Friday, January 29, 2010

Pizzas in Peril

We had this notion of selling pizzas at the market, and though we knew that there would be some logistical hurdles to doing it, I didn't realize how serious it really was. I should have known better. This whole process of figuring things out was not without its share of drama.

First off, we have to answer to the state. I contacted the proper agency and got the rundown on what's expected of us. Needless to say, there are pages of rules and regulations that are required when you sell food to the general public. Fresh water supplies, wastewater disposal, cleanliness, hygiene, just to name a few.

After discussing it with R, we feel it's not insurmountable, but something that simply needs to be investigated, at the very least. And as is often the case with these sort of things, they are not as bad as they seem. After all, farmer's markets go on all over the state, and people sell food all the time.

This might very well turn into a big drama, however, so stay tuned. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Danilo Takano for the pic.

Just Wasn't Meant To Be

Somehow the ski gods are conspiring against us, or should I say, against me. The weather has been terrible, and we are battling sickness and pestilence on the home front (now do you see where the kids get all their drama?). Either way, I had another brilliant plan to hit the slopes, and once again, I was shot down in flames. Last weekend me and N got to ski while A&R hit the town, which was fun. I had this grand notion of going again on Sunday, but it was hinted to me that it might not go down too well with the locals, so I did the smart and political thing and abstained. We actually spent a nice day at home, though I can't quite recall what we did. Go figure.

ANYWAY, I thought, this next week we'll get two days of skiing in. I figure we have a blessing to do a weekend ski day, and if we sneaked one in during the week, we were in business. Of course, that wasn't meant to be. While we were sick yet on the mend last week, we got sick again this week. My original scheme was to ski at Dartmouth on Thursday, then Quechee on Friday so the kids could see all their friends.

Then this crazy storm rolled in last night that brought with it what seemed like 100 mph winds. I seriously thought some trees were going to fall, and at the very least, we'd lost electricity, but neither happened. The temperature dropped, however, to below zero, and the windchill was around the negative teens.

Along with being sick, there was no way we were going to ski. Oh well, another plan up in smoke. On the bright side, at least we're not stressing about getting to the ski hill. And if we're really lucky, we just might squeak in a day this weekend, but now that I've said it, it's pretty much a given that it isn't going to happen. Me and my big mouth

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

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Return of Wednesday Playdates

We had been holed up at drum practice on Wednesdays so we had to miss our regular meetings with G,K&T, which was sort of a bummer. I enjoy G&K's company and the kids really jive, so I really wanted to reschedule our drum lessons. However, that was not so simple, and as hard as I tried, we were locked in.

Then, a brief ray of sunlight pierced the darkness, and a 2:30 slot opened up. Life was good. What's cool is simply by starting one half hour earlier, it opens up more possibilities to do things in the afternoon, not to mention miss most of the bad traffic in W. Leb.

We thus restarted our Wednesday playdate, and it was good. I hadn't planned on spending too much time outside, whereas G wanted to cut down some trees, so I ended up helping him and freezing my butt off. We actually didn't do that much hard work, I think it was more like routine maintenance and quality guy time talking about manly things like sports and trees.

What amazes me is that the kids play for nearly five hours, and they still kick and scream when it's time to leave. A testament to a good time. I'd made a quiche, which in retrospect doesn't serve the manly image I strive so hard to achieve too well, but what are you going to do? Since we started getting fresh eggs from our neighbor, I don't know what to do with them. And he wanted to sell me two dozen each week.

Wednesdays are good, too, because R has yoga, and she gets home late. We end up getting home about the same time, and by then, it's time to get the kids into bed, though when I watch them curling up in a warm, comfortable bed, I'm green with envy. I'm so tired by that point.

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

Water Test and MTBE

About ten years ago, there was a big accident nearby where a tanker spilled gasoline that leeched into the ground and contaminated the groundwater. It was a complete mess, and the local wells were all polluted with toxic MTBE, which is a fuel additive that is supposed to make gasoline burn cleaner. Isn't it ironic how something that is supposed to make gas cleaner is a toxic carcinogen itself? You have to love technology.

Anyway, we were informed of this when we bought the house. The problem was so bad that the governor banned the use of MTBE in gasoline after that specific incident. The houses in the town and even the school could no longer drink their water. They had to buy all their drinking water, which I believe was paid for by the oil company. What a way to live.

The so-called experts declared that after years, the water was clean the chemicals had disappeared, but a recent article in the paper indicated that was not the case. A family claimed their water was still not clean and wanted the town to dig them a new well with the settlement money. The town was reneging.

