Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Looking at Schools

With the kids getting older it is time to start thinking about the next phase of education. We have been looking at prospective schools and are in the process of thinking about how we are going to approach the next few years. As you can imagine, we still have no clue, but that isn't stopping us from checking out the options.

As a consequence, we have been visiting schools, or rather A has, and it's been an interesting and learning experience. I would say there are four places to consider, and even amongst those choices, there are options and assorted permutations, including going part time and taking classes elsewhere. On the one hand it's exciting considering the possibilities, and on the other, it's a bit daunting. Like many things in life, sometimes it's easier when you don't have a choice.

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

Premiere Party

Speaking of documentaries, CATV held a party for homeschoolers to screen their documentaries, and it was a lot of fun. It was a small group and there were only two films because a couple of groups ended up dropping out, but those groups still attended the premiere, and it was fun. The kids really get along well and they're a great group, so it was nice to see them. Plus, we don't see them much because they're a little far away.

It was also a chance to see the final products of their hard work, and they did such a nice job. There were two films, and you could see that a lot of time and work went into them researching their topics, getting footage, and going out onto the streets to get interview footage. I know about this firsthand. We watched the films, they had some pizza and snacks, and the parents pitched in and got a cake for SB and BF. They do such a nice job of working with the kids and providing them with opportunities.

You can see the Ken Burns influence in the final product. Kind of cool, and I have to say, I hope they continue along this vein.

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

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Documentary Filmmakers

The kids took part in a program sponsored by CSPAN and CATV where they had to choose a topic that affected them and make a documentary about it. It is a really cool project and they have access to all this footage from the CSPAN archives as well as full use of the CATV equipment. A&N and their buddy NMP were a team and they hit the streets to get public opinion about the F-35 fighter jet, which I touched on earlier when we went to Burlington to get interviews.

It was interesting because kids being kids we had to encourage them to be diligent, or rather R was the one who really took the lead on this one. Equally interesting was A's hard work ethic that really shined. I think it stemmed from her experience with the Halloween project, where she worked hard on her movie and handed it over to a friend who sort of butchered it. Whatever the case, she was disappointed in the end result, and if there's a silver lining to this experience, it's that this time around she was going to take the reigns and hold onto them. She did an amazing job.

A basically wrote the script, researched the info, composed the interview questions, carried out the interviews, chose the archived footage, and edited the final piece. The film is nicely done, but what I really love about it was that she felt inspired and worked really hard on it, and it shows. Plus, because she worked hard, it wasn't a really stressful rush to get it done at the deadline. In fact, they finished in a timely manner and had time to spare.

You know how I feel when that happens. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to naunidranu for the pic.

Homeschool Skiing

We have been getting a fair amount of skiing in recently, and one of the reasons is because we enrolled in homeschool skiing. It's a great deal at a great ski hill, and it makes me wonder why we didn't do it in the first place. The program has been running for several years, I've received the emails in the past and didn't think it would work out. Part of the problem is that it's in the middle of the week and the hill is a little far away, but that has turned out not to be a problem.

The program is down in NH at Sunapee, which seems like it's so far away. Even the name evokes exotic locales and far off places. Sunapee is located down by Newport, NH, which is actually close to where we once got stranded on our way home from vacation. It is a pretty well known hill and on the bigger side, at least bigger than what we're used to. When you ski S6 and Quechee, anything and everything is big. In the past it didn't seem logistically possible to get ambitious with skiing because we have hockey all week long.

This year I decided to give it a go, partly because a friend said it was a great program and her son loved it, though for the record, they did not do it this year. The program is a bargain and ends up being around $10/day for each child. The only catch is that they have to take a lesson in the AM, after which they are free to ski. The kids were always resistant to the lesson idea, so we passed on it. This year, however, I figured they could take a snowboarding lesson and ski for the rest of the day. This has worked out beautifully for a number of reasons.

First, they are learning to snowboard, which I don't think is as fun as skiing, but it has the cool/dude factor, which is important to young people. Second, it allows us to ski on a new hill, and an awesome one, at that. Third, it's with a group of friendly kids, so there's a social aspect to it. And finally, it's a bargain, and that speaks volumes to me. I get a break if I chaperone, and I'm happy to do that.

