More Snow

January 28, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Orla, ready for winter !

Orla, ready for winter !

Click here for recent pictures !

It’s been a long cold lonely winter. I guess the Beatles had most of it right. We may not be lonely, but with snow frozen on the ground for what seems like months now the novelty is wearing off. Just today we got another 6 or 8 inches; there’s plenty for Jenn to shovel.

The snow has been great for one thing – sledding. Orla, Eoghan and I have been having lots of fun sledding at Mills Mansion. It’s great fun to get on the sled and let it rip – something we missed out on growing up in Ireland where, if you got an inch of snow in five years, you were lucky. Orla and Eoghan are pretty fearless, not being afraid to go hell for leather down the slope. In fact, it’s been so cold here recently that the snow turns to ice and makes the hillsides even slicker. The only downside is that if you crash and burn it tends to hurt !

In part due to the snow we didn’t have a huge birthday party for Eoghan’s 7th; instead, we had family gathering with his buddy from gmynastic class, George. That was a lot of fun, but we’re going to do a big get together at the bowling alley as well when the weather cooperates. It’s hard to believe he’s 7 now; time passes so quickly. One thing we do have to work on, though, is his sense of ethics : I was explaining to him about the ponzi scam that Bernie Madoff was allegedly engaged in, to the tune of $50 billion or so; Eoghan said why can’t we do the same thing ? I had to explain a few little things called fraud and SEC enforcement to him. This seems to be a pattern with him; when Jenn was talking to him a few months ago about selling our house, he asked why we don’t pretend to prospective purchasers that there’s gold hidden in the walls. That should make them want to buy it, he said eagerly. He’s all set to sell our house and move to Florida, where he can be in a pool everyday and near some of his cousins.

He and Orla are taking a keen interest in the Iditarod dog sled race. They’ve been studying it as part of their school work, having just finished learning all about Ancient Rome, and now they’re picking out the teams they want to support in the race, and watching videos about it. They’re planning to send a letter and have it carried along the route by one of the competition sleds.

Conall, on the other hand, is content with destroying the house. He spends most of his time in the kitchen, opening and then climbing up on the door of the oven so he can see what’s cooking on the stove. That’s when he’s not pouring the dog food out on the floor. (At least he’s not like Eoghan, who used to eat the dog food). He loves his sleep, though. Just today, he didn’t have a midday nap as Jenn is trying to wean him off them. At about 4pm he climbed the stairs to his room and lay down on the floor. Then we heard “Oh no, bobba”. Next we see him back in the kitchen, where get asks Jenn to give him his bottle of milk, which he proceeds to take and go back up the stairs to his bed. While he loves his sleep, he’s not too fond of his crib. On one occasion he actually broke the bars of the crib, and a number of other times he managed to climb out. So now we have to keep a good eye on him when he’s supposed to be sleeping.

Of course, sleep for all of us is interrupted every morning by Orla’s confounded new puppy, Roisin. She’s a terrible yapper when she’s left alone, so we’ll have to do something about that. Orla is working to crate train her; once that’s accomplished Orla is all set to have the puppy sleep in her room. We’ll see how that works out…

I’ve been enjoying taking it easy, reading and catching up on some projects. This week, though, it’s back to the grindstone. Classes have started again at Baruch, where I’m teaching a few sessions a week, and then there are a few other projects I have starting up. Still, I’m hoping to make it over to Ireland in a few weeks.



Fun Stuff

January 13, 2009 | Leave a Comment

It’s been lots of fun hanging out at home with the kids. With the cold weather we’ve been able to play in the snow – when we’re not shoveling it ! Using our snow blower we make a maze for the kids which they love running through. They also have a blast using their sleds, both in our courtyard and in the local parks. We have a gentle slope here, so it’s an ideal place to let them hang out and tire themselves out. Orla and Eoghan can spend hours out in the snow, sledding and making forts, and Conall is an outdoorsy kind of guy, too. Eoghan and he are great buddies, Eoghan holding onto him in the sled and letting rip !

Sometimes, when the two older kids are in the mood for a bit more action – think Chuck Connors in Thrill Seekers – we take them to Mills Mansion where there’s an impressive hill. It’s great fun, sledding down a hill with the mansion behind and the Hudson River in all its frozen majesty in front of you. It’s quite a workout trekking up the hill afterwards; a chair lift would be just the thing !

(It’s been fun, too, trekking through some of the other parks near us. One new park is Hopeland, which is the former residence of the Huntington family, and the site of the wedding of Helen and Vincent Astor. The Hudson Valley around Rhinebeck was dotted with many such millionaire mansions, some alas no longer standing, but many of the estates have been turned over to the State and make wonderful parks).

