Monday, January 31, 2011

Scoring with Warm Hands and Feet

The last time we were skiing at the Dartmouth Skiway, we froze our buns off, and it was pretty miserable. The hardest thing is riding that darn chairlift up. The down time is when you really feel the cold. Plus, being so high up, you really catch the wind.

It got to be intolerable, and at one point, we had to head into the lodge. It was there that we had the brilliant idea of getting hand/foot warmers. These things are amazing, and they are not made with toxic chemicals. In fact, they claim to be all natural.

Whatever be the case, we loved them, and made skiing possible in the cold, because the rest of our body’s were warm, it’s the hands and feet that get cold, and once that happens, your day goes downhill (no pun intended) from there.

The only problem is, with three of us, that’s a lot of warmers. Three sets of hands and feet comes out to about $12-15 a pop. The ski hills tend to charge you about $2-3 for each one. I knew this couldn’t go on, so I set out to find bargain hand warmers, and my quest brought me to Mister G’s. I couldn’t believe it, they had just gotten some in, and they were a deal. I love that place. I scored a box of each for a fraction of the price.

Now we’re ready to hit the slopes in (relative) comfort, and I can’t tell you how much that improves my disposition. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

From Adversity Comes Serendipity

We had a bit of serendipity that arose from a tense moment, and it was one of those situations that make you look back in wonder over how life sometimes transpires.

First, a little background.

We’ve had this problem with our kitchen lights that is not really a big deal, but enough to bug me into taking action. Now I’m no expert on lighting, but our kitchen lights flickered all the time, almost as if there was a short. It was not constant, and usually when you first turned on the lights it was fine, but gradually the lights would begin to flicker, and you could usually fix it by simply tapping the dimmer switch or lowering the intensity. JH and his magic bag of tools told me that it was a faulty capacitor or resistor in the dimmer switch that could easily be fixed.

Yeah, right. Easy if you’re name is JH and his magic bag of tools. I figured we could live with a little flickering, which did not last long, and when we were at Home Depot the other day, I bought a new dimmer switch. I couldn’t find an exact match, and had to opt for a rotary dimmer, versus a linear one. I figured the hookup would be the same.

Anyway, I was ready to fix this thing the other day, but was pressed for time. I wanted to get it done before A’s rehearsal, but ran out of time after making lunch and cleaning up and doing all that good stuff. Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but I’ve found that when I put things off, they tend to never get done.

The situation was compounded by the fact that in a moment of carelessness, I ruined N’s domino creation. He and his sister like to make these chain reaction creation which they refer to as “domino effects,” which I think is kind of cute, but I think everything (almost) they do is cute. Either way, they are a little fragile, and once they are disturbed, the whole thing falls apart, just like a domino effect. Go figure.

I ruined the one he was working on, and was he ever mad. I thought he was overreacting a little, but who am I to judge? I wasn’t the one putting the blood sweat and tears into it. Now usually during A’s rehearsal we head over the library and hang out until it’s done, because we don’t have a lot of time, not enough to really do anything.

This time, N was so mad that he didn’t want to go the library, he wanted to go home and re-make his domino effect. I was fine with that, and while he was doing that, I had time to fix the light switch. We only had about half an hour, and I could have easily convinced myself that this was not going to be enough time, but the real-man-in-training in me said to just do it. So I did.

Best of all, whenever I work on a project, it gets N interested, which makes him forget why he was angry at me, and then peace ensues. I love when that happens.

Now we not only have a new switch and no more flickering lights, but we have peace and serenity on the home front.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to NRL for the pics.

Friday, January 21, 2011


We (I?) have been trying to take a step back from our horrendous schedules and work more towards getting things done around house, not only addressing practical needs, but making fun things that the kids can help out with. A win-win situation, if there ever was one, because we get the satisfaction of knowing we at least tried, and A&N get to see firsthand how finished products come into being. This should hopefully instill them with some sort of appreciation of the time and effort that goes into making something, (this includes meals BTW), whereby they will take less things in life for granted (again, about the meals), but I could be asking for too much. Hey, it wouldn't be the first time.

Certain things, of course, are beyond our capabilities, especially if we were pining for some pieces of modern furniture, or any sort of equipment. In those instances, we would have to turn to places like to buy them. I've had many interactions with them in the past and it's always been a good experience.

In the meantime, we are going to get a little ambitious. In addition to the various culinary projects that are in the making, A has indicated that she would like a large wooden box to hold some of her stuff. Naturally I got a little too enthusiastic about it and decided to make something perhaps beyond her expectations, but would please her nonetheless. Off to Home Depot we went, and I got brass hinges and latches, and thought that I should make one for N, as well. Now we have all this wood in the basement and the clock is ticking. I can't afford to sit on this one, because the kids won't be as patient as R.

We also need a new shelf for the pics, which will need to be stained, and assorted electrical maintenance. Mind you, all of this is in our house and has nothing to do with the barn, but don't get me started on that one, it might make me stress. I still need to contact the B the plumber about all that.

Speaking of plumbing, I thought of two additional items that need to be addressed, one of which I can most definitely accomplish but don't want to, and the other I have no clue how to approach and will have to consult with JH and his magic bag of tools, but those are stories for another blog.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sarah Barth and Luis Brito for the pics.

Karate Revelation

It dawned on me that I’ve got to get a little more serious about karate, especially with a black belt test looming on the horizon. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a lot of free time, but I think to move it to the next level and really begin the process of becoming an ultimate fighting machine, something needs to change. It will, of course, entail more pain and suffering, but such is the life of a real-man-in-training.

The idea of holding an extra class came about, one where only the higher belts would meet and go over the necessary katas and spar amongst each other. My first thought was that I don’t want to go up against the black belts, but then I realized the folly of my thinking, because I need to get in the ring with guys who can annihilate me. That’s the only way to progress as a fighter.

I also need to spend more time at home practicing. I’d really like to get a punching bag, I think it would really help out my techniques, but R might not be so keen on another piece of equipment in the house. I’ll work on that one. I also need to work on conditioning, because in addition to being out of shape, I need to work on my several aspects of my technique, and believe me, when you’re sparring with the sensei and fearing for your life, you need all the endurance you can get.

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

On the Verge of Jumping In

I am on the verge of having my website ( up and going. Just a few more clicks here and there, and then voila, I’ll be web legit. I’m still not clear how much information to provide in the certain sections, and not sure what sort of links I’m supposed to include, but I’ll look at other sites to get some inspiration.

The site will be a work in progress, but sometimes you just have to get it out there, because I could tweak it until the end of time and still not be completely happy with it, and in the end, am I just being guilty, once again, of over-thinking things?

