Getting ready for Vacation

In one week, we leave for our family vacation to Florida.  Our plan is to visit family, go tubing down the Ichetucknee River, camp somewhere near the Gulf for a few days so we can have some beach time, and maybe, maybe, go to Disneyworld (theme parks in Florida in July with heat-sensitive kids don’t always end up looking like the promotional videos, even with fairy dust sprinkled in).

The week before vacation is my least-favorite time of the year, followed closely by the week after coming home.  Laundry is high on the to-do list for both weeks, but the week preceding vacation also means incessant questions from the kids as to what exactly we’ll be doing and exactly when we’ll be doing it.  I want a voice recorder around my neck that has a looped message: “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know . . .”  Being in the moment does not rank big around our house, despite my efforts to introduce a Zen-like atmosphere.

Then there are my unrealistic ideas of what I’ll be able to wrap up before we leave: errands, work items, household chores.  My ideal is to have nothing on my to-do list left unchecked and an immaculate house to return to.  In reality, it will be a success if the kitchen garbage can is emptied, the dishwasher is run, and there are no wet clothes left in the washing machine for two weeks.  The great thing about being 60 miles down the road is knowing whatever is back there will just have to wait.

Of course, my online course will be going on in my absence, which means probably a few check-ins while I’m on the road, but I plan to keep those to a minimum.  As I wrote earlier, teaching this kind of a course has been a new experience for me, and for the most part it has been positive.  But I realize one of the things I love most about teaching is the direct interaction with my students, and that has been a missing element this go round.  I’m not convinced it can’t happen in an online environment, but I’m still scratching my head as to how to make that happen in a meaningful way (it’s not for lack of the technological resources, although those are not as ubiquitous and transparent as technophiles would lead us to believe: not everyone is Skyping just yet).

So if you don’t hear from me for awhile, it’s because I’m searching the garage for camping gear or waiting in the checkout line at Walmart with a cart full of bug repellant and sunscreen.

Calm Between Two Storms

The school year for our kids is just about over, and I am feeling like I am coming up for air before taking a deep breath and plunging into summer activities.  Our foray into ballet, tap, and hip hop is culminating this week in Amy’s and Lauryn’s recital–record amounts of hairspray, bobby pins, and mascara will be used.

Joe has been on a camping trip all this weekend, and it has rained most of the time.  His troop’s plan to work on the campsite they will be using for summer camp had to be modified, I’m sure.

We are also looking at our activity calendar for the summer and deciding what stays and what goes.  Swim team?  Scout camp?  Church camp?  Family vacation?  I’m already into August and answering the question, “how was your summer?”  My usual answer is that it was a blur.

One new venture for me will be to teach a completely online section of the Western Classics course I regularly teach in a face-to-face format.  I’m excited to see how it goes.  It begins in June, and I still have a lot of preparation to do, converting things I usually do in the classroom to various online activities.  In the process, I am learning about new apps out there for putting various kinds of content online.  I thought I was pretty current, but it amazes me how much stuff keeps coming out all the time; some good, lots of it competing with other similar stuff.  Part of my job will be figuring out which ones work best for what I want to do.

2010 in review

I haven’t posted much in the last month–I’ll have  a few thoughts about the Christmas holidays in the next few days.

In the meantime, check out some of the more popular posts from this past year.  The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s an overall summary:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire! (We all know how accurate the Blog-Health-o-Meter is.)

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2010. That’s about 3 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 33 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 40 posts. There were 35 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 13mb. That’s about 3 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was May 27th with 273 views. The most popular post that day was Running with scissors, glasses, and dogs.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, healthfitnesstherapy.com, slashingtongue.com, twitter.com, and en.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for c. gobin wordpress, site:garaborn.wordpress.com garaborn.wordpress.com, c. gobin wordpress running with scissors, site:garaborn.wordpress.com c. gobin homepage wordpress, and josh gobin.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Running with scissors, glasses, and dogs May 2010

2

Happy Birthday, “Breathless.” May 2010

3

Joe Crosses Over! May 2010

4

When a third of the family goes to camp June 2010
1 comment

5

My response to Jacques Steinberg’s column May 2010

Vacation Travels Revisited

I’ve been meaning to follow up my short post, “Camping with Josh,” with a fuller account of our family summer travels.  Knowing this is a dicey prospect, akin to forcing people to watch slides (dating myself here) of family get-togethers (when it’s not their family), I will attempt to hit just the highlights, with perhaps a few “lowlights” thrown in for balance.

