Swimming & Gaming - What a Mix!


Little Lewie has officially been taking swim lessons for over six years.  Year one was at the YMCA, year two was at Post University and the Colonial Tavern, year three was at the Jewish Community Center, and the last three years have been with a private swim school called Noah's Ark.

Out of all of Lewie's swim experiences, Noah's Ark has been the best.  For one, they never hold classes with more than four students at a time, and their semi-private lessons, which we did for the first two years, were reasonably priced.  Still, there was another reason why we stayed for so long and that was Lewie's swim teacher, Mr. Vinny.

Unlike Little Lewie's past swim teachers that acted more like drill sergeants, Mr. Vinny's style was gentle, patient, and playful.  He let Lewie learn at his own speed, and Lewie quickly discovered that if he had Mr. Vinny to himself, he could talk about his favorite hobby--video games.   At first, I was inclined to intervene.  Lewie, after all, was supposed to be talking about swimming at swim school, not Minecraft.  However, we soon learned that Mr. Vinny loved computers too, and in addition to his part-time job as a swim instructor, he fixed computers and belonged to a gaming team.

"See, I told you, Mommy," Lewie bluted out to me one day after swim school.  Mr. Vinny is making money doing what he loves.  I can make money by designing my own video games."

I didn't know how to respond.  For years, since I was a kid growing up in the 80's, I was taught that technology, like Atari, Nintendo, and TV, rotted your brains.  It was the reason for children's low standardized test scores, low self-esteem, and the rise in childhood obesity and diabetes.  It was touted as pretty much everything evil, and today, there are plenty of statistics to prove it.  (Heck, even South Park took a jab at gaming in Season 10, Episode 8: "Make Love-Not Warcraft.")

Still, over the years, we watched Mr. Vinny move up the proverbial ladder.  First, he no longer had to fix computers because he was making more money with his "esports career."  Next, his team won a $500,000 prize, and although we never knew how much of that money was Mr. Vinny's cut, we did know that he ordered himself a brand new, custom-made, blue Mustang, complete with racing stripes and an orange interior.  (We laughed every time we saw it parked outside the pool area--it couldn't be mistaken as anyone else's car.)

Then, three weeks ago, Little Lewie's world turned upside down.  Mr. Vinny notified us that April would be his last month as a swim instructor.  He was doing so well with esports that companies were now sponsoring him and his team. He would be moving, buying his own house, and living "the dream."  Lewie cried on that day, for  Mr. Vinny had become more than a swim instructor to him.  He was a role model, a mentor, and probably the coolest twenty-something in Little Lewie's world.  (My husband and I were crushed, too!)

Lewie made sure to exchange email addresses with him before he left, and Mr. Vinny sent him a link to his gaming organization on Twitch.  Lewie didn't have to say goodbye forever.  He could now watch Mr. Vinny compete with other gamers live in games like League of Legends, Overwatch, Vainglory, Super Smash Bros and Fortnight.  (Of course, I'll check to see what's appropriate viewing for a ten year-old.)

A few years back, I stopped fighting Lewie on his passion for computers and started nurturing it.  He now goes to computer camp for one week during the summer, and he can have computer time everyday as long as his homework comes first. (At the moment, we have found a good balance between school, Cub Scouts, running club, swimming, and technology.)

Egaming/esports is becoming so popular, it's now recognized as a varsity sport at many colleges, and one article estimates that esports will be a $2.3 billion market by 2022 (https://www.gamedesigning.org/schools/varsity-esports/).  I'm not sure if Little Lewie will be following in Mr. Vinny's footsteps, but if he does, I won't be standing in his way.

Easter Blessings


There is something to be said for holiday traditions, and this year's Easter certainly did not disappoint.  Little Lewie started the day off at 6:40 a.m.; he crept in my bedroom to tell me he wasn't sure if the "bunny" came.  He didn't see an Easter Basket and was wondering if it might be hidden on my mom's side of our duplex house.  I reminded him that the bunny hides eggs, too, and if he found eggs on our side, then the Easter Basket would be on our side as well.

