Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Goodbye To Florida and The Road Back Home

It was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye to FLA, not just because we had such a great time, but because we hate saying goodbye to family. Adding to the fun was the fact that it was a bit of a fiasco getting to the airport, though this time around we were all together as a family, which makes all the difference. It ain’t easy being a single parent and getting everyone onto that plane. I see it all the time, almost always it’s the mom with her kids, probably going off to meet dad somewhere. Funny how that works.

We had an afternoon flight back to Boston, and having some time is a good thing, but it also lulls you into a false sense of security where you often procrastinate until the zero hour. This time was no different. We were enjoying our last moments on the beach and before we knew it, it was time to go. If anything, we should have left a little earlier considering that we didn’t even know where the airport was, how long it would take to get there, and we had to return the darn rental car. Bummer.

To compound the matter, the kids were a bit disgruntled that they didn’t get a FLA souvenir. They usually get some memento of their trip, and that’s fine by us as long as it’s nothing big. The upper limit is usually $10. We were on the cusp of leaving, and when this fact sunk in with A&R, they were not happy because we kept putting them off when they brought it up. “Not now... we’ll see... they have stuff at the airport.” Truth be told, they didn’t have stuff at the airport, but we couldn’t have know that.

Either way, we were short on time, but stopped at the kitschy souvenir shop for one last hurrah. You can’t disappoint your kids all the time. This does not mean you should spoil them, but parents should also keep their word to their kids. The shop was actually perfect because there was so much stuff, and it was cheap. Plus, a lot of it had Florida on it, so it came with memories. A got a little mood-robot necklace, cute like her, and N got a FLA pocket knife with his name on it. Perfect.

We bolted out of the store and hit the road. Again, we were not sure about where we were going, just that we needed to get on the highway and head north. We figured there would be signs indicating an airport, and there were. The airport is actually right next to the Daytona 500 speedway, so that was kind of cool. Cars seem to be a big deal in FLA, not unlike Cali. We found the rental car return, went to the terminal and found out that the plane was about the board. The clock was ticking! We rushed through check in, got to our gate with some time to spare, and then boarded. It was fairly smooth sailing from there. We stopped in Atlanta, which is huge, then boarded our connection to Boston.

Like the knucklehead that I am, I forgot to mail my postcards in FLA because it was a scramble and I sure as heck couldn’t find a post office or a mailbox for that matter. I thought Atlanta would suffice, but there’s not a lot of time between connections, and I forgot to look for a post office. My final option was Boston, which is not as cool, but I’m guessing a lot of people won’t even look at the postmark.

We landed around 10:00, caught the shuttle to the hotel, and hit the sack. The plan was to wake up early, catch the first bus to NH, arrive home around noon, and then drive to N’s hockey game at 1:00. This plan, as you might have guessed, completely fell through, because were tired and didn’t want to miss out on the buffet breakfast at the hotel. Oh well, we’ll just work a little harder on the ice when we get back.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Florida Thanksgiving

When I told people we were going to Florida for Thanksgiving, everyone could relate to being in warm weather, though people did think it was a bit unusual. I have to confess to liking it in New England at this time of the year, especially if we have snow. On the other hand, we sure did enjoy our Thanksgiving in Florida, and I for one would love to make it a family tradition. It’s easy for me to say, however, because R did all the planning and arranging, and I think everyone takes it for granted how much work it was for her. We all just show up and enjoy the fruits of her labors, but her work begins months in advance. It’s not easy to accomodate so many people in different parts of the country who are all moving in different directions, but she did a fabulous job. Yet another reason why we love mom.

The house we rented was in a great location, literally across the street from the beach. The house itself was clean and nice, though not unlike a hotel, with not much in the way of a personal touch, not that we needed it. In a way, it’s better because you feel less like you’re in someone’s home, infringing on their space. The house was also a bit bigger and more luxurious than I would opt for, but I’m not complaining, merely pointing things out. The size was just right for all 8 of us to be comfortable, and that’s all that matters.

Since it was a new house, we had to stock up on food for the week and for Thanksgiving. There were plenty of places to accomplish this, and we didn’t get too crazy and managed to get all we needed. We even got a turkey. For the big meal, I pretty much stayed out of the kitchen and let JR and mom do the preparation. As much as she might deny it, I think JR enjoys certain aspects of being in charge of the kitchen. She does a fabulous job of cooking and keeping it in order, and though it’s a lot of hard work, I think she thrives in that environment.

They made a fabulous meal, to boot. We even drank wine with our meal, which we never do, and the kids had ginger ale. It was really nice, and afterward we had this amazing chocolate fudge cake that was, amazingly enough, amazing. There is a little backstory to this cake.

When N had his last birthday, we slipped a little on the planning. We had just returned from DC the day before, and he wanted to golf for his big day. We pretty much woke up after our trip, hit the golf course, then went to dinner. We didn’t have a lot of time to plan a cake and all that good stuff. He didn’t complain, but he did inquire as to why we didn’t get him a cake like we usually do, which meant that it crossed his mind. I felt bad, and thought that this Thanksgiving would be a good time to have a cake with the whole family there to celebrate. The cake was good, and I think he was happy about it. I know I was.

The meal was fabulous, kudos to JR and mom for their efforts, and thanks to everyone for making it such a wonderful holiday. I sure hope we can do it more often.

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

Let’s Go Surfing Now...

Now I always talk about wanting to surf, and when we travel to beaches, and we’ve been to plenty of them, I tend to judge them based on whether or not they have waves. We’ve been to several Caribbean islands, not to mention the Greek Islands and the coast of Spain, but in most of the places, we didn’t see much in the way of surf. I realize a lot of this stems from me not knowing where to look for waves, as well as the fact that waves don’t break all the time. However, you can get a sense of whether or not a place gets waves, and whether or not people surf there.

Anyway, as beautiful as all of these places have been, the absence of waves makes me realize that I could never live there, not that I’m looking to move any time soon. It’s just that being in a place near the ocean for extended periods of time would be much more enjoyable for me if there were waves. Let’s face it, a guy can only do so many walks along the beach before he feels the need to catch some waves.

With this in mind, we finally got to surf some waves, and in a fairly unlikely place - Florida. I’m biased being from California in that I didn’t really think Florida go much in the way of waves. There’s no doubt that the surf is generally bigger in California, but I’ve learned that there are a lot of perks to surfing Florida instead. First off, FLA is closer, and much cheaper to fly to. Since it’s vacation land, you can get great rates. FLA is warmer, not only the weather, but the water. The Pacific Ocean is generally cool, while the Atlantic can be amazingly warm in the summer and fall months. Finally, having surfed in LA for much of my youth, the environment in many of the good surf breaks can be aggressive and less than friendly.

This past trip to FLA, we finally rented a board and got wet. Best of all, I had a chance to introduce the sport to the kids. Since it was November, the locals kept telling me how cold the water was, but it wasn’t that bad, especially for a Vermonter. Our house was minutes from the beach, and I asked the attendant and he said the surfers all came here. You can drive right up on the sand, and the beach was huge. The waves were small and mellow, as I sort of expected, but in my current physical state, they were just right. Perfect for teaching the kids, as well.

