Friday, February 17, 2017

Good, then Bad, and then Good Again

The weather has been a little bit crazy lately, albeit in a good way. I.e., the net result is that we're happy with the way things have gone, but it's been challenging along the way. We've had some killer snowfall in the past couple of weeks, but it didn't start out this way. Last week it snowed a bit and then transitioned into freezing rain, which meant icy and dangerous conditions. What's a bummer is that we drove to the rink in the snow and it changed to freezing rain while were on the ice. This meant we came out to slippery conditions all the way home. It also meant that shoveling was going to be tough because the snow is like a sponge and when it gets wet it's a bear to move.

What's crazy, however, is what happened next. We were supposed to ski over at the Skiway the next day, and I figured the conditions would be terrible with all the ice. However, the weather warmed up to 45 degrees the next day, and by the time we hit the slopes, the snow was perfect. In fact, it was the best day of skiing we'd had, and we made the most of it. It just goes to show you, you just never know how things are going to turn out.

We've had a couple of big storms since then, so skiing conditions have amazing. Throw in a snow day at school and life is good.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to EP Scott for the pic.
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Reflections on Valentine's Day

Several days after the fact, I hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day. Even though I'm a bit cynical about commercial holidays that they've created to put pressure on us to buy things and conform our lives a certain way, we celebrate V-Day and get out and do things as a family. It also happens to be our anniversary, so we can't ignore it, nor do we want to. We always have fun and usually do things together as a family.

This year it kind of crept up on us because life has been crazy with the weather, hockey for the kids and myself, and skiing. I've also been working more than I thought I would, so we're moving in many different directions on any given day. I think the fact that A is in school makes our lives a little busier, as well. Either way, we weren't sure what our plans were until a day or two before, but we decided that we'd have a celebratory dinner and then go see a movie. They just happened to be playing Casablanca at the college, and the kids agreed to sit through it with us. I sort felt bad because it's a slow movie, even by my old standards, and I was not impressed when I saw it way back when, but it is a classic, so I thought I'd give it another try.

N had hockey practice, as well, which we decided to forgo since it would complicate matters and I'm no longer enamored with his hockey program for reasons I'll explain at a later date. Mom and A also take an exercise class, which they wanted to attend. We were also toying with skiing, which we passed on because it was just too much stuff. So, after bringing A home from school, we chilled out for a bit and then headed out to the big city for dinner. We had killer Thai food at Kata, a new place downstairs where Bagel Basement used to be. I love that place, they have killer curry and the prices are very reasonable. It's no nonsense in terms of service and decor, but the food is awesome.

After supper we went to the theater and watched the movie, and I have to say that I enjoyed it more the second time around. I was "not young" when I saw it the first time, but maybe even the last few years have mellowed me out enough to appreciate it. Sure, it's sappy and campy and all that good stuff, but I liked it. The kids didn't complain one bit, though I'm guessing they won't be lining up to watch it again any time soon. The audience definitely leaned more toward the AARP spectrum, sort of like everything in this town.

All in all we had a nice Valentine's Day. We managed to surprise mom with flowers in the morning, and we ended it with a nice supper and movie. Best of all, we got to all hang out together. How can you beat that?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Vanessa Pike-Russell for the pic.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Miffed At Irving

I am a little miffed at Irving because of a recent interaction I had with them. We need to have our boiler cleaned, but there's also a problem with the heat. When I called them I indicated as much and figured if they were coming out to look at it, they might as well clean it. When the guy arrived he said he wasn't prepared to clean it but was just there on a service call. I was bummed because this meant I had make another service call to have it cleaned. I called Irving to complain and the story they gave me was that the person on the phone mistakenly indicated on the service order that I just needed service, even though I clearly said I wanted it cleaned. How do you argue your way out of this?

I told them how I felt and that it was kind of a screw-up on their part, but that's probably as far as I'll get with this. I had to make another appointment, which means another trip for the tech at $100/hour. Ouch!

Oh well, what are you going to do? If I could clean the thing myself I'd do it, but I don't think I'm man enough to go there. We can't all be the Amazing PR Man, can we?