The main excitement of the last week or so has been the arrival of Orla’s new puppy, Roisin. It’s a Cockapoo, a mix of a cocker spaniel and a poodle. It’s referred to as a designer breed, which is just a marketing person’s way of charging you a lot more for a mongrel. (But don’t let Orla hear you say that !). It is pretty cute, I must admit, and Orla is busy crate training it – or rather, supervising and delegating to her mom. Orla at first was going to name it after the lead character in the Movie (and book series) Twilight, but finally settled on Roisin.

I managed to get away when the puppy arrived, so I wouldn’t be kept awake by its crying. I went to the city on Saturday night, where I had dinner with Seamus and Ivana, Barbara, and the guest of honour, Colette. We had a great night, Ivana’s food being, as usual, excellent. The next day I headed down to Washington, D.C., where Rob, JP and I were treated to a fantastic personalised tour of The White House by Dan, Mary, Neal and Sean. We tried not to make too many disparaging remarks about the person-who-shall-not-be-named, and instead thoroughly enjoyed the tour, getting a true insider’s view of the West Wing and its history. We promised to return in four year’s time.



So the New Year is upon us. It came in with a whimper for us, as we were hunkered down, with the hatches battened, the stove roaring, our feet up, and a bottle of wine open. The weather outside was frigid, as it’s been for the past several days. 

We had a very pleasant Christmas. The kids rushed off to bed on Christmas Eve, fearful that Santa would be on our doorstep – or roof – before they were firmly asleep. In fact, they had spent a good part of the day tracking his progress on NoradSanta.Com. They were particularly interested to see when he was in China, knowing that he would be stopping off with Aisling and Siobhan (fresh from their trip to the Queensland swimming chanpionships where they landed another haul of medals !)

The kids left cookies and milk for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer, which the kids were thrilled to see on Christmas morning had been devoured. Fortunately enough, Santa decided the kids had been good during the year, so he left them a decent haul of presents. Eoghan got some robot toys, Orla an American Girl doll with various accoutrements, and Conall some train equipment, and an electronic cat which he would not put down. He spent the day wandering around with it, going “Miaou” all day long. Grandma and Beth came over to see the distribution of presents, and when the noise got too much I retreated to some peace and quiet.

Lunchtime saw the arrival of our cousin Dominique and her friend Catherine, who have been traveling the world for the past six months. They had been working in Australia, vacationing in New Zealand and the Cook Islands, and arrived in New York a week before Christmas. They joined us for dinner and were a huge hit with the kids, who loved playing with them.

Dinner was great, even if it was at GrandMa’s, who’s not the best cook in the world. We learnt our lesson in the past, having eaten with her and – even worse – with the polish in-laws who produce questionable fare at such as kielbasa and pierogi at various holiday get-togethers. Ugh. So now we cook our own turkeys and ham, mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts, and bring them along with us ! (The AGA does a phenomenal job of cooking turkey, usually doing two of them – a slow cooked one and a fast cooked one. They’re usually incredible, succulent and tasty and not at all dried out. Although Kevin claims that his deep-fried turkey is awesome too. We’ll have to do a cook-off next go around !)

After dinner and more presents at Grandma’s, where we were amused to see Conall roaring and laughing as he played with launching a small air-powered rocket, we adjourned back to out house where we watched a couple of movies on the big screen with the girls before all collapsing into bed.

St. Stephen’s Day saw the departure of Dominique and Catherine after all too short a visit. We managed to fit in a stroll with the kids at Mills Mansion before dropping them off to the train. We weren’t abandoned too long, however – the next day saw a visit from Seamus and Ivana, Colette from Australia (a recurring theme this Christmas) and Barbara. We were joined by Kevin and Lisa and their kids, too, so the house was bedlam for most of the day !

We had snow on several days, and the kids enjoyed our annual snow mazes in the garden, and making snow forts. Conall in particular was thrilled to ride in a sled with Eoghan; he’s pretty fearless. He’s very quick on the uptake, too : he keeps grabbing me by the hand to sit down and play with him. On one occasion when I was busy I teasingly said to Orla “Orla, I’ll give you $2 to play with Conall“. When he heard that, he immediately broke down, crying inconsolably. I’ll have to be more sensitive around him in future !

Jenn and the kids have been keeping in touch with friends and relatives on Facebook, and Jenn has been very busy posting photos and videos, being very proud of some of her efforts. Here’s one that does a good job of summing up our Christmas : Christmas at An Grianan