Saturday, December 27, 2014

Fickle Weather

I guess this is par for the course in New England, but the weather has been all over the map, and not always in a good way. We got an early snowfall in the end of November, and the sky dropped quite a bit of the white stuff. Before we knew it, our area was a winter wonderland, which was very cool to us. It looked beautiful, and we were hoping that there was more to come. I think all the ski areas were stoked because it meant a Thanksgiving opening day, which they all hope for.

Well, here we are, a few weeks later, and we didn't really get any more snow, but it got warm and rained for days. We hit the low 50s yesterday or the day before, and on Christmas it rained all day. Fortunately the snow survived and there's still a lot of it on the ground, but once it cools down, and cool down it will, it will all turn to ice, and then conditions get a little precarious. Kind of a bummer.

Such is life up here, you have to just roll with it. At least we still have snow, and we're so busy with hockey that we have plenty going on. Even still, we are supposed to start skiing in January so hopefully things will stabilize. You just never know.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Naomi Rumaloine for the pic.

Big City Reporting

A week or two back the kids had to do a project up in the even bigger city of Burlington, and I thought they did a great job. They are doing a news project in conjunction with CSPAN (yes, they've hit the big time) that requires that they do interviews with a variety of people, including politicians and everyday citizens on the street. The politician part was fairly straightforward because these are public servants who make themselves accessible to their constituents. Most of them can be contacted by email or phone, though talking directly to them doesn't always happen. We happen to have a friend and neighbor who is in the state legislature, which made this faction a little more accessible.

The interviews on the street were another matter. The kids had to get opinions from people in Burlington about a local event, and that meant getting a camera and hitting the street. It didn't help that the weather was brutal with freezing rain and snow. We had a time frame to adhere to, however, so we packed up the kids and headed up there. NMP is part of the group so AM dropped her off with some vittles and we were all set.

One of the goals was to find local schools that were affected by this legislation, but it turned out that we couldn't find the darn things. Burlington is a big town, and the suburbs are extensive, so there are a ton of schools. We found plenty of schools but none of the ones we needed. It was really the first one that confounded us, and foolishly I printed directions that were all based on the previous school so we could hit them one after another. The problem was, without finding the first one, I couldn't find the next one and so on. Oh well, we still got some footage of schools.

We literally wasted 2 hours looking for this stupid school, realizing later that we were in Burlington when in fact that school was in Winooski. At some point we decided it was a waste of time and headed into downtown to interview people. We had packed lunch so we parked on Church Street and ate our food, then got out and sought out word on the street. Now it's not easy for a kid to approach a total stranger and ask for some opinions, especially in the bigger city where people have a contrived sense of urgency. People frequently said I don't have time when in fact they probably just didn't want to deal with us. Fair enough, I get that, but I do think seeing some kids trying to do a project should spark a little more understanding and willingness to help. Maybe that's just me.

Either way, the kids did a great job, and I'm proud of them. They went to the mall and waited out on the walkway asking for opinions and got shot down about 99% of the time, but they hung in there and got what they needed. One thing about Burlington is that there are a lot more hoodlums and whacky people. I made sure to linger nearby and keep the kids in sight in case I needed to give someone a karate chop to the head. One zany woman in particular was very opinionated but declined to be filmed. She spoke for about 20 minutes, then came back for more. I saw her throughout the evening talking to various people on the street, so clearly something was going on with her.

It didn't help that the weather was so poor, and at some point it started raining and getting dark. We took a break and got ice cream/hot cocoas at Ben & Jerry's, and in a stroke of good fortune, the guy working there was passionate about this topic and agreed to be interviewed. What a score. The kids headed to mall for one last try, and then we headed home. We could have stayed there all night, but it was getting late and we still had a 2 hour drive home in wet, icy conditions. Total bummer.

We had snacks so we chowed on those on the ride home, eventually making back to our town around 7:30PM. We called JP en route and he met us at our house to get his daughter, and we ate a quick supper and relaxed. Despite the challenges, I thought the kids did a great job, and again, I'm proud of them for mustering the courage to just do it. It ain't easy, even for an adult, but they did it.

Now they are ready to move on to the next phase, whatever that may be. Whatever it is, I think I'll be somehow involved. Funny how that works.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Doc Oren for the pic.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Getting Ambitious

Yesterday we were bantering back and forth about what to make for Christmas supper. The no-brainer would have been to roast a chicken since we've done it so many times and know the drill. Beef is always on the back of our minds, but roast beef seems to leave me a little flat because it's on the tough side. Ham is usually not an option, and beef stew is a family favorite except that we had it for Thanksgiving.

With all the possibilities and nowhere to turn, we decided to get a little crazy this year and do something that I've never done and in all honesty, never thought I could do: make prime rib. It was on sale at the store, and not that I like succumbing to marketing, but the price was too good to pass up, especially since prime rib is so expensive. I went and picked out a small roast, about 3 pounds with one bone, and tossed it into the freezer until the big day. I then went online to search out the best way to cook the thing, since not only was this new territory for me, but the stakes were high: it was a big occasion and the meat was expensive. That's all I need in life, more things to worry about.

On Christmas Eve, I took the meat out to thaw, then let it sit uncovered in the fridge overnight. The purpose of this is to let the meat dry out, at least on the surface. I then left it at room temp for about 2 hours before popping it into a 200 degree oven for 3 hours. Low and slow, as the butcher told me. Once the meat was cooked, I let it sit at room temp for an hour, then back into a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes, along with the Yorkshire pudding. I even made au jus sauce with the drippings.

