Monday, December 31, 2012


A little trickery with the heater got it back to its former, sort-of-working state. That'll do for the time being.

Home Ownership (Sigh)

Today I had to replace a breaker that's only about four years old (and has only been in use for a bit over three). Then, when I brought the power back up, our Monitor heater (which has issues with the controls) came on set at 50 degrees, which is a bit nippy. May have to replace the controls.

Where's the super? Oh wait, that's me.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Year's End

Here at The Brooks Bunch, as in many households with children, the last big event of the year is the holiday vacation, since it only extends one day into the new year. Our kids started the vacation a day early, sort of, and they were not happy about it. Why? Well, that's an interesting story.

First, the last day of school before vacation is normally a day without a lot a school work, with parties and performances. To top it off, my kids had worked very hard making gifts for their teachers, including some tasty treats. And they never got to hand them out.

And to top it off, they had to do more school work than they would have had to do in school, thanks to something called a "Blizzard Bag." In order to reduce the number of days lost to weather, our school district has come up with some school work that the kids can do at home if there is a snow day. There are two days of work in the folder in the bag, and if some percentage of kids do the work, then the district does not have to make up that day at the end of the year.

I'm not sure how well this concept works yet, because it wasn't a fair test. The kids were very resentful of having to do work they would not have had to do at school, and so getting the work done was a nightmare (we insisted that it be done on the snow day; we didn't want it to slide into the vacation). Perhaps the second day will go better.

The rest of the vacation has gone better, though. We had a nice Christmas morning, and there was actually a little snow. We finished a Kindle edition of Danny's book Danny's Kitten, and we will have a book by Karen and the boys called Cooking Breakfast With Will and Dan ready before the vacation is done.

We got to go see a pretty good movie, Rise of the Guardians, and had an early New Year's Eve celebration at home (since Karen has to work New Year's Eve and New Year's Day).

The best part was having Karen home for seven days in a row, something that rarely happens.

Oh, and we actually did have a blizzard. A couple of days ago. I'm still cleaning up after some of it, but luckily no one in our household had to go anywhere when it hit, so we just stayed safe and sort of warm in our house.

And so the new year is upon us (since the world did not, in fact, come to an end on December 21st of this year). What will 2013 bring? Well, I can't be absolutely sure of anything, but I can make a few relatively safe predictions.

For one thing, I will be in a play this year, something that didn't happen in 2012. I will, near the end of the year, have a teenager in my house for the first time since early 2010 (and two by the end of 2015—yikes!). William will start middle school about six weeks before he reaches that frightening milestone, and will have to get up at least half an hour earlier, to meet a bus that comes more than an hour before Danny's bus. That's going to be all kinds of fun.

We will try to make some changes to our family life in 2013, which we started by creating some books with our boys and publishing one of them (perhaps two, by the end of the year). If we can keep some momentum going, with Karen's knowledge of crafts and art, and my explorations of the ins and outs of self-publishing in the Internet age, we might start earning some money at this.

And I can also predict that 2013 will be a year of ups and downs, easy times and hard times, and most of all lots of love at the Brooks house.

Happy New Year!

A Sad, Snowy Tale

The picture tells the whole story. I had just pulled Karen's car back to clear the snow from her space. I pulled the rope to start the snow thrower, and ended up with the broken rope in my hand.

The good news is that the machine actually did start, and I managed to get Karen's space cleared before the thrower stalled.

Replacing the rope is probably within the meager scope of my skills, but it's going to be cold work with no temps above freezing for at least a week.

And I still will have to shovel my car out by hand.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Early New Year's Celebration

Karen has to work on New Year's Eve, so we're celebrating today and tonight. Today, a movie ("Rise of the Guardians") and lunch out, with a chance for boys to spend some Christmas money.
Tonight a celebration at home with some special foods we'll buy at our new Trader Joe's, champagne for Karen and Tom, and sparkling cider for the rest of us.

Friday, December 28, 2012


Spent most of the day today fighting with snow and the snow blower, which I broke--well, just the shear pin. All in the aftermath of yesterday's blizzard, which was perfectly-timed for us, because we didn't have to go anywhere.

And, we managed to finish Daniel's Kindle book and get it to "press."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Retro Toys

The boys dividing up the great retro toys that Nana sent. They were supposed to share; we'll see how that goes.

Okay, This Is Real Snow

Our first big snow of the season. Big flakes sticking to the windows, wind, and an expected foot or so of accumulation. This is the view out the back window.

Book Stuff

Karen and I are working through the day to try to finish and upload two of the three Kindle books from the boys. There will be print editions after the first of the year, and the third book will come then, too. But right now it's all ebooks.

And I hope we get them done and uploaded before the power goes out, because we have both snow and wind today.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry, Busy Christmas

Another Christmas at The Brooks Bunch. Fun gifts, including lots of interesting food. And speaking of food, a new approach to dinner. No formal meal, just a lot of appetizers, made by everyone. DIshes included meatballs by William, potato skins by Danny, spinach puffs by Thomas, and bacon-wrapped steak bites by Karen.

Now we're trying to get some late Christmas surprises done, late into the evening, with some Web site modifications thrown in to boot.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Last Minute Food Shopping

I get to spend a little time alone with my lovely wife while we get our groceries for tomorrow's meals. With a quick stop for lunch.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Danny's wrapping gifts for William. The boys buy gifts for each other to open early Christmas morning so we get a little extra sleep.

Running Late

Late (for us) tree decoration and last-minute cookie baking. The season got ahead of us

Friday, December 21, 2012


The one day of the season when the boys really wanted to be in school, the weather betrayed them. Snow in the morning followed by rain made roads too treacherous for busses. And so they stayed home. With school work to do. More about that in my main blog later.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On the Run

Busy night tonight. Basketball practice for Danny, followed immediately by Book Talk club with William, Danny, and myself. At least they were both in the same town.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Crafty Kids

William and Daniel are crafting in clay for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Yankee Gift Swap

The scouts did a Yankee Gift Swap for their holiday party. If you don't know what that is, you can Google it. William ended up with a nice pocket knife.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Annual Tree Trek

We got the kids out of school a little early so that we could go cut our Christmas tree before dark, which is hitting us close to 4:00 these days. It had stopped snowing, and started raining, before we got there. Fortunately while we were cutting the tree, the rain abated to nothing more than a bit of mist. And after we had a nice dinner at Johnson's, which also gave us a chance to warm up before we went home.