We've gone twice and have been really enjoying it. The kids are learning to board, which for whatever reason we have avoided up until now. They've had the boards for at least a year, they just were not inspired to go for it. I collected the necessary components over the years at thrift stores, the dump, and yard sales, and eventually the snowboards came together, and they're not pieces of junk. They have good brand-name components, just a little on the older side, but not too old. It's nice because I could take my time finding the stuff and were ready to hit the ground running. I love when that happens.

The great thing about it is they get to try something new and learn the ropes, but still do the thing they love and are good at, so it makes the day challenging but still fun and exciting. Don't you love when that happens? I know I do.

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sugar On Top

I am a big skeptic of the so-called nutrition experts because not only are they fear-mongers, but they can never seem to agree with one another and they are always (and I mean always) changing their conclusions without admitting they were wrong in the first place. It sort of makes you wonder why we even listen to them, but listen to them we do.

Just recently we watched a documentary about obesity called Fed Up, and the basic message was that the obesity epidemic is rooted in our consumption of sugar, and that all sugar is bad. Well, I have to confess, I am not completely opposed to this idea, and the reality is, we do moderate our sugar intake to some degree. While I do think there's too much sugar in our collective diets (soda consumption alone accounts for this), I don't think we should eliminate it completely, and I can't imagine a childhood devoid of all things sweet.

There were some interesting points in the movie to consider, however, and as a consequence, we are on a mission in this household (some of us begrudgingly) to eat less sugar. There's no question that too much sugar is bad, but I'm a believer that like all things in life, moderation is the key, and a little sugar now and then is not a bad thing, especially if you eat a healthy diet and exercise. I think we fall into this camp, and sure, we could eat even less sugar, but is that really necessary?

The so-called health experts will have you believe that sugar is poison, but isn't that a bit extreme? They've vilified bread (carbs) in the same way, and would go as far as comparing eating a bagel to eating Skittles. I find this a bit ridiculous and even a little irresponsible, but I'm not the expert, right?

Whatever be the case, it is worth trying to cut back on sugar wherever possible. We had the kids watch the movie and I think it struck a chord with them. They are pretty level headed when it comes to food and health, and with mom and dad there to police the effort, we do okay. I'm just not ready for complete abstinence.

I will say this - I'm glad we don't drink soda pop. I think sweetened drinks are a big problem because they not only add all those calories throughout the day, but they must on some level replace healthy calories, as well. 32 oz of soda pop must surely affect your appetite. Plus, water is so much cheaper.

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

The End is Near

If you can believe it, the hockey season is winding down, and there are only a few weeks left. Hard to imagine life without hockey, but these sort of things do happen. The end of the season is always a bit of a scramble as games get shifted and added and the state tournament starts. Then it's time to think about the next phase of our life, and there's always a next phase.

In the beginning I was fanatical about hockey, thus my extensive involvement, but over time I've learned to temper my enthusiasm because it gets to be extreme. Some families live for the game, and I can understand it on one level, but on another, it strikes me as misguided. What is the goal in all this?

Fortunately the kids are pretty level headed about it all and don't want to play all year round, even though at one point I was willing to indulge this fantasy. R would have killed me. The kids love the game and during the season that's what it's all about, but once the season ends, it's time to move on with our lives.

Eventually the weather will get warmer and the snow will melt, and then we'll get to spend more time outside, but before we get to that point, there's still hockey to consider. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Andrew Gardecki for the pic.

Friday, January 16, 2015


One of the perks of my new job is that I got two complimentary season passes to the film series the college, which is A-okay with me. R and I love seeing movies, it's just that it's logistically a little challenging coupled with the cost of seeing them regularly. The fact that we don't have pay for them is a great incentive to overcome the logistical part of the equation, don't you think? Plus, they get first run movies, which is cool, as well as socially conscious ones and artsy ones since it is a college film program.

This past weekend we were in the area and decided to give it a go. The kids had hockey all day and N's game just happened to be in Hanover, so we figured we'd go the movie and find an alternative activity for them. There are certain movies they would like to see, while others are either too boring for them or inappropriate. Interestingly enough, this series is about empowering women, so there are a few movies that A and R could both see and appreciate.

