Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Next Pollock?

Although the dark lit room of my art history classroom almost always lulled me to sleep – that is assuming I actually made it to class - I remember how several of the artists had groups of works inspired by a particular theme.  Goya’s black paintings, Gauguin’s Tahitian pieces, and Monet’s haystacks come to mind, for example.  In keeping with such a precedent, I present to you a collection of works by aspiring young artist Greta Teravainen. 

The Early Years: 2012 Holiday Gallery

My Family

Title: Tilly When She's a Big Girl
Date: December 4, 2012
Type: Sparkle and glue on paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen

Title: Nana
Date: December 4, 2012
Type: Sparkle and glue on paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen

Title: Gus
Date: December 4, 2012
Type: Sparkle and glue on paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen

Title: Mom
Date: December 4, 2012
Type: Sparkle and glue on (stained) paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen

Title: Greta
Date: December 4, 2012
Type: Sparkle and glue on paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen

Title: Dad
Date: December 4, 2012
Type: Sparkle and glue on paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen


Title: Snowballs a/k/a The Map
Date: December 8, 2012
Type: Sparkle and glue on paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen

Title: Snowmen
Date: December 4, 2012
Type: Sparkle and glue on paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen

Title: Our Christmas Tree from Last Year
Date: December 8, 2012
Type: Sparkle and glue on paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen

Title: Untitled
Date: Undated
Type: Sparkle and glue on (stained) paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen

The G Series

Title: G Path
Date: Undated
Type: Sparkle and glue on paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen

Title: Big G Path
Date: Undated
Type: Sparkle and glue on paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen

Title: Bigger G Path
Date: Undated
Type: Sparkle and glue on paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen

Still Life

Title: Banana
Date: December 8, 2012
Type: Sparkle and glue on paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen

Title: Rapunzel
Date: December 4, 2012
Type: Sparkle and glue on (stained) paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen

Title: A Design (Bird in Flight)
Date: undated
Type: Sparkle and glue on paper (8.5" x 11")
Location: T Family Institute of Art - Kitchen


We hope you enjoyed this collection from Greta.  Come back again for an exclusive interview with the artist...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Little Summer in Winter

Back in fourth or fifth grade, I had a buddy whose family took me with them to a house party in Manchester on one July Fourth holiday.  Parents pretty much socialized inside the hosts’ house, while the kids ran amok outside.  I don’t recall whether the parents were not watching us closely or simply didn’t have much concern, but we ten or eleven year-olds were left to entertain ourselves.  To my utter shock and delight, it dawned on me that my peers were playing with lighters, matches, and – most importantly – fireworks.  When I look back on this occasion, it was probably one of the highlights of my short life up to that point. 

My parents were reasonably lenient about letting my brother and me engage in those “boys will be boys” activities, which were inherently dangerous but almost impossible to prevent unless they stood watch over us constantly.  You know, I’m thinking about things like climbing trees that were tall enough to kill or maim us, should a branch snap and we fell.  Or riding bikes helmetless while trespassing in the sand and gravel pits with signs clearly marked “Keep Out.”  Or hanging around the train tracks to put pennies on the rails before an engine came rumbling by Robie’s Store as we ate penny candy.  You catch my drift.

Still, my parents had their boundaries.  And handling flammable exploding projectiles was definitely off-limits.  Naturally, when the opportunity arose to handle this contraband unsupervised, I jumped at it.  Fortunately, this is not going to be a story where someone was terribly burned or lost an eyeball.  

The reason that I mention this memory is because Tilly has transported me back to that Fourth of July long ago.  The coolest part to me of playing with fireworks that day was lighting bottle rockets.  I would place the long and narrow red wooden stick with my right hand into an empty twelve ounce bottle that I held with my left.  Then, I’d light the wick until I saw the yellow spark and accompanying hiss.  Next, I’d hold the bottle up over my head at an angle to ensure maximum height until eventually – a sudden *whoosh* sound occurred and the rocket would lift off leaving a trail of sparks.  The moment would culminate with a loud, high-pitched *eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,* then a pause, and finally – the denouement – an exploding pop that temporarily rang in our ears.

Tilly makes almost this exact same noise when she is feeling ignored.  Typically, we’re at the kitchen table and we’re not feeding her fast enough.  Or, we may have left the table and abandoned her in her high chair, so she signals that we’ve left her behind.  When you turn around to acknowledge Tilly and confirm that you, in fact, heard her loud and clear, she smiles triumphantly and kicks her short sausage link legs.  I can’t help but laugh and smile back at her.  Or kiss her beautifully chubby cheeks.

As a result, I’ve re-named Tilly as the “Bottle Rocket.”  Greta, formerly known as the Pterodactyl when she was the same age, seems to like the name, too.  I hope it sticks. 