All in all, the meat came out pretty darn good. My first prime rib, and it wasn't a disaster. Feeling empowered and invincible, I may try to make it again... then again, maybe not.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to the Kansas City Steak Company for the pic.

Belated Merry Christmas

Hope everyone had a nice Christmas, hope everyone was well and at home with the people they love. I managed to get through it without being too cynical, and I'm happy for that, but the holidays are still going, so give it some time. There's always New Year's Eve to gripe and moan about.

Until then, Happy belated Merry Christmas and thanks for reading, and thanks to Val West for the pic.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Cards

I love this time of year and really hate the fact that it has to be stressful. It all makes me so cynical, and I don't want to be cynical. Last year for a number of reasons I didn't send out postcards, and I vowed to get it done this year. Of course, since Christmas seemed to come out of nowhere (Christmas does kind of come out of nowhere when you really get down to it), I am way behind the curve. That means I'm a little stressed out about something I'm only doing because I enjoy it. How does life get to be so paradoxical?

Whatever be the case, like all things in life, whining about it doesn't make it happen. I'm in the process of getting it done and I should be able to pull it off, but the clock is ticking, and Christmas is on the horizon. Life would be so much simpler if I didn't have all those "other" things to deal with, not that I'm whining, of course.

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

Christmas Tree

I realize it's Christmas Eve and this post is a little late, I've been swamped and little overwhelmed, but no whining, right? For the record, we got our tree about a week and a half ago.

This was a little on the late side, and there was some question as to whether or not we were going to pull it off. We had the usual busy weekend with hockey and traveling, but at some point during the prior week we had decided the time had come. We agreed on a day and went and did it.

Christmas really seemed to sneak up on us this year, because we are way behind the curve on a lot of things, including our tree. When we arrived at our usual tree vendor, the guy was sold out. Actually, he had two trees left flanking his big "Sold Out" sign. We were surprised, to say the least, but the two trees left were pretty nice, albeit small. We ended up choosing one and were happy with our selection, and he was happy to sell the last of his trees. He mentioned he had done an extra load this year and they sold out quickly. I noticed that there were plenty of trees leading up to the weekend, and then almost overnight, they were all gone.

We brought the tree home, R brought down the decorations, and the kids powered through getting the tree all set up. They did a beautiful job, and now the holiday spirit is finally starting to come to life, at least for me. Somehow I just wasn't feeling it until the tree went up.

Oh well, that's the holidays for you. You just never know what's in store. At least we're all set on the tree front.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Vivienne Gucwa or the pic.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Back Again

So how is this for bad luck? I was walking out to the car two days ago and slipped on the steps and landed on my back. Not just on my back, however - I landed in a way so that my back hit the corner of the step, and believe me when I tell you, it was a free fall. Talk about brutal. I was holding a sandwich, water, and cup of coffee, and just like you'd see in a movie, my feet came out from under me and I slammed the ground, with my food flying off in all directions.

I was laying in the snow in extreme pain, wondering if I'd broken something, and managed to get on my feet and stumble back into the house. The bummer was that I was on my way into work, so I had to get a grip and drive over to the big city, and then run practice at the arena. This was my turn to come up with the practice plan and run the show, so I couldn't bail out. To add to the misery, two of the other coaches couldn't make it, and the third almost didn't show up, though he did make it as he said he would. Thanks to DW for that one.

I ended up skating with the players but suffice it to say that I was morbidly afraid of falling on the ice, which is a pretty realistic possibility given the nature of the game. Some of the players rallied and said they'd help run the practice, which was nice of them, and once DW showed up, my spirits lifted. I made it through and so far I've been reasonably functional, though in constant pain. Having hurt my back in the past, I was not looking forward to dealing with life with more back pain, but so far I've managed. Hopefully things will only get better from here.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ms Kat for the pic.

The Search Continues

A weekend or two back we bore down and addressed several winter gear needs that I had failed to fulfill over the summer. Granted, I was looking for bargains, which always seems to complicate things. Had I been willing to pay top dollar for everything, then all of my problems would have been solved. The kids had several winter gear needs, some of them essential, others not so much. Then again, the fun ones are essential in their eyes, right?

A needed a new winter clothes, she'd outgrown her old stuff, and being the hipster that she is, certain elements of style needed to be considered, which I totally get. The only thing is, her tastes for a particular item ran into the realm of being pricier than I was willing to entertain. It's not easy being a hipster. I realize there are people who don't blink an eye at paying $400 for a jacket, but I am not such a person, so the search has been a drawn out process. She also needed new snow pants, ski boots, as well as Nordic and Alpine skis. Is that crazy, or what?

N is growing, as well. I needed to find him new snowboard boots (not that he's ever snowboarded, but this will be the year), skis, and Nordic boots. Over the summer I managed to score a new winter coat and skis, so he's set in those areas. With this in mind, we set out on a quest, managing to avoid Black Friday madness, and succeeded in answering several needs over the past few days. I think the only thing left to get is Nordic boots for A. We even managed to score a snowboard jacket for her, which for the record, we had to buy new because you just can't find bionic bargains for really stylish and hip clothes. Kind of a bummer, but what are you going to do? Kids need to look good.

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cold Outside

We've been getting the kind of weather lately that on the one hand is not unusual, but on the other, sort of makes you scratch your head. One would expect cold temps during this time of year, but it has been really cold, I'm talking arctic tundra cold. Definitely too cold for this time of year, save it for February. We also got some early snow, which was nice, but then it warmed up, rained, then froze again, which is a nightmare combination. Toss in some frozen rain, and you are pretty much homebound for the duration. Of course, I was busy with hockey all weekend so I couldn't deal with domestic duties, and am now suffering because of it.

