Rest in Peace Mom

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On July 15th, 2014, Susan Marie LaMontagne ended her courageous battle with cancer. She was surrounded by her family who will proudly carry her spirit with them. We will cherish her life, her strength, and the lessons she taught as her legacy.

Susan was a loving daughter, mother, and grandmother. She drove her husband, Gerald J. LaMontagne, Sr. crazy for 52 years, a testament to their love for each other.

Those fortunate to have known her will remember her love of teaching and commitment to family. We are thankful to have had her in our lives. She will be missed.

To honor her wishes, there will be no services. In lieu of flowers, please support a charity close to her heart. Kiva.org is a non-profit organization that supports entrepreneurs worldwide who wish to begin small business ventures.

Donations can be forwarded in her name to:

Conversational Threads
Attn: Cindy Fitzpatrick
6 South 4th Street
Emmaus, PA 18049

Another Bloom

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My red obesum bloomed as well.  Mom always enjoyed them.

For Mom

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The first bloom of the Summer this year.

This Summer’s Project

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It’s been awhile since the kids have accompanied me for a grocery shopping trip.  Frankly, its easier for me to do it while they’re at school.  Anything I can do to minimize the time spent in the grocery store is worth it.

Today, though, they both accompanied me.  Neither of them would let me push the shopping cart.  This seemed fine initially…

…until both had driven up my heels several times each. Grrrr.

Thus, my Summer project has now been determined.  They will learn how to pay attention to what the hell is going on around them with a grocery cart even if I have to have reconstructive heel surgery by Summer’s end.

LDoS

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The kids were rather subdued this morning.  Probably wondering what the point is of going in today.  The teachers pretty much mailed it in on Monday.  Plus, today’s only a half-day.  So basically, we’ve got a 3rd and 5th grader on our hands.

They should be happy when they get off the bus in 10 minutes or so.

Happy Father’s Day

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On the left, the boy’s handmade card and “The Maze Runner” series of books.  He wants to read that series soon, but it needs to be pre read to make sure it’s age appropriate.

On the right, a water bottle full of mixed nuts along with the lass’ handmade card.  What Dad doesn’t like mixed nuts?  The water bottle will come in handy during karate classes.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there.

The Boy in Crisis

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The boy experienced the extreme emotions of the thrill of accomplishment and the agony of big mistakes. Unfortunately, the big mistake happened after the thrill of accomplishment and that’s the foot his school day got off on.

Did I mention this happened over a game? Clash of Clans to be precise.

It all started with a seemingly innocent offer. I told the boy he could check on his village and play for 15 minutes this morning. The nice thing about the game is you don’t need to sit in front of it for hours and hours. A few minutes spent at a time can be sufficient to keep your position in the game moving steadily forward.

He started playing and immediately went on a raid for his Clan. He won the raid easily and earned a bunch of stars for his Clan. This is a status marker within the game and he was rewarded with 50 gems for his efforts. This was his thrill of accomplishment moment.

I headed up to take a shower. Several minutes later, the Wife appeared and said the boy was hysterical because something had happened to his gems. She had brought the iPod, as a safety precaution, and in the background I could hear the wailing and lamentations of the boy.

First, a word about gems in CoC.

Arguably, they are the most precious resource in the game. They can be earned, in small amounts, through completing different achievements in the game. They can also be purchased via actual money on a credit card. The game is a timer based game. Everything takes time to be built and upgraded. Gems allow the timers to be shortcut, so if a defensive unit typically takes a day to build, it can be built immediately for some number of gems. Gems also are the only way to get builders, arguably the most important character in the game. The builders are used to create a village and upgrade its parts as a player advances in level. Everyone starts with 2 builders, but another can be had for 500 gems. Having more builders means being able to advance more quickly through the game.

Alright, back to the boy.

My own play had convinced the boy to start working towards getting a 3rd builder. Prior to my participation in the game, he had been spending his gems to complete building projects more quickly. Now, he was saving them for a 3rd builder.

The boy mistakenly traded 150 of his gems for gold this morning. I’m not entirely sure of the sequence, but it was a bungle on his part that cost him all of the bonus gems he’d gotten earlier and then some.

This being a completely unimportant video game and all, the boy was completely inconsolable. His initial reaction was tears. Lots and lots of tears. And screaming too, as well as not a little bit of wailing. There was probably gnashing of teeth. You know, the full gamut.

This crisis occurred 15 minutes before school, which is not nearly enough to to allow the strong emotions associated with such a momentous event to run their course. He was still in tears when I finally loaded them into the car and he was stewing in a nasty fury when he got out of the car to head into the school.

Hoping to try and break his fever, I told him “Your friends won’t be impressed when you get in there. Don’t make things worse by making another mistake that’s more costly than the one you made in a game.”

I’ve been in his shoes before. Both when the trigger was something completely stupid like a video game and when it’s been something far more significant. I’ve had that response of fury at myself for making the mistake. It’s the confusion created as the mind tries to come to grips with the fact that it’s a mistake that cannot be undone. I know the “self-immolation” that goes on as you try to figure out how such a thing could have come to pass. I also know that all the consoling in the world will not convince him that the game is not that important. Simply put, it was important to him and his emotions need to run their course.