My goal is to get it done, go live, and start sending out query letters, with links, of course, to my fabulous new website, and then kick-start my glorious freelance writing career. I’m not even sure if my domain name subscription is still valid, but one thing at a time.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Fernando AUDIBERT for the pic.

Great Day at the Skiway

We went to the Skiway the other day and had mixed luck on our day, ending, though, on a bright note. First off, the weather was cold and snowy. The last time we were there it was freezing cold and we all suffered accordingly. This time around, cold again, though this time with continual snow throughout the day. I realize we are skiing and snow is a good thing, but it often makes visibility difficult, and it seems to coat the lift chair and make my pants wet. Wah, wah, wah.

Either way, the place was empty at first, and we pretty much had the hill to ourselves, though again, I prefer to have some human contact. It’s a bit eery when we’re the only ones on the hill. Well, I got my wish later in the day when the local schools arrived through the Ford Sayre program, and then things got interesting.

Though the crowd increased 5-fold, it still wasn’t that bad, and the lift line was maybe two or three groups deep, at the most. The problem they ran into was more of an organizational nature. The group did not have enough chaperones for the number of kids going up, so the moms were scrambling at the bottom to find an adult that would ride up with their group. Naturally, they pegged me, though I had A&N, so I could only take one of their kids. As intense as they were, I have to give the moms credit, they were getting it done, approaching any and all adult strangers to help out. Kudos to them.

The cold got to be unbearable at some point, and we had to go to the lodge to thaw out, and of course, hang out with the moms hanging out and exchanging organic brown rice crispy recipes. I’d never been inside the lodge before, and as you can imagine, it was nice. We also had the brilliant idea of getting some glove liners and hand warmers, mainly for A, who really suffers from cold hands. Wet gloves don’t help.

The hand warmers were fantastic, those things are amazing. You don’t need a lot of heat just to keep your hands from freezing, and somehow those things work. All they need is exposure to the air, and according to the label, they are all natural. Not quite organic, but no toxic chemicals, which surprised me. Just iron, charcoal, and salts, made “responsibly” in China, no less. Not sure what to make of that.

Either way, they saved us, and we were able to ski for the rest of the day. I was thinking that they would come in handy for my feet, which get incredibly cold when I ski, so I’ll look into that. We had a nice ski day, and because the school program was there, the hill was open late, until 4:30, allowing us some extra ski time. We stopped for hot cocoa afterward, and then it on to home where I still had to whip up some supper, which is not easy when you’ve got to unload all the ski equipment, get it drying near the fire, and then clean up the mess that we’ve made in the mudroom before mom gets home.

All performed, of course, under the influence of extreme exhaustion, but I’m not complaining. We got to skiing, and you do what you gotta do to get it done.

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

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Photo Update

Now I know that people are just dying to know how things are going with the photo archiving, so I’m going to give an update. Things are moving along fairly smoothly, and I could be done within the month, but let’s not get too confident, that always leads to disaster.

We have over 3000 pictures on the hard drive, and not only does this present a burden to my operating system, but pictures often get lost in the netherworld of your computer when they are stored there, never to be seen again. Plus, as ridiculous as this may seem, the hassle of having to turn the computer on is enough to deter most people from checking them out.

Finally, you just can’t beat the enjoyment of flipping through a photo album with actual photos, not unlike reading a book versus reading it online or a digital book. Call me old fashioned... my kids do it all the time.

Either way, my goal was to get the pics made into prints, and I had a multi-pronged approach. Since I’d backed up most of the pics, they were no longer on the hard drive but on discs and a backup hard drive. This meant I had to locate them and gradually put them back on the hard drive.

Once there, I needed to sort through the ones I wanted to print. I tend to take dozens of pics of any subject or event, and then go back and take the ones I like. With digital, why not? It’s so easy to discard the ones you don’t want. R takes a different approach and takes the time to compose her shots, but I’ve find that with moving targets like kids, more often than not, when you hesitate, the moment is lost forever. I prefer to take lots of pics and sift through the garbage for the few gems.

This, however, makes the job of sorting more of a challenge, though it really just boils down to time. After uploading the pics, I make a second disc of the ones I want to print, then simply order them online for mail delivery or pickup. I use the Walgreen’s site, and it works well, though I tend to order 100-200 pics at a time, and I wonder if it strains their system. It takes a bit of time to upload them to their site, but not huge. Maybe 10-15 minutes, and then it’s done. I can’t tell you how much this has helped the process. I used to take the discs into Walgreen’s and upload them on site, but that meant driving into W. Leb retail hell.

Plus, they have photo specials every week, so each order is a bargain. The quality is fine, good enough for a novice like me. Though real photographers may still scoff at the quality of digital, for recording important moments in life, it’s perfect.

All in all, good fortune has thus far shined on us, so I have to pay attention to the signs and just go for it.. I have about 25 discs with about 100 pics, on average, on each disc. I’m up to disc 19, so there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Of course, I still have to stuff the pics into photo albums, which will be a chore, but I’ve got all year to do that, right?

Until then, thanks for reading.

Tweaking Our Bagels Recipe

I’ve come to the conclusion that you just cannot make a whole wheat bagel that has the same impact as a white bread bagel, or at least I can’t. I’ve tweaked our bagel recipe over and over again, and while the whole wheat variations come out okay, even good, they are never as good as the starchy white flour kind that you get in a killer bagel shop like Best Bagels. Healthier, but not as ethereal

However, we have made very good white flour bagels recently, and dare I say, a good substitute for the ones you buy. This is a good thing because not only are bagels expensive, but the bakery where we get them seems to operate on their own whims, and as I mentioned, was closed for three weeks for vacation. While I acknowledge that they work hard and are deserving a vacation, when you work in the consumer industry, you have to make some concessions to your whiny and self-absorbed customers, i.e., me.

So, with this in mind, I set about making starchy white flour bagels, and they came out really good. So good, in fact, that at one point I declared that we don’t need to buy bagels anymore, but trust me, that won’t last.

I found that there were a few key steps that deviated from the recipe we have and were only realized through a long and painful process of trial and error. The hard thing with bagels is you have to make a batch, and if you don’t like it, tough luck. You’re stuck with it.

The first thing was to ditch the diastatic malt. That stuff is totally overrated, or maybe it’s just that I don’t know how to make the most of it. Almost every recipe I’ve seen calls for it, it’s the “secret ingredient.” Next, instead of all purpose flour, use bread flour (King Arthur), which relieves you of the need to use the malt.

I’ve found it’s important to use a hot oven. They say to bake at 500 degrees, but our oven doesn’t go that high, so I’ve found 450 is enough. Finally, and for whatever reason they don’t recommend this, it’s key to let the dough rise. The recipes I’ve seen call for kneading the dough, shaping the bagels and then letting them rise. Including an intermediate rise step before shaping the bagels increases the bread quality without losing the precious chewy bagel quality. You know they’re ready when the float immediately upon hitting the boiling water. In the past, our bagels sank to the bottom and then slowly rose.