Even if you aren't going anywhere in your car, there are certain things that need snow-clearing around the house, especially when you heat with wood. The path leading to the wood and compost bin get ice and chunky, making it hard to push a wheelbarrow full of wood through, so after everything melted and froze again, I had to go through and break up the ice with a shovel then clear the chunks. Even then it's difficult to get everything. You really have to get on it when it first falls and is soft. Oh well, nobody said life in New England was easy.

When the rains came and turned our driveway into slush, it made driving a little tricky, and I got stuck in the muck. I was leaving to meet A at the Dartmouth hockey game and I tried to drive over the small embankment at the end of the road and slid backward. When I tried to get out of that, I kept sliding back, making it worse. I ended up shoveling the slush away and then laying down sand in front of the tires, which BTW were not snow tires. Our neighbor M was walking by and offered to help, and at some point R realized I hadn't made it out and she, too came out to help. With two of us pushing and R at the wheel, we managed to get on the road, which was all I needed. I got the game really late, but it was nice seeing A hanging with her friends. I have to confess, I wasn't as enthralled with the Dartmouth game and could be in the throes of major hockey fatigue.

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

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Doing the Right Thing

While I'm not a believer in karma, I do think we've experienced an interesting turn of events by doing the right thing. Over the past year or so we've been pretty into disc golf, and one of the unfortunate consequences of throwing a frisbee disc in a heavily wooded or bushy area is that they often get lost. We've yet to lose a disc, though we've spent many hours searching and finding them. For some people, taking that much time to find it isn't an option, and they end up going home without their discs. We've discovered a few, and they're kind of fun to find.

Of course, the right thing to do is return them. Almost all of them have a name and phone number written on the bottom, so after we'd gathered about a half of a dozen of them, we decided it was time to make the calls. Interestingly enough, we called all of them repeatedly, and only one person returned our call. He lived nearby and appreciated us contacting him. He gave us his address but indicated that if he didn't get it back, it was not a big deal. We are frequently in his neck of the woods, so I went by there and left it on his porch.

As for the others, still no word, which I find strange. Whatever be the case, we're still in possession of the discs, so our collection, or should I say N's collection, is pretty nice. Even with the newfound discs, he favors the ones he got for his birthday. It's good to have backups since, as every disc golfer knows, those things get lost all the time.

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

Weekend in Springfield

Last weekend we yet another hockey-filled excursion, the second weekend in a row. Now I know hockey on the weekends is a normal thing for us, but between two kids playing and two consecutive tournaments, it gets crazy, especially when it involves overnight stays. We traveled to Springfield MA to play in N's tournament, which required a two night stay at a budget motel, which for the record was a complete disappointment because their pool was closed. How's that for an unfortunate coincidence? We travel to Ohio and the pool is closed, then we travel to Massachusetts and the pool is closed. Bummer. It just wasn't meant to be.

The tournament was fun, with all the socializing and of course, hockey. N had a blast, how could he not? Staying at a hotel with 15 of this friends, eating out every meal and getting waffles for breakfast every morning is living the good life.

I enjoy the company of the other parents, they're all very nice people, but I do find big group events to be exhausting and I always end up spending more money than I want to on dinner. It happened both nights, though one night was due to bad planning. You'd think I'd have learned the drill by now. For whatever reason, N's game was the very last game of the tournament, so we had to stay until Sunday night at 5:00PM, then drive home. The drive itself was not that bad, but it was a taxing weekend, and long drives at night when you're tired can be challenging.

It's always nice to get home, and I, for one, am looking forward to a little break from hockey, which of course I will not get. Oh well, such is the life of a hockey parent.

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Changing of the Guard

I have been the scheduler for the hockey program for the past three years and it's a bear of a job. I did not want the job in the first place but way back when Mr. Hockey wouldn't take no for an answer. He was up front and honest about it, telling me that it was a lot of work but an important job. I wasn't thrilled about it and told him repeatedly that I wasn't interested, but he wouldn't take "no" for an answer and kept dogging me until I gave in. When I took it on, I had no clue what I was doing, but over time I figured it out, and it's true, it is an enormous job. It starts in August and continues until about March. The work itself isn't the part I loathe, it's the complaining and whining by everyone around you about the schedule, and then the demands that things be changed without much thought about the work that went into it and the consequences of making those changes.

In the end, I'd probably rather not have to do it because it's just one more thing, and a big one at that. Well, my whining was clearly heard by the board because at their big annual meeting they sent out a request for someone to replace me and they got a taker. One of the moms who has experience scheduling came forward and said she'd do it. Wow, I couldn't believe it. Of course, the insecure part of me wondered what I did wrong to warrant replacement. I even went to the president and explained that even though I whined and moaned about the job, my intention was not to quit. I was not lobbying hard to be replaced, and he assured me that this was not the situation, they just felt like it was good to have a backup in place.

With that in mind, I then indicated that since things were in motion and someone had come forward who was willing and able, then I would start the process of handing over the reigns and moving on with my life. It's a good opportunity because the scheduling is basically done. Things will change over the rest of the season, but for the most part, the hard part is done. It's a good time to ease someone into the job, and I can't pass up this opportunity.

In the end, I worked pretty hard at the job and did the best I could. I can take that much away from it, and you can only expect so much from one person... yeah, right.

