Monday, December 26, 2011

A Day Late

I completely missed the Picture of the Day for Christmas. Missed, in fact, that I didn't have a picture for the day. I blame the nasty virus that has hit all three of the adults in this household, which made for a very weary, somewhat cranky, but otherwise very pleasant holiday at home.

Christmas this year involved lovely gifts, great food, and a lot of napping. The boys got a pair of Android tablets that they will be able to use to look up things on the Web (under strict adult supervision, of course), read books with the Kindle reader, and send and receive email (so send them some email and embarrass them into keeping in touch with you).

They can also use the tablets on long trips to watch movies, play games, and listen to music. I've promised them both an initial selection of movies and music, two games each (including the wildly popular Angry Birds, which they both wanted), two paid-for e-books, and an unlimited number of (approved) public domain e-books. I installed Treasure Island on William's tablet, and The Wind In the Willows on Daniel's to get them started.

It's all part of getting out family to put more function into less space, and to have less stuff overall. In fact, a lot of the gifts we've given each other are gifts of activities, or tools to do things with. The boys gave Karen a wood burning kit, with which she hope to decorate many of the wood doors in the house, and I gave her a book on painting in miniature, something she has wanted to do for a long time.

The boys gave me something I've wanted ever since I saw one of my fellow Little Shop cast members playing one: an ukulele. I don't have it yet; they promised it to me by each drawing one half of it, and wrapping the cardboard drawings. Really cute!

(Note to the English purists who might wonder at my use of "an" instead of "a" for an indefinite article accompanying ukulele. It has recently come to my attention that the proper pronunciation for this Polynesian instrument is not the Anglo "yoo-kuh-lay-lee," but the proper Hawaiian "oo-koo-lay-lay." After a few trips to the islands, I should have know that, but I wasn't paying enough attention.)

Karen is off for the whole week, and we have many family activities planned, although not all of them will come to fruition unless the adults start feeling better soon. When we do get out and about, be assured that there will be pictures posted here and, if I'm feeling ambitious, blog entries describing the whole exciting week.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Friday, November 25, 2011


On Tuesday. the prediction indicated a couple of inches of snow coming our way, which was fine because we were headed south anyway, and it was, after all, just a couple of inches. But by the time we woke up around 5:30 Wednesday morning, there was already a four-inch coating of snow and it was still coming.

It made packing the car a bit difficult, and slowed us down for the first 20 miles or so, but by the time we reached Rochester we were out of the snow and into the rain. I'm sure there will be a lot to clean up when we get home, but at the moment I don't care so much because we are sitting in New Jersey on a beautifully sunny day visiting with family.

The trip down, always long, was marked by one little bit of drama, sort of. We started hearing disturbing noises coming from Karen's car. With over 170,000 miles on the Subaru, noises can mean anything, or nothing. It turns out, though, that the noise was nothing but a plastic mud shield that had come loose and was brushing against the tire. Drama over.

I'm loving the combination of the Internet and portable computing and digital cameras, which allow we to post pictures and update this blog even when I'm not home. We've also been able to keep up on the status of snow in our area, not just through weather sites, but using a Web cam that's pointed at Wolfeboro Bay so that I can actually see how much snow is on the ground (on more accurately, on the docks, where it won't have been shoveled or plowed).

I just wish I had a Web cam pointed out my front window, so I could tell if the New Durham plow truck had left a pile of ice in front of my driveway.

I guess some things will just have to remain surprises.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


The last three weeks have been a blur of activity. There were six outstanding performances of Little Shop of Horrors, a short-term return to work for me, interspersed with den and pack meetings, appointments, and family outings. A chance to breathe? Well, just for a moment.

The play is done, sadly, but I couldn't have sustained the schedule for another week. I still have three or four days more at the temp job which has me commuting to Dover, again. And the den and pack meetings are still ongoing, along with, starting today, skating lessons.

The kids have also been having friends over. Yesterday William had a couple of his fellow scouts over to work on earning their chess belt loops and pins. Danny joined in too, and Thomas helped out, giving pointers. Before the boys went home, we made French bread pizzas with them.

Tom and I played a couple of games later in the evening, and we each won one. I think there will be some more chess playing in the Brooks household in the months to come, especially now that all three boys know how to play.

Today was especially busy, and especially fun. We did a family outing to Funspot to play a few video games and bowl, which we have not done in a long time.

At first, it was just Karen and Thomas and me on the lanes. And then after the boys had gone off to play some games, they joined in.

The younger two played their first game without the benefit of bumpers (I told you it had been a long time since the last time we played). Thomas was the high-scorer today. Here was the final score display:

We had to be out of Funspot by around 3:30 so that we could get some dinner and get back to Wolfeboro by 5:15 for the boys to start skating lessons. They will be doing that for a couple of months, every Sunday evening, which means that for the first time since they started scouts, the skating will not interfere with pack meetings the first Tuesday of the month.

And now there is the end of Daylight Savings Time. It is supposed to give us an extra hour to sleep, but boys' body clocks don't know that, and they got up early. And now they will be out of whack with the clock for at least a week to come. I won't be spared either; I'm sure I'll be waking up in the morning around five without any chance of going back to sleep.

