Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Club and Cable TV

The kids are doing cool stuff with their book club, and it goes beyond just books. They created a video trailer for one of the books they’re reading, complete with scripting, filming, acting and editing. Then AM arranged for them to go to the local cable TV station and work out the final edits for their trailer, and I think they’ll then broadcast it on public access TV. How cool is that? N got to sit in and watch the whole process, though at some point I think he got bored.

Best of all, the experience opened up all sorts of imaginative ideas for programs they’d like to create and produce. They were so excited. The guy running the program knows that the kids are homeschooled, so it was interesting when he talked about TV shows and commented that he figured they probably didn’t watch a lot of TV. He knows us so well.

When they got home, A&N brainstormed about ideas for TV shows, and they even started to outline their ideas. Not sure how long this fire will burn, but for now, it’s a lot of fun. Thanks to AM for all her hard work.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sílvio Gabriel Spannenberg for the pic.

Going to Karate

Last week I had to confront something I wrestle with every week, and that’s going to karate. They used to hold class twice a week, which is hard to imagine, because I have trouble just going once a week. It makes it more difficult because we have so much going on every day and evening that one more thing is just adding to the problem.

However, that said, every time I go, I have a great time and am happy we attended. This is especially true for A, who is coming along nicely. Case in point, last week the weather was rather poor, and I got the dreaded phone call from sensei H that he wasn’t going to make it. For the record, he hasn’t come in weeks, and I could tell he was just looking for a reason not to show.

All I needed to hear was that Master H wasn’t coming, and I was gone, but I called him and he said he was going to attend. I had the key, so I had to go, but again, the weather was calling for freezing rain, which makes driving a bit precarious. In the end, I took A over and we opened up the doors. The class was small, only 4 of us, but as always, it was fun, and we got a lot out of it. Plus, we went, and like Woody Allen said, 87% of life is just showing up.

Live and learn. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Patrick Nijhuis for the pic.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ultimate Hockey Weekend

How’s this for a hockey weekend? A&N both had games/practices on both Saturday and Sunday, and we went to two hockey games at Dartmouth. We clearly drank the hockey “Kool Aid,” and my only question is, can I have more? Since A has joined the House team, we have even more games and practices to attend. She’s having fun, and I’m glad she’s doing a team sport, because I think her personality fits a group activity. Plus, like her brother, she’s a good learner, so she is picking up on the game, getting some exercise, and polishing her skating. All good things.

The weeked started on Friday when we went to homeschool hockey. I’ll tell you one thing, they don’t mess around. They are all good players, and I felt pretty inadequate out there. It’s pretty intense, and I can see why A&N had reservations about playing again. Those big teenagers and adults work pretty hard out there, and being a little kid would be a challenge. I missed last week because I had to take friends back to school, but this time around, I came ready to play. They split the group up so kids played kids and adults played adults, and I skated by buns off. It was quite the workout. I even collided with another guy who easily outweighed me by 30 pounds, and it was like hitting a wall. Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt, but it sure was a wakeup call.

I’m also on the fast-track to learning how to play this game. No messing around for me. Just get in their and learn the hard way, but what else is new? I’ve found this the best way to not only learning how to play, but to getting in better shape. It so reminds me of ultimate frisbee, and it’s definitely more effective to have fun while exercising. It takes your mind off how miserable you are. When we were playing hockey, I was struggling constantly to catch my breath, but you are out there trying to stay in the game and skating hard. You can’t just quit and take a break, you have to give it your all. It’s loads of fun, and I lose liters of fluid. I love it.

I thought both A and N did a great job out there, and the dads were complimenting N on his skating and hockey abilities. I think he is still adjusting to the full ice arrangement, but it’s good for him to get a taste of it. If anything, it probably makes the half-ice game a little easier. Plus, the kids are mostly really nice, and they are all very supportive of both A&N. After the game, we headed over to the library and then to meet mom for Boloco burritos. We had a nice supper and then off to the women’s hockey game against Colgate.

It’s a shame that people don’t go to the women’s hockey games, because they are so good. They are really enjoyable to watch, just less physical, but man do they have talent. In a way, it’s more interesting to watch because they really have to rely on their skill, no brute force involved. Maybe it’s a good thing, because we can get any seat we want, and they have all sorts of contests and the lack of an audience only increases our odds of winning. With that in mind, we came close several times before finally winning a plane ticket from Lebanon airport to NYC. How cool is that?

They announced at the game that there would be a kid’s press conference the next night at the Cornell game, who happen to be in first place. The kids wanted to go, but we had two hockey games the next day, so there was no way we were going to make it. However, we woke up to snow, and that meant a hard drive to Burlington for N’s game. A had an early practice in the morning, so I took her while N slept in, and at that practice I got word that the Burlington game was cancelled. So, our plans shifted, and now we could go to the Dartmouth game, which was a great one. It was here where we won the plane ticket, and afterward, the kids got to ask the players questions, which was kind of cute. They even got free pizza. I tried to steal a slice, but they had limited quantities.

On Sunday, we had two more kid’s games to go to. N had a morning game in Hartford, and man was it cold. It was -10 outside, which meant -10 inside the arena. The rink is basically a shack with no insulation, and everyone was miserable. The player’s water bottles froze, I kid you not. For the record, N did a great job, he’s coming into his own as a player. After his game, we came home, had some lunch, and then went to A’s game in the afternoon. It was fun watching her play, and she, too, did a great job. She’s a good skater and even though she lacks experience, she’s a good learner and can figure out what needs to be done.

