Our Caribbean Vacation in Puerto Rico

Wife and I snuck down to the bar. It was a nice getaway from our getaway. Someone would look for us. I told Wife to keep her head down.

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There was a lot to do during our time in San Juan. As usual, different people wanted to do different things. We divided our time between finding out what everyone wanted to do and taking in everything a new destination had to offer.

Puerto Rico’s Capitol Building.

Upon touching down in San Juan, we collected our luggage and our children and stepped outside to find a taxi. Certain children needed to be reminded we were in public, and everyone needed to pretend we were a nice, normal family. We found a taxi and were brought to our hotel. Wife and I got keys to our rooms. We had rooms next to each other. This was an improvement from last year, when our rooms were on different floors. That made coordinating events of the day a little challenging.

Nice to be at the Hotel

There was a little special something included with our keys. I’ll get into that later on. Anyway, everyone got settled into where they would be staying and sleeping for the next few days. Bags were unpacked and warmer clothes were exchanged for summer attire. It was single-digit temperatures when we left Logan Airport, and we were basking in 80-degree weather in beautiful San Juan.

We were all a little weary from our sojourn. Flying four or five hours is bad enough. Having to sit up in seats that don’t recline didn’t make it any easier and having our flight delayed didn’t help, either. Thankfully, all of that was behind us. We were ready for the warm temperatures and blue skies that San Juan had to offer us. Well, the warm temperatures were there. We needed to wait for the blue skies. Our plane landed after sundown.

The Boy wanted to see the pool. Other cherubs asked about the beach. We reminded everyone we had days to see everything in town, including the pool. For now, we needed to find somewhere to eat dinner and discuss our plan of attack.

The Oppressed in front of the Christmas tree in the hotel lobby.

Christmas Day

Christmas was spent in the hotel and at a local restaurant. Before leaving home, I called a place that wasn’t far from the hotel. They assured me they were open on Christmas and could accommodate my family (all seven of us). I played it safe and made a reservation for one o’clock in the afternoon. We arrived at the restaurant and celebrated “Navidad” in an air-conditioned restaurant. This was a far cry from the cold Christmas we celebrated last year in New York City. This year we were walking in the warm Carribean weather. We got back to our hotel for more swimming and a little more rest.

I spent my time in the hotel room doing crossword puzzles, reading Christmas stories, and watching “A Christmas Story”. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it in Spanish. I thought I would since I was in a Spanish-speaking land. That was alright, though. It was easier for me to follow along, which made it easier on my brain.

Beach and Pool

If we weren’t swimming in the pool, we were swimming at the nearby beach. The water was warm, and we were there for hours on end. Our favorite activity there was riding the high waves that came rolling in and crashing down on the shore. Everyone had fun getting knocked over. Wife and I took time from the waves to look around and make sure all of our children were still alright from time to time.

How Many Chairs?

Our hotel had a part of the beach where people staying there could use lounge chairs put out by the staff. If we needed a break from the water, we could just head over to the chairs. Wristbands showed the staff that we were with the good guys.

Upon confirming our stay with the hotel, people manning the chairs asked us how many chairs we needed. We needed seven. Their eyes widened when they learned Wife and I were with five children. Chairs were brought out and, sure enough, there were five little cherubs with us looking for a spot to leave their things while we were in the warm Caribbean water. Not only that, but there were spots in the shade that allowed us to cool off out of the water when we weren’t in the water.

Their eyes widened when they learned Wife and I were with five children.

The beach was great. There was something about being able to swim in the ocean while people back home were dealing with cold temperatures. We were all working on our tans while friends, family and neighbors were working on their snowblowers and car batteries. We had a lot of fun at the beach and at the pool.

I liked the beach. Not only was the water warm, but the waves were high. Everyone got into the water and rode the waves. We jumped into the waves, tried to dive under them. Went out into the water and rode them back to shore, then went back out. The water was warm, but it still cooled us off.

A New Friend

I think The Boy had the most fun at the pool. One day while hanging poolside, we met a family with a young boy. “M” and The Boy got along and started playing with each other. From that day on, the entire family knew The Boy’s vote when it came to deciding beach or pool. Getting to the pool became the priority all day every day for the boy. No matter what we were doing, The Boy wanted to get back to the hotel so he could change into his bathing suit and see if “M” was there.

Wife and I also enjoyed talking to M’s parents while we were hanging out working on our tans. We talked about our lives back home and what we did for work. It was okay for me if we got down to the pool and they weren’t there. It gave me a chance to read my book while the kids splashed around in the pool.

