Archive for March, 2014

Always

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The Wife asked the lass to vacuum the downstairs. The lass rather pungently replied “How come I always vacuum he downstairs?”

I asked the boy to feed the animals and he replied “How come my sister never has to feed the animals and I always do?”

Ask them to put away laundry and they ask “How come there’s always laundry?”

I put together dinner the other night- grilled pork chops. The lass lamented “We always have pork for dinner.”

The boy was playing Minecraft on the Wife’s iPod. While the lass was waiting for her turn, she asked “How come he always gets to play before me?”

When we finish a gallon of milk, whichever one is asked to retrieve the next gallon typically complains “How come I always have to do it?”

When the dishwasher need to be emptied and they are asked to empty it, their usually good for a “Why do we always do the dishes?”

The word “always” is one of their more abused words.

Their other favorite word to abuse?

“Never.”

And Now Time for Something Completely Ridiculous

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BEHOLD! A record setting hot dog that weighs over 125 pounds.

The dog itself weighs in at 51 pounds, with the toppings and bun accounting for the rest. You really have to click the link to check out the pictures.

Are you afraid? Grossed out? Or hungry?

Why Not Push Athletics?

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I’ll be perfectly honest- I’ve been disappointed with the boy’s efforts regarding his junior black belt. It’s not that I expect him to be Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. It’s more about the level of effort which, in my opinion, is non-existent.

Thus far, I’ve more or less allowed him to find his own way. With the sole exception being that we’ve forced him to attend classes because they cost us money but also because he’s made a commitment and we want him to learn that he has to follow through. Outside of that, we haven’t really pushed him to practice outside of class or even to take as many extra classes as he wants.

The choice to not push him has been deliberate on my part and the Wife’s part. We’ve felt all along that it wasn’t really something we could push him to do because we didn’t want him to come to resent it. We’ve also felt that he would, well, figure it out on his own.

Thus far, that hasn’t happened.

Then, a couple days ago when he was struggling with some of this math, it occurred to me that the Wife and I haven’t hesitated to do just the opposite with regards to school work. Having trouble with spelling? Let’s drill your word list. Having trouble with math? Here are extra problems and I’ll sit and work with you on them. We forced him to read until we didn’t need to anymore and we’re doing the same with the lass.

So if we school work is important and we push them in that arena, and we’ve deemed that his martial arts is important, why not push him just as hard there as with school? So far, I haven’t been able to come up with anything better than “It’s different.”

School is their main job right now. Doing well in it requires learning to put in the proper effort to learn the material. Helping him to do that enforces the importance that the material has for his future.

Martial arts is an after school activity and, for now, it’s supposed to be fun. It’s hard for something to be fun once it starts to feel like work. Pushing him to practice more runs the risk that he starts to think it’s more like work. And then what? It’s not hard to see him wanting to stop after that point.

The flip side is, how does he learn what it takes to become excellent at something without the effort? Doesn’t the concept apply equally well to other aspects of life outside of his school work? If we wouldn’t hesitate to make him work more for school, why do we do so in athletics?

There are no easy answers sometimes.

The Blind Leading the Blind

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We had our March Pack meeting yesterday with our Cub Scout group. It is a constant challenge for our leadership group to come up with interesting ideas and activities for Pack meetings. One the one hand, we’d like to give them an opportunity for a life lesson of one sort or another. On the other hand, we’re dealing with boys that can’t sit still for very long. Most of the time, we opt for more active activities just because that’s what the target audience demands.

Sometimes we look to the monthly Cub Scout themes for inspiration. This month’s them is “compassion” and we hit upon an idea that struck us all as having potential- we would pair the Scouts up, blindfold one of them and then have the other direct them through the halls of the school without any physical contact. Then, we would sit them down and have them describe a picture of an animal to an adult pretending to be blind.

The blindfolded walk went well and there were some interesting ideas used to help lead the blindfolded Scouts around. Most of the boys used there voices to guide their partner. One thing that worked against us was most of the boys had the halls memorized, so they knew where to turn or what way to turn. There were few, though, that used clapping patterns to guide their partner through the halls. They’d create a steady clap for the other Scout, even going as far as clapping on their left or right to direct them in a certain direction.

