Barn Dance

October 25, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Our grandiosely named "North Barn"

The North Barn

Those of you who have visited us know that our house is actually a converted carriage house, with two attached barns that form a U-shape, with a courtyard in the middle. We haven’t really done much with the “North barn” (rather a grandiose title, I suppose) except to store stuff. Now, however, Jenn has decided that we should make more use of it as a kids playroom.
Conall hard at work
The kids all pitched in and help Jenn rearrange a lot of the junk stored there. We’ll move our Gator and tractor into the garage, and then there will be a big open space that we plan to use for a train layout – Eoghan, and Conal in particular, really love trains. Conall is content to watch videos of them for hours, so we’re going to ask Santa Claus to bring a lot of trains that we will set up on a table for them. We certainly have the space for a decent setup!
Eoghan working the turntable...Jenn and the kids had music while they worked in the barn – Eoghan discovered the old Victrola that we had bought at an auction about ten years ago, along with a bunch of 78’s, so he started playing it. Right now his favorite music to play on it is a foxtrot. He must be an old guy at heart…

Apart from cleaning the barn, the kids have been busy with their classes. They really enjoy the online classes that they do, as well as those where they meet up with their local homeschool friends. They continue to go to one of the local stables for their horseseriding classes, and they have a new music class with several other families that meets in our house. This week was National Chemistry Week, and so I took the two older kids to an open house at Marist College, where they and about 20 other kids got to see the chemistry labs and do lot of experiments such as making goo, and playing with non-Newtonian liquids (those that get hard when you compress them), and making magic bubbles with dry ice. It was loads of fun, and the folks at Marist were really welcoming and excited to be showing off their facilities.

Friday night saw me taking Orla and Eoghan to the movies, where we saw “Red”, an action movie with Bruce Willis and John Malkovich. Like many of the movies directed by David Mamet, it was very well done and enjoyable, a pleasant mix of action, comedy and sentiment. Orla said it was her new favourite movie !




October 18, 2010 | Leave a Comment

What a busy weekend this was. Friday was nominally a day off for me, since the college observed Columbus Day late, but I ended up coming in to work anyway. My weekend started off by heading to the movies with Eoghan and Orla and some of her friends, who were celebrating a birthday party. The movie was Secretariat, and was a great family movie about a tremendous racehorse. Of course it got a little hokey towards the end, in an attempt to increase tension, but of course we knew what the outcome of the races was going to be !
On Saturday we had a visit from Kevin and Lisa, and their kids, who were thrilled to see our new rabbits and turtle doves. Jenn made the mistake of heading towards the fairgrounds later on and discovered that the traffic was completely chaotic, the worst she’d ever seen. I, on the other hand, was safely away at work. Kevin and Lisa came back in the evening, and we all had dinner together before watching a movie on our big screen. When that was over they departed, taking Orla who was to have a sleepover with Emma, while Liam stayed with us for a sleepover with Eoghan; the two boys insisted on watching another movie so it was a late night for them.
On Sunday we had a leisurely morning, before Orla was dropped off. She and Eoghan were then taken by Grandma to a Haunted Hayride show at Headless Horseman. The jaded Eoghan announced on his return that it was “lame”; of course, Grandma was sensible enough not to let the kids go inside the haunted house or through the corn maze in the pitch dark. That, I think, would have scared the bejasus out of him!
Meanwhile, Jenn and I and Conall were treated to a visit from Anne and Mickey, whom we hadn’t seen in ages and we had a good time catching up with them. They had to head back home before dinner so the house was unusually quiet for an hour or two until the kids returned. We were reminded that Orla, although she normally covers it up very well, has a soft spot – she told us she missed us terribly on her sleepover, and was so glad to be home. She missed us all, she said, and her bed and her pets, although she drew a line at Henry, saying she didn’t miss the smelly dog.



