Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Best game ever

It started out as a quiet day as I had it off and had to take Thomas to his weekly scout camp at the Ethan Allen Homestead. He goes each year, loving the archery, games and usual incredible high temperatures. It's out in the open so they do their best to torch the kids.

Paula also had the day off from work and took Kate to her half day soccer camp. She is fast, loves it and is quickly learning the game. I love to watch her play.

After we did the drop off, I suggested we meet up at our favorite place, Great Harvest Bread Company, where we manage to scarf up free samples of bread along with our cup of joe. We sat for a while discussing our plans for the day when Paula suggested going the Lake Monsters game that night as the kids had received some free tickets from a special reading program.

The kids have received numerous prizes, awards and paraphernalia due to their love of reading. It seems each and every business and organization in Burlington gives you something if you read and we take advantage of it. We're still trying for the cabin cruiser that the local fish hatchery is giving away but reading forty-five hundred thousand books on fly fishing takes time.

So, anyway, we hadn't received our free tickets to the game in the mail yet so Paula, ever resourceful, called up the Lake Monsters office and talked directly to their GM. He graciously said to just come down to the ticket office and he'd take care of us. As it was kids reading free night, we got there plenty early. Last year, we went to free mystery bobbing head doll night and the lines were beyond belief.

We arrived to short lines and I was pretty happy about that. We got our tickets within minutes and headed straight for the food as we didn't have any dinner. We grabbed a few slices of pizza and a hot dog and headed for our seats. But first, we made the all important stop at the beer stand. After dropping five bucks for a delicious Shock Top ale, we headed towards our general admission seats. I commented that we should sit on the first base side as the third base side in the family section where no alcohol is served. 

So, heading through the tunnel, we turned left and looked up. A man with a clipboard was sitting in the first of four fancy recliners which are for lucky fans to use, who win a raffle. But tonight, this man asked us if we would like to sit in the seats. As I didn't know who he was, I asked and he said he worked there. Being at the right place and time had we won us the right to sit there all game long. Paula and I looked at each other and said, "Sure!". So we sat, still amazed at our good luck.

These seats were right above the dugout and really close to the players. We also knew that in between innings, Champ, our beloved Lake Monster, would be dancing on top of the dugout. It just so happened that tonight was his birthday celebration so all his fellow mascots from around the region joined us, including Skip, the mascot of the Vermont Mountaineers or Wood Chippers or some name like that. He came by and shook our hands. I told him our chairs were made of bear skin and were comfortable. As he frowned, Paula told me that he wasn't a bear but a Woodchuck. I apologized and luckily he did not eat me. All the Lake Monster employees were also dressed in the favorite costumes. It was going to be a good night.

As we sat prior to the start of the game, several people that we knew walked by and asked how we got such good seats. I told them it was clean living but they didn't go for that. We told them the story and told us how lucky we were.

In the second inning, Sam, the guy who gave us the seats, came by and ask me all our names. At the end of that inning, he got on his microphone, announced our names to the crowd and presented us with Lake Monsters baseball hats. We had our picture taken for the newspaper and the smiles continued.

We sat amazed and then Thomas turned to me and said, "It's the first time that I'm glad you like alcohol, Daddy, because we got to sit in these great seats!" I'm not sure how good I felt about that but I only had one beer as it cost forty five dollars but as per usual, I digress.

We finished our food and beer which I shared it with my lovely bride. Thomas asked if we could head down to the bouncy castle. The Lake Monsters have a variety of fun activities for the kids and they are pretty cheap at a buck a piece. There was nobody in line and Thomas jumped right in. I started chatting with the attendant. The bouncy castle time limit was three minutes but Thomas was having fun and we were talking. As no one else came up, he stayed in a little bit longer than the usual time. Thomas was good and sweaty by now. I finally dragged him away as I could vaguely hear the national anthem being sung. We got back in time to see the Tri-City Valley Cats score three runs on no hits and three Lake Monster errors. It might be a long night for beloved Monsters.

So, we continued to watch the game. The kids begged for some cotton candy so Kate and I ran down and grabbed a bag. We brought it back to our seats. She and Thomas shared the ever-so nutritious ballpark fare and their faces were sufficiently covered with a nice pink sugar coating.