The house in question is not far from us, so naturally we wondered about our own water. We were assured that all was well (no pun intended), but we can't seem to place where the actual spill occurred, and wonder if we are in the path of dissipation, which is in the direction of the river. We wanted to know, and the state offers a test for all volatile compounds that includes MTBE.

The kit is expensive, but such is the cost for peace of mind. Also, the test is a pain, requiring extra care that made me neurotic. There are preservatives, and for whatever reason, the use of hydrochloric acid. I felt like I was working in the lab. The samples had to be bubble free, and kept cold and received by the state within 48 hours. Because of the chemical content, they had to be sent with special instructions, etc., etc.

In the end, we just got the results, and our water is clean. Hooray for that. We drink a lot of water, and for about two weeks, it was making me nervous.

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

Slip Sliding Away and Crazy Weather

This crazy weather is a bummer on many levels. It rained cats and dogs for two days straight, I couldn't believe it. Besides, ruining our beautiful snow, it turns into ice the minute the warm spell passes. This makes it hard to ski, drive, and even just walk.

Case in point, our driveway. I was walking to the car to put some recycling in the back and slipped and fell, spilling the recycling all over the ground. The worst part of it was that I was essentially standing still and my feet went out from under me... the driveway had a slight incline. The funny thing is that kids love it when the driveway becomes our very own ice skating rink. They have endless fun while dad stresses over whether or not we'll make it out to the road. Just another example of how kids teach us to lighten up.

I'd heard from R about these things called Yaktrax. They're rubber soles that you slip onto the bottom of your shoes and have wire bottoms to grip the ice. I thought they were a great idea because I have issues with the ice come February and March. In the past I've had to wear my snow shoes to get wood because they have spiked bottoms. Otherwise, there is no way I'd make it to the wood pile and back.

I went to Aubuchon and they had the Yaktrax, so I got a pair. The first question I got from the kids was, "Did you get us some?" I thought they liked sliding on the ice?

They work great, I tried them minute we got home. It's nice not slipping and breaking your tailbone. Life is good.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Say Cheese

R has been itching to make mozzarella cheese after reading about it in a book. Since we are pizza making machines, the idea of being as self-sufficient as possible has great appeal to us. With the garden in combination with our baking prowess and, of course, our awesome pizza stone, we have the makings of a completely homemade pizza.

There are kits to make cheese, and it's really pretty simple, though they use a lot of milk. The kids were excited about the process, and with R at the helm, they went to work. It's really very simple. You just heat the milk up, add acid and enzyme, and let it go to work. Amazingly enough, a gallon yields about a pound of cheese, so it's not the most cost effective way to go, but there are many avenues to trim that down.

Best of all, it's fun, and it's cool. How often do you make your own mozzarella cheese? Our next project will be tomato sauce, but we may have to consult with R&J since they're the pros.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Slopes and Embarassing Dads

It's interesting to me how the kids grow up and the girls and boys tend to gravitate to each other. As they get older, I seem to be doing more with N and A wants to hang out more with mom. It's cute, they get to have "girl" time, and me and N get to be real men. At least he does, I just follow in his footsteps.

This past weekend, N and I were itching to go skiing, but A was not feeling well. So, she asked to hang with mom, and they hit the big city while N and I hit the slopes. It was nice, though we missed having her there, and she missed out on a day of skiing. I'm glad the girls can hang and have fun, however, and we managed to have fun at the hill.

One thing I found annoying and little embarrassing (why do I let these things get to me) are the dads trying to be hip with their kids. Give it a rest, will you? There were some boys snowboarding with their dad on the hill, and that's cool in my book, but later on they were in the lodge and I heard the dad talking, and it really struck me how hard he was trying to be cool and hip. In the typical suburban dad approach, he was trying way too hard. They were watching the X-games (incredible stuff, BTW), and the dad was yelling for his sons to see some snowboarder performing, and the dad kept saying, "Oh man, he is so sick. Isn't he sick? He is so sick."

I wanted to slap him and tell him to act his age, but to each his own. Besides, who the heck am I to judge him? Oh well, I can't help being a prig.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Learning the Ropes

I've decided that my future in web design rests in the hands of the program, Rapidweaver. Don't ask me why, I'm just partial to anything and everything Mac. The program touts itself as super user friendly, but somehow I manage to always make things more complicated. In light of this, I'm totally confused, but the only way to learn is to dive in, at least for me. I have a hard time reading a manual and understanding what exactly is going on, and learn much better from experience.

