100th Post Already?

Eight months ago I was told that I was a good storyteller and that I should start a blog, talking about my kids and the challenges of  raising a teenager and a toddler at the same time. The idea intrigued me enough that I began jotting down notes. One hundred posts later, here we are. Some of what I’ve written I’m more proud of than others, but hopefully there haven’t been many total stinkers.

It’s amazing how much has changed in that time. The teenager just celebrated her four month anniversary with her boyfriend, who so far has done an admirable job of not ticking me off. She seems to be doing well in her new school, which has been blessedly devoid of drama that I’m aware of. I’d like her to spend more time at home and less on Facebook while she is at school, which she still doesn’t understand, but she seems happier and better adjusted than when I started, so we don’t push.

The mini has changed dramatically of course. Trips to the dentist or out to lunch that once made us proud are now commonplace. She’s in her second year of preschool and continues to be a source of amusement for anybody she comes into contact with. I’ve never seen a more talkative, outgoing four year old. She surprises and amazes me daily.

The blog itself hasn’t changed very much. I write less than I did at the beginning, but the individual posts are generally longer, and I hope a little more interesting. I’ve found my writing voice to be far less sarcastic and snarky than I would have guessed, which I think has surprised others that know me also. Some probably just think I’m FOS. There has been much less “this is why my kids make me drink,” and more “this is why I’m proud of my kids” than I would have thought.

Besides the kids I’ve written about weekends away with the wife, shared a video of myself  dancing for charity, and gave my impressions of the Ant Man movie. My opinions about an African lion cost me a surprising number of readers, but if you think that will dissuade me from commenting on current events in the future then you haven’t been paying attention.

As always, thank you for stopping by and giving me a few minutes of your time.

Cheers

cheers

 

 

 

 

 

Storming the Castle

One of the things that never ceases to fascinate me about my daughter is how imaginative she can be.  After a particularly full day of adventuring with daddy this past weekend, Alaina found herself faced with a somewhat lenghty car ride home. Instead of nodding off like I had hoped she would, she promptly untied her shoes and began playing. I didn’t fully understand everything that the two shoelaces were saying to each other, but it seemed like they were getting along  fairly well, fortunate since they spend so much time in such close proximity. I found it to be an inspired bit of improvisation.

We were on our way home from Gillette Castle state park in East Haddam, Connecticut, an exciting sounding trip that I had been afraid she might find disappointing. Several times this past summer we had left the house with that as our destination, only to end up someplace else.

Calling the building a “castle” is a pretty liberal interpretation of the word. “Pretty cool big stone house” would be much more accurate. Built in 1919 by eccentric actor William Gillette, the twenty-four room mansion is built of local fieldstone, but with a hidden steel framework. It’s full of oddities such as a secret room, a movable table on tracks, and a series of mirrors that allowed Gillette to keep an eye on guests from his bedroom.

I explained to her that this wouldn’t be a “princess castle” like she was used to seeing on television, but she was still barely able to control her excitement when we pulled in and she got her first look.

 

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It’s easy to forget sometimes that to her, everything is new and exciting. The small museum and tour of the interior didn’t hold her interest for long, but with 200 acres of trails and gardens surrounding the house there was plenty to keep us occupied.

 

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Time was spent on the balcony overlooking the Connecticut river, scanning the horizon for incoming dragons and fighting off any that came too close.

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We also made sure to visit the ogres in the dungeon and set them all free. Apparently they were nice ogres, just misunderstood.

 

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I can’t say that we didn’t receive more than a few amused looks as we ran around with our stick swords, but I can say that neither of us gave a whit. How awesome must it be to be able to go on exciting adventures with nothing more than an imagination and something to kick start the trip? How awesome is it that I get to tag along?

 

 

 

 

The Monster Store

I don’t understand how this got approved or how I missed the announcement, but apparently September was only a week long this year. I would have sworn that August just ended, but somehow here we sit a week into October already. This confuses me.

It’s certainly not because I have anything against October. I actually really like this month. Its the last hurrah before my birthday and the cold weather that shuts us in for the rest of the year.

It’s also the month of Halloween. Three things that we are big fans of in this household are horror movies, dressing up in costume, and mini kit-kats. We don’t actually confine any of those things strictly to October, but the fact that we can leave the house a few times dressed as cowboys without attracting stares is nice.

 

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We can also resume out trips to “The Monster Store”,  Alaina’s name for the seasonable Halloween shop that takes over a nearby empty storefront every year. Located directly on the way to school it is unavoidable without taking a lengthy detour.

The front half of the store is a children’s paradise. A fantasy world of princess dresses, superhero masks, and plastic pirate swords. Last year Alaina ended the month with four different costumes, an expense only justifiable because she wears them year round. This Sully costume was never worn trick or treating but became weekend apparel all winter long. The picture is from the middle of November.