In about the third inning, the Valley Cats were headed back to the dugout. I held my arm up and hoped one of the players might toss a ball in stands. And he did. Just as I was about to grab the prize and give it Thomas and Kate... the guy in front of me jumped up and grabbed it. Then, he did the nicest thing, he turned around and handed it to Thomas. He was thrilled. He handed the ball to Kate for her inspection. They both smiled. I tapped the guy and the shoulder and thanked him. No big deal, he said.

Later, Kate and I trekked down so she could have her turn at the bouncy castle. There was a long line but we waited. She had a blast too but only got a few minutes compared to Thomas' fifteen.
Fast forward to the seventh inning stretch, I looked over at Paula and gave her the nod, secretly asking "Can we go now?" Thomas somehow intercepted the nod and gave the big old sad face saying, "Please can we stay to the end?" 

Paula said (or it felt like she said), "Stop being a fuddy duddy and let's just stay to the end!" So we did. There was an announcement that after the game, all the kids could come on to the field and run the bases. Thomas and Kate were excited and stifled yawns, but still were raring to go after the game.

So, we sat and sat. I decided to start making my own cheers as if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I started cheering for our own Sean Jamison, who became really inspired with my yelling his name and on a 3-2 pitch, proceeded to foul off about eight pitches in a row. Kate gave me a look and said, "You're embarrassing me, Daddy!" But I was not to be denied. Finally, all my yelling paid off as the payoff pitch came. Good old Sean hit a long fly ball in deep foul territory, which was promptly caught for the third out.

As the teams headed off the field, I got another chance at a ball. I raised my hand once more and the Valley Cat fired it my way. There was no stopping me this time as I knocked over four kids and dove for the ball.
Well, okay, it came right in my hands and i caught it. I looked at Paula and smiled. She was so impressed. Then she pointed to the little kid in front of us, he had a glove on and a sad face. I tapped him on the shoulder and gave him the ball. The smile on his face with worth it. His Mom thanked me. No problem, I said.

The game ended and our beloved Lake Monsters lost. Thomas and Kate headed down to the field, got to run the bases and we headed home. As we walked to the van, we talked about all the incredible things that happened that night. We got home and all plopped into bed quickly. 

I got up early for the work the next morning and saw Thomas' baseball sitting on the bookshelf by our front door. I smiled when I saw what he wrote on the ball: "Best game ever! 8-8-11".

I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Where are the kids?

It was a busy weekend in the Henry Hut. A Friday night at the beach included some swimming, kayaking and something new to us, cooking out on the grill. It's not as easy as it looks, as you have to make sure you grab everything from the house that you could possibly need for a meal. Hot dogs, buns, catsup, relish, knives, forks, and the kitchen sink all need to be brought down to the beach.

Saturday was another busy day with trips to the dump, the library and our favorite bread store which (ingeniously) gives out free samples. I say ingeniously as this is expensive (but really good!) bread and there is no way in the world I'd ever buy any loaf of bread for over five dollars but now, thanks to free samples, I do.

We finish our errands, and get home. Kate starts to pack her clothes. Thomas starts to pack his clothes.

She is headed off to a birthday party sleepover at her friend which includes many things, not one of which is sleep. Movies, cupcakes, tons of whipped cream, more movies, games and if they can, some sleep.

Thomas is off to Lake Sunrise for a week of camping out with his fellow scouts. He'll be gone all week and has been looking forward to this for months. We're excited for him and hope he loves it. I know he will. It's his parents who are really concerned. Okay, I am, Paula knows he'll be fine. I know he'll be fine but I just so want him to have an adventure and trust the weather holds off. They are camping right on a lake and as the temperatures are soaring, I trust they will be spending much of the week in the water.

I realize that this weekend is just the beginning of the kids pulling away from us, slowly but surely. It's a natural process. Maybe I'm just not ready for it. I know it is what's supposed to happen. You raise your kids the best you can, trying to prepare them for when they leave you, hopefully off to college and an extraordinarily high paid job so they can take good care of me when I'm old and drooling in a cup. (I think that happened just last week for a few minutes.)

So, here's to a weekend of being without the kids. I know it's good and what is supposed to happen, I just hope I'm ready for it.

And now for something completely different...