I have managed to get some tinkering done, and it amazes me to no end when things actually work. I have a long way to go, but thousand mile journey begins with the first step.

I also heard from RR, who mentioned rekindling the whole web design thing, but I told him no need, I needed to make this journey on my own. Sometimes you just have to be your own knight in shining armor.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Victor Iglesias for the pic.

New Logo and Wrestling for the Computer

Talk about small steps, but I was told by an expert in style and design with an eye for what works, i.e., my wife R, that my logo had some issues. With that in mind, I dove into photoshop and tweaked it a little, and voila, a new design. If you look at the old one, you probably can't see the difference, but to an anal-retentive neurotic like me, the change is striking. I'm guessing this, and many things, will go through many incarnations before I'm through, which could be never.

One funny note is that the kids have been learning French on the Howe Library website, and it's a lot of fun and I have to confess, the lesson is well designed. Not too fast, and lots of repetition. And best of all, they have fun with it. Because of this, however, my computer is in high demand.

Also, A&N have taken a keen interest in my website and hover constantly while I'm learning the ropes, firing off continual suggestions and critiques. It's cute as heck, but can be exhausting at times, especially when I'm trying to learn a new trick... and failing miserably. In a moment that you have to love, and is so emblematic of our kids, I asked A&N to give me some space while I tried to negotiate my way through the design software, so they went and got their binoculars and sat a few feet back and watched me. The advice, of course, never stopped, but at least I had some breathing room.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

No Skiing

We had a couple of days of glorious snow over the past week or so, and I was licking my chops to hit the slopes. The kids were excited, too, and I had it all figured out. On Thursday I had my web seminar in the afternoon, which meant that we could go ski the Dartmouth Ski Hill mid-day (and get half day rates), then go to the library, meet R, go the meeting, and then have dinner in the big city. Perfect. Except that we got sick with some stomach bug, nothing severe, just a little tummy ache, but enough to make us feel yucky and not want to eat. So we bagged the skiing, bagged dinner, and went home early.

Our next plan was to go to guitar on Friday near noon, have lunch with KR, then head over the to the Quechee Ski Hill and hit the slopes. KR even mentioned going too. But we woke up Friday still not feeling so great, so we canceled guitar and we ended up hanging out at home. Denied, once again. It was actually nice because we've had a busy week, every week is a busy week, and I have to confess, it would have been a bit of a stretch to put two days of skiing in a row, but oh what fun it would have been.

Instead, we rested up and got things done around the house. We ended up baking cookies, bread, and making pizza for dinner, using our glorious pizza stone, of course. I love that thing. Also managed to do real-man's work like split wood and build things, more on that later.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

My Website

I've moved ahead inches on this website, but progress is progress, as the saying goes. I went to a seminar at the library on making a website and it turned out not to be what I was looking for. Whereas I need guidance on website design, they were more about the logistics of setting up the site and getting it up and running. They seemed to stress the importance of Big Brother Google. Amazing how much Google has taken over.

The seminar seemed more geared to commerce sites, as well, which makes sense since most people want to start a business of some sort. Mine is more geared to a resume type situation.

So it boils down to me getting down into the trenches and learning web design software. Again, I think it's important for me to learn how to do this because not only will I need to continually update the site, but learning the stuff is all part of the journey. I find, however, that I continually hit snags and the whole operation comes to a halt. I wish there were an easier way, but no such luck.

On that note, I'm off to study web design. Wish me luck, and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

First Snow of 2010

We had our first real snowstorm of 2010, and it was a bit timid, but at this point, we'll take it. The snow came down for most of the night and into the morning, so we got about 4 inches, which was enough to warrant shoveling and raking the roof. So far, being militant about clearing the roof has worked out well, but we really haven't had too much snow this winter. Then again, winter is far from over.

After the snowfall, it really warmed up, making the snow perfect for snowball fights and snowmen. I started making the body snowball, and before we knew it, the thing was massive. It must have weighed 200 pounds, and at some point, we couldn't roll it anymore. A&N made their own respective balls, starting in the backyard and rolling it to the front. At some point, their snowballs got huge, as well, and it literally took all three of us to push it into the front yard. We didn't give up, though, and we got the job done. You have to love when you set a good example for your kids, especially when it's so out of character for yourself.

I continued with the raking and shoveling, and I had to fill the wood box and clear out the ski trail from the plowing. During this time, the kids continued to make the snowmen. I left my step ladder out there, which they used, and they made some really cool stuff. In fact, they made a snowman walking his/her dog. The picture doesn't do the dog justice, they did an amazing job. Nice work, A&N. Best of all, they did most of it on their own. Talk about initiative.