The tree is still strapped to the car; I have to bring it in in the morning so it can thaw and dry out a little.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pile O' Birch

The snow started arriving about six hours earlier than predicted, so the boys and I scrambled out to cut the rest of the birch tree and haul it over to our property. So now we have an impressive pile of hardwood at the side of the house. With luck we will have a wood stove sometime before the wood is seasoned enough to burn.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

White Stuff

Spent a good deal of the day preparing for what is predicted to be the first big snow of the season. Covering lumber, stowing outdoor furniture cushions, and finally cutting up the birch tree that fell down during hurricane Sandy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Warm Day

This was what greeted me after a day of errands. The day was too sunny and warm for staying inside. It got all the way up to 41 degrees! And yes, if you look closely you can see ice on the pond.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Closing the Barn Door

William is watching a crew hired by our power company to trim the trees away from our power lines. In more than a decade since we moved to New Hampshire, this is the first time we've seen such preventative maintenance, and of course it's happening in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, rather than ahead of it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Crafting

Karen and Daniel are working on making gifts for teachers.

Getting Ready

We're preparing surprises for the holidays. Will they be ready in time? I don't know, but we're working hard to get them done.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Safe and Accessible

Got two of my guitars and my ukulele hung up in the attic where they are out of the way (and out of harm's way) but still easy to get to.

Instrument lovers take note: although it is the attic, it's a future bedroom and thus well-insulated and dry.

New Computer

Best Buy made good on the horrible "open item" computer they sold me, and I ended up with a brand-new Mac Mini. Which is not what I'm writing on, because Karen made me promise that I wouldn't spend the time to switch over until I'm done with the Christmas projects we're working on. Fair enough.

But I did hook it up long enough to get it registered and updated, and I'm looking forward to using my peppy new computer after running into so many roadblocks with my seven-year-old Mini. More about the new computer, from the new computer, in the main blog after the holidays.


Another trip to Tuftonboro. Tonight for Scouts, last night for basketball. Friday basketball again. Stuff is too far apart around here.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Danny had his first basketball scrimmage tonight, and he got his uniform. Purple, and number 13. The boys did a good job of cooperating and playing fair. Parents, too!

Having Breakfast Out With Karen

Unfortunately, we are on our way to Newington to return a computer to Best Buy, but at least I get to spend time with my wife!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Bowling Party

Bowling with friends for Danny's party at one of the few alleys in New Hampshire with ten-pin lanes. Rest of the state does candlepin.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Drawing Day

Today Daniel and Thomas have been spending a good part of the day drawing for a special project we're trying to get ready for Christmas. What is it? Can't tell you until after we've delivered gifts, but then it will be for the world to know.

And why isn't William drawing, too (not because he can't—he's actually quite talented)? He's got another role in this project. But he is sculpting for another project.

But perhaps I've said too much.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Basketball Schedule

Just got Danny's new schedule from his coach. At first glance it

looked impossibly full, until I looked at the entries that include

Danny's team, the Dragonflies. More manageable, but still very busy.

This Post Has No Title

Learning to post from text messages; forgive any "text speak."

I posted the above as a text message, which only allows 140 characters and creates no title, but can be done where I have phone service but no data connection. I will probably edit these a little bit after the fact, at least to add a title.

A Little Experiment

I set up this special blog with the idea of doing quick updates on

the happenings of The Brooks Bunch.

No long, thoughtful posts here. Most of these will be posted by

email, many from my mobile phone, some even by text message (which

only allows 140 characters per post).

So, quick peeks, like "Danny and Karen are watching a movie on TV;

Danny keeps asking what's going on. It reminds me of stories Karen

told about her kid brother from her childhood."

Which is what's happening right now.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

An Active Brooks Bunch

November kept us busy, and it looks like December is going to be filled with activity as well. Daniel started playing basketball, both boys are still in Scouts, and Karen volunteered to build a snowman for the Lowes float for the Rochester holiday parade. At that's on top of some special Christmas projects we're working on.

The theme of the Rochester parade was "Cartoon Christmas," and so the snowman wasn't just any snowman; it was Sam the Snowman, from Rankin-Bass' Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the character voiced by Burl Ives, and made to look a little like him. Everyone in the family participated in Sam's construction. He was crafted from papier mache over a base of three large balloons. Both boys helped paint him. Karen, William, and I made the cardboard banjo that he holds, and Karen constructed the clothing and the facial features.

Thanks largely to our snowman, Lowes won third place in the corporate category.

During the beginning of November, Thomas and I worked together at Measured Progress. Now that the job is done, we're back to working on other projects, including Thomas' Kindle cookbook and my book, and lots of eBay selling by me. The selling is going slowly, but every once in while I get surprised by the sale of something I've listed again and again without apparent success. Sometimes I think I just have to persist until the right buyer finds what I'm selling.

The extra money we made in those few weeks did allow us to do a little extra Christmas shopping, and catch up on the heating bill. I don't know what kind of winter we're going to have, but even a mild winter means a couple of tanks-full of propane before the Spring.

The house has been treating us well on that front, though. Yesterday, we didn't turn the main floor's heat on at all, and the sunshine outside was enough to keep the house comfortable even though the outside temperature never got above 50 degrees.

December is also the month of Danny's birthday. This week's home celebration includes meatloaf for dinner, which is one of Danny's favorites. And this year he's invited his friends to join him for bowling as his birthday party.

And that pretty much brings us up to date. Even though I don't get many chances to write in this blog (because, for one thing, I'm already doing a lot of writing for other projects), I will try to keep up on life events here at The Brooks Bunch with the daily pictures.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Water and Wind

While Hurricane Sandy is slamming the Mid-Atlantic states, we are preparing to get a small taste of it here. And I do mean a small taste. Yes, we will get some high winds and enough rain to cause flooding in some areas, and schools are closed as a precaution, but we're not expecting anything like what they are getting further south.