Now just in case my Bottle Rocket is ever at your house for a July Fourth party, or any party for that matter, she is definitely not allowed to light any fireworks – at least until I go first.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Belated Cornucopia

For the last few weeks, I’ve started writing a blog typically too late at night (on a weekend night only, of course) and almost assuredly after that last unnecessary glass of wine.  In any event, most of the ideas were weak and not what I’d consider up to snuff for THE READERS. 

For example, I launched into a 769-word exegesis regarding the songs “I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons and “Rivers and Roads” by The Head and The Heart.  I hypothesized how the rhythm and crescendo of each song were like snippets of varying sexual escapades.   Once I started to re-read the post, it became clear that there was no real connection to fatherhood other than discussing the process in which a couple may produce a baby.  Consequently, that diatribe did not make the cut - though I’d be happy to discuss the theory with anyone if we cross paths at a party or something.

Then, I started writing about how the kids have become picky when eating meat proteins as of late, yet I discovered that all three of them are huge fans of bacon.  (I never realized this until a breakfast that I made a few weeks ago - I know, inexcusable.)  But then I admitted that bacon seems to get a lot of air play these days, so I got gun shy when I couldn’t think of a cool spin on swine.

A different draft that I threw away was inspired following a night out with the guys when we were commiserating about our honey-do lists.  We weren’t complaining about the chores at all.  We were just laughing about how our wives think that every project takes sixty minutes or less.  We called it the “magic hour.” 

Mow the lawn?  Her estimate - 10 minutes.  His estimate - 90 minutes if you include weed wacking, 120 minutes if you include raking, engine maintenance, clearing debris from the walkways and driveway, etc. 

Assemble something from IKEA?  Her estimate - 30 minutes.  His estimate - 60 minutes.  For me - at least three hours, which includes the inevitable call to customer service about a part that seems to be missing. 

Anyway, the draft started off kind of funny but there wasn’t enough material for a complete blog there.

So, I decided ultimately to revisit the “hodgepodge” concept.  It is a lazy man’s way of writing a proper entry.  Basically, each of the following would be good fodder for “Side Bar” or “For the Record” entries, but I’ve got nothing else to go on and I don’t want to go a whole month without posting.  Without further ado...


For better or worse, my awareness of things chic and hip arrives at a glacial pace.  For the last few weeks, or maybe months, I’ve heard both the phrase “Gangnam Style” and the actual song itself.  However, I never connected the song’s title and the song itself until very recently, which made me feel like I was an octogenarian.

When my epiphany occurred and I linked together what were previously two separate concepts, I felt a bit euphoric in knowing that I would be able to google the lyrics.  For the longest time, I’ve been singing “Woke up condom star” in lieu of “Oppan Gangnam Style” and it’s been killing me because I knew I was way off base.  (You laugh, but I dare you to sing “Woke up condom star” next time you hear the song – it’s on all the time – and tell me you don’t think I was at least in the neighborhood.  

Anyway, here is a link to the lyrics if you care:  I anticipate Gangnam will ultimately go the same way of “Who let the dogs out?,” “All I want to do is a zoom, zoom, zoom, and a boom boom,” and “I wish I was a little bit taller” but let’s just enjoy it while it lasts.
Speaking of songs whose words I don’t know, can someone please tell me what “Some Nights” is about by the band “fun.”?  I’m not sure if it is a happy song or a sad one.  The beat tells me it’s happy but then that part in the song towards the end when the singer talks about looking into his nephew’s eyes gets me all confused.  I know I could google these lyrics but I want to figure it out for myself if possible.


Recently read Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King.  It is a collection of four novellas that published in 2009 or 2010.  I really loved it.  All four stories were dark.  But each of them were dark for different reasons.  I believe one of them is currently in production for a film.  While I wouldn’t say this collection of novellas is anything close to Different Seasons, which included “Shawshank Redemption,” “Apt Pupil,” and “The Body,” (titled “Stand by Me” at the movies) I recommend it for anyone who enjoys horror fiction.

While we are here, I wanted to quote a blurb from what King wrote in his afterward.  I feel dorky saying this, but I found the message really inspiring.

 “From the start … I felt that the best fiction was both propulsive and assaultive.  It gets in your face.  Sometimes it shouts in your face.  I have no quarrel with literary fiction, which usually concerns itself with extraordinary people in ordinary situations, but as both a reader and a writer, I’m much more interested by ordinary people in extraordinary situations.  I want to provoke an emotional, even visceral, reaction in my readers.  Making them think as they read is not my deal.  I put that in italics, because if the tale is good enough and the characters vivid enough, thinking will supplant emotion when the tale has been told and the book set aside (sometimes with relief.)”