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

Bartender Dad

It's been a busy few weeks at the Inn, though I think things will slow to a trickle in the coming months because people just don't seem to get married in the winter. Whatever be the case, I worked several nights, some consecutively, and was even tossed into the mix of bartending. I was a bar-back for a couple of nights, and I've been told that it's often the first step toward becoming a bartender. I'm not sure if my goal is to be a bartender, but why not learn something new and acquire a new skill? I rather enjoy the high energy of doing banquets because it's fast and furious, making the night go more quickly. The bartenders tend to have more fun and don't have to run around as much, and they generate a majority of the cash tips, which for the record are distributed evenly amongst the crew.

I wasn't even aware that I was doing to be a bar-back, they just told me as I walked in the door. My job was basically to answer to the bartenders, which meant replenishing stocks of booze and glassware. It definitely gives you a bird's eye view of how much people drink. Afterward the manager asked me if I was interested in learning bartending. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure. I don't really think of the catering work as a career path, and as I mentioned, I like the energy of serving meals as well as the crew. Then again, just because I learn how to poor drinks doesn't mean that it's going to be all that I do. We have several trained bartenders who do a fine job, but I guess I could always be a backup or assist.

Always good to learn a new trick, right? We'll see where this one goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to jan peter for the pic.
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Friday, February 10, 2017

Skiing Serendipity

Early in the week we had hockey practice and it just happened to coincide with a winter storm that came through. Normally this is not a huge deal but for whatever reason it snowed in the early part of the evening and then turned into freezing rain later that night. This is a bummer because it not only made driving precarious, but it was turning all the beautiful snow into ice. Getting home after practice took much longer than usual because paranoid dad tends to over-compensate under poor driving conditions.

The next morning when we were heading off to school, the conditions were icy but also slushy because the crazy weather was doing another about-face and warming up. By lunch time it was 40+ degrees outside, which actually bode well for us because we were going to hit the slopes that afternoon and I was hoping the warmer weather would break up the ice. I met mom to get N, picked up some lunch, and went and got A. By the time we got to the hill it was pretty toasty warm out there, and the snow was just right. The first time skiing soft snow can be a challenge, but I thought it was just right. We had a blast, and I would go as far as to say it was the best day of skiing all season, at least for me.

We just got his with another storm and I heard that we'll get even more this weekend. This could make for fun skiing next week, but it's best not to look too far into the future, because when it comes to weather in New England, you just never know what to expect.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to ewerdenigg for the pic.
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Winter Blast

If you follow the news you know that the whole groundhog thing is a big deal, especially in the town of Punxsutawney... I had to look up how to spell that. Apparently he saw his shadow and we'll have an extended winter, which I'm fine with. Regardless of what you make of it, our winter has been disappointing thus far in terms of snow. However, yesterday we got a late winter storm and it dropped quite a bit of the white stuff, so maybe Phil knows what he's doing. I for one thought it was awesome, and the entire landscape is once again magically transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland. Sure, it was brutal shoveling because we woke up to it and then it just kept coming down, but it's a small price to pay to get some badly needed snow.

They predicted some sort of disastrous snowfall, so schools were closed and the propane guys, who were supposed to come and clean our boiler, had to cancel. I for one didn't think it snowed as much as they said it would, but it still snowed enough. I'm not complaining, even though that's my standard MO. I heard we might get even more this weekend so hats off to Punxsutawney Phil and keep up the good work.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to John Vohs for the pic.
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Surfing Compadre

I never thought I'd bond with someone over surfing here in New England, but I've met several people who hit the waves, and one who actually shapes his own boards. Now I've met another who works with me at the Inn who is a diehard surfer, going into the water throughout the year, even in winter. I personally think this is crazy, but you have to give them credit for their fortitude.