Our preparations consist mainly of making sure that anything outside that might blow away—lawn chairs, trash cans, kayaks—is secured, and that we are ready for the nearly inevitable power outage. At our house, the power goes for almost any weather event, and sometimes for no event at all.

For us, no electricity means no running water, so we fill the bathtubs with water to use in the toilet tank, and we fill pots with drinkable water. We also freeze jugs of water to help keep food cold while the refrigerator and freezer are not working.

No electricity also means no phone, since we don't have a landline and depend on our Internet connection for telephone service. We can still call out by taking a short trip north to catch a cell tower, but incoming calls are not going to happen while the power is out.

We're preparing for a fairly lengthy outage, because the lines that feed out house don't feed very many houses, and the power companies will need to make the repairs that affect the largest number of customers first.

And, of course, with no power there's no Internet connection, and so I can't upload anything new until the power comes out. I have set up a few pictures to get us through Thursday. I think we'll have power by Thursday. And, if need be, I can email from my phone if I go far enough to get a data connection (or perhaps a wireless Internet connection in Wolfeboro, where they generally lose power later and get it back sooner than we do).

Meanwhile, we'll stay dry and relatively warm in our house, light some candles and play some games and keep ourselves fed and occupied until it's all over.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Shaking It Up

About two hours ago, two big shock waves hit the house. Danny thought that a tree had hit the house. I was in the basement cutting trim boards, and I thought that maybe a truck had hit the house. But a quick run-through from bottom to top convinced me that we had experienced an earthquake.

The last time I was this surprised to be in an earthquake, I was a young adult sitting alone in my brother's house in Oakhurst, California, when an earthquake hit at Mammoth Mountain. Where I was sitting, it was very mild, and all I thought was: "This is weird, we're having an earthquake in Oakhurst." From that far away, it didn't even shake enough to send me running for a doorway.

My mother will remember the Mammoth Quake as well; she and her husband Cal were in their motor home, and the quake sent it rocking.

This was a lot more surprising, and a tiny bit more frightening because it wasn't immediately apparent to me what had happened, and I had two frightened children adding to the excitement. But once I was able to figure out what was going on, everyone calmed down very quickly. Karen called from Lowes—she had known right away what was going on—to confirm that it was, indeed, and earthquake in New England.

The epicenter was in Maine, about 25 miles from where I live, and the magnitude was a mere 4.5, which is what it felt like even 25 miles away. The quake was felt all over southern Maine and New Hampshire, and even into northern Massachusetts. Apparently, quakes are felt over a wider area here than in the West, according to the US Geological Survey (which has a fantastic earthquake site at

I've heard no reports of damage, even at the epicenter, although Karen said that a couple of brooms that were leaning in the appliance department did fall over. But here at the Brooks Bunch household, it didn't disturb a thing, not even the children, who are sleeping soundly. Although the dog is a little jumpier than usual.

I notice that I haven't updated this blog for about two months now, so I it would seem that there's a lot of catching up to do. And yet most of what's been happening here has pretty much been covered by the daily pictures. Life goes on each day, trying to get ourselves moving in the right direction, and mostly nothing terribly exciting happens.

Well, until we get a visit from my sister Christine, who's never been out to see us in the eleven years since we moved out here. That was very exciting, and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, her husband Ed got a cold and we only really got to spend about a third of the time with him, but there was still a lot of time to talk and catch up, along with some good eating thanks to Karen and Tom.

There was also William's 12th birthday, Danny's overnight camp-out on the night before William's birthday, the kids returning to school, of course, and me starting construction on a deck, finally.

Oh yes, and an earthquake.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Back In the Saddle

I'm making a movie! It's just a little one, about ten minutes long, but it has real actors in it and everything, and I've shot about 80% of it. It's called I Dream In Color and I expect to have it done in about two months (with most of that time spent tweaking effects and sound). I'm very excited, and I'll post a link here (and everywhere in the world I can post a link) when I release it.

William went off to a Boy Scout camp for a week at the beginning of the month, and while he was gone we took Daniel off for a couple of excursions so that he could have some special time with his parents. These included a trip to York Beach, Maine, where they have a little amusement park and, as the name might suggest, a beach. We also visited a local boat museum that we hadn't seen before; Karen and the boys have lately gotten a boat-building bugs, and this museum gives classes. The boys are still a little young, but maybe someday.

Meanwhile, back at camp, William had a great time. He got to shoot a .22 rifle (which he did very well with) and use a bow and arrow. He did a lot of swimming, and he said the food wasn't what he expected—hot dogs and hamburgers every day—but really very good. Especially the desserts!

School is coming up shortly, and although the boys are a little sad about the end of summer vacation, I am ready to have the house mostly to myself during the day so that I can get some work done. This year will be the first year in two years that Daniel and William will be attending the same school, and the last year for four years after that.

And starting in the fall of 2013, they won't even be riding the same bus; William will have to get on an hour earlier, something that will continue for the rest of his career in the school district. Ugh! We hope that William and Daniel will, by the time they are both on that schedule, be as good about getting themselves to the bus as Tom was at the same age.

Once they are gone during the weekdays, I plan to get back into the full swing of making craft videos with Karen (in addition to finishing my movie) and selling off Karen's vast surplus of miniatures, bears, and craft kits on eBay. And looking for a job but probably not finding one, save for a few weeks here and there of temp work.

And then, of course, there's Karen's unending efforts to turn me into a builder. The current project is the front porch/deck, complete with a pergola, which Karen is going to encourage grape vines to grow on. I have been (gasp!) pouring concrete (a misnomer if ever I heard one; pouring concrete is like pouring mashed potatoes or thick oatmeal, with rocks in it) for piers. Here in the Northeast, those suckers have to be four feet underground so that they won't shift when the ground freezes. It takes as much as 290 pounds of concrete to fill one ten-inch-diameter pier. I'll put up pictures of the deck in progress as soon as there's something more to see than a ten-inch-diameter circle of cement with a threaded post sticking out of it (not a terribly exciting picture).

