Monday, March 31, 2014

Juggling Players

I was looking forward to A&N playing spring hockey and me just being a spectator, but of course, that wasn't going to happen. With no parents willing to step up and help out, I got cajoled into working the bench. I think the people in charge didn't put a lot of effort into fielding volunteers, because when I asked around, parents were willing to help me.

Either way, in typical fashion, players come and go without giving us any notice, so you never know who is on our team will be there. The first game we played, we had 6 players, and they were exhausted. They had fun and got tons of ice time, but it was a little crazy. The next game, I called a friend and asked if his daughter wanted to play, and he ended up inviting 4 kids. I was a little surprised, but it worked out because we had 10 skaters, which is perfect.

I asked my good friend, GG, if his sons were interested, and they were, so we have two more skaters, who are also great hockey players. The problem I have is this. We have 9-10 skaters on our team, but on any given day, only 4-5 show up. I have to scramble to find players to make up a team. My life would be easier if I just went out and asked some of our hockey friends if they wanted to play, and I know without question they would be into it.

The issue is, if I make up a complete team of outside kids, what happens if the kids who paid show up? I have to give them priority, leaving my volunteer recruits out in the cold. I can only invited 1 or 2 kids because of this. Bummer.

What ends up happening is that the kids from the other teams are usually more than happy to play an extra game, so we are not in want of players. What happens is the opposite, we have too many kids that want to play, so you have to selectively ask them to join the team, all the while watching the door to see if your actual team is going to show up. It usually goes to the wire, and is a total drag because it's somewhat stressful, especially when you have kids and parents hounding you. We could just take everyone, but ideally you want 10 kids. That's the perfect amount, anything more makes it hard, but you can live with less.

Nobody said hockey was easy. This past game I think I pissed off my friend because his daughter wanted to play (she played in the game right before) and I said it was okay, but then the other coach brought in too many players and sent the excess over to us, and I had to turn my friend's daughter away. I know he's seething right now.

Oh well, life goes on, right? Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Debbie Bryant for the pic.

Revisiting Stir-Fry

The other day I made stir-fry for supper, and it was a big hit. I've made it in the past and the family eats it and gives me supportive comments (thanks for not poisoning us, dad), but for the most part, I myself feel disappointed with the end result. First off, the sauce is too thin, and secondly, the veggies too soggy. Now I know what you're thinking, just thicken the sauce and cook the veggies less, but sometimes the obvious is not always so simple.

That's when it helps to look up a recipe and follow the instructions. I just happened to have an old stir-fry cookbook that my mother in law gave me and I broke it out. It has notes on good recipes, as well, so I picked one that got a thumbs up and gave it a go. Of course I didn't follow it to a "t," but I got the gist of how to make the sauce and cook the veggies. The key is compartmentalization. You cook the veggies first, take it out, then cook the veggies, then the sauce, and add it all together. There was some cornstarch involved, which I've avoided in the past, and I think the idea of cooking one part and removing it to cook the next part sort of turned me off (too many steps, I need simplicity), but it wasn't such a big deal. The stir-fry came out nicely, and now we have another dinner option that you can do vegetarian or with chicken or beef. We opt for the chicken, I'm not man enough just yet to go for beef, but maybe one day.

Thanks JR, our palates are grateful. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Robert Greenwood for the pic.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Last Hurrah in the Snow

It's still cold out, the snow is still prevalent, but spring is on the horizon. The days are getting longer, the temperature during the day is hovering in the 40s, and we are starting to see mud, which for the record is my least favorite aspect of spring, but you can't have it all, right?

Last week we had one last snow storm and not only was it a surprise, but it was kind of a bummer, as well. This meant more snowmelt come spring, not to mention more shoveling for me. The kids, on the other hand, put a brighter spin on things and went out and played in the snow. Since it's warmer, the snow was perfect for making snowmen, and that's what they did.

N went off on his own and did lots of shoveling and snowman building, and at some point I helped him out. We built a big one and then an army of smaller ones. It was fun, and good to get out of the house. Not to be outdone, A went and made a snow-DJ, complete with headphones and computer console. It was pretty impressive, not to mention too cute for words.

It just goes to show you, with the right attitude, you can make the most of any situation. Youth helps, too.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hockey for Fun?

I know I said hockey season is over, but in reality, hockey is not over. The kids are doing spring hockey, and it's really about having fun, so in some ways it doesn't count. Since spring hockey is so casual, a lot of the kids don't take it too seriously, which is a good thing, but it also means that the kids don't always feel obligated to show up. I understand this, but it complicates matters when we have a game and nobody shows up. This happened last week, and it was a challenge, but not a huge deal. We had 7 kids, which means one goalie, 5 on the ice and 1 substitute. On the bright side, they got lots of ice time, but man were they tired. Pond hockey at its best. In a way it's good for conditioning, but it's also a lot of fun. Nothing is on the line so it's also a good time to take the chances you wouldn't take during a big game and learn a little from the process.

This weekend the team actually showed up, and then some. I called one of the other coaches to see if his daughter wanted to play. I assumed we would be short because N was away at a birthday party, and I knew a few of the other players were playing in tournaments. With this in mind, I didn't want to be so short on the bench. My friend got a little carried away and brought in four players, and several of the team players arrived, so we had a team. It was nice, we had two full offensive lines, and two sets of defense. My friend worked the defensive bench, and I did offense. They had a great game, two of the new kids are ace players and work really hard.

In the end, we clobbered the competition and most importantly, everyone had fun. That's all that matters, right?

