Monday, February 28, 2011

Feeling the need for speed?


There a number of rites of passage we all remember for our childhoods, some fondly and others not so much. Some are religious: Confirmations, baptisms, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, or even the appropriately vague Coming of Age ceremony for commitment-phobic Unitarians. (My peeps!) Some rites even seem designed to invite the chaos that we spend much of our time trying to avoid as parents: Walkabout and Rumspringa come to mind.

Among the suburban and rural set, however, there is the nearly universal cultural rite of the Acquisition Of The Driver’s License. It’s a milestone that represents freedom and responsibility for teens and sleepless nights for parents. Not to mention the financial burden of insurance premiums higher than the net worth of the teens themselves.

There’s a cost benefit ratio for you to mull over on some dark night, huh?

Anyway, if your progeny haven’t reached that stage yet and are still stuck catching the school bus with a Pok√©mon backpack and a lunchbox full of Uncrustables, they’re still in luck. There are plenty of opportunities for them to get behind the wheel of a fun, fast go-kart that will be just quick enough to alarm the old folks and frighten the horses.

The boys and I are fans of our local indoor go kart park, Grand Prix New York. The track is reasonably challenging and there’s a restaurant, a space for parties, and a bar for Mom and Dad when they’re ready to hang up the helmet.

The best part about racing karts is that by the time the weather turns warmer and everyone is comfortable behind the wheel, there are countless places to race outdoors on larger tracks with faster karts. New York, for instance, has dozens of tracks, as does nearly every other part of the U.S. So go make Art Ingels proud. The kids will thank you.

Grand Prix New York (GPNY, to the cool kids)

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Got a 4th grader? Maybe 5th or 6th? Then go skiing.

It was a crisp morning above the frost line on Whiteface Mountain during, lets say, 1988. The air was still and a few inches of fresh powder were a nice change from the usual late January ice that makes skiing in the northeast a more of a chore than it really needs to be. It was, all in all, a fine morning, right up until my buddy Dave and I found ourselves facing a drop so sheer that we weren’t really sure that we were supposed to be there. Clearly we had missed a trail marker while we were chattering and trading stories about the previous night that had started at Lums and ended up, well, never mind.

Anyway, retreating back up the lengthy trail wasn’t an option, so we decided to face this nasty bit of black diamond the way only real men would: we took off our skis and started sliding down on our butts. Genius? Absolutely, and we were feeling pretty good about the whole business until we heard the telltale swish of a skier flying down the hill behind us. Needless to say it turned out to be a kid, all of six or seven years old, and not only was he flying down the hill in perfect form, he even spared a second to glance back at us with an expression of pity I’ll never forget.

It had never occurred to me until that moment that kids and skiing not only mix well, but are a perfect match. And it was just that combination of fearlessness and ability to pick up new things that I was counting on years later when we took our boys to Ski Big Bear when they were about six or seven. Since then, the three of us have had a lot of great days not just skiing, but enjoying some of the other benefits of a day on the slopes: getting a chance to shoot the breeze while standing on line, talking music and whatnot on the lifts, and just generally having a good time away from the pressures of school and the distractions of home.

So even if you’ve never been skiing or are looking for an excuse to get back out after some time away, now’s the perfect time to pack up the kids and take advantage some of the resources out there. There are, for instance, late season packages, discount ski passes offered by retailers such as Costco, and the very tidy Liftopia.com. And… now’s the time to start thinking about your fourth or fifth grader for next year because there are skipass and passport programs available for free lift tickets wherever you may be. Do it.

Ski Utah's 5th grade Passport and 6th grade Snowpass programs

New York’s 4th grade program

Pennsylvania

New Hampshire

Michigan

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hey Midwest, had enough? Come on over and crash with us for a while.

I’ve been told, I think, that there are all sorts of reasons why the Midwest is a paradise unrivalled in modern history and that living there is just peachy. Mostly that thinking seems to revolve around how the people who live there are genuine 'mericans and that they love mom, apple pie and the flag just a little bit more than anyone else. Detractors will note that while that may or may not be true, it’s kind of hard to ignore some of the nonsense that goes on in the heartland.

But, as I live in a glass house as fragile as any other, I’m going to stop there before I singlehandedly jinx all of New York. Goodness knows we’ve been in a scrape or two. ‘Nuff said.

But anyway, if you should wake one day to find yourself living in heartland, there is one unassailable reason to pack your bags and catch the last milk train to the coast: blizzards. Or as I think of them: feet and feet of blowing misery if not outright attacks on middle-aged men prone to shoveling-induced cardiac arrest. In short: white blankets of bother.

I only bring this up, of course, because another blizzard is chugging across the Midwest as I sit here pecking out this little missive. Another frozen Sherman marching to the sea, leaving Oklahomans kinda sorry that they have to leave the warmth and comfort of those moms and apple pies to go outside and shovel yet again.

And the fix? Come on out and visit us in New York. Sure, we’ve had more than our share of snow this year, but we’re done now. And jeez, you wouldn’t want to spend your days worrying that you traded blizzards for fires and earthquakes, like some other coast I could mention.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Irony Radar.


- Communicate with parents straightforwardly and simply, avoiding educational "jargon."

This morning I came across this sentence, quotation marks included, on EducationWorld.com. Now it is true that my irony radar may be a smidge oversensitive, but I’m still pretty sure that if somebody felt the need to highlight the word jargon because it may be too confusing, it was probably a poor candidate for a bullet point about avoiding confusion.

Does any of this matter? Heck no. If nothing else it just exposes how little it takes to amuse me. Which is why the interwebs and I are so in love.