Well, don't get me started.

Once the job in Dover is done (notice that I avoided saying "Dover is over"), things will calm down a bit. Of course, I'll still be looking for work, and Thomas is looking for work as well, so who knows what havoc will be wrought on our upcoming schedule. The best I can do is to keep my calendar up to date and take it a week at a time.

And, occasionally, breathe.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My How the Time Goes By

The title of this post is also the title of a song recorded in the 60s by Chad and Jeremy, and pretty much sums up how I'm feeling right now. William turned 11 on Thursday. He had his party with his friends at the house instead of Chuck E. Cheese's, a sure sign that my middle is growing up.

I'm all for it, but time sure seems in a gigantic hurry to slip past me. I'm barely aware that it's October, and the month is half over.

By the end of the month, I will be done with what I expect to be my last theater project for awhile: Little Shop of Horrors. We are in the middle of a double Hell Week, which rehearsals most nights until the show opens on the 21st.

But as much as I love the theater, I find myself, with my 55th birthday coming up in the spring, feeling that I have neglected my own creative projects. And so, for the coming year at least, I have decided to spend the time I spend learning lines, lyrics, and steps to making movies and writing songs of my own. We'll see how that works out.

Meanwhile there is the house to take care of. We're finally on the home stretch for finishing the downstairs bathroom to the point where we can use the shower; Karen's pretty tired of sharing a bathroom with four males. It was supposed to be done a couple of weeks ago, but things keep coming up. Tick tock.

And now I need to leave this blog for a little clean-up around the house, because we are having some company tonight; a friend of William's is sleeping over. So much to do. So much to do.

My how the time goes by. Think I'll put on a little Chad and Jeremy to work by.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Karen finally got her car back. I never realized before how much I depend on having a car here, even without a regular job to go to. The number of times I had to take Karen to work and pick her up (over 20 miles away from home) because of kids' appointments, or mine, took me entirely by surprise. But we are, finally, a two-car family again.

And just in the nick of time, too. Thomas is staying with us for awhile. His rooming situation in North Conway just sort of went away, and we are helping him get around to find a car (he's buying one in the next couple of days) and an apartment (which could take a little longer; the rental housing market in North Conway is a bit sparse).

It was also in time for a special treat for Danny. Karen works for Lowes, and they happen to sponsor a NASCAR car, number 48, driven by Jimmie Johnson. Karen's boss gave her tickets to the race, and Danny and I went down to Louden together.

Danny found it very exciting, although I was fairly deaf after the experience. NASCAR puts the loud in Louden. We couldn't stay for the whole 300 laps, because I had rehearsal and had to get home to feed everyone and get the boys ready for school the next day, but Danny was getting a little tired from all the noise and heat anyway, so he wasn't upset about leaving.

Ah, yes, the heat. After having frost warnings a couple of weeks ago, we're now having days in the 80s with high humidity. Welcome, folks, to the New Hampshire Weather Roller Coaster. Those prone to motion sickness or arthritic attacks during temperature changes should probably avoid riding. As if that is an option.

The weather certainly played a role in William's weekend. He was off camping with the Weblos Scouts, and got rained on and bathed in the humid air. And he had a wonderful time. Sorry Karen couldn't go with him this year, but her work schedule didn't permit. I'm hoping to get a picture from the Den leader tonight, and I'll post it in the daily pictures if I do.

Today will be a day of making arrangements for Tom to get his car (pictures of the car soon, too), and of attempted carpentry. My carpentry skills are the stuff of legends. That is to say that they don't exist in real life.

Still, I'm plugging away, trying to get our downstairs bathroom put together, as part of a larger two-week project to prepare the basement for William's birthday party, which he will be having at home for the first time. We already have a huge tube-type TV in the basement that Thomas got free from a friend who didn't have room for it (and it's too big for our living room upstairs; in fact I don't know if I could even move it upstairs). We're going to hook up the video games to it and let the kids play down there.

However, we've got a lot of stuff that's accumulated down there. So there's actually a lot more of cleaning and getting rid of stuff before the party than there is of carpentry and the like. And that suits me fine. I'm better at moving and cleaning stuff then I am at building stuff.

I'll let you know how it all turns out. With pictures, of course.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It Don't Add Up!

Here's the math: two adults, two children, and only one car. On the other side of that equation is a mass of confusion and a lot of extra driving around. But that's the situation at the Brooks household until sometime next week. Karen's car is in the shop for major repairs before it can pass its annual inspection, and until then we are a one-car family.

And, of course, it's that time of the year when the boys start up scouting and clubs, and have school events to attend and appointments with doctors. It's a good thing I have a good calendar program.

The boys are settling back into the school routine, and so am I, making sure homework gets done, backpacks get packed, dinner gets on the table, and children get to bed.

But it will be a lot easier when we have Karen's car back.

Monday, September 05, 2011

I Love You, Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the first day of the school year for Daniel and William. I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. I love my children, but thirteen weeks of having them at home has made it very difficult to get anything done, and this is one time in my life where I really need to get things done.

