Friday, November 30, 2007

Day 282 - 11/29/2007

The visitation was today at the funeral home (one of two in town). Family visitation is from 5-6p and then it's open to friends from the area. We got there just before 5p and were surprised to see most everyone already there. Once 6p rolled around, D's mom and her siblings lined up for the receiving line and were busy throughout the evening greeting everyone who had stopped by to pay their respects. After a while, I took the kids back to Angie's house, where we were joined by a couple of other cousins and their kids while the rest of the family stayed at the funeral home. The vast majority of whom showed up afterwards, making the house pretty crowded.

D's cousin Joe plays the piano (quite well!) and was asked to play during the funeral; her cousin's husband was asked to sing as well. With that in mind, they rehearsed for a while and somehow I got involved and it was decided that I would join them in the choir loft (along with D's uncle). I wasn't sure how it would sound, but they seemed to think it was alright, so I went along with it. Not that I minded, though. I love singing, even if I might not be that good -- or so I've been told. (Hey, at least I can hold a tune in a bucket, unlike other members of the family.) After a couple of rounds of songs, I had to put the kids to bed, so I called it quits. It had been a long day (and is going to be another long one tomorrow).

Earlier in the afternoon I took M, N and Jacob to the park to get out of the house. While it was on the chilly side, it wasn't too bad. We headed into town and eventually made our way over to the park, where the kids played on the equipment. As we got there, I announced that whoever saw a white squirrel first would be rewarded with a dollar. I had never seen one before and I've been told that they usually hang out at the park, so I figured four sets of eyes was better than one. After they played on the playground, we walked around looking at the lights. Sure, it was during the day, but we could still see the cut out displays from various movies.

As we were finishing up, Jacob earned the dollar and I spotted my first ever white squirrel (I've been going to Olney for 10+ years now and had never seen one until today). I got a couple more shots, but I think this one shows best.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day 281 - 11/28/2007

We hit the road this morning for the trip out to Illinois for Gramma Elie's funeral. We were hoping to leave by 830a, but ended up getting on the road about 910a ET. Traffic on 28 was heavy near the toll road, but we were soon heading out West without any problems.

I'll have to post the numbers Claire reported via GPS. For some reason it took us almost 13 hours to get there (arriving at 910p CT). Seeing as we only made three stops (one for lunch, one for gas and one for dinner and gas), I'm surprised it took us so long. Here's a shot of where we stopped for gas. You might wonder why we didn't eat there as well, considering what they were offering but we passed. (Well, D and I passed, the kids got ice cream.)

I plan on taking the southern route on the way home and doing a comparison based on what Claire tracks. (According to Google, the northern route is 2 miles longer than the southern route.) Below is the route we took, including stops (the white dots along the route). It may look similar to the route we took this summer, except for that it doesn't stop by Alpha.

The kids were pretty good on the way out, especially since we had limited stops. M did some of her homework, but for the most part, they watched the world go by and watched movies. (If it had been left up to them, they would've watched movies the entire trip.)
Here's the data generated by Claire during the trip to Olney:

Total Mileage:
Average Speed:
Moving Average:
Maximum Speed:
Total Time:
Moving Time:
Stopped Time:
753.75 miles
59.3 mph
66.6 mph
83 mph
12h 43m
11h 18m
1h 24m

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Day 280 - 11/27/2007

Until just before putting the kids to bed, we were still up in the air about whether the four of us would head out to Illinois or just D. While I wanted to be there, I also wanted to make it as easy as possible for D. We finally decided that we'd all go. M would be able to make up the work without any problems and N wouldn't miss much of anything.

That being settled, we got our stuff together and finished up whatever needed to be done before hitting the road tomorrow, including going to Giant, gassing up, checking the tire pressure, getting the suitcases out, etc.

Mundane stuff, I know, but I'm grasping (and don't feel like saying that I went to the gym and describing that in detail).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Day 279 - 11/26/2007

D's Gramma Elie died this morning. She was 93.

We'll be driving out for the funeral later this week. We'll probably leave Wednesday and come back either Saturday or Sunday.

Day 278 - 11/25/2007

After spending the morning trying to fix my computer, I decided I needed a new power supply, so shortly after noon, N and I headed out the door to the Computer Place in Fairfax. We stopped by Target for some clothes for him and then attempted to get his haircut, but the line was too long, so we left and went to the computer store.

I love going to that store, it's chock-full of possibilities of what could be: It's like walking into a candy store! Up and down the aisles we went, checking out all the various hardware available for us to purchase. We left with a new power supply, a drive rail kit and a couple of cables, as well as a new-found desire to build a new box. It's been a few years since the last one (3½ at least) and it's about time to replace it. Actually, I will convert it to be used as the server as that's barely chugging along (it runs Win2k Server on a Celeron 500 MHz w/ 64 MB RAM!). I've been looking at parts for the past few months, but haven't really done anything serious. Maybe over Christmas (or early next year) I'll get around to it.

