Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Comeback

After a really, really bad day, Coco got a win. He went back to school. He attended first period Latin. Sure, it is just one class. But it is a giant step forward. Demi & I are very proud of him.  We hope he is proud of himself.  He should be.
     I drove the boys to school.  Coco was even happy to be early, so that he could hangout in the lounge & see his buddies.  I waited in the parking lot.  I got his OK to get a quick coffee, but I was there just in case.  Then I met him in the office to sign him out.  Mission accomplished. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

#RoseParade #Inspire - K-Train Rolling Through Anxiety

My Family is my inspiration.  Every single one of them.  Right now that holds true more than ever.  We have had a very rough time.  Rougher than others?  That, I don't know.  It's all relative.  That is why I have been having a hard time deciding not only how to approach this post for the Rose Bowl, but if I should approach this post.
     My youngest son has been struggling with intestinal issues for years now.  We have been through dozens of tests.  We have seen multiple doctors.  Finally, this past September, we were fortunate enough to get into a specialist at Boston's Childrens' Hospital.  He was able to successfully diagnose my son with IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  At the time, we were relieved.  We finally could put a name to what ails our son.  What we didn't realize was the problem on our horizon that would come from the IBS rider.
     Like a lot of diseases, IBS doesn't come alone.  It is paired with another disorder.
     The doctor causally asked my son if he was generally anxious.  My son shook his head.  Behind my son, I nodded affirmatively.  The doctor took notice and pressed my son.  After some discussion, there was enough evidence to suggest that the IBS afflicting my son came with a side dose of anxiety.  This magnified the issue.  Just how much, we had no idea.  At least we had no idea until about a month later.
     This is where I debated myself about whether or not to post this.  Anxiety is not the disease you usually see in these inspirational stories.  It's not a rare condition.  It does not have eye catching statistics.  If you mention it in conversation, you receive a lot of head nodding and feigned understanding from listeners.  To the causal bystander, IBS doesn't overwhelm, as it is not immediately life threatening.  Anxiety gets even less of a reaction.  Mental health does not get a lot of high level attention in the media unless it's attached to a tragic circumstance.  Mental health still has a lot of negative stigma associated with it.  So how could my son's current circumstances compare to a more highly publicized physical ailment?  I think you have to live it to understand it.
     What my son has been and is enduring, I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.  My son is very smart.  He loves school.  He has a great set of friends.  He enjoys playing and watching sports.  He loves to draw.  He can debate intelligently.  But all of that has come to a screeching halt in the last 4-5 months.
     My son hasn't been to school going on 3 months now.  He missed most of his last season of youth football.  Lately, he can't bring himself to leave the house.  Early on, he spent hours in the bathroom.  He constantly felt the urge that he had to have a bowel movement.  That anxiety led him to start missing school. The doctor explained that his brain doesn't shut off pain like most people.  So he really hasn't experienced a pain free day.  Imagine that.  Never knowing what it is like to feel good.  The anxiety magnifies the pain.
     The pain would wake him up at night.  Lack of sleep would sap his energy.  It was a vicious cycle.  The sleep deprivation would make him not want to get to up.  The anxiety would keep him house bound.  He would hole up in the bathroom for long stretches.  My wife and I would alternate working from home as much as we could to look after him.
     I don't know what anxiety is like for adults.  Mental health issues in general have to been vastly different for adults than for children. My son is 13, soon to be 14.  He is an adolescent.  His hormones are raging.  Puberty is tough enough on it's own to endure.  He misses school (yes, school).  He misses his friends.  He has missed sleepovers, Halloween parties, and pick up games.  He can't even go across the street to play XBOX with best friend.  He has missed his favorite new movies.
     He goes through uncontrollable outbursts.  For no reason he gets so angry he shakes and screams.  He becomes irrational.  He makes the same argument over and over.  He won't listen to reason.  You can't debate him.  Even with my wife and I controlling our instincts to react with anger, stifling yelling and talking calmly, we can't reason with him.  We can't even console him, particularly me.  He is focused on my wife as his comfort zone.  I tend to embody everything that is going wrong.  He wants no part of me.  Sure that is tough for me. But I don't have time to worry about that.  I need to be there for him, for my wife and for our other son (both of whom have been amazing through the entire ordeal).
     No.  Maybe he is not in immediate danger.  But this has immensely impacted his life.  During his latest outburst he kept shouting out things like:  "Why can't I just be normal?!" or "I can't do any of the things I like to do."  He doesn't completely understand what is happening to him.  But throughout all of this, even at his lowest, he continues on.  He continues to battle.  He continues to work to get better.  We all take it one day at a time.  Win the each small battle.  Or to paraphrase Curt Schilling and the 2004 Red Sox:  win each step, win each at bat, then win the inning, then the next...and so on.  He did not want to go to therapy.  But he did.  He didn't want more medication.  But he tried it.  He even tried again after the first one had the opposite reaction.  The first seemed to create the uncontrollable outbursts and fits of rage.  He was terrified to go to group therapy.  But he's done it.  And.  He's starting to win.
     The other thing for this Rose Bowl Parade campaign is this:  My son and I have a special bond that involves football. He was become a student of the game.  He studies the history and traditions.  He is not just a statistics guy, or a who's hot now person.  He really values those that played before he was even born.  He honors traditions like Texas A&M's 12 man, the Sooner Schooner, the Army/Navy game, or Harvard/Yale.  We spend every New Year's Day watching bowl games.  About 5 years ago I explain Bowl season to him.  I talked about the big Bowls and traditions.  The Rose Bowl parade happened to be on (which is a tradition for us, as we are usually taking down ornaments from the tree & watching the parade).  He got really interested in how the floats were made and how long this has been going on.  Since then, he watches all the Bowls, but he always asks "Who's in the Rose Bowl?"  That is his must see Bowl.  This year, our favorite team, FSU is in it.  He knows FSU has never played in the Rose Bowl, based on the old conference tie-ins.  If anyone deserves to win a trip to see the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl, it is my son.  I guarantee no one would appreciate the meaning more.  The irony is that if he were to win, I am not sure he could go.  He is working on getting better.  He seems to be getting better.  But by January 1st?  Who knows?  One day at a time.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Trials

"Adversity builds character."  Repeat to oneself until it sinks in.  I find myself saying it a lot.  I do it in my head.  But I also say it out loud.  I need to do that.  It's been a long week.  The hits keep coming.  We have no heat in half the upstairs.  The contractor found rot and ants upstairs in the roof.  The faulty ice maker in the freeze was really a leaky hose that Demi discovers had pooled up in the drop ceiling of the basement.  Those things by themselves would be crappy.  But piled up, they are a lot to take.  They pale in comparison with Coco's health issues.  Coco's is priority one.  No dispute.  He has not been to school in weeks.  He seems to be getting worse and not better.  But I refuse to become discourages.  No of this will beat us.  I won't allow it.  We will keep plowing along.  We will get through this.  Better days lay ahead.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day 2014

Demand & I try to make sure the boys understand what today mean, each year. It can't just be a day off to the boys. They need to understand the sacrifice & courage associated with not only those who serve, but their families too.  It takes a special person to be home while someone they love is away serving.  I think our boys get it much more than most. And that's not by accident.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

NH 2014

We managed to take our family fall getaway vacation after all.  I was nervous that we would not be able to go with Coco's anxiety out of control.  This weekend was a victory.  Coco got out of the house for a whole weekend.  He did ask about the length of the car ride once.  And he did ask about the length of our intended hike.  But he was really great.  He didn't issue a single complaint.  He handled the entire excursion well.
     We spent the weekend in Jackson, NH.  We hadn't been up in the area for a few years.  Too long.  The boys did have some good memories of our previous visits.  They were able to reminisce a bit.  Coco had his weekend planned out by meals.  He counted the number of possible meals we would have up there.  He then listed his favorite eateries up there.  Of course, I told him that some of us might want to have some input into that.  I think he humored me, but summarily ignored me.  We did visit some of our favorite haunts, Glen Junction and the Flatbread Company.  We tried for the Shannon Door but it was too crowded due to a private party.
     We did a new hike.  We followed the trail to Tuckerman's Ravine.  We didn't summit.  But we did hike a little over an hour up and then an hour back.  That was huge progress for Coco.  He was fine through all of it.  We saw a really amazing waterfall.  It was cool but not cold.  The boys and I had our Camelbaks.  It has snowed a bit.  Just enough to make footing a bit slippery.  It was a nice walk in the woods.
     I chalk this up as a win.  Coco was a champ.  I am very proud of him.  I hope it leads to better days ahead.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Crisis Mode

So much for getting back in the saddle with this blog.  I am still playing catch up.  I make no bones about it.  This was not the priority.  Coco has had a bad run with his health issues.  Demi and I have been all hands on deck for a couple of weeks now.
     We were really excited in September when we finally got a diagnosis for Coco's troubles.  It seemed like we had a definitive answer.  We knew it would be a long road to recovery.  But we didn't anticipate this.  What seemed like the lesser of the issues, has grown exponentially.  The anxiety that triggers his IBS has gone off the charts.  We really don't know why.  The root cause eludes us.  But Coco cannot handle life as it is now.  He does not want to leave the house.  School is a secondary concern right now.  We just need Coco to function.  I feel a bit lost.  I certainly was not trained for this.  I don't have an answer, let alone an easy answer.  We are looking everywhere for help.  We are not shy.  We know we are over our heads.  We have a counselor on retainer.  Our doctors are consulting.  The recommended medication will take weeks to take hold.  Time seems to be creeping along.  We hope to see some results.  We really need a sign that things are getting better.  For all of our sakes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Granite State of Mind

Week one of my new commute to the NH office.  Three days in a row.  This doesn't just impact me. It impacts our whole family.  It's crazy.  I can't believe it's here already.  The AM commute is long but not crushing.  I vent my frustration in the gym after I get there.  But night is ridiculous.  I tried 3 different routes.  I tried 3 different depature times.  It got worse each night, 2 hours, 2-O-5, and then 2:15.  Demi was awesome this week.  She really made a point of trying to make a point to the boys, how much I had going on with this new commute.  She tried to make it easier for me.  I really appreciate it.  #LiveFreeorDie

Election Day 2014

We sort of glosses over election day this year. I was a bad citizen this year. I didn't do any research in n order to cast informed votes. We did talk about the issues with the kids. Sure, we had a lot on our plates. This was not critical. But is that the example we want to set? Maybe we have done enough with this topic in years past to cover us? Hopefully.