To that, he went back downstairs in search of eggs, and when he found his first one, he woke me again to tell me that there were eggs after all. 

I woke myself up, promising I would return to bed after the hunt, which, of course, never happened.  There was too much excitement between the eggs and the basket, and before I knew it, it was time for us to shower and get ready for church.

I'm still unsure whether Lewie believed in the Easter Bunny this year.  Does he believe in an actual bunny that can magically carry or drag baskets with its teeth (we know rabbits can't actually carry baskets with their paws), or does he believe in the concept of someone posing as a bunny in a rabbit costume?  As much as I wanted to know, I chose to ignore the discussion altogether, and Lewie did the same.  He seemed to expect some great loot (like gift cards) in his basket this year, and he was right.  In addition to his normal chocolate treats like nonpareils, chocolate bunnies, and chocolate covered Oreos, he found gift cards to Steam, Xbox, and Roblox.  He also discovered his favorite gift of all--an MP3 player, so he could listen to his favorite songs during running club.  (Some children his age actually have cell phones, but we're opting to hold out as long as we can...)

Friends from work helped me with decorating Lewie's basket this year.

Here's his MP3 Player.

The basket was hidden in the laundry basket this year with a blanket over it.


After church, we had dinner at our usual Easter restaurant, which offers a terrific brunch.  Whereas last year, it was just my mom, husband, Little Lewie, and me; this year, both of my mom's sisters were well enough to join us.  It was nice to have the family altogether again, especially after one of my aunts had spent most of 2018 battling Ovarian Cancer.  It was a blessing to have all of us at the table, looking well and HAPPY!

My mom with Little Lewie.

I love this picture.  It captures Little Lewie's joy and laughter with his dad.

Hubby with my Aunty Irene from Delaware

My Aunty Kiki who was sick most of last year with bestie, Karen.  They are both Cancer survivors.
Again, when looking back at our Easter Celebration this year, I am grateful.  There is nothing more wonderful than being able to spend cherished time with family. 

Teachers' Choice Award & the Geography Fair 2019


Every year, Lewie participates in our elementary school's academic fair.  The subjects rotate.  In first grade, it was a geography fair; in second grade, a science fair; in third grade, a history fair, and this year, it was a geography fair again.  (I'll admit that I enjoy the geography and history fairs the best.)

This year, Lewie chose to do his project on the Grand Canyon.  At first, I tried discouraging him: "Lewie, why do it on the Grand Canyon when you've already been there?  Don't you want to do research on a new place, like Yellowstone National Park?"  (We're planning on going there this summer.)

He thought about it for two seconds and replied, "Nope.  I want to do it on the Grand Canyon."  At that point, I gave up trying to convince him otherwise, and we became a team.  Using our state's inter-library loan service, we were able to take out four books on the Grand Canyon (from multiple libraries), and we spent our weeks reading them.  Each book, it seemed, focused on a different topic.  One spoke more about the history of the rock layers, another about the wildlife, and still another about human civilization.  Even though we went there in 2017, we quickly discovered there was still so much to learn!

For me, the biggest takeaways were about the rock layers and the history of the park.  The rock layers at the bottom of the canyon are close to two billion years old.  There's evidence through fossils that the canyon was covered by water several times.  Humans didn't start living in the canyon until 12,000 years ago.  There are pictographs in several areas, which demonstrate this fact.  We even saw them on our trip years ago.

In  1919, President Woodrow Wilson made the Grand Canyon into the Nation's Fifteenth National Park.  (This is after President Theodore Roosevelt made it a National Monument in 1908.)  The canyon had to be protected as sites were getting ruined by excavating and mining.  Still others, like the Fred Harvey Company, were purchasing land to be used for tourism.  If the Canyon didn't become a park, it ran the risk of getting bought up by people in the mining and tourist industries.