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


A&N have been involved with the local cable TV station for some time now and the director, BF, is very supportive of both of them. Just recently he asked if A was interested in going to a special event near Boston where an organization for scholastic broadcasting wants to teach kids how to be digital and video journalists, or at least give them a taste of it. The event is geared toward high school age children, but BF felt like his group of kids would get a lot out of it. His group is more early middle-school.

Anyway, he said they had to choose four kids, and A was one of them. He chose them with the POV that they showed promise in video journalism and hoped that one day they would come and be counselors/teachers at the local cable TV station. It's cool that he thinks highly of her enough to consider her for this event.

Either way, A is excited about it, as she is with any opportunity to be away from her overbearing parents. I can't say I blame her. I think one day N might be interested, as well, but only time will tell.

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

Serendipitous Timing

A has a potential trip lined up in the next few weeks, and it could last a couple of days. I think it would be fun and a great time, but that sort of leaves N all by his lonesome, or rather, with mom and dad. If the weather were nicer, he could spend more of it outside riding his bike or doing other fun things, but there is still a ton of snow, and there's only so much time a boy can spend with his mom or dad before they start to drive him crazy.

With that in mind, we were looking for an activity for him to take part in, and one came up. The local TV station is holding a spring video camp, and he said he was interested, or at least that he didn't hate the idea. Sometimes that's as good as it gets. This works out beautifully because not only does he get to work on something he enjoys and can be creative and enriching, but he's with other kids and doesn't have to hang out with his boring dad. How can you beat that?

We'll see how this goes, but for now, this is looking good. Plus, it's near the skate park, so as it warms up, we can break out the bike and skateboard. Before you know it, we'll hitting the mountain bike trails, but that's a story for another time.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Adrian Ace for the pic.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Modern Music

A&N love the new computer they got, and I'm glad they have something powerful and contemporary to work with. Their computer blows mine out of the water in terms of speed and power, so much so that there is little desire to even use mine. This is a good thing, because it frees up my computer to be used by me.

A has been using her new music composition program like crazy, spending literally hours for the first two days. The program is for composing digital music with a beat, namely dance music, which is her current favorite. I believe one of the genres that she likes is call DubStep. Being so old and boring I didn't realize that DJs today are a whole new crop of musicians. In the past, a DJ was someone who played other people's music, but I've learned that that version doesn't garner much respect in today's world.

A DJ today utilizes modern technology to compose music and even hire performers to sing the lyrics. That's why it's so confusing to me (not just because my brain is going soft) - the DJs are guys and women are singing the songs. They composed the stuff, and performers sing it. Anyway, according to A, DJs who only play other people's music just aren't that cool. You have to be a composer.

Which brings us to the modern form and A's computer. She is really into it, and understands the theory and structure of music form her years of guitar lesson, which for the record, she continues with today. It's pretty cool to see, and you can hear it when she analyzes and breaks down music, there is some serious understanding of music theory going on.

Plus, the kids, both A&N, are very tech savvy, and having a modern computer is part of that. The next phase will be to get N into programming and maybe game design, two areas that speak to his heart, just as long as he remains active and gets out of the house on a regular basis. Somehow, I don't think that will be a problem.

BTW, it hasn't escaped my notice that we are focusing less on hockey these days, which for the record is not a bad thing.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Making the Grade

In all the craziness over hockey, it's easy to forget that we've been schooling all this time, as well. In fact, the kids have finished their respective grades, and it's time to either refresh or move on. It's a mixed bag because on the one hand, I'm a big fan of reviewing and solidifying material, but on the other, you realize how redundant it all is and question the utility of reviewing it.

Maybe a combination of both is a good way to go. Either way, the kids are doing a good job, and are less resistant and scornful of learning, at least some of the time. In fact, there are times they are downright motivated and inspired, which is cool to see. Still searching for that amazing interest that will capture their imaginations and hold their interest, but for some of us, that's a lifelong pursuit.

Life, after all, is a journey of discovery, right? Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to jvazqu1234 for the pic.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Life is All About Timing (part 2)

This is a follow-up to a previous listing a few days ago, where our timing serendipitously worked out. It was A's birthday, but we hate to leave a sibling out of the festivities, even if it's the other's big day. It doesn't have to be much, and if anything, it shouldn't be, but it's also tough completely ignoring the other. I realize I may be just naive about it all, because from what I can gather, not everyone feels this way. Fair enough, it's just the way I see it, and this feeling is magnified when it involves your own children.

Either way, A's birthday came recently, and she was all set with presents. We didn't have much for N, however, and I had to scramble at the last minute to find something that would interest him. When you ask him if he wants anything, he always says, "no." I think he's just being lazy and doesn't want to think about it, or what he wants he knows he's not going to get. His dream in life is to obtain a mini-bike or snowmobile, but that's probably not going to happen any time soon.

We're all lucky that JR is always thoughtful and never leaves anyone out, but I felt like mom and dad had to put in some effort, as well. The question is, what? I was out shopping in the morning to get breakfast stuff and flowers for A's big day, and happened upon some metal vehicle building kits. I wasn't sure, though I had a sense, if he would like them, so I got two. I figured at the very least, he had something to unwrap along with A. Well, as it turns out, he really liked them, and spent hours (at least 3-4 hours) building them. He was so focused and patient, it was amazing to see. The vehicles require are rather involved in their assembly, and require tools that are included.

