Friday, December 25, 2015

Nowhere to Ski

How's this for irony? We have almost all of our winter gear in place and we're having one of the worst winters for snow on record. Talk about a bummer, though we're hardly at a loss for activities. Do we really need to add skiing to that to-do list? Yes, of course we do. If anything, being able to ski would make our lives easier, if not richer. The reason for this is because with variable hockey schedules and the ski hill so close to the arena, it would be nice to hit the slopes during the time that one or the other is on the ice. The beauty of living up here is that it's very plausible to make this sort of arrangement because the hills are local and are almost designed for skiing in 2-3 hour increments. Plus, this year we're able to ski at our regular hill for substantially discounted prices, so it's an even bigger bummer that there's no snow.

This has allowed me more time, however, to make sure we're all set up for winter sports. As far as hockey gear goes, as much as I love Stateline Sports, I don't want to step foot in there for awhile because we have had to replace a fair amount of gear for our resident hockey players. They (Stateline) won't take offense at this because they totally get where I'm coming from on this, they work for a living just like me. As for ski equipment, this has been a little trickier because the kids are getting more into snowboarding. A has done the complete switch, but N is still double dipping, and for the record, I hope he keeps skiing and even focuses on that because it's really his thing. Plus, he just got new skis for his birthday.

Since A's a hip snowboarder now, she couldn't really ride her old board because it was a complete junker. To her credit, she never complained about it and just went out there and shredded the slopes. I promised her that if she liked it and wanted to continue, I would get her a nicer board along with the necessary accoutrements. Sure enough, she loves it, so I spent the past year putting together her board so as to spread out the cost and find the best deals, which is easier in the off season. That finally all fell into place this past month when I found her some killer Burton bindings at Henderson's. They were this year's model, really cool, but since the shop is pretty much sold out of all their stocks, they gave me an amazing deal. I love those guys. Best of all she really loves the bindings, they match her boots and are "way cool."

As for N, since snowboarding is not his primary interest, I figured I didn't have to go all out but finding bindings was a little trickier. I thought all along that snowboard bindings are all the same, but they're not, and eventually, after months of searching, I got him a nice pair, again on clearance from last year. He was stoked on them, which is good enough for me.

Okay, now we're all set for ski equipment. I hope to avoid all stores that sell hockey and ski equipment, at least until next year, but I know that's not going to happen. Oh well, good thing I'm working like a dog so I can afford this fabulously opulent lifestyle.

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

A Little Christmas Magic

Merry Christmas to everyone, hope you're having a great day.

Call it what you will, but we had a little bit of our own Christmas magic over here, albeit minor magic but magic nonetheless. Every year we enjoy Christmas because it's really a nice time where we don't have to be anywhere, hockey seems to take a break, and we just hang out together and enjoy one another's company. This is becoming an increasingly rare occurrence as the kids get older, but we're clinging to it furiously and refuse to let go.

One of the things we love to do is sit together and watch Christmas movies, and one of our favorites, if not favorite, is Elf (highly recommended). Since we didn't give it too much thought, we were late in looking for it on Netflix and ended up with the dreaded "very long wait," designation. We then went on a search for it at all of the local libraries and came up short, except for one. At one of the local libraries where we used to live, they had a copy at their other branch in the neighboring town. Rather than make a special trip I requested that they have it shipped to the closer location and I could just pick it up. This was last Friday, and the librarian, who is a friend, said it should arrive by the end of the day. Beautiful. I figured I'd stop by early the next week and pick it up, but by the end of the day on Monday, I hadn't heard a thing. On Tuesday I called them and they said that they were having trouble actually locating the movie and they would let me know when it arrived. The problem was the libraries were going to closed on Thursday and Friday, so if we didn't get the movie by Wednesday, we were out of luck. Oh well, it's just a movie, right?

By Wednesday afternoon I had pretty much written the movie off and as we were getting ready for hockey practice, the library called and said the movie had come in, after all. Wow, talk about cutting it close. We were practically out the door, so we just took a minor detour and picked it up on the way to the rink. Not quite in the realm of miracles, but sort of cool, nonetheless.

Happy holidays to everyone and hope all is well. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Kelsey Webb for the pic.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Opportunity Knocks

I don't know about most people, but I for one am disappointed in the weather because we have yet to get any snow. Talk about a bummer. I know people love the warm weather and many of them hate the snow, but it simply begs the question, why do you live here? If you hate cold and snow, you're definitely living in the wrong place. I for one love the snow, so you can understand my disappointment.

Now normally I could sit and whine about the warm weather, and believe me, it's been over 50 degrees this week, but in the spirit of making the most of things, I've actually found that I've been fairly productive doing outside work. Usually there's a base layer of snow on the ground that freezes and glues everything in contact with it into one large mass. This includes leaves, grass, and firewood. By late fall I've lost so much steam that I'm not disappointed in the least when this happens, and with each dusting of the white stuff, the less I'm aware of what's below it and wait until spring to deal with it. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes.

This year there's no where to hide, so I've just been dealing with it. As I mentioned I managed to get all the raking done, the garden is clean, and the lawnmower has been stowed for the winter. This year's wood had all summer to dry, and I figured if I had about 24% of next year's wood, that would be enough to cover us if we went through this year's pile. Finishing year 2 is the impossible dream, but this year we are getting close to pulling it off. With the warm weather we've been out there splitting and stacking, and I'd say we're about 2/3 done, if not more. Plus, the big stuff is split and it's just a question of chopping it down to size.

Finally, there was the issue of the burn pile. I had a bunch of rotting pallets and junk wood that was in a pile in the front yard, but never really found an ideal time (does such a thing exist?) to burn it. Somehow with burn piles I feel like I have to stick around to monitor it. As winter approached I figured it would snow and our plow man would just shove it further into the yard. Well, this past week N and I went to work on it and sure enough we burned it down. I was kind of stoked about that. It's all so optimistic of me to take advantage of the weather, but you have to seize the opportunity when it knocks, right? If we can get year 2 split and stacked, I will truly be amazed, but crazier things have happened to us.