Towards the end of the course, we had some parents setup a little obstacle course to navigate so the blindfolded boys really had to listen to their guide. The guide had to concentrate pretty hard as well.

In some ways, the second activity proved more interesting. The boys had a tough time figuring out how to describe the animals, initially. For starters, they misunderstood the aim and thought they needed to describe the animal without using the name of the animal. For instance, the group I was with was trying to describe a giraffe, but they didn’t want to call it a giraffe. They weren’t making the connection that I was pretending to be blind and, therefore, while I may have heard of a giraffe I had never seen a giraffe.

Once they got past that, the next hurdle was color. They told me things like “yellow body with brown spots.” I had to explain that, as a blind person, I don’t really know what brown or yellow means. I could possibly imagine colors, but I have no way of knowing if what I imagine is the same thing they are talking about. This observation seemed to strike a chord as they all grew quiet, perhaps realizing for the first time some of the things a blind person can’t experience.

They continued to struggle with other aspects like using shapes for description, until one of the boys started drawing shapes on my hand and saying “this is a circle” or “this is what round is.” After that revelation, they managed to find their way in describing the animal in a way a blind person might be able to understand.

After our activities, I tried to tie that all back into the concept of “compassion.” Explaining that it’s useful to understand the problems or limitations other people experience and how that allows us to have compassion for them. There’s never any way to know for sure if this stuff actually struck a nerve, but we were able to hold their attention with these activities for quite a while. I’ll take that.

Delusions of Grandeur?

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On the way home from the tournament yesterday, the boy said something that’s stuck with me.

I had witnessed, during the tournament, his sparring opponent was being tended to by the judges and some master belt instructors. The boy was waiting for the match to continue while the adults seemed to be tending to the other kid. I asked the boy what had happened.

He said that his opponent had started crying for some reason. After a pause, he continued “I guess sparring against an apprentice belt must have been pretty stressful.”

I paused for a moment. Without more information, my own guess was the poor kid was overwhelmed by the environment and needed to vent his frustrations. The boy had jumped right to something along the lines of “he was trembling in the awesomeness of my being. LET ALL WHO LOOK ON ME QUAKE IN THEIR UNDERWEAR!”

I actually pointed out that there might be other possibilities. The boy was having none of is though. “Yeah, but I was, like, 4 bet levels above him,” he said in his defense.

I didn’t push any further.

The boy has many moments like this where he greatly overestimates his own capabilities and competence. He has other moments where he fails to recognize that his comparisons that make him look so superior to the person he’s comparing himself to aren’t fair. For instance, with the lass learning addition and subtraction, the boy will often test her by giving her a… multiplication problem. Then, he’ll claim “it’s so easy” to her. All the while, I can remember when he was in tears because he couldn’t remember the answer to the problems he quizzes his sister with.

Most times, I or the Wife will do our level best to give the boy a check on his ego. So far, no matter how many times we’ve done it, he comes up swinging for another round at some point.

More and more, I’m coming to wonder if there’s much point to pushing back against him. As long as he isn’t putting people down, I’m not sure I see the harm anymore. I used to think that his perception of reality was blinkered and often times, like yesterday with his sparring opponent, I still do. But I also think it’s just more of the myopic world view kids his age have. Most of his friends have put on similar displays at one point or another in my presence. I often call their bluff, and they just laugh it off and continue on their way.

In other words, I’m thinking it’s just the age, and the boy is just putting his own peculiar spin on the it.

Listen to Dad

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On the way to a martial arts tournament today, the boy realized we didn’t have any boards for his breaking.  We were well passed any known hardware shops by that point, and certainly beyond “run back home and cut a few up.”  So, I started keeping an eye out for a Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Fortune smiled on us about 10 minutes from our destination.  I pulled off the highway and went into a Home Depot to get some boards for breaking.  I was able to get a 6 foot, 1×10 piece of pine cut up into 10 inch lengths in short order.  We were on our way in less than 10 minutes with plenty of wood to break.

On the way I asked him what he was planning to do for his break.  “A spinning side kick,” he replied distractedly.  He had his nose in another book.  The spinning side kick is his goto break because he knows he can do it.  It happens to be a good break for his level as well, so it all works out.