Here is the El Tovar Hotel, built from 1902-1905, by the Fred Harvey Company. The hotel is located by the Grand Canyon Railroad Station, a train that was built to bring hundreds if not thousands of tourists to the Canyon everyday.  It's interesting to learn that President Theodore Roosevelt didn't want the hotel; it was built before Roosevelt could declare the place a National Monument.  (We had lunch there on our trip; it was great to learn the history.)
If you ask Lewie about his favorite part of this project, he will say learning about the wildlife.  He also enjoyed going through our pictures from 2017. (We used about eight of them on the board, and some of them are now in this blog post.)  Here's a few of our favorites:

The Grand Canyon Railway has been in existence for over 100 years!  (Obviously they have newer trains today and not the steam locomotives from the late 1800's.)

Hubby getting too close to the edge!

The Elk we saw on our walk that stopped to get a 'selfie.'

As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project with Little Lewie, and in the end, he was right.  The Grand Canyon was perfect for the Geography Fair.  His passion must have came out because Little Lewie won the Teacher's Choice Award for Forth Grade.  (There was a winner in each grade.)  Lewie was so excited that he stood on stage speaking to the teachers for a minute.  One of my parent friends joked with me:  "I thought he was going to give an acceptance speech."

I gloated, "Me too."  (Evidently, Lewie felt it was necessary to let the teachers know how happy this made him.)

There's no doubt Lewie's award made me a proud mama.  I'm glad our first National Park trip inspired such an interest in nature, preservation, and wildlife.  This project only motivates me to plan more of these trips.  Yellowstone, here we come (in June)!

To Be Ten


It's interesting.  Age ten seems to be a monumental year.  Sure it's monumental in the fact that Lewie is now, officially, two decades old, but it also seems to be a year of pretty significant transition.  His personality is getting stronger, his sense of what he likes and dislikes is increasing, and he's becoming more vocal (even testing the waters a little as to what I will allow and not allow).

Finally, he's hungry...like all the time.  This kid's appetite is enormous, and while he hasn't seemed to have that famous "growth spurt" yet, he's showing all the signs.  He eats all the time, sleeps a little longer, and complains of his legs/hips hurting him at night and in the morning.

Even though I just wrote a post about this kid in December, it appears that so much has changed again in just three short months.  Here's what this ten year old is up to...

1)  Growing Pains
As I just mentioned, Little Lewie is complaining of growing pains (mostly in the morning when he wakes up.)  I told him that sometimes "growing pains" are linked to a growth spurt, which made him spend the rest of that morning/day measuring himself.  He stood next to a mirror in our downstairs bathroom and said, "You're right.  I do feel taller.  I see more of myself in this mirror."  Too funny!

2)  Running Club
During the last week of February, Lewie joined his school's 5K Running Club.  The goal of the club, if it isn't apparent, is to teach the children how to run and prepare for a 5K race that happens every spring (usually the first weekend of May) in our town.  When the signup sheet came home, I ignored it for a day.  Shame of me, but I automatically assumed my very nonathletic kid wouldn't be interested in running.  Thankfully, before I tossed the sheet out, I asked him.  "Yes, I do want to sign up, Mommy.  They only allow 30 kids, so I hope it's not too late."  I was surprised (and disappointed with myself).  I filled out the sheet, and luckily Lewie made the cut-off.  He's been excited about all his Running Club meets (Tuesdays and Thursdays) ever since, and he's been learning a lot of valuable tips.   He has a really fun teacher, which adds to the enjoyment.  She created a handmade postcard for each child in Running Club with a message of encouragement.

3)  The Svetlana Chmakova's Award-Winning Berrybrook Middle School Series
Even though Lewie is in 4th grade, most of the books he's been reading focus on topics in middle school.  He came home with Chmakova's first book, Awkward, and insisted he was in love with reading.  When I first saw that it's written as a comic book, I frowned.  To me, this wasn't going to be a stellar replacement for his cherished Magic Tree House collection.  Still, as we read it, I soon discovered that her characters are brilliantly entertaining, funny, and charming.  Not only do her books bring up important (and delicate) middle school topics, but the illustrations and dialog provide an engaging way to encourage reading, promote understanding, and teach emotional intelligence.  Lewie has read all three of Chmakova's Berrybrook Middle School books this year--Awkward, Brave, and Crush.