It's bound to be an interesting, busy fall season, if not a terribly profitable one. But who knows, maybe something we're doing will catch on, and get us back on the right track.

I know I'm not giving up.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Perhaps, with all the change in color and the new stuff on the page, you didn't notice the eighth portrait on our Web site. Meet our new kitten whose name, for reasons that would be obvious to anyone who spent time around her, is Ambush.

Ambush has been anticipated for some time, although her name was a complete surprise. Daniel, whose kitten Ambush is, has bandied about a variety of names for the past several weeks, most of them Japanese, since he is interested these days in anime, animation from Japan. So we though the kitten might end up with a name like Yoko. But then Ambush took a surprise flying pounce at William, and so her name was born.

Danny has written the first draft of a little picture book about the anticipation and eventual arrival of Ambush, and I'll post a link to it once we've managed to get it into print (that's right, print; modern technology means that anyone can publish for next to no money—amazing!).

William's working on a book, too, about some space aliens trying to get back home (and he hasn't even seen E.T. as far as I know). We're trying to have both books ready to go soon after the boys return to school.

In addition to a little writing, summer vacation has included a lot of swimming. The boys take lessons four days a week until the end of this week, and then I'm sure there will be at least as many beach days in the weeks that follow. We're also trying to spend some time together drawing, although we've done much too little of that. And there's been lots of reading.

All-in-all a typical summer vacation at the Brooks house. By the time school's back in, William and Daniel will be ready to return to their friends.

And I'll be ready for the extra time to get work done.

Friday, July 20, 2012


I couldn't blog about our vacation while we were on vacation because I was unconnected. No phone, no Internet (except for one short session at a McDonalds in North Conway, and I used that time to do my weekly work search), no TV, and no cable. And lots of cool stuff to do.

One of Karen's coworkers owns a cabin in Errol, about three hours north of here, on a cute little pond. We took our time driving up, stopping for Bobbie Sue's ice cream in Freedom, visiting North Conway and Gorham, and looking around Berlin before settling in for a relaxing week (well, as relaxing as a vacation with two boys can be).

William and Daniel spent a lot of their time in the water, jumping off a dock they found at nearby Akers Pond, at a public beach that Daniel nicknamed "Cannonball Cove." Karen got in some swimming, too, although she took time out to do some painting. She's learning an impressionist style known as "plein air," and she's taking to it very nicely. She produced three small canvases, one of which has been gifted to the owner of the cabin, a second going to Tom, and the third going to me.

Karen and I have been married for 24 years, and I have very little of her artwork, so this is a precious gift. I am working very hard to find her more time to paint, because she's enjoying it and she shows a lot of promise, as anyone who knows Karen might expect.

On Thursday we drove back down to Glen, to do our annual (though probably last) trip to Storyland. We met up with friends and the boys spent a lot of time—what else—getting wet, on rides and in the mist houses that Storyland provides on hot days. The highlight of the day, as it has been for the past few years, was the small-top performance of the Royal Hanneford Circus. But my boys seem to be outgrowing the rides, and so we might find another special trip for next year.

On the way back to Errol, we stopped in a restaurant that was recommended by the cashier at the Cumberland Farms convenience store in Gorham (Karen loves Cumby's iced coffee, and had to stock up. It was named, unpromisingly, Mr. Pizza, but it turned out to have a much more varied menu, and we had a delightful dinner.

Friday found us in Colebrook, very close to the Canadian border. We would have considered crossing into Quebec, but none of us has a current passport, now required for travel to and from Canada. Perhaps another time.

Colebrook is a cute little town, with a French bakery (with a French-Canadian owner) where we got some delicious honey bread and madeleines to have with dinner that night. Then we found Beaver Brook Falls, where we picnicked and the boys, of course, got good and wet. We also found a market there for the extra food we needed, since Errol has only a small, and expensive, general store.

To get to Colebrook, we passed through Dixville Notch, famous for their first-in-the-nation voting. The place where this voting has traditionally taken place, a resort called The Balsams, is currently closed for renovation. Apparently a large portion of the resort is not up to code. We took a look around the grounds and found one gorgeous old building. We hope they are not tearing that one down; we'll check back next year, I think.

Dixville Notch also has a lovely state park, with falls on both sides of the highway, and so we went back that way Saturday, and hiked up the falls. And, of course, the boys got wet.

On our way home Sunday, we stopped for lunch at Mr. Pizza again, then made our way through Conway to the Kankamagus Highway and the Swift River where, of course, the boys got wet. Then one more stop at Bobbie Sue's for ice cream, and then home, tired but happy.

And what did I do all this time? Some writing, a lot of photography, and a lot of nothing. It was just what I needed.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

On the Run and Having Fun, Mostly

Summer vacation is starting off with a flurry of activity. On Tuesday I took Karen's car off to have an oil change, and to have the mechanic sort of poke around to see if there were any obvious issues that would prevent the car from passing inspection in August. Good news: nothing major wrong with the car. Better news: I got to go to lunch with Karen.

On Wednesday, after doing some packing for a trip, I spent some time over at the Wright Museum, a local World War II museum, to be in a movie. A friend of mine from the theater has a friend from his earlier film acting career who is making a short film about a 13-year-old boys who finds himself suddenly back in the War. And he needed some extras, and of course I said yes. Not only did I get to be in a scene in the movie (as a cafe patron), but I got to spend the whole afternoon in an air-conditioned building. Which was truly a treat.

Thursday found us driving down to East Lyme, Connecticut, where we spent the afternoon at a beach on the Long Island Sound. I stayed on a chair on the shady hill overlooking the beach while Karen and the boys played in the water. I got to listen to music (which I don't do as much as I'd like) and read using the Kindle application on my phone. I'm reading The Fifth String, by the legendary composer John Philip Sousa.

That evening, after cleaning up at the motel, we found a restaurant in Groton called Flannigan's, which had a menu published in the phone book that looked very tempting. What the ad failed to mention was that Flannigan's is also a bar, and that they have karaoke night on Thursdays. So it wasn't quiet, but it was fun. Karen and the boys managed to talk me into doing the karaoke bit (twice: one solo of Mac the Knife, and a duet with Daniel of Puff, the Magic Dragon), and William gave it a try although he found he didn't know the lyrics to the Back Street Boys song Larger Than Life as well as he thought. And by the way the food was delicious.

