Monday, August 25, 2008

If this van's a rockin'.........

As I've mentioned previously, we've had lots of opportunity for road trips in the new minivan this summer and have have fallen into a nice routine of blasting rock n' roll. Either of the kids will at anytime request loud music to "rock out" (their words, not mine). I tell you, I thought the arguments over volume level of music wasn't going to commence until they were at least in middle school. Not so....

"Turn it up dadda, I want it loud!"
"No, it's loud enough"
"But I want to rock out, I can't hear it good!"

Quick side story--A few months ago, we heard some banging footsteps coming from Baxter's room about an hour after bedtime. He has one of those cheap little ipod docking station radios where he listens to soothing music at bedtime, mostly James Taylor. Jennie walked in to find Bax dancing. When asked what was going on, he answered, "Well, I heard "Beat It" on the radio so I had to get up and dance". It turned out that Jennie mistakenly cued up a play list that had Michael Jackson's greatest hits after JT.

Back to the van---Jennie is a fan of Nickelback, perhaps because their style is a bit of a throwback to our heyday in the late 80's with big hair rocker bands. We were traveling down to the farmers market on Saturday morning (nice piece of irony, farmer's markets and hard rock don't usually go together). We had the ipod plugged in, volume turned up to 11 (shameless Spinal Tap plug), and "Rockstar" blasting away. All 4 heads in the van were bobbing, the windows were down and we were stopped at a stop light near UVM, which was receiving the latest batch of freshman students (do they still call them freshman? Seems sexist..). I started to chuckle at what our traffic neighbors must think of us. Either they were questioning our parenting skills and calling SRS on their cells or mocking us ("dude, you are in a minivan!). Yeah, but it's a minivan with a spoiler!

lipstick on a pig (THIS DOES NOT REFER TO MY SON!)

The kids recently discovered Jennie's make-up bag, which is impressive because Jennie herself rarely finds it. I'm not complaining, in fact I have a rather negative opinion regarding makeup. The title of this post is a favorite saying of mine and is used when a ugly or messy situation is artificially(poorly) remedied with cheap cosmetic changes. I think what you are saying when you wear make-up is that your own natural skin/face can't stand on it's feet without the crutch of clown paint, markers and colored dust. So when Baxter & Paige recently came downstairs with lipstick and eyeliner on, I had two reactions: 1: they're playing and having a good time, thus this is not a problem and 2: Am I being a good dad to let them dabble in something that I find repulsive? They will all too soon face the challenges of looking the part in a world filled with pressure from marketers saying they need to buy something to make them better people. Baxter got into the makeup again yesterday and asked the question, "Do I look pretty?" We played along but I stated that I love the look of their clean skin most of all. Still, it's kinda funny...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ode to summer's end

Continuing in the theme of "goodbye summer", we made what was most likely our last trip to the blueberry farm for 2008 last night. We frequent a place called Owls Head Blueberry farm in Richmond, VT, which features musical acts on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the picking season. The kids do a passable job of picking, Baxter on occasion has filled a quart, while Paige only picks enough to fill her belly (and not her basket). Last night, were greeted at the gate with a petition that supports the farms use of integrated pest management. It boils down to this: the birds want the berries and the owners need to stop the birds so they have something for us to pick each year. The local press recently highlighted a dispute between the farm and it's neighbors who are complaining about one device used in the battle against the birds. They use a propane fired cannon, which immediately reminded me Caddyshack and Bill Murray's overhanded attempt to rid the golf course of gophers. Then I quickly learned that cannon only shoots noise, not cannon balls. I read the article over breakfast this week and Baxter was all ears when I mentioned cannon, birds and blueberries. I think he initially thought they were shooting the birds with blueberry cannons. Last night near the petition table was the cannon, all plugged into a propane tank and looking for bird vermin. My opinion of this is in a similiar vein of the "living near the airport" complaint. If you buy a house near a airport (farm), you lose the right to complain when airplane's (normal farming operations) bother you. We live very close to the airport and the F-18's create some unbelievable noise, rendering any activity involving your ears impossible until they leave the zip code. This looks like complaining, which I'm not. As long as I'm not on the phone, I'm amazed at the power these machines generate.
Back to blueberries-the kind owners of the farm provide 2 portapotties for customer use on site. We were on our way past said potties when Paige started a funny little conversation.
"I smell poop!"
"Really? You smell poop?"
"Yeaaahhhh...........maybe cow poop?"