After the game, we finally got to unwind that evening after a long hockey weekend. I have to admit, I rather like all this hockey, and if anything, I wish I was out there playing myself.

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

Lighting a Fire

In trying to be philosophical about this whole newspaper story ordeal, I think there are many positives about how things transpired. First off, I learned a lot about who to talk to and who not to talk to, which is important when you consider that we are dealing in ideas. Secondly, as opposed to how I usually respond to such circumstances, I feel inspired to work even harder at making this work, because I feel somewhat slighted, even if this feeling is unfounded. And finally, I think we were limiting ourselves to a narrow vision that could be expanded in terms of our target venues.

With all this in mind, I feel optimistic in light of the temporary setback to our story idea. If anything, I think the story is still alive, and can be expanded and made even better. Along these lines, we might try to pitch it to a bigger and better publication, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. One step at at time, as the saying goes. I do realize one thing, however, and that is that this stage in our lives will best be approached as a team effort, meaning that R and I will have to work together if this is going to take off. This should be good.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Miguel Saavedra for the pic.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Life Lessons from Coaching

I’ve done my third night of coaching and I’m definitely more comfortable with it. I don’t know what’s changed, either I’ve gotten better at hockey or I’ve just overcome my huge hang-ups over time, but whatever be the case, I feel like a contributing member of the team. I’m even barking out orders, with the coach’s assistance, of course. Amazingly enough, the kids listen, or at least feign it, but I’ll take it.

But first, some thoughts on having hang-ups. I had serious reservations about getting out there on the ice. I’m not a hockey player, I just play one on TV. Who did I think I was going out there and trying to teach kids about hockey? Sure, I’m a dad, and that gives me some credibility, deserved or not. My experiences with t-ball were similar in that I felt somewhat self-conscious about coaching the sport, even though I played that my entire life. There is something about being in charge of a large group of kids that terrifies me.

With that in mind, what better way to confront your fears, especially such irrational ones, than to just jump in with both feet? The first time I coached hockey, I felt really stupid because I was literally standing around picking my nose, and I decided I was done. The next practice, the head coach asked me where my skates were, and I felt bad, so I decided to stop being such a wimp and just help, especially since they could use the help. My second go-around wasn’t so bad because often the practices run themselves.

This last time, I actually had a job and had to tell kids what to do. Not my cup of tea, but I figured I could make a difference not only the player’s lives, but my own, as well. It wasn’t easy, but when you just do it, things start to flow. Sure, I needed help explaining the drills, but eventually the kids just figure it out, and it’s not pro hockey, my role doesn’t have to be flawless, though I try my best to get it right.

The point being, why am I so anxious and self-conscious? It really prevents me from doing so many things, and then I have to live with all this regret. My daughter commented that I seem to have so much anxiety about things, which is not a good example to set. However, since I have the anxiety, I can send an empowering message to the kids by dealing with and overcoming it. How’s that for a positive spin on things?

On a side note, I was speaking with one of the dads who is a hockey player about coaching, and he voiced some of the same concerns that I have. Maybe hearing it helps to clarify it in myself and that’s the first step to dealing with it. Just do it, as a wise man once said... or was it a company?

Boy, parenthood sure isn’t easy when you’re so neurotic like myself. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Dave Di Biase for the pic.

Return of Pizza Night

We received a beautiful new pizza stone for Christmas (thanks JR and RR) to replace the one that broke, and is it ever nice. This one is super special because not only does it have a nice glazed finish, but you can use it on the range, as well. Say no more, I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a hot plate to put over the stove. Either way, we’re stoked to have a pizza a stone, and we made our first pizzas on it the other day. They turned out beautifully, we love homemade pizza, and the new stone is really easy to clean.

Looks like we’re going to have more pizza nights. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to ilker for the pic.

The Making of a Hockey Player

Since we’ve become the hardcore hockey parents (there is no other kind), I figure I might as well get into the act, as well. I have been dabbling in adult hockey, but was never really in a position to jump in completely. That is, of course, until now. As you may know, I tend to scour the thrift stores for any piece of random equipment that may come in handy, and last week I finally scored a pair of hockey pants that fit me. Hallelujah!

I went over to Stateline and got some socks, and now I think I have everything I need to at least look like a hockey player, and that’s what it’s all about, right? I was told by one of my classmates that they have adult open stick early in the AM, and I might give it a go. Also, this past week we did homeschool hockey, and the set aside a time for the adults to play, and let me tell you, they don’t mess around. These guys are good, and the skating was tough. I was so sore afterward, I could barely walk, but was it ever fun. The games are casual, but the players don’t mess around, and I had my work cut our for me. However, I’m figuring out what I need to do, and I’m a decent learner when I put my mind to it.

This only gets better with time. That’s all we need in our lives, more hockey. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to R Young for the pic.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Car Problems

Seemingly out of nowhere we ran into some car problems, and that’s always a bummer, especially because we are so dependent on them. We were driving to hockey practice and it was not a problem, when stopped for a bite to eat beforehand. As soon as we got back into the car, it sounded like a loud motorcycle. Clearly something was amiss with the muffler, and was it ever embarrassing. You hear loud cars all the time and want them to fix the problem, and now here we are, a part of the problem.

