Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Dads and Dads to be! It is a great day to be a dad. Sure you have to get up early (actually late by normal weekday standards). But the look on faces of the kids is priceless. What I liked best was the boys giving their gifts outs. The really had though long and hard about what they wanted to get each other. And they were so happy when the other one opened the gift they had gotten the other. Caz had gotten Demi a pair of fuzzy socks and PJ's. He was delighted when she opened it. Coco had gotten Caz a certain Bionicle which Caz loved. All around it was just a great Christmas morning.
And here's a tip: Legos and Bionicles are great gifts for boys 6 and 8. It keeps them occupied for a long time building those things. Dad got some nice quiet time later on when they broke those open.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Letter to Santa

The boys crafted some very fine letters to Santa this year. They were really enthusiastic about it. What really cracked me up was both of the boys asking: How's the North Pole? How are the elves? How is Fred? Yep! Fred Claus. The boys really got a kick out of that movie. I thought it was funny too. It was definitely a good family movie. Some laughs for everyone, young and old. So now Fred is a Christmas icon, just like Rudolph and Frosty. At least he is to Caz and Coco. They could not wait to write their letters and get them into the mail. And when they got their responses, Caz had a reply sent right back in under 10 minutes. Talk about your Christmas magic. This is one of the things the season is all about. The excitement and innocence of kids. That's what helps bring the magic about.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Return

The trip back from the island was actually shorter than the ride down (8 plus hours in the car), but a nerve wracking trip. The initial forecasts were for another Nor'easter starting on Sunday. We contemplated starting back on Saturday night. But we kept our eye on the weather and the call was for the start of the event coming earlier and being mostly rain. So we waited and started out on Sunday morning. Coco starting getting carsick despite the Dramamine. Demi had to make a pit stop about 35 minutes into the trip. The wind was strong and constant. The rain was coming down hard. So I took it slow and easy. The kids were great again. The watched a movie (Elf), read, and Caz even napped for a bit. Demi left her glasses at her sisters, so I decided to drive the whole shift. My back was bothering from two nights of sleeping on an air mattress. I could get a fuzzy transmission of the Patriots-Jets game. Of course the delays put us close to Gillette Stadium close to the end of the game, so I was dreading the exodus from the game, jamming up the roads. Fortunately, the bad weather kept it a close game, which in turn kept the fans in the stands until the end. We were past the Razor with about 5 minutes left to play. As much fun as we had, and as great as the kids were in the car, there's no place like home (to quote Dorothy). Of course, seeing rain the entire trip, it hadn't occured to me that it may have snowed.....8 inches...before turning to rain. Did I ever mention that I have the best Dad in the world? He plowed me out before it turned to rain. I would have needed back surgery otherwise. The slush I did have to shovel, nearly broke me. It weighed a ton. And then some.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Griswald Christmas Vacation

We're off to the Island for the annual Christmas with the in-laws. The kids are really looking forward to seeing their cousins. I think this is great. We don't get to see them as much as we would like, but I love that the boys genuinely like to see their cousins. I only had 2 cousins growing up and it was not the same. Part of it I am sure, is that I was the oldest by 4 years. And my oldest cousin was a girl. Just not a lot in common. The family holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) were generally the only time I would see them. With the Griswalds, all the cousins seem to get along. They are really well behaved when they are all together. Our kids are old enough, that I don't have to be on top of them every minute. It's hard. There are 10 kids and 14 adults milling about the house. It can get very chaotic. It's fun though. The dinner is great. Just a ton of food. Sauer Braten, Turkey, Ham, Stuffing, Mash Potato, Sweet Potato, Gravy, Green, Beans....well you get the picture. And dessert? Forget about it. Cheesecakes, cookies, brownies, fudge, chocolate fondue, gingerbread....The Griswalds put out a great spread. But the company is what counts. My in-laws are great. The work hard to make it fun for everyone.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

You Rock!

Guitar Hero Epilogue: One day later, Caz and Coco have decided that they want to be Rock Guitar Gods. They went from watching on the sidelines, to getting into the game. Caz seemed to pick it up very quickly. Coco gets an A for effort. The little guys certainly has the moves. Caz has a little swing and taps his foot to the beat. But Coco is Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, and Pete Townsend all rolled into one. And he sings. It is really a spectacle.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero III - Legends of Rock - Video Game Review

I received this game for my birthday. The complete Wii package with the guitar. It was an instant hit. It is technically rated T for Teen, but my boys love it and so far no issues. They have character that play the music and sing while you are playing, but you are so focused on the Simon Says like "notes" and colors flying at you fast and furious. Now that said, a few of the character I refer to as the Hard Rock Harlots (only to Demi of course). They have the half shirts and minis. Coco referred to them as cheerleaders. They come out for Kiss's Rock and Roll All Nite. Naturally, that is his favorite song. The kids were a little stand-offish at first. Their fingers had trouble with the frets. But when they saw how much fun Demi and I were having, it made them try it. Caz quickly improved. No one has guitar moves like Coco. He is Jimmy Hendrix, Pete Townsend, and Chuck Berry, all rolled into one. Caz actually sings while he plays. This game is a great party game too. We had 8 adults over and played until 2 AM on a Saturday night. Rock on!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

O Christmas Tree

Caz made me the perfect Christmas tree this past weekend. He was all gung-ho to help me set up my Dickens Christmas Village in the bay window of the living room. He accompanied me to the very, cold attic to take the boxes out of storage. He helped me build and paint my new platform to elevate the display. He assisted my in unpacking the individual buildings and in inserting the lights. Caz was a superb helper. After we finished setting up the display, I made a comment that I wished I had bough some of the accessories, like trees and bushes, because the display looked a bit sparse. Not long after that Caz disappeared to the basement for a while. When he resurfaced, he asked me to come take a look in the living room. There in the display, I saw a homemade Christmas tree. Caz had used green construction paper, and cut out a tree. He decorated it with ornaments and trimming. Then he used card board to make a base, so that it could stand all on its own. I was floored. He did such a great job. But it was the thought that went into it. He was inspired by my off-hand comment, to make something for me that he knew I needed and wanted. Is it any wonder that my sons are the treasures of my life? This is what being a Dad is all about.

You Say It's Your Birthday

The boys were eager to say the least, to help Dad celebrate his birthday this weekend. They decided that dinner at the new Longhorn Steakhouse would do the trick. At least for starters. Demi's chocolate mousse cake helped too. But the boys really got excited by Dad's birthday present: Guitar Hero III, Legends of Rock. They actually let the old man play first. Not too shabby. Actually, the boys were a little intimidated by the game.
Coco and Caz were very good about letting Dad do some of the things he wanted to do on the birthday weekend. We tracked down a new place to get our Christmas tree. Our old place was cut down for space for a house. So we found this really nice Christmas tree farm. We got to see the Golden Compass. All around a good day. What I liked best was that the boys wrapped all the presents. They were so eager to do that, and did such a nice job with it. They are really understanding what it means to give a gift, and all that goes with it.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Bah Humbug

Did you notice how early the radio stations were playing Christmas music 24-7 this year? Two weeks before Thanksgiving there were two stations at least. Or did you notice how early the stores had the Christmas displays up? I am not certain but I am pretty sure it was the day after Halloween. Is this really necessary? Shouldn't I be able to get a rake in mid to late November at Job Lot? Do I really need the garland, lights, extension cords, flood lights, and inflatable Santa's for my fall clean up? Good Grief, Charlie Brown! I am all for the free market system, but has the media marketing machine really come to this? Tell me I am wrong. Go ahead. I dare you.

'Tis The Season

The holiday season is fully upon us. I keep trying to explain to the boys, what all the hype is about. I try to explain the Christmas spirit. I actually usually refer to it as Christmas Magic. The magic aspects seems to resonate with the boys more. Of course it helps explain a lot of things too. When you talk about Santa, you get a lot of "why" questions. The boys still believe, so you can get away with a lot of "Christmas magic" answers. For example: "How does Santa get down our chimney with the wood stove we have instead of a fireplace?" Answer: "Santa uses his Christmas magic." It works for how Reindeer fly or how he gets to all the houses in one night. By the way, only grown ups can know the phone number for Santa. We're not allowed to tell kids. Keep that one handy. You never know when you are going to have to call Santa to ask him to double check the naughty list if the kids are acting up a bit.
The boys and I had a long talk about the meaning of the Christmas spirit. We talked about generosity. We talked about thinking about others needs and wants. We talked about charity. We talked about how all the noblest feelings and intentions of human kind tend to surface and culminate at this particular time of year. Caz and Coco asked a lot of great questions. I think they were happy with the answers. They were so enthusiastic about helping to pick out toys and gifts for the Toys for Tots type bin that my workplace is putting together. They didn't squawk once about getting something for themselves. It is these types of talks that I hope the boys latch on to and remember years from now. Time will tell.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


All kids need chores. Chores are important for both the child and the parent. It give the child some reinforcement with time management, prioritization, task completion, and a sense of accomplishment. For parents, it helps us get stuff done. It helps show us what the kids can actually do. They can surprise you with what they can accomplish independently. We have the boys documenting their chores daily on a calendar in the kitchen. Then we tally up on each Sunday to see what they have earned. So each Sunday, you have that family bonding time too. It seems to be working well so far. The boys get that sibling rivalry going and try to out do each other. That's good for production. More gets done.