Walking through the local Hannaford’s the other day, we went down the aisle that just happens to have Spam in it. It sparked me to have Thomas remind me that when we got home, we just had to look up when of my favorite skits from Monty Python: Spam.

Once I was younger, Monty Python was on this foreign station called Public Television. I only turned on this channel when Bugs Bunny wasn't on but once I did, I made some cool discoveries. Monty Python was one of the bests.

The Ministry of Silly Walks... The Twit Olympics... The Marathon for Incontinents...

I showed all of them to Thomas and Kate. They loved them! I was happy, as you never know, not only with British television possibly losing humor in the translation but also, as this was years ago, was it still funny. It was still very funny.

Like most male type of humor, perhaps women don't think it's that funny, like the Three Stooges or The Hangover; it's just silly, stupid stuff but we men love it. And I'm glad to know my kids love it.

A father can hand down a lot of these to his kids, how to say please and thank you, how to act appropriately in church and how to laugh at the silliest type of humor. I was happy that my kids appreciated how funny bad comedy can be.

Now I'm off to eat a big breakfast of eggs, spam, spam, bacon, spam and spam.

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Uncle Louie

I've had a tough time when thinking about what to write about my Uncle Louie, who died last month. It's still hard to believe he's gone.

What do you say about the uncle you've known forever? Always smiling and with a sly look on his face, he was my godfather. Despite our living three hours apart, our families always found a way to be together.

When I was younger, my Mom and I would travel around the state visiting relatives. Our stops always included a stay over at the Trevino's house. It's not a huge house but it is a wonderful house. We didn't care where we slept and often found ourselves on the floor, the couch, any open space we could find. Warm and inviting is how I know their house to be. Many years ago, after I had moved to North Carolina, it was Christmas time and I was feeling a bit homesick. I hopped in my car and drove fifteen hours to Massena, unannounced. Upon opening the door, I was greeted with nothing but smiles and hugs. It was the way it was and still is anytime you visit.

He had been sick for a while although through it all, he never lost that characteristic smile of his. It would light you up every time you saw him. He had that effect on a lot of people as evidenced not only by the thousands of posts of goodwill on his Facebook page but by the hundreds of lives he touched throughout the years.

My Uncle Louis was a character. Attending just about every Massena sporting event over the past fifty years, he was known by all. Whenever I met someone from Massena, whether at a flea market in New Jersey or a mall in North Carolina, when I asked them if they knew Crazy Louie, everyone smiles and said yes. Even my friend Mark, here in Vermont, knew him from high school as the guy who carried a car battery & horn and blasted it whenever Massena scored a goal.

Wonderful with kids, his pockets were always full of candy and a quarter, half dollar, or sometimes even a silver dollar. My kids, Thomas and Kate, still have their money from Unca Wellie (as Thomas called him when he was three), on their dressers.

Uncle Louie was a really good bowler. It was something both our families grew up with and became a huge part of our lives. He would come to Syracuse often for bowling tournaments and when he called, we would go watch him bowl. Even out of his hometown of Massena, people knew him and he had celebrity status.

He was also quite the smooth dancer. At every family wedding, we couldn't wait to watch him as he escorted Aunt Etta out to the dance floor. They were wonderful to watch. Many times, he had his maracas with him too, shaking them to the delight of all.

And tears! I'll always remember him for his tears. Not sad tears, but tears of joy. Whenever our families got together, he would cry tears of joy; just for us all being together.

Cheering for his beloved Yankees, which was the only bad thing he did in his life (go Mets!), I remember him sitting in his chair in the living room, hour after hour watching them on TV.

He could always be seen on the roads in and around Massena. You could see him bowling or later in life, keeping score for friends at the Seaway bowling alleys or sitting at the local McDonald's having coffee with his buddies.

He had a whistle, too. Ay caramba, yes he did. He would pull it out at quiet times during a wedding or family gathering, blow it and yell, "Everybody out of the pool!" It never got old and we looked forward to it. One year, we were all headed to a family wedding and I packed my own whistle in my camera bag. I pulled it out at a quiet time, blew it and yelled, "Everybody out of the pool!" I looked over at Uncle Louie. He smiled, came over and gave me a big hug.

Although a bit hard of hearing, wherever you were, you could just look over at him. He would look at you and smile, giving you that wink which said, "I'm glad you're here."