St. John the Baptist

Further away from the hotel, the family took a tour of Old San Juan (also called “Viejo San Juan”). We saw the fort and walked down the streets of the old city. The family was near the church where Ponce De Leon was buried. Alas, it closed before we got there. The Oppressed and I were upset to learn we wouldn’t be able to see this. That’s alright, though. There were plenty of other things we say on our tour. We even hiked through a rain forest. That gave everyone in the family a chance to work off some of the extra calories we had been consuming.

Two of the cherubs walking the streets of San Juan.

Eating in Puerto Rico

Speaking of food, there was plenty of it to sample while we were down there. I was tasked with finding a place to eat on Christmas Day. We figured we could always eat at the hotel if we couldn’t find an open restaurant. Luckily, I was able to find a place that was open, and it wasn’t far from the hotel. I made reservations. They were able to accommodate seven people, bless their hearts. We were at the hotel for lunch. After lunch, a little nap and then back to the pool for a little swim and then back to the hotel rooms for some down time.

I thought hotels would give people a little taste (See what I did there?) of what the area has to offer.

When travelling, we like to try local foods (and drinks). We have learned it’s hard to do that when you’re eating at the hotel. I thought hotels would give people a little taste (See what I did there?) of what the area has to offer. Why else would people travel to different parts of the country or the world?

This wasn’t the case, however, and most of the menu was your generic American fare. I don’t have a problem with typical American food at all. I was just hoping we would be able to order something nice and Caribbean.

I’m not saying the food was bad, either. It was good food. The drinks were good too. I was able to sample a Puerto Rican beer or two. Most of the time, though, it was your standard choices of beer. That hurt a little.

Happy Hour

Speaking of drinks, Wife and I found out about a nice little Happy Hour in the lobby where guests of the hotel were allotted two drinks on the house. That was nice, and we usually grabbed those drinks coming back from whatever swimming activity.

Sometimes, while the younger children were immersed in their screens and the older children were immersed in sleep, Wife and I snuck down to the restaurant for drinks and appetizers. It was a nice getaway from our getaway. Of course, one or more of the children would look for us, and their curiosity would lead them right down to the restaurant, where they would ask us what we were doing. I would tell Wife to keep her head down so no one would see us. Wife told me it wouldn’t matter. It’s not like we were behind a wall. We were sitting at a bar that could be seen by everyone in the lobby.

Dinner Plans Changed because of a Local

Our last night in San Juan was spent looking for a nice local place to end our week-long celebration of the Holidays. It had to be a place that wasn’t too far, and we couldn’t eat too late. I’ll get into that later on.

We thought we had found a great place to eat. It was close enough to the hotel we could walk. I liked that, especially since there was a lot of food and drink we had sampled and enjoyed during our vacation.

There were a lot of stray cats in San Juan.

Our walk was an interesting one. Everyone talked about how nice it was to be walking in shorts and short sleeves in December. Everyone was hungry from swimming. We were talking and nobody noticed how sketchy everything was becoming. There were some questionable looking storefronts. We were all looking around and soon we noticed our surroundings. Someone had noticed we were being followed by somebody. We all grouped closer together. Lucky for us, there was a CVS open. We went in there and waited it out. Our follower left not long after we entered the store. Adults checked outside to make sure everything was alright. We decided to go back to the hotel and eat there.

A Tough Flight Home

All good things must come to an end, including our trip. Coming home from a vacation brings you back to reality.

We were jolted back into that reality on the morning we flew home. The only flight available was at 5:00 in the morning. We were up at 3:00. Everything was packed the night before. We went to bed as soon as we could after our altered dinner plans.

We got up and dressed. Pants and long sleeves. We were heading back to Massachusetts and weather conditions we were accustomed to in December. Everyone but Slugger dressed warm.

Our flight wasn’t delayed this time. We left San Juan, the warm weather, the warm water, the scenery and the people (sane and sketchy). Soon we were back home. We loaded the van and drove back to our house. Our bags were left by the door and went to our bedrooms. We had been up since 3:00. People were tired and we needed to rest and recover so we could prepare ourselves to bring Doggie back home and get ready for the next exciting event that awaited us.

Travelling to San Juan and Warm Weather

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Like last year, Wife and I thought it would be better to travel instead of buying Christmas presents. After looking at options and seeing who could accommodate seven people during the most wonderful time of the year, we decided Puerto Rico was the place to be.

As usual, there were many details to tend to before we could leave. Doggie needed a place to stay, and we needed someone to check on Kitty, making sure she had bowls full of food and water.

On the human side, we needed to make sure the Miracles of Christ had everything they needed clean and packed. I tried to help The Boy, but he insisted he was fine and didn’t need help from any adult in the house.