Fucking brilliant.  Couldn’t have written it better.  And that part about setting the book aside with relief – I felt that way when I finished Full Dark, No Stars because the stories made me feel uncomfortable in a good way, if that makes sense.


Lana Del Rey?  I don’t deny that she’s talented.  In fact, I do like her voice.  But I’m not sold on her style of music.  At least, just not yet.  And I can’t say that I know anyone who has ever said they are a fan of hers.  Does anyone care enough to try to convince me otherwise?


As made abundantly clear by my Gangnam discussion above, I’m one of the least qualified to ever discuss what current fad is now or suddenly passé.  However, I am amused and equally appalled by the sudden resurgence of two trends I’ve seen on the streets recently, which harken back to the late 80’s and early 90’s: flat top hair cuts (a la Kid-n-Play) on African-American men and pegging the pant legs.  I can’t say that I am surprised by the hair style, but the pegging is a shocker to me.  While I fancied myself a pretty good pegger, I couldn’t hold a candle to the peg-skills of my buddy Noonan.  I’m praying that he embraces the fad’s resurgence. 


November, 2012 in my household will go down in my book as the bodily secretion trifecta. 

Exhibit 1: Tilly has pooped in the tub three times.  It’s like Caddy Day At The Pool from Caddyshack except I don’t have an assistant groundskeeper to clean up the doodie. 

Exhibit 2: Gus has developed a knack for nailing me with a golden shower when changing his diaper. 

Exhibit 3: Greta puked all over me and sort of into my mouth a few weeks ago as I carried her from her bed to the bathroom.  Perhaps due to my pledging days at Kappa Sig, this did not bother me as much as it probably should. 

All three of them have colds as of tonight, so add mucus and phlegm as a wildcard to the list.  Fingers crossed, they'll be back to normal sooner rather than later.

I’m really looking forward to December, 2012.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rated R

When I was in elementary school (it was first to sixth grade back then,) the special education classroom was called the “resource room.”  However, I only remember calling it the “retard room.”  To this day I’m not sure what the proper diagnosis was for any of the kids who were enrolled in the special ed program.  I imagine it could have been anything from ADHD or dyslexia to autism or Asberger’s.  (Although I remember one student from a different grade who had Down Syndrome, I don’t believe we were in the same school until junior high.)

I don’t specifically remember calling any classmate – with or without disabilities – a retard.  (That does not necessarily mean I didn’t – I just don’t remember doing it.)  However, I am certain I knew even at a young age that the word was derogatory.

At some point in my maturation (high school maybe?), I became aware that it was totally unacceptable and despicable to ever address a person with disabilities as being a retard.  However, I continued to use the word retard (or retarded) without any reluctance in certain situations because I knew my intent when using these words was never meant to disparage mentally or intellectually disabled people.

Along this school of thought, I suppose there is kind of an unwritten spectrum of social acceptability or unacceptability when using retard or retarded to describe someone or something.

On one end of the more innocent spectrum – let’s call it point A – I have heard many a hungover contemporary say that he or she “got retarded” last night, or even “wicked retahded” if they’re a Masshole.  I think The Black Eyed Peas have two versions of the same song with one being “Let’s get it started” and the other being “Let’s get retarded.”  Personally, I do not interpret these examples as evidence of any specific intent to demean a class of individuals.  (The use of the word may still have that effect, but we’ll discuss that below.)

Somewhere along the spectrum – say point B – further away from the innocent end and somewhat closer to the more spiteful end is when a speaker seeks to declare a situation or other person as being retarded.  Perhaps the speaker has encountered an able-minded person who is being a jerk or difficult or mean.  Or maybe the speaker observed another person make a simple mistake.   Or possibly the speaker is trapped in a traffic jam that has occurred due to the sheer ineptitude and stupidity of multiple others.  In all instances, the speaker describes the person as a retard or the situation as retarded.

At the more heinous end of the spectrum – point C – is when one uses retard or retarded to refer specifically to a person who has mental or intellectual handicaps.  The speaker uses the word with a malicious intent of demeaning the individual to whom he or she refers.  (Please note I’m not referring to those who use “mentally retarded” in the clinical and professional – though outdated – sense.  For example, the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services only recently changed from its former name of Department of Mental Retardation.) 

I will not waste time explaining why point C on the spectrum is hurtful and damaging to the psyche of anyone who is the recipient of such an insult, First Amendment rights or not.  A person with any common sense needs no explanation on that front.  However, I do want to address the gray area from points A to B on the aforementioned spectrum.

First, let me say that this is not an exercise in so-called political correctness.  I know that just uttering the term  “P.C.” makes people of certain ideologies want to spit and roll their eyes with contempt as they yearn for the day when they could openly utter racial epithets. 