I know, now, that he is up in heaven with my Mom and his brother and sisters. After all the hugs are over, with tears in his eyes, they are all smiling and laughing together.

We will miss Uncle Louie, but it does make it a little easier knowing that the memories and love he gave us through the years will live with us forever.

Monday, April 18, 2011

So, who put the crap back in Hewlett-Crappard/Comcrap?

Our story continues... oh, you wouldn't expect anything less, would you?

HewlettCrappard/Comcrap so graciously agreed to take back my craptop (again) and repair it. Seeing as it hasn't worked correctly from day one, it seems like a reasonable thing for them to do. If you don't know the whole story by now, just scroll down my blog a few entries.

But you know what's going to happen now, don't you?

I sent in my laptop once more, since when they "fixed" both the first and second (or is it twelfth) time previously, it didn't work. The first time it was 'repaired', it worked for 12 days and then collapsed once more.

So, good people that they are, they sent me another Fed-Ex overnight shipping box, to return it to them, so they could fix it right away. Two weeks later, with no sign of contact from the mother ship, I received a cryptic voice message from home. It was from an Indian sounding woman (and unfortunately we deleted it as I so wanted you to hear the audio) and she said,

"This is *&%$^&(*& from Hewlett/Crap*&%$^&(*& and we are trying to *&%$^&(*& your *&%$^&(*& craptop. We are sorry *&%$^&(*& but we can't *&%$^&(*& it. We *&%$^&(*& to tell you that *&%$^&(*&. Once again, we *&%$^&(*& sorry. Good *&%$^&(*&."

I believe she was calling from the underground headquarters of HP with a Tracfone on it's last minutes.

As I hadn't had any contact with the company via email for nearly two weeks, I thought my craptop was gone for good. But, as my Mother used to say, "Oh, ye of little faith." I received an email from the Crappards, and my laptop was to be delivered Monday (today!). Another miracle!

We all got home after a lovely day. I was beyond excited (hey, it doesn't take much lately). We got it open. I lifted the lid, pushed the power button and... it didn't work!

Shocking, I know. I was really surprised because... okay, i wasn't surprised. So, I dialed the 800 number, which I now have memorized as I know both the area code and country code for India and Pakistan.

This time I got Latasha on the phone. I think I also heard Boris Badenov in the background too, but I digress. The last several times on the phone, I spoke with Micah, Malcolm and Mudhoo so I'm moving up in the HP world to the L's.

I told her my story, which I've now repeated to 67% of the crack HewlettCrappard repair staff previously and she apologized profusely. She said she would do everything she could to help. I told her I appreciated that. She commented on how calm I was being. I told her that the day was young and she laughed.

Anyway, to make a long story longer, she said that she was going to Fed-Ex me another box (I have a big collection in the recycle bin if you need any) and they would attempt to fix it once more. She also said, which I really loved and almost made it all worth it, "I will put a note on this laptop saying to make sure they check to see if it works before they send it back to you."

"Really? Really???", I told her, "You really have to put a note on it? Wouldn't you think they might check it BEFORE they sent it back to me?"

She laughed but unfortunately, she was serious. I told her to please write the note as just maybe it would help. I then asked how many more times I had to return it in before they gave me a new one. She said that three times was the limit. If it didn't work (we both laughed really hard then!), I would either get a new one, get my money back (ha!) or be allowed to whack three HP executives of my choice on the head with my broken craptop. Okay, I made the last one up but I'd take that opportunity if presented to me.

So, now I sit and wait for another lovely Fed-Ex overnight box.

It keeps life interesting around the Henry household. Thomas can't understand how they can continue to keep sending back broken laptops to me and I keep telling him you just have to fight for what's right.

It's a life lesson. I'm not sure exactly what that life lesson is but I'm sticking around to find out.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I fought the law and... I won???

You may have read about my rants on Hewlett Crappard/Comcrap in the past. If not, where have you been? Are you not reading these things? Why am I wasting time putting them out there??? Check this out if you want to be updated quickly:

So, it's been a while since I've been willing to chat about this online, mainly because when discussing it, I tend to chip all my teeth from clenching my jaw. But I am determined when it comes to money, just ask my brother and sister in law; I am Mr. Craigslist to them.