There was a new woman working a wedding whom I learned was actually a veteran at the Inn who worked before my time and was returning. People kept asking her if she'd been surfing so naturally we started talking about it, and she told me she goes out whatever the weather. Now you can imagine what that water feels like in January or February, but that doesn't seem to bother her, or rather it probably bothers her but she doesn't let it discourage her. Good for her, because I'm definitely not man enough to handle it. She said she'd show me where she surfs and even take me, but I'd be fine just knowing where to go. I can then pack up the kids and hit the surf. We'll see how my surfing ambitions work out, but for now, I'm sort of stoked on it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to saintmalojmgsports for the pic.
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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Squeezing in Some Skiing

Sometimes you just do what you gotta do to get some skiing in. We have been pressed for time during the week for various reasons, making it harder to hit the slopes like we used to. We used to hit S6 2-3 times a week, and it was awesome, but with school and hockey and various other activities, it just can't be done. If we weren't doing the Ford Sayre thing we might not get any skiing done, which is a shame when you really think about it.

I assumed that as an employee we were limited to mid-week skiing only, but I learned that Sunday was an option, which sort of changes everything. N had a game on Sunday but it was at lunchtime, so there was time to ski afterward. I wasn't sure if he'd want to after his game but he was all for it, so we loaded all the ski gear and hockey equipment into the car and headed out. The game ended around 1:00, so we grabbed a bite to eat and we we were on the slopes by 2:00. The conditions were better than I'd thought they'd be, though it was more crowded than we were used to because we rarely ski on weekends. Not too bad, just more people than usual, which translated into a 1 or 2 person wait at the lift. I personally don't mind it because it makes it more interesting than when you're the only person on the hill. Plus, there was plenty of snow so the entire backside of the mountain is now open, which the kids like to ski.

It was a fun day of skiing, and afterward we got some bar mix and hot chocolate and watched the Super Bowl pre-game show. I know most of the guys behind the counter since they're all Inn employees and at one point or another I've worked a gig with them. One big happy family, as the saying goes.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to RuneVad for the pic.
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Work Space

A man needs his work space, and this is especially true when you're mind is geared toward gadgets, or rather, dismantling and building them. N is all about gadgets, it's the engineer in him, and everything that is machine oriented piques his interest. I'm all for it, and whenever something becomes non-functional or obsolete, we give it over to him to either fix it (or at least try) or take it apart and try to understand how it works. Either way it's a good situation because he gets to have fun with it and in many instances we are able to continue using it.

Now all this work with gadgets requires certain specialized tools, which we have gathered over time, and a place to utilize them. We've also got this covered. N used to work in the basement which was fine because there is plenty of space and he could make a mess of things while he worked, and believe you me, he did a good job of making a mess of things. There were wires and electronic parts everywhere, and needless to say it was a bit out of control, even by my standards, which are extremely low. I don't think his uncle, the Amazing PR Man, would approve.

The basement is not the most pleasant environment, however, because it's dark, damp, and dank. The cat litter is down there, and it's cold. So, mom decided to relocate his workspace upstairs in his room. It actually works out beautifully because his room is big, perhaps too big for just one person. He used to share it with his sister before she hit puberty and needed her own space, which I totally dig. I had fully planned on moving him to the other spare bedroom and then made old room into a guest room with two beds. This plan lagged for a few years, and at some point I think he lost a bit of enthusiasm over changing over. Then mom came up with the brilliant idea of making his room into a bedroom/workroom. It also houses the electric drum set, which sort of adds to the coolness.

His new bench space is a work in progress but so far it's pretty cool. Since he does mainly electronic/drone stuff all he really needs are some wire cutting/splicing tools and a soldering iron. If he needs to do sanding or Dremel work he can go into the basement, but most of the work is done in his room. I think it's a pretty cool setup, and it gets him out of the moldy basement. Most importantly, he can sneak in some work time while we're all asleep if he needs to.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to betsy bensen for the pic.
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Monday, February 6, 2017

Fruit Monger

Maybe I'm getting a little too enthused about my duties in domesticity, but one of the things I really get into is providing fresh fruit and veggies to my family. However, veggies are easy because they are fairly consistent and predictable; it's getting good fruit where the leg work really begins. Now I know how dorky this sounds, not to mention pathologically anal retentive and a bit OCD (what else is new?), but I get a lot of satisfaction in finding killer fruit. This is not as straightforward as it may seem, especially during winter in New England (we're not in California anymore) While fruit is readily available in the stores throughout the year, it goes without saying that not all fruit is created equal. About the only reliable kind of fruit in terms of availability and taste are bananas and pineapples - you can tell how they'll taste by their appearance.