Then I asked him how many boards he planned on breaking.

“One.”

“Here, take another and break 2 boards,” I told him.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because you already know you can break 1 board with that kick.  There’s no challenge in it for you.  The point of the tournament and martial arts is to challenge yourself.  You like to break with that kick, so change the number of boards.”  I thought that was a pretty thorough case without any wiggle room for argument.

“Do you think I can do it?” he asked.

The thing about board breaking in martial arts is its less about strength and more about technique and courage.  Hit a board off center with everything you’ve got and it won’t break.  Hit a board near the center with good solid form, and it will crack like an egg.  It just takes some nerve to stand up there and perform the break with good technique.  I had no doubt the boy was physically capable of performing this 2 board break.

The bigger question was would he have the courage to actually do it?

I was waiting to compete in my own division when our instructor came up to me and said “Your son just won his breaking competition.  He did a 2-board break with a spin side kick and nailed it on his first try.  It was really good.”  He showed me a picture of the boy just as he’d creamed the two boards.  The boy had hit them dead center and his leg was fully extended through them.  It was a great picture of the break.

After I finished up with my competition, I caught up with the boy.  He was all smiles.  “I guess you can break 2 boards,” I said.

“I guess I’ll have to break 3 next time,” he answered, still smiling.

Math Troubles

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The boy forgot his homework today, so I helped him out by improvising some problems for him.  It was just math work, double digit multplication in fact, so coming up with practice problems was easy.  I’ve already done this sort of thing with him.

As a side note, I’m not sure what to think about how they are teaching him how to solve the problem.  It’s easier to show than describe.  Take 35×41.  They have him solve 4 multiplication problems: 5×1, 5×40, 30×1 and 30×40.  Then those results are added to get the answer to the original problem.

Now, it’s a perfectly valid way to go about it and I suppose the argument is that it’s easier to perform the multiplication on the broken down problem.  I think it makes the addition harder but no one asked me.  Typical.  Plus it takes longer and I don’t think it lends itself to being done in the head- too many numbers to remember.

Regardless, the boy wasn’t overly thrilled with my giving him problems to practice.  So I gave him a few extra just to be nice.  He finished them without anymore comments.  I checked them over and he’d made a bunch of mistakes.  Amusingly enough, it was the addition step that he’d flubbed for each wrong answer.  Does that count as an “I told you so” or was it too obvious?

So the boy came back and asked which ones he’d gotten wrong.  I wouldn’t tell him.  He wasn’t happy about that at all and several minutes later, he turned back to me and said “They’re all right.”

“So you found the wrong ones?” I asked.

“None of them are wrong.  I checked them,” was his reply.

I was speechless.

I knew he had several wrong answers, yet here he was trying to create his own reality in which that wasn’t the case.  Essentially, he was saying I made up his mistakes. 

I was at a loss.  Arguing with him would be futile, because he was going to get defensive and start yelling.  I didn’t want to tell him which ones were wrong because he’s the one that needs the practice.  So how to resolve this little standoff?

More than a little exasperrated, I handed him my phone with a calculator app running and told him to check his answers.  Several minutes later, he’d corrected all his mistakes.  When he was done, I asked him if he’d believe me the next time I told him he had some corrections to make.  He chose to ignore me.

I suspect it won’t be the last time.

Surely Someone Already Thought of This

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The Malaysian jumbo jet that disappeared has been all the rage lately with people and the media all speculating about what happened.  Wired has an article that’s now making the rounds which proposes the most boring, but plausible explanation: a fire.

The article is a quick read and written by a pilot familiar with the aircraft.  The gist is a fire of some sort forced the pilots to shut down the electrical systems and ultimately caused the plane’s demise.  The abrupt change in course was the pilot’s attempting to get to another airport.  There’s more and it’s worth the read.

It makes so much sense that my only rebuttal is, surely they already considered this explanation, right?

Whither Spring?

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The high temperature for yesterday was about 30 degrees. The low’s last night dipped down into the teens. Currently, it’s in the high-teens now and supposed to get colder before the morning arrives. Tomorrow, the forecast high is in the 30, as was today’s high temperature.

