Monday, December 31, 2012

A Little Common Sense

This is not easy for the person who has trouble saying no, but sometimes, you just have to learn to say no, it’s a question of survival and employing a little common sense. We had a change in our hockey schedule and it threw our original plans into disarray, all at a time when our presence would have been appreciated.

Originally we were planning on spending a nice day together going up north to watch A’s game, but then N’s practice schedule changed and the two of us couldn’t go. That left A and R to head up north, which wouldn’t have been such a big deal, except we for the massive snow storm that hit. It was precarious driving, to say the least, and I would have wanted to have been there when they headed up. Instead, we felt obliged to go to practice.

In retrospect, it would not have been unreasonable to just say we had plans and couldn’t make it, but being a coach makes me feel an obligation to be there when possible. The complication to it all was that the practice was changed at the last minute, so we had to shift on the fly. Anyway, we made a decision and went with it. I worried about A&R, but knew they’d be safe. For the record, we saw plenty of cars that had slid off the road throughout the day, the conditions were squirrelly. Mostly people who were not used to driving in these conditions, but it’s still ominous to see.

The best part was, when we got to practice, 75% of the team couldn’t make it, even the coach. I was kicking myself because we had changed our plans for this, and nobody else showed up. There were five kids that showed up, and in all fairness, it was good that I came, because TG came and he would have been all by himself. This way, we had two coaches and all the ice, so we could split up and then play a scrimmage. It was actually a lot of fun, and I think the kids enjoyed it because it was relaxing and laid back. Plus, they got precious ice time when there is not a lot of ice time to be had, at least until the ponds freeze over.

Even still, I do think it’s not unreasonable to say you can’t make it because you already have plans. Heck, everyone else does it.

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

More Hockey Opportunities

We found a way to get even more hockey into our lives, if you can believe that. It appears that we may start to have time conflicts with other activities, but more on that later. The kids have practice twice a week, and then usually two games on the weekends. Now you might think that’s more than enough hockey, but not for us. We have a couple of days that are pretty open, and on one of them they have homeschool hockey.

We did HH last year and it was fun. It was not only low key, but it really helped the kids get a feel for full ice hockey, sort of the pond hockey experience that they didn’t get to have. It’s all about ice time in a fun and relaxed way, and even I get to have more practice. I only get to play once a week, and we don’t practice as a team, so any chance I can get to put on my skates I’ll take, especially when it involves playing the game.

Two weeks ago we showed up for HH, and everyone had fun. It’s a good group of people, the kids are nice, and they aren’t too intense or competitive, so some of the kids get a little feisty. I had a blast, and even my friend TM, who is a great hockey player (he’s from Canada), commented on how fast I was skating. I tried to play it down but inside I was beaming.

As I mentioned, there are some time conflicts, but all in all, I think we can work them out. It may become problematic if we want to go skiing, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Until then, thanks for reading.

DYI

Like all things in our lives, we had a situation in our lives that became more complicated because of my brilliant idea that then evolved into a story in and of itself. Kind of cool one, though the resolution was not what I had intended. We have been asked (required?) to protect the kid’s hockey game jerseys when we’re in transit, and this means covering them with some sort of protective layer, i.e., a garment bag. Now anything will do, even a plastic garbage bag, but peer scrutiny comes into play (kid and parental, of course).

It turned out that there were many options, which of course is the bane of my existence. I really didn’t want to spend a lot of money, and if anything, I didn’t want to spend any money, if possible. There are expensive options, but truth be told, I don’t think it’s as cool walking into a locker room when you’re the only kid with a fancy garment bag. Some people might like this idea, but not me.

We obtained these free plastic garment bags from JCPenney, and they worked fine for the first few games, protecting the jerseys from mud and dirt, but like all things cheap and easy, both of the kids’ bags broke. N’s tore, and A’s zipper came unhinged. Total bummer, but not unexpected. Now we had to come up with another solution. I searched the Web for options, but it really boiled down to two: either buy a nice bag and drop $50-60 (ouch!), or buy a cheap one and face the same old problems.

I decided on option #3, which was to make one. This meant we could get a good quality bag in a material of our choice, and best of all, it would inevitably come with a story. Now for the record, I had every intention of making this bag (someone out there is saying, “No, you weren’t.”), even if I have never used a sewing machine in my life. If need be, I was would have hand sewn the thing, which I do have extensive experience doing.

Either way, it was  project, and I knew the kids could help, because they know how to use the sewing machine and could teach me. Once I got the hang of it, I could practice and then get it done. It might not be right away, but it would have gotten done. Unfortunately, we had some time constraints, because the kids have games every weekend, and I’m sure they wanted the bags ASAP.

Enter mom to the rescue. She said she would be happy to help, but probably could sense my ineptitude and was also aware of the kids eagerness for getting it done, so she stepped in and said she would make the bags. We all headed over to Joann’s to get the supplies. They were very helpful and encouraging, and the one person there who actually taught beginning sewing said garment bags were an easy first project.

I sort of had a vision of how I’d do it, but having no experience with a sewing machine, wasn’t sure if it was the logical choice. In fact, R had other ideas, and after choosing fabric, zippers (we got heavy duty quality ones) and all that other good stuff, she went to work. The kids helped make spools and dobbins and cut the patterns, and mom did most of the sewing. She worked tirelessly because even though there wasn’t a deadline, the kids would have been happier to have them by their next game, which was only days away.

R did a beautiful job, better than I could have done, and the bags came out nicely. We paid a little more than we would have for some cheap plastic thing made in China, but a lot less than a more ostentatious piece of luggage. More importantly, it was handmade and personalized, and we can be sure of the quality. Plus, it was a fun project that we all took part in as a family.

As we all know, you can’t put price on that. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Conflicted

I have to confess, I’m a bit conflicted about the whole Christmas gift thing. Not to sound like a Scrooge, but I’ve found that lots of presents just don’t add up to a happy household, even it looks impressive. I’ve seen this in the past, at assorted birthday parties and Christmas at our house. Kids who get piles of stuff don’t value each gift for what it is, and instead just want more. I realize it’s human nature, but it can be disturbing to watch. When kids get into that frenzied state of blindly ripping open package after package and not even acknowledging what it is, it’s a little scary. The problem is, we the parent promote it.