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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

String Theory

I've had to be a little more assertive with certain individuals in this house and so far it's been working out well. I based my actions on the theory that sometimes you have to make people do things that they enjoy or will enjoy because inertia is such a hard force to overcome, just ask Isaac Newton, if you can get through to his cell phone. Plus, as is often the case, just the idea of doing something is sometimes enough to discourage you from doing it, even if it's not a big deal. The story of my life, BTW.

The topic in question is playing guitar, specifically for N. I have tried in the past to encourage some interest in a musical instrument to no avail. His interests are of the athletic and engineering nature, which is fine, but I really think having some musical ability is a plus. Not just to get the babes, which is very important for a young man, but because music is an important part of life, and I think musical ability wires the brain in some nice ways. At the very least it gives us one more interest to pursue that does not involve the computer.

For all it's worth, A was not falling over herself to play guitar at first, and now she loves it. This pattern has played out in many of her interests, including skiing and hockey. I got her a guitar when she was very little and she said no thanks. It wasn't until she took a lesson with one of the homeschool kids that something clicked and she ran with it. Now she's a real student of the art, and it's really cool to hear her talk about music and music theory, though for a luddite like myself, it goes right over my head.

With N he is resistant to pretty much everything I throw his way. It could just be youthful rebellion, but whatever the case, we're not going to give in to youthful apathy and inertia. We sent him to some drum lessons and that sort of fizzled out, but his interest in music is always evident when we listen to it. He's clearly interested, and sings and mimics the instruments. I realize how much of a stretch this is, but it's better than nothing, right? Either way, as much as he might be interested in playing drums or something along those lines, drums are a pretty specialized instrument, and playing them requires a drum set (go figure) and a place that will tolerate all that racket. A guitar, on the other hand, can be very personal and as he gets older there is a much greater chance that he will encounter a guitar at a friend's place versus a drum set.

Whatever be the case, I sort of indicated that I wanted him to learn how to play guitar. He can play drums or harp or accordion, whatever he wants, but I'd also like him to know how to play guitar. He doesn't have to be in a band, he doesn't have to shred, all that I ask is that he can play some rudimentary chord transitions and be relatively competent. A campfire guitarist, as the saying goes. He went along with it begrudgingly, and I found the perfect person to teach him - his sister. Not only does she shred, but she's a good teacher and he listens to her. She adds "cool factor" to things, and she's enthusiastic about teaching him. Plus, it's a good activity during some down time that doesn't involve computers, and I think deep down he's got his eye on her electric guitar, which has even more "cool factor," but one thing at a time.

So far it's been going well. She has been sitting with him 2-3 days a week and slowly teaching him chords and songs. Then, for 2-3 days each week I have him practice what she's taught him, or at least strum some chords. Here's what I've noticed about it. First, A is enthusiastic about it and says that she thinks he's got a good feel for the instrument. Second, N said he thinks it's fun learning with his sister. Third, I have listened to him strum and he sounds good. Fourth, it's a great activity during the day that can take up an hour and doesn't involve anything digital. Fifth, girls like guys who play guitar.

Okay, what else can you ask for? It's a win-win situation. I love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Hugo A. Quintero G. for the pic.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

First Cold of the Season

It had to happen at some point: we are all suffering, to varying degrees, from some sort of cold and though it's a regular part of winter, it sure seems to have hit us early this year. Maybe that's not a bad thing, especially if it exempts us from cold and sickness later in the year, though somehow I think that's wishful thinking. Oh well, here's to wishful thinking. I'm not sure who brought the cold first into our house, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't me. Then again, I'm a firm believer that once someone gets sick, everyone else will follow suit. How can it not? It's really just a matter of time so might as well just accept it and wait for your time to come.

How's that for fatalistic? I like to think of it more as realistic. Either way, we've all got it, so I might as well stop whining and just live with it... yeah right. As you may have guessed, I'm not one for going down quietly, at least not yet.

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

Learning a New Trick

Like an old dog learning a new trick, I've been adapting to modern times and embracing new technology, though since I'm old, new technology for me is still a step behind what the young folks are up to. You've got to start somewhere, right? Now personally I didn't embrace the whole texting thing, and think that texting behind the wheel of your car is the stupidest thing ever. I have noticed, however, that some people often don't answer their phones, and never check their voicemails. This can prove to be inconvenient when you're trying to communicate with them.

I've been experiencing this with some of the guys I work with. They are addicted to their phones just like everyone else, but getting in touch with them is a bit of a challenge because they all prefer to, you guessed it, text. While I've called and left messages on their voicemails, only to get nothing in the way of a response, I found that texting gets immediate results. Go figure. With this in mind, I sent my first text a few weeks back and communicate regularly with said individuals employing this methodology. It's a pain because my phone is so old that it has the old/traditional keypad, so it takes about 30 seconds just to type a letter, much less compose a text, which can take upwards of five minutes. Talk about stupid.

Because it's such a challenge, I only do it when I have to, which I for one think is a good thing. I have no inclination to text and only do it when needed, though I understand its appeal. It's like getting email on your phone, only it's immediate.

I toyed with getting a more modern phone but have yet to take the plunge. Part of me doesn't want to make texting easier because I still think it's lame, but I wouldn't mind having a camera on my phone. We'll see where this one goes.

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Go Karting

A few weeks back we were in MA for a tournament and we couldn't help but notice, N especially, that there was an indoor go-kart track en route to the ice rink, Pioneer Valley. We were on the highway so it wasn't that simple to get there, but during the tournament we had a lull of several hours and it turns out that several of his teammates went over and raced. I was bummed we missed out, though truth be told, N had a blast back at the hotel swimming and playing knee hockey with his other teammates, so it wasn't a big deal. Even still, go-karts would have been cool.

One of the many reason it made such an impression was that several years back we were in Arizona and went to a game park that hard go-karts and golfing and all sorts of good stuff. A got to ride the go-karts but N was too young and small. He rode in the little kid carts that went about 5 mph, while A was zipping around on the fast go-karts. I felt really bad and from then on figured that as soon he was old enough, we would give it a go. The problem is, there aren't any go-kart tracks near us.