Thus, the tact the Wife and I took was to merely to try and contain him and to keep him from doing something he would find even more regrettable. Thankfully, the lass knew better than to try and chip in and she politely kept her distance from her distraught brother. We didn’t try to tell him it was no big deal, though we did try to emphasize it was only a game. For the most part, considering the raging emotions he was dealing with, he allowed better judgement to prevail, the occasional door slam not withstanding.

The temptation to repurchase the gems for him is strong. They are not that expensive (~$5 for 250 if memory serves). But that would undermine the larger lessons available. Being a parent sometimes requires us to fix things. Other times, it requires a life lesson to play out and we can just hope that he learns the right things from it.

Being the Bad Guy

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We had a really nice evening, the kids and I. Putting them to bed was an entirely different matter.

With the lass at dance, the boy only had a couple of things we wanted him to do. One was to study his spelling words. The other was to put aways laundry. Given those two things, he was allowed to play Clash of Clans for awhile. Not all of the laundry was done and it was taking forever to dry the towels. So he put away his clothes that were folded, studied his spelling and then I let him play his game.

He and I discussed different strategies and how we liked to approach different aspects of the game. He liked to completely destroy other villages. I like to raid them for loot so I can afford to upgrade my own village. He likes to attack one way, I like to attack a different way. Mostly, I think he enjoys having the game in common with me as something to share.

We picked up his sister and came home to have a little dinner. The lass helped by getting the silverware and dishes out for dinner and the boy finished playing his game. After dinner, the lass cleaned up while the boy learned how to fold towels. I was able to put the final load of laundry in the dryer.

We played a couple of games and I let them turn on an episode of Scooby Doo on Netflix. While the watched that, I kept tabs on the clothes in the dryer. Things timed out reasonably well with their episode ending and the clothes completed drying right around their bed time. I sent them both upstairs with folded clothes to put away. Then, it was in to bed.

I could hear them yelling at one another from downstairs. The lass screamed at one point and someone either kicked or threw the laundry basket. After the past 2 weeks where every morning we have to listen to them snipe at one another, I’d had enough. I went upstairs and informed them they had both lost game privileges for tomorrow. The boy would not be playing Clash of Clans and the lass would not be allowed on the computer. I informed them I was tired of their inability to control themselves and their mouths and they were going to start paying for it.

That was bad guy, Part 1.

Bad guy, Part 2 was much worse and arrived only a couple minutes later.

After I went back downstairs, my expectation was they would finish putting their clothes away and get into bed without any more incidents. It wasn’t more than a minute later that the screaming and sniping started anew.

I didn’t go flying off the handle, but I was more than a little upset by the time I got back upstairs. To make sure I got their attention, I kicked the laundry basket. I then stated my disbelief at how I could have just punished them both for the exact same behavior they were currently engaging in. I stormed through one room and then the other. I went on for a few minutes and ended with the dire warning “God help you both if you do this tomorrow morning…” By the time I’d finished, both of them were sniffling and trying to hide tears.

On the one hand, I hate doing that. I take no pleasure in the yelling. I take no pleasure in punishing them. Every time I’ve done it, I replay the whole thing in my head wondering if my actions fit their crime. Tonight was no different. I’m still doing it as I write this post.

On the other hand, I firmly believe there are moments where a clear point has to be made. Where a line has to be drawn with florescent marker so they know the time has come that they have to start accounting for their behavior, and change it.

Sometimes, that requires a bad guy.

The Boy’s JBB

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Technically, the boy earned his Junior Black Belt a couple of weeks prior to Friday. Friday was the day he was officially granted the belt, though.

He was rightfully proud of the achievement. Four years of training, patience, and not a little frustration finally culminated in a moment he’d been seeking.

The instructors hold a graduation for all students whom earn a new belt. This particular graduation was “The Junior Black Belt Show” as there were 4 new JBB’s including the boy in addition to all the other graduates. It was a nice chance to showcase to the lower belts what they had to look forward to as well as allowing the JBB’s to shine in front of the lower belt levels. There was a pretty clear contrast in the abilities and I’m sure the instructors were pleased to see it. It’s one thing to tell a kid “stick with it and you’ll get there,” it’s another to actually show them the money, so to speak.

When it was done, the instructors already started planting the seeds for the next level of achievement. They challenged the boy to become a better sparrer as he works his way through the remaining full black belt curriculum.

He’s managed this far. I’ve little doubt he’ll be up for the remainder of the challenge.

This is Awesome

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In general, I think bad stuff associated with the NFL gets a lot of press, whereas genuinely good things get lost in the shuffle.

Courtesy of ProFootballTalk, here is a great story involving the Saints and a molecular biologist from Tulane.

More stuff like this please.

Joining the Teeming Clans

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The boy and his friends have become invested in Clash of Clans.  I won’t say it’s the latest mobile game to take the world by storm, but it’s definitely popular.

I’d avoided it myself for my usual reasons- I can’t play video games casually.  It’s basically an addiction thing for me.

I blame the father at karate a couple nights ago.  When it was seemed it was just the kids, I was able to shrug it off.  But seeing him playing it and talking with him about it made it too tempting for me to resist.