In fact, I’m not going to tell anyone whether using the words retard or retarded is right or wrong.  Who am I to say?  Until Gus was born, I used those words freely (as described above) because I knew my intent was never to offend or hurt.

But when Gus was born, I discovered the importance of precision when employing words to describe him.  (I may be repeating myself from prior blogs so forgive me because it bears mention again.)  My first lesson was that Gus is not a “Downs” kid.  No, he is a kid first and foremost.  While trisomy-21 may accurately describe the chromosomal structure of every cell that exists in his body, the diagnosis takes a back seat to a million other more important characteristics.  It’s no different from any other parent who thinks first about how their kid is so funny, smart, beautiful, sweet etc. and not blond, tall, or brown-eyed.  So it stands to reason that we need only begin any description of Gus as simply being a kid.

Next, I developed a sensitivity to use of the term “normal.”  Generally, the occasions when we encountered this situation was when a medical professional was trying to compare and contrast a symptom or body function in Gus’ body that deviated from that of a child without Down Syndrome.  More specifically, the doctor would say something like “Normal kids have VSDs that close upon their first breath of air but Gus’ did not.”  Again, I understand the doctor had no intent at all to insult but the preferred terminology for Michelle and me in these instances is to contrast by saying “typical” rather than “normal.”  In other words, I have a normal two year old boy.  He likes to open kitchen cabinets.  He likes to play.  He pulls his sisters’ hair.  He gets timeouts.  However, typical kids do not have Down Syndrome.  We’re splitting hairs somewhat here I admit.  But the choice of words goes a long way for my family at least. 

To the ignorant and/or those incapable of empathy, these two explanations may fairly be chalked up to me being “oversensitive.”  On one hand, perhaps you’re right.  On the other hand, I say cue the violins for the old days.  But sensitivity is the perfect segue to the point I’m trying to make.

What is respect for another person but simply being sensitive to that person’s likes/dislikes, interests, or beliefs?  Specifically, if I know that someone could misinterpret my use of any word, be it douche bag or loser, even though I had no intent to offend him or her, isn’t it just more sensible for me to eliminate the word from my vocabulary simply out of respect for him or her?   

Self-proclaimed intellectual Ann Coulter made headlines this week for using retard to describe a segment of voters that she despises.  See: .  Full disclosure, I abhor Coulter and her politics.  Notwithstanding, I have no desire either to politicize this non-political topic, or to bring any further attention to her.  I merely point this out because she is a well-educated woman whose opinion matters to a lot of people.  So when she nonchalantly and callously uses the r-word to insult , she a) perpetuates the derogatory connotation associated with it and b) fosters support for the continued use of the term in our general parlance.

I have been meaning to write about this topic for months.  However, every time I was ready to finally post a blog about the r-word, a loved one in my life coincidentally uttered the word in my presence (without any intent to offend whatsoever and only to convey a sentiment somewhere along points A and B of the spectrum I described above) so I held off because I did not want him or her to feel that I was chastising or judging them.  But Coulter’s reckless disregard in her choice of words this week was finally enough for me to take to my keyboard.

So with that, I make a simple request to anyone who respects me and my family.  Please reconsider your use of the r-word.  I’m not saying that there is a right or a wrong here.  I’m simply asking you to think before you speak the next time you are tempted to say the word retard or retarded.  I bet you that there is a different word at your disposal that can describe whatever it is you’re trying to say.  I’ve eliminated the terms from my vocabulary.  And it’s not that hard to do.

If the rationale I’ve set forth above is not compelling enough for anyone to reconsider whether to continue saying the word “retard,” let me make one request of you in closing.  If you ever say the r-word within earshot of Gus, be sure that you have your explanation ready as to why you do not mean to offend him when you say it.  Soon enough, my son will be able to tell you why he thinks it’s a bad idea.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Side Project

Back in August of this year during our family vacation, I mentioned how I was beginning to work on a writing project that was going to be a lot different from Daddio de Novo.  The first installment is finally ready.  I’m very eager to share it with anyone interested in taking a look.  But before we get there, I have a few comments first.

The blog has been and continues to be a really enjoyable way for me to write.  Coincidentally, my first posting went public almost exactly four years ago.  If my wife Michelle (best known here affectionately as “THE WIFE”) had not encouraged me to pull the trigger on go public, I’m pretty certain that no more than a handful of people would have ever read anything that I created.  By comparison, the blog has received over 30,000 impressions since we started tracking them.  Granted, about 50% of the hits are from me doing half-assed re-reads to search for typos at three a.m. after I prematurely published something but who cares?