Monday, November 3, 2014

He's Baaaaackkk

Coco returned to school today.  This is really a milestone.  He is learning to cope with his ailments.  It will take time. But this is a great first step. He needs to take his life back. I am so proud of him.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Winter is Coming....2014

Snow.  Are you kidding me?  I know it's Patriots/Broncos today but seriously?  I was not ready for this, that's for sure.

Coco is playing with his friends  I didn't think I would be so happy to see him playing XBOX.  But this is a big step.  Homework can wait.  He needs the social interaction.  He needs to see his friends supporting him.  Why you may ask?  Well, that is part of the upcoming recaps.  Needless to say, its been serious enough here to celebrate some good old fashioned gaming.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

Happy Halloween!
I am back.  It's been a longer than expected hiatus.  This fall has been very trying.  A lot of challenges for the Chins.  I will probably try to recap some of it.  Not all but some during November.

Tonight is the first Halloween in 15 years where we haven't had a child out trick or treating.  Crazy.  Both boys are staying in.  We are having a family pumpkin carving session instead.  4 Chins.  5 Pumpkins.  3 knives.  1 drummel.  And...go!

We ended up with a super hero theme.  Superman's logo.  The Bat signal.  The Avengers logo.  And one Minion.  I think they ended up looking good.  I know we had a lot of fun.  Which is the most important thing.  The Griswolds at it again.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Open House

Tonight completed the 2014 Open House cycle.  I had the high school version last Thursday.  The new co-located middle and high school is amazing.  Duxbury should be proud.  It is really an amazing place.  The Macbook Airs the kids 8th grade and up got fit right in.  All the teachers did their presentations by iPad or laptop.  All their textbooks and reading materials are online.  Sure they have hard copies at home for contingencies.  Their homework and assignments can be found on school based websites.  Some teachers are sending narrated PowerPoints or videos home for the kids.  That way they can work hands on in the classroom.  The language teachers are having the kids record themselves.  Coco's science class is 100% paper free.  It is mind blowing.
     What's more is that the kids appreciate it.  I know, right?  Teenagers acknowledging appreciation for anything is exceptional.  My kids come home raving about the new facilities.  "It's really nice" is a common phrase.  It's nice to know we did the right thing.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Working Man

Caz had to work all weekend.  He actually had some long shifts.  OK, long for him.  But I am sure it seemed like an eternity for him.  6 hours both days.  I think the idea of time and a half on Sunday appealed to him.  He's the ideal kid for fall Sundays.  He would rather get paid right now, so he doesn't mind missing the Pats game.  But he can banter enough about the Pats to keep customers and co-workers happy.
     I figured he could use a Good Morning burger after his shift.  I knew Demi and I didn't feel like cooking.  Win/Win for everyone.  KKatie's Burgers it was.  The place really does have great burgers.  Whatever was on the KKMacSmash was the perfect call.  Caz got his bacon, fried egg, and cheese all in one place.
     Caz has been very responsible with his work.  I think it has given him a good sense of what things cost.  Teaching him the value of a dollar, right?  He was broke this weekend and wanted an item for his new Nintendo DS.  He couldn't afford it at the moment.  But he did get his paycheck.  Guess it's time to teach him about banking hours and deposits.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Never Forget.

  My suggestion with today in mind, is take some time.  Read Son of a Terrorist by Zak Ebrahim.  It's short.  It doesn't take long to read it.  If you still don't feel you can invest the time, then watch the TED video:

It's a game changer.  It's one of the best talks I have ever heard.  I saw most of this TEDx event.  I saw the Gates - Bill & Melinda and Sting.  But this was the talk of the day.  By far.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Opening Day 2014

The 8th grade Dragons opened their season today.  A 1 PM kickoff (conflicting with the Pats), at home.  It was sunny and 70.  You can't ask for more than that.
     Although we lost, the boys played hard.  It was close.  I really felt they could win this came.  I don't care about winning for me.  I want them to win for them.  They deserve a little success.  They deserve to show the teammates that decided not to play this year, that they can succeed without them.  They have worked for 4 weeks and today is pay day.  I told them to keep their heads high.  They have a great effort.  And there is always next week.....

Vuja De

Haven't I already been through this enough?  I had to confer with some of my assistant coaches and then ask one of them not to come back.  It was a tough decision.  It certainly wasn't made lightly.  But the interests of the kids have to come first.
     The reason really doesn't matter.  The possibility that something might happen had been keeping me up nights.  I was lulled into a false sense of security.  The season was going along well.  Actually better than I could have hoped for with this particular coach.  Then out of nowhere the tide turn.  That was actually a major point.  There was no warning.
     Youth sports is such a circus.  It's almost too mainstream now. I have railed against the system before (and I probably will again).  Parents are to blame.  Not all of them.  But a lot of them.  They take youth sports more seriously than the kids.  It is not right.  It's no wonder kids get burnt out on sports by high school.  Someone needs to do a study.  I bet there are more Marinavich stories now than there once were.  I bet teen rebellion now is more quitting sports because their parents can't force them to play anymore. I bet there is an uptick in kids making poor choices into trouble making just to show mom & dad not only are they no longer an athlete but not the person they were hoping for.  The stories of the Tiger Woods playing golf at 3, or Larry Bird spending hours in a basketball gym growing up,  or Dustin Pedrioa playing baseball all the time.  They didn't do it because someone made them do it.  They were having fun.  Youth sports needs to work the fun a bit more in general.  It is possible to be competitive and have fun at the same time.  Despite popular opinion.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Breaking Out

Caz is certainly breaking out of his shell.  He was actually eager to go somewhere tonight.  With us!  He actually called while Demi and I were at dinner for another engagement because he felt like we were behind schedule.  He's only been home a short while from work.  He must have come home and jumped into a speed shower.
     Caz almost skipped down the street, while we walked to our new neighbors house.  He dusted us in the driveway.  "See ya!"  Well, the statement was intended anyway.  Hey!  Good for him.  Socializing is a good thing.  It's all a part of growing up.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Back Where We Started

3 days of school....and Coco has missed 2 now.  His intestines are acting up again.  Between that and the pain in his feet, the kid is a wreck.  It is very unsettling.  The lack of answers is driving me crazy.  We started calling around for tips on new doctors (for his intestines).  The one we have makes me uncomfortable and I don't think Demi is close to sold on her.  This is years on the making.  We have to seek answers elsewhere.  This is impacting too much of his life.  He's actually missing out on life.  This has to end.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

First Day of School 2014

Yay! Back to school.  The kids may grumble but they dig it deep down.  They like to see their friends if nothing else.  But they like some of the classes or a few of the lessons.  I know they like showing off what they learned when they get home.  They generally have a few new fun facts.
     Of course Demi and I are thrilled to get them back to school.  They need to have something to do.  They need a routine. Mostly so that we can get back to our routine.  I really miss the days when kids went outside in the morning in the summer and didn't come back until dinner.  Kids in general need more motivation.  They need to learn to amuse themselves without electronics.  Not that they had free reign over the summer.  No electronics during the day.  End of story.
     They go to a brand new school this year.  I mean newly built.  State of the art.  They both got issued MacBook Airs.  Just like when I was kid, right?  Not!  Everything on one laptop.  That is pretty cool.  Can't wait to see how it goes.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rock Stars

The boys are pretty much Rock Stars for the younger kids that we associate with on these long weekend holidays.  Yes, two are their younger cousins.  But the non-blood relatives adore them too.  They go into Beatlemania mode, screaming, flailing,...general hysteria.  They get so excited to see my boys.  It's really adorable.
     Well, I think this band has a rival now.  The new neighbors joined us for the weekend festivities.  The youngest daughter, Raquel, is in 6th grade.  The little ones took to her like Santa Claus.  Raquel was very excited.  And she was so good with them all.  When we regrouped at night, the little ones were screaming for her.  They did test runs, so they could run to the door and window when she arrived.  When Raquel finally did arrive, the kids ran out of the house, jumped up and down, and scream her name.  It was quite a welcoming committee.  My boys are going to have to up their game..