Anyway, our bagels came out great. Crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, just like the pros, sort of. Either way, we now have the capabilities, and as anyone knows, empowerment is a beautiful thing.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Surviving the Return of the Grateful Dumpling

We had a bit of a gruelling week with all of our activities and the preparation for the big youth concert. When the show finally arrived, however, we were ready to rock and roll. All the dumplings had been made, and on the Saturday of the show, all I had to do is make the sauces, and then, of course, cook the actual dumplings, but that wouldn’t be until the show.

The morning was complicated by chess club, which the kids really wanted to attend. I was not looking forward to another death-match with the child wonder, but figured I could slip out and run some errands while the kids played.

It turns out that nobody showed up other than AM, who coordinates it, so A&N got to play each other and have hot cocoa and donuts, which AM provides. That alone is worth the price of admission, though it’s a little sad and lonely when we’re the only ones there. I had to run to get some final materials for the dumplings, and the kids were more than happy to hang out and eat treats.

Afterward, we hung out and then got ready for the afternoon show. I went early and dropped off the supplies, and then we all went together for the show. The kitchen at the hall is huge, and has this amazing 8 burner stove, which was dominated by J (don’t know his last name), who was cooking up the Thai feast to end all Thai feasts.

I managed to finagle two burners to make the dumplings, and let me tell you, it was amazing watching the guy work. He had 4-5 assistants, and he literally made enough food for 200 people. And it was good, killer Thai food, the real deal. Apparently he studied in Thailand.

My gig was pretty straightforward, all I had to do was fry up the dumplings and load them into the chafing dishes, while J furiously cooked the Thai food. Our timing was perfect, and by the time the show ended and people streamed into the dining hall, the food was ready. I think people really enjoyed the food.

The turnout at the show was sparse at first, though it sure seemed to pick up when it was time to eat. Funny how that works. I was a little disappointed in the low turnout, I really think people should support these kids, who show a lot of talent and courage to get up there and perform. It ain’t easy.

I seem to see a decline in participation in a lot of these events, and I’ve only been here a few years, but the turnout has gradually gotten smaller and smaller. I saw it the Dhalia fest, the Peony Fest, and even Winter Carnival (and let us not forget chess club), all of which are basically free. The shame of it all is that when we take these community events for granted, they will eventually disappear. It takes some sacrifice and compromise to make these events happen, and even less to show up in the audience. That, however, is not enough to get people to come out and show their support.

Oh well, you do the best you can, right? Thanks for reading, and thanks to Patrick Hajzler and Jorge Lasala for the pics.

Drummer Boy

I’m not sure how to interpret this, but in lieu of any sort of practicing, N’s drum teacher said he’s making progress and his playing seems to indicate that he has in fact been practicing more. Go figure. Might this be construed as natural talent? Can the shameless parent in me not embrace this way of (wishful?) thinking?

Sure, why not?

Either way, JB is very patient with him, and she must get a sense that he’s not really practicing as much as he should. In fact, he’s not practicing at all, but I’m partly to blame for that. I need to be more encouraging (despotic?), so that’s something that will change.

Nonetheless, she seems to indicate that he’s coming along and displaying the ability to play, which is not easy when you consider all the body parts that need to coordinate when you play drums. She even said that they are approaching the point where if he wants, he could start practicing on a real drum set, AND, that she had spare drums sets lying around the house that we could borrow indefinitely.

Wow, how cool would it be to have a drum set to practice on? Sure, the noise would be maddening, and we’d get no sleep, but that’s a small price to pay to culturally enrich your kids, right? Plus, being a kid drum player has a high “coolness” quotient, which is important when you’re a guy.

Something to look forward to and keep in mind. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Miroslav Nagy for the pic.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Scoring at the Listen Center

As I mentioned earlier, I scored a great deal at the Listen Center, and it all stemmed from a trip over there that involved serendipity and a bit of whim.

I have a jacket from LL Bean that I wear all the time, but the zipper recently failed me. It did one of those things where after you zip it up, the bottom part comes undone and unzips from the bottom up. This, needless to say, presents problems when you're skiing and the wind chill is 10 below zero. It is also a rare example of where an LL Bean product has let me down, because the jacket was only about two years old.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. Take the jacket back, they'll give you a new one. I have two problems with this. First, I've done this several times, with shoes and jackets. I know that LL Bean is a great company that stands by their products, and if I'd gone in, they would most assuredly have replaced the coat.

Which brings me to my second problem, which is that I was not that into that particular style of jacket anymore. It is their most popular style, too. What I don't like about it is that it has an elastic, stretchy waistband, and I'd prefer a straight, more stylish (hip?) inelastic drawstring waist section so I can remain fabulously in fashion.

Either way, I needed a new coat. I was told I could also have the zipper repaired at a laundromat, but that wouldn't solve style issue. I could have bought a new coat, but shopping is painful for me when it involves anything that costs over $20. So I resolved to check out the Listen Center, and my upper limit was, you guessed it, $20. I figured my chances were good.

I slipped off to the Listen when the kids went over to their friends, and did I ever score, sort of. I found a new coat (LL Bean), and not only was it what I was looking for, it was on sale, and cost me $5.00. Hallelujah! The only thing is, it's a little big, but perfect for when I wear a fleece under it, which will work great when it's cold and we're skiing. I would have preferred something that I can wear by itself on a cool Spring day, which I can do with this one, but as I mentioned, it's a little big.

Oh well, when you're being cheap, you get what you pay for, and in most instances, that's just fine, though my Mentor, PR, and JH and his magic bag of tools might disagree.

For the record, I wore my new coat skiing at the Skiway in a freezing cold snowstorm, and it worked like a charm.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Dad the Tyrant

We had a bit of a dilemma with piano, and I had to step in be a bit of a tyrant. Sometimes a dad has a flex a little muscle, even if he loses points on the popularity scale. In the past, A has picked up on assorted endeavors and done fairly well at them. Certain things come naturally to her and she doesn’t have to expend a lot of effort to do them. In certain areas she has become proficient, and in others, it’s just a passing fancy that fizzles out and disappears into the ether.

We don’t want to force her to be something she doesn’t want to be, but we also don’t want her to quit just because it’s more of a challenge and requires her to sweat a little, especially when the end result is rewarding.