There was a surf shop a couple miles from the house called MadDog Surfboards, and I got to meet B&RC, the owners. Really cool people, and I really enjoyed talking with BC about board design. So much so that I have decided that a new board is in my future, but I’ll have to get past the mommy gauntlet of disapproval first. BC is really knowledgeable and helpful. I think he really listened to what I was looking for and could relate to my situation. Plus, his boards were beautiful.

When I called they said the season was pretty much over, but that they might have a board I could rent. I ended up with a 7 foot beast, made in Thailand, no less. Despite my initial reservations, the board was perfect because the size made it buoyant and catching waves was a breeze, even in my depleted physical state. What was really fun was teaching the kids. Since they’re still young and small, I basically held the board and had them practice standing up and then getting a feel for when the wave takes over. They surfed the whitewater, but that’s a great way to start out. Everyone had a blast, and I have to say, A&N sure look good on a surfboard.

The next morning, I woke up early and went to the jetty where all the surfers go. The waves were breaking clean, though not huge. Again, just right for me. I was worried I’d freeze to death, but the water was fine. In fact, I surfed for about 2 hours, and would have gone longer except that the kids showed up wanted to surf, as well. I caught about a dozen waves, and even got a couple of decent rides. It sure felt good to be out on a board again, and now I’m hooked on FLA.

I got out and walked down the beach and the kids surfed some more. This time around they wanted to catch the waves and stand up on their own, and they did a stand up job, no pun intended. It was a blast, and I rented the board for another day in the hopes that we could surf all day on Thanksgiving and the next morning. Unfortunately, the weather turned sour, and it was windy and blown out. Completely un-surf able, which BC warned me about. Oh well, we had to at least try.

BC was cool about not charging for the extra day since we didn’t use the board, anyway. I didn’t expect this, but in the back of my mind I thought it was the cool surfer thing to do. He understood, and we jived.

Now the kids have surfing on the brain, as do I. I’m glad they had a chance to try it, and they can take over my old board, which would be perfect for them to learn on, and if the stars align properly, I’ll get a new one.... one day. I can’t wait.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to RIC for the pics.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Good Life in Florida

Being from California, I’ve always been a little cynical if not a bit disdainful of Florida, with the whole east coast retiree ethic and the small waves that seem characteristic of the beaches. The idea of surfing in Florida never really inspired me, despite the whole Kelly Slater thing. Plus, the heat in FLA is excruciating, and during the summer months, even though I’ve never been here in the summer, it seems like you just can’t get away from the heat and humidity. I’ve been in the south several times during hot months, and I find it unbearable.

Anyway, I’ve changed my tune, and like it down here. First off, getting to Florida is a whole lot easier than getting to California, not to mention more affordable. Secondly, we came in the off season, to say the least, and the weather has been beautiful. The hottest it’s been is 75 degrees, and the water is warm, though by local standards it’s cold. Granted, the water is not warm, but it’s a bath compared to swimming in the some of the lakes and rivers in Vermont, and it’s definitely warmer than the Pacific Ocean. Bearing in mind, of course, that it’s practically December.

Finally, we did some surfing, and it sure felt good. The waves here are definitely smaller than what you’ll find on some California beaches, but let’s face it, the surf can be small and terrible in Cali, and at this stage in my life, I want small waves. Until I get back into some semblance of shape, I can’t even imagine getting into the lineup in big surf. Just the thought of getting caught inside makes me cringe. AND, the small surf is perfect for A&N to learn, but more on that in a moment.

All in all, I’ve become a fan of Florida. It’s just easier to get here, we have our family here to spend time with, they all like it, RR likes the warmer water to swim in, the beaches are huge, spacious, and the waves mellow. It’s perfect for the kids. Plus, I get a sense real estate is pretty reasonable at this time.

There is a certain odd quality to Florida with all the sprawling, mega condos that line the beach and the prevalence of seniors. Plus, you have to remember this is the south, and there is a strong conservative ethic all around, but nonetheless, it’s a beach town, and we’re having fun. Enough said.

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hockey For Dad?

With all this excitement over N’s hockey, the idea of hockey for dad came up. What does it all mean? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hockey player, I just play one on TV. I love the game, and I love watching my son, but it’s come up a few times that I should start playing. I never really gave it much thought, there’s so much gear, and after my humbling with those teenagers on the ice, I felt like I had a long road ahead before I suited up for a hockey game.

However, the other day I noticed that one of the rinks was offering learn to play hockey for adults. Wow, could this be a sign? They said you could slide a little on all the equipment, and could skip the pants and shoulder pads. One of the fathers on N’s team lent me some shin and elbow pads, so I have most of the stuff. I’d just need a jersey, which would cost around $15. Then I’m all set. Should I do it? That’s the big question.

The time of the clinic might work, as well, since it’s early on a weekday, so if R could go into work a little late, it would all be possible. This could be the start of something big. Bear in mind, I would most likely be the most inexperienced person out there, not to mention maybe one of the oldest, so there’s a long road ahead, but you gotta start somewhere, right? It reminds me of ultimate frisbee, I went into a situation where not only was I humbled, but I felt like I was a true liability. I stuck with it, however, and over time I found my niche and fell in love with the game. Could this be the fate that awaits me in hockey? I can’t say for sure, but I sure hope so.

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

Getting it Done

I haven’t been writing as much as I should have, then again, what else is new, but I recall something a successful freelance writer once wrote about saying that you have to take all forms of writing seriously. Don’t look down on something because it’s doesn’t pay as much or it’s not for as big a publication. Until you become an established writer, you have to apply yourself to all writing.

Case in point, Trip Advisor. Now I know people take these travel websites seriously, just like people take Amazon.com reviews seriously. It may have particular value, however, to myself because not only am I interested in family travel writing, but we travel a fair amount, and have stayed at a lot of places and learned a lot about the ins and outs of travel. With this in mind, we have plenty to write about, not to mention share some wisdom that could make people’s lives easier.

So I’m trying a little harder to do all sorts of writing. Since we’ve been without mom, it’s a little harder to get it done because all of the house responsibilities fall on my shoulders (what else is new?) so there’s less time and energy, but also life is just a little weird and lonely without her.

In these instances, things like reviews and smaller blog-like articles are perfect, because they’re easier to write, lower stress, and keep my writing juices flowing. My point? Not sure, but I did manage to write more reviews for TripAdvisor, and there’s more to come. Now if I could only get more writing done in other areas, I could get my fabulous writing career on track.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Kriss Szkurlatowski for the pic.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Long Road to Mom

We made the long trek to, Jacksonville, FLA, to be reunited with mom, and it really highlighted the amount of work it takes to travel, even before you get out the door. I take it for granted when R does all the planning and arrangements, whereas I generally taking care of food, driving, and children’s entertainment. It’s a great example of teamwork, but this time around the balls were all in my court.

First off, we had to change plans at the last minute, something R would have normally done. This was fairly easy with the internet, you just go to the website and click a few buttons and voila! A new flight plan. This also gave us more time to prepare and get things done around the house, but it still required treading into new territory. Good to experience these things to see how the other half lives.