This is a recent development for her and is another Cosby-ish example of how kids say the darndest things. The only drawback is if you are the perpetrator of said poop smell and she outs you in public. Sometimes, on the extremely rare occasion that the smell is coming from me, she'll chastise me about being a big boy and that big boys should go poop on the potty. If it's not you, then just sit back and enjoy the comedy. On the way home, she struck again
"I smell poop!"
Baxter replied, "It's just me Paige, I tooted."
I wonder if potty humor will ever get old.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Seasons change

I often describe our friendly little neighborhood by asking people if they've seen the movie Pleasantville. I don't mean in a creepy, sanitary, lacking of individuality way, but more along the lines of quiet streets filled with friendly neighbors, impromptu chats in the street or someone's driveway. One other example drives up and down the streets on Tuesday evenings, ringing a little bell that can only mean one thing: Ice Cream!! The ice cream lady announced this week that she would be back for only 2 more weeks before shutting down the scooter for the winter, which means summer is almost finished. We've had other signs, like 50 degree air temperature by 10pm and not being able to sit outside with the paper at 6am, and the tomato plants showing signs of aging. We'll be ok though, fall brings apple picking, awesome leaf peeping and homemade soups from locally grown squashes. Here's a few fleeting images of summer before we get to the next season.

Monday, August 18, 2008

But it's a good kind of pain...

This is slightly off target for I'm not a manny, but significant enough to be posted. I recently participated in a truly interesting athletic event right here in Vermont. It's called the 100on100 road race, a long distance relay that covers 100 miles on Rt. 100. I was 1/6 of a team of runners, mostly comprised of St. Lawrence University alumni. The lone dissenter was a Rochester grad, but we gladly let it slide because she was lovely company and solid runner to boot. All in all, SLU alum were part of 4 separate teams in the race, showing once again that SLU runners are in this for life and we mean business.
The weekend started out Friday night when Dwight Raby, a fellow teammate and class of '96 graduate arrived at our house for dinner. Dwight flew in from Georgia, showing his world-class commitment to our objectives of simply fielding a full team. Several more runners arrived a few hours later, with the last coming in on a delayed flight from Philadelphia, which arrived painfully at 2am in Burlington.
Saturday morning, we were off to the starting line at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe at 7:45am. The organizers collect estimated pace times for all teams and stagger the starting times accordingly, so that the gracious volunteers who support the race are not stretched all over the course for 14 hours. Our team was to start at 10am, and finish roughly around 8:30pm. I'm not sure what I was thinking 6 weeks ago, because I gave them a 6:20 pace time/mile, which is a little exaggerated (we decided to use aggressive instead of exaggerated for the remainder the day) Our team roster and order of legs was as follows :Amy Farrell (she of top-notch speed and endurance, clearly in the "good people" category and most importantly, Ruby's mom), Peter Cutler of Norwood-Norfolk fame( he's fit, fast, funny and a college coach), Becky Dwyer (the previously mentioned UR grad and our official on-staff physician for the race), myself (nothing to add here), Dwight Raby (the georgian musician whose claim to fame is getting smoked in a song-writer contest by John Mayer) and last but not least, Chris "Sammy" Wilcox (our captain and unofficially, SLU's greatest alum).
The race kicked off from Trapp and we soon found ourselves as the last team on the course. Not necessarily the slowest mind you as I mentioned the staggered starts, but still the last. Our motto for the first cycle of runners was "don't stress the support team!" The organizers explain that if you fall significantly off your predicted pace, they will move a team up along the course with the van and adjust the total time accordingly and most importantly, said team is no longer eligible for awards. I should explain a little bit more about the structure of the race. Teams of 6, taking turns or "legs", each member running 3 separate legs over the course of 100 miles. Each leg is a different distance, the shortest being 2.5 miles, the longest being 7.3. For example, I was the 4th runner, I didn't take my 1st run until about 11:45. I then would wait until my turn came around again or in this case, started my 2nd run at around 3:45 and my last started at 7:50pm.
In between legs, we would cheer our runner at the moment, provide water along the course and knosh on whatever food we decided would supply all-important nutrition but not make us sick while running (mostly GU's, powerbars, gatorade, bagels with PB and J and twizzlers. We finally started catching teams at around the 50 mile mark and then it was on! Spotting slower runners while driving the support van, we would shout encouragement to our runner along the likes of,
"Run like you stole something!"
"Low hanging fruit coming up!"
"Don't stress the support team" (our favorite)

I took a couple of breaks after runs to soak in an icy cold stream that ran along parts of Rt100, which was very helpful once I got past the creepiness getting bumped into by fish and eels.