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

Brush With the Law

I can't tell you the last time I got pulled over by the police for a traffic violation, which I'm thankful for. It's probably been over 25 years. I've become a much mellower driver in my old age, and sometimes I'm embarrassed by how I drove in my younger days. It makes you realize how shortsighted and thoughtless young drivers can be.

Well, the other night I was bringing the kids home from hockey practice and we were driving on a remote road that connects the two towns, and at some point a car pulled in behind me and I didn't give it much thought. We came to an intersection and I confess that I didn't come to a complete stop as I made the turn, and you can imagine what came next. As soon as those flashing lights came on, my heart sank. I pulled into the first space I could find and waited for my punishment. I was so bummed, and the kids were probably baffled about what was happening. I don't think they'd ever seen us getting pulled over. The thing is, the road was empty and there was nobody around. It's a lonely country road, not that this makes it okay to run stop signs.

The officer was nice and took all my information. He spent several long minutes in his car which I took to be a bad sign, but he ended up just issuing me a warning. Boy was I stoked. The warning said I didn't use my turn signal, though I'm pretty sure I did. Even N said he thought I did, but I wasn't about to argue and jeopardize my good fortune. My guess is that he had been following me for a bit. Thinking I was going too fast, he was just looking for an excuse to pull me over and I gave it to him.

I'll tell you one thing, I'm not running any stop signs for awhile.

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

Friday, November 28, 2014

First Snow

We got our first snow, and it sure came in droves. I think we got at least 8 inches, if not more, and it's only Thanksgiving. This is forcing us to accelerate our search for winter gear, especially winter boots for N and a snowboarding coat for A. I had to go into the attic and bring down the ski gear, and it was discovered that A also needs new Nordic and Alpine ski boots and N needs new snowboard boots. Boy, whatever happened to hockey?

I have to say that the snow took me a bit by surprise. I knew the forecast called for it, but maybe I wasn't ready for so much of at once. We also need to get snow tires for the cars, and there are many places to be, so we can't ignore it. I spent all Thanksgiving morning shoveling out the car so I could head over to HH's house to feed her cats and then head over to another friend's house to feed their cat. We are a pet-sitting operation over here. Both friends live on big hills so I was relieved to see both their roads and driveways had been plowed. I was prepared to park far away and walk in if I had to.

On a bright note, once the snow falls, it means all forms of raking have come to an end, though I'm hoping to still split wood and get that year 2 pile finished... yeah, right. All in all the snow is beautiful and festive, and the kids are thrilled about it. N's enthusiasm might be tempered a bit by his ill-fitting boots, but that doesn't seem to prevent him from enjoying it. The kids have good attitudes about these things, which only compounds my guilt. We may have to venture out on Black Friday to take advantage of some bargains, which could be a first for us.

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

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. It was nice for us to just hang out at home and not have to deal with trekking off to hockey games or other holiday activities. Plus, the snow made it nice to be outside, though did require some shoveling and pensive driving. R actually broke out her Nordic skis and hit the trails, though the snow is soft and sticky, and the I don't believe the ground is quite frozen enough.

Now that Thanksgiving is past, we are heading into the grind of the holiday rush, so enjoy it while it's still enjoyable and don't get too caught up in the consumer frenzy.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Walter Benson for the pic.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Halloween Premiere

Okay, I realize I'm way behind on this one, but bear with me. Several weeks the kids got to showcase their big movie for the Halloween-a-thon and it was quite a bit to-do. The event has really gotten big, and in coordination with the college, has become a big draw in the community, and the premiere itself was held in a big auditorium on campus. They got to dress up and they had a lot of fun, especially since it's a Halloween theme.

The one caveat this year was that the kids were away at camp for the final week, so they had to get all the filming done prior to that, and then leave the editing up to one of their crew. I know A likes to be the one who does the final editing, but she couldn't do it this year, and in fact they didn't even get to view it before it was submitted. Consequently, the first time they saw it was at the premiere, and they were a little disappointed at the final result. I guess the crew member who finished it took a few too many liberties, and A was bummed.

The movie was fine, they didn't win any prizes, but they worked hard on it and they should be proud of their accomplishments. I do think, however, that there were some good lessons about diligence and commitment, and maybe next time they either have to organize things differently or skip it altogether because they run into the same problem every year.

Plus, it's good to realize that you can't do stellar work every time, though you always should give it your all because there is nothing worse than looking back and wondering "what if" or "I should have."

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

Dry Run

I started learning the ropes of my new job with the school distributing promotional material, and it was sort of fun. I met with the previous person and she drove me around and let me watch her in action. I recognized her from hockey because I always see her at the rink. She is a hardcore player who plays with the big boys, so she's the real deal, not like me, Mr. Weekend Warrior. We spent several hours driving the route and I got a sense of what the job entails. She said the person before her did it for 6 years, and she had only been on for half a year but found other work and had to move on. I applied for this months ago and they told me thanks but no thanks, but since the new person had to move on, the job opened up. Wow, talk about serendipity.

The job itself is pretty straightforward, and though it involves a bit of driving, the total area is manageable, so it ends up being reasonable. I'm not complaining. It will take some time to get the routine down, but I feel pretty good about it. I'm glad for the opportunity and like any job I've had, want to do a good job. Plus, you can't beat the flexibility, and as a stay at home parent, you live for flexibility.

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hockey and Exhaustion

Two weekends ago we were put through the ringer with hockey, and I have the scars to prove it. By the end of it all, I was pretty fried, in a good way, of course. I will say the kids enjoyed themselves, and that makes it all worthwhile, but it was a little crazy, and even I, who loves hockey, was experiencing hockey fatigue, and it's early in the season. Very early.