Well, after the tournament, we were heading home and I asked him if he wanted to give it a try. Believe me, all I wanted to do was to get home, but I figured it was a good opportunity to try it, and it would scratch an itch that has been bothering us for some time now. Of course he was up for it, so we stopped by and gave it go... or rather, he gave it a go, I just watched. The setup was easy, I just signed some waivers, we watched a safety video, they fitted him with a helmet and neck brace, and he was off. There were several kids on the track and I got a sense they had done this before - numerous times, in fact. They really knew how to handle those machines, which for the record were not toys. Not even close, they're pretty serious racing machines, even for indoors.

It looked like fun, though I think N felt a bit intimidated by the level of competition, and I can't say I blame him. He did a full session, which lasted about 20 minutes, and then he said that was enough. We got in the car and headed home. It was nice because the tournament ended early in the day so we got home while it was still light outside, which is always a bonus. Not a bad weekend, they won the championship, he had a blast with his buddies, and he got to ride the go-karts. I love when that happens.

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

No Ski Patrol

Last year during the ski season I was all pumped and ready to join the ski patrol on the local hill. I had applied to be a ski instructor but they needed people on the weekends and I am usually swamped and busy on the weekends with hockey and all that good stuff, so that didn't work out. I have several friends on the local patrol and when I was talking to them the light bulb went off in my head and I inquired about ski patrol. The man in charge, JD, is a friend and he encouraged me to come aboard. He even put me to through some assorted skills tests on the hill, which I think I passed because whenever I saw him afterward he commented on being on ski patrol. I.e., I think I was in.

Well, when the new year started, it turns out that I don't have the time I thought I would. With A in school and me working 2-3 PT jobs, plus with hockey and skiing (at some point), I'm so busy I can't pull it off, after all. In fact, I've cut back on my SP work over at the hospital because I just can't do the morning shift. With this in mind, I had to tell JD that I didn't have the time and couldn't do ski patrol. I felt bad because I'm the one who initiated all this and he's been very cool and supportive all along. The simple fact of the matter is that I just can't spend an entire day on the hill, at least not from morning til afternoon.

I tried to come up with a solution and because of this delay I didn't tell JD until he called me to confirm I was still interested. I guess I still was, I just couldn't do it logistically. He understood and was cool about it, though deep down he probably wanted to strangle me, not so much because I'm bailing out, but because I waited until the last minute to tell him. Sorry JD, but I think they'll be able to fill the slots. They have a good crew over there.

Just a quick note, part of the reason I wanted to do patrol was to get free skiing for me and the kids, but it turns out I get it anyway with my job. Good fortune has come my way. Now if we could only get some snow.

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sliding Away

This has been a fairly mild and dare I say warm winter, with not much, if anything, in the way of snow and ice... that is, of course, until a few days ago when we had rain during freezing conditions. Not quite what I could call freezing rain, because it was definitely water coming down, but the air was cold and the ground was frozen, resulting in what is commonly referred to as black ice. Basically the water on the ground freezes but is hard to identify because it's a thin and clear sheet of ice. It is very dangerous and conditions on the roads were horrible. I even had my own horror story, but more on that later.

First off, I went to pick up A at school and it was cold and rainy. When we got on the highway, we both noticed that the car was acting strangely, and it didn't take long to deduce that the front tires were spinning out as I gave it gas. Right away I got that sick feeling in my stomach that things were a little sketchy, and all around us the cars on the highway slowed down and put on their hazard lights. My first thought was to get off and drive on the side roads because I hate going fast during these times. Sure enough, within a mile of the off ramp a big truck had lost control and was overturned in the median, dumping its load of Christmas trees onto the ground. It looked like a collision because another truck had its front end smashed in. I got off ASAP and took the side roads, but it was sketchy all the way home. It didn't help that I had not put the snow tires on yet.

I had to take A to her hockey practice that afternoon and the plan was to drop her off, get N and then meet up at the arena. I avoided the dirt road short cut and took the long way, but then on the way back to meet up with N I, like a complete fool (I don't know what I thinking) took the dirt road short cut home, and that's where my horror story begins. The first section is asphalt so it wasn't so bad, but by the time I hit dirt I couldn't help but notice that the road seemed awfully shiny. I figured the dirt road would be rough and gravelly, but not so. Even with the shiny road, I was driving fine and could only hope for the best because at that point there was no turning back, even though I desperately wanted to turn back.

At some point the road becomes a massive downhill, and that's when I completely lost control. I started sliding down and must had slid for about 200 feet. Let me tell you, when you lose control of your car like that, it's #&$%# scary. I wasn't even going that fast. I managed to steer the car into a small embankment that was all dirt and the tires grabbed, thus stopping me. I sure was relieved, but I still had to get out of there. I drove about 5 mph with on tire always on the dirt and made it up the final hill before the long downhill home. It isn't that steep, but when it's icy, even the slightest downhill will get you.

As I went around the bend, however, there was an SUV that was parked sideways on the road. The driver was probably going too fast, lost control and wound up in the middle of the road. I stopped the car to see if they were okay and the minute I stepped out of the car my feet slid out from under me and I was on the ground. The conditions were that bad. I spoke with the driver who said she was waiting for her husband and she seemed a little frazzled. She said she had to walk down the road to get cell phone reception and slipped and fell in the process, so she wasn't going anywhere until help arrived. I felt for her, though I did notice that not only was she driving an SUV (i.e., all wheel drive), but she had snow tires, as well. She must have been going way too fast to have lost control, and it didn't help having that small baring dog in her lap. Plus, walking on ice in high heels is not recommended.

Either way, I had to get home and didn't want to wait. After looking over the situation, I thought if I could get one wheel up on the embankment, that would not only give me grip, but I could get around her car, which was taking up 75% of the road. I told her my plan and she said she was going to get out and wait on the hill because she didn't want to be in the car if I lost control on the ice and slammed into her. I can't say I blame her. She definitely struggled getting out of that car and walking on that ice but she manage just fine and I made it past her.