N and I then headed over and picked up M in Springfield. Actually, we hung out for a while watching the 'Skins game vs. Tampa Bay (which they eventually lost). It doesn't bode well for the Redskins this year (although they Post was touting that they could still make the playoffs if they won out the season...yeah right, like that's going to happen!).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Day 276 - 11/23/2007

We headed back north from Thanksgiving in Fred this afternoon, this time with an extra person in the back seat. Nancy got the call from back home that her mother has taken a turn for the worse, so we dropped her off at the airport for the trip out to Illinois. She was able to get a ticket to Bloomington at a relatively low price and will then drive down to Olney tomorrow to be with her mother and the rest of the family already in town. Doug and Michael will follow at some point, but for now, she'll head out alone.

Surprisingly, traffic wasn't too bad (either going down yesterday or coming back today). I'm not sure where everyone was, but they sure weren't on the highways we were on. (Not that I minded, I'm glad we traffic was as light as it was -- it makes the trip a little less stressful.)

We got the kids ready for bed and I read them a chapter from Robin Hood. There's only a few left and they're getting anxious for it to be finished. Well, M is getting anxious, N couldn't care less -- he just wants it to be over so he can see the movie. I've decided to watch both the 1937 version with Errol Flynn as well as the Disney version. I'm sure the kids won't mind.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Day 277 - 11/24/2007

After a stint in the basement and a quick trip to the dump to drop off some old paint, we dropped the kids off at the movies to see Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium with Grandma and Sarah. N wanted to see Bee Movie but was overruled. Maybe next time.

After dropping them off, D and I headed out to Belfort to look for a new kitchen table. The one we have is 13+ years old and, while the table is in decent condition, it's past time we replaced it (and W-A-Y past time we replaced the chairs). It will still be useful in the basement as a craft table or something, but it needs to be removed from the kitchen sometime in the near future.

From Belfort, we headed home to freshen up before heading over to mom's house for leftovers and to collect the kids. We got there later than expected, but still enjoyed the visit. M ended up spending the night over with Sarah, so when we left, it was just D, N and I. D and I ended up watching Heros on Tivo before calling it an early night. (I also watched part of the Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus on PBS, which was pretty entertaining, if not bizarre. Um, yeah, ok. And what's up with Yoko Ono's performance?!? It looked as if the violinist playing with them wasn't prepared to hear that coming from a human being - and neither was I!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Day 275 - 11/22/2007

Happy Thanksgiving folks! In honor of today (and of the fact that the cabbage I made is the best I've made in a long time), here's the cabbage recipe from my Grandpa Pete.

Grandpa Pete’s Red Cabbage

1 large head of cabbage
2 apples
1 large onion
4 tbsp. pork drippings or lard
4 slices of bacon
¼ c. dry red wine or vinegar (or both)
salt and pepper to taste
hard pinch of thyme
caraway seeds
bay leaf
1 or 2 cloves
1 tbsp sugar (you can eliminate if the apples are sweet)

Wash the cabbage and slice it very thinly. The easiest was to do this is to quarter it, remove the thickest part of the stalk and slice it with a very sharp knife. You obtain what seems an unbelievable amount of cabbage, but it will cook down amazingly!

Peel and slice the apples and chop the onions. Heat the pork drippings or lard in a large heavy pot with a good lid. Add the onions and apples and cook until the onion is transparent and the apples soft. Add the bacon, cut into small pieces, and the cabbage. Keep stirring it into the hot fat until you get it all in. Pour in the wine, season with salt and pepper and a small pinch of thyme, also a big hard pinch of caraway seeds, if you like (I think it belongs). Drop in the bay leave and the cloves. If you are very particular you can put these in a little piece of cheesecloth so you can find them later on, or you can substitute powdered clove.

Cover and cook over a very low fire. At first the cabbage will render quite a bit of juice! Do not add any water. When it cooks down and the cabbage seems to be getting dry, add water sparingly just enough to bathe the bottom of the pot. The fat will keep the cabbage from burning. Just keep on cooking it stirring it once in a while to mix well for 2 hours. At that time, the cabbage is beginning to get good. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary and about 1 tablespoon of sugar. To get the cabbage to the peek of perfection, however, you should now refrigerate it until the next day.

Then cook it again for at least another hour, adding only enough water to prevent burning. If you are cooking a pork roast to go with you can add a little of the pork drippings to the cabbage.

Red cabbage goes fine with Roast Pork, fresh Ham, Turkey, Game, duck also if you have a Roast Pork sandwich, a little left over Cabbage, if you heat it a bit, is most delicious on top of the pork without drying it.

My notes:

I don’t use lard. Instead, I chop up 6-8 slices of bacon and render that down and then add the onion and apples. I stay away from the vinegar and usually end up using about 1 c. of Port (or another hearty red wine). I add the caraway seeds and use about 12-15 cloves (add 8-12 the first day and the rest the second) and 2-3 bay leaves. I use both black and white pepper to taste (you can skip this if you use Kunzler pepper bacon).

If you use the entire head of cabbage, this will make about a gallon of cabbage once it's cooked down. That's plenty for the holiday table (of 8-12) plus enough for leftovers.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Day 274 - 11/21/2007

Went to work for half a day and then hit the gym. I almost won the award for last person out, but there was one straggler behind me.