Courtesy of Svetlana Chmakova's website.
4.  Crab Rave
Little Lewie and his friend have a favorite music video called "Crab Rave" by Noisestorm.  I have to admit that the music is catchy.  However, the video is downright hilarious.  It's exactly what you would picture a crab rave to be...well that is, if you picture a whole bunch of crabs dancing on the beach while busting some pretty cool moves.  Oh yes, and in true rave fashion, the dancing in the video goes on from sun up to sun down.  I'm listening to it right now, and there is a part of me that wants to get up and dance.  It must be the ten year-old in me.

5.  Constant Jokes
My husband's humor is rubbing off on Lewie.  The two of them can tell fart jokes all day long, and recently, they spend anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes a day making jokes about Uranus. 

File:Uranus, Earth size comparison.jpg
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
"There's a laser shooting out of Uranus."
"Oh no!  Uranus is exploding."
"Did you know 63 Earths can fit inside Uranus."

Oh, I can keep going, but now I would be tormenting you, much like how I feel when the Uranus comedy hour begins.

Oh, to be ten.  For me, ten was about the 80's.  It was about wearing Jordache Jeans, pleather skirts, feather earrings, and a comb in the back pocket of my dungarees.  It was about dancing around to "Like a Virgin" by Madonna, doing the moonwalk with my white glove, and playing "The Eye of the Tiger" on my Kermit the Frog record player.  It was about watching reruns of Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch while pretending I was Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie.  It was also about watching weekday cartoons like Scooby Doo and Saturday morning cartoons like The Smurfs.  When I think about it, my childhood seems like it was way more complicated than my son's.  Sure we didn't have the internet, but instead TV and MTV reigned supreme, right along with Atari and Cabbage Patch Dolls, and Barbies...

To see my son's life as a ten year-old today brings me joy.  His life is about running club, swimming, jokes, middle school comics, "supervised" YouTube videos, Cub Scouts, and Xbox.  I'll take it.  It's actually pretty fun.  Just maybe, I wish I was his age again.  I know the adolescent years are right around the corner, so for now, I'll just bask in the uncomplicated world of TEN.

Oh What Fun it is to Snow Tube!


This winter, we've been waiting patiently for snow--the soft fluffy kind that's good for sledding or even the mildly wet and sticky kind that's good for making snowmen and snowballs.  Unfortunately, neither came our way.  Instead, the last four storms have been a combination of rain, ice, and sleet.  It's given us some delays and even one snow day, but it hasn't yielded much in terms of being able to play outdoors and have the usual winter fun.

Well, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and when life gives you crappy ice storms, find a place that makes snow.  We did.  We drove an hour and a half to the Berkshires to Ski Butternut, where they make their own snow, and we had an awesome day of snow tubing.  (Now, Ski Butternut is not new for us; it's become an annual trip.  However, this was our first time inviting Ryan, one of Little Lewie's friends, to join us.  The four of us had a great time, and we think it will now become an annual tradition with Ryan.  I can already picture them coming as teenagers, but right now, it's fun to have them as two entertaining ten year-olds.  And they are ENTERTAINING!)

After our two hour snow tubing excursion, we decided to drive to the Barrington Brewery and Restaurant, which is known for its solar-brewed beer.  We'd never been, but we soon learned that it's super rustic and charming.  Hubby had to try their beer while the two kiddos and me had brownie sundaes.  (Chocolate is my weakness.)  I think this restaurant will be now be part of our annual tradition, too.

Now that we're into March, I don't think there will be many more fun "snow days" ahead.  Even Ski Butternut will end their snow tubing next week.  Still, it looks like we may get more snow, rain, and sleet this evening, which has already closed Lewie's school.  (I'm hoping my college will cancel tomorrow, too.)  We'll try to enjoy it as long as it's not pure ice, like this:

Even if the fluffy snow still doesn't come our way, I'm grateful we were able to have this one day of winter fun.  It's hard to appreciate winter when all it yields is an icy mess.  Thank goodness for places like Ski Butternut.  Now, no matter what, we can say we're ready for spring.