Travel Day

The day of our flight arrived. Christmas Eve. Everyone descended from their bedrooms upon the kitchen for a quick breakfast. After grabbing whatever we could find, we loaded our luggage and our bodies into the van and joined the countless other jolly travelers who ventured out to Logan International Airport.

Off to the store for a $10 bottle of water and a $20 bag of chips.

We arrived at Logan. Our flight was delayed two hours. It was a bitter pill to swallow, even if I was prepared with my book, crossword puzzles, and beef jerky. We had a five-hour flight ahead of us and the delay gave us time to kill. Off to the store for a $10 bottle of water and a $20 bag of chips.

We spent our time as best we could. I read some chapters and did some puzzles. We ate at a restaurant since people only ate a little something before high-tailing it to the airport. When we weren’t at the restaurant, I tried to coax the children into a game of cards. They declined. Back to my puzzles.

We Work Here? No Food?

After suffering in the cold purgatory of Boston, we were finally invited to board the plane. This was an airline we had never flown before and after sitting in seats that didn’t recline with small, barely usable tray tables, I doubt we’ll be flying this airline again. Bringing our own snacks and drinks meant we didn’t need to buy snacks from the airline.

That’s right. While most airlines at least gave you a can of Coca-Cola or a bag of pretzels, this airline didn’t. If you wanted something to tide you over during the 5-hour flight, you had to pay for it. You would think they would at least give you some pretzels after checking in yourself and your luggage.

San Juan

We touched down in beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico. Looking out the window, I noticed palm trees gently swaying. We have our luggage and all of our children. No matter how hard I try, I can’t lose any of the Miracles of Christ. We get a cab and take the short drive to our hotel.

Everyone changes out of their pants and long-sleeved shirts. It was single-digit temperatures back home. We change into shorts. Bathing suits. There is a pool at the hotel, and we’re going to use it. The Boy lives for the hotel pool and it’s going to get even better for him very soon.

My Favorite Christmas Carols

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This is the time of year when almost everyone is playing Christmas music. Love it or hate it, there is no escaping it. There are people like my mother, my sister, and my aunt who can’t get enough of it, and there are people like me who believe there is a time and place for everything. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it.

Photo by Blue Ox Studio on Pexels.com

I think it comes from working retail during the Christmas season. I had Christmas music in my ears the week before Halloween. One year, on June 26, I told my boss there was six months until Christmas. Where was the Christmas music? He wasn’t amused. There was another year I worked two retail jobs. From 9:00 in the morning to 9:00 or 10:00 at night it was Christmas music. That sort of thing wears on you. On nights I worked alone, I changed the radio station to the Celtics game. There were people who came into the store and were grateful for the break from the Christmas music, even if they weren’t sports fans. I was glad I could help them out.

There are some songs I like more than others. Everyone has their favorite Christmas Carols. With Christmas around the corner, I decided to share some of mine.

Good King Wenceslas

This is one of my father’s favorite Christmas carols. I thought it was okay until one time I heard the full version telling of the good king and his page braving the elements to bring Christmas cheer and warmth to a poor man. Then I really got into it. It’s cold and windy, and the page wants to turn back. Good King Wenceslas urges the page to continue with him. The song is based on Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia.

Photo: Wikipedia

The song is set to the melody of a popular spring song (“Tempus adest floridum”) from the 13th century. John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore wrote the lyrics we know in 1853.

O Holy Night

I like this song. I think it comes from a year I played Joseph in a Christmas pageant, and this was my cue. I would be in bed falling asleep with the radio on like I did when I was a kid, and the song would come on. It was a nice mental break from thinking about having to go to school the next day. Fun fact: The original name for this song was “Cantique de Noël”, and there are rumors that the song’s composer was, ironically, an atheist.

“O Holy Night” was based on the poem “Minuit, chrétiens” by Placide Cappeau, written in 1843. Composer Adolphe Adam (the supposed atheist) set the poem to music four years later and we have the song we know today. One of my favorite renditions is from “South Park”.

Snoopy’s Christmas vs. The Red Baron

Anything with Snoopy is worth a watch in my opinion. My favorite scenes in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” all involve Snoopy (eating bones while reading the newspaper, dancing on Schroeder’s piano until being noticed by Schroeder and Lucy, and doing the animal sounds). I’m not even sure how I came across this roasting chestnut. It was probably something I randomly found on the radio.

If you’re not familiar with the encounters between Snoopy and the Red Baron, our courageous canine is constantly flying his doghouse engaging in dogfights (no pun intended) with arguably one of the greatest flying aces of the first World War. “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” dedicates a scene to Snoopy and The Red Baron battling for air supremacy.

In this carol, performed by The Royal Guardsmen, Snoopy is called upon neutralize “The Bloody Red Baron” on Christmas Eve. Snoopy preps his plane (or doghouse) in minus-40-degree conditions. One finds the other in the sky among church bells pealing below.