Friday turned out to be a bit gloomy, and not much of a beach day, so we went to visit a museum that we read about in a brochure for Groton, called the Submarine Force Museum. It's adjacent to a naval base, and one of its features is the first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus. Unfortunately, we couldn't go on the sub because the air conditioning was down and the temperature inside was well above 100. But the rest of the museum was fascinating, with some great films about submarine history (and one about an underwater spy system called SOSUS that was used to listen for Soviet subs). That's a place we'll go back to.

We also visited a Revolutionary War battlefield, where the only battle of that war to be fought in the State of Connecticut was fought in 1781. The monument that looms over it has a spiral stone staircase inside with 166 steps. Karen and I bowed out, but both boys climbed to the top, and William did it twice!

We also got to explore around the fort a little before it really started to rain. We had planned to visit a little restaurant on the shore in Groton that makes its own pasta, but it was so busy we didn't have time to wait for a seat. So we went back to the restaurant we had eaten breakfast at the morning and had a wonderful dinner before heading for home.

Despite the fact that we got home around midnight, William and I got up the next morning and loaded one of the kayaks on my car. We met the Boy Scouts at the local park, where our kayak joined about a dozen others in the trailers the leaders brought, and William kayaked with his troop all the way to Maine. Okay, it's closer than it sounds, but he was on the water for more than two hours, and swam and played around for about two hours after. Needless to say he slept very well last night.

A lazier day today, expect that we had a lot of cleaning to catch up on, until Daniel, doing the dishes, tried to wash the "fiddle bow" bread knife, which is the sharpest knife we have. And, of course, he sliced his thumb open. So he ended up with three stitches in his thumb for the next 12 days.

But we still had a celebration tonight. Why? Because this morning Daniel had his last dose of medication. And the pain in his thumb didn't stop him from enjoying his cake and ice cream.

That's my boy!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

And Summer Begins

Forget the calendar and all the astronomy behind it. When you have kids in school, summer officially begins when the school year ends. For us, that's this weekend.

Yesterday Karen and the boys painted the ugly 1-foot fence around the raised garden in the front of the house. They made vertical stripes using paints that we had around the house, and paint samples that were returned to Lowes and placed on clearance for a buck or two. The end result had a lot of personality, added interest to the front of our boring house, and covered some truly awful carpentry by yours truly.

And we ended the day with one of our food experiments. This one was made from taco-seasoned meatballs wrapped in crescent rolls, served with salad, tortilla chips, and two kinds of dip. It was delicious.

Today, Father's Day, after a nice pancake brunch (and an afternoon snack of leftover meatballs), we went out to play miniature golf, contrived to built our own miniature miniature golf course in the back yard (which is not as hard as it sounds—I think), and stopped at one of the local ice cream take-out windows.

Tonight we're having fish tacos for dinner, another recent discovery. If the lead-in to summer vacation is any indication, we're going to be doing some good eating this season.

Which leads me to introduce, as you've noticed if you came here from our site, our new section, "Good Food," which will appear on the sidebar from now on and change whenever we try an interesting food experiment. To ensure you don't miss any, I'll be duplicating the picture and caption in an online gallery. How do you get there? Just click on the picture in the sidebar.

There will be two more sidebar features coming soon. One will be fun house projects, like painting and trimming out the hallway, or actually finishing part of the house, or interesting interior decoration. The other will be the latest craft and art projects from the family. Including tidbits from the books we're writing. That's right, books, plural. Each of us has a project we're working on, and the goal is to finish and go to press by the time the boys go back to school.

You'll learn more about those as the summer goes on. But for now it's off to more mundane things such as laundry and cleaning. And, of course, fish tacos.

Friday, June 08, 2012


It's official. After Danny's last EEG, the neurologist feels comfortable taking him off his medication. It's a gradual process, which will take less than a month, and if everything goes well he'll be done with the medication for good.

The doctor says withdrawing from the medicine might make him more hyperactive for awhile (oh good), but since his total withdrawal is happening as the school year comes to an end, he'll have almost the whole summer to return to normal, whatever that turns out to be. Whatever it turns out to be, it will be nice to know that it's Danny and not the medicine.

Also official is my lack of employment. Measured Progress let us go more than a week earlier than I expected. I guess we are all doing too good a job, because we finished early. I know there's a lot of backwards incentives going on in the world right now, but I didn't see that one coming.

No matter. I'm not heartbroken about being laid off. I need to look for real work, and to spend time selling off Karen's craft collection and our surplus furniture (ah, breathing room) and other items, and working on the books that we are in the process of writing. I'll tell all about those as they get closer to market.

The younger boys have only one more week of school. Lots of activities, including a few road trips, planned for the summer. And the boys and I are going to work on some projects and some lessons during the summer. It will be a bit exhausting, a little hard on the budget, but also a lot of fun, and while I know there will be days I wish they were in school, I'm looking forward to it.

And, I hope I will do a good job of sharing with you on these pages, and through daily pictures, now that the most hectic days are behind me (I like to think) and we can settle down into some kind of routine.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spectacular End To a Nice Weekend

As I'm writing this, there is a thunderstorm going on. Since thunderstorms in our little corner of New Hampshire so often bring power outages, I'll keep this entry short to make sure I get it in. But the wet weather held off nicely for our holiday weekend, which had the rare and wonderful bonus of Karen having most of it at home with us.

The weekend included kayaking, swimming, some fun food (including homemade cinnamon rolls by Tom), and some gardening. There was even some singing and guitar playing by the fire in the front yard.

One of the kayak trips included just me and Daniel. We went all the way from our house (we're not on the pond, but our next door neighbor has graciously given us permission to launch from his shoreline), to the north end of the pond, which is about three-quarters of a mile in each direction. Danny was tuckered out by the end of the ride, but he pressed on until we got home. It's good to see how well he's getting along with the kayak; his steering is still a bit shaky, but he gets where he's going.

