Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Pre race pump up.

Jo jo

This past fall, I worked for the title sponsor (Grand Dynamics International) of the Ultimate Towner obstacle course race to build and run two of their races on the East Coast. One in Lake Placid up in the Adirondack Mountains, and one in Syracuse, New York. This was a blast.  Basically the race is 4 miles over varying terrain with 25 obstacles (mud pits, walls, more walls, tires, sand bag carries, balance beams, etc) that add up to one challenging course. There are two heats: a fast class (where you are timed and must complete every obstacle) and a fun class (which is as the name implies, for fun.)

ultimate_logo

The main thing that distinguishes the Ultimate Towner from say, Tough Mudder, or Warrior Dash, is that they hold the races primarily in small towns, focus on overcoming obstacles through teamwork and passion, get the community involved, and a part of the profits go to a local charity. It is a super fun and inspirational event. Tim Walther (pictured in white, above), president of Grand Dynamics, starts off the race with a large group pump up/ dance/ aerobic work out craziness and it goes on from there. The race is open to all ages, and I think we had a two year old on the course at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid.

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So yeah. Lot’s of fun. Great people. Hard race. What more do you want. Oh yeah, also, cheaper than the other races too. So register for one near you. Or travel to it. The one in Jackson, WY is awesome. Be sure to check out the links up top for more info on races near you. Here’s some more pics from the New York races:

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Tuffy Slacklining at Whiteface Mt.

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The Over Under Through walls, in the beautiful Adirondacks

 

Teton traverse wall

Teton traverse wall

 

At mile 3, that's a tough climb!

At mile 3, that’s a tough climb!

The "Love Life" wall

The “Love Life” wall

 

Overcome your Obstacles

Overcome your Obstacles

 

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Potato sack race obstacle

Racers get a fun spray down from a young spectator!

Racers get a fun spray down from a young spectator!

Ring a ring a rosie

A pocket full of posie

Ashes, ashes,

We all fall down!

Innocent enough children’s rhyme, right? Hold hands and dance around in a circle before falling to the ground and giggling. Yeaaaa!!!!!

No.

Like many children’s rhymes, songs, and poems, this particular rhyme contains a hidden meaning. In medieval Europe, they had outbreaks of the plague. The first symptom was a circular red sore (ring of roses). As people started dying, the bodies piles up in the streets. The stench was unbearable and some people put herbs and flowers around their neck or in pockets to try and mask the smell of decaying flesh (pocket full of posies). When the bodies were burned, the ashes would rain down on the city, on young and old alike (ashes, ashes). Ultimately, many people could not escape the plague and ended up dead (we all fall down…dead).

Wonderful. And kids sing this like it’s the happiest song ever.

After having kids of my own and reading many of these poems and songs, I realized just how many of these things have a deeper darker meaning.

Here’s another.

Oh, The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.

Like many things from hundreds of years ago, this rhyme has several meanings, but the version I like best is that  the duke is Richard, Duke of York born in 1411. There are a few other contenders like James II born in 1633 and Prince Fredrick born in 1763.

Richard, with 8,000 of his troops, was surrounded in Sandal Castle which was built on a hill. (he marched them Up) He was awaiting reinforcements, but decided to instead sally forth (down the hill) and fight the siege army nearly three times his number. Richard and many of his army were killed, and having ceased to exist, were (neither up nor down)

The next rhyme may be from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Sing a Song of Sixpence,
A bag full of Rye,
Four and twenty
Black Birds,
Bak’d in a Pye.

When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Was not that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?

The king was in his counting-house,
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlor,
Eating bread and honey.

The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes,
There came a little blackbird,
And snapped off her nose.

Apparently there really were recipes that instructed how to bake a pie with live birds inside so that they would fly out when the pie was cut open. At least if the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes is to be believed, an Italian cookbook from 1549 tells the baker just how to accomplish this feat. There is no explanation why a maid would be forced to suffer such a fate in a rhyme. Maybe it made the Nobles feel better to subject their servants to abuse in song, in addition to real life. At least some later versions include:

They sent for the king’s doctor,
Who sewed it on again,
He sewed it on so neatly,
The seam was never seen.

Another one that always struck me as terrible is the classic lullaby:

Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetops,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

There are many theories as to the meaning of this rhyme. One popular theory is that it originated in America in the 1600s when colonists saw Native American women rocking their babies in birch bark cradles swung from tree limbs. The idea being that the wind would rock them to sleep. However, the poem first appears in print in England in 1765, so this would appear to invalidate the American ownership.