We’ve experienced this in the past with drama. She enjoyed the preliminary classes that were just fun and make believe, but when it came to learning her lines and performing, it became more of a job. Her teachers said she did a good job, in their words, “She is able to reach deep inside herself when she performs,” and they encouraged us to enroll her, and N as well, in the ensemble group. It just wasn’t as fun as being silly, and she said she didn’t want to continue. However, we felt that she would enjoy performing, it’s just that it would require some effort and overcoming some challenges. Plus, we thought the drama crowd would suit her. Bear in mind, the goal was not for her to be an actor, but simply not to quit when the going got tough.

In the end, the drama group folded, so it was not an issue. Bummer. Now that she’s in piano, it’s not as laid back and easy as guitar, and requires her to practice more and challenge herself more. Again, not as fun as just playing and being silly, and maybe doesn’t come to her as easy, but we don’t want her to quit because of that. As long as she doesn’t loathe and hate it, we’re going to encourage her to stick with it. Plus, she really likes her teacher, JB, and in the end, piano is a nice instrument. She doesn’t have to be Van Cliburn, if anything, I don’t want her to be, that guy had some serious issues.

We’ll see where this one goes. I think a piano might be in our future. We’ve had several offers for a free one, it’s just a question of getting R to agree to it.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Rachel Israel for the pic.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Funtastic Friday

I know, I know, it’s a goofy play on words, I'm a big dork. My kids remind me of this fact every day, but cut me some slack, I don't get out much. Last Friday we had quite a fun filled day, and the coming Friday promises to be more of the same, if not more so because of drama practice, a.k.a. rehearsal. That is, of course, unless we get snowed out.

We were going to be out all day because it was one thing after another, so that meant upon walking out the door, I had to be ready for the entire day. This meant having lunch ready by the time we headed out to pottery, so I had to ask R to wash all the morning dishes. I dropped the kids off, then jetted over to the dump to unload the recycling, then back to pottery, where we had a blast, as usual.

We were supposed to pick up A&I after school, which was an early day off, so we headed over to get them, then over to the library where they had a special program making a movie with the local cable network. They had a lot of fun with that, and AM does such a nice job of scheduling cool activities. It also gave me a solid 2-2.5 hours of down time alone in the library, working on my computer and looking for books. I love when that happens.

After the library, HH said the girls wanted A&N over, so she took them and I had 1.5 hours on my own. What a bonus! She said AG would bring them over to our house afterward, so I was a free man for 2 hours. I jumped in the car, jetted over to the Listen Center Thrift Store, and scored a killer jacket to replace my one that just broke. It is in perfect shape, and is a medium weight LL Bean waterproof coat. Personally I thought it was a score. The tag listed it at $10, but they were having a sale so I got it for $5. Amazing. It pays to go to the Listen in Lebanon because all the people in Hanover and Norwich unload their nice clothes.

I got home in time to start making supper, and R actually got home before the kids, so we were hanging out waiting for them, and man was it quiet. Almost too quiet. I have to confess, despite the fact that I’m with the kids all day, when they are not there, I miss them. Go figure.

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

Return of the Grateful Dumpling

We were approached by the JM of community connections to see if we’d be interested in donating some dumplings to their show. For the past few years they have showcased local young artists to perform or display their artwork at the community hall. We went last year and the performers were fantastic and it was a lot of fun. They had a dance afterward, and we all had a wonderful time.

This year, we’re actually going to be involved, which meant dusting off all of our equipment and making dumplings. More accurately, it meant I was going to have to get my hands dirty. Being out of practice and all, naturally I put it off, but as the week progressed, I began to sweat at the realization that time was running out and the clock was ticking.

So I started yesterday, making some of them, and it wasn’t so bad. It helped that I’d frozen some of the fillings, though nothing beats freshly made stuff, but you have to do what you have to do. I’m done with the black bean, and about 25% finished with the beef, and now all I have to do is make the chicken, which will be a lot, but at least some it’s done. That’s a big step. It helps that we can not only cook them there, but won’t have to sit there and try to sell them.

Once again, the Grateful Dumpling rides again. Thanks for reading, and thanks to lekyu for the pic.

Scheduling Problems

Drama is challenging (too much drama?) to say the least, and the scheduling is what is killing me. In addition to the frequency is the uncertainty until the week of rehearsals. It’s not easy hitting a moving target. JB is kind enough to email me the schedule, which she posts the week before and if I wasn’t so scattered could remember to check, but as usual, I’m in capable of doing things the easy way.

Either way, with two rehearsals on Friday, I’m thinking we may have to cancel doing homeschool hockey, there’s just no way to squeeze a drive out to Lebanon in-between. It’s not practical for 20 minutes of skating, though I hate to disappoint N.

If there was a silver lining to all this, it’s that I don’t think he totally cares. He’s never done it, the affair is rather casual, and I’m not even sure how much hockey they do, we’d play hockey during family skate since we cannot make it to the actual hockey skate. I have to bail out once again on the homeschool group, who probably want to string me up for being such a flake.

Plus, there might be other options that are a little more hardcore. At least he’ll have a chance to play hockey, which I think he’d be good at, but I’m a biased observer, sort of.

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

More Snow

We got our second big snowfall of the Winter, which when you really think about it, is not unusual for Vermont. If anything (and I’m not complaining here), I still think we could use more, but for now, I’ll take it.

The snow just kept coming down all day, and R had to brave the roads, much to our consternation, because there were things that needed to be attended to at work. We waited for KB to show up and plow, and until that time, I spent about three hours shovelling snow to clear the path to the wood and to make room for R to drive if she had to. It would have been risky, but she could have pulled it off.

The snow was about two feet thick, and a bear to shovel, and it kept coming down. By the time I finished and had cleared the cars off, there was another couple inches that had gathered. I went in for a bit to dry off, and KB came and plowed, enabling R to go to work. After she’d left, I went back out to do some final clearing, and let me tell you, I was pooped.

I was ready to head back inside when N appeared in his snow gear, ready to play. Now this always happens to me: I go outside in the AM to do some work and by the time N has eaten, brushed his teeth and gotten dressed, he’s ready to rock and roll just as I’m ready to pass out. Now it would have been perfectly reasonable to just tell him I was done and going inside, but it would have bummed him out, and that would have bummed me out.

So when he asked me if I was going to stay outside longer, I told him of course I was, and we set about making a snow fortress that put Fort Knox to shame. It was a lot of fun, and I have to admit, I’m really glad I hung out with him. In a lot of ways, he’s not a demanding kid, and I feel like when he expresses interest in something, it’s a good thing to be supportive. Plus, we always have a lot of fun.

We did make a pretty amazing snow fortress, complete with trails, secret spy holes, and even furniture. How cool is that? By the time I went in, N was satisfied with our effort, and I was allowed to go inside. No rest for the weary, as any parent knows, because there were lunches that needed to be made, but at least it was warm and dry inside.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Just Doing It

The other day we realized the fruits of our organizational skills, which unfortunately translated into an incredibly busy day for us, or should I say, dad? One of the hardest parts of these sort of days is taking the first step of the long journey of all that needs to be done, because if I think about it enough, the overwhelming feeling of drowning in responsibility makes me want to cry... of course, being a real man in training, I would never do that.