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Black Friday. Cyber Monday. 4 AM store openings. Door prizes. Complete craziness. Once again, I find myself in a balancing act. Of course, I want the boys to be excited for Christmas and Santa. But I don't want them over saturated by the commercial hype. The usual commercials during cartoons are bad enough the rest of the year and my boys don't get to watch a whole lot of TV. Do I really need a blitz campaign to start the holiday shopping season?
Taking the kids to the football game on Thanksgiving kept them from seeing the Macy's parade and all the hype with that. So for Black Friday? I took the boys hiking. No, my main objective was not to keep them out of the stores. My goal was to spend time outside with the boys. But what a great fringe benefit. With an early Turkey Day, it's going to be a long wait until Christmas. The letters to Santa are being drafted as I write this. Ready or not....

Friday, November 23, 2007


Happy Turkey Day!

I hope you are yours have a good holiday. It is a great American holiday. It is a time for family. I love that we have our family traditions for times like these. Demi has really tried to own this holiday and set out family traditions in motion. Fortunately, that includes a trip to the game for Dad and his boys. The Game. I explained to the boys how lucky they are to live in a state that plays high school football on Thanksgiving. Not many do. Maine has about 4 schools that play on Turkey Day. In MA, all high school play. I loved it growing up. I explained to the boys about the size of the crowds, the holiday, and the last regular season game of the season create a fantastic atmosphere to play. I have great memories of my time playing for the Dragons in the Turkey Bowl. Of course I get to tell them that I was 3 for 4 during my high school career. That always helps. There's nothing like going to the game before sitting down to the holiday feast. It was a great day this year. T-shirt weather. It was supposed to be a miserable day. I was anticipating having to bundle the kids up in foul weather gear. I almost had to put them in shorts. It was a great game, going right down to the wire but the Dragons came up short. But sitting and watching with the boys was the best part and what it was all about. The boys were really into it. We talked strategy, plays, down and distance. And then we headed home. I hope every one's days went just as well.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Family Vacation

It was not exactly National Lampoon's Griswaldesque family vacation, but we did have some bonding time up in Bartlett, NH. We have really enjoyed time up there over the last few years. The last two years we have gone up in early November. It seems to be a great time of year for our purposed. It is in between fall foliage leaf peeping tourists and the beginning of the fanatical ski season. There is no time table, no schedule, and no need to have to do anything. We can play everything by ear. We had pool time. We had outdoor spa time with a view of Attitash. We had game time (Yahtzee). We even sat in our PJ's, had cocoa and then ordered a pizza for dinner. It was really great bonding time. Everyone got a vote. Everyone got to do something with the family that they picked. Dad got a BBQ dinner and microbrewed beer at the Moat (I recommend the Texas brisket). Demi got a shopping stint at the outlets. Just kidding, she's really not a big shopper. She got jacuzzi tub time alone with a book, while the kids and I were hiking. Caz got his pool time. Coco got his arcade time. We played some mean rounds of air hockey. We saw some really nice scenery while hiking, the Saco River, Diana's Bath (a really spectacular waterfall), Cathedral Ledge, and Echo State Park.
We really had a blast. Really good family time. Every family needs to take a break from everyday life and do some bonding. You don't have to be on a beach in Hawaii or the top of mountain in Aspen. We were a 3 hour car ride from family fun time (minus Wallyworld). Some might call it the middle of nowhere. For us it was paradise.


"Sorry folks, we're closed. The moose out front should have told you."

The art of the family vacation. The classic road trip in family truckster. The car games to pass the time. The kids repetitively asking, "How much longer?" or "Are we there yet?" The driver exerting superhuman energy to exercise patience. The bottle of Jack Daniels once you arrive at your destination. It's all a part of the family vacation experience.
I remember the trips I took as a kid. Even the solid hour to hour and a half trip to Nanny and Papa's seemed like an eternity. We had the classic, panelled, Ford station wagon. Car seats? Not likely. We could sprawl out in the way back and lay down. But of course we wanted to be entertained. Mom always tried to keep us occupied and pointed out the sites. The painted gas tanks in South Boston were always a major milestone. Then there was the tunnel (the now Tip O'Neil tunnel). I am sure Dad felt like the trip took forever. We usually played the licence plate game, trying to acquire all the letters of the alphabet.
Today, we have the SUV's and portable DVD's. The kids are strapped down to cars seats like a prisoner in a criminal psych ward. Of course we are smarter about safety now. But it was nice being a kid, lying about in the back. The portable DVD's are both blessing and curse. It is a good way to keep the kids occupied. But it takes aways from the family road trip experience. When we go to see the in-laws in NY, it is a solid 4 hour trip, without stopping. Factor in a few pit stops for the kids and Demi, plus the never ending construction in CT, the NY traffic, etc, and it can be a long day. The boys get to watch one movie. That's it. Otherwise, it is reading, drawing or playing games. We play I-Spy, or a couple initial games. I modified a college drinking game where you don't have to "drink while you think". You use famous people, or people we all know, since the kids have a limited repertoire. You have to used the letter in the last name, as the first letter of the name of the person you choose. A same letter first and last name like Mickey Mouse, reverses direction. The other initial game we use is just stating the initial and the rest have to guess the person. Sometimes it turns into 20 questions but it seems to work. That time is time well spent bonding. And it beats show tunes (the Sure Thing not withstanding).

Here's to the family truckster and the supermodels in Ferraris that follow them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

100th Episode

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me thy ears"

I figured I needed one classy statement for my centennial post. Not quite the 100th episode of the Simpsons or Seinfeld, but important to me. It's a solid milestone. I plan to keep plugging along as long as I know a few folks are checking in from time to time. I find that this blog is still very therapeutic for me. And if I can help someone out, where by actually coming up with some sage advice, or even just a chuckle, than that is a bonus. I haven't quite got the banter I was hoping for but that may still come. I plan to search out some Fatherhood websites and maybe they will offer my blog as a link. Who knows?
But to all the Dads and Dads-to-be, keep working to be the best Dad you can be.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

World Series Part Deux

The Boston Red Sox did it again. My boys just don't realize how lucky they are. I keep trying to explain to them that I had to wait until my 30's for a World Series Championship and that was on the short end of the spectrum for most of Red Sox Nation. My boys are 6 and 8, and they have now had two Red Sox championships. They are going to get spoiled. Probably just the way I was with the Celtics in the 80's. They have also had 3 Super Bowl Victories. That's far better than what I had. Don't get me wrong, 1986 was a magical year, but we ended up 1 out of 3, with one heart breaker of a World Series and a trouncing of Cinderella, turning back into a pumpkin, by the Shuffling Chicago Bears. At least it seem like some of the kids favorite players will still be around, unlike '04. Schilling is already resigned and a bid has been made to Lowell. Papi, Manny, Youk, Jacoby, Dustin, Varitek....all seem to be safe for now. That is always a hard thing to talk about with the boys. But you know what? These are the "hard" conversations I like talking about with them. I hope I get to revisit it again this February. And the way the Celtics are starting off, maybe June too? Is that too much to hope for?

JV Mites - Week Eight

Well, the last week of the season was certainly our finest hour. The boys played their best game of the year. What really got me was that they completed our goal, and got better, ever single game. We knew that we had our work cut out for us going in. We were playing a team that was a few divisions higher than us. We knew as soon as we say the other team get out of their cars, that we had underestimated just how much of a challenge we faced. That town decided to bring, and play, their Varsity kids. This meant that they were all a year older than our kids, out numbered our kids by over two to one, and were much bigger overall. To our kids credit, they weren't concerned with their size as much as how many of them there were. We kept telling the kids that the other team could only play 11 at a time, just like us. That seemed to resonate with them.
The other team thought they would have their way with us. They opened up with a pass. Now to give some perspective, if we threw the ball a dozen times all year, that might be overstating it. We held our ground. We gave up a first time but held them the next series. We moved the ball but couldn't sustain a full drive. Back and forth we went. It was a battle, but we were winning it. And late in the second half we popped one in the end zone. Final score Duxbury 8, other team's Varsity 0. Our sixth shutout of the season.
Unfortunately the dark side of youth sports was not just isolated to the varsity players being played. Their coaches were clearly mad. We found out later that they were complaining to the referees about our best player playing the whole game. First, there is no rule against it. Second, he did not play the entire game. I took him out to rest him three times on defense. I am just glad the kids didn't notice any of this. This kind of attitude is what is wrong with children's sports today.