Maybe we feel some sort of validation as parents by giving kids more, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life and would want to impart on our kids (actually there are a lot of things), it’s that life is not about stuff. Our culture as a whole values stuff, that’s why places like Walmart are so huge, but when you really get down to it, it only makes you want more stuff. It’s as if getting something isn’t enough, you have to keep feeding the fire, which is pretty telling when you think about it. We are all aware of this on some level, and yet we continue to consume. We get our kids started early, and then they become consumers for life.

Anyway, I don’t want our kids to value getting more and more stuff, but on the other hand, I don’t want to deny them everything, either. Kids should have some fun, eat some junk food, and get the toys and presents they want, to some degree. I felt like this year was manageable, though we wrestled with making sure we had enough gifts under the tree. It helps having grandparents and uncles and aunts who are so thoughtful and giving.

Another thing that helped to make the day work out nicely was to pace the opening of the presents. We made sure the kids didn’t tear through each present and then move on to the next one. We had them give each gift some quality time, pacing themselves. In the end, they appreciated this approach, as well, and enjoyed the day that much more. Plus given the state of the world and all the crazy stuff that’s going on, it’s important to appreciate what you have, and not obsess over what you want.

Okay, enough of my pontificating (until the next time). Looking forward to the new year. Thanks for reading, and thanks to chris f2009 for the pic.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

What a Week

In the aftermath of a really nice Christmas, it’s interesting to look back and reflect on the week leading up to it. It’s amazing what we go through for the holidays, and it’s easy to see why we become so cynical. There’s just way too much going on. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot I enjoy, and R and I love spending time with the kids, but taking care of the business of the holidays takes up so much time and energy that it’s hard to stop and just have some down time.

Then again, gifts and giving are such a big part of it. In certain ways it’s easy to romanticize just having quiet time at home by the fire, but let’s face it. It’s gratifying, at least for me, giving a nice gift that really touches a special chord in a person, especially your kids. That makes it all worth while.

Besides, it’s hard to argue with the fact that a lot of the craziness in our lives stems from hockey, and hockey is a beast that I brought into this household. I’ve got nobody else to blame but myself. On that note, last week was a bit insane. In addition to the usual craziness, we had to scramble to finish mom’s gift list, get all of our Christmas cards out, send out assorted gifts to the west coast, and prepare for the big day.

As I’ve mentioned, it went down to the wire. I spent the week scrambling to fill the kid’s wish lists, which isn’t easy when they’re there with you. There were assorted gifts that were easier for me to obtain, and since I’m with the kids, it made sense to bring them along with me. This required that I distract them while I made the purchases then clandestinely went to the car and hid them in the trunk. Somewhat challenging, but fortunately, the kids are curious and like to head off on their own in various stores, especially ones with cool toys.

By Friday we could focus on getting mom’s stuff together. We had made significant steps throughout the week, and by Saturday we could put on the finishing touches. It was funny because I wanted the kids to be integrally involved, and they jumped at the chance. We have a new Christmas tradition of making collage pictures of all the big events in our lives, many of which involve travel. This involved gathering all the photos together that were worth printing, then whittling down each event to 20 pics or less. Needless to say, this was a challenge because in some of the groups, like our trips to various cities in Croatia and Italy (all individual groups), there are literally hundreds of pics. All in all we were dealing with about 1000 pics. Crazy.

I did the initial work and made the groups, then trimmed the fat so that there were about 20 pics in each group. We ended up with about 20 groups, which I then downloaded onto the site where we get the prints made. From there the kids took over. The site is cool because it automatically turns the pics into a collage, but you can ask it to rearrange them randomly, or place the pictures yourself. The kids chose the latter, and they did a great job. They chose the color of the border, the font, and then placed it into the shopping cart. From there, we ordered them, and we were all set.

I went and got the collages two days before Christmas. Even on Christmas Eve, we had a few loose ends to tie up, and I got a couple of last minute presents that we felt would make the gifts complete. It wasn’t even that stressful, and going into consumer hell wasn’t that painful, even on Christmas Eve. The crowds were very manageable.

Best of all, the kids loved their presents, we didn’t overboard with all sorts of junk, and now we can get on with our lives and get back to hockey. I love when that happens.

Hope everyone had a nice Christmas, and thanks for reading, and thanks to Peter Hilton for the pic.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

White Christmas

It’s funny how Mother Nature works. We’ve been without snow for months (I’m not whining, I promise), which makes winter a little more bleak because everything is brown vs. white, and seemingly out of the blue, we got snow on Christmas. Not a lot, but just enough to make for a white Christmas, which is really a nice thing. It definitely made things more cheerful, and we had a wonderful day just hanging out, opening presents, and eating tons of treats. So many treats, in fact, that I found it affected me. I’m just not used to eating all that junk food, or more specifically, sugar.

Either way, it was a really nice day, made all the nicer by waking up to snow on the ground. It’s a good thing I finished the wood pile, because once the snow starts covering the ground, things start to freeze into one solid mass. Mom started things off by making pancakes for breakfast, and then we basically lounged around, opened presents, and ate. We pace the opening of presents in order to make a day of it, but it also forces the kids to think about each gift and hopefully appreciate it more, rather than just tearing through the boxes in order to get to the next one. That I find disturbing.

We had a few glitches, of course, on our path to Christmas enlightenment. We were out of certain food items, but once again, BGs came to the rescue. They were open for a few hours on Christmas Day. Then I got stupidly ambitious and tried to make whole grain cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast, but they took way too long, and we ran out of cinnamon after BGs had closed. R needed it for her pumpkin pie, as well, so she took cinnamon sticks and ground them up with her seed grinder into powder. How cool is that?