Of course, I'm not looking forward to getting up at 6:30 every weekday morning, something I have only had to do a few times all summer (after I finished at Measured Progress, for which I had to rise at 5:15). But it's a small price to pay for the extra time.

Tomorrow is also one of Karen's days off this week. For two consecutive days, I have a day at hone with my wife without the kids at home. Now there's something to celebrate!

Tomorrow is also the day that we cut off out landline phone service. Aside from being expensive, it wasn't of very high quality. In the past two weeks we've been calling out exclusively on our cell phones using the house's wireless Internet connection. The calls are clearer than with the directly-connected Vonage device, and the phone itself is of better quality, and with better range in the house than our cordless phones have been.

Also, in testing out the concept of only using our cell phones we've discovered something else: hardly anyone calls us on the phone. A lot of our communication is by email.

Tomorrow we also take a couple of big steps in the process of changing banks. This is a lot more work than getting rid of a telephone number, with all of the automatic payments that are linked to our old accounts. But we just couldn't afford our bank's ever-increasing fees (which went with ever-decreasing customer service), and so we've joined a credit union.

Yep, lots of changes in the Brooks house starting tomorrow, and I'm ready for it. Bet your bottom dollar!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Our power is finally back on after 76 hours without electricity. It feels good to be sitting at home in the light at my computer, typing on a full-sized keyboard instead of a tiny little touch screen. The refrigerator is humming along, the water is running, my phones are working, and I don't have to worry about the state of batteries in the flashlights, for the time being.

Although it was inconvenient, and a bit expensive (although the food in the refrigerator survived because of both the quality of the appliance and the foresight we showed in placing frozen gallon bottles of water inside), we got off easy. To the north, roads in the White Mountains were completely washed out, as was the railroad bridge that connects Conway to Crawford Notch. We just got a lot of rain and wind, and trees hitting our power lines in various places.

We didn't even get much leaking, something I was expecting more of. And knowing that the storm was coming, we filled a bathtub and a trash can with water so that we could flush the toilets and brush our teeth. And we charged all of the electronics so that we could entertain the kids after dark and use our cell phones to reach the outside world. Karen found some wonderful glow sticks that last about 12 hours and give off an amazing amount of light. We hung one in front of the bathroom and one in our stairwell.

Of course, we weren't expecting the power outage to last three days, but we managed to charge the phones while we were driving so that they had enough juice to get us by.

Karen's birthday came right in the middle of the whole mess, but we made quite a day of it, traveling to North Conway to poke around the many fun shops there, and then picking up Thomas for dinner at The Lobster Trap, our favorite restaurant in that area, and one that Karen has been visiting since she was about 12.

Every night we were a little less enthusiastic, the water in the bathtub shallower, the glow sticks and the battery-powered night lights a little dimmer. But we stuck it out and now everything is back to its normal state of insanity.

A little side note: we have been gradually making changes to save ourselves some money. One of these involves the phone. Now that we are able to use our cell phones at home, we are eliminating our land line, and so giving up our Wolfeboro-exchange number of the last 14 years. Those of you who have our cell numbers can continue to use them (we've ported them to a new carrier). Those that need the number can email me at gordon at (spelled out to cut down on my already overwhelming volume of unsolicited messages).

I'll let you know how that works out.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

New Me

Actually, I'm just the old me with a lot less hair. I was due for a haircut, and Karen wanted to see what I'd look like with a buzz cut. And that's what she got!

I'm still getting used to the look; I'm a bit shocked whenever I catch my reflection in the mirror. It actually doesn't feel as short as it looks.And, of course, the thinning patch in the front is all the more obvious. But at 54, who was I fooling anyway?

And I'm going to save a bundle on shampoo.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Smart Move?

I'm starting this entry from my new smart phone. It was Karen who was originally pushing for a phone with a data plan; I thought it would be too expensive. But my old phone stopped working, and our old plan was past its contract date, so she did some shopping and found us a plan that may actually save us some money.

The plan itself is more expensive, of course, but it allows us to use our Internet connection at home to make cell calls, and so we may finally be able to get rid of our expensive and less than satisfying land line.

Which means we say good-bye to our Wolfeboro phone number of over 14 years, but we gain a few bucks a month, maybe a higher-speed Internet connection, and all the cool stuff our phones can do.

Like blog from the palm of my hand. Not as fast as typing on a full-sized keyboard, but handy for adding thoughts to an entry while I go about my business at home, or anywhere where there's a wireless connection open (I started this entry at the library and am continuing it at home going back and forth between the computer and the phone).

There are other greet little features, too, that I've only begun to explore. I can do email and eBay and ebooks (egad), check job listings, watch Netflix streaming (not necessary but really fun), take high-definition video and still pictures, set alarms and reminders, maintain a shopping list, check my bank accounts, follow the weather, get directions (yes, the phone has GPS), play music, and edit text. And I even found an application that helps you find planets and constellations in the night sky (which I only knew about because I saw a friend use it on the Fourth of July).