I spent a lot of money on a laptop that wouldn't turn on, and to say it wasn't fun, is putting it mildly. I won't review it but let's just say I also received the crappiest of usual crappy service from WorstBuy. The 14-year-old female manager (I won't tell you her name but her name tag said Jess B) from WorstBuy who told me that she didn't have to tell me her name kept telling me to go back and read my contract instead of listening to those rascally, jokester sales people told me. What do they know? They only represent the company, WB, on the stock exchange.

Anyway, after several emails and letters to both companies, Worst Buy and Hewlett Crappard/Comcrap, I received nothing but heartache. About a month ago, after tons of Internet research (they don't want you to find their names) I wrote even more letters to each of four high level executives at both mega corporations. I didn't want to give up as they sold me a lemon. Reading the Internet, I discovered there were thousands of other people who were just as upset as I was about the 'quality' of their products. The sticker on my laptop says, "BUILT TO LAST", of course, in fine print it says "one day past warrantee'.

I finally did hear back from WorstBuy and he was very nice. He apologized for all the problems and told me to go pound sand as they didn't care enough to back their products. When I reviewed the rude treatment by his store manager, he told me "We don't care. We don't have to. Circus City is gone and we're the only game in town." or words to that effect. To be honest, he actually offered me a $40 gift certificate from WorstBuy. I believe I told him to cram the gift certificate somewhere as I never intended to step foot in their store again. He told me to have a nice day and I told him I'd have whatever kind of day I felt like having.

The next week, as we were finishing dinner, the phone rang. We didn't answer as family time is family time. However, when the voice said "This is CeCe from Hewlett Crappard." I picked up the phone. As we talked, she apologized for the problems but she told me that they could not give me a new laptop. She said, however, that she was willing to repair the laptop for free and even send me a pre-paid Fed-Ex box to ship it. I told her that that would be lovely as it's all I wanted was a laptop that actually turned on when you hit the on/off button and worked for more than five minutes. Hey, I'm easy to please.

Amazingly, within two days, the box showed up on my doorstep and I shipped my laptop back. I checked the tracking form two days later to make sure they received it and to my surprise, they were already delivering it back to me that day!

I opened up my box, turned it on, and it actually worked! For a full week now, it has worked fine every time, something it had never done previously.

I didn't pay a dime, except for stamps for all my numerous letters. Paula and I are still in shock but as I've found before, it pays to be a squeaky wheel.

So, Hewlett Crappard/Comcrap has changed slightly in my mind and shall no longer have that name but a new one: Hewlett Crappard/Compaq. They have earned losing half a crap from their name. We'll see how it works over the next few months as I have a ninety day warranty. I may eliminate the Crappard portion too, but I doubt it.

However, WorstBuy continues to be WorstBuy and I shall not be visiting them any time soon.

My Mom used to tell me that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I'm sure she's be happy to know that I got a little bit of satisfaction from not letting a major corporation get away with selling me a lemon.

And if she see Jess B next time you're in Worst Buy, tell her Pat Henry says hey!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When Irish eyes are smilin'... and telling jokes...

It was the day of the big event, the annual St. Patty's Day church corn beef and cabbage dinner. It usually is attended mostly by the older members of our church but we go to support the church. I'm also on the social action committee. And most of the others do all the work, I'm on it in name only as we have very dedicated members of our church.

We invited Memere to go along with us as she knows many people at our church too and we try to get her out as often as we can. She knew many people there and she was so happy to be included as she told us again and again how happy she was to go with us.

After dinner, it was time for some Irish tunes and some joke telling. First on the list were those Henry kids. Kate stepped right up to the microphone and told her joke which got a nice laugh. Thomas' joke, which was pretty long and involved, received a huge laugh. He told it well and only gave away the timing of the punchline by the huge smile on his face.

When all jokes were done, a gift certificate was awarded to the best told joke of the night. Surprisingly, those darn Henry kids won the award and received another round of applause.

They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and as their Dad is a complete nut, I agree. I was proud not only because they won, but having the courage to stand up in front a large crowd and tell their joke. It's something their Dad would have had trouble doing at their age, maybe even now.

Faith and begorra, we have some fine Irish kids.