This development was not surprising, because a year back the guys at Bob’s told us that the manifold for the exhaust coming out of the catalytic converter (CC) was loose. They said the bolt was rusted to the point where they couldn’t replace it, but that as long as the other bolts held, it was fine. Once those bolts went, however, then the manifold couldn’t be removed, and we’d need a new CC. It went something like that, and as you can imagine, it would have been expensive.

Once the final bolt went, I figured that time had come and called Meunier to see if they could squeeze us in. He said bring it in and leave it and they’d fix it when they could, which I really appreciated because the are busy and booked for days. Interestingly enough, he also said they could simply replace the manifold, which was a different story than I initially heard. Don’t get me wrong, I was stoked, but it just goes to show you, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion.

Anyway, they fixed the car the same day, and we were ready to get back on the road. We had one car over the weekend, so if you could say there was a silver lining, it was that the timing of the problem was about as good as it can get. Thanks to the guys at Meunier.

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

New Piano Plan?

There was this young man who performed at the young artists showcase, and he was on fire. He played beautifully, and he really moved the audience. Nice kid, too. I asked him who his teacher is, and he studies with our friend, P. I’ve heard tons of accolades about his teaching, he’s very accomplished and is a very good teacher. We toyed with putting him together with A because a lot stuff comes easy to her and she approaches it as leisurely fun, which if fine for most things in life, but it’s good to be challenged at times. This is especially true later in life as you confront bigger challenges, and rather than just give up, know that you can overcome.

Amazing how complicated life can be, especially when it isn’t your own. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Alexander Nicholson-Ward for the pic.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Journalistically Scooped but Learning From It

This is a bit of a bummer, but in these instances you have to find the silver lining in things. Plus, there are usually good learning experiences to had. I had this idea of writing about my learn to play (LTP) hockey class from the perspective of someone who is averse to trying new things but always regrets it. I figured it would speak to people like me who go through life regretting their inaction. Anyway, I wrote the piece and wanted to pitch it to the paper, and contacted a sports writer who someone recommended to me.

This writer decided to take the idea and write the story himself. What a drag. Granted, what I wrote was probably not what they were looking for, and he's a professional and this is his job, but I sure felt a little betrayed. I won’t be calling that dude any time soon. His piece just came out and it completely ignored the theme I was trying to convey. Personally, I think he completely missed a good story in the interest of just getting a quick article out. Informative, but less poignant. Oh well, such is the life of an aspiring journalist.

On the bright note, I think the piece is different enough from my thesis to keep my version alive, and if anything, expand it and shop it around. Plus, in the heat of my feelings of betrayal, I really felt inspired to get off my butt and work harder at putting my writing out there. The time has come to take action, so stay tuned for more.

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

This Weekend Update - Hockey

Boy, we sure had the rip-roaring hockey weekend, and I for one enjoyed it. You can say that the weekend began in the middle of the week, when A started playing house league. It was her first practice, she’s joining in late, and like the numbskull that I am, I got the times mixed up. I figured they practiced the same time as the travel team, just a different night, but they don’t. We were so late, it almost wasn’t worth getting on the ice, but we did it anyway. A was a little mad at me, and I don’t blame her, but dad can’t get everything right, especially when there is so much going on.

Anyway, she did a quick practice, and that broke the ice. The next day, N had practice for his team, and then the next day, we did homeschool hockey. After that, we met with mom for dinner in the big city, then to the Dartmouth women’s hockey game. They are so good, it’s amazing. On Saturday, A had her house practice, for which we made it on time, then N had a game that afternoon all the way up in Burlington. That game, however, was cancelled, and we instead went to the next women’s hockey game. It was a blast, and we won a free plane ticket on Cape Air. How cool is that?

On Sunday morning, N had a game, and that afternoon A had a game. That’s a whole lotta hockey over a few days, and now that the week is starting again, we have even more hockey to look forward to. Life sure is crazy, in a good way, of course. R mentioned that it’s all redolent of doing the farmer’s market, with all the time and our weekends being consumed. The only difference is that we’re having fun and I for one can’t get enough... sort of.

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

Last Weekend Update

Last weekend we had all sorts of activities to take our minds off of the soap opera that our kid’s social life can sometimes be. The background to this story is somewhat familiar, but it has to do with feeling left out when friends seem to forsake you. Been there done that, and I’m not going to over analyze this, and I’d like to think that we could just ignore it and let it slide, but of course we can’t being the overbearing parents that we are.

With this in mind, we tried to find fun things to do together, instead, bearing in mind that at some point your kids just don’t find being with you fun anymore. We have to make the most of it while we can. We had hockey, of course, then we had supper at Pizza Chef followed by the free public skate at Union. We thought there would be a good crowd since it was free, and they’ve been fairly busy, but we were literally the only ones on the ice. The snow was coming down in buckets, so people were wise to just stay home, but it was fun, if not a little lonely. There was one other woman figure skating with this crazy sequined disco outfit, which made the scene surreal, but otherwise, it was just us.

Interestingly enough, after the skate, they had curling, and we hung out and watched, and it was pretty interesting. At first it seemed almost comical the level of preparation involved, but then it got interesting and we stayed to watch. Pretty cool stuff. The curling club seems like a dedicated lot. We got home late, but had a blast.