Virtually all of the feedback I have ever received from THE READERS about the blog these past four years has been overwhelmingly positive.  To this day, it makes me so happy to hear from any of our relatives or friends who say that they have read a post.  My only regret is that I have been unable to write as frequently as I was able to before, which is mostly due to the population control problem we’ve been experiencing at Casa de Teravainen but also because I fear any sort of a backlash due to overexposure. 

Now while Daddio de Novo certainly offers the opportunity to me to be creative through written expression, I find that the blog does not present an appropriate medium to present “traditionally pure” fiction like short stories or essays.  Another chronic problem I’ve encountered is simply starting projects and never finishing them.  I can’t tell you how many ideas or the beginnings of writings are sitting in various journals that never went anywhere, not including a screenplay that still awaits conversion into industry format and a play that just needs some finishing touches. 

Long story short, I’ve finally taken what I believe to be the next logical step as far as scratching the itch I have to entertain people with words.  I wrote nine different “pieces” (that sounds really pretentious but I can’t think of a better word) in a new blog called Gap Tooth Tales.  Basically what I’ve done is published current drafts of totally different fictional stories that are mostly short in length, which will demonstrate an entirely different range of style than what THE READERS are accustomed to seeing here in Daddio.
I’d love to say that Gap Tooth Tales will be updated every week or month, but I know that is probably unrealistic.  I’m going to wait and see what kind of reaction I get from any readers first, if any.  At least as of now, I intend to update the “To be continued” stories as inspiration arises.  As for any new posts unconnected to prior entries, I’ll probably post them in groups so that a reader can select from multiple new stories.

Before I go further, let me repeat myself that a few (definitely not all) of the posts may be disturbing or even offensive to those with more traditional tastes.  My intent is not to shock and awe necessarily.  In fact, some people may not even blink at all when they get to the parts that I’m talking about.  I just wanted to write without limitations on any subject matter.  I don’t expect everyone to be a fan and I’m cool with that.  In other words, I understand already a reader here or there may prefer to just stay with this blog, which is also totally okay.

If you made it this far, I hope you check out the site.  Go to the link for “Introduction” first, if you don’t mind.  Without further delay, here is the link to Gap Tooth Tales:  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Varsity Blues

I know the instant I type the last keystroke that we’ve “turned a corner” or something to that effect, chaos will ensue in our household like an Arab Spring for toddlers, so I’m not going to jinx myself.  Still, life at home is finally beginning to stabilize a bit.

After the last seven months, a question has grown louder both inside my head and in casual conversation with others.  To snip.  Or not to snip.  That is the question.

Getting snipped.  A visit to Doctor Snipkin.  Joining the varsity club.  These were all comments on a Facebook status back in February when our population of kids outnumbered the adults.

First, the pros.  Covered by insurance (I think.)  Check.  No more mouths to feed/college tuitions to fund.  Check.  Sleeping past seven on a Saturday is only about twelve years away as of today.  Check.  THE WIFE and I can sleep in the same room without fear even if we’ve split a bottle of bubbly and half a dozen oysters.  Check.

Second, the cons.  Let me recreate some of the comments I’ve received from men whose Vas Deferens are no longer connected.  “One of my nuts swelled to the size of an apple.”  “My balls felt like water balloons dangling from my crotch.”  “She hit a nerve or something during the procedure and I wanted to cry.”  “My sack looked like a deformed eggplant.”  And so on.

Slow down all you mamas out there who are eager to tell me how many thousand times more painful it is to bring a child into the world not to mention the discomfort of carrying said watermelon for nine months in utero.  You win.  I surrender.  Apples and oranges.  I get it.  Score one (or more) for you, and zero for me. 

Still, I cringe at the thought of my beanbag becoming temporarily mutilated if even for just a few minutes.  And the possibility of any “complications” makes my cajones retreat in a northerly direction along the inguinal canals while morphing into raisinettes.  Even more challenging, is all my jazz going to just swim around the yambag once the tubes are disconnected? 

Fortunately, a buddy of mine forwarded an entertaining and surprisingly educational article from GQ that answered a lot of my questions.  (I did my best not to steal any of the material by the way, though it is worth mention that the author’s wife threw him a party before the big day called the Sad Sack Celebration.)  So the momentum is beginning to take hold.

Now, the question appears to be more about when than if, which brings me to my next point.  One of my best friends called me recently and proposed an interesting idea.  It went something like this:

FRIEND: Hey, have you decided about getting snipped?
ME: Yeah, I think I’m leaning that way.
FRIEND: Me, too. (pause) Want to go to Vegas?
ME: Huh?
FRIEND: We could go during the AFC-NFC Championship weekend.  Wheelchairs at blackjack tables.  Bags of frozen peas and donut pillows.  Free drinks.  We’d make the most of the situation.

Now that’s what I call making lemonade from lemons.  Or maybe more like peanut butter from peanuts.  Eh, whatever the analogy, get my application for the Varsity club ready.