The complications were punctuated by the fact that, and I hate to keep whining about this, A’s drama has such a irregular schedule. There was to be rehearsal that day, which kind of breaks up the morning, and then there was a trustee meeting in the afternoon. Plus, we were in need of bagels, which we not able to obtain at the bakery, so we were forced to make them ourselves. Granted, we could eat oatmeal or toast, but man do we love bagels for breaktfast.

R was also in need of her breakfast raisin bread (got to keep mom nourished), and we were going to attempt to make wheat thin crackers, which we love but contain high fructose corn syrup. Maybe that’s why we love them. The whole grain cookbook that we have had a recipe, so I thought I’d give it a try. How’s that for biting off more than you can chew?

I have learned one thing, however. You can definitely over-think things and psyche yourself out of even trying, but it is amazing, not to mention empowering, when you realize what you can really accomplish when you give it a try and just do it. I’ve also found that, in my situation, things would never get done unless I acted accordingly. Sure, it’s enough to drive me crazy, but think of all the fodder it produces for this blog.

Starting the bread is easy enough. I usually get the sponge going in the AM and let it sit for as long as I need to. The bagels call for an overnight step, but I skipped it because I have trouble following directions, anyway. With the sponges going, I mixed the dry ingredients for the crackers, got the kids fed both physically and mentally, and then carted A off to her rehearsal.

The difficult thing about rehearsals is that they are designed for kids in-between classes, so they are about 40 minutes long. Not really enough time for N and I to go off and do anything fun. That did not stop me from dragging him to the Green Mountain Smokehouse to get bacon (locally made and nitrate free) and then to the pharmacy.

I had about 4 hours before the library meeting, but N had asked if we could go XC skiing since the weather was beautiful. My first reaction was, “Are you kidding? I’m up to my ears in responsibilities,” but then I realized that a lot of it revolved around A’s stuff, and even though he was a good sport about it not happening, I felt like it was important to attend to his wants and needs, as well.

So, against all my better judgement, I told him that we could go for it, but didn’t have a lot of time to waste. A wasn’t feeling 100%, so she passed. We got home, put on our ski gear, and hit the trails. I have to confess, it was a lot of fun, and we all felt better for having some time in the fresh air. Plus, XC skiing is a lot of fun, and so darn convenient.

We got home, N stayed outside and played in the snow, and I got to work. I kneaded the bread and bagels, go them in the oven, and set about making the crackers, which are a complete pain in the neck to make. Very tedious, though I think deviating from the recipe would help, but more on that later.

I also had to have dinner made and ready before I headed off to the meeting, because it would end at 6:00 PM. I made a salad with some leftover chicken and broccoli cheddar soup, and we had fresh bread. A pretty simple meal that is enough to satisfy, and you have to have soup in this weather.

I finished the baking, carted the kids off the meeting, and then home for supper with mom. Afterward, it was Miller Time. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and though it is crazy being the midst of all that activity, I really think you can’t get the things you need to get done unless you are a little overwhelmed. There is just too much to do, so just do it.

Sure, it would be easy enough to just pick up some pizza or fast food, but that would be too easy for two people who choose to parent the hard way. Besides, I think feeding kids fast food is akin to child abuse, but that’s just the prig in me.

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

Scratch That

A few months back A took a class at the AVA gallery for Lego Mindstorm, which is one of those boy-centric, nerdy science kid classes where they program robots to have mock battles in a ring. It involved building your robot, programming it to stay within a defined area, and then to push its opponent outside of it. It was, to say the least, a really cool class, and she absolutely loved it. She has definite engineer’s blood in her, though she was also the only girl in the class.

During that class we learned of a program called Scratch, which was developed by the good folks over at MIT. I’d never heard of it, but the AVA also offered a class on it. Kids can learn to program their own video games, which I’m not a huge fan of, but thought it was a cool idea.

The program is free, which as you know speaks volumes to me, so I downloaded it on the kid’s computer, and A took off with it. She loves it, it really speaks to her graphic/design/storytelling sensibilities. N gets to join in the fun because A designs the games for N to play, and eventually he’ll figure out how to do it, and soon we’ll have a house full of engineers, as well as one real man in training.

Kind of fun. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ingela Hansson for the pic.

Krazy at Karate

We had a bit of an impromptu test last week in class, and it was interesting, to say the least. The person testing, AI, had missed the previous test a couple of weeks before, and Master H wanted to give her a chance to earn her belt, so he arranged for her to test off schedule.

Normally, this means a shorter, more relaxed class, but because it was fairly quick, and since so many people had showed up, they decided to get the most out of it by making everyone spar the higher belts. They actually put the testee to the test, making her spar just about everyone.

It went well, I thought, she did a stand up job, but the sparring got a little crazy. I went up against sensei H, and there are definitely times when I’m convinced that he’s trying to do my bodily harm. It’s a bit daunting, to say the least, especially when he slaps you around, like he did to me. Master H also hinted that by the end of the year, I might be testing for my black belt. Yikes.

Now I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories about black belt testing, especially from Master H and sensei H. They all involve bruises, blood, and broken bones. In fact, they mentioned some schools believe that when you test for a black belt, you have to bleeding before your test is complete. How’s that for inspiration? Sensei H also recounted his test, whereby he had to spar 4-5 black belts, and he even went against Master H, who proceeded to break his rib.

With that in mind, being a brown belt ain’t so bad, after all. However, good things can come from all this. I was talking to NS, the other black belt, and his girlfriend BS, who is a brown belt but could easily get her next belt if she chose to because she is a natural born killer and a terror in the ring. I’ve sparred her and she kicked my you know what.

Anyway, we’ve been in discussion about meeting outside of class to practice and spar more, and though I don’t have a lot of time, I feel that if I am in fact going for my black belt, I’ve got to put more time (serious time) into training. Sparring with the higher belts may earn me more bruises and blood, but it will definitely prepare me for the next level.

Besides, I’m a karate man, I bleed on the inside.

What I could really use is a punching bag, but I know that R will give me grief over yet another thing cluttering up our house. Oh well, I can always go out and kick some pine trees in the yard, like a real New England man.

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

Drama Drama

Being a homeschool family can make it a challenge to stay in the loop, especially when it involves school activities. Then again, it begs the question, do I really want to be in that loop?

Whatever be the case, because we are not actually physically present at the school, it makes it a bit of a challenge to be up to date regarding what’s going on in school play. This would not be an issue if A was not in the cast, but since she is, I need to know when the rehearsal times are, which change every week.