But enough about the phone; it's time to do a little catching up. Directing "Almost, Maine" was an amazing but exhausting experience. Now that it's done, we've had time to spend together as a family. And as luck would have it, the end of the play coincided nicely with the beginning of one of Karen's vacation weeks. So we managed to get to the planetarium, spend some time at the beach, see a couple of movies (Cars 2 and the last Harry Potter installment, both winners), and even visit Thomas, all too briefly.

No more directing for me for a while. "Little Shop of Horrors" is the next play coming up, and I'm just playing one of the skid row bums. Then I'll probably lay out of theater for awhile until I've figured out how I'm making a living. My recent job hunting has convinced me that it probably won't be through regular employment, and I'm going to need all the time I can find to develop some other ideas that I have.

Meanwhile, we'll keep plugging along, holding it together and trying to finish the house. Which reminds me: I have some deck plans to work on.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


I have the day off. Sort of. Karen has to work, so I have the kids at home, and we have a lot of work to do around the house, and the boys have writing and reading and math to catch up on. But for the first time in a week, I do not have to go the the theater.

Don't get me wrong, I love the theater. But it's been the most exhausting week I've had in a long time. We had a lot of technical issues coming into closing night, and we never would have made it if not for a dedicated cast and crew who helped me set up our special effects lighting at the last minute. The effect--the Northern Lights, a shooting star, and snow--debuted on the stage on opening night!

Of course, the cast put on an incredible show, and we were lucky to have about 165 people in the audience; big crowds make for better shows, because their reactions give the performers extra energy. I guess some of our pre-show publicity paid off!

The add to my tiredness, I went to Maine to pick up William from camp on Friday morning, from there to North Conway to get Tom so he could see the show, and then home to finish the video editing for the theatrical effects. Tom animated the shooting start for me!

Yesterday, after the boys had a chance to play video games with Tom in the morning, I drove him back to North Conway, gave the boys a chance to play in the water, fed them at Burger King, and then drove all the way back to the theater to put on the second show.

So today I am a bit tired. But there is a lot to be done, so resting will have to wait for bedtime tonight.

I don't think I'll do any work in the bedroom today, though. I think the temptation would just be too much.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Camp Week, Hell Week

Last Friday we brought William to Camp Sebago in Standish, ME for his first ever week away from home. We have not heard from him, which is a good sign, because the only reason for the camp to call is in an emergency, and there apparently hasn't been one.

On the other hand, this is Hell Week at the Village Players, that lovely run-up to opening night where pretty much everything is an emergency, especially for me, since I'm directing the current play. Tonight we ran through the technical operations: sound, lighting, and set changes. The show actually ran pretty much the same as the show will run tomorrow for dress rehearsal, and Thursday for full dress. (What's the difference? The actors don't have to wear makeup until full dress.)

Of course, there were a couple of little things missing. Like the main lighting effect, which we have not gotten set up yet although we have only two rehearsals until the real show. And sound from stage right, where my speaker was accidentally kicked, destroying the connector I had plugged into it.

Ah, the theater is so relaxing.

I think I'll go to bed so that I can have some bad dreams.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Food Adventure

I can't believe I forgot to mention something else we did last week. On Saturday we were meeting some friends at the beach, and Karen decided we should serve ice cream. At the beach.

Now, Karen is nothing if not an adventurous cook, so the concept of making ice cream at home is hardly an odd one in our house. We have two usual ways to make ice cream: our electric ice cream maker, and a little gadget called the Donvier, which consists of an aluminum pot that we store in the freezer. You fill the Donvier with your favorite ice cream recipe and turn the handle every ten minutes or so, and it makes pretty good ice cream.

But neither of these is suitable for making ice cream at the beach, and we don't have a hand-cranked machine. But Karen, always on the lookout for a great idea, found an article on making ice cream with a couple of Ziplock bags. Yep. You put the ice cream mixture in one bag, and put that in another bag with ice and salt. The article suggested putting both in a plastic shoe box and shaking, but Karen decided that an insulated bag would work as well.

Or better. The kids took turns agitating the bag on the way to the beach, every five miles or so. When we got there, we had something slightly harder than soft-serve, and much creamier. Of course, we had to serve it within about twenty minutes of arriving, but it was well worth the effort, and will undoubtedly be a part of future beach trips.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Family Week

Karen arranged her vacation days so that on the weeks that she normally has Tuesday and Wednesday off followed by a Saturday and Sunday (in the following week; her week starts on Saturday), she ends end with six consecutive days off to spend with the family. It only happens three times during the boys' 13-week summer vacation, and last week was one of those weeks.

It was the last week of the boys' swimming
lessons. They each took three weeks at Brewster Beach brushing up their skills and doing very well. Lessons started at 9:40 and went for half and hour, so our excursions for the first three days of Karen's vacation started in the late morning.

On Tuesday we visited a farm museum, the Remick, up in Tamworth. The boys were particularly fascinated by the new litters of pigs. You should have heard Danny when the docent told us that these pigs were for sale. "Danny, you see the mother pig?"


"If we buy one of those little piglets, it will grow to be as big as her."