There are only a few weeks left of school, and only a few weeks left of my scanning job (which often coincides with the school calendar, conveniently, since there's no way we could afford full-time daycare on what I make there). Starting mid-June we'll be plunging into our Summer routine, with fun trips whenever Karen gets time off, home activities the rest of the time, and as much income-producing work as I can squeeze into the gaps.

It should be an interesting Summer. I'll do my best to give you a ringside seat.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

A Medical Test We're Actually Looking Forward To!

This week, Danny is getting an EEG to monitor the progress of his seizures. Not because they've gotten worse, but because they haven't recurred at all in about two years, despite an increase in his body weight with no increase in the dosage of his medication. This is good news. Depending on the outcome of the EEG, Danny may be able to stop taking his medication in the near future.

In other news, the dryer is fixed, and so we are playing catch-up with laundry, which when you are a family of five is a lot of washing and drying. In addition to discovering the expense of laundromats, I also made a couple of other discoveries in my repair adventure.

One is that the inside of a dryer is filthy! The lint gets everywhere it's not supposed to be. The more places I looked, the more places I found where lint and dirt and the things that fall out of kids' pockets can get our of the drum and into the rest of the dryer. I'm going to make a habit of cleaning the inside of that machine every six months or so.

Another thing I discovered is that service manuals are written for people who don't really need them. For the rest of us, it is a labyrinth of cross-referencing steps that aren't actually cross-referenced. For example, to remove the drum, you have to remove the front panel, and the manual tells you just that. But it doesn't tell you how to remove the front panel unless you go back to the table of contents (no index) and find the page that tells you how to take off the front panel. How do you take off the front panel? Easy, you just take off the control panel, exposing the screws for the front panel. How do you remove the control panel? Back to the table of contents.

But I did get it apart, and back together again (the part came the very next day from an online dealer in Albany, NY). At first the dryer started as soon as I put the plug in the wall, which should never happen. That turned out to be a foreign substance in the button that starts the dryer. When I blew that out, everything worked just the way it's supposed to. No one was more surprised than me.

I will report on the outcome of Danny's EEG sometime in early June. And if anything else interesting happens, as it's sure to with the Brooks Bunch, you find it here.

If I can find the time.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Reluctant Repairman

A few days ago, I discovered that our clothes dryer wasn't drying clothes. The drum was turning, and the blower was blowing, but all it was blowing was cold air. There was a time, not long ago, when my solution to this problem would have been simple: call the repairman. But these tough times make that solution a last resort.

Our dryer is part of a so-called "laundry center" (which most appliance people just call an apartment stack), a washer and dryer in one tall unit. A little online research pointed to the dryer's failure being an electrical problem. Me, knowing a little something about electricity, figured that I could probably handle that. A quick look at the electrical diagram revealed about six different failures that could turn off the heat without turning off the turning, so to speak.

The first three involved house wiring and the power cord. I've been working with house wiring and power cords since I was around William's age, so I felt very comfortable there. I tested the breakers, the line voltage, and checked the power connection. Everything was fine. I had mixed feelings about that, because it was all my work, and it was comforting to know that it was all working well, but on the other hand, any of those would have been easy for me to fix.

The other three failure points all required some measure of laundry center disassembly to check. Fortunately (or unfortunately, since it took away my excuse for just calling an expert), I found a complete service manual online. I love the Internet.

I had to take apart a lot of stuff, but I finally found the problem, as soon as I looked at it: a burned out heating element, visibly broken in one spot. I've ordered the part and should be putting it all back together in a few days. With manual in hand, I've confident that I can do a proper job of it, and have the dryer back to work for the weekend. Albeit slowly.

Although it's satisfying to be able to do these things, it's also annoying not to be able to call in a pro when I need to and just get on with my own work, which, when I'm not doing time scanning tests, consists of trying to jumpstart Karen's craft business, and creating writing and video that, we are hoping, will give us little bits of royalty income down the line.

But until any of these things starts generating cash, here I am, screwdriver in hand, trying to keep my major appliances running.

As an aside, another thing I found out while the dryer was on the fritz, is that laundromats have become incredibly expensive. I took three loads of the clothing we needed most into town and my pockets were about twelve bucks lighter by the time I was done. Which makes repairing the dryer one great bargain.

Even if I did have to do it myself.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me!

On Friday we began a celebration of the 55th anniversary of the day I was born. The only, very minor, disappointment of the day was that I failed to win the Mega Millions lottery which was drawn on my birthday. Tragic, I know, but I'm willing to bet that no one whose birthday falls on April 20th won that jackpot either (a safe bet since the jackpot rolled over).

On the other hand, I made out great. Friday I had dinner, alone, with my lovely wife, and then dessert at home with Karen and the boys. It was banana cream pie (much better, in my opinion, than cake) with a bowling ball and pins on it, hinting at my gift from the family: a day at the bowling alley. (I should explain to my New England friends that I refer to ten-pin; the whole candlepin thing leaves me cold.)

We each bowled two lines, and then Tom and I each bowled an additional game. I did very well for someone who gets to bowl at most twice a year (the alley is about an hour's drive away, and it's the only ten-pin alley in central New Hampshire); I averaged 152 over three games.

After bowling we headed toward another rare treat: dinner at the Tilt'n Diner, in Tilton. Tom and I used to eat there a lot when we were here in the summers, and when we were bachelors waiting for Karen and William to move from California at the end of Karen's last picture in 2001.

Before we got to Tilton, however, Karen saw Kellerhaus, a candy and ice-cream place that we've heard about many times, but never tried. So we tried. You get to make your own sundae, and boy, was that fun. We'll be going back.

So, bowling, ice cream, great diner food (Karen and I shared roast beef and Tom had a Bison burger, while the boys got baked macaroni and cheese and hot dogs)—what could top that? A night at the theater with Karen, to see the Village Players put on Noel Coward's "Hay Fever."

Turning 55 was so much fun, I wish I could do it again!