I was so stoked about his interest that I immediately went out and got the other two. I was lucky that the store had an assortment, and N went right to work and finished them. That kids is such an engineer, I think he should go apprentice with his uncle, the Amazing PR Man, for a summer. How cool would that be?

I'm glad it worked out. We got him a gift that he enjoyed, and it was creative and enriching. A double whammy of fun. I love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Snowing, Again!

I can't believe it, but we got hit with more snow. It wasn't just a dusting, either, more like 4-5 inches. What exactly is going on here? Now I have to go shovel the path, and it's wet, icy snow. Total bummer. One of the projects that I want to get started on is getting next year's firewood ready. I have a couple cords cut into blocks and ready to be split, except they're under a foot of snow. I have a few more cords of log length that need to be cut, but again, the logs are under at least two feet of snow.

The problem is, I can cut the logs, but I can't transport them to the splitting area until mud season is over. Also, I can't order more logs until I finish cutting the leftovers from last season. Oh well, that's life in New England. I am looking forward to some warmer weather, or at least something where I don't have to break my back shoveling. Then again, that's what helps me burn off all those calories, right? And if it's not shoveling, it's some other back-breaking endeavor, so I should just stop complaining... yeah, right.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Open Sourcing

Add caption
I recently did something that was sort of high-tech and upgraded my operating system. Now it's even more up to date than mom's, and her computer is newer/faster/nicer than mine. I didn't realize you could upgrade for free, but that's exactly what I did.

Upgrading a Mac OS (to Mavericks, named after a big wave in Northern California) is an entirely different beast than upgrading Windows, because the OS is much more integrated into the computer. Either way, because it's a Mac, they sort of do everything for you. It took a couple of hours, during which I wondered if I screwed up my computer, but it worked. Now I have an updated system, and it's pretty cool. I could be deluding myself (wouldn't be the first time), but I can't help but think my computer runs better and faster.

The one problem that came out of this is that my MS Office software doesn't run on the new OS. I need to upgrade all of them, and I don't really want to go out and buy the software. All my Word files won't open because the program won't work. Total bummer.

I did, however, realize that you can live your life without MS Word, though it is convenient to have. I ended up downloading an open source word program, OpenOffice, and it works pretty well. I'm using it right now to write this post. You can open any sort of document, even .docx files, which I couldn't do with my old Word program, and you can save them in any format.

I have to employ an extra step now and then, and it takes a bit of getting used to, but you sure can't beat the price. I also found that I can work on Word documents using TextEdit, which comes with the computer. All in all, I seem to be getting along fine with MS Word, but we'll see how long that lasts.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Tayla Lyell for the pic.

Officially Done

Not quite yet with hockey, but with this year's firewood. I have to say, it's nearly impossible to predict how much we're going to use each year, and I try to stack more every time, but something seems to foil me. This year, no question, was a long cold winter, and we used a lot of wood. To complicate the matter, I didn't have two years of wood out, more like 1 1/2 years. Good enough for now. I'll dip into next year's wood and then stack as much as I can as soon as the snow melts. Hard to imagine that it's starting up all over again.

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day

We had a nice St. Patty's Day, and hope that all of you did as well. At first we weren't really going to do much, and I had completely forgotten that it was on the way, though I should have clued in when cabbage was on sale. I was at the store on Saturday and saw that corned beef was on sale. Normally we either buy the uncured or have even made our own, but since it was practically the zero hour, I bought the industrial processed version. I have to confess, all those chemicals do weird me out a bit.

Anyway, with corned beef in hand, we had the makings of a St. Patty's Day meal. The kids actually got into it and fixed up the table in anticipation of mom's arrival. A dressed up in a lovely green dress, and N wore his big St. Patrick's Day top-hat. I even put on a green t-shirt and went out and got beer (non-alcoholic) and something bubbly for the kids, if you can believe that.

The corned beef was good, marbled and a little fatty, just the way we like it. Corned beef is a family favorite and is so easy to make, though it's a lot of meat for a family that is reducing their meat consumption. Oh well, sometimes you have to fall off the wagon, and the kids need protein, right?

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

Chairman Me

I'll tell you one thing, not only is it lonely being chair of a board, but it comes with responsibility, as well. Funny how that works. For the most part being on a library board is pretty painless, especially ours. The people get along fine and there is little, if any, contentiousness. People do want to minimize their level of commitment, which I completely understand, except that it then seems to fall into my lap.

First off, I didn't really want to be the chair, but as the senior board member with two new recruits, it was pretty much a given I was going to get the job. Again, it's not such a big deal, but now I feel like I have to make a concerted effort to not only be there, but to be a contributing presence as well (no more napping in the back). In the past, I could coast along and be invisible. This also suggests (no obligations) that I attend town meetings when issues pertaining to the library come up.

Finally, I recently had to take the reigns on more localized events. Our director has just finished her first year, for which she did a stand-up job. We are all very pleased, but it requires that we evaluate her and submit it in writing. Well, guess who got pegged to write said report? Yours truly, of course. Normally this wouldn't be so bad because we all have positive things to say, but it's just one more thing for me to have to deal with. I did manage to deal with it, of course, but as you can imagine, it weighed heavily on my shoulders until I finally dove in and just did it.

And, as you can imagine, it sure felt good to get it done. Funny how that works.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mary J. Burroughs for the pic. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Biting the Big Apple

I’ve found that my business dealings with the new digital society that we live is characterized, for the most part, with fairly good customer service. With the internet, you just can’t escape consumer scrutiny, and a business’ bad deeds will be exposed in some form or another, thus coming back to haunt them.