Pears and nectarines are harder to predict, and I've gotten burned many a time. You just don't know until you bite into them, and when it's dry and mealy, you feel so cheated because it's too late. I sample grapes before I buy them, looking for sweet and crispy, not to mention on sale. Things like strawberries and melons you can get a good idea by how they look, but that's not a guarantee of their flavor, especially in winter. Apples are pretty easy and you can get them all year, though we like to get the local ones (they're not waxed) which are harder to find.

In an effort to score good fruit, I'm willing to make the rounds to various stores. Fortunately one of my jobs entails making the rounds and thus enables me to stop and shop during said rounds rather than making a special trip just to shop. In fact, taking A to school and working at the college all require a trip to the big city, where all this shopping gets done. While supermarkets are good for veggies and all carry a vast array of fruit, I've had the best luck going to Stern's, and it's not just about price. You can get cheaper fruit on sale at the big stores, but certain things (especially pears and peaches/nectarines) are just better at Stern's. Their hours are not the most convenient, their inventory is not 100% predictable, and if you go at the wrong time the crowds will kill you, but all in all I'm a big fan.

Then, once I get it home, as the final piece of neurotic fruit mongering ways, I like to make fruit bowls for mom and the kids to wake up to. I know how Martha Stewart this sounds, but every morning I lay out a few different fruits in bowls for everyone to have, i.e., I make fruit bowls. At the very least it ensures that the kids will eat fresh fruit every day, at least once a day... not that I think this is a problem in our household because we eat plenty, but it never hurts to make sure.

I figure if I'm going to be the domestic warrior in our home, I might as well find some satisfaction in what I'm doing and take pride in my efforts, right? I don't mind seeming like a big dork if it means my family is benefitting from it, though for full disclosure, this is probably not something I'm going to go advertising to the guys at the hockey rink.

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

Showing Interest...

... sort of. I have been encouraging (forcing?) N to play a little guitar, and he was resistant at first so I had to play hardball and resort to forcing him to regularly take some time to get a feel for it. He's not enthused about doing it, and I can tell he's miffed at me for forcing the issue, but the truth of the matter is, he's pretty good. He's not some shredding guitarist who is going to be a rock star, but just sitting with him and playing along with him I can see that he's got a feel for playing. He knows the chords and plays pretty smoothly. Dare I say a little naturally? I'm taking it really slowly, just 15 minutes a pop, and I'm employing his sister who is pretty darn competent at guitar to help out.

It's gotten to the point where he takes it marginally seriously, and while he'd rather be doing 10 or 15 other things, it's reasonably painless, though don't ask him his opinion on this matter. Whatever be the case, I'd like for him to have some musical experience in his youth. Whether or not he keeps it up will be up to him, but I do think that if he never has any experience with it at a young age, it will make it that much more unlikely he'll ever show interest later in life. Plus, playing an instrument is good for development when they're young. At least that's what the experts tell me, whoever they may be. He may never really appreciate this, but that's not what being a parent is all about, is it?

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

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Online Option

I'm a big believer in technology despite the fact that many aspects of my life are still residing in the dark ages, a fact that my kids are more than happy to point out. Despite my old fashioned ways, however, I do think it's important to be at least somewhat up to date when it comes to the modern world, and this is especially true for young people. We are not as tech dependent as probably about 90% of our friends, but the kids are still managing to live in the 21st century, and large part of that is having laptops and being connected to the internet.