Another theory comes from a local legend in Derbyshire England where Luke and Kate Kenyon lived with their eight children in a huge Yew tree. They hollowed out one of the limbs for a cradle while Luke made charcoal in Shining Cliffs wood in the Derwent Valley.

There are some cool political overtones to the rhyme though. Another theory focuses on a footnote ( “This may serve as a warning to the Proud and Ambitious, who climb so high that they generally fall at last”) published with the original, and goes along with a second lesser-known verse:

Rock-a-bye, baby, thy cradle is green;
Father’s a nobleman, mother’s a queen;
And Betty’s a lady, and wears a gold ring;
And Johnny’s a drummer, and drums for the king.

The baby is said to be James II, who was believed to be someone else’s child smuggled into the birthing room to provided a Roman Catholic heir to King James I. The “wind” may have been the Protestant wind blowing from the Netherlands, bringing James’ nephew and son-in-law William of Orange, who would eventually depose King James II in the revolution. The “cradle” is the royal House of Stuart

This post is by no means exhaustive on the subject, and I only did my research online. But I hope I have been able to illuminate some commonly sung rhymes that we memorize when we are kids and don’t know the hidden, darker history to. As always, I’d love to read your thoughts and reactions. Thanks!

 Other resources can be found here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grand_Old_Duke_of_York
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1904/whats-the-nursery-rhyme-sing-a-song-of-sixpence-all-about

My awesome sister Catherine is studying journalism at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. Recently she has been doing radio updates and some on-camera work for their news site: http://edinburghnapiernews.com. Here she is doing a 12:30 bulletin for March 25th, 2011. Good job Cath, keep it up!

Nathan Roarke was born yesterday, coming in at 9 lbs. 6.8 oz. and 22 in. long. My wife is a champion at natural childbirth! No drugs or anything. The labor went well, but it’s not called labor for nothin’.  It was work. But after 10 minutes and 4 pushes, he was out. ( I hear second children are faster that way.)Still, the entire labor was long and we were both up for more than 24 hours. Exhausted doesn’t begin to explain it. But we are very happy and thankful that both mother and baby are healthy and safe.

I may be getting a job. Since I left me last job in August, I have been watching my son two days a week and working on the house the rest of the time. Also lazing about a bit. Since my wife had 15 months off while I worked, I don’t feel bad about this.

I had planned on looking for a job after I  finish my degree at OCC in December, but after talking with a friend, I submitted my resume to the place he works. I went in for an impromptu interview last week and got a job offer today. Unfortunately, I have to watch my son these nest two days, so I was unable to act immediately. This may have cost me the job, but the manager said that he has a few other positions open as well and I may still be able to start Monday.

During the past few years, my wife and I had gotten used to never worrying about money. She had a teaching job and I was making a much as I could hope for with only a High School diploma. We had saved up quite a chunk for a newly married couple ($25,000) and planned on using this when she took a year off with the baby. This saved us because midway through that time, my position was cut to part time. We basically lived off savings for the rest of the summer. Now she is working again but I am still home. Money is still tight although we have never missed a payment on our mortgage or school loans. I wouldn’t say we argue about it, but we can order anything off the menu at restaurants anymore. We can’t go out to eat at all anymore. Maybe twice a month, max. No movies, only free DVDs from the library.

But now I have a chance at a job. I realize that this is rare in this economy, especially for someone who has no practical experience in the field that this company is in. So when the interviewer asked me what salary I think I should receive, I told him that any dollars/hr is better than no dollars/hr.

This job will be different than anything I have done before. More of a factory position than working at a desk. This is part of what attracts me to it. I enjoy working with my hands and want to be able to leave work at work at the end of the day.

I am looking forward to the sense of security that this will bring to our finances. I would also like to say that I never worried about money because I knew God would take care of our family. There have been a few times we were low on funds and out of the blue, a check would come in the mail from some obscure thing we were not expecting. Like an alumni fund or extra cash from our escrow account. Anyway, I hope to post a positive update soon.

My wife is one of the least sneaky people I know. When the baby is sleeping, she will just walk down the stairs like normal, not bothering to skip the second step (which is squeaky) or stepping to the inside of the 4th one (also squeaky). If she’s going down to the basement to do laundry, she will just wrench the door open, not pull up first, so that it opens quietly. So I find it very frustrating when I am trying to be quiet and the baby still wakes up if I step on a board wrong, but will sleep quietly with her banging around somewhere.