On Saturday, we went to the young artists showcase, a yearly event, and it was nice seeing old friends and watching the kids perform, who for the record are incredible. A figured out that it would be another few years before she gets to play, but it’s already on her radar. The show was great, there was a guy on piano who amazed everybody, and we found out his teacher is our friend who everyone raves about. The word on the street is that he really challenges students and makes them work hard, which is something we can appreciate, so we might look into that. We’d have to get a piano, however, and that seems to be a big stumbling block, even in lieu of the fact that there are free pianos out there for the taking.

After the performances, there was killer food provided by Taste of Africa, and we got to hang and socialize. R actually met with several parents who homeschooled their kids and even started their own progressive schools. Interesting stuff. We also met with some teachers from the local high school and it was interesting chatting with them since this is something we’ll need to think about in the near future. Also talked to some high school kids and got some insight into their respective schools. All good stuff, and we had a nice time.

We rallied to have a good weekend, and it worked out beautifully, though you can’t run away from life, and at some point, you just have to face the music. In the meantime, we’ll keep our feet moving and plug along.

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

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Snow, Glorious Snow

Sorry about my lack of diligence on this blog, we’ve been busy on this end with lots going on, but we’re getting there.

We finally got some snow, and a fair amount, but what a crazy winter it’s been. We got dumped on in October, but then nothing in November and December, and here we are in January and it finally arrives. We were so prepared to ski, I thought we’d be living at the ski slope, but then again, our lives have been pretty much about hockey, so we’re not too disappointed.

We got pretty good coverage early in the week, and then it rained, if you can believe that. After the rain, we got another couple of inches, and that made for really dangerous conditions. We literally skidded down our road before they put down some sand. Kind of scary. I was thinking I should get some sand and put it on the walkway of our house, because it is really precarious, even though the kids love it and have a blast sliding aroud. It’s interesting to have their POV, kind of makes you think.

Not sure what the forecast holds, but we may get some skiing done before the season is over. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Alfred Borchard for the pic.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Feeling Guilty

Over the past couple of weeks, DF asked me if I was interested in putting on skates and helping out at the practices. I said I would be happy to, but qualified that with the fact that I am not a hockey player, I just play one on TV. This didn’t seem to matter to him, and he asked again, so I decided to bring my skates and help out at practice. As I mentioned, this didn’t go over so well, partly because of my lack of experience, but also because of my own insecurity and neurosis. I felt stupid just standing around being useless, and figured my days of coaching were over.

Well, the next practice, as I sat in the stands with the common folk, DF skated over and asked me why I wasn’t out on the ice. I wanted to say, “Are you joking?” I should have just told him that I didn’t think he needed me, I was completely redundant, but instead I came up with some stupid excuse. The point is, I felt bad, and wondered why exactly he’s asking me to help. The other coaches are all hockey players, and I felt like I was intruding on their gig. Don’t get me wrong, I want to help out with my kid’s events, but also don’t want to feel stupid sitting around doing nothing. I’d rather watch from the bleachers.

What I got from this experience is maybe I just need to suck it up and not care what anyone thinks. If I can be even a little help, then get out there and be involved, right? The practices are fast and run on autopilot, so there is little time to stall and hold things up. This makes it difficult for a newcomer, though not impossible. Another problem is that most of the kids skate better than me, so what exactly am I going to teach them?

The life of a hockey parent is not an easy one, especially when you put yourself out there, but it sure creates fuel for this blog.

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

Coming Up With a Plan

As I mentioned before, we tend to compromise our plans to help out people. I don’t know why we do it, call it lack of foresight, or just being too nice. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to help people, and it’s good not to focus all your attention on yourself, but it’s not always good to sacrifice your own stuff in the interest of helping out. It’s not a question of fault.

This cropped up this week, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves. However, we did come up with an alternative plan, and it worked out in more ways than one. We have good friends who have a hectic life, and because of work and parenting, have to constantly find places for their kids when school and work don’t mesh. Enter the homeschool family, who are always home. They are our good friends, and their kids are buddies with A&N, so it’s not a problem... usually. It’s hard, however, when their needs clash with our plans. For the record, the situation is complicated.

With that in mind, we were asked to watch the kids, which is usually not a big deal, except that we had plans that came up at the last minute. Since we can’t seem to get enough hockey in our lives, we had decided to go to the homeschool skate and hockey game. I figure it’s like an open stick, so even better than skating, the kids (and I) get to slap a puck around. The problem was, one of the friends had to be back at school by a time that clashed with the hockey game. This meant leaving earlier than we had wanted, which is a bummer, but it was too late to back out of a favor. Maybe better not to have gotten into it in the first place, but live and learn, or “not,” in my case.

Either way, I found myself a bummed and a little bitter, especially since it usually entails a demand that we attend the friend’s event, which takes up more time and consumes more of our evening. This time around, we vowed we do things differently, and we came up with a plan. It went something like this: since we wanted to do the hockey, we decided that A&N would stay at the rink and I would take the girls back without our kids and drop them off at the school. Then R would pick up A&N and bring them home while I hung at the library with the other kid until their mom showed up. Beautiful, though I didn’t get to play hockey, but I’m fine with that, for now. This way, our friends are taken care of while our kids get to do what they wanted to do without sacrificing their time to help our friends. Does that make any sense?