I stopped off at Giant for cabbage and shrimp mold supplies and was quite surprised to see that it wasn't crowded at all! After Giant, I hit Total Wine for a variety of beer and then headed home.

Since the weather was so nice, I decided to forego making the cabbage and shrimp mold this afternoon and instead mowed the yard. It's been a while since it's been cut and the leaves were piling up so I dropped off the groceries and headed up to the gas station to fill up the tank (which was on empty...just in time to sit around all winter long). While I was pumping gas, I noticed a police helicopter circling over the area. As I drove home, I realized it was circling over the house and eventually landed up at the school.

Right about that same time, D and the kids got home, so we (the kids and I) headed up to the school to check it out. (This was the second time a helicopter has landed at the school, the first one was when there was a fire in the neighborhood and they had to transport the homeowner to the hospital.) We went up the back way and found a fireman posted sentry at one corner of the field. He told us that a homeowner was up on his roof cleaning out his gutters and fell off. The good news was that he was healthy enough to be air-lifted (if there's a chance of cardiac arrest, they'd have to have taken him by ambulance).

I snapped this pic of the helicopter as it took off (using my phone; I forgot to grab my camera from my car). Of course the kids thought it was great that we had another helicopter land at the school.
After getting home, I attacked the lawn and was able to just finish up before it got too dark to see (actually, it was too dark to see, so I turned on the side light).

Before getting the kids ready for bed, I started on the cabbage. Since the windows were opened, I didn't have to cook it outside (which I usually have to do due to the smell -- M gets sick from the smell). I finished the shrimp mold after the kids were in bed and called it a night myself (after burning the midnight oil, which I'm wont to do on Thanksgiving Eve).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Day 273 - 11/20/2007

During my guitar lesson we reviewed barre chords for the second time. (We discussed them a few weeks ago, but I've not done much with them). Root V and root VI chords are based on which string is the bass string for the chord. Root V chords begin on the fifth string and chords use the standard A fingering position whereas root VI chords use the sixth string as the bass and use the standard E fingering position. (For more information on barre chords, check out this chapter from the Guitar book on Wikipedia.)

Now all I need to do is practice them. The best way to do that is to practice songs that I've already "mastered" (I use that term very loosely) using barre chords vs. the standard chords. While barre chords won't really help me on the acoustic guitar, they will help me with some of the trickier chords (such as the F and F#m where I'm playing multiple notes with single fingers) by strengthening my fingers.

After dinner, I returned to the basement to put together a ceiling storage unit that I designed. It's a pretty basic design in that it uses on 2x4s cut to length and some bolts. After putting it together, I calculated the cost and found it was less than $12 for all parts and supplies (vs. the $39 that the one I'm returning cost). Of course, this wouldn't work if the rafters weren't exposed, but since it's they basement, they are. I called D and the kids down to show off my handiwork. They were all impressed.

After a little more piddling around in the basement (and after putting the kids to bed), D and I sat down to watch a couple of recent Oprah episodes on hoarding. This is the second time she's had this guy on (Peter Walsh) and it's amazing to see not only the people's home (both before and after), but to get a glimpse inside their minds. One of the things that's driven home throughout the show is that hoarding isn't just caused by having a problem getting rid of things, it's more of an emotional problem. Like other addictions, hoarding can only be overcome by the hoarder him/herself and only if they want to change. Going into a hoarder's house and cleaning it for them will do nothing to change their behavior; it will just fill up again with other stuff. (I had originally used the word junk instead of stuff, but it's not necessarily junk, it's just stuff that's not being put to use.)

One thing that came into my mind as I watched this was that we've been looking at it the wrong way. We've tried to clean up and get rid of what we perceive to be useless junk, but until the person acquiring the stuff wants to get rid of it, it will continue to accumulate. No names are mentioned, but none have to be. I think most of you know who this person is that will be unnamed. We've often joked that it'll be quite a job cleaning out that house, but why not go at it now and help change an emotional attitude (and possibly foster a better relationship with the party involved) vs. pushing it to the back burner until we're forced to deal with it?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Day 272 - 11/19/2007

I had an impromptu lunch with Dad today. He was out and about and decided to ring me up and check on November lunch plans. I had nothing on my plate today (no pun intended), so arranged to head out to lunch with him. We headed into Fairfax for some sushi at Seoul House and, as usual, were in the minority as the place was packed with Koreans. I always take that as another sign that the food is good (vs. the narrow-minded view that they support their own). And, as usual, the food was good. I limited myself to only three plates (and smaller ones at that) as I was going to the gym after work.

Speaking of which, I signed up for the Holiday Workout Contest at the gym. When you sign up, your weight and body fat percentage are taken before you decide the goal you want to meet on January 4, 2008. At the weigh-in, I tipped the scale at 184.6 lbs. with 21% body fat. In order to meet the criteria for being entered for contest prizes, I need to workout at the gym at least three times a week between now and January 4th as well as reach my stated goal (drop 3-4 lbs.). Working out three days a week won't be a problem; the problem will be meeting the goal. (That being said, I know that if I cut out meat from my diet and start running on a more regular basis, the pounds will melt away like magic.)