Climate change. Does it exist? Yes. Can we do something about it? Maybe. What the world needs now (besides love, as they say) is concerted action. We need to educate people on the true consequences of their actions, and what they can do to reduce their impact on the planet. For a few things you can do individually, check these out:

1) Live close to work & play. I know that for many people, they are settled in to where they are living. But the average American only lives in a house for seven years. So you still may be able to do this at some point in the future. Look at where you live now, and how far you commute. Can you live closer to where you work? Can you get a new job closer to where you live? When my wife and I were buying our first home, we took this into consideration. We decreased her commute time from 30 minutes to 20 minutes, and I was close enough to ride my bike to work most days.

2) Ride a bike. If you are physically able to ride a bike to do short errands, do it. Many car trips in the U.S. are for distance of less than a mile. Have to run down to the drugstore for something small? Take a bike. This alone will reduce your carbon footprint a great deal. Plus it may be quicker. What? you ask incredulously. Yes. My commute was 12 minutes by car and 7 minutes by bike…because of all the traffic. I can always go to the front of the line at a ed light, and speed by cars that are bumper to bumper.

3) Get an energy audit for your home. Many companies that deal in windows, insulation, or heating will offer these for free. A technician will come in and go around your house check for leaks. Not leaks from water in pipes, places where heat is leaking out. They seal off your front door with a big plastic gasket with a fan inside. This creates negative pressure in the house, so any place where heat would have been going out is now coming in. They use a thermal IMG_0251imaging camera to spot areas of cold. (white is hot, black is cold. You can see in the picture that the bottom panel of our back door is very cold, and cold air is seeping in underneath the door.) It was very cool to follow him around and see cold seeping in through the baseboards and around the door to the attic. Then I knew exactly where to seal with caulk or expanding foam. We also got our furnace replaced with a 95% efficient model and insulated all the exterior walls with blown-in cellulose insulation. This cut our utility bills in half! I wrote in more detail about that here.

There are so many other things you can do, so I will say that the biggest one is:

4) Read. Educate yourself on how you can live a better life for yourself, and the environment. You’re doing it right now! There are tons of simple things you can do. There are also things that many people believe will affect the climate a great deal, but actually don’t.

I focused on only one small part of the climate change issue, but there are myriad facets to this. I expect to read posts from other people doing Blog Action Day today about how coastal regions may be affected, our food supply, desertification, water shortages, international policy changes, new advancements in science, and much more. So just try and do your part, and we can make some change for the good of us all.

For more info, go here:

http://www.blogactionday.org/

This is great news. I just commented on this story yesterday as it was rattling around the blogosphere. I said: “Yeah, that’s ridiculous. Why expel a kid for forgetting to take his nail clippers out of his bag? Oh wait. I’m sure that he actually meant to shiv someone in the lunch line, and that he wasn’t just hygienically conscious. Now if it’s an actual knife, that’s different, but clippers, or in this case, a spork/ camping cutlery, that’s just crazy. You have to question the priorities of whichever administrator brought attention to this in the first place. Let’s hope this gets resolved soon. Unfortunately in today’s news climate, with war, healthcare, and the economy, it may be overlooked.”

Well, I’m happy to say no, it didn’t get overlooked, and justice has prevailed. For those who don’t know, 6 year old Zachary Christie was suspended and forced to attend an alternative school for violent offenders when he brought in his new favorite camping utensil to eat lunch with. He is a model student and excited about learning. Apparently he would wear suits to school of his own volition. Being a Cub Scout, he loved his newest camping implement and wanted to use it at school. But his school had a zero tolerance policy against weapons and he was suspended, facing a 45 day sentence. His mother protested and bloggers (like you and me!) spoke out and brought dialogue to the national stage.

I understand that we need to keep our schools safe, and if kids bring box-cutters, knives, guns, etc. to school they should face the consequences. However, I think the zero-tolerance policy needs to be amended for special circumstances. For example: we have a technical school in Syracuse that teaches local high school students trades like automotive maintenance, fashion, cosmetics, cooking, nursing, carpentry, etc. Imagine a student enrolled in the cosmetics program. She doesn’t have time to go home between classes to get her beauty supplies, so she carries them with her in her backpack. Her school on the southside conducts a random weapons search and finds her nail clippers, file, and maybe some shears for hair. Uh oh. She a violent offender for sure! Lock her up before she stabs someone! Nevermind that she’s a straight A student and always nice to everyone. She planning something. Policies like this need to be under constant scrutiny so that we can protect our young people rights and make sure they feel like America is a good place to live and not some dictatorship. Enough of their rights are taken away already in school. How to dress, speak, where they can or can’t walk and when. For the sake of good students everywhere, review your local school’s policies before another six year old’s bright vision of school is shattered and re-fused from the ashes as bitter cynicism at a broken system.