At some point in the afternoon we needed to get out, so we went for a nice afternoon walk, which around this time of year means walking in the dark because the days are so short. We wanted to see the UU Church tree, but when we got there, the thing wasn’t lit. Why, I have no idea, but it was a little disappointing. Then for our big Christmas supper, we ran into another bump. A request was made for mashed turnips and carrots, but it seemed to take forever to cook the stupid tubers. I boiled them for what must have been 40 minutes, but they were still hard. We ended up eating them undercooked because it was getting late and we were hungry. Kind of a bummer. I also screwed up the meat by marinating it in the wrong stuff, but more on this later.

On a bright note, however, other things went very well. We cooked a London Broil, which I’d never done before. I’ve eaten it in the past and was never impressed, it struck me as tough and tasteless. After doing some research, I learned that this is because it’s a cheap piece of meat, even though it sure sounds gourmet. I found the trick is to cut it as thin as possible, then serve it with gravy. It’s the Arby’s approach. As I mentioned, I marinated the thing in a teriyaki like marinade, which was so stupid when you think about it. Teriyaki and gravy don’t go together, but I was foolishly led to believe that the marinade would tenderize the meat, which it did not. The reality is, if you’re cooking London Broil, it’s just going to be tough. There are no miracle cures for that. Fortunately the marinade was not overwhelming, so it was fine and the most importantly, the kids loved it. Next time I’ll just rub it with salt. One bright note about LB is that it sure is cheap. I’m curious to see if it works better with a nicer cut of meat.

Another good moment during our supper was the Yorkshire Pudding. I’m always getting requests from the kids to make YP, and what’s not to love? Flour, salt, butter and eggs. In the past, I would make it in a 9X9 baking dish. This is usually fine, but after doing the usual exhaustive research, I began to notice that pics often show these small, individual YPs on each plate. Kind of cool. I finally found a recipe that says to use a cupcake pan, and that’s what we did. The YPs came out beautiful, and they tasted great. Live and learn, right?

The kids loved the meal, and it was nice to be home by the wood stove, eating a family meal together. That’s what the holidays are all about, right?

Now we just have to get to the new year, and we can get on with our lives. Until then, hope everyone had a nice Christmas, and thanks for reading, and thanks to Bahman Farzad and 3liz4 for the pics.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Finished the Wood

Talk about going down to the wire, I finally finished the woodpile for next year, which for the record is nothing short of a minor miracle, because I have plugging away at it for months. Plus, I got it done and that night, we got snow, though just a little bit. We're supposed to get socked with it in the next day or so.

I have been pining for snow, and lots of it, but in a crazy way, the fact that it hasn’t snowed bode well for me and the woodpile. If we’d gotten tons of snow, it would have been trickier, though not impossible, moving all that wood and splitting and stacking it. I know, I’m just being a sissy Flatlander, but what do you expect?

Either way, it took quite awhile, and I kept wondering why it seemed to hard this year. I realized that part of the problem boiled down to time, or lack of it. In the past I could dedicate a good 4-5 hours to splitting, and it usually moved along. This year, I am so busy that the best I can do is 1 hour, and that makes it hard to make a big dent in the pile. It got done, but next year I’m hoping to have my act together, sooner. Yeah, right.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Making Cookies

Despite the busy, crazy nature of our lives, there’s always time for making holiday cookies, especially when mom jumps into the fray. R wanted to make holiday cookies with the kids, and I was wondering when we were ever going to find the time, but find the time they did. This was in the midst of going to assorted social occasions (Solstice party, Christmas parties), hockey games, and trying to scramble to prepare for Christmas.

Best of all, I didn’t have to do a thing. Mom took the reigns and took off with the kids. They had a blast, even improvising and coming up with their own ideas (I love when that happens), and the cookies came out beautifully, and the recipe wasn’t that complicated. The kids made candy canes, cookies and even Santa hats. They reminded me of short bread, and they looked and tasted great.

What a nice way to cruise into the holidays. Thanks for reading.

Scrambling for Presents

Talk about clich├ęs, but I was literally scrambling for presents until the zero hour. Fortunately, the mood wasn’t dark and maniacal, but still somewhat humorous. We had this last minute inspiration to get a gift for the kids, even though I was convinced that we were complete. I dreaded the idea of driving to consumer hell just to get one last gift, especially on Christmas Eve, but we went for it. I even called ahead to see if they had what we were looking for.

Interestingly enough, they did, though not without some prodding. I called the store to see if they had the item of interest, and the woman on the phone said that she thought they were out of stock. Enough said, right? Well, I asked her if she could check, which she begrudgingly did, and lo and behold, they did have it. Just goes to show you, you never know until you find out for yourself. Not only did they have it, but they had a bunch of them, and they were cheaper than anywhere else.

I drove out and got it, and best of all, the crowds were very mellow. I was shocked. Last year I recall Consumer Hell really lived up to its name, but this year there was no traffic, and the store wasn’t bad at all. I’m grateful, but found it to be a little strange. Oh well, mission accomplished, and time to head back home.

Hope everyone is having a nice holiday, and thanks for reading, and thanks to outtram for the pic.

Merry Christmas

Well, I can’t believe it’s finally here, but Merry Christmas to everyone.

It seems different every year, but this Christmas really seemed to creep up on me, most likely because there is so much going on. We have been running around with hockey and other assorted activities, which all wound down this past week, coupled with getting things together for the holidays. I made a concerted effort not to be cynical and grumpy about all the responsibilities and to just go with the flow, and for the most part, I think I succeeded, though this blog suffered. Then again, if that’s the main casualty of the holidays, it’s not such a bad thing.

It was quite a mad dash to the finish line this year, and again, it’s all because of hockey. It takes so much time just getting to games and practices. Factor in helping coach, writing the game summaries, and being the scheduler, and it’s nothing short of insanity. That’s the way we like it, right?

I managed to get all of my Christmas cards out by the end of last week, not to mention packages to various family members. What was interesting and serendipitous was that I used my last address label and stamp on my last card. Don’t ask me why, but I think that’s kind of cool, for practical and spiritual reasons.