Friday, August 29, 2014

Meet the Neighbors

While we introduced ourselves to the new neighbors, who moved into the neighborhood at the start of summer, we really hadn't been able to get to know them.  They seem very nice.  They have 3 kids living there, with one who is an adult and living in Philly.  With the start of school looming, Linda invited the whole family over for dinner.  Most of the kids would be on the same school bus, so a familiar face is nice to have.
     The night really went great.  The kids took to each other immediately.  They went right down to the play room.  I could hear the banging of air hockey within seconds.  Laughter was not far behind.  The adults hit it off too.  We all got to know each other.  I was proud of our kids.  They were great hosts.  They included everyone in all the game.  It's not easy with different age ranges and boy/girl differences.  But they did it.  Maybe Demi and I are doing something right after all.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Visit from Grandma

Grandma came to visit for a few days.  It's her annual trek by, not that she's full time living in FL.  It was a very nice gesture this year, given that we all had the trip to Mexcio, us without the kids, for a family wedding.  She could have easily decided this year was too much.  Demi gave her an out too.  But she still came.  She came in time to see Coco's first scrimmage.  We all went out to eat after.
     Caz was great during the visit.  He played cards with Grandma.  He showed off his artwork from the past year.  He spent a lot of time talking with her.  Coco only had limited time but made the most of it.  Grandma brought Caz to work.  I think that was a bit of a reality check for her. One of her youngest grandchildren is now working.
     It's important for the boys to connect with her.  They don't get as much of an opportunity.  Obviously, being located so close to my parents and family, they are very close with my side.  They need to know Demi's side.  This was a successful visit for that.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

XC 2014

After a lot of drama, Caz started his second XC campaign.  There was a lot of discussion with family, friends, and coaches about the right thing to do for Caz.  His main focus is track.  And he is a sprinter.  No doubt about it.  We wanted to make sure the distance running involved with XC, wouldn't hinder his sprinting.  The coach agreed to devise a season workout for Caz, and others, who wanted to run, be a part of the XC team, and train for track.
     Many high schools only care about the success of the team.  They don't care about the individual and those that might have a emphasis on sprinting.  They burn those kids out.  We didn't want that happening to Caz.  We had a good conversation with his sprinting coach and XC coach. We came to an agreement and made out decision.
     Today was the first team practice.  Captains practices are over.  This is the real deal.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is sweeping the nation right now.  Everyone is shooting a video and getting doused with ice and water.  Of course by FaceBook connected wife is right in step.  She got called out during her workout this AM.  Which means?  Yep, yours truly is next up.
     I really had to plot out my 3 challenges.  Sure.  I took some liberties.  But who was going to complain.  It's all for charity.  For research to cure an awful disease.
     I had my team help me - Coco and Blue.  My minions.  I then issued my challenge.  I figured it would be a good team building exercise.  I called out my assistant coaches.  I then called out my buddy, Dickie, who I started coaching with 9 years ago and his staff.  I finished issuing the challenge to my former DHS teammates.  We have a reunion next month, so there is a good tie in there.  Mission accomplished.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Last Campaign

This is it.  Coco's last year of youth football.  And my last year of coaching.  I am back to the role of head coach.  So I actually enter this year with a bit of trepidation to go with my anticipation.  I am not sure what to expect.  Some kids are not back.  We do add some new kids.  A few new coaches.  One coach back -who I need to keep an eye on.  But of the new coaches, one is my former high school freshman and JV coach.  That part is very exciting.
     I hope Coco's last season goes better than Caz's.  I definitely have Caz's broken arm in the back of my mind.  I just want it to go well.  For all of us, all the kids and coaches.
     One last run.  Here we go.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Its a good thing we had vacation.  A chance to get our rest.  Because coming home has been a challenge.  The kids have had no rules for days.  Caz in particular has been coming and going as he has pleased.  He obviously hasn't had his medication since we left.  He may not make it through the night.  He needs to be confined to his room.  He's completely out of hand.
     I definitely am not feeling well.  I could not take him talking back to Demi any more.  He had to be straightened out.  I looked him straight in the eye and told him, "enough!"  I told him it ends now, or there would be consequences.  He could tell by my look that I was serious.  He finally relented.  Peace at last.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Demi and I are getting a timeout.  A well deserved timeout. We are hitting a destination wedding in Cancun.  Demi's nephew decided to get married in Mexico. In August.  So be it.  But 5 days without the kids, just Demi and me.  Sounds nice.  Pools.  Beach.  Sun.  Unlimited food and drink.  We will just have to grin and bear it.
     I think the break will do us all good.  We all get our space.  Time by ourselves.  Each one of us.  We are all due.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Movie Review - Guardians of the Galaxy

Best movie of the summer.  Actually the best summer movie in years.  5 Chinny rating.  This movie has something for everyone.  It has action.  Humor.  Love story.  Heroes.  Villians.  Good characters.  Inside jokes.  And?  A great soundtrack.  
     I wasn't sure what to expect going in.  I had read the comic while college.  I didn't recall much about it though.  The trailer looked promising.  But while watching the trailer, I secretly hoped it wasn't a collection of all the good parts.  
     I laughed out loud during this movie.  Often.  I appreciated all the 80's references  No spoilers but anyone my age should love the throwback humor. There was the great tie in to the rest of the Marvel universe.  My son laughed through the whole thing too.  Out loud.  And often.  
     Breakout role for Chris Pratt.  He was fantastic.  And Bradley Cooper like you have never seen him.  Actually, you don't really see him in the film.  But the voice role was spectacularly done.  I think the crowds will be quoting "I am Groot" for years to come....

Friday, August 1, 2014

Dog Days are not Over

Yes, the Dog Days of August are here.  No.  I am not talking about the weather.  I only wish I were.  No, the boiling points of the family have been reached.  The kids are acting up.  Our patience, Demi's and mine, are wearing thin.
     The youngest one is having mood swings like a metronome.  A metronome for Metallica that is.  Fast and furious. His hormones must be raging.  He is maniacally laughing one minute.  The next, he is sobbing like he just watched the endings of Brian's Song and Old Yeller in succession.  We can't keep up with him.
     The older one is at least consistent.  He's a PITA.  He's cranky.  He's surly.  He's defiant.  He's a smart Alec.  Sure, sounds like a typical teenager.  Maybe he is.  But that is why there are songs about teenagers.
     The battles will rage.  We will endure.  We must.  Other parents get through it.  So can we.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tiger Training Day

Yesterday was a great family fun day.  Demi's boss got this company together on Duxbury Beach for a BBQ.  It was a long day. But a great day.
    We stormed Duxbury Beach on the Bay side.  We had tables of food, a huge tent and grill.  Our kids took it all in stride.  They were by far the oldest kids.  Again.  They played with the young kids.  Again.  They really were terrific.
     Caz showed some growth.  He meandered about the beach on his own.  He walked up to his friends house on his own.  He normally doesn't do stuff like that.  I had planted the seed.  He did the hard work to overcome his natural tendencies to be shy and find a way to stay put.  I was proud of him for taking the initiative

Friday, July 11, 2014

Father/Son II

Tonight it was Coco's night.  Although, as the day started, I really thought it was going to be disaster.  He came home from a sleepover and was a complete basket case.  He was a moody little son of a.....Anyway, he rallied.  His buddy set them a tee time.  He came home a different kid.
     When I finished working, I told him to grab his shoes.  When he looked at me, I told him we were taking Gizmo for a walk on the beach, then grabbing some grub at a new joint.  He almost played the Tired Card but didn't.  We drove out to the beach and he had Gizmo in his arms, head hanging out of the window (Gizmo, not Coco) the whole time.  We walked Gizmo around the beach.  Coco grabbed some little blue plastic bags, just in case.  The sun was out.  It was a comfortable temperature.  It was a perfect night for this.
     Then we drove to the Green Harbor Lobster Pound.  As we did I told him how his grandfather used to buy us lobsters there, all the time growing up.  I think he got a kick out of that.  I let him order a fried shrimp plate.  I got The Best Lobster Roll around.  (That is a story for another time).  I let him get some pink lemonade.  He picked out a spot on a picnic table.  We ate outside as the sun was starting to go down.
     I read to him out on the porch when we got home.  I actually took some time for me too, grabbing a beer and cigar, as I read.  Two nights.  Two fantastic Father/Son nights.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Father/Son Night

This could have been a disaster of a night.  Caz had been home all day, unsupervised.  He had slept late.  He claimed to have done everything on his list.  I couldn't get out of work early, as planned.  Demi was in NY for a funeral.  Coco was at his cousin's.
     On the way home, I decided to try to make it a guys night.  I walked in, said hi.  I told him that I was going to change and after I did, we would go get ourselves running shoes.  I promised dinner too.  He was very agreeable.  He shut off the TV and got ready to head out.
     He was really a good sport in the store.  He let the store clerks watch him walk, study his movement, and see him run.  They trotted out 6 different styles of shores.  He tried them all on.  He even chuckled when we remarked about his reserved nature, eschewing the more exotic colors and styles.  He did up his game and settled on some new running shoes with some wild trim.  Baby steps.
     Then we went over to Windy City Dogs, for hot dogs.  He got a giant corn dog, double cheeseburger and fries.  We watched the end of the Sox game.  A walk off win  We had some great conversation.  He even took the good natured ribbing, as I tried to pry some information on a girl he had his eye on, out of him.  We went out for ice cream after.  I let him pick his favorite place.
     When we got home, we settled onto the couch.  I read to him for a long time.  Somewhere along the line, he fell asleep.  It was just like when he was a toddler.  It was really a perfect evening.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Patience Runs Out