It worked out beautifully, and we also got to eat at our new choice of dining out, the Noodle Station. It's not quite like the glory days of Boloco, but it works out pretty well. We can get by with two dishes between the four of us, they are fairly big, and the taste is excellent. Not quite as satisfying as a fat, juicy burrito, but still tasty, and what kid doesn't love noodles? Plus, it means we get to get out more often for something that doesn't involve hockey, sort of. I love when that happens.

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

New Year's Eve in the Great White North

I realize we are well into the new year, but I just wanted to talk a little about our New Year's Eve. We spent it again in Quebec and it was a lot of fun. Going up there is nice because it's far up enough to where you find people who don't speak English, but it's also Canada so the people are cool and hockey is king. What more could you ask for? Granted, it was (and is) cold, but we're New Englanders, so what's a little cold? If anything, it was warmer than last year, where we had wind chills in the -20s. This time I think it stayed in the balmy single digits, so it was a cake walk for seasoned veterans like us.

The drive up was a lot easier, as well. Last year there was a massive white-out snowstorm for almost the entire time we were there, including the trip up there. Driving up was not only precarious, but it was downright scary, not to mention slow. The snow was relentless, and the wind was howling. It was hard to see because there was so much snow, and the road conditions were very poor. We saw cars who had lost control and were on the side of the road the entire trip, and because we were driving so slowly, the trip took what seemed like 7 hours. I was tense the entire time, and it was at night, so we couldn't see a thing. It felt like driving in Antarctica because it's flat farmland the whole way. What an ordeal.

This time around, we left earlier, and there was almost no snow on the ground. It was sunny and clear, and we did the trip in about 5 hours. The ride to the border was a piece of cake. As hard as the snow made it to drive, the snow drifts along the way and in the city were pretty darn impressive. This year, the streets and sidewalks were clear. Either way, I think it made our lives much easier.

Since this was our second time around, we had a better sense of the drill, and it made it more fun. It was not as daunting finding places to eat and staying out late on New Year's Eve. In fact, this year we all stayed up past midnight and hung out in the town square. Last year the girls headed out into town until midnight while the boys went to be at 11:00. This year we vowed to be real men and join the party, and a party it was. The people in Canada don't let a little thing like sub-zero temperatures stop them from having fun, and they were out in full force all night. The music was blasting and everyone was dancing and having fun. Best of all, the crowd was mixed, both young and old, and I'm talking really young kids and really old adults. The whole range, so I didn't feel like a big fat nerd and didn't have to worry for the kid's safety. Then again, it's hard not feeling like a big fat nerd when you are a big fat nerd. One last note, the music, dancing, and fireworks were amazing.

The hotel that we stayed at had a nice evening reception with food and beverages, and they had a big screen TV that was broadcasting the hockey junior world championships, in which Canada was playing the U.S. Canada won, much to the happiness of the crowd, and we got to sit and watch hockey. How can you beat that? I have to confess, I'm not horribly disappointed that Canada won. It's their national sport, after all, and most of the U.S. is reasonably ambivalent about the game.

After midnight, we walked with the throngs of people back into the old city and went to bed. It was a fun night, just right in terms of debauchery and noise, even for my old bones. The next morning the hotel extended breakfast hours and had a late checkout. We got our things together and made the long drive home, which was longer than the drive up, but that's a story for another time.

Happy new year once again, and thanks for reading, and thanks to Gav Owen for the pic.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Holiday Miracle

Now that the holidays are over and we can reflect back on that special time of year, I'd like to share with you a little holiday miracle that we experienced over here, and it involved hockey, of all things. As you may have gathered, we are a skating family, and one of the things we love to do up in Quebec is skate on the outdoor rinks, of which there are many, and they are all free. Of course, we all have hockey skates, which we started off on from the get go, with the exception of R. She grew up on figure skates and is an awesome skater.

As I was gathering equipment for the kids and myself, I got R a pair of hockey skates to skate around on, either playing the game, on the pond, or at the arena. I got them at Listen so they were fine but not brand new, which suited us just fine. Being the OCD person that I am, I managed to obtain a slew of gear, and at some point R said enough. Time to clear the house, so I donated all of the excess stuff to the hockey program, which included several pairs of extra skates.