Monday, April 09, 2012


Time is rushing by so fast. I guess that's what comes of getting older (as we all are), having busy children, and having a lot on one's plate. That's my round-about way of apologizing for not keeping up on the Picasaweb galleries of our daily pictures (and missing a couple of the pictures, too). I have most of them up there, but there's a week or so of early March that didn't get to the gallery before disappearing from the daily pictures.

Don't worry, the original pictures are safely on my own hard drive (with backup); it's just the cropped and resized versions I post online that are lost, and the captions. I will try to re-create them later. They may not be the exact pictures or captions, but it should still capture some of the flavor of life at the Brooks household.

I've been working on getting healthier over the last few weeks, as have other members of the family. No one has been terribly ill, but we've all had a lingering cough at some point during the Spring, along with about half the people we know in the area. The biggest side-effects of the cough for me have been the difficulty of narrating Karen's videos (as talking makes me cough) and the loss of my singing voice. I'm happy to say that the cough is subsiding, and the singing voice is returning.

Good thing, too, because I make a goal that this year that I would learn one musical piece for each of the instruments that I own. Stupidly, I did this before actually counting the number of instruments that I own. In addition to a couple of guitars (well, four, actually), a six-string banjo, a five-string banjo, a piano, a synthesizer, and my new ukulele, I have a larger-than-I-remembered collection of flute-like instruments. It will be a challenge. Anyway, some of these pieces include singing, and it's been little hard to work them out without actually being able to sing.

Work at Measured Progress is in full swing, which is another good thing, because as boring as the work is when it's going full tilt, it's absolutely excruciating when it's slow. Thomas is attending orientation for a new job next week, which I'll write more about when he's starting working. We don't know if this is a permanent job yet or not, but it's a start.

I feel for Tom; looking for work is very frustrating right now. Not only are the jobs hard to find, but the process has become maddeningly impersonal in recent years. You don't even get to meet people face-to-face most of the time. I've even been turned down several times by a computer program. That's why, although it hasn't produced any income, I'm excited about starting the craft business with Karen. It's going to be slow to get started, but it's something we can do that doesn't rely on some nameless, faceless company.

So no big news, no breakthroughs, just slow and steady.

Hope Aesop was right.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Back To the Old Grind

Tuesday I will return to Measured Progress, perhaps the most boring, certainly the worst paying job I've had in a very long time. But it's just enough to hold our budget together—while it lasts. Meanwhile we are putting up another video, getting some people to come visit our site, and so a few sales here and there can't be far behind.

Spring has come early to New Hampshire. I say this with confidence in spite of the fact that we had an inch or so of fresh snow last night, because in truth that is a pretty typical Spring pattern around here. With a week of temperature in the 50s and 60s coming up this week, and some rain showers, and even some clear water showing on the shore of the pond, I think I can confidently say that the Winter is behind us. Until, of course, it is ahead of us again, but I have about seven months to worry about that.

William is officially no longer a Cub Scout, having received his Arrow of Light and crossed the ceremonial bridge to be welcomed by the Troop as a Boy Scout. His last official act as a Cub was to represent his Pack in the Pinewood Derby District Races. He and his fellow Pack members lost handily. But they had a good time and took it very well.

Danny graduates to the rank of Weblos this summer, which is convenient because he can inherit William's uniform shirt. The downside is that now their respective meetings are on the same night, at possibly overlapping times, and sometimes in different places. Makes life, uh, interesting.

Spring also brings the birth months of two of our family members: Thomas and, well, me. Birthdays are fun, and I don't actually mind growing older (and I won't balk at getting senior discounts at selected stores), but in New Hampshire it is also the time for the expense of registering cars and the nail-biting anticipation of annual inspections. When both of the cars on the spring schedule were made in the late 90s, there is always the questions of whether each car will be worth the cost of repairing it to the state's standards.

Ah, adventure.

Otherwise it is pretty much business as usual at The Brooks Bunch: work, school, and trying to figure out how to survive in whatever this new economy decides it's going to be.

And having some fun, with lots of love, along the way.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Long, Long Week

One look at my planning calendar told me that this week was going to be busy. There were scheduled events for all seven days, in addition to the launch of our new site and video, and the usual job search and housecleaning tasks. But even my planner didn't prepare me for this week.

It actually started before Monday (the start of my planning week); William had been at a friend's house to practice a magic act they are doing together for the school variety show. William was a little out of sorts that evening, because he was getting sick. No school Monday or, as it turned out, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday either.

That took the Monday Den meeting off the calendar, and William is an easy patient to look after, so I got a fair amount done. Tuesday was supposed to be a night out for the family for Valentine's Day. We took William to the doctor Tuesday because his cough didn't sound too good and we wanted to make sure his lungs were clear. Good news: they were. Bad news: he was still too sick to go out to dinner. Worse news: we got a call while we were out that Danny was in the nurses office feeling lousy.

So for the rest of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I had both boys. But William was well enough Thursday night to attend the monthly Book Talk Club. Good thing, too, because despite the poor turnout (basketball conflict), it was a wonderful meeting and William and I enjoyed it very much.

The boys went back to school Friday, but Danny's school was having a winter fun day at the local ski area, and he just didn't have enough energy for it.  So I had to go pick him up. Tom looked after him and William (after William came home on the bus), while I went out to dinner with Karen (which is often scheduled Friday around taking trash to the dump and paying money toward property taxes).

But although my two boys are pretty good about taking care of themselves when they are sick, it still takes up a fair amount of time. Despite that, I managed to put up a video for Karen's site, and set up Twitter and Facebook accounts to help promote it. (As I write this, the video has been viewed more than 125 times; not bad for the first video in the first week.)

Saturday was the Pinewood Derby. We did surprisingly well, considering that a great deal of the work on the cars, including all of the work on the vital axles and wheels, was done that same morning. William came in third in his Den, which means he gets to make his third visit to the district race. Daniel didn't show in his Den, but his car was right there in the pack, and I think it might have actually been faster than William's (the Pack has a new track with a display that shows that actual race time to the nearest millisecond; William's Den, the oldest group, had the slowest times overall, and none of them made the top three).