After the gym, I continued working on the basement. The pegboard is up and finished and the next thing I need to do is get the wood off the floor. I bought a ceiling storage unit that I was going to put up, but it came down too far from the ceiling, causing the space below it to be lost, so I punted and watched football and played guitar instead once the kids were in bed. I've got my lesson tomorrow and I really haven't gotten in as much playing as I would have liked to. Hopefully it won't be obvious come tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Day 271 - 11/18/2007

After Mass, I went to Lowe's to pick up some pegboard and other supplies to finish up the workbench. I was hoping to finish it up this afternoon, but we had to leave to go meet Chris, Lori and the kids for bowling. They went to the Mason basketball game last night so we decided to post-bowl today (with Frank subbing for D).

We all bowled pretty good (my high score was 228 and Frank's was 253), but that was attributed to it being a no-tap night. That being said, even without the no-tap scoring, Frank got a couple of honest turkeys. It looks like we found our sub!

After bowling, we hit Macaroni Grill to celebrate D's half-birthday. We started doing this a few years back to honor her birthday instead of letting it get lost in the shuffle of Mother's Day and then our anniversary. The kids love it (as does D) and people we explain it to get a kick out of it. After dinner she finished opening presents. (She started this morning when she first got out of the shower and N was waiting with his gift in hand.)

I checked the score in my fantasy football game and was disappointed with what I saw. Peyton only scored six points and Portis only scored three. Had I left my lineup the same yesterday, I would've been up by 24 vs. only being up by two going into tonight's game (I had the Pat's DST and my opponent had Brady). As it turns out, that cost me as I ended up losing by 20 points. Oh well, I guess my season is over. At 5-6, I'm pretty sure I won't be making the playoffs this year.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Day 270 - 11/17/2007

As I suspected, I was up early and out the door to...rake leaves. One of the nice things about having a stand of trees between our house and our backyard neighbors is that it provides us with privacy during the summer when we're out on the deck. Of course, the privacy disappears during the fall and winter when the leaves providing it fall to the ground. Today was the second round of leaf raking I had to do and won't be the last. I wish the trees were on the same leaf-dropping cycle, but I'm out of luck in that department. It looks like the next to drop will be the red maple and then (as usual) the Bradford pears. Like last week, I raked most of the backyard leaves onto a tarp and dragged them off into the easement behind the Jones' house. This makes a three hour job that much easier (as well as reduces it to under two hours!).

After raking, I hit the basement to start organizing. I moved the shelves yesterday and finished moving the yard sale stuff this morning. Afterwards, I started on the workbench. By the end of the day, I was able to have it moved, but that was pretty much it. Tomorrow I'll need to get some pegboard to put upon the portion that didn't have it before. Hopefully by the end of the weekend, I'll have the wood up and the workbench organized.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Day 269 - 11/16/2007

I went bowling with my work colleagues and used it to goof off. I've been wanting to try some new approaches to see if changing up my approach might allow me to increase my average substantially. The first game wasn't any different and the second one wasn't either. The third game, however, changed all that. After tossing three gutter balls in the first two frames (ending with a four), I ended up shooting a 174! Had I found a new technique? No, I simply bowled between my legs the entire game (both first and second balls). I ended up getting a 4x turkey at one point and had I not had that open frame towards the end of the game (or the 4 in the first two frames), I might've broken 200.

That being said, I don't think I could get away with bowling like this during the season as I'd be labeled a hot-dogger. Of course, I would contend that if I could do better bowling like a clown, why shouldn't I?

After I got home, D and I discussed what needed to be done to the workbench. It's been somewhat of a mess as I never really unpacked and organized after we moved. What with the recent spate of activity in the basement, however, I'm on a roll and want to finish this up. I started moving things from here to there in anticipation of the work I need to tackle over the weekend before calling it quits for the night. I was up early this morning and will probably be up early again tomorrow.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Day 268 - 11/15/2007

I hit the gym for the second time this week. I was hoping to get in some cardio, but as I was finishing up weights, another patron hopped on the bike I usually ride, so I punted and stretched instead.

Afterwards I picked up N from Frozen Ropes. It looks like he's having a great time there (although he wasn't too keen on me picking him up vs. D).

It's been a while since I've read to the kids, so I read them a chapter from Robin Hood tonight. As much as I enjoy this nightly ritual, sometimes I just like to skip it and let them read to themselves (especially now that N is beginning to read). That being said, this version of Robin Hood is pretty good. I'm just not sure which movie to show after we're done. Should I show the Disney version (one of my favorites), the classic with Errol Flynn or the remake with Kevin Costner? (Scratch that last one, IMDB shows it has male nudity. I'm sure it won't be as bad as Harvey Keitel in The Piano, but still, I'm sure it's not something the kids should be seeing at their age.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day 267 - 11/14/2007

Doug, Nancy and Michael came up today to celebrate Nancy's birthday. D made a pot roast and a chocolate cake for dessert. All of it was delicious. I even had a second piece of chocolate cake (which is surprising as I'm not a big fan of chocolate cake).