Tonight was the night.  Caz's luck ran out.  Because my patience ran out.  He left the house without his phone.  Again.  He did leave a note.  So it wasn't too bad.  But when we couldn't get a hold of him, all bets were off.  I came home tired, and had to go back out to get him.  Except when I got to his buddy's house, none of them were there.  My friend, his buddy's dad, told me he had just dropped them at the mall.  Caz had left the neighborhood without asking permission.
     All holy hell broke out when he got home.  Actually, it could have been worse.  I tried, very hard, to curtail any shouting.  Caz started down his list of excuses.  Demi and I were having none of it.  But it was late.  We all needed to go to bed.  Instead of drawing it all out, we let him go to bed.  Go to bed with the expectation of punishment forthcoming.  That might have been worse than the actual punishment.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


I exerted a lot of patience today.  Caz had left the house without completing his task list.  Again.  He left without his phone.  Again.  But instead of flying off the handle, I took it very calmly.
     I called him at his friend's house, knowing his whole crew was there.  Even when he started to answer like a smart alec, I bit my tongue. I explained the things he neglected to do.  He owned up to him.  I told him that my first instinct was to drive over, pull him out of there, and embarrass him in front of his friends.  I told him to be home by 9 and attend to everything on the list, plus some new add-ons (as punishment).
     When he came home early, I thought he was making an attempt to make amends.  And I think he was.  But he kept getting distracted. He still missed things on the list.  We got through the night but it was not easy.  I really wanted to go to bed early, after sleeping poorly last night.  This whole episode kept me up longer than planned.  Better luck tomorrow.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Social Engagements

The boys were really good today.  We have been getting together with the same families, at the same house, and at this same holiday time, for years now.  The boys are the oldest children by far.  They really have nothing in common with the other kids.
     However, when it came time to get ready for the party, the boys got ready with no hesitation. Caz even sent his friends home.  He dressed up very nicely.  He was probably the most dressed up of the bunch.
     Coco and Caz were the stars of the show.  The other kids were ecstatic when they arrived.  They came running from all corners of the house to see them.  Caz and Coco played outside with them the whole time, swingset, baseball, and dancing.  Yes.  Dancing.  The girls had a dance party, once it got dark and dragged the boys onto the dance floor.  The boys were hot sweaty messes by the end of the night.  All the parents appreciated it.  Especially, Coco and Caz's parents.

Friday, July 4, 2014

4th 2014

Happy 4th of July!  Thank you to our troops and their families.  A safe and happy holiday to you all!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Pay Day

Caz got his first paycheck today.  You should have seen his face as he opened it.  It was priceless.  He was so proud of himself.  He was excited to show it to me, then his mother.  This is honestly the reaction for which I was hoping.  A true teachable moment.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

First Shift

Well, it's official.  Caz has entered the work force.  He completed his first shift at the supermarket.  It was something else to see him all decked out in his official work outfit.  He seemed to be into it.  I hope he keeps it going.  But it is an important milestone in a young man's life.  Good job, son.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Feeling Their Oats

My boys crack me up.  It's time like these that it is fun to be a Dad.  At my brother's place, we were all hanging out for a family BBQ with extended family and friends.  My brother was hosting a double birthday party for their kids but is really more of an excuse to have a summer soiree.  It's an annual event now, and really a great time.
     But I digress.  The boys, my boys, are by far the oldest kids attending.  But they interact with the other kids.  They lead the activities.  The other kids take to them like magnets.  At one point Coco is on all fours with a child on his back, riding him like a horse.  As they run past, Demi says to Coco, "Hey Pony boy, make sure you drink water and stay hydrated."
    Without missing a beat, Coco stands up and responds, "Mom....I'm a Stallion!", smiles and then runs away.  Perfect.
     A bit later I see Caz in the house.  He's leaning up against an arm chair having a conversation.  As I round the corner, I see he's chatting up the babysitter.  The college age babysitter from down the street who watches my nephew and niece, and is helping the crafts station at the party.  Demi had seen Coco coming out of the bathroom after having put water on his hair and was in the act of straightening it out.  My boy was putting out the Vibe on an older woman.  Atta boy!

Friday, June 27, 2014


We finally built Chinnytown, our version of Mantown.  It's been a while in the making.  We took down the former home of Dragon Fly Daycare.  We gave away the toys.  We packaged up the supplies.  We painted over the Sesame Street characters.  We put in some futons, couches, chairs, and XBOX.  But Chinnytown was still not complete.  Now we are almost there.  Thank you Craigslist!
     I had been searching Craiglist for months.  I searched Foosball tables, pool tables, air hockey tables, poker tables, arcade games, pinball machines, and bumper pool tables.  Finally I found what I had in mind.  A Foosball table.  I am very picky about my Foosball tables.  None of those tables that have pieces that look like soccer players.  I like the generic, almost Rock-The only knock on this table are the handles.  Wooden hexagonal handles.  But those can be replaced.  Especially for short dough.  So I picked this beauty up 5 exits away.
      While in transit I received a response on an Air Hockey table.  This is formerly a $700 heavy duty bar room table.  Done. Tthat is only 10 mins away.  It plays beautifully.
     Now, the trifecta.  I saw an ad yesterday for a yard sale with a poker table.  I did a drive by and it's only up the street at a neighbors the the yard sale already happened.  Demi called to see if it was still available.  They just want it gone and offer it up for free.  Done deal.  And bonus.  It comes with poker chips.  The boys are thrilled.
     Chinnytown is now open for business.  That is all I wanted.  A place the boys can hang out with their friends.  Sure, it means more teenage boys running around.  But at least I know where they are....

Monday, June 16, 2014

Adding onto The Hive

We officially have two teenagers now.  Coco is in full fledged hormonal, teen angst mode.  I am ready to add an addition on to the bee hive for him.  Then, like Caz, throw in some food, wall him up, and wait until he is an adult to break him out.
     Coco has been unbearable.  Some of my feeling is shock.  We definitely took for granted that he was very reliable and very trust worthy.  In reality, he is probably still on the good side of the curve for teenage behavior.  But in aggregate, it is getting hard around here.  He is forgetting things.  He doesn't pay attention when we are talking.  It all leads to fighting.  They he has a meltdown.  Like Chernobyl.  Tantrum extraordinaire.
     Now that this rite of passage - teenagers & their parents - is impacting all four of us, the family dynamic has changed.  I am sure it is normal.  But it is tough.  We are still adjusting.  At least is it with very little school left.  Like Caz, the root problem centers around electronics.  XBOX is actually the least of it.  There is a new PC game.  The iPod Touch is problematic  It is a big snowball effect.  I hope I have enough patience......

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day 2014

Happy Father's Day to all you Dads out there!
     This year was a particularly good Father's Day.  I went out on a great day for running, to participate in a local 5K.  It was a new route to me.  It was more challenging than the usual route.  I was back before the oldest child was even awake.  
     The boys were very good.  They went to the beach without kicking and screaming.  They were troopers.  They didn't bug me to leave the whole time.  They interacted with the others.  They played Penny Can with the old man.  They even hid their relief/excitement/eagerness, when I decided to pack it up early.  We went over to my folks afterwards.  We swam in the pool.  We visited with my Dad and my brother's family.  That is all my Dad wants.  He wants all his family together.  He had a great smile going the whole time.
     The boys were very sociable while hanging out on the porch, having dinner next door.  We had a very nice BBQ, followed by the traditional strawberry shortcake.  That dessert is a Father's Day staple.  It is Yaya's favorite.  All went well.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Hot Dog Safari Duxbury

The boys had yet another Professional Half Day of school.  Coco had plans with some friends.  They walked up to Duxbury Pizza to get some lunch.  Then back to one of the boys house for pool time.
     I told Caz to invite his buddies over for hot dogs at 6 PM. I figured they would crush a bunch of dogs, so I stocked up.  They wanted boiled, so boiled it was.  I had a ton of different condiments out, ketchup, mustard, relish, jalapenos, sweet pepper relish, pickles, etc.  The only one that got touched? Ketchup.  That is just a hot dog faux pas, but that is another discussion.  Coco ended up having a buddy over too.  They ran around outside for hours.  That was the whole point.  It was old school summer nights.  They play 4 square.  They threw the football around.  The went up and down the street with the Rip Stick.  They went up into the tree house.  It was fun to watch.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Interview with a Manager

Caz had his first job interview today.  Demi did a good job preparing him.  He gave him some typical questions, so he could think about answers.  I think it helped him with the pre-game jitters.  But when game time came, he was cut loose.  He was on his own.  He was in with the manager for a good while, 30-40 minutes.  That is an eternity for Caz.
     Caz came out so pleased with himself.  He got really good feedback, along with a good indication of being hired.  He is just some paperwork and a drug test away from a summer job.  His first job.  And his first drug test.  My how times have changed.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Summer Meltdown