At least, that’s the way it should work. There are certain companies that just have stellar customer service that you can count on. LL Bean is the gold standard, and has unequivocally earned my loyalty. Amazon usually had good service, though returns are tricky, and most supermarkets like Price Chopper and Coop will usually put the customer first.

In light of this, you would think a big and reputable company like Apple would have their act together. Perhaps it’s an issue of being too big. The other player in this, and probably the main culprit, is JoAnn Fabric (JF).

A was sent an iTunes gift card that was purchased at JF, but it was received under curious circumstances. You’ve seen these cards all over the place, they sell them at the register of countless stores. The way it works is you buy the card, they activate it at the register, and then you’re good to go. Now for whatever reason, the people at JF couldn’t activate the card, rendering it useless. The thing is, it was paid for, but they couldn’t activate it, and they wouldn’t refund the money or replace the card. Talk about terrible customer service, if not a complete rip-off. 

They said there was an (800) number to call to work this out, but that shouldn’t be the purchaser’s responsibility. When you’re spending your money, you should get what you paid for, not a bunch of sorry excuses. It wasn’t even that much money. What JF should have done, and yet failed to do, was give the purchaser a new card that they could activate, then taken the defective card and either eat the cost for a loss, or deal with the issue on their own. They chose the wrong path by putting all that on the consumer. This is very bad customer service because not only are you abdicating responsibility, but you’re sending a message that you don’t stand by your products.

Either way, now the ball is in my court. There has been much talk about a mythical (800) number to call and work out the problems, but thus far, I’ve found this to be the stuff of fables. The problem is, Apple has so many different departments and product off-shoots that it’s hard to pinpoint which one I need. It’s like going to Walmart and trying to find Q-tips, and asking a person who works there for help. Good luck with that.

I finally found someone to talk to (just keep hitting 0 on the menu), and after all that, they said iTunes is an online issue and I had to take care of it elsewhere. She gave me a web address to go to and there would an option to chat live with a rep, which was A-okay with me. Of course, when I tried to go to the site, it didn’t work. It could have been my computer, but I was back to ground zero. 

Finally, I went back to the iTunes gift card customer service site (how’s that for specialization?), where there isn’t even have a phone number or live chat, just an email and a link for FAQs. This was a little disappointing, but life is filled with disappointment, right JR? That doesn’t mean we should give up, it simply means we have to work a little harder. If anything, it should make it more imperative to figure this conundrum out and stand by your consumer rights.

I finally decided to send an email, which is inefficient because the back and forth takes so much time, but sometimes you have make the most of what you have. In all fairness, the folks at the iTunes gift card customer service responded immediately to my email, but mainly with more questions, for which I fortunately had the answers. Still, this is a bit of a hassle, and I completely put the blame on JF. Shame on them. There needs to be some reckoning, and I think I’m just the person to handle it.

One step at a time, however. Stay tuned for more on this drama.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Abdulwahab Al Tabtabae for the pic.

Battered and Bruised

This is what I get for trying to skate with the big boys, or at least ones that are 30 years younger than me. We were at an open stick the other day and many of our friends were not present, which is a bummer because that’s what hockey is all about. A, N, and myself hung out on one end of the ice while some really good players were at the other end. These guys are prep-school bound teenagers who could potentially play college hockey, they’re that good.

One of them asked us if we wanted to play a game, and we politely declined, choosing instead to just practice shooting and skating. At some point A left the ice because none of her friends were there and let’s face it, without her buddies hockey is just another game. The guy asked us again if we wanted to play, and we said sure, why not? 

The two pros had N on his team, and I played with the other guys. With the exception of me and N, they are all teenagers and really good, so the skill level was high. I was way out of my league. The two pros were cool about including N and setting him up with passes, while I skated around like a fool. Now I’m a reasonably competent skater, but at some point I caught an edge and came crashing down to the ice on my back. Ouch! This isn’t the end of the world, everyone falls, but then it happened again within 10 minutes, and at that point, I was in pain, especially on the right butt cheek, where my wallet was.

To make matters worse, I also got hit by a slapshot from one of the teenagers, and that was really painful. My elbow swelled up like a balloon, enough so that R and the kids freaked out when they saw it. I came off the ice battered and bruised, and the next day I felt awful. It was like motion sickness, with a slight headache, and from that I surmised that I might have sustained a mild concussion. The headache and malaise went away the next day, but I wasn’t so keen on getting back on the ice. It’s good to get some sleep and let the body heal. I had a game on Wednesday, too, but a massive storm hit and I couldn’t get out of the driveway. That, however, is a story for another time.

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

Life is All About Timing (part 1)

Boy, last week the stars sure aligned properly for our assorted obligations, and this was fortuitous because there were some grumblings of discontent going on over here. Last weekend A had her championship game and it was a busy day of driving and hockey. A wanted to stick around and watch the next few games and hang with her buddies, so N, R, and myself headed back home. 

Of course, this meant coordinating a pickup of A, which means jumping through a few hoops. I asked a couple of people and they all seemed to have full cars before asking SS, whose daughter S used to be A’s best friend. SS also lives near us, closer than most of the other hockey families. He was fine with it, and A was excited to be reunited with her buddy. I made the big mistake of not getting SS’ cell phone number, so I couldn’t ascertain when A would be getting home. This complicated our lives a bit, but what else is new with teenagers?