Now that we've gotten more snow, looking forward to doing more skiing, if we ever get around to it. Until then, thanks for reading.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Taking a Bullet for Domestic Bliss

I'm gradually catching up, so bear with me, if you will.

We had a really nice weekend, and though I had grandiose plans to get out and make the most of the snow, we ended up doing none of the things I wanted, but it worked out beautifully. First, I thought it would be nice to head over to Occom pond and for skating and hot cocoa. They do this thing on the weekends where the entire planet shows up and skates on the pond. They provide free marshmallows and cocoa (it's a country club, they can afford it), and the pond is huge so you can skate a wide loop. The only downside is that all the weekend warriors (you know the type, frat boys who never made it to the NHL), are out playing hockey, and they take up most of the ice, but there's still plenty of room.

I also wanted to go skiing because Sunday is a great day to hit the hill.

Well, as it turns out, nobody really wanted to go. We had a busy Saturday night, and we skied on Friday afternoon, so we were in want of a break. I tend to get a little frenzied when it comes to skiing, I can't get enough. So by the time Sunday came around, I was ready to hit the slopes. A&N did not want to, and preferred to stay at home to help mom make the tunic. That meant I had a free pass to go skiing all by my lonesome. Who could ask for more?

Well, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that rather than ski by myself, there were plenty of things to do around the house, and why pass up a golden opportunity for us to hang out and be together, all four of us.

So I gave up my ski opportunity and did a bunch of stuff at home, with the help of the kids, of course. I made a few shelves, and A&N came down and wrecked havoc with assorted power tools, which is what they're for, anyway. They also finished the tunic, which came out beautifully.

Then we had supper and ended a nice day at home. Not only did we hang out and be mellow, but we got things done. Sure, I didn't get to ski, but we spent quality time together. I'd also gone to Home Depot and got more windows, but that's a story for another blog.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Young Performances

We had a really nice weekend that began with the local young artists performance. Our town has a committee that works to bring the community together through assorted events like pancake breakfasts and group activities. They also hold a youth emerging artists show. We are friends with the organizers, so we went to show our support.

Let me tell you, I was blown away by the level of talent. The kids were so good, ranging in age from 16-20, and they performed original work. Artists in the truest sense. What a great show.

Afterward there was food and then a big dance. We stuck around for the meal, but weren't sure about dancing. A&N's buddies, A&I were there, so they got to play and had a blast. We ended up staying for much of the dance, and the kids had so much fun, it was amazing. A&N danced up a storm, in particular N. He was awesome, he even dabbled in some break dancing, and people stopped by throughout the night to compliment him on his dancing prowess. I have to confess, I've never seen him let loose like that... except, of course, when we're trying to get him into bad at night.

What a fabulous evening, many thanks to CC and their wonderful efforts. Did I mention it's yet another reason to love living here?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Jan Willem Geertsma for the pic.

Wnet to community connectiosn, thanks to JM and ST and the whole crew for putting on a great show

danced afterwards, was fun

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I just wanted to comment on a seemingly insignificant moment that spoke volumes to a sappy-sentimental dad like myself. We, for whatever reason, got on the subject of whoopie pies, which are a cross between cupcakes and sandwich cookies. They're awesome, and fairly easy to make.

Anyway, during the discussion, the proverbial disagreement ensued, with A choosing vanilla, and N wanting chocolate. It's enough to make your head spin. I told them we couldn't make both, and they had to come to a consensus on the flavor. They decided to do rock-scissor-paper, and A ended up winning. So it was her right to choose vanilla.

Well, after a moment of thought, she said she'd like chocolate, just for N's sake. It brought a tear to my eye. I hope he realizes what a great sister he has. And, of course, now I'm going to have to make BOTH chocolate and vanilla. Oh well, what are you going to do?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Paid Gigs and Website

I've been blogging like crazy on the paid sites, and have managed to crank out a couple pieces a day. The pay is low, but it can add up over the course of a month, though I'm dealing more in George Washingtons than Ben Franklins, but one day... All the more impetus to start pitching ideas to pubs. I still like the idea of doing travel writing, but that's a new frontier, and one that terrifies me, like all new things.

It's all in an effort to support our fabulously opulent lifestyles. I've also decided that if I'm going to develop a website as a writer, I've got to do it myself. Though there are plenty of people out there that kick butt in web design, my thinking is that if I can create the site myself, I'm much more in control of making changes or adapting it over time.