Happy RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) Day!!


Today's my favorite holiday, and yet, not many people know about it.  Today is a national day to celebrate kindness, but even more, it's a day to promote random kindness--meaning unplanned kindness to everyone and anyone.

This quote comes from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

I started celebrating this day/week when Lewie was just four years old.  We'd bake cookies, write cards, and create little "surprise" care packages for our friends and family.  The fun of it, as he soon learned, was the element of surprise.  Giving from the heart feels good, but it feels even better when you surprise someone with no expectation to receive anything in return.

This year, I gathered up my surprise gift boxes, and we (Lewie and I) started delivering them on Friday.  Since everyone lives at a distance, it's hard to do the surprise visits all in one day, so instead, it's been a weekend of giving.  Thankfully, I have President's Day off tomorrow, so I'll be able to finish my mission then.  Little Lewie's used to the routine; he knew exactly who we would be visiting this year.

Still, RAK week is not just for celebrating the ones we love and cherish.  It's also about doing favors for those around us whether it's holding a door, buying someone a cup of coffee, sharing a smile, offering to carry a heavy bag, etc.  We intentionally do these small gestures today with the hope that they become an everyday habit.  My goal is not to raise the smartest, richest, or most successful kid; my goal is to raise a thoughtful human being who is kind, gentle, and confident.

This year, as I started looking up Random Acts of Kindness for kids, I uncovered this amazing website/business called The Idea Box Kids (http://theideaboxkids.com/).  An idea box is "a little box filled with wood coins" that provide inspirational ideas for kids.  (I wish I knew about this when Lewie was younger.)  Still, I came across their "Caring" box, which provides simple ideas/acts on how to display kindness, such as "Tell someone you love them," "Be patient today," "Pull some weeds or water plants," "Put a note or picture on someone's pillow before bed," etc.  Even though the box is meant for children, I bought it for the entire family.  From now until the end of the month, all of us will be selecting a coin or two and doing "a caring act."  In fact, I hope to pull out this box anytime we may need a reminder on how we can touch people's lives and create a culture of altruism.
Image comes from http://theideaboxkids.com/teaching-empathy-kids-acts-of-kindness/

This image comes from http://theideaboxkids.com/teaching-empathy-kids-acts-of-kindness/.
I'm using photos right from the Idea Box Kids website because they so beautifully share their craftsmanship.  (Their photos are way better than mine.)  I highly encourage anyone with children to look at their array of boxes.  I bought others for Lewie that I hope to open during the summer, with coins on "Adventure" and essential "Life Skills."

For now, the biggest life skill I can wish for Lewie is how to be kind to people--even when people are not kind back or do not share our same values.  In some ways, it might be one of the hardest lessons for us to learn, and yet, it could inspire a movement that changes our lives and the world.

February Happenings...


Bronchitis and some sort of super head cold has struck our house.  It all started with my husband.  Nearly a week into the New Year, he started coughing and learned early on that he had developed bronchitis.  A week later, I had a scratchy sore throat with head congestion.  Each day the symptoms of my head cold became more pronounced--achy eyes, throbbing head, raw nose (from blowing too much), and sheer exhaustion.  Today, six weeks later, I'm still suffering with a less acute version of it.  My husband is still coughing, and now, it appears, it's Little Lewie's turn.  Yesterday he started coughing, and today he's feeling tired.  Oh no!!!

This super cold has made it so that we're not doing very much at all.  We trek back and forth between home, school, and work.  We've managed to fit in a few swim lessons and Cub Scout meets (that is, in-between napping and lying on the couch with a box of tissues).  And finally, last week, I had enough energy to put away all my Christmas decorations and replace them with my Valentine's Day stuff.  Yes, when we're not feeling well, I can only celebrate the little stuff.  There's simply not enough energy to do anything more.