M played her clarinet for them and, after a while, it began to sound good. She's got a concert in a few weeks and hopefully they'll all get a lot of practice in and improve their sound. It's okay, but not what I would say concert-worthy. Of course, I'm not concert-worthy on guitar either, but that didn't stop me from giving one to Michael before he left. He really enjoyed it and could've listened all day. Had I known more songs, I would've continued playing, but after playing each song twice, I figured enough was enough and called it quits.

I forgot my badge again today. That's the second time in as many weeks. I guess I left it in my gym bag yesterday and forgot to take it out this morning when I went to work. I've got to start checking before I leave for work as I'm sure the receptionist has a report she issues on who's forgotten their badge on a regular basis. It would be just like my company to have such a thing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Day 266 - 11/13/2007

100 days left in the year.

As I write this milestone post, I get the sense that it's become a mix between a chore (especially on days when I forget to post and have to do a two-fer the next day) and an exercise in writing (which is what I hoped it would be, in addition to sharing my daily happenings).

I guess we'll see what the remaining days have to offer.

We had conferences with the kids' teachers this afternoon. N is excelling in school and is finally starting to not get his apple changed on a somewhat daily basis. His teacher instituted a rule about who he can go to the bathroom with, which has helped (some of the boys in his class feed off each other and the next thing you know, there's a ruckus coming down the hall). He's also beginning to really focus on his work. His coloring and cutting have vastly improved since the beginning of the year. Let's hope it continues.

M missed being on honor roll by two points (in English of all things!). Her conference went well and we chatted with her teacher about the dynamics within the classroom. We clued her in to an ongoing issue between another classmate going back to kindergarten and were surprised to learn that what happens in the classroom is different from what's shared at home. I guess it's just like any relationship in that the complaints to the third party are more interesting (?) than the compliments. I mean, how often do you hear someone complimenting their SO to a third party? I don't hear it very often and, if that's how it goes across the spectrum, maybe that's just the way it works. Who knows, I guess time will tell.

I hit the gym this afternoon, but wasn't able to get my full cardio in. After finishing weights, I was about to get on the bike when someone else beat me to it. Oh well, I got in 20 minutes before weights, it'll have to do until next time. I did, however, stretch afterwards for the first time in a while. I know I should do it every time I workout, but sometimes I just don't feel like it. Hopefully this will start a trend.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 265 - 11/12/2007

Although it's a federal holiday today (Veteran's Day, observed), we're open for business (as are most private companies I would assume). Veterans Day doesn't have the panache it once did; it's become another non-holiday holiday, sort of like Columbus Day. I guess it's just another day to make money.

On my way home I noticed a few houses with Christmas lights already on. I guess they didn't read Stephen's recent letter to the editor. And if you haven't read it, here it is (from The Free-Lance Star):

Fredericksburg gets the prize for best costume!

Despite the late arrival of autumnal weather, the city of Fredericksburg was able to muster up some real Halloween spirit and get decked out in the best costume I've seen yet.

When I noticed red and green wreaths going up on the light poles around town on Oct. 29, I was confused at first, but then it all became clear! The whole city got dressed up as a town that places commercialism above sentimentality and decency.

By donning this timely costume, the city appears to be one of those towns that pushes the season as far as it possibly can, the kind that says, "Hey, self-respect is nothing compared to the satisfaction of your tax dollar in our pocket! It's time to spend money here! It's Xmas time!"

Well, city of Fredericksburg, open up that sack--because I think you deserve a whole handful of the good stuff from my candy bowl.

Fantastic! Red and green wreaths on the light poles before most of the leaves around town have even changed colors. Hilarious!

Let me know if you need any help taking that costume off after trick-or-treats. We can put it away until Christmas, when it will look good again.

Stephen Craig Fredericksburg

While they may be playing It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas in the shops, I wish retailers could just focus on the holiday at hand vs. trying to make a buck. I mean, I didn't even see one Veterans Day Extravaganza Blowout Sale circular. What's up with that?!?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Day 264 - 11/11/2007

A heartfelt thanks to all those who've served our country and were willing to put their lives on the line to allow the citizens of this country to live the way we do.

Veterans Day was started as a way to honor those who fought in World War I (or, as it was known then, the Great War). It was originally called Armistice Day to commemorate the end of hostilities during World War I (which occurred on November 11, 1918). This was in advance of the Treaty of Versailles that formally ended the war (which wasn't signed until June 28, 1919).

The first Armistice Day was commemorated by President Wilson on the first anniversary of the armistice on November 11, 1919. It was commemorated by two minutes of silence beginning at 11 a.m. (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, which is when the hostilities were to have ended). It became an official annual federal holiday in 1938.

In 1954 the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor those who fought in World War II and the Korean War as well.