All told, the kids played in 7 games, and I helped to coach all of them. One on Friday, 3 on Saturday, and 3 on Sunday. Kind of crazy. Fortunately, they weren't too far away, and again, they were fun. A had a tournament on her home ice, so we didn't venture too far, and N's games were with local teams. Since his team is so darn big, they are rostering kids so that some will sit out games and get days off, but he ended playing in all of them. I told him that if he was getting tired and wanted a break, to speak up, but he wanted to play, so be it. A was primed and ready for her tournament.

Now that it's done, I'm looking forward to a little time off from hockey, but I'm not sure that's going to happen anytime soon. Then again, you just never know.

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

Getting Ready For Fall

This time around I'm reasonably ready to prepare for the cold weather. I can never remember when this sequence of events occurs each individual year, but I know in the past I've missed the boat and acted too late. In all fairness to myself, however, the weather is unpredictable and always throws me a curve. Sometimes winter comes early, sometimes it comes late. What are you going to do?

The biggest concern for me is getting the hoses put away and sealing up the taps. I didn't know anything about this in the beginning and left the valve open all winter. Eventually it freezes up and when it gets cold enough, freezes all the way back into the pipe and into the valve. When this happens enough, two things can happen (they happened to us). The valve can be compromised because of the ice and thus malfunction, and the pipes can crack and leak. We had to replace both outdoor faucets for this very reason, and it wasn't a simple job, i.e., way beyond my abilities. I had to employ the assistance of JH and his magic bag of tools, and for the record, it was a piece of cake for him.

JH also informed me to shut the valves down and drain them before it gets too cold. Some years I get it right, others I'm too late. This year I hope to get it right, we'll see. The other big jobs will be to get the power tools ready for storage. I think I'm done mowing the lawn, but there's still wood to be cut, so the chainsaw will remain active. I just removed the screens and the firewood for this year is ready. Still working on finishing year two, which still could happen, and then we're in pretty good shape. Oh yeah, there's a barn to finish, as well. Piece of cake.

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

History Repeats Itself

I don't know what it is about Philadelphia, but we always seem to run into bad luck when we connect there. Last year we were stranded flying back from LA and it was brutal. Our connection to Manchester was held up and they canceled it on us at around midnight, so we had to scramble to get a hotel to catch a 6:30AM morning flight. Talk about a total bummer. This time around, we were delayed in Columbus for about 4 hours and finally made it to Philly around 6:30 only to see that our connecting flight was canceled. I couldn't believe it, but should not have been surprised.

We then needed a hotel, and ended up staying at the Marriott connected to the airport, which was a mistake because it's a little more upscale, or should I say pretentious? It's a business traveler's hotel so they have no issue sticking it to you for every penny they can get. The logic is that business travelers have expense accounts so don't mind burning through money. Consequently, in addition to higher room rates, these hotels nickel and dime you for everything - no free breakfast, no complimentary coffee, and no free internet. Even if you ate at the hotel, you're looking at $18 burgers and $20 sandwiches. And there's no pool! All this drive to profit off us really gets under my skin.

The hotel is nice, but who needs nice when you're just trying to get home? Plus, do people think they're suddenly royalty because they're spending more money on a bottle of water? It's a bit of joke, if you ask me. Oh well, live and learn, or perish for your mistakes. We're trying to get home this morning, so we'll see how that goes. Wish us luck.

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

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Halloween Surprises

I know Halloween was many moons ago, but like many things in life, there was a good story attached to it. The evening began inauspiciously because as usual, we didn't have much of a plan as a consequence of procrastination and lack of motivation. For the kids, they put off contacting friends and finding out what was going on, and on our end, we weren't that inspired to make a big plan. Things, however, worked out beautifully. I love when that happens.

The biggest issue we were confronting was that we were sick in this house. We missed an entire week of hockey practice and there was some question as to whether or not we would even leave the house that night. A was bummed because she hadn't seen her hockey buddies in awhile, and N was bummed because he really wanted to go trick-or-treating. I can't say I blame him. To complicate the matter, A had hockey practice the night of Halloween, which was optional, but seeing as we had already missed so much hockey and there were games that weekend, the idea of going to practice was not unthinkable. Unfortunately the practice was being held from 6:30-7:30, which are peak Halloween hours, and I got a sense a lot of girls were going to skip out.

As luck would have it, however, the practice was moved earlier, so timing of things was looking good. We could now go to hockey, and then after practice, the kids could hang with their buddies in town. N's buddies were in town, as well, so he got to hang with them. There was a big soiree happening in our town, as well, so we had options. I took both kids to the arena and we skated while N hung out in the lobby with his teammate. After hockey, we all headed over to town and A took off with her friends and N took off with his. How perfect is that? They had big groups so it was fun, and I was left with no kids to watch after, though for the record, they were constantly on my mind and I was happy when we all bumped into each other.

I ended up hanging with IC for the evening and we just walked around and said hi to all of our friends, almost all of whom we know through hockey. It was quite the party. I told the kids to meet me at the Inn at a certain time, and other than that, they were free to run. It was good for all of us. I saw all of them a few time throughout the night, and they were cordial but clearly ready to depart from my scrutiny. To their credit, they were at the Inn at the allotted time, so kudos to them for that. We hung out by the fireplace and chatted with friends for a bit, then it was time to head home.

