst. So we canceled our plans, and put our minds to fixing that pipe.

Now I know I've been spouting off on being Mr. DIY, but some things you just can't mess around with, especially electrical and plumbing. Somehow water just does horrible things to your house, and yet your life depends on it flowing.

We did come up with a plan, however, and because it's something that is serious and precludes any messing around (i.e., I sure as heck can't do this on my own), we went with somebody we knew and could trust, Boland Custom Home Improvement. Besides being our friend, KB is damn good at what he does, and you know it'll get done right. That's important when it comes to your home.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Getting Things Done and Kielbasa

So much for vegan eating-we're having kielbasa for supper, but at least it's organic and nitrate-free. We slice it and simmer it in maple syrup and it's killer! Throw in some broccoli and cauliflower, lentil soup, and fresh whole grain bread, and we don't feel as guilty eating all that meat.

We bailed out on skiing yesterday because it was brought to my attention that while we were out having fun on the slopes, various projects were laying dormant around the house, having been completely abandoned by yours truly. What was I to do?

So, in the spirit of due diligence, I stained the massive bookcase that I'd made for the study, and actually got it done by the end of the day. Like everything I put off in life, actually doing it was not as bad as I'd made it out to be, and I felt good about even just getting it started. Today I'll shoot for putting on the finish, and it's conceivable that by the end of the week, the shelves will be ready to use. We just might be able to unpack all those boxes of books that litter the floor.

Just wanted to mention that I'm using a soy-based stain and finish from a company called Ecoprocote. It's nice because it's sustainable, non-toxic, low in fumes, and has in the past worked well for us. Call me a dork, but with the kids in such close proximity, it means a lot to me to reduce the toxic presence in our lives, even if the professional contractors in our lives have never heard of the stuff. Not yet, at least.

Sometimes, you've just got to do it. Now if I can only apply this to teaching history, I might get somewhere. Oh well, I'll find the answers, and you can't have it all.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


We have a birthday coming up, and are of course searching for the perfect thing to do. A party is not in our future, been there done that, and if she really wanted one, we'd probably do it, but it really doesn't seem to be her thing. We had one for a couple of years back, and besides the rigmarole of organizing it, she seemed overwhelmed and ambivalent about it, even though by neurotic parental standards, it was a success. Personally, I'd like to go to NYC and see the cousins and hit the town. I know she'd love it, but in the end, we'll let her decide. I still have to talk to Sam and order the cake.

We have mixed feelings about the whole inundation with gifts approach, as well. We run into the same problem at Christmas, and feel it's misguided, especially with the current economic climate, to go out and buy all this junk, even though the kids love it. One or two special presents makes it so much more meaningful, not to mention manageable, and when it becomes about quantity, the whole spirit of gift giving is lost. In the end, we don't like the approach of ripping through a pile of gifts and tossing them aside to open the next one, even if we can see how much fun it can be. Somehow it just feeds the frenzy of wanting more. And believe you me, even though we live in a down-to-earth community surrounded by people who might think like us, we still see plenty kids who seem to live in households where restraint is not employed. It's pretty impressive, actually.

We'll ponder this one. Not a big deal, in the end. Besides, we also believe that life isn't about the single moments or holidays, but about everyday. So every day should be celebrated like a birthday... sort of.

On the subject of birthdays, I have a bit of a dilemma in terms of my brother. I have real issues with the guys, he's a selfish and completely self-absorbed person who also happens to be a pathological liar, to the point where he really needs professional help. Even still, I've always remembered him on his birthday and during the holidays, even in lieu of him completely blowing us off on all of our special occasions. Now I don't care if he ignores my birthday, but when he blows off our kids, then it irks me. Then again, maybe that's his way of getting to me.

My point is, I blew him off on his most recent birthday, which was a couple of weeks ago, and now I sort of regret it. Two wrongs don't make a right, right? So I'll send him a belated greeting, even though every fiber in my body says "Don't do it." In the end, you should always do the right thing that is inline your own philosophies, rather than taking the eye-for-an-eye approach. Where does that get us, in the end?

Until then, thanks for reading.

Grease and the Continuing Saga of Anger Management

We went to see the play Grease at the Lebanon Opera House yesterday, and what a great show it was. It was put on by the North Country Community Theater and drew from the local high schools in the area. We took the kids to see it because they love the music and thought they'd enjoy the show, which they did, but more on that later.

What impressed us the most about the show was the level of talent that these kids displayed. They are sophomores, juniors and seniors in high school, and they sang and acted beautifully. I've always thought it took a special talent and wherewithal to dedicate yourself to theater at that age, because not only are you putting yourself out there for scrutiny, but at least when I was in high school, it took guts to be in drama, because it wasn't necessarily cool, especially for a guy. This also points to the fact that you're willing to overcome that barrier because your love of performing, and that's what ultimately inspires and motivates you. Very admirable, in my eyes.

And then there's the talent. These kids sang beautifully, they did a great job, all the while knowing that their friends and family were in the audience watching. I've never been good at dealing with that, and as I've mentioned, respect and admire people who can. It's interesting to consider who will continue with the drama and take it to the next level.

We were thinking that our kids might show some inclination to be in theater. It's just such a nice creative outlet, and our kids embrace drama so effectively in their daily life, something, for the record, that they get mostly from me. They enjoyed the show, but in terms of taking part, seemed a bit ambivalent, which is fine by us. We are just always searching for the golden creative expression outlet. The search continues.

Either way, it was a nice day, though the cold has returned. We went to the show, the kids played a bit in the park in Lebanon, which was frozen solid, and then we did our usual meal at Boloco. Just for the record, Boloco was one of the sponsors of the show. You realize how much volunteerism and donations play a role in putting on a production like what we saw. Everyone worked so hard, not just the actors, but everyone behind the scenes. Kudos to them all.

In the continuing saga of anger management, things have been going well, thus far. Sure, there are moments when I get a little heated, but it's more of a simmer rather than a boil, and I've yet, in the past three days (but who's counting?) to make the kids cry, at least from anger. Crying because I wouldn't let them have ice cream doesn't count.

Dwelling on it more, I've found it's really about being in the moment, not neccessarily anticipating that bad events are around every corner. I'm finding that being aware of everything I'm doing and in a way, having my mind engaged all the time, helps to combat being blindsided by frustration and anger. Furthermore, by being a little more on the ball, I tend to make fewer mistakes (the same ones that set me off) and work a little more diligently at preventing them. This is where the little moments that frustrate me can be avoided. Most of my mistakes are deeply rooted in apathy and ambivalence.

In the end, it seems to boil down to being proactive-not waiting or hoping for something to happen but working diligently towards making it happen and keeping it in mind and focusing on it. Then, when it's realized, it's all the more satisfying, but when it doesn't work out, not only is it in your own hands, but at least your prepared for the letdown and it doesn't sneak up on you and bite you on the behind.

As you can see, I'm still trying to figure this all out, and for now, it's all coming out a mish-mash, but at least it's coming out. For now, I'll take it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.