Although federal legislation changed the date of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October in 1968, not all states followed suit. The intent of the change was to ensure a three-day weekend, which would increase travel and boost the economy through various activities, but civic minded groups continued to celebrate the original date and so, in 1978, the date of the federal holiday was reverted back to November 11th.

(If that date falls on a weekend, it's observed by the Federal government by taking either Friday or Monday off.)

Again, thank you to all of you who have served your country in uniform.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Day 263 - 11/10/2007

N was up bright and early and since I'm the early riser, I got up and escorted him to the basement for him to watch some shows while I went back to work in the basement.

After a while, I reached a point where I needed storage bins so I made the trip to the store where I got what I thought was enough for the job at hand and went back to work cleaning the basement.

After a few hours in the basement, I broke for lunch and then took D and M shopping. Actually, N and I just dropped them off and picked them up later on. With D's knee still bothering her (especially getting in and out of the van), it's just easier to drop her off whenever possible.

While we were waiting for them to call for a ride, N and I raked the leaves in the back yard. This was the first "real" raking we've done all year (previous raking was done in conjunction with mowing the yard and simply bagging the lawn clippings). I ended up bagging only enough leaves for two bags, the rest I put on a tarp and dragged back into the woods. The way I see it, almost all of the leaves came from the common area and therefore that's where they should end up.

After raking I sat and listened to M practice her clarinet. I tried giving her some pointers on how to practice better and it appears to have taken as by the time her practice ended she was playing both her songs pretty good (Good King Wenceslas and Jingle Bells).

After dinner we played Mouse Trap and Trouble before putting the kids to bed, after which I did more work in the basement. I'm approaching the end of the storage area. Tomorrow I hope to be 90% done. (I won't consider it 100% done until all the yard sale/goodwill stuff is out and the workbench area is redesigned and organized.)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Day 262 - 11/09/2007

I got to the gym sort on time, but didn't get the workout in that I wanted to. As I was finishing up weights, the gym chick came out of the office and started cleaning down all the machines. It was close to closing time, but only closer than, say, noon is to closing time. There were still about 20 minutes before I had to be out of there. I guess she didn't think I took the hint so she turned the radio off and went about finishing her prep work to close for the weekend. That hint came through loud and clear.

I finished stretching, got my stuff and left. All in all, it was a good workout. I got in 20 minutes on the bike and my standard weight regimen. I wanted to get another 20 minutes on the bike after the weights, but I decided to punt.

As I was walking out of the gym, D called and put in a request for dinner for her and N. M had a girl scout event tonight so it was just going to be the three of us. I stopped off at Chick-Fil-A for some carry-out and we ate shortly after getting home. N had ordered a milkshake and I was quite surprised with how good it was; I think I've found a new place for shakes (their sweet tea is good as well!).

After dinner, I hit the basement to start working on organizing the back storage area. I moved the shelves from their original location a few months back but never got around to actually doing any serious organizing. Since we don't have anything on the calendar this weekend (save for Girl Scouts bowling on Sunday), I figured this was as good a time as any to get started on getting the back basement in order.

I spent about 3 hours down there tonight and will probably spend many more over the course of the weekend. As I've said to M when she balks at cleaning her room: it didn't take five minutes to make the mess, how do you expect to clean it up in that amount of time?

One of the things that I know will take up my time is going through old papers. I've done this a couple times in the past year or so, but never really organized anything. This time I plan on going through the boxes and *purge* whatever I don't want anymore (vs. just sorting it and making it nice and neat) and then consolidating everything into storage bins. We have the space for it if it's used wisely.

Hopefully, come Monday, there will be a huge difference between now and when I'm done.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Day 261 - 11/08/2007

Although N's baseball season is over, we signed him up for a class at Frozen Ropes to (hopefully) give him better instruction than his coaches were able to give him over the past two seasons. I arrived at the facility a little past 5p and from what it looked like, N was enjoying himself. In the car on the way home he was upset that he couldn't get the ball in the net during the throwing drill, but from what I saw, there was a vast improvement in just the one session. As I said to Mike (the other coach of N's team), I wonder if they offer a coaches clinic so that we (the coaches) can become better in teaching the kids the right skills.

Tonight there was a parenting session at school that I attended. The speaker was Dr. Patricia Dalton, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Washington. She also writes articles for the Washington Post. (I'm sure if you googled her, you'd get more information on her.) Anyway, she spoke at the kids school last night on being a parent in today's day and age. Since we're always on the lookout for tips and tricks in the parenting department (and since D is still not moving as fast as she'd like to), I went ahead and attended. She covered a lot of topics over the 90 minutes she spoke and it was quite reassuring to hear her validate some of the methods we're using.

Over the course of her discussion, she mentioned some books that might be helpful in the parenting department (The Explosive Child, The Nurture Assumption, The Way to Behave, and The Blessing of a Skinned Knee). I'll have to check them out and see if I can't glean some additional information from them. (I'm unable to find the one listed without a hyperlink; maybe I put the wrong title in my long-term memory. If I find the correct title -- or if you're able to provide it -- I'll come back and add it.)