We had our last hockey game before Christmas last week, and there will be no practices until next weekend, so the question becomes, what are we going to do with ourselves? I wouldn’t mind doing some skiing, and there will be plenty of chance to do some skating, so no worries.

For now, we’ll just relax and enjoy the holiday. Merry Christmas to everyone, and thanks for reading, and thanks to mlamprou for the pic.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mid-Week Hockey Night in the Big City

They organized a hockey night with the team and we went along with the program, deviating from our usual plan, and I sort of regretted it. Not so much because we didn’t have fun, we did, and we enjoyed hanging with the team and the other families. It’s just that we could have accomplished said goal by doing our own thing, but instead we, or should I say I, felt like we were supposed to do it a certain way, and ended up being one of the few that did. I figured everyone else was on board so I jumped on it enthusiastically, and then realized later that only a few people took that course, and most people did what we should have done, i.e., their own thing.

When we go to hockey games, we usually get seats behind the player’s bench, and they’re great seats. This time I wanted to make sure that the kids all got to sit together, which of course meant that we, the parents would all have to sit together, but again, that wasn’t the case. We ended up getting less than optimal seats in the student section, though it did give us a new perspective on things.

The other families were all over the place, but since it’s a pretty relaxed atmosphere, the kids could all sit wherever they wanted, which was together. It didn’t matter where the parents sat, so it worked out nicely.

Anyway, it was fun. We all met for pizza, and it was quite a scene because the kids from the big city hockey program were there, as well. All these different hockey players eating pizza, parents slurping down beers, and you have yourself a party. The game was fun, and even though we were a bit isolated in our seats, it made it more relaxing because R and I could just sit quietly and watch the game while the kids run around and get crazy with one another.

It was a lot of fun, but sometimes it’s hard coordinating these big group events. Then again, I should just relax and go with the flow... yeah, right.

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

Maintaining Perspective

Sometimes when you get caught up in the frenzy of a situation, you start to see things for what they are and you need to take a step back. Our love for hockey has not waned in the least bit, but I have to confess, my enthusiasm for the cult of hockey is reaching a healthier, more moderate level. Mind you, this is a good thing.

You really have to look at it for what it is, a fun game where kids learn skills and values that they take with them into future endeavors. They stress this in the USA Hockey program. They want coaches to teach kids to have fun and develop a love for the game while practicing the game. They should not be inundated with hockey or over-worked in any way, and should maintain some balance at all times. This means other interests, including sports. If they want to really make the commitment and play hockey seven days a week, that decision should be made at the Bantam or even high school level.

With this in mind, when they’re young, winning should not be the most important thing, and again, the powers that be wholeheartedly endorse this message. This is not what you see out there, but that’s the way the world is. My point is, kids and parents should not let hockey consume them.

This is not always so easy when you have OCD like I do, and it becomes increasingly difficult when you’re interacting a lot with the likes DF, who is Mr. Hockey. Hockey is his life, and I have yet to meet anyone who knows as much about the sport as him. He doesn’t expect people to be as dedicated as he is, but he doesn’t discourage it, and his enthusiasm can be infectious to a novice like myself. Plus, he’s good at what he does.

This has come to light lately as all sorts of hints and messages have been coming through, largely due to own neurotic OCD, that Mr. Hockey’s days are numbered as our coach. He is really pushing for us to be independent, and he never gives full disclosure as to his motives. It’s almost as if he’s discretely setting up for the day when we’ll be on our own without coming out and saying it, which is fine. It’s also possible that this is all in my wild imagination and the status quo will be maintained, but somehow I doubt that.

It’s good, not unlike a parent teaching a child to be independent, you can’t have your hand held for your entire life, as much as you’d like to have it that way. Becoming more independent-minded has also allowed me to have a healthier outlook when it comes to the game, or at least our kid’s game.

I’ll leave it at that, but it goes without saying that this story is just beginning. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to anthony_goto for the pic.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Officially Christmas

It’s officially Christmas in our home because we got our tree, which was actually about a week and a half ago, but I’m finding it hard to really embrace the Christmas spirit. Not so much because I’m such a Scrooge, which I can be, but because the weather has been so mild, and we have NO SNOW! I can’t believe it. It seems like by now we should have had at least a dusting, but really nothing to speak of.

Plus, we’re so busy, it’s hard to take time to stop and think about much of anything other than hockey and more hockey. Then again, we wouldn’t want it any other way, would we?

The kids took the initiative and decorated the tree, and they did a wonderful job. It’s awesome when they jump into something and don’t need mom or dad to help. That means we can do other important things like cook meals, wash dishes, or write hockey reports.

Now we can cruise into the holidays, in between all of our scheduled events, of course. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to legotanks for the pic.

Back to Karate

I’ve been a total flake when it comes to karate, and part of me feels really bad, but another part of me, about 98%, is just way too busy. Karate night is tough because the kids both have hockey, and I help coach the younger players. A has her practice, which was moved from another night, and N gets to skate with the younger team, which is actually closer to his age since he’s the youngest kid on his team.

The coach, TG, has a son who plays with N, and two daughters who play with the mites, so he coaches both teams. Talk about busy. He is alone coaching the mites, nobody else is willing to step up and help, and since N and I are there anyway watching A, I offered to come and help. I asked if N could skate, as well, and he said fine. So it works out nicely. I get to help out, and N gets more ice time as well as skill development.

The one downside is I don’t get to sit and relax and just watch A’s practice, but such is life. Who needs time to relax, anyway?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Torogoz El Salvador for the pic.

New Microwave

My in-laws are amazing, they can fix anything. The Amazing PR Man could build a house in a day, and RR can repair anything electrical, or at least make a go of it and figure out what’s wrong. Case in point, our microwave. When it broke, I pretty much wrote it off and looked into replacements. When I contacted the company, GE, they said a common problem with our model was that the magnetron tube burns out.

I contacted some repair people, and they all said that replacing a magnetron tube would run you around $200, more than the cost of getting a new one. In the meantime, we simply lived without a microwave for about 2 months. I didn’t think it was worth it to repair, and one of the repair guys said as much. Sears required bringing it in, and then they start sticking you with fees from the get-go.