I also missed the audition because I failed to check the email that went out, but JB was cool enough to think of A and reserve a spot for her. In an interesting twist on this, A actually recently got bumped up in her role. She was initially a supporting character, which I attributed to my failure to be on top of the things, being an outsider and all. My initial guilty reaction was, “Why can’t she have a major role? She’s good enough, and it’s not her fault that she missed the rehearsal, it’s mine!”

But I realized the folly of my way of thinking and kept my big mouth shut. It’s a kid’s play, after all, and it does not matter what role A has, all that is important is that she gets to take part and hang with her buddies. Besides, things have a funny way of working out. As I mentioned, after the first rehearsal, she got bumped up into a bigger role, which again, is not a big issue, but it kind of a nice thing, isn’t it?

Anyway, because the schedule changes every week, I have to drop by there and find out what days various actors will need to show up, since the play is rather complicated and all the roles require lots of practice time. I’m just glad she’s having fun and enjoying the process. That’s what life is all about, isn’t it?

I’ll tell you one thing, it ain’t east being an overbearing, neurotic parent who over-thinks everything.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to haak78 for the pic.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Our Car Buying Experience at Shearer Honda

There is no doubt about the fact that buying a car, either new or used, is a miserable experience, exacerbated, of course, by the fact that huge sums of money involved and you have to deal with people who are not only focused on getting their hands on that money, but are good at it. It makes us incredibly uncomfortable.

At some point, you have to simply resign yourself to the fact that car dealers are going to get what they want at your expense, and then it becomes a process of minimizing the damage. It is at this point where knowledge becomes your best friend.

There is so much information out there about buying a car, it is overwhelming, but helpful. I never realized that there were actually options, and that you could bargain with sellers, which for the record is not my cup of tea. You really have to be prepared to walk away and lose out on assorted opportunties. Such is how the game is played.

We knew several people who had good experiences buying their cars through email, which was hard for me to imagine, but they said worked out well. We decided to give it a try, and even set up an email account just for that purpose. We then searched dealer websites throughout the area and checked on their stocks. When we found a place with a car we wanted, which boiled down to two or three dealers, we began the email process.

We ended up focusing on Shearer Honda, in Rutland, mainly because they had the car that we wanted at a price that was reasonable. After some discussion, we agreed on a price, and the salesperson, MH, was very congenial and not in any way pushy or aggressive. Again, I had no illusions that we were going to get the best of this deal, I just wanted to come away from it thinking we’d done our homework, checked all of our options, and came away from it with the as good a deal as we could get.

What I really liked about the whole email process is that after some haggling, you agree on a price and it is all said and done. No more bargaining or arguing. You give them a deposit, and the car is yours. Sure, we had to drive a bit to get to Rutland, but our overall car buying experience at Shearer was nice. The salespeople were friendly (they always are), but without the slippery feeling I get from other car dealers. They seem more relaxed, maybe because they weren’t all wearing cheap suits.

They didn’t give us the hard sell on extended warranties or extraneous expenses. We agreed on a price, they didn’t push any extra costs, and they were friendly and helpful. All this after they had already made the sale, which meant being nice didn’t further their financial end to be nice.

Plus, we love our new car. I am no expert in buying cars, used or new (not like my Mentor, who loves the battle and is good at it), and R and I both loathe the process of bargaining and haggling, especially when we know we are going to lose, but I came away from our car buying experience with a favorable impression.

This is a bit of a stretch, but the whole Honda atmosphere struck me as a bit more congenial, maybe because they seem to be selling something that people really want (i.e., Hondas) versus trying to convince people to buy something they want you to want. With that in mind, maybe Honda dealers enjoy their jobs a bit more. I know, crazy and naive of me, but there is no denying that they are selling a good product that has built a name for itself for reliability and is in demand.

Okay, enough of my pontification. Thanks for reading.

Twilight Family Ski

With the weather being at times so cold, it can be difficult to motivate enough to get out the door, and as the day progresses, this process become increasingly difficult. Call it inertia, but by the afternoon, with the sun setting and the temperature dropping, we are pretty content to sit by the fire in our underpants.

We had spent a fairly lazy day lounging around the house, though for a real-man in training, there is always some sort of work that needs to be done like filling the wood box or making rice crispy treats. The problem we seem to run into a lot is when everyone stays inside for long periods, people start to go a little stir crazy.

We considered going for a walk, because the weather was nice, if not a little cold, but the kids balked at that idea. Then we thought of skiing. The trail conditions are a bit poor, mainly because we haven’t been getting a lot fo snow, but there was more than enough to ski. The kids were hesitant at first, but then N decided he was ready, and that’s all it took. We got our gear on, employing N’s new boots (thanks MB), and hit the trails.

The weather was perfect, and just as the sun was setting and evening set in, we had more than enough light to ski the trail and then do a half loop in the meadow. We even saw our neighbors with their pup. We got home feeling much better, because you can work up a bit of a sweat XC skiing.

Best of all, the kids really had fun, and they both indicated that they wanted to go more often. This is good, because XC skiing is a must when you live up here, the trails are literally on your front door step, and it’s free. How can you pass that up?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to RC for the pics.

Stellar Pottery Class

We met last week for pottery at the studio, and we had a great time. It was nice seeing BL, who is such a wonderful person, as well as K,A&DM and D,C,&AE. It was a nice group, and while I am always pensive to see how they dynamic develops with larger groups of adults and kids.

What’s nice about the group is that the kids and adults all get along. They seem to enjoy the same books (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson), and the dads get to hang and talk man talk, like using hammers and drills, or the best recipe for rice crispy treats. You know, typical real-man stuff. BL was there and is very supportive and kind, but she’s a wonderful and talented person who seems to have found her passion in life. That’s a nice thing for kids growing up to see, plus she’s very helpful and knowledgeable, and it’s a great environment to be creative.

We met in the AM and hung out for two hours. The kids got to work on various projects and even the dads played around with clay (weapons, battle implements, etc.), while discussing masculine issues, of course.

Afterward, we had a snack, and then everyone had places to be, so we signed off and hit the road. We had to run errands like shopping for vittles, and then A had rehearsal and after that, story hour. No rest for the weary, as the saying goes. Plus, KM would like to do a regular thing, which is A-okay for us.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Bagel Mania

I tell you, empowerment is a beautiful thing. As all of us know, when you are dependent upon someone else for pretty much anything in life, there are times when the dependency can paralyze you, because control of your life has been wrested from your hands. Unfortunately, at times the people in power will take advantage of their position to further their own end, a situation that characterized my entire youth, but don’t get me started.