The point is, it worked out, but the take home message in all this is that we really need to learn to say no. For softies like us, it’s a lot easier said than done, but I think we’re getting there. I’ve oversimplified the situation, because there is more to it, but I won’t go into that now, because a lot of it is due to my own personal neurosis.

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

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Our Complicated Social Life

It’s looking more and more like we’re experiencing this tangled web of friendship, or rather, A is. This time around we are less involved because we realize it’s a part of growing up and we can’t control our kid’s lives, sort of. To be honest, it’s not any one person’s fault, and could be construed as self-induced.

It stems from loyalty and how strongly a kid bonds with her friends. We’re the sort of people who would do anything for a friend. While I admire selflessness, there comes a time when you have to look out a little for your own self interest, dare I say, be a little selfish. Otherwise, people either take advantage or get bored with you. For the record, it’s not the fault of the person in question, it’s more a case of our needing to get a grip.

In the past, this happened with YKW, though I don’t know the complete story on that one. There was something fishy going on there, and that story may unfold one day. The ironic thing is, the re-connection with YKW might prove to be a blessing, and here’s why.

Our current social situation is complicated by the fact that there are age and social circle differences. You can’t fault a kid for wanting to hang with kids her own age and at her school. A year or two is a huge difference when you’re a teenager. I never hung out with kids younger than I was, which is ridiculous when you think about it, but we did ridiculous things when we were young. The issue here is that we need to temper our enthusiasm on our end. I don’t think meanness or deception is involved here, maybe a little subtle manipulation, but what kid isn’t guilty of that? It’s more a situation of taking what’s given to you, and we tend to give.

I think more to the point is that we need to keep a level head when it comes to friends, especially in light of the logistics. I.e., we can’t bend over backwards and sacrifice or compromise our lives in the interest of appeasing someone else. This seems often be the case, and said 3rd party is more than happy to accept our time and efforts. It happens whenever we cross paths, which thankfully is not all the time. It’s just that when do, everything we do seems to be in the interest of this 3rd party. Does that make any sense?

No matter, the point is, we have to live our own lives and if we intersect, great, but otherwise we have to live our own lives. With this in mind, it’s good if not ironic that we connected with YKW. We need more balance in our social interactions, because we can’t seem to temper our enthusiasm. It kills me sometimes to see, but again, we can’t control their lives.

Either way, we are not going to intervene, but will do our best to provide alternative opportunities to have fun and make connections. I think the initial results may be positive, but it’s too early to tell. The beautiful, if not amusing, thing is that it may very well involve hockey, of all things. How crazy is that?

Stay tuned for more, because it will only get better from here. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks Eastop for the pic.

Karate Class, Against the Odds

There was some question as to whether or not we’d have karate class. It had been a few weeks since we’d gone, what with the holidays and all, and nobody really lets us know if they are coming to class. With this in mind, we can’t really hold it against the senseis to show up when they have such busy schedules, though for the record, my heart always sinks when CH calls an hour or two before class, because I know it means one thing - he ain’t coming.

In a few instances, I’ve had to run the class, which I’m not so keen on, but can pull off. I know enough to run the show, but would never take it on willingly. Last class, I got that dreaded phone call. On a bright note, since I relinquished the keys to the dojo, I can’t really be expected to run class because only three people can open the door. Master H, sensei C, and NS, another black belt. What this means is that a higher belt will be there, so they can over see instruction. Doesn’t that work out beautifully?

This past week, A started her drawing class, which runs until right before karate. We worked it out so I would drop A off, then take N to his drum lesson, which this week I forgot to go to, but that’s another issue. R would pick A up after drawing and bring her to karate and meet up with N and I. Then R would take N home for supper and A and I would do karate. How’s that for completely insane?

Either way, as I mentioned, CH called and said he couldn’t make it, but that Master H had a key. When we arrived, nobody was there, and there was some question as to whether or not we would have class. When Master H showed up, he said he didn’t have a key, so our last hope was for NS to show, but he rarely comes, so fat chance. At that point, I had set my mind on canceling, and was ready to go home and eat. To her credit, A really wanted to have class, so I didn’t say anything. Also, I felt bad, because Master H comes a fair distance just to be there.

Two more students showed up, and Master H went on a mission. He drove over to the store to see if anyone knew anyone with a key, and if you can believe it, he found one. He somehow managed to track down CH’s daughter, who called home and had her brother bring CH’s key to the dojo. Pretty amazing, and testament to perseverance. We had a short class, but it felt good to be back, and I think A had a good time. Often the small classes are the ones you get a lot out of, especially with Master H.

Just wanted to close by saying we really appreciate all that Master H and CH do. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Kriss Szkurlatowski for the pic.

Playing Guitar

Our regular guitar teacher is out of commission for a bit, so we are literally without guidance for early two months. In light of this, I contacted A’s old teacher, EE, and he was happy to resume lessons with her. He’s always been very nice and supportive of A’s guitar playing, always complimenting her on her playing and singing, and he’s a serious guitar teacher. People all over the area know him, and he was in fact the person that KR recommended we go to when she felt she had exhausted her teaching resources with A.

E tends to challenge A, which is good, and he is more about learning the real theory behind the music. It’s been said that it may not be as fun because with KR they tend to sing along and learn songs that are more fun, whereas with E, it’s a little more serious instruction, but again, I think that’s a good thing. Also, E is a professional teacher, he has set hours and we meet regularly. There is value to that, especially when it comes to developing discipline and focus, two areas where we are not always model citizens. Plus, it gives us an excuse to hit the big city on a regular basis. I’ll take it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to uyo14 for the pic.