Halloween Costumes

A hot topic this past Halloween was inappropriate costumes. I have to say, it's hard getting the Itzzaparty fliers in the mail this time of year. While one part of me enjoys picking out what looks better for Demi, the buxom Pirate Wench look or the lusty nurse, the other part of me has to remind myself to hide the mail from the kids. How can you have the adult costumes along side the kids costumes these days? And then on CNN they had a special about companies targeting these kiddie version of the aforementioned adult costumes for young girls anywhere from 10 and up. What parent thinks a 10 year old girl should dress up as a French maid? You would think that is common sense but obviously if the companies are making these and spending advertising dollars, someone is buying them. That probably gave me the biggest Halloween scare of them all. Add that to the list of reasons why I am fortunate to only have boys. I don't know how my friends with daughters are going to make it in this day and age.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Well, one of the biggest children's holidays of the year is upon us. What's not to like if you are a kid? You get to dress up in a costume and people give you candy. My oldest son by the end of the night had a candy bag that weighed the equivalent of two bricks. And that's really not exaggerating. They are getting to that age where they don't really want Mom or Dad coming up to the door with them. So you have to remind them about saying "Trick or Treat" and using their manners before they go up to the door. The other part though is how much candy to take? I tell them that if the person giving out the candy doesn't say anything then do not take more than two. Problem is we have some neighbors that either just say "take as much as you like" or just dump handfuls in their bag. What kid is going to control themselves and say no to that? It is certainly a challenge. And the "Honor Bowls"? I use the same rule of two but then you get signs that say "take seven or less". Seven or less? What kind of cap is that? No wonder the thing was empty by the time we came around.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

JV Mites - Weeks Five, Six, Seven

Well, the trip to Italy cost me two games. It was a great trip, don't get me wrong. But I really did miss the team. I got reports sent to my friend's Blackberry. Though they won Week 5, they gave up one TD. I threaten to fly back to discern what happened to my string of shutouts. But after a glass of red wine, I relaxed and nixed that idea. The boys got back on track in Week 6. The toughest game to that point in the season, a very large Plymouth team with a very good program. Thunder scored twice and the D got back to their shutouts.
My first game back was Week 7. We knew going in that this team we were playing was struggling. So all week we put players in new positions. Two new QB's, two new backfields, and two new offensive lines. Kids who hadn't carried the ball yet got to play RB. We ran them through plays all week and it paid off. The second time we got the ball, the offense went on a 10 minute drive and scored the games only TD. It was fantastic. I could really see that what we taught the kids had gotten through. In my opinion, our best game of the season.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Resistance Is Futile

Demi and I just got back from 10 days in Italy. No kids. The boys stayed with my folks. Let the re-assimilation begin......on both fronts. As much as we missed the boys, you get used to not having to be responsible for anyone other than you, after a bit. And the boys got used to life at the grandparents. Let's just say they saw more TV in 10 days than they usually see in a year. Although, it wasn't all cake and ice cream. Caz especially got a taste of different rules and saw that the grass is not always greener on the other side. He didn't get his way much and was ready to come home after the extended stay. We are almost 4 days into the reintroduction to normal life. I will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Devil Went Down To Duxbury

Driving to football practice, with Thunder and Lightening (Caz) in the backseat, I had the radio going. Charlie Daniels was playing his classic, Devil Went Down to Georgia. The kids were rocking out. I knew how the song ended. I figured that since it was on regular radio that it would be the radio edit version ending with "son of a gun." Yeah, not so much. The station played the full SOB ending. Well, the kids new they heard something they shouldn't have heard. The giggling did not cease until we got out of the car at the field. It was like an old episode of Beavis and Butthead, where they alternate chuckles back and forth. Ah well, so much for playing the odds.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Glass Houses

There was a lot of talk today about the Red Sox, winning the Division. But it was not centered on the fact that they won, but in the manner they celebrated it. Some of the talk was about the Rally the team was having today. That was quickly put aside when it was determined that MLB mandated it for all teams. Do you think that shows that it's been over a decade since winning the Division?
People debated if the celebration was too much. Champagne and beer on the field. Players half dressed and in jocks. Hey, you put a TV camera in a locker room and what do you expect? You have to know you are taking your chances. The Sox couldn't win. If they did nothing, they would be blasted for not caring about the fans. Did they need the booze? Fine by me. They certainly weren't the only team dousing fans with the bubbly.
One caller stated that her 3 year old witnessed all this and had to explain why grown men were drinking, dancing, screaming, and in their underwear. Better question.....what is a 3 year old doing up after 11 PM? I am way older than that and I had been dozing on the couch. That stuff just kills me. Put your own house in order before heaving stones.

JV Mites - Week Four

Well, the Defense is still progressing nicely. The Iron Curtain recorded another shut out this past weekend. The visiting team was clearly over matched, as we were up 26-0 by halftime. We created a third string QB on fly. At this point, we need to keep the kids from getting big heads. Managing the game was tough, as we had to keep the big kids (about 6) off the field all of the second half. We know why that has to be, but explaining it to 8 year olds that just want to play can be tough. Be as a good show of character, they took it in stride.

I was very proud of Caz. Not because he scored a TD. But because he finally let go of his cautious nature and ran as fast as he could. Hit kicked it into that extra gear I always new he had. And I told him, the run was nice. Scoring the TD was icing. The fact that he showed his potential and went full out was priceless.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Lost A Button

Here is another fun fact for expecting Fathers-to-be: Ever lose a button? Ever have someone lose a belly button? Well, maybe not lose, as in can't find at all, but lose it's shape may be a better description. I remember Demi in the late stages of pregnancy. Her belly button was completely flat. Stretched to the max. We would laugh about it. Of course being the smart guy I am, I let her laugh first......You will actually notice pregnant women walking down the street with a tight fitting shirt, and their belly button actually sticking out. We are talking way out. Like an inch or more. Have you ever seen the Governor Schwarzenegger classic Total Recall? The mutant, Kuato? That's probably a good image to focus on......

Monday, September 24, 2007

JV Mites - Week Three

Well, the young Duxbury Dragons recorded another shut-out. Final score: Duxbury 14, Hanson 0. This coach felt like we were in control the whole game. We scored our two TD's and then started substituting liberally again. I was really proud of the defense. We used a second string D for most of the second half and they really stood their ground. I don't think Hanson got across mid-field. The whole team keeps improving each week. That is the most important part. Winning is secondary.


Here's an interesting fun fact for expecting Fathers-to-be: A very low percentage of pregnant woman actually have their water break. That is something they do not tell you in class. It is not like TV or the movies, where the woman's water breaks in the grocery store, or the restaurant, etc and then it's off to the hospital. The majority of women have their water broken in the delivery room. The instrument they used looks like an over-sized knitting needle. The nurse told be to stand back. She should have said, "stand back......in Rhode Island." It was like the Hoover Dam burst it's seams. I can honestly say that neither Demi or I was prepared for that. Beware.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The End of The Innocence

Thank you Don Henley!

As much as me might like to, we know that as parents, we cannot shield our kids from everything or forever. I read a story about a kid that was accepted to Colby College from a very small, rural town in northern Maine. I mean small, as in population 50. And I mean north, like Canada. He was basically home schooled for most of his life but then attended a small high school to play sports. He had to ferry himself across a river and walk a dirt road to get to school. With all the news stories I see everyday, that scenario doesn't sound like a bad idea. OK. Maybe it's a bit extreme.
You go through milestones when you know you child was exposed to something, learned something, or figures out something, that means he is growing up. It's a little sad because each time, it seems like a bit of the childhood innocence is lost. Some of the milestones hit you harder than others. When we talked to the kids about death when Demi's grandfather passed, and soon after when my grandmother passed, they seemed to get it and took it all in stride. It went far better than I had dared to hope and I guess that is why that particular milestone didn't phase me much. Even when the kids were exposed to curse words and colorful language for the first time (thank you Bonnie), it was more comical than anything else. But there was a loss of innocence. My kids now knew there were some powerful words that would get them into trouble.
This past week was one of those milestones that hit me hard. I overheard Caz talking to Demi the other day. He was using his way of asking about something. He said he overheard a kid at school say something. The kid had tried to say that country in Africa. You know. Nigeria. But he used a short "i" rather than a long "i". Well, Demi calmly, but immediately turned off the TV, and had a talk right on the spot. My heart was in my throat. It was like that part in Christmas Story, when Ralphy drop the F-bomb. Fortunately, it was not my son that said it, but he'd heard it. He didn't know what it meant. And he didn't need to. He only needed to know it was never to be uttered.
I remember when I was first exposed to the word. It was while reading Huckleberry Finn in school. Our teacher had to get permission to talk to us about it. But he didn't it in a perfect way. And I still remember it. It's one of those words you might wish never existed. But it does. And I do feel like some innocence was lost.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