If we were still in January or February, none of this would even register as interesting. Even early March can be a bit dicey. But were only a few days removed from the official start of Spring and right now, to call it a “cold” start doesn’t do it justice. We’re basically seeing Winter temperatures still.

Astoundingly, we’re supposed to continue to see these temperatures. We get an occasional warm-up into the 40 and 50’s, and then the temperatures head right back down into the 30’s. So I wasn’t surprised to see this.

Spring will get here eventually, but evidently not before Winter has had its fill.

SMTP Troubles

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For reasons some reasons I don’t entirely understand, and some that I do, I’ve been having SMTP server issues for awhile now.

The one I don’t entirely understand involves my hosting service, which provides SMTP services, but for some reason began blocking my server from connecting and sending email. I spent a couple of customer service sessions on the phone with them and wasn’t able to get any satisfying resolution. For some reason, my IP was blacklisted by them and I can’t appeal the IP’s, the owner of the IP’s have to. The problem is, I can’t get in touch with the owner of the IP’s because they don’t make any sense to me.

So I started using a different SMTP server (I have several emails accounts and thus have access to several of them). Unfortunately, the second one is not well administered and the SSL certificates for it recently expired, so I couldn’t connect to it.

I looked into ditching the whole ISP based SMTP server relationship and just setting up my mail server downstairs to use SMTP directly. The only problem is I don’t have a dedicated IP address. Rather, I have a DHCP issued one from my ISP and, while it can be stable for months at a time, it will change. Thus, my SMTP server would have a variable IP address and would cause problems with connecting to other email servers for mail delivery. Because of bulk-mailers and spammers, one of the first things email providers check for are dynamic IP addresses of SMTP servers, and they quickly block them.

I didn’t want to use Google or Yahoo because, well, I don’t particularly trust them. So that left me with one other option- finding a dedicated SMTP server service. Turns out, there are a number of them available and they each have their own take on services and pricing. They are all geared for bulk-emailing and marketing type emailing, but most have very low-cost plans that could suit a home need.

The big advantage for a home would be that, no matter where a person went, they could always connect to this SMTP service for email. I’ve actually already sort of done this- I just needed someone to help me send my emails reliably. After looking at services from the likes of mailjet, authsmtp, turbosmtp and several others, I opted to go with Easy-SMTP.

I went with their free service since it provides for 10,000 emails per month for an account and it plays nicely with my MTA, exim. It will also play nicely with just about any modern mail client. The other services either attached advertisements to emails or didn’t offer as much. Also, this one was clear about allowing multiple user email accounts to access the same account, which was a big deal since everyone’s mail would be using this server. I’m not saying the others don’t do that, it just wasn’t clear that they did. I was almost willing to pay for one of the services (less that $20 for a year for sending thousands of emails), but in the end easy-SMTP just seemed the best value.

The signup was extremely simple. I wish I could say I was up and running with it quickly, but I wasn’t. In this instance, I couldn’t blame easy-SMTP though. I had some latent configuration issues with my mail server setup which prevented it from working straight out of the box. I finally figured that issue out and my mail is once again working. Hopefully, easy-SMTP continues to as well.

Eggs Aren’t Always Good for You

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The lass had a meltdown this morning, over eggs. Actually, it’s probably fair to say that everyone but the boy had a meltdown over eggs this morning. Ironically, he’s the only one who didn’t at least try to have eggs this morning.

She started with the best of intentions. She wanted to make eggs for herself and the Wife. She planned on making them scrambled with some ham and cheese on them, which the Wife has a fondness for. Eggs are easy enough to cook up and we let both kids prepare them all the time and they’re actually fairly decent at it anymore.

Trouble started brewing shortly after she started cooking them. She’d scrambled 4 eggs and she became convinced that 4 eggs weren’t going to be enough for her and the Wife. She started to protest that she should make more. The Wife tried to assuage her fears and said that what she had would be plenty.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t good enough. Somehow, the situation deteriorated quickly into a shouting match. The lass HAD to make more eggs, if she didn’t she wouldn’t have enough for herself. The Wife was insisting it was all fine. The lass stomped off, leaving the eggs cooking. The Wife got up in a huff, incredulous that the lass just left everything there. She finished cooking the eggs and prepared a couple of plates, at which point the lass returned.