Just getting the machine down from it’s position was daunting to me, so like many problems that I have in life, I tried my best to ignore it. Needless to say, that didn’t solve the problem, and it didn’t go away.

This past Thanksgiving, when R’s family came to visit, RR took a stab at trying to fix it. Talk about fearless. What’s really impressive is that he not only knew what a magnetron tube was, but he knew their characteristics. In fact, he said that they were designed for long life, and that it was unlikely to be the problem.

Taking the reigns, he oversaw the removal of the beast, and then proceeded to take it apart and examine the circuit board. By the end of the weekend, the microwave was working again. Truly amazing. RR was humble and said he wasn’t sure what he did to repair it, but the reality of the matter is, he was fearless enough to tackle a problem that 90% of the population, including myself, would not have even attempted, and it worked.

That’s worth a lot. Now we have a microwave, and of course we wondered how we ever lived without it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

On the Other Side

The library is in the process of finding a new director, and I’m on the search committee, which means sifting through the applicants and then choosing a new leader. It’s interesting being on the other side of the equation. I’ve interviewed for so many things, whether it’s school or jobs, that I don’t think I’ve ever been in a position to actually hire someone.

What’s also interesting is the range of people looking to fill the position, from the highly qualified to the ones who need to get a grip on reality. The problem with this process is that teasing out the best candidate can’t always be done on paper, you have to meet them and get a feel for them. It can get complicated.

This should be interesting. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Laurel.Miss for the pic.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Crazy Travel Schedule (for hockey, of course)

A week or two back, we had travel games up in Burlington. Actually, we went to Middlebury first, then an early morning game in Burlington. This necessitated an overnight stay in the big city. A had games at home then away up in St. Albans, which is in the middle of nowhere near the Canadian border. It is, however, a hockey mecca.

The plan was complicated, but we hashed it out. R was not so thrilled with the whole thing, more hockey angst, and I can’t say I blame her. The plan was for N and I to hitch a ride with JG and several boys. We would got to Middlebury, have our game, then hitch another ride to Burlington with the other JG. Once there, we’d meet with R and A, who were coming up with C&SP from their home game.

N’s game was in the early AM, so we would wake up, have breakfast, and head over to the rink. DF wasn’t going to be there, if you can believe that, so S and I were going to be head coaches. Yikes! It actually wasn’t so bad, and our guys clobbered the other team, 9-1. I have to confess, being a head coach is less stressful without the Hockey Master there to scrutinize your every move.

To add to the fun, after N’s game, we had to travel even farther north to St. Albans for A’s game. We hopped on the interstate and drove up. St. Albans is really far north in the state, and like I said, there isn’t much going on up there other than hockey. Consequently, they are perennial state champions. The rafters are lined with championship banners. Pretty impressive, not to mention intimidating.

Our girls did well, they lost, but they held their own, and it was a fun game. Also it was nice to be able to sit, relax, and just enjoy the game. I don’t get to do that much. The drive home was a bit long, we were all tired, but we survived our big traveling ordeal. Hopefully that will be the worst of it, but with hockey, you just never know.

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

Good Practice

Our good friend TG is coaching the smallest group of hockey players, and he’s all on his own. His assistant can’t make it for various reasons, and some of the other parents won’t help. I know this because A’s practice occurs at the same time, and N and I sit and watch. I told him I’d be willing to help, at the very least to pick up cones and toss pucks on the ice. He said it would be great.

I also asked if N could join in. He’s the youngest kid on his team, so this group is almost closer to his age. Plus, he gets to practice skills in a group that he got somewhat shortchanged on since he started hockey late. At this stage, the more ice time, the better. Finally, I can help out a friend.

Well, we did our first practice the other day, and I thought it worked our beautifully. The practices are more fun and relaxing because we don’t have the pressure of wanting to do well in front of DF, the Hockey Master. Also, the group is small, and N is really with kids more his own age. He gets a little confidence booster because he’s used to wrestling with the big boys.

All in all, it’s a good situation. Since A has her practice on the other half of the ice, we get to skate instead of just watching, though I rather miss having time to sit, relax, and watch the game, but that’s what happens when you join the cult of hockey. You just can’t get enough.

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

Call of Duty

We were delivered a bit of surprise in that our beloved director at the library is leaving us for greener pastures. Nobody can blame her for finding better opportunities, it’s just that it took us a bit by surprise, and we’re bummed because we adore her.

Nevertheless, duty calls, and as a board, it’s our job to find her replacement. Thus begins the job of putting the word out, sifting through the applicants, gathering together the short list of hopefuls, then interviewing them. It’s hard because you want things to work out for everyone, but that’s simply impossible, especially with such a wide range of applicants. Plus, it’s a rather involved job, so you can’t really mess around. Whomever we choose, they have mighty big shoes to fill in replacing MD, that’s for sure.

This should be interesting, on so many levels. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to nikon pete1 for the pic.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Winter Swimming

I know it sounds crazy to swim in December, but with the modern world that we live in, anything is possible. Of course it involves an indoor pool, which I’m not the biggest fan of, but it does allow the kids to swim all year ‘round, so I shouldn’t complain. They just come out of there smelling like bleach sponges, but once in awhile is okay, isn’t it?

Either way, their friends are doing a regular swim gig, and I wasn’t sure A&N were interested, but they jumped at the chance. I had to go to a meeting so I asked a friend to take them, and then I would go later and pick them up. Thanks to JM for helping us out. They had a blast,, what kid doesn’t love to swim? I was able to attend my meeting, I picked them up later, and it ended up being a really nice day. I love when that happens.

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

Rebound

It goes without saying that N didn’t like being given constructive criticism, but I think he responded in a positive way by working harder and answering the call. I’m not one who believes in being hard on kids and pushing them to the extreme, but I also think that it’s not good to go through life only hearing good things and positive feedback. The reality is, none of us is perfect, and if we’re always being told how great we are, when we get out into the real world and hear the cold hard truth, it can be devastating. I see it all the time in people whose hands are held for them. When the have to deal with the harsh realities of life, they give up and quit, or just walk away. Not the best way to go through life.