Today we attended a birthday party for the son of one of Karen's friends and coworkers. All of the other children were younger than William and Daniel, but they had a good time and were very helpful with the younger kids. The party was at a place with bounce houses and climbing walls and cars to scoot around an indoor track. So the boys are exhausted tonight.

And so am I. But no rest for the weary. Yet. I have some photography to do, and probably some scanning. All in preparation for production on our next or two new videos, which we are trying to release for the 1st of March, and which we start shooting on Tuesday.

Without, I hope, any children in the house.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

It'll Be a Cold Day In ... New Hampshire

Actually, it is a cold day in New Hampshire, but this being February, that shouldn't surprise anyone. What is surprising is how little snow is on the ground, and how few cold days we've had.

On this cold day in New Hampshire, Karen and I are the proud parents of a brand new baby Web site, On a Smaller Scale, which is not so much a business at this point as a way to reduce the sheer volume of craft materials Karen has accumulated since starting her miniatures hobby before we were married. (I like to say that there isn't any snow around here, but there sure is plenty of accumulation.)

But we hope that it will transform, as we sell off the inventory with no plans to replace it, into a publishing and information business as Karen creates patterns, projects, books, and movies, all of which can be sold in the information age without carrying an ounce of physical inventory (although lot of hard disk real estate—the archive of our first, six-minute video takes up 40 gigabytes of space on my backup disk. That's 40 billion characters).

It's not going to happen overnight, but we have to start somewhere. Neither of us has had a lot of luck getting employers to pay us for what we know; maybe we'll fare better with customers. Unlike our last business venture, this one won't cost us much to try out.

Meanwhile, now that we've launched the site, I'll have a little time to return to the poor, neglected Brooks Bunch site, with some pictures and a few stories about the upcoming events in our little family's life.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Oh, the Weather Outside Is ... Just Weird!

As I write this, the temperature outside is ten degrees. Fahrenheit. But later in the week we are expecting it to climb above freezing, and we may actually see a little rain. At times like that it feels more like late Autumn than mid-January. But not today. Today it is undoubtedly Winter.

Snow finally came on Thursday morning, just in time for school to be cancelled. William was disappointed, because a day off school also meant the cancellation or postponement (we don't know which) of our Book Talk Club. This month's book was Jerry Spinelli's wonderful Stargirl, and we were both looking forward to discussing the book with our friends. Perhaps we'll get the chance soon.

There was still ice on the roads Friday morning, so school was delayed for two hours so the roads could be made safe for the busses. In an area as spread out as ours, we rely heavily on the busses. If the busses don't run, there is no school.

There wasn't any school for Danny anyway. He woke up with a stomach bug. But he was over it enough by Saturday to go out and play in the snow. Yesterday was cold, but not bitterly so.

Today is another story. We don't expect the temperature to climb above 20 today, so we (with the exception of poor Karen, who had to work) are huddling inside with the heat turned up until things outside  warm up to, say, freezing or so.

We're planning to make some brownies, maybe a batch of cookies, and something baked for dinner tonight. Anything to make the house feel warmer. Eating the extra calories doesn't hurt, either,

This frost-covered spider web greeted us as we were saying good-bye to Karen this morning, and she insisted that I take a picture, and so I insist on sharing it with you. Especially after freezing my fingers off to get it.

For the most part, I have not had a big problem with the weather in New Hampshire in the decade that I've lived here. But on a day like this, California sound pretty good. Especially when I see that it is currently 46 degrees in LA, with an expected high of 62. I normally have the thermostat inside my house set to 62 this time of the year, so that sounds ever so comfortable.

But California is not in the cards for us this Winter, nor Florida, nor Hawaii, nor any of the other warm spots we dream about on cold days like this. But Spring is only about nine weeks away, and although the beginning of Spring here is far colder than the middle of Winter in California (or Florida or Hawaii—oh, stop, I'm just torturing myself), the contrast makes it feel downright tropical.

In the meantime, we give our daily thanks. To the inventors of Polar Fleece.

Sunday, January 01, 2012


The new year rolled in without much fanfare at the Brooks household. No one was out partying, and no one even watched the New Year's Eve specials on television, partly because we don't receive broadcast television, but mostly because everyone in the house with the possible exception of Tom, was asleep.

Karen got her New Year's Eve kiss from me sometime before 11:00 (and again in the morning, for I hate to pass up any good opportunity) and the kids went to bed pretty much on time.

Not that the day was completely uneventful. We had originally planned to go to the Museum of Science in Boston, but getting everyone together with three of us still under the weather proved to be a bit too much, so we opted for a day in Concord instead. We visited the New Hampshire Historical Society Museum for a few hours, then had a wonderful early dinner at the Longhorn Steak House.

We also got some new shoes for the kids, some new pants for me, and discovered a rather large Dollar Tree store that's only recently opened. What a bunch of party animals we are!

2012 promises to be an eventful year, if only because uneventful years just don't seem to happen in the land of the Brooks Bunch. I'll be turning 55 this year, which qualifies me for senior discounts at Dunkin' Donuts, the local grocery store, and the state museums. I don't know how I feel about this, but that doesn't mean I won't accept the discount.

By the fall of this year, William and Daniel will be back to attending the same school (our elementary grades are split between two schools), but it will only last for a year. They won't attend the middle school together at all, and they will only be together in high school after William has already been there two years. So I should enjoy the brief convenience of only having one school to deal with while it lasts.

This year I am laying out of the theater, at least so far as acting and directing go, though I may lend a hand in the booth at some point. But I need the time to work on film and book projects, and a new business that Karen and I are starting up because, well, at 55 it has become nearly impossible to find someone who wants to hire me.

And, of course, 2012 is the year the world comes to an end. Oh, wait, did I read that right? Didn't that happen last year (or was it the year before that)? No, I see, it's just that the Mayan calendar is coming to an end, on December 21st. Nothing that has any personal significance for me, of course, but I think I will celebrate anyway, because it only happens every 5,126 years. Makes our little millennial celebrations look a bit paltry, doesn't it?

And so I'm off to put the last polish on my goals for the new year, about as much ritual as I'm up for. But I leave you with the words of Ogden Nash:

Duck, here comes another year!