A busy December…

Posted on
Ben and Michael playing in the hallway. Michael is enchanted by the remote controlled Lego car Ben is driving
Ben and Michael playing in the hallway. Michael is enchanted by the remote-controlled Lego car Ben is driving

It has been a busy month. I’m pretty sure that December is normally a busy month. But, we made it extra busy. Why? Because it is more fun this way! Not really. It wasn’t really our planning, it just happened. It has been a good month, but next year, we will try to keep it a little less busy.

We didn’t even have time to set up a tree. The only reason the house has any lights is because Susanna doesn’t mind the cold and put them up a couple of weeks ago. Or rather, she minds the cold, but minds a dark house even more. I couldn’t feel my fingers after working outside for 15 minutes, so I decided to not help decorate at all. She even climbed on the porch roof to install the lights. That is dedication when it is 20-degrees out (or just crazy).

The rush started with Susanna flying back to Sweden over Thanksgiving for her aunt’s funeral. It finally feels like things are slowing down now, a month later.

Will and Ben playing in their new rec room/play loft. They named the space "Club Naribithia," and will add a sign tomorrow (and make club rules).
Will and Ben playing in their new rec room/play loft. They named the space “Club Naribithia,” and will add a sign tomorrow (and make club rules).

I was able to clean out the boys’ rec room/loft over Thanksgiving weekend. The boys were here almost every weekend since Thanksgiving, so I had to get the project finished early. Plus, it is more fun to try to drag heavy crap up the stairs to the loft by myself. No point in waiting for help to return home.

Susanna was singing in the Church of Sweden Lucia concert in New York City. That took up every Sunday for 2 months for rehearsals. She had to leave in the mornings after breakfast to get to the city on time, and returned late after dinner. And then there was the concert in mid-December. We all braved the snow to drive to New York for a weekend and to enjoy the concert. It was a blast. Will even said (without me asking), that it was the best trip away he has had in a very long time.

A week after the concert, Susanna and I drove to Florida to visit my mom. The boys got to spend Christmas week with their mother. The trip down was great. We planned two days driving each way, but traffic heading south was pretty heavy so we took 2 1/2 days driving to Florida. We camped the first night in a canvas tipi North Carolina. The second night we bailed after dinner in Jacksonville.  We stayed in Florida until the 26th and began our trek back home. It was much easier driving north, except (of course) traffic around New York City. Though, next time, I think we will fly. Or just wait long enough that we forget how long of a drive it is.

Susanna singing to Michael in the living room.  I'm pretty sure I need to tune the guitar, but Michael didn't seem to mind.
Susanna singing to Michael in the living room. I’m pretty sure I need to tune the guitar, but Michael didn’t seem to mind.

We had a great Christmas in Florida. We went out on the water the afternoon we arrived. It was warm enough to go swimming (for an adult to go swimming, Will and Ben will swim in almost any weather). Christmas Eve we enjoyed a light show at the state park. Christmas day we headed for a walk, and even stopped by the beach for a bit.

The past two days have been all about the boys. They came home yesterday morning and we had our Christmas. I was hoping that we could open presents in their new rec room/game loft, but the weather was too cold, and I didn’t feel like dragging the heater from the workshop up to the loft (though I think I will have to for New Year’s Eve). Susanna and I gave the boys empty fish tanks (they both have talked about getting fish for a while), and we even had time to go to the pet store so they could buy fish for their tanks. We had a nice surprise and got to babysit Michael Matkovich for the night while his parents took a date night.

Today was chore day.  Ben got his stitches out (he got two stitches in his upper lip on Christmas Eve when wrestling with his brother) in the morning. We worked on cleaning up bedrooms for an hour in the afternoon. We didn’t quite finish, but progress was made. Hopefully we can finish tomorrow. We spend a while in the rec room/loft with the boys. It is cozy up there, but does need some real heat (so does my workshop, and I’m pretty sure I’m putting good heat in my workshop first). We got a couple of foosball games in before the boys had to head to bed.  I need to level the foosball table (at least that is my excuse for losing most of the games).