Kate delivers the goods

Delivering her cookies to a neighbor down the street, Kate hops on her bike and took off. Despite the chill, she wanted her bike as the sidewalks had finally relented from four feet of snow. The sun was out and it felt more like spring.

Earlier, she asked me if she could get her bike out and after pumping up her tires a bit (they were practically frozen), she headed out. She had a load of girl scout cookies in a backpack as I watched her go down the street and around the corner, out of sight. I noted to Paula about how quickly they're growing up.

She made call after call to our neighbors, asking if this would be a good time to come over and deliver cookies. She looks up each number, calls them herself and is not bashful at all. She used to be a bit shy but not any longer.

Coming back into the house with the cash from another sale, she commented, "I feel so independent when I do that."

Yes, she sure looked independent going out into the world all by herself. This is one dad who's having a hard time believing it. You want time to stand still a little bit but it doesn't.

She's growing up. There is nothing we can do but stand back and be proud of her. I sure am.

Monday, February 14, 2011

More than just firewood

Yesterday, after bringing the kids home from school, this Dad was particularly grumpy. Why? No one knows but he was. Perhaps it was the temperatures hovering around ten below zero for two days.

Anyway, as this Dad got everything put away, he wanted to start a fire but didn't have firewood. So, he went upstairs to change and as soon as he got far away from his kids, one of them yelled (again) that he was hungry and wanted a snack. Now this grumpy Dad has just said he was going to change his clothes and to not ask for anything until he was done. Unfortunately, the son did hear or didn't want to hear his Dad and the Dad, being grumpy, closed his bedroom door quite loudly.

Hearing the son come upstairs and close his door, very quietly, the Dad stepped back and looked at himself.

So, this Dad, good guy that he can be, went to his son and apologized for yelling. He told his good son that he was just tired from a long day and was sorry for yelling/slamming/crabbing at him. The son accepted his apology and gave him a big hug.

The Dad said he was going out in the sub zero weather to get some firewood to warm up the ice box of a house. His son, now with a smile on his face, asked if the Dad wanted any help. The Dad jumped for joy and said of course. Bundling up, the two ran to the backyard and grabbed the wheelbarrow. They quickly stacked the wood in and ran to the garage to stack it once more. In between, they chatted about school and pinewood derby cars. The Dad's smile quickly returned and after they came back inside, a roaring fire began and the family was warm.

Later that night, after reading a story and saying prayers, the Dad told his son how proud he was of him and that it showed how responsible he was becoming to ask to help, without prompting. The son smiled and the grumpy Dad was gone. He was replaced instead by the proud Dad, who was seeing his son grow up before his eyes.

When you know...

It has been a particularly cold spell in Vermont lately. My car barely started the other morning as the thermometer dipped to less than ten below zero. It wasn't too bad as others at work told me they saw twenty two to twenty five below zero.

As the weather started to ease up Tuesday morning, I got up before everyone as per usual and after showering, woke Paula and the kids. She asked me what the temperature was and I went downstairs to check. I came back up and announced that it was almost twelve degrees. Paula rolled over and said, "Oh, good."

I quickly came back with "You know you're living in Vermont when you say it's twelve degrees and the response is 'Oh, good.'"

Yes, we most certainly live in Vermont.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I love my snow blower!

Yes, it's once again time for the annual "Let's Try to Get This Sucker to Run" season.

At it's best, your snow blower can be your best friend and it's worst, it can help you break the world record for long distance snow shovel tossing. I just missed the record this year as I stopped myself in time, and called my local fix-it man, Sven (not his real name). Sven is the type of guy you hope for in your neighborhood. After you have exhausted every avenue towards snow blower repair, like stepping back and staring at it, praying to God for it to just start, for crying out loud; you call Sven.

Here is my snow blower story for 2010. I actually made all the right moves for attempting to get it moving. I put the gas stabilizer in the tank all last year and even this fall. I even pulled out the snow blower in the fall, prior to snow coming, and attempted to start that bad boy. I didn't have any luck but boy, what an effort I made.

So, this winter, after shoveling a couple small amounts, I thought it best to really make a better attempt at fixing it. To add to this, my neighbors, Fred and Ethel (named changed as they are in a federal witness protection program), headed south for the winter leaving me their garage door opener so I could keep my car clean and semi-warm this winter. It is wonderful of them to do so but now I have two driveways to clean at 5:45 on a cold winters morning before I head to work. So, now I need this snow blower to work.