When things were winding down to departure, it was a bit of a scramble, it always is, and again, I’m not used to handling things all by myself. I guess I’m spoiled by the fact that R takes care of everything. To complicate things, the day before our trip, we went to see the Dartmouth football game, and then visited friends who were just released from jail in NYC. They were Occupy New York protesters and semi-folk heroes around here. Anyway, I asked the kids to get some things ready the night before we left, because we had an early bus to catch. We were in pretty good shape but there are always a few loose ends to tie up before you lock that door.

All in all, things went fairly smoothly. We made it to the bus with a few minutes to spare, and even got a parking space, which is unusual for the Dartmouth Coach. They usually make you valet because parking is at a premium, but this was Sunday, so it was not crowded. We did, however, get nailed on the bus fare. Kids ride free with one paying adult, but it’s one kid per parent. This has not been a problem when R and I travel with the kids, but I was solo, and the driver said I needed to pay for one child. Bummer. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

The bus was a smooth ride, we got to the airport with time to spare. Since we checked in online, all we had to do was check in our bag and off to the gate. The airline, TransAir, has this policy of charging for check in luggage. As a consequence, all the passengers bring the ridiculously large carry on bags onto the plane. It’s crazy, and people are jockeying for overhead space. We got our seats and the kids were great on the flight over. It helped having my laptop and some movies. We landed in Atlanta, changed planes, and then were off to Jacksonville.

Anyway, I could go on for days about every minute detail of our trip. Suffice it to say that we made it, and though it was challenging, you realize you can do it if you just try. Things are rarely as bad as you think they’ll be, and with this in mind, you shouldn’t let anticipating hardship deter you from doing things. Just do it, right?

One thing I have to say is that our cell phones really helped out with all the changes we had to make, not to mention that we were not together and had to rendezvous at some point. I’ve become a fan, at least for travel.

Now we are here and the weather has been really nice. We hit the beach immediately, it hasn’t been too hot, and we got some supplies for our big Thanksgiving dinner, but more on that later.

For now, thanks for reading, and thanks to Betu Zelles for the pic.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Finally Some Football

Sorry, I lied. One last post. In looking at the bright side of our delay in travel, we did get to catch the final football game at Dartmouth. We went to one game and it was raining so hard we left at halftime. N was livid, he wanted so much to stay until the end, and I don't think he ever really let us live it down.

With this in mind, I thought it would have been nice to catch one last game, but it never really worked out, and by the time the season was coming to an end, they had one game left, and it was the day after we were supposed to fly out. Bummer. Anyway, I felt bad for N because he really wanted to catch one more game. The last time we went, we got mediocre seats, not just because of the view, but because we were too far over to the side to be involved with all the theatrics when the throw out free footballs and t-shirts. The next time, N vowed, we would sit in the right section.

Well, as fate would have it (and depending upon how you look at it), we were bummed to have had to change our plans, but in leaving on Sunday, we could now catch the Saturday game. Wow, talk about serendipity. A&N were thrilled, and we jetted over and got good seats. The final game of the season, and the weather was perfect for football. Cool, breezy and sunny. To add to the fun, we were right in the thick of the souvenir bash, and managed to grab a t-shirt and two little footballs. Talk about a score. When they were tossing out the footballs, I stood up and had to knock over an elderly woman to get them, but her husband understood that it was all in the name of the game. Any guy would understand. I'm glad both A&N got footballs, even though it was a little dog eat dog out there.

In an interesting note, and I was a little surprised by this, but N offered his football to the woman next to him because, he said, we had two of them. She politely and gratefully declined, and I was touched by N's generosity, though I didn't think it was necessary. Not sure how to approach this one.

Either way, we had fun, we got to watch the entire game, and Dartmouth won and set some sort of milestone for finally having a winning season. Also, their star player broke a school record for yardage, so it was a momentous day. Best of all, we got to eat hot dogs, pizza, and hot chocolate. The breakfast of champions.

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

Let's Try This Again

Today we travel. It's the first time I'm taking the kids all by my lonesome, and it's interesting, to say the least. Usually R handles all the details and I just show up. This time around, she handled many of the details, but I have to handle a bunch, as well. Plus, I am responsible for all the logistics in terms of making sure everything is packed and we are ready to roll. It ain't easy being the person in charge.

To add to all the fun, we had to switch our plans at the zero hour, but it wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. I just went online, searched for a different flight, and clicked on it. Voila, all done. Chalk it up to the beauty of the internet. Boy, it sure changes everything, so much so that I sometimes wonder how we ever functioned without it. Then again, there are those who think we were better off without it. As you may have gathered, I'm not one of them.

We have a sort of early morning ahead of us, so I'll sign of for now. Probably won't log on again until we're in Florida, so stay tuned for more.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks again to Jelle Weidema for the pic.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Riding Solo

R has been away for this past week, and it has been a challenge, though not an insurmountable one. It helps that I’m usually in charge of domestic duties, because then it just becomes an extension of our regular day, albeit without a real break. The hard part is the absence of my partner in crime, someone with whom to talk to who is over the age of 12 and can relate to my POV. Needless to say, we miss mom. I find myself a bit lost and without inspiration, so in that sense it helps to have dad duties to keep me occupied. However, at the end of the day, when everyone is asleep, I kind of drift aimlessly. Even watching movies has lost some appeal, so I end up just going to bed. I will say this, I’m getting a good night’s sleep.

Of course the kids miss their mom a lot, she is such an important part of their lives (and mine!), but with kids, as long as they have enough activities with friends, it’s easy to forget about the two old people who provide for you and nag you until you’re crazy. That's why kids can't wait to turn 18.

We were scheduled to see mom yesterday, but that plan changed, and now we’re on to plan B, which is similar to plan A, but on a different day. One thing that should be interesting will be traveling alone with the kids. That’s a new one for me, and will no doubt a rich source of amusing anecdotes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to J-C-M for the pic.

Second Hockey Game

I apologize for not reporting this sooner, but I’m a bit out of sorts because we are without mom for a few days, and it’s a lot of work holding down the fort alone, not to mention a little lonely and a tiny bit depressing.

We went to N’s second hockey game last week and once again we had a spectacular time, especially since N did a ton of scoring. They divided team into first and second year players, or rather, first year and more experienced players. This being N’s first year, he was on the first year team, which might also be described as the B team. The opponents, the Upper Valley Storm, rotated their players around, so he got to play against the whole spectrum of players.

It was a blast, and convenient being on home ice because we didn’t have to travel far. N has really come a long way in his playing, and even his coaches had seconded this. I see it every time we go to practice or a game, he is just more confident and his skill level is high. It’s pretty impressive stuff, especially considering it’s his first year.

Anyway, the games are generally a little chaotic, but the kids work so hard out there. They don’t really keep score, it makes it more fun that way, but being the shamelessly proud dad, I have to point out that N scored about 6 goals. The Storm had some skilled players, and at times it seemed like N was out there all by himself, but he has gotten really good at being more assertive and jostling for the puck. When he gained possession, he would skate in on the breakaway and score. It was nothing short of amazing to watch. He later told me his strategy - since the goalie tended to go down to his knees, he simply lifted the puck over his stick. How cool is that?

N also had some good centering passes towards the end of the game, and his line mate scored, as well. The two of them make up a pretty good line. Again, I thought he did a good job of keeping everyone involved and sharing the puck. He’s a good listener, and generally tries to do what the coaches tell him.