JV Mites - Week Two

The young Dragons got their first win of the season, bouncing back from last weeks tough loss. We went on defense first, and after giving up one quick first down, buckled down to force a turnover on downs (nobody punts at this level). Thunder took the first hand-off 40 yards for a TD. After forcing a 4 and out, Lightning (Caz) took the next hand-off another 40 yards for a TD. Our third series saw our back up tailback going 40 yards on our first play for a TD. We had to scramble quickly to call of the dogs. Everybody got play a whole bunch of new positions. At the same time, the kids were learning a good lesson - how to be good sports. They knew why we weren't scoring any more. Even on D, we had everybody playing everywhere. Our makeshift D, held their ground at the end, making a goal line stand to preserve the shutout. It was a really fun day, and the kids had earned it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Movie Review - Batman Returns

It had been a while since I had seen this one. I thought that of all the old Batman movies, that this one would be OK for the kids. For the most part I was right. There are a few scenes when Nicole Kidman's character, Dr. Chase Meridian, throws her self at Batman like the fleet had come in. There was Jim Carey's Riddler exclaiming that he had just had a "joy-gasm." That was really it though. We had a quick talk with the kids, before Batman remembered the murder of his parents. The boys took it in stride. For the most part, this was age appropriate.

A lot of people didn't like this movie, or Val Kilmer's portrayal of the Dark Knight. But I liked this one. I thought Jim Carey and Tommy Lee Jones were great. I think folks had a problem with Robin, but not me. I was OK with the emergence of the side kick.

JV Mites - Week One

First game, 90+ degrees, league weigh-in, 75% rookies, and the end of 24 practices with out a game, ended in a tough 14-6 loss. All in all it was a solid team effort and a promising start, despite the outcome. And at this age, the W's are the point. Which is as it should be. The kids are here to learn and to get better. To this point, that is what they have done.

I had one set of parents tell me that we were doing a wonderful job with the kids and really appreciated the time we took with their son in particular. As a coach, that was very rewarding to hear. They were a bit worried about their son because he wasn't the strongest player and didn't like to hit. But he makes progress every practice.

I had another Dad approach me after practice, asking "what do you do with a kid that just doesn't seem to be getting it?" I told him a lot of the same things that I told the other set of parents, that all the kids are making progress everyday. And that's the truth. Some are making more progress that others. I told him not to worry about the position his son was playing now, that changes happen all the time. We try to find the kids' strength and then put them into positions to succeed. I told them they all stare off into space at some point and tune us out. They are 8. We keep at all the kids and work with them. They end up making progress. He felt better after our talk. And after our game, we talked again. I asked his son if he had fun. "Yes." I asked the father if he had fun. "Yes, we had a ball." Mission accomplished.

Game Notes: Our rookie QB played flawlessly. No fumbled snaps from a rookie center. Our rookie Tailback who was having a breakdown worrying about forgetting plays, not only ran to the right hole every time but scored the only touchdown. The Thunder and Lightning (Caz) show lived up to the hype. Thunder averaged 5 yds a carry pounding the ball in the middle. Lightning got bottled up a bit in the first half, with the defense staying home and limiting him to 12-15 yds on 3 carries. He hit a home run, ripping off a 45 yard run to the 3, setting up the lone TD, on a counter left. (Can you tell that I am a proud Dad?) The defense actually played very well. The only two let downs were on the two TD's. Most importantly, all the kids played and they all had fun.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Weights & Measures

Today was weigh-in day for the youth football teams around the area. Sounds simple, right? Each age division has it's own weight threshold. It's pass/fail. So for Caz's age group 7-9, kids have to be 100 lbs or less. The officials set the bar at 100 and kids step on, one at a time. But where it gets dramatic is where the kids are over the limit. For most, that means their season is done, if they don't make weight. Younger kids have the option of playing up, but most parents make the right call. You would be talking about possibly playing an 8 year old with 10 & 11 year old kids. That is a big difference. Even if you have comparable sizes, that can be two years extra of speed and coordination. That's not saying there aren't exceptions to every rule, but odds are you don't take that chance and you do not play your kid that season. Some of the kids are crushed. There were 12 & 13 year old kids bawling their eyes out, after they failed to make weight. As a coach, you have to be able to console them. We decided to take the extra measure to weigh our borderline kids, off to the side, before our last practice of the week, on Thursday. The thought was it was better to find out there, if there was no chance. And there was one,kid from another team that I saw, that was 7-8 pounds over the limit. He just handed in his pads on the spot. Took it like a champ. But today there was one kid who didn't suspect it and was devastated. So you can clearly run the gambit.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"This Is the End...."

"....my only friend the End"

While I seem to be lamenting the end of summer, I must admit I really do like Fall. Labor Day weekend means that football is here. The first weekend of college football was just what the doctor ordered. This coming weekend we get the Patriots first game. Caz and I have our first game of the season as well. Year two of coaching JV Mites seems to be going much better than my rookie season. I learned a lot last season. I think I am able to learn from my mistakes and do things better the next time around and this season seems to reflect that.

Now with the lead up to the Patriots kick off, the hype keeps growing by the day. With though, came the story of Rodney Harrison's suspension for violating the banned substance policy of the NFL. You have to understand that the four of us had numerous discussions about Barry Bonds, this past summer while the dubious HR record chase was at the forefront of the media. You also need to realize that Coco and Caz pay attention when we watch SportsDesk or SportsCenter. I was aware that the older kids in the football program were discussing Rodney. The odds are that Caz was going to hear these discussions or hear some of the news about Rodney. So I decided to launch a preemptive strike and initiated a conversation about it with Caz last night. I wanted to make sure he got the most accurate information possible and have a chance to ask questions, if he had them.

At the beginning, I tried to compare the situation to Barry's but highlight the differences. I made it clear that Rodney made a bad decision. He hurt himself and his team. But he admitted his mistake and owned up to his decision. He would pay the price for breaking the rules of the NFL. We had a brief discussion about why the NFL had a long standing drug policy and why MLB did not. He wanted to know why Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi had not been suspended. We talked about steroids and human growth hormones. I acknowledge that this part was a lot to take in. It was OK if he did not understand all of it. This segued into a previous discussion about Lyle Alzado and how he died.

We also talked about peer pressure. We talked about how a friend, in the future, might think that steroids might be a good idea and worth the risk. One of the hardest things to do in life, is to say "No" to a friend, and make your own decision. I laid the foundation for future discussions about alcohol and drugs. This whole parenting thing is a process. Toss in your own building block analogy here. "Onions have layers." Overall, I really feel this was the right decision, to address the topic, and was a worthwhile endeavor. It should pay dividends in the future.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Land of the LOST

What am I going to do this fall without LOST? I like that they are moving to the 24 format of starting late and going all new every week. But now what? I still have CSI and the Unit. But now I have to choose between Chuck, Gossip Girl, and the Journeyman? Pick your poison. It's the equivalent of choosing which way you'd like to break your arm. e. None of the Above.

You might think Journeyman would be OK, but it was probably much better the first time, when it was called Quantum Leap.

The End of Days

Well, the end of summer days anyway. Coco and Caz go back to school tomorrow. Demi and I will get our first test of Empty Nest Syndrome. Really, only Demi, but we're a team. Coco hits first grade which means a full day of school. Caz goes off to third grade which means a new school for him. My old school. It was K-5 back in the day, but today it is only 3-5.

Adjustments abound. Coco won't have his big brother on the school bus. Caz has an earlier bus pick up. Demi has to start her day earlier. That should be interesting.

Earlier bed times started tonight. We started moving it back slowly last week, to ease the boys back into a routine for school. They have their new alarms clocks. The clocks play CD's too. You'd think we'd given them free tickets to Soul Train. "Want to come to a party in my room?" as C + C Music Factory is blaring in the back ground. Coco's big dance move is the booty shake with the butt slap thrown in for good measure.

I hope the transition goes smoothly and the party keeps going.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fatherhood Fun Fact

As I only have boys, I only have this frame of reference. But a solid reason why I enjoy being a father to boys: I didn't have to rearrange a Friday night for the premier of High School Musical 2.......I kid. Well, not really. Truthfully, I would have been happy having a daughter or only daughters. But can't I enjoy the positives of what I have?