And immediately made the situation worse.

Now, she was upset because she had meant to serve the Wife her eggs. Her mood became darker. With a great “harrumph” she folded her arms across her chest and stared at her eggs. I think she was trying to burn them, but I can’t be sure. The Wife tried to calm her down and get her to eat. They got as far as sitting down with the plate in front of her. But she refused to eat her eggs.

At which point, I finally got involved. And not for the better.

The lass bellowed about how her breakfast was ruined. The Wife bellowed back that she was being ridiculous and that there was nothing wrong with her eggs and all she had to do was eat. I bellowed above them both. The lass started crying. The dogs were cowering. The boy was somewhere else on the planet. I think the bird were staring in slack-beaked amazement the train-wreck before them. The cat was, well, where the hell the cat was.

Since she was refusing to eat the eggs, I grabbed her plate and started eating them myself. Now she cried harder because she suddenly really wanted the eggs. The Wife got smart and walked away from the whole thing. I continued to eat the eggs and told the lass I didn’t want to hear anything else from her until she’d eaten something. So she got up and prepared herself a bowl of cereal, which is probably what she should have done from the get go.

It will probably be a few mornings before she has eggs again.

Drain Pipe Angioplasty

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One of my favorite nuggets of wisdom I remember is one that originated with my Dad’s Dad. It’s pretty straight forward: “There are two types of people in this world, fools and plumbers.”

I remember this anytime something goes wrong with something plumbing related in the house. The main problem is that plumbers are expensive and difficult to get to show up for anything that isn’t a 3+ hour job. Thus, when the drain for the sink gets clogged, I’m pretty much forced into the role of “fool.”

The Wife texted me 2 weeks ago about the kitchen sink getting backed up. I was out at a racquetball game at the time. I came home and the next morning, tried to flush it with Drano or Liquid Plumber or what-have-you to no avail. So I snaked it, got things flowing again and declared victory.

The Wife texted me a week ago about the kitchen sink getting backed up. I was pretty sure I’d been down this road before since, once again, I was at racquetball. Once again, the next morning I snaked the pipe and unclogged it. Once again, I declared victory.

The Wife texted me on Monday that the sink was clogged. I came home from racquetball (of course) and tried things out and the sink seemed to be draining, so I left it. I wasn’t declaring victory, though.

Last night, the Wife texted me a picture of the sink backed up.

Based on my previous failures, I hypothesized that I was dealing with a grease plug that my snake was penetrating but not really clearing. What I needed was something that could essentially scrape the inner wall of the pipe all the way to the junction with the 4 inch pipe at the other end. I toyed with the idea of a Franken-monster snake with pipe cleaners attached to it. After a bit, I decided a trip to a HIC might be worth the trip for a decent solution.

So today I went to Lowe’s and came home with one of these:

It wasn’t this one exactly. The one I got was appropriate for the pipe size I was dealing with.

After digging out and thawing out a garden hose from our attic, I went to work. The instructions say to insert the bladder into the pipe, then turn the water on to full blast to use water pressure to clear out the pipe.

I didn’t follow directions.

Instead, I snaked that sucker down through the pipe. It turned out to be a bit tricky since the coupling between the hose and the bladder made it difficult to navigate through the couple of right-angle turns in my pipeline. It also got hung up at pipe junctions. But, it did push down through a good ways. At that point, I got brave and had the Wife turn on the water, slowly. (I also made sure to have a bucket under the pipe where I was working.) After a few seconds water came pouring out the pipe. So I still had a clog.

So I continued to work the thing down through the pipe. My next attempt with the water went better. Nothing came back up the pipe and when I went into the basement, I could hear the water rushing through the pipe system.

So consider this a somewhat endorsement of the device. Note that, if you choose to use it as instructed you’ll need to make sure there aren’t alternative trunks between the bladder and the plug for water to flow through. No pressure that way and you might get water unexpectedly running up through a sink elsewhere in the house. Also, if there are a lot of turns in the drain pipe, then it will be very difficult to “snake” the pipe with this and a garden hose. The 2 right angles I had to deal with were difficult enough. If you’re situation meets these conditions, then this little device can perform a nice little bit of drain pipe angioplasty.