"I meant we could keep it in our back yard." Sigh. Needless to say we are not add
ing a piglet to our menagerie any time soon.

Karen's favorite part of the day was the tour of the Remick house, with an interesting mix of antique and modern furnishings. The house is from the 19th Century, but it was used until the 1990s.

Since Tamworth is, sort of, right on the way to Sandwich, we decided to stop at the Sandwich Creamery for ice cream. It's way off the beaten path (they sell most of their dairy products to markets and restaurants), but worth the trip. The ice cream is self-serve on the honor system. We has black raspberry chocolate chip.

Wednesday was a short trip to the Wright Museum, a local museum dedicated to the World War II years. The boys, of course, got interested in all the military hardware, but Karen and I were more fascinated by the displays showing a little of what life was like during the war years. Of particular interest was a series of signs showing relative costs of everyday goods.

In 1942 you could buy a new house for about twice the average household income. Where can you find a new home today for that?

Thursday was a laid-back beach day and the last days of the swimming lessons. On Friday we made our annual trek to Storyland.

This trip was a little special, though. In addition to our favorite rides and the Royal Hanneford Circus, we stopped to have dinner with Thomas, who is now living in North Conway, just a little south of Storyland.

We had a little adventure, too; in the rush to get kids out of the car and make sure we had everything at the park, Karen left her cell phone on top of the car. It stayed there all day, still unnoticed, and fell off the car at 40 miles per hour on Route 16. After we picked up Tom, we went back to retrieve the pieces, hoping at least to recover the pictures off the memory card.

What we found was the intact phone, lying on the side of the road flipped open, and completely functional. I never would have guessed!

A busy, fun week for everyone. Now Karen is back to work, I'm still searching for work, and the opening date of Almost, Maine looms large on my calendar. And so back to work!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The Sounds of Summer

Downstairs, my two boys are playing a video game. One of them is supposed to be cleaning the bathroom, but I will get to him in a moment. In our bedroom (as we call it; it's really the attic until we have the time and money to finish it), my old record player is playing the "Best of Eddie Cantor" album, transferring the music to my tiny little audio recorder so that, eventually, I can enjoy this, and many other albums I have as vinyl records, on my iPod.

I actually started this process on a day a couple of months ago, but it sounded horrible. I discovered that the record player's stylus was bent at an odd angle, distorting the music from the turntable. I tried to fix it, and it snapped. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a stylus for a JC Penney-branded turntable that's at least 35 years old? I finally got it (thank you, when I was too busy to use it. Now I'm enjoying listening to my favorite old music while it digitizes itself.

Outside I hear the sounds of traffic on wet pavement. We don't get a lot of cars along our little road most of the time, but this is a holiday weekend and we live close to America's Oldest Resort, Wolfeboro, and so this weekend we have a lot of visitors in town.

The boys saw their first professional baseball game during the last week of my employment. William won free tickets to a New Hampshire Fisher Cats game. I think I enjoyed the game more than the boys; I haven't seen a pro game since we left LA.

Some of the activities we had planned for the boys this summer have gotten off to a slow start because my job lasted longer than I expected it to. We are working on a couple of cookbooks, one by each boy. We're going to try out self-publishing the new-fashioned way, with Print-On-Demand publishing. That means that it costs us nothing up front to publish the book; a book is printed only when it is ordered. The printer/binder keeps a portion, and sends the rest to us. Who know, maybe if the boys come up with something good, they can put themselves through college.

The boys also expressed interest in making movies. Of course, everything they come up with is an effects-laden spectacular, so we'll see if they come up with anything I can actually shoot. Meanwhile, to give them a little taste, Dad came up with a quick little scene and shot it in the back yard. With a few Photoshop effects, the boys did a little magic. Once I get the soundtrack done, the video will show up on YouTube.

Karen and the boys also have a lot of gardening going. We're trying to keep the slugs away from out wild strawberries which have, well, gone wild. And the boys each plated a giant pumpkin seed taken from a giant pumpkin at the Keene Pumpkin Festival last October. We don't know if the huge seed will produce huge fruit, but the plants are certainly starting out big!

Of course, there is summer reading. William reads regularly. We have to push Danny a little, but once he gets started he enjoys it. And there's also math practice; the schools have subscribed to an online program called IXL that seems to make the practice enjoyable. How effective it will be at helping them retain what they've learned over the summer remains to be seen.

I have my own summer projects. One, of course, is play. I'm directing John Cariani's Almost Maine, a quirky little set of vignettes that I've very much fallen in love with, which is only appropriate because the play is about love. As soon as we close that one, I'm appearing in Little Shop of Horrors. I'm just one of the skid-row bums, but I'm glad to be any part of it, since it was authored by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, whose work on The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast at DIsney contributed so much to the success of Karen's early career at Disney.

I'm also working on a movie, even quirkier than Cariani's play, a short called I Dream In Color. I'm planning to shoot during this month (have to before the end of the summer because one of my cast members is going back to college), but I don't know if it will get through post until after the boys are back in school.