We finished around 9:30pm, tired, sore and happy to be done. Food was supplied (real food, not the athletic bird food we ate for 11 hours) I was able to catch a ride home with some friends and was finally taking a much-needed shower at 1:30am back home. The last 36 hours have been very achy and sleepy, but I'm getting slowly better. I mentioned to Paige yesterday morning that I couldn't carry her down the stairs because my legs were hurting. She planted a kiss on my thigh and declared that I was" all better"! Not quite, but I certainly appreciated her sweetness.
All in all, it was a completely awesome event, I recommend anyone needing to run 16-18 miles in one day to give it a try sometime. I ran 15.9 miles in a total time of 1 hour, 46 minutes and 11 seconds and it may take me 15.9 days to completely heal, but I'll be anxiously awaiting the next race once the recovery is complete.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

800 miles of fun:The official van stamp of approval...

Just got back from a whirlwind, week long tour of upstate NY -for years I've disagreed with most southern NYorkers on this term. Most folks near the big apple refer to anything north of the Poughkeepsie-ish area as being "upstate", while I, with an origin 15 minutes south of the Canadian border, thought upstate started in Lake Placid and went north. It's simple folks, just look at a map, upstate would refer to the top.
We started out on Saturday morning, after a rambling stuffing of the van with everything from the attic and headed west to Malone for a visit to the county fair in an effort to cinch the parent of the year award by submitting our 2 and 4 year old (almost) to the demolition derby. It started out being pretty cool, but quickly reached a toxic state of burnt rubber, oil and metal, not to mention deafening ear pollution.

We then searched for fair rides that both kids could ride on, Paige with her dad's short genes prohibiting her participation on several of Baxter's choices. The Ferris wheel was a hit, we got a ride all by ourselves.

Next, it was off to Star Lake and G'ma L's cabin. Great fun all around, Jen and I took the kids on a paddle boat ride around the lake, showing them all the cool secret passageways. Tuesday was a picture perfect day, gorgeous sun, plenty of swimming on the new swim float.

Left Star Lake on Wed. @ noon for Skaneateles, NY, a cute little Finger Lakes town where Jen's Grandmother, Aunt and Uncle live. We stayed in a B&B in town, neat old house (c. 1805) and toured the town and lake. With some irritating irony, we choose to stay in the B&B because Grandma T's house has cats and some smoke, and we were worried about fits of asthma for both Jen and Baxter. Well, the B&B happened to have some cats (mostly outside, but probably inside during the harsh winters) and the man of the house did some smoking as well. from now on, we ask about cats and smoking when choosing a place to lay our heads while on a trip.

Friday at noon, back to Malone for more fair fun. Saturday night, we were shakin with the Money man. That's right, Eddie Money. We being delightfully surprised as we age,our home town fair brings in acts that we grew up with and thus, have a little cheap fun during the summer on a visit home. Last year it was Loverboy, this year Money. The old hits were played and they sounded the same as they did 20 years ago. His 20 year old daughter, Jessie who didn't win(lost) on the Rock the Cradle reality show this past year is on tour with him and she sang a few songs. She wasn't bad, decent voice but some immature stage dancing (nothing inappropriate,, just silly looking). The Money man sang a few songs from a charity CD and the Malone folks got pretty restless. We overheard one funny exchange from behind us:
(Woman) " Look at all the people leaving!"
(Man) "Well they should, 'cause he sucks!"
The trip to Malone also allowed us to visit with cousin/niece Emma (my brother and his wife were also there but they know their place;) Paige and Baxter really like her and they all seem to play nicely together.

By Sunday morning, we were ready to head for VT and home. The kids have fallen back into their routines and so have we. I have a big race this weekend, the 100on100 6 person relay from Waitsfield to Killington. ( Hope I still have legs at this time next week!