The Royal Guardsmen (Photo: Tampa Bay Times)

The Chimney Song

This is a funny, morbid song that a select few adults will appreciate and enjoy. The song is taken from the “Twisted Christmas” album by Bob Rivers and his Comedy Corp. In the song, a child is up all night waiting for Santa Claus, who never shows up. No one in the house can understand why Jolly Old Saint Nicholas didn’t visit. They also can’t understand why the dog keeps barking at the fireplace or where that weird smell is coming from. Again, the song is morbid, but it’s funny.

Photo: Amazon.com

The Twelve Pains of Christmas

Another Bob Rivers selection. This song takes the most common complaints people have of the Holiday Season and turns it into a fun-loving parody of spending time with relatives and dealing with bratty children. I first heard this song when I was in high school. A friend of mine and I would constantly tell each other, “She’s a witch, I hate her.” (That’s part of the song.)

What is your Favorite Carol?

So, there is a list of my favorite songs for this time of year. Everyone has their favorite song that has a special memory for them, or you just like a song for your own reasons. Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Memories and Traditions with the Family

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Christmas means different things to different people. For children, it means Santa Claus will visit and leave them toys and maybe some goodies. It means a break from school for older children. For adults, it means some time off from work and a chance to reconnect with family and friends.

Santa Visits but What if…?

Like other children, I would get excited when Christmas came. I would have trouble sleeping on Christmas Eve thinking about what would be under the Christmas tree the next morning. What happened if I had to go to the bathroom? What if Santa Claus was there?

(L-R) My brother, Santa, me.

“Then, you go really quick and get back in bed,” I remember by father telling me one Christmas Eve before my siblings and I went to bed. My sister’s bedroom was downstairs, but on Christmas Eve, she slept in the room my brother and I shared. This safeguarded the family from any mishaps. We were told if Santa saw you out of bed, he left immediately. No toys. Game over until next year. My sister willingly stayed in our room and moral support was offered if anyone needed to get out of bed to use the bathroom.

Opening presents in the morning wasn’t the end of Christmas, though. After the presents, we got dressed and went to church. The family came home, the kids played with their presents, and the parents took a little rest. After the rest, we got back into the car and went to my grandparent’s house for more presents, including presents from their neighbors. Some lunch, some mingling with friends and family, then back our part of town where we see my grandmother and all ten of my dad’s siblings. In those days, my brother, eventually my sister and I were the only niece and nephews in the family. Those were the Salad Days.

Christmas Growing up

Enjoying one of my gifts on Christmas morning.

Different Christmases were memorable to me for different reasons. I remember getting a toy Batmobile on the first Christmas I remember. A Batman and Robin came with it, so it was ready to go through the streets of Gotham City (my living room) and save the good people from the deeds of The Joker and The Penguin. The next Christmas I looked at my presents and thought about the Christmas before that and thought about the presents I opened in my “First Christmas” and what I would find under the paper during that “Second Christmas”.

An epic Christmas morning.

I don’t remember much about the next Christmas, except that one of my parents got a gigantic Hershey’s Kiss. I kept looking at that present and wondered if they wanted to trade. Then again, there wasn’t any of my presents I was willing to part with, even for a piece of candy that would take me a week to eat. That would be the last Christmas in that house. We moved across town the following summer, and when Christmas came, I think my brother and I (translation: me) got my parents out of bed before 7:00. It was the only time my parents caved and let us wake up early.

I got Sick on Christmas

The next two Christmases were memorable, but not for Christmassy reasons. I’m in the third grade now, and this was the Christmas I got the Chicken Pox. This was a most inconvenient time for me to get the Chicken Pox and I was hoping I could go through life without the Chicken Pox. Alas, that was not to be. I survived my illness and the itching that came with it. That Christmas was the first time I ever heard of Calamine Lotion.

Christmas and the Chicken Pox came and went. The next Christmas I had a fever. I spent the morning trying to open presents while keeping a blanket wrapped around me. It was tough, but I managed it. My mother stayed home with me while Dad and the sibs went to my grandmother’s.

I (and Mom) missed out on seeing my aunts and uncles (and her in-laws), and all of the food that was spread out in the kitchen: the turkey, the ham, the lasagna, the “mud pudding” my aunt makes for every get-together. It hurts just to write about it. I didn’t miss out on the presents, though, and my father returned home with a big trash bag full of presents just for me. That made the illness a little more bearable.

