Coloring Easter eggs is always fun in our home. Nothing too elegant, just basic colors with natural dyes. No PAAS in our home!

Coloring Easter eggs is always fun in our home. Nothing too elegant, just basic colors with natural dyes. No PAAS in our home!

Yesterday, I was outside, wearing a short sleeved shirt while washing the car. It was simply lovely. Since my office is closed on Good Friday, I had the opportunity to go run a few miles wearing shorts and one long sleeved shirt. This morning is Easter and the sunrise was spectacular but we’re expecting rain later. Both kids are home all day, with my daughter heading back to school early in the morning. Even my mother in law will be here for Easter dinner and, later, a short stint with her taxes.

For the record, I hate doing my own taxes. Why in the world would I ever volunteer to do hers? Just a sucker that is trying to be a good son in law I suppose. Federal taxes for both of us, Connecticut and Massachusetts taxes for us, then Connecticut and Georgia taxes for Connie. I’m not sure how I thought this was ever a good thing. Every year, there is at least one tax situation that I need to deal with that is both frustrating and scary to me. I’m sure I’ll be audited, although always error on the side of caution so it would be a simple mistake. This year, we sold several mutual funds in a standard investment account to pay off both cars. Since we are both investing heavily in our retirement plans at work, this seemed to be the prudent thing to do. We also have both kids in college so I need to determine what can come from those college expenses. It will be easier next year – at least that’s what I tell myself every year.

Last night, we also celebrated our daughter’s 19th birthday. I’m not exactly sure when 19 years sped on by but she’s still my little girl in so many ways. Two weeks ago, I took her to the airport for her to fly to Tampa and join my wife at a conference (to work). When I said goodbye and watched her negotiate security and head to the gate, I realized that she has grown up into a lovely woman. She still has the eyes of a child in many ways, but has also been witness to so many adult things. She will be happy with life and know that we’ll always be a part of it which makes me a very happy dad!

Happy Easter, happy spring, happy warm weather!

Yesterday, a birthday wish was finally granted. Jake wanted to spend the day with me and wanted to go to a firing range. Given that his eventual goal is to become a police officer somewhere, this was a very sensible request. I just wanted to spend some quality time with my son. After weeks of planning and schedule adjustments, we were able to schedule it for yesterday.

We headed north to Manchester Firing Line in Manchester, New Hampshire. I jokingly refer to New Hampshire as “Lawless New Hampshire” based on a former boss’ description of their laws, but know that they are serious about the few laws they do have. After all, any state that dares to use “Live Free or Die” as their state motto surely doesn’t have as many gun laws as other states. This location allows for a single person to rent and shoot a wide variety of guns with a short training course, but doesn’t require it if a second person is with them. After talking with a very knowledgeable sales person (retired police officer) about Jake’s eventual goals, he set us up with a standard issue weapon used by CIA, FBI and many police officers around the country. We rented a Sig Sauer 9MM handgun, then headed into the back through multiple doors used to keep the air clean in the store and the noise contained to the range.

We shot a total of 150 rounds of ammunition, with each clip 13 rounds shot at a different range. While we started at 25 feet, he shot at the target from as far away as 50 feet. The target was pretty much demolished at the end, knowing that almost every round hit somewhere on that piece of paper. We ended up in the member’s area because of availability, so got to see some of the serious weapons that others brought in their own cases. From small handguns to large rifles, we were somewhat shocked that these huge guns were being shot indoors.

Within the same set of 14 stalls, we watched a semi-automatic AK style gun blast the hell out a target by two guys. Another rifle was used with a scope for very accurate shooting at the maximum distance of 60 feet. Yet another small caliber handgun was shot with deadly accuracy at short range, nailing the target that had the outline of a person first in the heart over and over, then in the head for the final rounds. I had to think that this well dressed man was one that should never have problems defending himself. I played it out in my mind that he provided personal protection for a dignitary, or was in a witness protection program and needed personal protection.

On the drive home, we talked about the experience, what Jake’s aspirations are, and how the mechanics of a single action vs. dual action weapon work. After all, we’re guys and we’re geeks to understand the mechanics of whatever we’re working on.

The bottom line is that we spent the day together – a quality, father-son day that we rarely get to do. I will remember this forever and only hope that Jake will as well!

Yesterday, we pulled off the surprise party for Sue’s Mom. First, our daughter surprised her at her door by showing up with our son for her birthday dinner at our house. She just “decided” to come home for the weekend. Then, they escorted her back to our home for her real surprise.

Finally in the kitchen, the surprise guests started coming out from the living room one couple at a time. It took just one couple coming into view for the tears to start. Needless to say, she was taken completely off guard by every single visitor. There were children, grandchildren, one great grandchild, and a long time friend helping in the celebration. Sue’s Mom was in tears early and often, and couldn’t believe that all of this was for her. Needless to say, she was very, very happy.

We got to spend some quality time with one of our nephews and his family for the first time in almost three years. That was a hectic trip to Georgia over Christmas that included an 18 hour, single day drive for my family (never again). We always get along with them and can pick up our conversations as if they never stopped. Their son is looking at Berklee College of Music in Boston, so they combined the visit here with one at Berklee the following day.