Hopefully I'll be able to put some of her thoughts to work with the kids. One of the things she mentioned was that even though your primary responsibility is to raise socially responsible children, being their friend after they leave the nest is important as well. While the line you walk as a parent isn't all that fine, it can easily be destroyed should the parent not take the right approach in raising the child. Once it's destroyed, it's not very easy to rebuild.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day 260 - 11/07/2007

The lights were left on in the van again last night and the inevitable happened: the battery died. D called me just as I was leaving the school from dropping the kids off and asked me to come home to jump the van.

I realized on my way home that wasn't going to happen as by the time I got home, she'd have to leave for rehab (she had an 830a rehab appointment this morning). So, with that in mind, I drove her there and then came back home to jump the van.

Now, for those not in the know, D parks the van in the right bay of the garage; the left bay is used for the kids toys and bikes and trash cans and lawn equipment and such (since the HOA won't allow us to put sheds in our yards). So, in order to jump the van, the left bay needs to be cleared out in order to pull the Altima in. Fortunately, the battery of the van is on the left side of the engine compartment, otherwise I'd have to drive across the lawn and run the cables through the side garage door since the batter in the Altima is also on the left (either that or I'd have to get longer cables). Although now that I mention it, maybe I should drive across the yard, it would alleviate the need to clear out the garage!

Anyway, after jumping D, I went back to pick her up, dropped her off at home and then went in to work.

Upon my arrival, I explained to my colleagues why I was late when one of them asked, "Why don't you just put the van in neutral and roll it out of the garage?"

And therein lies the rub: you can't shift out of park in the Odyssey unless the engine is running.

I found that out the first time the lights were left on in the van and the battery died. I thought we learned the lesson to double-check the interior lights have been turned off when exiting the vehicle, but sometimes it's hard to tell.

Maybe I'll just invest in one of these (if only for the picture on the target page!); it'd make it much easier the next time!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Day 259 - 11/06/2007

It's election day across the country and here in Fairfax the voters have spoken. Across the county it appears the vast majority is happy with how King Connolly is driving this county into the poor house. I guess the $25 we don't have to pay in order to prove we paid our personal property taxes was enough to buy their vote.

Sure, you removed that fee and are taking credit for reducing the tax rate (which still means we're paying more in property taxes due to the increased assessments) and are for anything that means more development dollars in your pocket. You based your attack on your opponent's platform matching everything you've been trying to do for the past four years, but all you could do is say you eliminated the decal fee?!? Makes me want to holler!

Can you tell who I voted for? (Or should that be who I didn't vote for?!?)

The outcome of our state senate race is still being determined. The incumbent is ahead of his challenger by 94 votes (I'd mention their names, but I can't spell them correctly and I'm too lazy to look them up right now). I smell a recount and then when that fails to determine a definitive winner, the appeals process will begin. I'm just left wondering whether folks voted for the challenger because she wasn't the incumbent (who hails from the right of right on lots of issues) or whether they actually believed she could do the job. I guess only time will tell.

Of course, regardless of which party is in control, nothing will be done and come next election we'll be discussing the same issues. It's politics as usual in the state of Virginia and until the state constitution changes so that the local jurisdictions can manage themselves without worrying about Richmond looking over their shoulders, nothing will change, regardless of which party holds power.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Day 258 - 11/05/2007

Nothing of note happened today.

I dropped the kids off at school, went to work, took off early so D could go to rehab, helped the kids with their homework, fixed my computer (the power to the primary slave drive went kaput), practiced guitar and went to bed. Sort of in that order, but not exactly.

I had split pea soup for lunch, as well as some cashews (bless you!), an apple and an orange; for dinner I made a grilled ham and cheese. M had leftover pot pie and N had grilled cheese.

As I said, nothing of note happened today. Or at least nothing I can think of as I type this.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Day 257 - 11/04/2007

As I expected, the kids were up early and ignored the extra hour. I thought this over, though, and set their clocks back after they went to bed and told them they couldn't get out of their rooms until 830a (EST). This worked for M, but not for N. He was in our room at 730a. Oh well. D got out of bed and tried to keep him occupied downstairs, but it wasn't to be; I couldn't fall back asleep so I got up and joined the living.

I called over to mom's house to check on Rudy and was happy to hear he was home from the hospital. The long term prognosis hasn't changed, but at least he's at home vs. the hospital. After putting together N's bed, we went over for a visit and were glad to see his color has improved since last week, as were his spirits.

While there, we enjoyed an impromptu dinner with Cheryl, Nina and Vince while M and N enjoyed a visit with Sarah. We weren't planning on staying for dinner, but it turned out there was enough for everyone. After dinner we had to head back home. The kids finished watching whatever Brady Bunch episode they watched on the way over (or was it another one?) and I got to listen to my Sunday night radio shows; tonight was an old Dragnet episode. D doesn't seem to appreciate old time radio as much as I do (I do agree with her in that some of the Dragnet dialog is just hokey), but puts up with it because...well, I'm not really sure, but maybe it has something to do with it only being on once a week.

