Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Adding Vocabulary

As Gunnar closes in on the two-year mark (he turns two next March), he has passed a key developmental mile-mark. That's right, he has begun to speak. Here are a few of his words, their meanings, and how they are used in day-to-day speech.

"Uh-oh." This phrase is used immediately prior to throwing something to the ground. Note: the more the item can splat or splatter, the better. Example: "Uh-oh!" [throws open cup of milk from high chair to floor].

"Apple." This word applies to anything edible. Except apples. While he'll eat apple sauce like a champ, he doesn't usually prefer to put apples in his mouth -- unless they are covered with peanut butter, in which case he will lick off the peanut butter and then throw apple slice to ground (see "uh-oh). Example: [Sees my plate of curry potatoes, vegetables, and beet salad]. "Apple!"

"Deet-doe." This phrase means "here I go" or "here we go." Usually used in a command form i.e. "Here I go and you are coming with me." Example: [Sees that I have sat down after a particularly strenuous activity]. "Deet-doe!"

Meanwhile, Gunnar continues to use another language for a high percentage of his conversation. As he learns more English, I will be sure to ask him before he forgets about what he was saying in that other foreign language. Some of it sounded pretty important.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Trip Report: Austria 2014

It was the trip of a lifetime. Okay, let's back up a second. On paper, there was plenty that could go wrong, right? A European vacation with an 18-month-old and the in-laws? Get real -- what was I thinking!

Moving back to real time, as I mentioned, the trip of a lifetime. The five travelers in our group were completely compatible, due to shared interests and a total can-do attitude. It would have been tough not to have fun. Ali and I -- despite limited practice (okay, who am I kidding... I did not practice at all) -- had a great time communicating in German. In fact, my understanding of the language was the best of all five times I have visited this area of the world. I can't wait to go back.

We biked, hiked, ate amazingly good food, sampled the local beers and wines (and plenty of them), and did a few tourist things. There were three legs of the trip -- Obertraun (a tiny little Austrian mountain village), Ruhpolding (the hometown of old friends the Pichler family), and Salzburg (tourist central -- and we were right there with 'em).

Leg One (6 days): Obertraun. Stayed at Haus Hepi. The longest leg, we were surrounded by amazing mountains, we did three great bike rides, we ate exquisite food prepared by Larry, co-owner of Haus Hepi, and we had just a fabulous time. Here, Gunnar established that he was going to travel like a champ. We also jumped in the Kaiserlauf -- Bad Ischl's local half-marathon.

Leg Two (2 days): Ruhpolding. Pam Pichler hooked us up with the Heigermoser family who have a couple of vacation apartments (and who make the best cakes in Ruhpolding) and took us on a breathtaking hike through alpine meadows to a Gipfelkreuz on a knife-edge ridge that came out of nowhere. Thank you Pam for the locals' knowledge! We also took Gunnar to the local pool -- which had the most amazing kiddie pool setup I have ever seen (Ali and I also took turns hitting the water slide).

Leg Three (2 days): Salzburg. Ali and I had both been here before but mostly passing through. My memories of prior visits: (slightly fuzzy) large beers, bad food, no flow. This visit was different on all counts. It turns out one can order a half-liter beer at the Augustiner beer garden (not sure if this option was available last visit or if I only saw the full-liter option). Meanwhile, we had incredible food both days, and we had a great time wandering the city.

I love visiting a place and speaking the language. I love how beautiful Austria and Bavaria are. I love Austrian and Bavarian beer, wine, and food. Most of all, I loved traveling there with our team -- Ali, Gunnar, Doug, and Ruth.

Two take-aways from this trip. It is possible to travel with an 18-month-old... and have a good time.

Second, let me know if you hear of any ski instructing jobs in the Obertraun/Dachstein area. I'd take it in a second.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Raising Parenting Concerns

Books are not buckets. That is, authors aren't dumping their points of view into bins (in this analogy, readers are the bins). Rather, the act of reading is exactly that -- an act. Not passive. As one reads, one reacts and internalizes the text (or not) depending on one's background, interests, and personality. Who a reader is will certainly correlate to the effect a book has.

I am currently reading Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. It's about many things: generation X, relationships, personal responsibility and accountability. Oh, and it's about parenting. As in, more specifically, the book contains examples of really bad parenting -- like, parents would probably be well-advised not to do some of the things highlighted in this book.

But the more I read, the more concerned I become. Because I strongly identify with the main character. That is, the bad parent. (Did I mention, by the way, that -- as a parent -- he really does a lot of things poorly?) So you see why I'm concerned, right? As a parent who identifies with the bad parent character (I'd even say "likes and admires certain things about said character")... does that not, by the transitive theory, then make me a bad parent?

As I often do in dire situations, I turned to my wife Alison, who yet again served as the voice of reason. "You're not a bad parent," she said. "It just means Eggers is a good writer."