The hard part of still ahead because I had to make it down this hill of ice, and the steep part of not only near the end, but it was a bend, as well. I literally drove 2-3 mph but managed to get to the flat part and then to the main road. I heaved a huge sigh of relief and kicked myself for such a stupid move.

It took an extra hour to get home, but I'm thankful I made it. I met up with N, got his gear in the car, and headed back to meet A and told them my tale of woe. The next day I put my snow tires on and I'll tell you one thing, I'm not taking that shortcut for awhile.

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

Family Visit

This is long after the fact, but I hope that everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. We traveled out of state to visit family and I have to say that it was really nice time, mainly because we got to hang out together and we had lots of down time to a whole lot of nothing. My kind of trip. We left on Thanksgiving Day which is kind of unusual but because everyone had traveled prior to that and was sitting at home stuffing their faces, the trip was quiet and smooth sailing all the way there. We flew out of Manchester and made our connection with no problems whatsoever. I even think the connecting flight had empty, so we had space to stretch out.

We arrived in OH, got the rental car, and arrived at our destination no problem. We stayed at our usual haunt, Hampton Inn, and as usual it was a great place to stay. Clean, comfortable, and good service. We tried to spend as much time as possible with my in-laws but at some point the kids get a little restless, and who can blame them. Adults are so boring because all they want to do is talk. I think it gets harder as they get older, but I have to give them credit, they sit quietly and endure and never complain, even though they every reason to complain. Fortunately between mom and myself, we can sense when things are getting restless and can come up with an alternative plan, like letting them watch movies on the computer, or better yet, YouTube.

As I may have mentioned, I had a great trip because I got to chill out and relax, eat food that I didn't have to prepare, and take lots of naps. What better life a man can lead, I know not. Plus, while the girls went out to shop, me and N went to the movies or hung out and did guy things. I took him to see the Martian and then A joined us to see Spectre, which I have to say was not the greatest Bond movie but was good. Plus, we managed to sneak in a little Arby's, though it was a bummer that A didn't get to imbibe. Oh well, maybe next time.

Our family meal was wonderful as usual, with the Amazing PR Man and DR joining in the festivities. I think it was nice for all of us to be together though we don't get to do it enough. People just have too much going on in their lives to make it happen, but what are you going to do? The weather for the week was pretty poor, cold and rainy for almost the entire time, which was fine because it only made me want to go to sleep, which I did.

All in all a good week, though I would like to mention that the trip home was a bit more of a chore. That seems to always be the case, somehow getting home is never that simple. It was smooth sailing driving there, but we seem run into the issue of finding a gas station once we're there. It is funny to point out that we always end up at the same gas station about a mile away. As we pull in, I think to myself, this place sure looks familiar. The second issue that we ran into was that we flew on Southwest, and I personally think that airline is lame. They don't assign seats but instead give you a number and you wait in line. We seem to end up toward the end of the line so when we board, everyone has already gotten their seats, which are the aisles and windows. We had to sit in the middle, which is not a big deal except that we'd like for the kids to be together on the flight. This way they can watch a movie. It worked out but not until the zero hour and we were literally at the back of the plane. I ended up next to this guy that was huge and took over my arm rest. He didn't seem to mind, however, that I was practically leaning on top of him during the flight. What was I supposed to do?

Our connection was even more crowded, and the plane had some mechanical issues so they had to delay the flight. I tried to see if they'd let the kids go earlier so they could sit together, and the lady said yes, for $30/kid. Talk about lame. When the plane finally boarded, there were so many people I figured there was no way the kids would be together, but lo and behold, they got the last two seats next to each other on the plane, I kid you not. Talk about relief. I really don't like Southwest, and I don't even think they're that overwhelmingly cheap.

By the time we landed in New England, it was late in the evening and we still had to make the long drive home. We sat and had a bite to eat (mom actually agreed to pizza) and then climbed into the car and headed home. The drive wasn't so bad, the weather is on the warm side and traffic was light. It was nice getting home, though the house was cold. We got a fire going, ate a snack, and then climbed into bed so we could get rested up for another big day. You have to hit the ground running in our house.

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

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Busy Weekends Away

The past few weekends have been crazy, to say the least, and I'm not always sure what to make of it, or for that matter, fathom how we manage to pull it off. Part of what makes it so challenging and undesirable is that we have to divide and conquer, and thus be apart. Total bummer.

A few weeks back N had an early morning game in the even bigger city and rather than wake up at 4:00AM, we got a room closer to the arena. It worked out beautifully because of a perk with working at the Inn, but more on that later. It also meant that we were away from home for a night and two days. The next weekend N had his big tournament down in MA, for which they brought home the championship, but it was another weekend away from home. Then this Thanksgiving we visited family so we were away for that weekend as well, though it was nice because we were together and I for one thoroughly enjoyed not having to deal with domestic responsibilities while also having ample opportunity to take part in two of my favorite activities, eating and sleeping.

This coming weekend is looking busy, as well, so we'll see where it leads up. Now that both kids are on the ice, we are traveling all over the place. At least with A's team they provide a bus, which is a huge bonus.

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

Championship Weekend

A couple of weekends ago N had a tournament down in Springfield MA and his team did quite well, bringing home the championship. All in all, I think he's got a pretty good team, and the outlook for the season is promising, to say the least. I'll leave it at that.

The important thing was that the players, including N, had a blast hanging with their friends and being silly in the pool and in the hallways. They really had a good time and they're a nice group of kids. They are, however, at that age where being cool becomes the focus of their attention and divisions will form. I can see it already happening in the locker room since I'm a coach, and it's interesting and strange at the same time. Kids really change over time, and some of it is not always for the best, but they're young and developing and this is all part of the process.

One of the biggest source of neurosis for a parent, especially an OCD nut like myself, is making sure your own kids are bonding and having fun, and fortunately I think both our kids fall into that camp. A will always have a good time because she's so sociable and makes friends so easily. N is a little more introverted and isn't necessarily the center of attention, which is fine because I think the people who need to garner all the attention have their own issues. Part of what makes it work for N is he's a good player, which will earn you some clout in the locker room. Plus, he's developed his own friendships with several of the players and while they are not necessarily the studs in the locker room, they have a lot of fun together.