We had a great time, and afterward you could see that N was happy with his game. The important thing is that the kids have fun and learn to be good people, but it sure doesn’t hurt to go out there and give it your all, and then bask in the glow of your efforts.

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

Trip Complications

As luck would have it, we're sick. Sick enough to where we had to change our plans in a fairly significant manner. We were slated to fly out today, but with our malaise (102 degree temp), we had to scrap that plan. The illness came on yesterday afternoon, and we had to wait a bit and see how things transpired. By the evening, things hadn't gotten better, and with no food in our stomach and just sleep, it was clear that there was a good possibility that we weren't going to be in shape to fly the next day.

I spoke with R on the phone and we decided to keep our options open and see how we felt in the morning. Sure enough, we were better, but still not feeling great, and the idea of traveling for 8 hours while feeling ill was tantamount to torture.

So, this morning it was decided that we would change our plans. It's a little complicated, but we bought ourselves some more time. We are now flying on Sunday, and to Florida instead of Atlanta. The plan is to meet mom in Jacksonville, and then drive to our final destination. I'm amazed we were able to find a flight at the last minute, but we did it. Now we have some more time to rest and get better.

It's funny because we were all set to leave, I had my mind set on it, and now we have more time, and I'm sort of relieved. Go figure.

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Getting Spanked on the Ice

As I mentioned before, we played an impromptu hockey game at the rink and it was clear that I was in way over my head. I realized that it’s one thing to be a decent skater, and another thing to be handle a puck during open stick, but what really separates the boys from the men is getting out there on the ice with other players who are gunning for the same puck as you. That changes everything.

I was so impressed with how good those teenage boys were, but even more so with how nice and well mannered they were. They were more than willing to share the puck with the younger players, and could have simply been selfish and dominated the ice because they were that good, but they chose to be team players and help out the younger crew. They were so polite, as well. Then again, I’ve noticed that the players on N’s team all have good manners, as well. The parents make a point of expecting it from their kids, and it shows.

All in all, it was a learning experience, and I realize that if I ever decided to play hockey, I’ve got a long hard road ahead of me. Even N gave me some constructive criticism, telling me what areas I needed to work on, which was basically everything. Nothing like getting the cold hard truth from your kids.

It reminds me in a way of my first time playing ultimate frisbee, which also happened this year. I went into a situation that I was a bit reluctant to enter, and in the beginning got slapped around because I was clueless, slow, old, and creaky. I made so many mistakes in the beginning, I was constantly apologizing. Fortunately, the UF crowd, at least the one I was with, was very cool and very understanding. Over time, I gradually built up some confidence, and eventually just had a great time with it. I’m not sure if hockey would follow the same progression as UF, but it’s informative to have gone through it. We’ll see. It could mean scouring the Listen Center for adult hockey equipment.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Frank Levert for the pic.

Snowboards Coming Together

Just to add to my hockey OCD, I’ve been on a mission to get the kids outfitted to try snowboarding this season. I can’t seem to embark on these journeys in a simple and easy manner, and until we are ready to hit the snow, I’ll never rest easy. There is logic to my OCD, however.

Being a ski family, we are all set with our skis (my OCD took care of this), but I figure why not try snowboarding, as well? We’ll be on the slopes, and the opportunity is there. I snowboarded for over 15 years and personally prefer skiing, but there’s a coolness factor to snowboarding that you can’t deny, and being cool is important to young people. With this in mind, I decided to at least set them up to learn, and I figure I can slowly teach them the basics, not unlike skiing. Just take it slow.

In order to accomplish this, however, it helps to have your own equipment, because renting a board and boots every time is cumbersome and expensive. Now one might reasonably think that renting is cheaper than buying the stuff, but I’ve found that is not the case. To rent a board and boots for one day would cost you about $30, and that’s just for one day. The advantage is that you probably get flashy, modern, state of the art equipment, but I’m cynical about all that. Skis and snowboards, at least to me, are all the same. A $400 board isn’t going to make you Shaun White.

Anyway, I set out last summer to scour the dump, yard sales and thrift shops for snowboards (not to mention hockey equipment). What I found was that if you’re patient and diligent, for about the price of a one day rental, you can get a complete snowboard setup. Sure, the stuff isn’t shiny and new, but after a few days on the slopes, all that stuff looks the same, and again, expensive equipment isn’t going to make any difference, especially in the early stages.

With this in mind, we are close to being ready. We have everything except boots for N, but in a pinch, he could always wear his snow boots. That’s what they did in the early days of snowboarding. I should know, I was there.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Trip Advisor Fan

Believe me when I tell you that I’m in no position to be too big for my britches when it comes to writing, and yet I find a way to think I’m above certain venues. Shame on me, right? Now the long term goal is to do travel writing, but like anything, you have to start somewhere. Enter Trip Advisor (TA).

TA is not unlike all internet writing venues in that it’s a chance for people to have their voice heard, albeit without profit. Some people get really into it, like the people who do Amazon.com ratings. There is some serious thought put into those reviews.

Either way, TA has become a significant source of travel info, and we use it all the time. Not only that, but businesses can live or die by having a good profile on TA. Sure, the system is ripe for abuse, and it happens, but on the whole, it’s a good source of information. I’d written a couple of reviews for places in Turkey and Greece, but then left it at that. No big deal, right?

Then I got to thinking that at the very least, it’s a way to practice travel writing, and you can’t beat the size of the audience. Plus, there is no pressure, though in the interest of future journalistic integrity, I’d want to do a good job. The point is, I should be doing more, especially since we travel a fair amount. Golden opportunities just slipping by, so I’m going to get on it.

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

Return to Guitar Lessons

We finally got back together with KR for guitar lessons (or should I say A did), and it was nice seeing our good friend. A really jives with her, and I think in light of A’s brief tenure with EE, she has modified her lesson plan to incorporate some of his elements of teaching, which include more theory and I guess you could call it academic music. It’s nice, because they have fun together, and KR is such a beautiful singer that A gets to hear it sung right. Also, they tend to work on more fun songs.

After A’s lesson, we hit the driving range which is just down the road. We didn’t have time for tea, and KR is still just getting back into her house after Irene, so it will be awhile before we are completely back to normal, but at least the process has begun.

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

More Dad’s Daycare

This past Friday was Veteran’s Day, with proper respect and thanks going out to all veterans.

It also meant no school, which doesn’t apply to us, but in certain ways, it does because not only are many of our activities tied to the school, but many of the kid’s friends are, as well. With this in mind, with no school, parents are faced with the conundrum of what to do with the kids while they are at work. Enter stay at home dad, who seems to be the go-to guy in a pinch.

I don’t mind watching certain kids, especially when they are really good kids, and when they are buddies with our kids. Plus, in this instance, it is obviously clear that the parental units are acutely aware of not taking advantage of the situation. With this in mind, we made a day of it. The kid’s friends, A&I, came over for the day, and we actually had a lot of fun. Again, they’re great kids, low maintenance and not demanding of things like TV and sweets.

The plan was to go ice skating and then do the open stick, which N and I wanted to try now that he’s a hockey machine and I’m an aspiring hockey dad. The problem was whether the other kids, A,A&I were going to be able to sit through us playing hockey, but that was not a problem.