Well, being the scatter brained type that I am, as well, I donated R's pair of skates. What exacerbated this problem was that we didn't realize this until about 2-3 days before our departure to Quebec. Talk about a disaster, R was livid, and I was sentenced to purgatory until the situation was resolved. I didn't realize she was so attached to the skates. I had a few options, but one thing that would have guaranteed me a life sentence in the gulag was if I went out and bought her a new pair. I basically had to find her a pair of skates either for free or at the Listen in two days. Needless to say, I was under the gun.

My first thought was to go to the arena and look through their collection, which is extensive. At the arena I also saw our friends the Gs, and JG is about R's height so I figured they probably had similar shoe sizes. I asked and she was completely cool about lending out her skates to R, in her words (jokingly, but not completely jokingly), to help save my marriage. I now had a backup plan, but finding a pair of skates to keep was our best option. I contacted JS who is in charge of the extra gear and asked if I could look at the collection, and he said fine. I went over to his house and his daughter led me to the stockpile, and if you can believe this (I still can't), the first pair of skates I came across were R's old skates. I was in shock. I felt like George Bailey when he realizes that it really is a wonderful life. I could barely hold back the tears in my eyes.

I called home and informed R that I had found her skates, at which point she said I didn't have to sleep in the barn, after all. I had them sharpened and she took them over to the arena to get a warmup skate in before our trip, and just like that, order was restored to our universe. I love when that happens.

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

A Few Days Off

When the holidays were in full swing, I have to say that it was nice to get a break from hockey. I can't believe I'm saying this, but the reality is, with the kids a little older and the skill level up a notch, I feel a little superfluous at times. Sure, I can be helpful on some level, but they are good enough now to where they need some serious coaching, and my background excludes me from qualifying from this group. That is not to say that I can't help out and be useful, but in order to become really good hockey players, they need real coaching. Fortunately, they have 3 other coaches who are the real deal, so I can be superfluous and the kids still get a good experience out of it.

With that in mind, I feel I have a semi-bad attitude about it all because the reality is, there are times I don't know exactly why I'm out there. I think N may appreciate it on some level, even though I probably embarrass him at times, but on the whole I value the fact I can be a part of his experience, and A's, as well. That doesn't mean, however, that I'm not glad to get a few days off. I love hockey just as much as the next guy, but 6 out of 7 days a week is a bit much. Even the kids, individually, don't go to the rink that much. It's just me!

I'd better make the most of my vacation time, because once the new year starts, it's back into the grind, keeping mind that we're supposed to be having fun, right?

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

Doing the Right Thing

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Holiday Cheer

We went to the annual Winter Solstice Party at our neighbors house, and it's one of the events I really look forward to because they have great food and plenty of good cheer. The event seems to compete with other solstice traditions so there are time conflicts, but they seem to pull it off, and it's a great time. Again, the food is amazing.

This year the kids had hockey games so we got there late. A had a morning game and then a birthday to go to with her team, which I would have loved to have attended because it was one of those all you can eat pizza parties, and I was hungering for pizza. I'm always hungering for free pizza, but I ended up missing out because N had a game down in Brattleboro at the same time. Being down south also meant that we were going to be late to the solstice celebration, which started in the afternoon and we were slated to arrive back home in the evening. So, after his game, we jumped into the car, drove home, picked up mom and A, and headed on over.

The party was actually winding down so the crowd had thinned, but the food was still aplenty. I have to confess, I made a bit of a pig of myself. I figured that since everybody had already eaten and the soiree was winding down, I could help myself. I ate more meatballs and wings than I could count, and I ate them fast. Of course, by the end I felt terrible, but it sure was nice while I was eating it. That's the funny thing about food, you don't really feel the consequences of your actions until later, which gets you into trouble.

There weren't too many kids left but A and N managed to have fun with the few that were there, mainly playing out in the snow and by the big bonfire. There is a competing event across the street that they might enjoy more because more of the families seem to attend that, so that's something to think about.

It was a good time and a nice end to a very busy day. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ingrid0804 for the pic.

Happy New Year

A belated happy new year to all, I hope everyone enjoyed themselves. We are back home and as always, it sure feels good. Best wishes to everyone for 2015 and make it a good year instead of wishing for it.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Mauricio Lima for the pic.