I hope she's right.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The End of an Era

Tonight marks the end of an era. Richmond's On the Rise Bakery held its final Open Microphone. Nine acts performed at tonight's event, including the ninth and final musician -- Mark Aiken. Appropriately, his final song -- the first song he ever performed at an OTR open mike -- was the classic cover from the band the Zambonis... "Zamboni Song." There were more than a few tears among members of the audience as he performed his rendition making only a few mistakes.

Many thanks to On the Rise for holding Open Mike all these years -- and to Derek Burkins for hosting in recent years. Some incredible musicians came out of the woodwork to OTR's open mikes.  It's been a great run... and I will really miss it.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Another Relative Cut From Patriots


Number 48 Danny Aiken became the third Aiken to be released from the New England Patriots in the past few seasons. Aiken joins wide receivers Kamar Aiken and Sam Aiken as Aikens who played for New England and then were released.

The latest Aiken served as long snapper for the past three seasons for New England -- a respectable stint. A long snapper does touch the football; he comes out every time the Pats punt or kick a field goal or extra point, hikes the ball to the holder, and then gets pounded by a 300-plus-pound opponent. Aiken performed admirably -- except in the AFC championship game last season when he hiked the ball over the punter's head.

It is unclear whether there are any future family members in the Patriot pipeline. "It's clearly an exceptional family," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "We'll keep trying."

Added Thursday, Sept 4

Late-Breaking News... Long-snapper Aiken has re-signed with the Patriots! After a brief workout with the Denver Broncos (we know he wasn't serious about playing for them), he's back on the team. Never count out those Aikens!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Blight Strikes Again


Vermont farmers and gardeners are looking both ways, glancing at the sky, and knocking on wood. "It has been a perfect weather year so far," they are saying. Not to rainy, not too hot -- it has been an ideal growing season.

My tomatoes were certainly thriving in the perfect Summer of '14 conditions; just two weeks ago I had hundreds of fruits of all sizes and colors hanging on the vines. I should qualify my this year's garden by disclosing that I bought all my plants at the Burlington Farmers' Market this year (none from seed) -- and every variety I purchased was specifically "Blight Resistant." Followers of this blog know I have a history of blight issues.

Well, the masked marauder moves quickly. Today, my tomato plants are dead. The fruits are rotting on the ground. The blight spores are probably -- as we speak -- seeping into the soil, ready to lie in wait for next year's victims. I hate this silent killer!

I harvested tons of tomatoes before they were ready as soon as I saw my plants beginning to wither, and they are trying to color on my window sills. But a tomato that has been touched by the blight doesn't last as long as a healthy one.

But I am not done fighting. I intend to bag up all the dead plants and rotten fruit and bring them to the dump. Then -- mark my words -- I will not plant tomatoes in my garden next year. That's right: tomatoes in baskets and pots up here by the house where I can keep a close watch. You nasty blight: I will not go down without a fight! (Queue theme from Rocky I.) There WILL be a rematch... and we will come back bigger, stronger, and more determined than ever! Take that!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


The word transition is a verb.

At least it is in my life. Every year, when the shoulder seasons of spring and/or fall arrive, I take the T-word, turn it into its active form, and shift gears. My spring and fall transitions (a noun in this case) surround my dual career paths: freelance writer and ski school supervisor at major resort.

[An aside: doubters might refer to these paths as "starving artist" or "ski bum." No comment.]

Anyway, I am transitioning from being up on the mountain five-plus days a week to being home all seven. It's a time period where I try to organize my winter gear, re-introduce myself to my wife (she keeps asking who was the guy who left before daybreak and came back after nightfall all winter), and write articles. Lots of articles.

And play with 1-year-old Gunnar. Who is working on his transitions too. Like transitioning from lunchtime to playtime. Or from playtime to nap time. These transitions are not easy when you are one -- not easy at all. Sometimes, apparently, you have to cry when you transition. And it doesn't help when many of your transitions come when you need something to function -- like food or rest. Or when [warning for those squeamish in the presence of baby-talk] you're sitting in a load. You might cry too. I am, however, happy to report that Gunnar's transitions are becoming smoother each day.

Is it because he watched my Spring 2014 transition and learned? I'm not sure about that, as I still have two pairs of skis leaning in the corner of the living room, random Stowe apparel and equipment strewn about my car and home, and four deadlines looming. But I'm working on it. And no doubt Gunnar is observing.

Happy Spring and may your transitions be just as smooth as ours (or more so).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Back on the Bloggin' Train

Here's what happens when a blogger becomes a parent: you don't blog for awhile, Google takes over, and when you go back to post an entry, you can't log in to your own blog.

That has been my situation for several months now, but I have finally cracked the code, and I'm back in!

However, I can't stay long. Gunnar is awake, it's dumping snow out, the dogs are ready, and the whole gang is going skiing. I'm going to test out the ski-trailer on the Cat Trail. Can't wait to make a report… if I can remember how to log back in! Talk soon!