After we got home, we washed the kids up and sent them off to bed. N is in his new bed tonight and M is all kinds of jealous. She wishes she had a loft, but she's got the big room (and the big bed), there's no reason she needs a loft. I told her she could get one in college, but I don't think she wants to wait another 10 years. Oh well, life's tough like that.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Day 256 - 11/03/2007

Both M and N had their last games this morning, but both of them were at 10a, so D and I had to split up yet again. I was hoping M's game would be at noon so I could see it (due to scheduling conflicts with N's games, I could only make a handful of M's games), but even if it had, with N's end-of-the-year party scheduled for immediately after the game, I wouldn't have been able to go anyway.

Overall I enjoyed the season. Mike and I talked about coaching and how it impacts the kids after the party. I shared with him what I saw on another field with another coach berating one of the kids that was sitting down in the grass. We both agreed that at this age (5-7), the kids are best served by letting them do what they want to do when they want to do it (within reason). In a few years they'll be more prone to focus on the game vs. the leaf blowing about their feet. I could see the difference between N and some of the other players on the team. (Although he's one of the biggest on the team, he's one of the younger ones, so is more apt to want to play in the dirt than watch the opposing batter miss five balls in a row.) Keeping this in the front of my mind really helped me focus on staying positive over the course of the season. Don't get me wrong, there were times I wanted to give the players what for, but it would've fallen on (mostly) deaf ears. In the end, I'm glad I took the route I took. I don't want to be remembered as "that coach" who puts winning above all else and forgets that, at this level, it's meant to be a learning experience and is not meant to be competitive.

After getting home from the game and party, I recruited a neighbor to help me pick up the rest of the boxes for N's bed. I was hoping to put it together tonight, but the kids were done and were in need of an early night. They were already going to get an extra hour of sleep from the switch back to Standard Time and we forced the issue by getting them to bed early.

Once they were in bed, D and I caught up on Tivo (Heros and The Office) after which we went our merry ways: she to bed and me to the basement to play guitar. I ended up wasting away the extra hour of sleep by staying up to watch SNL before finally going to bed. Oh well, I was at least able to get in a few hours of guitar before hitting the sack.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Day 255 - 11/02/2007

After last night's show, I decided to take the day off today. I ended up putting in a few hours thought, but just to make up for missed work earlier in the week.

I spent my day off taking care of long-neglected chores (mowing the yard) and running errands (bank, returns, shoe shopping). Later on, D and I took N to Bombay Kids to pick up a new bed for him. They're closing their stores and everything was on sale and since we had been talking about getting him a loft bed, we bit the bullet (before they sold out). We saved over $300 on the list price (which I'm sure didn't make our neighbors happy as they just recently bought one for list price). I was able to get some of the boxes in the van, but not all of them. I'll have to head back out tomorrow to finish the job.

Before getting the bed, we stopped off for dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. It's been years since I ate there and was quite surprised to see the dining room empty. (Granted, it was only 5p, but still, for being right across from the Cinema de Lux, you'd have thunk it'd have been busier.) N actually like it (what's not to like about pizza?!?) and both D and I enjoyed our dinner, although her salad has changed a bit since she was last there. (M went at a friend's house after school; I picked her up after we got home.)

After the late night out last night, I decided to call it quits early and was in bed by 1030p or so.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Day 254 - 11/01/2007

"I heard you missed us, we're back!"

And thus began a great night of music from a band I never thought would appear on the same stage together again: the original Van Halen. Well, almost the original lineup ("3/4 original, 1/4 inevitable" as David Lee Roth described them during the show); Michael Anthony was replaced by Wolfgang Van Halen -- Eddie's son -- on bass. It wasn't exactly the same as the original lineup, but I'd venture to guess that the difference was minimal vs. seeing Sammy Haggar in place of DLR.

Overall I thought the show was pretty good. While it wasn't anywhere near as good as their shows back in the day, they still made it enjoyable. DLR flubbed his lines every now and again (not good) and some of the interactions seemed forced, but hey, they need the money so they're going to go along to get along, right?!? Having seen DLR touring by himself years ago, I was able to see him with an "adult" outlook and was able to see the ridiculousness in his on-stage persona that I was blind to as a teen.

Would I see them again? No, I've had my walk down memory lane and have no desire to go back there. Now if it were Led Zeppelin, that'd be a different answer!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Day 253 - 10/31/2007

Happy Halloween to all you ghosts and goblins out there!

M went dressed as an adorable witch and N followed in my footsteps and went as Charlie Brown. We went out with some neighbors and they kids seemed to enjoy themselves.

At the end of the night I was checking e-mail when I heard a commotion on the front porch. I went out to investigate it and found a couple youths digging through the candy bowl.

Apparently the temptation of an unattended candy bowl was too much for them and they were digging through it, getting the good stuff (unbeknownst to them, the good stuff was already taken out by yours truly before the bowl was placed on the porch). Once they saw me looking at them through the screen door, they started putting the candy back. Since it was late I told them not to worry about it. Once they were gone, though, I took the bowl inside and turned the lights off, signaling the end of Halloween in our household.