Let me just say up front that one feature of this trip was the additional help of “Roberta.”  This was the name I attached to the voice on my wife’s iPhone GPS app.  In the past, I’ve always studied my maps ahead of time, and I’ve even been resistant to accept the help of AAA’s TripTiks (the flipover guide that did in hardcopy what Mapquest and others now do online).  My last experience with GPS was in southern Georgia, where—after getting off I-95 because of a bad traffic snarl—I spent two hours ignoring a polite British woman (named Nayir by the kids) who kept telling me to take u-turns to get back to the interstate.

Anyway, Roberta was in general much more helpful, but I think she was from the Midwest somewhere, because she had trouble being direct.  She seemed to confuse the idea of “keeping right” with the direct command to “turn right, now.”  Consequently, I missed a few exits.  Her only other major fault was going silent without letting me know.  We’d be cruising along, with her offering reassuring comments every once in a while (“in five miles, keep right at exit 25”), and I would be lulled into false security, thinking she’ll remind me again when we actually get to exit 25.  My wife thinks Roberta had just had enough with my snarky comments on her choice of terms, but all I know is that about the time it seemed we had gone too far without a direction, we’d check the phone and realize she had taken a coffee break somewhere around exit 23.

That said, here are some of the high points:

  1. The tent.  We saw a demo video on Coleman’s site for a tent that goes up in one minute.  The poles are attached, and it unfolds and snaps up like a pack-n-play (which we were very familiar with.  While we didn’t make the one-minute time limit, we did have it up in 10 minutes, which is about a 30 minute gain over previous tents we’ve owned.
  2. The campsites.  We stayed in three different, really nice campgrounds, in sites that were all very close to a bathroom (a must for certain members of the family).  One of them was just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean.  We also learned valuable lessons on properly discerning “property” lines in campgrounds—won’t go into that here, but just know that, if you camp, it matters where the little post that has the water and electric hookups is located.
  3. Getting drenched by Niagra Falls.
  4. Seeing/meeting lots (emphasis on lots) of the extended Gobin family at my cousin Chris’s house on the 4th of July.  Richmond, Vermont really knows how to do a parade.  Also enjoyed watching a spectacular fireworks display over Lake Champlain that same evening.
  5. Eating Ben and Jerry’s ice cream at their factory in Waterbury, VT.
  6. Two days at Salisbury Beach, MA, swimming in the ocean, eating lobster, dodging horseflies, and learning that the English language can be spoken without Rs.
  7. Three days hiking around downtown Boston with the kids while Melissa attended ReaderCon, a conference for writers and readers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.  And, yes, I did take the kids aboard the U.S.S. Constitution, the world’s oldest floating commissioned warship.  We were carefully instructed by a naval officer beforehand about how to conduct ourselves onboard, being told numerous times not to pick up any cannon balls.  Once belowdecks, I looked over at Josh, who was just leaning down to check one out.  I pointed out the sign, “Do not handle the cannon balls,” and he remarked, “wow, that’s amazing. I did not even see that, Dad.”
  8. Meeting David and Amy Sedaris’s sister, Tiffany.  We were on the T (Boston’s subway), heading back to the hotel after a full day, when this very friendly and talkative woman took an interest in the kids.  She was chatting about her lapsed Southern hospitality (North Carolina), then was asking the kids their names.  When she got to Amy, she said she had a sister named Amy.  Then she asked if the kids had seen the movie Elf.  She said her sister was in it, Amy Sedaris.  I think I got visibly excited.  “You’re David Sedaris’s sister? (I’m a big fan of his humorous accounts of growing up in a colorful family).  She smiled.  “Yeah, well, I usually don’t lead with that.”  She also went on to say something about there being a difference between fiction and nonfiction.

That’s about it.  Oh yeah, a few downsides:

  1. The tent.  While it was a breeze setting up, it still needed help getting down from the cartop carrier, as well as back up when we were leaving.  Maybe I need to work out a little more.
  2. Getting a stomach virus in VT, which followed us through New Hampshire to Massachusetts, making its way to four out of six family members.  Let’s just say that a public campground bathouse is not the most ideal location to toss your cookies.