Since the surprise party didn’t start until 3 PM, we cooked breakfast for everyone that was in town. Sue made the bacon and biscuits in the oven, and I provided made to order eggs including some pretty good omelets for everyone. The party included multiple entrees to satisfy everyone, and each was able to be kept warm in a crock pot or warming tray. I finally got to put my rice cooker to good use. While it’s not practical for a normal dinner, it worked perfectly for a large quantity of rice that needed to be kept warm for hours. I had such high aspirations for that rice cooker when I bought it, but it was rarely used until this party.

So while the party went off without a hitch, we were simply exhausted when it was done. We finally got to sit around 10:30 PM and both of us simply collapsed. We had both been on our feet since early morning, running around all day. Today, Sue gets to drive our daughter and roommates back to college (7+ hours), and I get to rake and move leaves to the curb all day. With leaf pickup scheduled for tomorrow or Tuesday, it just needs to get done. At least Hurricane Sandy blew most of the leaves off from the trees, so this should be a once and done effort for the year. For now, I’m just drinking my coffee and content with the thoughts that my Mother-in-law is the happiest she has been in many, many years.

This weekend, we are celebrating Sue’s mom’s 90th birthday. We have two of her children coming in from out of state, as well as at least one nephew and his family coming up from North Carolina. Our niece may be coming from Virginia, but Hurricane Sandy may have ruined her husband’s plan to see his childhood friend run the ING New York Marathon this weekend.

The celebration of Connie’s 90 years makes me think about how many things she has lived through. Being 90 now puts her birthdate in 1922. From a bad perspective, she’s lived through the great depression, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, many floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters, and, sadly, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. On a positive note, she’s lived through 100% of commercial flight, the entire space program, and the addition of Alaska and Hawaii as states.

She also lived through a 50+ year marriage, the birth of four children, ten grandchildren, ten great grandchildren (so far), dozens of weddings and plenty of funerals. She has never lived outside of the eastern seaboard of the United States, but has traveled around the world, including camping on the beach in Mexico with Sue and I. To say she’s had a full life is quite the understatement.

She has also now moved for what we think will be the last time. We helped her relocate from Georgia back to Connecticut. She is enjoying life in her adult apartment, along with a full array of social activities. She’s in a very happy place now – and at 90, certainly deserves it!

I turned 50 last week. That day was like almost any other. My wife was still in Canada for work, my youngest still needed to go to school, and I still needed to show up and work my 8 – 10 hours at my cubical before taking our daughter to her violin lesson at UConn. Not having my wife here pretty much stunk, but it would have still been work for her, school for our daughter, and work for me, then the drive to UConn for the hour lesson. I wouldn’t even get to talk to my wife until after 9 that night.

When I first got home, I noticed that I had a box from Virginia friends on the counter. It was probably the highlight of my day, at least at that point. Seeing the return address from our friends Heather & Dave made me know that it was special. We’ve been friends with them for 11+ years now and Sue and Heather were pretty much joined at the hip for most of the last 8 years we were in Richmond. I have always thought of Heather as a little sister – sometimes a pain in the butt but most of the time just there to make me smile and laugh. After opening, I found out that this box was not just from Heather but from other friends as well. All the more to smile about.

Contents (click here for pictures):
50 Hershey Kisses
8 fancy blowers
A pack of birthday napkins and a pack of birthday cups
An easy to identify birthday boy pin
An office decoration party kit
A kiss and a promise package of candy (private story)
50 Hershey Hugs
50 life savers
50 pennies (for my thoughts?)
a 50 Post It Note heart
One Ode to Steve poem from Heather
and birthday cards from a few other great friends

Thank you ladies. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the effort to help me celebrate my 50th birthday remotely!

There have been two birthdays lately. The first was my mother’s 70th birthday. There was a huge party thrown on her behalf with lots of friends and all pseudo-east coast family present. Four of her five children and all of their children were present. God knows my mother deserved it. She put up with more crap from my father than we will ever know, including practically raising five kids by herself. After 29 years of marriage, they split. It had something to do with the fact that they argued all of the time and that he was genuinely unhappy so went and found himself an unattached woman with little besides herself to take care of (a few cats but they can go days at a time without being seen by any human). He probably should have waited until they were divorced before starting to see her, but like most males was thinking with a part of himself somewhat south of his brain, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I was not ever unhappy about their divorce since it was the best thing for both of them. 29 years is a long time to put up with a mostly unhappy situation. Since I was already out of the house by then (in an off-campus apartment at college), the only thing that affected me was that I have very few momentos from my childhood (where can you store stuff in a tiny college apartment that you share with 3 other guys?). So, my memories of my childhood are only in my brain. Over time, those memories have faded. Lately, I seem to remember less and less about the details of my childhood, just a high level summary of the events. I’m hoping that it is not due to the fact that there are not too many bad details. Of course, I’ll never know.

In the first sentence of this post I mentioned two birthdays. The other one is mine, which is today. I hate the fact that I am sitting in a hotel room in Hotlanta and not with my family, but I’ll be home late tonight. Later today, after sitting through an all-day meeting then partaking in the highly congested traffic of Atlanta (as I attempt to not make wrong turns on the way to the airport), I will meet my mother-in-law at the gate for the return trip. She happens to be heading to our house today, so I got her on the same flight back north. She is a really wonderful lady and quite active for being almost 84. I think we both get on each other’s nerves after a few days (we’re both set in our ways, I suppose), but I’ll be working so it won’t be bad at all. We actually got along really well on our trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming this summer. She paid for the entire trip for all of us, which was unbelievably generous of her. I know she enjoyed herself immensely, but so did Sue and I. It was the first time I really forgot about work in many years.