Again, I don’t like to see the kids feel bad, that’s not the point, but I also think it’s important for them to understand that everything they do is not always perfect. On that note, N came out at the next hockey practice and skated that much harder and took to heart the coaches message. In the process, he’s becoming a better hockey player and learning the value of hard work and perseverance, not to mention that life isn’t only about being told how great you are, even if you are.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to o5com for the pic.

Skating Through Life

The new era of my new skates has begun, and they sure feel nice, sort of. Like any new shoe or piece of equipment, there seems to be a breaking in period, which entails a bit of pain and suffering. Then again, what’s a little pain and suffering when it involves hockey, the real man’s sport. Since the material is new, I am experiencing a little chafing on the shins, but the foot part feels good.

In fact, in my first game with my new skates, I didn’t score a goal, but I did manage to do something even more astounding - I eluded the amazing GG, who might very well have simply let up and let me skate past him, but it still felt like I skated past him. Bear in mind, GG is an incredible hockey player, so much so that he probably belongs in the A league. Usually he zips by me and stops me in my tracks when I try to do the same. This time around we were going for the puck and I got there first. I took it and rounded the net then headed up the ice, and somehow managed to elude GG. Also, we managed to beat the mighty Green Team.

Can I attribute all this to my new skates? Sure, why not? I’m the author of this story... sort of.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to jenover2010 for the pic.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Put On the Spot

As usual, our kids put us on the spot and we had to deal with a spontaneous situation, which as you know, I don’t do well with. Then again, it’s good to confront them and deal with them because you can’t live your life hiding in your comfort zone, right?

Anyway, it was after open stick on a non-school day. The kids all wanted to hang out at their friend’s house, and the father, who was out there with us on the ice, was also put on the spot. I don’t know what he was actually feeling, but his response was reminiscent of how I would have reacted, which was to agree with some reservation, because you don’t feel right about saying no in front of the friends. The reason this comes into play is because deep in my heart, I’d rather just go home and deal with all the things I need to deal with, and I am not good at quick decisions. I need time to think and process things, so when requests are dropped on me with no warning, I hem and haw. My first impulse is to say no, and then give it some thought, but with kids, you just aren’t given that luxury.

My point is, I think SS was put on the spot like that, and he might have felt like he didn’t want to say yes, but couldn’t say no. It worked out fine, the kids had fun and having playmates makes life easier on the parents, it’s just that initial moment that’s uncomfortable. I wish I was more relaxed like JG and GG, who are so warm and welcome to everyone around them. They just go with the flow, and whomever goes to their house is made to feel unquestionably welcome. Something to aspire to.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Not So Fuzzy Feeling

There’s no question that we are hockey crazy over here. N got the ball rolling, and I think of it as really his thing, but you realize that he’s still pretty new to the game, especially relative to the other kids, some of whom have been skating since they were three, and playing hockey for 5-6 years. This is N’s second year, so he’s still catching up, but doing a fine job.

Anyway, with so much to learn, there’s bound to be some bumps in the road, especially when you have a hardcore coach like DF. Throw in some enthusiastic dads who don’t know how to keep their cool, and it can get pretty intense during games, what with parents and coaches and players barking out orders. The other day at a game, N was given directives in a less than soft and fuzzy manner, and he took it to heart, more than he needed to. He’s a sensitive boy, and it upset him. I think he really gets bummed when he thinks he did something wrong, which is unwarranted because everyone does something wrong. We’re learning here.

Anyway, after the game, N was crabby and grouchy, and we had to explain to him that in the heat of the game, ideas are not always expressed in a tactful manner, and he shouldn’t take it personally. I think the coaches believe in N and his potential, but when you’re a kid, it’s hard to grasp that. You just remember getting yelled at.

I don’t know if it helps, but the coaches yell at every kid, not to mention the other coaches, some just take it harder than others. It’s possible the message stung a little more because he was aware that he did something wrong. Who knows? All that matters is that he understands it’s not a question of fault, it’s about learning the game and making mistakes along the way. We all do it.

He says he still loves the game, and he’s getting better every day, so we’ll just go with that.

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

Good Bunch of Kids

I just wanted to mention that way back when, when we were down in Mass for the tournament, a couple of sources complimented our players on their good behavior. First off, the coach of the opposing team in the final came over to our locker room after the game and told us how respectful our team was and how much class our players displayed in defeating them. In his words, “They could have pounded us, but they kept it honorable and dignified.” I agree.

The people at the hotel also commented on well behaved the kids were in their hotel. In fact, they said of all the teams that came through, ours were their favorite. The manager even joked that another hotel called to see if our players needed a place to stay, and she said they couldn’t have our players because they wanted them in their hotel. Kind of funny.

I have to say, I kind of agree. Our players were not crazy and wild. I saw kids playing hockey in the hallways, making a mess, and that didn’t happen with us. Our kids kept the rowdiness confined to within our rooms, and since DF enforced a curfew, there wasn’t any late night debauchery.

I’m proud of our guys on a number of levels, but I can’t help but say that credit goes to DF. It’s his team, and he sets the bar high.

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

Trying To Finish the Woodpile

Our kids were asking me if my goal was to finish the woodpile before winter kicked into full gear, and after I said yes, they said, not without a blatant sense of cynicism, “Good luck.”

Thanks a lot. I think I can get it done, as long as the wood pile doesn’t freeze into one big mass. This is a real possibility given that it’s beginning to snow, but not the end of the world. If I can’t pry the pieces apart, I’ll just leave them until next Spring. This is obviously less than ideal, but that’s what happens when you put things off.

Fortunately, we’re set for this winter in terms of wood. We’ll see where this goes. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Brissy Girl for the pic.