One area where this has worked out well is with education. In addition to learning a lot about countless subjects online, they are an incredible number of academic resources that they can use, and we've investigated several of them. It has worked out well for a number of subjects, and I get a sense that we've only touched the tip of the iceberg. I'm not saying that online learning is the perfect alternative to being in classroom, but for things like programming you can't beat it, and all in all it's worked out pretty well. For things like math their online work is more of a supplemental situation, and language provides a foundation to build on. It has thus far helped to encourage the kids to be self-disciplined and motivated, it provides a good structured lesson plan, and we get some proof of completion.

It's also nice because the kids are fairly tech savvy and nothing helps alleviate the tedium and boredom of school than getting to do it on the computer, where distractions abound but they do a good job of getting the work done. So far so good on this end.

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

End of Art Class

For whatever reason A's art class has come to an abrupt ending. I'm guessing attendance was neither huge nor consistent, but such is the case with most homeschooling situations. What's a real bummer about it is that A really loved the class, and the classmates were really cool. Sure, they were only 3-4 in numbers, but a nice group nonetheless. The teacher NH was really nice and she was very supportive of A's work and abilities. She was in the process of learning to do painting on canvas, which is sort of the real deal stuff.

If there is any bright side to this it's that I can save some money, but it was not a lot and it was without question money well spent. Oh well, like many things in life, you just have to roll with it.

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

Thumbs Up For JetBlue

Just another quick (and hopefully final - yeah right) note about my trip to Cali, I had a really great experience on JetBlue and would fly them again in a heartbeat. I found a good fair, it was a non-stop flight both ways, and the service was great. They were helpful and friendly when I checked in, the plane offers snacks and beverages (good ones), which seems to be a rarity these days, and they didn't stick it to me to transport my board. And they have those awesome screens on the back of the seats in front of you so you can entertain yourself during the flight. They even have Dish Network TV, so I got to watch two hockey games on the flight out there. I can't tell you how stoked I am about the whole experience.

I am probably going to make more trips in the coming months so I'll be looking/hoping to fly with them again.

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

Thursday, February 2, 2017

For Love of Reading

N is beginning to take a bit to reading, and while his enthusiasm is not quite overwhelming, it's come a long way, and I would go as far as to say that he might even enjoy it a little bit. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but what parent isn't guilty of that? He was definitely resistant in the beginning to any and all forms of reading, so we had to kind of be the mean parents, forcing the issue and making him read. Not a ton, but a little bit every day. Now it's a regular thing and he's not doing cartwheels to get at those books, but he's doing it, sometimes without our prompting. This, in my opinion, is a home run. He gets to choose his own books, and he has even said that he likes certain ones. We have him write up a little book report for each one and he's been doing a good job. Sure, he'd rather be building drones or riding his bike, which I completely understand, but sometimes you have to feed you soul a little bit, too. I think he understands this.

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

Car Talk

A has been attending classes in the big city doing the part-time (PT) school thing and it's been working well on a number of levels. She's doing fine, she enjoys her classes, and exploring various interests outside of the annoying oversight of mom and dad... sort of. It's actually been pretty cool so far. One of the many reasons we looked into going PT was to avoid the grueling early morning wake-up and get out the door routine, though that's fallen by the wayside because one of her classes is in the early AM. Consequently, we have to wake up early anyway which is a bummer but not the end of the world.

One very bit positive of our early morning commute is that A is getting mega quantities of driving practice, and since it's the big city, she often has to deal with traffic. She pretty much drives every day since school started, there and back. She's getting very comfortable and she's a good driver. Plus, she's learning to drive a stick, which is a rare skill in this day and age, at least in the U.S. Another big positive about the drive is that we get to sit and chat and share quality child/parent time. It's very cool, and I value the opportunity to sit and talk just between the two of us.

Eventually she won't need me in the car to drive so I'm going to make the most of these moments and celebrate the ride.

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Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Daniel R. Blume for the pic.

Possible Car Repair

Mom's car has been making a strange noise while she drives so I took it into the shop to have a look. The sound reminds me of when the wheels are off balance and they wobble, especially when dirt or snow gets inside, though there is no discernible wobble. It's was a bit of a mystery and something we wanted to address ASAP. As anyone who owns a new or new-ish car will attest to, the less noise your car makes, the better.