Friday, August 31, 2012


DAY 6 = A Pleasant Surprise

The next day, our morning started out with an overcast sky but an optimistic forecast.  Cue Google search.  Rather than head north that day, we went west-southwest to Tamworth.  We read some reviews about a farm out that way.

We ended up at Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm.  We had zero expectations.  Turned out to be a pretty cute place.  The kids really enjoyed it.  Great excursion and definitely a destination slightly off the beaten path.  THE WIFE snapped photos like we were preparing to leave for prom.  We fed some sheep and billy goats.  We admired piglets until mama pigs snorted the kids away from getting closer.  We strolled among gardens of flowers and produce.  Very picturesque.

Across the street, we had a picnic in a sweet spot overlooking the Swift River then headed home. 

That afternoon, Mommy and Greta had their big date out on the town.  Though I heard the stories only second hand, it sounded like a nice adventure.  The ladies opted for mani’s and pedi’s, of course.  Then, the women be shopping.  After a nice dinner together, Gigi had an agenda: back to the toy store.

The night before during my date with Greta, she tried to convince me to buy a bunch of stuff that I resisted until we compromised on a Cinderella jigsaw puzzle.  Unfortunately, she was disappointed.  She kept talking about some jewelry box that I dismissed as being a purchase she really didn’t want.  I was wrong.

When the ladies arrived home from their night on the town, Greta strode into the house triumphantly with a large plastic bag.  Mom agreed to buy the “treasure box” that Greta had oohed and aahed over.  (During a visit by her pre-K teacher this week, Greta proudly showed off the pretty jewelry box with several secret compartments as they toured her bedroom.  Too cute.)  Score one for THE WIFE.  I schemed about how I might be able to retake the lead in the favorite parent competition.

DAY 7 = Icing on the Cake

                Let’s just skip directly to my attempt at father-daughter bonding to end the trip on a nice note. 

                On our multiple trips into town during the week, we passed by a studio in Conway.  I’ve only done yoga about three times total in my life, but it’s starting to grow on me.  Lately during Gus’ P.T. session with Kristie, both he and Greta do yoga as part of his therapy, though typically not longer than ten minutes or so. 

                Once Gus and Tilly went down for their naps after the beach, Greta and I headed to the studio to get our Namaste on.  We met Miss Dawn.  She generally teaches yoga to children with special needs.  I figured that just the two of us would make for a pretty eventful thirty minutes.    

Miss Dawn turned out to be quite a character.  She did everything possible to make Greta feel comfortable.  Miss Dawn opened introductions by giving a small teddy bear to Greta.  Soon, we walked around the studio pretending to be in a jungle looking at animals.  Then we did some poses pretending to be animals.  Miss Dawn had me barking like a dog, meowing like a cat, and roaring like a lion.  (As I was bent over on all fours howling like a wolf, a relatively quiet voice inside my head began to wonder if perhaps I had misread the studio’s sign.)

Despite all of the effort, Greta was still lukewarm.  Miss Dawn set up a little house of cushions and blankets for Greta to sit under.  She played the hokey pokey on a CD player.  Unfortunately, Greta hardly flinched.  Soon, the thirty minutes came and went.  It was time to leave.

Miss Dawn presented a bowl of fruit to Greta so she could choose a snack.  Greta actually nibbled on some grapes.  Miss Dawn and I chatted.  Considering her background, I talked to her about Gus, Tilly, and THE WIFE.  We hoped to reconnect during our next visit and to introduce the rest of the fam to her.  As we got ready to leave, I prepared to discuss what I owed because I never asked how much a half hour private session would cost.  I had $100 in my pocket to be safe.  Miss Dawn asked me for ten bucks.  I tried to give her forty.  She finally relented and took twenty.  What a sweetheart. 

So that was basically the end of vacation.  Greta and I picked up a pizza to bring to the house for dinner before our road trip home.  Then, we packed up, cleaned up, and locked up.  Finally, we drove away into the rainy night. 

As we drove home, we (naturally) encountered severe thunderstorms on the highway that just chuckled at the downpours we drove through previously on our way up to Madison.  After a few movies in the FUV, the three amigos finally fell asleep.  We inexplicably yet inevitably encountered traffic on Route 1 at 11 o’clock at night on a Friday.  We moved at a mile per hour as three lanes merged into one, yet I did not curse or even complain.  Somehow, I was relaxed. 

Mission accomplished, family vacation.  Thank you Madison, NH.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Vacation Part III of IV – Even Though We’ve Been Home For A Week

Day Four – Operation Dinner Out

I can summarize this day pretty easily.  Beach in the morning.  Naps after lunch.  Then, the main event of the day: our first sit down dinner as a family at a restaurant with a server.  Most everyone knows how I feel about eating in public when my children are misbehaving.  For those who don’t, the scale ranges from slight embarrassment to utter mortification to wishing I could be teleported onto the island from Lost.