You would have thought that we were in the dog days of August.  You know.....those hot, humid, New England days.  You get a few plus 90 days in a row with 90% humidity.  Folks start getting irritable.  The bickering begins.  Those kinds of days.
     Demi and Caz got into it like that.  Caz, once again, forgot his medicine.  So that exacerbated the issue.  I was sick.  I finally got the crud that Caz and Coco had.  They passed it over to the old man.  Stuffy head, slight fever, lack of energy.  Really, its the minor flu.  In a nice change of pace, both calmed themselves down.  They proceeded to talk it out.  It took a while.  Caz was being pigheaded.  He did show some signs of maturity.  I will take it.  Maybe he is growing up after all.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Job One

After weeks talking about the subject, Caz filled out his first job application today.  It took a while get him to see the light and agree.  Last night the subject came up and all his friends were looking too.  While driving his buddies from the movie last night, I asked point blank which ones had a summer job already.  The oldest of the bunch claimed to have one at Stop & Shop already.  The other 2 said they had submitted applications.  Caz agreed to put in some this weekend.  Demi brought him in to Star Market to meet with the managers. They were very helpful and explained the process.  Caz executed his practiced hand shake.  The he went home and filled out application on-line.  It's a big moment for a young man.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Daily Humor

After a lengthy conversation with Caz and his 3 friends about the evening plans, including a point blank question about whether they needed a ride, Demi got roped into bringing them all to the movie theater.  On the way, a typical "Masshole" driver was riding her bumper.  She boxed him in and drove slower than normal.  At a set of lights, an opportunity finally presented itself, for said Masshole to pass.  He decided he would peel out and fly by.  The following conversation ensued:

Caz's friend, Arnold, said, "Mrs. C, you should blow that guy away." - Well, almost.  He left out a key word - "away".

It was deadly quite and the minor faux pas might have gone unnoticed.  Until Demi said pointedly, "Excuse me?"

At that point, everyone caught the gaffe and laughter followed.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

After School

Coco clearly needs structured activities after school until either Demi or I get home from work.  Today is the first days in months that he did not have practice after school.  He is predictable.  He comes home, forgets to take his medicine, brings food into into the living room, makes a mess, and watches TV.  He does nothing productive until confronted.  Then it takes an effort and a half to get him back on track.  Since he has missed his medicine, he becomes a problem.  He can't focus.  He can't control himself.  Mom and Dad are tired.  It is just a bad combination.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Remembering all those who have served and are serving.  Thank you to their families for their sacrifice as well.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day 2014

To all Moms, the world over.

The boys did a decent job with Mother's Day today.  They were paying for sleep-overs and two late nights.  But they took out the patio furniture.  They helped set up the deck.  We had a very nice late breakfast on a sunny, warm morning.  We had some nice conversation.  There was cooperation.  Demi opened her presents.  A great family way to start Mother's Day.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Social Time

Friday night.  The start to the weekend.  Traditionally a big night out.  The boys finally have plans of their own.  Each one.  Individually.  Demi and I could actually do whatever we wanted.  What a novel thought.
     So the eldest son had his usual sleepover down the street.  They went to a movie.  Then the back to our neighbors house for poker, XBOX, and mingling with the older sister and friends.  The younger son has a birthday party, sleepover.  Both.  Gone for the night.
     Demi and I could go out to eat.  In Boston, if we wanted to.  We could stay out late.  We could hit the night clubs.  And.....we chose to watch TV and fall asleep early.  Sometimes, it really is the little things.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

NLCV Day 5

Grand Canyon day.  The quick preview from last night make the anticipation that much stronger.  First things first though.  Breakfast.  Most important meal of the day, right?
You can’t go wrong with the Golden Arches.  Quick and consistent.  They even have good coffee now.  Thank you Paul Newman.  Overpriced?  Sure, but what isn’t around here.  And any worse than South Station or at a Rest Area?  We have to be somewhat efficient to be at the GC Airport on time for our helicopter tour.
I highly recommend the helicopter tour the Grand Canyon.  Especially, if you have only a small window of time at the GC.  The whole adventure does not take a lot of time.  There is a quick safety video, which is mandatory.  It’s is the equivalent of your flight attendant demonstration at the start of every airplane flight.  They weigh you to assign your seat.  They strap a silly looking flotation device.  It is a yellow, over sized fanny pack with strings.  Only the snorkel, face mask, and flippers are missing.  The tour is just amazing.  Coming out over the edge of the GC is breathtaking.  The boys really got a kick out of it.  They took it all in and developed a healthy appreciation for the size of this place.
We spent the rest of the day walking and sightseeing on the South Rim.  We drove up to Mather’s Point.  Fortunately we had found the gem of the GC area, RJ’s Stage Stop.  Reasonably priced, they offered sandwiches, coffee, breakfast, and trinkets.  We got our memorabilia at very decent prices.  We ordered sandwiches and drinks, which they packed nicely for a hike.  So up at the South Rim we wandered with a backpack full of water, lunch, and sunscreen.  We took lots of pictures, for ourselves and other people.  The amount of guests is staggering.  What is truly amazing is that besides the popular look-outs, you don’t feel crowded at all.  In fact, contact with other tourists is almost sparse, once you start walking.  But I digress.  We did offer to take group photos for other folks and asked the same in return.  People were great about it.
The boys got a first-hand look at Darwinism at its finest.  People ignored the rules, posted on signs.  They ventured off the walkways.  They crawled out onto some precarious ledges.  The footing was suspect.  The wind was stronger than you might think.  All to take that picture with no railing, or with the ledge effect.  It’s no wonder so many people fall to their deaths at the GC each year.  The learning? Some people are really dumb.  Let the culling begin……
The boys earned some down time to watch TV and play games in the room.  Demi and I earned pool time.  Win/Win.
The boys also got a lesson in economics.  Supply and demand.  Or beggars can’t be choosers.  The boys got sandwiches for dinner.  Demi and I got a pre-made salad and a rotisserie chicken.  No eating utensils.  Old school medieval hand eating.  Tough times call for drastic measures.  At least it wasn’t a Donner Party.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NLCV Day 4

Live at Red Rocks.  OK.  That is CO.  But the red of the mountains in Sedona is stunning.  Having a  cup of coffee with that backdrop was truly amazing.  Coco had a cinnamon roll, the size of his head.  I had the most amazing oatmeal.  I know.  How interesting can oatmeal be.  Believe me.  This was the gold standard. 
We had some time to kill before our tour in the famous Pink Jeeps.  We walked up and down the main strip.  It is really a nice place.  I could spend a few days there with Demi for sure.  The boys were fascinated at a candle maker’s shop.  They watched the whole process for quite a while.  They perused the inventory with a keen eye.  The Pink Jeep tour of Broken Arrow was astounding.  It could very well be the highlight of the trip.  Pink Jeeps have a special permit giving them the only access to certain parts of the valley.  We made 2 stops and were permitted to get out.  The views were spectacular.  The peaks we summited were not as severe as they looked from afar.  So we didn’t have to worry about plummeting to our deaths.  Submarine Rock permitted us an amazing view of the whole area.  Our guide was great.  He took some great family photos for us.  At some points, he put on a clinic of technical off-road driving.  We were completely perpendicular to the ground, on uneven terrain, completely stopped.  We did that going up and we did that going down.  We drove around a rock on a high peak that only allowed the width of the jeep.  The open air was refreshing, but at the same time dried us out.  They tell you to bring lots of water and we were glad we did.    It was a quick 2 hours.  Our guide let us in a great lunch spot as well.
We stopped at Slippery Rock Park on the way to the Grand Canyon.  The boys and I ventured in to the frigid water to ride the river like a giant water slide.  I am surprised we didn’t get banged up.  The rocks are smooth but they are still rocks.  It allowed us to expend some energy too.
We got into the hotel at the Grand Canyon late that afternoon.  We changed and raced to make sunset but missed it.  The Canyon was still amazing though.  In our haste we got separated.  Coco and I stayed by the Rim, while Demi and Caz went for the car.  They didn’t remember where they parked.  I didn’t have my cell phone.  I couldn’t pass on seeing the Canyon, so Coco and I bolted to the look out.  It took my breath away.  It is one of the 7 wonders for reason.  It really makes you feel small and puts life in perspective.  We took some pictures and went looking for Demi.  We headed to the visitor center.  It seemed like a natural Lost and Found meeting spot.  Sure enough we saw the car coming towards.  It’s good to be lucky sometimes

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

NLCV Day 3

Big Travel Day.  The Long Haul from New Mexico to Arizona.  The drive alone was going to be somewhere between 6-9 hours, depending on our final destination in AZ.