The kids spent the morning playing in their own way, and again, they’re very creative and don’t rely on TV or video games, which is good because we have neither. I made them a snack, and planned on getting pizza after skating. For the record, there was an amazing amount of stuff to bring with us with four kids and an adult for ice skating and then hockey. Young kids need to wear full equipment, and the kids all had skates, winter clothes, hats and gloves.

I even had to tie the sticks to the roof rack because they wouldn't fit in the car. The things you do to get to the ice, I'll tell you. Anyway, we headed over to the rink and I for one was surprised at how quiet it was. I figured with the holiday, more people would show up, but it was slow. No biggie, more room for us to skate. We saw our long lost friends MT and their kids. Big changes in their lives, but no need to elaborate on that.

We skated for about an hour, and then it was open stick time. I think N was excited to show off a bit for the ladies in his life, and he did a great job. There were about 10 people on the ice, and all of them good skaters with the exception of me. Correction, I can skate, I just can’t play hockey. At some point the other adult on the ice, who was clearly a hockey player, suggested that we play a little four on four, and I was pensive because I’d never played before, but also didn’t want to be the wet blanket. So we went for it.

Boy, I’ll tell you one thing, hockey is a lot tougher than it looks. More on this later, but the kids did a great job. The other father really encouraged the young kids to give it their all, and there were two teenage boys who skated circles around the rest of us. They were so good, and again, really nice about including the younger kids. I spent most of the time on my behind. N looked great out there.

After the game, I was beat. Hard work out there on the ice. We went for pizza, and then had some time for the kids to hang out and play. The idea of a sleepover came up, but I told them that we had too many things to do and it wasn’t an option. They understood, begrudgingly. What choice did they have?

It was nice day, taxing for the one parent watching over things, but the kids are very self-sufficient and with the exception of meals, can take care of themselves. Absolutely no regrets on this end.

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

Golf’s Last Hurrah

With winter fast approaching, many of our golf venues are either closed or getting ready to close. N said he’d like to have one last round of golf before it’s too late, so we decided to try and give it a go. The weather was in our favor because it has been really warm, in the 60s even, so the stars were aligning properly.

Ideally we could have gone early in the day and had plenty of time to get a full nine holes in, but I had a dentist appointment in the AM. Besides, my understanding is that afternoons are better, though I’m not sure why. I think golfers like to do early tee times.

I dragged the kids to my dentist appointment, which wasn’t too long, and just wanted to note that they were very well behaved and spent the entire time, about half an hour, just sitting and reading and hanging out. Of course I was proud of them. We then went to the hospital to meet mom for lunch, and then we stopped at the Listen Center for those elusive snowboarding boots/binding. I’m always looking for hockey equipment for me if some fateful day arrives when I can be a real hockey player. Dream on, right?

By the time we got to the golf course, it was about 2:30, so we had about three hours, max. Good enough for us. A said she didn’t want to play, she just wanted to find and wash golf balls, and of course, clandestinely drive the golf cart when nobody was looking. The place was a little crowded. Everyone else has the same idea as us, getting their last hurrahs before the snow comes. Since we go rather slowly, I kept seeing groups of golfers behind us waiting. I would stop us and wave them on, but at some point you gotta keep playing your game.

People were nice and understanding, and we ended up having a great time. We had to abandon ship before finishing the ninth hole, once again, because it was too dark. We tried driving the ball but we ended up losing a few balls because it was too dark to see. Oh well, we did our best, and might get a few days in at the driving range before all is said and done.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Julien Tromeur for the pic.

Karate Testing

We had a good class last week, good turnout, and we are gearing up for a big test night. Master H is pumped up and ready, and several people will be testing, including A and I. The energy is palpable.

A was tired for this class because she went to a girl’s hockey clinic beforehand and I was fully expecting to skip karate, but she said she wanted to go, so we went. N usually gets bored at some point, so often we’ll have R come and pick him up on her way home from work. This time, however, A indicated that she wanted to go home, too, so R took both of them. I felt bad that she was so tired, but if she thought the one hour clinic was tiring, she should see what N goes through during his practice. They work incredibly hard.

Either way, I ended up solo at the class, and it was a good class. I feel this need to be more prepared to spar this one new guy in the class who beat up the other new student, but we did not end up sparring. My time will come, I know it. We focused on katas and test prep, and before we knew it, class was over and it was time to go home.

R and the kids were playing games at home, so I ate supper and it was the end of a busy day. When all was said and done, A concluded that she was not a hockey person, which is fine by R and I. I actually like the fact that the kids have their own respective things.

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hockey Dad

You may have noticed that hockey seems to be a big theme in our lives right now. Go figure.

On that note, I’m on my way to becoming an official hockey dad, sort of, though in order to become a full fledged hockey dad, you have to gear up and get out there on the ice, and I’m not at that point... yet. I’m happy to help out in any sort of way, and there’s still a good chance that I’ll end up on the board, at least in an accessory way, and again, I’m fine with that. I’ll just keep my skates and helmet in the trunk.

In the meantime, this past practice I was given jobs to do, and I couldn’t believe it. I was like a dog being asked to fetch the paper and slippers. They took team and individual pictures, and I was the cameraman. I kept thinking R should be here, she’s the photographer in this family, but the job fell on my laps. Time to man up. Of course I was anxious about getting a good shot off, so I took plenty of pics. The coach’s camera was a pro model and not as simple and easy to use as our point and shoot, but what are you going to do?

They also asked me to help out with the equipment during practice, and I was all over that. I helped lay out the bumpers early in practice, which is a quick and mindless job, but that’s right up my alley. For a guy, it feels good to be useful, especially when you’re surrounded by real men. It’s very interesting to see how the gender specific roles really play out in hockey. The men are on the ice and the women run the bake sales and sit on the board. I guess I kind of blur the lines in this area and maybe dabble in both areas, but that’s yet to be seen. Could be interesting fodder for this blog, or maybe even an article.

On another bright hockey note, we’re getting all sorts of positive feedback on N’s playing. They could be just being nice, but truth be told, he's doing a stand-up job out there. He performed beautifully during his game, and I’m trying to be really objective here, but he’s really coming along. I know it’s important to teach the kids that it’s about working hard and having fun, but the simple reality is, for an athlete, doing well makes a huge difference, especially amongst your peers. He did a great job last weekend, and the coaches and many of the parents were very kind in their comments. They didn’t have to say anything, after all, and I really think I can be objective and say what sort of game he had.

One last note, and sort of a sad one for an overbearing parent as myself, but N has also become very independent in the locker room. He doesn’t need his old dad anymore, and if anything, I just get in the way. He can pretty much gear up and down all by himself, which is great. Our boy is growing up. I’ll help out with getting his skates tight, but all in all, I think I just embarrass him by being there. I guess that just means I’m doing my job, right?

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

Girls Hockey Night

As I mentioned before, A expressed interest in hockey, and I was all for it. We scrounged up a bunch of equipment and headed over for what I thought was a Learn to Play session, but it was kind of different.

The first realization came when I was following her into the locker room and there were a bunch of older girls in there, some seemed as old as high school. I.e., no guys allowed. Even A suggested that I leave and meet her outside. It turns out that they had a Learn to Play concurrent with a girl’s development league. I wasn’t sure which one A was supposed to be in because she had never played before, yet she was also a lot older than the youngsters in that class. The girl’s development class seemed to be older girls, and A was definitely the youngest.