So I'm going for it. I've locked in a hosting service, my domain is mine, and I've just got to put together the website. I have no idea what I'm doing, so it should be interesting. At the very least it should make for a good narrative.

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

Drama in our Lives, Literally and Figuratively

We had enrolled A in an acting class over in WRJ, because it just seemed like a good fit. Lots of dramatic energy that could be channeled in a positive way. We didn't want N to feel left out, so we asked him if he'd be interested, as well, and of course he said yes. He likes to do anything his big sister is doing. We had our reservations, because he's not as keen on the spotlight as A, but we went for it.

We had out first class last week, and N and A both loved it. I'm guessing it's a lot of fun, they probably get to be silly, though I'm wary of the fact that no parents are allowed to watch. I don't really know what they do.

Either way, it's a chance for both kids to let loose, and they are both enjoying it. Go figure.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Bothhad theater class, loved it, kids her age
N loved it, not sure if he would

Skiing and Sewing

Sundays are good days for skiing, but A wanted to spend a day with mom working the sewing machine, so N and I hit the slopes and had a nice day. We saw a bunch of old friends on the slopes, that seems to happen a lot.

I'm way behind so I'll make it short and sweet. Thanks for reading.

Pottery Playdate

We've been running around like crazy lately. I had a sense things would pick up in the new year, but not like this. Both R and I are a little concerned that too many things are going on, and something's gotta give. Unfortunately, that might have to be our beloved skiing, but we'll see. We just need some down time, which isn't easy to find.

We had our first pottery playdate, and it was fun, if not a little interesting. We originally had the idea of getting the kids together to do something fun and creative, while the dads, who are both SAHDs and homeschoolers, could chat and share war stories. We've been down this road in the past, have we not? We'd agreed on every other Monday at the pottery studio, and BL was kind enough to provide us with loads of clay to mold to our heart's content. It was really nice and thoughtful of her. Then again, they are her grandchildren.

I, of all people, even got into the act. I made a few tiny sculptures while K and I chatted about life and parenting. It was a nice mellow day, and you can see the artist in K going to work, making cool and ambitious things. I also finally remember where I recognize the guy. From ice skating at the Arena. You tend to remember the people who are good skaters, especially the men, because when you see them on the ice, your first inclination is to one-up them. Isn't it crazy how you can read men like a book? Either way, I remember K because he's a good skater and left me in his wake.

The kids had fun doing clay, though there wasn't a huge amount of interaction on their part. They quietly made their creations while I tried to initiate conversation between the two. They're super nice boys, A&D. A little on the shy side, but very polite and always courteous when I asked them questions, i.e., they replied. A&N were a little on the coy side, as well, but they all had fun making things.

We had a quick snack afterwards. I was going to pick up muffins, but Stella's is closed on Mondays. I was going to bake cookies or something of that nature, but didn't get around to it. What I ended up doing was making, of all things, a frittata, because I had an surplus of eggs. I've found a new egg source, but more on that later. The dish didn't go over so well with the twins, but we managed to graze a little. We left the rest for BL.

In the end, we had a lot of fun, and I actually enjoyed getting my hands dirty, though K and both share in a little OCD about having dirty hands. Nice to commiserate with a brother in arms, or in this case, hands. We stayed till about noon, then back home to get ready for our drama class that night.

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

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hop Performance and Busting My Chops

We were all pumped up to attend the sold out performance at the Hop of a Brazilian dance troupe for contemporary dance. Judging from the literature, I figured it would be a bunch of break dancers getting crazy to hip hop music. Now I'm not a fan of the whole hip hop culture and all the attitude and images, but break dancing can be cool to watch, especially when they're good.

Just as a side note, we watched a DVD about the international break dance competition, B-Boys, or something like that, and it was really cool, we all loved it, especially the kids. Break dancing has come a long way from when I was growing up, it's not so punk-gang oriented. What was fascinating was how it's so huge all over the world. In fact, the American break dancers have been supplanted by a host of international stars that include France, Germany, Japan, and if you can believe this, South Korea. In fact, Korea won the grand prize. Wow, my mom would be shocked.

So when tickets became available for the Brazilian hip hop performance, I figured it would be fun, but as I realize I've mentioned, it was way too artsy-fartsy. Too much Martha Graham going on there, though even Martha Graham seems to have more cohesiveness than this show. It was all so random, and the first half of the show had no music. I hate to seem so uncultured, but it was a definite "yawner." Of course, you could hear all the intense suburban bourgeoise parents exiting the theater and talking about how fabulous the show was. Get real!