Here is a list of our February happenings, especially those that are planned (fingers crossed).

Scout Sunday
Today we celebrated Scout Sunday.  Each year, our Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts attend a special mass that is dedicated to recognizing the contributions of young people and adults in scouting (usually the second Sunday in February in our community).  There's not too much pomp and circumstance (Thank goodness!); instead, the scouts and leaders wear their uniforms and process in and out of mass with the alter servers, lector, and priest.  We sit at mass together, have a few nice things said about us, and then go home with our respective families.  Three of our boys brought up the flags this year, and Little Lewie and Dorian brought up the gifts.  Thankfully, we all had enough energy to participate and go out for breakfast before we returned home to sleep.  (Okay, I suppose I'm the only one that went back to bed.  I'm still yawning.)

Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Day
Random Acts of Kindness Day lands on a Sunday, February 17th this year.  In the past, I've celebrated the day/week by baking cookies with Lewie and putting together treat bags for some of my closest friends.  Little Lewie would then help me deliver them.  This year I may change things up a little.  If I'm still not over my cold, baking cookies might not be such a great idea, but I'll find another way to surprise my friends and the important people in my life.  In fact, I started a little early this year.  I've already sent a few care packages to my friends that live the furthest--Alma in Spain and Mary Ann in New Jersey.  It's a long story, but let's just say that I met both of them while I was in college--Alma during my first study abroad trip and Mary Ann in our college marching band.  I adore both of them!

This was Little Lewie helping me bake Valentine's Day cookies during our first RAK celebration.
Webelos Crossover Ceremony
On February 22, we will be watching our oldest Webelos cross over.  During the ceremony, the Cub Scouts cross over a ceremonial "bridge" and choose one of two paths.  They either choose to go on to Boy Scouts (the troop waits for them at the end of the bridge), or they choose to end their Scout adventure, in which case, their parent/s receive them at the end of the bridge. 

This particular Webelos ceremony will be bittersweet for me.  Thankfully, Lewie is not old enough to cross over to Boy Scouts yet.  He still has one more full year, and I've already made a pact with myself that I will do my best to make it the best year ever.  However, it will be sad to watch our current Cub Master and our Pack Committe Chair leave with their den of eight boys.  We started our Cub Scout journey with them, and they've been the ones to do and teach us everything.  Without their encouragement, I would have never envisioned myself to be a leader, and I most certainly wouldn't see myself in the position to become the new Pack Committee Chair.  Their dedication has been amazing, and they are the reason the Pack still exists in our town.  Lewie will miss having pack meetings with those eight boys--only two of them will be going on to Boy Scouts.  It is the end of an era.
We have one more year of Cub Scouts!!
Jim Gaffigan
There's not much to do when you're feeling tired and sickly.  On those days/weekends where it takes every ounce of energy to peel ourselves off the couch, we've decided to laugh our way back to health.  My husband and I started to look up our favorite comedians on Netflix and Amazon, and we got hooked.  In fact, Little Lewie (now ten) has been able to join the fun, and he's become a huge fan of stand-up comedy.  Admittedly, some jokes go over his head, but there are lots of "clean" comedians out there that are very family friendly.  Our all-time favorite is Jim Gaffigan, but we also like Brian Regan, Demetri Martin, and Kevin James, to name a few.

After our Jim Gaffigan binge (we watched every video out there known to man), my husband saw that he's coming to Connecticut the weekend of February 22nd!  I decided our Valentine's Day present to ourselves will be to see him on stage live and in-person for his "Quality Time Tour."  (I love the name!!)
This is courtesy of Google Images 
So, to come back full circle, I suppose if we didn't get sick, we wouldn't have spent as much time watching TV, which is to say, we wouldn't have gotten reconnected with Jim Gaffigan, which means we wouldn't have been looking for tickets to see him.  So, as much as I don't like being tired and having a pounding headache, it was meant for me/us to get sick.  I just hope I'll be feeling better for the actual show.  I'm stocked up on my Vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea tea.