Break-in

burglar

My garage was broken into last night. Whoever did it had vehicular support because they stole my lawnmower, my 80 lb. truck jack, and saddest of all, my bike. Now I can’t ride around the neighborhood with my son on the back in his child carrier. (one of my favorite pastimes). They did my nextdoor neighbor’s garage too and got their mower as well. The garage door was padlocked, and the two side windows were boarded up, but they stood on a trash can and broke in the rear window, taking it entirely out of the frame.

If you have ever had a break-in, you know how it feels. Awful. You feel violated. You feel watched, like they might just come back the minute your back is turned. You feel regret at the things you lost. You feel apprehension at having to report all this to the police and your homeowners insurance. You feel stupid for having a $1,000 deductible. You feel ineffective at keeping your home and family safe. So what do I do now?

I made a list of things missing and their replacement cost. $2,090. I boarded up the back window, and changed the padlock around so that someone from the outside can’t access the screws. What else? Reassess security.

Please do this now before it’s too late for you. Go outside. Now look at your house/ garage/ property with a burglar’s eyes. Where would you break in? What looks like the easiest way or the weakest area? What is stored where? Thankfully all my expensive rock/ice climbing equipment was left untouched, due to the thief’s ignorance. But you may not be so fortunate. Go out to your garage and write down the serial numbers of the most expensive things there. I did not do this to my bike, much to my frustration. Keep this list in a safe place. Realize that if someone really wants to get in, they will, but do not make it easy for them. A single-pane window held in by rusty nails ended up being the weak link in my garage. Make sure you know yours, and then do something about it so that this does not happen to you.

I thought I would catalog my son Andrew’s language so that I can look back and remember what he did and didn’t know when he was 16 months old. So here are all the words he knows:

Mommy: self explanatory

Daddy: self explanatory

mum mum: nursing

ba ba: his sippy cup

doggy: dog

buhdy: birdy

boo berwee: blue berry

bye: as in, goodbye ( with waving)

pwee: please

no: no, sometimes he means yes, though.

uh oh: when he drops something

wahdy: ready?

pee pee

pahdy: potty

Oh wow: when he learns something new.

Making money in a down economy:

This is a short list of ways to make a little extra money for you and your family.

1)      Become a scrap peddler. Now, this isn’t as bad as it sounds. All I mean is, look around your house, basement, and garage for any scrap metal that might be lying around. Then find a metal recycling place that accepts individual drop offs and take it down there. You give them rusty metal, they give you cash. I did this a few weeks ago and made $60. Of course, most of that was from the furnace that I ripped out two years ago and has been sitting in my garage ever since. The price for scrap metal at the time was $128/ ton. So I figure that I had around 900 pounds of steel and cast iron to get rid of. I took me two trips in my little Subaru, but I did it. If you’re really serious about being a scrapper, get a pick up truck and troll the neighborhoods on trash night. Get a friend to help you lift all those washing machines and bed frames into the back and share in the profits.

2)      Sell stuff on Ebay/ Craigslist. Look around your house for anything that you haven’t used in a few years but might be of use to someone else. I found my old GPS in my office. I hadn’t used it in years, and actually preferred my map and compass, even when I was hiking a lot. So I put it on Ebay and made $80. Easy as pie.

3)      Sell books/ video games to local used bookstores/ video game shops. Take stock of your shelves and see what you can bear to part with. There are some PS2 games that I really enjoyed, but might not ever play again. Ex: Prince of Persia. A great game with lots of involved environmental puzzle solving. But I don’t think I will spend another few weekends working through the same traps and pitfalls that were so frustrating the first time. On the other hand, if a game is easy to pick up and play again, like SSX Tricky (snowboarding), that may be one I keep.

4)      Mow lawns, rake leaves. I know, you’re not twelve anymore, but this still remains a viable option if you really need the cash.

I just read a very eloquent and thoughtful letter from a librarian to a patron asking that the children’s book “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding,” by Sarah S. Brannen be banned. I feel strongly about reading, freedom of speech, and even gay marriage, so this was a good read for me. The librarian, Jamie Larue, basically states that he will not pull the book from the shelves because of free speech (but the letter is so much more than that). He also makes an important point that if parents feel that a certain issue is wrong, or sensitive to the values they are trying to instill in their children, don’t read that book to them. It’s as simple as that.

This is like parents that get upset when their children start swearing or getting violent from just having played 17 hours of any Grand Theft Auto video game. How can they be upset when they bought it for them, silently endorsing the game by their purchase of it.