So yes, I’m once again declaring victory. Third time’s the charm and all that.

A Little Rain Never Hurts

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Looks like the majority of the rain has passed us by.  It was coming down in buckets earlier.  Given the heretofore unrelenting cold, this could have been a real back breaker.

The cold returns tomorrow, but not for long and we won’t be getting any snow with it.  Which is nice since we can finally see the stone of our driveway for the first time in a couple months.

Learning How to be Excellent

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A couple of days ago, the boy’s martial arts instructor had a meeting with the parents of students who are up for their black belts. He made a comment that stuck with me: “The enemy of excellence is ‘Good Enough'”. He went on to say that many of the students probably weren’t going to like them very much over the next couple of months.

The boy got his first dose of that treatment today in his class. They were practicing their forms and the instructor told him and several other students that they weren’t putting enough effort into it. They continued practicing, and the instructor continued to ride the students, pointing out mistakes, flaws, missteps. He even made a comment to the effect that he could tell they hadn’t been practicing.

Unlike past instances of this sort, the boy weathered the storm well, but he was upset when he got class. Interestingly, it wasn’t for getting called out the couple times he had been during class. He was upset because he’d made so many mistakes.

That comment coming from him was, frankly, kind of stunning. In past instances, he’d made excuses or directed his anger at the instructors. Sometimes, he’d take it out on the Wife or I. Here and now, though, he was accepting that he hadn’t been good enough. A more sure sign of maturity I cannot think of.

Excellence is achieved not because someone is “awesome” at some task naturally. Rather, excellence is achieved by never stopping trying to improve. The drive for that standard can come so much externally. Ultimately, drive for excellence come from within and never accepting “good enough.” The boy has shown plenty of signs that he gets this when it comes to school. Perhaps now he’ll begin to accept it for other things as well.

The Quiet After the Storm

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This is the cabin we stayed in last night.  Its all cleaned up now but only an hour ago it was full of Cub Scouts and their parents waking up, eating and cleaning up.

I arrived first to check our Pack in around noon yesterday.  The Cubbies slowly trickled in over the course of the afternoon.  As they arrived, they claimed their bunks- mostly the upper ones because those are the ones that make parents nervous.  There were 3 rooms with bunks which I decided would be for parents only.  It worked out well.

There was a lopsided snowball fight to start things off- me against the kids.  They never stood a chance- their aim stunk.  Their main asset was my fatigue level and a bum knee.  At one point, I realized I was experiencing my own personal zombie plotline- they just kept coming.

I took my fair share of snow, but overall I gave as good as I got.  One of the younger Scouts kept fashioning basketball sized snowballs and trying for a frontal assault.  I kept relieving him of his ordinance and dropping it onto his head.  No sense letting him get away with such poor strategy.

From there, we moved on to sledding.

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Sledding is always good fun.

With roughly 15 adults and a similar number of kids, dinner was an event.  We feasted like kings though- boiled hot dogs, cole slaw, salad and some pasta dishes.  The cabin is outfitted with a stove and fridge and we took full advantage.  A bunch of kids tried roasting their dogs over the campfire.  One lost his to the fire, another dropped his after it had cooked and refused to eat it.  Some parents helped a couple others attain success- as is usual at this age.

Stories around the campfire were fun if not predictable- everybody died.  If they were lucky, they died quickly.  If unlucky, they were horribly mauled prior to death.  A marose group of story tellers the Scouts are.  It could have been worse though.  There could have been copious quantities of burping, farting and pooping prior to death.

After lights out, we tried for a little scare tactics.  I climbed out the window in our room and started tapping on windows and scraping the outside walls.  We had a couple of Moms get captured with blood curdling screams.  We had them going, until I was spotted before we could complete the game.  If nothing else, we’ll know what to do next time.

The morning was full of the bustle of breakfast, packing and cleanup.  Eggs, sausage and breakfast cereal got the day started out right.  And coffee.  Lots of coffee.  We’d lost an hour of sleep due to DST today.  Of course, there wasn’t that much sleep to be had so no great loss there.  It’s all good though- all in the name of entertainment.