Anyway, our lives were complicated even more by spring hockey, which happened that evening, and then there was a dance party at the town hall. As it turns out, some of us in this household don’t do so well with too much scheduling, especially when it involves lots of hockey, so tempers flared. I had to come up with a solution that involved taking N to his hockey, arranging to pick up A, and also picking up some supper because there was no way anyone was going to cook with so little time. 

This was not easy with so much anger and discontent swirling in this household, and every solution that was proposed was met with belligerent opposition. Life would have been much simpler if A had just come home with us, but what are you going to do? Finally a solution was begrudgingly accepted: I would take N to hockey, then pick up A afterward. Somewhere in between I would need to pick up Boloco burritos for supper, and I still didn’t know when A was coming home. 

This is when the stars began to align. I took N to the rink and had about 30 minutes before hitting the ice. It was a skating skills session, and I like to skate with the group because I can help and I also get to practice skating. During that 30 minutes, I jetted over to the big city to get burritos. Parking is always a chore in the Hanover, but as luck would have it, I scored a parking space that was not only right in front, but it was positioned in a way so that when I pulled out, I was pointed in the direction of the rink. This may seem trivial, but every minute counted. I went into Boloco, which was moderaly busy, and ordered the food, and literally within minutes, the food was ready. I couldn’t believe it. 

I jumped into the car and arrived at the rink with about 10 minutes to spare, so I could help and skate. After the session, N and I got back into the car and weren’t sure what to do. SS’ house is on the way home, so it made sense for us to pick up A, but we still weren’t sure where she was. I called home for a status report, but there was no word. I decided to just head home and stop by and maybe wait. Either that, or go home and wait there for word, which was no a great solution, especially with such a grouchy atmosphere.

We were about 75% of the way to SS’ house when my phone rang and it was him. They were heading home and he said to meet him at the country store right by his house, which would make it easier for all of us. Talk about timing, we pulled into the store parking lot at the exactly the same time, in fact I could see his headlights ahead of us and couldn’t fathom that it was him. 

A was happy to spend time with her friend, and I was stoked that we met up without a hitch. We went home and the atmosphere at home had cooled down enough to make for a pleasant supper. It was a complicated dance that we choreographed, but it did work out, and I’m grateful for that. 

Hockey sure does complicate your life, but it’s a complication that we seem to repeatedly endure. Go figure.

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Happy Birthday to A

Yesterday was A’s birthday, and as hard as I find it to believe, she’s getting to be such a big girl. Then again, she’s been acting like a big girl for some time, so I shouldn’t be so surprised. Not a bad stretch of days, first a hockey championship, then a birthday celebration.

Since it was a her birthday, we had to wrestle with the annual ritual of her wanting a party and us really not wanting one. It’s hard because I understand her desire to have a bunch of friends over, but I also find it difficult to pull it together, much less entertain a bunch of young ladies. Then again, they don’t really care what’s on the itinerary, as long as they get to hang out and be silly.

Either way, we dropped the ball on this one, though the agenda was not really pushed. A mentioned at one time having a party at the arena, which might have worked out fine, but we sat on it and time ran out. Plus, she did ask for a fairly large present, and we got her that, which I think made up for the lack of a party. Plus, we can always do a sleepover with a few friends at a later date. There is the problem of N feeling left out, as well, but you can’t please everyone.

A asked for a laptop computer, and we got her a decent one. Since we’re a snobbish Mac family, we got her a MacBook Pro, which for the record is much nicer than mine. You can’t even find my computer anymore, they don’t make it, but that’s the scam with hi-tech stuff. They update it continually so you’re outdated within months.

A has an interest in programming music, and you can do it with a decent computer. We figured we would get one that both A and N could use. She for music and movie-making, him for programming and industrial design, or something along the lines of computer science. It’s the wave of the future, right? And it grabs his interest, which is key.

Overall, it was a nice day, despite any disappointment that she may have had. She didn’t express any, though she was well within her rights to. That’s just the way she is, always a good sport, (almost) always with a great attitude.

We made French Toast and bacon for breakfast (I had to run to the store to stock the fridge), and then the kids got to open presents. The kids were stoked, especially A, who spent the better part of the day exploring the MacBook Pro. It’s supposed to be for both of them, so it will be interesting to see how this works out.

We sort of winged it, we didn’t have a plan. There were thoughts of skiing or doing something that night, but there’s not much going on on Monday night. We finally got out to eat Boloco, then home for cake and chilling, which for A meant getting back on the laptop. N and I watched movies, and then we got to be late.

Overall, a quiet and non-eventful birthday, which is just my style.

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

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Neurotic Indecision

As usual, I can’t take part in something without making a neurotic mess of things. Then again, you do what you have to do to get what you want, right?

Even though hockey season is virtually over, we still have spring hockey, which sort of doesn’t count. There’s very little structure to it, but just enough to get a good hockey feel, and best of all, I usually don’t have to coach. I’ll help out, but it’s pretty low key, and the kids love it. It runs a little counter to what the hardcore hockey people desire, because there is no coaching or practice. They don’t even keep score, it’s really about fun. The really hardcore hockey folks want tournaments and select teams, anything that enriches their kids hockey life and moves them one step closer to a hockey scholarship to an Ivy League college. 

I confess that I am vulnerable to this way of thinking. It’s hard not to when you’re surrounded by it, but I’ve been able to keep a level head and not push any agendas. Plus, I have R there to remind me of what a bunch of insanity it all is.