But it’s all about making memories, isn’t it?

Camping with Josh

IMAG0302

One of the great things about Josh is his love of nature.  He is always looking for bugs under rocks, worms in the ground, and fireflies in the air.  On the first stop of our vacation, Niagra Falls, I was busy setting up the tent while he was intent on climbing a tree on our site.  Suddenly, I heard a voice behind me calling for help.  Not a frantic voice, more like a “stuck” voice.

I turned and saw the dilemma pictured above.  The fact that it is pictured above tells you that my amusement temporarily outweighed my fatherly concern.  I mean, he wasn’t in immediate danger, he was contained instead of off who knows where doing who knows what, and I figured there might be a valuable life lesson to be learned from dangling by your drawers for a moment.

In case you’re concerned, no, he isn’t still there—I set him free.

Getting Psyched About Summer Vacation Travels

In six days, we will load four sleepy kids into the car and head off to parts north, specifically upstate New York, Vermont, and Massachussetts.  I haven’t been as excited about a family vacation in a while, since I really love going north in the summer (never have understood the appeal of Florida in July; January’s another matter).

I think part of the appeal is the nostalgia attached to this trip.  Growing up, we had two kinds of vacations in my family: two weeks of fishing in Western Ontario or sightseeing and staying with cousins in Vermont.  Now I have very fond memories of the fishing vacations at Lake of the Woods, ON.  Granted, somewhere in the middle of the second week I would start to grow tired of the 6:00 am rousting from my dad: “c’mon, we got get ‘em while they’re biting,” followed by hours of trolling bays in a nine-foot Starcraft, watching my line get tangled in the Johnson outboard and my legs puff up as black flies and mosquitoes settled into their breakfast buffet.  Still, there’s nothing like eating fresh Walleye or Northern Pike every night for supper and then driving over to the local dump after supper to watch the bears come out.

But every few years we would take a break from going “into the wild” in favor of a slightly more civilized form of travel.  I say slightly because we tent camped the entire time, except for the last night before arriving home, when we would get to experience the four-star luxuries of a Howard Johnson’s or Holiday Inn.  We never did theme parks, not that there were many in the sixties—at least not of the Disneyworld variety.  We did, however, get to go to places like Fort Ticonderoga, Niagra Falls, Gettysburg, Hyde Park, Plymouth, and Boston.  Recognize a certain historical theme here?

I actually enjoyed getting to see a lot of these places, like Boston’s Old North Church, Paul Revere’s house, and Mystic Seaport.  OK, I never spent as much time reading plaques and historic markers as my parents did, but my souvenir tricorner hat was pretty cool, and I collected those felt banners from all the places we visited.  Mostly, I just enjoyed getting to hang out with my dad, cracking jokes and seeing him in a completely different mode than his usual 9-5 demeanor at home.  There were games of pinochle around the campsite picnic table, car games like counting the number of Volkswagen Beetles (everyone had their own color), and of course lots of campfires.

So I’m looking forward to making a whole new set of memories this summer.  I can’t wait to get lost in downtown Boston, trying to find the U.S.S. Constitution.

Joe, Amy, and Lauryn Enjoying Their Summer

Joe, Amy, and Lauryn 2010, originally uploaded by Chuck238.

Even though life around our house gets a bit chaotic over the summer (less structure), it’s always amazing to me to see how much personal growth occurs in my kids when they’re around each other more during the day than when they are separated by their school lives (different schools, different grade levels, etc).

I had mentioned in my post about camp that Josh and Lauryn loved having Joe and Amy gone for a week, but I should also mention that Lauryn and Josh also LOVE having the attention of their big brother and sister, and Amy loves having real “students” populate her “kitchen classroom,” versus the imaginary pupils, who seem to get called up to the front of the room a lot for disciplinary actions (don’t know WHAT that’s about).

They are all getting geared up for our big two-week trek into New England in July, to visit relatives in Vermont, see Niagra Falls, and explore Boston. We plan to do all of this while building togetherness in a 10 x 14 tent.

THAT oughta provide a few blog ideas.