Category Archives: Holidays

Punkin Chunkin’–And a First Attempt at Vlogging

Last week my son’s Webelo den was invited to participate in a “punkin chunkin'” with a local Boy Scout troop.  The Boy Scouts had built 2 trebuchets, the larger standing approximately 10 feet tall at its axis.  Here’s an explanation of how a trebuchet works. Modern, homemade, medieval weaponry and flying pumpkins?  What’s not to love? This seemed like a good opportunity to give vlogging a try–I hope this video does the experience justice.

Boy Scouts Punkin Chunkin–November 2013

Any thoughts?

[Special thanks to National Pike District Boy Scout Troop 882 for inviting the younger boys to share this experience.]

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Filed under Activities & Sports, Blogging, Holidays

Going With The Change-up This Summer

During the last few summers, our family’s schedule has often felt as busy as the school year.  But this year we have prioritized our commitments, streamlined the summer calendar, and found ourselves with actual down-time once in a while.

In the past, theme camps at the local health club, rec center, and community college have allowed our kids to delve into piracy, dinosaurs, odd science, etc.  Sports camps have fed their soccer and volleyball skills; in fact, volleyball has included travel club camps, high school booster camps, skills-specific camps, and even a ‘college showcase’ camp.  A major challenge with the camps is deciding who should go where, and when.  If 3 kids have 3 camps in 3 different places, the logistics are crazy.  But if we spread them out to different weeks, summer travel becomes as hard to schedule as trips during the school year.  The kids had plenty of good experiences over the years, but it was time for a little different schedule.

This year?  Our rising high school junior has assisted for a week at her coach’s booster camp, and she may attend another camp as a player to sharpen up before school tryouts.  For our camps this summer–as Tony Kornheiser might say–‘That’s it.  That’s the list.’ 

But no one is exactly sitting around our house wondering what to do until we head out of town for a vacation.  Here are a few examples:

  • In our 9th year on the team at our local pool, swimming remains an important part of summer life.  It is the favorite activity for our 13 year old–practicing the early shift–and a favorite for her 9 year old brother–practicing at 9:00.  This schedule gives each day a balance of consistent structure to start off followed by freedom from 10:00 on.  (Alas, their older sister retired from swimming this year, but she will grudgingly admit that much of her success in volleyball over the years was made possible by the muscle she added to her once-skinny frame through all of those years in the pool.)
  • School workbooks and assigned reading:  chores or good times?  It’s all a question of attitude.  We’re going for ‘good times’ this summer, and there should be no August rush to get everything done.
  • I am teaching the ex-swimmer how to drive.  That’s certainly……interesting.
  • Driving range.  With 2 kids who want to learn how to play golf, taking turns hitting a few shots in a row turned this into a great hour–at a bargain price.
  • Books for the sake of books.  This afternoon my son and I settled in for some quality reading time.  He went with a book ironically called The Name of This Book is Secret, while I worked through a few chapters of Hemingway.  (Once an English teacher….)  What could be better than an afternoon read in a cool living room on a 95 degree day?
  • We’ve also found time for foosball.  Wii.  Building a robot duck.  (Seriously.)  Extra time at the pool, without laps or stopwatches.  Time with grandparents.  Some pretty wild squirtguns that I wish were around when I was a kid.  Tending a neighbor’s dog.  An occasional episode of the original Star Trek series.  (After a year, we are just over half-way through, so it’s a perfect time to pick up the pace).  The time fills itself–so far with plenty of good things.

Hopefully we will be a little more rested and ready this year when the school year starts off again at the end of August.  But either way, we are enjoying the change-up.


Filed under Activities & Sports, Holidays, Living Well, Places to Go

The Strangest Easter…and an Important Lesson

For my family, like many others, Easter brings family traditions, reflection, and appreciation.  In broad strokes:

  • Dyeing eggs (even in the pre-kid, early marriage years)
  • Eating at home or out for brunch, plenty to eat
  • Candy
  • Church
  • Reflection
  • Appreciation

But a couple of years ago our family had an experience that became an unforgettable part of our Easter history.  Driving home from my parents’ house at around 10pm, on a lightly used (maybe 1 car every 2-3 minutes) road, we spotted a woman lying in the grass, waving frantically and screaming for help.

We backed up, taking a cautious approach; for a moment we wondered whether the surreal scene was part of the type of set-up that turns up on the news from time to time, with others waiting in the bushes for an opportunity to rob ‘good Samaritans.’  We called 911, told the kids to stay put in the van, and got out to try to calm the woman down and figure out what type of help she needed.  She insisted she could not move, but hysterical–and vaguely coherent–she told us how she had gotten there and we conveyed the details to the police dispatcher:  a drunk boyfriend had been driving, had gotten angry with her (not for the first time), and had thrown her out of the car.

Once the police and paramedics arrived, my wife and I answered a few questions and we were quickly back on our way home.  I have no idea what happened next for the victim lying in the grass.  Did she press charges against her boyfriend?  If so, did she see that process through?  Or did she go back to him, accepting assurances that he was sorry, would never do anything like that again, would make it up to her, etc., etc., etc.

Our early elementary aged son had a few questions about the woman in the grass, but he was more interested in the police cars and fire trucks.  But his middle and high school sisters were interested in talking about how she had gotten there and what would happen next.  This became a conversation about domestic abuse, and the idea that they needed to make sure NO ONE would ever get a second chance to hit either of them within a relationship.  We talked about how victims–often, but not always, women–often put up with abuse because they are more afraid of losing the relationship than of getting hurt.  We talked about how staying safe must ALWAYS be a non-negotiable expectation when they started dating.  We talked about how the woman we had helped might press charges, get a restraining order, and move on to a safer life.

Making the same drive home this past Sunday night, I glanced over and saw there was no one in lying in the grass; I wondered whether the woman who had been there on another Easter had taken care of herself in the two years since.  But I also felt confident that my own girls had learned something critical about taking care of themselves for years to come.


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Filed under Holidays, Safety