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Circle of Life

I wrote a while ago, about the camping incident, where my Dad had brought the Marine duffel bag full of life jackets. Well, this weekend we finally used them. We bought an ocean kayak for the family. This past Saturday, we launched it on it's maiden voyage. I knew we had a few life jackets for the kids, but we knew Caz would have grown out of them. I also knew we needed life preservers for Demi and me. So? Over to Mom and Dad's to raid the store. Only 30 years later, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Socks

"The keys, Jerry"

One of the drawback from having boys is that our stuff is starting to look more and more alike in the laundry. More so, as they are getting older. Caz has decided he likes boxers, like the old man, and the hybrid - the boxer brief. Demi does the lion share (and then some) of the laundry. I went to get dressed for the gym one morning, at the usual time of 5 AM. I can barely open my eyes. I went to put my hybrid undies on and almost broke my neck. My calf got stuck half way in while I was balancing on one foot, which threw my off kilter, and I almost landed smack on my face. Fortunately, I was home and could pick out the right pair.

Now flash forward to the gym. I go to put on my boxers or socks. I would have to go all the way home to restock if I had the wrong size of anything. I keep a spare set of socks in the trunk of the car. One in the basic color schemes, khaki, grey, blue, and black. Just in case. The boxers? Well, I guess it's healthy to go commando ever now and then.

Recently, Demi thought she would be nice and buy me some socks. I bought black gym socks for my running days recently to keep them distinct from the boys. When Demi went to the store, she saw more black gym socks and grabbed for me. But she inadvertently bought a boys size. So rather than exchange them, she gave them to Caz. I haven't seen my black gym socks in weeks...............

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"To Sleep, To Sleep Perchance to Dream"

"Ay, there's the rub.."

It's one of those nights. I can't sleep a wink. I have been up since 1:30. I have been known to have random bouts of insomnia but it's been a long time since the last. I tried hard to fall back off but all I was doing was tossing an turning, and keeping Demi awake. So I rolled out of bed at 3:30 to start the day. The gym doesn't open until 5, so I have a bit of time to kill.

I did mull over some stuff for Caz's football team. Drills, practices, and even designed a few plays. I put his pad's together for the next day. I made some lunch for the next few days. But this is really the time I like to write. I do like being by myself when it's quiet and dark. It is a great time to think. What I should do is compile a list of topics for this blog.

I know I need to get back to lessons learned from my Dad. There are always anecdotes for either of the boys. There are the on job training bits, that Demi and I go through. But I really should organize a list of favorites.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The New Age

Well, the Forum just moved to the 21st century. I finally took the plunge and purchased a laptop and wireless router. I figured that this would allow me to post with more frequency. I can write from the couch or my bed. I am mobile, baby! Now.....I have to come up with the material.

I thought Summer would allow me to blog more. But where has the time gone? Demi and I just finished 3 weddings in 4 weeks, with a Fenway show with the Police sandwiched in there. Even this weekend, we had a Sox game with some friends, and a fund raiser for Caz's football league. Football. Summer's over. It took so long to get here. The third week in June had me coaching the kids' baseball games in winter jackets. Crazy. But now? It is 50 degrees at night. It was even cool doing the yard work today.

Alas, I do love fall. Football for one thing. But I love the cool weather. Don't get me wrong. I like the sun. But I don't like it too hot. 75 is great for me. Oh, and did I mention Football. I will be coaching Caz's team again. Coco already wants to sign up for next year. Talk about a busy fall, when that happens. But that is a good busy.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Link of the Month - August

L.L. Bean - http://www.llbean.com/

LL Bean is the greatest store in the world. And not just because, I could hang out in the camping section all day. The camping gadgets are cool. You always feel like, "I must have that. It would come in so handy, while I am ascending Everest." But really, when is that going to happen? The customer service is top notch and the company stands behind their products. They make it easy to exchange things.

The kids stuff is really great though. The kids have almost always had a LL Bean winter coat. Those kids have always kept the kids warm and dry while out in the snow. Plus the coats have the patented reflective triangle for extra safety. You hope you never need that triangle, but it's good to have just in case. You should always surf the sale section because LL almost always has jackets, pants, boots, hats, or gloves on sale. I got a great winter coat for Caz years ago for $20.

LL Bean is also a part of Upromise, so you get a little extra bang for your buck.

The Boys of Summer

The summer is just about over. Seems wrong some how. Summer took so long to get here. It was the third week in June, when I was coaching Caz's baseball game in a heavy jacket and pants. It was cold. Now, with two weeks left in August, the night time temperature is getting below 50. Ridiculous.

The boys, Coco and Caz, are rolling with it. Beach, movies, baseball, the Sox, the Pats preseason, whatever it is, they are having fun with it. They have had spots of the summer doldrums, battling boredom. But not much of it. Part of it is their own creativity. But Demi and I work at keeping them buys. Camps and such can only cover so much of it.

We have had reading time in the hammock. We have had family kick ball games in the front yard. There was a Yahtzee tournament. Shrek the board game. You have to work to make family time. It's well worth it when you do. These are the time kids will remember when they are older.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Summer Reading Check In

Overall, the kids summer reading is going well. It's probably not the grand dreams I had at the beginning of the summer, but I can't complain. It is a time to relax a little and recharge the batteries. But I do like to show the kids that reading is fun, and that it's not just something for school. It is can be done just for the enjoyment and relaxation. The kids see Demi and me reading our own books all the time. That's more important than you think. It reinforces behaviour. It's leading by example.

I started reading the sports page with the kids. Box scores, batting averages, RBI's. It is stuff they can relate to. They now know that the newspaper is place they can get information. It's a resource. It's a beginning.

I bought the boys some books that they can read to me at night. So we do that. Coco's reading really seems to be taking off, which should translate well for a good start to first grade. Caz's keeps getting better and he really seems to adding to his vocabulary. Of course he correctly used "dissipate" in a sentence at 2. I know a few adults that can't do that. Ok, enough of the proud Dad, boasting.

I will see the kids with books in had on their own. Caz spent a few hours one afternoon in my hammock reading a book. Just like the old man. See what I mean about reinforcement? It pays off.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Boys Are Back In Town

Well, they didn't walk to the light. Actually, we met them in Lee, MA. Demi and I drove out there and met the kids with my sister in law, Martha. Martha had Coco and Caz all week between her house on the Island (Long Island) and her camper in Ellenville. Demi referred to it as a second honeymoon. It was nice, but I wouldn't go that far. I missed the little buggers. I knew I would. Despite all Demi's big talk about being ready for a break, it was all she could do to leave them and then got peeved that the boys didn't call her. We had to call them.

Breaks are good. This was too long for me, with a big fall vacation planned. But in general, some separation here and there is a good thing. I see kids and parents in Demi's daycare all the time that are never left separate. Period. Coming to the daycare is the first time. The parents are nervous wrecks about leaving them. The child picks up on this, at any age, and plays on it. They cry. And cry. And cry. Demi tell the parent to walk upstairs and go out the back door, rather than leaving by the normal exit. She tells them to listen at the regular door outside. By the time the parent gets there, all is quiet.

One parent has to sneak out of their house even leaving the child with the grandmother, who is around regularly. I don't blame parents, especially working parents for feeling guilty. I feel guilty for only seeing the boys for such a limited amount of time during the work week. I go the gym at 5 AM, so I have all night when I get home to spend with them until bed time. But some parent over compensate and give in the kids, all the time and let them get away with way too much. It's not good for anyone. The kid gets over exaggerated boundaries and then the parent gets frustrated and upset when it's time for them to pick up a room, or leave a place quietly.

You see it all the time in Demi's daycare. The kid is fine until the end of the day when the parent picks up. Then the kid goes into Showtime. A kid won't put their shoes on. Or says, "No, I am not leaving." Or won't get off the swing. The parent doesn't want a scene, so "One more minute" or "One more push". Demi's more gracious than I am. The business day ends at 5:30. We have our own family to take care of. Our kids need our attention. But these scenes drag on and next thing you know it's 5:40...5:45...6 PM. That's cutting into our time. But I digress. My point is balance. You need to balance some alone time, as an individual, and as a couple, with time with family and kids. The kid need their space too. No one should feel guilty about that. You might. I do. But I feel better with a good balance. I think the kids benefit too, because you are in better spirits and recharged.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Big Brother Is Watching

"You did not desert me, my brother in arms"

Caz was very excited to be a big brother, when we were expecting Coco. He actually coined the moniker for his little brother. No rhyme or reason for it. The new baby was going to be named Coco. End of story.

When Coco arrived, big brother was very curious. Caz immediately held the new baby. He talked to his little brother. He hugged his little brother, smiling the whole time. That lasted a cozy 15 minutes. I kid. We had a year or so of peace. I think things started on the down turn, right around the time Coco became mobile. Coincidence? I think not. Coco was able to get into Caz's schtuff.