     We got a decent jump on the drive.  We had to wait for the pharmacy to open at 9 AM to pick up Caz’s medication.  I got up fairly early to pack the car.  I tried to use the 3rd row and creative packing, to maximize the personal space for the boys.  I also had to keep certain items handy: everyone’s electronics, the cooler, neck pillows, sunglasses, etc.  It is really an art form, if I do say so myself.  The boys appreciated it.
     We stocked up at the pharmacy/grocery store.  We got drinks, lunch, and snacks for the ride.  I needed windshield wiper fluid.  The amount of bugs splattered on the windshield numbered in the hundreds. 
      Our first stop took longer than expected.  Both Demi and I had read the printed directions wrong and grossly underestimated the time for our first stop.  The VLA.  Very Large Array.  It is part of the SETI project.  Our second issue was using SIRI.  We didn’t have a physical address for the GPS.  Demi used SIRI.  When we started down the side streets of New Mexico State Technical & Mining School, then into neighbor hoods, we knew something was amiss.  Unless the DISH satellites on the homes were the Very Small Array, we were not in the right spot.  SIRI, we found out, took us to the official head office of the VLA.  So it was back on the Road.
     Talk about middle of nowhere.  The direction included turning left at mile 82.  No sign.  Why have a sign?  That is when we saw the barbed wire and small signs that read: “ US Government Property.  No Trespassing.”  I was waiting for the black SUV’s to come hassle us.  The arrays were scattered all over the place, not even close to each other despite the pictures on line.  As we started out the door to the viewing area we saw a hand written sign that said there were snakes on the grounds.  Sure enough 2 six footers were bearing down on the door.  That was enough for Demi.  We did the Griswald quick look around, snapped some pictures, and loaded up back in the car.
     We got to the Rainbow Museum in the Petrified Forrest with no issues.  The time was about as expected.  It was a lot different from what we expected.  Not so much a forest as you would picture in your head.  The history was interesting.  .  The fossilized wild life and vegetation was a good learning opportunity too. The walk around the premises was leisurely and short.  It was a good chance to stretch our legs.
     The boys decided they wanted to press on to Sedona, so off we went.  We tried to get dinner 30 mins out but the town of Winslow turned out to be a ghost town in the making.  The GPS took us to a diner that no longer existing.  It took us through a rough stretch of town to get back to the highway.  We would have been better off cruising Bucket of Blood Blvd in Holbrook by the Petrified Forest, on old route 66.  We did however find a hidden gem in Flagstaff.  Bigfoot BBQ.  It was tucked away in the basement of a small walk in market area.  Great southern BBQ.  We rolled out of there back into the car to head to Sedona. 
     This was the only night we hadn’t booked a hotel room. We were gambling.  It paid off.  We found a really nice room at a place in Sedona online.  We used some frequent flyer miles (so to speak) to offset the cost difference between that and the a decent hotel room.  The drive to Sedona was a bit more exciting than planned.  We dropped 4K feet in elevation, winding down some hairpin turns, with no guardrails, in the complete dark.  We almost did a mule deer.  We couldn’t appreciate the sights but we could appreciate the comfortable beds when we finally made town. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

NLCV Day 2

So Caz woke up with pink eye.  Not the way to start the first full day of vacation.  Somehow we found a walk-in clinic in this ski mountain town.  It looked like we might have to wait a while and it would certainly throw off our road trip plans.  But Demi had the good senses to call our primary care physician back home. The nurse called in a prescription to a pharmacy here in Ruidoso. Score! We were able to leave town only slightly behind schedule.
      First stop?  Carlsbad Caverns.  It was a 3 hr trek from Ruidoso.  This was the only time I got nervous about gas.  Just after Roswell - which we planned to hit on the way back - I saw we were close to 1/4 tank of gas left and not a gas station in sight.  We knew that gas stations could be scarce on this trip.  Not knowing the capacity of a rental car increase today's anxiety.  The GPS kept wanting to take us back to Roswell.  Alien Conspiracy?  Governmental spying?  Who knows?  But Siri found us a town 25 miles away that had a gas station.  We made it with plenty of fuel to spare.
     We made the Caverns around noon time.  A lunch stop to Subway set up back.  The place was packed. I ate my salad in the direct sunlight, experiencing our first taste of hot weather, while Demi and boys hiked up a top a cliff just inside the park entrance.  We proceeded to the visitor center, picked up our passes, filled up our Camelbaks and headed for the Devil's Gate.  The opening to our descent.  700 feet down into the network of caverns that stretch one for miles.  Filled with stalactites and stalagmites, pits and pools, bats and guano.  We stayed in the caverns, out of the daylight, for about 4 hours.  We saw the Lily Pad Pond, the Devil's Gate, Devil's Tail (sense a trend?), Crystal Cavern, Big Room, Bottomless Pit, and all kinds of rock formations, cavern formations, grottoes, pools, etc.  We took the self guided tour, so were given a night stick with a speaker.  You hit button corresponding the a number on sign post and a narrator would provide information about that point.  It was well worth the $5.  I liked that we could go on our own pace.  A nice couple from Texas took our picture for us.  We took about 400 pictures in the Caverns.  This national park is truly a national treasure.  The boys really appreciate it.  Caz particularly got a charge out of making a squeaking noise with his Camelbak that was a perfect bat sound.  Scared the hell out of Demi.
     We stopped by Roswell on the way back.  It turned out to be a total Griswald stop.  The UFO museum was closed.  So were the other UFO/Alien themed sites.  The trinket stores were open of course, but not worth the time.  We packed it in and headed back to Ruidoso.  Oddly enough it did not bother anyone to eat dinner at 8 PM.  Demi and Coco crashed early.  I took a quick soak in the hot tub.  I gave Caz and early bed time, to which I got no argument.  I intended to crash at 9:30.  But as I flipped channels, I game across an ESPN Sports Century piece on Pat Tillman.  Timing is everything.  I watched it all, then called it a night.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

National Lampoons Chinny Vacation

Day One - We are off on our vacation.  It's an early start.  Really early.  The airport limo, which was a present from my brother and sister in-law, came to pick us up at 5 AM.  No problem for your truly, as I have been up since 3 AM.  I woke up in a panic that my sons iPod sync had failed.  I amble downstairs to find that I was right.  After 45 mins of trouble shooting, I finally figured out the issue.  One changed cord later and the sync was back on.  The things we do for our kids.  I wonder if he will even appreciate it.
     The boys were really great about getting up.  We were up and out the door with all the luggage when the van showed up.  They even beat Demi out of the house.  No arguments, no crabbiness, nothing......
     The plane ride went well.  Both of them.  We made our connections.  Our luggage arrived.  We even took some plane selfies, which became a "thing" for the Chinny Vacation.  Bonding was off to a great start.
     The condo in Ruidoso was fantastic.  Our friends really hooked us up.  We all had our own bedrooms and bathrooms.  We all had TV's(not that there was much time for watching).  And there was a hot tub on the deck.  We had a great dinner at a local place that service Mexican food.  Then we relaxed in the hot tub.  We all turned in early and slept soundly.  Off to a great beginning.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Turning 15

Happy 15th Birthday Caz!  I hope you have a great day.  Enjoy the new amplifier.  I really hope you start playing the guitar again.  You are at a great age for it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Notes from Fatherhood

Two interesting Dad moments tonight:

1) Dinner with Coco, one on one.  Big Kahuna Burgers.  They were indeed tasty burgers.  I thoroughly enjoyed when Coco asked me if he could have a soda to help wash down his tasty burger.  It was also fun to see him taking in Tin Cup on the TV they had going in the seating area.  He seemed interested.  In a golf movie.  Go figure.

2) Caz made coffee tonight.  Actually he setup the coffee maker.  Grounds.  Cinnamon. Filter. Water.  Then he set the timer for 6:30 AM.  I could get used to this.  I knew starting him on coffee would pay off.....

Monday, April 7, 2014

Back to School

Coco got back to school today.  We finally turned the corner from his health problem.  He had missed 6 straight days.  It was Father & Son time all weekend, starting Friday.  I took him to the doctor. After getting looked over, we had a course of action.  The new treatment started pretty quickly, I have to say.

     By afternoon, Coco said to me, "Dad, I feel so much better."

     Those words were magic.  Then I felt better.  I don't know how parents with major challenges do it.  The rest of the weekend went smoothly too.  We even go to go out as a family on Saturday night.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Opening Day 2014

Today was the Fenway home opener for the Sox.  It came will all the expected pomp and circumstance of the occasion.  I have to say kudos to NESN.  They didn’t utter a word during the hour long spectacular leading up to the roster introductions.  It was perfect.  Sure, it might have been nice to know who some of the first responders/victims were when tribute was paid to the Marathon Bombing event and recent Boston fire tragedy.  But it was really nice to sit in quiet and see the Sox players interact with all of them.  Papi was the Sox ambassador of good will.  He hugged everyone that came close to him.  The players made goo-goo eyes at the infants/toddlers.  It was well done. 
I was fortunate enough to be home to Coco to watch it.  I hope he appreciated all of it.  He takes in a lot.  He thinks a lot.  I think seeing something well done and respectful like this display will have a positive influence on him. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Coffee To Go

Well, it was no April Fool’s joke.  Caz has gone to the bus stop every morning this week with a travel mug full of Joe.  Since he just measured in at 5’11” last week, can I really say it will stunt his growth?  It is actually pretty comical for me to hear Demi ask how he likes his coffee.  I think he is still perfecting his sugar & cream to coffee ratio.  He is still a novice after all.
It is really a good thing.  As I noted before, the caffeine will help him combat his ADD and increase his attention span early.  Maybe it will help lead to a better breakfast and morning routine.  To say that Caz is not a morning person is a huge understatement.  Couple that with the fact that Demi is also not a fan of the AM, you increase the likelihood of a school AM disaster.  All heck will rain down on the child responsible for missing the bus.  You think Noah was facing a wrathful vengeance?  He didn’t miss the Ark to school

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fool's 2014

This one went by the boards unnoticed.  Not one prank to speak of at all.  A bit of a disappointment really.  Ah, what can you do?  Life happens.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Travel Coffee Mug

Well, Demi put Caz on the bus today with coffee to go.  Clearly a first.  It boggled her mind a bit.  Caz apparently had developed a taste for it.  The caffeine is actually good for his ADD.  The extra stimulation should help him concentrate.  Our little boy is becoming a man.