One thing about the show was that I saw AM for the first time in a while, and it dawned on me that she always seems to force me into a corner and put me on the spot. She really sinks her claws into you and won't let go. Talk about uncomfortable. It's not enough to say, "Hi, how's it going," she has to grill me and judge me to the point where I start saying things I regret and become a person I don't like, as if I have to justify my life. It really reminds me of being in front of my mom, always on the defensive. Not a good place for me to be. Personally I think she enjoys it, in a twisted way, just like my mom, but I'll leave it at that.

What's a guy to do? Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Kid's Wisdom

We had a really nice day that I managed to ruin by snapping at the kids. However, we were able to rectify the situation, ending the day on a wonderful evening/supper note, and I owe it all to the kids, who happened to dispense with some sage advice to their grumpy dad.

First, some background info. We tend to be late risers, at least 75% of us are, and though it's fine to wake up in a more natural and organic manner, it complicates things when you're trying to operate on the same schedule as the rest of the world. This crops up now and then when we have to be somewhere in the AM. We had guitar lessons the other day at 10:00 and barely made it on time. Of course, being the obnoxious dad that I am, I gave little lecture about the need to get it together in a more timely fashion. This was especially relevant because over the next two days, we had more morning events that we had to attend, requiring a punctual get-up and go.

Well, the kids sure took it to heart, because the next morning they were up at at 'em by 7:00 AM. I felt guilty, but we did have to hit the road to catch a show at the Hop. There was some sort of modern dance troupe from Brazil, and I figured there'd be lots of break dancing and hip hop, which we all love to watch. The show was, at least for me, a bit disappointing. Too much art and too little pop culture. In a way, it was too esoteric for kids, and geared more to the New York City are set. The kids said they enjoyed it, so that's all that mattered.

After the show, we spent a few minutes at the library, then had pizza for lunch, then headed to the ski hill. We had a great day skiing. We love that ski hill, we get to see a lot of our friends, and afterward it's a party at the lodge, complete with hot cocoa and rambunctious kids. G,K&T were there, whom we haven't seen in awhile, so that was nice.

Anyway, after all was said and done, we went to the car and were all tired and feeling a little crabby. We got into a heated discussion and I snapped at the kids, whereby the situation deteriorated into anarchy, complete with tears and woe. I'm thinking we were all tired after a long day, and maybe the blowup was a good form of release.

Whatever be the case, we cooled down and worked it out, and looked forward to getting home by a warm fire and supper. A dispensed some good advice, as well. She figured that kids get crabby when they are tired and sleep deprived, and since I usually don't get enough sleep and have a tendency to be stressed and crabby at times, maybe I'd benefit from more sleep.

Wow, you gotta love when your kids help you see the light. In all fairness, to root of my stress and crabbiness are more complex in nature, but you have to acknowledge such insight, and the guts to express it. Ah, the joys of parenthood, a great adventure in self discovery.

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

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Moment in the Sun

Just wanted to mention that N had a golden moment at the rink the other day. This is relevant because it's usually A who is in the spotlight. Though N never complains or expresses envy or jealousy (at least not outright), somehow A manages to capture center stage more often. N is more subdued and coy, though he is definitely more athletic, and his skills really shine in that arena. Case in point, ice skating. From the get go we'd noticed that he was a natural on skates. It's really cool to watch, and if we were the typical suburban set of parents, we'd get that boy into hockey gear immediately. I tell you right now, he'd do well, because we have sticks and pucks, and you should see him go.

Either way, we're not so keen on the competitive sports front, and hockey is particularly grueling, so much so that it can't figure out a parent's motivation to subject their kids to it, but what do I know? Not much.

We were at the local rink and the kids, the boys in particular, took notice of N's skating prowess. They gathered around him in awe, and it was nice to see. To her credit, A was there to witness it and she was extremely supportive and kind to him. Kudos to her. N basked in the glow, and the boys expressed outright amazement at the fact that a kid who was younger than them, in some instances by a whopping 6 months, could actually skate so much better than them. It was funny because he was initially bashful when they asked to see him skate, but he eventually warmed up to the idea and before we knew it, he was like Eric Heiden. Some of you may be too young to remember him.

Not that I'm so hung up on impressing people, but when you're a guy, you have to earn some credibility amongst the other guys, and some degree of athletic competence will accomplish this. Otherwise, boys can be mean, especially to each other. And as all guys know, it ain't easy being a real man, even when you're just a kid.