The best part of the camping is the absence of electronics.  Sure, some parents had some phones and tablets.  But the kids busied themselves with impromtu games involving flying platypuses, Legos and whatever else they could come up with.  They didn’t miss the electronics at all.  Heck, even the parents were reading dead tree based material or playing cards.

The cabin is empty now.  But we left full of memories.

The Glove Gremlin

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The boy has been missing a pair of gloves for, well, most of the Winter now.

They are a fingerless glove with his name on them. The Wife actually got 3 pairs of them: one for her, one for the lass and one for the boy. She labeled them all so there would be no arguments about whose was whose.

Labeling them also had the side effect of letting us know who took care of their gloves.

The amusing thing is that, at some point this Winter, each pair of gloves was lost to its owner. The lass lost hers back in January and the Wife found them. The Wife lost hers and I found them, sitting on the bottom of our coat rack. The boy lost his and no one found them.

Until today, when the boy discovered them in his backpack.

“Didn’t I tell you to look there when you first lost them?” the Wife asked.

“Yeah, you did and they weren’t there,” the boy insisted. “I don’t know how they reappeared, but they did.”

“I know what happened…” I started. I looked him straight in the eye and went on “The Glove Gremlins got them. Glove Gremlins are famous for stealing gloves and using them, then returning them to a spot where you’ve already looked. It’s actually a good sign they returned them since it must mean that warmer weather is coming.”

“Huh?” the boy asked.

I continued “Glove Gremlins are close cousins of the Sock Gremlins, who go into drawers and make sure socks are either mismatched or missing their pair. I hate Sock Gremlins…” I trailed off.

“Wait. Are you being serious? Are there really Glove Gremlins?” the boy asked.

At that point I was tempted to do with something like “Alright, you got me. There are no Glove Gremlins, but the Sock Gremlins are their for sure. They leave a fowl odor behind that smells like…” But I didn’t. Instead, I tried to play it straight.

“Are Glove Gremlins real? Do you think I would make something like that up? Who would come up with something so ridiculous as Glove Gremlins?” I asked.

“You would,” he replied as we turned and walked away.

Oh well, guess he knows me well enough by now. But I had him going there, for just a moment.

A Lament

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The lass’ Girl Scout cookie order arrived over the weekend. The Wife and I divvied them up into their destination customers, including those that belong to us.

I opened the first box on Monday. It was a box of Samoa’s, a favorite from way back when I was a boy. The little plastic tray in the box has 3 sections with 5 cookies in each section. I grabbed three from the first section.

Then, I stood there, staring at the 2 remaining cookies in that section of the tray.

“Oh, who am I kidding?” I said as I grabbed them and scarfed all 5 down with a milk chaser.

Damn Girl Scout cookies.

Ticklish

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I think one of the boy’s favorite moments of the day are the few moments when we tell him “Goodnight” prior to bed. During this time, we get a chance to torture him a bit with the threat of tickling.

To say the boy is “ticklish” probably doesn’t do the word justice. The mere thought of being tickled is enough to tickle him. Looking at him the right way can be enough to tickle him. Even mentioning the word can cause him to start involuntarily squirming.

Naturally, we try exploit these traits to the fullest extent we can.

Personally, I’ve found that the threat of being tickled is more entertaining than actually tickling him. The anticipation of being tickled can become almost unbearable for him at that point. He will jerk at the slightest movement by the Wife or I, grab at an arm or hand to fend it off before the tickle attack begins. He giggles constantly, closing his eyes and then squinting them open to see where the attack might come from.

Of course, in order to make the threat viable, he has to be tickled occasionally. We actually have to be careful at that point because he can flail so wildly and react so strongly, it wouldn’t be out of the question to catch a shot to the head. Usually, the Wife or I will use our size advantage to squelch his flailing a bit to keep things safer.

I have no real point to his post. It’s mainly just an observation I thought worth noting. One of those traits of childhood that might otherwise be lost to time as he grows up.

Hockey Season is Over

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The season ended at opposite ends of the spectrum for the boy and the lass where hockey is concerned. Where as a couple of seasons ago, the boy was ready to say “Goodbye” to hockey and never play it again, he’ll be looking forward to next season for the remainder of the off season. The lass, on the other hand, is glad to be done with it for now.