I've seen a similar dynamic in the older girl's team, where the leaders are the aloof kids who are too cool to hang out and be silly, they sit in their own corner and act distant and removed. Too cool for school, as the saying goes. The same is true for the boys, though to a lesser degree because they are boys and they are younger. They are enjoying their moment in the sun being the big man on campus. N has some clout with these guys because he's good, which speaks the universal language of athletic ability, but in the end he enjoys hanging with some of the other players who like to let loose and be silly. They just have a lot of fun, and I'm glad for it. Trying to fit in with the "it" crowd takes a lot of effort and attitude, and from my own personal experience, can be fleeting and unsatisfying. Then again, I'm old and boring, so what do I know?

Whatever be the case, the kids had fun, I was able to relax a little because I was away from my domestic duties, and we had a fun, hockey filled weekend. What more can a hockey dad ask for?

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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sleep Deprived

I said I was done whining about how tired I am but clearly that is not the case. There's something about fatigue that just makes me want to whine and complain. Actually, when I'm tired it sort of makes me depressed, and I recall when the kids were babies we never got any sleep and boy was it a challenge. I shouldn't complain because mom took the brunt of that pain and suffering, but I was there next to her for most of it. It's just that I got to go back to sleep while she got up and took care of the kids.

Normally I'm pretty good at functioning with little to no sleep, but as I've gotten older, it's much harder, dare I say impossible, to keep it up for too long. I think the evening employment gig is adding to the burden, which makes sense when you think about it. Work at the Inn seems to go so darn late into the evening, I don't completely understand why, but it's too much. I think they need a bigger crew, or more things need to get done during the day, because by the time we come in for the evening shift, there is a huge workload. Part of the problem is that there are PM events that go late into the evening and we can't clean them up until they are done. Also, there's just a lot going on.

My fatigue is obviously compounded by my day job as well as the schedule for the kids, who have school and hockey events. Boy, when you stop to think about it, it's pretty crazy. Some of us have AM hockey practice that starts at 6:00AM, and that's when things get a little ugly. I'm not sure what people are thinking when they schedule 6:00AM ice time, but I do know that there are people out there that think this is perfectly reasonable. Go figure. What they don't realize is that some parents work well past midnight and getting up at 4:30 is not that easy.

Also, since the days are so busy, there's little if any time to take my sacred naps. No rest for the weary, as the saying goes. Did I mention that I am looking forward to the holidays?

Okay, enough of my whining... again. We'll see how long this lasts.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Brett Davies for the pic.

Nature's Reprieve

I don't know if I was given a sign, but the winter has been a little late in coming and because o this, I have been able to get some yard things done that under normal weather circumstances would have been challenging if not impossible, especially if we had gotten snow like last year. Included in this category is raking, storing the power equipment, and splitting/stacking wood. I've also been able to store the hoses, which froze but thawed later in the day. The wood pile is ongoing and will continue throughout the year, and we did manage to get over to the two gardens and clear them out. The garden was a big thorn in our sides and was bugging us, but we managed to pull out the plants and get them into the compost. Personally I think I'm done with gardening, but more on this later.

In the past I've allowed several of these duties to lapse and simply let them sit over the winter, with adverse consequences, mind you. The big one is the lawnmower, which really should be stored for the winter. I'm pretty anal retentive about the chainsaw and at the very least drain the tank and get the carb cleared, but somehow the lawnmower isn't as much of a priority for me. Against the advice of the pros at Joe's (I'm a poet), I've left the gas in the tank over winter and then tried to start it in the spring, only to have it die out on me. I let it slide again this year but since it's been a warm fall/winter, I was able to finally get it done, thankfully.

I still need to do a few things and it goes without saying that I won't get it all done, but I'll keep plugging away as long as Mother Nature gives me the opportunity.

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015


As I think I've mentioned, one thing that has suffered greatly in my life is my aspiring writing career. There's so little time and I'm tired all the time, but I'm trying to get back into it. There's always some time, right? You just have to bear down and do it. This is particularly relevant given that my job at the Inn is winding down (the busy season is coming to a close) and I'm not really sure how long I can sustain the marathon-like hours. It's taking it's toll, no doubt. When I'm sitting there feeling sorry for myself over the craziness that has become my life, I always come back to writing as the great hope for our glorious future. The big question is, when is this glorious future going to arrive?

I just recently started writing again for TripAdvisor, and like my blog, it doesn't pay a cent, but I enjoy it, it gives me practice in writing, and definitely involves an area that I am interested in - travel writing. It ain't much, but it's a start. I was at one time a reasonably prolific writer on the site mainly because we travel a fair amount (thanks to mom) and it's easy enough to review the hotels and restaurants that we visit. Since I started working the Inn, TripAdvisor has become relevant once again because at the orientation luncheon that I was required to attend (so corporate America), they kept talking about how important TripAdvisor was to their business. It makes sense in a field where customer must come first.

While I was listening to the big inspirational speech about the importance of image and customer service, it dawned on me that I used to write a lot for TripAdvisor, and maybe it was time to get back into it. Who knows, it might lead to some writing gigs in the travel and hospitality business, you just never know. At the very least it's a venue to keep writing and to keep the muscle, if you can all it that, active and moving. There are some minor perks to being active on TripAdvisor, including some free stuff and some level of recognition by businesses that your opinion matters, which ain't nothing when you really get down to it. We're all looking for a little relevance in our lives, aren't we? Plus, if I'm really lucky, I may get to wear this suit. Hey, you just never know.

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

Working Man

I've become quiet the working man, and I have to say, it sure takes its toll on a guy when on top of his domestic duties he's also putting in some serious hours at work. There's no question the money is helpful, and I'm grateful to make some dough, but there are times that it's a bit crazy, especially when we work well past midnight, sometimes until 1:00 or 2:00 in the AM. I have to wake up around 6:00 to build the fire and rouse A to get to school, then it starts all over again.