Merry Christmas from Florida

Posted on

Susanna and I are visiting my mom and Ron in Florida for our Christmas vacation. Here are some pictures from the trip so far:

Susanna and my mom checking out one of the local 'gators during our Christmas Eve visit to Homosassa State Park for the light show
Susanna and my mom checking out one of the local ‘gators during our Christmas Eve visit to Homosassa State Park for the light show
Visiting on of the local alpaca farms on the day before Christmas.
Visiting on of the local alpaca farms on the day before Christmas.
Swimming in the Homosassa River on the 23rd. The weather was a bit warmer than it was in New England
Swimming in the Homosassa River on the 23rd. The weather was a bit warmer than it was in New England
We spent the first night of our trip south in a tipi in North Carolina. We were travelling in style...
We spent the first night of our trip south in a tipi in North Carolina. We were travelling in style…
Mangrove on the Redfish Hole Trail on our Christmas morning hike.
Mangrove on the Redfish Hole Trail on our Christmas morning hike.

Sankta Lucia (Church of Sweden – New York)

Posted on
Susanna (bottom right) singing by candlelight at the Lucia celebration
Susanna (bottom right) singing by candlelight at the Lucia celebration

Maybe the third time is the charm. Or maybe we just planned it better this year (or maybe we actually planned it this year). Yesterday was the third time we have attended a Lucia concert. Two years ago we traveled to New York to watch the show. Last year we chose a closer venue, watching a show put on in a church in Hartford.

This year, Susanna joined the choir. I rearranged the schedule with the boys, and we all made the trip down to the city yesterday. We planned this one differently. It wasn’t just a quick trip down to watch the concert, it was a full weekend adventure. And we all had a great time. A little planning goes a long way…

The boys arrived home yesterday morning and we turned around and drove to the Embassy Suites in Secaucus, NJ. We drove into the snow storm heading up the coast, driving as fast as could safely be done to beat the worst of the storm. We arrived at the hotel around noon, and were able to check in early. Susanna didn’t wait for us to check in. She had to be at the church at 1pm, and we weren’t sure how long the bus/subway journey would take. The bus stop was right across the street from the hotel (take the #320 bus from Harmony to Port Authority in NYC).

The boys and I checked in, parked the car, and dragged the bags up to our fifth floor room. Will and Ben had agreed that Ben would get the floor (not the ground as Will put in his blog), and Will got the sofa-bed. The next time they will reverse the sleeping arrangements. Neither wanted to share a bed with the other. There was no fighting about it; they had arranged it between them without me having to solve the problem. At least Ben got the sofa cushions to sleep on. And he slept without a problem until about 5:30 in the morning. But, I am getting ahead of myself…

After checking in, we headed out into the blizzard to find food. We started walking to McDonald’s which was only a couple of blocks away (according to Google). We walked right by an Outback Steakhouse. We walked another half a block and decided it was too cold to walk to McDonald’s. So lunch was at Outback.

Then it was back to the hotel to get a short swim in before we had to head to the city. The boys loved the hotel. An indoor swimming pool and hot tub, happy hour, and free breakfast are a perfect combination. The pool was bathtub warm. The hot tub was hot.

We took the #320 bus through the Lincoln Tunnel and to the city. It was a short enough ride that the boys were happy to look out the window.  Not like the trips when we take the train into the city from New Haven. They can’t even make it past East Haven without begging to turn on the electronics.

From Port Authority we could either take a cab, the subway, or walk the 26 blocks to the church. Ben voted for a cab. Will for the subway. Eventually we decided to walk. Okay, I decided we should walk. It was a long walk in the snow. And cold. I think maybe the subway would have been a good call. But the boys had fun pretending that giant monsters were climbing the buildings. We did stop and get hot chocolate to warm up. The boys’ shoes were wet and cold by the time we got to the church; we were early enough to get good seats. Ben promptly removed his wet shoes and socks when we sat down. I know, it was inside the church, not the best place to take your shoes and socks off.  I made him put his socks back on and put a hat on until he warmed his feet up. He said that his head wasn’t cold….