Friday, March 28, 2014

16 Years And Counting

Happy Anniversary!  Married to Demi 16 years today.  So we decided to take the boys out to dinner.  How does that work?  Anyway, it was a good excuse to eat out at the Sun Tavern.  It was a unmitigated success.The boys cleaned themselves up.  They dressed nicely.  Coco busted out a tie and a fedora.  We ate like champs.  My steak was killer.   Coco loved his grilled meatloaf.  Caz ended up with a turkey pot pie bigger than his head.  And Caz ended up with the best dessert.  Hot Chocolate Mug Cake.  It was really a nice family evening.  I hope there are more to come like these.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Romeo! Romeo! Where for art thou, Romeo?

Caz floored me tonight. The conversation at dinner had started with Coco's English class about to start reading MacBeth.  I then recalled that Caz's class was reading Romeo & Juliet.  I asked him how it was going.  Caz relayed that his class was going to act it all out.  And not only that...he had volunteered for a part.  I was thrilled that he had volunteered for anything.  Then the other shoe dropped.  He announced that he had volunteered for the part of Juliet.  I asked him why, thinking that he would say that he knew that men acted all the parts in Shakespear's day.  But he chuckled and said that he thought it would be funny.  He planned to ham it up for his class.  Good for him.  Go for broke.  Take some risks.  It is really nice to see.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Madness 2014

It is that time of year again.  Coco is fired up.  He could not wait for selection Sunday.  He had the brackets printed out about 5 minutes after they became available.  Caz was the complete opposite.  He was not into it at all this year.  Which is probably why he did not fill out his brackets.  Coco has his done very quickly.  I hadn't even read through mine yet.
     Demi had some interest because of the new twist this year.  Warren Buffet's offer of $1B for a perfect bracket is very intriguing.  How could it not be?  It was truly amazing that after day one, out of 11 million entries, only 3% were still viable. After day two? Zero.  Zero percent.
     Another discussion about math. Probabilities.  Possibilities.  Isn't it interesting how such a variety of topics can spawn a family discussion.  It's not an accident you know.  You have to work at this stuff.  I am just saying that there are all kinds of conversation starters available to you.  Pick one and start a family discussion.  Ask everyone for their opinion.  It will pay off.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Distribution of Wealth

We had a great family discussion tonight.  I had seen some of the TEDx Live event at work.  I was fortunate enough to see the interview with Bill and Melinda Gates.  I couldn't wait to get home to tell the boys about it.  I really wanted to see their reaction.
     The important parts of the interview for me were Bill's graph and their latest effort at philanthropy.  Bill's graph illustrated the downward trend of child deaths (under the age of 5) since 1960.  In 1960, the annual number was 20M.  Last year, that number was under 6M.  But the end game, is just on the horizon.  We may see that number go all the way down, in our lifetime.
     The other piece of the interview started with child raising philosophy.  The Gates had read an article by Warren Buffet advising the extremely wealth against giving their children everything and leaving all their money to be inherited.  Buffet said that by doing so, it didn't do the kids any favors and didn't do the world any favors.  The Gates planned to educate their children well.  But they would not hand them anything.  The would not provide enough for the kids to do nothing.  95% of their wealth will be given away through the Gates foundation.  Then Warren Buffet pledged 80% of his wealth to the Gates foundation.  The Gates are now on a mission to get other wealthy folks to do likewise.  So far they have over 120 commitments.
     Both my boys listed earnestly.  They asked some good questions.  They didn't even flinch about not getting much to inherit.  They were amazed that some many had committed to divesting their assets.  It was a really great dinner conversation.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2014!

From the McChins!
     Hoisted the traditional Guinness.  Alas, no corned beef and cabbage this year.  Not even a Shepard's Pie.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pi Day

Happy Pi Day!
     I actually brought home a pie for Coco.  It is his new national holiday.  He was so excited leading up to today.  He is actually already excited for next year.  It will be 3/14/15.  The next sequence in the Pi extended factor.  3.1415.
     I love that he knows that.  I love the it excites him.  I love the amount of thought he gives it.  It is really amazing, as a parent to see it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Weird Science

The boys tend to bring up these little fun facts at dinner.  Usually it is something they came across in school.  One day it will be something like, "Hey! I held a deer's heart today."  Fortunately, Coco's science teacher had forewarned us during Open House.  Her brother is a hunter and supplies her with various organs to use in her classes.
     Other times it is some kind of trivia or factoid.  We talked about the Big Bang theory for a while tonight.  And no, not the TV show.  Although we have talked about that too.  I like that the kids are interested in learning.  I also enjoy the fact that they are the ones initiating the conversations.  They start these conversations with such enthusiasm.  It is really contagious.  The whole family gets involved and each member has something to say.  Everyone contributes.  Isn't that what dinner time is all about?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Happy 40th, Lex!

Welcome to the 40 club.  It's fine really.  No biggie at all.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Padawan

Coco became a trainee today.  He was charged with watching over his cousin, my niece.  They would be eating dinner at our place, then hanging out until bedtime.  Coco would then head upstairs to begin the night time routine.  At 8 PM the teeth brushing starts, followed by the reading of the bed time stories.  Lights out at 8:30 PM.
     The Bug was excited for this all week.  She told her entire preschool class. Repeatedly.  Each day.  She was even more excited when Coco joined us for her skating lesson in the AM.
     Coco passed with flying colors.  He had his to do list.  This included specific orders not to call his Aunt, but to call us, if there were any issues.  He knew we were at his Aunt's for my brother's 40th birthday celebration.  He understood it was a big deal.  Coco called at 8:45 to report that the Bug was sound asleep.  He was tucked into bed when we got home too.  The house was in good order.  I am very proud of him.  He was so responsible.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Thrift Shoppin'

OK.  So it wasn't a thrift shop.  It was Old Navy.  Close though.  Whatever the case, I was jeans shopping for the first time with Caz.  It was a good father/son moment.  I was struggling a bit actually.  Caz is taller than me now, but a lot skinnier.  The dimensions are just so much different.  I know he has no idea.  No help there.
     My first instinct was to put him in the slim fit jeans.  Wrong!  He couldn't pull them past his knees.  Regular fit it was.  He tried on a pair and we hit pay dirt.  So we got two pair.  Then he saw a shirt he liked.  No question asked.  I got it for him.  I mean, he actually took an interest in his clothes.  And they weren't sweat pants or a t-shirt.  I wanted to encourage more of that.  Maybe now he will want to go again.  One can hope, right?

The Sweatshirt

I didn't realize the impact a simple Valentine's Day gift would have.  I got the boys a little something for Valentine's Day.  Actually, the pseudo holiday was just an excuse.  The store next door at work had a cool display of insulated sweatshirts with the logos of the 4 different Boston major sports teams.  Caz needed one because he had lost his other one months ago.  You know...the one he got specifically for this winter.  I thought Coco would get a kick out of a Celtics one.  So I grabbed one for each kid.  Caz got a black Bruins one.
     Coco has not taken his off since.  He sits around the house without a shirt, wearing just the sweatshirt. "I don't want anything between me and the fuzzy lining."  At school, he doesn't take it off, except for gym.  I am thrilled that he loves the sweatshirt.  But I think we are going to have to wash it more....

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Happy Non-Leap Year Birthday, Demi!