Christmas Changed as I got Older

At this point in my life, I’ve become an altar boy at church. The mass schedule became critical. I could handle serving a Christmas Eve service or even a Midnight Mass. Anything in the morning, though, would cut into Christmas Morning. I couldn’t have that. Luckily, I wasn’t called away from my home on Christmas Morning. The Spirit of Christmas was watching over me.

I moved from elementary school to junior high school and Christmas Break became more appreciated. Something happened in high school. I’m not sure what it was, but I went from wanting to get out of bed and opening presents to seeing how late I could stay in bed. “The presents were there,” I told myself, “They’re not going anywhere.” But I was outvoted, and I got out of bed to see the gifts that were patiently waiting for me under the tree.

Elf on the shelf

Now I’m a parent. Christmas is still fun, but the challenges have changed. Instead of the stealth missions to and from the bathroom without Santa noticing, I need to help Santa make his way through the house without disturbing the cherubim. Wife and I divide our time between attending to presents from Santa and making sure everyone is still in bed sleeping. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, there’s the issue of these elves who constantly visit us and end up in different places every day.

Jingles, Mario, and Pancake. Don’t ask me who’s who.

This, I think, is the highlight of the morning for The Boy. He never had trouble getting out of bed before, but the chance to find the elves and see where they’re hiding and how far they traveled from the previous day makes waking up in the morning a little more fun. Then they leave just as secretly as they appear in our house and move around.

No one can explain it, but that doesn’t stop The Boy from asking how they move or where they went. The questions keep coming. Did Santa like the cookies. I assure the boy Santa did indeed like the cookies. How do I know? I ask The Boy if there are any cookies left. He tells me there are none. I tell him, if the cookies weren’t good, he wouldn’t have eaten them all.

I Like Christmas

“The Night Before Christmas”. A Christmas Eve tradition with Wife’s family.

Like you, Christmas routines have changed for me over the years. I’ve gone from waiting for Santa to making sure children are in bed ready for Santa. The Oppressed has been promoted to “Magic Maker” and has her specific duties in getting ready for the big night and day. We visit Wife’s family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There’s always a fantastic meal when we visit. We see relatives, some of whom we haven’t seen since Easter or last Christmas.

Holiday wishes from friends and family alike.

My parents have a tradition of hanging the Christmas cards we receive over the doorways of our house. I’ve continued that tradition in my own home. I also love sending Christmas cards. There are people I haven’t seen in years, but I still send them a card. It allows me to send a quick hello and wish them well.

And I wish you well. I hope your Christmas is a merry one. I hope you are able to spend it with the ones you love, and I hope you have the chance to make someone’s holiday a little more merry.

“A Collection of Short Stories” is now available for purchase on Apple Books.

Here’s what I’m Thankful for on Thanksgiving

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Photo by AJ groomes on Pexels.com

Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving this week. It’s a day of football, turkey, gathering around the table and giving thanks for food, health and family. There are plenty of things to be thankful for. I want to share some of the things I’m thankful for on this day where everyone is giving thanks that they’re not a turkey.

What I’m Thankful for

  1. I’m grateful for my children and spending a couple of days with them. They’re grateful for extra days of screens and Roblox and Minecraft. They’ll be even more grateful if I leave them alone to play Roblox and Minecraft.
  2. I’m grateful for food and a chance to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with my family. My kids will be grateful if they can skip dinner and just have pie.
  3. I’m grateful for football and a chance to watch it with my children. Bonus points if we can hit Canton High School to watch Stoughton play. My children will be grateful if there’s something else on TV.
  4. I’m grateful we live so close to Plymouth, America’s hometown. It gives me a chance to take in some history. The Boy will be grateful if we can just go home. The sooner, the better.
  5. I’m grateful for our health and being able to walk and get other types of exercise. My children are grateful for heated cars that drive them where they want to go instead of suffering outdoors.
  6. I’m grateful for school. It teaches my children. My children are grateful for holidays, snow days, and anything else that will get them out of school.
  7. I’m grateful for my wife. My children are grateful if they can get time alone with her, and I can leave them alone.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Happy Thanksgiving

Yes, there are plenty of things for me and my family to be thankful for. Sometimes we need to remind our children of this, and sometimes we need to remind ourselves of this. As you sit down to your turkey this week, I hope you’ll take a moment to see what’s around you and give thanks. We should do it more often than we do, but this week they gave us a holiday to set aside time to actually do it.

Flying to Florida for a Vacation with Your Children

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A family from our neighborhood moved to Florida. This was a family that watched football with us when we had our outdoor football parties during Coronapalooza. We grilled. Their kids came to our house, and our kids went to their house.

The Oppressed and The Boy had a couple of days off one week. This, coupled with the weekend, seemed like a great time to travel to the Sunshine State for a little reunion.