So, lots to say about what's coming. Next I need to talk a bit about what's already been. WIth pictures.

Until then....

Saturday, June 11, 2011

WInding Down, WInding Up

My job is almost coming to an end. We should be winding up everything by the end of the week, and them I am officially unemployed (for another three weeks; when my unemployment insurance runs out, I will be officially invisible, statistically speaking). And so it's time to be thinking about what I am going to do with all this spare time.

Okay, I'm not talking about the endless list of home construction chores, the excursions and activities we have planned with the boys, or the play I happen to be directing (and maybe the one I auditioned for as well).

I'm talking about making money. Because having a regular job right now, around here, is not going to make me any money. Between childcare and commute costs, and the pitiful pay rates, I'll be much better off if I'm working for myself at home.

I'll let you know how that turns out.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Already Summer Vacation

Thanks to construction in the kids' school district. their summer vacation has already begun. Thirteen weeks of summer vacation, which is hard on parents' budgets, but nice for the kids.

I guess it really started on Saturday, but it didn't really hit me until today, when I didn't have to get the boys up for school before leaving for work.

Not that they slept in. The cat, Sukkie, slipped out of the door when Karen was letting the dog out, and so everybody was up trying to coax the cat in while I was trying to get out of the house for the long commute.

She eventually came back in, after I was already working.

Thomas is spending the night with us tonight. He joined us for dinner and brought along his laundry, so everything is fairly normal with the world.

My job ends in about two weeks, which is okay because day care expense shoot up when the kids have to go for the whole day, and so I'll be at home with them until I can find something new and, I hope, better.

Meanwhile, summer is underway. Should be interesting.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Where Does the Time Go?

This blog and the site that accompanies it have been horribly neglected. The pictures of the day have been encore performances for several weeks, and I just noticed that it has been nearly two months since I updated this blog. Don't take it personally, though; my other blogs have been idle for even longer.

I blame it on the company that contracted my employer to hire me to scan standardized tests so that they can be scored. The commute is long, the pay is low, and the work is mind-numbing. And so, the steadily-atrophying organ between my ears has all it can do to keep up with a new play (Almost, Maine, opening at the Village Players on July 29th), carpentry (a bunk bed for Danny), and all of the various tasks that, sort of, keep our family running.

Spring has finally arrived, and so some of the projects that were waiting for warmer and dryer weather can now proceed, if I can actually find the time to do them. The above-mentioned company may accommodate my needs soon by laying me off. Then I will have time to build the deck, trim the door frames, hang drywall, and install the upstairs toilet, among other things. Of course, I won't have any money for any of those projects, but that's life in America today, pretty much. We manage.

And we have fun. Sure signs that summer vacation is on its way: wet boys with buzz cuts. The boys have 13 weeks of summer vacation this year because of construction at their school district. A little bit hard on parents, but the boys are looking forward to it.

Here is Bonnie cuddling with William on the sofa...

...and Daniel at sunset during a fishing trip to Back Bay, Wolfeboro, with the Cub Scouts. Danny didn't catch anything, but he was one of the last there, trying. He just needs to have the patience to keep his line in the water!

It will be a busy summer. The boys have writing projects, and each boy is doing a storyboard for a movie to make with me. I'm directing on play and, before that one even opens, I suspect, rehearsing for another, if the directors think I should get a part. And I'm trying to move from being under-employed to self-employed (or, as it is more accurately described, self-unemployed).

I need to get Karen some kind of artistic project, though. So far the best I've been able to do is to rope her into doing a painting for the summer play (following on the heels of the mock Picasos that she and the boys did for my New Year's Eve production). But all that talent shouldn't be sitting idle in a hardware store.

Meanwhile, and I know I keep doing this, I'm going to be making some changes to the Web site again. I won't go into specifics, because I have no idea what they are, and I won't promise new and improved, because I am trying to get into the habit of under-promising and over-delivering. I do know that I want to try to use some of the available online tools to make it easier to keep the site fresh and show all my readers (makes it sounds like I have more than one; I'm not sure that's true) what's happening with the Brooks Bunch.

And I won't have to tell you how it turns out, as long as you stay tuned in.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

March Madness and April Fools

Anyone who knows me knows that the title does not make any reference to the NCAA. It's just been a crazy month. A few days after my last entry, I got called to a job. Don't get excited, it's only temporary, and it pays some 35% less than my previous job.

The following weekend, just before I started work, William attended his second Pinewood Derby district race. Unfortunately, his car was just outclassed this year, and he didn't win a single race. Oh well.

That same evening was the Cub Scouts annual Cake Auction fundraiser. Danny helped us make a brownie pizza that raised $45 for the scouts, and William made a sand castle cake that fetched $55.

Then, a week after I started the job, Thomas turned 21. Wow! The weekend after we all traveled to New Jersey, where the weather was positively Spring-like, for a family celebration.

And yesterday, on April 1st, Mother Nature played a prank on us by dumping half a foot of wet snow on top of our previously bare patches of ground. The boys got another snow day, which they have to make up on what was left of their Spring break.