After some rumination, we finally decided that she go with the girls, and it turned out to be the right choice. You could see the girls had some experience, but they were not experts, which was good for A. They ran through skating and puck handling drills, and then did some scrimmaging. A held up just fine, she’s actually a good skater. It’s the hockey part that’s new.

After the class, we change quickly and headed over to karate. We had to cancel piano/drums because of this class, but I figured it was just a one time thing and the actually learning of hockey would occur during the week, but I was wrong. What else is new? The class is Monday nights and Sundays at 8:30. There’s no way we could make that, and it’s hard to re-schedule music lessons and we don’t want to miss karate.

It also turns out that A wasn’t that into it. She thought it was okay, but could take or leave the whole hockey part, and I completely respect that. I’m glad she gave it a try, she did well, but if it’s not for her, so be it. Besides, A has so much going on, and hockey is really N’s thing, so it works out for the best. Also, we borrowed almost all of the equipment, so the financial burden was negligible, at best.

I’m all for that. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Tom Pickering for the pic.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

First Game Day

We went to N’s first hockey game, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun we had. What a blast, we thoroughly enjoyed it. Better than the NHL, no question about it.

The game was a bit of a trek, we had to travel to the big city of Burlington, which is about 2 hours away. I’d heard horror stories about travelling for hockey games, but I think for this age group, they don’t get too crazy. As I’ve mentioned in the past, hockey parents are quite the dedicated group. We toyed with the idea of going up the night before and spending a night in Burlington, but then balked at the idea and decided to just go up for the day.

The drive up is nice, and we had great weather. It took a bit to find the arena, which is located outside of town. You can tell hockey is in the air because there were numerous families in the parking lot, all getting their kids ready for their respective games. We were there early and watched Stowe beat the heck out of Burlington in what I believe were the Bantams, they looked about middle school age. The kids were big and they were doing some serious checking. It was a little intense, and R commented that they were being bullies, and it was true, but such is hockey strategy. Beat up the other team’s best players and shut them down.

Everyone was excited, and the energy in the locker room was palpable. The kids were into it, the parents were thrilled, and the coaches all prepped and ready. Once the players filed out of the locker room, the fun really began. Burlington Arena is nice, not in a state of the art kind of way, it’s kind of older and a bit run down, but the bleachers are heated. I’d never seen anything like that, but it’s nice not to have to bundle up. I freeze my you know what off on home ice.

Now for whatever reason I was under the impression that Burlington was a hockey powerhouse, but I thought the kids were pretty well matched. Granted, they were 8 years old, but even still, our mites did well, and I would say that the game was about even. Of course, the best part was that N scored at least four goals, maybe five. Some of them were highlight reel quality.

They looked great, they had a blast, we all really enjoyed watching, the kids are too cute for words. The games only last about one hour, which is kind of crazy considering we drove over 100 miles to get there. There was a squirt game earlier that day, and there were parents who went to that game and then drove up to Burlington for the mites game. Talk about dedicated, that’s crazy.

After the game, we went into the big city to check out the ECHO and then have supper at the Skinny Pancake. I would have liked to have driven home with some daylight left, but no such luck, and we ended back at home around 7:00. Long day, and we were beat, but was it ever fun. Hopefully that will be about as far as we have to go to a game, for now.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Dave Di Biase for the pic.

Listen Center Winter Sale

The big sale event that we’d been watiing for had finally arrived, and it wasn’t as fruitful as I’d anticipated, though we got certain items, mostly hockey oriented. Go figure. The Listen Center has a big winter kickoff sale where they put out all of their winter items at one time. You’d think that with used clothes and gear, they would get stuff all year ‘round, which they do, but they actually have a seasonal influx of items. I guess people clean out their closets at certain times of the year, and winter gear starts appearing right on the cusp of winter.

We are pretty set for winter gear, though A needed new snow pants. Also, with A expressing interest in hockey, were in need of certain items for her. The kids have also said they’d like to try snowboarding, and since we have a board, why not? They both need snowboard boots and the board needs some new bindings, but I figure we’re in no hurry, and as I scout out the thrift shops, I might be able to find a use boot or binding for a few dollars. Stuff is generally under $10.

The sale is quite the event, and we got there around noon and by that point the place had been ravaged. I’d heard people lined up an hour before they opened, and I’m guessing it was quite the scene. When we arrived, there was still a lot of gear, but the good stuff was probably gone by that point. They get some nice used stuff there, and the rest of the world knows this by now.

Either way, we did okay. We found A some new pants, which were actually really cool, more like snowboarding pants (Burton!) that she really likes. When you’re a kid, the coolness factor is important. We also got her some boots and a hockey stick. I couldn’t find boots for N, but again, we have some time, and we’re skiers in this house, anyway. We found shin pads for hockey, and all in all, we’re set for our big hockey debut. I even found snow boots, which weren’t exactly what I was looking for, but when you’re dealing in items for under $10, you can’t be too picky. Also got a binding for the snowboard, but it was missing a piece which I think won’t be too hard to track down.

So it was a fruitful day, though part of me wonders what sort of gems we missed out on by getting their late. Oh well, you just can’t win them all.

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

Hockey Family Affair

In another cool hockey development (depending upon whom you ask, that is), A has expressed some interest in giving hockey a try. She’s not as athletic as her brother, but she is a good skater and skier. Skating is half the game, at least at the beginning level, and a lot of the other stuff boils down to learning and practice. She may never want to do it again, but why not give it a try? She seems excited about it, even in lieu of R’s trepidation.

I had to once again go over to our good friends, the Bs, to scrounge for hockey equipment. He is very cool about giving us stuff, though he didn’t have as much as the last time I pillaged his closet. With the exception of a few pads, I think we’re all set. This should be interesting.

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

Monday, November 7, 2011

Impromptu Dinner and a Movie

I seem to get cornered all the time by the kids for various requests, and my initial reaction is always, “Do I really want to deal with this?” I’m glad, in a way, that the kids are impulsive in certain ways because it makes us, the parents, more spontaneous, and reminds us that it’s never such a big deal to make such a fuss over. Plus, we always have good time, and would miss out on the experience if we answered to our first anti-social impulse.

The other day at the library, and it always happens at this time, our’s and HH’s kids cornered me and wanted to have a sleepover. I said “No way,” we had a big hockey game the next day, but then they wanted to have dinner and a movie at our house. They had apparently lost power with the big wind storm. I relented, but hadn’t planned on this, so I had to go home and prepare. I asked HH to watch the kids and bring them over later while I went ahead and got the meal ready. Our original plan was to go the indoor market and get pizza, but I knew that wasn’t going to be enough for 7 people, so I was going to have to make some more food.

I slapped together a pasta dish while chatting with HH. The kids played and watched their movie, and when R got home, we sat down to a nice meal. We really enjoy HH’s company, and consider her a good friend. Plus, her kids are awesome, and good friends with ours. Say no more. It’s not that we don’t enjoy our friend’s company, it’s just that by Friday afternoon, we are whipped, and the last thing I want to do is use my brain. Oh well, no getting around that.

We had a nice evening, all on the spur of the moment, though I should be more aware that this spontaneity is a fairly common on a Friday afternoon. It helps to be prepared.