Flying to Florida

Our trip took us to Sarasota. I had never been there. I’ve been to Tampa. I’ve been to Orlando and, if you count layovers, I’ve been to Miami once.

I was very much looking forward to this trip. For one thing, I like to travel. Another, I love doing things with my children. Our trip down to Florida included a three-hour layover. I was imagining a nice lunch with the kids but I’m getting ahead of myself. There were adventures before the plane even took off.

Adventures at Logan Airport

Getting to the airport wasn’t a problem. It was getting from the car to our gate that was fun and adventurous. I didn’t get the greatest spot in the garage. Me, two kids and three carry-ons needed to get across the airport to our gate.

I coached the children as we made our way through the garage, I told them we needed to hustle if we were going to make our flight. We got to security. Everything needed to be emptied out of pockets. Some devices needed their own tray through the x-ray machine.

The view from 30,000 feet.

We were running out of time. Our flight was leaving soon. We made it through security. My belt needed to get back on. I cheated and didn’t use all of the belt loops.

The children and I continued to hustle through the airport. Our gate just happened to be the last one in the terminal. We got to the gate with a couple of minutes to spare. I don’t know how we did it, but I let the children know what a great job they did in making it to our gate.

Lunch in Baltimore

We had a layover in Baltimore. There were three hours to kill. It was decided before leaving Boston that we would eat something during our layover. It’s exciting to eat in a different city and see what the locals have to offer. The airport isn’t our first choice, but we couldn’t leave and go back for our flight, so we made the most of it. Speaking of eating locally, The Boy wanted a crab cake. Wife would have been so proud.

A crab cake sandwich in Baltimore.

We stopped at a store after lunch for some snacks. We still needed to fly to Sarasota, and they don’t give you candy on flights. Done with our shopping, we find seats at our gate. The flight is on schedule. Children settle down for a little screen time and maybe check out the plane while I settle down with my book and wait for us to be called to board.

On to Florida

It’s an uneventful flight. We have snacks (no candy) and drinks. The Oppressed and The Boy look out the window occasionally. I keep reading my book, and it’s looking like I’ll finish it before our trip is over.

The plane descends. I pack what we used during the flight. The Oppressed keeps checking to see if I have my seatbelt on. The Boy is asking what the weather is like and how much longer until we get to the house. I assure them it won’t be long; we just need to stop and pick up the car.

Landing in Sarasota.

It’s a van. Something that will hold us and potentially some extra passengers as we go to and from different destinations during the trip. The children and I wait for the rental. They’re getting it ready for us. Once the car is ready, we load our stuff, get in the car, and we’re off to see friends we haven’t seen in months.

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Taking Your Children to King Richard’s Faire

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The Oppressed wanted to go to King Richard’s Faire earlier this season. I’ve heard of it, but I had never been there.

Other than being parked at the fair, this has nothing to do with the fair but I thought daddies and mommies would appreciate the van.

She was very excited to go. Wife even got her a Rennaissance-style dress to wear for the day. I’m not sure what she was most excited about. Going to the fair or having a dress to wear to the fair.

Arriving at the Fair

The big day arrived. It was me and four of the children. Wife and Lovie weren’t able to make it due to an unforeseen circumstance. We got out of the car and saw that The Oppressed was certainly within her element.

The Oppressed graciously accepting her award.

She was not the only one to dress up for this day. There were many people who took the opportunity to dress up for this grand day at the fair. Some were dressed up in Rennaissance clothes. Some were dressed in Harry Potter costumes. A lot of people were dressed up in some type of period or specifically themed garb.

I was dressed in regular, 21st century clothing. That’s right. I was dressed in modern clothes. Wife can’t say anything about how I was dressed on this day. (She tends to think my dress is old-fashioned sometimes.)

We joined the throngs who had assembled outside the gates. Lords, Ladies, and commoners alike waited their turn. There was no privilege granted to anyone. Everyone had to wait their turn until the gates opened.

When they did open, we walked into a completely different world. There were games that tested one’s strength and skill. There were stands that sold handmade items. Some vendors sold food. Some sold mugs, journals, or some other type of trinket. Everything was handmade and nothing was cheap. Children got trinkets and souvenirs.

The slogan for King Richar’s Fair should be, “Enter a lord, exit a pauper.”

Rides and Games

A manually operated ride.

There were plenty of rides to go on. All of the rides were powered manually. The people charged with operating the rides certainly earned their money. I had no idea they made rides like that.

In addition to the rides, we also saw games that tested your strength and skill. The Oppressed went for the skill games. Slugger went for the strength games. The Oppressed showed her determination and was rewarded with a royal proclamation that recognized her efforts and achievements. She graciously accepted her award.