We dressed ourselves as if we were appearing on The Today Show.  In other words, no suits or anything like that but I wasn’t wearing my Reese’s tee shirt.

We didn’t know where to go, so we just headed towards North Conway.  I was feeling anxious about how the kids were going to be.  I just cringe at the thought of ruining another table’s meal by having my kids screaming, hucking food, spilling drinks, leaving their seat, pulling tantrums, or doing what they normally do when we eat dinner at home. 

Suddenly, Applebee’s appeared on the horizon like an oasis in the desert.  (Never in my post-college, pre-children life would I have ever believed that I’d be typing those words.)  We pulled into the parking lot and put our name in at the dais.  We sat after a short wait, then ordered the kids’ food and margaritas immediately.

Turns out our waitress was a mom, which made me feel a little bit easier.  But then I immediately felt worse about the mess we were about to make.  (My neuroses are unlimited.)  I made a mental note to leave a good tip regardless.

About forty-five minutes later, our food had come and gone.  We managed not to offend anyone or cause a big scene, as far as I can tell. 

All in all, the kids were pretty well behaved.  Our server and the other staff were great.  We were in and out of there in a pretty efficient amount of time.  And the dinner was ridiculously inexpensive.  (I thought I was in Prague circa 2001.)  While the food was absolutely unhealthy (I think even the salads come fried there) and tasted terrible, I’d rate our experience as a B+ overall. 

To reward the kids for their acceptable behavior and to perpetuate the poor nutrition, we capped the night off with a stop at Smitty’s for ice cream.  High fives all around.

Day Five – Painting the Town Red

On Day Four, we met a family of five at the pond whose oldest son has DS.  Of course, we introduced ourselves and swapped histories.  It was great to hear from each of the family members and the young man himself (Brady) who is now 19.  We met one other nice family at the beach, and another local family who were out for ice cream at Smitty’s.  Just great peeps all around. 

 Anyway, Brady recommended that we go to the Christmas Loft as an activity for the kids.  The weather in the morning of Day Five was a bit sketchy, so we decided to follow his recommendation.    

Before we arrived at the Christmas Loft, I was imagining a local retail competitor to the Christmas Tree Shop.  Once inside, though, it was more like a low budget “It’s A Small World” with a yuletide flavor and holiday knick knacks for sale everywhere.  It was indoors.  It was free (minus the ornaments THE WIFE “had” to buy.)  And the kids loved it.  We killed a good hour or so in there.  By the time we left, the sun was shining. 

Next, we went back to Schouler Park for the playground and a picnic lunch.  This time, we were prepared for the splash area with bathing suits and a camera.  How much did Gus like this excursion?  So much that he fell asleep while sitting in the swing.  Eventually, we got Gus and Tilly home for proper naps at the house.  Greta and I got ready for a big night out on the town.

Our first stop was Cranmore, which is a small ski mountain (see that contains an outdoor adventure park in the summer.  I thought it was ambitious for us to go here because I assumed the activities were a bit on the intimidating side for Greta.  She was also tired from all the action of our week.  I knew there was a bouncy house so at least one activity would be a hit.  Everything else was up in the air.  Mini golf was our back-up plan. 

Long story short, mini golf was unnecessary.  I was floored by Gigi’s adventurous spirit.  (I should’ve known when she insisted on being the only kid in the park wearing only her bathing suit throughout the entire duration of our excursion.)  She went on every attraction where she was tall enough and even a couple more when the operator looked the other way: both of the bouncy houses, soaring eagle zipline (short but sweet with an unsettlingly loud whoosh noise at the end,) giant swing (I thought I might puke for a second,) mountain coaster (she wanted me to go faster the second time,) and chair lift (we held hands and chatted away on the ride.)  She wanted to do the bungy trampoline too but the park was about to close.  I was blown away at how she seemed to have no reservations about trying any of the activities.  I was so proud of her.  No sign of any timid little girl that afternoon.    

Afterward, Greta and I went to dinner, strolled for ice cream, relaxed at a coffee shop, and perused a toy store.  All things said, it was seriously one of the greatest dates in my entire life.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Days Two and Three

Day Two – Getting Into The Vacation Mode

The forecast called for a 50% chance of rain.  Since tomorrow's weather looked pretty good, we planned to go to the beach then. 

Today, we packed up lunch and took an excursion into North Conway.  First, we hit up the Children’s Museum.  It was a cute little place that exceeding our expectations.