So we reinforce the big brother responsibilities to Caz. I was one, so I would like to think I can relate and do a better job than most. I try not to do the things that irked me, when my parents laid that role on me. Don't get me wrong, they did a good job. I still feel responsible for my little brother. But we always think we can do things better than others, don't we?

It's still all about balance and patience. It's a long process. I won't see the results until many years from now. So I keep at. I explain the importance of being the older brother and how looking out for Coco, may actually benefit Caz down the road. You have to explain it at the right level and answer all their questions. Caz is a bright kid and asks some pretty good questions. But you answer what they can understand. You don't always harp on the subject. You have to feel it out.

But as I alluded to in a recent post, you can see dividends now. When Caz went after Coco at baseball camp when Coco looked lost, that was a prime example. So I don't worry as much with the boys away this week visiting Demi's sister and her family. I know Caz will look after Coco....to some extent....though he'll probably still dump a bucket of water on Coco's head.....

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More Than Meets the Eye

Movie Review

Transformers is rated PG 13. It was one of those that I would normally watch first and then decide on whether the kids could see it (or see it on DVD where I could edit it if need be). But I was a bit lax while on vacation. Overall, I think it's fine for the kids. It's not too violent. The effects are great. The action is plentiful. There were a few of scenes worth noting for the kids. One had a character being chased muttering the S word to himself a few times. Not too bad there. There was an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror in the guise of a bumble bee with the notation "Bee Yatch" on it. My oldest reads well and understood the reference. But he also knows not to use it. The harshest scene was about an hour into the movie. A mother bust thought the door of her teen age sons room and then proceeds to ask him if he was…..well you know what teenage boys do behind locked doors......and she asks more than once. Fortunately while the boys laughed, there were looking around wondering why they were laughing.

Dads, you will like this movie too. Action and effects, as noted above, are great. Then there is Megan Fox, new uber-hottie. Last name says it all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

These Are The Days

I had one of the best days ever with Caz today. From the moment he got up to the moment he put his head on the pillow, it was thoroughly enjoyable. He got up on his own, got dressed, came down for breakfast, ate, and got ready for baseball camp with plenty of time to spare. I was able to watch about half of camp today. He gave it a solid effort and played well. What really got me in the morning was this: On day one of camp, I gave him the "you're the older brother, so watch out for your little brother" speech. When camp broke, both the boys came right to me, and Caz and I started talking. Well, Coco hadn't seen me and started looking around, feeling lost. In mid sentence, Caz said, "Wait a sec, Dad.", walked over and got his little brother.

Later on, I was starting my home improvement project. I saw him walking in the back yard. He had heard two of the kids in Demi's daycare quarreling and went to mediate. He sounded like a grown up: "So what happened?", "Would you like it if someone took the ball from you?", "Please give the ball back." Problem solved and everyone was happy. Then with no prompting, he came over to help me out. And he was a big help. He put boards on the saw horsed to be but. He held the tape to help me measure. He held one end of the board while I put in screws on the other end. He held me for hours. So we took a break and I took both boys for a swim. After the swim I wanted to finish up. I had to borrow my Dad's pick up truck and Caz wanted to come with me. I didn't want to trouble my Dad and have him carry lumber with his bad knee, so I asked Caz to come. He helped me load plywood and roofing shingles, from the shelves, to the cart, to the truck, and from the truck to the work site. He was terrific.

After some well earned dinner, it was off to baseball. He tried really hard. Concentrated on the things we had talked about. After, he sprinted from the car, to the shower and got ready for bed. Just a fantastic, all around day. The kind of day that Fatherhood is all about.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Watering Hole

Recently, Caz and I were reading about Tom Sawyer and swimming in a watering hole. That reminded me to post this: Swimming lessons are a solid investment. Every child should know how to swim. I know Demi and I felt the kids needed to know how to swim because we are at the beach so much. My parents have a pool that my kids use almost on a daily basis in the summer time. Many of their friends have pools. Now of course, at six and eight the kids are still not out our site around water, but they can swim well. They can do laps to the deep end and back. The can jump in and swim back, safely to the edge. Demi has arranged for lessons, every summer for years now and it has really paid off. I can see improvement every time we get in the water together. Coco, who is our daredevil, always thought he could swim, had no fear and would want to jump right in. Now he can jump in and swim the length of the pool. I put it right up there with reading and writing. It's a survival skill.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Good with the Bad

A few weeks ago, Lefty said something to me that struck a chord. In a nutshell, he said he had been reading this blog loyally and was waiting for the post where I admitted to screwing up the boys royally. It was all in jest but still, I hope it won't go that far. I will have to read back through my posts to see where I allude to my parental deficiencies and self-doubt. I certainly want to portray a balance and fair view of things. I know I did include an initial disclaimer that I don't claim to be the best Dad and know what I am doing all the time. Far from it. I strive to be a great Dad. That was one of the motivations for starting this blog. I was hoping readers would post questions, suggestions, or comments. Start some real dialogues among Dads and Dads to be. We are all in the same boat. These kid things don't come with instruction manuals. We are all learning while we are going. Intense on the job training. Please do leave comments. And I will try to give you the screw ups more often.

Left also said he like seeing his name on the site. So I have him hooked for a while longer......

One World

"One world is enough, for all of us"

I noticed that the nightly News became more depressing by a factor of 1,000 after I became a Dad. I can't make it through one segment, commercial to commercial, without shaking my head in disgust. Your perspective on things change. It's hard to imagine you brought a child into the world, with the state the world is in. And there always seems to be a story about a crime involving a child. It makes me worry about the world they will grow up in. Watching these new stories places fear into you.

I always thought about the future while I was growing up, while I went through school, and while I went through college. I never dreaded it though. Even when I didn't have much money, I didn't worry. Or when I was single, with not much in the way of a prospective wife, I was not concerned. I mean, OK, maybe that is a bad example. I was blessed with the Vibe, that no mortal woman can resist (right Demi?). But you catch my drift.

And now I do have doubt about the future. My fear is for my boys. But it is fear none the less. I just take a page out of Caz'a book, and just look fear in the face. What else can you do?

Sick of it

Who gets sick in the summer time? I mean really now. I started out with such a good roll of posts for the month. And then....the summer time blues. But like Ahhnold...I'm back.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Sun Safety

One of the best inventions in recent memory is the spray sunscreen. Putting sunscreen on your kids is a must. Not just at the beach. I struggled for years with the lotion (I held back from using a title for this post of - put the lotion in the basket - due to the children of course). You have to get the kids to sit still, while you rub it in. You have to be careful not to get it in their eyes. But don't miss any spots. Believe it or not I still see kids without sunscreen. I hope those kids keep their parents up at night complaining.

The spray stuff is fantastic. Now be careful. There is spray stuff that you still have to rub in. The spray mist, if you will, is the good stuff. It's expensive, but I'm willing to pay the extra. It is so much quicker. You do have to read the directions, hold it the right distance, and make sure you get an even coat. But, you are done in flash. At the beach, that is worth it's weight in gold. The old way, you'd risk rubbing sand in with the lotion (because the kids couldn't sit still that long an sure enough, fell or twisted or leaned and got sand on them) which is like putting the sandpaper to them. Not fun for anyone.

Link of the Week - 1

Barnes and Noble - Free shipping on orders over $25. If you can't find your summer reading on Overstock, come here. The site is user friendly. There are good sales too.

(Disclaimer) Not all the Links of the Week will make the blog Favorites)

Summer Reading - Classics

Top Ten Summer Reading Classics

10. Moby Dick - Purely by size it may take you all summer to read. Plus, big, white whale...beach....it fits the theme

9. The Shining - A contemporary classic. All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy!

8. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - A journey on the mighty, Mississippi.

7. Great Expectations - Dickens makes the list

6. The Old Man and the Sea - Read it in Key West

5. To Kill a Mocking Bird - Oh, Nurse Rachet

4. Tom Sawyer - Takes you back to your own childhood days of summer and killing time...boy style

3. The Oddessy - The mother of all stories

2. The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings - Another contempory classic label - a once a year must

1. A Midsummer's Nights Dream - Comedy and adventure. The Bard's best.

Honorable Mention: 20,000 Leauges Under the Sea

Monday, July 2, 2007

New Feature

Please don't miss the Links section at the bottom of the blog. I will be adding to my favorite links.

Let Freedom Ring

I mentioned in an earlier post that each family needs their own family traditions. I have my own fond memories of being a child, celebrating the 4th of July at Fieldston Beach in Marshfield. My grandparents had a beach house there for a long time and even after they sold it, the old neighbors would welcome us back on the night of July 3rd to watch the annual bonfires and fireworks. One of the neighbor's sons was a truck driver and on his way through runs in the South, would pick up fireworks. I remember one year that he boasted on spending $2,000 on fireworks.

