Sunday, February 18, 2018

time capsule '17

From Kurt: We dug up our family time capsule this summer. We do this every 5 years when we have our septic tank pumped. Ava and Zsa Zsa received the notes they wrote to themselves when they were age 9 and 5, respectively. They also each got to read a letter I wrote to them. They wrote letters to their future selves to be buried for another 5 years. The girls will be 19 and 15 when we unearth the capsule again.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

brian's passing

My dad is the third of four sons. His oldest brother, Brian, passed away in the middle of the summer. You can see him here at our wedding lobster bake with his wife, Sandi, and two of his sons. He was one of the most gentle souls I've ever met.
He was the only college educated uncle I had, and he taught chemistry to high school students. In an odd twist, he started his career teaching middle school science and actually had his youngest brother, Glenn, and my mom in his class.
Uncle Brian raised three boys: Kevin, Nathan, and Justin (from right to center sitting next to me). He was a devoted father, taciturn, and patient. Later in life, he enjoyed discussing genealogy with my dad and their brother Gary. Unfortunately, like his mother, Brian suffered from Alzheimer's disease for several years.
Watching the disease progress was painful for me, so I cannot imagine what it was like for his immediate family.

Uncle Brian's passing gave our extended family the wonderful, though bittersweet, opportunity to spend time together.
Uncle Glenn, Aunt Incha, and their sons Jason and Jeffrey flew up from Texas. I hadn't seen the Jason and Jeff for the last few decades. They were most likely the age of Kevin's and Nate's kids, pictured here, the last time I saw them. Finding out what they're all about now that they're grown men was such fun.
Kurt and Zsa Zsa were in Michigan, so only Ava and I traveled to the funeral. Ava enjoyed spending a bit of time with the younger kids. She also tried schooling Jason, Jeff, and Justin in Communism. I don't think they're quite ready to join the party yet.

 I read from the bible at the funeral, which was an honor. Thanks to my grandmother Charlotte's persistent reminders when I was young, I can handle reading scripture in public. What I have a harder time with is knowing my way around a Catholic worship service of any kind. I was supposed to bow to Jesus while approaching the lectern, and my faux pas was bowing to the bible instead. Sorry about that, Jesus. My Catholic family members forgave me and the priest spoke to me after the service without mentioning my slip up, so I think I'm ok. The whole process of honoring my uncle was beautiful to watch, from neighbors I recognized stopping by during visiting hours to listening to Kevin's remembrance to witnessing the strength of all my "Dolley boys" carry his coffin to the gentle hand Justin placed on my father's knee when my father broke down in tears at the graveside. Our time with my extended family was so precious to me.

As I've mentioned here before, I went to college not far from Uncle Brian's house, so I was able to take Ava over to campus for a visit at the end of the trip. She is very much interested in not being her mother, so I don't think I'll have any luck in convincing her of attending Mount Holyoke. But she was definitely able to appreciate the beauty of the campus and tolerated my tour with great patience and seeming interest. I loved sharing one of my favorite places with her. And since it involved visiting a bookstore and a noodle restaurant, she had a smile on her face.

Monday, February 12, 2018

b's visit

We love our B fiercely. Our niece, Brittany, came for a rare summer visit. We took her on all kinds of adventures. She went to Nina's birthday party.
We went canoeing at Shaw Park and then walked in the woods to find the old gunpowder mill. One of my ancestors was killed in an explosion there.

We had a day at the beach and lounged on Sebago Lake. Ava participated in her favorite beach activity: reading.

B introduced Ava to the game Twilight Struggle, so of course they played it while she was here. It only took a few days.
B loves to cook, so she enlisted Zsa Zsa's help to make Chicken Paprikas with hand made csipetke or spetkl (dumplings without filling).

B brought tattoos! We were a very fruity family.
B accompanied us to a concert. One of our favorite bands, the Rustic Overtones, was playing and for part of the concert, local teens who play string instruments were going to join them.
Zsa Zsa had told us about the concert because the founder of the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra came to visit her school. She waited until after his presentation and then asked him for his card because she thought I should take cello lessons from him. She was right.
We had a great time at the concert. Excellent seats, small venue. The pouring rain made us unable to enjoy the outdoor lounging area at the venue. But it was fun all the same.