Finally Some Snow, Mixed Blessings

If you can believe this, we finally got some snow, or at least some seasonal snow that might stick around. Then again, there is rain in the forecast. Hard to believe. It’s been a disappointing winter in terms of skiing, and way back in summer when we were gathering up all of our ski gear (we’re talking skis and snowboards, mind you), I thought it would be ironic that the one winter where we are well prepared and even went out and got ski passes might be the one year that we don’t get any snow. So far, that dire prediction has come to fruition. We haven’t done much in the way of skiing, and we are well into January.

The funny thing is, I don’t think we’re too heartbroken on this end, because our interest in skiing has been supplanted by, you guessed it, hockey. Now I know the ski season is far from over, and we are still devoted skiers in this house, but in a funny if not ironic way, it’s maybe not a bad thing that ski season is so late in coming, because it would have added yet another activity to our already hectic schedule. Plus, the lack of skiing means that some of us can focus on hockey or music/drama/singing while others might put some time and thought into writing. Hey, you never know.

I guess you can call it making lemons out of lemonade, but there is a silver lining to this dismal ski season, bearing in mind that the season is far from over, and it goes without saying that at some point we’ll get some snow. I hope so, because I’d still like to hit the slopes. Have to make good use of that ski pass, if we can find the time.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Milan Jurek for the pic.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Starting the New Year Slowly

I haven’t been as diligent about writing since the new year, even though that’s exactly the sort of new year’s resolution an aspiring writer would embrace. Just goes to show you how much weight resolutions really carry. Either way, one area that we are trying to be diligent about is school work. As 2011 drew to a close, we were going pretty easy in terms of work. I sort of approached it as a review of the year’s material, bearing in mind that they are a year ahead. It was easy for them, and I have to confess, I had an ulterior motive in that it meant having to battle less with the kids to do their school work.

It occurred to me, not to mention R, who voiced her concern, that they were skating a bit too much. You aren’t doing your kids a favor by letting them off easy, because at some point life will present them with challenges, and they have to have the wherewithal to deal with them without any parents around. So, we’ve ratcheted things up a bit, and it hasn’t been as awful as I anticipated it to be. Hmm, seems to be a familiar pattern here.

I expected things to get ugly, mainly with N, who really puts up a fight. A tends to offer some resistance, but in the end she will do what you ask because she is not only good at it, but she understands why we are making them do it. N, on other hand, is more than happy to put up a fight, even in lieu of the fact that he’s very good at academics. The one thing he resists the most is writing. He’s a great reader, he loves math, and he is curious. It’s the writing the bums him out, but in homage to Eleanor Roosevelt, we will seek to do that which we think we cannot do. N can write, he’d just rather play hockey or watch a movie.

Thus far, it hasn’t been too bad, and best of all, the kids are learning that they can do more and overcome challenges when they simply assert themselves a little. It doesn’t even take that much.

So I guess you can say that in terms of academics, we’re doing okay, if not well. I just have to get off my rear end and get the writing done. Sound familiar?

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

A Day of Hockey, and Then Some

Like we needed to hear more about hockey? The other day, I was completely hockey-ed out, and we almost skated after supper. At some point you have to put on the brakes. I am doing the adult learn to play class, and man is it fun, though it’s early in the AM. It’s probably the only way I could do it without dragging the kids along.

After class, I went home and A&N were relentless in their quest to skate at our neighbor’s rink, so we packed up the gear and headed over. We have a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to get out and practice hockey, for everyone. N gets to pursue his passion, A gets to get her feet wet, and I get to indulge in my pseudo fantasy of playing in the NHL.

We then had hockey practice that night, and this is where it got interesting. In the past, their coach, DF, who is the embodiment of hockey, asked me if I was every willing or interested in helping out during practice. Now as you all know, I’m not a hockey player (I just play one on TV), but I enjoy toying around on the ice. In the past I’ve played with DF during open stick, and must have displayed enough proficiency for him to think I could help out. I told him I’d be happy to help, but don’t have much experience. I figured I could pass pucks to the kids or yell encouragement.

Well, that day finally came. I brought along my stick and skates, and went out there and tried to help, but in the end, I felt like I was just dead weight out there. The coaches have their drills down, I really don’t think they need another body out there, and I ended up just standing around and retrieving a loose puck here and there. If anything, I felt a little embarrassed and self-conscious, though N thinks it’s cool when I get out and help. At some point, I wanted to skate off and join the other parents on the bleachers, but you have to finish what you started, at least in front of your kids.

The other coaches were supportive, but I almost got a sense that there are discrepancies between what the main man wants and what the other coaches are happy with. With that in mind, I think my short tenure as a hockey coach is over, but it was an interesting experience.

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

Back in the Groove, Sort Of

It’s good to get back in the swing of our everyday lives, though some things are lagging a bit, including this blog. I can’t seem to find the groove, even though there is a lot going on, and we’re busy. That big holiday rush seems to have disrupted our daily rhythms, in more ways than one. Either way, can’t whine about, or can I?