The lass’ ended a tough league season with two straight playoff losses. This despite the lass’ best efforts through both games. Unfortunately, they just didn’t have the horses this season to get much done.

The boy’s season ended on the highest of notes, with his team hoisting the league championship trophy. The won a close 1-0 contest yesterday, as I noted earlier, and then won in a blowout in the championship game today, 8-1. The boy didn’t score any goals today, but he got a different kind of reward. The coaches had him sub in on the A-line when, once again, one of the A-line players had to leave the game early today. It was a nice vote of confidence for him at the end of a season where he really started to come into his own with hockey. He’s not a star player at this point, but he established himself as a quality player that the coaches relied on to help win games and get good effort and quality minutes from for the 2nd half of the season.

If he ever decides to really take the game seriously, there’s no telling how far he could go.

For the record, I also note that when the teams were assigned back at the beginning of the year, the boy was convinced they would be the worst team. He didn’t recognize any of the players names and all the good players he did know were on other teams. Just like a 4th grader to declare that he knows how everything was going to turn out without even playing the game. One of the nice things about his team’s success is he can never again play the “I never win at anything” self-pity card. There’s no telling where his sports will take him or how far he’ll choose to go, but winning a championship at any level is a special thing. Most importantly because once it’s won, it can’t be taken away.

My First Youth Sport Argument

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I was waiting for the boy to get changed up after his team had won their first round house league playoff game 1-0 when I overheard another father starting to gripe about the game.

He was furious that the boy’s team hadn’t played their B-line goalie.

First, a moment’s explanation. This local house league hockey and therefore has a limited pool of kids to draw from. This year, the league was unable to field separate Junior level and 9-13 level teams, so they combined the two ages to form a single league. Each team was comprised of an A-line and a B-line. The A-line consisted of the older Junior players while the B-line consisted of the younger “Atoms” players. Goalies are always in short supply and even with only 6 teams, 2 out of the 6 had only their A-line goalie to play. Games were setup such that A-line teams always played against A-line teams, and the same with the B-line. Further, while B-line players could be moved up to the A-line, the reverse was not allowed, except for goalies.

The team the boy played against yesterday sported only an A-line goalie. As far as mental advantages go, I don’t think anyone would argue it’s a big one to have an older experienced player lining up younger guys. But that was just the situation for our B-line players. Just for a little seasoning, I’ll add that this particular goalie was clearly the best goalie in the league.

So the boy’s coach, in order to give his team its best chance at winning, chose to play our A-line goalie for most of the game. The argument clearly being why give up that kind of advantage to the other team?

This father took exception to that. I pointed out that the one team only had the one goalie.

This father looked at me like I was some kind of child and then started explaining how the boy’s team had all the best skaters in the league. Notice, he didn’t exactly address my point. He went on to say that the boy’s team’s B-line players could skate rings around the A-line guys for the other team.

Talk about an insult to the skills of those players. First, it was demonstrably not true. The game ended 1-0. If the skill levels were that lopsided, it would have shown up in the score. Second, it was clear to me now that this guy simply had an axe to grind.

I pointed all this out and then went on to point out that the boy’s team actually had to rotate B-line players into the A-line rotation because one of our older players had left during the game. The father looked at me and said “No they didn’t.”

It was all I could do not to laugh. Now, it was my turn to give a dismissive look as I said “Do you even know who all the players are on that team’s A-line?”

Crickets in response.

At that point, he disengaged from arguing with me. Instead, he turned and started whining to some other poor sucker about he unfairness of it all.

It never ceases to amaze me how poorly parents react to sports. Competitive sports is inherently about unfairness and the ability to take advantage of it. Maybe on balance, the boy’s team were slightly faster skaters. But the team they played was clearly more physical- repeatedly knocking guys down in a league where checking “isn’t allowed.” Was that fair? As I stated, the boy’s team had 2 B-line players pulling double shifts- first playing their own normal shift and then subbing in to play on the A-line. Was that fair? Was it fair that the other team only had 1 goalie?

At the end of the day, it was a hard fought, 1-0 victory for the boy’s team and it easily could have gone the other way. Those two teams went out there and competed for an hour against each other. There was going to be a winner and a loser. That’s sports. Parents need to deal with that.

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