Fun and games were briefly paused for food and drink. We got in another line to buy our fare and refreshments and I handed over another small fortune. The slogan for King Richard’s Fair should be, “Enter a lord, exit a pauper.”

We left for home that afternoon. Wife and Lovie were happy to see us after our day at the fair. The children were excited to show off everything they got at the fair. The Oppressed was happy showing Wife what she got and what she wore while getting it.

Dad and Daughter Together in the Cornhole Tournament

We had a lot to figure out as we prepared for battle. The Oppressed, who is still growing, needed to figure out the proper “oomph” to give her beanbag tosses .

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The Oppressed thought it would be a great idea if she and I played in a cornhole tournament together. The tournament was at the local YMCA. I play cornhole occasionally. If you play, you know how fun it can be. If you don’t play cornhole, you should.

There were plenty of other sights to take in that day. The Oppressed and I saw a raffle table, a food truck. There were five or six cornhole courts set up at the playing field. Every team, including us took turns to practice our skills. There were some practice matches before we kept score for real.

The Cornhole Tournament

If you don’t play cornhole, you should.

We had a lot to figure out as we prepared for battle. The Oppressed, who is still growing, needed to figure out the proper “oomph” to give her beanbag tosses. At first, the tosses didn’t reach the board. The arc was too high, then she adjusted her footwork. After tweaking the angle, she was able to hit the board.

Our target for the day.

Sometimes hitting the board was enough to score a point. Unfortunately, the boards were waxed and varnished. They did look pretty, but this prettiness presented another challenge for father and daughter alike. The beanbags would slide off the boards and on the ground. You only get points if your beanbag stays on the board for the entire round.

There was an occasional stroke of luck for us from time to time. Sometimes, we would get our beanbag in the hole. When this happened, the best our opponents could hope for was to get theirs in the hole on offset the points we had scored.

I talked about The Oppressed throwing the beanbags. My throws weren’t that much better. I made adjustments as best I could. A little more arc here. Aim over there. During the game, I tried to shout advice to my daughter from time to time. Unfortunately, our efforts and my advice didn’t do us much good. We lost the first game. We lost bad.

A look at the cornhole action.

I wasn’t too upset about it, neither was my daughter. It was a double-elimination tournament, and a little break in the action gave us time to discuss strategy for the next game. I liked our chances for the second game. Between the warm-up rounds and the first game, there was enough practicing and fine-tuning for us to redeem ourselves in the second game.

The Second Game

We were ready to go for the second game, and we got out to an early lead. This was good for us. It would give us a chance to stave off elimination. Plus, the extra games would give us a chance to improve our skills, which meant better throws and more points as the tournament continued.

The final score wasn’t pretty. That’s us on the left.

Our lead was short-lived, however and we fell behind. I wasn’t worried, though. I was confident we would catch up and retake the lead. We didn’t retake the lead.

Our team was eliminated in two games. It was pretty ugly. I don’t know if it was our technique or if it’s just been that long since I played a sport (Cornhole is a sport, right?), but we did not fare well at all at the YMCA Cornhole Tournament. We needed to assess our effort and future, if any with cornhole.

Lunch, and a Different Game

We commiserated over lunch at a local restaurant. The Oppressed chose where we would be eating. Coincidentally, it was where The Boy celebrated the end of his baseball season.

I like this place because it has Keno. I like to play Keno when I go out to eat. The Oppressed saw what I was doing, and when she saw that I needed to pick numbers, she immediately decided that I needed her help in choosing said numbers. She was very proud as she presented my slip to me with her specially chosen numbers.

Numbers were played. We watched the Keno screen as we waited for our food. We talked about our day at the cornhole tournament. When the food came, we ate and continued to watch the screen for our numbers. We got some of our money back. We didn’t get it all back, just some. The Oppressed wants to play Keno again. I’m not sure how I feel about her gambling so early.

Scary (Sung to “Mary” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience)

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After Jack-O-Lanterns are on porches
Before clowns have all gone to bed
You can hear goblins walking on down the street
Isn’t it time for bed?

A scary Jack-o-Lantern watching for goblins.

And the kids whisper, “Scary”

A broom is swiftly carrying
Witches wanting pieces of candy
Somewhere a queen’s trick-or-treating
Somewhere a king wants more candy

And the children scream. It’s scary.

The little goblins say, “boo” tomorrow
And empty bags of candy on their beds
Tiny fun-size candies I see
Healthy eating I know is dead

And the goblins scream. It’s scary

Will the children ever remember?
One piece that got out of its bag.
I choose one piece, with my sagely wisdom
Fruits and veggies never go this fast

Little goblins run. It’s scary

A Thrilling Weekend with our Foster Child (Now Pancakes?)