Truth be told, it was the most demanding the first month I started. It was busy season with weddings and all that good stuff, so the place was hopping. The week the kids were away at camp I was doing 12-14 hour days, I kid you not. I started at 8:00AM and finished after 10:00PM, only to start again the next day. I didn't have parental duties which made it all possible, but it was nonetheless a little crazy.

Now things have calmed down a bit, but the work at the Inn still needs to be done and sometimes goes past midnight, which is a bummer. I have other obligations so I can't fulfill all the hours they'd like, but I made it clear that I wasn't looking for full time employment and have to work around my "other" life obligations, which are many. I'm not sure how long I can sustain this, but hopefully things will quiet down a little and maybe I can restore some sanity to my life. Oh yeah, did I mention that hockey season has started?

It's a good thing I'm not the scheduler this year because I really don't think I could have pulled it off.

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

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Another Score at the Listen Center

Patience and persistence pay off, isn't that what they say? Whoever "they" are, of course. We have had certain winter needs that need to be filled, and while it would be much simpler and quicker to just head over to the mall and buy them brand new, I've been scouring the Listen Center looking for bargains. Part of the fun is the challenge of scoring on a deal, but it's also a great way to save money and do something a little more environmentally sound. The consumer/disposable mentality that is prevalent in our world is just not a great way to live, don't you think? For full disclosure, for certain items like hockey gear, getting cheap used stuff is not really a viable option, so we often buy it new.
Whatever be the case, the kids are growing and and their tastes and preferences are changing, as well. They both (sort of) needed new snowboard boots, and N is still need of a good winter coat. His current coat still fits but he's on the cusp of outgrowing it. The problem is that we got him a killer brand name coat at the Listen, and it's a tough act to follow, at least in terms of getting it at the Listen Center. As for A, her snowboard boots (procured at the Listen) still fit her, they're just a pain to put on. His boots are too small.

I go by the Listen regularly just to see if I can luck out, and this past week they had their yearly winter sale, where you can get some amazing deals on real quality stuff, it's just that it's been used. Truth be told, the items are often barely used and in some instances brand new. I've gotten shoes that are still in the box. People just like to buy things and then they never use them or realize they didn't want them in the first place. More often than not, they've been used but are in good condition. I managed to score some boots for both A and N, and they are not only in really good shape, but they're brand names. I was stoked, and now we've fulfilled yet another need for this winter.

N got new skis for his birthday and I'm going to have to get him new bindings which I am not going to find at the Listen, but you can't get everything there, right? You don't want to go too cheap with certain things. All in all a good week at Listen. The search is never ending, but for now we've addressed certain imminent needs. I love when that happens.

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

Perks of Hospitality

Work at the Inn isn't a glamorous job and isn't always easy, but there are definitely some perks. Case in point, I have access to other Inns throughout New England that offer deals to employees. N had a game up in Stowe a week or two back at 8:00AM and it was brutal waking up and driving up there (just for the record, I had to work the night before). I discovered that there is an Inn that is part of our network up there and could have got a deal on a room - a missed opportunity. A week later we had another early morning game in Burlington, and this time I came up with a plan. I contacted an Inn in the area and they offered me a room for $65/night. I only needed it for one night, and not only was it close to the game, but the Inn itself is like a 5 star resort. It was really fancy and nice, way more so than what I would ever pay for. I think because I'm a working class stiff like her, the person I spoke with got us a killer room, complete with a fireplace and a view of the courtyard.

It was fun staying there and N and I loved the room. We had a game about 45 minutes south of the Inn that evening at 7:00PM, then headed up, picked up some supper, and then crashed out in the room. The next morning we got to sleep about 2 hours more than if we'd driven up from home, which was A-okay with us. It actually turns out that there are dozens of Inn throughout New England where we can get deals, so this may turn out to be more fruitful than I ever thought it would be.

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Squeaky Wheel

... gets the oil, as the saying goes, or in this case, the jersey as well as a flogging from the guy who has to hear all that darn squeaking. Like everything in our lives, getting a hockey jersey for N turned into a complete fiasco, albeit it a harmless and entertaining one, thanks in large part to my neurotic OCD. Then again, who doesn't love a good story (though this is a long one)?

N has been playing hockey for several years, and with the exception of his first year, he has had the same number every season. He's hardly alone in this, and every kid wants to keep his number from one year to the next. How can you blame them? N has managed to keep his and last season his jersey started to get a little snug. This past year he, like all kids, grew a little and this is where the story gets interesting. Being the anal retentive planner that I am, I initiated talks last season with the equipment manager MB about getting him a bigger jersey with the same number, and of course it wasn't going to be a simple matter.

The reason for this was because one of the star players in the older division had the same jersey, and he wasn't about to give it up any time soon. I asked if there were any others in the storeroom and was told no, so clearly we had a problem. I even inquired about the possibility of purchasing a jersey, which I realize is foolishness, but what's the harm in asking? Well, as luck would have it, the older player in question was in his last years of youth hockey and would potentially focus on high school hockey, thus relinquishing his jersey. There was also the possibility of going to a select team, resulting in the same conclusion. I emailed MB and mentioned that if this happened, could we please get his jersey.

Sure enough, over the summer I spoke with the star player's dad and learned that he was going to play for a prep school, and a powerhouse one at that. Beautiful. To me, the clouds had parted and the rays of the sun were shining brightly upon us, which of course was a classic case of counting my chickens before they hatched. You'd think by now I would have learned, because like everything in my life, this was not going to go smoothly, at least not without a little kicking and screaming.

When the season began, I contacted MB and asked if we could get the jersey in question, upon which he informed me that he had given it to another player who needed a size up. What? I couldn't believe it? Hadn't I made the proper arrangements already? Didn't I make it clear last season that we were pining away for this jersey? Whatever be the case, what was done was done, and you can't give a youth hockey volunteer a hard time because they are donating their time and they don't need to hear parental groaning. I know this first hand because I was the scheduler for 3 years and even though I didn't get paid a dime, that didn't discourage people for ripping me to shreds over the schedule.