As usual, a big chunk of our life is about hockey, and then more hockey. Even A is getting into the act, a bit, and she’s enjoying it, I think. It helps that her good friend CB is a player, and has an ice rink at home. We go over there and play, and A does a nice job. I think she is good on skates, and one thing I’ve learned is that playing hockey definitely takes your mind off the perils of skating, it makes you less afraid.

N is in a bit of a hockey frenzy, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. I’m glad he loves the game, not just because I love it, but because he’s finding his thing. His sister has a large variety of interests, and he has in the past tagged along. Now he’s got his thing irrespective of A, and we’re all for it, but man is he into it. He wants to go out and play all the time. We lucked out in a way because our good friends and neighbors built an ice rink in their backyard, and not only do we get to skate, but even better, we get to play hockey with our friends. Two or three times a day, if we want. This helps in many ways because not only is it free, but it’s close, and we can practice hockey.

Even A has gotten into the act, though I’m not completely clear how much is just going along for the ride, and how much is genuine love for the game. I think she senses that hockey has become a prominent part of our lives, and doesn’t want to be left out, keeping in mind that in the past, almost every activity or interest that we pursued was her thing. Even still, I feel for her, and hockey is consuming. That said, I do think she enjoys it, and is quite accomplished at the game. Best of all, she goes for it, even in the face of being less experienced and perhaps a bit daunted. You have to give her credit for it, especially when her brother is not as supportive as he could be.

For the record, she is a great big sister, a fact that N might not fully appreciate. She mentioned the other day that she didn’t want to draw too much attention to her growing interest in hockey because she felt like it was her brother’s gig and she didn’t want to steal the spotlight. How cool is that? How many kids would be that considerate and selfless. I hope he realizes how lucky he is.

Anyway, that said, I don’t want her to think her place in the hockey universe is any less important, even though it sort of is since she doesn’t play. A few issues have come up, including some equipment questions. Everything she uses is second hand, except of course stuff that is a bit personal, like a jock. She complained that her gloves are small, they smell, and give her a rash. However, being a good sport, she said that she could live with it, but I feel little bad for her. New gloves would cost about $20, but the issue becomes, does she really need them? Then again, I don’t want her to feel neglected. My inclination is to get her new gloves, but we’ll see where this one goes.

One last note, the possibility of her playing in the girl’s development league came up, but we really have to see how this hockey thing with her goes. I don’t want to push it on her, but I do want her to pursue her interests, especially when I think it would give her an avenue to find a cool niche.

Boy, life sure is complicated when you become a hockey family. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Jon Wisbey for the pic.

Car Repair

If you can believe this one, I changed the oil on Christmas day, which R kind of ribbed me about, but you have to seize the opportunity when you can, right? Christmas day was one of the few dry days when I actually had time, and granted, I could have just taken it into Jiffy Lube, but at some point you just get tired of paying for all that car repair. I may have only saved about $20, but there’s satisfaction in doing things yourself, at least for me.

Anyway, it highlighted a question I have about our new car. It came with synthetic oil, which is more expensive, but apparently offers better protection. Like I know the difference? It made me wonder if you can just put regular oil in the engine. They have sales all the time on motor oil, but not on the synthetic stuff. They say you can change the oil less frequently, but how do they know that? How do they know that it can go up to 7000 miles vs 3000? It strikes me as pure conjecture, but whatever the case, I figure I’ll do what they recommend, at least for now.

Our older car had some potential issues, as well. It makes this really soft squealing sound now and then, not very loud. In fact, you can’t even hear it when the radio is on. We thought it was a fan belt issue, that’s what it sounded like, only much fainter, and had the belts replaced, but the sound stayed. How’s that for a bummer. Our mechanic said to bring it on it and they’d look for the problem, but when I took the guy out for a drive, his hearing is so shot that he couldn’t hear a thing. Every time I told him the car was making the noise, he said he couldn’t hear it. I couldn’t believe it, the guy has lost his hearing.

In the end, he didn’t charge me for his time, and he said to just keep an eye on it. It will either get better or worse. How’s that for an answer?

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

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Hockey Life

Okay, like it or not (I’m the former), we’ve become a hockey family, and it’s almost comical. Perhaps the biggest surprise is how much R has come on board, and it’s a testament to how much she weight she places on the kid’s happiness, because the chaos and disorder that have inundated our lives are not the sort of qualities that she aspires to. Nonetheless, she is completely supportive of it all, mainly because she’s so happy that N has found his thing, at least for now. Somewhere down the line he may grow weary of hockey, it’s a pretty serious commitment, but for now, he’s loving it, and we’re loving it, too.

First off, there is the equipment, not just acquiring it, but taking care of it, as well. I don’t know if you’ve spent much time around hockey rinks, but one thing that really strikes you is the smell. Hockey players wreak, not unlike dirty socks, only stronger. Much stronger. Sometimes I wonder if they wear their aroma like a badge, but when those guys (adults, the kids don’t smell so bad, yet) come out of the locker room, the smell almost knocks me off my feet.

I can see where it comes from, the equipment gets soaked with sweat, but a little effort can help curb the problem, or asset, depending on your POV. After every skating session, we hang up all the equipment on the laundry line and let it dry for at least 24 hours, if not longer. It was fairly simple with just N, but now that A and I both have gotten into the act, we are talking serious amounts of equipment. Somehow R manages to get it all on the line.