Spring is coming, all right. It just keeps getting distracted along the way.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Month I Skipped

The blog just pretty much skipped the month of February. I'm sure that things were happening. Just nothing worth writing about. You see, I don't like repeating myself.

"Well, it snowed, and I had to go out with the shovels and the snowblower. And I'm still unemployed and looking. And it's still cold." You see what I mean? February around here is mostly a month lacking any kind of change.

March is a different story. We're already expecting a couple of days of rain, and although there might be more snow in the forecast, the temperature will be staying above freezing most of the days ahead. It's spring in New England, no doubt about it. And, "in the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to love," according to Lord Tennyson.

Well, I'm not a young man, and being married to Karen my thoughts turn to love on a daily basis year-round. My thoughts are turning to all the hours I'll be spending not shoveling snow, and the money I won't be spending on propane and extra gas to warm up the car.

My thoughts are turning to trying out my new camcorder (which isn't new, but something I picked on on eBay for less than I was able to sell my old 35mm still camera and lenses for), finally getting my computer back into shape with a new 320GB hard drive, and directing Almost, Maine at the Village players for the summer show.

I'm also thinking about construction projects, including Danny's room, ceilings in the basement, and back and front decks. Not that I'm exactly looking forward to doing those projects, but I am looking forward to getting them done.

And I'm looking forward to just being warm.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Tired of White

The ground is covered in white. The trees are covered in white. Our driveway is surrounded by mountains of white. And even inside our walls are still primed white, except for the one blackboard wall in the boys' room.

This picture, taken from our back window, does not really tell the tale, because there's no frame of reference. It's just another snowy scene in New England. But move to the front of the house and see the snow stored the either side of our cars, and it tells a different story. And all of this has hit in about a month.

We're actually lucky. Further south, the Eastern states have gotten much more snow. To the west there are areas that rarely get snow that have been hit hard, and they're not prepared for it. And of course Australia has had to deal with cyclones, and the Middle East with civil unrest, so things here in New Hampshire are by comparison quite calm.

Still, I could stand a little less white. It's even in my hair, and I don't mean the white—well, gray in my case—of old age. I'm talking about what accumulates in my hair when I'm blowing snow, because no matter where I'm standing, it seems to be downwind of the discharge chute.

Another storm is heading our way tonight, which will either be a fairly large snowstorm, or an insignificant wintry mix. The weather prognosticators can't make up their minds. My feeling is that I will be out tomorrow, before we try to go off anywhere, fighting with both shovel and snowblower.

And thinking of spring.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Derby Day

Well, it's all done. Karen and I are trying to relax while the boys play outside and work off some of the energy they got from the Pinewood Derby.

Danny didn't win any trophies this year, and I'm glad to see he's not too broken up about it. I said yesterday that the most important thing was for the scouts to have fun, and they certainly did. They also created many amazing cars. There was a Duracell battery. There was a coffin with a skeleton. A school bus. And even a large purple hippopotamus. That last was not only an exceptionally cool creation, but speedy as well; it won third place overall.

Big surprise for us was William's car, which placed first in his rank. That means that, for the second year in a row, William qualifies for the district races. It never ceases to amaze me when, poor carpenter that I am, I help one of my boys create something that actually works. I hope it doesn't raise Karen's hopes for my work in the house. Sigh.

Looks like the weather will be treating us better for awhile; some cold days ahead, but nothing like we saw last week, and not a lot of snow, which is good because I haven't really caught up with the snow that's already on the ground.

Only about a third of the way through winter and I'm already looking forward to spring.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Family Weekend

Tonight Karen was home for dinner, and we made french bread white-sauce pizza with chicken and pineapple, with hot fudge sundaes for dessert. Between dinner and dessert came work on our Pinewood Derby cars, which will race down the track tomorrow; all we have left to do is lubricate the wheels, which will have to wait for morning because we can't find our tube of graphite.

I'm trying to keep Danny from getting his hopes too high. He was last year's runaway winner in the local pack, and third place in his age group in the regional races. It was all a matter of luck. From what I have been able to tell, winning has more to do with axle smoothness and wheel alignment than with car design or, well, just about anything else, and making a Pinewood Derby car is not exactly precision machining. I'll just be happy if the boys' cars make it down the track through seven or eight races with the wheels intact.

Of course, the most important thing is for the scouts to have fun, and if last year's event is any indication, there will be plenty of fun to go around. And anyway, it's someone else's turn to be the winner. Karen will be with us, having actually gotten the weekend off. There's work to do at home, of course, but we will find the time for fun as well.

This week brought report cards. William's report was even better than we expected. He's really flourishing in school this year, to the point of having been invited to the morning Math Club by his teacher, which is a honor reserved only for student who excel not only at math, but at their other work as well. We are very proud.

Danny still has some work to do, but we're very proud of him, too. He's gone from actually crying at having to read to someone who reads for fun, even reminding us of Grandma Pat, who often went around reading the signs around her aloud. And Danny is also very adept at math.

So my boys are doing well. I'm not saying it's all smooth sailing—it would be almost scary if they behaved all the time at eight and ten—but it's nice to see them making the effort.