The boy was excited to see me playing, for his part.  He’s been full of advice and suggestions ever since.  The only thing that stopped him was going to school.

I’m tempted to say nothing good can come of this.  But we shall see.  Having something silly in common with your kids isn’t a bad thing to have.

Pool Is Open

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Well, sort of.

I took the winter cover off a while ago, but hadn’t been in a hurry to fill the pool since the weather was still cool.  Now that Spring and even some Summer weather seems to have arrived, I’ve been slowly filling it an inch or so a day for the past week, out of respect for our well.  A bonus heavy rain last night put us over the top for today.

The water had also started clouding up, a sure sign that the temperature had reached the point where algae growth was possible.  So I got the filter running today and shocked with liquid chlorine.  I’ll be hitting it again tonight with another round of chlorine and then take the water for a test tomorrow.

The kids wanted to get in there today.  I told them as soon as the water was clean, they had the go ahead to go in regardless of temperature.  They’ll probably be in by the end of the week.

“No” Inflation

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This is a 30 ounce jar of Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise.  It cost me $5.29 today.

This is noteworthy because its the first time in awhile I’ve had to purchase mayo.  The last time I purchased it, I’m pretty sure I got 36 ounces for the same price.  In fact, I vaguely recall even larger quantities prior to that.

It’s just like ice cream, where $5 used to get you a full half gallon and now can get you 1.5 quarts.  Remember that when the “experts” talk about “no inflation.”

Chicken Pizza

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How ’bout a meal?

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This is a chicken pizza I we make.  The Wife found the recipe in one of her magazines.  The toppings consist of chicken, mozzarella, cheddar, salsa and guacamole.  The crust is my own, an awesome thin crust- a recipe is over on the side there under the bread category.

The chicken is seasoned and grilled prior to cutting it up and placing it on the pizza.  The seasoning consists of 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp onion powder, 1/2 tbsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/2 tsp cayenne.

The basic process is make the dough and split it in half to make 2 crusts.  Spread the dough on cookie sheets and cook it at 450 for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, make sure the chicken is grilled up and also whip up some guacamole.  When the crust is done par cooking, pull it out and sprinkle cheddar cheese on it, followed by the cubed chicken and finally a layer of mozarrella.  Put it back in the oven until the cheese begins to brown.

Spread the salsa on it, followed by the guacamole.  Finally, sprinkle a little fresh cilantro on top.  Serve with sour cream.

Enjoy.

The BSA Still Has A Way to Go

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Despite the BSA’s change that allows gay Scouts to participate as a Scout, they still have a way to go before completing the transition.  I know Scouting is on the decline and decisions like this will only continue to hurt their efforts.

Snow

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Yep, halfway through April and we got a combo of snow and sleet at the tail end if the rain that came through last night.  It’s 30 outside right now as well.

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Skies are clearing now and it looks like it will be a heck of a nice day.  Snow wan’t last long.

Pool’s Open

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Well, sort of.

Mainly, I wanted the cover off because I was concerned something might have been damaged during the winter freeze.  There were quite a few pops and pings on the coldest nights and then, when things finally started thawing, I had a steady trickle of water from the skimmer.

Which made no sense, since there is a plate on the inside covering the skimmer opening; the skimmer itself was covered by the winter cover and finally, I’d drained the pool well below skimmer level.  So why was water coming out of it?

Given all that, I was a bit anxious to get the cover off and see what the deal was.

Thankfully, nothing seems to have happened.  No leaks, no damage anywhere.  Just one very large block of ice.  Give it another week or two and I’ll be able to hook up the filter and we’ll be in business.

There’s Bird Seed in My Boots

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This wasn’t the only thing the kids filled with bird seed.  Even though they filled the feeder this weekend, I only discovered my boots were full of it today as I was readying myself for a hike with my Cub Scout Den.

The best thing is, when I ask them how my boots got full of birdseed, I already know their answer.

“I don’t know- but it wasn’t me.”

UCONN 2 for 2

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Not terribly unique, but it’s the second time they’ve managed this feat. The men beat Kentucky last night in a close one, while the women blew out Notre Dame tonight. Congrats to both squads.

Today’s Project

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Our previous Weber gas grill has served us well for almost 15 years.  They weren’t 15 easy ones either.  It’s completely exposed to the elements.  Many times the cover was left off, including the entirety of this past Winter.  I like to think of it as well-seasoned.

When the grease pan on the bottom finally rotted out and fell off from rust, it was pretty obviously time for a new grill.  It’s not like we don’t get lots of use out of it.  Hopefully, this new one will serve us as well as its predecessor.

UPDATE:

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Here it is, all assembled. The boy helped me put it together. Using a socket wrench flummoxed him for a bit, but he got plenty of practice and I was in no hurry. I find that’s important, that there be no timetable, when he helps. It’s more for me than him. When time is pressing, I tend to take over and he just sits and watches. Today, I sat back and let him figure things out and also offered little hints where I could. My main job was to make sure he finished the job.

Anyway, it’s a handsome enough contraption. Hopefully it cooks as good as it looks.

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