It's weird not having an actual birthday.  And do you calculate it?  Technically, you would add a half day to the 28th, since it is half way through the Leap Cycle.  But that takes you into March 1st.  And Demi wasn't born in March.  Odd really.
     I guess that is why we make a whole weekend of it in the off years.  She deserves it.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Baba O'Reilly Part Deux

Happy 13th Birthday, Coco!  Welcome to the Teenage Wasteland!
     I now have a house full of teenagers.  Am I ready for this?  I guess I have to be.  Demi too.
     More hormones.  More body changes.  More rebellion.  I guess that makes Demi and me the Empire.  Well, Empire Strikes Back was the best movie of the trilogy.  So we got that going for us....which is nice...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Teenage Heartbreak

Well, I knew this day would come eventually.  It is one of those watershed moments that shapes our young adult life.  A first break-up.  Caz looks so depressed.  So sad.  As terrible as it is for him, it is heart wrenching for Demi and me.  It is so hard as a parent to see your child in such a state.  I guess I have to take the same advice as I would give Caz:  Time heals all wounds.
     My advantage is that I know this to be true.  Caz has to take my word for it.  Or not.  I doesn't seem like it from his perspective.  I do recall being in his shoes.  It feels like your world is coming to an end.  Love as a teenager knows it is limited.  Of course it is.  Experience is a huge part of all of our feelings.  With such a small sample size, it feels as if your soul has been ripped out and you will never recover.  It is why tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet resonate with audiences so much.  I think we all recall our first loves.  It leaves an impression.  It is an important milestone on our way to adulthood.
     I offered to share my own experience with Caz. He didn't have much interest at the time.  That is OK.  I won't push him.  I want him to know that he can talk to me.  But it is up to him to do so, only when he is ready.  I hope he's comfortable talking to me.  I guess reaching out is the first step, right?  That is all I can do for now.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Operation Teen

Operation Teen was undertaken today.  To celebrate Coco's birthday, he invited a bunch of his friends over, with their masks, airsoft guns, ammunition, and camouflage, to pay "fort" and "capture the flag."  Nothing says "Happy Birthday" like military simulations.  Playing Marine (most kids call it playing "army" but not here.  Not with the son of a Marine).
     It was actually a great day for it.  How many days in a normal February in New England do you get over 50 degree weather?  Sure, there was still a lot of snow on the ground. But the kids adapted.  The insulated themselves so they could lay down in the snow.  They are really great kids.  Very nice. Very polite.  It was really no work to have them all here.  Our kids have done a good job in general picking their friends.  I guess we have taught them pretty well.  It's good reinforcement for Demi and me.
     It's hard to believe we have another teenager.  How did that happen?  And so quickly?  Where did all the time go?    

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's 2014

This wasn't out finest Valentine's day.  Demi was very sick.  As sick as she's been in a long time.  It figures.  Both the boys had plans tonight.  They both had sleepovers.  They were each running with their posses.  It was a very quiet night.
     I am glad the boys have a good circle of friends.  Coco had been at his buddy's since after school.  Caz too, for that matter.  I really wonder if Caz got his girlfriend a card.  Of if he called her.  Or if he did anything to commemorate the day.  I may have to quiz him later.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Another Wall in the Hive

Yep.  I was ready to wall up my teenager in his compartment in the hive.  We were off to an epic family argument.  Well, most of the family.  Mom and Dad against Caz.  Nothing really out of the norm.
     It started the same as most of them do.  Generally, it starts over a little thing.  Then another little thing gets added.  And another.  It snowballs.  It escalates.  Then you have a full blown storm.
     This one started just like the others.  But as Caz started his hissy fit at the dinner table, I ordered him out of the house.  It was close to zero degrees out.  I tried to bundle him up.  He choose to be stubborn.  I told him to grab a shovel and to clean the deck.  He did it.  Not well.  But not poorly.  He did it quickly and efficiently.
     When he came back in, he was much calmer.  Demi and I were much calmer.  Demi more so.  I was still steaming a bit.  Caz apologized.  Demi led the discussion.  After a long talk, things got much better.  He wasn't happy but he followed the rules.  We finished in a much better place than where we had been.  I didn't need to put up the wall after all.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Quality Time With The Boys

This weekend was effective for spending time with my boys.  Even with Caz going to a sleep over last night and hanging out with the same crew the night before last.  He is certainly at that age when he want to be with his friends.  Certainly understandable.  Today, he appreciated that I picked him up in the AM, after the sleepover.  He helped out a bit and has done what he has been asked to do so far.  I was able to spend some time with him this afternoon, doing something he likes to do.  Sure it was XBOX.  Sure it was Call of Duty.  Or COD as the teen lingo goes.  But we had fun.
     Yesterday, I took Coco out on the trails for some snow-shoeing.  We had a nice little trek around Beaver Creek.  It is nice to have this little preserve and it's trails, so close by.  It is easy to take it for granted.  I try not to do that.  I try to take advantage of what is here and impress upon the boys, how lucky we are to live where we do.  Coco had a good time with it.  He suited up with his snow-pants, winter coat, hat, gloves, gaiter, and goggles.  I let him lead the way, so that I could follow behind with the camera.  We had a nice little chat while we were out there.  It was a good way to spend some father/son time.  It also got him moving, doing something physical.  I am pretty sly like that.  Multi-tasking.  A good trait to have, right?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Grab a Shovel

It wasn't exactly the Snowmaggeddon they predicted.  In some ways it was worse.  We got some rain and frozen rain.  But we cleared ourselves out efficiently.  The school administration canceled school last night. The boys knew they were free to stay up late and sleep in.  But I told them to be prepared to shovel. And not just here, but go over next door and help their grandparents.  They were good about it.  They geared up and marched over next door while I set up the snow-blower.  They also cleared out the drain and the fire hydrant.  Then they attacked our stuff.  They did the front walk.  The shoveled a path for Gizmo, with some cut-outs from which she could choose to do her business.  I thought about it, but decided not to push my luck.  I thought they might want to earn some money shoveling out their neighbors.  But I could tell that they did not have that entrepreneurial look in their eyes.  I quite while I was ahead.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ground Hogs Day - 2014

Darn that Puxatawny Phil!
     It should have been obvious that a ground hog seeing his shadow today would be a sign of things to come.  Bad things to come.  Today didn't seem that way initially.  Spin class was great.  But after that?  A lot of unexpected curve balls.  I didn't get half of what I wanted to accomplish done.  Even the Super Bowl was lousy.  So were the commercials overall.  Sure a few were amusing but on the whole they were disappointing.  Then there was the weather forecast.  Snow.  Didn't see that coming.
     The highlight of the day was the fare for the Super Bowl.  I made a beer cheese soup from scratch.  Coco, Demi and I thought it was a hit.  The garlic knots turned out very well.  Lots of garlic butter.  No vampires would dare come anywhere near the place tonight.  The hero sandwiches were great.  Coco chowed down.  He put on a display.  The put down the hero, 5 garlic knots, 8-10 jalapeno poppers, and a bowl of beer cheese soup.
     The Super Bowl was truly about the family tonight.  Even though Caz was not here for the first half, it was a great family night.  I got Caz a very special root beer in a cool bottle.  I got orange cream soda for Coco.  We wrote up some prop bets and everyone had a guess.  We had to time the performance of the national anthem.  We had to wait for the temperature.  We had to wait until the 4th quarter to see which sideline report would be shown first.  Oh, Erin Andrews.....Definitely, the prop bets were the most entertainment of the night.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Term 2 2014

All our fears about Caz going off to high school seem to be being put to rest.  Caz made honor roll.  Better than that, he's done it on his own.  He hasn't had to use his back up homework plan.  I really don't have to check too much that he's done it.  He is staying after on his own.  He is taking responsibility for himself and on his own.  I think we have turned a corner.
     Coco actually had a hiccup.  He made honor roll but he came down in couple of classes.  One was due to homework.  Demi and I took responsibility for part of that.  We take him for granted, that he is so motivated and self sufficient.  But we talked and will be checking on him, the same as Caz.  A learning opportunity for us all.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Snow Day 2014

It's actually warming up a bit today.  It's into the 40's.  The ground is still covered with snow.  The snow is becoming soft though.  Pliable.  Perfect snowball making.
     I put the seed of an idea into the kids heads.  I had seen a really cool snowman/snow sculpture of Jabba the Hutt.  I showed the picture to the kids.
     "We could do that!"
     So we geared up.  Hats. Gloves. Boots.  Snow pants.  We grabbed the shovels.  Coco found the perfect spot.  There is a rock in our front yard that served as the base.  It was right on the corner of the lot, by both streets.  So this had better been good.  We piled up the snow.  Then we shaped.  Coco started the head.  Then Caz had a turn.  After that it was up to yours truly.  I was really hoping that the boys would run with that.  Ah, well.
     Coco and I were out there for 2 and half hours.  Gizmo and Demi came out to admire it after we were done.  I had thought it came out well.  Gizmo wasn't as much as a fan.  She peed on it.....

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Deep Freeze

Talk about hibernation.  It's in the single digits for temperature.  Sunset is still early, so there is not a plethora of daylight.  You can see why the winter blues may set in.
     The boys are lethargic.  They don't want to do much of anything.  They sleep in, Caz much more so than Coco.  They don't want to go out.  They don't want to call their friends.  They need some motivation.  Sure you can be a lump once in a while.  But it's getting to be a weekend routine.  Enough.  Time to light a fire under their butts.  Plenty of shoveling to do.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winter of Coco

"My legs hurt!"
     Now imagine that with some whine and a pretty good acting job.  I am sure he was very sore, but Coco was playing it up.
     "I can't move!" with the ooooohhhh in move really extended.  Like a ghost haunting a house.
     Coco had done some squats the previous day during his strength and conditioning program.  It's really the only exercise he is getting these days.  I don't think he even has gym this semester.  He tries to spend his free time watching SportsCenter.  He will read with it on, while he lies on the couch.  Demi and I both remarked that his muscles were likely reacting to having been close to atrophy.  Just like Costanza.
     Instead of caving or coddling, we gave him stretching exercises.  We gave him Epsom salts for a bath.  And we gave him instructions on using The Stick and the roller.  All self serving help.