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

Hockey Jerseys

One of the most exciting parts about playing hockey for N is just getting the uniforms. In the past, he’s asked when he’s going to get a jersey, and of course I had no idea. I’m new to this sport, as well. I do see, however, almost all of the other players wearing some sort of team jersey, whether it’s Twin Valley, Pleasant Valley, Woodstock or Hanover. The question is, where and how do they get these shirts? I figured if you dished out the big bucks for hockey camp, or for that matter, the team, they’d just give them to you, but no such luck.

We knew N would be getting team jerseys at some point, they’re a team, after all, and sure enough, they are starting to stream in. First we got practice jerseys, which are pretty cool, and then they gave us the team game jerseys, one for home and one for away games. N was totally stoked. We can’t keep them, though, and have to give them back at the end of the season, but for now, he’s into it. He’s so excited, as are all of us.

Eventually they’ll sew his name on the back, and then there’s no stopping him.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to R Young for the pic.

Bowling for Doll Hairs

We hadn’t been to the bowling alley in months, and for whatever reason it came up at supper time, so we decided to go bowling. Not a bad activity when the weather gets cold and miserable. I didn’t bowl much growing up, it wasn’t really cool, and there were certain unsavory elements associated with the bowling alley. Even the local bowling alley that we go to has a certain edge to it.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, however, and the kids love it. We bowled two games and had a blast. The kids did well, though we were all a little rusty. Both of them got strikes, and afterward we hit the arcade. We avoid video games but I let them do skee-ball and stuff like that. They give you tickets based on how many points you score, and you can redeem these tix for toys. Both A and N hit some sort of jackpot and scored big time. I think N got about 500 tickets on one, and A got about 250. They kept coming out, it was amazing, and dare I say, a little exciting.

We got a couple of “Made in China” toys and we were off. It was fun bowling again, and we’ll probably do it again before the season is up.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sachin Ghodke for the pic.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

New Dentist

As I think I mentioned, my former dentist got hit hard by Irene and subsequently relocated to Randolph, so I had to find a new one. I decided to go to R’s dentist, and it was quite an experience. He’s a super nice guy, and seems up to date on the latest technology, but sometimes I get a sense that dentists are too fixated on teeth and lose sight of the big picture. I guess it makes perfect sense, they’re dentists, after all, but it seems like using potentially toxic chemicals and polymers to prevent tooth decay might not be the best thing for our bodies, and our children’s bodies, in the long run. I always think about sealants made with BPA and even fluoride. Sure, they prevent cavities, but even fluoride is a poison.

Anyway, I was due for a full checkup and cleaning. Plus, I have this isssue with my cracked tooth, which is a complete drag. First off, I was impressed with the size of the operation. I thought I was the first patient, but there were at least a dozen people in that waiting room, and what was really impressive was they took them all at once. Talk about efficiency.

Since I was a new patient, they needed all sorts of baseline records, which I had brought with me, only to discover that neither of my dentists had ever taken a full set of baseline X-rays. After that, I met with the hygienist who did a thorough cleaning which was akin to sticking needles in my gums. It really hurt, and I could tell there was a lot of blood. She really did the Marathon Man thing on me, showing me no mercy. I guess that’s what I get for not flossing regularly.

My cracked tooth is going to be a problem. Because it’s in such bad shape, they are talking dental implants, which is a complete bummer. I want to talk about maybe trying to salvage the old tooth, because you can’t beat nature’s architecture. Plus, it’s already in place. They are also going to take a look at my sleep issues, which I’ll get into at a later date.

For now, I’m not too excited about returning to the dentist, which will occur next week.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Marcelo Terraza for the pic.

Goodbye (But Not Farewell) to Golf

We kind of let things slide a little too far and missed out on one last hurrah for golf. Not only that, but we didn’t make it to the final day of Fore-U Ice Cream, where on the last day they give away all the ice cream until it’s gone. Bummer. I actually knew about it on the day in question, we were just busy and getting out to W. Leb would have been a chore.

On the bright note, the local golf course near us is still open, I’ve learned, and we have a small window to get one last round of golf in. The problem with golf is that it’s a time drain, it takes up at least a few hours, but we sure do enjoy it. We just may get one last hurrah on the golf front in. Stay tuned for more.

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

Book Club and Impromptu Playdate

CH was mentioning an interest in forming a book club and put things in motion with our library. AM took the reigns and put it all together, and voila, book club city. We met for the first time the other day, and the kids are all friends so it was a nice group.

They created a younger book club for kids N’s age, and he wasn’t so thrilled about it and even indicated that he was not interested, so I had to sort of force the issue. We decided to try it out before balking at the whole idea, though I understand where he’s coming from. He’d rather hang with the big kids, especially the big boys, but they’re reading books that are a bit beyond his level, or for that matter, interest. Besides, the group is small, and if he bails, it will pretty much collapse.

AM ran the big kids club, and CH ran the little kids club, and they both did such a nice job. Everyone had fun, even N enjoyed it. I think he can read better than he lets on, and he’s beginning show a greater interest in books than ever before, so we could be on the cusp of something big. Stay tuned for more.

After the book club, the kids went outside and went crazy for about an hour, running around while parents got to have some time doing important parent things, like checking email or hockey scores. When it was time to get going, everyone wanted to have a playdate, so we all piled into our respective cars and headed on over, of all places, to our house. I volunteered to have everyone over to destroy our house. When I was a kid, my parents were so uptight and rigid that we were never allowed to have kids over, and if we did, it was always a big to-do that made it absolutely ZERO fun. Nothing, and I mean nothing, was ever spontaneous. I vowed to be more relaxed as a parent when it came to having people over, even though I incur the wrath of R, it’s fun for the kids to have their friends over at the spur of the moment. What’s the big deal? We’re all friends, right?

Also, A&R’s friends are pretty mellow, and don’t tear things apart. They are mature and conscientious, though in the past we’ve had kids come over and literally take the house apart while the parents just sit there and watch. Amazing.

In the end, everyone had fun, it was just for an hour, and they didn’t require feeding. Just a quick beverage that A prepared for everyone. We had to go to hockey, so we couldn’t hang for too long, but I’m all for having them over again in the future. Bring it on, as the saying goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Zsuzsanna Kilian for the pic.

Fun Halloween

We had a great Halloween, and it kind of grew into more than we had originally anticipated, in a good way, of course. In the past, we took the kids over to Woodstock and went around the different neighborhoods, and it was a lot of fun. What’s not to love about dressing up in a costume and getting loads of candy? However, at times I was aware that some kids benefit from going with other friends. We would run into people we knew, and it always seemed like it would be fun if our kids were with their buddies instead of just their boring old parents. At some point being around the parental units just becomes intolerable.

This year, we had a different plan, and serendipity played a role. Our friends the E’s were inquiring about Halloween and we decided to join forces and hang out together. They have wonderful kids who are buddies with our kids, and we figured it would be nice for them to hang out together. To add to the fun, HH brought her kids along, and we all headed over to the big W. Everyone was thrilled to have a big group, and it worked out really nicely.

