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.