Case in point, bagels. I still am shocked that we can’t get bagels for nearly 3 weeks, but rather than cry and moan over it, we decided to take action. Besides, having to pick up bagels in town is a hassle. With this in mind, I decided to once again try making them. We’d made bagels in the past, but I think they suffered a little for a few reasons. First off, I deviated from the recipe, mainly to make them healthier by using whole wheat flour. Secondly, I’m usually pressed for time doing a million other things, so I don’t follow the recipes as I should. And finally, I’ve decided that diastatic malt is overrated, and makes bread way too squishy and soft. I’m done with that stuff, bread flour alone is enough to get good texture.

This time around, I was through messing around. I followed the recipe, forgot about the whole wheat flour, and took the time to focus on just making the bagels. And you know what? They came about pretty good. Of course I screwed up big time and forgot to add salt, but it is acceptable to add it after the fact. The key here was the texture: the outside was nice and crispy, and the inside was firm but chewy. It’s amazing what can happen when you follow instructions.

Who needs bakery bagels when we can take control of our lives and make them ourselves? Like I said, empowerment is a beautiful thing.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Hockey with the Skating Group

We had to bail out on the hockey skate because of time conflicts (what else is new?) but plan on attending in the coming weeks. I think this will be good because it will give N an intro into playing hockey that I cannot provide him, having no experience in the game. Then again, as long as you can skate, you can have fun tossing a puck back and forth on the ice.

TP has been very helpful and patient, and I'm grateful for that. I think A would have fun skating too because there are bunch of kids who skate, including the Mac's, so RM would be there, as well as other kid's she probably knows, but I can't say for sure.

Either way, I think N’s ready to play. We have a lot of fun as it is with our sticks and puck, and I don't think the skating group is very intense. In fact, I'm guessing they're pretty low key, which is just how we like it. This should be interesting if we ever work out our scheduling issues. Then again, without them, life would be so boring, would it not? Everyone needs a little conflict in their lives.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Jeremy Doorten for the pic.

English Muffins

I went to get bagels the other day and there was a sign saying that the Baker’s Studio, makers of Best Bagels, which in my opinion are the best bagels around here, was on vacation until the 17th of January. That’s almost three weeks off, when you include the holidays. I realize people need a break, but that seems a bit extreme. Then again, I should lighten up and embrace the Euro model for taking time off.

Whatever be the case, we were forced to buy Bagel Basement bagels, which I think are inferior, but not bad. It did inspire me to come up with some breakfast alternatives. The kids have been enjoying eggs a lot more, and since we get them from our next door neighbor, this is a good breakfast. They are into omelettes and farmer’s breakfast, which is a bit of a chore to make, but I’m glad they are eating a hearty meal.

I also decided to try making English muffins using our King Arthur whole wheat cookbook, which happens to be one of our favorites. The muffins weren’t bad, not life altering, but decent, and fairly easy to make. They were on the small side, but looked kind of cool (dare I say cute?) and it would be easy enough to make a batch and just freeze them. It is difficult, however, to match the eating pleasure of a good, starchy everything bagel, but we must learn to adapt.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to RC for the pic.

Chess and Skating at Occum Pond

We had a bit of a time conflict this past weekend because there were so many things going on. Chess was a must, but there was also the community breakfast, and then R had to a meeting at the hospital for iKODI, during which we would skate over at Occum Pond. The question became, should we split up and take two cars to meet later, or be organized and head out in one car.

We had to forsake the pancakes because it was too early and we could only do so much, but I like going, it really connects you with what’s going on in this community and opens doors to helping out. Plus, the kids didn’t get up until late, so we would not have made it, anyway. I could have gone by myself, but then I’d have to sneak out early, and at some point, you just have to take a step back.

The kids had a quick breakfast, and we headed over to chess. The turnout was a bit small, but the usual suspects were there. A&N enjoy it because there are treats and they get to have some cocoa, and they like to play chess. There is one boy who lives in town but I’d never really seen him around. He is a chess whiz, and he scares me. One of those really smart kids that impresses adults but may inspire insecure kids to be bullies. We all know one, and may have even grown up being one.

Anyway, I played him last time, and he was good, but his mom told him to go easy on me, and I beat him. This time around, I’d figured he wasn’t going to cut me any slack. The kid is good, and he has an incredible memory. We played a good game, and for the record, I beat him, but it wasn’t easy. It would be nice to get more people out to play chess, but we’ll have to work on that.

After chess, we bolted home and had to prepare for the road. I had to pack several things. First off, we had mucho library books to return, and I’d asked R to seek them out and pack them into a bag. Next I had to round up the ice skates, and then pack a lunch to eat on the road. We were going to eat at Boloco afterward, part of our regular routine.

We took mom over to her meeting, and then we went to the Pond. It was a beautiful day, dare I say perfect? It wasn’t too cold, the crowd was at first manageable, the ice was in good condition, and there was plenty of room to skate and get crazy. Plus, they provide unlimited free marshmallows to roast by the fire. Plus, soon after we got there, it started to lightly snow, and didn’t let up for the rest of the day. It was so cool.

We had a blast skating, and really got into playing hockey together. We don’t play serious organized hockey, but just play keep away with the puck. It is a great way to hone your skating skills because you have to stop and turn on a dime. N has always been a stellar skater, a hockey natural if you ask me, but A’s skating is usually a bit more pensive and cautious. Playing with the hockey sticks and puck really loosened her up and raised her skill level significantly. It was really nice to see.

Plus, A is skating faster, and I’ve noticed that she and I have a bit of a rivalry going. When we ski or skate or cross country ski, she always challenges me and wants to beat me. In the past, I always let the kids win, and in many instances they could beat me fair and square, but for other things I think we’re past being too accommodating. Plus, it’s good for them to know that they can’t win at everything, and to realize that competing with someone who can beat them only raises their skill level. The same is true for karate. As much as you don’t want to get in the ring with a black belt, they will push you to the next level.

Anyway, I don’t go as easy on them, and I think it makes A want to try that much harder. Believe me, when she sets her mind to something, she doesn’t let it go, and I know she will eventually beat me at all these things, but for now, I’ll make her work a little harder at it. She has to realize I have an almost 40 year advantage on her.

We skated for hours. There were these two black labs on the ice and they were hilarious. They would chase after the pucks (there are dozens of people playing hockey), grabbing it with their mouths and taking off. People were constantly chasing after them. When they didn’t have a puck in their mouths, you could see them obsessing over the ones sliding across the ice.

By the time we were done (actually it was me, the kids wanted to stay), I was exhausted. The pond is huge, and the ice is not groomed like an ice rink, so it takes more effort to skate on it. The size also makes for a good workout. Add some hockey to the mix, and we were tired and hungry by the time we climbed back into the car.