I told N that he had to wear a different number this season, and he was fine with it. I'm sure he was bummed but he never complained, he's just that way. I went to the storeroom and searched for a jersey and this is where the story takes another turn. While rifling through the different jerseys I couldn't help but notice that there on the rack was a jersey with the number we wanted. Did the other person change their mind? Did they have an extra one, after all? I contacted MB and he said it was an adult medium and might be too big, but if we wanted, we were welcome to take it. I could sense that he was pretty irritated by me at this point, and I could hardly blame him. I asked N his thoughts and he enthusiastically said yes, so I grabbed the jersey and you'd think that at this point the story was done and over, but that's never the case when yours truly is involved.

So now we had 3 sets of jerseys: the old one that was too small, the new one that might be too big but had the right number, and the new one that fit but had the wrong number. Once we had decided on a set, we needed to sew N's name on the back, and I didn't know how to use a sewing machine. I got a crash course from mom, and being the foolishly optimistic person that I am, I attempted to sew his name on. The thing is, I chose an hour before practice to do this, and it just happened to be the day they were taking team and individual pictures. Talk about biting off more than I could chew.

As you can imagine, sewing his name on a hockey jersey ended up being a bit of a disaster, and I had to scream and holler for mom to come to the rescue, which she is so good at. That didn't solve our problem of needing a jersey for team pics, because mom wasn't going to be home until later, and we needed to get to practice. Well, as luck would have it, we still had the jersey with the wrong number, so I figured he could just wear that for pics because you only see the front in the pictures. We went with it and it was fine until after practice, when MB came up to me afterward. His son plays, as well, so he was watching the practice and wondered why exactly N was wearing that particular jersey after I had made such a stink about getting the one with his number on it. I was beginning to wonder if there was ever going to be an end to this drama?
I didn't have time to explain it to him, not that he wanted to hear the story, and just told him that we'd be returning two sets of jerseys and that we were happy and grateful to get the one that we wanted. It turned out to be a happy ending, albeit a long and dramatic one.

The story of my life. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sal for the pic.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dry Roasted

This is a minor and seemingly insignificant side note, but a good example of taking charge of a situation and making things happen rather than whining about it. For the record I am extremely adept at whining. I'm a big snacker and am hungry all of the time. I love things like french fries, cheese crackers, and chips and salsa, and would be eating constantly if I wasn't conscious of all the added calories. Snacks work well because I can nibble while I'm doing other things like cooking or even doing poster boy work.

Peanuts are a good snack in this regard because they are tasty, easy to chomp on, high in protein, and reasonably satisfying. Sure, they are higher in fat, but are low in carbs, and the fat is a healthy fat. Whatever be the case, they are the snack of choice. Plus, I get sated on them, whereas I could easily eat an entire bag of chips. The problem I've run into is finding a good source of healthily prepared nuts. Most commercial brands use cottonseed oil (a big no-no) or dry roast them with all sorts of crap to make them look and taste appealing. I want dry roasted peanuts with salt.

Over at the Coop they have Virginia peanuts which are tasty and cheap. I bought them for awhile until I stopped and read the fine print on the ingredients and found that they are cooked with soybean oil, which is another unhealthy oil. I was so bummed. They carry dry roasted peanuts, which are a good option, but they only sell the unsalted version. I've tried to salt them at home but it just doesn't work out that well. Clearly I was going to have to take matters into my own hands.

Enter raw peanuts, which are readily available at any health store. They are pretty disgusting to eat on their own, but what I do is soak them quickly in a brine, drain, and then cook in a roasting pan in the oven, salting occasionally. It is interesting how they transform into this pale, earthy-tasting legume into a crunchy masterpiece with that delicious roasted peanut flavor. It takes about 20 minutes and I've had to fiddle a little with the conditions, but I think I've arrived at the optimal conditions. Yes, it's a hassle, and I have to continually attend to the cooking, moving the nuts around for even cooking and salting. Toward the end, I need to monitor their appearance so as to not over cook them, but in the end it's worth it because I get the snack I've been searching for, and as I mentioned, I'm all about snacking.

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

Finding Good Help

With so much going on in our lives, I've been pushed to the limit in terms of how much I can get done within any given day. I am moving constantly and still can't manage, which is putting it lightly. Needless to say, dad needs a little help. Enter the kids, who are not only willing to help and have some time on their hands, but they are very competent, as well. I've been employing them to help me with various errands around the house, and it's been working out beautifully. This includes basic domestic chores like making meals, washing dishes, and cleaning up, but also larger tasks like raking leaves and stacking firewood. Both A&N (though mostly N because he gets a huge kick out of it) have been helping me split firewood with the splitter, which entails operating the splitter while I haul blocks onto it. It is an amazing amount of help just having someone working the machine.

As I mentioned, the kids are willing participants and they do a good job. They are conscientious and are not in a rush to get it done and over with, unlike yours truly, and it really makes the job go by more quickly. I can even turn my attention to other things while they do theirs, and then life is really good because more gets done. I love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to iakona75 for the pic.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Jumping Through Hoops for Hockey

A wanted to play hockey for one of the local high schools, which under normal circumstances should have been pretty straightforward, but our lives are anything but normal. First off, we don't really have a true local high school, so we have to choose from a number of schools in the area. She is also taking classes at another school part time, and won't be taking any classes at the school where she wants to play hockey. Being homeschooled adds a little bit more fun to the mix.

The simplest scenario would have been to enroll her in the school in question and then signing up to play for their team would have been almost automatic. The second easiest scenario would have been to simply school at home and only play sports at the school in question, a path that some of friends take, but we never do things the easy way, do we? I've been in constant contact with the athletic director JW and he's been very cool and helpful, though he's dealing with unfamiliar ground, as well. The first step was to talk to the school governing board and they seemed okay with it. Then we had to clear it with the high school that is closest to us, which wasn't a big problem because they don't have a hockey team. Then there was the issue of taking classes at one school and playing at another.