Eoghan in the corn maze
The kids have been enjoying the good weather recently, and getting into the spirit of the season. Jenn took them to a 4-H session at Norrie Point Environmental Center, in nearby Mills-Norrie State Park. This event was one of a regular series at which they learn about nature, the environment, and local flora and fauna. On this occasion they learnt about the various fish that are found in the Hudson River, and did some fishing. Even Conall got into the swing of things, although Jenn decided to err on the side of prudence and made sure he didn’t have a real fishhook on his line !
The kids also enjoy going to an activity center where there are bouncy castles, and Conall in particular loves there. It’s also a treat for Jenn, since if Conall gets exhausted there then he’ll be much more sedate come bedtime and easier to persuade to go to sleep !
With the fall season we’ve been doing more cooking, trying out various recipes for pasta sauces, etc. The kids have been a big help chopping vegetables, and Eoghan has become quite the host, laying the table and providing canapes for us before dinner. Maybe he’ll end up in the food business…
The other fun activity this week was on Sunday, when I took Orla and Eoghan to meet some friends at Daisi Hill farm in Copake, near Millerton. There the kids got to go on a hayride, and see rabbits, chickens, geese and turkeys. A big blast for them was picking out pumpkins, writing a message on them, and then seeing them sent flying by giant catapults. The message Orla wrote on her pumpkin before it was ejected from the catapult to smash against a car on the other side of the field was quite appropriate – “kill me”…
Speaking of writing, Orla has been doing quite a bit of it recently. She’s enrolled in an online creative writing class, where the participants (10-12 year olds) are given several words and situations, (for example, cowboy, ice-cream, cruise ship, hot air balloon) around which they have to construct a story. In her second effort, which she did last week, her entry was voted by her classmates to be the best, and so she was pretty chuffed about it.
But while Orla is busy writing, Conall’s favourite pastime is to hit the freezer and take out a tub of ice-cream. He’ll stick the carton under his arm, grab a scoop, and go off to his favourite armchair or up to his room, curl up in front of his DVD player, and dig in. He’s a boy who knows exactly what he wants, and doesn’t hesitate to go get it !




October 1, 2010 | 3 Comments

We cancelled our cable TV subscription yesterday. For years the only thing I watched was Turner Classic Movies; pretty much everything else was, in my opinion, complete garbage. In addition, the kids were starting to just sit at the TV and watch shows indiscriminately, instead of doing something more constructive such as reading or playing games.

The economics of the entertainment industry are interesting. I find it offensive that cable TV companies try to charge us four times for the same pipe – for basic cable, digital cable, internet service and phone service. Not to mention Pay-Per-View movies and movie channels. Many of us have gradually become accustomed to paying for “services” that we didn’t have twenty years ago – mobile phone service, mobile data, cable, movie channels, etc. If you add up what you’re paying for these services you might be shocked.

I believe it’s ludicrous to pay for movie channels on cable when you can watch a vast array of old movies online and current releases on DVD for $15 a month on Netflix, or pay $1 to rent a DVD from RedBox. Why on earth do the cable TV companies think that consumers will willingly pay $5 for an inferior viewing of a movie on Pay-Per-View ? Even Apple is getting in on the game with their online movie rentals that are exorbitantly priced. Not content with gouging the consumer in that regard, their latest entrepreneurial venture is the peddling of online TV program rentals. Talk about the scraping the bottom of the barrel… Who in their right minds would want to pay to rent an episode of a typical American television program ? Perhaps there is an audience for it, but I am glad not be be among that great unwashed.

All of us enjoy having our family movie nights, where we watch movies on our big screen (120 inches), munching on popcorn, pie and ice-cream, and (for the grown-ups) sharing a bottle of wine, but for the last few years these films have been either on DVDs or, more recently, movies viewed over the internet. We haven’t watched a Pay-Per-View or Free-to-Air movie in years. The development of services such as Netflix’s on-demand streaming, Hulu, and Roku means that there are now viable alternatives to cable, through which the kids can continue to watch their favourite shows, but now as the result of a conscious decision rather than being interspersed among an avalanche of junk such as cheap cartoons and reality shows.

Jenn and I, meanwhile, plan to spend a lot more time reading and writing. I have a large library of unread books by now; it’s about time I started working through it. Watch this space.