New Skates

I try to do my best to live on the cheap, as many of you may know, and this is especially true when it comes to hockey. That doesn’t mean hockey isn’t important (it’s so important), but at least for me, having new and expensive equipment is not the point. For the kids it’s a different story, sometimes they need new stuff, especially when all of their friends have it. I really don’t think expensive stuff will make a difference in the sort of player that you are, it’s more about the image and wanting to be cool.

Either way, I play hockey on used or cheap stuff. I’ve bought new stuff, like gloves, but only after I’ve exhausted all of my used resources. Some things are tough when they’re used, like gloves or a jock strap. You don’t want to go there. When I do go new, I get the cheapest thing I can find, or wait for a sale. Now way back when we first moved here, the kids were going to try ice skating, and I figured I’d learn along with them, so I got skates, as well. I got the cheapest ones they had, and they worked fine, not that I knew any better.

After playing hockey for a bit, however, I began to realize that my foot sure did move around inside my skate. Then my OCD kicked in and I began to envision a world where I actually had a nice piece of hockey equipment. I even got the thumbs up from R. Say no more!

I did the usual amount of exhaustive research and got a new pair. It was kind of exciting, if not a big embarrassing making a big purchase. Now the big question is, will I skate like Mark Messier?

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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hockey Friends

There are numerous reasons that I like the fact that our kids play hockey. Besides my love of the game, they are definitely learning about hard work and diligence, but also about winning, losing, victory, and disappointment. All that good stuff. They are also making a lot of new friends, and it’s nice. Sure, they mainly see each other at the arena, but playdates and genuine friendships are being born from all this, and you can’t put a price on that. Having the common bond of hockey helps make that connection.

Also, and I’m being objective here, the hockey kids that we encounter tend to be good kids. Sure, they’re kids so they get crazy and hyped up on sugar and TV, but for the most part, they’re well mannered, polite, and respectful. The coach, DF, demands that from them, and it shows. I’ve noticed that throughout my years of watching sports, pro hockey players tend to be more humble and tactful than other athletes. I’m not saying their saints, they have their fare share of problems, but when you watch the game and listen to the players, they tend to deflect attention to their teammates, versus other sports where the players can really be self-absorbed not-so-nice guys. I’ll leave it at that.

I’m glad the kids are making friends, and they are finding numerous opportunities to hang out and spend time with them. Since they’re, for the most part, fairly local, they are within reach of socializing, and they’ll always see each other on the ice. You can’t beat that.

So for all the hassles, obligations, and angst that come with hockey, I have to say, it’s worth it in my eyes. Then again, nobody asked me my opinion.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to cjedwards47 for the pic.

Getting Out Of Hand?

As much as I love hockey, I have to confess, it must seem a bit insane to an outside observer. At some point you have to maintain some perspective. Even I can see that... sort of. Now I personally enjoy immersing myself in something, it feeds into my OCD nature. Besides, that’s when you’re really enjoying something, when it consumes you. The only problem is, it can be unhealthy, especially when you have other pressing needs in your life, like family.

This can work our okay when the rest of your family is on board. However, if this is not the case, then you can end up with a problem. This past weekend we had family visiting for the holidays, and it became readily apparent to everyone outside the talons of hockey’s perilous clutches that we are head over heels into this game. It must have really hit home for R’s parents.

Then again, I think they could appreciate the love of the game. It’s fun to watch when your kids are playing, regardless of the level of play. I think given enough time, anyone would love watching the game, and I’m trying to be objective here. It’s just a load of fun. If only we’d been able to catch a Dartmouth game. Oh well, maybe next time.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to That English Chap for the pic.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Someone Understands

All this hockey obsession is sure to elicit waves of concern from my family and acquaintances, not to mention a bit of disdain and scorn. I did, however, find that I’m not alone. I was at the market yesterday and saw RE, who is GE’s husband. He plays in the C-league with me, and when I asked him how his holiday was going, his response was that it was fine, but he was bummed because there was no hockey this week, and that he missed it.

I could feel a tear welling up in my eye.

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

Inane Detail (the best kind)

I know this is a trivial detail, and that I need to tone down topics pertaining to hockey because it is beginning to irk a certain individual, but I heard a fun fact about taping hockey sticks. A friend said that if you use black tape, it makes it harder for the goalie to see the puck coming off the stick. Now I realize that this makes no difference for a hockey novice as myself, and for that matter, for anyone below the college hockey level, but it sure seemed like a pertinent piece of information.  With this in mind, I got some black tape and re-did my stick blade. I found taping the handle black stains your gloves black, so I kept the white tape on the handle.
 
Now I’m sure to score a hat trick at my next game. I can’t wait.

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

Family of Fixers, Part 2

R’s parents came for a visit and as I mentioned the Amazing PR Man single-handedly dry walled the vestibule, but while all this was happening, R’s dad also fixed our microwave oven. Is that incredible, or what? Not only did he fix it, but he knows electronics (he’s an EE), and had a complete understanding of how the microwave works and all the possible problems that could arise.

I know one thing, if I were stranded on a desert island and needed a microwave fixed and some drywall done, I know who I’d like to have there with me. The microwave has been on the blink for several months, and we’ve simply adapted to life without it. I had a sense that when R’s parents visited, RR would want to take a stab at it, and I also had a sense that if he did, he would no doubt be able to fix it. The only time I think he didn’t pull off such a repair was when he looked at our TV, and the only reason he couldn’t fix it was because he didn’t have a spare circuit board with him. Mark my work, if we were at their house, he would have had that TV fixed.

Anyway, right off the bat, he questioned whether the problem with the microwave was the magnetron tube (MT), because they are designed to have a long life. We took the microwave down from the wall and with N helping with the screwdriver, proceeded to disembowel the thing. Sure enough, RR determined that the problem was not the MT, and then proceeded to fix it. Who cares if he wasn’t completely sure what he did? The point is, he did it. Just taking that step is the key.

It sort of gives you a sense of where the Amazing PR Man gets his amazing-ness. RR recommended that before we strap the thing back onto the wall, we should give it a few more tried to make sure it works. Now all we have to do is figure out where all those screws go and what all those pieces that fell out are for. No problem. My approach is if you’re unsure what it’s for, ignore it.