I took her car over to Meunier's to have a look and they balanced the tire and listened to it on the lift. What they theorized was that it was a bearing issue and needed to be replaced. I thought this was odd because this car is still pretty new and has less than 50K miles on it. Fortunately, the bearings fall under the powertrain warranty, which was still in effect. Our mechanic, who is very cool, called around and found out the warranty info and the price of the repair if it wasn't still under warranty, which it is.

Either way, we now had a sense of what was going on and made an appointment with Gerrish. One cool thing is that we bought the car at Shearer in Rutland, but can take it to Gerrish, which is much closer, to get any warranty work done, which is very cool. We'll see what happens next.

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Skiing with Reservations

As I alluded to earlier, I injured myself pretty significantly skiing several weeks back, and while I have recovered physically, I wasn't really sure if my head was still in the game. Add in the fact that the conditions have been poor with little in the way of snow and lots in the way of ice, and you pretty much have a reluctant dad when it comes to skiing. The kids, however, are ready to go. Now just because they want to ski doesn't mean that yours truly has to take part, but if we're there and the hill is calling me, why not?

We have a regular ski gig over at the Dartmouth ski hill, which doesn't start until the afternoon, but since we can make it over and do a half day, the opportunity is there, and who am I to pass it up? Last week we headed over and the conditions were pretty good, though still not ideal, i.e., icy in parts. This winter has been disappointing but not disastrous. I decided to hit the slopes and in all honesty it was a lot of fun. It was a little crowded which made it a bit more challenging, but all in all it was manageable. At the designated time I headed over to meet the group for the ski school, which is a bit of a joke but more on that later.

Even though I think the program is not what I thought it would be, it has gotten us to the ski hill on a regular basis. Plus, we get to ski a hill different from S6, which we have only done once. We're just too darn busy to get our skiing in. A bummer to say the least, but at least there are plenty of good reasons why.

At least I got over my reluctance. Now I just have to find more time because hockey seems to be all consuming at this time.

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

Hockey Fanatic

As if I need more hockey in my life, I've discovered that the "other" local rink has an adult learn to play (LTP) program the happens while A is in school. The rink is in the same town so I'm able to take part, and I've been doing so all of this past week, and it's a load of fun. They meet twice a week along with the HS hockey coach DD, who also happens to run the rink. DD is clearly a hockey lover. I had heard about the program from a friend who does it. They meet for two hours and they not only do a lot of pick up hockey, but DD runs drills that are exactly like the ones we run for youth hockey. I'm guessing they're used now and then for high school, as well.

The nice thing about it is that we aren't just going out and playing out-of-control hockey, but we're getting some guidance and direction, as well. When I mentioned that DD is a coach, I meant he's the real deal. His HS teams are highly successful. What's interesting about DD also is that he's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. A lot of hockey coaches who are really into it can be over the top in their devotion, losing sight of the fact that this is a game and people were meant to have fun. I know more than my fair share, and they can be a little scary. I think their methods are effective in getting a lot out of the kids, but the question is, at what cost? A guy like DD reminds me of what I've read about the coach at Boston College, Jerry York, who supposedly never yells at the players and never loses it behind the bench.

Either way, DD is like that, and it makes the LTP a lot of fun because we are all on the upward part of the learning curve, and he doesn't make us feel like losers, even if we are. I include myself in this group. The first time I went they had a figure skating coach come out and do skating drills with us, then we played a pick up game for an hour. We only had 3 substitutes on our team so you can imagine how much I was sucking air, but what a great workout. The next time DD came out and ran us through several drills before we played again. It was a blast, and I came back the next week for more. Now I'm also playing in the adult league one night a week, and homeschool hockey on another. That's 4 days of pretty rigorous hockey, and even for me it might be too much. Somewhere I'll have to scale back because I just don't think I can handle all that hockey, even though I'd like to.

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We'll see where this one goes. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ricky for the pic.