We met up here and then caravan’d over to town. The scene was happening in Woodstock, though personally I thought it was more subdued than previous years, which is perfectly reasonable because there was some question as to whether or not they were even going to have Halloween because of the flood. Woodstock got hit hard by Irene, and the whole area where we were going to was closed off at one point. The town rallied to make it happen and even had a candy drive to supply all the houses. Being outsiders to the area, we bring bags of candy and offer them to assorted houses, but this year, I couldn’t give the stuff away. People were stocked to the rafters with candy, and good stuff, to boot. None of those Smarties or Necco wafers. I ended up handing the candy out to our group, which excited the kids but maybe didn’t thrill the parents. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

The kids were thrilled and weren’t even aware that things were quieter this year, which is fine. We ended at the Woodstock Inn, which again, was quiet. In past years we saw literally dozens of our friends there, but this year I didn’t see a single person I recognized. It could have been because they were in costume, but the whole evening was a little more low key than usual. Again, the kids were not even aware of this, and they really had a good time, so no big deal.

Afterward we headed home and stopped at a couple of houses nearby to say hello and get some last minute candy. We got home around 9:00 and the kids spent about half an hour counting their candy and taking stock of their bounty. I have to say, they got a lot of candy, and as I mentioned, good stuff. Lots of chocolate, which I think is the key.

All in all, we had a great time. Until next year, thanks for reading, and thanks to Arleynd Soca for the pic.

Community Theater

This past weekend on the eve of Halloween we went to see a production of Dracula, and it was a lot of fun. We were on the fence about even going because it might have been a little creepy for the kids, and we weren’t necessarily falling over ourselves about seeing a show about Dracula, but the kids indicated they were interested, and at the zero hour, we went for it.

The show was actually really well done, which shouldn’t have surprised us because they do a fantastic job at HCA. The acting was first rate, it wasn’t creepy or scary, and if anything, it was really funny. The production was well done, good special effects, and the scenes didn’t drag on, which is important with kids. We knew all the actors and saw many of our friends at the show. We felt good in the end supporting the production, and the kids liked it a lot.

Just goes to show you, you just never know how things will turn out, so when in doubt, you have to go for it. Better to regret what you have done than what you haven’t done, right?

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Even More Snow

It snowed even more, and the kids were thrilled to pieces, as were mom and dad, though with some trepidation thrown in there for good measure. It’s only October, after all.

We got about 5-6 more inches, and there was enough for the kids to build snowmen and have snowball fights. It’s good to see the white stuff again, and this winter should be interesting. I even did some shoveling.

I realize it’s early, but it’s nice to think about winter and all the snow. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to RIC for the pics.

Prelude to Halloween

I’m a little behind on this blog and need to do some catching up. We went to the pre-Halloween fest last week and it was fun. Tons of kids out, including plenty of friends for A&N, so they enjoyed it. It was nice seeing the neighbors, and we all got to eat plenty of sweets. The kids entered their pumpkins in the contest, and that’s a good thing. There were some amazing pumpkins, but I’m proud of A&N for doing their own thing, on their own, without our help. These are important lessons, I’m learning, because I get to see the end result of overbearing parents who hold their kid’s hands too much. It’s not always pretty.

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

Skipping Tennis, Scoring on Hockey Skates, and New Pizza

We had a brief discussion this past week and we pretty much decided that we didn’t want to go to tennis. It has snowed the night before, and though there was not much in the way of accumulation on the courts, it was cold. I asked the kids and they both gave it an emphatic thumbs down. In light of their lack of interest, I sure as heck wasn’t going to go.

So, we ran errands and got ready for the big weekend ahead. With Halloween right around the corner, there were last minute costume details to attend to. Also, we had to drop books off at the big-city library, get back to our town library, and then eat supper in time to go out once again for our town Halloween celebration. How’s that for a full schedule. I don’t even know how we would have squeezed in tennis even if we wanted to.

Now I feel like I can’t go out and about without stopping at the Listen Center to find assorted bargains. With the kids constantly growing (funny how that works) we are in constant need of upgrades in clothes and sporting gear. Their stocks change constantly, so the only way to see these changes is go regularly and hope for the best. As I mentioned before, we are in need of certain things, especially ice skates for A.

We went to the big Listen in WRJ and I found a pair of hockey skates, and they were in good condition. They were size 7, which might be a bit big for A, but she’s hovering around a size 6-6.5, so it wasn’t unthinkable. I asked her if she’d wear them and she was excited about getting new skates. We jetted over to Stateline and had them sharpened, and we were in business.

We then got pizza at the new pizza place in Windsor, Pizzaroni. They had a deal so we tried it out. Good pizza, though not the best, in my opinion. We then headed over to the Halloween fest in town and met mom later that night, but that’s a story for another time.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Robert Linder and ilker for the pics.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Car Problems

Now that the market is over (yahoo!), we have our Wednesdays free, so we can actually have a life. The initial plan was to return to guitar lessons on Wednesday, but KR had to cancel because of various reasons, which was fine because that meant we had the day off and could go ice skating. At least that was the plan.

Of course, as we all know, life doesn’t always go according to the plan. We had to run a few errands beforehand, which took us into the big city to return library books, and then we scored A some new snow boots and N new hockey socks and a hoodie. We were doing okay. Then the weather started to turn and it began to rain. The forecast even called for snow.

Normally this is no big deal, but on this day, it was, because our windshield wipers stopped working. This has happened in the past, there is some sort of stop mechanism that prevents the motor from burning out when there’s excessive ice. The problem is, it has engaged when there is not much in the way of ice but only cold weather. It generally starts up again, just like it’s supposed to.

This time, however, it wasn’t kicking back on. It wouldn’t have been a problem on a nice day, but it was starting to rain. I had to make a quick decision, and rather than get stuck out in the rain with no windshiled wipers, I told the kids we had to go home. This meant no ice skating, and we were so close, literally en route to the rink and we had to abort the mission. Bummer.

The kids were disappointed, no doubt, but understanding. Plus, we managed to get a lot of stuff done. By the time we got home, the wipers still weren’t working, so I called Meunier’s Towing and they said come on by and they’d take a look. It turns out it was a ground wire that broke, and he fixed it in minutes. Thanks to those guys for squeezing me in at the last minute, though I’m embarrassed that I didn’t fix it myself. I honestly didn’t think it was a malfunction but just the safety mechanism doing its thing. Just goes to show you, consider all the possibilities before you make any conclusions.

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

Missing Out

A needs new skates and I had a million chances to get her some at these hockey sales, where the equipment is amazingly cheap. The hockey parents essentially give the stuff away, and it’s a nice way to support people new to the scene or ones who can’t afford to drop the big bucks on new equipment (or the ones not willing to).

I have been focusing on gathering N’s hockey equipment together that I foolishly failed to consider that as A grows, her ice skates will no longer fit her. This really came to light when we went looking for her snow boots and she is almost at the stage where she is wearing women’s sizes. Crazy. In fact, when R’s parents came to visit, A wore her grandmother’s shoes. How cool is that?

Anyway, I was kicking myself because the one thing I’ve noticed plenty of at these swaps are skates. Equipment bags are almost impossible to find, and you’re better off buying helmets new, but skates are a plenty. I never even gave them much thought because I thought we had skates. Now that they are on my radar, I’ll be looking in earnest. The problem is that the skating season has already begun, so we sort of need skates now. This should be interesting.

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