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

Cartoon Life

A has expressed a sincere interest in cartooning, she devours them like popcorn. Of course, this sends neurotic dad into a frenzy in order to find an avenue by which to nurture and encourage this endeavor. In the meantime, she cartoons away. There is a cartoon institute in WRJ, but the youngest they teach are teens. I told the founder, who we met at a cartoon lecture, that they should teach more kids' classes, so you never know. Also, they have them at the AVA, but again, perhaps for kids a little older. Stay tuned for more.

Frenzied Day

Okay, how's this for drama? We had a crazy time the other day, but managed to get a lot done and have fun, to boot, though A mentioned that the frenzied pace can be a drag. I agree, wholeheartedly.

First off, we had to deal with the registration on my Mentor's car. Everything was up to speed on it except that the registration expired on New Year's Eve. I figured we could slide for a day or two into the new year, but why push our luck. Now the registration was going to Mentor's mailbox, but since he was out of town, he had a friend retrieving his mail. I had to get to the mail via his friend then sift through it to find the registration. This was a whole rigmarole in itself, which I won't bore you with (too late?), but suffice it to say, it was a chore.

We had several errands to run, so I figured that join the list, though in retrospect, it might have been wiser to take care of the registration first. We hit the local coop to get our organic fix, then to Stern's for veggies, then the video store to return our New Year's Eve movies. Since the mailbox was near the ski hill, of course we weren't going to pass up a chance at the sled hill. It would have been even better if the ski hill were open, but no such luck.

The sled hill was fun, but we were the only ones there, and to be honest with you, part of pleasures of the snow is to enjoy it with friends. It was lonely. After a few runs, we decided to get out of there, go home and get our ice skates, and then hit the rec center.

We did just that, and had a blast, because it was no longer lonely. You really need a critical mass of kids before real fun begins. We're lucky to know where to go.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks for reading, and thanks to Julia Freeman-Woolpert for the pic.

Afternoon Activities

We've returned to the rec center and it's been loads of fun. The monitors are super nice, and A&N get to hang with the after school kids, some of whom we know from the past, some of whom are new friends. It's nice because rather than force the issue and set up playdates, which I loathe, the kids just get together and play, and friendships are forged. More like a neighborhood playground. Best of all, I'm am not even remotely involved, and the kids get to play on their own without their irritating dad there to complicate things.

Sure, I shovel the ice rink and break up the occasional scuffle, but for the most part, the kids are left to their own devices to interact, which I feel is an important part of growing up. I think as adults we place way too much faith in the idea that kids will work things out for themselves, because it usually ends up in disaster. Besides, this way of thinking has given parents the right to completely divorce themselves from their child's upbringing, making life that much easier for themselves. My point being, it's completely self serving and thus convenient. Kids need guidance and for adults to intervene when necessary. They are too young to have the wherewithal to completely work our their problems, that's what parents are for.

On the other hand, it's not good for parents to micromanage every aspect of their kids' lives. Somewhere there's a happy medium. Don't ask me what it is, I just know it exists. Also, I'm a bit incapable of completely disconnecting myself. When I see a scuffle and our kids are in the midst of it, there's just no way I can't at least investigate. Such is the life a neurotic, uber parent.

In the meantime, we're having fun in the afternoons. It's nice because the kids are all local, so they are in essence our neighbors and we'll run across them continually throughout the year. I have noticed that the crowds really thin out in the summer, so winter is a good time for playing over there.

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

Monday, January 4, 2010

Great Day on the Ski Hill

Wow, did we ever have a nice day skiing the other day. Best of all, we got to see many of our good friends whom we haven't seen in months, though for many of them, it's because they've defected to New Hampshire. Whatever be the case, it was an awesome day.

We headed over to Quechee to catch the twilight ski, and immediately ran into R&J and their kids. Out of all the people we don't see as much, I think I miss those guys the most, mainly because we kind of come from similar environments (west coast, science), and we both have a thing for travel, though their level of perambulation make us look sedentary. They are so worldly, it's awesome. Most of all, it's fun hanging with them and just talking, the conversation always flows smoothly.

Anyway, we got to ski with them, and the kids got to hang on the slopes. There's nothing like a little peer pressure to push kids to try to impress, and our kids are a bit guilty of it, though it goes a long way to elevate their level of skill. Fortunately, our kids are fairly cautious, so they aren't getting too crazy. It was a lot of fun.