There was still time to hit our town event, which we did, though it was winding down and A's buddies had left, so we didn't stay long. We got some treats, listened to some tunes, and then came home. It was quite the fun evening, and all without much of a plan. Though I'm happy things worked out, it's not easy for me dealing with so much uncertainty, but that's just because I need to lighten up a bit more.

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

Taking Charge

I'm the kind of person who likes it when things are taken care of and I don't have to do a thing. Just show up and things magically happen as they should. The complications arise when the person in charge can't make it, and as is often the case, suddenly yours truly is placed in charge. How exactly do these sort of things transpire? Actually, I know exactly why.

We were slated to take N's team photo later this week but we are actually hitting the road and wouldn't be there. I wasn't sure how big of a deal this was to N, and he even said that it was okay, but you could tell it was important to him. He doesn't always come straight out with it, but you can tell when he wants something. This meant that things had to be done differently, and the only way this was going to happen was if I took the reigns and made it happen.

My first question was, why can't we do it on a different day, or even next week? It had to happen during practice when all the players were there, and we had three chances. It also had to happen this week because there was some sort of deadline, so next week was not an option. I asked the man in charge, GG, about another day, but he was busy with town and school board stuff, and his backup was away looking at colleges. The final option was for N to miss the team photo, which as I mentioned, we decided was not an option.

GG said we could do it on earlier and I'd just have to inform everyone and get the pic taken. In the past I've actually taken the team photo myself, so all I needed was a camera, which we have. I then needed to contact all the players and make the proper arrangements, which I started to do the night before, since we had no time to spare. N has a big team, so I got started and called each one of them to tell them what was going on and remind them to wear their home jerseys and socks. Fortunately most of them answered the phone so I got the message out. I then arranged for one of the moms who is a photographer to take the pic, for which she was happy to oblige. I then had to contact the other coach to tell him we were going to hold up his practice while we posed on the ice.

The next day, I planned on getting there early to set up the shot, make sure everyone was on the ice in a timely manner, and finally, I had to locate the team banner that hadn't been used since last year. I called the arena to speak with the manager and he said he had no idea where it was, but would try to find it. Great. We headed over and I happened to run into GG as he was leaving for his meeting, and he informed me that all was well and the banner had been found. Whew!

Working quickly with the other coaches, we got the players suited up, the benches on the ice, and everyone smiling for the camera. MCG took several shots and we were done. Boy was I relieved. As I mentioned, life is much simpler when someone else takes care of everything, but you can't always look for the easy way out, right?

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Illness Report

We got our first taste of winter sickness two weeks ago as one of us came down with some sort of bug, including yours truly. As a result, A missed an entire week of practice, and there was some question as to whether she'd even play in her games that weekend. We have to take care of our health first and foremost, but her team could definitely use her. By the middle of the week I started to feel sick, as well, and before you knew it, we had two sick bodies. What a bummer, but maybe it's better to get it over with so we can get on with our lives.

It's never fun being sick, but a part of life, so you just have to deal with it and keep your feet moving.

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

Playing Doctor

We had to switch roles at the hospital the other day and I have to confess, it wasn't easy. The role we had was to be a jerk doctor to the students, and while I thought it would be fairly straightforward, I struggled a bit with it. It's not easy being mean, at least not when I don't feel mean naturally. Does that make sense? I can be short, curt, and a jerk when the situation presents itself because I've done it enough, just ask my kids, but it usually stems from being stressed, and unless I'm stressed, I'm just not feeling it.

Fortunately the roles are short and they've built in a fail-safe device to get out if you need it, but I'm still a little uncomfortable with it. I guess that's why I'm not in Hollywood.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ivan Cofre de la Torre for the pic.

Employment News

Now that I'm a working man, I figured why not keep the good vibes going? I applied for another job over at the ski hill as a ski instructor, and was actually contacted for an interview. Talk about fast turnover. This is the same organization that I applied to a couple of years ago to do housekeeping when N got that serious hockey injury and I thought he broke his foot. I felt really bad because they not only responded to my query, but they were very nice in my interview. I couldn't take the job then because I had to be at home, and I figured they saw me as a lost cause, which isn't that far from the truth.

This time around, I saw they had an opening, and since we ski there all the time, why not try to make it more economically feasible? This should be interesting, stay tuned for more.

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

Even More High School Info

As I mentioned, I got off work earlier than I anticipated and was able to meet R at the high school open house at the local school. It was interesting and fun because as you'd expect, we saw a ton of people we knew, all rooting for their respective schools. It sort of reminded me of a job fair, though it was helpful for us to be able to talk to the different administrators and hear their sales pitches, not that it made it any simpler. Choosing a high school isn't easy, and I get a sense a lot of people go into it with a decision already made.

I still don't have a strong sense of what the plan will be, and I don't think A does, either, so we'll keep exploring this until things become clearer.

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Belated Birthday

We celebrated N's birthday long after the fact because he was away, and it was a fun day, though we were racked with guilt about not celebrating on the actual day. On the actual day he had his hockey barbecue followed by going to camp, so it made it difficult. We discussed it with him and agreed that we'd celebrate the weekend he returned, but we still felt bad. Parental guilt, you just can't shake it.

It did give us plenty of time to plan, and the plan was to bake our own cake, open presents, play hockey, and then go to the hockey game. It was N's decision that we should make the cake and that he would be integrally involved. Since A was under the weather, she stayed at home, so I took N to his game in the AM and then helped out at A's game right afterward since I'm a coach. Then we headed home, where mom was ready to make cake.