Over the holiday break, we pretty much did one thing-you guessed it, hockey. Union Arena had open stick ice times every day, and we went to every single one, I kid you not. N was totally enthused about it all, and as long he was into it, I was fine with it, as well. I figured that he would be tired at some point, but every day, he asked if there was open stick, and sure enough, we were off and running. Personally, I had a blast, but I have to confess, I was pretty tired by the end of it all.

The winter has been lousy in terms of snow, but this worked out well for hockey, because all the people who came up to ski came to play hockey, instead. We had these amazing pick-up hockey games, with tons of young kids and several dads, who for the record were accomplished players in their own right. I was able to play because my role was really one of support, so all I had to do was play defense, get the puck, and once I had it, make sure I passed it to my son. The better youngsters are talented but not necessarily inclined to pass to the younger players, so that’s where the dads come in.

We had so much fun, and N got a lot out of it. Not only did he stay in shape and maintain his form during the long break, but he got some good ice time and really built up his confidence, a key aspect to this game. I see it in his play, he’s more assertive and confident, and willing to get into the mix and jostle a bit. I love it.

To add to the fun, A has gotten into the act, as well, and this is good on a number of levels. Not only is it great exercise, but playing a little hockey does wonders for your skating. Not that she needed it, but she is a little less physical than her brother, and you can see her confidence on the ice really growing. Plus, some of her friends are hockey players, and it opens up new avenues to meet other kids and find common ground. It’s loads of fun, making skating that much more interesting, and it helps her confidence knowing that she can do something that maybe she felt she wasn’t capable of at first. Plus, she’s good, better than she gives herself credit for, but the key thing is she’s at least trying it. Like Woody Allen said, 87% of life is just showing up. Even our cat is getting into the act.

Okay, as a final note on our hockey lives, for New Year’s Eve, what do you think we did? We went to the Dartmouth hockey game. They played a weekend tournament, culminating on New Year’s Eve, and I have to say, it was a great way to spend the evening. There were tons of families there, and we saw many of our friends. We went to both nights, and the players were incredible. I can’t believe how fast they skate and handle the puck, and we had a great time. I think we’ll go to more games, because they’re an affordable way to have a nice night out.

Now that the holidays are over, we can back to our regular lives... of hockey. We wouldn’t want it any other way, now would we?

Happy new year and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Here We Go Again... Maybe Not.

We ran into some more incidences that feed our parental neurosis, and I have to say, it’s yet another example of how being a parent who is too involved in their kid’s lives is not always such a good thing, for both parent and child. Sometimes you’re just better off letting things evolve naturally come what may... yeah, right.

A few years back, we had some drama with A’s best friend, YKW, and it was a complete fiasco. These things happen in friendships, and our goal is not to shield our kids from these things since it’s a part of growing up and maturing, not to mention developing resiliency. Even still, it’s hard to watch when your kid is on the receiving end of adolescent vindictiveness. I won’t go into details about the past, but I will say that it seemed terribly unfair, and I think this POV was vindicated by how the current state of our lives. Enough on that.

Now, we have new drama, and this time it didn’t come out of the blue. There are complex circumstances that make perfect sense, especially with young pre-teen girls, so when it started to develop, or at least seemed to develop, it didn’t take us completely by surprise, though again, it’s tough to watch. It was complicated by the holiday break, whereby A had lost contact.

Now we vowed not to internalize things and become too involved, so we sat back and just waited to see how things would be once school started again. Sure, there was some anxious anticipation on our part, but it was unfounded, because once school started and A got back into her activities, she saw her buddies and all was good again. I know this because I was standing there watching it all transpire, and I have to say, it warmed my heart.

Life is so complicated, why do we choose to make it more so? It’s simple, we have no choice in the matter. There is no question that more drama awaits us in the future because that’s just how life is, but for now, all is good, and I’m thankful for that.

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

Happy New Year

Hi Everyone,

Happy new year! Sorry for my absence, been getting back into the swing of things now that the holidays are over, and let me tell you, we've had to hit the ground running.

This is not a bad thing, just busy. Hope everyone had a nice holiday and best wishes for the new year. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Pedja Mi for the pic.

Watching from the Sidelines

Since our lives seem to be all about hockey, why not more? As long as N’s excited about it, I’m more than happy to oblige him. Again, he’s behind on the curve a little here, the more ice time he can get, the better. It’s always a little tougher playing catch up, but he’s getting there.

Now since I’m still in recovery, I couldn’t take part and had to watch from the sidelines. This is tough because I enjoy being on the ice, and if possible, make plays with N, even though he hates it when I meddle with his game. Plus, when you’re the only guy on the sideline, you always want to jump into the fray. Either way, I’d been told not to exert myself, so I sat this one out.

This actually worked out nicely because it gave me a chance to take lots of pics of N on the ice. We don’t really have a lot of good pictures of N on playing hockey, a fact that bothers me, though the truth is, it’s not easy taking pictures of moving objects, especially in the thick of a hockey game. Nonetheless, it’s not impossible. I also tend to be playing with him, so I can’t take pics, or I’m too busy cheering the games. Excuses, excuses. We’ve taken videos of him playing, but they are poor quality, and the still frames you get off video look terrible.

Since I was on the sideline, I could finally devote some time to pics, and it worked out. I took about 100 pictures, and some turned out nicely, though I’d like to get some of him in his game jersey. Have to work on that one.

Until then, thanks for reading.