I believe when Demi and I moved back to Duxbury, the town started some 4th of July activites at the beach including a bands, food, kid's entertainment, and finishing the night off with a bonfire. We started going a few years ago with the kids. We were joined by RJ and his family, and a few other friends and neighbors. Last year, it was like our own little cocktail party. We had all kinds of appetizers, drinks (including margaritas), and dinner. I was actually as sick as a dog with a fever, but I did my best to rally. This year, I just had the boys, since Demi was away. But still, we had some friends to hang out with, and it was a really nice evening. I look forward to next year.

As we celebrate our Independence, I would like to say thank you to those who ensure our Freedom in the Armed Forces. May good fortune smile on you and see you home safely.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Parting Shot

"The iron tongue of midnight hath tolled twelve"

During my college commencement ceremonies (which was longer ago than I would care to admit), my college president William "Billy the Kid" Cotter (Colby College - www.colby.edu) imparted one piece of really solid advice to my fellow graduates and me. I will paraphrase but the sage wisdom was this "wherever you go, out in the world, always carry a good book." To that point, I had already considered myself an avid reader. But as I went on my way, I found myself remembering this bit. I still pack a book for the normal stints at the beach, the doctor's office, the morning commute (on the train of course - I will save my rant on those that read the paper while driving for another time), and when I have a quiet moment to myself. But I will also carry a book on a hike, to get my car inspected, events at my kids school, etc.

You never know when you will have time to kill and have to wait. Admittedly, I am not the most up to date technologically. But I enjoy my Ipod shuffle, my travel DVD player, cell phone, and on occasion, my Blackberry. But a book will never run out of batteries. It's light (paperbacks, anyway) and portable. There is always the newspaper too. I like my actual paper. eBooks look cool, but give me a good, bound tome any day of the week. I have been thankful many times during extended airline delays, doctor's visits, waiting for concert tickets, or even just waiting for a ride.

Think about it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summer Reading

On the last day of school, I challenged Caz to a summer reading contest. One book a week, that we would pick together. I would read it first. Then I would make up a list of questions. Caz would read it an answer the questions. It works on many levels: A) it gets him to continue his reading, B) we can increase the difficulty level as we go (and he's reading above his grade level already), C) It works on his writing skills, D) he has to reason out some answers, and E) gives us some Father/Son bonding time. Demi and I pushed back his bed time for the summer 30 min. But he has to be in bed doing something quiet for those 30 mins. This challenge is a perfect activity for that time period.

I will provide updates on our progress.

Coming soon: Chinny's summer reading picks

Friday, June 22, 2007


No. 529 isn't a part of the magic numbers from LOST. A 529 college savings plan is probably the best way for a parent to save for their child's college education that there is today. There were some doubts when I started up my 529 plan, back when Caz was born because the federal tax break it afforded you was only supposed to last until 2010. It was always assumed that the break would be permanent. Well now, it finally is.

In many ways, a 529 plan is like an IRA. It is a tax free way to save for college costs and invest those savings in an investment vehicle that will grow your assets over time (hopefully enough to actually cover the cost of tuition when your child is ready to go to college). Each state has their own 529 service provider. MA's happens to by Fidelity Investments (www.fidelity.com). Their website has a lot of good information on the specifics, along with a robust Q&A section that answers most common questions.

My best advice is to start one with an auto investment feature. Like many things today, they can deduct on a monthly basis, right from your bank account. I time mine with my paycheck so I don't really notice the hit. Like that informercial says: "Just set it and forget it." You will get to a point where you don't notice the deduction from your account and when you get a statement, it's a nice surprise to see how much you have accumulated.

When it's tied into a Upromise account, the growth is even sweeter. You can actually get a Fidelity 529 credit card. Like frequent flyer miles, each purchase puts money into your 529 account. Each quarter your 529 points get invested in your 529.

What is nice as well, is that you have some investment choices that fit your style. You can choose a conservative strategy or an aggressive one. They have the popular Freedom Fund feature where you invest in an age based fund, based on the age of your child and when that child will enter college. As in infant the investment style of the fund is very aggressive. But as the child becomes older, the portfolio becomes more conservative. As the child enters college, the fund is basically an income fund or money market account.

Do yourself favor an check it out.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

WARNING: Recall on Thomas the Tank Engine

RC2 Corp. Recalls Various Thomas & Friends™ Wooden Railway Toys Due to Lead Poisoning HazardWASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.
Name of Products: Various Thomas & Friends™ Wooden Railway Toys
Units: About 1.5 million
Importer/Distributor: RC2 Corp., of Oak Brook, Ill.
Hazard: Surface paints on the recalled products contain lead. Lead is toxic if ingested by young children and can cause adverse health effects.
Incidents/Injuries: None.
Description: The recall involves wooden vehicles, buildings and other train set components for young children listed in the chart below. The front of the packaging has the logo “Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway” on the upper left-hand corner. A manufacturing code may be located on the bottom of the product or inside the battery cover. Toys marked with codes containing “WJ” or “AZ” are not included in this recall.
Recalled Product Name
Red James Engine & Red James’ # 5 Coal Tender
Red Lights & Sounds James Engine & Red James’ #5 Lights & Sounds Coal Tender
James with Team Colors Engine & James with Team Colors #5 Coal Tender
Red Skarloey Engine
Brown & Yellow Old Slow Coach
Red Hook & Ladder Truck & Red Water Tanker Truck
Red Musical Caboose
Red Sodor Line Caboose
Red Coal Car labeled “2006 Day Out With Thomas” on the Side
Red Baggage Car
Red Holiday Caboose
Red “Sodor Mail” Car
Red Fire Brigade Truck
Red Fire Brigade Train
Deluxe Sodor Fire Station
Red Coal Car
Yellow Box Car
Red Stop Sign
Yellow Railroad Crossing Sign
Yellow “Sodor Cargo Company” Cargo Piece
Smelting Yard
Ice Cream Factory
Sold at: Toy stores and various retailers nationwide from January 2005 through June 2007 for between $10 and $70.
Manufactured in: China
Remedy: Consumers should take the recalled toys away from young children immediately and contact RC2 Corp. for a replacement toy.
Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact RC2 Corp. toll-free at (866) 725-4407 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. CT Monday through Thursday and between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. CT Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at recalls.rc2.com

Promise Post Script

Direct from the Upromise website:

Launched in April 2001, Upromise was created to help families save for college. By joining forces with some of America's leading companies, Upromise allows families to get back a percentage of their everyday spending into their Upromise accounts.
Upromise has built a simple way to help families learn more about their savings options, open investment accounts, and jumpstart their savings. The mission of Upromise is to make college more affordable for American families.
The College Savings Crisis in America The cost of college continues to rise exponentially, far outpacing inflation. Understandably, many families feel stymied when confronted with saving for college. Other families consider dipping into their retirement savings or deferring their own retirements to help fund educational expenses.
Coincidentally, student loans have mushroomed, leaving more graduates strapped with debt as they enter the workforce. Other students find it necessary to balance school workloads with part time jobs presenting a major challenge as they try to avoid the risk of dropping out.
The Solution: You, Upromise and America's Leading Companies The Upromise ServiceThe Upromise Service is free to join and allows members to save a percentage of their qualified spending with America's leading companies - including Citi®, ExxonMobil, McDonald's® and hundreds of others - as college savings in their Upromise account. Members can also get money for college by dining at more than 8,000 restaurants and shopping online at more than 500 online shopping sites. Since the launch of Upromise in April 2001, more than six million families have enrolled in the Upromise program, allowing them to chip away at the challenge of saving for college.
Upromise also includes Upromise Grocery, which gives members money back for college when they buy any of thousands of participating grocery, health and household items - including Elmer's Glue®, Lysol®, Tide® and Tylenol® products, among many others - at more than 20,000 grocery and drug stores nationwide.
Upromise Investments, Inc.Upromise Investments, Inc. (UII), a registered broker-dealer and wholly-owned subsidiary of Upromise, makes it easy to learn about college savings options and gives members access to two of America's top-rated 529 college savings plans, including the Upromise College Fund.
In November 2002, UII launched The Upromise College Fund, a nationally available 529 plan sponsored by The State of Nevada. Members can open an account online, get statements online and choose from several Vanguard investment options.
When a member links their Upromise account to a participating 529 plan, their Upromise savings are transferred automatically into their 529 plan on a periodic basis. Upromise members can also invite family and friends to join Upromise to accelerate their college savings.
The Upromise History Upromise was founded by Michael Bronner, who is Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Digitas, a leading marketing services firm. Bronner's interest in making college more affordable for families came from his own experience as a middle income, financial aid student. During his sophomore year, Bronner paid for much of his tuition by launching his first business - a couponing service for campus merchants. That company, now Digitas, employs approximately 1,500 professionals serving Fortune 50 clients like GM, American Express and AT&T.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Stock Up