They did an amazing job, BTW, on that cake. It was a double layer creation, chocolate all the way, with a few sprinkles in there for good measure. We ate supper, had cake and ice cream (chocolate, of course), and then went to the Dartmouth game, which is a rarity because we don't go to a lot of men's games. They're too violent for some of us, so we tend to stick with women's hockey.

It was a fun time, and I'm glad N got to enjoy his special day. The timing will continue to be complicated by this time of year since so many things are going on, but that just means we'll have to be more creative.

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

First Day of Hockey

The season kicked off a week or two back, and the first day on the ice is always a little crazy, but even more so when you're me. I wouldn't wish it upon anyone. The first games of the season opened on our home ice, and both of the kids' teams played, but A was sick so she stayed home and rested. I was slated to help work the bench for both A and N's teams, but I was notified the night before that I had to complete a child safety module online before I was even allowed to be on the ice or behind the bench. What?

I woke up the next morning and started working on it, but it takes about 1.5 hours to complete, and I ran out of time. I had to take N to his game, and I figured I could use the arena internet and complete it. By the time we left, I was about 75% done. The arena was packed with people and the excitement was palpable. N went to his locker and I saw the JG the registrar and the first thing she said was, "Did you complete the module?" Geez, talk about nowhere to hide. I said I was almost done, then explained to his coaches that I couldn't help. I then went to the lobby thinking I could watch some of the game while I did my work, but I couldn't get internet. I needed to work the bench after N's game because that was when A's team was playing, but by law I couldn't until I got this thing done.

A lot of the hockey parents are techies, so I inquired if they could help, but they all hinted that the internet wasn't so great there. I finally saw one of the coaches who lives nearby and asked if he had WiFi, and he did. We drove to his house and he let me work in his kitchen, which was very cool. I finished the module and headed back, just in time to help out with A's team. I just squeaked in.

I'll tell you one thing - despite the shortage of coaches and the difficulty in getting them to help out, they sure make it difficult to be involved. I understand the need protect the kid's safety, but all the work involved in just helping out I'm sure discourages a lot of people from doing it.

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

Turn of Events

When you were in school, did you ever have a situation where you studied for a test and arrived at school prepared and ready (or not), only to have the teacher cancel it at the last minute? There is that mixture of emotion: happiness for having not had to take the test, but disappointment because you were primed and ready. This recently happened to me at work.

They had some new assignments at my standardized patient (SP) job. Usually, as the title implies, I'm a patient who helps students interact with real people, but this time around they needed us to act like doctors, thus switching the roles. Not only that, but we had to play stressed out and harried doctors who treated their subordinates rudely as a way to prepare them for such interactions. I'm guessing they're not uncommon given the elevated status that doctors seem to enjoy.

Either way, I wasn't too keen on the whole approach because it's hard to be a jerk, at least when I'm not being a jerk. I can get stressed out just like the best of them, but it has to come naturally. Faking it is a little harder, but that's what's expected of me. I went to my first tryout prepared to do just that, but when I arrived, I was informed that it was only a training session and we were just observing. I wasn't sure how I felt. Like that test in high school, I was relieved, but on the other hand, I was primed and ready.

To soften the blow they provided pizza and dessert, so I wasn't complaining, and I got to watch the actual drill in action. All good things. I was also allowed to leave early since it was only an observational exercise, so I drove home and made it back in time to meet mom at the high school open house, which was very informative and helpful. I love when that happens.

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

More Insulation

Moving to the inside of the barn, there is a bit of insulation that needs to be installed, followed by more insulation. I am in the process of stapling in the fiberglass, which is a bigger job than I thought it would be. I figured it would be a breeze since all your doing is stapling, but the sheets of insulation are 8 feet long and unwieldy, not to mention a little toxic with all that fiberglass dust. To add to the fun, the ceiling joists on the second floor reach all the way to the floor, so I have to lay on my back to install the insulation at that juncture, all along both sides of the house. We're talking a lot of insulation. Why did that barn have to be so big? Things would be so much easier if it was half the size.

Okay, enough whining. I am moving along and had to get more insulation, which I'll buy as I use it up. I can only fit a few of the bundles in the car, anyway, and this way I won't over-purchase. I did learn that the insulation is cheaper, I believe, at Home Depot, so that was a revelation. Always learning something new, right? That's the goal, I believe.

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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Day to Myself

While the kids were away at camp, I got to experience something that is a rarity in our lives - a day to myself. R had to go to an all day meeting, and with the kids at camp, I was left all by myself. Can you say PARTY? As you might expect, nothing like that happened, but I was happy that I could get a lot of stuff done around the house in preparation for fall.

The first order of business was mowing the lawn and dealing with those leaves. Raking is without question my least favorite thing to do, but this year I'm employing a different approach and raking less. Zero raking would be better, but you clean up a little bit. As I may have mentioned in the past, I was reading somewhere that instead of raking the leaves, mow them into bits and let them nourish the soil. It sounds like one of those ideas that is good in theory but not in practice, but I'm going to give it a try. Some raking must be done, but I'm not going to go over the entire lawn with a fine toothed comb. No thank you.

With that in mind, I was able to mow the entire lawn, which takes about 5-6 hours and usually 2-3 days. The weather on that day was cool, sunny, and breezy, so it was perfect for getting the job done. Also, it was the only day it didn't rain that week, so my timing was good. After mowing, I fired up my chainsaw and cut some wood, hoping to have enough cut and ready to split for pile #2. I then changed the oil on the car and went to hockey practice, even though none of our kids were there since they were at camp. How's that for hockey dedication?