Since we're not taking classes at the school in question, we are out of the loop in terms of deadlines and scheduling, so you can imagine my surprise when the coach said he had his team roster set up and A's name wasn't on it. I didn't realize I actually needed to register her for the team, foolishly thinking that it would somehow magically happen automatically. Even after I got her name into the system, there is the lingering potential issue of the team being too big. I just can't seem to escape this sense of discomfort and uncertainty.

As of today, all of our ducks are in a row, but until that first puck is dropped and she is on the ice, I will not be able to rest easy regarding this matter.

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Grass is Greener

Fall is here, no doubt about it. In fact, even though it's been dry and warm, the foliage is looking pretty good, in my opinion. The only downside to this is that it means the leaves are falling and yours truly is going to have to get some serious raking done. Then again, there are some people who advocate not raking your lawn, and that's something that catches my attention, no doubt. Sure, sometimes the leaves are so dense there's no getting around it, but some think that simply mowing the leaves continually will not only grind them into nothingness, but it actually nourishes the soil, as well. I've read that leaves make great fertilizer, they just take forever to break down.

Raking ranks up there with my least favorite tasks, but one thing that helps make it less painful is using a tarp to move the piles. I learned this last year and it sure helped, versus loading up wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow and dumping them in the woods. We're almost halfway into November and at some point the snow will come and make raking an afterthought. This, of course, is a mixed bag, because then I don't have to deal with it, but will eventually have to deal with it next spring. Somehow once the snow melts I'm more inspired, but it would be nice to get some of it done. We'll see.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to David Hulme for the pic.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Fixing a Leak

Once again, in the continual effort to win the approval of my Mentor and the Amazing PR Man, I took the initiative and fixed our kitchen sink. While I know this sounds like a routine repair, it takes on a whole new meaning when it's yours truly taking on the task, mainly because of all my fear and anxiety over doing it. Having little to no knowledge about plumbing, and seeing water as one of my biggest house concerns next to fire and electricity, it was something I was reluctant to fix. Also, it wasn't that big of a deal (what's one leaky faucet?), and we had lived with it for at least 2 years, maybe 3.

The project in question involved a Delta faucet that KB installed several years ago. He actually did a great job because the previous faucet had to separate knobs and this one had the single handle, which is super convenient. KB also replaced the rigid piping underneath with flexible tubing, which makes it easier to replace the unit if it came down to that. I was definitely not ready for that.

Fixing a leak, on the other hand, was a more reachable goal. The faucet developed a leak after a couple of years and at one point you had to leave it slightly skewed to the left to stop it. It got to the point to where I was so used to leaving it that way that I applied it to every sink I encountered, which naturally didn't work out. Either way, I learned that this is a common problem at the plumbing supply shop and got the parts to fix it.

Then, in typical form, I sat on them for a few weeks. Part of the problem was I was so busy with work and other things that I didn't have the time, or at least I thought I didn't have the time because I figured it would take all day. When the kids were away I told them I would get it done before they returned, and of course I waited until the day before to actually do the repair. It took me less than 20 minutes, and I discovered the problem was one of the seals (which I replaced) that fed the hot water supply. I ended up buying more parts than I needed, but that translated into a few dollars. Total cost of the repair? Less than $10 and few minutes of my time. Best of all, I did the darn thing myself, and hopefully earned the approval of the important role models in my life. I love when that happens.

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

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Daylight Savings

Last weekend marked the end of daylight savings time, and with all that's going on, it completely slipped my mind. This could potentially be a disaster except that this time around the time change was more forgiving because the clocks were turned back instead of forward. This meant that if you were clueless like me, you woke up too early instead of too late, which is a good thing depending on your POV.

Of course there's a story to go along with this. I was working late the night before and had to bail out on my compatriots because I knew I had to do the early AM shift the next day. By early I mean I had to leave around 11:00PM. I think the other guys stayed until after 2:30AM, which would never have worked for me. I came home and hung out for a bit with mom and then we went to bed. I woke up at what I thought was about 5:30AM, came downstairs and got the fire going, and when I booted up my computer, it reminded me that the clocks were changed. I couldn't believe it, I could've slept another hour. Total bummer. By that time the day was set in motion and I had to leave around 6:45, so there was no turning back.

Luckily I only had to work until 12:00PM, then I jetted off to the rink for N's game, which they dominated. As an added bonus, I got the night off, which is becoming a rarity in my life, and for the record, I'm not so keen on this development.

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Feed Them and They Will Grow

The thing you realize about being a parent is that when you feed your kids, they seem to grow. Funny how that works, isn't it? Now A hit her growth spurt a year or two back and people flipped out on how tall she shot up, and I think N will eventually reach that stage, as well. In the meantime he is starting to outgrow certain items, including hockey gear and ski equipment. This means that I'm going to have to upgrade his gear on different fronts, which will probably hit me a little hard in the pocket book. Not the most welcome situation for a SAHD, but at least I've been working side jobs to make some extra bucks. Mind you, I'm not complaining, every parent loves to see their kids grow, and if anything, the timing of my newfound employment worked out well because it means I just might be able to pull off this financial miracle without ruffling too many feathers.

Did I mention also that the kids were interested in getting a drum set? Looks like I'll be spending a few extra hours down in the salt mines.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sander van der Wel for the pic.

Splurging For Quality

My Mentor and the Amazing PR Man would be proud of me because I went out and splurged for quality rather than employing my standard MO of going cheap. Granted, it was only for windshield wipers that cost about $18, but it was a still a bit of a leap for yours truly. Normally I buy cheap wipers for the car, and they work fine, but they do tend to fall apart within a year. I think the experts recommend changing wipers every year, so it's not such a big deal, is it?

The biggest issue I run into is when the wipers stop doing their job, which is a regular occurrence with cheap wipers. When the smudge and smear the window, it drives me crazy. Now I don't know if this is more common with cheap wipers, but I've decided to go with higher quality to see if it tempers this situation. If not, then I'll go back to cheap wipers. How's that for good logic?

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