With that in mind, we’ll stick with fun and low key. However, I still manage to make a neurotic mess of things. Our good friend is doing spring hockey and he mentioned he was coaching. A&N are big fans, so I spoke with the people in charge and arranged for them to be on his team. Boy did I jump the gun. 

After speaking with said friend, I found out that he was trying to arrange for a bunch of his kids’ friends to be on the team, which we’d experienced in the past, with not the best results. Also, he requested for one person in particular to be on his team that, for the life of me, I find baffling. Different strokes for different folks, right? Whatever be the case, at that point, I realized I’d made a big mistake. I contacted the person in charge and relayed this and also asked that we reverse my previous request, which he thankfully did.

Now the rosters are set and we got what I asked for. My friend is a little baffled, and he has good reason to be. It’s not such a big deal, in the end, it’s just spring hockey, but why not make it as fun as possible? Or more appropriately, minimize the unpleasantness as much as you can, especially if you have that power.

We’ll see how this goes. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Paul Foreman for the pic.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Wishy-Washy (But Standing My Ground)

I love hockey just as much as the next person, maybe even more, and I think I put my fair share of time into it. More than the average parent, that’s for sure, but it’s feast or famine with this sport. You have nothing for several months, and then you’re immersed in it to where it becomes your life. By the end of the season, you just want it to be done, or at least I want it to be done. 

If it was a simply case of friends getting together and playing hockey for fun, that would be great, but it’s so much more complicated than that. You have families that are obsessed with the game, and are talking smack about their own kids and other people’s kids, and gossiping. It’s a strange environment, and one that’s hard not to get sucked into.

One aspect of this obsession is that some people just don’t want it to end. On the one hand, I understand, but we need to be reasonable. Some of us would do anything to squeeze out one more weekend, and that’s what’s happening right now. The season is over, the kids went to the state tournament, did a great job and had a great time, and now is an ideal time to end it all on a good note. There are, however, countless opportunities to keep it going.

Now to clear, we are still doing spring hockey, but it’s a much different beast. We are in Spring Fling, which is all about fun. No coaches, no keeping score, just pond hockey with no pressure. There are opportunities to play on select teams and enter tournaments, some of which have been offered to us, specifically N. At first I thought it would have been cool for him to do them, but he balked at all of them. He said he felt like one season was enough, and I respect that, albeit somewhat reluctantly. After ruminating on it, I realize how sensible he is being.

The problem is we are in a hyper-competitive environment where everyone is trying to get ahead, and all I hear about is how every kid is going this select team or this tournament. It’s hard to ignore, but I’m trying my best. These situations prey on our neuroses about doing what’s best for our kids, but you have to ask yourself, what is the point of all this hockey? I won’t get into it now, but I don’t think it’s realistic or healthy.

On that note, I’ve had to play the Bad Guy and put my foot down. A’s season is over, but for whatever reason, the powers that be want to play in one last tournament. When I heard about it, my first response was, literally, “Count me out.” Then one of the coaches called me and tried to change my mind, and I buckled under pressure and reversed course. It doesn’t help that A really wants to do it, mainly because, you guessed it, her friends are doing it.

Anyway, I had to reverse course again and tell them no thank you. This made me unpopular amongst the other coaches, the other players who want A to play, and of course, with A. For full disclosure, A has been very cool and very mature about it. She has not fought us over it, and was well within her rights to indicate that she wants to go and is bummed about not going, but ended it at that. Kudos to her for being such a f-ing cool kid, she’s awesome.

Of course I feel guilty, but also feel like maybe it’s not a bad thing to close the door on the season and move on. Plus, I hate buckling under pressure, and don’t always understand why people don’t simply respect our decisions and leave it at that. Why do they gotta give me such a hard time? I realize part of that is knowing I’m a pushover, but who wants to get something at the expense of another person’s peace of mind? Clearly several of my friends do.

Oh well, you can’t have it all, right? Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to CanonFire09 for the pic.

The Champions

A’s team won the state championship, which is really cool, everybody is thrilled. They played a tough game this past weekend, and it was close, but they pulled off the big win. That’s two championships in two years, not too shabby. Her older compatriots won the championship, as well, so the program is doing pretty well these days.

I'm excited for the girls, but it's been a long year, and I've been pretty wrapped up in hockey. I think for A, as much as she loves the game, the social aspect takes precedence over the actual game. She could be playing shuffleboard and having as much fun, as long as she could hang with her buddies.

For now, we'll bask in the glow of their achievement and look forward to some warmer weather activities.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Kisha T for the pic.

Learning Some New Tricks

This is an interesting development and one that is sort of cool and very enlightening. For most of my adult life, I’ve worked with computers that used the ubiquitous MS Word program. It’s pretty much the gold standard, and since I do mostly writing stuff, I’ve become accustomed to having it to the point where I don’t feel a computer is of any use to me without it. What good is a machine if I can’t write on it?

When I upgraded my operating system (OS) to Maverick, things changed. My Word program is old and outdated, and I have problems opening documents sent to me by people who have more modern versions of word. I get these .docx files, versus .doc files that I create. My old version of word cannot open .docx files, so I have to send them to R, where she converts them or opens them for me. She has the newer version of Word. I also run into problems with Excel files, or .xlsx files. Whatever be the case, it’s not the end of the world. I can also ask the sender to convert to .pdf, or send me an older version.

Well, as luck would have it, when I changed my OS, my Word application no longer worked. I was given fair warning about this before I upgraded, so I knew what I was getting into. I experimented a bit with other options, and discovered that I didn’t actually need MS Word. How crazy is that?