I didn't get to relax and sit on a hammock, but who wants to do that, anyway? By the end of the day, I could relish in the fact that I was productive and got a lot done. When you're a real-man in training, you live for these moments. All that was left to do was to bag a deer for supper.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to David J Dalley for the pic.

Back to the Rink

We are back on the ice, and it sure feels good, though there's always the daunting prospect of spending lots of time on the ice. Not all of us are thrilled about this, but what are you going to do? The week the kids were off to camp the opened the arena, and they had a free skating/barbecue to kick it off. We were due at camp that afternoon, but had time to stop by beforehand and see all our friends before heading over. It was really nice seeing everyone though exhausting saying hello to so many people and asking them how their lives were. I felt like I was running for office.

The kids, of course, were happy to be back, and I'm glad they got to see their friends, some of whom they haven't seen all summer. Lots of new faces, as well. There was a dryland training session beforehand for N's team, and then a parent meeting at the rink, so I never really got to do any skating, which is a bummer, but there will be plenty of time for that. N got to try his new skates, which I think passed muster, and A got to skate with her buddies. Plus, there were free hamburgers and hot dogs, followed by ice cream. What more can you ask for?

The timing worked out because the skating ended right around the time we had to head out, though we missed out on the skating session with the Dartmouth hockey players. I took the kids home, we finished packing their stuff, and then we took them to their week of camp. Wow, what a whirlwind day.

What else is new in our lives? Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Choo Yut Shing for the pic. 

Back Home

The kids were away at camp all week and though it freed me up to do all sorts of things, it's nice to have them back home. We miss them when they're gone, though I'm sure they don't miss us, which is as it should be. It means they had a good time, and I can get some sense of this when we pick them up because they don't want to come home. Plus, once they're home, they not only talk glowingly about their week, but look forward to going back.

I was a little concerned about their week because it was an awful one for weather. The forecast originally called for sunny weather every day, and then within 24 hours it shifted to rain and clouds. We got hit with some sort of Nor-easter and it slammed us with rain, every single day. I was bummed, and even went so far as to email the camp directors to see how everyone was faring. I didn't want to be intrusive, and he was very cool about it, informing me that all was well. A little rain can't stop campers from having fun.

And, as usual, the kids came back with a bug, and now we have illness in our house. This actually happens every time they go to camp. I think with all the excitement and fun, plus being around all those kids, makes for a ripe environment to catch something. Now we are all recuperating from our crazy week and, of course, gearing up for hockey. The holidays are right around the corner, as well, so there's a lot to look forward to.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Caro-lines for the pic.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Family Night Out

We've been having fairly busy weekends doing this and that, and this situation will only increase when hockey season kicks into full gear, but for now we still have time to do things all together as a family. It was Saturday night and the women's hockey team was playing an exhibition game, but we decided to hold off on jumping into hockey since our lives will at some point be immersed in it. Instead we went to see a movie at the Hop. The movie is called Slingshot, and it was actually very interesting. It is about a guy named Dan Kamen who nobody has heard about, but that's the point. He invented the Segway and he's this millionaire inventor that lives in New Hampshire and flies a helicopter to work.

This guy Kamen is an engineer and inventor who has set his sights on solving the world's water problems. He invented a system that purifies the most polluted water into stuff that is clean enough to drink. It's basically a still that employs a low energy heat compressor, not unlike what we are looking at to heat the barn. What's interesting is that it uses technology that RR is involved with since they work on similar kinds of stuff. Kind of cool if you ask me.

This guy is a little eccentric but very smart, and clearly motivated to make a difference in this world. He's got the support of some big names like Bill Clinton and Bill Gates, so he's in good company. Whether or not he pulls it off, time will tell, but you have to give him credit for trying. It's nice to show the kids that you can make a difference and help people while doing something that interests you. A win-win situation if ever there was one.

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

Bonfire of the Vanities

We attended the big homecoming rally on campus and as usual it was quite the scene. Homecomings are a big deal at any college, but they take on a special meaning when you attend an elite institution like an Ivy League college. It really becomes a part of your identity if you wish, and a lot of people wish. It is interesting, however, how many people we know that are alumni of Dartmouth but didn't know it until we saw them in the homecoming parade. Go figure.

The fire itself is pretty amazing. They build this massive wood structure and then set it on fire. It's daunting to say the least, and being one to cut and split firewood, I can't help but think what a waste of good firewood it is. It's also a time for the freshman class to get together and be a little crazy in one massive group. It makes me realize that although these kids are clearly smart and industrious, in the end, they're still just kids trying to figure out life. They've got a leg up against their peers who don't attend Ivy League colleges, but they've still got a ways to go in life. They can just afford nicer clothes.

It was funny because we had planned on seeing the fire but had some time to kill beforehand, so we went to the bookstore and hung out. I wondered aloud if we'd see Mr. Hockey out there since he's an alumni, and left it at that. While we were having a treat and hot cocoa and reading magazines, we realized the homecoming parade was happening right outside the bookstore, so we went out to see it, and while we were watching, it suddenly dawned on us that none other than Mr. Hockey was standing right next to us. How funny is that? Of course we started talking about hockey.

After the parade, we made our way to the Green and watched them set all that beautiful wood on fire, then we headed home. It was a little nutty, I get a sense a lot of those college kids are a little sauced and it can get obnoxious, loud, and unruly out there. Am I getting old, or what? Personally I think I'm a little over all the pomp and circumstance of it all, but that may change next year.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Dartmouth College for the pic.