So while I may not agree with gay marriage for religious reasons, I certainly agree with the library’s decision to stock this book. Comments?

I’ve come to the realization that I don’t do campgrounds. I much prefer camping out in the wilderness with no one for miles around and only a stream for running water, than being shoved next to loud strangers to sleep on a patch of mud with a smelly communal bathhouse to really make you feel like you’re “roughing it.”

Here is my personal list of pros and cons for staying overnight at a campground:

Pro: Easy. Just back the car right up and unload everything right into your tent.

Con: Easy. Anyone with access to a sleeping bag can sleep there. Loud radios are easy to pack when your car comes equipped with one.

Pro: Extras. Bathroom, showers, clean water, playgrounds… they have it all.

Con: Extras. You can even get sites with electric hook up so you can run your microwave, TV, and refrigerator…when you’re camping. Getting in touch with nature? Nah. Change the channel.

Pro: mmm, I’m out of Pros.

Con: LOUD people. I get out into the woods to escape from our modern society, not be crammed closer to it. If I slept out in my backyard in the city, I would have had a quieter night.

Con: Too much light. I tried to enjoy the stars, but the light from the bathroom was too bright.

Con: Cost. Why pay $20 to set up my tent ten feet away from my car? I can do that for free in my backyard. I know many areas that I can car camp at that are totally free. Just find the right trailhead and set up camp.

That’s all for now. What do you think? Are you a campground camper, or a backwoods camper?

And now I will relate the dramatic story of when my brother stabbed me in the back. Yes, he actually did.

There we were on a pleasant weekend afternoon, me, my best friend, and my godbrother (the son of my godparents.) We had spent the hours after lunch turning my room into the perfect 10-12 year old play spot. There was the big pile of LEGOs all over the carpet. The discarded drawing pads from when we had our Most Awesome Jet drawing contest, and a chess game in progress on the bed. Go-bots (the less commercially viable version of Transformers) also made a showing. We were all deep in concentration when we heard a little voice out in the hallway leading to the door of my room.

“I’m gonna kill Danny.” my two year old brother said in a mischievous whisper. The three of us looked at each other, not knowing quite what to expect. On the one hand, Pete was only two years old. How much damage can a toddler do anyway? On the other hand, this was Pete we were talking about. El Destructo. The Terminator. The Master of Myhem. Mr. Booders. (don’t ask me where that last one fits in) Pete was a local legend in the neighborhood for having The most Terrible twos, EVAR. All eyes turned towards the door…

In an explosion of movement, my two-year-old brother kicked the door in and took a flying leap across the room straight at me. As soon as he landed, his hand swung around, and with a wicked scream, stabbed me right in the back with a flathead screwdriver. I writhed in pain, my arm reaching around to pluck the dreaded implement from my abused back. Luckily, it had only broken the skin, not penetrated too far. Pete was still all over me, punching and hitting. A cocoon of horror, writ in pudgy, little hands. I reacted naturally and kicked out, sending him flying back across the room to smash into the LEGO bin, a used Christmas popcorn sampler tin. You know, the ones that are two feet tall and have regular, cheddar, and caramel corn.

So Pete runs out of the room crying while my friends are looking at me in shock; like, “Did your brother actually just STAB you? Yeah…he did.”

The next thing I know, Mom is yelling for me to GET DOWNSTAIRS THIS MINUTE, MISTER! I exchange another look with my friends and hobble downstairs. After I explain what happened, I got the expected dose of sympathy when one nearly experienced fratricide. And that, as they say, is that. Do you have any fun stories of violence among siblings? Now keep in mind that the key word here is FUN. I don’t want to celebrate truly terrible domestic situations. But, everyone has a good story of when their brother attacked them with a tire iron, or nearly blew their ankle off with a quarter stick of dynamite. Stuff like that. So what’s yours?

This is just a quick life update. I am now a stay at home dad for two days a week. The others are spent doing projects around the house that we haven’t had time to do in the last few years. Like: ripping down the wall between the kitchen and dining room, replacing broken window panes, stripping paint, fixing the leaky basement, etc.

I have received 3 rejections from agents about their interest in my novel so far. I’m waiting on 2 more. I may start sending it out to publishers too, but I’d rather have an agent first.

I’m starting on my last semester of classes for my A.S. in Business from OCC. I like my guitar class the best so far. I know how to play, and have for years, but it’s fun remembering all the old Metallica songs I used to know and jamming with the other advanced students.

The toddler is adapting well to his first major life transition: Mom at work, he’s in daycare or with me, I’m gone at night at class. That’s it for now