I did what every none-mechanically inclined goof does and started googling my Toro snow blower for information. Since my machine was made back before fire was invented, however, no such manual existed unless I wanted to send $29.99 and the naming rights to my next born child to some website in Afghanistan. I declined that offer. I did get some useful free advice from several sources, but remember you get what you pay for.

Perhaps it had some bad gas in it, so I emptied the gas tank, refilled it with new gas. I added some stabilizer, because hey, I'm no dummy. Nothing happened. Well, not nothing, it actually started and ran for 1.1 nano seconds and then stopped. Heading to my local hardware store for some help, I was told by Kukla and Fran (not Ollie and not their real names), that if I got it running, I should get some starter fluid, blast it into the carburetor and that would solve the problem. My next problem was finding the carburetor as since I didn't get the manual on-line, I had no idea what that looked like.

Not to be deterred, I got the started fluid, brought it home, pumped the primer button and it actually started and kept running while I pumped the button. Once I stopped however, it did too. I then realized that I had shut off the gas line before I went to the store and forgot to turned the dial back on.

I was really determined now. I turned on the gas line, fully ready for it to work now and I pulled hard on the pull cord to start it and it snapped off in my hand.

Standing there, looking at the snow blower, you'll be happy to know that, amazingly, I did not throw the handle into my neighbors yard. I simply set it down and called Sven, begging him to come over.

The next day, he did so. He fixed my pull cord, pumped the primer and it did not start. I sort of felt a little better, actually, as if Sven couldn't start it, it's no wonder I couldn't. To make a long story longer, Sven took off the carburetor, clean the inside of it and the lines leading to it and.... it STILL didn't start. Okay, now I'm not feeling so good.

Sven gave it a look. I suggested he take it home with him as perhaps I had bad Karma and the warmth of his home shop could help. He did so. Returning home later that afternoon, Sven had left the snow blower in front of the garage, all fixed. After replacing four or five different parts, it was all set. He gave me the bill, and he undercharged me as perhaps he felt sorry for this native Syracusan who couldn't repair his own snow blower. I tipped him big time and thanked him, sending him home.

So, now the snow blower works fine and after several days of cold and snow, it has been sunny and warm three days in a row. I told Paula that now that it is fixed, it will never snow again this winter, which is just fine with me.

You gotta let them go

Over the Christmas break, a couple instances involving the kids hit me, making me step back a bit.

Example #1: It was time to make our world-famous Christmas cut-out cookies, which has been an annual tradition with me since I was me. My Mom, sister Lois and I used to make these every year. What's really cool is that I still have many of the same plastic cut-outs that we used when I was little. We have the star, the Christmas tree, the gingerbread man ("Not my gumdrop buttons!) and Santa. It's just one of the many traditions that makes Christmas special for me.

Now this day, Kate had a play date with a friend so Thomas and I were on our own to roll and cut out the dough. Kate and Mommy would return later to help eat, I mean, decorate the cookies with confectioners sugar, M&M's, and a variety of sprinkles. I let Thomas help me but usually I roll it out, as cutting the cookies is the fun part. I grabbed the roller and Thomas asked if he could do it. I said sure and let him do it alone.

You know, once I stepped back and just let him go at it, he did a great job. I offered some clues to help, added some flour to the batter and the rolling pin, just like my Mom used to do. But he did it and I felt quite proud, as did he.

Example #2: Kate, Thomas and I head to Lowe's every other weekend for the kids building project. It's great as they offer these free projects for the kids and it gets you in their store to spend cash on your own project to improve the looks of your house, should you be so inclined.

Kate tore open her package and read the instructions. She started putting pieces together and grabbed the nails. I reached over to hold the bottom piece so she could hammer in the nails. Suddenly, Kate shouted at me "I got it!". I really wanted so much to help her build her wooden train but she no longer needs my help. I stepped back and watched. She put the whole thing together herself and didn't hit her thumb once with the hammer.

It's what you want your kids to do, grow up and do things themselves. But it's probably harder for us parents to let go and let them do it. Proud and a little bit sad that I wasn't needed, that was me.