Using a combination of Google docs, TextEdit, and iCloud, I’ve found that I can survive just fine. I’m sure these options are not as powerful as the real application, but the reality of the matter is I only used a fraction of the capabilities of the program. I just don’t need to do fancy stuff. This may come back to haunt me at a later date, but for now, I’m feeling kind of stoked and liberated. Plus, my new OS is way cool, and I can’t help but think (wishful thinking, perhaps?) that my computer is running more smoothly.

I love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ronn aka "Blue" Aldaman for the pic.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Army Corps of Engineers

Despite the challenges of all the snow we had last week, the kids were thrilled to pieces to play in it. I have to say, they worked really hard and for a long time building snow forts and other structures, including an elaborate system of pathways. They were like the Army Corps of Engineers.

For someone who is all too familiar with whining about shoveling, I can attest to how much hard work went into their project. That was a lot of shoveling. What was really cool about it was the thought that went into it. They made all sorts of assorted lounges with multiple seats and even drink holders. There was a bar and a serving station, and even a fort with lookouts for invaders.

It was nice for them to get outside and burn off calories, especially when the weather is not warm and dry. I was reluctant to break their routine with lunch, but at some point they had to re-fuel. The mud room was a disaster, filled with snow and ice-encrusted clothes. It took about 10 minutes to clean up, but that’s a small price to pay for having your kids enjoy a cold and snowy winter day.

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

Dinner with Friends

Last week after N’s big tournament they went to supper at Bennington’s and his whole team went, or at least most of them. Enough to where we couldn’t back out of this one. GG was cool enough to reserve a table for the team, and all the families went. It was a big contingent because more than just N’s team went, a lot of families that were involved in the tournament one way or another attended, and it was a nice time.

Of course, I had some issues, but what would my life be like without some issues? First off is my social anxiety in big groups. I’ve learned to deal with it, embrace it even, for the sake of the kids, who want to be around their friends and teammates, which in the modern world of the homeschooling parent means that I have to be there, too. My parents never went through this, they never even knew who my friends were.

The other issue I have was the cost. Bennington’s is on the nicer side, so we were looking at double-digit burgers and the like. I couldn’t make an issue out of the cost because I didn’t want the kids to be self-conscious. We were there to have a good time, right? Suck it up, as the saying goes. The food was excellent, it’s just tough when you feel the money draining from your wallet.

The third issue was that we had an early morning the next day, so we had to eat and run. A had a 10:00AM game in New York, so we had to get up at 4:30AM the next morning, which meant an early bedtime. N had an early morning, too, just not as brutal. For the record, A is very good about getting up, and can bounce out of bed and be ready at the drop of a hat. With N, it’s a struggle, but he manages.

The final issue was that R was a little incensed at all the time we’re spending for hockey. I can’t totally blame her, but hockey just takes a lot of time. It’s hard, however, enjoying yourself at an event when someone sends you off with grumblings of discontent can ruin an evening, especially with the knowledge that when you get back home, you’ll be revisiting that environment of scorn.

To quote John Lennon, “Nobody told me there’d be days like these. Strange days, indeed.”

Sometimes life sure ain’t easy, but then again, if it was, what the heck would I have to write about?

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

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Modern Day Computer Warriors

Talk about being hip with the times, we are moving into the 21st century in this household. Our kids still think we’re living in the dark ages in terms of technology, and in certain ways, that’s true. The reality is, like it or not, computers and technology are ingrained in our culture, and you can choose to ignore/reject it, but that puts you at a disadvantage in terms of being a fully functional in today’s world. This is especially true for young people. As cynical as I am about texting and all that smartphone obsession, and I don’t like seeing young people ignoring the world around them to check their devices, that’s sort of the world we live in. And while I don’t think you have to buy into it wholeheartedly, I also don’t think it’s beneficial to reject it completely.

With that in mind, we are gradually moving more and more in that direction. I still use a bare-bones Tracfone, which works fine, but my brother gave me his old iPhone, and I’m trying to familiarize myself with it, which is not that straightforward. There’s way too much going on with that screen.

Secondly, I want the kids to be comfortable with computers. They are definitely interested, and there are some amazing resources online for them to learn. Computer science is the way of the future, no question, and it also helps the kids have some balance in a world where we are surrounded by people obsessed with hockey. It’s hard not to give into it, a little, but we have to keep in mind it’s just a game. We’re here to have fun, right?

Finally, they like computers. What kid out there doesn’t? I am not a fan of playing video games or watching Youtube, but I do think it would be nice for our kids to be interested in programming, or some sort of computer science. Even designing video games would be cool, as long as they didn’t spend all day on them. That, for the record, is not going to happen.

Just FYI, I also upgraded my operating system on my computer, which was not something I thought was even possible. Just goes to show you, you never really know what you’re capable of until you try.

Now that my computer has entered the new millennium, I can operate more advanced software, including ones for designing “apps” and games. This should enhance our computer learning capabilities while moving us forward in terms of being computer-competent members of society… sort of.

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

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Shoveling to China

Don’t get me wrong, I love the snow, but shoveling the stuff can definitely affect your POV on the matter. I actually don’t mind shoveling, but sometimes when it’s 3 feet deep, it can be a chore. This becomes exponentially so when it’s at night in a snowstorm. This was the case a few days ago.

The problem was, and usually is, hockey. We had a busy day of hockey and had to hit the road. Our plow-man took care of the driveway, but we had to clear out the cars pronto. I went to work and got the cars cleaned up and ready, and then we were off. We spent the day on the road and didn’t get home until the evening, which is usually not a huge deal, except that our wood box was empty, and it was cold.