As a follow up to my Upromise post, one of the companies that participates in the program is Overstock (www.overstock.com). That site is fantastic. Maximum shipping is $2.95. We have orderd coffee tables and it was still only $2.95 to ship them. They have everything. I mean, clothing is pretty slim pickings, but DVDs, CDs, and book are great deals. Bedding. We bought all of our master bedroom lines and comforters from there. They have free shipping deals and special sales all the time. Don't forget 3 or 4% of your spending goes to your Upromise account.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Promise of a New Day

"All that glistens is not gold"

A penny saved, is a penny earned. A free penny is both and tastes sweeter. A while ago, I advised prospective fathers to start early. That includes the college savings. One great way to save some extra money and not necessarily change your spending habits is to set up a Upromise account (www.upromise.com). What is Upromise? What if I told you, you could get some of your money back on purchases that goes directly to an account designed to feed a college savings fund? No mail in rebates. Nothing to fill out or track down. Sound to good to be true? It's not. All you have to do is log on to the website, follow the sign up instructions and start savings. Now it's true you have to give some personal information, including credit cards, but they do not charge your cards. They just track your purchases on your cards, and if you make a purchase from a contributing company, that company gives a certain percentage to your Upromise account (usually 1-4% of your purchase). Former US Senator and NBA star, Bill Bradley, in conjunction with others, came up with a way to help the common man save for college. You get some built in college savings, the contributing companies get some advertising and good press. Not only do you log in your credit cards, but grocery cards too. If you buys Keebler cookies for instances, your grocery cards tracks that, feeds it to Upromise. Upromise works with the company to get that percentage back to your Upromise account. You just spend as normal. Can you change your habits to buy from participating companies? Sure. You you have to? No. But you will find that many companies participate: LL Bean, Target, Flowers.com, Mobil/Exxon, Eddie Bauer, Toys R Us, Restaurants. I find myself getting restaurant monies back all the time without realizing it.
If you have multiple kids, you can direct certain percentages of your account to each child. I split mine 50/50 with both boys. You can have your friends and family sign up and they can contribute to your children, or split it with lots of children (nephews, nieces, grandchildren, etc). This money in your Upromise account is then eligible to be transfer to a 529 College Savings plan for you child (529 plans will be a whole separate post). Don't take my word for it, check out the website when you get a chance. I have had saved a substantial amount for the boys this way.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day

This is a good way to celebrate 50 posts to the site:

Happy Father's Day, Dad! I love you.

And I hope all you other Dads have a good day too.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Prologue: "Man"-ing up!

Caz did not make the traveling team. And I am even more proud of him, than I was after tryouts. He took the disappoint really well. He accepts that not everyone was going to get picked. He admits that maybe he didn't prepare or try as hard as he could have. We had a long talk about how to learn from this experience. We talked about not letting it impact playing down the road. If he wants to work harder, he can prove next year that he deserves to be there. It was all the learning experience that I thought this event would be. And more. Caz gets an A for this life lesson. I think his Dad did pretty well too.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Father's Day DVDs

The following is a list of 10 essential Man DVD's that a Father may not own but should. The list is in no particular order:

1. Die Hard - Bruno at his action best. The break out of Alan Rickman before Snape came along. Of course you couldn't go wrong with the Last Boyscout. Hudson Hawk is an underated Willis comedy.

2. Aliens - "Game over, man!" Chet is still not having any luck with other life forms. Great Sci-fi action movie. Predator is a close runner up in this category.

3. Striptease - Demi Moore and a stripper pole. 'nuff said.

4. Terminator - The Govenators break out movie. Time travel. Sarah Connor. "Come with me if you want to live."

5. T2 - Judgement Day - Sarah Connor gets buff and pissed off. Ah'nold is now a good guy. Liquid metal? Good thinking.

6. Platoon - Charlie Sheen's best bit of acting outside of Men at Work. Actually this one always reminds me of my Dad. One of my best friends and his Marine father, decided me and my Marine father needed to see it together.

7. Steel Magnolias NOT! Just seeing if you are paying attention - Spinal Tap. Everyone should have this one in their collection but not all do. Brilliant piece of writing. "There is such a fine line between stupid and....clever."

8. Batman Begins - Batman is tied here. The original with Jack as the Joker is a classic. Begins brings back all that thrill and revitalizes the series. Christian Bale is a great pick. The background with Liam Neeson is clutch.

9. Demolition Man - Classic Sly, Bad *ss Wesley Snipe, and hottie Sandra Bullock before she floated hope and became Ms. Congeniality. Dennis Leary has a great role.

10. Tomb Raider - Ahh......Angelina Jolie in spandex with guns. It's like Baywatch in the jungle.

Some of you may be wondering: Where is Caddyshack? Old School? Star Wars? Refer to the first sentence. You should own those already!

"Man"-ning Up!

There was a valuable life lesson learned this past weekend, for both Father and Son. You would think that 8 years old is too young to have your first life test, but you would be wrong. It so happened that this lesson involved sports, and in particular baseball, but really, it could have been anything. It incorporated elements of fear, challenge, self conquering, and achievement. And Caz triumphed with flying colors. I was a very proud Father on Saturday.

It all started a few weeks ago, when the Youth Baseball league announce that they were fielding a traveling team for 8 year olds and would be holding try outs June 2. Seemed innocuous at first. But I could read into it. If Caz wanted to try out, this would be his first test. The first chance that he might not be picked for something. I don't think I was faced with being cut from a team until I was a freshman in high school (that is a story for another day). A small part of me didn't even want to tell Caz about the team. That was based on the same old feelings: protect your child and wanting your child to succeed. But you can't live their lives for them. Also, I thought it might be better to face something like this earlier than later. I made up my mind. I was going to let Caz decide what to do.

I casually mentioned that the league was fielding a team but there were try-outs. Not everyone was going to be picked. He decided that he wanted to try. I explained that I thought he would do well but how well he performed was up to him. He had to be the one to pay attention, hustle, make the effort, and show what he could do. No one was going to do it for him. He said he understood. He wanted to practice on his own. He spent time by himself with the pitchback. He asked me to play catch when I got home from work. He was really into it and making the effort to be ready.

And then........it hit. He announced the Friday night before the try out that he didn't want to go to the clinic, in the morning. (The clinic was a training session the league put together for all 8-9 year olds on Saturday mornings to work on skills. It was designed to draw more interest in baseball and give the kids more practice. A great idea. And the league commissioner who was in charge is really great with the kids.) I asked him why and he answered that he didn't want to tire himself out. But then when I pressed and said it was a good chance to practice for the try-out, he said that he didn't want to try out.

"Why don't you want to try out?"

"I don't really want to play baseball this summer."

"Is it that? Or are you a little scared?"

"I'm nervous."

I had finally gotten to the bottom of it. Now what?

We talked about fear and overcoming it. We talked about giving it your best shot. We talked about not making the team and it would be fine. Not everyone was going to make it. He wouldn't be alone. This all took course over intervals in a long time span during the night and next day.

He ended up going to the clinic on Saturday. On the way home he said he didn't want to go to try-outs. I said to rest a little and think on whether he wanted to try out. I was torn. I didn't want to force him into anything. But now it wasn't a Father fear about him failing. It was not wanting him to fail by not even trying. That just couldn't be allowed to happen.

So I got him changed into his uniform and while I did he was telling me he didn't want to go. I said we'd go down to the field and I would throw with him. We would see what was going on and who was there. I knew he'd see some friends. And as we played catch he told his buddies that he wasn't going to try out. He'd watch and cheer them on. I let him go on his own and suggested he play catch with a friend. As he did that, I signed him up and got him a number. I was prepared mentally to walk away if he insisted on not making the attempt but I was going to make an effort up until the last moment. So I slapped the number on his chest as they called the kids in to make announcements. I told him to go sit with his friends and see what happens. So they called groups of numbers......and off he went with his friends. Thankfully, his best friend was in the same grouping.

I ended up helping out at the batting station, shagging fly balls. (what a sight that was for spectators - the football guy trying to make catches). Sure enough Caz's first station was batting. I didn't go near the bench. He was in the middle of the order. I watched as him as his time approached. I saw him take a helmet, head to the on deck circle, take some cuts, and wait for his turn. Then he was up. Each kid got three hits. Didn't matter how many they missed. Caz hit 3 line drives on 4 pitches, he took one that he didn't like. Great at bat. And he was fine for the rest of the try out.

When it was over, I went right over to him and gave him a huge hug.

"I am so proud of you! I can't even say how I am feeling right now."

"Because I faced my fear, Dad?"

"Exactly. I love you, Son."

"Thanks, Dad. I love you too."