And it's especially nice when all four of us are together for the weekend. It's all too rare a treat.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Almost Under the Weather

That is to say, the pile of snow left by my snow removal efforts is almost taller than I am. By tomorrow afternoon I suspect it will have exceeded my height by at least a few inches, since we are getting yet another snowstorm starting at about 3:00 tomorrow morning and lasting nearly twelve hours.

It will create, I'm quite sure, the third snow day for the school in the last two weeks. Meaning that my children will have school on a Saturday once in February, and again in March, and again, it seems, in April.

It also means that I will be spending most of the morning worrying about my wife getting safely to work (good thing she's such a careful driver or I'd be a nervous wreck), and nearly all of the afternoon blowing and shoveling snow. Fortunately I won't have to worry so much about Karen getting home; the storm should have passed and the roads should be mostly clear by the time she gets off work.

And then there's the weekend, which won't bring more snow, but will bring truly frigid temperatures, with one night predicted to drop to 14 degrees below zero, with the daytime high being only seven degrees. Fahrenheit. Brrr.

So, I'm not just under the weather's height. It's also getting the upper hand.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Trip to Florida

As promised, more about our trip to Universal Studios Orlando.

You are looking at Hogwarts Castle, as conceived by the builders of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure park in Orlando. The pictures don't begin to do it justice. It is breathtaking in both its scope and its detail, as are the buildings in Hogsmeade, through which you walk to get to the castle.
We had a lot of fun at Universal Orlando, and I'm glad we took the boys. My favorite parts were Hogsmeade, especially Olivander's Wand Shop, the Disaster Movie ride at Universal Studios, the ET ride (an old favorite from the Hollywood studio), and the Men In Black Alien Attack ride.

But there are three things I really don't like about Universal Studios Orlando. One is that the layout makes you spend an awful lot of your time and energy walking. It's a very long way from your car to the entrance, and there is no tram. And once you get to the entrance, you have to walk through Citywalk to get to either park. And the parks themselves are laid out in curcles with water in the middle so there's no way to cut across and get somewhere fast.

The second is that (and I'm sure this is not unique to Universal) I'm kind of tired of having to get whipped around and turned upside down just to see the cool stuff there is to see on the rides. I get get a rush by looking at something really amazing; I don't need to pump adrenaline, or get dizzy or sick to my stomach to get a rush. Even the kids' rides sometimes have too much bumping and spinning.

One thing I really loved about Disney's Epcot Center, which I have not seen in a dozen years or more, is how much there was to see, without having to go on a thrill ride. I also have fond memories of the Universal Studios tour in Hollywood, that was just a tour of the backlots and some demonstrations in the sound stages. It's one of the things that made me fall in love with making movies.

And third, and then I'll stop whining, is that Universal seems more bent than even Disney on picking your pockets at every opportunity when you're in the park. The food ranges from very expensive to outrageously expensive. And those of you who've been to Disneyland and used FastPass to move through the lines might be surprised to find out that they have something similar at Universal--but you have to pay for it. Even the very first thing we went to see at the Studio park, which was touted as a magic show, is actually a pitch to sell overpriced magic tricks. In this economy, this may eventually backfire on them.

Okay, rant over. Everyone had a great time. The travel wasn't actually very stressful, thanks to some lucky breaks on the schedule and the good folks at JetBlue, who make flying easier than anyone else we've flown lately. And the boys really enjoyed being able to swim in an outdoor pool in January.

Can't beat those smiles! We also had the special treat of eating at one of only four Sizzler restaurants in the entire state of Florida. We don't even have any in New Hampshire, and we always loved their Malibu Chicken, and the wonderful buffets we used to enjoy at the location in Sunland, California. The Sizzler in Kissimmee did not disappoint.

Now I need to go to bed, because I have to shovel more snow tomorrow. Guess I should try to have some warm Florida dreams tonight.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Long Road to Here

This blog and its accompanying site have been suffering a fair bit of neglect over the past month, and for a variety of reasons. Holidays are always busy, of course, and this year I took on the challenge of directing the show that Village Players put on for Wolfeboro's New Year's Eve celebration, "First Night." I don't regret that decision in any way, for it was a great show put on by a magnificent and hard-working cast. But my body decided to have a bad sense of timing.

Two days after Christmas, on the first day of Production week, I managed to get sick with some kind of intestinal virus. It only lasted a day, but then I failed to do all of the things that you're supposed to do after you get sick, like rest, eat right, drink lots of water. I had a show to do, after all.

So by show night I was nearly doubled over with pain. But I managed to do an adequate job of running the lights and sound, while my cast (a director's job is really over once the show is on stage) put on three very energetic shows to three packed houses of appreciative audience members.

I'm better, and I was relatively comfortable during our trip to Florida, which was fun but not restful. But more about Florida later, when I've had a good night or two of sleep. 2011 has started with more of a whimper (or a groan) than a bang for me, but I'm recovering nicely and ready to dive into the fray.

Which tomorrow will involve, as it will for a giant swath of the Northeast, shoveling snow.

Nothing like getting a little rest.