We also saw the W's, though curiously, the last time I saw them, they said with conviction that they were done skiing, and that their kids just hated it. And there they were, skiing. For the record, this is not the first time that such inconsistencies have cropped up with them, and I'm never sure what to make of it. It's hard to peg where they're coming from, so I'm best off not trying.

We also saw our buddies A&I at the lodge, where it was like Romper Room. Kids everywhere, pumped on hot chocolate and donuts, running around. How can you beat that? There was a fairly good contingent of our neighbors at the hill, some of whom I found out later were there, so it made for a sociable day. Also, since it was Sunday afternoon, all of the city folks had skipped town to get back to their 9 to 5's, so the hill was not crowded in the least bit. I don't necessarily mind crowds, it's when they act like they own the place that it bothers me. It's not unheard of for you to get that with the "nouveau riche", suburban bourgeois crowd. Then again, that's the Lakes for you. I guess, when you get down to it, they do own the place (their a landowner's association), so I can't complain... though I still do.

We like the idea of a regular thing at the hill, and will work towards that. It's fun seeing friends and getting a day of skiing in. Then off to the lodge to see our old curmudgeon buddy, SW, and sample his handmade treats. You gotta love it.

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

Making the Most of Our Christmas Bounty

Not to encourage all of the consumer madness of the holidays, but we sure scored on some great Christmas gifts. In fact, we're still wallowing in the glow of our Christmas bounty, and they're sure to bring us hours of domestic bliss. The kind we love.

The kids got a couple of really cool books from their grandparents, and needless to say, they have not only sparked their curiosity, but keep them coming back for more. The latter part is not an easy thing to do because A&N will often read a book once and be done with it. It makes going to the library an endurance sport, but we're glad they love reading. Either way, they got the David Macaulay books on how things work, and they have been reading them like crazy, every day. I think by the end, A will be ready to apply to medical school.

I get to use my stellar coffee cup that was made for me in pottery class. It's a pretty amazing piece of work. If you can't tell from the pic, that's a leopard on the front standing in front of a palm tree, and its tail curves around to form the handle. How can you not love such attention to detail? Best of all, I get to use it every day in the morning, and as you might have guessed, my coffee tastes that much more delicious since I started using it. Amazing how that works.

We've also broken in our pizza stone, and the thing is amazing. Thanks to DR for that one. I'm still not completely sure how to clean the thing, so I'm employing my standard approach to these situations by simply not cleaning it. How's that for a solution? Actually, because it gets baked at high temps, it tends to get crusty and the stuff just falls off. You gotta love that sort of convenience. Best of all, we get crispy crusts on our pizza, and several bread recipes call for a stone, so we get brick oven results in the comfort of our home. We'd still like to build a cobb oven, and I think that's in our future.

And, of course, there's our sewing machine, but for anyone who has ever used one, you know that nothing more needs to be said.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Better Than TV

Boy, not to solidify my place in the sissy-man hall of fame, but I'm pretty stoked about getting a sewing machine for Christmas. Thanks much to my in-laws. Now I've never used a sewing machine, but I've also thought they'd be useful for making things with the kids, not to mention assorted things around the house, though I'd never admit this to my Mentor. He'd slap me upside the head. For the record, I used to sew patches on my jeans by hand, and it took hours.

Either way, we received one for Christmas, and the kids were nudging us incessantly to open it up, especially N. He loves machines, it's in his blood. So we took it out and we were all taken in by the things it could do. In fact, we could have spent all night, if not all week, fiddling around with the thing. Who needs a TV? It's a beautiful and sophisticated machine, complete with cool sounds and lights, and you can do all sorts of things, even make lattes. The selection of stitches alone was worth the price of admission. We literally had to pry the kids away from it because it was getting late, but needless to say, it's going to be a lot of fun.

Having no experience with them, however, I found it a bit overwhelming. R put me, of all people, in charge of setting it up, and I got completely lost in all the jargon. What exactly is a "bobbin?" Personally, I was ready to let the kids take over and go for broke, but R stepped in and saved the day. She understood all the lingo, and you could tell it was a piece of cake for her. She breezed right through all the directions.

So now we can sew. I think curtains and doilies are in our future. To placate my Mentor, I'll use it to do manly things, like repair the holes my chainsaw made in my pants, or put some elastic in my karate gi after I've just applied the "vice-grip of death" to my adversary. Better yet, do it while I'm applying the vice grip of death. That would surely win me some points.

We're excited to get started, I just have to figure out what is what. This could be a challenge. Until the next time, thanks for reading.