Since it was getting dark, I had to strap on a head lamp and shovel a path to the wood in order to get it to the house. Then I had to shovel a path to the compost bin in order to dump our overflowing compost pan. By the end of it, I was ready for a Lowenbrau.

I still love the snow, and even don’t mind the cold weather, but it might be more tolerable if the snow came down just one foot at a time.

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

Parental Indentured Servitude

This past weekend was one of those that inspire awe from both ends, coming and going, and not always the good kind. When you anticipate what’s coming, you wonder how you got yourself into this predicament and that you’ll never be able to pull it off. When it’s finally over, you reflect in amazement that you came out in one piece. The kids don’t seem to mind, though they don’t have a complete grasp of the logistics, but that’s what being a kid is all about, right?

We had both kids involved in big hockey weekends, and it required lots of early mornings and busy days. N had a big tournament, and it went from Friday to Sunday. They played amazingly well and had a great time. It was a nice way to end the season, and they almost won the championship, losing the final game on Sunday. The parents came out in full force and the audience was raucous and supportive, so the kids got a huge kick out of it. They gave out trophies to the second place teams and a banner, and I know N has been itching to get a trophy since he started playing hockey. He finally got his wish.

As much as the tournament was fun, I was doing double duty on the hockey parent front. N had two games every day, and I helped out with running the tournament, as did numerous other parents. I volunteered to run the scoring the booth, one shift that required me to be there at 6:30AM! That’s the thing about tournaments, they are fun and bring in money to the program, but they require tons of volunteer work to make it happen. That’s on top of coaching duties and transporting kids.

A didn’t take part in the tournament because she is in an older division. Plus, her team has the big state championship to prepare for. The coach IC didn’t want them idle for too long before the big game, so he arranged for the team to play in Plattsburgh, NY, which is about 3 hours away and includes a ferry ride. To make it worthwhile, they nabbed a doubleheader, which meant an entire day in NY. Fortunately, they arranged a caravan to the arena.

With the first game at 10:00, that meant getting A to the meeting point at 6:00AM, which meant getting up at 4:30. A is a trooper, she gets up and ready at the drop of a hat, so there were no problems getting there. The girls were thrilled and excited, and can you blame them? An entire day hanging out with your buddies playing hockey and eating pizza, you can’t beat it. The games went well, the other team even provided pizza for the whole team in appreciation of going up there, and if that’s not enough, A’s team tied both games. What a great matchup.

After I dropped A off, I had time to kill since it was so early. N had a game at 10:00, and I was originally prepared to go home and get him, but R said she would bring him, leaving me free to, you guessed it, volunteer for the tournament. It actually worked out well because the early morning time slot is one that nobody is lining up to fill. I did the first shift on Friday and Saturday, and I didn’t mind. I was up and in the area, anyway.

Truth be told, I enjoy watching hockey, more so with our kids than the NHL, it’s just the time drain and the opportunity cost are enormous. Nonetheless, it is fun, and the kids love it, so for now, it works. Who knows where we’ll be on this issue next year.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Pookie & Schnookie for the pic.

Fitting End to the Season

This past weekend was a fitting end to the hockey season, at least for N. A’s season has one more week, where they’ll be vying for the championship. It was also a brutal weekend for mom and dad, but such is the life of hockey parents.

N was in a big tournament and it was a load of fun, if not a lot of work. A had a big game many miles away, which I couldn’t make it to, but we worked things out thanks to KG’s wizardry with organization. On Friday N started his big tourney, and it’s interesting how many parents don’t even blink an eye pulling kids out of school to play hockey. You have to admire that sort of dedication, and I know for sure the kids have no issue with it. Who wouldn’t take traveling to play hockey over school?

N’s team did quite well, going all the way to the championship game. They finally played like a team, with the younger players actually coming to life and doing their part. In the past, many of them just stood out there, but this time they were active and contributed to the game. I can’t even tell you what a difference it makes because usually it’s only 3 or 4 of five players who are playing on the ice, putting N’s team at a significant disadvantage when they play teams where all 5 players are contributing. I was telling one of the coaches that it’s like being on a penalty kill all the team. The defense is working double duty. When the younger players actually become involved, even doing things as simple as skating toward the other player, everything changes.

With this in mind, the team looked good, and as a result, they won all of the games. This tournament has been going on for 10 years, and never once has the home team gone to the championship This was the first year. They lost in the championship game, but it wasn’t that bad, because they had exceeded expectations and played well throughout. Plus, there are some good lessons to be learned from losing.

N had a great series, and I think has grown a lot as a player and a leader. It will be interesting to see him go from being a leading player to a younger player next season, but at least he’ll be reunited with many of his friends who moved up this past season. He said it was sad to see the season end, I think it’s been a good experience for him, and this was the first time I’d heard him say this. In the past it was done and over and he was ready to move on to warm weather activities. I think he sort of liked being a senior player, though his team relied heavily on him.

A also had a big hockey weekend, and it’s not over yet. She had a doubleheader up in New York, and her team formed a caravan to get up there. I couldn’t go because I was busy with the tournament back home, but the games went well, and it’s a good tune-up for their coming championship game, which will be a big one. I think she really enjoyed it because she got to spend the day away from mom and dad and with her hockey buddies, plus they got to play a couple of games and eat pizza and junk food. How can you beat that?

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