We took B to the farmer's market, which is always a good way to get a feel for the local population. Zsa Zsa asked an accordion player about her instrument and the young woman gave her a little lesson.
The farmer's market is located right next to a public water feature. B and her mini-me hopped right in.
We made sure to have a diner breakfast. Kurt and Ava are huge diner fans and like to spread the love.
We realized that B had never done any of the traditional Maine things when she's come to visit in the past. So on her last day, we took her out for lobster and I taught her how to eat it.
Then we went to two different lighthouses: Portland Head Light and Twin Lights. We climbed on the rocks and listened to the waves crash. A perfect way to end our visit with B. Can't wait for the next one!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

festival fun

In early August, Zsa Zsa, Ava, and I had a fun afternoon outing. First we went to downtown Portland for Bubble Blast. We joined in with hundreds of other kids to make bubbles! They set up kiddie swimming pools full of the soap mixture and had lots of different bubble making equipment, from small wands to large string and stick contraptions that made colossal bubbles. Z worked hard making the gigantic bubbles.
There was also music, balloons twisting, face and arm painting, and a big bbq with hotdogs, hamburgers and lemonade. Ava filled up on food while Z waited for her turn to get painted. Everything was free and we really enjoyed the upbeat crowd and festive atmosphere.
Then we hopped in the car and drove down to Kennebunk to the Brick Store Museum. The museum was hosting a steam punk fair. On our way down we stopped at a flea market for some interesting steampunk paraphernalia to complete the kids' costumes.
The steampunk fair was rather small, but Ava enjoyed a lecture from Queen Victoria while Z sat and read Steampunk Cinderella.

We browsed for a bit through the vendors and all took turns trying on some unique aquatic headwear at one of the more interesting booths. Definitely a fun summer afternoon for everyone.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

convention monster

I had a visitor with me for my entire trip to Philadelphia while I worked at the 2017 church Convention. Just before I left, Zsa Zsa inked a temporary monster tattoo on my hand.
I took a few innocent pictures of the hand monster on the plane drinking water and then, well, all of a sudden that monster became sentient, took control of my phone and ended up getting into all kinds of mischief.
It texted Zsa Zsa on it's own when I wasn't paying attention. It was always hungry and would take pictures and ask Z about what it could eat.
It tried to eat the centerpiece wildflowers and even got into a recycle bin.
In the end, it was a fun adventure that kept Zsa Zsa and I entertained and connected while I was away for that summer week.
I came back home and over time, the monster faded away and disappeared into oblivion. We were sad to see him go, but I'm sure another one will replace him soon and the games will start all over again.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

portcon '17

On a warm, sunny, late June day, Ava and I headed over to PortCon, the four-day geek culture convention and Ava's favorite annual event. Ava was particularly excited for PortCon 2017 as one of the evening gaming events was "Night Witches."
From the game description: "There was a night bomber regiment in World War Two composed entirely of women. Natural-born Soviet airwomen. These 200 women and girls, flying outdated biplanes from open fields near the front lines, attacked the invading German forces every night for 1,100 consecutive nights. When they ran out of bombs they dropped railroad ties.
"To each other they were sisters, with bonds forged in blood and terror. To the Red Army Air Force they were an infuriating feminist sideshow. To the Germans they were simply Night Witches. Night Witches is a tabletop role-playing game about women at war. As a member of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, you’ll answer the call of your Motherland in her darkest hour.
"Can you do your duty and strike blow after blow against the Fascists? Can you overcome discrimination and outright sabotage and rise above your sexist comrades? Are there limits to patriotism—or endurance? Play Night Witches and find out!"
Ava knew about the Night Witches prior to PortCon and was thrilled to learn that a game based on their daring adventures would be featured this year on the first night. She decided to attend PortCon in costume as a Night Witch so she would be able to have a true role playing game experience. After checking out a few panels, we headed over to the Maine Mall gaming room where the evening Night Witch game was to be played.
Unfortunately, when the game time came around, only the GM (Game Master) and Ava were interested in playing. Ava did her best to attract gamers but was unable to find anyone. Just when we were about to give up hope, another game ended and the group of 4 or 5 gamers from that game agreed to join Night Witches! They were an unruly bunch of male ragtag gamers in their twenties and thirties and I was a bit nervous leaving Ava to play with them. The largest of them, a burly, bearded, biker-looking type pull up a chair next to Ava and said, "I'm sitting next to you. You look insane. I like insane." Oh boy, I thought, this is going to be very interesting.
But Ava held her ground, laughed and focused on learning the game. Night Witch play commenced and each player assumed a young Russian woman's alias complete with photo and name.
The most amusing part for me was when all these men and Ava stood and took an oath to protect the Soviet Union. The game lasted maybe an hour and a half rolling dices and flying bombing missions. Ava ended up crashing her plane and had to go into ground survival behind enemy lines. She had a fantastic time and it was a real highlight for her PortCon.
Zsa Zsa joined us for two of the PortCon days. We all attended and enjoyed the panel about the anime series "Yuri on Ice". They threw candy to everyone that asked a question! Zsa Zsa dressed up as a cave girl ("Pebbles"). She entered the children's costume and won an award. We always have a great time at PortCon and look forward to attending every year.