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We took a foster child for the weekend. I’m going to call him “Jay”. Jay was a good kid. His social worker described him as an energetic, talkative kid.

Friday

When Jay first came here on Friday afternoon, he was understandably shy. He got settled after he moved around the house and saw everything here. He saw where he would be sleeping and where the snacks were kept. I think he got settled when he saw where the ice cream was. Ice cream seems to help people. It helps me.

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Wife was out of town on Friday night. It was me and the children. We hit the weekend running, as The Boy had soccer practice on Friday afternoon. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny afternoon. This disappointed The Boy, who was hoping for the cold, rainy days we had during the week. He wanted practice to be cancelled. There is a small consolation for The Boy. His game has been cancelled. This pleases him to no end. I’m upset because I won’t be able to wear the cool soccer fan gear I bought for his games.

After practice I went shopping with Jay to get snacks for the weekend. He wanted to get some ice cream. We already had ice cream, but he wanted something a little more in line with his tastes. He decided on rainbow sherbet.

Jay is Looking for People

We returned home after the trip to the store. People sit down to have dinner. After dinner, I retreat to my room for a little reading and a little writing. It’s not long before Jay comes up to see me.

“What’s up, Jay?” I ask.

“Where’s Wife?”

I remind Jay that Wife has gone away for the night, and she’ll be back the next day. Jay asks where she is. Why did she go away? I remind myself the social worker told us Jay could be talkative and likes to ask a lot of questions. So, he does. It’s nice to see he’s warming up to the people in the house.

Saturday

Saturday morning arrives. I’m happily laying in bed. No one needs to be in school. I don’t need to wake anybody up. It’s nice to be able to rest. Kitty is purring on me, keeping me warm. Suddenly, I hear the door open, and my slumber is disturbed by Jay.

“I’m hungry.”

“Okay,” I mumble. “Hold on a second and let me get dressed.

Pancakes (But no Pancakes)

Jay goes downstairs. I’m not far behind. I ask Jay if he will allow me a moment to make some coffee. He begrudgingly obliges. I make my coffee and focus back on Jay, who wants pancakes. I look around, but I’m not able to find any pancake mix.

“Can you look again?” Jay asks.

“Jay,” I patiently explain, “The pantry isn’t magic. If there’s no pancake mix in the pantry the first time I look, there won’t be any when I look again.”

This answer isn’t good enough for Jay, who insists I look again and find pancakes. I check the pantry and, alas, there is no pancake mix.

“Now what?” Jay asks.

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I tell Jay he’ll have to slum it and maybe have cereal like my plebian children suffer through in the morning.

“Are you sure you don’t have pancakes?” he asks hopefully. I admire the boy’s enthusiasm as I break the bad news to him. No pancakes. The Boy makes his appearance and sees me getting Jay’s breakfast.

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“Do you have pancakes?” Jay asks.

“Dad,” The Boy asks me, “Do we have pancakes?”

I stop what I’m doing. I look at Jay, who suddenly finds the ceiling to be very interesting. The Boy smiles at me and repeats the question.

“We don’t have pancakes,” I say to The Boy and his partner in crime. The Boy leaps off his chair and proceeds to the pantry to confirm this. Jay follows him. He wants to make sure The Boy doesn’t miss anything in the pantry, just as The Boy is making sure I didn’t miss anything in the pantry.

Playtime

After settling for a less-than-ideal breakfast, Jay and The Boy go outside for some fresh air and playtime. I celebrate my time with two less children by picking up around the house and trying to get a hold of the madness that’s been unleashed.

Wife comes home while the boys are out playing. We spend a little time talking about her being away and my time helping Jay get acclimated to our madhouse. The children, inside and outside the house, sense Wife is home, so of course they descend to the kitchen. My time talking to wife has effectively ceased, so I go back to my work around the house.

It’s a relatively laid-back night at home as everyone settles into their pre-bedtime activities. Wife and I are holed up in our bed finishing our recap of our individual days. There is an occasional child that enters, since God forbid, we talk without children intervening.

Sunday

I wake up to Sunday, and children are up before me. We begin the daily dance of what’s for breakfast. Some children (Jay and The Boy) begin another quest for pancakes. Again, I tell them there are no pancakes. The two retreat to the living room for a YouTube session as they commiserate over their morning. There is a small silver lining for The Boy’s weekend: There is no soccer game. In spite of this good news, there are no pancakes.

Our Sunday is spent attending to whatever damage is done by the children over the weekend, preparing for the upcoming week, and savoring whatever quiet moments we have before answering the madness of Monday. I’m looking forward to Monday and the children pursuing their academic interests, while the children lament the clock winding down to their doom.

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