We met mom at work, went to the library to drop off our load of books, and then it was off to Boloco. They were so busy, preparing for some event at the college, so the food was a little compromised. I think they were making hundreds of burritos, so you can’t blame them, but for the first time, the food was not as stellar. The rice was undercooked, almost uncooked, and the burritos were somehow lacking in that “Je ne sais quoi.” Not the end of the world, I understand they were under the gun, just an observation. We still love that place.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Svilen Milev and Brain's Brain's for the pics.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mad About Skiing

Speaking of madness, we have become mad about skiing over here. I took the kids to Dartmouth ski hill the other day, and I love watching A&N ski. They have a great time and are really coming into their own. The two of them encourage each other (via a little sibling rivalry) to push themselves a bit, and as a result, they grow by leaps and bounds. A still amazes me with how fast she can go, and N is not too far behind.

We had a great time, and it dawned on me that a half-day of skiing is really more than enough time on the hill, especially for young kids and old men like myself. We usually do the 2-hour twilight ticket at Quechee, and at first glance, 2 hours seems completely inadequate, but by the end, we’re feeling fine.

We did about a 4 hour ski day at Dartmouth, and it was more than enough. The hill there is so nice, and bigger with more variety than Quechee. Plus, various college and high school ski teams train there, though it never really seems crowded, and A&N love skiing the slaloms they put in. The guys who set it up are really cool and have no problem with the kids giving it a go.

Plus, Dartmouth is a good deal, and I love a good deal. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

The Madness Of Being a Parent

I have to confess, my OCD gets the best of me and profoundly affects my approach to parenting. I over-think things way too much. However, I’m able (at least I think I’m able) to embrace this methodology in a clandestine manner, such that a lot of my thought processes happen mostly in my own head. In other words, I suffer in silence, sort of.

Sure, my neurosis rears its ugly head now and then, but what parent isn’t guilty of that? I mean, come on, parenting is hard, and what childhood would be complete without some long term scarring inflicted by mom and dad?

Anyway, the process of over-thinking things, and being manipulated by the media and the fear-mongering so-called experts, is that the modern parent goes way overboard in terms of what they feel they need to do for their kids. I see it everywhere we go, and for that matter, in my own way of being a dad. I think there is a burgeoning trend in the opposite direction, but for now, we are still firmly entrenched in the era of hyper-parenting, as evident by a recent article about crazy parenting trends that was brought to my attention.

Maybe we should all simply embrace our anxieties and neurosis and not worry about the adverse consequences to our kids. Heck, that’s the approach my parents took, and look what at what a mess I’ve become.

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

Our Cup Runneth Over

It never ceases to amaze me how, when things slow down, it seems like we have nothing going on in our lives, like over the holidays. Then, before you know it, our cup runneth over and we’re flush with activities. This is not a bad thing.

After Christmas, we had a fabulous week just lounging around and doing nothing but hang out and play games and read. Of course, gorging ourselves on killer food and sweets was a significant part of it, adding to our angst and need to have some activity.

I knew that we had to do some legwork and find things to do for the Winter term, and there were some possibilities. The problem is, unlike being in school, it takes researching and some initial commitment to become involved in these activities, but things constantly shift and change, and I’m left to try to rearrange schedules and explain to people why we are changing our minds. It ain’t easy being the social chair of the house.

Things worked out nicely thus far, and I don’t think we’re at the stage, at least not yet, of being overwhelmed. I was contacted by my friend KM, and he wanted to arrange for pottery get-together with the kids. He was also in touch with DE and his two kids, who are friends with out two kids. The group was to meet in the morning on the same day that A has drama, N is to have skating/pseudo-hockey, and then it’s off to story time in the afternoon, and potentially skiing at Quechee. Fridays are nice because all the school kids ski that day, and A&N get to see their friends, though the place is a madhouse.

Either way, we also have guitar, piano, and drum lessons, and skiing at least one day a week (if it were up to me, I’d ski every day), skating, and trips to the library. Our social calendar is set. For skating, we are going to try to meet K,A&D at Union Arena, the community rink was just put together, and there is Campion and Occum Pond. The beauty of the local rink and Occum Pond is that they are free (I love when that happens), albeit cold because they are outdoors.

It’s good thing we got a second car, we would have never been able to pull all this off. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Giedrius M for the pic.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dramatic Shifts

I had this plan all in place for our Winter activities, and then a new development threw it all out of whack. In a good way, mind you. Last year A&N took acting classes at N Stage, and I thought it was a great experience, mainly because they got to hang out with a diverse and quirky group of kids (the theater crowd), but also they had to endure some challenges and hard work that ended up in an effort that was both fun and rewarding, especially for A, who I think was born to be on stage.

Anyway, they canceled the program last year. The two people who ran the program, JD and MG, did a fabulous job, and I think they are really talented people who are excellent at molding and teaching children how to act. It’s not all fun and games, which I think turned A off at first, but she grew to appreciate it.

Now I don’t know the whole story, but I’m guessing there was some drama (no pun intended) behind the scenes, because there was a bit of a shakeup at the company, and eventually JD and MG left and formed their own program. I learned about the program a few months ago, and asked the kids if they were interested. A said definitely, N said no thanks, but he did express interest in doing stage production.

I contacted MG and she was very enthusiastic. The group is an ensemble, where they learn drama and eventually put on a production. I enrolled A, and we were all set to go this weekend, until I realized we had a time conflict and were going to miss a few classes. Also, we are planning on going away and would miss even more.

The nail in the coffin was that the kid’s music teacher, JB, was planning a Spring musical, and had saved a slot for A. Rehearsals were to begin on the Friday, and would continue until Spring. I was also spoke with the wonderful folks at the community theater and they, too, were planning a late Spring show, like last year’s brilliant production, and there was no way A&N were going to miss out on that.

So what to do? On the one hand, MG and JD are the real deal, they teach genuine dramatic theory and are really good at what they do. Plus, they have an eclectic group of talented kids. On the other hand, the school musical involves a lot of kids from previous productions, so A gets to see a lot of her buddies, and she has tons of fun with it.

In the end, because we were going to miss so many Sundays, and we did have other opportunities on tap, I had to inform MG and that we weren’t going to do the ensemble, which is a total bummer because again, they are the real deal, and I think they do a great job.

At least now our lives won’t be as crazy, and getting to and from the school play will be much easier. Plus, JB doesn’t mess around, she is very serious about her projects, and she is immensely talented (she plays practically every instrument on the planet), so the kids will be challenged and rewarded.

I think it all worked out. The kids will miss out on certain things, but gain a lot in other areas. That’s what life is all about, right? Plus, it will give me a chance to make rice crispy treats for the play, my reason for being.

We’ll see how this goes, talk to me in a month or two. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Julie Elliott-Abshire for the pic.