It should be interesting how long we go with the microwave sitting on the floor. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to kapunkapcoy for the pic.

Family of Fixers, Part 1

As I mentioned, the Amazing PR Man was once again amazing. About a year ago JH and his Magic Bag of Tools and I moved and reframed the front door. It was a pretty serious job, and I have to confess that I felt rather proud of myself at getting it done. It not only addressed a serious problem with the house, but it was a difficult task, not for the faint of heart. I did most of the framing, as well.

A year passed and the interior remained unfinished. R was not happy about this, but she realized that there so many other things going on. I was on the cusp of hiring a carpenter. Enter the Amazing PR Man. He took one look at it and said, “Let’s do it.” The only problem was, it would require a truck, which was no simple feat. We don’t own a truck, and the person I would usually ask for a favor, my Mentor, is probably not only sick of my needs, but he was out of town. I called a few people before our good friends, the Gs, came through. Speaking of testing the limits of our welcome, the Gs have been coming through for us on a number of occasions. Thanks GG and JG, you guys are the best.

Anyway, we needed a truck to haul drywall, which are not only big and heavy, (unless you’re the Amazing PR Man, who can toss them around like playing cards), but fragile. They break easily, and once they’re broken, they’re done. Because of this, we needed a big truck, as well.

This is how things transpired. There was an open stick at UA, which the kids wanted to attend (what else is new?). Now I could have been the pragmatic dad and just said no, but they really wanted to go, and more skating will only help their game. Plus, sometimes it’s easier when they are busy and occupied, leaving adults to do adult things. Finally, the timing worked out.

The plan was to drop them off at public skate, where they could skate for an hour before putting on their gear for open stick. This gave us 2 hours. During this time, we headed over to GGs, which is nearby, got the truck and then headed over to Brittons. Now I don’t think we could have managed this if not for Brittons, because Home Depot of LaValleys were almost too far away.

We picked up the drywall and plywood, as well as assorted necessities (i.e., drywall screws, masonry saw blade, joint compound) and headed home. We unloaded the stuff and the Amazing PR Man went to work. He didn’t even need me there to help, and if anything, we better off for it. When you’re amazing, you don’t need any help, especially from a real man in training.

While he was getting ready, I took the truck back to the Gs, and then headed to the ice rink to pick up the kids. They had just finished when I arrived, so I loaded them into the car and headed home, where PR was working on the vestibule, and R and her mom were making supper. I suddenly had some free time, which I couldn’t take advantage of because everyone around me was being industrious. I started working on my coaching module, which was probably a mistake, because it sent negative hockey vibes out to certain people (too much *$*%^ hockey!). I did manage to get a lot done, however. Those modules are a huge time drain.

Anyway, by later afternoon, supper was finished, and the vestibule was almost done. Dinner was nice, R and JR did a fabulous job, and after supper, PR and I went back to work. I think he wanted to include me in a few things because he might have got the impression that I was feeling left out. It wasn’t that I felt left out, but rather guilty that he was working so hard. I did manage to screw a couple of things up, but they thankfully weren’t irreparable.

I did learn how to cut dry wall, and due to time constraints, PR left me to finish the job. I need to cut out a piece of concrete board to finish the floor, and then finish taping the drywall. I have some experience working with joint compound when I fixed the walls after removing wallpaper, so it’s completely alien to me. That doesn’t mean I’ll get it done any time soon, but it’s something. Then I’m supposed to put in a floor. The decision was made to tile it, which is a bit more complicated than simply putting in wood flooring, but with greater challenge comes greater reward, right?

At the very least I’ll have something to write about. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to jwstrand for the pic.

Weekend Visit

R’s parents came for a visit this weekend, and like always, it was really enjoyable, albeit a little crazy with hockey and all. I think R felt like hockey infringed on the holidays, and I acknowledge that it takes a lot of time. In fact, at some point you being to realize that hockey kind of takes over your life, not that this makes anyone feel any better. I think there is a need to tread lightly when it comes to certain topics.

Either way, it’s good to have a healthy outlook and approach anything, which unfortunately, I do not have, but I won’t dwell on it. I’ll just do my best to keep my obsession in check and tread lightly on the topic when I’m in certain company.

Having said that, it was nice that JR had a chance to see A play. She didn’t have a chance to see N because his game was far away, but A was local, so she went with R, and I think she enjoyed it. Who wouldn’t? The games are fun to watch, and it takes on special meaning when your grandkids are playing.

Again, having all this hockey, not to mention my scheduling and coaching obligations, made for a hectic weekend, and I could have/should have done a better job of being more tactful and coy about it all, but what’s done is done, and I’ll have to learn from the experience.

One thing that kind of fell apart during this visit was our big family meal. The Amazing PR Man was inspired to finish a job that I had just barely started, and like all things that he does, he completed it in a timely manner (1 day!) and did an outstanding job. The guy is amazing. However, because it required all sorts of logistics and supplies, I was taken out of the picture when it came to making the meal, which is usually my job. R and JR did a stand up job of filling in, and it worked out in the end. It was just kind of complicated.

Adding to the complexity was, you guessed it, hockey. Not only did the kids have games, but there was an open stick that they wanted to attend, so I had to drop them off. This worked out, but it meant one more thing for me to deal with. I’ll tell you, it wasn’t easy. We pulled it off, but R’s parents must think we’re insane, and they wouldn’t be that far off.

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

The Little Things

Life really is about the little things. If you can develop an appreciation for them, then you’re doing all right. The other day at practice, they ran 1:1 drills, and the kids have a little game where if you win the 1:1 battle, the defeated are supposed to carry the victor’s bag out to the parking lot. N went up against an older, bigger, and more experienced teammate and won. I found this out when we were leaving the arena and N’s teammate was lugging his bag. I asked what was going on and was enlightened, not without a tinge of joy and pride, mind you.

N noticed that his teammate was struggling to haul two hockey bags, and took the high road and said he would do it, relieving his friend of his duties. Once again, I was proud of him. Sometimes just knowing that you won is enough.

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