Having Susanna in the choir made the concert much more interesting for the boys. Surprisingly, Will was able to sit still better than Ben. Sometimes things are backwards. The show was wonderful. The music was beautiful, though I didn’t understand any of the elvish words. Or were they singing in Swedish?

After the concert we decided to take the subway back to the bus terminal. According to Will, it saved us 20 minutes. I think it was closer to 10 minutes. But either way, it was a lot warmer and drier. Ben had still been pushing for a cab. A quick hop on the bus and we were dropped off in front of our hotel.  We stopped by the lobby for happy hour. Only the cheap beer is free. But it is free. One can only wish for free Sam Adams. The boys got water. However, water is free even outside of happy hour, but I didn’t tell them that. So they still think happy hour is pretty cool.

We braved the snow to head to Chili’s for dinner. I had to convince Will that there was no way in h%** I was going to let him have fried mozzarella sticks at the hotel as his dinner. After dinner we visited the pool a while, and I tried to get the boys to bed before it was too late.  I mostly succeeded. Ben crashed shortly after we got back to our room. Will was out by 9. Susanna made it back by 11; she would have been earlier if she got off at the right bus stop – but that is another story – and not my story to tell.

The next morning the boys woke up at 5:30. Or maybe before, but they didn’t get loud enough to wake me until 5:30.  So, I’m pretty tired tonight. We headed downstairs (not at 5:30, more like 7:30) for free breakfast. Will ate two bowls of fruit loops, two donuts, and some sliced melon. He may have eaten more, but after that amount, who was keeping track? We again went to the pool after breakfast. Who cares about the city, as long as we get a hotel with a pool, the boys could care less where we go, and if they can play on their iPods, they don’t care how long it takes to get there. I’m thinking if you give them wi-fi, iPod charging cables, and the promise of a pool at the end, they would volunteer for the first trip to Mars.

We finished the morning up with Christmas shopping (no surprise, the boys bought each other nearly the same gifts – though independently without one knowing what the other bought) and lunch at the Olive Garden. Traffic was light (well, as light as it gets) on I-95, and we were home by 3:45.

Thanks to Susanna for paying for all the food (except for breakfast). We ate like kings.

Game Room Renovation

Posted on
Targa and Tucker checking out the new booths
Targa and Tucker checking out the new booths

Susanna and I decided that one of the Christmas gifts for the boys will be to renovate their play room/game room. It is a large room over two bays of the garage and had become a collection of broken and dirty toys.  We are turning it from a play room to a game room/rec room – a place for them to hang out as they get older and want space with their friends.

With Christmas approaching, and not too many weekends free when the boys aren’t here, I had to make some progress over Thanksgiving on the project.

The first step was to clean out everything, toys, furniture, etc. I vacuumed and shampooed the carpet. Early last week I found a couch and loveseat free on Craigslist. The first project was moving them to the loft. That took removing some barn boards on the stairs to get room to get them up the narrow stairs. I shampooed the couch and washed the cushions.  I moved the old TV and stand up into a corner – a place for them to watch movies or maybe set up a Xbox or Wii if we let them get one.  The couch and loveseat are ugly, but pretty well built – perfect for them to jump on and destroy (without me caring).

On Friday afternoon, I drove up past Providence to pick up some old restaurant booths that were offered for sale on Craigslist. I was able to get the two booths and tables for $45 – a pretty good deal. I spent yesterday morning and this morning moving the booths upstairs and installing the tables.

TV and couches
TV and couches

Susanna and I will move the soda machine up to the loft one evening when the boys aren’t here, and we will need to wash the booths and tables as well as vacuum the floor again. But I think the room is pretty close right now. 

I still need to add more lights to the room, and an electric heater on a timer. The space isn’t insulated, but it isn’t that large, and will only need to be heated when the boys are using it.

I think there is room for a pool table still, as long as the table isn’t too big. We will need to get rid of the futon (which I stuffed into a corner) if we add a pool table.  I may also add two more window son the south-facing wall to bring in more natural light. I’ll see what the boys want to do with the space.

Now off to watch Ben play soccer and then back to the workshop to finish the second nightstand.