Understand that when we are at Pep’s house, someone has to constantly hover around Gus because he can fall down a set of stairs in almost every room.  Basically, we construct makeshift barriers to keep him contained in a safe space.  After a couple days of this routine, Gus was understandably beginning to grow restless at the constricted amount of room to roam.

The museum is comprised of about eight or nine rooms on one floor.  Once we got inside, Gus was a man on a mission.  He was just walking around everywhere non-stop.  We let him get into anything he wanted.  Greta was a little reserved at first but gradually warmed up and embraced the surroundings.  We spent about an hour and a half in there.  Let me summarize the kids’ opinion by asking Gus his thoughts on the museum.

ME: Gus, did you like the museum?
GUS: Wowwwwwwww. 

There you have it.

After the museum, we went to a park with a playground in the center of town.    It was only about 12:30 but Gus was sleep walking his way through swings and teeter totters.  The wheels started coming off for all three kids, so we banged out lunch in the hopes it would energize them. 

After we ate, there was a little concrete platform with water blasting up from the ground at various heights and widths.  A bunch of kids were running through the streams to cool off.  We let Greta and Gus check it out for themselves.  It was a comedy show watching them. 

Greta approached it like a timid cat, tip toeing her way up to the edge while holding my hand for dear life.  Gus, on the other hand, went full speed drunken sailoring into the abyss.  He didn’t want to leave.

ME: Gus, are you having fun?
GUS: Wowwwwwwww. 

There you have it.

We gathered up our crew into the minivan and headed for home.  Gus passed out immediately.  Once we were home, THE WIFE manned the fort with the Tills while Gigi and I headed down to the pond. 

The only other excursion worth mention was our trip to Smitty’s for ice cream after dinner.  A thunderstorm (with a flash flood warning, no less) occurred in the two minutes it takes to drive there.  Again, the Chantilly’s pinball machine crept back into my brain.  (See the entry from Day Zero if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

We made it safely and took over the ice cream shop.  (We had the joint to ourselves.)  Greta hammered back a Dino Crunch cone (basically vanilla ice cream colored blue.)  G-man wanted a cup of chocolate, at least according to Greta who ordered for her little brother.  THE WIFE went with a cup and a cone of coffee ice cream with the non-PC chocolate “Jimmy’s.”  I got a cone of the Maine Tracks, which was something awesome because it was overflowing with peanut butter cups. 

About halfway through his dessert, Gus started dancing like a tripping hippy at a Phish concert.  Seriously.  Picture a shirtless dreadhead smelling of patchouli with his head rotating in a figure eight while the arms flow like an octopus or Olive Oyl doing the wave.  I think the massive amount of chocolate and sugar suddenly overwhelmed whatever glands are responsible for production of endorphins.  Eventually, I acted as Gus’ trip guide so we went outside to stomp in puddles and work off some of the buzz.

It was a good day. 

Day Three – Sixth Month Old For Rent

I’m not sure what the qualifications are to qualify as a so-called “colicky” baby.  The term “colicky” itself makes me think (inaccurately I presume) of an infant whose bowel movements are more painful and frequent than someone who won a hot wings eating competition the day before.  Naturally, I can understand how a truly colicky baby would be legitimately unhappy.

If Tilly does not qualify for colicky status when it comes to assessing how unpredictable her mood can be from one moment to the next, then I feel genuinely remorseful that I’ve never extended the appropriate amount of sympathy to a parent with an actual colicky baby.  The frequency of Tilly’s unpredictable bad moods are enough to make me know I am definitely getting a vasectomy.  (Tilly, if you’re reading this many years from now, I still love you with all of my heart.  You were just a high maintenance baby.)

For the sake of staying true to recording our family vacations, today’s events were as follows: family beach day until nap time; Greta and THE WIFE got their shop on during siesta hours; I tried unsuccessfully to lull Tilly into sleep while we hung on the couch; THE WIFE returned and took all three kids to a playground while I cooked; we ate dinner; bath time; books and bed.

“Peach Pork.”  Combine fresh sliced peaches and red or white onions into saucepan with olive oil, salt, and black pepper over medium-low heat.  Get this going first because you want the peaches to absorb as much of the onion and salt as possible.  When ready, throw some pork cutlets (or chops if you prefer) onto the grill over medium heat.  I lightly buttered these babies for the sake of a little flavor, but my focus was primarily on not overcooking the pork.  Once the pork is done, throw them into the pan containing the peaches and onions until serving.

I posted this recipe because it was such a hit at dinner time.  Greta said she hated peaches, Gus threw his pork in several directions, and Tilly cried throughout the entire duration of the meal.  THE WIFE didn’t even take a bite of her food until about twenty minutes into the meal.  I can’t even remember if it tasted good or not, but I’ll try again several months from now. 

Here’s hoping that the easy version of Tilly shows up tomorrow.