 

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The back of the store is another story. It’s a dark, creepy land of smoke machines, animatronic skeletons, and all the masks and decorations that should have her sleeping in our bed until spring. Instead it’s the reason she was so excited to see the sign go back up and the reason she wants to stop there every day.

It’s not that she isn’t scared. Most of it scares the living crap out of her, especially the things that unexpectedly shriek and jump out at her.  Her vertical leap in these situations is worthy of Olympic consideration. Last year we only made it through the front door on about half of the occasions she begged me to go. I’m acutely conscious of the judgmental looks I get from both employees and other patrons.

I try and placate her by browsing department store displays, but it’s not the same. She’s not interested in rubber bats or cardboard witches. She wants to see the monsters. I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline rush she’s chasing or just a stubborn refusal to let herself be afraid.

It’s also possible my kid is just a little bit weird.

 

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The Plain View Doctrine

As the teenager continues to spend more and more of her time with the boyfriend and not at home, one rule that continues to be in effect is that her room needs to be clean before she is allowed to go anywhere. What constitutes being called “clean” doesn’t exactly meet the minimum standards usually associated with the word, but this enables us to continue thinking that we are in charge and sticking to our rules. With teenagers it is often necessary to celebrate small victories.

Enforcement means occasionally  entering her room, usually just a few steps and a quick scan. As long as her clothes are in manageable piles, the garbage isn’t overflowing, and I’m not attacked by any wild animals I’ll grit my teeth and stamp it approved.

Other days I linger a little longer.

Police officers use something called “The Plain View Doctrine” when they are legally present in an area and observe and recognize something as contraband or evidence to another crime. The idea is that even though a warrant is required to search an area protected by the fourth amendment, evidence found inadvertently in the course of other action should still be admissible as evidence.

Officers must be in the area either with warrent, consent, or while responding to an emergent situation. Nothing can be moved to facilitate an item coming into “plain view” and they must immediately recognize the item as something of interest.

I try and hold to similar procedures regarding Kayla’s room. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for me to be in there, whether it’s collecting empty water glasses, searching for her little sister, or investigating suspicious odors. Drawers aren’t opened, pockets aren’t checked, whatever mysteries her closet holds remain unsolved.  An open journal is brutally tempting, but I resist.

Restaint is made much easier by a lack of probable cause. She is a good kid and deserves to be treated as such. When I was her age I had a box in the woods full of apple schnapps, stolen cigarettes, and Hustler magazines. I have no reason to suspect that she has a similar box under her bed so I don’t go looking for one.

Every effort is made to try and preserve her privacy, while also acknowledging that this privacy is maintained at the discretion of the court. A court that consists of two judges named Mom and Dad.

It’s a lot easier when you can issue your own warrants.

 

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J


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A Father’s Sacrifice

According to estimates, 45% of American marriages are “interfaith” relationships, up from 20% in the 1960s. These numbers are mainly due to an increase in people who are choosing not to affiliate with any organized religion. Removing the secular aspect, 22% of couples are partners who actively practice different faiths. It can be a very difficult situation to overcome, particularly when it comes to celebrating faith based holidays.

A similar source of contention resides in our household. Living about an hour south of Boston, my wife and I both identify as fans of the Boston Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins. The teenager is disappointingly uninterested in sports, but the little one seems to enjoy watching, and is being raised accordingly.

 

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Where we diverge is our football teams. The first Super Bowl I remember watching was in 1982, a victory for the Washington Redskins over the Miami Dolphins. In 1984, led by league MVP Dan Marino, the Dolphins returned to the championship game, this time getting crushed by the San Francisco 49ers. They were fun to watch, seemed headed for future success, and became the first professional sports team that I began following.

The following year the Dolphins again appeared headed back to the Super Bowl, only to be upset by the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, the last time that they advanced that far. As I got older and more invested in other sports I stuck with regional teams, but my allegiance to the Dolphins and hatred of the Patriots remained intact.

If you haven’t guessed already, my wife is a fan of the New England Patriots.

For the past ten years the Dolphins have been terrible, the lone bright spot a brief playoff appearance in 2008. By contrast the Patriots have become one of the most successful teams in NFL history, winning four of the six Super Bowls they have appeared in since 2001. As far as rivalries go, its been remarkably one sided.

This morning, after much soul searching and aided by another humiliating Miami loss I have finally capitulated. The war is over, my wife has won. I love my daughter too much to subject her to years of having to explain why she roots for an out of town team. Years of spending Sunday afternoons sobbing quietly while her mother celebrates another win.

Alaina will be raised as a Patriots fan.

*sniff*

 

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Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms